(1) BRITISH LIBRARY “FANTASY” EXHIBITION. [Item by Steven French.] For those who might be in London between October 27 and February 25, the British Library is putting on an exhibition about “Fantasy: Realms of Imagination”.
Set out on a legendary quest through the impossible worlds of fantasy.
Let our landmark exhibition cast its spell as we explore the beautiful, uncanny and sometimes monstrous makings of fantasy. From epic visions to intricately envisaged details, we celebrate some of the finest fantasy creators, reveal how their imagined lands, languages and creatures came into being, and delve into the traditions of a genre that has created some of the most passionate and enduring fandoms.
Journey from fairy tales and folklore to the fantastical worlds of Studio Ghibli. Venture into lands occupied by goblins and go down the rabbit hole. Travel through Middle-earth and into the depths of Pan’s Labyrinth. And discover how the oldest forms of literature continue to inspire fantasy authors today.
Gather your fellow adventurers and step through the British Library gates into the realms of fantasy as they have never been chronicled before. Who knows where your journey will lead…
Associated with the exhibition are a series of events including a discussion of some of Terry Pratchett’s ‘lost stories’ “A Stroke of the Pen: Terry Pratchett’s Lost Stories” on October 10 (also live-streamed on the BL platform).
And “The Dark is Rising and other stories: Susan Cooper and Natalie Haynes in conversation” on October 27 (also to be live streamed).
(2) BOOK HAUL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] For those that follow young Moid Moidelhoff and his introduction to the cosmos of SF books (with the occasional sojourn into film and TV) on his Media Death Cult YouTube channel, there is a small soap opera dimension. Moid has an SF library in the room in which he shoots most of his videos and there are more books in the attic. Moid’s approach is to find books in good condition, second hand in the wild (buying brand new books is kind of cheating though he does occasionally do this too). This means he often changes books in his collection as titles migrate through various stages from tatty paperback to good condition hardback. Some of his Patreon followers also send him books and so, every other month or so he posts a “Book Haul” video in which he opens for the first time packages sent to him.
The long game plan had been for he and his wife to move to a bigger place where he could have a large library in his YouTube shooting room. And at last it looks like they are about to move. But there’s bad news. Apparently, their new place does not have the space to house all his existing library as well as all his attic-stored books in his new study. And so young Moid has taken the decision to stop posting “Book Hauls” on YouTube (though will still occasionally post some solely for his Patreon supporters).
Actually, I am a little saddened about this. I found it interesting to see what he was being sent and whether or not I had read the titles, or even have them in my own library. The festive December Book Hauls were particularly enjoyable as they conveyed the present-opening activities of Christmas Day. (You can see the 2021 Christmas Book Haul here).
I would tentatively (as there’s no reason for Moid to take notice of little old me) suggest that perhaps he might convert his new place’s loft into a larger library or, alternatively he might get an Alastair Reynolds type garden building in which to house the books Al Reynolds writes in his own garden study…
(As I have pointed out elsewhere – science journals and SF magazine articles – having a large library is environmentally friendly. Books lining a wall provide a thermal barrier so improving a house’s energy efficiency. Books also store atmospheric carbon. Books lining a wall saves on decorating costs, etc.)
Anyway, it looks like there will be no more fu¢k Alan Moore (it’s a running Book Haul joke borne of love for the man’s works, and not what you might initially suspect). You can see Moid’s last SF Book Haul YouTube video below. It is a long one with an interlude in which he, and his on-location cameraman, Charlie, visit Hay on Wye. For those on the other side of the Black Atlantic, outside of Brit Cit, Hay on Wye is a Welsh village where just about every other shop is a bookshop. If you are coming to CalHab next year for the 2024 UK Worldcon and are spending a week or so sight-seeing BritCit, then spending a full day (a couple of nights) in Hay on Wye might reward you with that long-sought after book edition you’ve been hunting for for ages… If you like hunting books in the wild, Hay on Wye makes for a full-blown safari. (Probably best to invest in posting the books you get back to your home country as opposed to taking them back on the plane if, like me, you have the moral breaking strain of a chocolate Mars bar and easily give in to temptation. This means you need to go on a weekday when Hay on Wye’s post office will be open all day.)
I digress… Moid’s last YouTube Book Haul below (it really is this time, honest)…
(3) OXENMOOT A WEEK AWAY. The Tolkien Society expects 350 Tolkien fans from 25 different countries will meet in Oxford next weekend to celebrate the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. This year’s Oxonmoot is the Tolkien Society’s 50th Oxonmoot which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Tolkien’s death.
The event, taking place at St Anne’s College, Oxford from Thursday 31st August to Sunday 3rd September, has sold out due to the increasing popularity of Tolkien’s works. The event follows the recent publication of The Fall of Númenor and the release of the Amazon TV-series The Rings of Power set in the Second Age of Middle-earth.
The event itself will include talks from leading Tolkien scholars – including Brian Sibley, editor of The Fall of Númenor, screenwriter of The Lord of the Rings radio series and biographer of Peter Jackson – quizzes, workshops, an art exhibition, a masquerade, a Hobbit bake-off, a party and even theatrical performances. The weekend concludes, as always, with Enyalie, a ceremony of remembrance at Tolkien’s grave in Wolvercote Cemetery on Sunday afternoon….
(4) TIL WE HAVE FACES. “Dragons Are People Too: Ursula Le Guin’s Acts of Recognition” are analyzed by John Plotz at Literary Hub.
Nobody would dare to boil down Ursula Le Guin’s marvelous writing—all that fantasy, all that science fiction, poetry, essays, translations—into one idea. But in a pinch I’d pick two sentences from her 2014 National Book Award speech: “Capitalism[’s] power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”
Fantasy and science fiction never meant escapism for Ursula Le Guin. The dragons of Earthsea and the reimagined genders of The Left Hand of Darkness were always lenses, lenses she ground in order to sharpen her readers’ focus on everyday life. Indeed, for Le Guin, there was no difference between the stories she invented and everyday stories about the institutions governing our world. The dragons of Earthsea and capitalism are woven from similar material: it is imagination all the way down.
James Baldwin said not everything that can be faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed without being faced. The word for facing things in Le Guin is recognition, or you might even say re-cognition. Her characters—and readers—find themselves forced to think again. When they do so, what had seemed a fundamental truth about their universe turns out to be anything but….
(5) PALACIO Q&A. Here’s an excerpt from “Interview: R.J. Palacio” in the New York Times.
What book should everybody read before the age of 21?
“The Lord of the Rings.”
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
I got very into the works of the original creators of the literary fairy tale genre a few years ago — the women, like Madame d’Aulnoy and Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, who wrote stories to entertain themselves and their friends in the salons of Louis XIV. These were very subversive tales that empowered these women and vented their wishful fantasies — often published in the literary gazettes of their day. I have five original Mercure Galant books from the 1600s in which some of these stories first appeared.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
While I wouldn’t mind nerding out with Carl Sagan, J.R.R. Tolkien and Arthur C. Clarke, I’ll keep it to the living: Susanna Clarke, Margaret Atwood and Judy Blume. Can you guys arrange that?
(6) FUTURAMA. Gizmodo tells how “Odd couple Bender and Dr. Zoidberg join forces for holiday chaos in this peek at ‘I Know What You Did Next Xmas’”: “Hulu’s Futurama Exclusive Clip: Robot Santa’s Sci-Fi Christmas”.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 24, 1899 — Gaylord Du Bois. He was a writer of comic book stories and comic strips, as well as Big Little Books. He wrote Tarzan for Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics from the Forties to early Seventies.) He was one of the writers for Space Family Robinson which was the basis for the Lost in Space series. (Died 1993.)
- Born August 24, 1915 — Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air and they too are worth reading. (Died 1987.)
- Born August 24, 1932 — William Morgan Sheppard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige, the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek. So have I missed anything for him, genre or otherwise worth noting here? (Died 2019.)
- Born August 24, 1934 — Kenny Baker. Certainly his portrayal of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise is what he’s best known for but he’s also been in Circus of Horrors, Wombling Free, Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader series, The Elephant Man, Sleeping Beauty, Time Bandits, Willow, Flash Gordon and Labyrinth. Personally I think his best role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. (Died 2016.)
- Born August 24, 1936 — A. S. Byatt, 87. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections
- Born August 24, 1951 — Tony Amendola, 72. Probably best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes Angel, Charmed, Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, theCrusade spin-off of Babylon 5, X Files, Voyager, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Alias, She-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, World of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy.
- Born August 24, 1958 — Lisa A. Barnett. Another one who died way too young. Wife of Melissa Scott. Some of her works were co-authored with her: The Armor of Light, Point of Hopes: A Novel of Astreiant and Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant. They wrote one short story, “The Carmen Miranda Gambit”. She won the Lambda Literary Award. (Died 2006.)
- Born August 24, 1957 — Stephen Fry, 66. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role genre wise is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s the narrator for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings. His best roles however are decidedly not genre — it was the comic act Fry and Laurie with Hugh Laurie, with the two also in A Bit of Fry & Laurie and then as Jeeves and Wooster. Bloody brilliant!
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- xkcd is Tech-Geeky enough to qualify for an item, not to mention the hidden moral message.
(9) MOON PROBE SUCCESS. “India lands a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, a first for the world as it joins elite club” – AP News has the story.
India became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole on Wednesday — a historic voyage to uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water, and a technological triumph for the world’s most populous nation.
After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India now joins the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve this milestone. A lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04 p.m. local time, sparking celebrations across India, including in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, where space scientists watching the landing erupted in cheers and applause….
(10) SMARTIE PANTS. “IARPA’s new pants will record your location” reports Nextgov/FCW.
Officials from the research agency said Tuesday that they had launched a program to craft performance-grade, computerized clothing that can record audio, video and geolocation data while retaining the wearability and comfort of normal fabrics.
The Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems — SMART ePANTS — program emerged a year ago with a broad agency announcement seeking contractors to help deliver sensor systems that can be integrated into normal clothing like shirts and pants, or even socks and underwear.
Those sensors are part of a system that is woven into the textiles to make the garments more wearable and washable, but also able to “sense, store, interpret, and/or react to information from their environment,” effectively making them Active Smart Textiles, according to agency documents….
Daniel Dern quips, “This gives new meaning to ‘flying by the seat of one’s pants’ (and perhaps ‘No matter where you, there you are’).”
(11) ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AGES HEARTS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Your biological age – how old you are – is actually just one age you have. Various parts of your body – brain, eyes, etc – have their own age. If, for example, you are middle aged, you might still unknowingly have the heart of an older person and so be at greater-than-you-think risk of a heart attack.
Up to now, things like your over-all biological age, lifestyle, blood cholesterol and genetic predisposition (did anyone in your family die young of a heart attack) have been used to guess a person’s heart’s age.
What biomedical researchers based in London, Brit Cit, have now developed is an artificial intelligence (AI) that can tell how old is a person’s heart. They also were able to quantify heart ageing factors and some of the genes involved – five seem particularly important.
They used used computer vision techniques to analyse cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging in 39,559 participants of the UK Biobank to train their AI.
See the primary research Shah, M. et al (2023) “Environmental and genetic predictors of human cardiovascular ageing”. Nature Communications, vol. 14, 4941.
(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. [Item by Dann.] Stone Trek is a five-episode mashup of Star Trek and the Flintstones.
[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Steven French, Dann, Shaun Gunner, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]