(1) A MIGHTY LONG LIST. List Challenges presents “1000 Books You May Have Actually Read” — “Based on the number of ratings each book has on Goodreads. And if you haven’t read them, maybe you can use for a literature bucket list.”
I scored 169. The list has certain biases. If I’d read every book by Nicholas Sparks and Stephen King, I think I could have doubled my number. On the other hand, I got credit for a whole bunch of books I read aloud to my daughter when she was little.
(2) SINCE 9/11. At LA Review of Books, Yxta Maya Murray mines the applications of 2002 Creative Capital awardees to look at how these artists imagined a post-9/11 future: “Art Matters Now — 12 Writers on 20 Years of Art: Yxta Maya Murray on Artists’ Responses to 9/11”.
2002 was a historical hinge. Just a moment earlier, the United States had seemed to be enjoying a period of peace; now it was at war. The art of that year offers a time capsule that reflects the millennium’s complex transitions. Reeling from 9/11 but working on projects begun during the Clintonian boom, before the Towers fell, some artists in 2002 were still able to romanticize millenarianism and the future: rather than imagining the specifics of the violence that would descend with the war presidency of George W. Bush, artists such as Sawad Brooks and Sabrina Raaf, for example, revealed a fascination with a speculative tomorrowland that resembled the visions of sci-fi writers such as Isaac Asimov, Iain Banks, and William Gibson. But others, such as Tana Hargest, Sujata Bhatt, Suzanne Lacy, and Nick Cave, forecasted a more difficult future.
(3) DISNEY’S ARMY OF LAWYERS. IndieWire reports “Disney Is Cracking Down on Sellers of Unlicensed Baby Yoda Dolls”.
Ever since “The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney+ in November, the adorable “Baby Yoda” character has melted hearts and minds around the world. However, despite fervent requests for Baby Yoda dolls, Disney has been rather slow to respond to product demands, reportedly in order to keep Baby Yoda’s reveal in “The Mandalorian” pilot a secret per Jon Favreau’s request.
But the cat was out of the bag after the show’s premiere, and “The Child” quickly became a social media sensation. It shouldn’t then be a surprise that impatient fans have already taken matters into their own hands, with Etsy crafters and sellers creating their own unofficial Baby Yoda toys to capitalize on the demand. And for a while, the bootleg Baby Yoda market seemed to flourish.
Of course, it didn’t take long before Disney discovered this, and began issuing takedown notices, reminding Etsy that it owns the intellectual property rights to all Star Wars characters. And Etsy businesses with popular Baby Yoda products suddenly found their listings deactivated, at the request of Disney, according to The Verge.
(4) LEGO NEWS. In the Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to market itself to Generation X people as a stress reliever, thinking that Gen X types “are more likely to drop $800 on a 7,541-piece Star Wars Millennium Falcon set or $400 for a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle.” — “Lego sets its sights on a growing market: Stressed-out adults”.
Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to appeal to Gen X nostalgia by offering items such as the Central Perk cafe from “Friends” or a “vintage 1989 Batmobile.” Also next month LEGO Masters will premiere as a competition show on FOX.
Another connection to sf: Bhattarai says Lego posted a loss in 1998 but was saved when they got the license to produce Star Wars products
(5) BRICKS IN SPACE. And io9 spotted a massive Lego Star Wars fan project: “This Custom Lego Version of Echo Base Is Ready for the Empire’s Siege”.
The sheer ambition of Lego creators never ceases to amaze me. Far from being satisfied with what Lego’s sets provide, these sculptors create incredible things. Like this version of Echo Base from The Empire Strikes Back, which is ready for battle.
Hopefully, this version will have a better fight than the one in the film, however. Clocking in at over 16,000 pieces, this Echo Base, created by YouTuber The Lego Room, is a custom build featuring the base’s hangar, medical chamber, and pretty much every other part you see in the films. It even has a fully motorized gate to keep the snow and the Empire out. Capping it off is an elaborate build of the Millenium Falcon, taking up a lot of hangar space.
(6) SAD STORY OF HARASSMENT. LA Times columnist Julia Wick writes: “A female mayor denounces the harassment she receives. Hours later, a man is arrested at her office”.
If you are a woman who is so bold as to inhabit a vaguely public stage, chances are high that you will be called a lot of things that can’t be printed in a family newspaper. And then some.
It’s a truism that unfortunately appears to transcend industry or geography. Exist in public, and eventually an online mob will nitpick your looks, rate your sexual desirability in relation to your ability to do your job, and probably make threats vague and specific — regardless of whether you’re a female journalist, the founder of an indie game studio or trying to run a small city in the Central Coast region of California.
San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was fed up when she finally took to Facebook last Monday morning to call out the constant harassment she received.
(7) FIRST TIMER. Twitter user Yubi had never actually seen The Princess Bride and knew very little about it. Until now, when they did a watch through, and livetweeted their reactions. It’s really entertaining seeing them find out where so many common fan phrases and gifts came from. Thread starts here.
(8) MORE ABOUT STEVE STILES. The Baltimore Sun paid tribute to one of their own: “Steve Stiles, Hugo Award-winning comic fan artist of ‘Xenozoic Tales,’ dies at 76”.
…He did a two-year Army stint in the mid-1960s. A commanding officer told him: “If you can draw my girlfriend, you won’t get orders to go to Vietnam.”
“That’s exactly what happened,” said Elaine Stiles, his wife of 38 years. He was stationed instead at bases in Missouri and Virginia Beach.
Mr. Stiles was tasked with using his artistic talents to liven up the Army manuals for rifles and other equipment — following in the footsteps of one of his idols, the legendary comic artist Will Eisner, who had done similar jobs in the service during World War II.
More than 20 years later, while they were serving together on a science-fiction panel at a 1988 convention in Florida, Mr. Eisner complimented Mr. Stiles on his art.
“He was talking about it for the rest of his life,” Mrs. Stiles said.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- January 19, 1967 — Star Trek’s “Arena” episode first aired on NBC. It was written by Gene L. Coon but after the episode aired , it was found to almost identical to one Fredric Brown had published in 1944 in Astounding Science Fiction. Coon then bought the rights to his story and Brown has been retroactively given a story writing credit. Not one but two actors play Gorn (Gary Combs and Bobby Clark), both uncredited, and Ted Cassidy is the Voice of Gorn Captain, also uncredited. This episode, aired in the first season is where the Federation is first mentioned.
- January 19, 1990 — The first Tremors film premiered. It was directed by Ron Underwood and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, as written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire. It was the only film of six in total to get a box office release. It did poorly at the box office even though critics thought it well of it and thought it has a Fifties throwback vibe to it. It has an 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with an astonishing almost two hundred and forty thousand votes!
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 19, 1930 — Tippi Hedren, 90. Melanie Daniels In Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s Harvest, Tales from the Darkside, The Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series.
- Born January 19, 1940 — Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S. He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
- Born January 19, 1942 — Michael Crawford, 78. He was the first Phantom of the Opera in Andrew Lloyd Opera’s play. He did thirteen hundred performances in total. He did two other genre plays, Dance of the Vampires and The Wizard of Oz. He did an episode of One Step Beyond as well, though I’m not sure that was genre.
- Born January 19, 1948 — Michael J. Jackson, 72. Shows up on Dr. Who in the Fifth Doctor adventure, “The King’s Demons” as Sir Geoffrey. He played Sean Burns in a recurring role on Highlander, and played Richard I in The Legend of Robin Hood series. He was in The Morons from Outer Space as the Second Scientist.
- Born January 19, 1954 — Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship.
- Born January 19, 1957 — Roger Ashton-Griffiths, 63. He’s no doubt best known for his role as Mace Tyrell on Game of Thrones. And yes he was on Doctor Who in a Twelfth Doctor adventure, “The Robots of Sherwood” as Quayle. He’s also had roles in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic,Tales from the Crypt, Torchwood, Brazil and Young Sherlock Holmes.
- Born January 19, 1962 — Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger. A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files.
- Born January 19, 1981 — Bitsie Tulloch, 39. She’s best known for her role as Juliette Silverton on Grimm. (I saw the first three seasons I think. It’s rather good.) She played Lois Lane in the Elseworlds event which she reprised during the Crisis on Infinite Earths even a year later.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Close to Home shows a certain kind of gourmand in action.
- The Duplex took a photo of my dating life from back in the day.
- Free Range has a new idea for a nature park.
(12) PIXEL PACKIN’ POWER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 15 Financial Times, Tom Faber reviews a concert at the O2 Brixton Academy in London by Hatsune Miku, a hologram who has a repertory of 100,000 songs.
Here, on her second European tour, she was performing to a mixed crowd: ‘otaku’; Japanese subculture obsessives dressed in elaborate aqua wigs and microscopic skirts; other excited teens; and a smattering of baffled dads. There was a real four-piece band on stage to support the synthesized vocals, but the players were left mostly in the dark as they tore through the signature J-pop genre crush of pop, metal, techno and trance. The dreams and emotions were turned up to 11 from the first chorus, and for two hours they did not come back down She sang big hits such as the buoyant, melodramatic ‘World is Mine’ and the English-language ‘Miku’ (sample lyric: ‘Blue hair, blue tie, hiding in your WiFi’). The misses outnumbered them, though, with an excess of polite guitar shredding and a particularly bloodless salsa number.
…While the 10-year-old hologram technology used in the show was not particularly impressive, Miku’s star continues to rise; she has just been added to the line-up at Coachella 2020. Her name translates from Japanese as ‘first sound of the future,’ and while she doesn’t convince as a harbinger of the future of pop, she does suggest the future of fandom. After her last song, Miku exploded into a thousand cyan pixels. The house lights came up and the crowd roared. Next to me a man, sweaty and euphoric, screamed, ‘Thank you, Miku!’ into the empty air.
Hatsune Miku’s website is https://piapro.net/intl/en.html .
(13) RADIX OFFERS COPIES FOR AWARDS CONSIDERATION. Radix Media is offering review copies (printed or PDF) to anybody interested in considering their 2019 releases in the Futures: A Science Fiction Series for awards: “2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards Eligibility”.
(14) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. MovieWeb talked to somebody who attended the screening: “First Dune Remake Footage Earns Big Praise, Gets Compared to Lord of the Rings”.
The first Dune footage has screened. The preview footage was shown to a small group of industry insiders and has already been hailed as “epic.” Principal photography wrapped not that long ago and Denis Villeneuve is currently in the post-production phase to prepare the long-awaited movie for release at the end of the year. As for the footage that was shown, it was mixed in with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes shots. It does not seem like it was intended for public release, so don’t expect to see it any time soon.
Sci-fi novelist Brian Clement was one of the lucky viewers of the first Dune footage and he has shared his thoughts online for fans. First of all, the footage did not have completed special effects, though Clement describes the cinematography as “beautiful,” while stating, “I’m not exaggerating when I say a lot of people will have goosebumps/tears when they see this movie (I might!). Heck, when they see the footage I saw they will.” The author had to choose his words wisely as not to catch any trouble with Warner Bros.
…A small amount of footage of Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen was seen also seen in the Dune footage, along with a tiny bit of Jason Momoa. Brian Clement went on to tease that the choice of actor for playing Kynes will be a surprise for audiences, while Dave Bautista apparently looks “creepy” in the footage.
(15) OUT FOXED. “Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand”.
Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.
US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.
However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.
It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.
20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.
(16) AVENUE 5. This is going to be longer than a “three-hour tour” — “Review: HBO’s ‘Avenue 5,’ a Tale of a Fateful Trip (in Space)” in the New York Times.
How far is Armando Iannucci’s new HBO comedy, “Avenue 5,” from his previous one, “Veep”? About a billion miles, give or take, or the distance from earth to Saturn, where the spaceship of the title is thrown off course, greatly increasing the time its load of unlucky tourists will have to spend on their interplanetary cruise.
Set 40 years in the future aboard a vessel that looks like a cross between the Starship Enterprise and a high-end mall, Iannucci’s new show would seem to be a radical departure from the acrid, of-the-moment political satire of “Veep” and his earlier British series “The Thick of It.” (Several of those shows’ writers, including Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Will Smith, have joined him on “Avenue 5.”)
But there are recognizably Iannuccian things about this space-com, which debuts Sunday. Like the politicians and operatives guiding the ship of state in “Veep,” the crew members of the Avenue 5 are an often amoral, small-minded and quarrelsome bunch whose constant sniping provides the bulk of the humor. Leading them is a captain, played by the “Veep” alumnus Hugh Laurie, who, like Vice President Selina Meyer, is not ideally qualified for his post.
(17) SAFETY FIRST. “SpaceX completes emergency crew escape manoeuvre” — includes video.
SpaceX has conducted a test of the abort manoeuvre it would use if one of its crew-carrying rockets ever developed a problem during flight.
The rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center saw a Falcon-9 vehicle’s ascent into the sky deliberately terminated just 80 seconds after lift-off.
The Dragon astronaut capsule on top fired its escape engines to carry itself clear of the “faulty” booster.
Parachutes brought the vessel to a safe splashdown some 30km off Florida.
No humans were involved in the practice abort; the only occupants of the Dragon ship were a couple of Anthropomorphic Test Devices, or “dummies”.
This was considered to be the last major milestone for California’s SpaceX company before the US space agency (Nasa) certifies the firm to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.
(18) NOT FOREVER MAN. Hey, don’t laugh, these’ll be very useful the first time there’s a mission to take over an integral tree: “US Space Force mocked for unveiling camouflage uniforms”.
The US Space Force has defended its newly unveiled camouflage uniforms after they were roundly mocked on social media.
The force, officially launched by US President Donald Trump last month, posted a picture of the uniform to its Twitter account.
The uniform in the picture has a woodland camouflage design with badges embroidered on the arm and chest.
Reacting to the uniform, many critics had the same question: “Camo in space?”
[Thanks to Rose Embolism, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., Michal Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Andrew and Meredith.]