(1) RECOGNIZING THE TROUBLE. Yoon Ha Lee’s Phoenix Extravagant is set for an October release. Learn more about the author’s experience writing it in “Comma-Shaped Jades And Other Curiosities: An Article By Yoon Ha Lee” at SciFiNow.uk.
One of the things people warned me about when it comes to writing novels is that no matter how smoothly novel N goes, there’s no guarantee that novel N+1 will also go smoothly. I learned this the hard way in writing Phoenix Extravagant.
I thought I had the plot all planned out, and I knew my protagonist was going to be a painter, and that there would be a mecha dragon. As for the worldbuilding, well, I’d make that up on the fly. That’s what I did with the hexarchate and it more or less worked then; why not now?
You’re probably thinking that making things up on the fly is where I went wrong, and that’s not quite true. If I try to linearize worldbuilding down a checklist, it kills the world flat dead for me. No: the issue was a bigger one. I picked the wrong setting….
(2) WHERE’S THE BEEF? What’s the first thing New Zealanders wanted to do when the government eased lockdown restrictions from level four to level three? Not what I’d guess. “New Zealanders are so eager to eat burgers after the coronavirus lockdown that police are having to enforce crowd control”.
Police in New Zealand have been required to enforce crowd control measures at a popular fast food outlet after large numbers of people rushed to buy burgers following a relaxing of the country’s lockdown measures on Tuesday.
New Zealand, which has reported 1,474 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, spent almost five weeks under a strict, level four lockdown. The country eased into level three restrictions on Tuesday, meaning some children could go back to school and 400,000 people were able to go back to work.
But for many, it was a chance to finally eat the fast food they had been craving. Under level three restrictions, a limited number of restaurants and cafes have been permitted to reopen. According to TVNZ, that resulted in long queues of cars at KFC and McDonald’s drive-thrus outlets throughout Auckland, the country’s biggest city.
(3) ROBOT CENTENARY NEARS. Jaroslav Olsa Jr. has a plan for celebrating Capek’s famous robot story when its hundredth birthday rolls around. If you can help, email him at olsa-jr (at) post (dot) cz
One hundred years ago, in November 1920, drama “R. U. R. Rossum´s Universal Robots” by Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) saw its first edition. Story about a rebellion of artificial people ending with an extinction of humanity saw the first use of the word “robot”.
Though Isaac Asimov didn´t like the play, he rightly commented that R. U. R. is “immortal for that one word. It contributed the word ‘robot’ not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written.”
This year we will have an anthology of original science fiction stories set and connected to Capek´s world of R.U.R. But we are also thinking about an international anthology of the best robotic stories from all over the world… as another homage to maybe the most famous Czech – ROBOT. If you know such excellent piece from the East or West, South or North, send me a copy of the story…
(4) PRATCHETT’S FUTURE ON THE SMALL SCREEN. Media adaptations of favorite writers’ work can be chancy, but Variety makes this sound like a great idea: “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Series to Be Adapted by Endeavor Content, Motive Pictures”.
Narrativia, the production company launched by Pratchett in 2012, has struck an exclusive development deal with Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content for a series of TV adaptations. It is not yet known which of the “Discworld” books will be adapted initially….
Rhianna Pratchett, co-director of Narrativia and Pratchett’s daughter, said: “Discworld teems with unique characters, witty narrative and incredible literary tropes, and we feel these should be realised on screen in a form that my father would be proud of. It’s wonderful to embark on this journey with Motive and Endeavor Content, who both perfectly share our vision to make this a reality.”
Rob Wilkins, managing director of Narrativia, added: “The Discworld books are a huge source of joy to millions of readers, and rightly so; every paragraph, phrase and footnote was crafted with brilliance and flair and we are committed to bringing Terry’s world to the screen with the respect and care it deserves. With this partnership, we are delighted to say that Discworld has finally found its home.”
(5) FLYING SOLO. Cinema’s hottest pilot is in trouble again. “Harrison Ford plane incident under investigation by FAA” reports PageSix. He did the Kessel run in thirteen parsecs, but he screws up crossing a runway at a Southern California airport.
Harrison Ford says an airport runway incident now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration came about because he “misheard a radio instruction.”
The 77-year-old star, who is an avid pilot, was operating a plane at California’s Hawthorne Airport on April 24 when he crossed a runway while another aircraft was landing.
“Mr. Ford crossed the airport’s only runway in his aircraft after he misheard a radio instruction from [air traffic control],” Ford’s rep told Page Six in a statement Wednesday. “He immediately acknowledged the mistake and apologized to ATC for the error. The purpose of the flight was to maintain currency and proficiency in the aircraft.”
His rep added that no one was injured in the incident and “there was never any danger of a collision.”
The FAA confirmed that the two aircraft were approximately 3,600 feet away from each other at the time….
(6) WRITE IF YOU GET WORK. The good news is — “Harrison Ford Reportedly Being Eyed For Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Role”. Let WeGotThisCovered tell you all about it.
…According to our sources – the same ones who told us that the Guardians will cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder and Now You See Me 3 is in development, both of which have since been confirmed – Harrison Ford is reportedly wanted for a villainous part in the film. It’s unclear exactly which one it could be at the moment, but one possibility is the High Evolutionary, a role that his former Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill has been linked to in the past. In certain canon, the character has a hand in the creation and subsequent experiments on Rocket, which ties into the vague plot details that we know so far.
(7) ANDERS INTERVIEW. At Black Gate, Brandon Crilly introduces his “Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019”.
At Can*Con 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Author Guest of Honour Charlie Jane Anders sits down for a one-on-one with programming lead and author Brandon Crilly, discussing her latest novels, short fiction, and her work in fandom and the SFF community.
Which made me curious what’s the latest subject Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz are discussing on the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast. The answer — “Episode 55: 9 New Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now”.
In these tough times, we need great TV shows more than ever. We have lots of opinions about nine new series that are making us happy because they’re smart, fun, and — best of all — colorful! Plus, we’ve got recommendations for over a dozen more not-so-new shows that are worth digging up from last year, or last century. Stay safe at home and plunge your mind into dazzling new worlds.
(8) OSCARS AFFECTED. NPR publicizes a “Academy Awards Eligibility Rules Change Due To COVID-19”.
With movie theaters shuttered and film festivals canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, films once slated for the big screen are now premiering in people’s homes, streaming on digital platforms or showing as video on demand. In an unprecedented move, the board governing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow movies that originally had theatrical release dates but are now being screened online to be eligible to be considered for awards.
“The historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a statement. Until now, to qualify for awards, a film had to run at least seven consecutive days in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County. Under the new rules, when theaters reopen, films may qualify for awards if they have theatrical runs in L.A., New York, California’s Bay Area, Chicago, Miami or Atlanta.
(9) WHERE TO HEAR FROM DOCTOROW. The Essence of Wonder livestream will offer “Cory Doctorow Being Civil With Security Experts” on May 9.
Cory Doctorow will join Gadi [Evron] on Saturday (9 May) to talk on DRM, Right to Repair, and COVID-19/Med-Tech, read from “Unauthorized Bread”, and moderate a panel discussion featuring Steve Crocker, Martin Roesch, Keren Elazari, Ron Gula, Dmitri Alperovich, and Caleb Sima, discussing the challenges of digital policy when facing security and privacy realities.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- April 29, 1950 — Dimension X’s “No Contact” aired. The copy at the time described the episode such, “It was in the year 1982 that space men first discovered the great galactic barrier… 5 exploratory ships went out and none came back each disappearing mysteriously at the same vanishing point an invisible wall somewhere in the vast outer reaches that became known as the wrecker of spaceships.” Mel Brandt as usual was the announcer and with George Lefferts being the writer, and the cast being Donald Buka, Matt Crowley and Cameron Prudhomme. You can hear it here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 29, 1887 — H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre, but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Gam,e are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
- Born April 29, 1908 — Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
- Born April 29, 1923 — Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
- Born April 29, 1943 — Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God, his first novel, I remember as being a rather decent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made it into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.)
- Born April 29, 1946 — Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also edited The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. He is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which was decidedly genre. (Died 2005.)
- Born April 29, 1960 — Robert J. Sawyer, 60. Hominids won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive. And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name. Interesting series that ended far too soon.
- Born April 29, 1958 — Michelle Pfeiffer, 62. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?hin The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
- Born April 29, 1970 — Uma Thurman, 50. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film.
(12) MORE ABOUT KERSHNER. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Today being Irvin Kershner’s celebration of what would have been his 97th birthday, here is a little photo and story. “Kersh” is the older gentleman in the blue shirt and black jacket holding court with the line, (The hat in the lower right belongs to George Clayton Johnson.) This was the premiere of Roger Lay Jr’s graduate thesis film, Chrysalis, based on Ray Bradbury’s story. Ray was sitting to George’s left, out of picture. They held court before the screening.
Kersh kind of snuck into the theater, unbeknownst to Roger, so he was not introduced. Once the screening was over and thank yous expressed people in attendance were getting up and heading for the door or giving a final good-bye to Ray. I realized that most of the people in the audience were “future” directors. I shouted out how many liked The Empire Strikes Back? All hands were raised. I pointed out Kersh, introduced him and the fact that he directed it. A line quickly formed.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Free Range depends on a little inside joke. Robert Bloch would have understood it.
- The Argyle Sweater returns with another batch of “not-so-famous second careers” – three are genre.
(14) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. Two Chairs Talking, the podcast where past Australian Worldcon chairs Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “talk about books, movies and other stuff,” is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Grigg says Episode-26: “Now We Are One” is “a special episode in which Perry and I each pick our five favourite books/series of all time and explain why we love them so much.”
For the record, the books discussed are: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Tango Briefing by Adam Hall, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
(15) CATCHING UP. Wil Wheaton admits it was news to him — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift”. Hear him read it on Soundcloud.
A Modest Proposal is brilliant, biting, hilarious satire, that is as horrifyingly relevant in 2020 as it was in 1729. This reads like one of those brilliant editorials from The Onion, or a Hannity monologue.
… By the time I was in middle school, I was struggling to deal with my abusive father, and I just did what I had to in school to keep my grades up and not fail. My teachers were fantastic, but the curriculum was very narrow, and there was little appreciation for art and literature in it. When I got into high school, I was working full time on Star Trek. I had a magnificent on-set tutor who took me all the way from grade 9 to grade 12, who encouraged me to do all the things my previous educators had not, but by that time it was just too late for me. I have regretted all of this, from the moment I became aware of it in my 30s, and I’ve been working hard to educate myself in the middle of my life, since I was not educated fully at the beginning of my life.
I am so embarrassed and disappointed that my education is a mile wide and half an inch deep. I realized this years ago, and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself, using college lectures that are online, and by reading as much as I can, to expose myself to the great works of art and literature that my parents didn’t care about, and my educators didn’t teach me about….
(16) PROMISE MORE THAN FULFILLED. Tsana Dolichva reviews “The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz”:
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz is a time-travelling science fiction novel. I picked it up based on the promise that there would be both time travel and lesbians, though it turned out to be more diverse than just that description implies….
…But the overarching story is about fighting for rights and the methods by which history is made/changed. An ongoing debate in the book concerns the efficacy of collective action vs the Great Man theory; whether history can be changed incrementally and/or whether killing Hitler actually does anyone any good. But this is more a book about the characters, mostly women, looking out for each other, no matter the time period. If that’s your jam, then this may well be the book for you.
(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight a Jeopardy! contestant’s genre answer was mistaken.
The category: 19th Century novels.
The answer: “It’s first line ends, ‘the period was so far like the present period…for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'”
Wrong question: “What is ‘The Time Machine’?”
Correct question: “What is ‘A Tale of Two Cities’?”
(18) LIKE FANTASIA’S HIPPOS. BBC reports“Dancing gargantuan black holes perform on cue”.
Astronomers have been able to test key consequences of Einstein’s theories by studying the way a couple of black holes move around each other.
One of these objects is a true colossus – a hole weighing 18 billion times the mass of our Sun; the other not quite so big at “only” 150 million Sun masses.
Scientists managed to predict their interactions very precisely.
They did so by including their warping effects on space-time and by assuming the larger hole had a smooth “surface”.
The black hole pairing, known as OJ 287, exists about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth.
Scientists have long recognised a sudden brightening from this system that occurs twice every 12 years. The outburst of energy is equivalent to a trillion suns turning on at once in the holes’ host galaxy.
The best explanation for this extraordinary behaviour is that the smaller object is routinely crashing through a disc of gas and dust that’s accreting on to its larger companion, heating the inspiraling material to extremely high temperatures in the process.
But this flaring is somewhat irregular. Sometimes the brightening episodes in the 12-year period occur as little as one year apart; other times, as much as 10 years apart.
It speaks to the complexity of the path the small hole takes around its partner – a complexity the research team has now built into a highly sophisticated model.
(19) NO PET ROCKS. The court extends a fannish rule: “AI cannot be recognised as an inventor, US rules”.
An artificial intelligence system has been refused the right to two patents in the US, after a ruling only “natural persons” could be inventors.
The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected two patents where the AI system Dabus was listed as the inventor, in a ruling on Monday.
US patent law had previously only specified eligible inventors had to be “individuals”.
It follows a similar ruling from the UK Intellectual Property Office.
(20) CHECKING UP ON THE OTHER DOCTOR. “Dr Chuck Tingle is the glue holding this fragile and crumbling existence together,” says Jake Dowzell. The current crisis has inspired these two topical tinglers.
Meanwhile, a Tingle fan has found a way to show love through Animal Crossing.
(21) SEEDING TIME. Nothing to do with sff, but I found it a relaxing report.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter JJ, Mike Kennedy, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]