(1) RELOAD THE CANON. Wealth of Geeks says these are the “60 Sci-Fi Books That All Science Fiction Fans Must Read”. I’ve read 30 of them. A bunch of things on the list are titles of series with three or more volumes. In other cases, only the first book in a series is named, like Foundation and Three-Body Problem. But as Asimov himself once wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of petty minds.” Their list is broken down into categories. Here’s one example —
The Best Sci-Fi Books for Younger Readers
Take adventures through time and space, no matter your age!
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Murry children and Calvin O’Keefe crosses universes and space-time to try to find their missing father. Their tale is a mind-bending adventure of good vs. evil.
His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass/Northern Lights begins this sweeping saga of two children, one born in a parallel universe, one born in our own. In Lyra’s world, people’s souls exist in animal form, called daemons. Her father and mother represent warring factions determined to control all universes. Filled with talking animals, witches, airships, and strange creatures, His Dark Materials packs an emotional punch.
The Apothecary Series by Maile Meloy
Set in the 1950s, The Apothecary starts this highly entertaining, thrilling adventure series in which American Janie Scott meets Benjamin Burrows, the son of an apothecary. After Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, the teenagers uncover a terrifying plot that could result in humanity’s end. They use potions with magical effects to try and stop the impending doom.
The first of the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series, book one begins with Kiranmala discovering her parents are missing, and there is a demon in her kitchen! Two princes recruited her and sent to another dimension, where she must battle the Serpent King and the Rakkhoshi Queen to rescue her parents and save the Earth.
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
This delightful middle-grade novel recounts a discarded robot named Roz and her search for love and acceptance.
(2) STUDYING D&D. Sign up to hear Professor Esther MacCallum-Stewart (also Bid Chair, Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon) talk about the game – “‘How do you want to do this?’, Dungeons & Dragons at 50” – on February 28.
The lecture is free to attend and will be online. I will be discussing how and why Dungeons & Dragons is experiencing such a massive revival at the moment. I’ll trace some of its history, as well as discussing how Twitch streaming and Actual Play games have contributed to making the game a spectator event as well as helping it become an easier, friendly experience to play.
I’ve been writing and researching games for all of my academic career, and playing for even longer. I’m proud of games becoming a more recognised art form and topic of critical debate. And I’m really excited to be talking about this in the lecture!
(3) CLAIMING SPACE. The Smithsonian’s Afrofuturism conference is running January 27-29 – the “Claiming Space Symposium”. All events are free but registration is required. (However, videos are being posted afterwards at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum YouTube channel.)
The Smithsonian Afrofuturism Series is a collaboration between the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Museum of African Art.
Smithsonian scholarship and collections address the topics of futurism and Afrofuturism from many angles. Each of the three collaborating museums brings a perspective on the topic including:
- The prevalence of Afrofuturism in science fiction and how visions of the future affect space exploration and today’s technological landscape
- How technology is used to enact or enforce existing power dynamics, or to resist those structures
- How the sources and impact of Afrofuturism are rooted in Africa’s and the African Diaspora’s arts and history as well as their global influences
Not limited to fictional depictions of the future, this collaboration will examine what the future looks like today and how that future addresses issues like postcolonialism, climate change, and urbanization.
(4) SCANNERS LIVE IN VAIN. Camestros Felapton adds another artifact to The Museum of Right-Wing Gadgets & Sundry Devices: “The M of RWG&SD Exhibit 3: The :CueCat”.
…OK, so I can’t actually blame Covid-19 on the CueCat (or “:CueCat” — the initial colon was part of its name). However, this weird computer peripheral did manage to anticipate many of the curses that would fall upon us in the new century. The basic idea of a device that would enable users to scan printed material as a way of accessing websites/online information is one that has become ubiquitous via QR codes and smartphones. Of course, nobody particularly likes QR codes (aside from marketers) and it has taken a worldwide disaster with 5 million+ people dead for their use to become part of everyday life and only then because of public health orders….
(5) PLAYING ALL THE ANGLES. An introduction to the 19th century classic Flatland in “Aspiring to a Higher Plane” at The Public Domain Review.
Edwin Abbott Abbott, who became Headmaster of the City of London School at the early age of 26, was renowned as a teacher, writer, theologian, Shakespearean scholar, and classicist. He was a religious reformer, a tireless educator, and an advocate of social democracy and improved education for women. Yet his main claim to fame today is none of these: a strange little book, the first and almost the only one of its genre: mathematical fantasy. Abbott called it Flatland, and published it in 1884 under the pseudonym A. Square.
On the surface — and the setting, the imaginary world of Flatland, is a surface, an infinite Euclidean plane — the book is a straightforward narrative about geometrically shaped beings that live in a two-dimensional world. A. Square, an ordinary sort of chap, undergoes a mystical experience: a visitation by the mysterious Sphere from the Third Dimension, who carries him to new worlds and new geometries. Inspired by evangelical zeal, he strives to convince his fellow citizens that the world is not limited to the two dimensions accessible to their senses, falls foul of the religious authorities, and ends up in jail.
(6) LIFE IMITATES ART. “An uplifting pandemic drama? How Station Eleven pulled off the impossible” – the Guardian explains.
…The book, which was a bestseller in 2014, was discovered anew as the real-life pandemic made us seek out stories to help process the emergent threat. (See the spike in streams of Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion; the return of Camus.) Its author, Emily St John Mandel, is often declared to have “predicted” the future, a claim she resists.
“There are tiers of how much it blew your mind,” says Station Eleven star Mackenzie Davis by phone from Los Angeles. “Talking about a virus making its way round the world from Asia to Europe to Chicago, and then halting production to let that actual event happen – it was really quite chilling.”
If the collapse of fact and fiction was coincidental to the book, it is inherent to the show – and the source of its substantial pathos. Premiering in the UK this week but recently concluded in the US, it has been hailed as a rare uplifting story of the pandemic. Its creator, Patrick Somerville (who also wrote revered post-apocalyptic drama The Leftovers), describes it as: “a post-apocalyptic show about joy”….
(7) CANNED GOODS. Evolution List assembled clips to show the “Evolution of Iron Man in MCU Movies & TV 1978 – 2021”.
Iron Man in MCU Movies & TV Evolution is a list video that includes all Iron Man in MCU Movies & TV changes through the years from 1978 to 2021!
(8) MEMORY LANE.
2007 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifteen years ago, Patricia McKillip’s Solstice Wood, the sort of sequel to Winter Rose which can be read independently of that novel, wins the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. Other nominated works that year were Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, Peter S. Beagle’s The Line Between, Susan Palwick’s The Necessary Beggar, Kevin Donahue’s The Stolen Child and Tim Powers’ Three Days to Never. It was the year before she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the same organization. Lest you ask, yes, it is my favorite novel by her.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 28, 1910 — Arnold Moss. Anton Karidian a.k.a. Kodos the Executioner in the most excellent “The Conscience of the King” episode of Trek. It wasn’t his only SFF role as he’d show up in Tales of Tomorrow, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Time Tunnel and Fantasy Island. (Died 1989.)
- Born January 28, 1920 — Lewis Wilson. Genre-wise, he’s remembered for being the first actor to play Batman on screen in the 1943 Batman, a 15-chapter theatrical serial from Columbia Pictures. His only other major role was as Walt Jameson is the Forties serial Craig Kennedy, Criminologist. (Died 2000.)
- Born January 28, 1929 — Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
- Born January 28, 1944 — Susan Howard, 78. Mara, the Klingon woman, on “The Day of The Dove” episode of Star Trek. Was she the first Klingon woman? She also showed up on Tarzan, The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeanie, Land of Giants, The Immortal, The Fantastic Journey and Mission: Impossible.
- Born January 28, 1959 — Frank Darabont, 63. Early on, he was mostly a screenwriter for horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Blob and The Fly II, all minor horror films. As a director, he’s much better known because he’s done The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist. He also developed and executive-produced the first season of The Walking Dead. And he wrote Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that I like a lot.
- Born January 28, 1973 — Carrie Vaughn, 49. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s got a relatively new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless which won the Philip K. Dick Award, and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. She has had two Hugo nominations, the first at Renovation for her “Amaryllis “ short story, the second at Worldcon 75 for another short story, “That Game We Played During the War”.
- Born January 28, 1985 — Tom Hopper, 37. His principal genre role was on the BBC Meriln series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s also Luther Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá.
- Born January 28, 1998 — Ariel Winter, 24. Voice actress whose has shown up in such productions as Mr. Peabody & Sherman as Penny Peterson, Horton Hears a Who!, DC Showcase: Green Arrow as Princess Perdita and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly (Robin). She’s got several one-off live performances on genre series, The Haunting Hour: The Series and Ghost Whisperer.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Scott Johnson captures the pause between heroics:
(11) MAN NAME CHUCK UP FOR AWARD NAME BRAM. Chuck Tingle shared his excitement about making the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Award.
(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Quantum Computing Threatens Everything — Could it be Worse Than the Apocalypse?” – MSN.com thinks this would make a good nightmare.
What is a quantum computer?
A quantum computer is a machine that uses the laws of quantum theory to solve problems made harder by Moore’s law (the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years). One example is factoring large numbers. Traditional computers are limited to logical circuits with several tens of transistors, while the number of transistors in a quantum processor may be on the order of one to two million. Meaning, these computers will have exponential power, solving problems that traditional computation can’t even identify or create solutions for.
The dangers of a quantum computer
In the near future, quantum computers will be so advanced that they will have the capability to simulate very complicated systems. This could be used for simulations in physics, aerospace engineering, cybersecurity and much more. However, once this computer is built, it has the potential to unravel data encryption protocols. It could also potentially compromise air gaps due to its ability to scan vast distances for nearby networked devices or applications that are open. This means that it can become even simpler for external hackers. They may already have access to your computer or computer system via other avenues, like vulnerabilities in web browsers. They could find it much easier because you’re not locking up all the doors….
(13) WITH A DINO BY YOUR SIDE. The Bristol Board shows off James Gurney’s beautiful poster for “New Book Week”. (Item submitted there by Kurt Busiek.)
(14) TRUE GRIT. “British men play board game ‘Dune’ for 85 hours to break Guinness record” reports UPI.
A quartet of British men broke a Guinness World Record by playing a board game for more than 85 hours.
Lea Poole, Dale Poole, Adam Bircher and Luke de Witt Vine, members of the Herefordshire Boardgamers group, played 79 rounds of the board game Dune, based on the same Frank Herbert novel as the 2021 film of the same name, for a total time of over 85 hours.
The previous record was 80 hours, set by four men in the Netherlands in 2017, and Guinness World Records told the British team they would have to best the record by at least 5 hours to be considered for official recognition.
The gamers were allowed five minutes of break time for each hour played, and they allowed the break times to accumulate so they could get a small amount of sleep. They said they had 21 minutes of break time unused when they finished their record attempt….
(15) UNSPECIAL DELIVERY. The Guardian keeps track as “Out-of-control SpaceX rocket on collision course with moon”.
A SpaceX rocket is on a collision course with the moon after spending almost seven years hurtling through space, experts say.
The booster was originally launched from Florida in February 2015 as part of an interplanetary mission to send a space weather satellite on a million-mile journey.
But after completing a long burn of its engines and sending the NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory on its way to the Lagrange point – a gravity-neutral position four times further than the moon and in direct line with the sun – the rocket’s second stage became derelict….
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, wrote that the impact was due on 4 March but was “not a big deal”.
Nevertheless, space enthusiasts believe the impact could provide valuable data.
Berger believes the event will allow for observation of subsurface material ejected by the rocket’s strike, while Gray says he is “rooting for a lunar impact”.
“We already know what happens when junk hits the Earth; there’s not much to learn from that,” he said.
(16) INTENTIONAL LANDINGS. The Hakuto-R lander could be part of the international lunar hit parade: “Japanese Company Joins March Back to the Moon in 2022”.
A Japanese company is pushing ahead with plans to launch a private moon lander by the end of 2022, a year packed with other moonshot ambitions and rehearsals that could foretell how soon humans get back to the lunar surface.
If the plans hold, the company, ispace, which is based in Tokyo, would accomplish the first intact landing by a Japanese spacecraft on the moon. And by the time it arrives, it may find other new visitors that already started exploring the moon’s regolith this year from Russia and the United States. (Yutu-2, a Chinese rover, is currently the lone robotic mission on the moon.)
Other missions in 2022 plan to orbit the moon, particularly the NASA Artemis-1 mission, a crucial uncrewed test of the American hardware that is to carry astronauts back to the moon. South Korea could also launch its first lunar orbiter later this year.
But other countries that had hoped to make it to the moon in 2022 have fallen behind. India was planning to make its second robotic moon landing attempt this year. But its Chandrayaan-3 mission was delayed to mid-2023, said K. Sivan, who completed his term as the chairman of the country’s space agency this month. Russia, on the other hand, remains confident that its Luna-25 lander will lift off this summer.
The M1 moon lander built by ispace is the size of a small hot tub. It is in the final stages of assembly in Germany at the facilities of Ariane Group, the company’s European partner, which built the rocket that recently launched the James Webb Space Telescope.
If structural tests go as planned in April, M1 will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a launch on one of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets….
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Hawkeye Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that in this show a dog attacks a villain because “the man’s a bad guy and the dog’s a good dog.” The dog gets rewarded with a pizza but we don’t see the doggy diarrhea that takes place when a dog snarfs up a lot of cheese. Also, Hawkeye knows LARPers, who help him by “Making some costumes, tampering with police evidence, and risking their jobs and lives.”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]