(1) FRENCH SFF SCHOLAR COMING TO KANSAS. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF is welcoming 2023 Hall Center International Scholar, Simon Bréan. Professor Simon Bréan (U. of Paris-Sorbonne), a world-renowned a scholar and specialist in science fiction, will visit the University of Kansas in April 2023 as the Hall Center for the Humanities 2023 International Scholar and a guest of the Department of French, Francophone & Italian Studies, Center of Excellence, KU Libraries, and the Gunn Center for the Study of SF. Professor Bréan will be visiting from Wednesday April 26 to Thursday, April 27, 2023.
(2) ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN. “Harlan Coben’s Top Tip for Book Touring: Appreciate Crowds” in the New York Times.
On July 11, 2001, Harlan Coben was at home in Ridgewood, N.J., when his publisher called to share the happy news that his 10th novel, “Tell No One,” was a best seller. “That’s the first time I hit the New York Times list,” he said in a phone interview. “It was also the day my fourth and youngest child was born. Things changed a lot after that.”
Not only was the author swarmed by small people — the oldest Coben kid was 7 — he suddenly attracted crowds to bookstores. Gone was the awkwardness he immortalized in a 2014 Op-Ed about a slow afternoon at Waldenbooks: “During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four people approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.”
Maybe this memory explains why Coben declined to issue a single substantive complaint about the toll of recent professional obligations.
(3) NERO FIDDLES, VULCAN BURNS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] We may be living in some offshoot of the Star Trek alternate timeline where Nero destroys Vulcan.
Back in 2018 it was announced an exoplanet (“super-Earth” sized) had been discovered at 40 Eridani which was, of course, popularly referred to as Vulcan after Mr. Spock‘s home planet orbiting there in the Star Trek universe.
Well, reanalysis of the data has lead to the conclusion that, sadly, that announcement was in error. Though, the door isn’t completely closed as current data isn’t sensitive enough to rule out other, smaller, planets in the system.
So, fingers crossed — for Nero to be thwarted and Vulcan to be rediscovered in its rightful place. Or perhaps a different arrangement of one’s fingers is called for. “Sorry Trekkies: Bad news about the ‘real-life Planet Vulcan'” at Mashable.
… The trouble is, after a reanalysis, the new team found the discovery was likely a mistake. That’s right: They couldn’t just let Spock live long and prosper in a real world. They had to go and wipe out his home planet from existence.
“We apologize for that,” Burt told Mashable. “We’ll find other cool planets.”…
… Despite their findings, the search for Spock’s home can continue, Laliotis said. Though they may not have a starship Enterprise to seek it out, more sensitive instruments and detection methods in the near future may make it possible to find another smaller exoplanet in that star system — perhaps one that is more Earth-like — to rename Vulcan.
After all, if 40 Eri b’s detection were correct, it would be much too hot for life as we know it.
“There is still hope that there might be a Vulcan there,” she said. “This actually is maybe promising that there might be a better Vulcan there.”
(4) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A fan costumed as Boba Fett had the transit police called on them during Anime Boston because onlookers thought he was carrying a real rifle. Fortunately, nothing severe came of it. “Police were called about a person with a rifle. It turned out to be a man in a Boba Fett costume” at CNN.
… Boston police had an intergalactic encounter after a report about a person carrying a long rifle led them to someone dressed up in a Boba Fett costume.
Transit police with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority received a call about a person armed with a long rifle at the Back Bay train station on Friday around 6 pm ET, according to a tweet from the agency’s official account.
But the rifle in question wasn’t real at all, said police…
(5) AL JAFFEE (1921-2023). Mad Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee died April 10 at the age of 102 reports SFGate.com.
Al Jaffee, Mad magazine’s award-winning cartoonist and ageless wise guy who delighted millions of kids with the sneaky fun of the Fold-In and the snark of “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” has died. He was 102.
Jaffee died Monday in Manhattan from multiple organ failure, according to his granddaughter, Fani Thomson. He had retired at the age of 99.
…The [initial fold-in] idea was so popular that Mad editor Al Feldstein wanted a follow-up. Jaffee devised a picture of 1964 GOP presidential contenders Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater that, when collapsed, became an image of Richard Nixon.
“That one really set the tone for what the cleverness of the Fold-Ins has to be,” Jaffee told the Boston Phoenix in 2010. “It couldn’t just be bringing someone from the left to kiss someone on the right.”
…Jaffee received numerous awards, and in 2013 was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, the ceremony taking place at San Diego Comic-Con International. In 2010, he contributed illustrations to Mary-Lou Weisman’s “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life: A Biography.” The following year, Chronicle Books published “The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010.”
The Hollywood Reporter notes that Jaffee began his comics career after graduating high school in 1940, and at age 20 he made his first sale to Will Eisner, who bought his parody of Superman called Inferior Man. He went on to work for soon-to-be Marvel legend Stan Lee at Timely Comics, a forerunner of Marvel Comics. He did his first work for Mad Magazine in 1955.
(6) NORMAN REYNOLDS (1934-2023). Production designer and art director Norman Reynolds died April 6, and Lucasfilm has a lengthy tribute.
Reynolds shared the 1978 Academy Award for Best Production Design with three colleagues for their work on the first Star Wars movie.
…Reynolds was an art director on Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). He worked closely with John Barry, the film’s overall production designer, to help establish the core design philosophy behind Star Wars architecture and construction. They joined art director Leslie Dilley and set decorator Roger Christian as winners of the Academy Award for Art Direction in 1978. For Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Reynolds was elevated into the production designer role as Barry pursued directing (sadly, he would pass away while working as a consultant on Empire)….
He won another Academy Award for Art Direction 1982, shared with two colleagues, for their work on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
…When Steven Spielberg partnered with Lucasfilm to make Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reynolds became production designer, helping establish the Indiana Jones style from the ground-up. This even included sculpting the iconic golden idol that Indy attempts to procure during the film’s memorable opening. Reynolds used an Incan fertility sculpture that he’d collected during his travels overseas….
Of course, Raiders wouldn’t be complete without Indy’s close call with a giant boulder as it rolls down a temple passage. “I didn’t know it was gonna look as good as it did until the day Norman Reynolds showed me that he had actually made a boulder that was something like 22 feet in circumference,” Steven Spielberg would explain. As Reynolds explained, it was Spielberg himself who kept asking for it to be bigger! Raiders would earn Reynolds his second Academy Award for Art Direction in 1982 alongside art director Leslie Dilley and set decorator Michael Ford….
(7) MICHAEL LERNER (1941-2023). Actor Michael Lerner has died at the age of 81. The Yahoo! profile mentions many genre roles.
…With an Academy Award nod under his belt [for Barton Fink], Lerner became a familiar face for moviegoers through the ’90s, with notable credits including “Newsies,” “Blank Check,” “No Escape” and “Celebrity.” In Roland Emmerich’s 1998 “Godzilla,” he played the overwhelmed, pompous New York leader deemed Mayor Ebert, a flagrant lampoon of premier film critic Roger Ebert. Lerner was styled to resemble the “At the Movies” co-host in the disaster blockbuster. (Ebert ended up panning the film with a 1.5 star review, though he praised Lerner for a “gamely played” performance.)
Lerner continued regular work after the turn of the century. He played the severe boss to James Caan’s grumpy publishing company exec in the 2003 holiday comedy “Elf,” as well as a mutant-weary U.S. Senator in the 2014 blockbuster “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1888 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Our Beginning is both that of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet and of the best known consulting detective to ever grace the pages of fiction, Sherlock Holmes.
The November 1887 issue of Beeton’s Christmas Annual published Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet which showed us for the first time Sherlock Holmes and his friend Watson. Only eleven known copies of this issue are known to exist.
It would be published in book form in 1888 by Ward, Lock & Co.
It’s hard to believe there’s a single soul here who doesn’t know the story of these characters but I’m playing by our established rules, so no spoilers. So let’s go to our Beginning.
MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES
IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army. Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached to the 5th Northumberland Fusilier as assistant surgeon. The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I could join it the second Afghan f war had broken out. On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced through the passes and was already deep in the enemy’s country. I followed, however, with many other officers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded in reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment and at once entered upon my new duties.
The campaign brought honors and promotion to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster. I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen into the hands of the murderous Ghazis had it not been for the devotion and courage shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw me across a pack-horse and succeeded in bringing me safely to the British lines.
Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which I had undergone, I was removed, with a great train of wounded sufferers, to the base hospital at Peshawur. Here I rallied, and had already improved so far as to be able to walk about the wards, and even to bask a little upon the veranda, when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our Indian possessions. For months my life was despaired of, and when at last I came to myself and became convalescent, I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined that not a day should be lost in sending me back to England. I was despatched, accordingly, in the troopship Orontes, and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty with my health irretrievably ruined, but with permission from a paternal government to spend the next nine months in attempting to improve it.
I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air—or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the empire are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had considerably more freely than I ought. So alarming did the state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the country, or that I must make a complete alteration in my style of living. Choosing the latter alternative, I began by making up my mind to leave the hotel and to take up my quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.
On the very day that I had come to this conclusion, I was standing at the Criterion bar, when some one tapped me on the shoulder, and turning round I recognized young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at Bart’s. The sight of a friendly face in the great wilderness of London is a pleasant thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford had never been a particular crony of mine, but now I hailed him with enthusiasm, and he, in his turn, appeared to be delighted to see me. In the exuberance of my joy I asked him to lunch with me at the Holborn, and we started off together in a hansom.
“Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?” he asked, in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through the crowded London streets.
“You are as thin as a lath and as brown as a nut.”
I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly concluded it by the time that we reached our destination.
“Poor devil!” he said, commiseratingly, after he had listened to my misfortunes. “What are you up to now?”
“Looking for lodgings,” I answered. “Trying to solve the problem as to whether it is possible to get comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.”
“That’s a strange thing,” remarked my companion; “you are the second man to-day that has used that expression to me.
“And who was the first?” I asked.
“A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the hospital.
He was bemoaning himself this morning because he could not get some one to go halves with him in some nice rooms which he had found, and which were too much for his purse.”
“By Jove!” I cried; “if he really wants some one to share the rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him. I should prefer having a partner to being alone.”
Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wineglass.
“You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,” he said; “perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion.”
“Why, what is there against him?”
“Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in his ideas—an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know, he is a decent fellow enough.”
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 10, 1897 — Eric Knight. Decidedly better known for his 1940 Lassie Come-Home novel which introduced Lassie who I cannot stretch to be even genre adjacent for the soul of me, but he had one genre undertaking according to ISFDB, the Sam Small series. I’ve never heard of them, nor are they available in digital form though Lassie Come-Home of course is. Anyone read them? (Died 1943.)
- Born April 10, 1921 — Chuck Connors. His first genre role was as Senator Robert Fraser in Captain Nemo and the Underwater City followed by being Tab Fielding in Soylent Green. He’s Captain McCloud in Virus, a Japanese horror film, and he had one-offs in The Adventures of Superman, The Six Million Dollar Man, Fantasy Island and a recurring role as Captain Janos Skorzenyn in Werewolf. (Died 1992.)
- Born April 10, 1929 — Max von Sydow. He played Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the Never Say Never Again and Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. He shows up in the Exorcist II: The Heretic as Father Lankester Merrin while being King Osric in Conan the Barbarian. Dreamscape sees him being Doctor Paul Novotny while he’s Liet-Kynes the Imperial Planetologist in Dune. He was Judge Fargo in Judge Dredd (and yes I still like it), in Minority Report as Director Lamar Burgess, Sir Walter Loxley in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood and finally in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lor San Tekka. (Died 2020.)
- Born April 10, 1953 — David Langford, 70. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, not to mention hundreds of thousands of words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the publication, and some eighty thousand words of articles to the most excellent Encyclopedia of Fantasy as well. And let’s not forget his genre writing as well that earned him a Best Short Story Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for “Different Kinds of Darkness”. And he has won 28 other Hugos for his fan writing, for Ansible, and his work on the third edition of EoSF.
- Born April 10, 1955 — Pat Murphy, 68. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects.
- Born April 10, 1957 — John M. Ford, 1957 – 2006 Damn, he died far too young! Popular at At Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. Possibly. (And no, the Suck Fairy hasn’t gotten near when I last read it.) The Dragon Waiting is also excellent and his Trek novels are among the best in that area of writing. He’s finally back into print after a very long time. (Died 2006.)
- Born April 10, 1962 — James H. Burns. Every search I did in putting together this late Filer’s Birthday ended back here. That he was beloved here, I have no doubt. In OGH’s obituary for Burns in 2016 he said Burns’ pride was this trio of posts that paid tribute to the influence of his father — My Father, And The Brontosaurus, Sons of a Mesozoic Age, and World War II, and a Lexicon in Time. Burns also wrote for File 770 about memories of “growing up fannish,” such as the very popular Once, When We Were All Scientists, and CLANKY!. And his good friend Steve Vertlieb also has reminisced about Burns here. (Died 2016.)
- Born April 10, 1992 — Daisy Ridley, 31. Obviously she played the role of Rey in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. She will reprise her role as Rey in an yet untitled Star Wars film set that is after The Rise of Skywalker. She was also in Scrawl, a horror film as well as voicing Cotton Rabbit in Peter Rabbit. Though stretching to even call it genre adjacent even, she was Mary Debenham in Murder on The Orient Express.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Heart of the City shows us an episode of what Filers might call SJW Credential Court TV. (Hint: this is cat humor.)
(11) STRONG SALES PITCH. Charlie Jane Anders makes some pretty wild promises in the “Here’s What I’ll Do If You Buy My New Book!” section of her latest Happy Dancing newsletter. Here’s just the first of many:
…But regardless of where and how you purchase Promises Stronger Than Darkness, here are all the things I will do for you, because I love you and appreciate your support.
I will ship you, by zeroeth class mail, a portable ambient sexifier, which for 24 hours after activation, will render every inanimate object in your vicinity thirty-nine percent sexier. Your drapes will billow sexily. The cracks in the sidewalk will wink salaciously. Newspaper articles about the impending mulchification of civilization will appear diaphanous. The uneaten crusts of your morning toast will salute you….
(12) JUST ADD CUSTOMERS. “German monks create world’s first powdered beer” – New Atlas has details.
A monastic brewery in East Germany says it’s created the first powdered beer. Just add water, and it’ll froth up, complete with a foamy head and full flavor. The result promises massive savings on transport, because it can be shipped at 10% of the weight.
Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle worked together with “technology partners” and used funding from BMWi to create its first powdered product, a dextrin-rich zero-alcohol beer which has been brewed using conventional methods, then “processed and prepared into a water-soluble beer powder/granulate.”…
(13) YOU NEVER KNOW. According to AP News, “’The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is a box office smash”.
Audiences said let’s go to the movie theater for “ The Super Mario Bros. Movie ” this weekend. The animated offering from Universal and Illumination powered up with $204.6 million in its first five days in 4,343 North American theaters, including $146.4 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
With an estimated $173 million in international earnings and a global total of $377 million, “Mario” broke records for video game adaptations (passing “Warcraft’s” $210 million) and animated films (“Frozen 2’s” $358 million).
Its global total makes it the biggest opening of 2023 and the second biggest three-day domestic animated opening (behind “Finding Dory”). It’s also a record for Illumination, the animation shop behind successful franchises like “Minions,” which has made over $5 billion from its 13 films….
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by N.] Animated fantasy series The Owl House received a final season that was truncated to only three hour-long episodes, despite the outcry of both the creator and its fanbase. In the face of that challenge the show has given viewers arguably its best episodes. The final episode has been uploaded to YouTube in full for free (as the previous two were), bringing The Owl House to a close after three years. “The Owl House Season 3 Final Episode”.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Gary Farber, P. J. Evans, Daniel Dern, N., Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]