By John Hertz: In case you wondered, the FAAn Awards are the Fan(zine) Activity Achievement Awards.
“Faan” was originally a put-down – it meant someone whose attitude seemed to be “more fannish than thou”. More a’s – like “faaan” or “faaaan” – made it worse. It was pronounced with a sheep-bleat.
That meaning, like much fanspeak of those days, has faded. But naturally it came to mind when we first thought of awards for fanzines, to supplement the Hugos, like the Nebula Awards from SFWA (the SF Writers’ Association), or the Chesley Awards from ASFA (Ass‘n of SF Artists). We proclaimed that we ourselves were faans. Modesty? Self-deprecation? So be it – or, because we’re speaking of the past, so was it.
That first thinking was in the mid-1970s. Our Gracious Host had a part. The first thinker was that fine fannish fellow (and, incidentally, my long-time friend) Moshe Feder. The FAAn Awards were first given at Midwestcon XXVI in 1975. That continued until 1980. Then there was a long pause – also, for better or worse, very fannish. The Awards re-awakened in 1995 and have since been presented at the fanziners’ con Corflu (corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).
This year’s FAAn Awards were given at Corflu XL (Belfast, Northern Ireland; 31 Mar – 2 Apr). Their Administrator was Nic Farey. He’s published the details of voting here.
Don’t know Fanzineland? At Bill Burns’ Website eFanzines you can see many winners of FAAn Awards. You might also try looking for them in Fancyclopedia III. Don’t have, or maybe even don’t want, electronics? Fan activity on paper is still happening. Rikki-tikki-tavi’s motto in the Kipling story is “Run and find out.” I’m for it.
It shows Michael Bishop’s “On the Street of the Serpents or, The Assassination of Chairman Mao, as Effected by the Author in Seville, Spain, in the Spring of 1992, a Year of No Certain Historicity” as #1, with 31 words.
My story is also 31 words … but his is 169 characters to my 161.
When I sold the story to Lightspeed, I asked on social media for input on long titles since the time that list was assembled, and no one came up with anything longer.
Edelman appeals to File 770 readers, “With your vast intellects… do you know of any?”
The gallery below contains the three-page list – click for larger images.
…In the October 2022 StatShot report, total revenues across all categories were listed as being down 9.3 percent over October 2021. As has happened throughout 2022, of course, observers look at year-over-year comparisons carefully, mindful that 2021 was the second year of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic‘s effects on the marketplace, both in the States and abroad….
(3) IRRESISTABLE TARGET. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] Slate’s book critic Laura Miller did something rather unfair(-ish) and did a review of the first chapter of a fantasy book that Ross Douthat, conservative NY Times columnist, is writing. I thought it contained some interesting points about how NOT to start a fantasy novel. “Ross Douthat’s fantasy novel: first chapter of The Falcon’s Children, reviewed.”
New York Times opinion columnist Ross Douthat recently revealed that he has written the first volume in a trilogy of fantasy novels. Titled The Falcon’s Children, it has not been a hit with the “reasonable list of reputable publishing houses” Douthat says he’s submitted it to. In an end-of-year what-the-hell mood, the author posted the prologue and first chapter to his otherwise dormant Substack. “Why,” New York magazine’s Choire Sicha asked on Twitter, “are publishers not desperate for Ross Douthat’s fantasy novel? History tells us this the one thing you actually do want a tortured moralizing Christian to write!” In keeping with Douthat’s good-faith request for feedback, here’s a good-faith critique that might help answer Sicha’s question…..
(4) FAAN VOTING BEGINS. Nic Farey today distributed The Incompleat Register 2022, the voters’ guide and pro forma ballot for the 2023 FAAn awards. Voting is open and continues until midnight (Pacific time) Friday March 10, 2023. The award recognizes work in fanzines.
The awards will be announced at Corflu Craic in Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 2 2023.
Voting is open to anyone with an interest in fanzines, membership in Corflu is not required.
…He likened the mechanics inside puppet heads to components of a Swiss watch. “Those heads are not much bigger than a ping-pong ball or a walnut,” he said, explaining that the animator moves the gears by putting a tiny tool into the character’s ear or the top of its head. “The gears are linked to the puppet’s silicone skin, enabling the animator to create the nuances you see on a big cinema screen,” he said.
The introduction of geared heads was part of a series of overlapping waves of innovation in stop-motion that brought visuals to the screen that had never been possible. Nick Park and the artists at the British Aardman Animations sculpted new subtleties into clay animation in “Creature Comforts” (1989) and “The Wrong Trousers” (1993). Meanwhile, Disney’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) showcased the new technology of facial replacement. A library of three-dimensional expressions was sculpted and molded for each character; an animator snapped out one section of the face and replaced it with a slightly different one between exposures. Then the Portland, Ore.-based Laika Studios pushed this technique further, using 3-D printing to create faces, beginning with “Coraline” (2009).
For “Pinocchio,” which debuted on Netflix a few months after Disney released Robert Zemeckis’s partly animated version of the story, most of the puppets were built at ShadowMachine in Portland, where most of the film was shot. Candlewick, the human boy Pinocchio befriends in the film, “has threads set into the corners of his mouth which are attached to a double-barreled gear system,” explained Georgina Hayns, an alumna of Mackinnon and Saunders who was director of character fabrication at ShadowMachine. “If you turn the gear inside the ear clockwise, it pulls the upper thread and creates a smile. If you turn it anticlockwise, it pulls a lower thread which produces a frown. It really is amazing.”…
…The first wave of the mob breaks into the Capitol and ascends the stairs from the first floor to the second. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman backs up to the top of the steps to try and divert the marauders. Goodman tries to get the crowd to go left. Instead they go right, overrunning him, and happen upon Vice President Mike Pence, who’s just off the Senate Floor. It’s a disaster.
This a nearly-real scene from new, four-part comic series “1/6“ from Harvard law professor Alan Jenkins and author and activist Gan Golan. It’s a speculative telling of the January 6 insurrection and coup attempt in an oppressive and authoritarian world where the mob, and Donald Trump, succeeded. (You’ll be able to find it on Amazon, in comic shops and in book stores starting on Jan. 8.) …
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 6, 1905 — Eric Frank Russell. He won the first Hugo Award given for Best Short Story at Clevention in 1955 with “Allamagoosa”, published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Sinister Barrier, his first novel, appeared in Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear there. What’s your favorite work by him? (Died 1978.)
Born January 6, 1954 — Anthony Minghella. He adapted his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller scripts into story form which were published in his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller collection. They’re quite excellent actually. Genre adjacent, well not really, but he did write an episodes of the excellent Inspector Morse series, “Driven To Distraction”. (Died 2008.)
Born January 6, 1955 — Rowan Atkinson, 68. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Deathwhich I know did not give him the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor as that goes to another actor although who I’ve not a clue. Other genre appearances were scant I think (clause inserted for the nitpickers here) though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates.
Born January 6, 1959 — Ahrvid Engholm, 64. Swedish conrunning and fanzine fan who worked on many Nasacons as well as on Swecons. Founder of the long running Baltcon. He has many fanzines including Vheckans Avfentyr, Fanytt, Multum Est and others. He was a member of Lund Fantasy Fan Society in the University of Lund.
Born January 6, 1960 — Andrea Thompson, 63. Her noted genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short-lived Monsters anthology series. She had a one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly I’m not kidding. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series.
Born January 6, 1969 — Aron Eisenberg. Nog on Deep Space 9. Way after DS9, he’d show up in Renegades, a might-be Trek series loaded with Trek alumni including Nichelle Nichols, Robert Beltran, Koenig and Terry Farrell. It lasted two episodes. Lifelong suffer of kidney disease, he died from it at just age fifty. (Died 2019.)
Born January 6, 1976 — Guy Adams, 47. If you’ve listened to a Big Finish audio-work, it’s likely that you are familiar with his writing as he’s done scripts for their Doctor, UNIT and Torchwood series among his many endeavors there. Not surprisingly, he’s also written novels on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I’ve read some of his Torchwood novels — they’re good popcorn literature.
(8) SHE-HULK. Marvel announces the next arc in author Rainbow Rowell’s run on She-Hulk will take things to the next level for the character’s 175th issue issue in April.
In the pages of her latest solo series, Jennifer Walters has reopened her law practice, took on some of her most intense cases yet, defeated a duo of new villains, and even found time for a new romance! But this April in SHE-HULK #12, She-Hulk’s promising new super hero journey will be threatened by a dangerous new archnemesis known as THE SCOUNDREL! Just in time for her 175th solo issue, She-Hulk will meet her match in a wild showdown that will have all her fans talking!
“Every issue that I get to write She-Hulk is a delight — but I’m especially honored to escort her to her 175th issue,” Rowell said. “One of things we’ve focused on is building up Jen’s narrative support structure… Giving her friends, colleagues, a love interest and her very own antagonists. The Scoundrel is an adversary tailor-made for Jennifer Walters. A lot of things come easily for Jen. Nothing about the Scoundrel is easy.”
…In a headier movie, there might be some misdirection. But M3gan (performed by Amie Donald) is clearly pure evil from the start. She’s a great heavy: stylish, archly wry, intensely watchful. Her wanton violence never gets graphic enough to lose a PG-13 rating. In early January, when prestige holiday fare tends to give way to trashier pleasures, a good monster and a sense of humor can be enough. This movie has both, and it makes up for a slow start, some absurd dialogue (“You didn’t code in parental controls?”) and a by-the-book conclusion….
(10) UK TOP BOX OFFICE TOP TEN FILMS OF 2022. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]SF2 Concatenation has just tweeted an advance post ahead of its Spring seasonal edition of its regular meta-analysis of 52 weekly top ten British Isles box office rankings: “Top Science Fiction Films – 2022”.
This is a box office analysis and so reflects the broader public interest in SF film and not that of SF fans. Scroll down the page on the latter link to see other (non-top ten) SF films of the year. Links to trailers are included.
…The play’s creators are Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, who also wrote “The Play That Goes Wrong”; the three will again star in their production. “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” features the same slapstick sensibility as the earlier play, but has a bit more character development, and an even crazier set.
“The fictional theater company is taking on a much more ambitious production, with flying, crocodiles and a revolving stage, and they put on the play with the same disastrous results,” Lewis said. “You get more behind the scenes into what’s going on with the characters, as well as all the farce and the madcap comedy.”…
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Nic Farey, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]
…Here are some specific areas that often stand out to me along these lines:
Unless your book becomes part of some rabid geek fanbase or a English lit staple, few if any readers are going to read your stories with the Talmudic scrutiny you write and revise them. Readers are distracted. We read a story on a loud, crowded subway. We put a novel down midchapter and don’t get back to it for weeks. We read a chapter sleepily late at night. We miss things. What writers fear is beating their reader over the head is often doing the bare minimum to tap them on the shoulder.
This is a lesson even famous and award-winning authors can forget. I remember hearing a favorite writer give a craft talk and mention how in their first draft of a novel they had a line from chapter 1 repeated near the end of the book. “Aha, everyone will snap their fingers at the connection and realize the true identify of this character!” they thought. But then their editor, they said, quite rightly pointing out no one was going to remember that line 250 pages later. The novel needed to repeat that line four, five, or more times spaced out across the text for the reader to notice.
… But it’s quite plausible that the Internet is losing its coolness and its clickbait appeal. It definitely feels stale and formulaic, more so with each passing month, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. If you dig into the numbers, you find that engagement on the largest platforms is falling—and not in a small way (as Sinatra might say).
The numbers don’t lie, and Kriss serves them up here—summarizing the bad news for clicks and swipes…
… But the metrics now tell a different story.
I shouldn’t be surprised by all this. My own experience at Substack has made me acutely aware of the longform renaissance. When I launched on this platform, I definitely planned to write those long articles that newspaper editors hate—Substack would be my moment of luxurious freedom! Even so, I assumed that my shorter articles would be more popular. I guess I’d drunk the Kool-Aid too, accepting the prevailing narrative that readers want it short and sweet, so they can read it complete in the time it takes the Piano Man to play a request.
Yet my Substack internal metrics reveal the exact opposite of what I expected. The readershere prefer in-depth articles. Who would’ve guessed? For someone like me, it’s almost too good to be true. It’s like some positive karma in the universe is reinforcing my own better instincts.
But the real reason is that the market for clickbait is saturated, and longform feels fresher, more vital, more rewarding….
(4) LOWREY COMMENCES TAFF REPORT. “Orange Mike” Lowrey reports the 2020 TAFF race status is now “Trip report in progress”.
The first installment of A Visible Fan Abroad: A TAFF Journal of the Plague Years, “Chapter the First: The Trip That Never Was” appears on pages 22-23 of Nic Farey and Ulrika O’Brien’s Beam 17.
When they make it available online, readers will find it at eFanzines.com.
(5) SFF IN NYT. Amal El-Mohtar reviews Babel, The Anchored World, and Self-Portrait with Nothing in “The Magic of Translation” at the New York Times.
The word “translation” connotes movement: carrying meaning from one language to another, or shifting bodies from one place — or one context — to another, all while recognizing that moving entails loss and change. These books dwell in that potent space between setting out and arriving….
The saga around Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter has been just that: a months-long soap opera involving lawsuits and subpoenas, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, even a town hall. But why does Musk — one of the world’s richest and arguably most influential men — want a social media platform?
It’s Been a Minute host Brittany Luse puts the question to Jill Lepore, political historian and host of The Evening Rocket, a podcast about Musk. Lepore says that the idea of being a savior of free speech would appeal to Musk, who has built around himself a mythology inspired by what she sees as a misinterpretation of mid-twentieth century science fiction.
Lepore discusses how Musk crafted a powerful narrative that millions around the world have bought into; how he draws from science fiction and film; and why we need to be more critical of billionaire visionaries….
(7) ONLINE CLUB MEETING. The Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club will take up “Lock In by John Scalzi” on November 29, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.
Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the next gathering of our Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club, we have selected Lock In by John Scalzi.
The detective novel imagines a world in which a pandemic left 5 million people in the U.S. alone with lock in syndrome: fully conscious but unable to move. Twenty-five years later, enormous scientific and technological investment has created a way for those living with “Haden’s syndrome” to take part in daily life. While they remain in their beds, robotic avatars let them take classes, interact with their families, and work—including as FBI agents. Chris is a rookie FBI agent assigned to work a case that seems to involve the world of Haden’s syndrome, and he and his partner must figure out exactly what’s going on. Lock In is a fascinating tale that raises questions about the “real” world, accessibility and disability, public-health funding, and much more.
Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm Eastern on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book (though we picked a short one this time!).
(8) FRANK DRAKE (1930-2022). Radio astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake died September 2. He was a pioneer of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, carrying out the first search for signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, Project Ozma, in 1960. He is the inventor of the “Drake equation” used to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy. The Guardian obituary notes:
…As a radio astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, he made the first observations of Jupiter’s radiation belts, analogous to the Van Allen belts around the Earth, and was one of the first astronomers to measure the intense surface temperature on Venus, a consequence of the greenhouse effect of its thick atmosphere. But it is for Project Ozma, named after Princess Ozma in L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books and carried out with Green Bank’s 85ft radio telescope, that he will be remembered.
For three months Drake observed the sun-like stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani for radio signals that might be from planets with extraterrestrial civilisations. None were found, but as Drake recalled in a 2012 interview: “It was a start – and it did stimulate a lot of other people to start searching.”….
(9) MICHAEL CALLAN (1935-2022). Actor Michael Callan died October 10. Best known for his roles in Cat Ballou and West Side Story, his genre resume included the film The Mysterious Island, and television’s The Bionic Woman,Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, and Superboy.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1928 — [By Cat Eldridge.]The Passing of Mr. Quin (1928)
We have a special treat for you this Scroll, a silent film first shown in the UK ninety-four years ago. The Passing of Mr. Quin was based off a short story by Agatha Christie. Though it did not feature Hercule Poirot, as that film debut wouldn’t happen for another three years.
It is a rather odd story. To wit, Professor Appleby has abused his wife, Eleanor, for years but when he is brutally murdered and her lover, Derek, goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Eleanor suspects the worst as she indeed should.
A mysterious stranger, known mostly as “Mr Quin” appears, and begins to seduce her, but his alcoholism causes him to die quite soon. On his death bed, he confesses that he was Derek all along, and offers her to a rival, who promises to make Eleanor a happy wife.
Not cheerful at all and with just more than a soupçon of misogyny there as well but I don’t think it had any of the anti-Jewish tendencies Christie was known for early on. Need I say that the scriptwriters had their way with Christie’s original story? Well they did.
This silent film was directed by Leslie Alibi. Three years later he directed the first ever depiction of Poirot with Austin Trevor in the lead role. That was not a silent film and Trevor once claimed he was cast as Poirot because he could speak with a French accent. The Poirot film unfortunately is now lost.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 15, 1911 — James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
Born October 15, 1919 — E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
Born October 15, 1924 — Mark Lenard. Sarek, the father of Spock in the Trek franchise, showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”. (The role got reprised in the animated series, as well as three films and two episodes of The Next Generation.) Surprisingly he played Romulan Commander in “Balance of Terror,” in the first season, and a Klingon Captain in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He also had one-offs on Mission Impossible, Wild Wild West, Otherworld, The Secret Empire, The Incredible Hulk, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He had a recurring role on the Planet of The Apes as Urko. (Died 1996.)
Born October 15, 1935 — Ray “Duggie” Fisher. Editor, Conrunner and Fan, who chaired the 1969 Worldcon in St. Louis, was on the committee for several other conventions, and was a founding member of the Poplar Bluff Science Fiction Club and the Ozark Science Fiction Association. His fanzine ODD was a finalist for a Best Fanzine Hugo. His contributions to fandom were, sadly, cut short by his death at age 52 due to complications of diabetes. (Died 1988.) [JJ]
Born October 15, 1942 — Lon Atkins. Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired a DeepSouthCon and was editor of numerous fanzines and apazines, including eight years as co-editor of Rally! He was Fan Guest of Honor at a Westercon, and a recipient of Southern Fandom’s Rebel lifetime achievement award. He was also a ferocious Hearts player. (Died 2016.) [JJ]
Born October 15, 1953 — Walter Jon Williams, 69. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend, but Fleet Elements is on my TBR list. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be they SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few awards that he’s won, just three with two being Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”. Damn it, where is his Hugo?
Born October 15, 1954 — Linnea Sinclair, 68. Merging romance, SF and paranormal into, well, damned if I know. She’s here sole because I’m really tickled by the use of her SJW credentials as told here: Games of Command and the short story “Of Cats, Uh, Furzels and Kings” feature telepathic feline creatures called ‘Furzels’. Sinclair has stated that these are inspired by her two cats.
Born October 15, 1968 — Jack du Brul, 54. A writer of somewhat SF novels that EoSF says of “the Philip Mercer sequence featuring a geologist who – not entirely unlike Steven Spielberg’s similarly scholarly Indiana Jones – has physical gifts extending beyond the probable.” He also co-wrote, and continued after Clive Cusler passed on, The Oregon Files.
(12) THE DOUBLE-OH GENERATION.[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says that she is worried that the new James Bond might be a Millennial. “What the millennial James Bond might look like”. “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to text!” She’s got a million of them.
(13) RAMBLING MAN. John Meaney’s post “What I Did On My Holiday” shows that he kept up his impressive workout regimen even while vacationing in “places like Lindisfarne (think Vikings) and Whitby Abbey (think Dracula) and the Western Highlands of Scotland.” He also snapped a memorable photo.
…The Caledonian Canal features a long series of locks called Neptune’s Staircase, and I did take photos of the canal itself, but was struck by this piece of useful advice, which we should always bear in mind every day….
That’s the fundamental question at the heart of SPELLJAMS, a new compilation album curated and produced by Chris Funk. The Decemberists guitarist wasn’t tasked with soundtracking just any old D&D campaign: SPELLJAMS is a companion piece to the newly rebooted Spelljammer setting, an outer-space-set oddity that’s become a cult favorite since its introduction in 1989. Spelljammer is a bit of an outlier within the broader D&D lore, which made it ripe for the kind of freewheeling, adventurous track listing Funk assembled for the album.
(15) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DODGING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lucy, a spacecraft designed to visit Jupiter’s Trojan astroids, will swing past Earth for a gravity assist on Sunday. To get the proper oomph from the assist, it will have to come so close to Earth that it will be inside the orbit of many Low-Earth-Orbit satellites (including the International Space Station).
Cognizant of the possibility of a collision between Lucy and a LEO satellite, NASA has pre-prepared two orbit changes to stagger Lucy’s closest approach just a little bit. Or, if needed, a little bit more than that. They’re waiting as long as they can to calculate orbital positions for everything and make that decision, because the longer they wait the more accurate the predictions will be.
With luck, observers in parts of Australia or the western US may be able to see Lucy glinting like a diamond before it ducks into or after it comes out of Earth’s shadow, respectively. If you miss this chance you’ll get another opportunity two years hence when Lucy swings by for another orbital assist. “NASA on Collision Alert for Close Flyby of Lucy Spacecraft”. Gizmodo says the Space Force has been scrambled!
…The collision assessment team will send Lucy’s position to the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which monitors objects in low Earth orbit. The team is prepared to perform swerving maneuvers if Lucy has more than a 1 in 10,000 chance of colliding with another object. “With such a high value mission, you really need to make sure that you have the capability, in case it’s a bad day, to get out of the way,” Highsmith said….
…The edible replica, which was painstakingly modeled out of dough to resemble Harrison Ford‘s captured character in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi, has been on display outside the family bakery in Benicia, Calif., since Sunday. He is accompanied by a chalkboard that adorably proclaims, “Our hero Pan Solo has been trapped in Levainite by the evil Java the Hut.”…
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this 2021 clip, Alasdair Beckett-King explains that even in the olden times, pepole couldn’t remember their passwords!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, JeffWarner, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]
Voting has opened for the 2022 Fanzine Activity Achievement (FAAn) awards and will continue through February 25.
To jog voters’ memories about the eligible publications, Nic Farey, FAAn Awards Administrator, has created The Incompleat Register 2021, available at efanzines.com. In it Farey reminds everyone, “A ‘fanzine’, for our purposes, is defined as an immutable artifact, once published not subject to revision or modification. The fanzine might not exist in a physical form. A PDF, for example, is an artifact.”
The award has seven categories:
GENZINE: A fanzine which typically has multiple contributors in addition to its editor(s).
PERZINE: A fanzine which typically has few, if any, contributors other than its editor(s).
SPECIAL PUBLICATION: A “one-shot” fanzine or collection.
FANWRITER: A writer who has work first appearing in a 2021 fanzine.
FANARTIST: An artist who has work first appearing in a 2021 fanzine.
LETTERHACK (HARRY WARNER, JR. MEMORIAL AWARD): Loccer whose responses have appeared in a 2021 fanzine.
COVER: Best fanzine cover of 2021.
Farey has dropped the Website category, which has only ever had two winners, Efanzines for the first eleven years of its existence, and by Fanac.org for the last three.
Anybody with an interest in fanzines is encouraged to vote, no memberships or fees are required.
The winners will be announced at Corflu Pangloss in Vancouver, BC on March 20.
(1) 2021 FAAN VOTING DEADLINE. FAAn Awards Administrator Nic Farey reminds everyone that today is the last day of voting – it closes tonight — March 12 — at midnight Pacific time. Guidelines and the ballot are available in The Incompleat Register 2020 [PDF file]
I’ve been wanting to bring Gil to you for awhile, and had been hoping we’d be able to sneak away for a meal during either Readercon or the Small Press Expo, but neither occurred last year, at least not outside of a virtual space, and both will be virtual again this year. So as you listen, I’d like you to think of yourself as being with us at one of those cons, and tagging along as we head off to chat and chew.
We discussed his surprising (and my unsurprising ) guest with the greatest number of downloads, the advice John Crowley gave him about his potential writing career, how a guy who used to memorize X-Men comics got turned on to Love & Rockets, the way we process the deaths of former guests, the song he wants played at his memorial service, how to get often-interviewed guests not to regurgitate their favorite soundbites, why no comic book movie beats the first Superman, how he became the publisher of every letter Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984, why during his days reviewing for The Comics Journal readers thought he was the secret identity of another writer, the Italo Calvino quote which has kept him going through the pandemic, and much more.
…To go with its brand-new name, Paper Bytes has initiated a brand new scam: a stable of imaginary literary agents. It’s an unusually detailed endeavor, with actual websites for each agent (albeit not very good ones) that include photos–some stock, some stolen–as well as made-up bios and false claims about who/what they represent. All share the email address @bookliteraryagent.com, which no doubt is convenient for the interchangeable roster of Paper Bytes marketers who inhabit these agent personas, but also makes them easier to track and expose.
I’ll list them all below. But first, How It All Works!…
…How to protect yourself?
1. Know how things work in the publishing world. Real literary agents don’t sell services to potential clients, or refer them to companies that do. Real agents don’t commonly contact writers out of the blue. The warnings at the Writer Beware website can help you recognize non-standard or predatory practices.
The track list for David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs offers a couple obvious clues about one source of inspiration: song titles include both “1984” and “Big Brother.” But Bowie didn’t just want to use themes from George Orwell’s 1984 on the record. As Open Culture reports, he initially hoped to turn the 1949 dystopian classic into a full-fledged musical of its own.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/x2xfpMMQIJ8 What form that musical was ultimately meant to take isn’t totally clear. According to Christopher Sandford’s biography Bowie: Loving the Alien, the adaptation would’ve been “a West End musical, with an accompanying album and film.” But in a Rolling Stoneinterview with William S. Burroughs from February 1974—just months before the release of Diamond Dogs—Bowie himself mentioned he was “doing Orwell’s 1984 on television.” It’s possible the project went through several iterations when the “Space Oddity” singer was still brainstorming it. But thanks to Orwell’s widow, Sonia (believed to be the basis for 1984‘s Julia), the musical never progressed past the incubation stage.
“My office approached Mrs. Orwell, because I said, ‘Office, I want to do 1984 as a musical, go get me the rights,’” Bowie explained in 1993, according to David Buckley’s Strange Fascination: David Bowie, the Definitive Story. “And they duly trooped off to see Mrs. Orwell, who in so many words said, ‘You’ve got to be out of your gourd, do you think I’m turning this over to that as a musical?’ So, they came back and said, ‘Sorry, David, you can’t write it.’” Since Bowie had already started “putting bits of it down” in the studio, the surprise rejection forced him to pivot quickly. His ill-fated musical became a concept album with Orwellian overtones.
(5) IT’S NEWS TO SOMEBODY. The publication of Matthew Yglesias’ article “Oh, the intellectual property rights you’ll extend” at Slow Boring has caught up with the already-played-out week-old Twitterstorm. Nevertheless, at the link you can read him make a case about copyright law, triggered by the Dr. Seuss controversy.
…Regardless, under U.S. law, the copyrights last for the duration of their creator’s life plus 70 years — i.e., until 2061.
That’s a big change from how we did things in the Founders’ era, when copyrights lasted 14 years with an option to renew the copyright for an additional 14 years.
Since then, not only has Congress repeatedly extended the duration of copyright terms, they’ve even extended them retroactively, basically preventing Mickey Mouse (created in 1928) or Superman (created in 1938) from ever entering the public domain the way that 19th century characters like Frankenstein1 or Sherlock Holmes have.
I bring this all up because I think it’s relevant policy context for the recent controversy over Seuss Enterprises withdrawing six books from publication that were deemed problematic. Right-wing agitators have responded to this as if it’s the government censoring Dr. Seuss, and so out of solidarity with Dr. Seuss, they are buying non-canceled classics like “Green Eggs and Ham” in droves. But this is just not factual. Dr. Seuss has been dead for nearly 30 years. His heirs — likely these two stepdaughters, though that’s not entirely clear — canceled the books, and now are the ones reaping the financial rewards from the backlash to their own actions….
… Lesure spends hours making sure each book looks unique and regal, but she has to be careful not to use any specific imagery that could land her in trouble.
That’s because the books Lesure crafts contain works of fanfiction, and she’s found an entire community of avid readers looking to turn their unauthorized digital favorites into physical treats.
Nothing about the process is simple. There are “literally hundreds of moments where I could do something wrong and everything falls to shambles,” Lesure, a student who started bookbinding during a gap year in 2019, told The Verge. Her process includes typesetting, redoing the typesetting, doing that again and again until it’s right, printing, folding, sewing, making the cover, and finally putting it all together.
Fanfiction has traditionally been confined to online sites like Archive of Our Own (AO3) and FanFiction.Net, but some of the most prolific artists within the space have found a way to help people enjoy their favorite titles in new ways: binding the stories into physical novels designed to read better and stand out on bookshelves. The crafts have helped bring some of the most popular unofficial stories set in Harry Potter, Star Wars, and other universes onto shelves where they can sit right alongside their authorized counterparts.
…Adrian Benepe, the former New York City Parks Commissioner and current head of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, sees “creeping Blade Runner syndrome” everywhere, from the clogged skies over Manhattan to the subways, which he rides to work every day from his home on the Upper West Side.
“They’re empty,” Mr. Benepe said. “I’ve been alone many times at rush hour. It’s eerie as hell.” He also finds the movie prescient in its depiction of a world saturated by intrusive, omnipresent advertising.
“Places in New York that used to not have advertising now have ads,” he said. “You can’t get away from it. It’s in the subways, it’s on the streets, it’s on barges. You never stop being assailed.”
Giant screens are nothing new, of course. But New York’s streetscape had been permeated as never before with twitchy, adhesively catchy LEDs, a trend that has only accelerated during the pandemic, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announcing last summer the addition of 9,000 screens broadcasting “Covid-relevant safety information.”
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
March 12, 1927 –On this day in 1927, Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
March 12, 1879 — Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough for years I studied it to see how much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.) (CE)
March 12, 1886 — Kay Nielsen. Though he’s best known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia and The Little Mermaid be it thirty years after his death, I’d be remiss not to note his early work illustrating such works as East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Hansel and Gretel and Andersen’s Fairy Tales. (Died 1957.) (CE)
Born March 12, 1911 – Edmund North. Major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. Served a term as President of the screen branch of the Writers Guild of America. A score of movies; co-winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar for Patton; for us, screenplay for The Day the Earth Stood Still – which, despite its staggering difference from Bates’ “Farewell to the Master”, I think a classic. Coined Klaatu barada nikto. (Died 1990) [JH]
March 12, 1914 — John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty year period starting in the Fifties: The Great Beast, The Magic of Aleister Crowley, The King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.) (CE)
Born March 12, 1916 – Richard Dorson, Ph.D. Pioneering and possibly great folklorist – thus our neighbor; pioneering because, in his day, commercial and even arguably artistic success of retellings like Davy Crockett and inventions like Paul Bunyan were clouding the mind. Coined urban legend and fakelore. General editor, Folktales of the World. Two dozen books, including a 1939 one on Crockett; Folk Legends of Japan; African Folklore. “Suspicious of attempts by other disciplines –anthropology, sociology, and psychology, among others – to co-opt folk culture for their own … purposes…. emphasized the necessity for the accurate collection and documentation of folk materials” (quoted from this). (Died 1981) [JH]
March 12, 1925 — Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? See OGH’s post on the Alex Cox animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero here. (Died 2012.) (CE)
March 12, 1933 — Barbara Feldon, 88. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career though she did show up in the pilot of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE)
Born March 12, 1936 – Virginia Hamilton. National Book Award, Newbery Medal (first black to win it), Hans Andersen Award, Wilder Award. Amer. Lib’y Ass’n King-Hamilton Award named for her (and Coretta Scott King). Eight novels (including Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed), thirty shorter stories, four collections for us; twoscore books all told. (Died 2002) [JH]
March 12, 1952 — Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. – oh, but what a role it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2, Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs. (Died 2008.) (CE)
Born March 12, 1955 – Jim Mann, F.N., age 66. Living in Pittsburgh, hard-working member of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) for whose NESFA Press he has edited a dozen books including The Compleat Boucher and The Rediscovery of Man (Cordwainer Smith). Chaired Boskone 25 (with wife Laurie Mann) and 47. Fan Guest of Honor (with LM), ArmadilloCon 27. Fellow of NESFA (service award). [JH]
Born March 12, 1963 – David B. Coe, Ph.D., age 58. A score of novels, as many shorter stories (some under another name). Crawford Award for LobTyn Chronicle (trilogy). Reviews and Robots called Time’s Children Best Fantasy Novel of 2018. Interviewed in Strange Horizons, Teleport. “We … construct our worlds twice…. for ourselves [and] again … digestible and entertaining and unobtrusive, not to mention elegant, poetic, even exciting…. all the necessary material – and not an ounce more…. [after we] have unraveled their mysteries … decided which elements … are most important to our stories.” [JH]
Born March 12, 1971 – Rob St. Martin, age 50. Six novels, one novelette, anthology Ages of Wonder (with Julie Cznerneda). Has read Pride and Prejudice, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Tale of Two Cities, Moby-Dick, Romeo and Juliet, Curious George. [JH]
(12) GUARDIAN ANGLE. Lisa Tuttle has a new installment of “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup” at The Guardian in which she reviews Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley; Birds of Paradise by Oliver K Langmead; The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey; A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel; and A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine.
…The battered fragments of corroded brass were barely noticed at first, but decades of scholarly work have revealed the object to be a masterpiece of mechanical engineering. Originally encased in a wooden box one foot tall, the mechanism was covered in inscriptions – a built-in user’s manual – and contained more than 30 bronze gearwheels connected to dials and pointers. Turn the handle and the heavens, as known to the Greeks, swung into motion.
Michael Wright, a former curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum in London, pieced together much of how the mechanism operated and built a working replica, but researchers have never had a complete understanding of how the device functioned. Their efforts have not been helped by the remnants surviving in 82 separate fragments, making the task of rebuilding it equivalent to solving a battered 3D puzzle that has most of its pieces missing.
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the UCL team describe how they drew on the work of Wright and others, and used inscriptions on the mechanism and a mathematical method described by the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides, to work out new gear arrangements that would move the planets and other bodies in the correct way. The solution allows nearly all of the mechanism’s gearwheels to fit within a space only 25mm deep….
NASA is targeting Thursday, March 18 for the second hot fire of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
After performing tests to demonstrate that a recently repaired liquid oxygen pre-valve was working, the team has continued to prepare the core stage, its four RS-25 engines, and the B-2 test stand for the second hot fire at Stennis. Later this week, the team will power up the core stage again and do a final check of all its systems. Then, on March 16, two days before the test, they will power up the stage, starting the clock for the second hot fire….
… This is in many ways a very different book than the previous book, Down Among the Dead. Reading it in quick succession after the second book might give some emotional whiplash, it certainly is a gear shift. It’s much more like the first book of the Farian War trilogy, There Before the Chaos, in the sense that it builds up to a big set piece finale of a conflict. Unlike that first book, though, this book is much more about the action beats.
This shows the range and power of the author across the three books, and sets them apart from the first trilogy as well, which is more adrenaline filled….
…This novella constantly shifts from plot point to plot point, that kept me on my toes without unmooring me into confusion. The craft involved with implementing poetic language that benefits the atmosphere, pacey scenes that never lose focus, and characters that I felt like I knew inside out by the story’s conclusion, deserves kudos. Mostly because the novella juggles a small, insulated cast of characters with subterfuges and violence that impact other kingdoms. Fireheart Tiger is like an expansive web that leaves the reader in the center of it, while also skillfully and pithily letting them know of all its disparate parts.
Quarantinewhile… In “Hey, maybe don’t do that” news, Japanese scientists are experimenting on 100-million-year-old bacteria that wake up from their slumber when brought to the surface and provided with food.
(18) PIPING AT THE GATES OF DAWN. And speaking of Lovecraft –
[Thanks To John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Nic Farey, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michel Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
By Rob Jackson: If you haven’t yet voted for the 2021 Fanzine Activity Achievement Awards, you have till midnight Pacific Standard Time on Friday March 12th to do so. PLEASE VOTE! Voting is open to anyone with an interest in fanzines; you do not have to be a member of Corflu or anything else. This year’s Awards Administrator, Nic Farey, has made it as easy as possible by listing in one zine all fanzines and contributors known to him, along with a ballot and voting instructions, here.
Because this year’s con has been held back to the autumn, it would be rather late to delay the 2021 FAAn Awards till then. Once the votes have been counted, the results will be announced online in a ceremony held by Zoom video call on Sunday March 28, at 8 p.m. BST UK time (3 p.m. US EDT, or midday US PDT).
Jerry Kaufman will MC the proceedings. Rob Jackson will moderate the call and send out the Zoom link a few days in advance, along with instructions on how the ceremony will be run. As well as the FAAn Awards, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be announced, and the Corflu Business Meeting will nominate the site for the 2022 Corflu, which we hope will return to the usual spring timetable.
If you want to be there, email Rob at [email protected] to be added to the distribution list. You don’t have to be a Corflu member to be on the call and watch; just email and ask!
(1) WHATESNEW INTERZONE EDITOR. The PS Publishing newsletter (which I haven’t seen) announces Ian Whates is taking over the editorial reins of Interzone, Jonathan Strahan confirms. Whates follows Andy Cox, who has run the UK zine for years.
(2) WHO WROTE THE BOOK. Joyce Reynolds-Ward in “Writing the Revolution” argues that sff helped fuel the mindset behind yesterday’s debacle in DC.
…For every nuanced, mindful, well-thought-out version of Writing the Revolution, there are at least three or four crudely sketched out wish-fulfillment fantasies that are no more realistic than a first-person-shooter video game or their real-life variant, the run-and-gun tacticool classes that are nothing more than jumped up paintball, that allow the participants to fantasize that they are Real Warriors. Hell, I see several of these books pop up every day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, either through ads or assorted promotional groups. And they’re churned out to fulfill a reader demand for romantic notions about what Rebellion or Revolution really is.
(Dare I mention Star Wars here? Um, maybe not.)
Couple that sort of romanticized view of revolution and warfare with the sort of political polemic dominating social media over the past five years (Um. Longer) and you end up with events like January 6th, 2021.
You end up with an angry mob seeking to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power because they’ve been fed lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 election and who view themselves as akin to their fictional heroes.
And the intersection of the two has created the foundation for that idealized conceptualization of revolution….
(3) FAAN AWARDS BALLOT AVAILABLE. Nic Farey, FAAn (Fanzine Activity Achievement) Awards Administrator, has published The Incompleat Register [PDF file] as a voters’ guide. The nominating ballot is within, and votes must be received before midnight PDT, Friday March 12, 2021. Voting is open to anyone with an interest in fanzines. Farey cautions that the Register —
should not be considered to be a definitive list of what you can and cannot vote for. My sources are primarily efanzines.com, Guy Lillian’s listzine ‘The Zine Dump’ and also paper zines personally received. As I can’t possibly be aware of everything, all votes received will be counted in good faith. A “fanzine”, for our purposes, is defined as an immutable artifact, once published not subject to revision or modification. The fanzine might not exist in a physical form. A pdf, for example, is an artifact.
And he adds —
You do NOT have to be a member of Corflu or anything else for that matter.
You do NOT have to have read or received any minimum number of fanzines to vote, although of course we encourage you to check out the contenders.
2. A BAD SCI-FI MOVIE INSPIRED OCTAVIA BUTLER TO START WRITING.
It was a 1954 movie called Devil Girl from Mars, which Butler saw when she was about 12 years old, that ignited the future author’s interest in science fiction. “As I was watching this film, I had a series of revelations,” Butler said during a 1998 talk at MIT. “The first was that ‘Geez, I can write a better story than that.’ And then I thought, ‘Gee, anybody can write a better story than that.’ And my third thought was the clincher: ‘Somebody got paid for writing that awful story.’ So, I was off and writing, and a year later I was busy submitting terrible pieces of fiction to innocent magazines.”
A genre polymath who does crime, horror, and SFF, she brings a delightfully pulpy twist to everything she writes, whether it’s mashing up fantasy or science fiction with mystery or penning weird westerns. (Her website is here.) But if you give one book a shot…
First off, I cannot get over this cover. (The cover for the sequel, A Theft Most Fowl, is also gorgeous.) Second, we have winged people following a Phoenix goddess, with a caste system that’s laid out as kind of birds. And our main character, Prentice Tasifa, is a Hawk, gifted with the supernatural ability to see things others can’t. And then it’s a well written procedural mystery where Prentice has to hunt down a serial killer.
…Moviemaking fans of other fantasy franchises have complex relationships with the companies that own them, and “Star Wars” fan films do walk a legal tightrope. Disney asks that they be clearly marked, not raise money through crowdfunding, omit copyrighted media, and not profit from ticket sales or online advertisements. The company doesn’t appear to discriminate between fan films made by professionals and those made by amateurs, provided they follow its rules. “There is a point where you do have to protect your copyright,” Hale said.
Not everybody complies. An Indiegogo campaign to finance “Kenobi” got help from James Arnold Taylor, who has voiced the character in “Star Wars” animated television shows. (He also plays the villain in “Kenobi.”) Others have turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund their work.
And some who try to observe the rules have run into trouble. Warner/Chappell, which shares some “Star Wars” music rights with Lucasfilm, in 2019 claimed copyright over a Darth Vader fan film, “Shards of the Past,” posted on YouTube. A torrent of onlinecriticism followed, accusing the company of seeking to profit from fan work. Lucasfilm ultimately intervened to lift the claim. (Hale said she could not comment about copyright claims.)
As technology stretches the capabilities of fan storytelling, questions of propriety could become even thornier. Severalfilms by Peter Csikasz, a Hungarian university student, combine digital assets from official “Star Wars” video games with original motion-capture animation. Csikasz said the games’ developers were aware of his work, even as fan-made “Star Wars” video games have been repeatedly shutdown.
As these films grow technically more artful, they have also grown more expensive. A two-minute animated movie can cost more than $5,000 to produce. The budget for “Kenobi” approached $100,000, Satterlund said. (Costly expectations can be prohibitive: last month, Ortiz indefinitely suspended his project after failing to raise $20,000 through crowdfunding.)
Disney’s rules mean many fan movies are financial losses, but a well-executed production can drive YouTube subscribers, attract sponsors for future work or open doors to professional opportunities. “It greases the wheels,” Satterlund said of his short. “It’s helped get me in the room to talk to somebody.”
Martha Wells’ cranky, TV-binging Murderbot, the star and narrator of four superb novellas before this novel, made for a perfect quarantine companion. Her SecUnit killing machine has favored a solitary existence ever since it hacked its way to sentience. It feels safest hunkered down in a storage bay, mainlining its favorite shows, far removed from the messy emotions and motives of people – a preference that only became more relatable as 2020 stretched on….
(8) MODEL CITIZEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In a December 31 piece in the Financial Times about the failures of polling, Christine Zhang and Courtney Weaver note a prediction Isaac Asimov made in 1955.
In a fictional America, elections are decided by Multivac, a supercomputer that requires only the input of one ‘representative’ voter to statistically model the outcomes of thousands of nationa1, state, and local contests. This is the 2008 that science fiction author Isaac Asimov portrayed i his 1955 short story “Franchise,” published three years after Univac, one of the earliest commercial computers, successfully predicted Dwight Eisenhower’s landslide victory on US television network CBS.
Asimov’s dystopian democracy has not yet materialized. As it turns out–particularly in the two most recent US presidential races–the electorate is not so easy to reliably predict. Yet it is not from a lack of trying.
…When Narinder S. Kapany was in high school in the 1940s in Dehradun, an Indian city in the Himalayan foothills, his science teacher told him that light travels only in straight lines. By then he had already spent years playing around with a box camera, and he knew that light could at least be turned in different directions, through lenses and prisms. Something about the teacher’s attitude, he later said, made him want to go further, to prove him wrong by figuring out how to actually bend light.
By the time he entered graduate school at Imperial College London in 1952, he realized he wasn’t alone. For decades researchers across Europe had been studying ways to transmit light through flexible glass fibers. But a host of technical challenges, not to mention World War II, had set them back.
He persuaded one of those scientists, Harold Hopkins, to hire him as a research assistant, and the two clicked. Professor Hopkins, a formidable theoretician, provided the ideas; Dr. Kapany, more technically minded, figured out the practical side. In 1954 the pair announced a breakthrough in the journal Nature, demonstrating how to bundle thousands of impossibly thin glass fibers together and then connect them end to end.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born January 8, 1891 – Storm Jameson. Suffragette, took part in the Women’s Pilgrimage. World War II led her to recant pacifism. Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other novels, novellas, criticism, history, memoirs. (Died 1986) [JH]
Born January 8, 1908 — William Hartnell. The very first Doctor when Doctor Who firstaired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years, leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.) (CE)
Born January 8, 1926 – Bob Pavlat. Co-founder of WSFA; chaired Disclave 4-5. Among his fanzines, Bobolings, Contour. With Bill Evans, the monumental Evans-Pavlat Fanzine Index. Had the good taste to marry Peggy Rae McKnight; Big Heart (our highest service award) given to both; after his death she found no one worth remarrying for sixteen years. Appreciations here. (Died 1983) [JH]
Born January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking, Ph.D., F.R.S. Physically active in college, coxed a rowing crew; in graduate school contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease, with which he lived, defying all, for fifty years. Fellow of the Royal Society. Lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – although an atheist; as Pope John Paul II said, “Both believing scientists and non-believing scientists are involved”. U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. A score of other substantial awards. Masterly communicator of science, e.g. best-seller A Brief History of Time. Appeared on Star Trek (The Next Generation), Futurama, The Big Bang Theory; foreword to The Physics of ”Star Trek”; five George’s Secret Key novels with daughter Lucy Hawking. (Died 2018) [JH]
Born January 8, 1945 – Nancy Bond, age 76. Newbery Honor and Tir na n-Og Award for A String in the Harp. Two more books for us, five others. Lived in Boston, Concord, London, and Borth. “Each of my books has a firm geographical setting.” [JH]
Born January 8, 1947 — David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger, an erotic and kinky film worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, a role which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what did I am leaving y’all to mention? (Died 2016.) (CE)
Born January 8, 1954 – Sylvie Germain, Ph.D., age 67. Six novels for us translated into English; two dozen others, biography, a children’s book, essays. Prix Femina, Moncrieff Prize, Prix Goncourt des Lycèens, Prix mondial Cino del Duca. [JH]
Born January 8, 1977 — Amber Benson, 44. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters. She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too. As an audiobook narrator her credits include works by Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi. (CE)
Born January 8, 1979 — Sarah Polley, 42. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The Movie, Existenz, No Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the Dead, Beowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody. (CE)
Born January 8, 1983 – Michael Ziegelwagner, age 38. Fifty short stories, e.g. “On the Unreality of Our Forests”, “Bee, Wasp, Bumblebee, Fish”, “New Rules for the Robot Car”. Mostly in German. [JH]
Born January 8, 1965 — Michelle Forbes, 56. Best remembered as Ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation, she also showed up in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor film as Admiral Helena Cain, and the pilot of Warren Ellis scripted Global Frequency as Miranda Zero. She played Maryann Forrester on True Blood as well. (CE)
(11) FREUDIAN SPACE. Stephen Colbert makes a couple of (possibly NSFW) genre references in this installment of “Quarantinewhile…” on The Late Show.
Jigsaw Puzzle 1000 Pieces for Adults: This collage of vintage sci-fi magazine covers is nearly 28? across. Our thick cardboard construction and high-quality paper laminate makes for a durable and beautiful puzzle image. Includes puzzle image insert to help you complete the puzzle without the box image.
(13) FAME ON THE MENU. Here’s another of those food places that gives celebrity names to its fare. The Atomo minimart in Los Angeles:
jean luc batard
made with fresh brewed earl grey, oat milk and a touch of agave. make it so.
a moist vanilla cake with almond and rum notes, bedazzled with rainbow sprinkles and frosted with a vanilla butter cream. make everyday your birthday.
The oldest light in the universe is that of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). This light was formed when the dense matter at the beginning of the universe finally cooled enough to become transparent. It has traveled for billions of years to reach us, stretched from a bright orange glow to cool, invisible microwaves. Naturally, it is an excellent source for understanding the history and expansion of the cosmos.
The CMB is one of the ways we can measure the rate of cosmic expansion. In the early universe, there were small fluctuations of density and temperature within the hot dense sea of the big bang. As the universe expanded, the fluctuations expanded as well. So the scale of fluctuations we see in the cosmic microwave background today tells us how must the universe has grown. On average, the fluctuations are about a billion light-years across, and this gives us a value for the rate (the Hubble parameter) as somewhere between 67.2 and 68.1 km/sec/Mpc….
Sci-fi author Michael Moorcock has published a dizzying array of books since getting his start editing a Tarzan fanzine when he was still a teenager. In addition to his extensive literary career, Moorcock has also had some pretty praiseworthy experiences in the world of rock and roll including having played banjo for Hawkwind (as well as writing lyrics for the band) and penning three songs for Blue Öyster Cult. However, as excellent as Mr. Moorcock is, this post is about a man whose art adorned countless covers of books by Moorcock and others in the genre of fantasy and sci-fi for years, Bob Haberfield. If you are of a certain age you will very likely remember being in a store (especially in the UK) catching yourself staring right at one of Haberfield’s many contemplative psychedelic book covers that were staring right back at you…
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Random lessons Learned From Making Films” on Vimeo, director David F. Sandberg offers lessons he’s learned from making his three sf/fantasy films, including the complexity of having multiple actors in a scene (he had 14 in one scene in SHAZAM, and camera angles had to be plotted for all of them) and why good sound is more important in a film than good images. BEWARE SPOILERS.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Tsunduko” Dern.]
Fanzine Activity Achievement (FAAn) Awards Administrator Nic Farey has released the “2021 FAAn Awards Voting and Announcement Ceremony Schedule (Plague Version)” with next year’s plans for fanzine fandom’s own honors.
Typically the awards have been announced after the Sunday banquet at the Corflu convention, which for 2021 was due to be held in March in Bristol, UK. [Corflu Concorde] However, due to we-all-know-what, the convention won’t take place at that time The organizers are committed to an in-person rather than a virtual event, with the exception of the awards announcement (and consideration of future bids for the con).”
Eligible for the awards will be work first published in 2020. Voting is open to anyone with an interest in fanzines.
The timeline will be:
Saturday January 9, 2021
On, or perhaps even a little before this date, The Incompleat Register 2020 will be issued, containing the ballot form and voting instructions, as well as listings of qualifying zines, fanwriters, fanartists, loccers etc known to the administrator. (See below for further explanation.) This marks the start of the official voting period.
Friday March 12 2021 (midnight PST)
Voting ends. Ballots submitted must be received by this point, by whatever means they are sent.
Sunday March 28, 2021 (time TBD)
Awards ceremony, which will occur online (via Zoom or similar means), hosted by Jerry Kaufman, after which the “results issue” of TIR containing full voting numbers will be distributed.
The Incompleat Register. Apart from the official ballot, this is also a voters’ guide listing the fanzines and contributors for 2020 that Nic Farey is aware of, and hence will inevitably be “incompleat”. Voters are in no way restricted to the contents of these lists – all votes received will be taken in good faith.
Ballot categories are: Best Genzine; Best Perzine; Best Special Publication/One-shot; Best Fanwriter; Best Fanartist; Best Letterhack (the Harry Warner Jr. Award); Best Fanzine Cover; Best Fanzine-related Website.
(1) GRIND IT OUT. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with David Steffen of the Submission Grinder.
If you’re not familiar with the Submission Grinder, it’s a web utility that many genre writers spend a lot of time staring at: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ I thought it would be interesting to talk to David about how the Grinder came about and what it does.
(2) THE NARRATIVE. Constance Grady, in “The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained” on Vox, says the rumor that People of Praise, the charismatic Catholic group Amy Coney Barrett belongs to, was the basis for The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t true and Margaret Atwood has not only denied it, but says she can’t currently say which groups were the basis for the “handmaids” because her papers are at the University of Toronto library and she can’t access them because the library is closed because of Covid-19.
To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court occurs — and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid’s Tale carries in American popular culture…
…Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can’t currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she’s on the record as going through her Handmaid’s Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she’s always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.
(3) NEW SFWA BLOG EDITOR. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have selected C.L. Clark as the new SFWA Blog Editor. The position of Blog Editor was previously held by Todd Vandermark, who stepped down earlier this past summer.
Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now she’s one of the co-editors at PodCastle. The first novel in her upcoming trilogy is The Unbroken (Orbit, 2021).
“Todd Vandermark has done years of wonderful work and is moving on to work on his own projects. SFWA is grateful that he’s been a rock of stability for so long. Going forward, I am very excited to have C.L. Clark coming aboard to edit and curate SFWA’s website content,” SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said. “Her experience as an editor and writer make her the perfect choice to nurture fresh new voices in the nonfiction side of the genre. I look forward to seeing how she shapes the blog during her tenure.”
The Blog Editor provides oversight and direction regarding articles published on SFWA’s blog. This critical position is responsible for soliciting and publishing online content to support SFWA’s goals of informing, supporting, promoting, defending, and advocating for writers of SF/F.
“I’m thrilled to be joining the SFWA team and so excited to bring the SFFH community helpful articles that reflect the diversity of our community while also addressing the systemic issues within it,” said Clark. “I’m committed to making sure the blog is a great resource for writers at all stages of their career, and is especially welcoming to writers in the early stages. I’m looking forward to seeing new pitches!”
The Sunbird loses contact with Earth while circumnavigating the Sun. Initially, the three men on board assume that a solar flare knocked out their communications. Only after making contact with another space vessel do they learn the truth: whatever happened to them cast their ship across time and space.
The human society of the future arose, as so many societies of the future do, from the ashes of the past. Catastrophe swept away the old order, including all men. Human society is now exclusively female. The crew of the Sunbird are the first men seen since the rise of the current civilization. How can these curious relics be integrated into modern society?
Like many other organizations, the Sunburst Award has been affected by the Covid-19 shutdown. As a consequence, the Sunburst Award Society is announcing a hiatus in its awards program for the coming year. The Sunburst Awards Society members plan to use this time to re-imagine the most effective means available to them for continuing to highlight the stellar work done by Canadians in the field of speculative literature.
Since its inception, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has raised the public’s awareness of works of speculative literature, and rightfully honoured deserving works, through its prestigious awards program. Over two hundred and twenty-five works have been acknowledged for their contribution to the arts in Canada, and thirty-eight truly outstanding authors have also benefited from monetary recognition.
Members of the Sunburst Board extend their thanks to their members, their jurors, the publishing community, authors and readers for their support over the last twenty years.
The Sunburst Award also administers the Copper Cylinder Award, which went on hiatus in 2019 and has yet to resume activity.
(6) IT’S A SECRET. 20020, the sequel to Jon Bois’s 17776, is here. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Secret Base, September 28 through October 23. Here’s the first installment:
…Fairy tales, we are made to believe, are not for queers. Cishet culture’s magic trick of making itself seem natural, inevitable and universal depends in part on the ubiquity and repetition of fairy tales throughout our lives. We are told these stories of compulsory heterosexuality from cradle to grave—and even though everyone knows they are just fantasies, their enchantments are so seductive that it is difficult to resist their charms and not wish we could all live the fairy tale.
The fairy tale realm is the perfect place for the shifting, resisting, transformative and hard-to-pin-down cultures of LGBTQ folks. Ignore the happily-ever-after endings that imply a kind of blissful stasis that goes on and on forever. The wonder-filled, strange and surprising worlds of fairy tales have the potential for a kind of queer enchantment. Don’t let all those ever-after weddings fool you: Fairy tales are the perfect environment for LGBTQ folks and queer desires…
…Rolling Stone asked me to participate in this year’s project, a request I accepted without hesitation. I was happy to be part of a project that stretched back to the original 1987 issue that was so important to me as a teenager. As I began to assemble my ballot of 50 albums, I came to the quick realization that my decades of listening, list-making, and reading have drastically changed how I view lists and canons. I no longer think of them as some definitive word being passed down from on high or some definitive historical document but rather a reflection of how the pop music community views the past.
Looking at the new Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums, it’s striking to see how the times have changed. The most obvious seismic shock is how Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is no longer the Citizen Kane of pop. It’s been dethroned from the top spot, pushed all the way to number 24, with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On taking its slot. What’s Going On has been floating in Rolling Stone‘s Top 10 since 1987, the same year where it made it into the Top Five on The World Critics List masterminded by Paul Gambaccini. In other words, What’s Going On has been acknowledged as a consensus classic for decades, so it’s not shocking to see it at the top of the list. The shocks arrive within the guts of the poll, where it becomes clear that the rock & roll era has come to an end….
(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
September 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest, a DreamWorks film, would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It would beat out The Matrix (which lost by just three votes), The Sixth Sense, Being John Malkovich and The Iron Giant. It was directed by Dean Parisot from a screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon who worked off the story by David Howard. It’s considered by many Trekkies to the best Trek film ever made.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger. Edited Famous Fantastic Mysteries and its companions Fantastic and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine. Conducted “The Readers’ Viewpoint” in FFM and “What Do You Think?” in FN. May have been a Futurian. (Died 1976) [JH]
Born September 28, 1909 – Al Capp. His wildly popular comic strip Li’l Abner was made a Broadway musical and a motion picture; it was read by 70 million in the U.S. when the population was 180 million. It had fantastic elements: Evil Eye Fleegle, the Shmoos, the Bald Iggle. Capp spoke at NYCon II the 14th Worldcon. (Died 1979) [JH]
Born September 28, 1913 – Edith Pargeter, O.B.E. Two novels for us, four shorter stories; other work under this name; perhaps her detective fiction under another name about a medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, is best known. EP was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to Literature. (Died 1995) [JH]
Born September 28, 1930 – Lívia Rusz. (Hungarian-style her name would be Rusz Lívia; Rusz is the family name.) Cartoonist, illustrator, sometimes including fantastic elements e.g. Csipike the dwarf (with Fodor Sándor, or as we’d write, “Sándor Fodor”). Illustrated The Hobbit; here is her cover (in Romanian), here is an interior. (Died 2020)
Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik. You can see his fanzine Fanac (with Terry Carr; fanac = fan activity) here; it won a Hugo. Rick Sneary called him the squirrel for his chatter; he cheerfully adopted it; cartoons appeared. Lived, among other places, in Los Angeles and Berkeley. Hitch-hiked from L.A. to New York for NYCon II the 14th Worldcon. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; his trip report was The Squirrel’s Tale. Served in the Marines. Under another name, wrote a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel, The Cross of Gold Affair. (Died 1968) [JH]
Born September 28, 1950 – William Barton, 70. A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories. Reviews in SF Eye, interviewed there too (with co-author Michael Capobianco). Acts of Conscience won a special Philip K. Dick Award citation; he later served a term a a judge. [JH]
Born September 28, 1950 — John Sayles, 70. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of Piranha, Alligator, Battle Beyond the Stars, The Howling, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles. (CE)
Born September 28, 1956 — Kiran Shah, 64. A dwarf (and yes that’s relevant) who’s been in Superman, Superman II, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Dark Crystal , Return of the Jedi, Legend , Aliens, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Sign of Four. He stunt doubled for Elijah Wood as Frodo and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. He’s got two Who appearances, first as Emojibot 1 in “Smile” and as the mysterious unnamed figure In “Listen”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. (CE)
Born September 28, 1963 — Greg Weisman, 57. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… (CE)
Born September 28, 1982 — Tendai Huchu, 38. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. The latest issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
Born September 28, 1986 — Laurie Penny, 34. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer. “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by JoWalton is in Vector 288. (CE)
(11) CORFLU CONCORDE. The 2021 fanzine fans’ convention, Corflu Concorde, has posted its first progress report on the official Corflu website. The con is planned for March 26-28 in Bristol, UK. Rob Jackson is the Chair.
The FAAn Awards Administrator will be Nic Farey. (Mothers, shield your children!)
Jackson notes provisions are being made for alternate timings for the con “if — as is very possible indeed — we have to postpone from the original date.” A decision about timing will be in PR2, which will be published before Christmas.
…Writing about mathematics presents some special challenges. All science writing generally amounts to explaining something that most people don’t understand in terms that they do. The farther the science is from daily experience, the tougher the task. When it comes to mathematics, its “objects” of study are hardly objects at all. In his famously heartfelt if somewhat dour memoir A Mathematician’s Apology, the mathematician G. H. Hardy describes mathematicians as “makers of patterns.” While all sciences depend on the ability to articulate patterns, the difference in mathematics is that often it is in the pattern in the patterns, divorced from any context at all, that are in fact the subject.
None other than Winston Churchill was able to tell us how it feels to have tower of mathematical babble transformed to a stairway to understanding: “I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable, but it was after dinner and I let it go.” Let’s assume it wasn’t just the whiskey talking.
It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Game of Thrones couldn’t afford to stage a battle. For all its groundbreaking, world-building ambition, the HBO fantasy drama’s 2011 debut season struggled to populate even modest crowd scenes on its $6 million-per-episode budget. Yet going into the show’s sophomore year, GoT producers were faced with the challenge of depicting one of saga author George R.R. Martin’s most colossal events: the Battle of the Blackwater, the climax of his second Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Clash of Kings.
…George R.R. Martin: We had a director who kept saying, “Cut this! Cut that! I can’t make the day.” I kept removing elements and it was getting to the point where it was getting as bad as the jousting tournament.
And then, just a few weeks before filming, the director had an unexpected family medical emergency and had to drop out. “I’d done quite a lot of work prepping that episode,” the director said. “Very sadly, I had an illness in the family and I had to leave. I knew I was leaving them with a difficult time, but it was absolutely unavoidable.”
Now the production had another tough problem. After all their pleading and negotiation with HBO for the money and latitude to stage a climactic battle, they were less than a month from shooting and didn’t have a definitive plan or a director.
Bernadette Caulfield (executive producer): That was my first year on the show and probably my first fight with David and Dan. They were like, “Oh, let’s get so-and-so.” I said, “Ninety percent of this is action. We need somebody who really knows action. It’s not easy. We should really look at Neil Marshall.”
David Benioff: Neil did Centurion and Dog Soldiers, movies where the guy is doing an incredible amount of really impressive action on a very thin budget.
Bernadette Caulfield: And other directors kept being mentioned and I kept saying, “I’m telling you, we need an action director!” Then David calls me up. At the time we didn’t know each other that well. And he goes: “Okay, Bernie, we’re going with your idea to hire Neil.”
I swear to God, my stomach dropped. I’m like, “Wait, my idea? This is a community decision!” I hung up the phone and I thought, Shit. Now it’s my idea. I’m responsible for this guy doing our first battle.
Neil Marshall (director): I was aware of Game of Thrones when season one was happening. I thought, This is really my kind of thing, and had my agent contact HBO and say, “If there’s any chance, I’d like to be able to direct an episode.” Their response was like, “We have our directors, thank you very much.”
Then a year or so later on a Saturday morning, I got an emergency call from Bernie to come and fix a situation that, from what I gathered, was a bit out of control. She asked if I would like to direct an episode. I was like, “Absolutely!” I’m thinking this will be in few months’ time. Then she said, “It’s on Monday morning and you’ve got one week to plan.”…
(14) GET STARTED ON YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING. Time Travel Mart offers a Robot Toupee. Know anybody who needs one?
They have lots of amusing novelties. Consider the Pastport:
Whether heading to Pangaea or the future Moon Colony, no time traveler would dare go without their Pastport. Only documentation officially recognized by the Intertemporal Travel Commission.
Travel stamps may be obtained whenever travel to era is approved. Watch social media for era approval stamps.
Several liquid bodies have been found under the south pole of Mars, according to a major new study.
The findings give extra credence to previous research that suggested there could be a large saltwater lake underneath the Martian surface, the researchers claim – and also led to them discovering a number of other wet areas.
The findings could be key in the search for alien life on the planet, the researchers note, given life as we know it requires liquid water to survive.
They will also be key to “planetary protection” work that ensures that humanity doesn’t contaminate other planets with life from Earth during missions to explore them.
…The discovery was made using MARSIS, or the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, which is onboard the Mars Express spacecraft sent by the European Space Agency to orbit around Mars.
Future moon explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.
China’s lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted.
A Chinese-German team reported on the radiation data collected by the lander — named Chang’e 4 for the Chinese moon goddess — in the U.S. journal Science Advances.
(17) A DOLLAR SHORT. The Space Review’s Dwayne Day looked at the 12 reality shows that claimed to send the winner into space and explained why they all turned into vaporware. “Reality bites”.
…Of course, this is Hollywood, where production companies announce all kinds of plans, some of them much more solid than others, where often the announcement of a project does not mean that the project is about to happen. The article contained this bit of information: “The series will be taken out soon, with a global streaming platform and a broadcast partner in each country, including the U.S., explored as distribution options.”
“Taken out” is Hollywood jargon for “go looking for somebody to pay us to do this.” And when it comes to space-based reality television, lots of proposals like this have been “taken out” before, giving the term a more ominous meaning. In fact, by one count, this is now the twelfth time that somebody has attempted to create a reality TV show with a spaceflight as the prize.
Around 20 years ago, there was the first of a long string of announced reality television shows that would culminate in a flight into space for a lucky winner. The one, or at least the first one that became public, was “Destination: Mir” proposed in 2000 by Mark Burnett, the producer of numerous successful reality television shows, most notably “Survivor.” Burnett wanted to fly the winner of a reality show competition to the Russian space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. NBC even announced that the show would be on its 2001 schedule. After the Mir space station was deorbited, Burnett renamed the show “Destination: Space,” featuring a flight to the International Space Station instead. The reputed price tag for the show was $50 million. Burnett’s project never made it to television….
(18) INSATIABLE. Pac-Man, the iconic arcade game from the 1980s, turns 40 this year. To celebrate, the video game now enters the world of virtual reality.
(19) BRACKETT OUT OF CHANDLER. K A Laity, in “Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)”, comes up with a bunch of reasons to make you want to find the movie and watch it – even though I don’t remember it being all that good!
I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “After Earth Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George notes that the 2013 Will Smith film is set in a future Earth where there’s no oxygen even though there are plenty of trees and animals, and how creatures can smell human fear in a world where humans haven’t lived for a thousand years.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]