…“The studios didn’t invent Rotten Tomatoes, and most of them don’t like it,” says the filmmaker Paul Schrader. “But the system is broken. Audiences are dumber. Normal people don’t go through reviews like they used to. Rotten Tomatoes is something the studios can game. So they do.”
In a recent interview, Quentin Tarantino, whose next film is reportedly called The Movie Critic, admitted that he no longer reads critics’ work. “Today, I don’t know anyone,” he said (in a translation of his remarks, first published in French). “I’m told, ‘Manohla Dargis, she’s excellent.’ But when I ask what are the three movies she loved and the three she hated in the last few years, no one can answer me. Because they don’t care!”
This is probably because Rotten Tomatoes — with help from Yelp, Goodreads, and countless other review aggregators — has desensitized us to the opinions of individual critics. Once upon a time, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert turned the no-budget documentary Hoop Dreams into a phenomenon using only their thumbs. But critical power like that has been replaced by the collective voice of the masses. A third of U.S. adults say they check Rotten Tomatoes before going to the multiplex, and while movie ads used to tout the blurbage of Jeffrey Lyons and Peter Travers, now they’re more likely to boast that a film has been “Certified Fresh.”…
This might be my most horrific conversation yet! Not merely because of my guest — but because certain scenes from Night of the Living Dead were shot in the basement of our chosen venue, The Original Oyster House!
Michael Bailey is an award-winning writer and editor, having been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award nine times, winning once for the anthology The Library of the Dead, and a four-time Shirley Jackson Award nominee. His novels include Palindrome Hannah (2005) and Phoenix Rose (2009). His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Birthing Monsters: Frankenstein’s Cabinet of Curiosities and Cruelties, Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road, Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies and Mummification, and most recently Hybrid: Misfits, Monsters and Other Phenomena.
Many of these stories have been gathered in the collections Scales and Petals (2010), Inkblots and Blood Spots (2014), Oversight (2018), and The Impossible Weight of Life (2020). He’s the owner of the small press Written Backwards, which has published many excellent anthologies, and I’m not calling them excellent simply because my own short stories have appeared in many of them. He’s currently the screenwriter for the documentary series Madness and Writers: The Untold Truth. Maybe?, which all of us in the horror community are looking forward to seeing.
We discussed his Stoker Award-nominated poetry collaboration with Marge Simon (and how they managed not to kill each other during the writing of it), how he knows when a poem is a poem and not a short story, what reading other anthologies taught him that made his own anthologies better, the economics of small press publishing, how to lose awards gracefully, the way getting an early story torn apart by Douglas E. Winter at Borderlands Boot Camp gave him the boost he needed, why his novel Psychotropic Dragon took 16 years to transform from an idea into a book, how one of the joys of writing is never knowing the end until you get there, his new obsession of making chocolate from fruit to bar, our shared love of revising continually, and so much more.
I understand why Jean-Luc Picard became the first Star Trek character to headline a TV series — because after all, Patrick Stewart is a beloved figure, even to extremely casual Trek fans. But when I think about Star Trek characters who both need and deserve to be explored further in long-form storytelling, my mind goes to Saavik. Even in a film as overstuffed with goodness as Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, Saavik stands out as one of the most interesting characters: an ambitious young Vulcan who looks up to Spock while also striving to embody the Starfleet values that Kirk often overlooks (because they come in the form of regulations.) Later, there are hints that she’s half-Romulan. The treatment of Saavik after Wrath of Khan is one of the worst travesties in Star Trek history: first, she helps the rejuvenated but rapidly-aging Spock through a slew of pon-farrs, then she’s tossed aside. Saavik is basically transformed into one of many plot devices in a clunky movie that only exists to bring Leonard Nimoy back to the franchise he’d been so eager to escape. Saavik was supposed to return in Star Trek VI as a traitor to the Federation, but she was replaced by Valeris. I have so many questions about this character: Does she have Spock’s baby? Why didn’t she go with Kirk and the others in Star Trek IV? How does she approach her return to the Federation after everything she went through? Justice for Saavik!
On a remote planet, the Guardian of Forever sits, a passageway through time to other realities, locations, dimensions. All of a sudden, Captain Kirk comes through the portal, with Spock close behind him, fresh from an adventure observing the beginnings of the Orion civilisation. There’s just one problem: Dr Bones McCoy has no idea who Spock is – and neither does anyone else on the starship USS Enterprise.
This scene, from an episode called Yesteryear, doesn’t feature in any of the five core Star Trek series. The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise are modern classics that contain unending nostalgia for fans, but there’s another early Star Trek show that many people overlook – Star Trek: The Animated Series. It ran for just 20 episodes. Its status, and specifically whether it’s considered part of the “canon”, is uncertain. But it has an important legacy, bringing animation in as a key part of the franchise as well as keeping Star Trek in people’s minds during an in-between era, much like the one we’re entering now….
(5) BAD REVIEWS. Mark Roth-Whitworth’s “Bad reviews, good and bad” is about what make a bad review poorly written — it’s not about the review, it’s about style and form.
…I’ve always heard that any publicity is good publicity, but that’s not always the case… and not all bad reviews are equal….
…A legitimate bad review follows the kind of review that most are, dealing with things like writing, worldbuilding, etc. The bad review I looked at violated two basic rules…
… The question is: How did we get here? How did the trillions of data points at the core of generative AI become a toxin of sorts that, depending on your point of view and the decision of the highest judicial authority, could potentially hobble an industry destined for incredible innovation, or poison the well of human creativity and consent?…
… But whether AI researchers creating and using datasets for model training thought about it or not, there is no doubt that the data underpinning generative AI — which can arguably be described as its secret sauce — includes vast amounts of copyrighted material, from books and Reddit posts to YouTube videos, newspaper articles and photos. However, copyright critics and some legal experts insist this falls under what is known in legal parlance as “fair use” of the data — that is, U.S. copyright law “permits limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder.”…
… However, the concept of “fair use” is based on a four-factor test — four measures that judges consider when evaluating whether a work is “transformative” or simply a copy: the purpose and character of the work, the nature of the work, the amount taken from the original work, and the effect of the new work on a potential market. That fourth factor is the key to how generative AI really differs, say experts, because it aims to assess whether the use of the copyrighted material has the potential to negatively impact the commercial value of the original work or impede opportunities for the copyright holder to exploit their work in the market — which is exactly what artists, authors, journalists and other creative professionals claim.
“Once fully trained, the bot may be given a command—’Write a Margaret Atwood novel’—and the thing will glurp forth 50,000 words, like soft ice cream spiraling out of its dispenser, that will be indistinguishable from something I might grind out. (But minus the typos.) I myself can then be dispensed with—murdered by my replica, as it were—because, to quote a vulgar saying of my youth, who needs the cow when the milk’s free?”…
(7) MISSION IMPERTURBABLE. Here are links to four more installments of Cass Morris’ diary from her adventures on Disney’s Star Wars-themed Starship Halcyon.
…Noah and I started at Weapons, which was simple but very satisfying: I was aiming, Noah was firing. I really can’t overstate how cool it is to play the game on that enormous viewport. It’s very easy to forget you’re not actually in space, firing lasers. From there we moved to Shields (I think; I may have steps 2 and 3 backwards in my brain), which is essentially playing Pong, but it’s also so satisfying. We both liked this station best — which apparently is an unusual choice? But we were very good at it. (This would be important later). Loaders was a bit like weapons, with one of us moving and the other grabbing cargo out of space. Then Systems was the hardest by far — but I think my second-favorite station. The display tosses up a sequence of positions that the console’s various dials, buttons, and toggles need to be in, and you have to match it as fast as possible to keep the ship in good repair. That station was manic. There are so many buttons. It was genuinely hard to keep track of them! But hard in a fun way….
Portable Magic unfurls an exciting and iconoclastic new story of the book in human hands, exploring when, why and how it acquired its particular hold over us. Gathering together a millennium’s worth of pivotal encounters with volumes big and small, Smith reveals that, as much as their contents, it is books’ physical form – their ‘bookhood’ – that lends them their distinctive and sometimes dangerous magic. From the Diamond Sutra to Jilly Cooper’s Riders, to a book made of wrapped slices of cheese, this composite artisanal object has, for centuries, embodied and extended relationships between readers, nations, ideologies and cultures, in significant and unpredictable ways.
Exploring the unexpected and unseen consequences of our love affair with books, Portable Magic hails the rise of the mass-market paperback, and dismantles the myth that print began with Gutenberg; it reveals how our reading habits have been shaped by American soldiers, and proposes new definitions of a ‘classic’-and even of the book itself. Ultimately, it illuminates the ways in which our relationship with the written word is more reciprocal – and more turbulent – than we tend to imagine.
(9) BROOKLYN SCIFI FILM FESTIVAL. The 135 short and feature length films selected for screening at this year’s Brooklyn SciFi Film Festival are listed at the link above. The festival runs October 9 through the 15, and fans from around the world are welcome to join this one-of-a-kind event as all films will be made available online for streaming and rating through Brooklyn SciFi’s Netflix style festival platform.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 8, 1925 — Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are genre. Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He also took multiple roles (even the Queen) in The Mouse That Roared. Amusingly he was involved many folk tale productions in various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Mother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.)
Born September 8, 1937 — Archie Goodwin. Comics writer and editor with a very long career. He was the writer and editor of the horror Creepy and Eerie anthologies, the first writer on the Iron Man series, wrote comic book adaptations for Marvel of the two Star Wars sequels and edited the Star Wars line for them. For DC, he edited Starman which Robinson said he was inspiration for. (Died 1998.)
Born September 8, 1945 — Willard Huyck, 78. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas, first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before being the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatos Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm.
Born September 8, 1952 — Linda D. Addison, 71. First Black winner of the Stoker Award which she has won five times which is rather amazing. Equally amazing, the first two awards were for her poetry collections Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial. Indeed all five of her Awards were to be for poetry collections. She also is the author of the story “Shadow Dreams”, published in the Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda anthology.
Born September 8, 1954 — Mark Lindsay Chapman, 69. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The New Adventures of Superman, The Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances.
Born September 8, 1965 — Matt Ruff, 58. I think that his Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? And of course there is the adaptation of Lovecraft Country which I’ve not seen as I don’t have HBO. He won an Otherwise Award for Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, and an Endeavour Award for The Lovecraft Country.
Born September 8, 1975 — C. Robert Cargill, 48. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film if ever happens, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script.
It must be very complicated being George Lucas. On the one hand, you get to wake up inside a vast Scrooge McDuck money vault every morning. On the other, you have to live with the absolute mess Disney has made of your life’s work. To be George Lucas must be to know that you are indirectly responsible for allowing something as soggy and aimless as Ahsoka to seep into the world.
Ahsoka has now reached its halfway point, with four of its eight episodes aired, and it’s fair to say that literally nothing has happened. We know what’s going to happen, because the characters won’t stop talking about it – they’re going to meet a new baddie who has been banished to a different galaxy and represents an enormous existential threat – but the show is plodding towards it so glacially that it feels as if we may never actually get there. It’s almost (almost!) as if Star Wars realises it has spread itself too thin and is doling out plot one measly quarter-portion at a time….
(13) FILL UP THE THIRD. Simultaneous Times Vol.3, a science fiction anthology, is now available from Space Cowboy Books. Edited by Jean-Paul L. Garnier, with cover art by Austin Hart (Critters Award Winner).
Sixteen wonderous stories of science fiction by authors from all over the world! From alien invasions to sentient plants to intergalactic travelers, this book has it all. Featuring stories from the 2023 Laureate Award winning, and two-time Hugo Award longlisted podcast Simultaneous Times, as well as stories appearing for the first time, this collection spans multiple generations of award-winning science fiction authors and covers a wide variety of SF styles and themes.
Stories by: Jonathan Nevair (Indie Ink Award Finalist); F. J. Bergmann (Writers of the Future Winner); Brent A. Harris (Sidewise Finalist); Gideon Marcus (Hugo Finalist); A. C. Wise (Sunburst Winner); Tara Campbell (Robert Gover Story Prize Winner); David Brin (Hugo Winner); Robin Rose Graves (Laureate Award Finalist); Renan Bernardo (Argos & Utopia Award Finalist); Christopher Ruocchio (Manly Wade Wellman Winner); Toshiya Kamei; Todd Sullivan; Susan Rukeyser; Ai Jiang (Nebula Finalist); Cora Buhlert (Hugo Winner); Michael Butterworth (Laureate Award Winner).
…The world of the Swedish writer Karin Boye’s little-known 1940 novel, “Kallocain,” is a close cousin to those depicted in “We” and “Brave New World.” Like Zamyatin’s and Huxley’s dystopias, Boye’s underground World State is a centralized authoritarian society whose inhabitants’ lives are tightly controlled. And, as in these earlier novels, Boye’s closed state is destabilized by the experience of awe. That wonder, however, is sparked by a contact not with the unpredictable and ungovernable external world but with the equally unpredictable and ungovernable reality of human experience—and, specifically, female experience. The women characters in many classic twentieth-century dystopias tend to be flat, mere foils to male protagonists. But in “Kallocain” it is the inner lives of women that come to illustrate both the state’s power over its citizens and their own power to resist….
… Dystopias weaponize what they fear. The World State of “Kallocain” fears truth, and therefore weaponizes truth. It fears familial bonds, so it weaponizes them, too. In her description of that process, Boye articulates a deceptively simple idea: when the state creates a weapon that requires human coöperation, it opens the door to that weapon being used against it….
…A decade earlier, the flamboyant purple dresses made fashionable by the style leader Empress Eugénie of France were the preserve of the fabulously wealthy. Yet in just a few years, colours once made with expensive vegetable dyes were being industrially produced cheaply, thanks to an accidental discovery by an 18-year-old chemistry student William Henry Perkin. While attempting to synthesise quinine from aniline, a derivative of coal tar, Perkin realised the intense purples this colourless chemical produced could be used as a dye. He quickly established a factory for his new “mauveine”, as he called this early synthetic dye and chemists across Europe soon followed suit, expanding the synthetic colour palette. “The modern world of ubiquitous colour begins at this point,” says Winterbottom. “London’s streets and train stations are covered in brightly printed posters. People wear brightly coloured clothes. Everything from books to postage stamps becomes colourful.”
This rainbow transformation affected the entire social spectrum, from a working class who were now able to afford bright colours to members of the social elite rethinking their wardrobes. “Women asserted a more emboldened identity through colour,” says Winterbottom. In addition to loud dresses, ankles sporting coloured and striped stockings could be flashed thanks to newly swinging steel-hooped crinoline petticoats, which replaced the layers of fabric that previously helped to fill out skirts….
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Francis Hamit, Jeff Smith, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]
(1) JMS RETURNS TO MARVEL IN CAPTAIN AMERICA #1. Marvel Comics has announced that writer and filmmaker J. Michael Stracyznski will return this September in Captain America #1. Marvel previously shared the news with io9.
Stracyznski has written fan-favorite stories including AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and THOR, and now he’s ready to embark on a new adventure with Marvel’s star-spangled hero! Alongside superstar artist Jesús Saiz (PUNISHER, DOCTOR STRANGE), the talented duo is ready to take Steve Rogers on an exhilarating new adventure.
Decades ago, Steve Rogers changed the world forever. Now powerful and insidious forces are assembling to ensure he never does it again. Past, present and future collide as the man out of time reckons with an existential threat determined to set the world on a darker path at any cost…
Speaking with io9, Straczynski says, “Overall, the goal is to do some really challenging stories, some really fun stories, and get inside Steve’s head to see who he really is in ways that may not have been fully explored before. If folks like what I did with Peter in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and Thor in, well… THOR, then they should give this a shot, because I’m really swinging for the bleachers in this one!”
Investigating Afrofuturist expression through art, music, activism and more, this exhibition explores and reveals Afrofuturism’s historic and poignant engagement with African American history and popular culture. From the enslaved looking to the cosmos for freedom to popular sci-fi stories inspiring Black astronauts, to the musical influence of Sun Ra, OutKast, Janelle Monae, P-Funk and more, this exhibition covers the broad and impactful spectrum of Afrofuturism.
A highlight of the exhibition is the Black Panther hero costume worn by the late Chadwick Boseman. The Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent to appear in mainstream American comics, and the film itself is the first major cinematic production based on the character.
The exhibition also utilizes select objects to elevate stories that speak to Black liberation and social equality, such as Trayvon Martin’s flight suit from Experience Aviation, and his childhood dream of being an astronaut.
(3) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Mark Roth-Whitworth says, “I’m so tired of hearing how ‘character-driven’ stories are somehow ‘better’ than plot-driven, and I’ve written a rant, er, sorry, criticism.” “Character- or Plot-Driven – A False Dichotomy?”
As I’ve been developing as a writer, and submitting stories, I read and hear a lot about character-driven stories vs. plot-driven these days. Most novels seem to me to still are “plot-driven”, while a lot of shorter fiction that gets published in magazines is character-driven, or primarily thus, and I have issues with this.
Many years ago, in a long letter to my just-teenage children, speaking of people and relationships, I said that barring some life-changing event, whoever someone is at eighteen is who they will remain, only growing to be more of that. The result of that is that thinking someone is perfect, except for one little thing that you can fix… well, you can’t. In a story, the same is necessarily true….
(4) HAPPY WINNERS. Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser are ecstatic to have won Analog’s AnLab Award for their novella “Communion” in the Jan 2022 issue as you can see in this photo taken by Brianna Wu. The winning cover was Eldar Zakirov’s artwork for the same story. Frank’s elevator pitch for the story is –
A space ship is about to crash and a 50-km-long mag wire is an essential part of the drive. During the crash, the robot saves the wire – and the mission and his human captain – by wrapping the wire around his arm and using his own body as a heatfield!
…For instance, the Regency era – officially from 1811 to 1820—was well before England had a police force. So where does a lady sleuth get her official back up and assistance?
What’s more, record keeping was patchy at best and, if it did exist, was not centralised or easy to access. This was particularly the case for women because a vast majority of them could not read. Education, my dear fellow, is wasted on women—or at least that was the majority opinion of the time. How then, does a lady sleuth track down the information she needs to solve her mysteries?
So, when it came to written information, my lady sleuths had to be the kind of women of that era who would be feasibly taught to read, and secondly have access to the various places these records were kept. That is why I decided to make Lady Augusta (aka Gus), and Lady Julia part of the highest rank in Regency society, the aristocracy. At this rank, they would have a chance of some education, as well as having access to private libraries (public libraries as we know them were not yet in existence). They would also have the social clout and contacts to obtain information from other sources. At that time, most of the government officials were men from the gentry class or the aristocracy and since Gus and Julia move in those circles, they literally have friends in high place: excellent sources of information….
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Modern Library’s editorial board ranked “Brave New World,” the 1932 novel about the discontents of a technologically-advanced future society, as the fifth most important novel of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the book was challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco Unified School District in 1993 because it is “centered around negative activity.” The novel also was removed from a high school library in Foley, Ala., in 2000 after a parent complained that it showed contempt for religion, marriage and family.
“Animal Farm” by George Orwell. The 1945 allegorical novella has been a target of complaints for decades, according to the ALA. In 1987, “Animal Farm” was one of dozens of books banned in schools in Bay County, Fla. Then 44 parents, students and teachers filed a federal lawsuit, and the school board reversed the decision. ‘’The only thing we have succeeded in doing is making sure every child in Bay County reads the books we banned,’’ a board member told the Associated Press.
The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. If you’re going to write a historical novel, you’ve got to start with that one. It’s a fascinating book about the way that medieval England actually was, as opposed to the novels about it. It’s still a book that I go back to if I’m setting a story in anything like medieval England.
It’s time to head to Anaheim, California to take a seat at the table with William Shunn, the first of five guests I managed to chat and chew with for Eating the Fantastic during last month’s Nebula Awards conference. I first met Bill in 1993 though his words alone, when I bought his short story “Colin and Ishmael in the Dark” for publication in Science Fiction Age magazine. We met in the flesh later that same year at the San Francisco Worldcon, and he’s been part of my life for the past 30 years.
Bill attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1985, when he was only 17. (A class which included Mary Turzillo, Geoffrey Landis, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Resa Nelson, and other writers with whom you might be familiar.) In addition to being published in Science Fiction Age, he’s also appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, Realms of Fantasy, and other magazines. In 2002, he was nominated for a Nebula in the category of novelette for “Dance of the Yellow-Breasted Luddites,” and a few years later hit the nomination trifecta when he was up for a Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Award for his novella “Inclination,” which had been published in Asimov’s in 2006.
In addition, if you’re a writer, you might be familiar with what’s come to be called the “Shunn format,” a guide to proper manuscript preparation which first appeared online in 1995 and has since become the gold standard for numerous publications. His widely acclaimed memoir, The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary, was published in 2015, and in addition to detailing the youthful indiscretion which prevents him from ever returning to Canada, explains how Clarion changed his life and helped him become the writer he is today.
We discussed what he hoped would happen when he arrived at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop when he was 17 vs. what actually did happen, how his post-Clarion homelife was haunted by Ray Bradbury, the time Kate Wilhelm critiqued his critiquers, how an early rejection from Playboy got him in big trouble, the way a tragedy scuttled the sale of his memoir to a major publisher, how he and Derryl Murphy collaborated on a novella without killing each other, and so much more.
(9) RAJNAR VAJRA-LOEB (1947-2023). Rajnar Vajra-Loeb, known to the sff field as author Rajnar Vajra, died May 16 at the age of 75. Memorial comments are being gathered on his funeral information webpage.
He twice won the Analog Readers Poll, in 2002 for the short story “Jake, Me, and the Zipper” , and in 2005 for his novella “Layna’s Mirror”.
His 2015 Hugo-nominated story “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” was on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates, however, as reported by Chris Barkley at the time “he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.”
He lived long enough to celebrate the “book birthday” of his latest novel Opening Wonders released on May 2.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
2019 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer. Mexican born and raised, she moved to Canada in her twenties. Her debut novel, Signal to Noise, is a superb first novel.
She’s the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press, a press devoted to weird fiction. With Lavie Tidhar, she edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review.
Gods of Jade and Shadow, the source of our Beginning, a historical fantasy, was published by Del Rey four years ago. Gods of Jade and Shadow was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel.
And now let’s go into our Beginning….
But what the lords wished was that they should not discover their names.—Popol Vuh, translated into English by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from the work by Adrian Recino
Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the eposition of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament. She was eighteen, penniless, and had grown up in Uukumil, a drab town where mule-drawn railcars stopped twice a week and the sun scorched out dreams. She was reasonable enough to recognize that many other young women lived in equally drab, equally small towns. However, she doubted that many other young women had to endure the living hell that was her daily life in grandfather Cirilo Leyva’s house.
Cirilo was a bitter man, with more poison in his shriveled body than was in the stinger of a white scorpion. Casiopea tended to him. She served his meals, ironed his clothes, and combed his sparse hair. When the old brute, who still had enough strength to beat her over the head with his cane when it pleased him, was not yelling for his grandchild to fetch him a glass of water or his slippers, her aunts and cousins were telling Casiopea to do the laundry, scrub the floors, and dust the living room.
Casiopea, who had prayed at the age of ten for her cousin Martín to go off and live in another town, far from her, understood by now that God, if he existed, did not give a damn about her. What had God done for Casiopea, aside from taking her father from her? That quiet, patient clerk with a love for poetry, a fascination with Mayan and Greek mythology, a knack for bedtime stories. A man whose heart gave up one morning, like a poorly wound clock. His death sent Casiopea and her mother packing back to Grandfather’s house. Mother’s family had been charitable, if one’s definition of charity is that they were put immediately to work while their idle relatives twiddled their thumbs.
Had Casiopea possessed her father’s pronounced romantic leanings, perhaps she might have seen herself as a Cinderella-like figure. But although she treasured his old books, the skeletal remains of his collection—especially the sonnets by Quevedo, wells of sentiment for a young heart—she had decided it would be nonsense to configure herself into a tragic heroine. Instead, she chose to focus on more pragmatic issues, mainly that her horrible grandfather, despite his constant yelling, had promised that upon his passing Casiopea would be the beneficiary of a modest sum of money, enough that it might allow her to move to Mérida.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 2, 1915 — Lester Del Rey. Editor at Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books, along with his fourth wife Judy-Lynn del Rey. As regard his fiction, I’m fond of Rocket Journey and Police Your Own Planet, early works of his. His Jim Stanley series has much to say for it. And he got nominated for four Retro Hugos. (Died 1993.)
Born June 2, 1929 — Norton Juster. Author of the much beloved Phantom Tollbooth and its less known variant, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Adapted in 1970 into a quirky film, now stuck in development hell being remade again. He also wrote The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a story he says was inspired by Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. (Died 2021.)
Born June 2, 1937 — Sally Kellerman. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (Died 2022.)
Born June 2, 1941 — Stacy Keach, 82. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with being The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999 followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, await him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return where The Hollow has a tasteful title which the Man with the Screaming Brain does not provide him. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo.
Born June 2, 1920 — Bob Madle. Helped start his local sf club in 1934, went to what he considered to be the first-ever sf convention in 1936, and attended the first Worldcon (Nycon I) in 1939. Bob Madle and named the Hugo Awards. He was the first North American TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to an overseas con (Loncon, 1957). Twenty years later he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1977 Worldcon (listen to his GoH speech here.) First Fandom has inducted him to their Hall of Fame, and given him the Moskowitz Award for collecting. He’s a winner of the Big Heart Award). This post about his centennial birthday in 2020 includes photos and a summary of his fannish life in his own words. (Died 2022.)
Born June 2, 1979 — Morena Baccarin, 44. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in Deadpool and Deadpool 2; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham.
Born June 2, 1982 — Jewel Staite, 41. Best known as the engineer Kaylee Frye in the Firefly verse. She was Jennifer Keller in Stargate Atlantis, Catalina in the Canadian series Space Cases, Tiara VanHorn in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show and “Becca” Fisher in Flash Forward. Genre one-offs? Oh yes: The Odyssey (twice), Are You Afraid of The Dark (again twice), The X-Files, So Weird, Sabrina: The Animated Series, The Immortal, Seven Days, Stargate Atlantis, Supernatural, Legends of Tomorrow, The Order and The Magicians.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate has filed a bombshell lawsuit accusing a writer of ripping off the late author’s iconic Lord of The Rings series and is demanding his books be taken out of stores, RadarOnline.com has learned.
According to court documents obtained by RadarOnline.com, The Tolkien Trust, which is responsible for managing the intellectual property of the late Professor J. R.R. Tolkien, is suing a man named Demetrious Polychron.
In the suit, the Trust said the lawsuit was brought due to Polychron’s “willful and blatant violation” of its copyright interests in the Lord of the Rings franchise.
The Trust said despite the author being aware of its rights in Tolkien’s work, he decided to “write, publish, market and sell a blatantly infringing derivative sequel to the Tolkien Trilogy entitled The Fellowship of the King (the “Infringing Work”). In addition to clearly mimicking the title of the first book in the Tolkien Trilogy, the Infringing Work constitutes a blatant, wide-ranging and comprehensive misappropriation of Professor Tolkien’s creative opus.”
The Trust said its aware that Polychron plans to release up to six additional books — all based on Tolkien’s characters.
“The Infringing Work is currently being offered for sale on various online platforms in the United States for $17.99 – $26.99 a copy,” the suit read.
The suit explained, “Neither Professor Tolkien nor the Tolkien Estate has ever authorized any written sequels to the Tolkien Trilogy. Not only was the Infringing Work unauthorized, but the Tolkien Estate had already expressly refused the [Polychron’s] request to publish any work of this nature, in keeping with its longstanding policy.”
I feel as if a big part of revision is going from the general to the specific. My first drafts, at least, always include a lot of details that are kind of fuzzy. Sometimes, a piece of information changes every time it comes up, because I haven’t made up my mind yet what the actual real version is, and I’m just hedging my bets. Sometimes there’s a highly specific piece of backstory, front story or side story, but it’s just really a placeholder — a supporting character is a stock character, or someone’s job is merely a sitcom job that doesn’t feel like a real employment situation. And sometimes, things are just left so vague that they could be anything, or there’s no information whatsoever.
So when I revise, I try to nail things down more. On one level, this is just a process of deciding on stuff. Where did this character grow up? Who were their parents? What kind of job do they have, and what specifically does the job ask of them? And so on….
Don’t tell me “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is merely a cartoon. It’s a visionary work that redefines what the animation medium can achieve, sitting alongside the handful of sequels such as “The Dark Knight” and “The Empire Strikes Back” that elevate their franchises by pushing them in surprising new directions.
On a personal level, this animated second installment of the web-slinging superhero is the closest I’ve ever come to seeing an accurate depiction of my life and culture on a movie screen – well, with a few fantastic elements added into the mix. That’s invaluable.
“Across the Spider-Verse” takes place a year after the events of the previous film with Miles Morales (a.k.a. Spider-Man) facing a new threat. Unfortunately, it’s one that causes him to interact with a new group of Spider-People from across the multiverse.
So why did I respond so deeply to this superhero story? Like Miles, I’m made up of an exciting ethnic mix of Puerto Rican and Black parents brought together in the melting pot that is New York City. Neither of us possesses the acceptable amount of Spanish fluency that our fellow Boricuas require. Nonetheless, we have a weakness for fried platanos, as well as an appreciation for our heritage. Just hearing the word “bendición,” a standard greeting and farewell term used in Latino culture, used in “Across the Spider-Verse, ” filled my eyes with tears and pride….
…Considering Billi’s feline status, Baker was naturally a bit skeptical at first.
“I was concerned because they [the buttons] were quite large for a little tiny kitty, and I was not sure that she was actually going to be heavy enough to press them,” Baker said. “So I started with a word that I’d really not recommend that you start with, which is ‘food,’ because it becomes very motivating for them. And Billi loves food.”
Baker’s concerns quickly washed away once it became clear that Billi was able to press the button “food” — which she appeared to enjoy doing perhaps a little too much.
“She was definitely heavy enough for it,” Baker said. “And then I later regretted starting with food because it kind of backfired on me, but it definitely got the ball rolling.”
Today, Billi has 50 words on her board, and — like Bunny — is part of the ongoing research project called TheyCanTalk, whose goal is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC devices. While the study is mostly made up of dogs, about 5 percent of the animals using AAC devices are now felines. It turns out that many cats have been successful at using the device.
“They have this reputation of just doing what they want and not really caring what the humans are doing, and I think this is a great opportunity to see that they actually are paying attention,” Smith said. “Seeing that they can be engaged, that they’re not just cat automatons, that aren’t driven by instinct 24/7 can function a great deal positively for their role in other studies.”
…On April 2, Ingenuity soared 52 feet up into the Martian sky — a record height for the drone — to take a suborbital photo of Mars’s landscape.
After landing, it disappeared. When scientists attempted to upload instructions for a subsequent flight, Ingenuity’s radio sign was gone.
Scientists eventually located Ingenuity after six days of searching as the helicopter’s companion on Mars, the Perseverance rover, crested a ridge and drove closer to where the helicopter had landed.
Ingenuity, controlled via radio signals relayed from Perseverance, completed its five-flight mission — a simple series to prove that the helicopter’s design would work in the thin Martian atmosphere — in May 2021. Then, Tzanetos’s team received approval to keep flying.
“At that point, we’re on borrowed time,” Tzanetos said. “None of the mechanisms were designed to survive longer than that.”
Somehow, they did — for months and months, and dozens more flights. By May 2022, it seemed as if Ingenuity’s miraculous story would finally plummet down to (Martian) earth. Winter was setting in, and NASA feared the lower temperatures would cause Ingenuity’s solar-charged batteries to fail, or even freeze overnight.
The helicopter entered a low-power state after its 28th flight in late April of that year, and scientists told The Post they weren’t sure if it would fly again.
Incredibly, Ingenuity’s delicate parts stood up to the Martian cold. But NASA still faced the challenge of reconnecting with the helicopter every time its components froze, Tzanetos said. The Ingenuity team adjusted by using data on Martian sunrises to calculate when the helicopter would thaw out each morning and regain enough charge to power on….
(17) CAN WE MOVE EARTH ACROSS SPACE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Shades of Stephen Baxter in this week’s PBS Space Time when Matt O’Dowd asks can we move planet Earth across the Universe?
Interstellar travel is horrible-what with the cramped quarters of your spaceship and only the thin hull separating you from deathly cold and deadly cosmic rays. Much safer to stay on here Earth with our gloriously habitable biosphere, protective magnetic field, and endless energy from the Sun. But what if we could have the best of all worlds? No pun intended. What if we could turn our entire solar system into a spaceship and drive the Sun itself around the galaxy? Well, I don’t know if we definitely can, but we might not not be able to.
(18) TALES FROM THE ZONE – ROADSIDE PICNIC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]In this week’s Media Death Cult Moid Moidelhoff considers Roadside Picnic. Roadside Picnic is in the Goldilocks zone, it is a perfect balance of a straight narrative that requires nothing more than standard plot and characters to make sense. But the sub-text is as thick as porridge… “Tales From The Zone – Roadside Picnic”.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, Jennifer Hawthorne, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter. John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]
(1) HOW PROZINES ARE COPING WITH SUBMISSIONS PRODUCED BY AI. The Dark, edited by Sean Wallace, is another sff publication being sent a lot of AI-written stories. They’ve adopted a policy in response:
Meanwhile, Matthew Kressel, designer of the Moksha Submissions System used by many sff publications, told Facebook readers today he will “soon be releasing a set of tools for Moksha to allow editors to easily filter AI-generated submissions. Yes, it relies on author affirmation that the work is wholly their own, but to affirm otherwise would be plagiarism. Gotta start somewhere.”
(2) STATEMENTS FROM AUTHORS ORGANIZATIONS. In the UK, the Society of Authors discusses the challenges of “Protecting copyright and creative careers in the face of new technology” in its statement on “Artificial Intelligence” which begins —
Whatever your area of work, whether you are an academic, an illustrator, a poet, a scriptwriter or a translator (to name a few), AI systems are being trained on existing copyright-protected works (input) and these same systems are being used to generate works ‘in the style of’ those existing works (output).
The AI development race is opaque, unfettered and unregulated, and driven primarily by the profit motives of large corporations, despite some likely adverse impacts. The ethical and moral ramifications of these AI systems are complex, and the legal ramifications are not limited to the infringement of copyright’s economic rights, but may include infringement of an author’s moral rights of attribution and integrity and right to object to false attribution; infringement of data protection laws; invasions of privacy; and acts of passing off.
And these aren’t issues for a hypothetical future….
Artificial intelligence machines capable of generating literary and artistic works and performing other fantastical tasks that were once “science fiction” are at our doorstep. Today, commercial AI programs can already write articles, compose music, and render images in response to text prompts, and their ability to do these tasks is improving at a rapid clip. A wide assortment of tools to help writers write are commercially available today and show great potential to expedite and improve many writers’ output. At the same time, once AI is writing good books on its own (which is not so far off), it threatens to crowd the market for human authored books.
AI-generated literary and artistic works, even in their most impressive form, are essentially mimicry of human expressive works. AI generative technologies (i.e, AI machines that are used to generate output) are “trained” on mass amounts of pre-existing works (e.g., text, images, recorded music), where the copied works are broken down to their components and rules and their patterns deciphered. The consumer facing AI machines available to date have been trained on works copied by internet crawlers without licenses or permission.
While AI-generated works might look or sound like human-created works, they lack human intelligence and feeling. AI cannot feel, think, or empathize. It lacks the essential human faculties that move the arts forward. Nevertheless, the speed at which AI can create artistic and literary works to compete with human-authored works poses a significant threat to both the economic and cultural value of the latter.
We are confronting serious policy issues about the future of creativity: Do we want humans or AI creating our literature and other arts?…
(3) SUDOWRITE ADVOCATE WILL DROP TWITTER. S. B. Divya, whose promotion of Sudowrite’s “Story Engine” on Twitter met with much criticism, announced yesterday that she will be leaving the platform.
YouTuber and author Hank Green announced that he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in a YouTube video last week.
In the video, Green recounted his diagnosis, saying it all started when “I noticed my lymph nodes were big.” After consulting with his doctor, getting an ultrasound and undergoing a biopsy, Green was given a diagnosis. According to Green, it was “good news, bad news.”
“One, it’s cancer. It’s called lymphoma. It’s cancer of the lymphatic system. And good news, it’s something called Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Green said. “It’s one of the most treatable cancers. It responds very well to treatment. The goal is cure. The treatment to get there is fairly well-known, if unpleasant.”…
…Last week, the Supreme Court resolved a major copyright dispute involving a Warhol that many experts thought would have a spillover effect on other cases, including a pair involving Prince that are currently playing themselves out in federal court in New York.
But in the end, the court’s Warhol decision appeared to be fairly narrow, the experts said, as the justices did not so much weigh in on how much of another work an artist can copy, but ruled instead on what sort of use such a work can be put to.
Warhol, who died in 1987, had created a series of silk-screen portraits of the rock star Prince that were based on a photograph of the musician taken by Lynn Goldsmith. One of the silk-screens was licensed by his estate to Condé Nast in 2016 to illustrate the cover of a special issue about the musician’s legacy.
When Goldsmith sued, asserting her copyright had been infringed, the Warhol estate argued that it was entitled to the so-called fair-use defense. The estate’s lawyers suggested that Warhol’s treatment of the image, which was colored, cropped and shaded in certain places, had been “transformative,” a term the courts have adopted to define just how much change the appropriating artist must bring to the underlying work to pass muster.
Many thought the latest Supreme Court decision might more clearly delineate what qualifies a work as transformative. But the justices chose instead to focus on how the Warhol portrait had been used, namely to illustrate an article about the musician. The court found that such a use was not distinct enough from the “purpose and character” of Goldsmith’s photo, which had been licensed to Vanity Fair years earlier to help illustrate an article about [the musician] Prince….
… Brian Sexton, a lawyer for [artist] Richard Prince, said the Supreme Court, in its Warhol decision, “went to great pains” to make clear that its findings were “limited to a single licensing dispute.”
“As Richard Prince makes individual paintings and does not license his works, the holding in Warhol is clearly inapplicable to his New Portraits litigation,” he said….
(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER FELLOWSHIP AWARDED. Dr. Lois Rosson is the winner of the second Octavia E. Butler Fellowship, which will support her work at the Huntington in Pasadena, CA. “Introducing the 2023–24 Huntington Fellows”.
Among the incoming cohort of fellows is Lois Rosson, winner of the Octavia E. Butler Fellowship. She received her Ph.D. from the history department of the University of California, Berkeley, in 2022 and took up a Berggruen Institute Fellowship at USC’s Center for Science, Technology, and Public Life the same year. Rosson is a historian of science, focusing on visual representations of the space environment. Her work has been supported by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NASA’s Ames Research Center, and The Huntington, where she was awarded a short-term fellowship in 2020.
As the second Butler Fellow at The Huntington, Rosson will develop her first book project, which explores why visual tropes that associated outer space with Western frontier expansion persisted into the late 20th century. At no point in this history, she argues, was the framing of space landscapes as topographies ideologically continuous with American Manifest Destiny an obvious or inevitable outcome. How then, she asks, did this perception become so dominant?
Rosson proposes two conceptual alternatives to depictions of space as a landscape couched in colonialist narrative. The first centers on Afrofuturist representations of outer space as a realm to which inhabitants of Earth can hypothetically flee—as opposed to landscapes characterized by prospective settlement or colonial resource extraction. The second compares representations of Latinx farm workers in midcentury California with visions of the labor-free space colonies developed by NASA at the time.
Rosson plans to spend her time principally working with The Huntington’s Octavia E. Butler Papers. Butler’s literary vision of space as a place of asylum, Rosson writes, is one of the most widely read of the 20th century. In Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, the protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina, frustrated with life in dystopian California, compares Mars—“cold, empty, almost airless, dead”—to heaven. In Olamina’s view, the Martian landscape is not an especially inviting one, but it offers the prospect of escaping a planet characterized by degraded human life and violent climate catastrophe. At The Huntington, Rosson will focus on Butler’s ideas about how life in space should be organized as well as her upbringing in Pasadena and proximity to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Along with representations of space as a realm of noncorporate diaspora, Rosson explores the centrality of agricultural production to the large-scale space station designs that emerged in the 1970s and ’80s. While illustrations of these space stations depicted fully populated colonies set against the pastoral landscapes of fully engineered agricultural systems, the labor required to maintain these environments is never depicted. Rosson plans to compare depictions of agricultural production in space with the idealized versions circulated in 20th-century American print culture, which erased most traces of human labor. She argues that images of California citrus and vegetable farming—like those illustrated on lithographed labels held in The Huntington’s Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History—function as visual precursors to the inert versions eventually depicted in illustrations of futuristic space stations in the early 1970s, a time when the rights of immigrant farm workers became increasingly visible in the United States.
In 1987, editor David G. Hartwell embarked on a massive undertaking.
Through conversations, panels, and a variety of correspondence, he came to realize the horror genre was at something of a turning point. A lot of horror writers and critics, when they cited their influences and favorite works, tended to favor short stories over longer forms of horror. In fact, a lot of the works that drove horror history appeared to be short stories. After much thought, he compiled what he felt was a definitive work on shorter horror at the crossroads of the genre; The way forward being paved by novels, the previous history built upon the foundation of short stories. It was meant as an all-encompassing paean to dark fiction, to discuss and outline Hartwell’s own thoughts and definitions of the genre.
The result was a huge tome titled The Dark Descent, as much a historical and critical work of horror as it was an attempt to codify and collect the best specimens of short horror stories. It’s award-winning, weighty in both content and size, and looms large in the collections of horror fans old and new.
That was thirty-six years ago. In the years since The Dark Descent landed with an almighty boom upon our bookshelves, horror has in fact changed quite a bit….
…Now, as you may have already gathered from the title of this post, I have some rather disheartening news to share. The movie that my dear friend Ben and I co-wrote, The Princess, is being removed from popular streaming platforms such as Hulu and Disney+. A decision made in the pursuit of cost-saving measures….
… Here is an article from Variety that provides further insight into this unfortunate development.
To be completely honest, Ben and I are both profoundly saddened by this turn of events. As Ben aptly expressed in his recent tweet, “After 25 years in LA, I finally had a movie that I’m proud of. Now, it could vanish forever…”
And indeed, that is the harsh reality we are faced with. Ben and I have dedicated countless hours to this industry, tirelessly honing our skills as writers. For 15 years, we have toiled together, overcoming numerous obstacles in the pursuit of our dreams. Finally, in 2014, our hard work paid off, and we broke into the industry. Yet, it took an additional seven long years before one of our projects was brought to life. The Princess was that project. Finally! We had achieved something remarkable—an offering for the world to experience. A piece of work that I could proudly share with my future grandchildren. Something to present to those who ever questioned my abilities as a screenwriter, proving that I had indeed left a mark on the world.
However, in an effort to cut costs, Disney has chosen to withdraw The Princess, along with several other films and shows, from their streaming services. This is reminiscent of a similar situation last year when David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, removed a multitude of shows from HBO Max and even decided against releasing Batgirl to reduce expenses.
Now, both the creative team behind The Princess and ourselves find ourselves among the victims of such decisions….
…Deep in the jungle of central Vietnam lies an underground kingdom. Hang Son Doong, which translates as ‘mountain river cave’ is the largest cave passage in the world and a place of beauty. Located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, the cave entrance was first discovered in 1990 by a local farmer. But it wasn’t explored until 2009 when a British expedition team rigged ropes and descended.
Often described as the eighth wonder of the world, Son Doong has its own lake, jungle and a unique weather system, and remained undisturbed for millions of years. However, in 2014, Son Doong’s future was thrown into doubt when plans were announced to build a cable car into the cave. With many arguing that this would destroy the cave’s delicate eco-system and the local community divided over the benefits this development would bring, the film follows those caught up in the unfolding events….
(10) MEMORY LANE.
2005 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Joe Hill’s the son of Stephen King. I’ve met him several times, and yes he looks like his father. He’s every bit as friendly and charming as his father is in person. Lovely family they are.
Our Beginning is that of “Voluntary Committal” which was published by Subterranean Press eighteen years ago.
I don’t know who I’m writing this for, can’t say who I expect to read it. Not the police, anyway. I don’t know what happened to my brother, and I can’t tell them where he is. Nothing I could put down here would help them find him.
And anyway, this isn’t really about his disappearance… although it does concern a missing person, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the two things had anything to do with each other. I have never told anyone what I know about Edward Prior, who left school one October day in 1977, and never arrived home for chili and baked potatoes with Mom. For a long time, the first year or two after he vanished, I didn’t want to think about my friend Eddie. I would do anything not to think about him. If I passed some people talking about him in the halls of my high school—I heard he stole his momma’s weed and some money and ran away to fuckin California!—I’d fix my eyes on some point in the distance and pretend I was deaf. And if someone actually approached and asked me straight out what I thought had happened to him—now and then someone would, since we were known compañeros—I’d set my face into a rigid blank and shrug. “I almost think I care sometimes,” I said.
Later, I didn’t think about Eddie out of studiously formed habit. If anything happened by chance to remind me of him—if I saw a boy who looked like him, or read something in the news about a missing teen—I would instantly begin to think of something else, hardly aware I was even doing it.
In the last three weeks, though, ever since my little brother Morris went missing, I find myself thinking about Ed Prior more and more; can’t seem, through any effort of will, to turn thoughts of him aside. The urge to talk to someone about what I know is really almost more than I can bear. But this isn’t a story for the police. Believe me, it wouldn’t do them any good, and it might do myself a fair amount of bad. I can’t tell them where to look for Edward Prior any more than I can tell them where to look for Morris—can’t tell what I don’t know—but if I were to share this story with a detective, I think I might be asked some harsh questions, and some people (Eddie’s mother, for example, still alive and on her third marriage) would be put through a lot of unnecessary emotional strain.
And it’s just possible I could wind up with a one-way ticket to the same place where my brother spent the last two years of his life: the Wellbrook Progressive Mental Health Center. My brother was there voluntarily, but Wellbrook includes a wing just for people who had to be committed. Morris was part of the clinic’s work program, pushed a mop for them four days out of the week, and on Friday mornings he went into the Governor’s Wing, as it’s known, to wash their shit off the walls. And their blood.
Was I just talking about Morris in the past tense? I guess I was. I don’t hope anymore that the phone will ring, and it will be Betty Millhauser from Wellbrook, her voice rushed and winded, telling me they’ve found him in a homeless shelter somewhere, and they’re bringing him back. I don’t think anyone will be calling to tell me they found him floating in the Charles, either. I don’t think anyone will be calling at all, except maybe to say nothing is known. Which could almost be the epitaph on Morris’s grave. And maybe I have to admit that I’m writing this, not to show it to anyone, but because I can’t help myself, and a blank page is the only safe audience for this story I can imagine.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 23, 1909 — Robert Thomas Maitland Scott Jr., 1909 – 1945. Son in a father-and-son writing team who created The Spider, a pulp character who was clearly a rip-off of The Shadow. They wrote only the first two Spider novels before it was written by various house authors though it’s disputed if Scott Jt. had an uncredited role because the SF element in the series clearly reflect his tastes. He would die in a motor vehicle while on active duty with Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Died 1945.)
Born May 23, 1921 — James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in Flight? A Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek novels. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name, that of Arthur Merlyn. (Died 1975.)
Born May 23, 1933 — Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.)
Born May 23, 1935 — Susan Cooper, 88. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Her Scottish castle set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and is just plain fun. I’d also recommend her Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent. The Grey King, part of The Dark is Risk series, won a Newbery, and she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention.
Born May 23, 1942 — Zalman King. OK he’s best known for The Red Shoe Diaries which are decidedly not genre and indeed are soft core erotica but even that isn’t quite true as some of the episodes were definitely genre such as “The Forbidden Zone” set in a future where things are very different, and “Banished” which deals with an Angel now in mortal form all on Earth. I’m betting there’s more fantasy elements but I need to go through sixty episodes to confirm that. Denise Crosby appeared in two episodes of the Red Shoe Dairies playing the different characters, Lynn ‘Mona’ McCabe in “The Psychiatrist” and Officer Lynn ‘Mona’ McCabe in “You Have the Right to Remain Silent”. Zalman himself played Nick in “The Lost Ones” episode on The Land of The Giants and earlier was The Man with The Beard in the Munsters episode of “Far Out Munsters”. His final genre acting gig was on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Gregory Haymish in “The Cap and Gown Affair”. (Died 2012.)
Born May 23, 1967 — Sean Williams, 56. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
Born May 23, 1986 — Ryan Coogler, 37. Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also directed. He directed Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Producer, Space Jam 2, producer of the Wankanda series on Disney+. Black Panther was a Hugo finalist at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon, the year that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won.
…In February 2013, General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff (comparable to the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), published an article titled “The Value of Science is in the Foresight,” in the weekly Russian trade paper Military-Industrial Kurier. In it, Gerasimov suggested that the “very ‘rules of war’ have changed,” and that in many cases, nonmilitary means have exceeded the power and force of weapons in their ability to effect change on the international stage.2 Gerasimov argues that new technologies have reduced gaps between traditional forces and their command and control, though also noting that “frontal engagements of large formations of forces at the strategic and operational level are gradually becoming a thing of the past.”3 The future, Gerasimov suggests, lies in “contactless actions”—made through cyber or other electronic means—being used as the main means of military or intelligence goals. This belief—that traditional military interactions are giving way to newer and subjectively more effective indirect interactions via computers and electronics—has been dubbed by some as the Gerasimov Doctrine…..
Over the years, there have been many memorable movies about Hercules that have captivated audiences worldwide. Some examples include the groundbreaking 1958 Italian film Hercules, starring bodybuilder Steve Reeves; Disney’s beloved animated feature Hercules (1997), which boasts an unforgettable soundtrack; and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s action-packed performance in Hercules (2014). Each film offers its own unique perspective on the life and legend of one of Greece’s most iconic heroes, with stunning visuals, thrilling action sequences, and engaging storytelling.
Now it’s your turn to let us know which Hercules movies stand out as the best among this legendary lineup. We invite you to vote on your favorite films featuring this mighty mythical hero. Together we’ll determine which movies truly capture the essence of Hercules’ strength, wisdom, and enduring popularity across generations. So grab your lion-skin cloak and club – it’s time to dive into the world of Hercules like never before.
Number one on the list is actually a sequel:
Hercules Unchained (1959)
In this timeless sequel, we’re treated to the unstoppable Steve Reeves as he takes on the role of Hercules, flexing his muscles and captivating audiences with his charm. With a gripping storyline that has him breaking free from an evil queen’s clutches, it’s no wonder this film became a hit, making Reeves a household name and cementing his status as a beloved hero in cinematic history.
(15) NEW ESTIMATE AS TO HOW OLD ARE SATURN’S RINGS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]There are two main, competing hypotheses: (1) They are ancient and either formed with Saturn or during the late veneer, or… (2) They are young and formed since then. Now data has been analysed from the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) on the Cassini spacecraft, which began orbiting Saturn in July 2004 until end of mission in September 2017. Continuous bombardment by non-icy micro-meteoroids from beyond the Saturnian system is a source non-icy material in Saturn’s rings. Knowing that rate of micro-meteor accumulation in the rings and knowing how much is the non-icy component to the rings, it is possible to estimate the age of the rings. Using CDA data European and US based astronomers estimate that the rings’ age is between around 100 million and 400 million years: hypothesis ‘2’. This estimate chimes in with a previous one using a different method. (See Kempf, S. et al. (2023) “Micrometeoroid infall onto Saturn’s rings constrains their age to no more than a few hundred million years”. Science Advances, vol. 9 (19), eadf8537.)
Black holes might really be strange defects in spacetime called topological stars that are generated by hidden cosmic dimensions, reports a new study.
Topological stars are completely hypothetical and only exist as mathematical constructions at this point. However, they have the potential to probe perplexing paradoxes of the cosmos, including the true nature of black holes and the mind-boggling ideas raised by string theory, a framework that attempts to reconcile seemingly contradictory physical laws into a unified theory.
String theory proposes that particles in the universe are actually vibrating strings tethered to many extra dimensions that are imperceptible to us. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have worked for years to envision the objects and phenomena that might exist in such a universe, including topological stars, or topological solitons, which are bubbles of nothing that form in the fabric of spacetime.
Now, the team has used simulations to show that topological solitons would appear “remarkably similar to black holes in apparent size and scattering properties, while being smooth and horizonless,” according to a recent study published in Physical Review D. In other words, the hypothetical objects would look almost exactly like black holes from our perspective, raising the tantalizing possibility that they may actually lurk in our universe.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Francis Hamit, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]
By Mark Roth-Whitworth: I mentioned on File 770 last week that I’d just signed a contract for two novels. One of the things that I was asking for was to have them insert on the disclaimer page (you know, “This is a work of fiction…”) a statement like “This work may not be used to train generative AI” (chatbots, that is). Their lawyer said no, and after thinking about it, I decided that this needed a much broader solution. So I just sent this email to my Rep and both Senators, and it’s my part of the answer to chatbots and copyrights.
I was negotiating a literary contract for two novels with a publisher last week, and the issue of AI training came up. I had been asking for them to print, on the disclaimer page, that the work could not be used for such training. Their lawyer tells them that they could not police large companies training generative AIs – chatbots – and so only put it in the contract that they would not.
The training of chatbots is a huge issue for artists, writers, and others, as much is done by simply scraping the Web, ignoring copyright notices. I believe that we can begin to address this issue by what I am requesting: you introduce as a bill to modify existing copyright law. My draft, and I am certainly not a lawyer, would be the following:
“Works in copyright may not be used to train generative AIs without explicit permission from the copyright owner.”
The impact of this would be that the corporations running and training them would be required to search whatever data they are using for copyright information, before they use it for the training. Further, should there be any question of copyright violation in this manner, if the chatbot is capable of printing out explicit copies of the work in question, it would be a prima facie case of violation. That would make it possible for creators to sue without being millionaires.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your response.
People writing about the issues they care about is what keeps this community going. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. Thanks to all of you who contributed to File 770 in 2022!
…Thinking about Jules Verne, with the new TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days about to start, I just bought the Wesleyan edition of Five Weeks in a Balloon, translated by Frederick Paul Walter – after researching what the good modern translations of Verne are. Verne has been abysmally translated into English over the years, but there’s been a push to correct that….
… It was on FaceBook where I first saw friends’ posting about Opening Ceremonies. According to what was posted, some of the musical selections performed by students from the Duke Ellington School spotlighted the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday.
My immediate reaction was that this was not an appropriate part of Opening Ceremonies, especially since, as far as I know, the religious aspect of the performance was not contained in the descriptions in any convention publication. The online description of Opening Ceremonies says, in its entirety: “Welcome to the convention. We will present the First Fandom and Big Heart awards, as well as remarks from the Chair.” The December 9, 2021, news release about the choir’s participation did not mention that there would be a religious component to the performance….
Whew! We made it. We made it to Issue 100 of the Grantville Gazette. This is an incredible feat by a large group of stakeholders. Thank you, everyone.
I don’t think Eric Flint had any idea what he’d created when he sent Jim Baen the manuscript for 1632. In the intervening two-plus decades, the book he intended to be a one-shot novel has grown like the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters to encompass books from two publishing houses, a magazine (this one, that you are holding in your metaphorical hands) and allowed over 165 new authors to see their first published story in print. The Ring of Fire Universe, or the 1632 Universe, has more than twelve million words published….
This message was written by a fan in Moscow 48 hours ago. It is unsigned but was relayed by a trustworthy source who confirms the writer is happy for it to be published by File 770. It’s a fan’s perspective, a voice we may not hear much….
Right now, when I’m sitting at my desktop and writing this text, a cannonade nearby doesn’t stop. The previous night was scary in Kyiv. Evidently, Russians are going to start demolishing Ukrainian capital like they are doing with Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol.
The Ukrainian SFF Community joined the efforts to isolate Russia, the nazi-country of the 21st century, to force them to stop the war. The boycott by American authors we asked for is also doing the job. Many leading writers and artists of the great United States already joined the campaign.
We appealed to SFWA to also join the campaign, and here is what they replied…
Fortunately, comic-carrying newspapers are, of course, all (also or only) online these days, but even then, some require subscriptions (fair enough), and to get all the ones you want. For example, online, the Washington Post, has about 90, while the Boston Globe is just shy of a paltry one-score-and-ten. And (at least in Firefox), they don’t seem to be visible in all-on-one-page mode, much less customize-a-page-of.
So, for several years now, I’ve been going to the source — two “syndicates” that sell/redistribute many popular strips to newspapers….
There’s been a lot of excitement about Squid Game. Everybody’s talking about how clever, original, and utterly skiffy it is. I watched it, too, eagerly and faithfully. But I wasn’t as surprised by it as some. I expected it to be good. I’ve been watching Korean video for ten years, and have only grown more addicted every year. And yet I just can’t convince many people to watch it with me….
Let me tell you about my favorite building in Washington, D.C. It’s the staid old Arts and Industries Building, the second-oldest of all the Smithsonian Institution buildings, which dates back to the very early 1880s and owes its existence to the Smithsonian’s then urgent need for a place where parts of its collection could go on public display….
When we last left the Heinleins (“What the Heinleins Told the 1940 Census”), a woman answering the door at 8777 Lookout Mountain – Leslyn Heinlein, presumably — had just finished telling the 1940 census taker a breathtaking raft of misinformation. Including that her name was Sigred, her husband’s was Richard, that the couple had been born in Germany, and they had a young son named Rolf.
Ten years have passed since then, and the archives of the 1950 U.S. Census were opened to the public on April 1. There’s a new Mrs. Heinlein – Virginia. The 8777 Lookout Mountain house in L.A. has been sold. They’re living in Colorado Springs. What did the Heinleins tell the census taker this time?…
“In the future, there was a nuclear war. And because of all the radiation, cats developed the ability to shoot lasers out of their mouths.”
On this dubious premise, Laser Cats was founded. By its seventh and final episode, the great action stars and directors of the day had contributed their considerable talents to this highly entertaining, yet frankly ridiculous enterprise. From James Cameron to Lindsey Lohan, Josh Brolin to Steve Martin, Laser Cats attracted the best in the business.
Being part of Saturday Night Live undoubtedly helped….
The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction aims to award disability in speculative fiction in two ways. One, by awarding a writer of speculative fiction for their representation or portrayal of disability in a world of speculative fiction, whatever their health status; and two, by awarding a disabled writer for a work of speculative fiction in general, whatever the focus of the work may be….
Robert Osband, Florida fan, really loves space. All his life he has been learning about spaceflight. And reading stories about spaceflight, in science fiction.
So after NASA’s Apollo program was over, the company that made Apollo space suits held a garage sale, and Ozzie showed up. He bought a “training liner” from ILC Dover, a coverall-like portion of a pressure suit, with rings at the wrists and neck to attach gloves and helmet.
And another time, in 1976, when one of his favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, was going to be Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, Mr. Osband journeyed to Kansas City.
In his suitcase was his copy of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel—a novel about a teenager who wins a secondhand space suit in a contest—and his ILC Dover suit.
Because if you wanted to get your copy of Have Space Suit, Will Travel autographed, and you happened to own a secondhand space suit, it would be a shame NOT to wear it, right?…
… I’m sure that our first face-to-face meeting was in 1979, when my job in industry took me from Chattanooga all the way out to Los Angeles for some much-needed training in electrochemistry. I didn’t really know anybody in L.A. fandom back then but I did know the address of the LASFS clubhouse, so on my next-to-last evening in town I dropped in on a meeting. And it was there that I found Bruce mostly surrounded by other fans while they all expounded on fandom as it existed back then and what it might be like a few years down the road. It was like a jazz jam session, but all words and no music. I settled back into the periphery, enjoying all the back-and-forth, and when there eventually came a lull in the conversations I took the opportunity to introduce myself. And then Bruce said something to me that I found very surprising: “Dick Lynch! I’ve heard of you!”…
It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel. Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.
… It is through Joy and Cassimer’s eyes we experience S.A. Tholin’s Iron Truth, a finalist of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. If there was ever a case of the cream rising to the top this book is one….
In T. A. Bruno’s In the Orbit of Sirens, a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist, the remnants of the human race have fled the solar system ahead of an alien culture that is assimilating everyone in reach. Loaded aboard a vast colony ship they’re headed for a distant refuge, prepared to pioneer a new world, but unprepared to meet new threats there to human survival that are as great as the ones they left behind.
On the morning of Carmen Grey’s sixth birthday an armed team arrives to take her from her parents and remove her to the underground facility where Clairvoyants — like her — are held captive and trained for years to access their abilities. So begins Monster of the Dark by K. T. Belt, a finalist in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition….
G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?…
… What sounds like Firefly also describes the SPSFC finalist novel Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1, a space opera by authors Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. I love Firefly so it wasn’t a big leap to climb aboard this vessel….
…. It would be exceptionally embarrassing for a Worldcon to have to explain why a finalist would have won the Hugo except for — oops! — this bit of outdated fine print. The best course of action is to eliminate that fine print before such a circumstance arises….
The social media of the 30th century doesn’t seem so different: teenagers anonymously perform acts of civil disobedience and vandalism to score points and raise their ranking in an internet app. That’s where Aster Vale leads a secret life as the Wildflower, a street artist and tagger, in A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts, a Self-Published Science Fiction competition finalist…..
R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world….
Paul Weimer went to donate some books at Don Blyly’s new location for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. While he was inside Paul shot these photographs of the bookshelves being stocked and other work in progress.
… Another contributor to the Afrofuturist tradition is Nicole Mitchell, a noted avant-jazz composer and flutist. She chose to take on Octavia Butler’s most challenging works, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, and create the Xenogenesis Suite, a collection of dark and disturbing compositions that reflect the trilogy’s turbulent and complicated spirit….
Anna carefully arranged the necessary objects around her desktop computer into a pentagon: sharpened pencils, a legal pad, a half-empty coffee cup, and a copy of Science Without Sorcery, with the chair at the fifth point. This done, she intoned the spell that would open the channel to her muse for long enough to write the final pages of her work-in-progress. Then she could get ready for the convention….
… In the last five years, the [Hugo Awards Study Committee] [HASC] has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee…..
In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.
… Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.
His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive….
The day of reckoning is here for E Pluribus Hugo. The change in the way Hugo Awards nominations are counted was passed in 2015 and ratified in 2016 to counter how Sad and Rabid Puppies’ slates dictated most of finalists on the Hugo ballots in those years. It came with a 2022 sunset clause attached, and E Pluribus Hugo must be re-ratified this year in order to remain part of the WSFS Constitution….
… His name is Joel Nydahl, and back about the time of that Chicon he was a 14-year-old neofan who lived with his parents on a farm near Marquette, Michigan. He was an avid science fiction reader and at some point in 1952 decided to publish a fanzine. It was a good one….
… Abigail Kamara, younger cousin of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, has been left largely unsupervised while he’s off in the sticks on a case. This leaves Abigail making her own decisions when she notices that kids roughly her age are disappearing–but not staying missing long enough for the police to care….
Friends, let me tell you about one of my favorite TV shows. But I must admit to you up front that it’s not SF/F. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is, as I assume you’ve deduced from the title, a lawyer show. But it’s a KOREAN lawyer show, which should indicate that is NOT run of the mill….
… The Phantom Empire, a twelve-chapter Mascot serial, was originally released in February, 1935. A strange concoction for a serial, it is at once science fiction film, a Western, and strangely enough, a musical. It was the first real science fiction sound serial and its popularity soon inspired other serials about fantastic worlds….
… I find myself explaining the changes to membership in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and the conditions for attending the World Science Fiction Convention that were ratified this year in Chicago (and thus are now in effect, because this was the second vote on the changes)…
Chicon 8’s Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) program offered both memberships and financial stipends. It was established with the goal of helping defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for the following groups of people:
Non-white fans or program participants • LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants • Local Chicago area fans of limited means…
As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions….
… Capclave appeared to be equally star-crossed in its next iteration. It was held over the weekend of October 18-20, 2002, and once again the attendees were brought closer together by an event taking place in the outside world. The word had spread quickly through all the Saturday night room parties: “There’s been another shooting.” Another victim of the D.C. Sniper….
… In Fairy Tale, his newest novel, Stephen King delivers a, cough, grimm contemporary story, explicitly incorporating horror in the, cough, spirit of Lovecraft (King also explicitly namedrops, in the text, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner), in which high-schooler Charlie Reade becomes involved in things — and challenges — that, as the book and plot progress, stray beyond the mundane….
The idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about the Beatles seems like a natural. I’ve been told the two editors, each unbeknownst to the other, both presented the idea to the publisher around the same time…
The Science Museum (that’s the world famous one in Kensington, London) has just launched a new exhibit on what Carl Sagan once mused (though not mentioned in the exhibit itself) science fiction and science’s ‘dance’. SF2 Concatenation reprographic supremo Tony Bailey and I were invited by the Museum to have a look on the exhibition’s first day. (The exhibition runs to Star Wars day 2023, May the Fourth.) Having braved Dalek extermination at the Museum’s entrance, we made our way to the exhibition’s foyer – decorated with adverts to travel to Gallifrey – to board our shuttle….
I was at the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival in Rockville, MD today. If you’re wondering why the festival is there, that’s where Fitzgerald and his wife are buried. Now, I’d never read any of Fitzgerald`s writing, so I spent the evening before reading the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby (copyright having expired last year, it’s online). So far, I’ve yet to find anyone in it that I want to spend any time with, including the narrator.
However, the reason I attended was to see Kim Stanley Robinson, who was the special guest at the Festival. The end of the morning’s big event was a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. Then there was lunch, and a keynote speaker, then Stan introducing Powers to receive an award from the society that throws the annual Festival….
…As a child, I kept a notebook filled with my favorite quotes. (How did I not know I was going to be an author?) The first quote? “Not all who wander are lost.” There was everything from 90s rom com lines to Wordsworth poems in that notebook, but Tolkien filled the most pages….
There is a fundamental implausibility to easy manned interstellar (or even interplanetary) space travel that nonetheless remains a seductive idea even in our wiser and more cynical and weary 21st century. …
Alif is a young man, a “gray hat” hacker, selling his skills to provide cybersecurity to anyone who needs that protection from the government. He lives in an unnamed city-state in the Middle East, referred to throughout simply as the City. He’s nonideological; he’ll sell his services to Islamists, communists, anyone….
Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka….
The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus — which is in fact Eye of Cat — is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navajo born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later….
One fine Monday morning, Peter Grant is summoned to Baker Street Station on the London Underground, to assess whether there was anything “odd,” i.e., involving magic, about the death of a young man on the tracks….
…If you’re not a fan, then there’s a real chance you have no idea how much range animé encompasses. And I’m not even talking about the entire range of kid shows, sit-coms and drama. (I’m aware there may be limits to your tolerance. I’m talking about the range within SF/F. Let’s consider just three examples….
While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up. This is one of those….
It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall. I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him. Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot. So let me tell you a little bit about him….
I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay….
Poul Anderson began writing his own “future history” in the 1950s, with its starting point being that there would be a limited nuclear war at some point in the 1950s. From that point would develop a secret effort to build a new social structure that could permanently prevent war….
…As with Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual feast. Unlike the first film, there aren’t long sweeping pans lingering over beautiful, otherworldly vistas. The “beautiful” and the “otherworldly” are still there, but we’re seeing them incorporated into the action and storytelling….
… When I was growing up, children like myself were taught, no, more like indoctrinated, to think the United States was the BEST place to grow up, that our country was ALWAYS in the right and that our institutions were, for the most part, unassailable and impervious to criticism from anyone, especially foreigners.
I grew up in Ohio in the 1960’s and despite what I was being taught in a parochial Catholic grade school (at great expense, I might add, by my hard-working parents), certain things I was experiencing did not add up. News of the violence and casualties during the Vietnam War was inescapable. I remember watching the evening network news broadcasts and being horrified by the number of people (on all sides of the conflict) being wounded or killed on a daily basis.
As the years went on, it became harder to reconcile all of the violence, terrorism, public assassinations and the racism I was experiencing with the education I was receiving. The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-ins coincided with my high school years and the beginnings of my political awakening.
When I look back on those formative days of my life, I see myself as a small child, set out upon a sea of prejudice and whiteness, in a boat of hetero-normaltity, destination unknown….
… After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”
“Oh really? What’s that?”
“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred-mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)…
Despite some very harsh comments from Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos, threatening that “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” spacefarers seem to have a different perspective and understanding of the importance of international cooperation, respect and solidarity. This appears to have been demonstrated today when three cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station….
Forty-five years ago or thereabouts, on February 26, 1977, the first ‘prog’ of 2000AD was released by IPC magazines. The second issue dated March 5 a week later saw the debut of Judge Dredd. Since then, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Sláine, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog, Roxy and Skizz, The ABC Warriors, Bad Company and Proteus Vex are just some of the characters and stories that have emanated from the comic that was started by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Some have gone on to be in computer games, especially as the comic was purchased by Rebellion developments in 2000, and Judge Dredd has been brought to the silver screen twice.
Addictive and enjoyable stories of the fantastic, written and drawn by some of the greatest comic creators of the latter part of the 20th century, they often related to the current, utilizing Science Fiction to obscure issues about violence or subversiveness, but reflecting metaphorically about the now of the time….
Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time when film critics begin assembling their lists of the best films, actors, writers, composers, and directors of the past year. What follows, then, while honoring that long-held tradition, is a comprehensive compilation and deeply personal look at the finest film scores of the past nearly one hundred years….
The frenzy of joyous controversy swirling over director Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up has stirred a healthy, if frenetic debate over the meaning and symbology of this bonkers dramedy. On its surface a cautionary satire about the impending destruction of the planet, Don’t Look Up is a deceptively simplistic tale of moronic leadership refusing to accept a grim, unpleasant reality smacking it in its face.
What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.
Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.
After interviewing William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema during the torrid Summer of 1969 at “The Playhouse In The Park,” just outside of Philadelphia, while Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC, my old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my brother Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met and befriended all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (William Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Edward Kemmer), Commander of the Space Patrol….
… The first of the most important music modernists, however, in the post war era and “Silver Age” of film composers was Elmer Bernstein who would, had he lived, be turning one hundred years old on April 4th, 2022. Although he would subsequently prove himself as able as classic “Golden Age” composers of writing traditional big screen symphonic scores, with his gloriously triumphant music for Cecil B De Mille’s 1956 extravaganza, The Ten Commandments….
… She was just four days into her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City when this “Unsinkable” vessel met disaster and finality, sailing into history, unspeakable tragedy, and maritime immortality. May God Rest Her Eternal Soul … the souls of the men, women, and children who sailed and perished during those nightmarish hours, and to all those who go courageously “Down to The Sea in Ships.” This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-six years….
… It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned [The Orville] as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions….
… I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands. It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life. The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive. Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence. Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television….
He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction….
On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T….
…Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak….
After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, followed by Wide Country on NBC….
…When Jack Warner was casting the film version of the smash hit, he considered performers such as Cary Grant, James Cagney, or Frank Sinatra for the lead. Meredith Willson, the show’s composer, however, demanded that Robert Preston star in the movie version of his play, or he’d withdraw the contracts and licensing. The film version of The Music Man, produced for Warner Brothers, and starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, opened to rave reviews on movie screens across the country in 1962. Robert Preston, like Rex Harrison in Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady, had proven that older, seasoned film stars could propel both Broadway and big screen musicals to enormous artistic success….
On the evening of May 14, 1998, following the airing over NBC Television of the series finale of Seinfeld, the world and I received the terrible news of the passing of the most beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. It has been twenty-four years since he left this mortal realm, but the joy, the music, and the memories are as fresh and as vital today as when they were born….
Very exciting news. The long awaited CD soundtrack release of 12 O’Clock High is now available for purchase through La-La Land Records and is a major restoration of precious original tracks from Quinn Martin’s beloved television series….
That terrible day in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most significantly traumatic days of my life. I was just seventeen years old. I was nearing the end of my high school classes at Northeast High School in Philadelphia when word started spreading through the hallways and corridors that JFK had been shot. I listened in disbelief, praying that it wasn’t true … but it was….
I recently watched a somber new three part documentary by film maker Ken Burns that is among the most sobering, heartbreaking, and horrifying indictments of humanity that I have ever encountered. It was extremely difficult to watch but, as an American Jew, I remain struck by the similarities between the rise in Fascism in the early nineteen thirties, leading to the beginnings of Nazism in Germany, and the attempted decimation of the Jewish people in Europe and throughout the world, with the repellant echoes of both racial and religious intolerance, and the mounting hatred and suspicion of the Jewish communities and population residing presently in my own country of birth, these United States….
I’ve read with interest some of the recent discussions concerning the measure of Hugo Friedhofer’s importance as a composer, and it set my memory sailing back to another time in a musical galaxy long ago and far away. I have always considered Maestro Friedhofer among the most important, if underrated, composers of Hollywood’s golden era….
…Steven Spielberg’s reverent semi-autobiographical story of youthful dreams and aspirations is, for me, the finest, most emotionally enriching film of the year, filled with photographic memories, and indelible recollections shared both by myself and by the film maker….
My friend Adam Spector tells me that when Ernest Lehman was asked to write the script for North by Northwest, he tried to turn out the most “Hotchcocky” script he could, with all of Hitchcock’s obsessions in one great motion picture.
Moonfall is the most “Emmerichian” film Roland Emmerich is made. Like his earlier films, it has flatulent melodrama interlaced with completely daft science. But everything here is much more intense than his earlier work. But the only sense of wonder you’ll get from this film is wondering why the script got greenlit….
… Having a long career in Hollywood is a lot harder than in other forms of publishing; you’ve got to have the relentless drive to pursue your vision and keep making sales. To an outsider, what is astonishing about J. Michael Straczynski’s career is that it has had a third act and may well be in the middle of a fourth. His career could have faded after Babylon 5. The roars that greeted him at the 1996 Los Angeles Worldcon (where, it seemed, every conversation had to include the words, “Where’s JMS?”) would have faded and he could have scratched out a living signing autographs at media conventions….
When I read in the Financial Times about how Britain’s National Theatre was adapting Sir Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of his Book of Dust trilogy, I told myself, “That’s a play for me! I’ll just fly over to London and see it! OGH is made of money, and he’ll happily pay my expenses!”
Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to London, because the theatre came to me, with a screening of the National Theatre Live production playing at the American Film Institute. So, I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon seeing it….
… Stories matter more in the theatre than in film because far more of a play is in our imagination than in a film. Stripped of CGI and rewrites by multiple people, what plays offer at their best is one person’s offering us something where, if it works, we tell ourselves, “Yes, that was a good evening in the theatre,” and if it doesn’t, we gnash our teeth and feel miserable until we get home…
As Anton Ego told us in Ratatouille, the goal of a critic today is to be the first person to offer praise to a rising artist. It’s not the tenth novel that deserves our attention but the first or second. In the theatre, the people who need the most attention are the ones who are being established, not the ones that build on earlier successes.
So I’m happy to report that Matthew Aldwin McGee, author, star, and chief puppeteer of Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is a talented guy who has a great deal of potential. You should be watching him….
I once read an article about a guy who was determined to live life in 1912. He lived in a shack in the woods, bought a lot of old clothes, a Victrola, and a slew of old books and magazines. I don’t remember how he made a living, but the article made clear that he was happy….
By Mark Roth-Whitworth: I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay. This time, it’s not a stupid race, but, oh, ok, I’ll say it, the final frontier, and we’re going where no one has gone before.
Hugo nominations are coming, soon enough. Mike reminded me that the Apollo 11 news coverage won the Hugo for “Best Dramatic Presentation”. This capsule wasn’t crewed — that’ll be the next. But if the Artemis I mission doesn’t beat anything else this year deserving of the Best Related Work Hugo, nothing does.
By Mark Roth-Whitworth: I was at the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival in Rockville, MD today. If you’re wondering why the festival is there, that’s where Fitzgerald and his wife are buried. Now, I’d never read any of Fitzgerald`s writing, so I spent the evening before reading the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby (copyright having expired last year, it’s online). So far, I’ve yet to find anyone in it that I want to spend any time with, including the narrator.
However, the reason I attended was to see Kim Stanley Robinson, who was the special guest at the Festival. The end of the morning’s big event was a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. Then there was lunch, and a keynote speaker, then Stan introducing Powers to receive an award from the society that throws the annual Festival.
I wasn’t interested in the writing workshops, as they seemed not useful to my writing, but I got there early enough to take advantage of the coffee, and suggest more signage. In the break room, I had a chance to speak with Stan about his writing. On asking him how he felt about the label Hopepunk, he responded, that everything has to have a “-punk” attached to it is silly and annoying, a feeling I agree with. He commented how, back when cyberpunk was big, that his writing was almost anathema to them. In fact, he preferred a word that he is sure that Joanna Russ coined, a word which no Russ scholars have been able to find, “optopian”, which is “leading to a better world”, if not Utopian, one certainly better than the one we have. (I mentioned my recent manifesto to him, proclaiming the Future Perfectable movement (and my preferred ”grammatical tense’), and he was amused and happy to be considered part of it.)
Eventually, we went to the auditorium for one of the main events, a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. As they sat down on the stage, I found it amusing that they seemed to be in uniform – both in dark khaki pants and shirts each in a shade of dark brown.
The conversation focused first on Fitzgerald of course, and his writing. Interestingly, Stan noted that Fitzgerald’s writing paid extensive attention to class, mentioning his comment that “the rich are different than us.” Both he and Powers brought up the environment in their writing and the real world, with Stan speaking explicitly to it, Powers elliptically. Stan, being from California, mentioned the ecological devastation of the Central Valley, “turning it into a factory floor for making food” while eliminating the wildlife.
Powers noted that by the end of the Nineteenth Century, literature had absorbed capitalist ideology such that it would have been impossible to write about anything that wasn’t about humans, where SF remembered that the natural world, that the universe, might have other ideas. Back in the Fifties, Stan said, there were a lot of stories that were planetary romance, where humans arrive on a planet and have to cope with that world. Powers commented on how humans saw themselves as above, and different than all the rest of nature, and so there was no romance of surviving in nature, with the idea that we had “won the war” over nature.
Many of the questions from the audience were about writing and culture, rather than about Fitzgerald.
Stan, speaking of how post-war, schools offering MFAs began teaching ‘how to write’, as opposed to before the war, when writers came out of their hometown and got published. In these writing courses, it all had to be about people. They have a number of aphorisms, and he suggests that not all of them are always necessarily true. For example, it is okay to tell, not show, such as showing background.
That struck me as one of the reasons that “Real Litrachur” has always looked down on sf — that it frequently was not only about humans — the universe, its immutable laws, and aliens, get in the way of all about people.
Powers commented that we can, and need to, write of how “to survive the future we’ve brought on ourselves”, and pay attention to the natural world. He went on to speak of time frames, that culture has changed the world so rapidly that a century ago seems like ancient times.
Together, the conversation between the two, and that in response to the audiences’ questions, was well worth my attendance.
Over lunch, Sarah Avery, a fantasy author who remembered me from Capclave, sat at my table, and we had an interesting conversation, one enlightening in part to the young man interested in writing non-fiction who shared our table, about the publishing industry and how one becomes published.
The afternoon keynote speaker was Alice McDermott, whose topic was “Storytelling and the Quintessence of Dust.” She spoke of humans as the quintessence being from Hamlet, and that the theme of the festival was ‘storytelling and more than human’, and referencing January 6th, perhaps it should be “better than human”, that all the assholes are merely human, that nature is not that.
To tell the truth, I found her speech, which seemed to be about half or more nothing but quotes about dust and related subjects from many authors and poets, somewhat assembled and forced. Certainly, I have heard many “lesser” authors, “mere” genre writers, give stronger speeches that grew from their own personal experience. She also noted that much is about humans, who on appearing, are the trouble that enters a story, rather than much sf and fantasy, where we can be that which resolves at least some of the troubles.
Stan made the introductory remarks for Powers, speaking of being a reader, and the joys of friends you have found in reading, even if you never meet them, and about Powers writing, including The Goldbug Variations and Echomancer, which Stan said were about loners, scientists doing science, and making it exciting, which explained to me why they chose Stan as the special guest for the Festival.
Powers for his part, read his favorite among the few short stories he has written, “To The Measures Fall”, and is a good reader, though that seemed more like a novelette than a short story.
Not planning on going to the signing, or the afternoon workshops, I left at this point.