(1) WARNER BROS. BARS SHOWING OF ‘THE PEOPLE’S JOKER’. Polygon is there when “The People’s Joker, a hilarious trans riff on DC characters, shut down over ‘rights issues’” after a single screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, following a copyright and trademark infringement complaint by Warner Bros.
“This movie is not illegal. I just said that to get you to come.” So says Vera Drew, the writer-director-star-effects artist behind the queer Batman movie The People’s Joker. But before the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Warner Bros. served a cease-and-desist order against the film anyway. Subsequent festival screenings have been canceled, leaving the future of The People’s Joker in doubt.
…Fanfiction might seem like an unlikely vehicle for real-life autobiography. But given how personal the relationship can get between fans and the pop culture they love, it makes sense that Vera, a passionate fan of the Bat-verse, would use the Joker’s character and lore to tell the story of her own transformation from a failed improv comedian into a gloriously unhinged trans agent of comedic chaos. The People’s Joker might even be called an act of comedic terrorism, if it wasn’t so damn sincere….
Here’s a video promoting the project: “Welcome to The People’s Joker”.
And here’s the teaser trailer:
(2) AMAZON SUED. “California sues Amazon over antitrust concerns” – the Washington Post has the story.
California sued Amazon on Wednesday, alleging that the company caused higher prices across the state and “stifled competition.”
Amazon penalizes sellers on its site if they offer products elsewhere for lowerprices, the state alleged. That makes it harder for others to compete, therefore entrenching Amazon’s market power, the state said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.
“For years, California consumers have paid more for their online purchases because of Amazon’s anticompetitive contracting practices,” state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said in a statement.
Amazon spokesman Alex Haurek said in a statement that the California attorney general “has it exactly backwards” and that “sellers set their own prices” on the website.
“Amazon takes pride in the fact that we offer low prices across the broadest selection, and like any store we reserve the right not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively,” Haurek said in a statement. “The relief the AG seeks would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law.”…
(3) FOR THOSE SCORING AT HOME. Kevin Standlee has posted a concise scorecard listing what happened to every Worldcon Business Meeting agenda item in “2022 WSFS Business Meeting Summary”.
Because people have asked for it multiple times, here is the shorter version of the 2022 Business Meeting Summary. You must have the 2022 WSFS Business Meeting Agenda in order for anything here to make sense, because I’m not going to list titles or try to summarize what each item is. If I did that (which I did already in my day-by-day summaries), this would be so long that people would complain that they wanted a summary of the summary.
(4) TOLKIEN DOWNCHECKED AGAIN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Stephen Bush discusses the legacy of JRR Tolkien and responds to criticism made by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker.
…It is certainly true that any court seeking to convict Tolkien of great literature would struggle. Unlike other fantasy authors, such as Michael Moorcock or Ursula Le Guin, his work provides little in the way of social or political commentary. Nor will readers find characters in whom they see themselves or their own experiences, such as the schoolchildren in the Harry Potter books. Or, indeed, much in the way of deep character work at all: for the most part, existential doubt, moral complexity, sexual desire and ambiguous inter-personal relationships are in short supply in The Lord of the Rings.
But that same court would also struggle to convict Tolkien for devising the formula that Gopnik imputes to him. The concept of a chosen one travelling through a ‘vaguely medieval’ world, aided and abetted by fantastical creatures, in search of some cosmic doodad (or, as the screenwriter and frequent Hitchcock collaborator Angus MacPhail called it, ‘a MacGuffin’) predates Tolkien. The ‘Tolkien formula’ may be found in various retellings of the story of the Holy Grail. To the extent that Tolkien deviates from that story, it is in the introduction of the dark lord Sauron. But, given that in The Lord of the Rings we never hear Sauron speak, he never engages the heroes directly and his motivations are, in essence that he does evil things because he’s evil Sauron alone can hardly be seen as great innovation on the old story of the Holy Grail….
Grace hosts our ‘official’ first episodes with Alicia, Leah, and Tim, as they properly introduce themselves to the audience. Everyone recounts their history with Tolkien’s legendarium, and shares personal experiences and interactions with Tolkien fandom & scholarship. We wrap up with a summary of why ‘Queer Lodgings’ exists, some of our goals for the podcast, and tease some future episode topics – some intense, some decidedly more ‘fluffy’!
(6) FURRY SITE BANS AI ART. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Website Fur Affinity puts its foot (paw?) down regarding AI-generated art. Such works are now lumped in with other artwork judged to be lacking artistic merit and banned from the site. The furry site is not the first website to enact such a ban, though not all the prior ones are as strict. “Furry Fandom Site Bans All AI Art” reports Vice.
In a Sept. 5 policy update first spotted by journalist Andy Baio, Fur Affinity announced that artwork lacking “artistic merit,” which is banned from the site, now includes “submissions created through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) or similar image generators.” …
The update states: “AI and machine learning applications (DALL-E, Craiyon) sample other artists’ work to create content. That content generated can reference hundreds, even thousands of pieces of work from other artists to create derivative images. Our goal is to support artists and their content. We don’t believe it’s in our community’s best interests to allow AI generated content on the site.”
… As Baio also noted, several social art gallery sites have taken a stand against this groundswell of AI-generated art by banning it outright: Inkblot, a new site that just launched in open beta, has a zero tolerance policy on AI artworks, and Newgrounds, a social site for sharing animations and art that’s been around since 1995, banned AI art from its Art Portal feed, specifically forbidding anything made with Midjourney, DALL-E, CrAIyon (formerly DALL-E Mini) and ArtBreeder.
Newgrounds makes interesting concessions to allow it elsewhere on the platform, like on one’s own blog, but not on the Art Portal, where a flood of AI art could drown out other works….
(7) HEAR FROM THE LEGISLATOR OF STURGEON’S LAW. Fanac.org has posted a restored version of Scott Imes’ video of “Minicon 15 (1979)-Theodore Sturgeon Guest of Honor Speech, with intro by Toastmaster Bob Vardeman”.
Minicon 15 was held April 13-15, 1979 in Minneapolis, with Guests of Honor Theodore Sturgeon, Rick Sternbach and Tom Digby.
In this brief 16+ minute Guest of Honor speech, Sturgeon speaks about his experience at the “Jupiter Encounter” at JPL, seeing photos of Ganymede and Callisto for the first time. This is followed by a rumination on humanity, interwoven with his shaping of “Sturgeon’s Law,” and an exposition on his favored “Ask the Next Question” philosophy. In this recording, you get a sense of the man himself. A lovely (and knowledgeable) intro by Bob Vardeman sets the stage.
Thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording.
(8) JEAN-LUC GODARD (1930-2022) French director Jean-Luc Godard died September 13 at age 91. One of his movies, Alphaville, is SF and coincidentally the only genre film ever to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival: “Jean-Luc Godard, giant of the French New Wave, dies at 91” in the Guardian. An excerpt:
…Godard went on to make a string of seminal films in the 1960s at a furious rate. His next film, Le Petit Soldat, suggested the French government condoned torture, and it was banned until 1963, but it was also the film on which Godard met his future wife, Anna Karina, as well as coining his most famous aphorism, “Cinema is truth at 24 frames a second.” Other highlights included A Woman Is a Woman, a self-referential homage to the Hollywood musical, which again starred Karina, along with Belmondo and won more Berlin awards; the extravagant, epic film-about-film-making Contempt, with Michel Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance and Fritz Lang; and Alphaville, a bizarre hybrid of film noir and science fiction….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1968 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Doctor Who’s “The Mind Robber” (The Second Doctor). I’ve not essayed a story of the Second Doctor before so this will be interesting to do. Let’s get at it.
It was first broadcast in five weekly parts from September 14 to October 12, 1968 on BBC.
The Second Doctor who was played by Patrick Troughton who, yes, was The Doctor for three seasons. He had two Companions here, Frazer Hines who played Jamie McCrimmon and Wendy Padbury who was Zoe Heriot.
In a place where fiction is real, creatures such as Medusa and the Minotaur exist. The Master tries to have the Doctor replace him as the Storyteller there as he dying. Of course nothing is that simple…
BBC says that this is indeed the first incarnation of The Master. Though their office timeline disputes that.
Reception was decidedly mixed for it, but years later Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger to the first episode — in which the TARDIS breaks apart — as one of the greatest cliffhangers in the history of Doctor Who.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 14, 1941 — Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them as Dr. Jeff Brenner. He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty-four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.)
- Born September 14, 1944 — Rowena Morrill. Well-known for her genre illustration, she is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (French publication only), Imagination (German publication only), and The Art of Rowena. Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she never won, but garnered the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. OGH’s obituary for her is here. (Died 2021.)
- Born September 14, 1947 — Sam Neill, 75. Best known for role of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park which he reprised in Jurassic Park III. He was also in Omen III: The Final Conflict, Possession, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Snow White: A Tale of Terror, Bicentennial Man, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, Thor: Ragnarok and Peter Rabbit.
- Born September 14, 1950 — Michael Reaves, 72. A scriptwriter and story editor to a number of Eighties and Nineties animated television series, including Batman: The Animated Series, Disney’s Gargoyles He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Smurfs, Space Sentinels, Star Wars: Droids and The Transformers. Live action wise, he worked on Next Generation, Sliders, Swamp Thing, original Flash and Young Hercules. He also worked on two of my favorite animated Batman films, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.
- Born September 14, 1959 — Mary Crosby, 63. One major role that I’ll get to at the end, and she certainly is present in genre series. First in Freddy’s Nightmares, twice as Greta Moss, then in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as Monique, in the Trek universe on Deep Space Nine as Natima Lang in the “Profit and Loss” episode, and the major role was on The Ice Pirates as Princess Karina.
- Born September 14, 1961 — Justin Richards, 61. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. And he has other series going as well! Another nineteen novels written, and then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works. He writes mainly Doctor Who novels with thirteen, so from the Eighth through the Thirteenth Doctor so far, and Creative Consultant for the BBC Books range of Doctor Who novels. He’s written novels with Professor Bernice Summerfield as the protagonist as well. And written more SF that aren’t Whovian than I possibly list here. One such series is, as EoSF notes is “the Invisible Detective sequence, beginning with The Paranormal Puppet Show (2003; vt Double Life 2004), consists in each case of two stories: one set in the 1930s, where the four young protagonists solve sf and fantasy mysteries; the other set in the contemporary world, where a parallel tale is told.”
- Born September 14, 1972 — Jenny T. Colgan, 50. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date, several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City. She contributed a story to the historical adventures inspired by Jodie Whittaker’s first series as The Doctor.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side knows how a man’s ideas about driving can get out of hand.
(12) THE ANSWER IS NOT NECESSARILY 42. Ars Technica chats with xkcd creator Randall Munroe about his next book: “What If? 2 is here with even more serious answers to your weird questions”.
Forget debating the airspeed velocity of an unladen African versus a European swallow. How many pigeons would it take to lift a person seated in a launch chair to the top of the Q1 skyscraper in Australia? Answer: You could probably manage this with a few tens of thousands of pigeons, as long as they don’t get spooked by a passing falcon or distracted by someone with a bag of seeds. That’s just one of many fascinating (and amusing) tidbits to be gleaned from What If? 2, the latest book from cartoonist and author Randall Munroe and the sequel to 2014’s bestselling What If?...
Ars Technica: Somehow people got into the habit of asking you these really weird, silly, sometimes impossible, implausible questions. And you started answering them. How exactly did that happen?
Randall Munroe: When I started drawing comics, I was surprised to learn there were so many people who were entertained by the same niche science ideas or funny applications of math to different problems—stuff I laughed at but I didn’t expect anyone else to. Then I put up these comics and found there are a whole bunch of people out there who think about stuff the way I do. That was really cool. But I definitely didn’t expect that people would start thinking of me as the person to settle arguments. I’d get these emails: “Hey, me and my friend have been arguing about this for a while now, and we don’t know how to answer the question. It feels like it’s not a good enough question to bother a real scientist with. But we both agreed you seemed like a great person to send it to.”
(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter clicked off his TV long enough to report that on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! – “There was an entire category, ‘Cons,’ dealing with SF, gaming and media cons, but I didn’t note any of the mistakes, except one contestant wrongly answered with a mispronunciation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s name before correcting it, too late.”
(14) STARSHIP TROPERS. “58 years ago, Star Trek created its worst trope — now, one character is fixing it” says Inverse.
In Star Trek: Lower Decks, the show’s upbeat Orion character — D’Vana Tendi — is often hit with in-universe prejudices informed by the earliest of Star Trek canon. (The green-skinned alien race appeared in the very first episode of Trek ever: the original pilot, “The Cage,” filmed way back in 1964.) In 2020, Noël Wells — the voice actress who helps bring Tendi’s character to animated life — admitted that some of these jokes went over her head. But not anymore. Now, she’s further into a performance that is bringing new life to one of Star Trek’s worst tropes: the seductive alien slave….
“We don’t always get to choose our mentors.”
Because Lower Decks is ostensibly focused on the activities of the lower-level crew members in Starfleet, it stands to reason that the careers of these underdogs can only go so far. And yet, this season is focused on Tendi training to become a legit science officer in the mold of Jadzia Dax or Spock. In Season 3 Episode 3, “Mining the Mind’s Mines,” Tendi is evaluated by the ship’s bird-like counselor, Dr. Migleemo (Paul F. Tompkins), about her ability to assert herself in big, high-stakes situations.
It’s the kind of personal growth storyline that pervades much of Star Trek, with echoes of TNG episodes like “Coming of Age,” and “Thine Own Self.” Eventually, Tendi draws strength not from Migleemo’s advice, but from her cankerous former boss, Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman), who is literally a cranky cat….
(15) MORE GOOD STUFF. We linked to another post about this artist recently, however, Colossal’s photo gallery of Greg Olijnyk’s work is highly impressive: “A Cast of Articulate Cardboard Robots Populate a Growing Sci-Fi Universe Crafted by Greg Olijnyk”.
(16) MISTAKES WERE MADE. “Asking the Public to Name Probe to Uranus May Have Been a Mistake” says Futurism.
A space exploration enthusiast account on Twitter asked the internet to name an upcoming mission to the planet Uranus, in what almost feels like a setup for a punch line, considering the public’s endless interest in potty humor and butt-related puns….
There’s actually no Uranus mission on the boards at this time. ScienceAlert explains why names were solicited, and why they think it didn’t go all that badly: “The Internet Was Asked to Name A Probe For Uranus. Here’s How That Went Down”.
Asking the internet to name a scientific mission has become something of a tradition, but we think even the bravest might quail at a recent ask on Twitter.
An unofficial Twitter account promoting future missions to our Solar System’s ice giants, Ice Giant Missions, requested suggestions for what to name a probe sent to Uranus.
Given the potential puns that are inevitably attached to Uranus, this is dangerous territory, even beyond the expected “Something McSomethingface”. That, of course, was among the top answers, but with ground as fertile as Uranus, why flog a dead horse?
A mission to Uranus is not currently in development, but nor is it entirely a pipe dream. Missions have been sent, by now, to most planets in the Solar System. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn have all been visited and surveyed by dedicated probes. Even Jupiter’s moons are getting a mission.
The ice giants, on the other hand, have been somewhat neglected. Earlier this year, this led a panel of experts from the US National Academies to recommend a mission to Uranus in its decadal report to NASA.
(17) WHO ANIMATIONS SUSPENDED AS MONEY RUNS OUT. “Doctor Who director addresses animations hiatus: ‘This is it for us’” at RadioTimes.
Doctor Who animation director Gary Russell has addressed the looming hiatus for reconstructions of lost stories, following news that BBC America will no longer co-finance these projects.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the loss of funding would mean that no further animated projects would be commissioned – though RadioTimes.com understands that future productions could yet go ahead if BBC Studios secures another partner.
Since 2006, a number of Doctor Who stories that are either entirely or partially missing from the archives have been recreated with new animated visuals being matched to the existing soundtracks. The work has been completed by a number of different teams, most recently Big Finish Creative….
(18) LEARNING CURVE. This YA fantasy adaptation, directed by Paul Feig, is coming to Netflix in October: “The School for Good and Evil”.
Do you ever wonder where every great fairytale begins? Welcome to the School for Good and Evil…
(19) A LOT TO THINK ABOUT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Math-loving fans should know about this Netflix documentary “A Trip to Infinity”.
Eminent mathematicians, particle physicists and cosmologists dive into infinity and its mind-bending implications for the universe.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]