(1) CONGRATULATIONS LEE! LASFS member Lee Gold has been awarded a Hall of Fame plaque from the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design for her work on Alarums & Excursions. As John Hertz explained in his APA-Lzine Vanamonde #1531:
Alarums and Excursions is an amateur press association founded in 1975, edited and published by Lee Gold. It won Best Amateur Adventure Gaming Magazine, 1984; Best Amateur Game Magazine, 1999;Best Amateur Game Periodical, 2000 & 2001.
In a way A&E began here, when fannish enthusiasm for the new Dungeons & Dragons game was so
cluttering dominatingpervading APA-L that Bruce Pelz suggested LG start a new apa for it.
The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design, and the annual Origins fair, seem to indicate a surge of playfulness in the late 1970s. If tabletop board games includes backgammon, checkers, chess, go, they are millennia old; Sorry (1929), Monopoly (1935), Clue (1947; Cluedo outside the United States), Scrabble (1949), may indicate a surge in the first half of the 20th Century; but adventure gaming seems different from any of them.
(2) PUT THAT LAUNCH ON HOLD. At Idle Words, Maciej Cegłowski contends there are very good reasons “Why Not Mars”.
…At this point, it is hard to not find life on Earth. Microbes have been discovered living in cloud tops, inside nuclear reactor cores, and in aerosols high in the stratosphere. Bacteria not only stay viable for years on the space station hull, but sometimes do better out there than inside the spacecraft. Environments long thought to be sterile, like anoxic brines at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea, are in fact as rich in microbial life as a gas station hot dog. Even microbes trapped for millions of years in salt crystals or Antarctic ice have shown they can wake up and get back to metabolizing without so much as a cup of coffee.
The fact that we failed to notice 99.999% of life on Earth until a few years ago is unsettling and has implications for Mars. The existence of a deep biosphere in particular narrows the habitability gap between our planets to the point where it probably doesn’t exist—there is likely at least one corner of Mars that an Earth organism could call home. It also adds support to the theory that life may have started as an interplanetary infection, a literal Venereal disease that spread across the early solar system by meteorite. If that is the case, and if our distant relatives are still alive in some deep Martian cave, then just about the worst way to go looking for them would be to land in a septic spacecraft…
(3) SPINRAD PUTS OUT A CALL. At “Norman Spinrad At Large And Commons” the author calls fresh attention to his 2017 book The People’s Police (on Amazon in various formats, and no longer at the cited $4 price for the paperback, but the Kindle edition is cheaper than that.)
The People’s Police. Ok, I never thought I would dare to do this, but in the current situation, I feel I must. THE PEOPLE’S POLICE is the last novel I have had published, and perhaps the reason I have no current agent and no current major publisher. It was published in hard cover by Tor, and despite my outrage, with a cover that made its politics and spirit say exactly the opposite of what the novel was saying. Well, I thought, after the result, I could get Tor to do the right thing with the paperback cover. Instead Tor refused to publish any paperback cover. I had to fight very hard to free the novel from Tor, and do it myself.
And I did, and I not only published this large paperback edition myself, I made it all by myself, cover and all. And not only is it available on Amazon, the price is a lowly $4. Because I believed then, and all the more now, THE PEOPLE’S POLICE is not only the title of a book, but what the people of America need to read, because a people’s police is what they need to have, and deserve to have, and it is better to light even the smallest candle than to curse the darkness.
(4) DOUBLE THE PLEASURE. In “Writing With Mirrors”, Ziv Wities, assistant editor at Diabolical Plots, shows how similarities and opposites are a powerful tool in storytelling. Which can mean identical clones, or alternate universes, but these mirrors are everywhere, in stories of every tone and style.
(5) FORD’S IN HIS FLIVVER. “Harrison Ford: ‘I Know Who the F–k I Am’” is the headline of The Hollywood Reporter’s interview. Sure, he knows – but is he going to tell us?
… Your Shrinking character Paul is, I would imagine, closer to how you are in real life than your other roles. He’s low-key, smart, affable but also sometimes grumpy. Would that be fair?
I don’t have Parkinson’s [like Paul] or a deep knowledge of therapy, and I’m not in business with a couple of fucking maniacs. But I recognize that maybe he’s like me. Or maybe he’s not like me — and that’s acting.
So whether he is or isn’t is not something you’d want me to know.
You’ve hit on the first rule of Acting Club: Don’t talk about acting….
(6) B5 REMAINS IN SUSPENSE. J. Michael Straczynski continues to wait, like the rest of us: “Babylon 5 Update: 2/7/23” on Patreon.
…Networks and streamers don’t just make a decision not to pick something up, and then not tell anyone. I’ve been in the television business for longer than there have been clouds, and I’ve never seen that happen. I’ve never even heard of it happening. If they pick up the project, they call; if they don’t pick up the project, they call. Again, they’re not shy about making that call: it gets done every day, every week, every month, every year.
It’s real simple: “Joe, listen, we loved the script but we couldn’t make the deal/money/schedule work, so we’re going to have to pass, but please be sure to bring us something else next development cycle.” Click, disconnect, move on. Easy-peasy, no harm, no foul, nature of the biz.
And my very next act, within the minute, would be to post the information to everyone reading this, because that’s also a part of the process.
But again: that call has not come. Not to me, my agent, or my attorney. Not to nobody.
Does this mean B5 is going to happen? No.
Does this mean it’s not going to happen? No….
A year ago, in “B5 CW News”, he also reported:
… I received a call from Mark Pedowitz, President of The CW. (I should mention that Mark is a great guy and a long-time fan of B5. He worked for Warners when the show was first airing, and always made sure we got him copies of the episodes before they aired because he didn’t want to wait to see what happened next.)
Calling the pilot “a damned fine script,” he said he was taking the highly unusual step of rolling the project and the pilot script into next year, keeping B5 in active development while the dust settles on the sale of the CW.
Here’s the bottom line:
Yesterday, Babylon 5 was in active development at the CW and Warner Bros. for fall 2022.
Today, Babylon 5 is in active development at the CW and Warner Bros. for fall 2023.
That is the only difference….
(7) ELLISON WONDERLAND NEWS. Straczynski also wrote a public Patreon post with an “Update on Harlan House Restoration”. Here’s the beginning. Many more details at the link, and a bunch of interesting photos.
A follow-up for all of Harlan’s fans who are also here…on Wednesday I went up to Ellison Wonderland to meet with Don Kline, who for thirty or so years has been the primary contractor and construction person working on the house to realize Harlan’s vision for the place.
The prior week Don and Tim Kirk, who was also one of Harlan’s main architectural designers, had met at the house to do a full appraisal of the work that needs to be done to return the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars to its original condition. This week’s meeting was for Don to take those conversations and translate them into a plan of action that has now begun….
(8) HEAR A Q&A WITH KAREN JOY FOWLER TOMORROW. Booth author Karen Joy Fowler will be interviewed by the Mark Twain House’s Mallory Howard on February 9. Free registration at the link. The event begins at 7:00 Eastern.
Karen Joy Fowler joins us to discuss her new novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth. Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, Booth explores the multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters of the Booth family. Considered the “Best Book of the Year” by NPR and one of the “Most Anticipated Books 2022” by Kirkus Reviews, Booth is a portrait of a country in the throes of change and a vivid exploration of the ties that make, and break, a family.
We will gather to share appreciations of Chandler’s rich and loving life, his commitments, and his ways in the world. The program will also include a sampling of Chan’s poetry and songs. There will be opportunities for in-person and virtual guests to share reminiscences.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1990 — [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Steven Brust ‘s Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille
Ok, let’s note that I don’t have to like a novel to think it has a truly great Beginning which is what Steven Brust ‘s Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille has. And as know from my previous essay on this work, neither I or the author like this novel.
The set-up that Brust gives us for his Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille novel is one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s got delicious food, Irish music, an explanation of why the bar is named Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille and even a note about what the plot is. All in four paragraphs. Four really great paragraphs.
And yes, it’s now available from the usual suspects.
Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille has the best matzo ball soup in the galaxy. Lots of garlic, matzo balls with just the right consistency to absorb the flavor, big chunks of chicken, and the whole of it seasoned to a biting perfection. One bowl, along with maybe a couple of tamales, will usually do for a meal.
As for entertainment, Feng gets some of the best Irish musicians you’ll ever hear—good instrumental backing, fine singing, some stupendous fiddle playing, and driving energy. Hell, some of the songs are actually Irish.
I was there that Thursday, sitting in my favorite booth—back middle, just under the picture of the big, grinning Chinese fellow with the mustache and the cowboy hat—while I waited for the rest of my band, the Jig-Makers, to finish tuning. It’s my favorite booth because you can see the whole dining room to your right and most of the taproom to your left, and you get a great view of the stage.
We weren’t playing tonight, but Fred, the manager, let us use the stage to practice. The place used to have live music every Wednesday and Thursday, as well as on the weekends, but it didn’t pay, so Fred canceled it. He was the practical sort; not me, I’m sentimental. This has caused me any number of difficulties, but there it is. My other problem is that I’m easily distracted. Sorry about that. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Thursday. Which reminds me: Did you hear the one about how, after the nuclear attack, the town of Sanctuary, Venus, had to change its name? To Sanctuary, Jupiter? Anyway, Thursday was the day someone lobbed an atomic warhead at Jerrysport, Mars, and reduced it to rubble.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 8, 1828 — Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally I’m on first-hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some sixty works and a lot were genre. And, of course, his fiction became the source for many other works in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
- Born February 8, 1905 — Truman Bradley. He was the host of syndicated Science Fiction Theatre series which ran from 1955 to 1957. It aired its last episode on this day in 1957. On Borrowed Time, a fantasy film, is his only other SFF work. (Died 1974.)
- Born February 8, 1918 — Michael Strong. He was Dr. Roger Korby in the most excellent Trek episode of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” He also showed up in Green Hornet, Mission Impossible, I-Spy (ok I consider it genre even if you don’t), Galactica 1980, Man from Atlantis, The Six Million Dollar Man, Planet of The Apes, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Immortal. (Died 1980.)
- Born February 8, 1938 — Ned Brooks. A Southern fan involved for six decades in fandom and attended his first Worldcon in 1963. Brooks’ notable fanzines included It Comes in the Mail. He wrote two associational works, Hannes Bok Illustration Indexand Revised Hannes Bok Checklist back in the days when print reigned surpreme. ISDBF shows that he was quite the letter writer. Mike has an appreciation of him here. (Died 2015.)
- Born February 8, 1953 — Mary Steenburgen, 70. She first acted in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre though I’ll bet some you will dispute that. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was also in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman.
- Born February 8, 1962 — Malorie Blackman, 61. Her excellent Noughts and Crosses series explores racism in a dystopian setting. (They’re published as Black & White in the States.) She also wrote a Seventh Doctor short story, “The Ripple Effect” which was published as one of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-Shorts. She’s readily available on all digital platforms.
- Born February 8, 1969 — Mary Robinette Kowal, 54. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. I’m going to select Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be even more stellar. She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly amazed by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. Awards? Oh, yes. She has a Hugo Award for Best Novelette, a Hugo Award for Best Novel, a Nebula Award for Best Novel, another Hugo Award for Best Related Work, an Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and finally a Hugo Award for Best Short Story. Impressive indeed. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words on her: “I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my favorite. Although, I will now add that if you want the best one-volume Mary Robinette Kowal reading experience, take a space cruise with her newest, The Spare Man (which is just superb in audio).”
- Born February 8, 1979 — Josh Keaton, 44. He voiced the Hal Jordan / Green Lantern character in the most excellent Green Lantern: The Animated series which lasted but one season of twenty six episodes though they did end it properly. Yea! I’m also very impressed with his Spider-Man that he did for The Spectacular Spider-Man series.
(12) AVATAR FINALLY FALLS FROM BOX OFFICE #1. After leading films at the box office for several weeks, Avatar: The Way of Water was knocked off by the opening of M. Night Shyamalan’s newest movie, Knock at the Cabin says The Hollywood Reporter.
M. Night Shyamalan’s newest movie, Knock at the Cabin, topped the domestic chart with $14.2 million from 3,643 theaters. While the psychological-tinged horror pic has bragging rights to finally being the film to topple Avatar: The Way of Water from the stop spot, it is nevertheless the lowest North American opening of any film directed by Shyamalan….
The James Cameron-directed Avatar: The Way of Water fell to No. 3 in its eighth weekend of play in North America with roughly $10.8 million from 3,310 theaters to finish the weekend with a global total of $2.174 billion, not far behind Cameron’sTitanic ($2.194 billion).
Disney and 20th Century’s The Way of Water is expected to ultimately overtake Titanic to become the third top-grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office behind the original Avatar and Avengers: Endgame. Overseas, the Avatar sequel has already sailed past Titanic ($1.538 billion versus $1.535 billion), a feat it accomplished over the weekend. One wrinkle: a 3D version of Titanic is being rereleased on Feb. 10 by Disney and Paramount….
(13) REVENGE AT LAST. Paul Weimer reviews the finale of a new edition of the classic Demon Princes series at Nerds of a Feather: “Review: The Book of Dreams by Jack Vance”.
… In the course of the book, even with his money and power and influence, Gersen has a difficult time in pinning down Treesong, who proves in the course of this novel to be the most elusive of the Demon Princes. Treesong survives more attempts for Gersen to confront and finish him than any of his other opposition. It is not until Gersen gets a hold of the Book that he finally has a lever to finally draw Treesong into a vulnerable position. Treesong is perhaps this series’ Joker, unpredictable yet methodical, inconsistent, and yet having wide range plans and the will and ability to carry them out, forceful and yet vulnerable in certain spots. He is more complicated than any of the other Demon Princes and that makes him a fascinating antagonist, all the way to the final confrontation…
(14) THE COMET MADNESS OF 1910. The Mark Twain House hosts astronomer Pamela Gay’s interview with Comet Madness author Richard Goodrich on February 16. Free registration here.
“I came in with Halley’s Comet,” said Mark Twain in 1909, “It is coming again next year. The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” He died on April 21, 1910—one day after the comet had once again reached its perihelion.
But the fulfillment of Twain’s prophecy wasn’t the only strange thing that happened that year. In Comet Madness: How the 1910 Return of Halley’s Comet (Almost) Destroyed Civilization, author and historian Richard J. Goodrich examines the 1910 appearance of Halley’s Comet and the ensuing frenzy sparked by media manipulation, bogus science, and outright deception. The result is a fascinating and illuminating narrative history that underscores how we behave in the face of potential calamity – then and now.
(15) A WORLD IN NEED OF SAVING. At Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano unpacks the moral issues in an impressive new novel: “Review: The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler”. And what book could be more appropriate for a deep dive?
… Moreover, in keeping with the novel’s anti-individualistic stance, the moral failures that set the plot in motion are never ascribed to one character or one faction. Sealife depletion is not caused by this one company’s greed; it’s humankind’s greed. Rights violations are not allowed by this one government’s negligence; it’s humankind’s negligence. Securing a future for all lifeforms is not this one hero’s duty; it’s humankind’s duty. And yet, the individual characters we follow through the story aren’t diluted in an all-blurring mass movement. They remain conscious of their uniqueness, but also of their connection to the whole. The novel’s message is not one of annulling the individual, just one of expanding the scope of moral analysis….
(16) IS IT A CHEAT? THEN DON’T READ. “Hogwarts Legacy: How to find all the pages for the Field Guide” at USA Today.
The Wizard’s Field Guide is the main way you can check your progress in Hogwarts Legacy. You receive it once you are sorted into your Hogwarts house, and it keeps record of every enemy type you face. It also challenges you to do certain things, and will reward you with upgrades and cosmetics.
However, before you can fill it out, you need to find all of the pages for it. These are scattered all over Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and the surrounding Highlands. There are over 150 to find, and you’ll want to get them all if you are aiming for 100% completion.
Here is how to find all the Field Guide pages in Hogwarts Legacy….
(17) EJECT! According to Variety, “’Fawlty Towers’ Set for Revival at Castle Rock With John Cleese”.
Matthew George, Rob Reiner, Michele Reiner and Derrick Rossi are executive producing the series for Castle Rock Television, which is developing the project.
“Fawlty Towers,” written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, originally ran in two seasons of six episodes each that were broadcast on the BBC in 1975 and 1979. The series followed the unfortunate exploits of Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) as he struggled to keep his hotel and marriage afloat….
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George enacts the “Velma Pitch Meeting”.
HBO Max decided to dive into the adult animation arena with VELMA, the Scooby Doo spinoff from Mindy Kaling. Despite negative reviews from pretty much everyone, the show seems to be the talk of the Internet. Or maybe that’s because of them… Velma definitely raises some questions. Like where’s Scooby Doo in the Scooby Doo show? Why is every single character just a completely different person than the character they’re based on? Why is everyone so mean? Why does everyone love Velma? Why are they trying so hard to be snarky and meta? To answer all these questions, check out the pitch meeting that led to Velma.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Ziv Wities, Jim Janney, John Hertz, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day by Soon Lee.]