(1) CULTURAL INSIGHTS INTO A MULTIVERSE. [Item by Soon Lee.] This terrific article by S. Qiouyi Lu explores many aspects of Everything Everywhere All at Once from a Chinese-American perspective that might not be immediately apparent to a Western viewer. At Strange Horizons: “Everything Everywhere All At Once”. SPOILERS.
…It was as if I had just seen my own brain projected onto the screen. And there were things in Everything Everywhere All At Once that I’d never seen before on the big screen. I’m not talking about the dildo fights, though those were indeed new to me. I’m talking more about seeing an immigrant Chinese mother allowed to fail, and fail repeatedly; seeing a dorky Chinese dad be a badass and a love interest; seeing a Chinese family openly having emotionally vulnerable reconciliations with each other; seeing an entire cast of people from multiple Chinese diasporas coming together to create a movie in which the greatest villain to defeat is the bureaucracy excluding Chinese people from being part of the United States. Nor had I ever seen a movie that so thoroughly reflected my own philosophical, moral, and ethical understandings of the world, mirroring them so closely that I wept with the resonance of its message….
(2) HE, THE JURY. Alex Hormann of the At Boundary’s Edge review site discusses his experience as a judge in the inaugural Self-Published Science Fiction Competition: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Closing Thoughts”.
… Who Is It For?
This one has been weighing on my mind a lot recently. When I look at social media, there are two groups I see talking about the SPSFC. The first are the judges, promoting their reviews and favourite books. The second group is the authors themselves, sharing the positive reviews and using the contest to support each other. This is all great, by the way. While I do think the self-publishing community can be a little insular and self-congratulatory at times, that goes for just about any group of people. But what I’m not seeing a whole lot of is readers. Now, it’s always going to be true that most people who visit a blog aren’t going to comment or engage beyond their initial reading, but it has left the SPSFC feeling somewhat inward-looking. If the majority of the interest is from bloggers and writers, then the SPSFC isn’t really helping books find a wider audience, which to me is the whole point of the competition. For context, the fewer books I talk about in a post, the fewer views it receives. The initial cut posts are all in the three figure range, while the individual reviews still sit in the double digits. To me, this suggests that the people reading the reviews are the authors and their already interested following. I could be wrong about this though. If you’ve found a book through the SPSFC, do let me know.
The caveat here is that this is only year one of the SPSFC. Success doesn’t come overnight. It grows over time. Right now the only people following the SPSFC are those with a stake in it. Next year, there will presumably be more. Exposure is an exponential curve….
(3) SILENTS ARE GOLDEN. The New York Times’ Calum Marsh has a pretty good handle on “The Real Reason the Minions Have Taken Over the World”.
…“Despicable Me” is Gru’s story, but it’s the Minions that made the biggest impression, leading to a larger role in “Despicable Me 2” (2013) and their own vehicle in 2015. Central to their appeal is their unique manner of communicating. Voiced by [Pierre] Coffin himself, they speak a peculiar, made-up language, Minionese, that is both indecipherable and strangely coherent. A gibberish tongue that borrows words from English, Spanish, Dutch and other languages, it has a bubbly, mellifluous tone that is used to almost musical effect. When the Minions hijack an airplane in “Rise of Gru,” one makes an announcement to the passengers over the intercom. What he says is nonsense. But it sounds exactly like the bland, soothing patter of a pilot before takeoff; that you get the gist of the message without identifying a single word is the joke.
Of course, because the Minions don’t use a comprehensible language, their humor isn’t based on spoken jokes. This has doubtless helped the franchise find success abroad — with few punch lines in English, little is lost in translation. But the emphasis on sight gags and physical humor makes the Minions films very different from what you’d expect of family-friendly modern animation. Given the abundance of acrobatic antics, pratfalls and slapstick action, what the Minion movies end up resembling most is silent-era comedies.
Coffin has often mentioned the influence of silent comedians on the style and spirit of the Minions, and he has said he drew inspiration from such titans of the form as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, particularly their gift for “telling a story through character that conveys humor, emotion, even plasticity.”…
(4) FIRST, THEY HAD TO FIND THEM. [Item by Michael Toman.] “Don’t Bogart that old NASA Voyager manual, pass it over to me?” “NASA’s Voyager 1 from the ’70s is glitching. Engineers are consulting 45-year-old manuals to troubleshoot.” reports Business Insider.
…During the first 12 years of the Voyager mission, thousands of engineers worked on the project, according to Dodd. “As they retired in the ’70s and ’80s, there wasn’t a big push to have a project document library. People would take their boxes home to their garage,” Dodd added. In modern missions, NASA keeps more robust records of documentation.
There are some boxes with documents and schematic stored off-site from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dodd and the rest of Voyager’s handlers can request access to these records. Still, it can be a challenge. “Getting that information requires you to figure out who works in that area on the project,” Dodd said.
For Voyager 1’s latest glitch, mission engineers have had to specifically look for boxes under the name of engineers who helped design the altitude-control system. “It’s a time consuming process,” Dodd said….
(5) IT’S A THOR SPOT WITH HIM. Leonard Maltin drops the hammer on the latest Marvel film: “Thor: Love, Thunder And Shtick” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.
… But there can be too much of a good thing, as anyone who’s overindulged in chocolate or ice cream can verify. The new Thor: Love and Thunder is a scattered affair that, at a certain point, is played as out-and-out comedy. Can this really be Chris Hemsworth spouting gag lines? Is his relationship to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) a springboard for sitcom-style jokes? Even the rock-like creature Korg, played by Waititi, wears out his welcome before this meandering story concludes….
(6) YOU WON’T HAVE TO SHELL OUT FOR THESE PEANUTS. “Charles M. Schulz: An American Cartoonist” is a free online event hosted by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum of Ohio State University. The webinar will run July 23 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.
Join us via Zoom for a pictorial journey through Charles M. Schulz’s life and career and learn why Peanuts is one of the most popular and influential comic strips ever. This live, interactive experience includes a hands-on, how-to-draw Snoopy workshop at the end. This event is presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California in partnership with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s exhibition Celebrating Sparky.
(7) L. Q. JONES (1927-2022) L. Q. Jones, a character actor with a deep resume, who also directed A Boy and His Dog based on the Harlan Ellison story, died July 8. His first film role was a solder in Battle Cry (1955), and his latest was in Robert Altman’s final film A Prairie Home Companion (2006). Variety adds:
…Jones’ career also extended beyond screen acting, producing four independent features over his life. He produced, directed and wrote the 1975 feature “A Boy and His Dog,” which is adapted from Harlan Ellison’s novella of the same name. Jones began the project as an executive producer, but took over writing and directing responsibilities as other collaborators fell through.
A post-apocalyptic black comedy, “A Boy and His Dog” follows a teenager and his telepathic dog as they fight for survival in the southwestern U.S. of 2024, a time when nuclear fallout grips the world. Starring a young Don Johnson and Jason Robards, Jones’ fellow Peckinpah alum, the film has garnered the reputation of a cult classic over the years, with Jones stating that director George Miller cited it as an influence for his “Mad Max” series…
Jones and Ellison were both on hand at DisCon II (1974) where a rough cut of the movie was shown. It was really rough, because one of the two 35mm projectors broke down and they were forced to show it one reel at a time, with yawn-inducing delays each time they mounted the new reel. And when it was shown again at next year’s NASFiC in LA – the same thing happened!
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1987 – [By Cat Eldridge.] An Appreciation: Ellen Kushner’s Riverside series
I read it starting with the first book Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners. The second paragraph of that novel has this lovely sentence: “Let the fairy tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood newly-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as a single spot of claret on the lace cuff.” Oh my.
I was hooked. A novel that was a fantasy of manners as Kushner called it, set in a city where it was always winter, where being gay was normal and nothing to be commented upon, conversations are sharp as the ever-present sword fighting is and the drink of choice is hot chocolate. What was there not to love?
Riverside itself is a fascinating setting. As the name implies the place is set up in now decaying buildings near a river which I don’t recall as ever being named. Kushner simply calls it “an unsavoury quarter in a prosperous city”. It is always cold there, and dressing properly is of course important as is dressing with a degree of elegance. One character notes that “He felt the cold, the wind cutting across the river, even in his new clothes. He had bought himself a heavy cloak, jacket, and fur-lined gloves.”
Oh, and the stories told here are quite fascinating. I’m going to avoid talking about them as there’s a good possibility that some of you might not have read this series yet. Our Green Man reviewer of Swordspoint in his retrospective review said “I once called this book ‘elegant, magical, and bitchy’,” and that, I think, still catches the feel of it. George R. R. Martin said “Swordspoint has an unforgettable opening . . . and just gets better from there.” That’s only the truth.”
If you decide to read the series, you are for a extended and absolutely great reading experience as there would be quite a few novels to come telling a complex story that will extend over a considerable period of time. There are also a number of short stories too.
There are also audiobooks of the series which I should bring to your attention as these are full cast productions in which damn near everyone performs including Neil Gaiman and Simon Jones. It’s a stellar experience.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 9, 1906 — Walter Sande. He’s best remembered for being on Red Planet Mars, The War of the Worlds and Invaders from Mars, but he also showed up playing a heavy in such serials as The Green Hornet Strikes Again! and Sky Raiders, the latter being at least genre adjacent. He’s had a recurring role as Col. Crockett on The Wild Wild West, and one-offs on Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Lost in Space and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
- Born July 9, 1911 — Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but three novels in the series (Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series which isn’t out yet. (Died 1968.)
- Born July 9, 1938 — Brian Dennehy. One of my favorite performers. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2 which I immensely enjoyed. He also voiced Django in Ratatouille, a film that was, err, very tasty.Sorry I couldn’t resist the pun. I thought his very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series, but he shot three films that either have come out since he died, or will, none genre or genre adjacent. (Died 2020.)
- Born July 9, 1944 — Glen Cook, 78. Yes, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I really should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. I’m really, really surprised not only that he hasn’t won any awards, but how few he’s been nominated for.
- Born July 9, 1954 — Ellen Klages, 68. Her story “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her novel set in 1940s San Francisco, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
- Born July 9, 1970 — Ekaterina Sedia, 52. Her Heart of Iron novel which was nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternate History is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow and the recent The House of Discarded Dreams as well, the latter is a fantastic audio work which is narrated by Robin Miles. It’s worth noting that the usual suspects list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilfill Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. They’re quite superb it turns out as is Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy for which she won a World Fantasy Award. She had a story out just last year, “Ghost Shop”, in Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World. She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects. She’s also very deeply stocked at the audio suspects as well which sort of surprised and delighted me as I’ve added a number of her works to my To Be Listened to list, including The House of Discarded Dreams which sounds really fascinating in the manner of Gaiman’s Sandman.
- Born July 9, 1978 — Linda Park, 44. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer Hoshi Sato on Enterprise, a series that deeply divides Trekkies. (I really liked it.) Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, and she was Renee Hansen in the Spectres filmwhich Marina Sirtis was also in. She was in something called Star Trek: Captain Pike as Captain Grace Shintal. It has to be another one of those fan video fictions which are quite common. Her latest genre role was in For All Mankind as Amy Chang in the “Pathfinder” episode.
- Born July 9, 1995 — Georgie Henley, 27. English actress, best remembered for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen. Not even vaguely genre adjacent, she recently played Margaret, Queen of Scots in The Spanish Princess.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side features a Stone Age alien encounter.
- Tom Gauld’s latest cartoon for the Guardian:
(11) FANS MOURN TAKAHASHI. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation for “Yu-Gi-Oh” creator Kazuki Takahashi. “’Yu-Gi-Oh!’ creator Kazuki Takahashi dies at 60”.
…Takahashi’s creatures range from horror to fantasy, yet “there’s a common craftsmanship among them — the kind of thing that reveals hidden details over time, as well as the visceral ‘Oh my God, that looks so rad,’ ” [Daniel Dockery, senior writer for Crunchyroll] said. “The fact that they would be summoned in a world not too unlike our own makes them even more appealing to the eye. They are truly yours to adore and play with, making you feel powerful and inspired in equal measure.”
Takahashi had recently worked on this year’s Marvel’s “Secret Reverse,” a manga graphic novel team-up featuring Spider-Man and Iron Man/Tony Stark, who travels to a Japanese gaming convention….
(12) OH, THOSE REBELLIOUS YOUNG PEOPLE. The New York Times is curious: “‘Why Is Everyone Wearing Suits?’: #GentleMinions Has Moviegoers Dressing Up”.
Normally when Carson Paskill heads to the movie theater, he opts for a comfortable outfit of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. But last weekend, he arrived in a black suit, white collared shirt and dress shoes.
Mr. Paskill, 20, attended a screening of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” at the Century 16 in Beaverton, Ore., on July 2 with eight of his friends, all dressed in suits for the occasion.
“Anybody over the age of 25 was, like, really, really confused about what we were doing there,” said Mr. Paskill, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok. “Like, ‘why is everyone wearing suits?’”
The inspiration is a TikTok trend known as #GentleMinions, which has amassed more than 61 million views on the platform. It encourages “Minions” moviegoers to film themselves as they dress up in suits and sunglasses to attend screenings of the latest installment of the “Despicable Me” series….
(13) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? “Why the [expletive] can’t we travel back in time?” from Ars Technica in 2021.
Look, we’re not totally ignorant about time. We know that the dimension of time is woven together with the three dimensions of space, creating a four-dimensional fabric for the Universe. We know that the passage of time is relative; depending on your frame of reference, you can slip forward into the future as gently as you please. (You just need to either go close to the speed of light or get cozy with a black hole, but those are just minor problems of engineering, not physics.)
But as far as we can tell, we can’t reverse the flow of time. All evidence indicates that travel into the past is forbidden in our Universe. Every time we try to concoct a time machine, some random rule of the Universe comes in and slaps our hand away from the temporal cookie jar.
And yet, we have no idea why. The reasons really seem random; there is nothing fundamental we can point to, no law or equation or concept that definitively explains why thou shalt not travel into the past. And that’s pretty frustrating. It’s obvious that the Universe is telling us something important… we just don’t know what it’s saying.
Go ahead, kill your grandfather
There are all sorts of philosophical debates for and against the possibility of time travel. Take, for example, the famous “grandfather paradox.” Let’s say you build a time machine and travel back in time. You find your own grandfather and shoot him dead (I don’t know why, but roll with me here). But wait… if your grandfather is dead, it means he can’t father your father, which means you never exist. So how did you go back in time to do the awful deed?…
(14) CATCH A FALLING STAR. In this week’s Nature: “European mission plans to ambush a rare comet”.
The European Space Agency (ESA) last month approved the first mission that will launch without a pre-selected target. Instead, it will wait in space, ready to fly at short notice.
The Comet Interceptor mission will launch in 2028 and will travel to a point of gravitational stability 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. Once there, it will be able to wait for up to six years for a suitable comet to pass close enough to Earth’s orbit to visit. If that occurs, the probe will leave on a fly-by course. The main spacecraft will approach to a distance of about 1,000 kilometres — far enough away to avoid being damaged by nearby material — while two smaller probes will dive closer, down to as little as 400 kilometres from the surface.
The goal is to find a pristine object, known as a long-period comet, that is approaching the Sun for the first time. The encounter would provide a window on material that formed at the dawn of the Solar System, 4.5 billion years ago. Other missions have visited comets that have been altered by the Sun because they have spent time in the inner Solar System.
Alternatively, the craft could intercept an object from another solar system, similar to the rock ‘Oumuamua, which crossed the Solar System in 2017.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: V Rising,” you play a vampire who isn’t harmed that much by sunlight, “Making him like a really committed Goth.” But the real vampires are the gamers who spend too long on this “because they’re sucking their parents’ retirement money.”
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Soon Lee, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]