…These days it takes a feat of imagination to convey the surrealism of the Black interviewers’ situation. Historian-novelist P. Djèlí Clark conjures that experience in his 2018 dark fantasy short story “Night Doctors,” which begins by quoting a WPA interviewee in Virginia, Cornelius Garner, and his story of “Ku Kluxers” posing as doctors. Clark, while researching a master’s thesis in history, immersed himself in the interviews at the Library of Congress. “People always ask me, ‘Where did you get that idea of the Klan as monsters?’ I say, ‘The WPA archive,’ ” Clark told me in a phone interview….
(2) LEADING AT THE QUARTER POLE. Brian Attebery, author of Fantasy: How It Works, picks the “Top 10 21st-century fantasy novels” for the Guardian. I’ve read two – I’d better get busy.
… However, in this century, a new wave of fantasy challenges that European dominance. Writers of colour and writers from indigenous cultures use magical narratives to depict experiences and express viewpoints difficult to convey within the constraints of realism. One of the effects of fantasy is the way it forces us to consider the categories of the real, the possible and the ordinary – all the norms that fantasy violates. And, in particular, the new fantasy reveals how culture-bound those norms are. Non-European traditions mark off boundaries differently and include as natural entities things we might think of as supernatural. Out of those different ways of setting the limits of the possible and assigning meaning to the impossible come different versions of the fantastic.
The works I list here not only tell engaging stories set in vividly imagined worlds, they are also worth reading for the way their versions challenge our sense of the ordinary and the limits of the real…
In March 1904, the Book Review ran a short appreciation of Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” calling it “one of the best ghost stories ever written” and lamenting that it had been “generally neglected by the public.” Perhaps, the Book Review speculated, it was because “there are periods when tales of the imagination burdened with supernatural horror are more popular than cheerful tales of love and adventure” and times when such stories do not sell at all.
Several days later, “Librarian” wrote a letter concurring with the Book Review’s assessment of the James novella: “It is the best ghost story I have ever read, and the only one that ever made me afraid of the dark.” “Librarian” then requested more recommendations, preferably ones featuring “some old-time ghost dragging chains through corridors or showing his cut throat.”
For months, fellow readers obliged, flooding the Book Review letters page with their favorite tales of terror — “The Severed Hand,” “What Did Mrs. Harrington See?,” “The Watcher,” “The Middle Toe of the Right Foot,” “Witch of Prague,” “The Damned Thing” and “The Monkey’s Paw,” to name just a few….
(7) SPANDEX IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. So says the voice of experience in the new trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Were they stretching the truth? The series begins streaming August 17 on Disney+.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1952 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy years ago on this date, The Miraculous Blackhawk: Freedom’s Champion first aired. It was a fifteen-chapter adventure with definite sf underpinnings. Columbia Pictures was very prolific with these reels, this being their forty-ninth such endeavor.
The Blackhawks had been created by Chuck Cuidera, Bob Powell and Will Eisner for Quality Comics, which went defunct in 1956. Many of Quality’s character and title trademarks were sold to National Comics Publications (now DC Comics). Characters such as Plastic Man started at Quality.
Primarily created by Chuck Cuidera with input from both Bob Powell and Will Eisner, the Blackhawk characters first appeared in Military Comics #1 in August 1941.
The film was produced and directed by Spencer Gordo, who was as the “King of Serial Directors” as he directed more film serials than any other director. It was written by George H. Plympton, Royal K. Cole and Sherman L. Lowe. The only important one there is Plympton who I’ve mentioned before as he’s responsible for the scripts for Flash Gordon (1936), The Green Hornet (1940), Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), Superman (1948) and Batman and Robin (1949).
I can’t establish it’s in the public domain, so please don’t offer links to it.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 24, 1802 — Alexandre Dumas. The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Are they genre? Good question. I’d say yes as the France they take place in is a fantasy. (Died 1870.)
Born July 24, 1878 — Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the reviews here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I reviewed here as it’s a audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
Born July 24, 1895 — Robert Graves. Poet, mythologist, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book which Yolen quotes from in The Wild Hunt), two volumes called TheGreek Myths, Seven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list, and more short fiction that really bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
Born July 24, 1916 — John D. MacDonald. Though better known for the Travis McGee series which I really like, he wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything which was made into a film.He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many collected in Other Times, Other Worlds. (Died 1986.)
Born July 24, 1936 — Mark Goddard, 86. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film.
Born July 24, 1945 — Gordon Eklund, 77. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good as my memory says. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? If the Stars Are God is available at the usual suspect as well as Cosmic Fusion, which according to Amazon “was originally written between January 1973 and September 1982, a mammoth 300,000-word epic novel of ‘science fiction, sex, and death.’”
Born July 24, 1951 — Lynda Carter, 71. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer; Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin in Supergirl. She has an appearance in Wonder Woman 1984 as Asteria.
Born July 24, 1964 — Colleen Doran, 58. Comics artist and writer. The work she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, the “Troll Bridge”:by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerized into Sandman as the character Thessaly. Her work has received the Eisner, Harvey, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild Awards.
Born July 24, 1981 — Summer Glau, 41. An impressive run of genre roles as she was River Tam in the Firefly franchise, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow. And she appears as herself on The Big Bang Theory in “The Terminator Decoupling” episode. Another series I’ve not seen.
Played by humans, chess is a game of strategic thinking, calm concentration and patient intellectual endeavour. Violence does not usually come into it. The same, it seems, cannot always be said of machines.
Last week, according to Russian media outlets, a chess-playing robot, apparently unsettled by the quick responses of a seven-year-old boy, unceremoniously grabbed and broke his finger during a match at the Moscow Open.
“The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the TASS news agency after the incident, adding that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without upset. “This is of course bad.”
(12) TRUE GRIT. Comic-Con week is turning this Scroll into a trailer park! “The Sandman” comes to Netflix on August 5.
Afterwards, Neil Gaiman discussed the Netflix Sandman by dissecting the trailer for Vanity Fair.
(13) D&D FLICK. This trailer for Dungeons and Dragons dropped at Comic-Con.
(14) EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES. Or maybe there should be some commas in there – this isn’t about superhero cannibalism. I Am Groot, a collection of five original shorts, starts streaming August 10 on Disney+.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Cora Buhlert, Francis Hamit, Michael Toman, 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 Bruce D. Arthurs.]
(1) MARCEAU RAISES ISSUE ABOUT H.A.G. PRESIDENT. Author Caitlin Marceau tweeted yesterday that she has made the decision to leave the Horror Authors Guild (a different organization than the Horror Writers Association) due to Facebook comments made by the group’s newly-appointed president Don Smith on his own page. Smith was appointed President of HAG after D.A. Roberts stepped down, as Roberts announced June 14 on Facebook. Thread starts here.
There seems to be a low-key competition within the culture at the moment as to who can produce the worst sort of fan. For years, Star Wars has been the far and away winner, with fans bitching and crowing like wounded animals any time the series dares to venture out of its very narrow parameters. And Rick and Morty had a decent shot at the title a few years ago, when fans furious that their favourite show had the temerity to hire a female writer published her personal details online.
But now, thanks to a large and increasingly dunderheaded minority, it would appear that the show with the worst fans alive is currently Amazon’s The Boys. These fans have just twigged that the show’s main villain is actually a villain, and they’re absolutely furious….
We’ve opined on a number of heavy topics in recent weeks. Today we’re going to take a breather, and contemplate space, time, alternate realities and the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations.
In this instance, especially on this day, these topics have a Virginia connection.
Thirteen years ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution declaring June 27, 2009, as William Fitzgerald Jenkins Day.
Who the heck, you might wonder, is Will Jenkins?
…Jenkins, who died in 1975, is today remembered above all else as an author, but his most enduring work was not published under his own name. He used a nom de plume, Murray Leinster (pronounced LEN-ster).
As is the case with the invention of front screen projection, while you may not have personally read a Murray Leinster story, odds are extremely high that you’ve been entertain by a book or movie built on themes that he was the first to tackle — or at least the first to tackle in a manner that left a memorable impression through the decades.
Case in point, his 1945 story “First Contact,” which the General Assembly resolution billed as “the first science fiction story to present the dramatic scenario of the first meeting between earthlings and aliens.” The phrase “first contact” has since been used so often in that context that it’s understood to refer to a first encounter of the extraterrestrial kind….
The award-winning author Philip Pullman has said the study of literature “should not be a luxury for a wealthy minority of spoilt and privileged aesthetes” after it emerged that Sheffield Hallam University is to pull its English literature degree from next year.
He was one of a number of writers to raise concerns about the university’s decision to stop teaching the standalone degree and incorporate it instead into a broad-based English degree, a year after the University of Cumbria took similar action.
A Sheffield Hallam spokesperson confirmed that English literature was among a small number of its courses that were being either suspended or closed, largely due to lack of demand. They said the changes would not involve job losses….
(7) DOROTHY J. HEYDT (1942-2022). Author Dorothy J. Heydt, the originator and first editor of the Star Trek Concordance (1969), died this month reported Seanan McGuire on Twitter. Memory Alpha notes that beginning in 1967 her series of Star Trek stories, “Dorothy and Myfanwy” were published in Ruth Berman’s fanzine T-Negative. The Wikipedia credits her with the invention of the first widely used Vulcan conlangs for that series.
Its words were picked up and used by other fan fiction authors such as Claire Gabriel. One term, ni var, meaning “two form”, an art form in which two contrasting aspects of a subject are compared, is still used on Star Trek: Enterprise, as the name of a Vulcan ship and on Star Trek: Discovery as the new name of the planet Vulcan itself.
She also had poetry and articles published in the first Trek fanzine, Spockanalia.
Later she was an active participant in the Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.sf.written and rec.arts.sf.fandom. She wrote numerous short stories and two novels. Many of her stories appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, or in collections edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, including the Sword and Sorceress series, and stories in the Darkover series shared world.
(8) BILLY WOLFENBARGER (1943-2022). Author and poet Billy Wolfenbarger died June 26. In addition to short fiction and poetry, he wrote columns and contributions for fanzines, especially Bill Bowers’ Outworlds and Xenolith. Two years ago William Breiding fulfilled the late Bowers’ vision of gathering these works in a book – Language at Midnight– now available at eFanzines. Breiding’s introduction shares some of that history:
In 1973 Bill Bowers published The Lizard Speaks by Billy Wolfenbarger in Outworlds 15, the 3rd anniversary issue, as a “book” inclusive to that issue. He then did an overrun of 50 “books” (a mimeographed pamphlet) that he distributed to its author and other interested parties. This was the culmination of an affectionate editor/writer relationship between Bill Bowers and Billy Wolfenbarger that dated as far back as 1964 and the Bill Bowers/Bill Mallardi fanzine Double:Bill.
In 1974 Bowers ran Wolfenbarger’s first “Language At Midnight” column in Outworlds 19. The column continued through Outworlds 26, published in 1975, then hopped over to Bill’s Xenolith in 1977 and ran there until 1980, when Billy stopped writing the column. Billy had a scattershot of other pieces in Bill’s publications—prose and verse—but never another “Language At Midnight” column, which had its own cast of characters and feel to it. (“Where it’s always midnight in October.”)
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1972 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty years ago, at the very first L.A. Con, we saw Poul Anderson’s “A Queen of Air and Darkness” novella which has been published in F&SF, the April 1971 edition, win the Hugo for Best Novella. (Mike says he both nominated and voted for it.)
It was a particularly strong field that year with the other works being Arthur C. Clarke’s “A Meeting with Medusa”, Larry Niven‘s “The Fourth Profession”, John Brunner’s “Dread Empire” and Gardner R. Dozois’s “A Special Kind of Morning”.
It would remain in print thereafter showing up immediately in Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year and Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s Nebula Award Winners 7. Anderson put in several collections including, not unsurprisingly, The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories. Currently, of course, it is in the NESFA volumes.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 29, 1919 — Slim Pickens. Surely you remember his memorable scene as Major T. J. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove? I certainly do. And of course, he shows up in Blazing Saddles as Taggart. He’s the uncredited voice of B.O.B in The Black Hole and he’s Sam Newfield in The Howling. He’s got some series genre work including several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plus work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1983.)
Born June 29, 1920 — Ray Harryhausen. All around film genius who created stop-motion model Dynamation animation. His work can be seen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (his first colour film) which was nominated for a Hugo at Detention, Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Youngand Clash of the Titans. I’ve got him voted into the First Fandom Hall of Fametwice, in 1996 and 2008. Any idea why? (Died 2013.)
Born June 29, 1943 — Maureen O’Brien, 79. Vicki, companion of the First Doctor. Some forty years later, she reprised the role for several Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio works. She had a recurring role as Morgan in The Legend of King Arthur, a late Seventies BBC series. Her Detective Inspector John Bright series was well received.
Born June 29, 1947 — Michael Carter, 75. Best remembered for being Gerald Bringsley in An American Werewolf in London, Von Thurnburg in The Illusionist and Bib Fortuna in the Return of the Jedi. He plays two roles as a prisoner and as UNIT soldier in the Third Doctor story, “The Mind of Evil”.
Born June 29, 1950 — Michael Whelan, 72. I’m reasonably sure that most of the Del Rey editions of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series was where I first noticed his artwork but I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere since. He did Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls cover which I love and many more. And there’s a wonderful collection of his work available, Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan.
Born June 29, 1956 — David Burroughs Mattingly, 66. He’s an American illustrator and painter, best known for his numerous book covers of genre literature. Earlier in his career, he worked at Disney Studio on the production of The Black Hole, Tron, Dick Tracy and Stephen King’s The Stand. His main cover work was at Ballantine Books where he did such work as the 1982 cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (superb novel), the 2006 Anderson’s Time Patrol and the 1983 Berkley Books publication of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith Triplanetary.
Born June 29, 1957 — Fred Duarte, Jr. His Birthday is today and this long-time Texas fan was well eulogized by Mike here upon his passing several years back.
Born June 29, 1963 — Judith Hoag, 59. Her first genre role was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as April O’Neil followed by being in Armageddon playing Denise Chappel and then a Doctor in A Nightmare On Elm Street. She filmed a cameo for another Turtle film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, but it was deleted. She’s got one one-offs in Quantum Leap, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Strange World, The Burning Zone, X-Files, Carnivàle and Grimm. Her lady genre role was in The Magicians as Stephanie Quinn.
(11) ORIGINAL HORROR ANTHOLOGY BY POC. Following a successful Kickstarter, Death In The Mouth: The Best of Contemporary Horror, a horror anthology showcasing BIPOC and other ethnically marginalized writers and artists from around the world edited by Sloane Leong and Cassie Hart, will be released October 1 and is available for pre-order.
Sloane Leong is a cartoonist, artist and writer of Hawaiian, Chinese, Mexican, Native American and European ancestries. She’s written and drawn two acclaimed graphic novels, Prism Stalker and A Map to the Sun, and has short fiction credits with Fireside Magazine, Dark Matter Magazine and Entropy Magazine. She’s also co-edited the anthology Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Oceania Edition. Sloane is currently living on Chinook land near what is known as Portland, Oregon.
Cassie Hart is a Māori/Pākehā author and editor from New Zealand. She has been an Australian Shadow, Hugo, and Sir Julius Vogel award finalist across the years, co-winning an SJV for Best Collected works for the anthology, Tales for Canterbury, and is a finalist for Best Edited Works in the Australian Shadow Awards 2021. Her supernatural suspense novel, Butcherbird, releases from Huia in 2021.
The anthology includes these authors and artists:
Jolie Toomajan – “Water Goes, Sand Remains”, with art by Jabari Weathers
Yah Yah Scholfield – “They Will Take Up Serpents”, with art by Makoto
ChiIsha Karki – “Welcome to Labyrinth”, with art by Natalie Hall
Endria Richardson – “Wind Up Teeth”, with art by Tsulala
Johnny Compton – “No Hungry Generations”, with art by Pierre Roset
Arasibo Campeche – “Drowned in Mindfulness”, with art by Michael Deforge
K-Ming Chang – “The Three Resurrections of my Grandfather”, with art by Sloane Hong
Reno Evangelista – “Her Apocrypha”, with art by Jess Hara
Catherine Yu – “Balloon Girl”, with art by Joy San
Daphne Fama – “The Pleiades”, with art by Alicia Feng
Beatrice Iker– “They’ll Keep You Gestated”, with art by Molly Mendoza
Cassie Hart – “She”, with art by Weiwei XuC
Pam Zang – “Alice or Rose or Aurora or Allerleuirah or Belle, on the Occasion of the Burial of the Beast”, with art by Charlotte Gomez
P. H. Low – “Tongue is a Void”, with art by JaeHoon Choi
Kelsea Yu – “The Obedient Son”, with art by Audrey Murty
JL Akagi – “Henry Watanabe and the Wandering Hand”, with art by Bhanu Pratap
Amaranta Sepulveda Durán – “The Mother-Wound”, with art by Vivian Magaña
Sloane Leong – “Paradise”, with art by Solomon Enos
Rivers Solomon – “Some of us are Grapefruit”, with art by Junko Mizuno
Ras Cutlass – “Melinda and the Grub”, with art by Naomi Butterfield
R.S.A. Garcia – “A Bonfire in the Night”, with art by Zhang Hetian
Jessica Cho – “On Tattered Wings”, with art by Lina Wu
M. L. Krishnan – “The Eggshell Sanctuary”, with art by Julie Benbassat
Priya Chand – “Never Lie to Me” with art by Congming
Karin Lowachee – “The Black Hole of Beaumort”, with art by Allissa Chan
Darcie Little Badger – “Homebody”, with art by Apolo Cacho
(13) A LIVING SKIN COVERING FOR ROBOTS HAS BEEN CREATED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In The Terminator film franchise, the hideous form of the robotic Terminators were covered by biological skin. This has now been developed for real by researchers in Japan. They have developed a living-skin consisting of cells and extracellular matrix, as a human-like and self-healing coverage material for robots. It was flexible and felt like skin. If scratched it could even heal. However, this artificial living skin was prone to drying out. To avoid such drying, building perfusion channels within and beneath the outer skin so as to mimic blood vessels to supply water, as well as the integration of sweating glands in the skin equivalent, need to be developed. (See Kawai, M. et al (2022) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2022.05.019Matter, vol. 5 1-19.)
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Diablo Immortal,” Fandom Games says this version of Diablo meant for phones is yet another example of how “a thing you love is processed by the same garbage-content processing machine” that is ruining entertainment today. The game is so focused on making you by stuff to make the play enjoyable that the only people who can afford it are “Saudi princes and whales who badly need a gambling intervention.”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Steven H Silver, BGrandath, Christian Brunschen, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, 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 Peer.]
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, 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 HGO.]
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers, Halo” the Screen Junkies say that Microsoft has been trying to develop Halo as a movie or TV series for 20 years (Ridley Scott and Neill Blomkamp were attached to the project so it’s a bad sign the show has landed at Paramount Plus. The show features three battle scenes in nine hours, one character who runs the only “libertarian paradise” with a churro stand, and “a girl with a backstory as tragic as her haircut.” The narrator suggests that gamers may find more entertainment playing Halo than watching this plodding series.
This new featurette for Thor: Love and Thunder is more exciting than all of its trailers combined. Which is saying something: the trailers for Taika Waititi’s latest, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Christian Bale, have been excellent. There’s just something about seeing all that footage cut with the actors and filmmaker gushing over it that gives a whole new level of energy….
The epic interstellar journeys of NASA’s acclaimed Voyager probes are due to come to an end as the agency starts switching off their systems, Scientific American reported.
The probes launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration ever since. They’re farther away from Earth than any other man-made object, a record that will likely stay unbroken for decades.
The decision to reduce power on the probes is meant to extend their life span a few more years and take them to about 2030, Scientific American said….
…The instrument’s hardwired electronics have survived the test of time remarkably well, in spite of its age.
The primitive computers onboard the probes don’t require much power. All of the data collected by the instruments on Voyager is stored on an eight-track tape recorder and sent to earth using a machine that uses up about as much power as a refrigerator light bulb, Scientific American said.
They have “less memory than the key fob that opens your car door,” Spilker said.
…Amidst the deluxe monster masks, 8mm film reels, books, magazines, and other horror novelties, there lurked the coveted monster models. These cast-plastic, puzzle figures came in a cardboard box with a glorious full-color lid featuring a vivid image (painted by the brilliant James Bama) of your favorite movie monster, which we’d ultimately use as our paint master. Once newspapers were spread across the kitchen table, the tight-fitting lid would vibrate and practically hum as we pried it off the box bottom to reveal, first, the industrial perfume of fresh plastic. Next, we’d regard all the split, hollow pieces of our particular creature, suspended in a plastic spider’s web matrix of flashing that we would twist each model piece free of as carefully as you’d extract a loose, wiggling baby tooth. Once the pieces were laid out, we’d unfold the graphic instructions, which weren’t needed, but served to get you even more excited about the finished masterpiece you were about to assemble and paint. Unlike other collectibles you could buy, once you’d finished painting and detailing, your monster model would be a one-of-a-kind display piece – unique from anyone else’s….
(13) ONE TOKEN OVER THE LINE. Archie McPhee expects the people who like their catalog will want to play “Go Go Gargoyle! The Game”.
The Horrible Horseman has defeated the gargoyles that defended Crowning Castle and thrown everything into chaos. A new batch of baby gargoyles has been birthed from the fire demon to retake the castle and protect it from future attacks. These gargoyles have got to save the kingdom! This simple game takes you through a magical kingdom full of ghosts, cryptids and grumpy wizards. Includes a fantastic detail-filled game board, four 1-1/8″ tall gargoyle tokens and 54 standard-sized, 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ illustrated cards.
(12) BRITISH TV NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Gabriel Tate discusses “The Lazarus Project,” which premiered on Sky Max and NOW in Britain on June 16.
The series begins on July 1,with George (Paapa Essiedu) waking up to his partner, Sarah (Charly Clive). Later that day, he secures funding for his start-up app. In the months that follow, Sarah becomes pregnant and the couple marry before the escalating pandemic puts everything off-beam. Then one day George wakes up and finds it is again that same July 1. Everyone else seems oblivious…
…The field of time-loop-based fiction is a crowded one, from Groundhog Day and Source Code to Looper, among others. Yet while its predecessors have used the premise as a technical exercise, an excuse for action-packed thrills or a vehicle for humour, an eight-episode run allows “The Lazarus Project” to delve more deeply into moral considerations. What could be a slightly silly show with good gags and terrific stuntwork becomes something else, asking serious questions about a modern world that feels increasingly out of control. Who wouldn’t want to take hold of the tiller?
(11) THEY PUT THINGS IN OUR EARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As an sff fan you might be forgiven for thinking that NextSense was founded by a bunch of zombie Ferengis. They are, after all, obsessed with ears—but what they’re really interested in is brains. “This Startup Wants to Get in Your Ears and Watch Your Brain” at WIRED.
… For years, people have been shifting from tracking their health through sporadic visits to a doctor or lab to regularly monitoring their vitals themselves. The NextSense team is gambling that, with a gadget as familiar as an earbud, people will follow the same path with their brains. Then, with legions of folks wearing the buds for hours, days, and weeks on end, the company’s scientists hope they’ll amass an incredible data trove, in which they’ll uncover the hidden patterns of mental health.
For now, that’s the stuff of dreams. What’s real is that on one day in 2019, a patient tucked a bud into each ear, fell asleep, and proceeded to astound NextSense’s scientists—by churning out brain waves that showed exactly how this product could save a person’s life.
Jonathan Berent is the CEO of NextSense. On a recent evening, the 48-year-old was talking like a podcast at 1.5 speed while we waited for our entrées on the patio of an Italian restaurant in Mountain View, California. The subject of his filibuster was how he’d gotten into brain health. His obsession wasn’t ears or wellness; it was sleep….
For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States….
…TikTok fired back, asserting that no user data was shared in China, but the Trump administration kept applying pressure. No action was taken during the remainder of his term, however.
Calamug stressed in his blog post that TikTok’s data center in Virginia “includes physical and logical safety controls such as gated entry points, firewalls and intrusion detection technologies,” adding that the Singapore data center served as a backup….
TikTok said on Friday it is moving U.S. users’ data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. Overshadowing its migration announcement was a damning report that followed, claiming that TikTok staff in China had access to its U.S. users’ data as recently as this January.
The report from BuzzFeed News, which cites recordings from 80 TikTok internal meetings it obtained, claims that U.S. employees of TikTok repeatedly consulted with their colleagues in China to understand how U.S. user data flowed because they did not have the “permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own.”
“Everything is seen in China,” the report said, quoting an unnamed member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department as saying in a September 2021 meeting….
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 21, 1969 — Christa Faust, 53. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one novel with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final Destination, Friday the Thirteenth, Fringe, Gabriel Hunt, Nightmare on Elm Street, Supernatural and Twilight Zone universes. Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this.
Born June 21, 1965 — Steve Niles, 57. Writer best known for works such as 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film.
Born June 21, 1964 — David Morrissey, 58. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest of seeing as I don’t do zombies) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m not at all ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve listened the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent.
Born June 21, 1957 — Berkeley Breathed, 65. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is explicitly genre as they are fantastic creatures. And he contributed three cartoons to the ConFederation program book.
Born June 21, 1952 — David J. Skal, 70. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of items in his CV with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
Born June 21, 1947 — Michael Gross, 75. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well armed and very paranoid graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (based on the Niven story I assume) and voicing a few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters.
Born June 21, 1940 — Mariette Hartley, 82. She’s remembered by us for the classic Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays”, though, as OGH noted in an earlier Scroll, probably best known to the public for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner. She also had a role as psychologist Dr. Carolyn Fields in “Married”, an episode of The Incredible Hulk.
Born June 21, 1938 — Ron Ely, 84. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters… Other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1991 – [By Cat Eldridge.] There are some films that I just like without reservation. One of these is The Rocketeer that premiered on this date thirty-one years ago. I’ve seen this one at least three or four times. It’s proof that the Disney can actually be creative unlike the Marvel films which have all the weakness of a franchise undertaking. (End of rant.)
It was directed by Joe Johnston whose only previous genre film was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and produced by a committee of Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin. None had done anything that suggested they’d be up to this level of excellence. (Yes, my bias is showing.) The script was by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo who did the most excellent Trancers. Bilson wrote the story along with Paul De Meo and William Dear.
Now the source material was the stellar Rocketeer graphic novel series that the late Dave Steven was responsible for. If you’ve not read it, why not? It’s a Meredith moment at the usual suspects at a mere six dollars.
The cast of Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Sorvino and Timothy Dalton was just damn perfect. And there wasn’t anything the film from the design of Rocketeer outfit itself to the creation of the Nazi Zeppelin which was a thirty-two-foot-long model that isn’t spot on. Cool, very cool. The visual effects were designed and done by George Lucas’ ILM.
Disney being Disney never did actually release an actual production budget but Variety figured that it cost at least forty million, if not much more. It certainly didn’t make much as it only grossed forty seven million at the very best.
So what did critics at the time think of this stellar film? Well, Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times liked it: “The movie lacks the wit and self-mocking irony of the Indiana Jones movies, and instead seems like a throwback to the simple-minded, clean-cut sensibility of a less complicated time.” And Pete Travers of the Rolling Stone was equally upbeat: “But then the film is awash in all kinds of surprises that are too juicy to reveal. The Rocketeer is more than one of the best films of the summer; it’s the kind of movie magic that we don’t see much anymore — the kind that charms us, rather than bullying us, into suspending disbelief.”
Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent sixty-five rating.
(7) TODAY’S PHRASEOLOGY QUESTION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the subject line of a press release I just got: “Eleven Madison Park went vegan. Then chaos unfolded.”
This is not, I think, intended as an SFnal reference, so, not a nod to Joanna Russ (And Chaos Died), David Gerrold (The Man Who Folded Himself), etc.
A quick web search shows that, much to my surprise, “unfolding chaos,” “chaos unfolding,” etc. this is a relatively common phrase/image, everywhere from economic to political news coverage, not to mention a company name, a poetry anthology (and no doubt, although I did not check, a magic trick).
… Space.com: What are your particular associations with “Star Wars” and early gateway into science fiction?
Murphy: For the first book I read that wasn’t like a McGuffey Reader or “See Dick and Jane” stuff, I had snuck in and got my dad’s copy of “The Green Hills of Earth” anthology, by Robert Heinlein. It was game on! I consider myself, to this day, a Heinlein babe. The first story in that book is “Delilah and the Space Rigger,” about a space station under construction. [G.] Brooks McNye, the female electrical engineer in the story, was mouthy and guys might push on her, but she just pushed right back and kept going. And that’s pretty much been my career.
I stood in line to see “Star Wars” the second week it was out back in 1977, when it became the phenomenon. Then, years later, I saw Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” and thought, “Ah-ha!” and realized all the similarities, especially with “Star Wars'” two sidekick droids….
… Space.com: If you had the keys to the “Star Wars” kingdom, what would you change in its depiction of robots? Or does it not matter to audiences?
Murphy: I don’t think it matters for entertainment purposes. But there’s one thing that I think is really inconsistent that would be interesting to try and figure out. In “The Mandalorian,” the insect-looking droid, Zero, tells Mando that it decided to join a criminal gang. How did it decide that? How does that work? Because C-3PO and R2-D2 were owned, and they just decided that they’re suddenly not owned by people anymore. Then, you’ve got the whole thing with IG-11. He’s constantly threatening to self-destruct, which could potentially kill or maim innocent bystanders.
That self-destruct sequence is hard-coded by the manufacturers to protect their intellectual property, but they’d be liable for all that collateral damage. If they looked a little more consistently about the rules of when can a droid be free, when can it be its own agent and who built it, that would help. What are the legal and ethical liabilities associated with them?
Queue up the Kate Bush because things are not looking good for our pals in Hawkins.
The full-length trailer for Stranger Things season 4’s two-episode finale comes with a warning: “It might not work out for us this time.” That can’t be good.
Adding to the ominous vibe of the teaser is Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). “It’s over. Now I just want you to watch,” he says. The psychic demo-creature then tells Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown): “Your friends have lost.”
It’s the penultimate season and Netflix split the last two episodes into their own Volume 2, releasing on July 1. Together they run nearly four hours, so basically they are two back-to-back Stranger Things movies. It’s clear the stakes are high. Might someone — or several someones — not make it out alive? (You know, for real this time.)…
Once every generation, there are defining events that reshape the landscape of the speculative fiction literary realm, this time ten African science fiction and fantasy authors from five African nations have gathered over the past few months of this year to bring to life a new and intricate fictional world called Sauúti.
Born out of a partnership between Syllble, a sci-fi and fantasy production house based in Los Angeles that produces fictional worlds, and Brittle Paper Magazine, The Sauúti Collective has produced a unique science-fantasy world for and by Africans and the African Diaspora.
… It all began after Dr. Ainehi Edoro, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Brittle Paper, Wole Talabi, Nigerian author and Editor of Africanfuturism: An Anthology, and I met to discuss what this collaboration could look like and the importance of bringing African voices together. Wole, now a Syllble Brain Trust member, has been facilitating the collaborative sessions between these nine creative minds leading to the creation of the Sauúti Universe.
… Sauúti is taken from the word “Sauti” which means “voice” in Swahili. This world is a five-planet system orbiting a binary star. This world is rooted deeply in a variety of African mythology, language, and culture. Sauúti weaves in an intricate magic system based on sound, oral traditions and music. It includes science-fiction elements of artificial intelligence and space flight, including both humanoid and non-humanoid creatures. Sauúti is filled with wonder, mystery and magic….
In addition to Wole Talabi, the members are Kalejaye Akintoba, Eugen Bacon, Stephen Embleton, Dare Segun Falowo, Adelehin Ijasan, Cheryl Ntumy, Ikechukwu Nwaogu, Xan van Rooyen, and Jude Umeh. Each participant does a Q&A as part of the announcement here.
The panelists discuss the 90th Anniversaries of Conan, Worms of the Earth, the poem “Cimmeria” plus other notable REH events in 1932. Panelists include Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Deuce Richardson, and Paul Sammon. The panel is moderated by Bobby Derie.
(2) PEN PINTER PRIZE. Malorie Blackman, author of the Noughts and Crosses dystopian YA series, has won the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize reports the Guardian.
Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman has become the first children’s and YA writer to be awarded the PEN Pinter prize.
The prize is given by English PEN annually to a writer of “outstanding literary merit” who is based in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. The recipient must also, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel prize, cast an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze on the world and show a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.
Blackman said she was “incredibly honoured” to get the award, and said she was sure she would not be the last children’s and YA author to win the prize, as many “fearless” authors were writing for young people and “tackling complex issues in an entertaining, informative, and understandable way”.
… Blackman will receive the Pinter prize in a ceremony in October, where she will deliver an address. The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage, who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. Blackman will choose that winner from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The author said she was grateful to be given the chance to pick the writer of courage. “Such authors who seek to write their truth in spite of often intractable opposition define the word courage,” she said….
…Represented best in the pages of AstoundingStories and other sci-fi pulps, hard sci-fi “advertises consumer goods like personal robots and flying cars. It valorizes space travel that culminates in successful, if difficult, contact with the alien life assumed to be strewn throughout the galaxies.” The genre also became tied to “American exceptionalist ideology, technocratic triumphalism, manifest destiny” and “libertarian survivalist bullshit,” says Lethem.
Lem had no use for these attitudes. In his guise as a critic and reviewer he wrote, “the scientific ignorance of most American science-fiction writers was as inexplicable as the abominable literary quality of their output.” He admired the English H.G. Wells, comparing him to the inventor of chess, and American Philip K. Dick, whom he called a “visionary among charlatans.” But Lem hated most hard sci-fi, though he himself, says Lethem, was a hard sci-fi writer “with visionary gifts and inexhaustible diligence when it came to the task of extrapolation.”…
(1) HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN. [Item by Meredith.] Someone(s) used the names and email addresses of several members of sf/f fandom including Paul Weimer, Patrick S Tomlinson, John Scalzi, and Adam Rakunas to send racist abuse to a black author (@fairyfemmes) through the contact form on their websites (where the email address can be entered manually). The author originally believed it was real, but is now wanting to know who is behind it. They’ve taken their account private.
The Trolls that have harassed me for years in my name have come up with a new and horrible trick–they are harassing others, in this case, a POC, and using my name to do it.
So it’s a double whammy–to hurt someone else, and to blacken my name at the same time.
Patrick S. Tomlinson addressed a message sent under his name, and another from the person posing as Adam Rakunas.
(2) TONOPAH PROGRAM UPDATED. The most recent (June 19) Westercon 74 Program Schedule version has downloadable PDFs of the Program Grid, which shows items by date/time/location. Click on the link.
(3) WISCON’S COVID OUTCOME. The “WisCon 2022 Post-Con COVID-19 Report” begins with a fully detailed account of the extensive COVID-19 safety measures instituted by the committee, then assesses the results.
…Two weeks out from the end of the convention, we are stopping our case tracking efforts. While it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether some members arrived sick, contracted COVID-19 during travel to/from, or contracted COVID-19 at the con, we can, with much gratitude, report that we had a total reported count of 13 cases including one possible false positive, or 3% of our estimated 407 in-person attendance. That’s just about miraculous.
We want to especially extend our thanks to those who tested positive very soon after arriving and took the necessary measures to take care of themselves and keep those around them safe, up to and including leaving the convention entirely. We know it must have been so gut-wrenching and disappointing. Thank you….
…It’s as if people are celebrating the idea that writing doesn’t matter and that “good writing” is some form of intellectual elitism that doesn’t have anything to do with them. They’re death metal fans and they don’t care about opera.
But that is, of course, nonsense. It’s akin to saying “I don’t care how good a brain surgeon you are, as long as you get this tumour out.” “I don’t care how good a mechanic you are, as long as you fix my car.” Sure, the end is the thing that’s important to you … but the end is generally strongly correlated with the means….
… A lot of people hate horror movies, but I don’t. In fact, I frequently find myself strong-arming my friends and loved ones into watching something scarier than they would prefer, just for the company. It’s a difference of philosophy as much as a difference in taste. Horror deniers often claim there’s nothing emotionally valuable in the experience of being frightened. I disagree. When I first watched “The Last Unicorn” (a horror movie masquerading as a children’s cartoon) at age 8, the image of a naked harpy devouring a witch was burned into my brain, but so was the realization that the conditions that created the harpy also allowed for the unicorn. The existence of horror is inevitably proximate to the existence of wondrous possibility.
Meeting another person who loves horror as much as I do, then, is like meeting a fellow traveler from my home country while stuck somewhere distant and strange….
… This was a remarkable year for SF novels, and the five that I list as nominees — the same list the Retro Hugo nominators picked — are all certified classics in the field. There some impressive alternate choices too — among those I list, Leiber’s The Sinful Ones (an expansion and in my opinion an improvement on his 1950 short novel “You’re All Alone”) is a personal favorite. In my Locus article I picked The Caves of Steel as the winner, but I’m really torn. Nowadays I might lean to either More Than Human, or to the Retro Hugo winner, Fahrenheit 451….
…You’ve read it too, so I won’t go on at length. It is as funny as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised on re-reading by the breadth and depth of references to classic (and Classical) literature. The main driver of the Sto Lat subplot, the rewriting of history and destiny, is actually more of a science fiction trope, rarely found in fantasy (and the description of it is fairly sfnal). And Death’s slogan resonates still for me, 35 years on.
Having been putting out issues for 92 years now, Analog Science Fiction and Fact stands as the longest continuously published magazine of its genre. It also lays claim to having developed or at least popularized that genre in the form we know it today. When it originally launched in December of 1929, it did so under the much more whiz-bang title of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. But only three years later, after a change of ownership and the installation as editor of F. Orlin Tremaine, did the magazine begin publishing work by writers remembered today as the defining minds of science fiction….
… For “John Williams: A 90th Birthday Gala,” conductor Stéphane Denève will lead the NSO in a sprawling celebration of Willams’s famed film music. Special guests cellist Yo-Yo Ma, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will cue up selections from some of Williams’s most beloved scores, including “Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Harry Potter,” “Indiana Jones” and “Schindler’s List.” The program will also highlight Williams’s most recently lauded work, the score to Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane’s Oscar-winning 2017 short film “Dear Basketball.”
A pair of companion concerts flanking the gala celebration will focus on two of Williams’s best-known scores — representing a fraction of his 29 collaborations with Spielberg. (Their latest project, “The Fabelmans,” is due out in November). Steven Reineke will conduct the composer’s scores for “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” on June 22 and 24, respectively. (The NSO will also perform Williams’s score for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” with a screening of the film at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on July 29.)
Taken together, the birthday party is three days of music that will hit all the subconscious buttons that Williams has wired into our collective memories over the past five decades — a rich catalogue of instantly identifiable melodies, moods and motifs that can conjure entire worlds with the stroke of a bow.
The party, however, conspicuously forgot to invite Williams’s concert music — the province of his output that truly opened my ears to his compositional mastery. (It also leaves out selections from “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a deep cut that represents some of his best work with Spielberg, but that’s another story.)
I get it. We have come to equate Williams with Hollywood so closely that it can be hard to fathom him freed of cinema’s frame.
But in Williams’s many concertos, chamber works and solo pieces, his familiar compositional voice is fully present, albeit put to completely different use. His connections to multiple classical traditions register more clearly: his Berg-ian penchant for darkness and dissonance, his Copland-esque ease with evoking natural grandeur, his inheritance of gestures from Debussy, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Korngold.
Here are some of my favorite Williams works that have nothing to do with the movies — and have a lot more depth than you might expect from a composer we associate with the silver screen….
One of the pieces Michael Andor Brodeur recommended of John Williams was his “Fanfare For Fenway” so here it is as Williams and the Boston Pops perform the world premiere at Fenway Park in 2012.
Even though it isn’t on the Warner Bros release calendar until June 23, 2023, The Flash is becoming Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s first movie crisis, because of the escalating coverage of incidents of volatile and odd behavior involving the film’s star, Ezra Miller.
Zaslav has made clear his desire to grow the DC Universe to MCU scale and has all the ingredients of a first foot forward in The Flash, including the return of Michael Keaton as Batman along with a reprise by Ben Affleck, a $200 million budget and a hot director in Andy Muschietti, who delivered the blockbuster It for the studio. The Warner Bros Discovery CEO exercised his well known penchant for micro-management by declining to greenlight Wonder Twins for being too niche. Zaslav will have to soon make a decision of what to do with the completed picture that is The Flash, and what to do with a young actor who appears to have serious off-set issues….
(11) VERTLIEB MEDICAL NEWS. Steve Vertlieb is home after his fifth hospital stay of the year. He brings everyone up-to-date in “Back To The Suture 3” on Facebook.
… Days upon days of antibiotic treatment were required before they dared to open the wound and clean out the bacteria. This additional procedure was accomplished on Monday, June 13th.
Consequently, I was admitted yet again to the cardiac unit where I remained for nine days more until my delayed and eventual release this afternoon. I’ve a “Wound V.A.C.” attached to my groin where it hangs rather uncomfortably, and shall continue to do so for, perhaps, the next week or two. I’m home once more, and praying that this is where I shall be permitted at long last to remain….
(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1956 – [By Cat Eldridge.]Forbidden Planet debuted sixty years ago on this date in the United Kingdom. I had the extremely good fortune of seeing Forbidden Planet at one of those boutique cinema houses some four decades back. Great sound and print, and a respectful audience who were there to see the film so everyone paid attention to it.
It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack who had no genre background and who would die of a heart attack, age forty-nine just two years later. It was directed by Fred Wilcox, best known for Lassie, Come Home. The script was written by Cyril Hume who had prior to this written scripts for two Tarzan films. It is said that is based off “The Tempest” as conceived in a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. Huh.
I’ll skip the cast other than Robbie the Robot. He cost at least one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to produce, and was based off the design originating with ideas and sketches by production designer Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie, art director Arthur Lonergan, and writer Irving Block. Robbie was operated (uncredited at the time) by stuntmen Frankie Darro and Frankie Carpenter, both rather short actors. And his voice in the film was done in post-production by actor Marvin Miller.
The budget was about two million of which it was later estimated that Robbie was actually well over ten percent of that because of the cost of Miller’s time which added considerably to his cost. It made two point eight million, so yes it lost money.
So what did the critics think? Variety thought it had “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the production a top offering in the space travel category” while the Los Angeles Times thought it was “more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.’”
It has a most stellar eighty-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 19, 1915 — Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as Bradbury, Bester, Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which included some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
Born June 19, 1921 — Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two very low budget TV horror films in the late Sixties that don’t show up on Rotten Tomatoes, appear to be his first venture into our realm. And no, I can’t say I’ve seen either one of them. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later which gets a most excellent seventy-eight rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. (No, don’t ask what they got for ratings. Please don’t ask.) Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (It’s Moore, again don’t ask.) (Died 2015.)
Born June 19, 1926 — Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman : Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available from the usual suspects though Cora can read him in German. (Died 2005.)
Born June 19, 1947 — Salman Rushdie, 75. I strongly believe that everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (So let the arguments begin on that statement as they will.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Grimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories which I essayed here. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
Born June 19, 1952 — Virginia Hey, 70. Best remembered for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fantastic Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it, so who has?
Born June 19, 1957 — Jean Rabe, 65. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Rogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written at least five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. She has won the Internation Assoication of Media Tie-In Writers’ Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement.
(15) OVERCOMER. [Item by Steven French.] Interesting interview with Sarah Hall, author of plague novel Burntcoat (not sure writing a book during the pandemic is quite comparable to what Sarah Connor did but ok …) “Sarah Hall: ‘I used to almost fear opening a book’”.
When did you begin writing Burntcoat? On the first day of the first lockdown in March 2020, with notebooks and a pen, which I’d not done since my first novel, 20 years ago. It felt like a response to what was going on – this odd scribbling in the smallest room in the house, really early in the morning when it was quiet and eerie.
And you kept it up even while home schooling your daughter? There was some part of me that thought: “This is just one more thing that’s going to make it difficult to work and I’m going to do it anyway.” I was anxious, but I’m a single parent and I go into, as I call it, Sarah Connor mode from TheTerminator: it’s out there, here’s my child, what do I need to do? Get buff! I got pains in my hand because I wasn’t used to writing so much.
(16) WACKY WIKI. If for any reason you were wondering whether Vox Day’s Infogalactic is still around, Camestos Felapton permitted his eyeballs to be stabbed with its content in order to research this post: “Incredibly, Voxopedia is still running”.
… Not that the movie subscribes to the idea of adolescence as a carefree, unburdened time. By now, it’s conventional wisdom that “E.T.” grew out of Spielberg’s memories of his emotionally fraught teenage years. The director modeled his title character on a real imaginary friend he came up with to cope with his parents’ divorce. As written by Melissa Mathison, who combined elements from two scrapped Spielberg projects, the film became a melancholy fantasy deeply haunted by parental absence. At heart, it’s about a broken nuclear family trying to piece itself back together….
… Beyond that, it’s funny to watch the cast’s long capes and skirts get stuck in the scenery and have them try to fight off errant leaves as they wave their arms around doing pretend magic.
(19) A COMMERCIAL MESSAGE FROM OUR FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Estonian company Milrem Robotics has joined with a partner company (who supplied the 30 mm autocanon) to demonstrate what their “Type-X“ armored, uncrewed, AI-powered Robotic Combat Vehicle could do if outfitted as a tank. “Robot Tank Firing at Cars and Other Targets Is the Stuff of Nightmares” at Autoevolution.
The disastrous use of tanks by the Russians in Ukraine isn’t stopping defense contractors from researching such platforms, though. Of course, even if they look like traditional tanks, these new machines are as modern as they get.
Take the so-called Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, developed over in Europe by Milrem Robotics and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. That would be an autonomous, AI-governed, tracked vehicle that could become a common presence on the battlefields of tomorrow….
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Meredith, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
(1) IT’S STILL HOME. Samit Basu is a best-selling author in India who’s been published in the US/UK since 2013. His book The City Inside is a recent release from Tordotcom. In a guest post at Stone Soup he questions “When Is A Dystopia Just The Real World?”
…I wanted to write a near-future projection of my surroundings that was pragmatic, but optimistic. I’ve lived in Delhi for many years now, and however bad it gets, you can’t really see the place where you live as dystopian – genrewise, it’s also the setting for your romances, your office comedies, your reluctant action-adventures, your gritty urban dramedies, your heartwarming holiday specials. You live in this odd multi-tab chaos that makes you extremely conscious of your own privileges, because you’re in proximity to people whose living conditions are extremely challenging, especially in politically apocalyptic times. And this convinces you – or convinced me, at least – that whatever happens, however bad things get, the people in this city – or any other – will outlast it, because they have no choice. Not because they are passive, but because they are used to all systems failing them, and will always cling on to hope. And if you have hope, if you have purpose, you’re not living in a dystopia, even if it looks like one from outside….
Now Roboto has a bit of a strange history. He was an action figure in the 1980s, but he only had a handful of appearances in the original Filmation cartoon, where he was an alien explorer from a planet of robots who crashlanded on Eternia, was repaired by Man-at-Arms and wound up staying and fighting alongside He-Man and his friends.
The 2002 cartoon retconned his origin and made him a sentient and intelligent robot built by Man-at-Arms originally as a chess partner for Man-e-Faces. However, Roboto wanted to be a warrior, upgraded himself and heroically sacrificed himself in order to save He-Man and all of Eternia from a plague of multiplying skeletons. Luckily, Man-at-Arms was able to repair him and so Roboto was frequently seen fighting alongside the other heroic warriors.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation tweaked Roboto’s backstory yet again. He’s still a sentient and intelligent robot who was built by Man-at-Arms, but in Revelation Roboto considers Duncan his father and Teela his sister and refers to them as such….
TNT’s Snowpiercer will be pulling into the station. The post-apocalyptic drama’s upcoming fourth season, which is in production, will be its last. I hear the cast’s options were coming up and were not picked up, releasing the actors to book other jobs….
Snowpiercer, which follows the passengers of a perpetually moving train carrying the remnants of humanity after the world becomes a frozen wasteland, was the last remaining original scripted series on TNT as the other original drama still on the network, Animal Kingdom, is launching its final season on Sunday. The TNets already had been scaling back on original scripted fare; the process was accelerated by the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger….
(5) SOMETHING SHORT OF INFINITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Lightyear may be coming up a bit short. The new Disney/Pixar flick was expected to easily lead at the box office this Father’s Day/Juneteenth weekend. Instead, it seems to be coming in below expectations and in a close race with the latest Jurassic World movie. “Box Office: ‘Lightyear’ Could Get Clobbered by ‘Jurassic World 3’” in The Hollywood Reporter.
The animated family film was expected to open to at least $70 million to $85 million in North America, but now it looks like Lightyear may only buzz to $52 million to $55 million for the three-day weekend.
Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World Dominion could stomp to $57 million in its second outing.
Monday is a federal holiday honoring Juneteenth, so Monday could look more like a Saturday and Sunday in terms of traffic at the box office. Universal insiders believe Jurassic World 3‘s domestic total could climb as high as $66 million for the four days.
Philippine literature is slowly gaining international recognition, especially when it comes to general fiction and fantasy. And there are even more sub-genres waiting to be explored by international readers. For instance, though there’s a dearth of Filipino sci-fi books, they are so rare and precious that it’s only once in a while when they come out. In fact, you can count them on one hand.
… Although there’s an apparent short supply of Filipino science fiction books in circulation, I’ve managed to find 11 of them.
Their recommendations lead off with:
SCIENCE FICTION: FILIPINO FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS BY DEAN FRANCIS ALFAR AND KENNETH YU
Dean Francis Alfar, one of the more widely recognized Filipino speculative fiction writers, has written many books in the genre. Salamanca, his first novel, is considered to be a modern classic.
In this collection, however, he edited science fiction stories for Filipino young readers, which might be the first in the Philippines. The collection features stories from known Filipino spec fic writers such as Victor Fernando Ocampo, Nikki Alfar, Eliza Victoria, and Gabriela Lee. This is really sure to please.
At least five employees were fired by private rocket company SpaceX after drafting and circulating an open letter criticizing founder Elon Musk and calling on executives at the start-up to make the company’s work culture more inclusive, according to two people familiar with the matter.
…SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent an email saying the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter, the New York Times said.
The newspaper said Shotwell’s email said employees involved with circulating the letter had been fired for making other staff feel “uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views”.
Reuters could not independently confirm that report.
The earlier open letter to SpaceX executives seen by Reuters had called Musk a “distraction and embarrassment” to the company he founded.
In a list of three demands, the letter said: “SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”
It added: “Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior”.
(8) SF LISTENING ON BBC RADIO 4. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Machine Stopsis airing on BBC Radio 4.
This is an audio adaptation of the classic E. M. Forster 1909 short story ‘The Machine Stops‘. This is a new version to the previous BBC Radio 4 one half a decade ago (2016).
A far future sees humanity living underground in a vast, highly automated complex run by a machine…
To kick things off, we have to talk about one of the most terrifying sentient bots of all—the “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic Computer,” or HAL—from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001, A Space Odyssey. And by design, he’s a pretty hard working bot: he’s built into the spacecraft where the film takes place, and is tasked with essentially running the ship. He opens doors, keeps life support systems afloat, and, like LaMDA, he can talk.
Unlike LaMDA though, HAL comes programmed with real, human emotions. And after encountering a minor glitch at the start of the film, those emotions are what cause HAL to go off the rails (to put it mildly).
“Most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it’s inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions—fear, love, hate, envy, etc,” Kubrick said about the bot in an interview. “Such a machine could eventually become as incomprehensible as a human being, and could, of course, have a nervous breakdown—as HAL did in the film.”
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
2005 – [By Cat Eldridge.] On this evening seventeen years ago, we got our first true look at David Tennant in that role. The episode was “The Parting Of The Ways” The episode of course, SPOILER ALERT! (Cue Dalek sound here) It featured Christopher Eccleston making his final appearance as the Ninth Doctor and marks the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor as we got our first regeneration of the modern era. END SPOILER ALERT!
It was written by Russell T. Davies who as we all know was responsible for reviving this series. It was directed by Joe Ahearne whose main credit to was the vampire series Ultraviolet. It was produced by Philip Collinson who is returneing to that role under Davies.
Of the modern Doctors, Tennant is by far my favorite one and I thought the stories were very fitting to him. He seemed both very human and very alien at the same time. From the very beginning in this episode, he seemed to have the role spot on. (Baker is by far my favorite of the older Doctors. BritBox is showing all of the surviving older Who episodes.)
Neither of the two male Doctors that followed was really to my liking, not quite sure why as the stories for the most were fine, though I did like the Thirteenth Doctor a lot. I just never warmed to either of them. I actually like the Tenth Doctor better than either of them.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 18, 1908 — Bud Collyer. He’s best-remembered for his radio-starring role of Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.)
Born June 18, 1917 — Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles of which one, playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur, I’m willing to bet almost all of you have never seen it. (It gets a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit. Of course his major non-genre role was as Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel which I’ve seen every episode of at least three times. Really I have. (Died 1981.)
Born June 18, 1931 — Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.)
Born June 18, 1942 — Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as Kipple, Parsection and Psi-Phi. At university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Of course, he grew up to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning film reviewer. Mike has much more to say about him here. (Died 2013.)
Born June 18, 1947 — Linda Thorson, 75. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performances was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode, and on the Good Witch as Mrs Hansen in “Graduation” episode.
Born June 18, 1949 — Chris Van Allsburg, 73. For some twenty years now until the Pandemic came upon us, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate for the children. It always sold out for the entire month they ran it. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. (I’ve never seen the film and won’t.) He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin and I highly recommended it.
Born June 18, 1958 — Jody Lee, 64. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moonfor DAW Books in 1985. Her latest is Passages: All-New Tales of Valdemar, a Mercedes Lackey anthology, that came out last year on DAW Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here. Her cover for Mercedes Lackey’s The Oathbound won her a Chelsey Award.
Born June 18, 1960 — Barbara Broccoli, 62. Daughter of the late James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She has producer or director credit on at least fourteen Bond films which are definitely genre. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. She produced the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production staged in NYC at the Hilton Theater sixteen years ago. That must have been really interesting. She was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Queen’s New Year Honours List.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Off the Mark shows a variation on a childhood bedtime ritual that makes sense if you think about it.
Lio knows why these aren’t on the aliens’ bill of fare.
(14) MARVEL BRICK UNIVERSE. 9to5Toys has a series of reveals from LEGO CON 2022 including the Sanctum Sanctorum, and a Star Wars item (see it at the link).
Showcasing the latest addition to the Marvel side of the lineup, the new Sanctum Sanctorum has been revealed. In the same style as last year’s Daily Bugle, this one arrives with 2,708 pieces and nine minifigures. There’s tons of references packed into the three different floors, as well. It will sell for $249.99 once it launches on August 1.
Here’s a breakdown of who’s included this time around:
A number of people working for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert were arrested Thursday night at a U.S Capitol office building after taping a skit. Among those arrested was Robert Smigel, the former SNL and Conan writer, best known for portraying Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. According to authorities, the group was confronted by police in the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday evening, after it was closed to visitors. They were charged with unlawful entry.
… “On Wednesday, June 15 and Thursday, June 16, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was on-site at the Capitol with a production team to record interviews for a comedy segment on behalf of The Late Show,” a CBS spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Their interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed. After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police.”
(16) BLOW IT OUT YOUR A&$. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One maker of robot “dogs” has a new water jet accessory available, allowing the bot to propel itself across relatively calm waters. (But don’t call it Spot — this isn’t the Boston Dynamics pooch.) “A new propulsion system allows this robotic dog to ‘swim’”.
… And now the NAUT allows a dog-shaped robot to move with water jet propulsion. The jet takes in water and ejects it at greater speed, allowing the Vision 60 to move with vectored thrust in a body of water.
“The system is capable of propelling the robotic dog and speeds up three knots and can operate at full power using a dedicated power source for approximately 35 minutes,” reports The War Zone. “The ‘tail’ can also continue to function after that by drawing electricity from the robot dog’s own internal power source.”
At 3 knots, or just 3.4 mph, the NAUT-powered Vision 60 won’t be winning any races, but should be perfectly capable of crossing streams and calm waters. The ability to go amphibious makes a robot useful in scouting and patrols in coastal or riverine terrain, and possibly even of use in the tricky terrain of a marsh or bayou….
(17) THEY CALL ME MISTER ROCKET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket likes to go by a different name. They’ve taken to calling it Mega Moon Rocket, even in official press releases. One supposes it has a better ring to it. Imagine, though, what Bezos or Musk might have come up with. “NASA prefers this nickname for Artemis’ new lunar rocket” at Mashable.
If this NASA launch vehicle could talk — say at an international consortium of the world’s most elite, hobnobbing space rockets — this is how it would introduce itself after filling out its “Hello, my name is” sticker.
Space Launch System? Bleh, only my mother and technical manuals call me that.
SLS? Not since grade school.
Please, friends call me Moon Rocket. Mega Moon Rocket.
Technically, this gargantuan is the U.S. space agency’s Space Launch System or SLS for short. But somewhere along the line, the mission crew stopped calling it by its given name and started referring to it by its badder, Transformers-ish nickname. Even the news releases from the agency use it now….
(18) CLOTHES MAKE THE WIZARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Daniel Radclliffe, Emma Watson, directors Mike Newell ad Alfredo Cuaron and several constume designers talk about the clothes in Harry Potter in this video that dropped two weeks ago (and is a 2022 film).
Before there was “Alien,” before there was “Star Trek,” before there was “Star Wars,” there was “It Came from Outer Space.” The 1953 sci-fi film may look cheesy by today’s standards but that, and its Ray Bradbury pedigree, has only added to its status as a cult classic.
Now Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, the musical theater team behind the hit show “Murder for Two,” have met the challenge of transforming the film, which was based on a Bradbury story, into a stage musical….
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rich Horton.]
In an afterword to Far from the Light of Heaven, [Tade] Thompson asks himself if he’s writing space opera — “a conversation my editor, my agent, my cat and I had many times” — and if so, what would the tropes of that subgenre bring to his work. As a practicing psychiatrist who somehow manages another full-time career as a novelist, Thompson has shared in interviews that he’s fascinated by “flawed people in interesting circumstances.” So, when he chooses space as the setting for this story, it seems to be a choice that grants his characters unique affects and experiences that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere: a backdrop, albeit an incredibly detailed and vivid one. But Thompson also acknowledges the problematic roots of spaceflight among Nazi scientists and military weapons programs: “We can’t erase the murderous origins just because we can see the first sunsets from Mars.” And so throughout the work, you can feel the characters engaging with the ethically compromised origins of the space sublime. Again, from the afterword: “I try to lean away from aliens being Other because that’s tied up with colonialist thinking. It’s one of the reasons I tried to avoid empires and massive space battles. I just have people who want to survive in the wider universe.”
Bitter Karella is a game designer, comic writer, video making and social media satirist with an insightful perspective on horror, science fiction and fantasy (but in particular horror). Her break out hit has been the satirical Twitter account The Midnight Society (aka Midnight Pals), which imagines some of the great names of horror (from Edgar Allen Poe to Dean Koontz) as teenage campers who tell horror stories around a campfire….
(3) FUNDRAISER. And Bitter Karella is raising money to attend the Worldcon: “Send BitterKarella to Chicon 8!!” at itch.io. You can buy individual books, or a whole bundle of 8 books for $44.
Bitter Karella needs has been nominated for a Hugo Award for best fan writer and she wants to go to Chicon 8 in September to accept (or possibly lose) his award in person! But it turns out that going to Chicon is, as we say here in the hellscape of nocal, hella expensive… so we’re raising money to cover trip expenses including con registration, plane fare, and lodgings! Just look at all this great merchandise you can get half off and know that you’re helping Bitter Karella get money!! Thanks for your consideration!
This includes the board for the Midnight Pals game, however, Karella wants you to know in advance, “This is a a joke and NOT an actual playable board game.” But it’s only a buck!
ILLUMINART – The Doctor Who Art of Andrew Skilleter, offered in two editions, will showcase the work from a career of over fifty years in the publishing industry, spanning work for a huge range of publishers and publications, including Target Books and Doctor Who Magazine.
This new collection is the first volume of a trilogy, that will cover not only most of the artist’s Doctor Who art, but many unpublished and unseen commissions, his “Hidden Dimensions”, together with some personally selected pieces from his extensive canon of work in other genres, such as Star Wars, Dan Dare, Gerry Anderson, BBC Video and Audio and much more.
Every picture tells a story and Andrew has quite a few to tell!
I’ve always had a weakness for stories that defy categorization, especially if they happen to include fantasy and romance. Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars is an excellent example; Tamsyn Muir’s captivating and beautifully strange Gideon the Ninth is another; Naomi Novik’s fabulous Scholomance series is a third. When I began writing Payback’s a Witch, I originally intended it to read as a more traditional rom-com, primarily a romance that just happened to revolve around two bisexual witches falling in love in a magical, Salem-inspired Halloweentown. The magic was initially intended to be a background element rather than a focal point of the plot. Something to add a little shimmer without detracting from the central romance.
The problem was, I’d forgotten that I was going to be the one doing the writing, and that I’m constitutionally incapable of stories that don’t feature Big Magic….
(7) WISCON 2023. Next year’s WisCon guests of honor. Thread starts here.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1992 – [By Cat Eldridge.] This is an appreciation of Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book which came out thirty years ago. This is nor a critical look at a novel, but a fan looking at a book. So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and we’ll get started.
As you know, Doomsday Book shared the Hugo at ConFranciso with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep (Mike Glyer’s comments here about that shared Hugo would lead to Jo Walton writing An Informal History of the Hugos) and would also win a Nebula and a Locus Best SF Novel Award. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and an Arthur C. Clarke Award as well. Quite an honor indeed.
It’s part of her excellent Time Travel series which all four parts would win the Hugo (including the novelette Fire Watch, and the diptych novels Blackout / All Clear) making her the first author to win Hugo awards for all works in a series. It was set fifty years in the future, a decent span of time but still one that feels conceivable.
And I’m always fascinated by any SFF narrative set at a University as it’s hard to make that setting feel proper. Willis does in my opinion as one who spent too much time as an undergrad and grad student at various universities a spot-on job of capturing the feel of University culture.
So why do I like this book? Because it handles time travel intelligently, something that is rare in SFF and the characters are all interesting. And I really love series, so I am very happy that it’s part of the Time Travel series.
Given it deals with two serious Pandemics, it probably not the best novel to read right now…
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 30, 1908 — Mel Blanc. Where to begin? Yes he delightfully voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and a multitude of other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Blanc made his debut in 1940 “A Wild Hare”. Did you know that he created the voice and laugh of Woody Woodpecker but stopped doing it after the first three shorts as he was signed then to an exclusive Warner contract? His laughs did continue to get used however. Blanc, aware of his talents, fiercely protected the rights to his voice characterizations contractually and legally. (Died 1989.)
Born May 30, 1914 — Bruce Elliott. His fifteen stories in The Shadow magazine in the late Forties are generally held in low esteem by Shadow fans because of his handling of the character, best noted by the three stories in which the Shadow does not appear at all in his costumed identity. Oh the horror! He also wrote three genre novels — The Planet of Shame, Asylum Earth and, errr, The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. And he had stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction including “Wolves Don’t Cry” and “The Last Magician”. (Died 1973.)
Born May 30, 1922 — Hal Clement. Much to my surprise, his only Hugo was a Retro Hugo for a short story, “Uncommon Sense” which he got at L.A. Con III. He did get the First Fandom Award. My favorite novel by him is Mission of Gravity, and I’m also fond of The Best of Hal Clement which collects much of his wonderful short work. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2003.)
Born May 30, 1936 — Keir Dullea, 86. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. I know I saw 2001 several times and loved it but I’ll be damned if I can remember seeing 2010. He’s done a number of other genre films, Brave New World, Space Station 76, Valley of the Gods and Fahrenheit 451. And lest we forget he was Devon in “Cordwainer Bird’s” Starlost.
Born May 30, 1948 — Michael Piller. He was a writer and Executive Producer of The Next Generation, and co-creator of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He’s likely best known for co-writing “The Best of Both Worlds” and the pilots of DS9 (“Emissary”) and Voyager (“Caretaker”). Post-Trek, he developed a series that last six seasons based off of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, and he had a deal with WB for a series called Day One, a post-apocalyptic series based on the UK Last Train series. WB reneged on the contract. (Died 2005.)
Born May 30, 1952 — Mike W. Barr, 70. A writer of comic books, mystery novels, and science fiction novels. He written Trek fiction for the first series in either comic book form or other media. My favorite work by him is for DC, the Camelot 3000 series. He wrote one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Paging the Crime Doctor”.
Born May 30, 1953 — Colm Meaney, 69. Best known for playing Miles O’Brien in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Other genre roles include an unnamed Cop at Tess’s in Dick Tracy, Seamus Muldoon in The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, a recurring role as Chief Cowen on Stargate Atlantis and Father Francis on Tolkien.
Born May 30, 1971 — Duncan Jones, 51. Director whose films include Moon (2009) which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form and a BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and Source Code (2011) which was nominated for both a Hugo and a Ray Bradbury Award. He also directed Warcraft (2016), the highest grossing video game adoption of all time. He is totally not best known for being David Bowie’s son. (Alan Baumler)
Molly Odintz: As a followup, is the gothic a particularly potent place for feminist stories?
Sarai Walker: There are so many powerful stories by women that could be described as feminist gothic, including classics like Jane Eyre and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and also Southern Gothic fiction about women from authors such as Carson McCullers and Toni Morrison. So I think writers today can build on that legacy. The gothic is a powerful form for exploring trauma and what has been repressed, so that makes it ideal for telling feminist stories. Using the gothic form to tell a political story is what excited me as I wrote The Cherry Robbers, even though the story is wrapped up in a pretty and spooky package, which might not seem overtly political to readers. It works in a stealthy way….
(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in to a wrong response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!
Category: The Animal in Its Logo
Answer: Paperback publisher Pocket Books
Wrong question: What is a penguin?
Right question: What is a kangaroo?
(14) RO, RO, RO YOUR BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As labor shortages continue in many industries, more managers seem to be turning to robots to keep the ship of commerce moving forward. Robot/automation orders are said to be up 21% for the year 2021 & 40% for the first quarter of 2022. “Robot Orders up 40% As Employers Seek Relief From Labor Shortage” reports Business Insider.
…”The robots are becoming easier to use,” Michael Cicco, chief executive officer of industrial robot provider Fanuc America, told the Wall Street Journal. “Companies used to think that automation was too hard or too expensive to implement.”
But as robot usage climbs, some have expressed concern about the machines displacing human workers as the labor crisis eventually eases….
(15) LOGAN’S WORLD CONTINUES. Kwelengsen Dawn: Book Two of the Logan’s World Series by David M. Kelly (Nemesis Press) will be released on June 7.
When you lose everything you love, the whole world becomes the enemy.
After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.
After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.
When security tries to arrest him on trumped-up charges, he must find his own way to return to Kwelengsen. His only option is to seek out someone from his past–a borderline psychotic, who might just be crazy enough to help.
Now, he must draw on all his strength and resilience as he undertakes a precarious and violent journey into the unknown, with enemies lurking in every shadow. The outlook is bleak, and all he has is his grit and sense of honor. Will that be enough?
The battle is over. But the war is about to begin.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I watched this video from Wendover Productions about the Galaxy’s Edge section of Disney World, which has lots of good background on the battle between Disney and Universal. Disney nearly landed the Harry Potter rights in 2004 but balked at the cost and giving J.K. Rowling creative control. But Rowling’s views were the right ones because the Harry Potter section of Universal is immersive in a way that no ride at Disney was at the time. So they decided to outdo Harry Potter with Galaxy’s Edge. The goal is to attract Millennials who will post about thir experiences on social media, because a testimonial is more effective advertising than any ad. Also there’s no humor in Galaxy’s Edge because humor works only once and the goal is to have people keep coming back and spending $$$$$. “How to Design a Theme Park (To Take Tons of Your Money)”.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Kathy Sullivan, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
(1) HYBRID READING SERIES FROM SEATTLE. Clarion West is bringing back their Summer of Science Fiction & Fantasy reading series in 2022. The readings will be held both in-person in Seattle and online. They are free and open to the public. Click on the author’s name below to learn more and to register for the event. All events will be held on Tuesday nights.
June 21 Susan Palwick 7PM Seattle Public Library Central Branch 1000 4th Avenue Supported by the Leslie Howle Instructorship Susan Palwick (CW ‘85) has published several novels and short story collections, including The Necessary Beggar, Shelter, and Mending the Moon. She is a recipient of the Crawford Award, Alex Award, and Silver Pen Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.
June 28 P. Djèlí Clark 7PM Seattle Public Library Central Branch 1000 4th Avenue Phenderson Djèlí Clark is the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy-nominated author of the novel A Master of Djinn and the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, as well as numerous short stories.
July 5 Fonda Lee 7PM Seattle Public Library Central Branch 1000 4th Avenue Supported by the Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the epic urban fantasy Green Bone Saga as well as the acclaimed young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo, and Cross Fire. She is a three-time winner of the Aurora Award, and a multiple finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. Register now.
July 12 Tobias Buckell 7:30PM Town Hall Seattle 1119 8th Ave Supported by the Debbie J. Rose Memorial Instructorship Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author and World Fantasy Award winner. His novels and almost one hundred stories have been translated into twenty different languages. His work has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and the Astounding Award for Best New Science Fiction Author.
July 19 Bill Campbell 7:30PM Town Hall Seattle 1119 8th Ave Bill Campbell is the author of Sunshine Patriots; My Booty Novel; Pop Culture: Politics, Puns, and “Poohbutt” from a Liberal Stay-at-Home Dad; Koontown Killing Kaper; and Baaaad Muthaz, and he has edited several groundbreaking anthologies. He is the winner of a Glyph Pioneer/Lifetime Achievement Award.
Annalee Newitz is the author of the book Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, and the novels The Future of Another Timeline, and Autonomous, which won the Lambda Literary Award. They are also the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.
Charlie Jane Anders is the author of Victories Greater Than Death, as well as Never Say You Can’t Survive, and Even Greater Mistakes. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night and All the Birds in the Sky. With Annalee Newitz, she co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Register now.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) booted award-winning author Mercedes Lackey from a conference over her use of a “racial slur,” even though the Black author to whom she had been referring later said he did not consider the term offensive.
Lackey had allegedly referred to Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, 80, a celebrated author and literary critic (winner of multiple SFWA Nebula awards), as “colored” while praising his work in the “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” panel at the SFWA Nebula Conference on Saturday, May 21….
Fox’s article includes Lackey’s apology, and the screencap of Delany’s Facebook comments.
(3) TALKING ABOUT EVERYTHING. Abigail Nussbaum says it’s a challenge to review something really good, such as the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. Clearly, it’s a challenge she is equal to:
…Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I could talk about when talking about Everything Everywhere All at Once. I could discuss the fact that this is the first worthwhile showcase that Hollywood has given Yeoh since she burst onto Western audiences’ consciousness twenty-five years ago in Tomorrow Never Dies, and how it shows off not only her skills as an action heroine, but as a dramatic actress and a comedienne. I could mention that matching Yeoh beat for beat is Quan, the former child star who played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, who has spent the intervening decades behind the camera as a stunt choreographer, but who returns to the screen now in what should be a star-making turn. I could point out that the film functions as a culmination of two of the early 2020s’ favorite tropes—multiverses and generational trauma—while managing to put its own unique spin on them. I could discuss its myriad references, to everything from Pixar movies to art-house Asian cinema….
And there’s quite a bit more Nussbaum could say – and does – after that excerpt.
Chris Barkley has been an active voice in fandom for over 40 years. He’s been a volunteer at numerous Worldcons, including being the head of media relations at several and more broadly, he’s been one of those vital people in fandom who does the work to make a group of people with common interests a community….
2009 – [By Cat Eldridge.] So tonight we have an interesting short film. And no, I had no idea it existed until now. 2081 which is based off of the Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” story premiered on this date thirteen years ago at the Seattle International Film Festival.
The story was first published the October 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and was in his Welcome to the Monkey House collection seven years later.
The cast is James Cosmo, Julie Hagerty, Patricia Clarkson, and Armie Hammer.
The story is one where a future polity is attempting by any means possible to ensure that everyone is absolutely equal. That’s a bit of a SPOLER I know.
So what did the critics think of it. Well I didn’t find a lot of them who said anything but I really like what Mike Massie at the Gone with The Twins site said about this half hour film cost that just a hundred thousand to produce: “’What are you thinking about?’ ‘I don’t know.’ The basic plot, adapted by Chandler Tuttle (who also directed and edited) from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s short story, is sensational, serving as a warning and as pitch-black satire. The notion of equality taken to hyperbolic extremes is certainly worthy of cinematic translation, as are the various manifestations of crushing governmental control. True freedom requires disparity. Here, however, there are some inconsistencies (such as determining how exactly to make a ballerina, encumbered as she might be with weights chained around her body, perfectly equivalent to a musician). But the use of slow-motion, classical music (featuring the Czeck Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and a cello solo), limited dialogue, and highly contrasting juxtapositions give this brief yet sharply filmed project an admirable level of artistry. The premise is terribly bleak, but Bergeron’s plight manages to be momentarily hopeful, funny, and provocative as well.”
Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really liked it giving it a seventy-three percent rating.
Born May 29, 1906 — T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago but still remember quite fondly. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s Repose, The Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. I know that someone here has read them so do tell me about them please. (Died 1964.)
Born May 29, 1909 — Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor”, his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith did so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double Sun, The Sunless World and a number of other overlapping collections. He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.)
Born May 29, 1939 — Alice K Turner. Editor and critic who starting in 1980 served for twenty years as fiction editor of Playboy. The Playboy Book of Science Fiction which is not available from the usual suspects but which is available at quite reasonable prices in hardcover was edited by her. Snake’s Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley is an expansion of her earlier Snake’s Hands: A Chapbook About the Fiction of John Crowley. It is available from sellers like ABE Books. (Died 2015.)
Born May 29, 1942 — Kevin Conway. His first genre role was as Roland Weary in Slaughterhouse-Five with later roles in Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace and Black Knight, neither of which I suspect many of you have seen. You will likely have seen him in The Lathe of Heaven as Dr. William Haber. He played Khalistan on “The Rightful Heir” episode of Next Generation, and had one-offs on Dark Angel, Life on Mars and Person of Interest. (Died 2020.)
Born May 29, 1947 — Julie Cobb, 75. Her first credited role as Yeoman Leslie was in an episode of Trek, “By Any Other Name”. She was the only female Redshirt to be killed in that series. She had roles in The Fantastic Journey, Fantasy Island, The Incredible Hulk, a recurring role in Salem’s Lot, Brave New World, Tucker’s Witch, Starman and The New Adventures of Superman.
Born May 29, 1952 — Louise Cooper. She wrote more than a dozen works of SFF and was best known for her quite excellent Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. She wrote a lot of short fiction, most of it collected in Creatures at Christmas, The Spiral Garden, Short and Scary! and Short and Spooky!. (Died 2009.)
Born May 29, 1987 — Pearl Mackie, 35. Companion to the Twelfth Doctor, the actress was the first openly LGBTQ performer prior to the Fourteenth Doctor and the first LGBTQ companion cast in a regular role in Doctor Who. Mackie, says Moffat, was so chosen as being non-white was not enough. Her other notable genre role was playing Mika Chantry in the audiowork of The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James.
Born May 29, 1996 — R. F. Kuang, 26. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so- called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. She’s won the 2020 Astounding Award for Best New Writer.
I keep getting these emails from a guy I’ve never met, who says he got stuck while traveling abroad for work. At first, he seemed to be having a nice time, but lately he’s been describing increasingly weird and disturbing circumstances that make me feel like I should help him out. For once, though, I can rest easy that it’s not a spammer trying to scam me out of some money—it’s Jonathan Harker, protagonist of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Dracula Daily is a Substack that emails snippets of the classic horror novel, which takes place over a six-month period, in real time, in the form of the book’s journal entries and letters. The venture is the brainchild of Matt Kirkland, whose previous projects include etching inane tweets into cuneiform tablets and exposing the robotic skeletons lurking beneath your stuffed animals. I spoke to Kirkland about our pal Jonathan, how weird it is that Dracula crawls down walls like a lizard, and the part of the book he’s most excited for readers to experience in email form….
Do you have a sense of what is causing it to take off on Tumblr in particular?
No, I don’t. So much of the posts are about how people are just finding it so funny. We have this dramatic irony of like, “Oh, Jonathan Harker doesn’t know that he’s in Dracula, so he’s not scared enough by going to Dracula’s castle.”
…Odom Media Management founder and literary agent Monica Odom was already working from home, expecting a baby, when the pandemic began. “I sold the most books of any year in 2020—and I’m still waiting for them all to publish,” she said. Despite her productivity, she fought “to stay grounded amid the immense collective trauma we were all having, recognizing we were all humans doing this work.” As an aside, she commented, “I did miss the editor lunches.”
That sounds like a throwaway line, yet social distancing highlighted publishing’s reliance on workplace culture. Bogaards suggested the pandemic put “a cap on industry fun,” lowering morale among people who thrive on hard work and literary perks. “The social fabric seems to be fraying at the edges,” Bogaards lamented.
“We’re not having as much fun together, and that does take a toll,” agreed Julia Sommerfeld, publisher of Amazon Publishing and founder of Amazon Original Stories. As remote work developed, she noticed the rise of “a strong online chat culture. The team is always pinging each other and trying to capture that casual conversation. We’re missing the kind of osmosis that happens when we’re all together.”…
… Picard has now wrapped its second season, with a third currently in production, and the folks behind Star Trek Wines have expanded their collection from two varieties to six. So a second informal wine tasting was clearly in order. And who better to help us in this noble endeavor than Q himself—aka actor John de Lancie—and The Orville writer Andre Bormanis, who launched his career as a science advisor on TNG? They joined a fresh group of tasters (eight people in all) on a cool late spring evening in Los Angeles, where the nibbles were plentiful and the conversation flowed freely. (Wine assessments were anonymous, in keeping with the gathering’s super-casual vibe. And the wine was purchased out of pocket, not gifted for promotional purposes.)
… Alas, the four new varieties in the Star Trek wine collection fall far, far short of their predecessors. We’ll start with the merely bland and inoffensive: an Andorian Blue Premium Chardonnay and the United Federation of Planets Special Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
The Andorian Blue is, indeed, blue in hue, no doubt thanks to the addition of a food dye. (“What is this, a substrate for a COVID test?” one taster quipped.) It’s a gimmick that imparts a very slight aftertaste that is all the more noticeable because the wine otherwise barely has any flavor. That’s unusual for a chardonnay. I’m not especially fond of white wines, but good chardonnays are generally light to medium body, crisp, and a bit citrus-y. The Andorian Blue is indeed light, but it’s missing any distinctive flavor notes—other than that unfortunate hint of blue dye….
… A usual definition of the steampunk genre states that it presents inventions, technologies, or historical events that happened differently in the real world or didn’t exist in the first place. For every well-known steampunk movie, there are many underrated ones that flew under the radar and that every fan of the genre should watch….
Their list begins:
5. Invention For Destruction (1958)
Though many steampunk movies are in the English language, some best, most underrated pieces come from non-English-speaking countries. This Czechoslovakian 1958 movie was directed by Karel Zeman and based on Jules Verne’s work. It is a classic, but is mostly unknown among the general audiences and has barely over 2,000 ratings on IMDb.
The movie shows that when somebody creates an invention that has the power to destroy the world, it’s more than likely that someone evil will try to use it for their own nefarious purposes. The film is visually beautiful — shot on a camera from 1928, it offers the charm of even older movies. What’s more, it will keep the viewers guessing throughout, especially if they’re not familiar with the original source material.
(13) ON THE MARCH. Northwestern University declares this tiny robotic crab is smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot.
Northwestern University engineers have developed the smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot — and it comes in the form of a tiny, adorable peekytoe crab. Just a half-millimeter wide, the tiny crabs can bend, twist, crawl, walk, turn and even jump. The researchers also developed millimeter-sized robots resembling inchworms, crickets and beetles. Although the research is exploratory at this point, the researchers believe their technology might bring the field closer to realizing micro-sized robots that can perform practical tasks inside tightly confined spaces.
(14) SCARY VIDEO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ghost Dogs” on Vimeo, Joe Capps asks, “If dogs were ghosts, what sort of ghosts would they be?” And “Why would ghost dogs be terrified of Roombas?”
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) BASFF 2022. Rebecca Roanhorse is the guest editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2022.
(2) PRO TIP. What’s the best writing advice J. Michael Straczynski’s ever been given?
(3) COMPLAINT: JUSTIFIED OR UNJUSTIFIED? [Item by Anne Marble.] This review of the new alternative history novel The Peacekeeper: A Novel by B.L. Blanchard might make an interesting discussion. There’s also a three-star review showing the same confusion. (This is one of the First Reads book for this month on Amazon, so the potential reviewers probably come outside of SFF, but still… Why can’t people just Google?)
(4) VIDEO GAME NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Norco, a point-and-click adventure game with magical realist elements based on the personal experiences of lead developer Yuts, who grew up in Norco, Louisiana near “a Shell oil refinery that exploded during his childhood in 1988, damaging his house.”
Norco‘s writing nods to Southern Gothic authors such as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy alongside genre writers Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. Looking at a vehicle in your garden, you are told: “This truck was your grandfather’s. You remember hiding in his lap while he let you steer. The dead wasps that collected behind the seat. The smell of grease, whiskey and nicotine.’ This terse, stylish language is studded with sharply observed local vernacular and occasional bouts of impressionistic poetry whose adventurous metaphors only rarely stray into purple prose….
..If it all sounds sombre, the game leavens its storytelling with plenty of wackiness and wry humour. There is a detective who wears clown make-up as a fashion choice. A cat on a bookshop counter will, if stroked repeatedly, purr so ecstatically that it flies through the air, crashing through the ceiling.
In this episode, Steve and Tananarive talk to comedian and actor Patton Oswalt about how horror helps us navigate difficult times, the horror-comedy connection, the late Harlan Ellison, and meditation as a tool for coping with stress.
(6) GEORGE PERÉZ (1954-2022) George Pérez, the acclaimed comic book artist and writer known for his work on major DC properties, including Crisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman, along with Marvel’s The Avengers, has died. The Hollywood Reporternoted his passing with a long tribute. He was 67.
Constance here, with the update no one wants to read. George passed away yesterday, peacefully at home with his wife of 490 months and family by his side. He was not in pain and knew he was very, very loved.
We are all very much grieving but, at the same time, we are so incredibly grateful for the joy he brought to our lives. To know George was to love him; and he loved back. Fiercely and with his whole heart. The world is a lot less vibrant today without him in it.
He loved all of you. He loved hearing your posts and seeing the drawings you sent and the tributes you made. He was deeply proud to have brought so much joy to so many.
Everyone knows George’s legacy as a creator. His art, characters and stories will be revered for years to come. But, as towering as that legacy is, it pales in comparison to the legacy of the man George was. George’s true legacy is his kindness. It’s the love he had for bringing others joy – and I hope you all carry that with you always.
Today is Free Comic Book Day. A day George absolutely loved and a fitting day to remember his contributions to comics and to our lives. I hope you’ll enjoy your day today with him in mind. He would have loved that.
Please keep his wife Carol in your thoughts and again, I thank you for respecting her privacy. I remain available through the contact on the page.
George’s memorial service will take place at MEGACON Orlando at 6pm on Sunday, May 22nd. It will be open to all. Details to follow.
We will miss him always.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1997 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago, The Fifth Element got its first theatrical exhibition at the Cannes Film Festival, an English-language French film directed by Luc Besson and co-written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen from a story by Besson.
Artists Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, whose books Besson acknowledges are his inspiration for a great deal of the film, were hired for production design. The fabulous if admittedly over-the-top costume design was by Jean-Paul Gaultier who is not in the film. (I checked.) The filming took place in London and Mauritania when nothing in France was available.
It is very much an adolescent fantasy, or fiction if you prefer, as he wrote it at sixteen though he was thirty-eight when it was actually produced. I love the cast which includes among many Bruce Willis, John Neville, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and, in a role for the ages, Maïwenn Le Besco. Look I love this film — the casting is great, the story works and I love the universe here. I’ve watched it least a half dozen times so far.
The budget was close to ninety million but it made back over two hundred and sixty million. Quite impressive indeed.
So what did the critics think at the time? Let’s as usual start with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune: “’The Fifth Element,’’ which opened the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, is one of the great goofy movies–a film so preposterous I wasn’t surprised to discover it was written by a teenage boy. That boy grew up to become Luc Besson, director of good smaller movies and bizarre big ones, and here he’s spent $90 million to create sights so remarkable they really ought to be seen.”
And let us finish with Marc Salov of the Austin Chronicle who obviously didn’t know how old Besson was he wrote the script: “The Fifth Element never takes itself too seriously. Oldman is hilarious as the effete, over-the-top Zorg; Willis plays essentially the same character he’s played in his last five films — ever the scruffy rebel; and Jovavich is gorgeous, charming, and thoroughly believable as Leeloo (thanks to some terrific post-English language skills). Even U.K. trip-hop sensation Tricky scores points as Zorg’s right-hand toadie. Although the film tends to suffer from a severe case of overt preachiness in the third reel (shades of James Cameron’s The Abyss), it’s still a wonderfully visual, exciting ride. Besson remains one of France’s great national treasures, and The Fifth Element is a surprising, delightful melange of old-school dare-deviltry and new-age sci-fi.”
It has a very impressive eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for a Hugo at BucConeer, the year Contact won. It is streaming on Amazon Prime and Paramount +.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 7, 1922 — Darren McGavin. Oh, I loved him being Carl Kolchak on the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have I seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low-rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates“ episode which you can watch here. (Died 2006.)
Born May 7, 1923 — Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda, then she had the extended recurring role of Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.)
Born May 7, 1931 — Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate Freedom, The Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. He’s won the BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo though he has been nominated quite a few times. He has been honored as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (Died 2019.)
Born May 7, 1940 — Angela Carter. Another one taken far too young by the damn Reaper. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very, very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA-winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury, and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant and quite unsettling look at the theatre world. I’ve done several essays on her so far and no doubt will do more. (Died 1992.)
Born May 7, 1951 — Gary Westfahl, 71. SF reviewer for the LA Times, the unfortunately defunct as I enjoyed it quite a bit Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
Born May 7, 1952 — John Fleck, 70. One of those performers the Trek casting staff really like as he’s appeared in Next Generation, Deep Space Nine in three different roles, Voyager and finally on Enterprise in the recurring role of Silik. And like so many Trek alumni, he shows up on TheOrville.
Born May 7, 1969 — Annalee Newitz, 53. They are the winner of a Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 with Charlie Jane Anders for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel, while winning a Lambda Literary Award. Very impressive indeed. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for their best short science fiction, “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. They are nominated again this year at Chicon 8 for a Best Fancast Hugo for their “Our Opinions Are Correct” podcast.
(9) STRANGE HAPPENINGS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Olsen about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with Cumberbatch explaining that he thinks Stephen Strange is part of an ensemble and not necessarily the star. “Benedict Cumberbatch on Doctor Strange sequel: ‘It’s not all about him’”.
… Cumberbatch still gets opportunities to flex his own superhero muscles in the new film by playing multiple alternate universe versions of Doctor Strange. These include heroic, seemingly evil and zombielike versions of the superhero, who was created by the late Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and first appeared in Marvel Comics “Strange Tales” No. 110 back in 1963. Cumberbatch first dabbled with a Doctor Strange from a different world when he voiced the character in the animated series “What If…?” last year.
Ego seems to be the common denominator among the variants — he never works well with others. But Cumberbatch says Strange has to learn to rely on someone other than himself.
“These parallel existences have a similarity about them but there’s also key differences,” Cumberbatch said. “It was a challenge … to create something that’s different but at the same time recognizably Strange. There’s an element of him that’s constant. But he’s still really injured by his ego and his arrogance and his belief that he has to be the one holding the knife. This film really undoes that logic and stress-tests him in a way that means his evolution is such that he can’t operate as a solo entity. He has to collaborate.”…
Vancouver’s John Fluevog is joining the USS Enterprise this spring as Starfleet’s official bootmaker.
Fluevog, whose shoes have been worn by the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and even B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, designed footwear for the cast of the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which premieres May 5.
He said he feels a sense of connection to Star Trek in that both his shoes and the series offer a sense of escapism….
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Boston Dynamics’s Spot is a hard-working robot but he still likes showing off his latest dance moves! “No Time to Dance”.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Lisa Garrity, Anne Marble, Todd Mason, 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 Thomas the Red.]
…Kim Stanley Robinson, who described himself as a science fiction writer, asked how Buddhism can help science. His Holiness told him that scientists have been interested to discuss ways to achieve peace of mind because they recognise that if the mind is disturbed people won’t be happy. He emphasised the benefits of discovering more about mental consciousness and learning to train it on the basis of reasoning…
(2) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Vertlieb returned to Facebook as he begins his long recovery from major heart surgery.
… My time on Facebook will, for the present, be limited, I fear, in the days ahead, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve survived. I came home from the hospital yesterday (Thursday) after a ten day stay following major open-heart surgery. The procedure lasted approximately six hours, during which my surgeons replaced one heart valve, repaired another, stitched back together the hole in my heart, and stopped my internal bleeding.
This procedure was far more involved and life threatening than I ever imagined or was advised. The second time, it seems, is not the charm, but the entire bracelet. They had to cut through an already existing incision, breaking once healed bones protecting my heart cavity yet again, in order to reach and operate upon the newly troubled areas. My recovery, consequently, will also be far more difficult than my original transition back to health, healing, and wholeness twelve years ago.
The good news, however, is that when I asked my surgeon the chances for a complete recovery, he responded “ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.” Doing anything beyond menial movement and chores over the next several months will be severely limited. My brother Erwin is here with me for the next month or so, and he’ll be taking care of me….
(3) LOWREY ARRIVES. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate “Orange Mike” Lowrey has returned. “As of 5 p.m. Milwaukee (11 p.m. GMT), I’m off the plane and have already been put back to work here at the bookstore. (Yes, the gout’s still painful.)” Welcome back! Sorry about the gout…
In the meantime, since I’m not currently editing a year’s best anthology series for anyone, I’ll try to note some of the best short fiction I’m reading about the place. My favourite story of the moment is Maureen McHugh’s wonderful “The Goldfish Man“, from Uncanny 45. Because it’s online and shareable, you should go read it if you see this. It would be in my year’s best.
Sadly, those were not successful and they opted not to proceed. I have been looking for new publisher for the series, but to no avail so far.
It was news to me.
(5) I’M WORKING, REALLY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Anne Helen Petersen explains how remote workers can show the home office they’re busy by turning work into a LARP: “LARPing your job” at Culture Study.
…The compulsion to LARP is for those who have to feel accountable to some larger salary god, one who takes earthly shape in the form of our manager, our manager’s manager, and/or our coworkers, all of whom are constantly deciding whether or not we deserve the salaried, privileged position in which we’ve found ourselves. This is largely bullshit, of course: yes, our managers do think about how much we’re producing, but only the worst of them are clocking how many hours our green dot is showing up on Slack. Most of our coworkers are too worried about LARPing their own jobs to worry about how much you’re LARPing yours.
We’re performing, in other words, largely for ourselves. Justifying to ourselves that we deserve the place that we’ve found ourselves. Justifying to ourselves that writing for the internet is a vocation that deserves steady payment. At heart, this is a manifestation of a general undervaluing of our own work: we still navigate the workplace as if getting paid to produce knowledge means we’re getting away with something, and have to do everything possible to make sure no one realizes they’ve made a massive mistake.
Of course, there are myriad cultural and societal forces that have led us to this point of disbelief. Every time someone made fun of my undergrad degree, or my dissertation, or my Ph.D. Every time someone made fun of BuzzFeed, or denigrated writing about celebrities or pop culture generally. Every time someone at a family gathering said something like “must be fun to get paid to go to the movies?” All of those messages come together to tell me that my work is either easy or pointless. No wonder I spend so much time trying to communicate how hard I work…
(6) LOUD AND CLEAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is a documentary that Penguin Random House UK putout in late April about the new Discworld audiobooks. This is corporate promotion but still worth 20 minutes in part because you get a sense of how an audiobook is made and also because you get to hear some of the actors who are narrating, as well as Pratchett’s literary executor, Rob Wilkins. One important point is that these books have been called “full cast” audiobooks and they’re not; a single actor narrates each one of the Discworld subseries, with the great Bill Nighy providing the footnotes. Of the narrators I thought Andy Serkis (who now has a pompadour) was the most interesting. “Turning Terry Pratchett’s Discworld into Audiobooks”.
This documentary follows Penguin Audio’s ambitious project of turning the entire Discworld catalog into audiobook format. Click here to find out more: https://linktr.ee/Discworld This is Discworld like you’ve never heard it before. With an incredible cast of names from British stage and screen, including Bill Nighy, Peter Serafinowicz, Indira Varma, Colin Morgan, Andy Serkis and Sian Clifford. This ambitious project, taking 40 unabridged books, containing nearly 4 million words, recording over 135 days and featuring over 420 hours of audio is being produced and directed by Neil Gardner – the multiple award-winning radio writer & director – who is a life-long Terry Pratchett superfan.
… When I looked at very different libraries all across the country, I saw the same low supply of science fiction that I had observed in that first elementary school library, but I also saw a high demand for it. In each library, only about 3% of the books were science fiction. I expected to see a corresponding low number of checkouts. Instead, the records showed that science fiction books were getting checked out more often per book than other genres. While realistic fiction books were checked out, on average, one to three times per book and fantasy books were checked out three to four times per book, science fiction books’ checkout numbers were as high as six times per book. These libraries may not have many science fiction books available, but the children seem to compensate by collectively checking out the available books more often.
The librarians were just as surprised as I was. Library software doesn’t keep track of each book’s genre, and so librarians have no easy way of knowing that science fiction books are being checked out so often. Librarians are, however, aware that there isn’t much science fiction available. There just aren’t as many choices as there are for other genres…
Nearly 30 years since the Scott Bakula-led original series signed off after a five-season run on NBC, the broadcast network has handed out a formal series order to the sequel series starring Raymond Lee.
The drama, which was formally picked up to pilot in January, recently wrapped production and is one of a handful of comedies and dramas that is expected to be in formal consideration for the 2022-23 fall schedule.
Written by God Friended Me and Alcatraz duo Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt — who will now have two shows on NBC with rookie La Brea having already been renewed — the new Quantum Leap follows a new team that has been assembled to restart the Quantum Leap project in the hopes of understanding the mysteries behind the machine and the man who created it 30 years since Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the accelerator and vanished….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1960 – [By Cat Eldridge.]
This is Gart Williams, age thirty-eight, a man protected by a suit of armor all held together by one bolt. Just a moment ago, someone removed the bolt, and Mr. Williams’ protection fell away from him, and left him a naked target. He’s been cannonaded this afternoon by all the enemies of his life. His insecurity has shelled him, his sensitivity has straddled him with humiliation, his deep-rooted disquiet about his own worth has zeroed in on him, landed on target, and blown him apart. Mr. Gart Williams, ad agency exec, who in just a moment, will move into the Twilight Zone—in a desperate search for survival. — opening narration of “A Stop at Willoughby”
Sixty-two years ago this evening CBS aired TheTwilight Zone’s “A Stop at Willoughby”. So why am I essaying this Scroll? It is because, although I cannot give you an original source for it, it is said that Rod Serling cited this as his favorite story from the first season of the series. This being a story of the Twilight Zone, I’m willing to accept that as a true story.
So “A Stop at Willoughby” concerns a man so lonely, so unhappy with his life that he starts dreaming as he takes a short nap on the train while commuting home one snowy November day. Waking he finds his dream is real and he is in Willoughby in 1888, which Serling describes as a “peaceful, restful place, where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure.” Even the train, where he’s the only passenger, is eighty years old.
He returns to Willoughby several times where he’s created as if he’s actually resident there but this being the reality of the Twilight Zone, things don’t end as he hopes. I am most definitely not saying what happens as that’d be a major spoiler and there might actually be someone here who hasn’t yet seen it. Though I find that extremely unlikely.
It shows up repeatedly in popular culture with some instances I’ll note here. The For All Time film starring Mark Harmon was based on this episode. An animated Rugrats “Family Reunion” episode has all of the Pickles family taking the train to Willoughby, with the conductor saying, “Next stop Willoughby!” And in Stargate Atlantis’ “The Real World” episode, Dr. Elizabeth Weir awakens in the Acute Care Unit of Willoughby State Hospital.
The Twilight Zone is streaming on Paramount +.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 6, 1914 — Randall Jarrell. Author of the ever so charming The Animal Family which is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Go read it — you’ll be smiling afterwards. The Anchor Book of Stories has more of his genre friendly stories. (Died 1965.)
Born May 6, 1915 — Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success, but for the Federal Theatre Project he also did the 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast that was absolutely amazing. That was known as the Voodoo Macbeth which might give you an idea of what he did to it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. And of course he made a most excellent radio Shadow as well! (Died 1985.)
Born May 6, 1946 — Nancy Kilpatrick, 76. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice”. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection.
Born May 6, 1952 — Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair in the first season of Babylon 5. Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. And yes, he’s one of Babylon 5 actors who died well before they should’ve. (Died 2012.)
Born May 6, 1961 — Carlos Lauchu, 61. Anubis, the captain of Ra’s personal guard, in the original Stargate film. His only other genre acting was two appearances in the Monsters anthology series.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Bizarro has Superman explaining why you can’t afford to be subtle in comics.
It’s not every day that one can write a sentence that reasonably connects the Fox animated series “Bob’s Burgers,” the House of Terror museum of fascist and communist regimes in Hungary, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe — but in 2022, anything is possible.
Let’s back up. Ever since the Marvel Studios series “Moon Knight” debuted on Disney+ on March 30, eagle-eyed viewers have noticed a series of semi-conspicuous QR codes in the background of scenes in the first, second and fifth episodes of the show. Scanning the codes sends viewers to a special website that contains a weekly free web comic featuring the Moon Knight character through the run of the show, from his first appearance in 1975 through his most recent issue in 2019.
It’s a savvy way to expand viewers’ comic book knowledge for a character even serious Marvel fans may never have read, and it’s been wildly successful: According to Disney, the landing page has been visited over 1.5 million times, leading to over 500,000 full comics read to date…
(13) DOUBLE-CROSSOVER. [Item by Danny Sichel.] in 2004, KC Carlson compiled an Oral History of the JLA/Avengers crossover from the early 80s. The one that was never published. The Oral History wasn’t published either — possibly because it presents a rather unpleasant image of many of the people involved. But now here it is. At Comics Beat:
George Pérez: “It just ended up being one thing after another — accusations both from DC and Marvel towards each other — until I realized there was a lot more private politics that seemed to be going on which were killing the book I really wanted to work on. After a while I became very bitter about the entire thing. It was never more apparent to me that, as much as I love drawing comics, it’s still a business, and politics and petty squabbles can kill a project, even such a potential money-maker.” — Modern Masters Volume 2: George Pérez, 2003
George nailed it. If there ever was a single comics project that embodied company politics, petty squabbles, and flying accusations, it was the original JLA/Avengers crossover, scheduled to be jointly published between Marvel Comics and DC Comics in the summer of 1983 — the fifth in a series of highly successful team-ups. Pairing the legendary Justice League of America (JLA) and the mighty Avengers, this project would include virtually all of the quintessential characters from the two companies’ lineups….
George Pérez: “I had been drawing for two weeks and was already starting page 21, when I received a call from Len Wein saying they needed to find out what changes I was making in the plot. (DC staffer) Joey Cavalieri had to do a piecemeal plot based on things I had changed — ideas, if not actual explanations — since I hadn’t quite worked out everything as I was going along yet.” — Comics Interview #6, August 1983
Gerry Conway, unwilling to do another draft of the plot, leaves the project at this point. Cavalieri, in consultation with Perez and Wein, cobbles together a new plot — draft #3 — and Giordano rushes it into Shooter’s hands….
… The introduction to the collection is a quick summary of the rise of a totalitarian regime, New Dawn, whose control over society was possible because “we accepted their offer that an eye in the sky might protect us from… ourselves.” With the assurance of total visibility, an immediate problem emerged regarding privacy and deviancy, and the regime decided that “what they struggled to see, they began to deem not worthy of being seen—inconsistent, off standard. Began calling it dirty—unfit to be swallowed by their eyes.”
In the backstory that this introduction presents, the new social category of the dirty started being applied to modes of thought and identity that did not fit the rigid standards of the regime. The stories that compose this collection explore various characters’ struggle to reclaim, preserve, and even celebrate the dirty….
Part of the first episode of the new series, titled “Strange New Worlds” itself, sees the Enterprise’s Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Lt. Spock (Ethan Peck), and Lt. Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) beam down to an alien world, Kiley 279, in an attempt to recover missing Starfleet officers in the wake of a First Contact meeting. The trio arrives to find the world a pre-warp civilization being torn apart by a conflict between the planetary government and a local uprising…
…Shortly after the away team lands on Kiley 279, they come across a crowd of civilians watching a news broadcast on an outside monitor, discussing an overnight series of protests taking place across the Kiley civilization. However, the footage shown is from much closer to our home than the world of Star Trek: it’s footage taken during the late 2013-early 2014 civil unrest in Ukraine known as “Euromaidan,” or the Maidan Uprising.
…Footage from the Maidan Uprising is not the only archival protest footage used in the episode—later on in the episode, Captain Pike shows the Kiley 279 government a selection of footage from Earth’s history as a precedent to World War III in Star Trek’s timeline, notably using footage from the January 6th 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol as Pike draws a direct line between a “second Civil War, and then the Eugenics War, and then finally just World War III.”…
…Further, IHOP has a new point-of-sale system that streamlines orders across channels and a franchisee is also testing a robot that can deliver food to guests and bus tables. Robotic servers are starting to pop up across the casual dining segment, including at Denny’s and Chili’s, the latter of which just expanded deployment to 51 more restaurants.
It’s too early to tell if such an approach is worth a broader rollout. Peyton did say, however, that the robot makes servers more productive and efficient and “guests and kids think it’s super cool.”
“Also, borrowing from QSR, we’re testing a robotic arm that can work the fryer station,” he said. “If we have one less cook in the kitchen, this can help them be more efficient and productive.”…
This is ESP_073055_1675 from HiRISE camera onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Frame height is approximately 1km taken from an orbit height of 250km. Source was denoised, blended, graded, rescaled & animated to create the footage. HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) is the most powerful camera ever sent to another planet, one of six instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The color you see in HiRISE images is not the “true” color human eyes would see on Mars. This is because the HiRISE camera views Mars in a different part of the spectrum than human eyes do. The camera has three different color filtered CCDs: red, blue-green, and near-infrared. False color imagery is extremely valuable because it illuminates the distinction between different materials and textures.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Andrew (Not Werdna), Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
Netflix announced on Monday morning that it would be picking up “Nimona,” the LGBTQ animated project based on ND Stevenson’s graphic novel that was one of the projects scrapped following the Disney/Fox merger in 2019. The film is already in production and will be released in 2023.
“Nimona” will star Chloë Grace Moretz as the antihero Nimona, a shapeshifter bent on destroying a powerful organization known as the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics by any means necessary — even if it means killing people. To this end, she teams up with with Lord Ballister Blackheart (Riz Ahmed), who also seeks to bring down the Institution but will not break his own code of ethics to do so…
The Skyway that connects the known worlds is unusually user-friendly. The sufficiently advanced aliens who created the Skyway planted their Kerr-Tipler objects on the surfaces of habitable worlds, allowing truckers like Jake to travel from world to world (provided only that their sufficiently robust vehicles follow a precise path past the rapidly spinning, hyperdense towers). At present, human knowledge of the Skyway is rudimentary. However, if someone were to come into possession of the fabled (and quite possibly mythical) Roadmap, a multitude of routes would be open: routes through space and even time. Which is why when whispers begin circulating that Jake has the Roadmap, his life gets very complicated indeed.
(3) SHALL WE DANCE? John Scalzi kicks off Reader Request Week with a thought experiment involving a point of view he ordinarily disdains. The reader asks: “For the sake of argument and fun, please defend your man-cred, and demonstrate your good standing in the white male dominated patriarchy.” The payoff is we get to hear about his high school dance class. “Reader Request Week 2022 #1: My ‘Man-Cred’”.
…Third, it really effectively short-circuited my concern about the judgment of other dudes. A lot of straight men, especially young men, don’t dance, because they think they will look foolish doing so, and when they’re concerned about looking foolish, the people they’re most concerned about looking foolish to are other men — who they often imagine will see them on the dance floor and cast judgment on them, not for their moves, but for being on the dance floor at all. Learning to dance got me over that, by actually teaching me how to dance and by teaching me to enjoy dancing for itself, and by giving my dancing proper focus — not on the other dudes, most not on the dance floor, who may or my not be judging me, but either on my dance partner, who legitimately deserved my attention, or on myself, enjoying the pleasure of the dance itself….
…And again, there’s nothing wrong with writing fun fight scenes and life-threatening peril. I do it all the time.
But that’s not the only way we can have conflict in our story. Not all forms of conflict are violent, action-packed, or perilous.
Instead, they can be subtle, insidious, tense, or even comedic, all without resorting to direct, physical violence.
This concept is best, I feel, illustrated through examples, so let’s go over a few. Say you have a protagonist that is a chief diplomat for a fantasy kingdom. Their aim, as ordered by their ruler, is to keep the peace with another nation that they serve as a diplomat to. Unfortunately, things are tense. This other nation is undergoing a resource shortage, which has driven tensions to high levels, and while the kingdom our protagonist represents has a lot of that resource, they’re using it. They’d also likely win a war if it came to that, but not without the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, one of which is a close relative of the protagonist. Worse still, the ruler of the other kingdom is aggressively pushing for a conflict, since they feel it will cement their power, even if they lose.
Now, imagine writing out a scene or a chapter in which this diplomat has a meeting with a representative of this other ruler. Can you imagine how the tension might pile up as these two representatives, each with very different goals, do “battle” with one another using words and faint promises or assurances, each trying to secure their own “victory” over the other? The scene may not have blades, guns, and immediate peril like a collapsing building … but each and every word spoken by the pair could carry such weight that the sense of peril would still be very present. A single wrong word, stepping too far or not stepping far enough, could plunge the kingdom into a war that would kill tens of thousands….
(5) FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM WITH THE HALDEMANS. Joe Siclari announces: “We are doing another FANAC Fan History Zoom, This is an interview of Joe and Gay Haldeman titled ‘Science Fiction Fandom from Both Sides’.” It will be live on April 23, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. EDT (11:00 a.m. PDT, 7:00 p.m. London). To access the event please RSVP by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
2001 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.]
Twenty-one years on this evening ago over at that network the no one remembers (UPN), Special Unit 2 started out its two-year life. It was about Chicago police unit known as Special Unit 2who dealt with the city’s population of mythological beings who were known as Links. Consider it an updated Night Stalker which also was set in Chicago.
It was created by Evan Katz who was also over at Fox being the Executive Producer of a slightly more successful series, to wit 24.
Though set in Chicago, it, like so many other genre series, was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia. I know I watched enough it that I should’ve noticed that it wasn’t filmed in Chicago but honestly all those blend together after awhile.
It had a small primary cast including Michael Landes who played Jimmy Olsen in the first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Alexandra Lee. She appeared as one of five corpses recounting the tales of their death on a most excellent CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode entitled “Toe Tags”. It’s well worth seeing.
It got cancelled after just nineteen episodes due to a change in UPN’s management as reported in all the trade papers.
Not that it was well-received at the time. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said of it that, “It’s true that ‘Special Unit 2’ is not bad compared to the rest of the shows on UPN. That is, if you take ‘not bad’ to mean dull and derivative. This low-budget cross between ‘The X-Files’ and ‘Men in Black’ wants to yuk it up one minute and incite fear the next. It fails on both counts.”
And Variety said in its review, “As ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ approaches its final episode, UPN is trying to keep its sci-fi audience happy with ‘Special Unit 2,’ a tepid hour-long series about a secretive Chicago police unit that hunts, of all things, half-man/half-beasts. Positioned at 8 p.m. Wednesday, skein reps good counterprogramming opposite sitcoms and the femme-skewing ‘Ed’ and ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ and the debut’s ratings were decent — in a fledgling-network kind of way. But this ‘Men in Black’ wannabe must come up with sharper storylines if it wants to stay strong; otherwise, it’ll be yet another short-lived project on a network in dire need of a hit.”
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 11, 1867 — William Wallace Cook. Newspaper reporter and pulp writer who wrote four novels (The Fiction Factory, A Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time, Cast Away at the Pole and Adrift in the Unknown, or Adventures in a Queer Realm) which were serialized in Argosy in the early part of the last century. Clute in his usual blunt manner said at EoSF he was “was a crude writer, but is of interest for his attempts to combine adventure plots and Satire.” (Died 1933.)
Born April 11, 1892 — William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
Born April 11, 1920 — Peter O’Donnell. Best remembered as the creator of Modesty Blaise of whom EoSF says her “agility and supple strength are sufficiently exceptional for her to be understood as a Superhero.” O’Donnell also wrote the screenplay of The Vengeance of She based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She novel. It rates eleven percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And let’s just say the critics were less kind. (Died 2010.)
Born April 11, 1941 — Gene Szafran. He did the cover art for genre books published by Bantam and Ballantine from the Sixties to the Eighties, including a series of Signet paperbacks of Robert A. Heinlein’s work including Farnham’s Freehold, The Green Hills of Earth, and Methusaleh’s Children. His art would garner him four Locus Awards. (Died 2011.)
Born April 11, 1949 — Melanie Tem. She was the wife of genre author Steve Rasnic Tem. A prolific writer of both novels and short stories, she considered herself a dark fantasy writer, not a horror writer. Bryant, King and Simmonds all praised her writing. If I had to make recommendations, I’d say start with Blood Moon, Witch-Light (co-written with Nancy Holder) and Daughters done with her husband. ”The Man on the Ceiling” won her a World Fantasy Award and got her a Shirley Jackson Award nomination. She died of cancer which recurred after she’d been in remission. Damn cancer. (Died 2015.)
Born April 11, 1952 — James Patrick Kelly, 71. One of his best stories, “Solstice” is in Sterling’s Mirrorshades anthology. The Mariska Volochkova series is the one I would definitely recommend if you’ve not read it yet. Hugo nominations? Why yes, he does starting at Conspiracy ‘87 for his “Rat” story, proceeding from there to his “Think Like a Dinosaur“ novelette win at L.A. Con III, with another at BucConeer for his “Itsy Bitsy Spider” short story nomination to his “1016 to 1? novelette win at Chicon 2000. Then he had another novelette nominated at ConJose for “Undone” and “Bernardo’s House” picked him up another at Noreascon 4. At Interaction, “The Best Christmas Ever” was a short story finalist, as his “Burn” novella was a L.A. Con IV, His last Hugo nomination was for the novelette “Plus of Minus” at Renovation.
Born April 11, 1955 — Julie E. Czerneda, 67. Canadian author whose In the Company of Others which won an Aurora Award is stellar as A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow which also deservedly won that Award. Need I say she won yet more of those Awards? Impressive writer indeed as she also won two Golden Ducks as well. Her latest novel Spectrum, just last year. She is extremely well stocked at the usual suspects, bless them.
Born April 11, 1963 — Gregory Keyes, 59. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He has done a lot, and I do mean a lot, of other media tie-in fiction including Babylon 5 where he did a Psi Corps trilogy of novels, Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Star Wars, Planet of The Apes, Independence Day and Pacific Rim.
… Strangers forced into proximity is a great trope but Becky Chambers makes something truly special out of it. Most of her characters are respectful of each other, some even become friends easily, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an underlying tension between others. Again, there are no big battles of fisticuffs but opinions clash on occasion and, honestly, that was enough tension for me.
At first, it’s just fun getting to know these characters, finding out their backstories, where they were headed when they got stuck on Gora, and what their lives are like. Then it became lovely to watch them grow into a sort of force-upon-each-other found family, at least for alittle while….
…Researchers at the Virginia-based biotech company InBio (previously called Indoor Biotechnologies) have been working on their own approach. They’re hoping to use CRISPR, the Nobel Prize-winning gene editing tech, to produce cats that simply make little to no Fel d 1 [a suspected allergy-causing protein]. In their latest research, published Monday in The CRISPR Journal, they say they’ve collected evidence that this can be done effectively and safely….
I haven’t been able to do VPN advertising for a long time. Well, this one time, I don’t have to: because the robot double’s going to do it for me. With many thanks to all the team at Engineered Arts who worked on this. To be clear, this is not sponsored by them, I paid money (technically, NordVPN’s money) for the Mesmer robot — or at least, for the silicone mask and 3D printed skull that were put together for just one day!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, N., Daniel Dern, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]