(1) RIDING IT OUT. James Davis Nicoll points to stories involving an iconic bit of wishful thinking: “Take Cover: Five Cold War-Era Stories Featuring Fallout Shelters”.
Few things are as emblematic of modern society as the nuclear family; nothing is as crucial to the nuclear family as the nuclear fallout shelter. Without a shelter, atomic war may bring swift incineration or painful death from radiation. With a shelter, one can survive with one’s loved ones…at least until the air and food runs out or the radiation finds its way in.
Living as we do in an era of unparalleled international peace and cooperation, fallout shelters might seem a ludicrous expense. During the Cold War, when World War Three seemed a perpetual twenty minutes away, matters were quite different. Many SF authors found fallout shelters inspirational. Here are five examples….
(2) DAHL COMPLAINTS ECHOED AT HIGHEST LEVEL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There’s this which is causing a small kerfuffle over here in Brit Cit: “Roald Dahl: Rishi Sunak joins criticism of changes to author’s books” at BBC News. PS. Rishi Sunak is our latest Prime Minister — I mention in case you’d lost track…
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has criticised changes to Roald Dahl books, after the removal of some references to things like characters’ appearance and weight sparked a fierce debate.
Dahl’s estate and publisher said works including The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been updated to be more suitable for modern audiences.
Some said they approved of the changes.
But Mr Sunak’s spokesman said works of fiction should be “preserved and not airbrushed”….
(3) DOUBLING DOWN. And who would have predicted this? “BBC Apologizes To J.K. Rowling For Second Time This Month After She Was Accused Of Transphobia” reports Deadline.
In a discussion about Harry Potter video game Hogwarts Legacy on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland show, a transgender woman said she had boycotted the game because it was being used to “fund the anti-trans movement.”
Carrie Marshall, a writer and broadcaster, said: “This is having a measurable effect on trans people’s lives and potentially our safety too. I think that’s why so many trans people are concerned about this game.”
The BBC said it reviewed audience complaints about the discussion, which broadcast on February 10. In a statement, it said the exchange did not meet editorial standards.
“The debate got into the issue of gender identity and claims were made about JK Rowling’s views. We accept that the programme failed to challenge these claims and acknowledge that our contributors gave their opinion as fact,” the BBC said.
“This fell below the rigorous editorial standards we’ve applied to our broad coverage of trans and gender recognition stories across BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs output, and we apologise for that.”
The ruling came despite another gamer, Lee Rob, arguing in favor of purchasing Hogwarts Legacy, saying it was “possible to separate the artist from the art.”
A similar discussion about the game on Radio 4’s PM show also failed to meet BBC standards after an attack on Rowling from transgender gamer Stacey Henley went unchallenged. The corporation received 200 complaints about the show and apologized earlier this month….
(4) SOCIAL MEDIA GOES TO DEFCON FOUR. For a thorough breakdown of the Spoutible kefuffle, read Anne Marble’s article at Medium: “Is Spoutible Fighting With Romance Writers and Fans?”
… This may have started with romance author Jackie Barbosa. She had questions about why one of her posts was removed. She was accused of “bullying and harassment” and banned from Spoutible. Her posts were removed by the site (hmm), so she can’t use them to prove her innocence.
Many others spoke forth on this, including SFF and romance reader Romancing the Nope, Zinnia Z, Alyssa, and author Beverley Kendall. Plus author Suzanne Brockmann in this post and author KJ Charles in this post.
(5) A BIG DEAL. “Magic: The Gathering Becomes a Billion-Dollar Brand for Toymaker Hasbro” and is celebrated in the New York Times.
…On Thursday, the company announced that Magic had become its first billion-dollar brand in terms of annual sales, surpassing other toy lines in its stable, like Transformers and G.I. Joe.
That milestone was achieved after 30 years of nurturing the game for longtime fans while finding ways to coax new players to pick it up. It was a “winning playbook,” as Chris Cocks, the chief executive of Hasbro, put it in an interview.
Since it was introduced in the mid-1990s, more than 50 million people — including the rapper Post Malone and the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt — have played Magic in hobby shops and around kitchen tables around the world. The game casts players as wizards who derive their powers by picking cards from the decks they have built, drawing from an ever-expanding universe of cards that are bought, sold and traded in a thriving secondary market. Magic’s popularity has spawned a cottage industry of video games, comic books, a Caribbean cruise and an animated series in development for Netflix.
On Friday, Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro unit that publishes the game, will kick off MagicCon in Philadelphia.
After the initial buzz when it first appeared, Magic flew under the radar for many years, said Gerrick Johnson, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets who covers the toy industry. “Now you get to see how big it is,” he added. “I don’t think there is any toy brand that is even half that size.”
But Hasbro faces challenges making Magic even bigger, particularly player fatigue brought on by the release of 39 new card sets last year, up from 15 in 2019, according to an analysis by Bank of America. New sets can start around $50….
(6) SET A THIEF… The New York Times says “This Tool Could Protect Artists From A.I.-Generated Art That Steals Their Style”.
…One artist noticed that the whimsical A.I. selfies that came out of the viral app Lensa had ghostly signatures on them, mimicking what the A.I. had learned from the data it trained on: artists who make portraits sign their work. “These databases were built without any consent, any permission from artists,” Mr. Rutkowski said.
Since the generators came out, Mr. Rutkowski said he has received far fewer requests from first-time authors who need covers for their fantasy novels. Meanwhile, Stability AI, the company behind Stable Diffusion, recently raised $101 million from investors and is now valued at over $1 billion.
“Artists are afraid of posting new art,” the computer science professor Ben Zhao said. Putting art online is how many artists advertise their services but now they have a “fear of feeding this monster that becomes more and more like them,” Professor Zhao said. “It shuts down their business model.”
That led Professor Zhao and a team of computer science researchers at the University of Chicago to design a tool called Glaze that aims to thwart A.I. models from learning a particular artist’s style. To design the tool, which they plan to make available for download, the researchers surveyed more than 1,100 artists and worked closely with Karla Ortiz, an illustrator and artist based in San Francisco….
(7) THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE FUNNY. Lucy A. Snyder discusses effective examples and others in “Building Worlds and Creating Mood and Atmosphere” at CrimeReads.
…Creating a deliberately amusing description via exaggeration can pair well with a threatening one, particularly if you’re writing horror comedy or action comedy.
There exists in this world a spider the size of a dinner plate, a foot wide if you include the legs. It’s called the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider, or the “Goliath Fucking Bird-Eating Spider” by those who have actually seen one. …
I don’t know how they catch the birds. I know the Goliath Fucking Bird-Eating Spider can’t fly because if it could, it would have a different name entirely. We would call it “sir” because it would be the dominant species on the planet. None of us would leave the house unless a Goliath Fucking Flying Bird-Eating Spider said it was okay.
— from This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It by David Wong
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1937 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again has I think one of the most perfect Beginnings I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. It tells the hobbits are creature of comfort, while hinting that one, a Baggins by name, will have an adventure.
The Hobbit was published eighty six years ago first in the UK by George Allen & Unwin. The cover which you see below was by Tolkien.
The first edition differs from latter editions as Tolkien made changes to it after writing the Lord of The Rings to bring into accomandation with those novels.
Need I see it is one of my favorite novels to read over and over?
And here is that wonderful Beginning…
AN UNEXPECTED PARTY
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.
This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.
This is the presentation copy that was auctioned by Sotheby’s which is inscribed “Mr and Mrs Livesley | & Edgar | with best wishes | from | J.R.R. Tolkien.”
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 21, 1912 — Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Astounding, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Marvel Tales, Super Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. He was awarded a special Hugo Award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
- Born February 21, 1913 — Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He attended the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
- Born February 21, 1935 — Richard A. Lupoff. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart. A veritable who’s who of writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he was prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The usual digital suspects stock him deeply at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2020.)
- Born February 21, 1937 — Gary Lockwood, 86. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot ,Mission Impossible, Night Gallery, Six Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
- Born February 21, 1946 — Anthony Daniels, 77. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the productions in the series, no matter what they are. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it?
- Born February 21, 1949 — Frank Brunner, 74. Comics artist whose career started at such venues as Creepy, Web of Horror and Vampirella. Worked later mostly at Marvel Comics on such features as Howard the Duck where he did his artwork for his early features. He also did the art for the Chamber of Chills, Haunt of Horror, and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction anthologies. In addition, he and Moorcock collaborated on an adaptation of the latter’s sword-and-sorcery hero Elric in Heavy Metal magazine.
- Born February 21, 1961 — David D. Levine, 62. Winner of the Hugo Award at L.A. Con IV for the Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear over here. He has the most excellent Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is three novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Non Sequitur made me shiver. Though they only set out to make breakfast.
(11) AHH, THE CLASSICS! Last weekend’s Gallifrey One convention in LA made news in Radio Times: “Jodie Whittaker joined by classic companions at Doctor Who convention”.
… As well as a jam-packed roster of programmes, events and incredible costumes, the special convention also saw Jodie Whittaker take to the stage for her first-ever appearance at a dedicated Doctor Who convention.
(12) WHEN YOU WISH UPON A FARR. Charlie Jane Anders Happy Dancing newsletter shares “7 Hot Takes About Star Trek”.
3. The contradiction at the heart of Trek gives it a lot of its power.
Starfleet is simultaneously a militaristic organization loosely modeled on the U.S. Navy, and also a peaceful scientific institution whose members are encouraged to think for themselves and to take up artistic hobbies — as long as they only perform Shakespeare plays or music that someone from the mid-twentieth century would immediately recognize. Some of the most memorable scenes in TNG involve crewmembers who’ve disobeyed orders and get dressed down by Picard or some other officer. That moment when someone reaches the limits of Starfleet tolerance, and discovers that individualism and kindness aren’t always the order of the day, is always super fascinating. This dichotomy also powers a lot of the best Trek dilemmas, which boil down to whether to respond to some new, dangerous phenomenon with curiosity or aggression.
(13) STEAMPUNK DISNEY. Olivia Rutigliano remembers “That Time Disneyland Paris Built a Jules Verne-Themed Space Mountain Ride” at CrimeReads.
…Even with the design retraction and financial constraints, lead imagineer Tim Delaney oversaw the building of a masterpiece. Inside, and out, the ride was a sight to behold. The aesthetic of the whole area was beaux-arts steampunk, both ornate and mechanical: the exterior was shiny copper and steel, with glistening gears. Along the side of the pavilion, there was a giant golden canon, which would shoot the guests “into space” to start the ride. The cars would slingshot forwards and upwards before ducking into the pavilion, zooming around (and upside-down) through space and eventually towards a smiling moon, before hurtling back to earth. It had a full narrative, and its own original score. The coaster was named “Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon.” And, for a time, it alone solved the financial problems suffered by EuroDisney (then called “Disneyland Paris”)….
(14) THE STARS COME OUT. The Guardian presents a gallery of cosplay photos: “C-3POs, Wonder Women and a trio of Alices: the stars of cosplay – in pictures”.
(15) WHEN DRACULA KICKED THE HABIT. “Bela Lugosi – His Triumph and Testimony Overcoming Drug Addiction – With Gary D. Rhodes” on YouTube.
Author, film historian, and Bela Lugosi biographer Gary Don Rhodes introduces us to recently rediscovered (2023) footage of Bela Lugosi testifying on the horror of drug addiction in 1955. Bela Lugosi (October 20, 1882 – August 16, 1956), early in his Hollywood career in the 1930s, became addicted to narcotics to battle chronic pain in his legs, originating during his military service, and which had increased in severity over the years. For twenty years, use of morphine as a pain killer, and methadone to combat morphine addiction, with bouts of alcoholism, deteriorated his health and quality of life. In 1955, Lugosi, now in his early 70s, desperately sought help to shed these addictions. By court order in the State of California, Lugosi began treatment at The Metropolitan Hospital in Norwalk, California. The three-month treatment was successful, and Lugosi was “clean”. Lugosi was very keen and very candid about sharing his misfortunes with substance addiction, and was eager to warn the public and advocate for treatment at a time when the subject of drug addiction and treatment wasn’t openly discussed, but “swept under the rug”. We present recently rediscovered footage of Bela Lugosi testifying before a Senate Committee. He appears as a voluntary witness before Senator Price Daniels (D-Tex), a one-man Senate subcommittee, during a hearing on narcotics traffic in Los Angeles, November 16th, 1955. Said Bela Lugosi about his decades-long addiction, and especially the pain of withdrawal and rehabilitation, “…it was hell.”
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day by OGH as inspired by Cat Eldridge.]