(1) HALFWAY THRU THE YEAR. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility tops Amazon.com’s list of the twenty “Best science fiction and fantasy of 2022 so far”.
And joining Sea of Tranquility on Amazon.com’s overall “Best Books of the Year So Far” are Saara El-Arifi’s The Final Strife and John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society.
(2) BROOKS BY THE BOOK. The New York Times’ interview with Geraldine Brooks gives backhanded praise to a Hugo winner.
Can a great book be badly written? What other criteria can overcome bad prose?
The “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy, by Liu Cixin, is full of insight into everything from China’s Cultural Revolution to why we have yet to experience first contact, and why we maybe shouldn’t want to. But there’s a clunkiness to some of the sentences and I can’t know if it’s the writing or the translation. Alas, it’s too late for me to learn Mandarin in order to get a definitive answer.
(3) HEAVY DUTY. TrekMovie.com reports “Toymaker TOMY To Make 32-Inch Die-Cast ‘Star Trek’ USS Enterprise Weighing 20 Pounds”. Twenty pounds!!! What, have they got Garfield the Cat as the Captain?
… TOMY has announced a new collaboration with Paramount to develop a number of Star Trek products, starting with a limited edition highly-detailed 1/350 scale premium die-cast U.S.S. Enterprise model from The Original Series. Made of 90% die-cast metal, the model includes precision detailing and decorations with over 70 LED lights and a premium stand with collector packaging….
Gizmodo has more of the story and – brace yourself – the price tag: “Star Trek USS Enterprise Model Created With Smithsonian’s Help”.
…As you’ve probably guessed, this replica isn’t priced for casual Trekkies. Tomy is taking a crowd-funded approach and will only put the limited run replica into production if it receives 5,000 pre-orders for the ship, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. That’s a lofty goal, especially with a price tag of $600, and with pre-orders being limited to just Star Trek fans in the United States. If Tomy finds enough backers, its Prestige Select U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 replica will ship out to fans next Summer in 2023.
This video shows off the prototype with the lights in action.
(4) INTO THE WEST. HBO’s Westworld Season 4 Official Trailer says, “Maybe it’s time you questioned the nature of your own reality.” Sounds right.
(5) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDALS. The Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. Neither winner is a genre work.
The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal
- October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)
The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal
- The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)
(6) YOUNG XENA AND OTHER ROLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rose McIver. “Maltin on Movies: Rose McIver”. Nearly all of her work is genre-related, including her current role in CBS’s Ghosts and her best-known role in IZombie. Of course, being a Disney fan, Leonard Maltin made sure to ask about her work as Tinker Bell (spelled that way) in Once Upon a Time.
McIver has a good story about Lucy Lawless. When she was nine she played young Xena while Lawless stepped away from her role during her pregnancy. Lawless sent McIver several cassette tapes where she explained Xena’s story and gave her a chance to listen to the cadences of Lawless’s voice so she could do a better job of being a young Lucy Lawless. McIver fondly remembered Lawless’s kindnesses over two decades later.
I thought this was a good interview.
(7) A VISIT TO THE INSTRUMENTALITY. Rich Horton tours the worldbuilding of Cordwainer Smith in “The Timeless Strangeness of ‘Scanners Live in Vain’” at Black Gate.
I recently had occasion to reread Cordwainer Smith’s Science Fiction Hall of Fame story “Scanners Live in Vain.” This was probably my fifth rereading over the years (soon followed by a sixth!) — it’s a story I’ve always loved, but for some reason this time through it struck me even more strongly. It is a truly great SF story; and I want to take a close look at what makes it work….
(8) PORT YOUR HELM. If you can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, you can certainly make an anime feature from Tolkien’s appendix. “’Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim’: Brian Cox, Miranda Otto Cast” – Deadline has the story.
…The movie centers around the fate of the House of Helm Hammerhand, the mighty King of Rohan, a character from the J.R.R. Tolkien book’s appendix. Succession actor Cox will provide the voice of that protagonist.
The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original trilogy of films. A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg – a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.
Wise (A Walk in the Woods) will play Hammerhand’s daughter Hera; and Luke Pasqualino (Snowpiercer) will portray Wulf…
(9) DOCTOR DOOGIE HOWSER WHO? “Neil Patrick Harris Joins Doctor Who’ for 60th Anniversary Special” reports Yahoo! But what’s he doing on the show?
…“It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the mighty Neil Patrick Harris…but who, why, what is he playing? You’ll just have to wait,” [Russell T] Davies said in a statement. “But I promise you, the stuff we’re shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”
Harris is currently filming his scenes for the special, though details about his role are being guarded safely behind the closed doors of the TARDIS…
Harris released a photo of him in character on Instagram.
(10) THREE MORE MONGOLIAN TRANSLATIONS. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] I stopped in at the really snazzy bookstore at the State Department Store today and found three more recent translations: Second Foundation (the Mongolian is literally more like “Second Storehouse/Coffers/Holdings”), Fahrenheit 451, and Zamyatin’s We (between Ahmet Ümit’s Istanbul Souvenir and Moby Dick).
(11) ESSAY: GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER’S WHEN GRAVITY FAILS.
1986 – [By Cat Eldridge.] No, When Gravity Fails wasn’t published this month. It was published in January of 1986 by Arbor House. It’s just one of my favorite novels. And it’s one of the few truly great genre fictions set in the Middle East or whatever you want to call that region. (Jon Courtney Grimwood’s Arabesk trilogy and G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen are two other great ones set there. Do suggest others ones to me please.) That When Gravity Fails is the first in the Marîd Audran series makes it even better.
SPOILER ALERT Effinger’s novel, set near the end of the 22nd Century in an Islamic world in the rise while the West is fast descending or so we are told, describes an ascendant Arabic/Muslim is Center around Marîd Audran, a young man whose has a deep phobia about getting his brain wired. Hence he’s always on the outside of society. He and his trans girlfriend sometimes get along, sometimes want to kill each other. END SPOILER
I re-read about a half a decade ago. I was pleasantly surprised that the Suck Fairy hadn’t trod her steel studded combat boots upon this work. It feels remarkably fresh and Effinger’s society still rings true. Like the settings in Grimwood’s Arabesk or Wilson’s Alif, it feels real. That a neat trick that not many genre writers accomplish when trying to create a different culture.
I understand that Effinger said in interviews that a lot of his society there was based on his living in the New Orleans French Quarter. If that’s true, the sex, violence, and moral ambiguity shown in the novel suggests a lot about the French Quarter in the Eighties!
A note for y’all to consider. Most reviewers consider it a cyberpunk novel. I do not. It’s very good SF novel but the personality chips just don’t feel cyberpunkish to me. Neither the Arabesk trilogy or Alif is cyberpunk either.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born June 16, 1896 — Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 “First Contact” novella, a 1996 Retro Hugo-winner, one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.)
- Born June 16, 1924 — Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties film This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999.)
- Born June 16, 1938 — Joyce Carol Oates, 84. To my utter surprise, she’s won a World Fantasy Award for a short story, “Fossil-Figures”. And though I didn’t think of her as a horror writer, she’s won five, yes five, Stoker Awards. Her short fiction, which is legion, is stellar. I recommend her recent Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense collection .
- Born June 16, 1939 — David McDaniel. A prolific writer of The Man from U.N.C.LE. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two which I must find. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director, writing various APAs and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” which is to say he financially support the Club. (Died 1977.)
- Born June 16, 1940 — Carole Ann Ford, 82. Best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in Doctor Who, and as Bettina in of The Day of the Triffids. Ford appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
- Born June 16, 1957 — Ian Buchanan, 65. Best remembered as Dick Tremayne on Twin Peaks. He’s done one-offs on the first Flash series, Quantum Leap, voice roles on Gargoyles, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman Beyond and Justice League, Charmed and Stargate SG-1.
- Born June 16, 1972 — Andy Weir, 50. His debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal” which is only available as an Audible audiobook. Project Hail Mary is nominated for the Hugo Award this year.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater is based on a gag I bet every comics reader has thought of at some point.
- Bizarro finds it’s time to have that discussion when little robots wonder where they came from.
- Close to Home overhears what the next thing is that a kaiju wants to eat.
(14) VOYAGE CONTINUES WITH A NEW PILOT. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Randy Milholland, who has just taken over Popeye from 95-year-old Hy Eisman. Cavna explains that Milholland is trying to preserve Popeye’s noble spirit and champion of the underdog while making Popeye a GenXer and Olive Oyl a MIllennial. “Popeye is getting a makeover at age 93”.
…Today, he thinks characters like Olive Oyl, as shaped long ago by Segar and writer Tom Sims, can speak to modern audiences. He notes that their Olive was outspoken and in your face. “She was never the damsel in distress in the comics.” He says her stance was: “I’m here and I will fight either at Popeye’s side or I will get in front of him.”
All these characters have flaws — and Popeye’s father, Poopdeck Pappy, “is a flaw on his own,” Milholland notes with a grin — but Popeye and Olive are the types to “find their moral centers” when needed.
Milholland likes to play with character faces and shapes, including the antagonistic witch the Sea Hag and the magical pet Eugene the Jeep. He enjoys designing the ballet of fisticuffs that flows across the page. Yet, for all the enduring dynamics of “Popeye,” Milholland comes back to valuing the familial heart that beats at the center of the strip….
(15) DINO MIGHT. Did you ever ask yourself “Why Does Batman have a T-Rex in the Batcave?” MSN.com’s Aman Singh did.
Debuting in 1943, the Batcave is a fascinating place that holds many mementos to Batman’s long history. The Caped Crusader’s lair features many interesting items such a giant penny and a large replica of Joker’s playing card. Though some may say it’s ridiculous, the cave is a reflection of Batman’s character evolution. Despite going through many changes over the years and different iterations across creative teams, one of the few items that remains constant is the iconic T-Rex prop. The origins for this unusual memento go way back into Batman’s formative years….
(16) NINEFOX GAMBIT TRPG ON ITS WAY. Yoon Ha Lee has designed an RPG for his Machineries of Empire universe.
(17) ONE THUMB DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This reviewer pretty much hates Kyra Sedgwick‘s directorial premier, indie feature film Space Oddity. I’ve seen others reviews that were kinder to it. Me? I have no clue. “Space Oddity Review: Kyra Sedgwick’s Sexless, Spaceless Rom-Com” by Samantha Bergeson at IndieWire.
….But the film heavy-handedly relies on a climate change component to beat people over the head with a bouquet of reasons why the world as we know it is dying. True, but this film makes a good reason for why it should.
At one point, Alex angrily lectures a mirror: “I hope you all had a good time at the farewell party for the tigers and the lions!” And no, he is not talking about Detroit teams finishing their seasons. It is hysterical in the best way. “I’m going to Mars!” is Alex’s refrain in “Space Oddity,” and he even says it to himself — “over and out.”….
(18) BUGS, MR. RICO. ZILLIONS OF ‘EM. “Spilling the Tea: Insect DNA Shows Up in World’s Top Beverage” is the jolly news from The Scientist.
How do you monitor which species live in an area? In addition to traditional ecological tools such as camera traps, researchers have reported new methods in recent years that allow them to detect minute traces of DNA known as environmental DNA, or eDNA, that animals leave behind in water and even air. In a study published June 15 in Biology Letters, a group reports picking up eDNA from a new source: dried plant material. The team purchased tea from grocery stores, and were able to detect hundreds of species of arthropods in just one bag….
TS: Was there anything about the results of this study that surprised you?
HK: What really surprised me was the high diversity we detected. . . . We took one tea bag, and . . . I think it was from 100 [or] 150 milligrams of dried plant material, we extracted DNA. And we found in green tea up to 400 species of insects in a single tea bag. . . . That really surprised me. And the reason probably is that this tea, it’s ground to a relatively fine powder. So the eDNA [from all parts of the tea field] gets distributed.
(19) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. The Scientist reports on evidence that the “Black Death Likely Originated in Central Asia”.
In the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains in what is now Kyrgyzstan, tombstones in the Kara-Djigach cemetery with Syriac inscriptions showed that the village’s death rate skyrocketed over a two-year period. Phil Slavin, a historian at the University of Stirling in Scotland, says that “out of a total of 467 stones that are precisely dated to the period between 448 and 1345, 118 actually turned out to be dated to the years 1338 [and] 1339.”…
(20) A CLOSER LOOK. “NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” reports Nature. “Rolling up an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, the rover starts crucial rock sampling.”
More than 15 months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.
On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover there. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.
Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter.
The rover will spend the next few months exploring the Jezero delta, while mission scientists decide where they want to drill and extract rock samples. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to retrieve those samples and fly them back to Earth for study, no earlier than 2033, in the first-ever sample return from Mars….
(21) DEL TORO OPENS HIS CABINET. Guillermo Del Toro and Netflix have shared the first teaser trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, an eight-episode horror anthology featuring original plots and adaptations of short stories. No release date has been set.
The maestro of horror – Guillermo Del Toro – presents 8 blood-curdling tales of horror. This anthology of sinister stories is told by some of today’s most revered horror creators, including the directors of The Babadook, Splice, Mandy, and many more.
(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Jurassic World: Dominion Pitch Meting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode says that neither the producer or the screenwriter can remember the names of the characters Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt play so a quick Wikipedia search is in order. Also, when the producer learns that several characters from Jurassic Park have come back, he asks, “Is there any other way to make money? We’re rapidly running out of iconic characters to bring back!”
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rich Horton, Ferret Bueller, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]