(1) STOP LOAFING AROUND. Cora Buhlert snagged another figure, who stars in her latest toy photo story called: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Wun-Dar and His Wonderful Dinosaur’”.
… “Halt, stranger! State your business!”
“Relax. Like I said, I’m Wun-Dar. You know, legendary hero, champion of Grayskull and wielder – well, former wielder of the Sword of Power? And this is Giga, my trusty mount. I came through a portal from Preternia because… well, even paradise gets boring eventually, I guess. And besides, Fleaman – I mean, Adam – said that you guys needed help with someone named Skeleton? Is that right? Stupid name, at any rate.”
“It’s Skeletor, young man. And what exactly do you and this… this thing want here in my throne room?”…
(2) ANOTHER MASTERS FAN. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Dad-at-Arms podcast has a very good interview with animation and comic writer Tim Sheridan, who worked on Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Dragon Age: Absolution and a lot of Transformers and DC superhero stuff:
(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to feast on French toast with Ron Marz in Episode 189 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Ron Marz is perhaps best known for his writing of the characters Silver Surfer and Green Lantern, but also for his work on the Marvel vs. DC crossover and Batman/Aliens. He also worked on the CrossGen Comics series Scion, Mystic, Sojourn, and The Path. At Dark Horse Comics, he created Samurai: Heaven and Earth and various Star Wars comics. For DC Comics, he’s written Ion, a 12 part comic book miniseries that followed the Kyle Rayner character after the One Year Later event, and Tales of the Sinistro Corps Presents: Parallax and Tales of the Sinestro Corps Presents: Ion, two one-shot tie-ins to the Green Lantern crossover, The Sinestro Corps War.
We discussed how the letter he wrote to Marvel when he was a kid suggesting a Justice League/Avengers team-up predicted his future comics career, which side his childhood self fell in the Marvel vs. DC war, the difficulties of surprising readers when the publicity machine is always running, how early encounters with Bernie Wrightson and Jim Starlin led to him giving up journalism, why it was better he broke in first at “collegial” Marvel rather than “corporate” DC, how the thick skin he developed in newspapers helped him when he took over Green Lantern, why comic book companies like poaching each other’s creators, the ironic conversation that led to him writing Superman, what he still considers the best part of the job after 30 years in comics, our memories of George Perez and Neal Adams, and much more.
(4) TODAY VERSUS TOMORROW. Here are two somewhat contradictory articles from the Guardian about independent bookstores in the UK:
The number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland climbed to a 10-year high in 2022, as the book trade defied the odds in an otherwise brutal year for high street retailers.
The lifestyle changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns were a boon for the book trade, as Britons with more time on their hands read more and sought out bookshops when they reopened.
There are now 1,072 independent bookshops after the industry enjoyed a sixth consecutive year of growth, according to the Booksellers Association (BA). The resurgence followed a 20-year losing streak in which bookshop numbers sank to a nadir of 867 in 2016….
… The survey also asked booksellers about the year of trading to come, with many concerned about the cost of living crisis and how it might impact consumer spending and business viability.
Caitlin Lowe, assistant manager of the St Helens Book Stop in Merseyside, told the Bookseller that as well as being concerned about customers spending money on books, there were also concerns “about the cost of running our shop owing to increasing energy prices”….
(5) ROBERT E. HOWARD WORKS RESCUED FROM OBSCURITY. The good folks of Goodman Games have two articles about some of Robert E. Howard’s lesser known works.
Bill Ward talks about Bran Mak Morn, last king of the Picts, in “Bran Mak Morn, The Doomed King”.
…Bran is, unquestionably, one of Howard’s major creations; representing not only the best of what Howard was capable of producing, but also exemplifying deeply personal themes that would inform the entirety of Howard’s writing life.
Bran Mak Morn emerges out of Howard’s fascination with the Picts – but not the Picts of modern, sober archaeology – rather the Picts of turn-of-the-century pseudo-scientific conjectural anthropology, the sort of thing that was available for a young Howard to read….
Ryan Harvey takes a look at Howard’s stories for the weird menace pulps: “A Black Wind Blowing: Robert E. Howard and The Weird Menace Horror Pulps”.
…The term “weird menace” was given to these pulps by later popular culture scholars. At the time, the magazines were referred to as “horror pulps.” This wasn’t an inclusive horror, but a specific subset with its own formula. The best way to understand what weird menace is about is to imagine a three part mixture: the action-speed of pulp detective stories; the mood and settings of Gothic novels; and the bloody excess of the Grand Guignol theater of Paris….
(6) PLAID INSPIRATION. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I wouldn’t call Outlander a thriller, but Diana Gabaldon recounts how she wrote her time travel novel: “My First Thriller: Diana Gabaldon” at CrimeReads.
…“When I turned 35, I told myself I’d better get started writing. Mozart died at thirty-six.”
“Gradually, the voice in the back of my mind came up with a bunch of stuff,” she says. She wrote down ideas for a book. This would be her practice round, so she had no plans to show it to anyone.
Inspired by a young man wearing a kilt on the BBC science fiction series “Doctor Who,” she decided to set her story in Scotland. Since she was a researcher and couldn’t afford an overseas trip to check on her setting, Diana figured the easiest type of novel for this first attempt would be historical fiction. She could find all the historical information she needed in books….
(7) IN THE MIDST OF SUCCESS. Matt Wallace pulls back the curtain on his career, and ponders about what’s to come. Thread starts here. (Via John Scalzi.)
(8) THE COLD WEIGHT LOSS EQUATIONS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Gizmodo reports “DARPA Wants to Find a Drug That Makes You Impervious to Cold”. (Playlist, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside, But Who Cares”).
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for a new way to get nice and cozy: The agency is funding research into drugs that could protect people from extreme cold. Should these efforts bear fruit, the drugs could have a variety of uses, from treating hypothermia patients to helping people better explore the Arctic—and, what is surely DARPA’s main interest, creating soldiers who aren’t fazed by freezing conditions.
… Szablowski and his team will use the money [a DARPA grant] to investigate a non-genetic treatment that can enhance our adaptation to cold temperatures via thermogenesis, or the bodily production of heat. There are two basic methods of thermogenesis in humans, with the most familiar being shivering. But the researchers are more interested in improving how our bodies burn off brown adipose tissue (BAT), or brown fat, to keep warm….
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1819 — [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
So food I suspect is not what comes to you mind what you think of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Most likely you think of the headless rider of the horse with his weapon in hand wrecking most unholy terror upon that small village.
But Irving’s narrator was a keen observer of life on that small village and, to be rather honest about it, craved food in all its forms. If it was edible, he dreamed about consuming it with great rapture.
In his devouring mind’s eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cozily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of savory sausages…
So let’s end this essay with my favorite passage…
Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of autumn.
Such heaped-up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tenderer ‘oly koek,’ and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes.
And then there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies, besides slices of ham and smoked beef, and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums and peaches and pears and quinces, not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens, together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst– Heaven bless the mark!
It was first published in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent in 1819. “Rip Van Winkle” was also published first here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 13, 1893 — Clark Ashton Smith. One SFF critic deemed him part of “the big three of Weird Tales, with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.” This is while some readers found him to excessively morbid, as L. Sprague de Camp said of him in noting “nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.” If you’ve not read his work, Nightshade has collected it in The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, five volumes in total. They’re all available at the usual suspects. (Died 1961.)
- Born January 13, 1933 — Ron Goulart. First I must acknowledge that he was very prolific, and uses many pseudonyms, to wit: Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Wow!) You did see the Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he was prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? (Died 2022.)
- Born January 13, 1938 — Daevid Allan (aka Divided Alien, Dingo Virgin, Bert Camembert, etc.). Co-founder of the British band Soft Machine (named for the William Burroughs SF novel), and the Anglo-French psychedelic band Gong. With Gong, he released the Radio Gnome trilogy (1973-74), a surreal science-fantasy epic musical story featuring pothead pixies in flying teapots, erotic witches, and the Compagnie d’Opera Invisible de Thibet. (Died 2015.) (Xtifr)
- Born January 13, 1938 — Charlie Brill, 85. His best-remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes he’ll show in the DS9 episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations”, that repurposed this episode to great effect. (It was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2.) He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer Space, The Munsters Today, Sliders, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
- Born January 13, 1945 — Joy Chant, 78. Chant is an interesting case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of Red Moon and Black Mountain, The Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes. Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely amazing as well, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her stellar retellings of the legends. I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone read it?
- Born January 13, 1947 — Peter Elson. Illustrator whose life was far too short as he died of a heart attack. If you were reading SF between the early seventies and the late eighties, it’s likely that you saw his astonishing artwork. I found covers for the Sphere edition of Asimov’s Pebble in the Sky, a Mayflower edition of Leiber’s Swords Against Death and a Methuen edition in Canada on Zelazny’s To Die in Italbar, which are but a few of the several hundred covers he did. (Died 1998.)
- Born January 13, 1961 — Wayne Coyne, 62. Founder and frontman of the neo-psychedelic band The Flaming Lips which frequently incorporates science-fictional elements in their songs and albums, perhaps most prominently with their 2002 hit album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Coyne also wrote and directed the low-budget 2008 SF movie, Christmas on Mars, which starred members of the Lips and friends, including actors Adam Goldberg and Fred Armisen. (Xtifr)
(11) IN PLAIN SIGHT. “Title Search: Can You Find the 21 Fantasy Books Hidden in This Story?” is the challenge posed on the New York Times’ “Books” page. It’s really not that hard, but you may find it fun to work on. And the answers appear at the end of the puzzle story.
If you like an adventure with your quest to discover books, try this month’s Title Search challenge, which intentionally hides the names of 21 classic and popular fantasy novels (and graphic novels) within the fictional text passage below.…
(12) MATCHING SCI- WITH -FI. Nancy Kress and Robert Lanza interview each other about their collaboration on the novel Observer: “A Scientist And Sci-Fi Author On Imagining The Future And Breaking The Rules” at CrimeReads.
Scientist Robert Lanza and science fiction author Nancy Kress have co-written a new thriller grounded in deep scientific principles and guided by the writers’ shared passion for technology and biocentrism. Read a conversation between Lanza and Kress below.
Kress: Robert, you’re a pioneer in stem cell research and in addition to writing dozens of textbooks related to the topic, you’ve written three works of nonfiction on biocentrism, the central concept in our novel, OBSERVER. Why now a novel?
Lanza: I wanted to introduce the ideas of biocentrism ─ where life is the basis of the universe ─ to a broader audience through storytelling to bring to life the science behind the astounding fact that time, space, and reality itself, all ultimately depend upon us, the observer.
(13) LATEST PLAGUE. “Review: ‘The Last of Us’ Is a Zombie Thriller About Single Parenting” says the New York Times’ James Poniewozik.
…The series kicks off in Standard Apocalypse-Onset Mode. Joel (Pedro Pascal), a construction contractor in Texas, starts his birthday in 2003 eating breakfast with his family and ends it amid the chaos of civilization’s collapse. The intense but bloated 81-minute pilot runs up a high body count, making clear that there is minimal plot armor to go around here.
Twenty years later, in 2023, we find Joel in the military-occupied ruins of Boston, a grim, grizzled survivor. Battling fungi does not make one a fun guy. With his black-marketeering partner, Tess (Anna Torv), he lands a job escorting Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a 14-year-old who is immune to zombie bites, on a risky journey that could lead to a cure.
Ellie may or may not be the savior of humanity, but she certainly rescues “The Last of Us” from apocalyptic mope. In “Game of Thrones” (in which Pascal also did time), Ramsey was memorable as Lady Lyanna Mormont, the fearsome child leader of a northern fief. Here she’s all foulmouthed verve, her adolescent insolence turbocharged by the liberation of living after the end of the world. Her fighting spirit is, well, infectious….
(14) ROBO-UMP. Robots have made it to AAA baseball reports The Comeback in “MLB world react to massive umpire news”.
While fans hoping to see robot umpires during the upcoming 2023 Major League Baseball season will still have to wait, they also won’t have to look too far to find them. Robot umpires will reportedly be implemented in all 30 Triple-A stadiums during the 2023 season.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported on Thursday that “The electronic strike zone will be used in all 30 Class AAA parks in 2023.”…
(15) NO LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! “Wow! NASA-Funded ShadowCam Captures Dark Side Of The Moon In Stunning Detail” at Hot Hardware.
The first image from ShadowCam reveals the permanently shadowed wall and floor of Shackleton crater in incredible, never before seen detail. NASA-funded ShadowCam is one of six instruments onboard the Korean Aerospace Research Institute’s Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter.
The poles of the Moon are in a perpetual state of dawn to dusk, making it difficult to gather images of the depressions in the dark locations. KPLO has six instruments onboard, one of which is the NASA-funded ShadowCam. The instrument is the younger sibling of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). LROC has been able to image nearly all of the Moon’s surface, except within permanently shadowed regions (PSRs). ShadowCam will add to our knowledge of the Moon by being able to capture images within those PSRs near the poles….
(16) POETRY IN MOTION. Gizmodo makes the latest science news sound dramatic: “Astronomers Discover Two Invisible Stars Spinning Around Each Other at Breakneck Speed”.
Researchers have found an extreme binary system that features two dwarf stars that are so cool, they don’t emit visible light. And they’re so close together that they take less than one Earth day to orbit around each other.
The system is called LP 413-53AB, and it was identified by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California San Diego. The two dwarf stars are in a class known as ‘ultracool’—their temperatures are so low that they emit mostly infrared light, rendering them invisible to our eyes (but thankfully not our telescopes). Chih-Chun “Dino” Hsu, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, led the study and presented the findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle this week….
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the short film “Uprising!” from DUST, “Humanity is being tea-bagged, kill-shotted, and yo-mama-joked out of existence by robots who think they’re teenage gamers.” But kindess will out!
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]