(1) CROWDSOURCED SUCCESSES. The appeal to help send Tiptree Fellow Vida Cruz to Dublin 2019, “Help Vida attend the 77th WorldCon in Dublin!”, has raised $1,230 at this writing, slightly more than its target figure.
Con or Bust so generously sent me funds to pay for accommodations and airfare–two large chunks of expenses that make me hopeful that I will be able to attend. In fact, I have already booked the tickets and my AirBnB stay. I need only save up for food, transportation, and other smaller travel expenses.
However, I hit several snags recently. Sudden health issues required medicines and physical therapy. As a freelancer, my biggest contract was recently ended, and so I have been searching for part-time gigs and full-time jobs to not only help me fund this trip and pay GoGetFunding, but to help pay for my daily and medical needs. Your contribution will greatly help toward lessening the amount I need.
And when Brandon O’Brien was trying to round up the last $700 he needed to get to Dublin, look what happened! Jeff VanderMeer put up 7 of the Sub Press Borne signed special editions for $100 each to the first 7 takers. And just like that, he was funded.
(2) IN TIMES TO COME. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Everything Marvel Has Planned for Phase 4: Natalie Portman Returns As A New Thor, Mahershala Ali Will Be Blade, Angelina Jolie Trains to Be An Eternal, More” has the lineup for the next two years of movies and TV shows Marvel unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con.
Here’s who you won’t see as Phase 4 unfolds between May 2020 and November 2021: Spider-Man, Star-Lord and a new Iron Man. But you will meet what’s easily the most diverse superhero line-up in comic book movie history, including a master of kung fu and a group of eternals. You’ll also welcome back a strange sorcerer, a sharpshooting archer and a sword-swinging Valkyrie. Based on the crowd reaction, the most anticipated reunions are with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who will be returning as a thunder goddess, and that vampire hunter Blade, now played by two-time Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali.
(3) STAR DREAMING. Michael Benson’s New York Times opinion piece declares “Science Fiction Sent Man to the Moon”.
Most major achievements, be they personal or collective, arrive after rehearsals. Some unfold as flights of the imagination. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a great opportunity to examine how an entire branch of speculative fiction — novels, short stories and also feature films — lies behind the first human footprints on another world.
Works of fiction aren’t particularly known for having influenced historical events. Yet some foundational early rocket science, embedded deep within the developmental history of the Saturn 5 — the towering, five-stage rocket that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon 50 years ago this week — was paid for by the budget of the first science fiction film to envision just such a voyage in realistic terms.
Spaceflight as we know it today wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for three extraordinary figures: the borderline-crazy Russian spaceflight visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the hard-right nationalist German-Transylvanian rocketry pioneer Hermann Oberth and the idiosyncratic American rocketeer Robert Goddard. All devised their distinctive strains of rocket science in response to speculative novels, specifically the stories of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells — founders of a nascent genre later to be known as science fiction. Tsiolkovsky and Oberth also had important roles to play in early 20th century film projects depicting trips to the Moon.
… Of the three, only Tsiolkovsky actually wrote science fiction, which he used as a scratch pad for his revolutionary ideas. Living in near-poverty 100 miles southwest of Moscow, he also issued a stream of theoretical papers. In articles published in 1911-12, he came up with the great utopian credo of the space age: “Earth is the cradle of the mind, but humanity can’t live in its cradle forever.”
(4) THAT OTHER 50TH ANNIVERSARY. NPR profiled SDCC: “San Diego Comic-Con Is Turning 50: Here’s Its Origin Story”.
Fifty years ago, a bunch of comics fans in San Diego decided they wanted a way to meet other fans. They were mostly teenagers — okay, and two adults — but what they created became the pop culture phenomenon we know as San Diego Comic-Con.
Today, Roger Freedman is a physics professor, but in 1969 he was 17 years old — and he had no idea what he was about to get himself into. “I think it’s fair to say that if you had come to us and said how Comic-Con was going to evolve, we would have said A) what are you smoking, and B) where can we buy some?”
It all started with a guy named Shel Dorf — one of only two adults involved with that first convention. Dorf had some experience attending and planning conventions, and more importantly, he had connections. He knew Jack Kirby, the legendary co-creator of characters like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. And Kirby was willing to talk to a bunch of kids.
“I think we thought comic creators lived on some comic book Mount Olympus and couldn’t be approached by normal mortals like us,” says Mike Towry, who was 14 when he got involved with the convention committee. “And then to find out that we could actually meet them and talk to them one on one, and then have a convention where they would come and we would get to hang out with them was just kind of mind-blowing.”
(5) THE POWER OF TRANSLATION. Nathaniel Isaacson authors “Dispatches from the Future of a New China” for the LA Review of Books.
…It’s not hyperbole to say that without Ken Liu and his Herculean efforts in translation, Chinese SF would not exist — or at least it would not exist in its current state. When Ken Liu’s 2014 translation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (2008) won the Hugo Award in 2015, not only was it the first Chinese work awarded the honor, it was the first work in translation from any language to be lauded so. At some point in the past decade, Chinese SF went from “having a moment” to “enjoying its golden age,” and if 2015 wasn’t the exact moment that shift happened, it was certainly when the translation heard round the world was sounded. The Three-Body Problem’s award signaled the significance of Chinese SF to many Anglophone readers for the first time, but equally important was its reaffirmation of Chinese SF for local readers. Liu’s translation has in turn been the source for the novel’s translations into other languages, putting Liu at the vanguard of Chinese SF’s march toward the world. Within hours of the award announcement, domestic internet searches and sales of both the first book and of Liu Cixin’s whole 2008–2010 trilogy increased more than tenfold. Publishing houses and state institutions like the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China redoubled their efforts using SF as a vehicle for promoting China’s “peaceful rise,” and have identified SF as a key aspect of their propaganda and publicity campaigns.
In the same issue, Virginia L. Conn discusses Ken Liu’s earlier work: “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Finding and Losing Oneself in ‘Invisible Planets’”.
Just as, when pressed, Calvino’s Marco Polo claims that “[e]very time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice,” every story in Invisible Planets is saying something about the author’s own position — but that may or may not be the China we know (or think we know). Invisible Planets is not only the spiritual successor to Calvino’s Invisible Cities: it evinces the same magic without following the same formula, creating a panoply of possible worlds that may or may not be our worlds, and which may or may not be true.
(6) BRAZILIAN INVITATION. Canadian sff author Craig Russell received multiple items of good news recently.
First, “an incredibly kind” review of his novel Fragment written by Brazilian literature professor, Dr. Zélia M. Bora and published in The Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Ecocritics.
Some of the comments, translated from Portuguese:
- “Craig Russell’s clever and captivating novel captures the sensitive reader’s attention from the beginning to the end of the narrative, in a balanced way between the real and the imagined.”
- “Fragment is undoubtedly one of the most important ecocritical fiction works written in this millennium.”
Russell has also received an invitation to speak about the novel at the 2020 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (Brazil) conference in the city of Curitiba, Brazil (pending travel grant funding approvals.)
(7) STALKER. BBC has more information about the tragedy — “Kyoto Animation fire: Suspect ‘spotted in area’ days before”.
The man suspected of carrying out a deadly arson attack on a Japanese animation studio may have visited the area before, local media reported.
Neighbours spotted a man resembling Shinji Aoba near the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) office before Thursday’s fire.
Mr Aoba, 41, who suffered severe burns, is in police custody and has been transferred to a hospital in Osaka.
On Saturday, a man died in hospital from his injuries, bringing the death toll from the attack to 34.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 21, 1911 — Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed quaint. (Died 1980.)
- Born July 21, 1921 — James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks. (Died 2000.)
- Born July 21, 1933 — John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales); A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.)
- Born July 21, 1939 — John Woodvine, 80. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”. He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man.
- Born July 21, 1948 — G. B. Trudeau, 71. Not precisely genre or even genre adjacent, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out.
- Born July 21, 1951 — Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook, The Fisher King, Bicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
- Born July 21, 1960 — Lance Guest, 59. An American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in the “Fearful Symmetry” episode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode.
- Born July 21, 1976 — Jaime Murray, 43. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood.
(9) DRIVE AROUND THE BLOCK AGAIN. Referring to the second tweet below — You never know who you’re going to wish you’d run into at Comic-Con.
(10) YEAR 6 IS IN THE BANK. The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is clicking along, too. Year 6 is funded, and they’re in hot pursuit of their second stretch goal already, with 24 days remaining.
(11) ON THE HORIZON. The “Strange Horizons 2020” Kickstarter has also passed its $13,000 goal with 9 days to go in the campaign.
(12) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Hugo Dramatic Presentation Long Form Finalists: “Hugo Reading (Viewing) 2019: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”. Coming in last place —
6) Avengers: Infinity War
This was the Big Superhero Showdown Marvel’s been aiming towards for ten years, but when I saw it, it felt a bit….underwhelming. With so many characters tossed into the mix and so much to do, there wasn’t time for any of them to make much of an impression, with the possible exception of Thor and Rocket. Also, if I’d been Chris Pratt, I would have been ticked off by the way my character was forced to wield the Starlord Stupid Stick, not once but twice. If Peter Quill had only killed Gamora in the beginning, like she asked him to do and he agreed, Thanos would never have found the Soul Stone. Of course, then we wouldn’t have had a $2 billion-plus grossing movie…..
(13) WIDENING GYRE OF HUGO COVERAGE. Steve J. Wright has completed his Campbell Best New Writer reviews + Pro Artist Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews.
- “(Not a) Hugo Finalist Category: The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer”
- Hugo Finalist Category: Best Professional Artist
- “Retro Hugo Finalist Category: Best Professional Artist”
(14) THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Gizmodo reveals the final selling price of those newsworthy tapes: “Former NASA Intern Scores $1.82 Million for Moon Landing Tapes He Bought at Auction”
Former NASA intern Gary George sold off three of the agency’s videotapes of the Apollo 11 moon landing for $1.82 million at auction house Sotheby’s on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the event, CNN reported.
Sotheby’s claims the videos have not been enhanced, restored, or otherwise altered and are the “earliest, sharpest, and most accurate surviving video images of man’s first steps on the moon,” CNN wrote. George paid $217.77 in 1976 (approximately $980 in today’s dollars) for 1,150 reels of NASA magnetic tape at a government auction while he was a Lamar University student interning at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
(15) CREDENZAS FOR CREDENTIALS. The Washington Post says these are the cat’s meow: “Custom wood kennels and memory foam beds: Welcome to the wild world of modern pet furniture”. (With photos.)
…For discerning pet owners who treat their cats and dogs like family — in some cases better than family — designers are creating stylish, even glamorous, furniture. Witness the new $5,000 Crystal Clear Lotus Cat Tower by the Refined Feline, with three platforms for lounging and a hideaway cubby at the bottom lined in white faux fur. (You can see one at the trendy Los Angeles cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.) And now you and Buddy can catnap or watch DOGTV on matching tufted Chesterfield-style Wayfair Archie & Oscar sofas; his is a $399 miniaturized version of yours in faux-leather scaled with similar nailhead trim and turned legs.
(16) IT WAS ALL A DREAM. Or maybe Archer was just pining for the fjords for three seasons. Anyway: “FX’s Archer renewed for surprise season 11, reveals major changes”. Entertainment Weekly interviews the showrunners.
FX’s Archer has some huge changes coming for season 11. The first piece of news is that there is going to be a season 11 (creator Adam Reed has previously suggested the show might end after the current 10th season). The second revelation is — as Archer producers just revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego on Friday — that Sterling Archer is going to wake from his three-year coma in the upcoming finale as the show plans a return to its spy agency roots next season. But there’s a lot more to it than just that.
EW exclusively spoke to executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis about their season 11 shakeup. We got the scoop on the show’s major story line for next season, how long Archer has been in a coma, the future involvement of Reed on the show, and more.
(17) NEW STONE AGE. NPR reports “Notre Dame Fire Revives Demand For Skilled Stone Carvers In France”
A little over three months after Paris’ Notre Dame caught fire, French officials say the cathedral is still in a precarious state and needs to be stabilized. Ultimately, they aim to restore the monument, a process that will take years.
When that work begins, there will be a new demand for experts who have the same skills required to build Notre Dame 900 years ago. In the workshops of the Hector Guimard high school, less than three miles from the cathedral, young stone carvers are training for that task.
In an airy and light-filled workshop in the north of Paris, a handful of students chip and chisel away at heavy slabs of stone. Each works on his or her own piece, but all are sculpting the same project: the base of a Corinthian column. The students are earning a professional degree to hew the stone pieces needed to maintain and restore France’s historical monuments.
…”In the beginning, it was my own parents who were surprised when I left my architecture studies to do this,” says Marjorie Lebegue. “But most everyone who finds out I’m studying to be a stone carver says, ‘Wow, what a beautiful profession.'”
Luc Leblond instructs the aspiring stone carvers.
“There’s no reason this should be a masculine profession,” he says. “Men have more physical force, but as a professor, I see the women have a sharpened sensitivity for the more detailed work. So it’s complementary.”
(18) GOOD PLACE BLOOPERS. Shown at Comic-Con –
(19) EVEN BIGGER BLOOPER. ComicBook.com covers the hottest cosplay at Comic-Con:
Los Angeles Times correspondent Benjamin Crutcher wound up going viral at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con by cosplaying as the infamous coffee cup that appeared during an episode of the final season of Game of Thrones.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Simpsons: Russian Art Film Version” on YouTube is what the opening of “The Simpsons” would be like in a gloomy Soviet apartment complex.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]