(1) EMBRACE THE MONOVERSE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] S.I. Rosenbaum (who was at the Hugo Awards in 2022 with their partner Abraham Reisman) writes in the New York Times about the seductive power of multiverses as a metaphor, and the danger of losing yourself in them. It’s a beguiling and interesting meditative piece that weaves together threads of politics, comic books, modern pop culture and personal reflection. “I Fantasized About Multiple Timelines, and It Nearly Ruined My Life”.
…It’s easy to see the appeal of the multiverse, even as metaphor: the notion that we’re surrounded by a multitude of parallel selves, one of which might be living in a better timeline than the one we’re stuck in. It’s probably no coincidence that the idea has become so popular during an era of pandemic, climate change and political turmoil, when so many of us have felt helpless and trapped. Who doesn’t want to imagine a different world?
But it can also be a dangerous way of imagining the cosmos. Like the Capgras patient, we risk becoming detached from the world we can see and touch. Regardless of whether we can prove that the multiverse exists, the idea of it can distract us from doing the work we need to do to make this world better. This timeline is the only one we have access to, and it’s got to be enough.
As a species, we’ve long been haunted by spirit realms and ghostly domains. Plato conceived of an intangible world of forms realer than anything we can touch. Plutarch reported that Alexander wept when he heard the possibility of an infinite number of worlds, having not conquered all of this one.
C.S. Lewis was an early multiverse explorer with his Narnia books, in which siblings grow to adulthood as kings and queens on the other side of their magical wardrobe in a world that exists parallel to our own. He was also paying quite a bit of attention at the time to a new branch of science known as quantum physics. In 1957, a year after Lewis published his last Narnia book, a Princeton doctoral student, Hugh Everett III, published a dissertation bringing the ancient idea of the simultaneous existence of several worlds into the realm of modern science.
Everett was trying to solve a seeming paradox in quantum theory: Certain elementary particles (say, a photon) seemed to exist mathematically in many places at once but could be detected at only one location at a time.
Perhaps, Everett suggested, the act of detecting the particle splinters reality; perhaps the observer, and indeed the universe, splits into different possible timelines, one for each possible location of the particle. This would become known as the many-worlds interpretation. Physicists recoiled at the idea at the time.
…And that’s the peril of the multiverse; I was becoming unreal to myself, nostalgic not for a time before the death happened but for a timeline in which it never happened at all….
(2) APPROACH THE BENCH. “Publishers, Internet Archive Set for Key Hearing Today” – Publishers Weekly gives a head’s up.
After nearly three years of legal wrangling, a federal judge today will hear cross motions for summary judgment in a closely watched lawsuit challenging the legality of the Internet Archive’s program to scan and lend print library books.
First filed in New York on June 1, 2020, by four major publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House) and the Association of American Publishers, the copyright infringement lawsuit alleges that the Internet Archive’s scanning and lending of library books under an untested legal theory known as “controlled digital lending” is piracy on an industrial scale. The Internet Archive counters that it’s activities are legal, protected by fair use, and that the publishers’ action fundamentally threatens the core mission of libraries to own and lend collections in the digital age….
(3) TASTE OF MOCCA. The Society of Illustrators has release the programming schedule for the 2023 MoCCA Arts Festival, taking place April 1-2. Programming will take place at the SVA Flatiron Gallery, located at 133 West 21st Street (NYC), steps away from the Exhibitor Hall at Metropolitan Pavilion. Full details here: MoCCA Arts Fest. An excerpt from the program press release:
Featured guest Maia Kobabe, author of the award-winning and frequently-banned Gender Queer, will answer questions posed by writer Michele Kirichanskaya (Ace Notes) in a special spotlight session. Kobabe will also participate in a very special panel about comics and censorship moderated by PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman, and also including Mike Curato, author of Flamer, and Cathy G. Johnson, author of The Breakaways, who have all been affected by the wave of censorship currently sweeping parts of the United States.
In other spotlight sessions, Barbara Brandon-Croft (Where I’m Coming From) will discuss her life and career as the first Black woman to write and draw a nationally syndicated daily comic strip. Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil) will appear in conversation with Neil Gaiman (Sandman) to discuss her career and their history of collaboration. This event is scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition “Colleen Doran Illustrates Neil Gaiman,” running from March 22nd to July 29th at the Society of Illustrators and curated by scholar Kim Munson, who will also moderate the conversation. Noah Van Sciver will discuss his prolific career in conversation with Gil Roth (Virtual Memories)….
(4) CULTURE CANCEL. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Research reported in Variety confirms what a lot of us already suspected about the current era of streaming; viewers won’t get attached to shows when they think they’re likely to get cancelled before their stories have a chance to be told. So Netflix’s 1899, and Amazon’s Papergirls may have been doomed before they began. Fear of streamers cancelling shows early leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy, and for dark times in media. “Survey Shows Frequent TV Series Cancellations Affect U.S. Viewership”.
Frequent TV show cancellations are starting to change how U.S. viewers decide what to watch. In fact, whether or not the show has concluded has a significant impact on whether people sample it, according to a survey from YouGov.
A quarter of U.S. adults wait for streaming originals’ finale before starting, citing fears over the show’s potential cancellation with an unresolved ending (27%) or because they do not want to wait for the next season after a cliffhanger (24%). Nearly half (48%) of the participants who said they prefer to wait until the series ends before starting it cited a preference for binge-watching shows.
Moreover, the survey showed that nearly half of Americans (46%) sometimes or always wait for the series finale before they even begin watching the show. The 18-to-34-year-old age group was the most likely to agree with that statement, with 25% saying always and 34% saying sometimes….
(5) VERSUS EBOOKS. On the BBC’s Hardtalk, Stephen Sackur speaks to the hugely successful bookseller James Daunt. “From Waterstones to Barnes & Noble he has fought off ebooks and online retail to revive bricks and mortar bookstores.” But – “Is the books industry a place where creativity and diversity truly thrive?”
As part of its mission to discover, review, and share the best books from university and independent publishers, Foreword Reviews is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2022 INDIES Book of the Year Awards.
More than 2,500 entries spread across 55 genres were submitted for consideration. The Finalists were determined by Foreword’s editorial team. Winners are now being decided by teams of librarian and bookseller judges from across the country.
Winners in each genre—along with Editor’s Choice Prize winners and Foreword’s Independent Publisher of the Year—will be announced June 15, 2023.
(7) LORD RUTHVEN AWARDS ON HIATUS. The Lord Ruthven Assembly usually presents its vampire-themed awards during the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, but not this year.
Amanda Firestone explained to File 770, “The LRA paused our awards for 2022 in order to re-evaluate how candidates are selected and voting procedures are conducted. We intend to ‘double up’ for next year’s presentation at ICFA 45.”
(8) A DOG’S BEST FRIEND. It’s a heartwarming article. “Can’t Explain” by Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer. (Yes, I know!) Here’s the first paragraph.
We ended up dogsitting for an older friend of ours that had to go medical, off island. A long-ish treatment. She’s a widow, and the dog is her husband’s old hunting dog. When we arrived I thought it was a death watch. Not that his mistress is unkind or mistreats him in any way – she had gone to the trouble of getting us in dog-sit, and provides for him in every way… but, well dogs are not politically correct. And no one had told Bert he wasn’t allowed to be a man’s dog. He spent our entire time there basically on my feet. I pampered him, and fussed him a lot. He put on a bit of condition, and when his mistress came home… (and he was pleased to see her) I was left at the gate saying ‘see you in heaven, someday, Bert.’ It nearly broke my heart. Because you can’t explain….
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1977 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Place, his bar that exists everywhere in this universe and perhaps elsewhere, is one of those series that is great in places, and well, not so great in others.
The Beginning below is that of Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon which was published by Ace Books in 1977 in paperback. It’s currently available from the usual suspects.
Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon contains nine stories, Most of which were published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact with one in Vertex.
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat here — I can now only absorb my written SF in small bites, so these stories are perfect for me. Each has Robinson’s usual wry humor and more than a fair bit of sharp wit to them. .
And now let’s have this Beginning…
The Guy With The Eyes. Callahan’s Place was pretty lively that night. Talk fought Budweiser for mouth space all over the joint, and the beer nuts supply was critical. But this guy managed to keep himself in a corner without being noticed for nearly an hour. I only spotted him myself a few minutes before all the action started, and I make a point of studying everybody at Callahan’s Place.
First thing, I saw those eyes. You get used to some haunted eyes in Callahan’s—the newcomers have ’em—but these reminded me of a guy I knew once in Topeka, who got four people with an antique revolver before they cut him down.
I hoped like hell he’d visit the fireplace before he left.
If you’ve never been to Callahan’s Place, God’s pity on you. Seek it in the wilds of Suffolk County, but look not for neon. A simple, hand-lettered sign illuminated by a single floodlight, and a heavy oaken door split in the center (by the head of one Big Beef McCaffrey in 1947) and poorly repaired.
Inside, several heresies.
First, the light is about as bright as you keep your living room. Callahan maintains that people who like to drink in caves are unstable.
Second, there’s a flat rate. Every drink in the house is half a buck, with the option. The option operates as follows:
You place a one-dollar bill on the bar. If all you have on you is a fin, you trot across the street to the all-night deli, get change, come back and put a one-dollar bill on the bar. (Callahan maintains that nobody in his right mind would counterfeit one-dollar bills; most of us figure he just likes to rub fistfuls of them across his face after closing.)
You are served your poison-of-choice. You inhale this, and confront the option. You may, as you leave, pick up two quarters from the always full cigarbox at the end of the bar and exit into the night. Or you may, upon finishing your drink, stride up to the chalk line in the middle of the room, announce a toast (this is mandatory) and hurl your glass into the huge, old-fashioned fireplace which takes up most of the back wall. You then depart without visiting the cigarbox. Or, pony up another buck and exercise your option again.
Callahan seldom has to replenish the cigarbox. He orders glasses in such quantities that they cost him next to nothing, and he sweeps out the fireplace himself every morning.
Another heresy: no one watches you with accusing eyes to make sure you take no more quarters than you have coming to you. If Callahan ever happens to catch someone cheating him, he personally ejects them forever. Sometimes he doesn’t open the door first. The last time he had to eject someone was in 1947, a gentleman named Big Beef McCaffrey.
Not too surprisingly, it’s a damned interesting place to be. It’s the kind of place you hear about only if you need to—and if you are very lucky. Because if a patron, having proposed his toast and smithereened his glass, feels like talking about the nature of his troubles, he receives the instant, undivided attention of everyone in the room. (That’s why the toast is obligatory. Many a man with a hurt locked inside finds in the act of naming his hurt for the toast that he wants very much to talk about it. Callahan is one smart hombre.) On the other hand, even the most tantalizingly cryptic toast will bring no prying inquiries if the guy displays no desire to uncork. Anyone attempting to flout this custom is promptly blackjacked by Fast Eddie the piano player and dumped in the alley.
But somehow many do feel like spilling it in a place like Callahan’s; and you can get a deeper insight into human nature in a week there than in ten years anywhere else I know. You can also quite likely find solace for most any kind of trouble, from Callahan himself if no one else. It’s a rare hurt that can stand under the advice, help, and sympathy generated by upwards of thirty people that care. Callahan loses a lot of his regulars. After they’ve been coming around long enough, they find they don’t need to drink any more.
It’s that kind of a bar.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 20, 1902 — David Lasser. From 1929 to 1933, he was the Managing Editor of Gernsback’s Stellar Publishing Corporation. He edited Science Wonder Stories and Wonder Stories Quarterly, as well working with writers on both zines. Lasser also edited Gernsback’s Wonder Stories from June 1930 to October 1933. As near as I can tell, The Time Projector novel is his only genre work. (Died 1996.)
- Born March 20, 1932 — Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.)
- Born March 20, 1948 — Pamela Sargent, 75. She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships, is the one I like the best. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a women determined to terraform that world at all costs is quite good, and there is the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels, so please do tell me about them. Her “Danny Goes to Mars” novelette won a Nebula and was also nominated for a Hugo at ConFrancisco. She was honored with the Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award.
- Born March 20, 1950 — William Hurt. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, a career-making film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, a Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows in Lost in Space as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead followed for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby and performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Up next was horror film Hellgate and his role as Warren Mills, and Jebediah from Winter’s Tale. He was in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of note, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitized blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. His other role worth noting is Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands. (Died 2022.)
- Born March 20, 1955 — Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 68. Her The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set in California or the Pacific Northwest.
- Born March 20, 1962 — Stephen Sommers, 61. He’s responsible for two of my very favorite pulpish films, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns which he directed and wrote. He also did the same for Van Helsing, and the live action version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. No, I’ve not seen it, so how is it? Not that he’s perfect as he did all four of the Scorpion King films…
- Born March 20, 1970 — Cathy DeBuono, 53. If you were observant, you noticed her as M’Pella, a dabo girl who worked in Quark’s on Deep Space 9 during the last three seasons for an amazing fifty-two episodes. She also worked on the series as a stand-in, photo double, and body double for Terry Farrell. She received no on-screen credits until her final appearance in “The Dogs of War” episode
- Born March 20, 1979 — Freema Agyeman, 44. Best known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised that role briefly in Torchwood. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. She was on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. She’s continued her Martha Jones role in the Big Finish audio productions.
(11) JEDI COMIC RELIEF. “Obi-Wan Kenobi: Ewan McGregor Unexpectedly Reprised His Star Wars Role This Week” at Comicbook.com.
…As for [Ewan] McGregor, it’s unclear if he’ll be playing the fan-favorite Jedi again in an official capacity, but he did don the robe this week during a Comic Relief sketch, which aired on the BBC in the United Kingdom.
McGregor took part in a star-studded parody of Peacock’s The Traitors. The “contestants” included The Great British Bake Off‘s Mary Berry as well as Alison Hammond, who will soon be replacing Matt Lucas on The Great British Bake Off. It also featured Stephen Merchant (Logan), Danny Dyer (EastEnders), Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous), and two real contestants from the first season of The Traitors. In the sketch, McGregor speaks about the dangers of the Dark Side and Merchant accuses him of being there only through a green screen. McGregor tells Merchant to “pipe down” since “it’s been a while” and he’s “just trying to stay in character.” The beloved Star Wars actor also gets in some good puns along the way. You can check out most of the sketch below…
(12) ROLL ‘EM. Speculiction favors us with comments about a Star Wars-themed board game: “Cardboard Corner: Review of Imperial Assault”.
…Imperial Assault is a difficult game to categorize. Hovering at ceiling height above the table, it’s a miniatures game for 1-5 players that plays a campaign across varying scenarios using a modular map to recreate classic Star Wars environments. Tatooine deserts, Dagobah jungles, Imperial bunkers, and star destroyer bridges are just some of the places the wonderfully sculpted plastic minis portraying Rebel heroes and Imperial villains battle it out.
Down at the table level, one player takes on the mastermind role of the Imperials, controlling all of the stormtroopers, probe droids, officers, and other baddies in an attempt to prevent the Rebels from achieving their scenario goals. The other players take on the role of Rebel heroes, and depending on the scenario will fight off the Imperials to accomplish objectives; rescuing captives, stealing data, destroying bunkers—real Star Wars stuff. Linking these pieces together is a campaign that never plays the same way twice. Oh, and a set of custom dice developed specifically for resolving the game’s attacks and skill tests…..
(13) MORE GAME REVIEWS. And if you’re looking for other reviews of “analog” (i.e., not digital) games, Eric Franklin recommended these two sources to me:
- Shut Up And Sit Down – https://www.shutupandsitdown.com – is a blog and podcast that does video reviews of games that include actual gameplay. The team is very funny (and are super-good people), and they’re worth watching.
- Rahdo Runs Through – https://www.youtube.com/user/rahdo – one of the best-known board game channels on YouTube. Originally a one-man show, he’s expanded and brought in a handful of other teammates for his video reviews.
Both of them do solid overviews of play during their reviews, including (usually) showing a few turns or rounds of play.
(14) SO IT’S LIKE SHREK? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientists at Caltech have refined modeling of Io and say it’s likely to have a subsurface global magma ocean overlaying a solid core rather than a spongy mix of solids and magma. So, layers like an onion. Or an ogre. “Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io probably has a subsurface magma ocean” at Sky at Night.
Despite being almost the same size as our own Moon, the two couldn’t be more different.
Our Moon is a cold, dead world, while Io is the most volcanically active body in the Solar System – even more so than Earth – and is constantly spewing itself inside out with intense eruptions.
The driving force behind all this activity is tidal heating. The powerful gravitational pull of Jupiter tugging on Io constantly distorts its shape.
This perpetual bending and flexing generates intense tidal heating in the interior of the moon, melting its silicate rock crust into hot magma….
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Have you seen something strange in the sky lately? The first ones came to spy on us. Now, the Giant Bubbles attack!
Filmmaker Fabrice Mathieu says his film was “Inspired from the white balloons flying above some countries!”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Eric Franklin, Fabrice Mathieu, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]