(1) BETTER VILLAINS THROUGH SCIENCE (FICTION). Charlie Jane Anders shares “7 Secrets To Avoiding The Biggest Problem With Villains” at Stone Soup. Lots of interesting observations here.
5) A villain is often boring because of boring fight scenes. Or boring chase scenes. Or boring confrontations in general. If a fight scene is just an excuse for a lot of stage directions, or a literal blow by blow of a punching match, it quickly grows stale. As Green Bone Saga author Fonda Lee has explained many times, a good fight scene has emotional stakes and helps to tell the story and says something about the characters. You can learn a lot about a villain by watching them try to kill the hero. You can also learn a lot about a villain by watching them fighting to achieve the same goal as the hero, or the opposite goal for that matter. If your action scenes are really character – and plot development scenes, they will make your villain shine— way more than sticking them in a plexiglass cell ever would.
(2) A CLASSIC OF SF ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Karl Capek’s play, R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots, has a new adaptation as a radio play musical just broadcast from the BBC. You can access Episode 1 from Sounds at the link.
Written in 1932, the play is set in the year 2000. Not only does it have concepts that resonate with much subsequent SF, it is particularly apposite today as we head towards full-blown general artificial intelligence.
Part two next Sunday afternoon at 15.00 Brit Cit time.
Music and Lyrics by Susannah Pearse
Book by Robert Hudson
Karel Capek’s ultra-prescient, retro-futurist 1921 comedy (the classic which gave us the word ‘robot’) is re-imagined with a massive dose of character-driven and song-centred heart.
In Capek’s world, machines do all the work and their monopolistic makers care only about enriching themselves. Robots make huge volumes of goods very cheaply, but there are limited resources to make these goods from and humans don’t care so long as life keeps getting lazier.
The movie star Lady Helen is on a personal crusade. She visits the island factory of Rossum’s Universal Robots, robot-makers to the world, with the intention of freeing the robots. Despite her better judgement, she falls in love with Chairman Domin, the capitalist boss of R.U.R, who dismisses her campaign by insisting that robots are devoid of emotion and free will. Undeterred, Lady Helen persuades a sympathetic scientist to grow a small batch of robots with these very qualities.
The new robots defy all expectations, not least because of their resolute commitment to saving the world from the humans.
(3) WILLIAMSON LECTURESHIP SCHEDULE. The 2022 Jack Williamson Lectureship schedule has been posted. Most of these events will be streamed via YouTube live, and you’ll be able to view them on the ENMU YouTube channel.
Thursday, April 7:
3:00: Real-Life CSI Q&A, JWLA 111. Zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82969992270?pwd=VDdPeUpBcFExeFZQTGRsVVpTNkRsZz09
5:30: A Retrospective with Walter Jon Williams, UTC Small Theater
Friday, April 8:
10:00 am: Guest of Honor Reading, GSSC Presentation area
12:00 pm: Williamson Lectureship Lunch and Main Event, CUB Ballroom
1:30 pm: Gaming Session, GSSC Presentation Room
Panel 1a: Remixing and Genre, GSSC 216. Panelists: Walter Jon Williams, Emily Mah, Reese Hogan, Jeffe Kennedy
Panel 2a: History and/of Science Fiction, GSSC 216, Panelists: Connie Willis, Walter Jon Williams, Reese Hogan, Ian Tregillis
Panel 2b: Craft of a story/Story crafting, GSSC 217, Panelists: Darynda Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, Emily Mah
Panel 3a: Never the Same Story Twice: Making Stories Your Own, GSSC 216, Panelists: Walter Jon Williams, Connie Willis, Emily Mah
Panel 3b: Short Attention Span, GSSC 217, Panelists: Jeffe Kennedy, Darynda Jones, Reese Hogan
(4) IN A STRANGE LAND. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has released its official trailer. Airing on Paramount+ this May, Strange New Worlds is both a prequel to the original Star Trek series and a spinoff of the events of Star Trek: Discovery season 2
(5) THREE’S A CHARM. New York Times science fiction reviewer Amal El-Mohtar hits the jackpot in “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Circumstances” – with good things to say about All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie, Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin, and The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz.
To paraphrase Ian Fleming: To read one good book is happenstance; two is coincidence; three is wild good fortune. That a columnist should enjoy novels in her purview is not particularly noteworthy — but to read three excellent books in sequence, all for the same column, is unusual, a critic’s jackpot….
(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1914 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] On this day, one hundred and eight years ago, the first part of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core novel appeared in All-Star Weekly. This magazine started life as The All-Story Magazine before becoming The All-Story and All-Star Weekly. Burroughs’ serial would run from April 4 to April 25, 1914. It would be first published in book form in hardcover by A. C. McClurg in July, 1922. It is of course freely available at the usual suspects.
Pellucidar, a hollow Earth story, is very influential with writers using the setting later on, not the least of which is the author who has Tarzan appearing there. Lin Carter’s “Zanthodon” series, beginning with his novel Journey to the Underground World, is considered an homage to this work.
And the Skartaris setting used by Mike Grell in The Warlord series is another homage to Pellucidar in the graphic medium. Justice League Unlimited‘s “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode would show the hollow Earth in an animated medium. It’s quite wonderful even if, like the Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World series, it has very, very little to do with the source material.
Wiki claims that Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness was largely influenced by this work. Huh? Please explain.
The novel has been filmed once as At the Earth’s Core in 1976 as directed by Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure as David Innes and Peter Cushing as Abner Perry. It fared badly among critics and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, garnering just thirty-three percent from each. My favorite critic comment? This one by Stephen Randall of the Los Angeles Free Press: “It’s the type of movie you can send your kids to, but only if you don’t much like them.” Ouch. Really ouch.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 4, 1902 — Stanley G. Weinbaum. His first story, “A Martian Odyssey”, was published to general accolades in July 1934, but he died from lung cancer less than a year and a half later. ISFDB lists two novels, The New Adam and The Dark Other, plus several handfuls of short stories that were I assume were out for consideration with various editors at the time of his death. Everything he wrote is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1935.)
- Born April 4, 1949 — David C. Sutherland III. An early Dungeons & Dragons artist. His work heavily influenced the development of D&D. He was also one of their writers on such modules as the Queen of the Demonweb Pits that Gary Gygax edited. He also drew the maps for Castle Ravenloft. (Died 2009.)
- Born April 4, 1948 — Dan Simmons, 74. He’s the author of the Hyperion Cantos and the Ilium/Olympos cycles. Hyperion won a Hugo Award at ConFiction (1990), and The Fall of Hyperion was nominated the following year at ChiCon V (1991). Both are, if my memory serves me right, excellent. If you like horror, Song of Kali which won a World Fantasy Award is quite tasty indeed. In 2013 he became a World Horror Convention Grand Master. Beware his social media, which include remarks about environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
- Born April 4, 1952 — Cherie Lunghi, 70. Her fame arise from her role as Guinevere in Excalibur. (I saw Excalibur in a 1920s-built theater on a warm summer night with hardly anyone there.) She was also Baroness Frankenstien (Victor’s Mother) in Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She was also in The Lady’s Not for Burning as Jennet Jourdemayne. That I’ve not seen.
- Born April 4, 1959 — Phil Morris, 63. His first acting role was on the “Miri” episode of Trek as simply Boy. He was the Sam the Kid on several episodes of Mr. Merlin before returning to Trek fold as Trainee Foster in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Next interesting role is voicing Vandal Savage on a three-part Justice League Unlimited story called “The Savage Time”, a role he reprised for Justice League: Doom. No, I’ve not forgotten that he was on Mission: Impossible as Grant Collier. He also played the Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) on Smallvillie. Currently He’s Silas Stone on Doom Patrol and no, I didn’t spot that was him in that role.
- Born April 4, 1965 — Robert Downey Jr., 57. Iron Man in the Marvel Universe film franchise. (I loved the first Iron Man film, thought they could’ve stopped there.) Also a rather brilliant Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Also voicing James Barris in an animated adaption of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly which picked up a nomination at Nippon 2007. Yes, he’s plays the title role in Dolittle which despite having scathing critical reviews has a rather superb seventy-six rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
- Born April 4, 1967 — Xenia Seeberg, 55. She is perhaps best known for her role as Xev Bellringer in Lexx, a show’s that’s fantastic provided you can see in its uncensored form. I’ve also see she played Muireann In Annihilation Earth, Noel in So, You’ve Downloaded a Demon, uncredited role in Lord of The Undead, and Sela In the “Assessment” episode of Total Recall 2070.
- Born April 4, 1968 — Gemma Files, 54. She’s a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic. Her Hexslinger series now at three novels and a handful of stories is quite fun. It’s worth noting that she’s a prolific short story writer whose “The Emperor’s Old Bones” won an International Horror Guild Award and four of these stories have been adapted as scripts for The Hunger horror series. Impressive indeed! She won a Shirley Jackson Award and a Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic for Experimental Film.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro introduces us to Frankenstein’s monster’s barber.
- Tom Gauld on baiting a wild librarian:
(9) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Bob Godfrey and Ron Neesin explain how to make sound effects with stuff you have at home in this BBC clip from 1974 that dropped today. “Sound Effects with Ron Geesin” — The DIY Film Animation Show.
Bob Godfrey is joined by musician and composer extraordinaire Ron Geesin, who delivers a masterclass in the art of creating and syncing sound effects. To create these sound effects at home you will need: A mouth, a tape recorder, a shoe box, a breadknife, a contact microphone, a disused banjo, some rice, eccentric multimedia artist Bruce Lacey, and some sticky tape. Incidentally, if you can’t be bothered to make your own sound effects, here are 16,000 we made earlier: http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/
(10) PROBLEMS WITH TWO FANS STOP ARTEMIS LAUNCH. The fans haven’t been named. “NASA’s Artemis I mega moon rocket test scrubbed for second time” reports CNN.
…The test was originally scheduled to be completed on Sunday but was put on hold before the propellant was loaded. That was due to problems with two fans used to provide pressure to the mobile launcher – the movable tower which the rocket sits upon before it lifts off.
NASA said Monday it was able overnight to resolve the malfunction of the fans, which are needed to pressurize enclosed areas inside the launcher and keep out hazardous gases…
(11) THE SEVENTIES. CBR.com dares us to disagree: “10 Best Sci-Fi Films of the 70s, Ranked”.
After the Swinging Sixties left an unmistakable mark on pop culture – music, film, and just about everything else – it fell upon the following decade to try and best what came before. For many, the 1970s may well be their favorite era for all of those things, and one area in particular where it arguably excelled over the 60s was sci-fi cinema….
5. Alien (1979) Promised That In Space… No One Can Hear You Scream
Alien took the world by surprise in the Spring of 1979 and is still considered an iconic sci-fi-horror film to this day. It was pitched as essentially being “Jaws in space” although the result is something far more than that.
Directed by Ridley Scott, with incredible designs from HR Giger, and featuring a star-making performance from Sigourney Weaver, Alien sparked a huge multimedia franchise that’s still going strong to this day.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]