(1) TIME TO BOW OUT. Bruce Sterling’s blog at WIRED, which he’s been writing since 2003, is ending: “Farewell to Beyond the Beyond”.
…If there are no big events due to pandemic, and nobody’s shopping much, either, then it’s mighty hard to keep a magazine empire afloat in midair. Instead, you’ve gotta fire staffers, shut down software, hunt new business models, re-organize and remove loose ends. There is probably no looser-end in the entire WIRED domain than this weblog.
…Although I wrote tons of “original content” elsewhere, long text-form essays like this were vanishingly rare on “Beyond the Beyond.” The blog never trolled for any viral hits, or tried to please any patrons. Also, I never got paid anything for my blogging, which was probably the key to the blog’s longevity. This blog persisted with such ease, because there was so much that I didn’t have to do.
…Also, the ideal “Beyond the Beyond” reader was never any fan of mine, or even a steady reader of the blog itself. I envisioned him or her as some nameless, unlikely character who darted in orthogonally, saw a link to some odd phenomenon unheard-of to him or her, and then careened off at a new angle, having made that novelty part of his life. They didn’t have to read the byline, or admire the writer’s literary skill, or pony up any money for enlightenment or entertainment. Maybe they would discover some small yet glimmering birthday-candle to set their life alight.
(2) ANTICLICK BAIT, BUT DON’T BLAME THE PARK SERVICE. Does Gizmodo think putting the President’s name in this headline generates more clicks? If so, they’re wrong . I only looked because Daniel Dern recommended the link. “These Social Distancing Posters Are the Best Thing the Trump Administration Has Done for Parks”. Very clever stuff! Then I went to the National Park Service’s Twitter feed and found the source art.
The posters have an important mission: promote social distancing in parks during the covid-19 pandemic, reduce the spread of disease in parks, and promote virtual opportunities and experiences at parks. To be fair, the posters have been around for a few weeks now, but these gems clearly haven’t received the attention they deserve….
And that’s not the only clever thing with a genre twist that they’ve posted. Another is:
A playlist of videos about the Summer Scares program, including resources for libraries to use to promote horror at their own libraries. Summer Scares is brought to you by the Horror Writers Association, Book Riot, Library Journal/School Library Journal, and United for Libraries.
Here’s the one from Stephen Graham Jones:
(4) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. SF Geeks go where only two men have gone before: “Thirty-six Thousand Feet”, in The New Yorker.
…Most submarines go down several hundred metres, then across; this one was designed to sink like a stone. It was the shape of a bulging briefcase, with a protruding bulb at the bottom. This was the pressure hull—a titanium sphere, five feet in diameter, which was sealed off from the rest of the submersible and housed the pilot and all his controls. Under the passenger seat was a tuna-fish sandwich, the pilot’s lunch. He gazed out of one of the viewports, into the blue. It would take nearly four hours to reach the bottom.
…The submarine touched the silty bottom, and the pilot, a fifty-three-year-old Texan named Victor Vescovo, became the first living creature with blood and bones to reach the deepest point in the Tonga Trench. He was piloting the only submersible that can bring a human to that depth: his own.
For the next hour, he explored the featureless beige sediment, and tried to find and collect a rock sample. Then the lights flickered, and an alarm went off. Vescovo checked his systems—there was a catastrophic failure in battery one. Water had seeped into the electronics, bringing about a less welcome superlative: the deepest-ever artificial explosion was taking place a few feet from his head.
If there were oxygen at that depth, there could have been a raging fire. Instead, a battery junction box melted, burning a hole through its external shell without ever showing a flame. Any instinct to panic was suppressed by the impossibility of rescue. Vescovo would have to come up on his own.
(5) MCWHORTER OBIT. Noted Burroughs collector George McWhorter (1931-2020), whose work in the sff field came after a long and fruitful career in music, died April 25. Legacy has details of both careers, as well as his family history.
…George’s most celebrated collection is the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection, which he developed as a tribute to his mother Nell Dismukes McWhorter, who taught him to read when he was just five years old. “She tried everything,” George recalls, “Dickens, Dumas… but when she got to Burroughs, I was hooked!” The largest institutional collection of Burroughs in the world, this vast and comprehensive collection of rare editions, toys, posters, games, photographs, and film has attracted scholars and fans to the University of Louisville for more than thirty years.
In 1986 George was named Curator of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection, a fitting title for a man who has furthered scholarship, preserved unique treasures, and brought worldwide attention to Burroughs. Looking toward the future, George has established an endowment to provide continuous support for the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection. In 2008, he designated a bequest for an endowed chair and curatorship. He also has been working with Burroughs Bibliophiles on their own gifts and bequests.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- May 17, 1987 — The Return Of The Six Million Dollar Man And The Bionic Woman first aired. The series were loosely based off on Cyborg by Martin Caidin and The Bionic Woman by Kenneth Johnson. Michael Sloan wrote the screenplay which was based on the story he and Bruce Lansbury wrote. Lee Majors co-stars here with Lindsay Wagner. Martin Landau, Lee Major II and Gary Lockwood guest star. It was the fourth highest rate show of genre week, and holds a 82% approval rating among the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 17, 1913 — Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter duties are as he did work on The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Lost, Battle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, do warrant his being noted here. (Died 1983.) (CE)
- Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson. Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps). Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group. Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him. Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation; compiled An Index of the Works of Various Fantasy Authors 1947-1948 and An Index of Various Fantasy Publications 1947-1948. Member of First Fandom. Big Heart, Lamont, Phoenix awards. (Died 2006) [JH]
- Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill. Lieutenant in U.S. Army; two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Atlantic Monthly “first” prize, O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature; Fulbright, Guggenheim fellowships; Rockefeller grant; Professor of English, Brown University. (Died 2002) [JH]
- Born May 17, 1926 – Ludvík Soucek. Probably still the best-known Czech SF author. Wrote also about puppet theater, photography, book printing. A dozen books, as many collections. (Died 1978) [JH]
- Born May 17, 1946 – F. Paul Wilson. Sold to Analog while still in medical school, now an osteopath. Medical thrillers, interactive scripts e.g. FTL Newsfeed. Urban mercenary Repairman Jack first appeared in N.Y. Times best-seller The Tomb. Three Prometheus Awards, including the first (1979), most recently Lifetime Achievement (2015). Fifty novels in our field, sixty shorter stories, letters & reviews in Janus, SF Review, N.Y. Review of SF. [JH]
- Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell. Professor at Hollins University. Historical and other fiction for adults, young adults, children, under her own name and pseudonyms. Among us, novels about deer dancers (Daughter of the Sky, two more), goddesses (Persephone, Aphrodite, Athena), horse catchers (When the Horses Came, two more); six others; What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe. [JH]
- Born May 17, 1954 — Colin Greenland, 66. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of Plenty, The Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work ofFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
- Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim. Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark. Twenty covers and interiors for Phantasy Digest, Dark Fantasy, Borealis. Harvey Award; Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame. [JH]
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- The Flying McCoys seem to be in the middle of a monstrous misunderstanding.
- La Cucaracha crosses aliens and masks for a topical laugh.
(9) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR YOUR HVP. Cora Buhlert, 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, has put her Hugo Voter Packet online as well. Here is a link where you can download it in the e-book format of your choice here.
(10) MORE LAUGHS. NPR takes notes as “Greg Daniels Moves His Comedic Spotlight To Absurdity In The Afterlife”.
For more than 30 years, Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer Greg Daniels has spun comedy from the threads of ordinary life, turning its frustrations and awkward moments into such hit shows as The Office, Parks And Recreation, and King of the Hill.
Now he’s reflecting on these notions again in Upload, a futuristic comedy on Amazon Prime — but this time they play out in the afterlife too. He’s also behind the upcoming Netflix satire Space Force, launching May 29, starring Steve Carell.
Greg Daniels’ humor has all the makings of the British comedies he reveres, including Fawlty Towers and the original, British version of The Office.
“There’s something wonderful about the awkwardness of it and their kind of enjoyment of a pathetic situation that always appealed to me,” Daniels says.
…The problems in Daniels’ upcoming Netflix show Space Force include a military leader who doesn’t listen to the scientists around him. His new sci-fi comedy Upload explores the inequalities — and inhumanity — that emerges as advanced, expensive, digital technologies hit the market.
“These technologies are introduced and they all seem great. And then, you know, the law of unintended consequences kicks in and they are kind of flawed or sometimes outright evil when they’re actually executed,” Daniels says.
In Upload, only the wealthy get to experience an idyllic afterlife in the expensive, leafy resort called “Lakeview.” Even the commercial for Lakeview feels eerily familiar.
(11) LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. Disney Parks posted a video flashback to Halloween 2019: “Jack Skellington reigns at Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular!”
Because we are halfway to Halloween, we are traveling back in time to last fall when Magic Kingdom Park was in the skeletal hands of the Pumpkin King. Join him in front of Cinderella Castle for a frightfully mischievous night of fireworks and creeps during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
(12) HER REAL CHILDREN. NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviews author Curtis Sittenfield: “Hillary Without Bill? ‘Rodham’ Imagines What Could Have Been”.
A young Hillary Rodham, madly in love with the man she met at Yale Law School, abandons her own path and heads to Arkansas. Slowly she starts to uncover Bill Clinton’s many infidelities and makes a choice.
What would have happened if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton?
“So in real life, Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary Rodham twice and she said no. Both times. And then he proposed a third time and she said yes,” says author Curtis Sittenfeld. “And in my version, she says no. The third time, too. And she goes her own way.” Sittenfeld’s new book Rodham follows Hillary as she goes on to become a law professor, and then a politician.
On wanting to write speculative fiction about someone who’s been written about so much already
Well, doesn’t everyone? Isn’t it a totally natural impulse? So actually, it’s funny because I agree with you that so much has been written about Hillary. And it was sort of in reaction to that that I think I wrote this book. So in the lead-up to the 2016 election, I was invited to write essays about Hillary, and I would decline because I felt like every possible thing there was to say about Hillary had been said. She had been analyzed from every angle.
And then an editor at Esquire magazine invited me to write a short story from Hillary’s perspective. And I accepted, and writing that story was this kind of strange exercise where I realized that the question was not, what do the American people think of Hillary Clinton, but what does Hillary Clinton think of the American people? And it turned out that that I had 400 pages worth of thoughts to say on that. So it was actually trying to sort of flip the narrative, and instead of making her the one who’s scrutinized, like giving her a voice — which, of course, is a totally fictionalized voice, like she did not write this book. I wrote this book.
(13) HE’S A CRITIC. [Item by Daniel Dern.] And I’ll say it in case nobody else will (although I’m sure they will), “This robot really sucks.” “An R2-D2 Robot Vacuum Is Exactly the Chore Droid I’m Looking For”. Be sure to watch the video!
(14) THEY’RE CRITICS TOO. “Coronavirus: Author Neil Gaiman’s 11,000-mile lockdown trip to Scottish isle” – BBC says a local politician is outraged.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who is the MP for the island, told the Sunday Times the author’s journey was unacceptable.
He said: “What is it about people, when they know we are in the middle of lockdown that they think they can come here from the other side of the planet, in turn endangering local people from exposure to this infection that they could have picked up at any step of the way?”
Mr Gaiman – whose main family home is in Woodstock in the USA – has owned the house on Skye for more than 10 years.
(15) THE MASTER SPACE. The Iron Sky “Dictator’s Cut” is online.
(16) BACK TO THE FUTURE REUNION. Josh Gad’s stay-at-home show Reunited Apart summons Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson and even Huey Lewis to reminisce about the 1985 movie.
Great Scott! Things get heavy during Episode Two of “Reunited Apart” as Josh is joined by the creative geniuses behind the Back to the Future trilogy.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Something sure to please that little bit of pyromania in everyone.
Match Chain Reaction – Space Rocket built with Matches TAKES OFF 1 Million matches is a lot of matches, which means lighting them all together is a lot of fire. The way it burns is crazy to watch. It took me a lot of hard work and time to make this rocket.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Dennis Howard, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, IanP, JeffWarner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day the cryptic Daniel Dern.]