(1) INFLUENCERS. TIME Magazine today posted “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2023”. Listed actors, icons, and titans with genre connections include Ke Huy Quan, Pedro Pascal, Salman Rushdie, Angela Bassett, Bob Iger. And writer Neil Gaiman, whose tribute was written by actor James McAvoy:
What I admire most about Neil Gaiman is his belief in the necessity of storytelling: it’s something we need on a DNA level.
I first read a book by Neil when I was 14 years old. It was Good Omens, his brilliant 1990 collaboration with Terry Pratchett. Two decades later, I got the opportunity to star in the 2013 BBC radio adaptation of Neverwhere. I remember feeling so excited that I was being inducted into his sphere of influence—one that has only grown. It’s fantastic to see Neil’s work gain new fans, most recently with the Netflix adaptation of his award-winning comic-book series The Sandman.
Neil’s point of entry into the storytelling realm is darkly fantastical and occultish. The way he writes makes you feel like you’re being let in on a massive secret. His worlds are hidden, shrouded in mystery, yet they’re never that far removed from ours. They’re always just barely within your peripheral vision—under the street or in a dark building or at the end of a lane. He brings dreamscapes to life.
(2) PITCH: A CROSS BETWEEN SURVIVOR AND THE MARTIAN. Plus Shat! “Fox Orders ‘Stars on Mars’ Reality Show With William Shatner” reports Variety.
Fox has ordered the reality series “Stars on Mars,” a new celebrity unscripted series featuring “Star Trek” star William Shatner in a host-like role. The series, set to air this summer, will follow stars as they are suited up to live in a colony set up to simulate what it might be like to be an astronaut on Mars.
“Stars on Mars” premieres on Monday, June 5, at 8 p.m. on Fox. The show comes from Fremantle’s Eureka Productions. The idea centers on the celebrity contestants competing in the Mars-like surroundings until there is just one “celebronaut” left standing. Shatner will deliver tasks to the celebs as “Mission Control.”
… Shatner, in a quippy quote, added: “Thanks to lower gravity on Mars, you’ll weigh 62% less. Bad news: the air is unbreathable, so if you’re from LA, it’ll remind you of home.”
The show will open with the celebrities living together as they “live, eat, sleep, strategize, and bond with each other in the same space station,” according to the network.
Here’s more from the show description: “During their stay, they will be faced with authentic conditions that simulate life on Mars, and they must use their brains and brawn – or maybe just their stellar social skills – to outlast the competition and claim the title of brightest star in the galaxy. The celebrities will compete in missions and will vote to eliminate one of their crewmates each week, sending them back to Earth. Cue the intergalactic alliances and rivalries. ‘Stars on Mars’ will send these famous rookie space travelers where no one has gone before and reveal who has what it takes to survive life on ‘Mars.’”…
(3) IS THIS THE CRÈME DE LA CRÈME? Earlier this week the LA Times rolled out The Ultimate L.A. Bookshelf, devoting one of the shelves to 13 works of Speculative Fiction.
For our Ultimate L.A. Bookshelf, we asked writers with deep ties to the city to name their favorite Los Angeles books across eight categories or genres. Based on 95 responses, here are the 13 most essential works of speculative fiction, from Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley, Salvador Plascencia and many more….
Although these are all books, since two of them are collections of short fiction – Dangerous Visions (1967) and Speculative Los Angeles (2021) – it seems to me there should have been a way to get quintessential LA stories like Heinlein’s “And He Built A Crooked House”, and Niven’s “Inconstant Moon” into the mix. I’ll leave aside Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” which doesn’t actually say what city it takes place in, though no one has ever had any doubt…
(4) CLI-FI CONTEST. Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors submissions will be accepted up to the June 13 deadline.
Imagine 2200 challenges entrants to write stories that help envision the next 180 years of climate progress. Whether built on abundance or adaptation, reform or a new understanding of survival, the contest celebrates stories that provide flickers of hope, even joy, and serve as a springboard for exploring how fiction can help create a better reality.
Stories will be judged by a panel of literary experts, including acclaimed authors Paolo Bacigalupi, Nalo Hopkinson, and Sam J. Miller.
The winning writer will be awarded $3,000, with the second- and third-place winners receiving $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Nine additional finalists will each receive $300. All winners and finalists’ stories will be published in an immersive collection on Grist’s website.
Read more and find out how to submit a story here.
(5) FAN HISTORY ZOOM. Fanac.org’s program on “Researching (& Saving) Fan History” with Rob Hansen, Andy Hooper, Mark Olson and Joe Siclari can be viewed online April 22, 2023 beginning at 4 pm EDT, 1 pm PDT, 9 pm BST London, 6 am Sunday in Melbourne, AU. See the details in the poster. To get a link to the program, write to [email protected].
Past sessions are all available on Fanac.org’s YouTube channel.
(6) NPR LEAVES TWITTER. AP News reported on April 12“NPR quits Elon Musk’s Twitter over ‘government-funded’ label”. They obviously meant it – NPR usually tweets prolifically every day, but there were no new tweets from NPR today, April 13.
National Public Radio is quitting Twitter after the social media platform owned by Elon Musk stamped NPR’s account with labels the news organization says are intended to undermine its credibility.
Twitter labeled NPR’s main account last week as “state-affiliated media, ” a term also used to identify media outlets controlled or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments, such as Russia and China. Twitter later changed the label to “government-funded media,” but to NPR — which relies on the government for a tiny fraction of its funding — it’s still misleading.
NPR said in a statement Wednesday that it “will no longer be active on Twitter because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent.”…
(7) GATEWAY TO ORSON WELLES. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Celebrating the genius of this extraordinary artist with my published look at the turbulent life and career of Orson Welles, the fabulous, visionary film maker whose personal demons sadly overshadowed his staggering talent, and finally, tragically destroyed him.
Yet, in spite of his personal failings or, perhaps, because of them, Welles rose to become one of the most remarkable film makers of his, or any other generation.
From his groundbreaking first feature length motion picture Citizen Kane, regarded by many still as the greatest single film in motion picture history, to Touch Of Evil, his remarkable “Cinema Noir” tale of a squandered life and legacy corrupted by bribery and temptation, Welles remains one of the most extraordinary directors in the history of film.
His is a story of unwitting sabotaged achievement and haunting, incomparable genius.
Here, then, is “Xanadu: A Castle in the Clouds: The Life of Orson Welles” at The Thunderchild.
(8) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 81 of the Octothorpe podcast, “It Wasn’t an Interjection From the Room, It Was My Face”, is available.
Alison, Liz, John and Alison are live from Conversation! We talk about the convention, in a rather more haphazard way than normal. Art by the amazing Sue Mason.
(9) MORE WRITERS’ RESPONSES TO AI. The SFWA Blog has updated its webpage and now has over 50 SFWA members’ writing and thoughts on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications and considerations. “SFWA Members Weigh in on AI & Machine Learning Applications & Considerations”. In case you looked at the original version, the additions are designated “NEW” to make them easy to find.
SFWA also focused attention on a video is now available from the AI/ML Media Advocacy Summit, a free online event last month that brought together experts and creators to discuss the creative community’s response to AI/ML media generators. SFWA Vice President John Murphy served as a panelist for the writers’ forum, along with moderator Donna Comeaux, Ed Hasbrouck of the National Writers Union, and Mary Rasenberger of the Authors Guild.
With our discipline specific panels we will be talking to a variety of individuals from across the creative industries including visual artists, voice actors, musicians, animators, photographers and writers on the different types of AI media generators and the unique challenges they pose.
(10) VIRGINIA NORWOOD (1927-2023). Physicist and inventor Virginia Norwood, who devised the scanner that has been used to map and study the earth from space for more than 50 years, died March 27. The New York Times obituary detailed the unexpected triumph of her contribution to the first Landsat.
…In the late 1960s, after NASA’s lunar missions sent back spectacular pictures of Earth, the director of the Geological Survey thought that photographs of the planet from space could help the agency manage land resources. The agency would partner with NASA, which would send satellites into space to take the pictures.
Ms. Norwood, who was part of an advanced design group in the space and communications division at Hughes, canvassed scientists who specialized in agriculture, meteorology, pollution and geology. She concluded that a scanner that recorded multiple spectra of light and energy, like one that had been used for local agricultural observations, could be modified for the planetary project that the Geological Survey and NASA had in mind.
The Geological Survey and NASA planned to use a giant three-camera system designed by RCA, based on television tube technology, that had been used to map the moon. The bulk of the 4,000-pound payload on NASA’s first Landsat satellite was reserved for the RCA equipment.
Ms. Norwood and Hughes were told that their multispectral scanner system, or M.S.S., could be included if it weighed no more than 100 pounds.
Ms. Norwood had to scale back her scanner to record just four bands of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum instead of seven, as she had planned. The scanner also had to be high precision. In her first design, each pixel represented 80 meters.
The device had a 9-by-13-inch mirror that banged back and forth noisily in the scanner 13 times a second. The scientists at the Geological Survey and NASA were skeptical.
A senior engineer from Hughes took the device out on a truck and drove around California to test it and convince the doubters that it would work. It did — spectacularly. Ms. Norwood hung one of the images, of Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome, on the wall of her house for the rest of her life.
The first Landsat blasted into space on July 23, 1972. Two days later, the scanner sent back the first images, of the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma; they were astounding. According to a 2021 article in MIT Technology Review, one geologist teared up. Another, who had been skeptical about the scanner, said, “I was so wrong about this. I’m not going to eat crow. Not big enough. I’m going to eat raven.”
The RCA system was supposed to be the primary recording instrument aboard the satellite, and the M.S.S. a secondary experiment.
“But once we looked at the data, the roles switched,” Stan Freden, the Landsat 1 project scientist, said in a NASA report.
The M.S.S. proved not only better, but also more reliable. Two weeks after liftoff, power surges in the RCA camera-based system endangered the satellite and the camera had to be shut down….
(11) MEMORY LANE.
1945 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
August Derleth’s “A Word From Dr. Lyndon Parker”
Sherlock Holmes pastiches must be almost as old as the stories themselves. The first credited one was sixteen years after the first Holmes story and was in Greek, Sherlock Holmes saving Mr. Venizelos (Ο Σέρλοκ Χολμς σώζων τον κ. Βενιζέλον). Our Beginning tonight isn’t from a work that old as it’s taken from August Derleth’s In Re: Sherlock Holmes.
It came from the collection of short stories, In Re: Sherlock Holmes, first published seventy-eight years ago in the US by Mycroft & Moran which was an imprint of Arkham House. The imprint was in part created for these stories. Wise choice I’d say.
Pons, a Consulting Detective in the mold of Holmes, exists because Derleth desired so much to do Holmes stories after Doyle ceased that he wrote him and asked if he could. Doyle unsurprisingly said no. The Solar Pons name is supposedly syllabically similar to Sherlock Holmes. Huh.
I like them because Derleth is obviously a fanboy of Holmes and his detective. Pons isn’t Holmes but is what a fan would write if he was creating his own loving version of Holmes.
And now for our very British Beginning…
A Word From Dr. Lyndon Parker
The way in which I first made the acquaintance of Mr. Solar Pons, who was destined to introduce me to many interesting adventures in crime detection, was exceedingly prosaic. Yet it was not without those elements suggestive of what was to come. Though it took place almost thirty years ago, the memory of that meeting is as clear in mind as if it had taken place yesterday.
I had been sitting for some time in a pub not far from Paddington Station, ruefully reflecting that the London to which I had returned after the first World War was not the city I had left, when a tall; thin gentleman wearing an Inverness cape and a rakish cap with a visor on it, strode casually into the place. I was struck at once by his appearance: the thin, almost feral face; the sharp, keen dark eyes with their heavy, but not bushy brows; the thin lips and the leanness of the face in general–all these things interested me both from a personal and a medical standpoint, and I looked up from the envelope upon which I had been writing to follow the fellow with my eyes across the floor to the bar.
A waiter, who was wiping tables next to me, noticed my interest and came over. “Sherlock Holmes’,” he said. “That’s who he is. The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street,’ is what the papers call him. His real name’s Solar Pons. Ain’t much choice between the two, eh?”
Pons had had a few words with the man behind the bar and now turned to look idly over the room. I looked away as I saw that his glance was about to fall on me, and I felt him examining me from head to toe. I felt, rather than saw, that he was walking over toward my table, and in a few moments he came to stand beside my bag on the floor next to my chair.
“Fine color,” he said crisply. “Not long back from Africa, I see. “Two days.”
“Your scarab pin suggests Egypt and, if I’m not mistaken, the envelope on which you have been writing is one of Shepheard’s. From Cairo, then.”
“On the ship Ishtar.”
“At the East India Docks.”
I looked up and he smiled genially. “But, really, you know, my dear fellow–London is not as bad as all that.”
“I should not like to think so,” I answered him, without at once realizing that I had given him no clue to my thoughts. “Obviously you have been walking.”
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 13, 1931 — Beverly Cross. English playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. Yes librettist. He’s here because he wrote the screenplays for Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Not remotely genre related but worth mentioning, is that he worked uncredited on the script for Lawrence of Arabia although it is unknown if any of his material made it to the film we see. (Died 1998.)
- Born April 13, 1943 — Bill Pronzini, 80. Mystery writer whose Nameless Detective has one genre adventure in A Killing in Xanadu. Genre anthologist, often with Barry N Malzberg, covering such varied and wide-ranging themes as Bug-Eyed Monsters (with Malzberg), Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (with Greenberg and Malzberg) and Arbor House Necropolis. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote “The Pillars of Salt Affair”, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novella that ran in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine.
- Born April 13, 1950 — Ron Perlman, 73. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of Storms, Hellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short which is elusive to find unfortunately). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno was followed quickly by being Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by the hard SF of being Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff Notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it. So who has watched it lately?) At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing.
- Born April 13, 1951 — Peter Davison, 72. The Fifth Doctor that I came to be very fond of. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. And let’s not forget he showed up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the Dish of the Day. I’m going to note that I first saw him in Tristan Farnon in the BBC’s adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small stories, a lovely role indeed. And I’m very fond of The Last Detective series where he played DC ‘Dangerous’ Davies.
- Born April 13, 1954 — Michael Cassutt, 69. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His notable TV work includes work for the animated Dungeons & Dragons, Max Headroom, The Outer Limits, Beauty and The Beast, SeaQuest, Farscape, Eerie, Indiana and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer. His latest piece of fiction was the “Aurora” novelette published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, March/April 2022.
- Born April 13, 1954 — Glen Keane, 69. He’s responsible for all of the layout work on Star Trek: The Animated Series and also My Favorite Martians which I can’t say I recognize. As a character animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, he worked on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas.
- Born April 13, 1959 — Brian Thomsen. Editor, writer and anthologist. He was founding editor of Warner Books’ Questar Science Fiction, and later served as managing fiction editor at TSR. He co-wrote the autobiography of Julius Schwartz. And yes I’ve actually read one of his anthologies, A Yuletide Universe, as I remember it from the cover art. (Died 2008.)
- April 13, 1967 — Rogers Cadenhead, 56. This Filer is a computer book author and web publisher who served once as chairman of the RSS Advisory Board, a group that publishes the RSS 2.0 specification. Very, very impressive. He also gained infamy for claiming drudge.com before a certain muckraker could, and still holds on to it.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side shows what preceded that famous Viking headgear.
- Broom Hilda is a collector, did you know that?
(14) RIVERS OF LONDON. Titan Comics has revealed the covers for Here Be Dragons – the next phase of Rivers of London comics, set in the world of the bestselling novel series. For this upcoming series, comic series writers Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London) and Andrew Cartmel (The Vinyl Detective) are joined by BAFTA-nominated scriptwriter, and award-winning New York Times bestselling author James Swallow, with artwork by José María Beroy.
This cover preview shows the first look at a dangerous monster at large above the streets of London. After a Met Police helicopter on night patrol is attacked by an unidentified aerial phenomena, the Met’s only sanctioned wizard, Peter Grant, and his mentor, Thomas Nightingale, are called to investigate.
Rivers of London: Here Be Dragons issue #1 (on sale in comic shops and digital July 12th, 2023) features covers by series artist José María Beroy, alongside David M. Buisan and V.V. Glass.
(15) SMITHSONIAN OPEN ACCESS. “The Smithsonian Puts 4.5 Million High-Res Images Online and Into the Public Domain, Making Them Free to Use” at Open Culture. And more items are being added to Smithsonian Open Access all the time,
That vast repository of American history that is the Smithsonian Institution evolved from an organization founded in 1816 called the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences. Its mandate, the collection and dissemination of useful knowledge, now sounds very much of the nineteenth century — but then, so does its name. Columbia, the goddess-like symbolic personification of the United States of America, is seldom directly referenced today, having been superseded by Lady Liberty. Traits of both figures appear in the depiction on the nineteenth-century fireman’s hat above, about which you can learn more at Smithsonian Open Access, a digital archive that now contains some 4.5 million images.
Just for practice I searched “science fiction” and one of the images that returned was Octavia Butler’s typewriter.
This Olivetti Studio 46 Typewriter belonged to Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), who wrote science fiction when few black writers did. Butler began writing at age 10 and eventually used a computer to compose, but noted, “I didn’t always. I wrote my first ten books on a manual typewriter of one kind or another….She [my mother] did day work; she made not very much money….here she had a daughter begging for a typewriter.” Butler’s blue typewriter dates to the 1970s….
(16) VONNEGUT SPEAKS. At Euronews:“Culture Re-View: Kurt Vonnegut’s five best quotes”.
…Over the following five decades, Vonnegut established himself as one of the most creative and humorous voices in science-fiction. Like an American Douglas Adams, his books would frequently deal with aliens, time travel, and metafiction, but always with the intent of getting to the heart of human nature itself….
The first example on their list is:
1. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
From Vonnegut’s third novel ‘Mother Night’, it’s a beautiful and quick summation of an appreciation of the stark importance as well as the flimsiness of human identity.
(17) DAY FOR KNIGHT. “’Game of Thrones’ Prequel Based on Dunk and Egg Books Series Order”— TVLine has details.
Despite Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin once plainly stating that HBO was not going to make a TV show out of his Dunk and Egg novellas, those characters will be central in A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight, a Thrones prequel series that HBO greenlit Wednesday during Warner Bros. Discovery’s unveiling of its Max streaming service.
The series will be written and executive-produced by Martin and Ira Parker. Ryan Condal, who currently serves as House of the Dragon‘s showrunner, and Vince Gerardis also will be EPs.
“A century before the events of Game of Thrones, two unlikely heroes wandered Westeros,” the official logline reads. “A young, naive but courageous knight, Ser Duncan the Tall” (aka Dunk) “and his diminutive squire, Egg. Set in an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living memory, great destinies, powerful foes and dangerous exploits all await these improbable and incomparable friends.”…
(18) A FROZEN FLAME. And if you’d like to see George R.R. Martin posing with his Dragon Award from last year, click on this link to his March 29 blog entry.
My thanks to all of the attendees of last year’s Dragoncon, and to all the Dragon Award voters who chose ELDEN RING as the best game of the year. Like all my friends at From Software, I am thrilled that you enjoyed the play… as challenging as it can be.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. PBS Space-Time’s Matt O’Dowd wonders “How Far Beyond Earth Could Humanity Expand?”
We humans have always been explorers. The great civilizations that have arisen across the world are owed to our restless ancestors. These days, there’s not much of Earth left to explore. But if we look up, there’s a whole universe out there waiting for us. Future generations may one day explore the cosmos and even settle entire other galaxies. But there is a hard limit to how much of the universe we can expand into. So, how big can humanity get?
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steve Vertlieb, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]