(1) THE DOCTOR IS BACK IN. In 2013 Russell T. Davies was asked to write a magazine contribution filling in a blank about the Ninth Doctor’s regeneration. His piece got spiked – for Reasons. Read it now at the official Doctor Who blog: “Russell T Davies writes a prequel to Doctor Who – Rose.”
So I wrote this. It even starts mid-sentence, as if you’ve just turned to the last pages. Lee Binding created a beautiful cover. We were excited! And then Tom said, I’d better run this past Steven Moffat, just in case…
Oh, said Steven. Oh. How could we have known? That the Day of the Doctor would have an extra Doctor, a War Doctor? And Steven didn’t even tell us about Night of the Doctor, he kept that regeneration a complete surprise! He just said, sorry, can you lay off that whole area? I agreed, harrumphed, went to bed and told him he was sleeping on the settee that night.
So the idea was snuffed a-borning. Until 2020….
This chapter only died because it became, continuity-wise, incorrect. But now, the Thirteenth Doctor has shown us Doctors galore, with infinite possibilities.
All Doctors exist. All stories are true. So come with me now, to the distant reefs of a terrible war, as the Doctor takes the Moment and changes both the universe and themselves forever…
(2) FUTURE TENSE. The March 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Paciente Cero,” by Juan Villoro. Tagline: “A stirring short story about China turning Mexico into a massive recycling plant for U.S. garbage.”
It was published along with a response essay, “How China Turns Trash Into Wealth” by Adam Minter, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and an expert on recycling and waste issues.
… Guo Guanghui, vice chairman of a scrap metal recycling trade association in Qingyuan, a thriving industrial town roughly two hours north of us, took the podium. Guo wanted to talk about a government policy that roughly translates as “going out,” designed to help Chinese businesses set up operations abroad. He thought it a good idea for the government to help recycling companies “go out” to foreign countries where they could buy up recyclables and ship them back to China. “We need to get rid of the ability of the other countries to control the resources,” he declared from the podium, “and seize them for ourselves.”
(3) EELEEN LEE Q&A. “Interview: Eeleen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale”, with questions from Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson.
NOAF: What inspired you to write Liquid Crystal Nightingale? How different is the finished product from your original concepts?
EL: The novel began as a simple exercise years ago: write about a few fictional cities, in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. As soon as I started writing about a city that looked like a cat’s eye from space I couldn’t stop at a few paragraphs. The style and tone were initially very literary, reminiscent of Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table and the layered stories of Jorges Luis Borges.
(4) IMPERILED CITY. Cate Matthews did an interview for TIME with N.K. Jemisin as “Author N.K. Jemisin On Race, Gentrification, and the Power of Fiction To Bring People Together.”
TIME: The tone of The City We Became is more light-hearted than much of your previous work, but the novel still addresses serious issues—including the perils of gentrification. Why did you want to tell this story?
Jemisin: I’ve always thought of my writing as therapy. I do have a therapist, but there was a time I couldn’t afford one and writing was the way I vented anger and stress and fear and longing and all of the things that I did not have a real-world outlet for. A lot of times I don’t really understand what it is that I’m trying to cope with until after I’ve finished the book. With the Broken Earth trilogy, I realized belatedly that I was processing my mom’s imminent death. She did pass away while I was writing The Stone Sky. Mid-life crises are not always triggered by getting old, they’re also triggered by an event. And Mom’s death did spur a period of [needing] to grow new things and try new things. I started to think about buying a house. I wasn’t going to be able to buy in Crown Heights, which was the New York neighborhood I had been in, because Crown Heights had hit, like, fourth stage gentrification. Over the time I was here, I watched it change.
(5) HIGH DUDGEON. Wendy Paris demands to know “If marijuana is essential during the coronavirus shutdown, why not books?” in an LA Times op-ed.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home edicts let dispensaries stay open but force bookshops to shutter indefinitely. Chevalier’s in Larchmont will take phone orders. Skylight Books in Los Feliz, Book Soup in West Hollywood and Vroman’s in Pasadena are “closed temporarily” but forwarding online orders to Ingram, a wholesaler that will ship direct to buyers. The Last Bookstore, downtown, is seeing customers by appointment.
…Books are essential goods and that ought to mean bookstores are exempt from shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. As are bread and milk, gas and aspirin, alcohol and marijuana, books should be available, with safety precautions in place, at the usual places we buy them in our neighborhoods.
(6) WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD. ShoutFactoryTV has made available the complete documentary released last year: “What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.
Ira Steven Behr explores the legacy of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993).
(7) BE PREPARED. “Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse” at BoingBoing.
My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.
I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes….
(8) MORE TBR FODDER. Lucy Scholes points to another example of the kind of book a lot of people are seeking out lately: “What’s It Like Out?” in The Paris Review.
…Seems like none of us can get enough of stories that echo our current moment, myself included. Fittingly, though, as the author of this column, I found myself drawn to a scarily appropriate but much less widely known plague novel: One by One, by the English writer and critic Penelope Gilliatt.
Originally published in 1965, this was the first novel by Gilliat, who was then the chief film critic for the British newspaper the Observer. It’s ostensibly the story of a marriage—that of Joe Talbot, a vet, and his heavily pregnant wife, Polly—but set against the astonishing backdrop of a mysterious but fatal pestilence. The first cases are diagnosed in London at the beginning of August, but by the third week of the month, ten thousand people are dead….
(9) THE VIRTUE OF VIRTUAL. [Item by Mlex.] In light of the proposed “virtual cons” for Balticon and Worldcon 2020, CoNZealand, I wanted to suggest as a model a new conference that started on March 30th called “Future States,” about the history of periodical culture.
It was planned from the beginning as a “carbon neutral” event to be held completely online. Now that I have logged in and see how it is set up, I am really impressed by the thought that went into it.
There are keynotes, panel sessions, and forums, which are neatly linked to the video presentations, and the Q&A sessions. All of the participants can join in to pose questions and comment on the individual presentation threads.
There is a also a Foyer and a Noticeboard, where you can contact the panelist, or for the con to push updates.
For those planning virtual cons, take a look: https://www.futurestates.org/
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 31, 1844 — Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for children were published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.)
- Born March 31, 1926 — John Fowles. British author best remembered for The French Lieutenant’s Woman but who did several works of genre fiction, The Magus which I read a long time ago and A Maggot which I’ve not read. (Died 2005.)
- Born March 31, 1932 — John Jakes, 88. Author of a number of genre series including Brak the Barbarian. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as Fantastic. Dark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968.
- Born March 31, 1934 — Richard Chamberlain, 86. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) Some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He’s listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Chuck and Twin Peaks.
- Born March 31, 1936 — Marge Piercy, 84. Author of He, She and It which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course, she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called a “classic of utopian speculative sf”.
- Born March 31, 1943 — Christopher Walken, 77. Yet another performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, this time as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t then I haven’t actually seen it yet. And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
- Born March 31, 1960 — Ian McDonald, 60. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was the first one. Ares Express was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. Everness was fun but ultimately shallow. Strongly recommend both Devish House and River of Gods. Luna series at first blush didn’t impress me me, so other opinions are sought on it.
- Born March 31, 1971 — Ewan McGregor, 49. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film. That was followed by The Phantom Menace with him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.
(11) GET YOUR GOJIRA FIX. “Resurfaced Godzilla Film Goes Viral for One Fan Playing All the Parts” – Comicbook.com points the way. (The video is on YouTube here.)
We’ve been waiting for the final part of Legendary’s Monsterverse quadrilogy, Godzilla vs. Kong, for quite some time. Initially scheduled for a release this March before being moved to a Fall 2020 release (and potentially even more so if delays over the coronavirus pandemic continues into late in the year), there’s been a hunger for more of the Godzilla films ever since King of the Monsters released. But as it turns out, this has been a problem fans of the famous kaiju for several decades now as they continue to wait for the next big film of the franchise.
A fan film featuring the Kaiju from the 1990s has resurfaced online, and has gone viral among fans of the famous kaiju for featuring a single actor playing all of the roles. Even more hilariously, the actor not only continues to wear the same suit for each part but even takes on the roles of inanimate objects such as the electrical pylons as well. You can check it out in the video above:
(12) SIX PACK. Paul Weimer pages through “Six Books with Ryan Van Loan”, author of The Sin in the Steel, at Nerds of a Feather.
1. What book are you currently reading?
The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. It’s about a newly minted thief who has to pay off their student loan debts to the guild (relatable), a witch-in training, and a kickass knight with a war raven who go on an adventure together. It’s dark, but delightful in a gritty way that hits some of my favorite adventure fantasy notes. Fans of Nicholas Eames, Douglas Hulick, and V.E. Schwab will enjoy this one…unfortunately Christopher’s fantasy debut doesn’t land on shelves until next year.
I hate when someone names a book that’s not out on shelves right now, so let me also plug the book I read before this one: The Steel Crow Saga by Paul Kreuger. It’s a tight, standalone fantasy–think Pokemon in the immediate aftermath of World War II with half a dozen richly imagined cultures that reminded me of southeast Asia and a cast who all have mysteries they hope none discover.
(13) NOT WORKING FROM HOME? NPR’s news isn’t fake, but can you count on that being true about the next item you read? “Facebook, YouTube Warn Of More Mistakes As Machines Replace Moderators”.
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are relying more heavily on automated systems to flag content that violate their rules, as tech workers were sent home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But that shift could mean more mistakes — some posts or videos that should be taken down might stay up, and others might be incorrectly removed. It comes at a time when the volume of content the platforms have to review is skyrocketing, as they clamp down on misinformation about the pandemic.
Tech companies have been saying for years that they want computers to take on more of the work of keeping misinformation, violence and other objectionable content off their platforms. Now the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating their use of algorithms rather than human reviewers.
(14) BUT SOME DISCRETION. Maybe you can! “Coronavirus: World leaders’ posts deleted over fake news”.
Facebook and Twitter have deleted posts from world leaders for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
Facebook deleted a video from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that claimed hydroxychloroquine was totally effective in treating the virus.
He has repeatedly downplayed the virus and encouraged Brazilians to ignore medical advice on social distancing.
It follows Twitter’s deletion of a homemade treatment tweeted by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Both social networks rarely interfere with messages from world leaders, even when they are verifiably untrue.
Twitter, for example, says it will “will err on the side of leaving the content up” when world leaders break the rules, citing the public interest.
But all major social networks are under pressure to combat misinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
(15) TAIL TALES. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy goes “Questing in Shorts: March 2020”. First up:
The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A.J. Fitzwater (Queen of Swords Press)
This collection, featuring a capybara pirate captain in a world full of anthropomorphic animals and magical creatures, is definitely more of a short fiction collection than a novel, but it’s also a bit of an odd duck when trying to review as short stories, as there’s a strong through narrative between each tale (or “tail”) that makes it hard to speak about them individually. After an opening story (the aptly titled “Young Cinrak”) that sees Cinrak take her first steps into piracy (in this world, apparently respectable career for those seeking freedom and a good community around them), the rest of the collection deals with her time as an established captain, taking on an increasingly mythological set of exploits, all while maintaining the affections of both opera prima donna Loquolchi, and the Rat Queen Orvillia, and looking after her diverse and entertaining crew of rodents and affiliated creatures…..
(16) HISTORY ON THE ROCKS. Pollution and politics were entangled even in ancient days; the BBC reports — “Thomas Becket: Alpine ice sheds light on medieval murder”.
Ancient air pollution, trapped in ice, reveals new details about life and death in 12th Century Britain.
In a study, scientists have found traces of lead, transported on the winds from British mines that operated in the late 1100s.
Air pollution from lead in this time period was as bad as during the industrial revolution centuries later.
The pollution also sheds light on a notorious murder of the medieval era; the killing of Thomas Becket…
(17) TUNE IN. Enjoy a BBC archival video clip: “John Williams scoring ‘Empire’, 1980”. (16 min.)
John Williams at work, preparing the score for The Empire Strikes Back. This Clip is from Star Wars: Music by John Williams. Originally broadcast 18 May 1980
(18) ICONOCLAST. Writing for CinemaBlend, Mick Joest shares what may prove to be a controversial opinion: “Face It, Luke Skywalker Peaked With The Death Star’s Destruction.”
With the Skywalker Saga now finished and opinions being handed out left and right in regards to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, I think it’s time for a take that, frankly, is long overdue. During a recent re-watch of the Original Trilogy I had a blast and still love those movies as much as I ever have. That said, looking back now on all that’s come after and what came before, I don’t believe Luke Skywalker ever did anything greater than destroying the first Death Star.
That’s it, there’s the take, but of course I’m not going to just throw that out there and let the hellfire of disgruntled Star Wars fans rain down. I have a lot more to say about Luke Skywalker, his biggest achievement and how nothing he ever did after really came close to it…
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Ben Bird Person, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Mlex, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]