(1) TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. The Salam Award, which promotes imaginative fiction in and about Pakistan, released this video by Mushba Said to remind Pakistani writers they have until midnight July 31 to submit entries for the award. See full guidelines at the link. Participants must either be currently residing in Pakistan, or be of Pakistani birth/descent.
(2) GO ASK ALICE. This article in The New Yorker will pique your interest in the Victoria & Albert’s exhibition about “The Beguiling Legacy of ‘Alice in Wonderland’”.
The origins of Alice’s tumble into Wonderland and its long cultural afterlife—everything from Carroll’s tentative first sketches to cheery, Alice-themed advertisements for Guinness and tomato juice produced a hundred years later (“Welcome to a Wonderland of good drinking!”)—are the subject of a beguiling new exhibition, “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser,” at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London.
Here’s a link to the Victoria & Albert museum’s webpage about the exhibit: “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser – Exhibition at South Kensington”.
Exploring its origins, adaptations and reinventions over 157 years, this immersive and theatrical show charts the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to a global phenomenon beloved by all ages.
They also offer a virtual reality tour: “V&A · Curious Alice: The Vr Experience”.
From rabbit holes to psychedelic mushrooms, flamingos to hedgehogs, Wonderland is the perfect world to explore in virtual reality. Curious Alice encourages audiences to reward their curiosity by navigating a fantastical landscape, interacting with the book’s famous characters and completing a series of curious challenges. Race against the clock to capture the White Rabbit’s missing glove; solve the Caterpillar’s mind-bending riddles; defeat the Queen of Hearts in a curious game of croquet.
(3) WENDIG AND KHAW. Powell’s Books presents “Chuck Wendig in Conversation With Cassandra Khaw,” promoting Wendig’s new book, on July 29 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for the virtual event here.
A family returns to their hometown — and to the dark past that haunts them still — in The Book of Accidents (Del Rey), a new masterpiece of literary horror by Chuck Wendig, bestselling author of Wanderers…. Wendig will be joined in conversation by Cassandra Khaw, game writer and author of Nothing but Blackened Teeth.
(4) POWER OF SFF POETRY. Sandra J. Lindow reviews Greg Beatty’s poetry collection Cosmic Songs for Human Ears at SPECPO, which includes his 2005 Rhysling winner “No Ruined Lunar City.”
An introductory essay published in 2005, “Driving the Machine Backward Through the Graveyard of Dead Narrative,” explains the evolution of genre poetry through reference to Johanna Russ’s 1971 critical essay, “The Wearing Out of Genre Materials.” Which argues that genre tropes progress through three distinct stages: “Innocence” which seems to be characterized by novelty and sense of wonder, “Plausibility,” which describes how authors use the rules of verisimilitude to support readers suspension of disbelief, and finally “Decadence” where a petrification of genre rules, “stylized, like ballet,” tempts writers to break long established conventions, for instance, combining magic with aliens and dinosaurs. Although Russ writes that it is not possible for a genre to return to Innocence, Beatty argues that it is possible for genre poetry to create a “liminal space” where tropes from fantasy and science become metaphor for human experience, thereby avoiding Decadence and possibly returning to the novelty and energy of Innocence.
(5) IT HAD TO BE SNAKE. The Guardian celebrates “Escape From New York at 40: John Carpenter rebelling against the system”.
With a pirate’s eyepatch and a scowl that seems as fixed and enigmatic as Mona Lisa’s smile, Snake Plissken, the hero of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, drifts through a cataclysmic future like a man condemned, forced into a mission that, at best, might save a world he doesn’t care about anyway. The allegiances he forges along the way are hard-earned but only temporary, swiftly discarded as he survives one assignment and looks ahead to another one. He is deeply suspicious of authority, too, from the two-faced benefactor who’s forcing him through an impossible gauntlet to an aloof president who’s openly contemptuous of him and others like him.
In other words, Snake Plissken is John Carpenter, and Escape from New York was the first of three films in the 1980s in which Kurt Russell would serve as his charismatic stand-in – an iconoclast who had no home in the new Hollywood, but would take up residence on its fringes. As Plissken runs and guns his way through a Manhattan that’s been turned into maximum security prison, it’s easy to imagine it as an allegory for a film production, where Carpenter weaves his way through an impossible job with the help of fellow ne’er-do-wells that he’ll have to leave behind at the end. If he survives, it’s onto the next gauntlet….
(6) THE SHARP END. Netflix dropped a trailer for season 2 of The Witcher. Premieres December 17.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- July 11, 2011 — A decade ago, Alphas premiered on Syfy. It was created by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. It is in the same universe as Warehouse 13 and Eureka, a fact confirmed when Vanessa Calder who is a recurring character on Warehouse 13 appeared in one episode of the series. (Thanks Andrew (not Werdna) for confirming that in a recent Scroll.) It had far too many Executive Producers and Producers to list here, a puzzle for a series that would last but two seasons and twenty four episodes. It starred David Strathairn, Ryan Cartwright, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba and Erin Way. Critics in general loved it and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a most excellent seventy seven rating. Syfy cancelled it on an unresolved cliffhanger.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 11, 1899 — E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. Along with William Strunk Jr., he is the co-author of the The Elements of Style English language style guide. (Died 1985.)
- Born July 11, 1913 — Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I read once upon a time in fragments. The usual suspects are well stocked with his novels and short stories including Scanners Live in Vain, a most excellent novella. (Died 1966.)
- Born July 11, 1920 — Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword. He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. Are we considering The King and I genre or even genre adjacent? If we are, he played King Mongkut in the short-lived Anna and the King TV series as well. (Died 1985.)
- Born July 11, 1925 — David Graham, 96. The voice of Daleks in the early years of Doctor Who including two non-canon films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.; his voice work made him a sought after worker and he’d be used on Thunderbirds, Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar, Timeslip, Moomin, Stingray and even the recent Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, he’s still doing voice work as his last genre work was for the Nebula-75 series just last year.
- Born July 11, 1950 — Bruce McGill, 71. His first role was as Director Eugene Matuzak in Time Cop. He later got one-offs in Quantum Leap (twice), Babylon 5, Voyager and Tales from the Crypt. He’s in the television remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth as Vernon Gage. If MacGyver counts as genre, he has the recurring role of Jack Dalton.
- Born July 11, 1956 — Amitav Ghosh, 65. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Really just go read it and we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. His newest work is about the medieval Bengali tale about the forest (Sundarbans) goddess, Bon Bibi.
- Born July 11, 1958 — Alan Gutierrez, 63. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines. He’s been nominated for five Asimov’s Readers Awards and two Analog Awards as well.
- Born July 11, 1984 — Serinda Swan, 37. She first graces our corner of the multiverse in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief as Aphrodite. Later on she’s in Tron: Legacy as Siren #2. Currently she’s Medusa in The Inhumans. She’s got one-offs in Supernatural, Smallville and The Tomorrow People.
(9) PUT TO THE TEST. DUST’s new sci-fi short film release is “Intelligentia”.
Lisa receives a butler A.I. to Turing test, and over the course of the procedure, she discovers the A.I. is not what it seems and her entire world disrupted.
(10) FLIGHT TO THE EDGE OF SPACE. The 70-year-old British billionaire and crew members of Virgin Galactic launched the commercial space plane Unity from New Mexico, reached the edge of space and landed safely back at the spaceport on Sunday. The New York Times posted “Highlights From Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Flight”.
…The rocket plane, a type called SpaceShipTwo, is about the size of an executive jet. In addition to the two pilots, there can be up to four people in the cabin. The particular SpaceShipTwo that flew on Sunday is named V.S.S. Unity.
To get off the ground, Unity was carried by a larger plane to an altitude of about 50,000 feet. There, Unity was released, and the rocket plane’s motor ignited. The acceleration made people on board feel a force up to 3.5 times their normal weight on the way to an altitude of more than 50 miles.
At the top of the arc, those on board were able to see the blackness of space as well as the curve of Earth from the plane’s windows. They also got out of their seats and experienced about four minutes of apparent weightlessness. Fifty miles up, Earth’s downward gravitational pull is essentially just as strong as it is on the ground; rather, the passengers were falling at the same pace as the plane around them.
The two tail booms at the back of the space plane then rotated up to a “feathered” configuration that created more drag and stability, allowing the plane to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere more gently. This configuration SpaceShipTwo like a badminton shuttlecock, which always falls with the pointy side oriented down, than a plane.
Still, the forces felt by the passengers on the way down were greater than on the way up, reaching six times the force of gravity.
Branson gets all the attention – but who piloted the mission and were the other crew members?
The pilots are David Mackay and Michael Masucci….
In addition to Mr. Branson, three Virgin Galactic employees joined the flight to evaluate how the experience will be for future paying customers. They were Beth Moses, the chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations.
In 2018 The New Yorker profiled a predecessor in “Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man”, “The ace pilot risking his life to fulfill Richard Branson’s billion-dollar quest to make commercial space travel a reality.”
At 5 a.m. on April 5th, Mark Stucky drove to an airstrip in Mojave, California, and gazed at SpaceShipTwo, a sixty-foot-long craft that is owned by Virgin Galactic, a part of the Virgin Group. Painted white and bathed in floodlight, it resembled a sleek fighter plane, but its mission was to ferry thousands of tourists to and from space.
Stucky had piloted SpaceShipTwo on two dozen previous test flights, including three of the four times that it had fired its rocket booster, which was necessary to propel it into space. On October 31, 2014, he watched the fourth such flight from mission control; it crashed in the desert, killing his best friend. On this morning, Stucky would be piloting the fifth rocket-powered flight, on a new iteration of the spaceship. A successful test would restore the program’s lustre.
Stucky walked into Virgin Galactic’s large beige hangar. He is fifty-nine and has a loose-legged stroll, tousled salt-and-pepper hair, and sunken, suntanned cheeks. In other settings, he could pass for a retired beachcomber. He wears the smirk of someone who feels certain that he’s having more fun than you are…
(11) SKYSCRAPER CAT. CBS This Morning devoted a short segment to the 3-D cat billboard in Tokyo that was recently covered by the Scroll. Their report includes video callbacks to several previous 3-D billboards.
(12) SO BAD YOU CAN’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF IT. In “The Schlock-Horror Drive-In That Rose From the Grave”, the New York Times tells about a drive-in revival in Pennsylvania.
It was about 2 a.m. on a Sunday when the gross-out horror-comedy “Class of Nuke ’Em High” started playing at the Mahoning Drive-In. This was the last screening at TromaDance, an annual showcase of low-budget horror and sex comedies produced by the Queens-based Troma movie studio. Earlier that evening, about 600 cars had piled into the drive-in in Lehighton, Pa., but by 2 a.m., only the die-hards remained. Kevin Schmidt, an extra in the film, was among them.
He had driven to the Mahoning from Summit, N.J., and hadn’t seen the movie projected on screen since it was first shown in Jersey City in December 1986. “This is the only time I can justify driving 100 miles to see a movie,” Mr. Schmidt said much earlier in the evening.
By the time the evening was over, it had been another success for the Mahoning, a 72-year-old drive-in theater that was left for dead just seven years ago….
…Movie screenings at the Mahoning Drive-In often feel like events. Films are shown in double and triple features, sandwiched between older (and often bizarre) movie trailers. You might take in “Escape From New York” and “Invasion U.S.A.,” which play after vintage church advertisements (“Worship at the church of your choice”) or an anti-cable-TV screed (“Don’t let pay TV be the monster in your living room”). It is, in the words of Mr. Schmidt, “a special place.”…
(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Director Mel Stuart reminiscences about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in this short from 2011 that Warner Bros. released two weeks ago.
[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Dann.]