(1) JUST SAYING. “Parlez-vous Valyrian? Meet the people creating languages for Game of Thrones, Avatar and more” in the Guardian.
Half a million Duolingo users are currently learning High Valyrian. But how do you make a language out of nothing? The linguists behind top fantasy TV shows and films explain:
If a language offers clues to the culture of its speakers, then the experience of learning Game of Thrones’s High Valyrian on Duolingo conjures visions of a bustling historic civilisation in which owls stalk the skies, magic abounds, and the spectre of death forever haunts the imaginations of the living. You learn to say “The woman is sweating” before that most basic greeting, “Hello”. An incongruously cheerful cartoon asks you to translate “All men must die, goodbye.” And, of course: “Ñuhyz zaldrīzesse gevī issi.” (“My dragons are beautiful!”).
Described in George RR Martin’s books as the language of the dragon-taming rulers of a once-great empire, Old Valyria has been compared to the Roman Republic, and High Valyrian to classical Latin. The language only assumed full life when linguist David J Peterson took it on for season three of the television series in 2012. Working from the few High Valyrian phrases mentioned in the book – names, places, and the infamous strapline, “Valar Morghūlis” (“All men must die”) – Peterson created an entire language. The Duolingo course was launched in 2017….
(2) HUGO ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert has posted “Some Thoughts on the 2023 Hugo Finalists”. Cora also says she is “Still trying to hunt down information on some of the Chinese finalists, but it’s difficult due to multiple spellings and multiple people with the same names. But I’ve made friends with the two Chinese fan writer finalists.”
Speaking about the Best Series category:
… Personally, I’m sad that Elric by Melniboné by Michael Moorcock did not make the ballot, because not only is it a seminal sword and sorcery series, it’s also the longest running series written by a single author ever, as far as I know. The first Elric story “The Dreaming City” appeared in 1961, The Citadel of Forgotten Myths in 2022, i.e. the series has been going for a whopping 61 years. Plus, Michael Moorcock has never won a Hugo due to the longstanding anti-fantasy bias of the Hugos and the undeserved dominance of John W. Campbell’s Analog in the 1960s, when he was editing New Worlds. That said, a new Elric story will appear later this year in New Edge Sword and Sorcery No. 1, so maybe we can rectify this oversight next year….
(3) SWORD SLINGER. Marion Deeds has a nice overview of the Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore in her latest “WWWednesday” column at Fantasy Literature.
Jirel of Joiry is arguably the first pulp-fiction sword-and-sorcery female protagonist. The creation of C.L. (Catherine Lucille) Moore, Jirel first appeared in Weird Tales in 1934. Did she pre-date Red Sonya? Well, yes and no. Also in 1934, Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan) wrote a historical fantasy “The Shadow of the Vulture” featuring a woman called Red Sonja of Rogatino, of Ukranian-Polish ancestry, who wielded pistols, not swords. In the 1960s, the chainmail-bikini- clad woman-warrior named Red Sonja emerged, but it’s hard to look at her and not see Moore’s tempestuous, red-tressed warrior—actually, probably staring in smirking disbelief at Sonja’s bikini….
(4) MAGIC KINGDOM. Former Disney Imagineer Jim Shull regularly tweets photos and history about the several international Disney theme parks he worked on. Here are some recent examples. (DCA = “Disney California Adventure”.)
(5) DECISION MADE. Samantha Mills, author of Hugo nominee “Rabbit Test”, explains why she would not participate in 2023 Worldcon programming if asked. (Briefly, GoH Sergey Lukianenko.)
…Okay, time for the caveat. I’m not going to be participating in programming at Worldcon this year. (To be clear, I have not been invited to do so yet, not having an attending membership. And I have never attended before, though that hasn’t been by choice, simply logistics. Every year I say, “maybe next year I’ll be able to travel again… ah well.” So this isn’t as much of a sacrifice as I know it will be for others making similar decisions….
(6) NOW ON THE SHELVES. Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup” in the Guardian covers The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi; Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs; Silent City by Sarah Davis-Goff; Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; and Red Smoking Mirror by Nick Hunt.
(7) EARTH’S SECRET WEAPON REMEMBERED. NPR’s Stephen Thompson commemorates the tenth anniversary of the death of singer Slim Whitman.
It’s become tradition for my family to spend the Fourth of July watching a vaguely patriotic movie in which things are blown up in pursuit of a common good. Independence Day, both National Treasure movies, Team America: World Police … you get the idea. This year, we chose the Tim Burton film Mars Attacks!, in which an overstuffed cast must fend off an army of killer Martians. Released in late 1996, the film drew on the legacy of cheesy alien-invasion and disaster movies, and culminated in a couple of major musical reveals.
[This missive contains several Mars Attacks! spoilers. Stop reading now if you wish to remain in the dark about this 27-year-old film and the fate of its bloodthirsty villains.]
Given that parts of Mars Attacks! take place in Las Vegas, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Tom Jones, already an established presence in three decades of movies and TV, would pop up in several scenes — first performing “It’s Not Unusual” and later as part of a small band of heroes who make their escape from a city under siege. The bigger surprise was the identity of the musician whose voice, when blared through a loudspeaker, vibrated at a frequency that caused Martian heads to explode. His name was Slim Whitman, and he was one of the best-selling musicians of the 20th century. As we watched the film, we quickly realized that I was the only person in the room who’d heard of him….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1996 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
One of the joys of doing these Beginnings as a collaboration with Mike is that I get to discover writers such as Gill Alderman.
She had a short genre career with just four novels, two in her Guna sequence – The Archivist: A Black Romance and The Land Beyond: A Fable, plus two others, Lilith’s Castle and The Memory Palace, plus two stories in a career that lasted about a decade starting in the Eighties.
And she’s done some screenplay writing including for HBO’s The Undoing mystery series. Outside of the genre, she has written are Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, Dark Places and the “The Grownup” novella.
The Memory Palace (Voyager, 1996) which is what Mike selected for our Beginning was nominated for British Science Fiction Award the year Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars won.
And now for this Beginning…
His hands ached badly, as they often did at the end of a long keyboard session. He flexed his fingers while he looked out, beyond the screen, into the twilit garden of the old rectory. It was a little cooler; he thought the rosebushes trembled slightly. There might be a breeze, one zephyr only: just a breath of air to end the stifling day. The lawns merged with churchyard and field and, in Humfrey’s Close, the Norman castle mound looked bigger than it was, worn down by nine hundred years of weather, rabbits and grazing sheep. A mile or so away, Karemarn’s dark slopes were beginning to merge with the night sky.
The sun had set. The only light in the room came from the screen of the computer before the window, a luminescent shield which occulted the world outside as effectively as the steep hill hid the rising moon. It was covered with words, the conclusion of his newest novel and–as necessary an adjunct to his storytelling as the hallowed and familiar phrase ‘Once upon a time’–with his authorial adieu to the reader, that essential phrase with which he always signed off at the finish of the task: ‘THE END’. Then, his last words, his hand upon the creation: ‘Guy Kester Parados, The Old Rectory, Maidford Halse, June 24th 1990’.
He stretched, reaching high, yawned wide. A grisaille light as glamorous as that cast by his mind-mirroring screen filled the garden and the small field beyond it. It was time to be gone. He clicked the mouse under his right hand and saw his work vanish into the machine. He would leave it now, to settle and sift out of his mind; when he returned after the break, he would come to it refreshed. Then, one or two readings, a little tweaking (especially of the unsatisfactory last chapter) and a punctuation check should suffice and he could be rid of it for ever, in the future seeing it only as an entity given public birth by others, separate from him, one more title on the shelf–He made a copy and, reaching up, hid the floppy disk in the customary place in the cracked mullion.
‘You may now switch off safely.’ He read the prompt and, reaching for the switch, said ‘I shall, I shall.’ It had been a long haul, this one, through the fifteenth. The landscape of the novels was so familiar that he no longer had to consciously invent it, only travel the road with his chosen company, as used to his fictional country of Malthassa as to the hedged and crop-marked fields of the rural Midlands outside his study window. It was an old picture, this place outside the house; he no longer needed to look at it to remember it, but only inwards, into his mind, where those more perilous places, the dangerous rocks, the wild steppes and untameable floods he had created called him persistently.
If I had gone in for the Church, he thought, would it have made me any happier? Would that honest life have felt more just, more true, than this of spinning the thread, weaving the cloth, cutting and stitching the garment of the storyteller? Would Helen have avoided me, or seen me as a greater challenge? I was a pushover for her after all, most eager to co-operate.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 8, 1914 — Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe Omnibus, The Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
- Born July 8, 1933 — Michael Barrier, 90. One of the few actors not a regular crew member on the original Trek who shows in multiple episodes under the same name. He was DeSalle in “The Squire of Gothos”, “This Side of Paradise” and “Catspaw”. While he has the same name each time, he does not have the same shipboard job as he serves as a navigator in the first episode, a biologist in “This Side of Paradise” and assistant chief engineer in “Catspaw”.
- Born July 8, 1942 — Otto Penzler, 81. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it. Back in the Seventies, with Chris Steinbrunner, he co-wrote the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection for which they won an Edgar Award.
- Born July 8, 1944 — Jeffrey Tambor, 79. I first encountered him on Max Headroom as Murray, Edison’s editor. Later on, he’s Mayor Augustus Maywho in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Finally I’ll note he was in both of the only true Hellboy films that there was playing Tom Manning, director of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.
- Born July 8, 1951 — Anjelica Huston, 72. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries.
- Born July 8, 1953 — Mark Blackman, 70. Mark has often written about the Fantastic Fiction at KGB and New York Review of Science Fiction readings series for File 770. He was a member of Lunarians and chaired Lunacon 38 in 1995. He was a member of the New York in 1989 Worldcon bid. (OGH)
- Born July 8, 1955 — Susan Price, 68. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
- Born July 8, 1988 — Shazad Latif, 35. If you watched Spooks, you’ll remember him as Tariq Masood. (Spooks did become genre.) He was Chief of Security Ash Tyler in Discovery,andDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Penny Dreadful. He voiced Kyla in The Dark Crystal: Voice of Resistance. And he was in the Black Mirror episode “The National Anthem” as Mehdi Raboud.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Tom Gauld’s comment on tell-all books.
(11) OPPENHEIMER ACTOR. [Item by Steven French.] There’s some marginal genre interest here insofar as Cillian Murphy was the central character in the zombie apocalypse flick 28 Days Later but I was also struck by this comment regarding his role as Oppenheimer: “I had dinner with all these geniuses. I’ll never understand quantum mechanics, but I was interested in what science does to their perspective.” “Cillian Murphy on Oppenheimer, sex scenes and self-doubt: ‘I’m stubborn and lacking in confidence – a terrible combination’”: a profile in the Guardian.
…I raise method acting and Murphy tilts his head and frowns. “Method acting is a sort of … No,” he says, firm but with a half smile. Oppenheimer had many defining characteristics, not least walking on the balls of his feet and a vocal tic that sounded like nim-nim-nim, but Murphy didn’t want to do an impression. Nolan was obsessed with the Brillo-texture hair, so they spent “a long time working on hair”. And the voice. The real question for Murphy was what combination – ambition, madness, delusion, deep hatred of the Nazi regime? – allowed this theoretical physicist to agree to an experiment he knew could obliterate humankind. “He was dancing between the raindrops morally. He was complex, contradictory, polymathic; incredibly attractive intellectually and charismatic, but,” he decides, “ultimately unknowable.”…
(12) IT IS YOUR DESTINY. [Item by Dann.] Ryan George dropped a new Pitch Meeting for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Selling that concept had to be super easy! Barely an inconvenience!
(13) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] The Thursday episode had three clues in the single Jeopardy round, and (at least arguably) the Final Jeopardy.
A TV Series, $200: Captains of the Enterprise: William Shatner; This man from 1987 to 1994; then Scott Bakula
Challenger Carol Oppenheim identified this as Patrick Stewart.
So I’m Reading This Book, $400: A novel, writing the clue for us: “The is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure”
Challenger Alex Gordon knew this one.
A TV Series: $1000: This big fella on “Game of Thrones”: Conan Stevens, Ian Whyte, Hafthor Julius Bjornsson
Returning champion Anji Nyquist responded: “Who is the Mountain?”
Ken Jennings said, “Gregor Clegane, well done.”
Final Jeopardy: Squashing the allegory theory, the daughters of the author of this novel say it’s “just a story about rabbits”
Carol and Alex knew this was Watership Down.
(14) IT’S A MIRACLE. Cracked’s list of “14 Supernatural Things Our Bodies Can Do” leaves out a Kurt Vonnegut favorite, “turning perfectly good food into shit”.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Klingon Pop Warrior jenbom brings us “’Cha Cha Cha’, a Eurovision 2023 Cover”.
I watched Eurovision and this awesome Finnish dude with a bowl cut, a lime green bolero, and a name that’s a multi-level pun (Käärijä = wrapper) reminded me why I love performing and gave me some desperately needed inspiration with a song called “Cha Cha Cha.” If by some small chance, Käärijä himself hears this/sees the lyrics, I hope that he laughs and enjoys what we managed to accomplish. Despite how nerdy and funny the language is that I’m singing in, we always push for good musical arrangements. We had a fun day in the recording studio and I hope that fans of Käärijä, of which I am one, will catch the small details musically, in the translation effort, and in the accompanying lyric video. It’s my sincere hope that Käärijä fans who know nothing about Star Trek or Klingon enjoy this acoustic cover as much as my nerdy Trekkie fans.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, David Goldfarb, Cora Buhlert, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]