(1) SOME PEOPLE SHINE. Let Looper introduce you to “Stephen King’s Harry Potter: The Fan-Made Concept That’s Too Weird To Be Real”. This is quite something.
When it comes to accomplished fiction writers, you don’t get much more prodigious than Stephen King. So iconic is his work that the YouTube channel Yellow Medusa created an artificial intelligence-driven video that hypothesizes how the “Harry Potter” films would look like if King — and not J.K. Rowling — created the franchise. This is one of several videos where the channel reimagines the “Harry Potter” movies if they were directed or written by other famous creators….
(2) SFPA MEMBERS NOMINATE FOR AWARDS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association reminded members today of the deadlines to submit nominees for three annual awards.
RHYSLING AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Rhysling Chairs are Brian U. Garrison & David C. Kopaska-Merkel. Nominations are open until February 15 for the Rhysling Awards for the best poems published in 2023. Only SFPA members may nominate one short poem and/or one long poem for the award. Poets may not nominate their own work. All genres of speculative poetry are eligible. Short poems must be 11–49 lines (101–499 words for prose poems); Long poems are 50–1,199 lines, not including title or stanza breaks, and first published in 2023; include publication and issue, or press if from a book or anthology. Online nomination form: bit.ly/2024RhyslingNom. Or nominate by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA.
DWARF STARS AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Dwarf Stars Chair is Brittany Hause. Nominations due by May 1, but poems may be suggested year-round. Enter title, author, and publisher of speculative micro poems published in 2023 at https://bit.ly/ dwarfstars or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Anyone may suggest poems, their own or others’; there is no limit.
ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Elgin Chair is Felicia Martínez. Nominations due by June 15; more info will come by MailChimp. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2022 or 2023 to [email protected] or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to nominations, but you may not nominate your own work. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.
(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. [Item by Steven French.] “Fiction to look out for in 2024” in the Guardian includes an SF novel tipped for the Booker:
…in September, there’s my early pick for this year’s Booker: Creation Lake (Jonathan Cape) by Rachel Kushner. It’s a wild and brilliantly plotted piece of science fiction. This is the story of a secret agent, the redoubtable Sadie Smith, sent to infiltrate and disrupt a group of “anti-civvers” – eco-terrorists – in a France of the near future where industrial agriculture and sinister corporations dominate the landscape. Think Kill Bill written by John le Carré: smart, funny and compulsively readable….
(4) NO MCU? REALLY? Rolling Stone calls these “The 150 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time”.
…So when it came time to rank the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, we couldn’t stop at 100. Instead, we went bigger and bulked it up with an extra 50 entries, all the better to pay lip service to more of the pulpy, the poppy and the perverse entries — not to mention some of our personal favorites — that don’t normally get shout-outs in these kinds of lists. There were more than a few arguments when it came to the picks. (It was also decided early on that superhero movies as a whole usually fall out the parameters of science fiction, so you won’t the MCU, et al., canon on this list — with one very notable exception.) Here are our picks for the best the genre has to offer. Live long and prosper. May the force be with you….
At the bottom:
150 ‘Tank Girl’ (1995)
What would the post-apocalyptic world look like if the hero was a riot grrrl and the soundtrack was curated by Courtney Love? Behold the adventures of Tank Girl (Lorri Petty), as our hero roams through the decimated Outback, years after a comet hit earth and an evil corporation seized control. It’s got some of the hallmarks of a traditional sci-fi adventure — a jet-flying sidekick played by Naomi Watts; an army of half-kangaroo, half-man beings, including one played by Ice-T — but Rachel Talalay’s adaptaion of the cult British comic diverges from the typical dystopia formula by layering everything over a very 1990s alt aesthetic, all bright colors and snappy, sexualized wisecracks. “No celebrities, no cable TV, no water — it hasn’t rained in 11 years,” Tank Girl explains early on in the film. “Now 20 people gotta squeeze inside the same bathtub — so it ain’t all bad.” —Elisabeth Garber-Paul
Rated number one:
1 ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)
It begins at the Dawn of Man and ends with the rebirth of humanity, with Homo sapiens having finally been granted one last evolutionary level-up. In between those two poles of the human experience — one in our prehistoric past, the other light years into our future (hope springs eternal) — Stanley Kubrick give us what still feels like the benchmark for science fiction cinema that engages you in mind, body, and soul. It’s not just that his adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” has become part of our collective consciousness, enough that Barbie could kick off with an extended riff on one of its most famous scenes and everyone got the joke. Or that 2001 contains what may be the single best example of film editing as a communicative art form unto itself. Or that the closest the film has to an antagonist, the self-aware HAL 9000 supercomputer who discovers that machines are no more immune from neurosis and malice than its flesh-and-blood programmers are, is the character we end up feeling the most sympathy towards. “Daissss-yyyy… daisssss-yyyyy…”….
…The wisecrack was always that 2001: A Space Odyssey was exactly like the big, black monolith that connected its eon-spanning chapters: gorgeous, meticulously constructed, inhuman in its perfection and inscrutable in terms of concrete meaning. Conventional wisdom is that it’s actually closer to the Star Child — something that takes the entirety of the universe in and stares at it in awe, reflecting back how far we have come and how far we still have to go. —DF
(5) LAWYERS ASSEMBLE! We know this, but it’s a new year so let’s pretend it’s news: “Mickey Mouse Hits Public Domain With Disney’s ‘Steamboat Willie’” at Deadline.
As of today, the traditionally protective Walt Disney Co will have to deal with an onslaught of Mickey Mouse parodies, mockeries and likely rather explicit variations as the iconic character slips into the public domain.
In the sober light of 2024, Steamboat Willie, the 1928 short that effectively launched the empire that Walt built, can now be used by anyone and everyone. The legal status of Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy, from earlier that same year, has been long fought over and probably not something to which Disney was looking forward. Yet, in a new year that also sees Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking Orlando, Peter Pan, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, Buster Keaton‘s The Cameraman and Tigger from AA Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner now in the public domain, if you are anticipating a Steamboat Willie free-for-all, think again.
Besides Disney being notoriously litigious, the color version of Mickey that came into being in 1935’s The Band Concert, is a lot different in 2024 than the non-speaking Mickey of Steamboat Willie in 1928. Evolving over the decades, the brand icon that is today’s Mickey has a lot more meat on his bones, is full of many more smiles, has that chirpy voice and a far less rough disposition, wears white gloves, and clearly looks a lot less a rat than the Steamboat Willie Mickey – and, to paraphrase MC Hammer: you can’t touch that.
“More modern versions of Mickey will remain unaffected by the expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and Mickey will continue to play a leading role as a global ambassador for the Walt Disney Company in our storytelling, theme park attractions, and merchandise,” a Disney spokesperson said of the dos and don’ts of the sound-synched film entering the public domain today….
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 1, 1954 — Midori Snyder, 70. This first novel by Midori Snyder that I read was The Flight of Michael McBride, a three decades old work by her set in the old American West blending aspects of First Folk, Irish-American and Mexican folklore. A most excellent read.
Like Pamela Dean with her Tam Lin novel, she’s delved in Scottish myth as her first novel, Soulstring, was inspired by the Scottish legend of Tam Lin.
It was however not her first published work as that was “Demon” in the Bordertown anthology, the second of the Bordertown series. She would later do two more Bordertown stories, “Alison Gross” that’d be in Life on the Border, and “Dragon Child” in The Essential Bordertown.
Now don’t go looking for any of these as ePubs as, like the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror series which I noted in Ellen Datlow’s Birthday a few days ago, ePub rights weren’t written into the publication contracts.
The newest Bordertown anthology, Welcome to Bordertown, is available as an ePub.
Next up is a trilogy of books that remind me of Jane Yolen’s The Great Altar Saga in tone — New Moon, Sadar’s Keep, and Beldan’s Fire. They were published as adult fantasy by Tor Books starting thirty four years ago where they were The Queens’ Quarter Series. Interestingly they would be reprinted as young adult fantasy by Firebird Books just eighteen years ago as The Oran Trilogy. I see that Firebird is no longer the domain of Sharyn November which it was explicitly related for.
Now I positively adore The Innamorati which draws off the the Commedia dell’Arte theatre and the Roman legends as well. This stellar novel gained her Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It is without doubt her best novel – great characters, fascinating setting and a wonderful story.
Hannah’s Garden was supposed to be one of the novels inspired by a painting by Brian Froud. (I remember de Lint’s The Wild Wood and Windling’s The Wood Wife are two of the others but I forget the fourth. I know they got their novels with his art but I don’t if she or the fourth writer did.) It’s a more personal novel, more scary in tone I think than her other work is.
Except the Queen was written by her and Yolen. It’s a contemporary fantasy featuring two fey who are banished here in the guise of old women. I’ll not spoil what happened next. That was her last novel and it was published thirteen years ago.
She wrote the title short story for Windling The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors anthology anthology about child abuse survivors. Grim reading but recommended. It was nominated for an Otherwise Award.
It’s one of a not deep number of short stories she’s written, none collected so far.
She did the text to the “Barbara Allen” graphic story Charles Vess illustrated and first published in his Ballads chapbook in 1997 which I’ve got here somewhere. Let me go see… yes, it’s also in the autographed copy of The Book of Ballads that he sent me. That came out on Tor seventeen years ago. God, time goes by fast!
Though not about her fiction writing, she would win a World Fantasy Award for her editorial work on Windling’s Endincott Studio website. It is a fascinating site covering what Terri, Midori and others think is interesting in fairy tales, myth, folklore, and the oral storytelling tradition. It is here now.
(7) EASING A BARRIER TO CHINA TOURISM. For the next wave of fans who may be thinking about the trip: “China to simplify visa applications for US tourists as both countries seek to improve relations” at the South China Morning Post.
China will simplify the visa application process for tourists from the United States as part of its efforts to step up interactions between people from the two countries.
Starting from January 1, those applying for tourist visas within the US will no longer need to submit proof they have a round-trip air ticket and hotel reservation, as well as their itinerary or a letter of invitation, according to a notice published on the website of the Chinese embassy in Washington on Friday.
The measure aims to “further facilitate people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States”, it said.
It added that “since visa applications are processed on a case-by-case basis”, applicants should still refer to the Chinese embassy and consulates-general for specifics….
The move follows a cut in visa fees for US applicants of around 25 per cent until December 31, 2024 announced earlier this month, and a previous decision to allow walk-in visa applications.
(8) WHAT, ME WARP? Currently open for bids at the Heritage Auctions site is “Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art”. It was up to $1,950 when I last checked.
Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art (EC, 1976). Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) join Vulcan officer Alfred E. Neuman (who will likely soon meet a terrible fate, hinted at by his red shirt) tap dance their way across the cover of the parody magazine to promote the “Star Trek” Musical buried within its pages. Spock looks surprised to see Neuman sporting a pair of pointy Vulcan ears, with the adage “Keep on Trekin'” printed on his uniform. A fun poke at the beloved sci-fi TV series painted in gouache on illustration board with an image area of 16″ x 16.75″, matted and Plexiglas-front framed to 27″ x 28.5″. Light frame wear. Signed by Rickard in the lower right corner and in Excellent condition.
(9) TROLLING WITH A MAGNET. “He Has Fished Out Grenades, Bikes and Guns. Can Fame Be Far Behind?” He couldn’t make a living streaming himself playing video games – but people want to see what his powerful magnet retrieves from the waters around New York.
… The grenade was not without precedent. Two months before, Mr. Kane managed to pull a gun out of a lake near where he lives. It might have been used in a murder, he suggested, and he was told there was a chance he might be subpoenaed. He was eager to avoid that entanglement.
On that unseasonably warm November afternoon, Mr. Kane, who is 39 and looks a bit like the actor Seth Rogen playing a deckhand, just yanked the thing right off his magnet. It took quite a bit of effort, given that the magnet (from Kratos Magnetics, for $140) was advertised as having a “pull force” of 3,800 pounds. The gunpowder had been emptied out of the bottom, so he figured the corroded explosive was something that would put him on the map, rather than blow him off it. Still, he put it on the ground and covered it with a plastic bucket — just in case.
As he dialed 911, he paused to wonder: Would the operator remember him? Was he something of a known quantity by now? Just the week before, he’d found a top-loading Smith & Wesson in Prospect Park Lake. And he’d also found a completely different grenade about a month ago, which he said led the police to evacuate a restaurant near the United Nations. But to his disappointment, that day’s dispatcher didn’t react.
“You’re gonna know Let’s Get Magnetic,” Mr. Kane told the operator, referencing the name of his YouTube channel. “I’m getting famous.”
His partner, Barbie Agostini, continued filming as the police arrived. Two beat cops who showed up took some pictures of the grenade on their phones. Meanwhile, a woman pushed a baby carriage inches away from it. More cops eventually came to cordon off the area, but the content creation did not stop there. Another officer squatted on the ground to take more close-ups. Wanting a wider-angle view of the ruckus he’d wrought, Mr. Kane moved slightly down the sidewalk and kept fishing.
It wasn’t long before a well-put-together young woman in a pinned-on hat stopped and stared as Mr. Kane pulled a hunk of junk out of the water with his magnet.
“What are you guys fishing for?” she asked.
“Anything metal,” he told her. “This is a bed frame from the 1900s.”
The woman looked astounded at this dubious bit of history.
“God bless you,” she said….
…After lunch, Mr. Kane, Ms. Agostini and Jose returned to their duplex. Mr. Kane pulled out a Styrofoam chest full of his favorite finds. They included the magazines from four guns, the barrel of a sniper rifle and two tiny cannonballs that might predate the city itself, which he plans on giving to the American Museum of Natural History.
Evidence of a collector’s lifestyle exists throughout the apartment — unopened retro video games and hand-painted Japanese anime figurines covered nearly every spare inch of wall space. Mr. Kane pulled out some tiny pieces of metal from the cooler, one in the shape of a bow and arrow, and another that looked like a ball-peen hammer.
“This is black magic,” he said. “One hundred percent.” Then came a key fob for an Audi that still lit up when he pressed a button. “This unlocks a car,” he said. “We just don’t know where the car is.” Then came his collection of iPhones, which he proudly displayed on his purple couch. All of them worked. Well, all but one. “It smokes if you turn it on,” he said. “But that’s the only problem.”…
(10) BUT IF HE TELLS – THEN WE’LL KNOW! No, content moderation is not supposed to be a big secret. “Elon Musk’s X Loses Bid To Change California Content Moderation Law” reports Deadline.
X sued California in September to undo the state’s content moderation law, saying it violated free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and California’s state constitution.
Today, U.S. District Judge William Shubb dismissed the social media company’s request in an eight-page decision .
The law requires large social media companies to issue semiannual reports that describe their content moderation practices. They must also provide data on the number of objectionable posts and how they were addressed.
“While the reporting requirement does appear to place a substantial compliance burden on social medial companies, it does not appear that the requirement is unjustified or unduly burdensome within the context of First Amendment law,” Shubb wrote.
X did not immediately respond. The company’s content moderation policies have long been contentious, dating to before Musk bought the company.
(11) ANOTHER INKLING NAMED LEWIS. This postcard ad for The Major and the Missionary edited by Diana Pavlac Glyer caught my eye and reminded me to kick off the new year by mentioning this collection of letters of interest to Inklings fans.
After the death of his brother, Warren Lewis lived at The Kilns in Oxford, spent time with friends, edited his famous brother’s letters, and did a little writing of his own. Then, out of the blue, he got a letter from a stranger on the far side of the world. Over the years that followed, he and Blanche Biggs, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, shared a vibrant correspondence. These conversations encompassed their views on faith, their politics, their humor, the legacy of C. S. Lewis, and their own trials and longings.
Taken as a whole, these collected letters paint a colorful portrait that illuminates not only the particulars of distant times and places but the intimate contours of a rare friendship.
Edited and introduced by Bandersnatch author Diana Pavlac Glyer.
[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Scott Edelman, Mark Roth-Whitworth, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]