(1) IMAGINARY WORLD INSIDE A GAME. [Item by Soon Lee.] Ursula Vernon’s been playing Townscaper, an open-ended game/thingy where you build towns on water, and has taken to it so much that, well, would you just look at this gorgeous fan comic that’s come out of Ursula’s wonderful creativity? Thread starts here.
(2) LOCAL STAR. Transforming Edmonton’s series “The Writers’ Block” begins with “Chapter 1: Scientist and rising Edmonton author Premee Mohamed explores dichotomies”.
…Edmonton is a frequent backdrop in Mohamed’s science fiction, which often deals with calamities—whether caused by ancient monsters or climate disasters.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to write anything set in the future on Earth and NOT mention climate change,” says the Clareview resident.
Mohamed used to take classes in “BioSci”—she’s a scientist with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science. She currently works for the Alberta government, devising guidelines for the clean-up of industrial activities such as factories, oil and gas wells, gravel pits and fertilizer plants.
Science was an early passion for Mohamed. While many four-year-olds are obsessed with cars or dolls, she was fascinated with microbes—tiny organisms that you can’t see without a microscope, let alone dress up or play with in a sandbox….
(3) DIAGRAM PRIZE SHORTLIST. The Guardian calls “Is Superman Circumcised? favourite to win Oddest book title of the year”.
An examination of the Jewish origins of the Man of Steel, Is Superman Circumcised?, is vying with an up-to-date look at camel milk and related camel goods, Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products, for the dubious honour of the oddest book title of the year….
These six books are in the running for the 43rd Diagram Prize, nominated by members of the book trade:
- Curves for the Mathematically Curious
- Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products
- Hats: A Very Unnatural History
- Is Superman Circumcised?
- The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé
- Miss, I Don’t Give a Shit: Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools
(4) ETERNALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 2 Financial Times behind a paywall, Danny Leigh interviews Kumail Nanjiani about his role in Eternals.
Nanjiani begins at a pitch of red-carpet enthusiasm. ‘Honestly,’ he says, ‘it’s easy to talk about the movie because I’m so excited. I genuinely, genuinely love it.’ He says he is a life-long fan of comic books and Marvel films His character, Kimgo, is a Bollywood leading man who is also an immortal superhero. An action figure is available. At home in Los Angeles, Nanjiani says, he has shelves already filled with models of Batman, Hellboy, and more His own tiny likeness now stands among them.. ‘They minimised my eyebrows to be sensitive to my feelings, but I’m like, ‘No! Use more black paint!’…
…’What helped’ him make Eternals ‘was a lifetime watching superheroes.’ But other influences are in play, too. We meet Kingo in the vivid middle of a Bollywood dance number. Growing up in Karachi, Nanjiani saw as much Bollywood as Hollywood. Getting the details and spirit right in Eternals mattered to him. ‘American audiences might see a Bollywood movie as ironic. But it’s hyper sincere. That’s the beauty of it.’
Then, in the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday interviews director Chloe Zhao about Eternals and the continuity Zhao sees between her Marvel project and Nomadland. “Chloe Zhao’s ‘Eternals’ is a Marvel movie made her own way”.
… Zhao’s fans will surely recognize some of her signatures in “Eternals,” including a hat-tip to South Dakota, where she filmed her first two films, as well as portions of “Nomadland.” (The state is played by England in “Eternals,” with the help of some subtle visual effects.) Zhao insisted on practical locations when at all possible, giving “Eternals” a more organic, natural feel than most Marvel movies. When she pitched Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige on her concept for the film, she referred to the poem “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake.
“?‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/and Eternity in an hour.’ .?.?. I think of that with ‘Nomadland’ quite a bit,” Zhao said. “And that’s Fern’s journey, in a way — going into nature and a community to be part of something bigger, and therefore heal from that process. With ‘Eternals’ it’s very much a bigger call to that — to humanity, in a way, understanding our place in the universe, our relationship with our planet, and therefore with ourselves. These are the bigger themes Jack Kirby had explored in his comics, and we were fortunate enough to [explore] in this film.”…
The New York Times gives the film a positive review: “‘Eternals’ Review: When Super Franchises Walk the Earth!”
Throughout “Eternals,” the latest — though certainly not the last! — from Marvel Studios, you can see the director Chloé Zhao fighting to cut this industrial-strength spectacle down to human size. Her efforts are mostly evident in the sincerity of the performances, and in the heartfelt moments that punctuate the movie, creating pinpricks of warming light. But it’s a titanic struggle. And as Zhao keeps lubricating the machinery with feeling and tears, her efforts seem to mirror the battle that her likable superheroes are waging against a force seeking to thoroughly control their destinies….
(5) STRANGER THINGS POP UPS. New York and Los Angeles will be the sites of two temporary pop-ups, the Stranger Things: The Official Store. They open tomorrow, for a limited time. It’s a 30-minute experience. Reservations available at the link.
…Embark on an interactive journey filled with photo moments and fun easter eggs, as you explore Hawkins and settings like Joyce’s House, Palace Arcade and Starcourt Mall. You will be able to interact with friends and foes from Hawkins. Get up close to the Russian Guards, hang out with Scoops Ahoy employees, and much more!
(6) LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy (Penny and Will Robinson from the original Lost in Space) have issued a revised version of their book about the show: “Lost (and Found) in Space 2: Blast Off into the Expanded Edition”.
And Heritage Auctions Hollywood & Entertainment Signature® Auction now in progress includes some of the costumes. Amid all this activity, another cast member gave an interview to Fox: “’Lost in Space’ star Marta Kristen recalls moment she heard ‘60s series was ending: ‘No one really knew why’”.
Fox News: How did you cope when the show ended?
Kristen: Oh, I remember that moment vividly. I was at my house and I received a phone call. I learned it was canceled. I was speechless. No one really knew why. Later on, we found out that it was possibly Irwin’s battle with CBS at the time. He wasn’t giving the scripts that CBS demanded. And they wanted six of them, apparently, or something like that.
I think everyone has a different version of the story. But at that time, Irwin just had so many projects. And I guess he just thought it wasn’t worth the fight. So it was canceled. And it was unusual because we were doing very well in the ratings. We had a very large fan base even then. But it was an expensive show.
(7) CAMILE SAVIOLA OBIT. Actress Camille Saviola, who had over 40 film and TV roles and is remembered by fans for a short run on Deep Space Nine, died October 28 at the age of 71. The full New York Times obituary is here.
…She endeared herself to a different group of fans when she was cast in “Deep Space Nine” as Kai Opaka, a spiritual leader on the planet Bajor. Though she appeared in only four episodes, from 1993 to 1996, Ms. Saviola was well known to followers of the franchise, many of whom posted about her death on social media.
In a 1995 interview with a “Deep Space Nine” fan magazine that is quoted on the website Memory Alpha, Ms. Saviola talked about how she got the part.
“I went in — every character actress was there — and did a little reading, the real thing,” she said, referring not to a script reading but to a tarot card reading. “My grandmother read cards and tea leaves down in Greenwich Village — she never charged people money — and I have a little bit of that gift.”
(8) BOB BAKER 1939-2021. Bob Baker, who co-wrote several Third and Fourth Doctor Who serials with his writing partner Dave Martin, has died reports Gizmodo. Bob Baker was also known for being a co-writer of the Wallace and Gromit films The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death.
…But perhaps most famous of all is “The Invisible Enemy,” which introduced the robot dog K-9. Originally intended to be a one-off appearance, K-9 was instead entrusted to the Fourth Doctor at the end of the story and became a regular companion alongside Leela and Romana. After exiting the show four years later, Baker’s legacy in K-9 would continue with K-9 and Company, a planned spinoff with Sladen that didn’t make it past the original pilot, and of course, K-9’s brief return to Doctor Who’s post-2005 era with the episode “School Reunion.” The character also had regular appearances in Sladen’s children-focused BBC spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, until her passing in 2011….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1993 – Twenty-eight years ago, Robocop 3 premiered. It was the first in the franchise in which Peter Weller did not play the lead role but instead Robert Burke assumed that role. It was directed by Fred Dekker, the third director in the franchise. The screenplay was written by him and Frank Miller from a story by the latter. Its primary cast was Robert Burke, Nancy Allen, Rip Torn, Jill Hennessy, Remy Ryan and Mako. So what did critics think of it? Well they didn’t like it. Roger Ebert said, “Why do they persist in making these retreads?” And the absence of Peter Weller in the title role really, really annoyed most of the critics. (I didn’t think the change in performers was that noticeable with that costume.) Box office wise it barely broke even doing forty-seven million dollars on a budget of twenty-two million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it currently giving a pathetic fifteen percent rating after Robocop 2 scored a thirty-six percent rating and the original had a most excellent eighty-four percent rating. Ouch. Needless to say there was not a Robocop 4.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 5, 1903 — H. Warner Munn. Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 20s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 70s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939, and they published those novels as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry. (Died 1981.)
- Born November 5, 1938 — James Steranko, 83. Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Publisher, and Magician who is noted for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. His breakthough was the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales, and the subsequent series, in the 60s. His design sensibility would become widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he created conceptual art and character designs. He also produced several dozen covers and illustrations for genre novels and anthologies in the 60s and 70s. His two-volume history of the birth and early years of comic books established him as a historian of the field. He received and Inkpot Award and Dragon Con’s Julie Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
- Born November 5, 1940 — Butch Honeck, 81. Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award for Best Three-Dimensional Art.
- Born November 5, 1942 — Frank Gasperik. The inspiration for characters in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red, and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
- Born November 5, 1944 — Carole Nelson Douglas. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series. Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great characters, lovely premise. (Died 2021.)
- Born November 5, 1960 — Tilda Swinton, 61. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I think her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was just frelling strange…
- Born November 5, 1968 — Sam Rockwell, 53. First in our area of interest, he’s the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. And Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest which of course won a Hugo at Chicon 2000. And lastly he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve not seen it yet. Worth seeing? The radio series is so damn good.
- Born November 5, 1971 — Rana Dasgupta, 50. British Indian novelist and essayist. Tokyo Cancelled is definitely genre and is most excellent. He’s written a lot on Dehli including “Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi” which reads like science fiction.
(11) NEXT BIG THING. League of Comic Geeks previews a bestselling author’s work on The Thing #1.
Renowned storyteller Walter Mosley brings his signature style to a sweeping saga of Yancy Street’s favorite son that will range from the urban sprawl of the back alleys of Manhattan to the farthest reaches of the cosmos itself! A lonely evening and a chance encounter (or is it?) sends Ben Grimm embarking on a sojourn that will have him encountering—and battling—figures both old and new. Featuring guest appearances from figures drawn from throughout the Marvel Universe as well as precision artwork by Tom Reilly…
(12) THE CHILLS ARE ALIVE. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode “Once More, With Feeling,” a 2002 Hugo nominee, is remembered fondly by the participants in an LA Times roundtable, “’Buffy’s’ musical episode keeps slaying”.
Ashley Lee: I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since this episode first aired! I must confess that, in those 20 years, I had never seen it, or any other episode of “Buffy.” Watching it for the first time the other day — the series is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — I was floored. This episode f— slaps. I am low-key pissed that I wasn’t allowed to watch this show as a kid because this would have radicalized me. What was it like for a devout “Buffy” fan to see this back then?
Jevon Phillips: Fans knew that Whedon had wanted to do a musical episode for a while. We knew Anthony Stewart Head, who plays Giles, and James Marsters, who plays Spike, could sing. We had heard glowing reviews of Amber Benson’s voice, so Tara was set too. But what about the rest of the cast?
Dawn Burkes: It really was a capital-E Event for “Buffy” fans. And it came during a time when people were still reeling from the show changing networks and well-loved characters changing too. “Where Do We Go From Here,” indeed. (And now I’m singing the entire soundtrack, of which I own a hard copy.)
Tracy Brown: It’s not hyperbole to say that I’ve probably seen “Once More, With Feeling” more times than any single episode — a tally mostly racked up when DVD boxed sets were the only way to revisit your favorite TV. This was before “Glee” or “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” so the only real frame of reference for “musical episode” I had at the time was, like, “Xena: Warrior Princess.” (“Bitter Suite” remains a favorite.) And itwent on to be shown in theaters for fan-driven, interactive sing-along events, at least for a while….
(13) DICTIONARY DEFINITION. In case you didn’t already know the meaning of this word, Lise Andreasen explains it in a tweet:
(14) USE THE CARD, LUKE. CNET’s Bridget Carey previews the Disney World LARP/”indoor cruise” Galactic Starcruiser, opening in March 2022, and “only” costing $6,000 for a family of four. Disney, says Carey, “puts the hype in hyperspace.”
(15) GOLDEN ARCHES AND A GREEN ALIEN. This place has been around a long time – but it’s news to me. “The World’s Only UFO-Themed McDonald’s is In Roswell” – NewMexi.co has the story.
…The space-themed McDonald’s in Roswell was built in the 90’s. The design makes it look like a shiny metal saucer during the day and glow like a red and yellow spaceship in the dark. Dominated by a massive indoor galactic Play Place and fascinating works of art, the Roswell McDonald’s is the only space-themed McDonald’s in the world….
(16) ANTICIPATION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A week or two ago File 770 provided news of a preprint of Martian research from the latest lander.
File 770 is clearly ahead of the game as only now, this week, has the research been formally published in Science where it made the front cover.
(17) BRICK BY BRICK. A new Lego commercial has lots of genre callbacks: “Rebuild the world! Anything is possible with LEGO® sets”.
LEGO® sets take kids to a creative world where no rules apply. A fire-fighting dragon; a car on a carousel; clothes on a cactus; giant bees chasing Star Wars™ Stormtroopers… Anything is possible in the vast and diverse LEGO universe. And, because kids can continuously build, rebuild, reconfigure and combine, the developmental play never stops!
(18) TIME PASSAGES. Another commercial’s extrapolation from today to the Christmases of the future is also a trip from cliché to absurdity. “Lidl GB I Big on a Christmas you can ALWAYS believe in”.
If you’re watching this in 2021, or 2041, then you’ll know that we’re always be BIG on a Christmas you can believe in, to help keep your favourite festive traditions going on and on (and on!)
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Lise Andreasen, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]