(1) COVER ART. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]Literary Hub featured a long list of “Best Book Covers of 2022” which included several of genre interest. But the most surprising to see was the final selection, Chuck Tingle’s Bisexually Stuffed by an Orgy of Sentient Thanksgiving Foods. “The 103 Best Book Covers of 2022”.
(2) PRESS THE BUTTON FOR SIXTY-TWO. Phil Nichols commences “The Second Annual Time Travel Expedition” in episode 24 of the SF 101 podcast.
It’s December, and so according to the tradition we invented this time last year, we go back into the past and review an old science fiction magazine – to see how the field has changed over time, and to see if those old stories still hold up. This year, we tackle the December 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. If you’d like to skim the pages with us, you can find the entire issue online here.
We also have a science fiction cat quiz, believe it or not….
(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Adam-Troy Castro tweeted about his surgery:
(4) NEXT VERSE. The next Spider-Man movie is coming to theaters June 2023: Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse.
(5) AXED BY HBO MAX. “‘Westworld’ & ‘The Nevers‘ Pulled Off HBO Max, Marking Victorian Drama’s Formal End” reports Deadline. But they’re expected to resurface elsewhere.
…Two other original scripted series, Westworld and The Nevers, are coming off HBO Max. Unlike others that we have reported on, Lionsgate TV’s Minx and Love Life and Sony TV’s Gordita Chronicles — all comedies — Westworld and The Nevers are high-end Warner Bros. Discovery drama productions for HBO proper, and I hear they are likely to resurface on other company platforms.
WBD CEO David Zaslav has spoken about his plan to enter the burgeoning FAST channel space, so Westworld and The Nevers would likely be offered in that form, I hear.
The removal of Westworld is a surprise as it remains one of the most recognizable HBO dramas of the last decade. The sci-fi series was recently canceled after four seasons so some of its fans may not have caught up on all episodes before it’s removed.
This marks the formal cancellation for the Joss Whedon-created The Nevers, whose six-episode Season 1A aired back in 2021, with the second part of the season yet to be scheduled. It will now end up in the show’s new home whatever that is. The storyline has been crafted in a way that it concludes with Season 1B, sources said….
(6) FOR A SPLIT-SECOND IT WAS CAMELOT. “Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough With Blast of 192 Lasers” and the New York Times offers an overview of how it was done.
…There was always a nagging caveat, however. In all of the efforts by scientists to control the unruly power of fusion, their experiments consumed more energy than the fusion reactions generated.
That changed on the morning of Dec. 5, just over a week ago, when 192 giant lasers at the laboratory’s National Ignition Facility blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond.
The laser beams entered at the top and bottom of the cylinder, vaporizing it. That generated an inward onslaught of X-rays that compresses a BB-size fuel pellet of deuterium and tritium, the heavier forms of hydrogen.
In a brief moment lasting less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the hydrogen pellet. Out flowed a flood of neutron particles — the product of fusion — which carried the energy equivalent of about 1.5 pounds of TNT, or an energy gain of about 1.5.
This crossed the threshold that laser fusion scientists call ignition, the dividing line where the energy generated by fusion equals the energy of the incoming lasers that start the reaction….
(7) MEMORY LANE.
2000 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Paddington Bear
One of the cutest bears in literature, alongside Winnie the Pooh is Paddington Bear. I hereby submit nominations for other extremely cute bears in fiction.
Michael Bond first unveiled him to the world in 1958. He came up with him after he purchased a teddy bear as a Christmas present for his wife, and named the bear Paddington as the couple was living near Paddington Station, so he imagined the arrival of a real bear at the station in his first novel, A Bear Called Paddington.
The sculpture was created by Marcus Cornish in 2000. Cast in bronze, the statue stands on Platform 1 under the station clock and was unveiled by Michael Bond on February 24, 2000. Interestingly the statue is owned by the Paddington Bear shop at the station.
Its present location is the second within the station, the statue having been moved from its original position at the foot of the escalators due to renovation work. He had been unceremoniously… oh let’s let journalist Marin Roberts tell the tale, “To my horror, a few months ago I discovered the Paddington Bear statue had been moved to a really dark, dingy corner on the other side of the station.”
He enlisted the help of a lot of people including Hugh Bonneville, who played Mr Brown in the Paddington Bear films, and that’s he got moved to where he is. He’s supposed to have (eventually) a place in center court.
Bond’s obituary in The Guardian described the statue as “one of the few memorials in London to inspire real affect.”
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 13, 1925 — Dick Van Dyke, 97. Seriously you think I wouldn’t write him up? Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. in Mary Poppins followed shortly by being Caractacus Pott in the film adaptation in Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (No it’s not the same character as he is in the book.) He voices the lead character in the animated Tubby the Tuba film and plays D.A. Fletcher in Dick Tracy. He narrates Walt: The Man Behind the Myth whose subject matter you can guess. Played Commissioner Gordon in Batman: New Times as well. Shows up in both of the Night at the Museum films which sort of interest me. And yes he has a role as Mr.Dawes Jr. in Mary Poppins Returns.
- Born December 13, 1929 — Christopher Plummer. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time. Now Dreamscape was fun and well received. Skipping to General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I saw he’s was in Twelve Monkeys but I think I’ve deliberately forgotten that film and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (Died 2021.)
- Born December 13, 1949 — R. A. MacAvoy, 73. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope. (Tea with the Black Dragon was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II, the year David Brin’s Startide Rising won.) The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells, so do tell me about her other works. (OGH begins: there’s “R. A. MacAvoy’s Bear Stories”, half-a-dozen true life nature encounters collected here at File 770 in 2017.)
- Born December 13, 1954 — Emma Bull, 68. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles, Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Yes, I’ve personally acquired signed copies of each. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want here. She’s also been in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cats Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. And she’s on the dark chocolate gifting list.
- Born December 13, 1954 — Tamora Pierce, 68. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, about her character Alanna going through the trials of training as a knight, sold very well and was well received by readers. That series is set in Tortall, a world akin to the European Middle Ages. What I’ve read of it I like a lot. She won the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction in 2005, a rare honor indeed.
- Born December 13, 1984 — Amal El-Mohtar, 38. Canadian editor and writer. She won Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA, an Aurora and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Very impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past five years.
(9) I CAN’T BE SURE, BUT I DON’T THINK THEY LIKED IT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Avatar: The Way of Water review – a soggy, twee, trillion-dollar screensaver” in the Guardian.
Drenching us with a disappointment that can hardly be admitted out loud, James Cameron’s soggy new digitised film has beached like a massive, pointless whale. The story, which might fill a 30-minute cartoon, is stretched as if by some AI program into a three-hour movie of epic tweeness….
(10) THE VERDICT. And the New York Times isn’t fond of the new Butler adaptation: “‘Kindred’ Review: Octavia Butler Comes to the Screen”.
…“Kindred” is finally coming to the screen, 43 years after its publication, not as a movie or a mini-series but as an eight-episode season meant to be the first in a series. (Made for FX, it premieres Tuesday on Hulu.) The ingenious premise is still there: Dana James (Mallori Johnson), now an aspiring television writer in 2016 Los Angeles, finds herself being zapped to 1815 Maryland whenever Rufus Weylin (David Alexander Kaplan), the young son of a plantation owner, feels his life is in danger and he needs saving. Only minutes or hours have elapsed in the present when she returns home, sometimes after perilous weeks or months in the past. Like other involuntary-time-travel stories, it is inherently suspenseful, generating cliffhangers at regular intervals, and the show takes full advantage.
The other side of Butler’s storytelling equation has gone missing, however. It is hard to believe much of anything that happens in FX’s “Kindred,” in either the skimpy, cardboard depiction of plantation life or in the clichéd presentation of modern city life. (The present-day plot has, unfortunately, been significantly expanded.) Butler grounded her speculation in historical and, crucially, psychological reality; the series takes her story elements and slices, dices and pads them in a way that keeps us from believing or becoming invested in the characters Butler worked so hard to build….
(11) REMEMBERING CARRIE FISHER. [Item by Dann.] Carrie Fisher is well known for her acting career. Hello Star Wars! She is somewhat less known as a Hollywood script doctor. Her editing/writing skills were frequently employed in improving the character development and dialog of female characters.
She is also a songwriter. Perhaps “co-songwriter” is more accurate as she co-wrote songs with Sean Lennon (John Lennon’s son), Harper Simon (Paul Simon’s son), and Jimmy Buffet. “3 Songs You Didn’t Know the Late Actress Carrie Fisher Co-Wrote” at American Songwriter.
Ms. Fisher edited scripts for a wide variety of films including Sister Act and Lethal Weapon 3. Her work on one script in particular resulted in a very brief cameo. The movie was Hook. In the cameo, she is one of a couple enjoying a romantic kiss on the bridge as Tinkerbell flies by carrying Peter Banning/Pan. After being sprinkled with a bit of pixie dust, the couple gently floats in the air above the bridge. The other half of the snogging pair? George Lucas. “George Lucas & Carrie Fisher’s Cameos In Hook Explained” at ScreenRant.
(12) ALL ABOARD. Nerdist has compiled a docket of evidence showing that “Some of the Best Sci-Fi ‘Ships’ Are Actually Living Beings”. Beware spoilers.
Space-faring ships that turn out to be alive are nothing new in science fiction. There’s more entries every year, but the leviathans often have similarities to previous versions. Many of them are whale-like, with interior corridors that look like the belly of the beast. Some even sing like whales. But while there’s plenty of overdone tropes in science fiction, what exactly constitutes life and sentience is one that is still interesting. As humanity’s understanding of non-human sentient life deepens over time, we continue to explore this concept in our entertainment as well. Here’s some of our favorite living “ships” from TV and film.
First example —
Jean Jacket (Nope)
Nope is the latest sci-fi movie to introduce a living ship. The flying saucer turns out to be an animal rather than a typical UFO. Technically it does carry passengers, for a little while at least. Then it eats them. If only we humans weren’t so delicious and nutritious. The real animals that inspired Jean Jacket’s design—urchins, cuttlefish, squid, and other ocean life— are not really a threat to us. But when a large alien shows those same unfamiliar behaviors, it’s a lot more scary.
Jordan Peele consulted scientists to make his predator more realistic and comment on the dangers of trying to control nature. That’s a tale many of the sentient ship stories that came before tell, and will likely remain a sci-fi theme for years to come since humanity hasn’t yet taken it to heart.
(13) TECH FOR GEEZERS. Admit it – you didn’t know all of these gadgets were obsolete! And neither do these folks who were interviewed by the Guardian: “‘My friends call me the BlackBerry queen!’ Meet the people clinging on to old tech – from faxes to VCRs”.
More than 40 years since the fax machine became an office mainstay, it seems the party is finally over. With telecom providers no longer required to offer fax services, these machines may soon be consigned to the dusty attic of bygone tech. But for the TikTok generation, who’ve never known life without wifi, concepts such as fax, dial-up internet and Friday night trips to Blockbuster Video aren’t just outdated, they’re completely alien. Even so, not everyone has forgotten about the charms of older technology. From the clattering keys of an old typewriter to the nostalgic joy of a chunky Walkman, some people have never left their favourite tech behind….
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Bruce D. Arthurs, Danny Sichel, Rick Moen, Dann, Steven French, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern (offered with apologies to Peter S Beagle’s opening sentence in his A Fine And Private Place.)]