(1) AN UNEXPECTED ADDITION TO THE PANTHEON. [Item by rcade.] You’ll never guess who is on the cover of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2022 Calendar. Lots of fun in this thread (which starts here.)
(2) UK CONVENTION WILL SHIFT DATES. ChillerCon UK, the counterpart to StokerCon, announced today they will be moving their dates due to Omicron. The new dates are to be determined.
… However, with the current situation regarding the Omicron variant, especially with regard to the ongoing travel restrictions in many countries, it’s proving impossible to keep to the current dates of 10-13 March 2022, much as we’ve tried our best to do so. We apologise for any inconvenience, but feel it’s vital to wait until things are safer, travel is less problematic, and we can organise a fantastic weekend where you can all meet in person.
To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we are actively discussing with the two convention hotels the possibility of moving ChillerCon UK to a date later on this year. We can not guarantee a specific date yet, but hope to be able to advise a suitable, safe, date as soon as possible….
(3) MYSTICON CANCELLED. MystiCon, an event planned for February 25-27 in Roanoke, VA, will not be held the committee announced January 3.
MystiCon has always been as much of a “family” reunion as it has been a convention. Knowing that and looking at business, staffing, health and safety concerns, it has become apparent that we will not be able to have the MystiCon that we know and love in February of 2022. This was not an easy decision but one that is necessary….
(4) LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. The New York Times follows Adam Nimoy “To Boldly Explore the Jewish Roots of ‘Star Trek’” at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.
Adam Nimoy gazed across a museum gallery filled with “Star Trek” stage sets, starship replicas, space aliens, fading costumes and props (think phaser, set to stun). The sounds of a beam-me-up transporter wafted across the room. Over his shoulder, a wall was filled with an enormous photograph of his father — Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on the show — dressed in his Starfleet uniform, his fingers splayed in the familiar Vulcan “live long and prosper” greeting.
But that gesture, Adam Nimoy noted as he led a visitor through this exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center, was more than a symbol of the television series that defined his father’s long career playing the part-Vulcan, part-human Spock. It is derived from part of a Hebrew blessing that Leonard Nimoy first glimpsed at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Boston as a boy and brought to the role.
The prominently displayed photo of that gesture linking Judaism to Star Trek culture helps account for what might seem to be a highly illogical bit of programming: the decision by the Skirball, a Jewish cultural center known mostly for its explorations of Jewish life and history, to bring in an exhibition devoted to one of television’s most celebrated sci-fi shows….
(5) ANOTHER STRIKE AGAINST ROWLING – OR NOT? Alma, a feminist Jewish culture site, was among many publications that reported the following story on January 3: “Jon Stewart Speaks Up About the Antisemitic Goblins of ‘Harry Potter’”.
…In the clip, Stewart explains the decadence of some b’nai mitzvah parties to “The Problem” writers Jay Jurden and Henrik Blix with the line, “It’s basically like saying, the Jews have arrived. And we are going to dazzle you.”
To which Jurden playfully replied, “What chapter of Harry Potter is that in? That’s when they get to Gringotts, right?”
What proceeds is Stewart thoughtfully explaining how, in his view, the goblins in Gringotts bank are a sign of how little progress has been made in eradicating antisemitism. He also goes on to speak about what it’s been like for him to have to explain to people that the Harry Potter goblins are antisemitic — and his reaction to seeing them for the first time.
“It was one of those things where I saw [the goblins] on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, holy shit! She did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank. And everyone was just like, wizards!”
But Alma reported today that Jon Stewart denies the interpretation put on his words: “Jon Stewart Clarifies He Does Not Think ‘Harry Potter’ is Antisemitic”.
…In a clip Stewart posted to his Twitter account, he says, “There’s no reasonable person who could’ve watched [the clip] and not seen it as a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums, having a [laugh], enjoying themselves, about Harry Potter and my experience watching it for the first time in the theater as a Jewish guy and how some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible, even in a considered process like movie-making, right?”
Stewart also clarifies, “I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic. I do not think that the Harry Potter movies are antisemitic.”…
(6) IDEAL GOVERNMENT FOR MIDDLE-EARTH. Henry T. Edmondson, the Carl Vinson Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Georgia College, gives Tolkien a working-over in “Tolkien, the Mob, and the Demagogue” at Law & Liberty.
…It may come as a surprise that, if Lord of the Rings suggests a warning about political systems, it is not about one-man rule: after all, the novel celebrates “unconstitutional” hereditary monarchy as the ideal government for Middle Earth, hence the title of the last third of the book, “Return of the King.” In this, Tolkien follows Aristotle that monarchy is the ideal government—provided the right king or queen is available, an admittedly difficult prospect. It is not easy to find an Aragorn.
Tolkien also writes approvingly of a natural aristocracy, if indirectly, in his important chapter, “The Council of Elrond,” where the best minds of Middle Earth acknowledge the threat of Sauron and develop a strategy to destroy the One Ring. An approving view of aristocratic wisdom is evident much later in the book, if to a lesser extent, in the chapter “The Last Debate,” where, once again, a small but elite group hold a war council and plan a diversion that might give Frodo and Sam the best chance to destroy the Ring. More philosophically, they consider the nature of the evil that they confront and the need to be prepared for the next assault, in whatever form it might appear, even if Sauron, the immediate Middle Earth threat, is vanquished.
But if there is one form of government of which Tolkien seems to disapprove in the Lord of the Rings, it is democracy. He once wrote to his son Christopher, that democracy is “nearly equivalent to ‘mob-rule’” and that “Greece, the home of philosophy—did not approve of it” because it too often slipped into dictatorships….
(7) HE TAKES IT DARK. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers highly approves the work being done on the latest adaptation of his work, in “Most Anticipated”.
…I am anticipating HOUSE OF THE DRAGON pretty eagerly myself, for what it’s worth. Okay, I am hardly objective. And I know a lot of what you will be seeing. (I, um, wrote the book). Also … mum’s the word now, don’t tell anyone… I’ve seen a rough cut of the first episode. And loved it. It’s dark, it’s powerful, it’s visceral… just the way I like my epic fantasy….
… I think the Targaryens are in very good hands. Anticipate away. I do not think you will be disappointed.…
(8) ACCESSIBILITY DIALOGUE. Teresa Nielsen Hayden engaged Mari Ness about the accessibility issues of DisCon III and Viable Paradise in a Twitter thread that starts here. Two excerpts —
(9) REVISIONS. Hear from Sheree Renée Thomas in Odyssey Writing Workshop Podcast #143.
Author and award-winning editor Sheree Renée Thomas was a guest lecturer at the 2021 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about editing, what she looks for in stories, how to work with an editor, and what she asks for in revisions.
(10) FRANK DENTON (1930-2022). Fanzine fan and author Frank Denton died January 5 his son reported on Facebook. A Seattle-area fan, he was best known for publishing the fanzines Ash-Wing, from 1968-1978 and The Rogue Raven, from 1975-1997, although he also worked on many others. Denton also participated in several amateur press associations including TAPS, The Cult, Minneapa, N’APA, Slanapa, and APANAGE.
He worked in education for 30 years as a teacher, college library director, and media director of a community college. Denton talked about working on his writing after he retired, however, ISFDB shows only one published short story, which appeared in a 1984 anthology. He enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival. Frank was a kind man who was a popular figure in West Coast fandom, He was GoH at MileHiCon 6 (1974), Westercon 30 (1977), Moscon II (1980), Intervention Gamma (1981), and Rustycon 7 (1990). Frank is survived by his wife, Anna Jo.
(11) ELIZABETH MILLER (1939-2022). Count Dracula and Bram Stoker scholar Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Professor Emerita at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, died January 2 at the age of 82. She wrote or edited Reflections on Dracula, Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow, A Dracula Handbook, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense, Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition (with Robert Eighteen-Bisang) and The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker (with Dacre Stoker).
Miller was made “Baroness of the House of Dracula” by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula in 1995. She twice won the Lord Ruthven Award for her books about the vampire (2001, 2009). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dracula Society.
(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1995 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-seven years ago, 12 Monkeys premiered. It would be nominated for a Hugo as Twelve Monkeys at L.A Con III but Babylon 5’s “The Coming of Shadows” would win that year. It would be the fifth Hugo nomination for Terry Gilliam as he had previously gotten them for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. None of the previous nominations resulted in a Hugo win either, though three (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) finished second to the eventual winner.
12 Monkeys was inspired by Chris Marker’s thirty-year-previous short French film La Jeté. The screenplay was written by David and Janet Peoples who would later write scripts for the 12 Monkeys series. David wrote the Blade Runner screenplay. The primary cast was Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer.
Box office wise, it did very well as it grossed one hundred seventy million against just under thirty million in production costs. (It had been capped at that budget after Waterworld went way, way over anticipated costs for the same studio.) Critics generally liked it with Roger Ebert saying that “The film is a celebration of madness and doom, with a hero who tries to prevail against the chaos of his condition, and is inadequate.” It currently has a most stellar eighty eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
Elizabeth Hand wrote the novelization of the 12 Monkeys film. Copies are readily available pretty much everywhere.
It spawned a Syfy series which ran for four seasons and forty-seven episodes starting in 2015. Terry Gilliam was not involved in this undertaking.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 5, 1914 — George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty-five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long-running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
- Born January 5, 1929 — Russ Manning. An artist who created and drew the Gold Key comic book character Magnus: Robot Fighter; who drew the Tarzan comic book from 1965 – 1969 and the Tarzan newspaper comic strip from 1967 – 1972; and the Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979 – 1980. (Credit to Bill here at File 770 for this Birthday.) (Died 1981.)
- Born January 5, 1940 — Jennifer Westwood. Folklorists who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that’s will take some explain. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
- Born January 5, 1959 — Clancy Brown, 63. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out as voicing Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of my best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle
- Born January 5, 1966 — Tananarive Due, 56. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA-winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters.
- Born January 5, 1978 — Seanan McGuire, 44. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I listened to the third of her Sparrow Hill Road stories which are excellent and earlier I’d read her InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing.
(14) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater has a physics joke – in its own way.
- Bizarro shows aliens consulting an expert for advice — and who would know better?
(15) HULK SMASH – SALES RECORD. The Guardian stands by the register as a “Rare first edition of The Incredible Hulk comic sells for $490,000”.
A 60-year-old comic featuring the Incredible Hulk – in which the superhero is depicted in his original grey, rather than his signature green – has been sold for almost half a million dollars.
The rare copy of Incredible Hulk #1, which was published in 1962, was bought by a private collector for $490,000 (£360,000). Comic Connect, an auction site which handled the sale, said it was the most expensive copy of the first Hulk story ever sold…
(16) TWO CHAIRS. The two chairs, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss, talk about the best books they read during 2021 in a variety of categories: SF, Fantasy, Crime, Literary, Non-Fiction and so on. A great year’s reading. Episode 68 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast: “The Endless Bookshop”.
(17) THEY’RE BACK. “Stolen Lord of the Rings books returned to Worcester charity” – the BBC has the story.
…The charity said the books were taken from a locked cabinet at the store…
Dan Corns, commercial director at St Richard’s, had said the hardbacks featured first-edition text from 1954, but were all published in 1957, so while first editions, they were not first printings and were estimated to collectively be worth about £1,500.
“I had a phone call yesterday from the store manager to say that he was just going round the store tidying up and found they had been placed on shelf, which was not normally where would have been, so someone had carefully come in and put them somewhere where we would not necessarily see them but see the books at some time, and luckily we did before someone else saw [and] walked out with them,” he said.
“Obviously someone has thought about it and through their conscience has decided perhaps they didn’t do the right thing.”
St Richard’s Hospice supports more than 2,900 patients, family members and bereaved people in Worcestershire with running costs of £8.75m over the last year
(18) LOTR RAP. Utkarsh Ambudkar freestyle raps about Lord of the Rings for superfan Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. The rap segment starts 5:50 into the video.
The star of the hit CBS comedy, “Ghosts,” Utkarsh Ambudkar tells Stephen about his role on the show and then treats our host to a freestyle rap about our host’s favorite topic, the “Lord of the Rings” films.
(19) THIS IS YOUR LIFE, EGO. Here’s a curiosity – “Arthur C. Clarke on This is Your Life” (the UK version of the show) from 1995.
(20) WEBB KEEPS WEAVING. Good news from Yahoo! “James Webb Space Telescope: Sun shield is fully deployed”.
… Controllers on Tuesday completed the deployment of the space observatory’s giant kite-shaped sun shield.
Only with this tennis court-sized barrier will Webb have the sensitivity to detect the signals coming from the most distant objects in the Universe.
Commissioning work will now concentrate on unpacking the telescope’s mirrors, the largest of which is 6.5m wide….
(21) CLEAN AND LIFT. “Gravity Could Solve Clean Energy’s One Major Drawback” reports WIRED.
Finding green energy when the winds are calm and the skies are cloudy has been a challenge. Storing it in giant concrete blocks could be the answer.
… The concrete blocks are slowly hoisted upwards by motors powered with electricity from the Swiss power grid. For a few seconds they hang in the warm September air, then the steel cables holding the blocks start to unspool and they begin their slow descent to join the few dozen similar blocks stacked at the foot of the tower. This is the moment that this elaborate dance of steel and concrete has been designed for. As each block descends, the motors that lift the blocks start spinning in reverse, generating electricity that courses through the thick cables running down the side of the crane and onto the power grid. In the 30 seconds during which the blocks are descending, each one generates about one megawatt of electricity: enough to power roughly 1,000 homes.
This tower is a prototype from Switzerland-based Energy Vault, one of a number of startups finding new ways to use gravity to generate electricity. A fully-sized version of the tower might contain 7,000 bricks and provide enough electricity to power several thousand homes for eight hours. Storing energy in this way could help solve the biggest problem facing the transition to renewable electricity: finding a zero-carbon way to keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. “The greatest hurdle we have is getting low-cost storage,” says Robert Piconi, CEO and cofounder of Energy Vault….
(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Dragon Age,” Fandom Games says that this prequel to the Dragon Age series has so much gore that you wish someone could conjure up a paper towel to wipe the characters; blood-specked faces. And while there are many Tumblr accounts with people fantasizing about being one of the game’s many sexy characters, no one has sex with dragons, and “not being able to romance a dragon in a game called Dragon Age is like going to Pizza Hut and finding there’s no pizza.”
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]