(1) NAME THAT ROCK. In the Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan profiles the “byzantine and marvelously nerdy naming guidelines” of the International Astronomical Union (“The bizarre and brilliant rules for naming new stuff in space”). Among them: the mountains and plains of Titan have to be named according to references in Dune or Lord of the Rings, Names for asteroids have relatively few rules, but one of them is not to name an asteroid after your cat, as James Gibson found out when he named an asteroid after his cat, Mr. Spock, and was told that while his asteroid remains “2309 Mr. Spock,” he really shouldn’t do it twice.
[Names for the moons of Jupter] must come from a character in Greek or Roman mythology who was either a descendant or lover of the god known as Zeus (in Greek) or Jupiter (Latin). It must be 16 characters or fewer, preferably one word. It can’t be offensive, too commercial, or closely tied to any political, military or religious activities of the past 100 years. It can’t belong to a living person and can’t be too similar to the name of any existing moons or asteroids. If the moon in question is prograde (it circles in the same direction as its planet rotates) the name must end in an “a.” If it is retrograde (circling in the opposite direction), the name must end in an “e.”
(2) TEMPORARILY CUTE. Sooner or later they’re going to need a new naming convention for these things (Popular Science: “FarFarOut dethrones FarOut for farthest object in the solar system”).
Most people don’t kill time by finding the most distant object ever discovered in the solar system, but most people aren’t Scott Sheppard.
Last week, the Carnegie Institution for Science astronomer announced he had just discovered an object that sits about 140 astronomical units away. One AU equals the 93 million miles between Earth and the sun, so that means this object is 140 times the distance of Earth from the sun, or 3.5 times farther away than Pluto.
This is just a mere couple months after he and his team discovered 2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout,” which sits 120 AU away, and for a brief moment was the farthest known object in the solar system. Sheppard and his team have already given a pretty apt tongue-in-cheek nickname to the usurper: “FarFarOut.”
(3) SAN DIEGO 2049 SPEAKER SERIES. Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous and co-founder, io9, will give a talk “San Diego 2049: Your Dystopia Has Been Canceled” on April 4 at UCSD. Free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Realistic worldbuilding requires that we get out of the dystopia/utopia binary and imagine futures that are a diverse mix of worlds. To imagine a plausible future world, we need to look critically at our own history, where progress is uneven and resistance is not futile. Annalee Newitz, journalist, co-founder of the website io9, and author of the acclaimed science fiction novel Autonomous joins us to share her insights into worldbuilding as part of the San Diego 2049 series of programs.
(4) SALAM AWARD JUDGES. The 2019 jury for the Salam Award will be Jeffrey Ford, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Maha Khan Phillips, John Joseph Adams, and Saba Sulaiman. The award promotes imaginative fiction in Pakistan. (Via Locus Online.)
Last year’s winner was Akbar Shahzad for his story Influence
(5) HUGO PICKS. Abigail Nussbaum comments on 20 stories that either made her ballot, or came close, in “The 2019 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Short Fiction Categories” at Asking the Wrong Question.
From what I’ve seen–and the effects of the last decade in the genre short fiction scene have been to render it even more diffuse than it already was, so I really can’t say that I’ve had a comprehensive view–2018 was a strong year for SF short fiction, with venues including Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Uncanny delivering strong slates of stories. I was interested to observe how easy it is to discern an editorial voice, and a preoccupation with certain topics, when reading through a magazine’s yearly output. Uncanny, for example, had a strong focus on disabled protagonists in 2018, with stories that often turn on their struggles to achieve necessary accommodation, with which they can participate and contribute to society.
One topic that I expected to see a great deal more of in my reading was climate change. Only a few of the pieces I’ve highlighted here turn on this increasingly important topic, and very few stories I read dealt with it even obliquely. Given how much climate change has been in the public conversation recently (and not a moment too soon) it’s possible that next year’s award nominees will deal with it more strongly, but I was a bit disappointed not to see SF writers and editors placing an emphasis on it already.
(6) WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? This Kickstarter will fund a table top game, “Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred with Cthulhu pawns & Idol”.
The Necronomicon is undoubtedly the most emblematic book in the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft. In this game you will assume the role of Abdul Alhazred with the aim of completing all sections of the aberrant book. It is a game for 2 to 4 players with game modes for 20 or 60 minutes.
(7) PLAYING IN THE FIELDS OF D.C. John Kelly in the Washington Post went on the press tour for Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, a Ubisoft video game in which Washington, wiped out by a pandemic, has turned the National Air and Space Museum into an armory and the Lincoln Memorial into a graffiti-covered headquarters for paramilitary groups. (“A new video game invites players to wallow in a dystopian Washington”.) But Ubisoft couldn’t use the World War II Memorial for copyright reasons and decided not to have shooters blast away at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial because “the gamemakers thought it would be disrespectful to have players shooting at each other around the statue of the famous pacifist.”
The game is set in the months after a deadly pandemic has swept the country and transformed the area around the Tidal Basin into a flooded wasteland, the National Air and Space Museum into a heavily guarded armory and the Lincoln Memorial into the smoke-blackened, kudzu-shrouded headquarters of a paramilitary group.
On the plus side, rush hour traffic is pretty light.
The challenge facing anyone designing a video game set in an actual place is making it realistic. The purpose of this junket — events were spread over two days, with a shuttle bus squiring the group from site to site — was to explain that process.
(8) COSPLAY IN CLEVELAND. The Cleveland Plain Dealer) highlighted cosplay in an article about an upcoming convention: “Wizard World shines light on cosplay and the art of transforming (photos)”.
Four years ago, Stephanie Lauren looked into a painting and had an epiphany… “I could do this.”
No, she wasn’t imagining herself as a painter. She already was one, and the painting she was looking at was hers – a colorful portrait of a cute, furry kitty cat.
Rather, she started to imagine herself as one of her works come to life – a character, an expression of childhood and innocence. A new reality, purely of her own making.
Stitch by stitch, using cloth and Ethylene-vinyl acetate foam and beads, a cosplay character was born….
(9) WYNDHAM MEMORIAL. Triffid Alley is a website intended to become a memorial to the author John Wyndham, author of Day of the Triffids, who died in 1969.
It takes its name from Triffid Alley in Hampstead, London, which is the only known existing memorial to John Wyndham in the United Kingdom.
The website reports there will be a 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Wyndham’s death in London on March 11.
It will consist of a talk by David Ketterer and Ken Smith on Wyndham and the Penn Club where he lived from 1924 to 1943 and from 1946 to 1963 followed by drinks and food at a pub on the nearby Store Street, a street which figures on page 98 of the Penguin edition of The Day of the Triffids.
David Ketterer has more or less completed a full scale critical biography entitled TROUBLE WITH TRIFFIDS: THE LIFE AND FICTION OF JOHN WYNDHAM…
Anyone who is interested is invited to gather outside the Penn Club at 21-23 Bedford Place, London W.C.1 (near the British Museum) at 6.00 pm on Monday, 11 March 2019. We shall move to seating in the Penn Club lounge around 6.15 pm for the talk and questions. Around 7.00 pm we shall walk to The College Arms at 18 Store Street (near Senate House).
(10) HUGH LAMB OBIT. British anthologist Hugh Lamb, editor of many paperback collections of vintage horror, died March 2. His son, Richard, tells more in a “Tribute to My Father”.
On the night of 2nd March 2019, Hugh Lamb passed away. He died peacefully, in his sleep, after a long illness that had left him frail and weak. At the end he chose to move on, rather than suffer long months of treatment with no guarantees. We, his family, chose to honour his wishes and were with him at the end.
Hugh Lamb was, to many, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Victorian supernatural literature and a respected anthologist of those stories. To me, however, he was just dad. Certainly, I inherited a great love of ghost stories, as well as the cinema of the macabre, from my father. We would recommend movies to each other and enjoy critiquing them. As a child I used to thrill at tales of the supernatural, both real and fictional, all because of my father’s influence. When I wrote a series of screenplays, two of which were optioned by producers, they were all either ghost stories or stories with a supernatural flavour. And when one of my screenplays won the 2008 Rocliffe/BAFTA New Writers award, it was my father who positively glowed with pride. The screenplay was a father and son story, and he recognised himself in the pages with a mischievous delight.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 3, 1863 — Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.)
- Born March 3, 1920 — James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which in played Phillip Bainbridge, during 5he first season of Trek. Doohan did nothing of genre nature post-Trek. (Died 2005.)
- Born March 3, 1945 — George Miller, 74. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road Warrior, Mad Max 2, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome andFury Road. He also directed The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of Eastwick, Babe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming.
- Born March 3, 1948 — Max Collins, 71. Best known for writing the Dick Tracy comic strip from 1977 to 1993 giving The it a SF flavor. He also did a lot of writing in various media series such as Dark Angel, The Mummy, Waterworld, The War of The Worlds and Batman.
- Born March 3, 1955 — Gregory Feeley, 64. Reviewer and essayist who Clute says of that “Sometimes adversarial, unfailingly intelligent, they represent a cold-eyed view of a genre he loves by a critic immersed in its material.” Writer of two SF novels, The Oxygen Barons and Arabian Wine, plus the Kentauros essay and novella.
- Born March 3, 1970 — John Carter Cash, 49. He is the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. To date, he’s written two fantasies, Lupus Rex which oddly enough despite the title concerns a murder of crows selecting their new leader, and a children’s book, The Cat in the Rhinestone Suit, which I think Seuss would be grin at.
- Born March 3, 1982 — Jessica Biel, 37. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade: Trinity, Stealth, The Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and the animated Spark: A Space Tail.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Rich Horton, quite rightly, calls this a “very Eganesque” Dilbert.
(13) VARIANT COVERS. Brian Hibbs in his Tilting at Windmills column for Comics Beat “Heroes in (Sales) Crisis” says variant covers are helping to break the market:
Again, the new Marvel catalog leads with a mini-series called “War of the Realms” that has seventeen different covers attached to it. For one single issue worth of release. Even if you try to “ignore variants” they take up catalog and “eye” space, they increase the amount of time it takes to order (let alone find) the comics you want to stock; they also consume distributor resources, ultimately increasing overages, shortages and damages, hurting everyone as a result.
The January 2019 order form features 1106 solicited periodical comic books. Of those, only 454 of those SKUs are new items – the other 652 are variant covers. That means a staggering fifty-nine percent of all solicited comics are actually variants. That’s completely and entirely absurd! It is deluded, it is dangerous, and it actively works against the best interests of the market.
(14) RUH-ROH! The former last man on Earth is among those getting animated (The Hollywood Reporter: “Will Forte, Gina Rodriguez and Tracy Morgan to Star in Animated Scooby-Doo Movie (Exclusive)“).
Last Man on Earth star Will Forte voicing Shaggy, Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez [Velma], Tracy Morgan [Captain Caveman] and Frank Welker [Scooby-Doo] are going for a ride in the Mystery Machine.
The actors have closed deals to voice star in the untitled Scooby-Doo animated movie being made by Warner Bros. and its Warner Animation Group division.
Tony Cervone is directing the feature, which counts Chris Columbus, Charles Roven and Allison Abbate [as] producers.
[…] The story sees the Mystery Inc. gang join forces with other heroes of the Hanna-Barbera universe to save the world from Dick Dastardly and his evil plans…and this time, we are told, the threat is real. The movie is slated for a May 2020 release.
(15) WHERE NO WOMAN HAS GONE BEFORE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Sure, some Star Trek projects—going back to Next Gen—have been directed by a woman; but none have taken the helm for the first episode in a series. And certainly no woman of color has been the leadoff batter. Until now. Deadline has the story—”‘Star Trek’: Hanelle Culpepper Will Direct Picard Pilot, First Woman To Launch Starfleet Series“.
Star Trek is boldly going on a new mission where only men have gone before. Hanelle Culpepper will direct the first two episodes of the upcoming untitled Star Trek Jean-Luc Picard series, making her the first woman to direct a pilot or debut episode of a Starfleet series in the franchise’s 53-year history. All 13 feature films in the Trek universe have also been directed by men.
Culpepper has directed two episodes of Star Trek Discovery on CBS All-Access. She helmed the episode titled Vaulting Ambition in Season One as well as an upcoming episode in Season Two, now underway on the subscription streaming site.
Culpepper’s other genre credits include various episodes of Counterpart, Supergirl, The Crossing, The Flash, Lucifer, Gotham, Grimm, and Sleepy Hollow.
(16) THE LOST CAUSE. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne’s post “’Incidentally, there is support for Wijeratne’s story’: a response to file770 and a record of the Nebula Award madness” has attracted notice and comments from people who assume after his experience he should to be ready to lend a sympathetic ear to their propaganda justifying past awards slates.
There’s a comment signed Francis T., which judging from the Gravatar is the Francis Turner who in 2006 tried to convince people not only to vote Baen the Best Editor (Long Form) Hugo the following year but to visualize “A Baen Sweep of the Hugos”.
Also, Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen left a lengthy comment touting himself as the hero of an ahistorical version of 2015’s events.
On Torgersen’s own blog he’s worked hard to couch the immediate controversy in cleverly Orwellian terms: “When the Inner and Outer Parties of SFWA attack”.
…Try as they will to style themselves international, the Inner and Outer Party members of American literary SF/F are hopelessly provincial, sharing a painful overlap in ideology, as well as a kind of homogeneous, mushy globalist-liberal outlook. Which, being “woke”, puts a premium on demographics over individualism. Fetishizing ethnicities and sexualities. While remaining borderline-militant about a single-track monorchrome political platform.
So, certain Inner and Outer Party folks proceeded to step all over their own unmentionables in an effort to “call out” the “slate” of the indie Proles from the dirty ghettos of indie publishing. And now the Inner and Outer Parties are in damage control mode (yet again!) trying to re-write events, submerge evidence, gaslight the actual victims of the literary pogrom, blame all evils on Emmanuel Goldstein (cough, Sad Puppies, cough) and crown themselves the Good People once more. Who would never, of course, do anything pernicious, because how could they? They are Good! They tell themselves they are Good all the time! They go out of their way to virtue-signal this Goodness on social media! It cannot be possible that they have done anything wrong!
Rabid Puppies packmaster Vox Day not only reprinted Torgersen’s post at Vox Popoli (“Puppies redux: Nebula edition” [Internet Archive link]), he appropriated to himself others’ credit for indie authors being in SFWA:
It was funny to read this in my inbox, as it was the first time I’ve had any reason to give a thought to SFWA in a long, long time. Possibly the most amusing thing about this latest SFWA kerfluffle is that it is a direct consequence of SFWA adopting my original campaign proposal to admit independent authors to the membership. Sad Puppy leader Brad Torgersen observes, with no little irony, the 2019 version of Sad Puppies…
(17) DIAL 451. The New Indian Express’ Gautam Chintamani uses a famous Bradbury novel as the starting point to comment on news coverage of the recent Pakistan-India incident in “White Noise”.
Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 as a commentary on how mass media reduces interest in reading literature but considering the times we live in, it is doing more than that. Following the February 14 Jaish-e-Mohammed fidayeen attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama that left 44 Indian soldiers dead, most television news channels bayed for blood. There is no denying that the national emotions were running high and it was only natural for citizens of a nation that have been at the receiving end of a proxy war conducted by a neighbour that as a national policy believes in causing loss of life in India to ask for a befitting reply. Yet the fashion in which many news anchors assumed the mantle of judge, jury, and executioner was nothing less than appalling. The constant white noise emanating from most news debates, where everyone was urged to shout louder than the next person, offers a greater emotional bounty to the one who would teach Pakistan a lesson and this showed a committed effort from media to not allow the average citizen a moment to think.
(18) GAHAN WILSON FUNDRAISER. A GoFundMe to “Help Gahan Wilson find his way” wants to raise $100,000 for the artist’s care. Neil Gaiman gave $1,000. Other donors include artist Charles Vess, editor Ellen Dtalow, and Andrew Porter.
Gahan Wilson is suffering from Dementia
Gahan is suffering from severe dementia. We have helped him through the stages of the disease and he is currently not doing very well.
His wife, Nancy Winters, just passed away
My mother, and his wife of fifty three years, Nancy Winters, passed away on March 2, 2019. She was his rock. His guide through the world. While we all helped with his care, it was my mother who grounded him. He is currently distraught and out of sorts with the world.
Memory care is needed immediately
Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, the facility is about to discharge him. We must find him a memory care facility immediately.
… Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.
(19) CANADA SIGNS ON. Another international partner lends NASA a hand, well, a robotic arm, anyway: “Gateway Moon station: Canada joins Nasa space project”.
Canada will contribute US$1.4bn to a proposed Nasa space station that will orbit the Moon and act as a base to land astronauts on its surface.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the step would “push the boundaries of innovation”.
The space station, called Gateway, is a key element in Nasa’s plan to return to the Moon with humans in the 2020s.
As part of the 24-year commitment, Canada will build a next-generation robotic arm for the new lunar outpost.
“Canada is going to the Moon,” Mr Trudeau told a news conference at Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters near Montreal, according to AFP.
Nasa plans to build the small space station in lunar orbit by 2026. Astronauts will journey back and forth between Gateway and the lunar surface. It will also act as a habitat for conducting science experiments.
(20) SURE OBI-WAN, POINT-OF-VIEW BLAH BLAH BLAH. Gizmodo/io9 says that, “From a Certain Angle, It Looks Like the Dark Phoenix Trailer Takes a Subtle Jab at the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Um, how is it, again, that you change your viewing angle for a non 3-D movie trailer? Oh, I see what you mean…
A new Dark Phoenix trailer dropped in the dead of night this week and gave us another look at how Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey will transform into her darkest, most cosmically-empowered self on the big screen for the second time in the character’s cinematic history. But a fan also spotted something peculiar…
[…] At one point in the trailer, all of the film’s mutants (save for Jean) are being transported by armed officers on what appears to be an armored tank. Wired UK writer Matt Kamen spotted three very familiar letters on their uniforms. If you look closely they read “MCU” which, as Kamen pointed out, could stand for “mutant containment unit.” But it could also be a clever nod to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox and the cinematic rights to the X-Men.
(21) JAVA. Mashable’s post “Pierce Brosnan drinking a latte of his own face is extremely good” identifies him with James Bond, but he also has the lead in The King’s Daughter, based on Vonda McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun, which is still awaiting its U.S. release (IMDB says sometime in 2019).
(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Motion Makes a Masochist” on Vimeo, Dev warns that if you want to be a motion designer for movies, you should be prepared to suffer a lot for your art.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, Frank Olynyk, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z., Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Winkelman.]