(1) AN EAR FOR OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll’s young people weigh in on another classic: “Young People Listen to Old SFF: Foundation by Isaac Asimov”.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy1 was in fact three fix-ups of shorter pieces assembled into three volumes. Strongly influenced by Edward Gibbon‘s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the series set out to depict the collapse of the Galactic Empire and the attempt by scientists to shorten the ensuing dark age. The series is highly regarded: two sections have won retrospective Hugos and the trilogy as a whole won the Hugo for Best All Time Series in 1966.
The BBC’s radio adaptations are also highly regarded. Surely, combining a respected classic with the BBC’s resources must result in something that will delight and entertain my young readers. Right?
What are my other choices besides “Right”?
(2) SFWA GRANTS. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has announced its Giver’s Fund Grants for 2019.
SFWA Giver’s Fund grants totaling $46,837 have been awarded to:
- Alpha, the SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers
- Art & Words Collaborative Show in Fort Worth, Texas
- Can*Con Science Programming
- Clarion San Diego Workshop
- Clarion West Workshop
- Confluence Writing Workshop
- Deep Dish Reading Series
- Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Series
- I Need Diverse Games
- Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers
- Little Blue Marble
- Northern Illinois University, for their archives pertaining to science fiction and fantasy
- OutWrite Literary Festival
- Odyssey Writing Workshop
- Parsec Ink Young Editors Workshop
- Philanthropic Endeavors Futurist Conference in York PA
- Reel Stories screenwriting workshops
- SFF Workshop at the Center for Literary Arts, Frostburg State University
- Sirens Conference
- Turkey City Writing Workshops
- Willamette Writers workshops Flash Fiction Masterclass
- Wiscon Writing Workshops
- Young Writers Project workshop
Giver’s Fund grants are awarded to support programs that further SFWA’s mission, which is to promote, advance, and support science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere, by educating and informing the general public and supporting and empowering science fiction and fantasy writers.
(3) GUESS WHO’S NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF SFWA. Lou Antonelli says he was going to run for President of SFWA (“Maybe some other day”) but there was one little problem – he isn’t eligible. He says SFWA Executive Director Kate Baker notified him —
Thank you for being willing to run for office. Unfortunately, your membership lapsed in the last two years which makes you ineligible to run for the board. Additionally, you would need to have previously served on the board in some capacity to engage a run for President.
(4) 2021 WORLDCON BIDDERS NEED TO FILE. Johan Anglemark reminded bids to host the 2021 Worldcon must be submitted by February 15, 2019, either to [email protected] or to Worldcon 2021 Site Selection, c/o Anglemark, Lingonv. 10, SE-74340 Storvreta, Sweden.
The required information includes:
• bid location
• bid facilities
• bid date
• committee chair(s)
• committee members.
Please also provide the bid website URL and a contact email address.
Refer to the WSFS Constitution – http://www.wsfs.org/…/WSFS-Constitution-as-of-August-21-201… – sections 4.6 – 4.7 for more details. The Dublin 2019 Site Selection team will send a confirmation email to the contact email address in your bid declaration when we receive your bid information.
NOTE: An online announcement, listing on the Worldcon.org bids page or web site is not sufficient to formally file your bid.
(5) AND STRAIGHT ON ‘TIL MORNING. For Tor.com readers, James Davis Nicoll analyzes the difficulty of “Mapping the Stars for Fun and Profit”.
When you read a novel, short story, etc., you may be given hints as to star locations and the distances from star to star. Most of us just take those vague gestures at maps as given and focus on the exciting space battles, palace intrigues, and so on. Only a few nerdy readers (ahem!) try to work out star positions and distances from the text. And only a few authors (like Benford and McCarthy) provide maps in their novels. There are reasons why maps are generally left out, and who notices an absence?
Roleplaying games (RPGs), on the other hand, have to give the players maps (unless all the action takes place in one stellar system). If you are plotting a course to Procyon A, you need to know just where it is and how long it will take to get there. Game companies have experimented with several approaches to the mapping problem; most are unsatisfactory.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 1, 1908 – George Pal. Let’s see… Producer of Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide, The War of the Worlds, Conquest of Space (anyone heard of this one?), The Time Machine, Atlantis, the Lost Continent, Tom Thumb, The Time Machine, Atlantis, the Lost Continent, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and his last film being Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Can we hold a George Pal film fest, pretty please? (Died 1980.)
- Born February 1, 1942 – Terry Jones, 77. Co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Gilliam, and was sole director on two further Python movies, Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. His later films include Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows. It’s worth noting that he wrote the screenplay for the original Labyrinth screenplay but it’s thought that nothing of that made it to the shooting script.
- Born February 1, 1946 – Elizabeth Sladen. Certainly best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who. She was a regular cast member from 1973 to 1976, alongside the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), and reprised her role down the years, both on the series and on its spin-offs, K-9 and Company (awfully done) and The Sarah Jane Adventures (not bad at all). It’s not her actual first SF appearance, that honor goes to her being a character called Sarah Collins in an episode of the Doomwatch series called “Say Knife, Fat Man”. The creators behind this series had created the cybermen concept for Doctor Who. (Died 2011.)
- Born February 1, 1954 – Bill Mumy, 65. Well I’ll be damned. He’s had a much longer career in the genre than even I knew. His first genre were at age seven on Twilight Zone, two episodes in the same season (Billy Bayles In “Long Distance Call” and Anthony Fremont in “Its A Good Life”). He makes make it a trifecta appearing a few years later again as Young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”. Witches are next for him. First he plays an orphaned boy in an episode of Bewitched called “A Vision of Sugar Plums” and then it’s Custer In “Whatever Became of Baby Custer?” on I Dream of Jeannie, a show he shows he revisits a few years as Darrin the Boy in “Junior Executive”. Ahhh his most famous role is up next as Will Robinson in Lost in Space. It’s got to be thirty years since I’ve seen it but I still remember and like it quite a bit. He manages to show up next on The Munsters as Googie Miller in “Come Back Little Googie” and in Twilight Zone: The Movie In one of the bits as Tim. I saw the film but don’t remember him. He’s got a bunch of DC Comics roles as well — Young General Fleming in Captain America, Roger Braintree on The Flash series and Tommy Puck on Superboy. Ahhh Lennier. One of the most fascinating and annoying characters in all of the Babylon 5 Universe. Enough said. I hadn’t realized it but he showed up on Deep Space Nine as Kellin in the “The Siege of AR-558” episode. Lastly, and before our gracious Host starts grinding his teeth at the length of this Birthday entry, I see he’s got a cameo as Dr. Z. Smith in the new Lost in Space series.
- Born February 1, 1965 — Brandon Lee. Lee started his career with a supporting role in Kung Fu: The Movie, but is obviously known for his breakthrough and fatal acting role as Eric Draven in The Crow, based on James O’Barr’s series. (Died 1993.)
- Born February 1, 1965 – Sherilyn Fenn, 54. Best know for playing as Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks. Her first genre work was in The Wraith as Keri Johnson followed by being Suzi in Zombie High (also known charmingly not as The School That Ate My Brain). Her latest work is Wish Upon, a supernatural horror film.
- Born February 1, 1984 – Lee Thompson Young. Victor Stone/ Cyborg on Smallville, Agent Stewart in the “Heavy Metal” episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Al Gough on FlashForward and Corporal Bell on The Event. (Died 2013.)
(7) THE MARTIAN PARTICLES. NPR is “Exploring The Mysterious Origins Of Mars’ 3-Mile-High Sand Pile”.
Scientists have evidence that a mountain 3 miles tall, in the middle of a crater on Mars, may be made largely from dust and sand.
To get the data for that surprising conclusion, the researchers MacGyvered a navigation instrument on the NASA rover Curiosity, and turned it into a scientific instrument.
The idea for repurposing the Rover Inertial Measurement Unit came from Kevin Lewis.
“It kind of frustrated me that we didn’t have a surface gravimeter on Mars,” says Lewis, a member of the Curiosity science team, and an assistant professor in earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
(8) WONDERFUL THINGS. “Tutankhamun’s tomb restored to prevent damage by visitors” – BBC has the story.
A nine-year project has been completed to restore the tomb of ancient Egypt’s boy king, Tutankhamun, and address issues that threatened its survival.
Experts from the Getty Conservation Institute repaired scratches and abrasions on the wall paintings caused by visitors to the burial chamber.
The paintings were also affected by humidity, dust and carbon dioxide introduced by every person who entered.
A new ventilation system should reduce the need for future cleaning.
New barriers will restrict physical access to the paintings, while a new viewing platform, lighting and interpretive signage will also allow visitors to better see the tomb and understand its historical and cultural significance.
(9) STARS LIKE… Is that a hidden galaxy in your pocket, or a grain of sand, or are you just happy to see me? Gizmodo tells how “Astronomers Accidentally Discover a Hidden Galaxy Right Next Door”.
One moment you’re investigating a globular cluster, and the next you’re unexpectedly writing a research paper about something else entirely, namely the discovery of previously unknown dwarf spheroidal galaxy. But that’s how it goes sometimes, and the authors of the new study, published this week in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, couldn’t be happier.
(10) SIPS OF FIRE. Charles Payseur reviews the short fiction in the latest Fireside — “Quick Sips – Fireside Magazine #63”.
There’s some big goings-on at Fireside Magazine in 2018, and January kicks off with five original stories plus an original poem. The pieces can be rather short (the poem might be longer than a number of the stories), but that doesn’t mean they pack less of a punch. The pieces range from deeply dark to lighter and so so cute, from epic and unexpected to unsettling and tense. The relationships that the pieces introduce, though, are complex and interesting and enlightening. From a father desperate to give his son a better life to a spouse unsure how to talk about what’s happening to them without draining those they care about. The piece looks at impossible situations, or situations that seem impossible, and shows how people move forward regardless. To the reviews!
(11) YA PERSPECTIVES. Vulture writer Kat Rosenfeld has organized the social media links, identified the players, and provided some analysis about the controversy around Amélie Wen Zhao: “The Latest YA Twitter Pile On Forces a Rising Star to Self-Cancel”.
Whether Zhao was guilty of any of the above is still up for debate, particularly in the absence of a finished book. (Blood Heir was not slated to publish until June; some reviewers had advance copies.) But unless we want to eliminate the Death Song trope from fiction or ding Tolkien’s own use of paraphrased Bible passages, the plagiarism allegations are shaky at best — and the charge of racism, led by a series of caustic tweets from YA fantasy author L.L. McKinney, relies on both a subjective interpretation of the word “bronze” and an exclusively American reading of scenes involving slavery. Nevertheless, the latter allegations caught the attention of social-justice-minded readers, and the controversy began to balloon. A smattering of one-star reviews cropped up on Zhao’s Goodreads page. Book bloggers began announcing that they no longer intended to read Blood Heir. In a tweet thread that did not name or tag Zhao but was clearly about her, well-known author Ellen Oh wrote, “Dear POC writers, You are not immune to charges of racism just because you are POC.”
It’s worth noting here that the role of Asian women within YA’s writers of color contingent has been a flashpoint for conflict before — one that led Zhao to butt heads with YA queen bee Justina Ireland in May 2018. After Ireland wrote a (since deleted) tweet that some readers interpreted as exclusionary gatekeeping of the “POC” label, Zhao launched a long thread asserting that Asian women are, indeed, women of color, including some pointed language about those who would suggest otherwise.
“You can delete your tweets, and we’re not going to come into your mentions, but ask yourselves why you wrote those/agreed with those in the first place, and why there is such an outcry. While we’re on the valid issue of anti-POC within POC groups, examine your own beliefs, too.” (She did not tag Ireland, but needless to say, everyone knew whom she was talking about.)
(12) SOUND FX. An old behind-the-scenes clip has surfaced of the foley work behind the sound of the malfunctioning for the Millennium Falcon (“Vintage Star Wars Video Explains the Sounds Behind the Millennium Falcon”).
The Star Wars franchise is full of some of the most recognizable sound effects to ever grace the big screen. Now, thanks to an unearthed video from 1980, the sounds that make up the Millennium Falcon failing to make it to hyperspace have been revealed. As is the case with nearly all other sound effects, the iconic ship’s sounds are made up of from more than one source and then mixed together to create something brand-new and unique. Hardcore Star Wars fans can probably already hear the iconic sound in their heads and don’t even need to pop in The Empire Strikes Back for reference.
A New Hope sound engineer Ben Burtt demystifies the Millennium Falcon failed hyperspace sound in a quick two-minute video. To make the noise, Burtt relied on five different sounds to achieve what he was hearing in his head. The inertia starter of an old 1928 biplane, an air jet recorded in a dentist’s office, the sound of an Arclight motor starting and stopping, the sound of a motor located in the turret of an armored tank, and the pipes underneath a broken sink in the bathroom at the recording studio were all used to make the sound in The Empire Strikes Back.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip WIllams.]