(1) WILD TALLAHASSEE. At the link, access six months of Jeff VanderMeer’s “Wild Tallahassee” urban wilderness columns for the Tallahassee Democrat. VanderMeer says, “I also hope that if you like my rewilding posts on twitter (hashtag #VanderWild) or these columns that you’ll consider buying one of my novels from Midtown Reader.”
The first column in the list is: “Adventure begins with a raccoon at the door”.
I knew we’d bought the right house in Tallahassee when, two years ago, a raccoon rang our doorbell at four in the morning. Granted, the doorbell glows blue at night and, for some reason, is at waist height. But, still, this seemed like something that belonged in the Guinness Book of World Records for urban wildlife.
Dear reader, I hope you understand that we did not answer the door and it was only from the muddy pawprints we saw when we ventured out at a more reasonable hour…that we understood who had visited us….
(2) SCIENCE FICTION STATE OF MIND. “The Realism of Our Times: Kim Stanley Robinson on How Science Fiction Works” is an interview conducted by John Plotz for Public Books last September.
John Plotz (JP): You have said that science fiction is the realism of our times. How do people hear that statement today? Do they just hear the word COVID and automatically start thinking about dystopia?
Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR): People sometimes think that science fiction is about predicting the future, but that isn’t true. Since predicting the future is impossible, that would be a high bar for science fiction to have to get over. It would always be failing. And in that sense it always is failing. But science fiction is more of a modeling exercise, or a way of thinking.
Another thing I’ve been saying for a long time is something slightly different: We’re in a science fiction novel now, which we are all cowriting together. What do I mean? That we’re all science fiction writers because of a mental habit everybody has that has nothing to do with the genre. Instead, it has to do with planning and decision making, and how people feel about their life projects. For example, you have hopes and then you plan to fulfill them by doing things in the present: that’s utopian thinking. Meanwhile, you have middle-of-the-night fears that everything is falling apart, that it’s not going to work. And that’s dystopian thinking.
So there’s nothing special going on in science fiction thinking. It’s something that we’re all doing all the time.
And world civilization right now is teetering on the brink: it could go well, but it also could go badly. That’s a felt reality for everybody. So in that sense also, science fiction is the realism of our time. Utopia and dystopia are both possible, and both staring us in the face.
(3) THE TRANSOM IS OPEN. The Dark Magazine is accepting submissions. Do you have what editors Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Michael Kelly, and Sean Wallace are looking for?
(4) DUNE TRAILER. Warner Bros. has dropped the main trailer for Dune, set for an October 22 release. Here’s the story they’re telling:
A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.
(5) PATTEN IN HUMBLE BUNDLE. The late Fred Patten’s essay collection Watching Anime, Reading Manga is part of Humble Bundle’s new Japanese Culture bundle: Humble Book Bundle: Japanese Culture & Language by Stone Bridge Press. The entire 26-item bundle includes four books about anime and manga. Pay at least $18 to get all of them, pay less to get fewer items, or pay extra to give more to publishers, Humble, and charity.
Discover the rich history and culture of Japan!
There are thousands of years of rich history and culture to be found in Japan, and Stone Bridge Press wants to help you discover plenty of it with books like Crazy for Kanji: A Student’s Guide to the Wonderful World of Japanese Characters, Family Crests of Japan, and Japaneseness: A Guide to Values and Virtues. Plus, your purchase helps support the Book Industry Charitable Foundation and a charity of your choice!
(6) 2021 SEIUN AWARDS. Locus Online’s 2021 Seiun Awards post has translations into English of all the titles up for Best Japanese Novel and Best Japanese Story, as well as the correct English titles of the works nominated for Best Translated Novel and Best Translated Story (i.e. of works into the Japanese language.) And I don’t! So hie thee hence.
The award’s own official website also lists the Multimedia, Comic, Artist, Non-Fiction, and “Free” (other) categories winners.
The awards will be presented at SF60, the 60th Japan SF Convention, scheduled for August 21-22, 2021 in Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture.
(7) THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY. The Astounding Analog Companion conducted a “Q&A with Rosemary Claire Smith”.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
RCS: Looking back, it strikes me that “The Next Frontier” was born of a desire to live in a world with greater cooperation between nations on important projects requiring global efforts. I took international cooperation much more for granted in the 1990s and 2000s than I do now.
(8) MEMORIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the July 17 Financial Times, Henry Mance interviews Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and his wife, Lady Madeleine Lloyd Webber.
‘Do we mention the other lowest of the low moments?’ says Madeleine. “The Cats film. I’ve never seen Andrew so upset.’ He had sold the rights and was sidelined. ‘I’ve never known anything so ghastly. It was disgraceful, the whole process,” he (Andrew Lloyd Webber) says. ‘I wrote a letter to the head of Universal Pictures, Donna Langley, which I didn’t even get (a response to) and I said, ‘this will be a car crash beyond belief if you don’t listen to me.’
He blames the director Tom Hooper. ‘You’ve got to have somebody who understands the rhythm of music…I had right of approval over some of the musical elements. But they really rode roughshod over everything.’ Things were so bad that he had to console himself by buying a Havanese puppy.
(9) LUCKY SEVEN. Cora Buhlert was interviewed by Stars End, a podcast about the works of Isaac Asimov in general and Foundation in particular: Episode 7 – Stars End: A Foundation Podcast.
…Cora is an amazingly prolific and eclectic writer. So prolific that Jon joked about her owning “Asimov’s Typewriter” and we suddenly had a new imaginary episode of Warehouse 13 in our heads. So eclectic that no matter your tastes there’s a good chance that she’s written something that you’d enjoy. If you like stories about galactic empires like Foundation, she’s written two full series you might like, In Love and War and Shattered Empire. She’s also a two-time Hugo Finalist for Best Fan Writer.
(10) MARS IN CULTURE. “Exploring the Red Planet through History and Culture” with Nick Smith (past President of LASFS) is hosted by the Pasadena Museum of History. The free virtual presentation* is available for viewing Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25.
The planet Mars has long been connected to humankind through religions, literature, and science. Join Nick Smith, guest curator of PMH’s 2018 exhibition Dreaming the Universe, to explore our fascination with Earth’s neighboring planet, and discover some of the many ways Mars is part of our culture.
*Pre-recorded presentation from Spring ArtNight 2021.
(11) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARNIE KATZ. Alan White posted a photo on Facebook of his wife, DeDee, presenting Arnie Katz, 76, with a fanboy cake.
(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- 2016 – Five years ago on this date, Star Trek Beyond premiered. The third film in the rebooted series, and the thirteenth Trek film so far released. It directed by Justin Lin from the script from Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. It was produced by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci Lindsey Weber and Justin Lin. It starred cast of Chris Pine, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin (one of his last roles before his death) and Idris Elba. Almost unanimously critics loved it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent rating of eighty percent. It however was a box office failure losing money as it debuted in a crowded market that had the likes of Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 22, 1926 — Bernhardt J. Hurwood. Author of The Man from T.O.M.C.A.T series which is more or less soft porn. He also did the Pulp series, the Invisibles series. He also had a deep and abiding fascination with the supernatural, publishing myriad non-fiction works on it including Passport to the Supernatural: An Occult Compendium from All Ages and Many Lands, Vampires, Werewolves and Ghouls and Monsters and Nightmares. (Died 1987.)
- Born July 22, 1932 — Tom Robbins, 89. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them on this occasion at least? Well I will. Now Jitterbug Perfume, that’s definitely genre! Cowgirls Get the Blues got made into a rather excellent film by Gus Van Sant and stars Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, and Keanu Reeves. Interesting note: Still Life with Woodpecker made the long list at one point for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel.
- Born July 22, 1940 — Alex Trebek. Remembered as the genial long term Host of Jeopardy!, he was but one genre credit to his name. It’s as a Man in Black who Agent Mulder says looks incredibly like himself in the “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”. I actually think it’s only his acting role. (Died 2020.)
- Born July 22, 1941 — George Clinton, 70. Founder and leader of the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, who incorporated science-fictional themes in his music throughout his career, perhaps most notably with his 1975 hit album, Mothership Connection, which was a huge influence on afrofuturism. (Xtifr)
- Born July 22, 1941 — Vaughn Bode. Winner of Best Fan Artist Hugo at St. Louiscon. (He was nominated for Best Professional Artist as well but that honor went to Jack Gaughan.) He has been credited as an influence on Bakshi’s Wizards and Lord of the Rings. Currently there at least three collections of his artwork, Deadbone Erotica, Cheech Wizard and Cheech Wizard‘s Book of Me in print. (Died 1975.)
- Born July 22, 1962 — Rena Owen, 59. New Zealand native who appeared as Taun We in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as Nee Alavar. She also has minor roles in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, The Iron Man and The Last Witch Hunter. She had a lead role in Siren, a series about merfolk that lasted for three seasons and thirty six episodes. Set in the state of Washington, it was, no surprise, filmed in British Columbia.
- Born July 22, 1964 — Bonnie Langford, 57. She was a computer programmer from the 20th century who was a Companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. She also appeared in the thirtieth anniversary special Dimensions in Time. If you’re really generous in defining genre, she was in Wombling Free as Felicity Kim Frogmorton. Other than that, Who was all she did for our end of the universe.
- Born July 22, 1972 — Colin Ferguson, 49. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on Eureka. Damn I miss that series which amazingly won no Hugos. (I just discovered the series is on the Peacock streaming service which I subscribe to so I’m going to watch it again!) He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Hunger, The X-Files, The Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries.
(14) COMICS SECTION.
- At The Far Side, farmers have another visit from those darned saucer-flying kleptomaniacs.
(15) MORE MCU ON DISNEY+. Slashfilm talks about “Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye Premiere Set for This Year on Disney+”.
Marvel’s Vice President of film production, Victoria Alonso, recently gave us the news of the studio’s grand ambitions for expanding into the world of animation…and she’s not stopping there….
According to Variety, Alonso confirmed that both Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel will be appearing on Disney+ for subscribers before the year is out….
Hawkeye sees the return of Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton. Similar to Black Widow, however, a younger star in Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop will also be co-starring and appears set to take the reins from the much more established bow-wielding Avenger. And don’t forget, Florence Pugh’s Yelena is also set as a recurring character in the series, making the connections between the two productions even more apparent.
Ms. Marvel, meanwhile, will serve as the debut for Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and strengthen ties between Disney+ and the Captain Marvel movies. Brie Larson is sure to be a mainstay in the MCU for years and years to come, of course, so this will likely resemble some Miles Morales and Peter Parker mentor/mentee storylines rather than a straightforward passing of the torch.
(16) REVIVING SWORD & SORCERY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Brian Murphy, who’s written a non-fiction book about sword and sorcery, which was on my Hugo ballot this year and which won the Robert E. Howard Foundation Award, muses about what sword and sorcery needs to experience a revival: “What sword-and-sorcery needs” at The Silver Key.
3. A cohesive community, perhaps organized around a fanzine. Guys like Jason Ray Carney are building this right now, with the likes of Whetstone, an amateur magazine that also has a Discord group. I belong to several good Facebook groups, and there are some reasonably well-trafficked Reddit groups and the like. You’ve got the Swords of REH Proboards and a few other hangouts for the diehards. But it all feels very disparate. Sword-and-sorcery lacks a common gathering space and watering hole, like Amra used to serve. Leo Grin’s now defunct Cimmerian journal is the type of publication I’m thinking of.
(17) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 36 of the Octothorpe podcast is now available, titled: “Worldcon Fire Service”.
We answer two letters of comment before we do a deep dive into convention communications. We plug Fantasy Book Swap and chat about books we loved as kids before wrapping up.
Here’s a neat patch to go with it.
(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witness this item trip up a contestant on tonight’s Jeopardy!
Final Jeopardy: category: 1970s Movie Scenes
Answer: Dan O’Bannon based a scene in the film on his own Crohn’s Disease, which felt like things inside him fighting to get out.
Wrong question: What is ‘The Exorcist”?
Right question: What is “Alien”?
(19) TAKING THE MICKEY. “The National Labor Relations Board grants a reprieve to inflatable rats” reports the New York Times.
On Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that unions can position large synthetic props like rats, often used to communicate displeasure over employment practices, near a work site even when the targeted company is not directly involved in a labor dispute.
While picketing companies that deal with employers involved in labor disputes — known as a secondary boycott — is illegal under labor law, the board ruled that the use of oversized rats, which are typically portrayed as ominous creatures with red eyes and fangs, is not a picket but a permissible effort to persuade bystanders.
Union officials had stationed the rat in question, a 12-foot-tall specimen, close to the entrance of a trade show in Elkhart, Ind., in 2018, along with two banners. One banner accused a company showcasing products there, Lippert Components, of “harboring rat contractors” — that is, doing business with contractors that do not use union labor.
Lippert argued that the rat’s use was illegal coercion because the creature was menacing and was intended to discourage people from entering the trade show. But the board found that the rat was a protected form of expression.
“Courts have consistently deemed banners and inflatable rats to fall within the realm of protected speech, rather than that of intimidation and the like,” the ruling said.
The rise of the rodents, often known as “Scabby the Rat,” dates to the early 1990s, when an Illinois-based company began manufacturing them for local unions intent on drawing attention to what they considered suspect practices, such as using nonunion labor. The company later began making other inflatable totems, like fat cats and greedy pigs, for the same purpose….
(20) DULCET TONES. Add this to your font of trivia knowledge: “Mark Hamill says he’s secretly been in every Star Wars movie since 2015” at Yahoo!
Everybody knows that Mark Hamill is in Star Wars, unless you only know him from the credits of Batman: The Animated Series and have just had your mind blown, but did you know that he’s also in a lot of Star Wars movies? Like, almost all of them? Okay, yeah, you probably knew that as well, but we’re not talking about Luke Skywalker. We’re talking about an untold number of droids and aliens and other puppets who shared the distinct pleasure of having Mark Hamill’s voice come out of their mouth holes….
(21) CHAIR PAIR. In Episode 57 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, “From a skewed perspective”, just out, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss the nominees for Best Novella at this year’s Hugo Awards, then talk about some more recent reading.
(22) POOCH UNSCREWED. Air & Space says “New Evidence Shows That Gus Grissom Did Not Accidentally Sink His Own Spacecraft 60 Years Ago”. This is a brand new article, although I saw one pundit say this info has been out for years. Be that as it may – it is news to me!
It’s one of the great mysteries of the early space age. How did Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom, after a near-perfect flight on just the second U.S. space mission, inadvertently “blow” the escape hatch prematurely on his Liberty Bell 7 capsule, causing it to fill with water and sink in the Atlantic? In fact, did Grissom blow the hatch? Or was some technical glitch to blame?
Grissom himself insisted he hadn’t accidentally triggered the explosive bolts designed to open the hatch during his ocean recovery. His NASA colleagues, by and large, believed him. Years later, Apollo flight director Gene Kranz told historians Francis French and Colin Burgess, “If Gus says he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it.”…
(23) OUT ON A LIMB. Do you know Lego has come out with a LEGO Bonsai Tree and a Lego flower arrangement for Lego lovers who aren’t good at dealing with plants? But they better be good at assembling Legos – this item has 878 pieces!
(24) FROM PITCH MEETING. This video from Ryan George has him playing Chim Ontario, a seven-time Oscar winner who specializes in crotch composition because “you have to specialize in something.” His eighteen-hour days don’t leave him time for relationships or children, but he sold one of his Oscars on eBay and got a nice sleeping bag! — “THE Movie Special Effects Tutorial | Pro Tips by Pitch Meeting”.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Bruce D. Arthurs, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]