(1) STÅLENHAG ARRIVES ON SMALL SCREEN. Amazon Prime dropped a trailer for Tales from the Loop.
Inspired by the wondrous paintings of Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.
(2) HUGO DEADLINE APPROACHING. CoNZealand sent members a reminder that the end of the Hugo nomination period is March 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (2:59 am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Irish time, and 8:59 pm March 14, 2020 New Zealand time.)
(3) IRISH COMICS AWARDS. The “Irish Comic News Awards Winners 2019” are out. Unfortunately Dublin 2019, nominated for Best Irish Comic-Related Event, did not win.
BEST ARTIST (SMALL PRESS)
- Kevin Keane (Nazferatu)
BEST WRITER (SMALL PRESS)
- Wayne Talbot (Nazferatu)
BEST IRISH ARTIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)
- Will Sliney (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge)
BEST IRISH WRITER (MAJOR PUBLISHER)
- Michael Carroll (2000AD)
BEST COLOURIST (SMALL PRESS)
- Rebecca Reynolds (Plexus)
BEST COLOURIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)
- Ellie Wright
- John Cullen (NHOJ)
- Twisted Doodles
BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (SMALL PRESS)
BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (MAJOR PUBLISHER)
BEST NEWCOMER / BREAKTHROUGH
- Cian Tormey
BEST IRISH COMIC RELATED EVENT
- Enniskillen Comic Fest
BEST IRISH COMIC SHOP
- Comic Book Guys
BEST IRISH ANTHOLOGY
- Sector 13
OVERALL BEST IRISH COMIC
BEST IRISH COMIC COVER
- Nazferatu (Kevin Keane)
- Rogue Comics Ireland
BEST COMIC RELATED/FEATURED ONLINE CONTENT
- Dublin City Comics Weekly Update
BEST IRISH WRITER (NON-FICTION)
- Michael Carroll (Rusty Staples)
(4) FUTURE TENSE. The latest free read in the Future Tense series is Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm” a short story about humanity’s first encounter with a very disturbing alien.
And, as always, there’s a response essay – this time by Sarah Scoles, author of “Why Would the Government Lie About Aliens?”.
If you think the government has more information about UFOs than it’s letting on, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. A 2019 Gallup poll revealed 68 percent of people feel that way. Thirty-three percent of all respondents said that they believe UFOs were built by aliens from outer space.
The Venn diagram center of those two groups clings to one of the most enduring conspiracy theories: The Government (it’s always with a capital G for believers) is squirreling away information about alien spacecraft. This idea appears, and has for years, on internet forums, social media, TV shows, memes, movies, and, of course, fiction, like Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm.”
(5) FLAT PACK. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar tells us that “‘Finna’ Warns: Beware Of The Fuzzy Chairs”.
There isn’t a word wasted in Nino Cipri’s Finna. For a book about travelling through nightmarish labyrinths that cut and twist between worlds, it’s remarkably straightforward.
Ava works at LitenVärld, an IKEA-like giant box store where “the showrooms sat together uneasily, like habitats at a hyper-condensed zoo.” Her day begins with relatively minor inconveniences — being forced to come in on her day off, worrying about having to work with Jules, her ex as of a week ago — but these escalate significantly when a young woman reports that her elderly grandmother’s gone missing. It turns out that something about the haphazardly organized chaos of LitenVärld makes it an especially likely place for wormholes to open up between dimensions — to the point where there are corporate instructions (on VHS) on what to do when that happens. But corporations being what they are, the in-house division for wormhole-patrol was cut a decade ago as a cost-saving measure, so it falls to the two most junior members of staff — barely able to speak to each other, the wound of their breakup still raw — to venture into the other worlds themselves and retrieve the lost grandmother.
I tore through this book in knuckle-biting delight. The contrast between the wacky extra-dimensional (and often terrifying) hijinks and LitenVärld’s soul-depleting mundanity is fresh and lovely, and you’re never quite able to forget the fact that person-eating chairs and blood-drinking Hive Mothers are more enjoyable to spend time with than the grinding misery of minimum-wage work in our late capitalist modernity. But the shenanigans are not the point; they function best as a sly, winking backdrop to the deeply moving character work.
(6) MORE UNSEEN KUDOS. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports on “‘The Invisible Man’: When Danger Is Present — And Clear”.
Of the Universal classic monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, et al. — The Invisible Man is by far the most destructive, the most psychotic, and, not coincidentally, the most recognizably human of them all. (As played by Claude Rains, he’s also the wittiest.) When a man doesn’t have to look at himself in the mirror, he divorces himself from the moral accountability that curbs his worst instincts. Arrogance and contempt are his defining character traits, and invisibility has the effect of weaponizing them, because his scientific genius has both isolated him from other people and heightened his superiority complex.
With his ingenious updating of The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell changes perspective from the mad scientist to the terrified victim he’s stalking, which effectively turns the film into Gaslight with a horror twist. And with an actress of Elisabeth Moss’ caliber in the lead role, the film has a psychological realism that’s unusual for the genre, with Moss playing a woman who’s withstanding a form of domestic abuse that may have a supernatural component, but feels sickeningly familiar in many respects. Invisibility has the effect of elevating a person’s worst instincts, so it follows that the manipulation and torment she experiences is just a more extreme version of common behaviors.
…As Cecelia gets pushed to the brink of madness — as much by not be believed as being stalked — Whannell gives the suspense set pieces plenty of room to breathe and take on a paranoid flavor. Moss and the camera are co-conspirators in horror: She imagines Adrian watching her silently from some empty corner of a room and the camera seems to affirm her worst fears, suggesting a presence through odd angles and pans across the space. Where another actor might look foolish swatting and wrestling thin air, Moss sells it as part of the overall choreography between an immensely powerful, destructive husband and a wife struggling to leverage control over a desperate situation.
(7) MORE ABOUT DYSON. Freeman Dyson, who passed away yesterday, gave a TED Talk in 2003 which can be viewed here — “Let’s look for life in the outer solar system”.
Physicist Freeman Dyson suggests that we start looking for life on the moons of Jupiter and out past Neptune, in the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud. He talks about what such life would be like — and how we might find it.
And Axios Future Issue #2 carried this information about him:
Dyson never won a Nobel Prize for his work. He never even bothered to earn a PhD.
Instead, he spent the rest of his career pursuing whatever caught his interest, migrating from atomic reactor design to nuclear bomb-powered space exploration to the mathematics of baseball.
He achieved popular renown as a gifted scientific writer, publishing his final book in 2018 at the age of 95.
A dedicated contrarian, later in his career he came under fire for doubting the danger of human-made climate change.
The bottom line: Few scientists can be said to have played as important a role in the making of our present than Dyson — and even fewer could so brilliantly envision the future.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- February 29, 1952 — Tales Of Tomorrow first aired “The Children’s Room”. A secret Children’s Room at a college attracts the attention of intellectual advanced youths. A professor uncovers that his son and other children are mutants being groomed to assist an alien race in a distant part of the galaxy. It was written by Mel Goldberg by a story by Raymond F. Jones who you’ll know as the author of This Island Earth novel. It starred Claire Luce, Una O’Connor and John Boruff. You can see it here.
- February 29, 2000— Episode three, “Crunchy Munchy” of The Strangerers would air. This SF comedy about two plant beings who assume human form on Earth to accomplish their mission. The series was by Rob Grant, the creator of Red Dwarf. It would last nine episodes and unsurprisingly ends on a cliffhanger as it was canceled. Jack Docherty and Mark Williams played Cadet Flynn and Cadet Niven. You can see this episode here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 29, 1920 — Arthur Franz. He played Dr. Stuart Kelston in the early Fifties Invaders from Mars. He was also Jim Barker in Flight to Mars, and, on a much lighter note, Tommy Nelson in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man. He’ll have six appearances on Science Fiction Theater in six roles, play a hideous monster in Monster on the Campus, and have one-offs on The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, Land of The Giants, Mission: Impossible and The Six-Million Dollar Man. (Died 2006.)
- Born February 29, 1928 — Joss Ackland, 92. A very long history of genre involvement starting with Ghost Ship, an early Fifties horror film. He’d soon after play Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and makes a stop on The Avengers. (I’m skipping over a lot of horror he did.) he’s Sapten in Royal Flash but I’ll bet you won’t consider that genre though Kage loved that scoundrel. He shows up in Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, and he he’s in a Jekyll and Hyde film in that time period as well. I think I’ll stop with him voicing Black Rabbit in the Watership Down film…
- Born February 29, 1948 — Patricia A. McKillip, 72. If I was to recommend a short list of essential readings of her, I’d start with The Riddle-Master trilogy which is absolutely amazing, toss in the Cygnet series, and add in the linked novels of Winter Rose and Solstice. (The latter has the most cool stitching circle you’ll ever encounter.) For her tasty short stories, there’s Harrowing the Dragon, Wonders of the Invisible World and Dreams of Distant Shores.
- Born February 29, 1948 — Yanti Somer, 72. Finnish-born actress who appeared in a spate of French and Italian genre films in the late Seventies: Star Odyssey, Battle of the Stars, War of the Robots and Cosmos: War of the Planets. She retired from acting in the early Eighties.
- Born February 29, 1952 — Tim Powers, 68. He’s won the World Fantasy Award twice for Last Call and Declare, the latter of which I think is awesome. I’m also fond of The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides.
- Born February 29, 1952 — Albert Welling, 68. He played Adolph Hitler in the Eleventh Doctor story, “ Let’s Kill Hitler”. It’s one of the stranger stories they told for that Doctor. He had one-offs on Tales of The Unexpected and Outlander.
- Born February 29, 1984 — Rakhee Thakrar, 36. She also plays the Eighth Doctor’s companion, Bliss, in Big Finish’s Doctor Who: The Time War audio dramas. Have I ever noted that what I admire about the Whoverse is how expansive the the definition of accepted storytelling is? Big Finish has done hundreds of hours of new stories, all adding to the original mythos.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Rhymes With Orange transits into unexpected space.
(11) JOHN SCHOENHERR MASTERPIECE. One of the most iconic magazine covers in sff history is on the new – in 1965 – issue of Analog. Tweeted by Galactic Journey:
(12) CONTINUOUS UPROAR. “Telescopes detect ‘biggest explosion since Big Bang'” reports the BBC.
Scientists have detected evidence of a colossal explosion in space – five times bigger than anything observed before.
The huge release of energy is thought to have emanated from a supermassive black hole some 390 million light years from Earth.
The eruption is said to have left a giant dent in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster.
Researchers reported their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.
“I’ve tried to put this explosion into human terms and it’s really, really difficult,” co-author Melanie Johnston-Hollitt told BBC News.
“The best I can do is tell you that if this explosion continued to occur over the 240 million years of the outburst – which it probably didn’t, but anyway – it’d be like setting off 20 billion, billion megaton TNT explosions every thousandth of a second for the entire 240 million years. So that’s incomprehensibly big. Huge.”
(13) THEY’RE BACK. But under wraps ‘til the official unveiling next month: “Rocky And Bullwinkle Statue Returns To Its Home On The Sunset Strip”.
The WEHO TIMES reported the statute’s return today, capturing its image in a brief moment during installation before it was covered. An official unveiling is planned for the end of March, but no date has been set.
The spinning statue depicts Bullwinkle holding his friend Rocky. It stands on the corner where Sunset Boulevard splits into Holloway Drive. The statue was removed in 2013 for restoration work.
Today, a giant crane placed the 14-foot, 700-pound statue on its pedestal. The statue dates to 1961, but the original creator is not known. The statue was restored by Ric Scozzari with funding by Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks, and donated by the Jay Ward family for the City of West Hollywood’s Urban Art Collection. It was last seen at the Paley Center’s Jay Ward Legacy Exhibit in 2014.
(14) DEEP BLUE NOISE. BBC looks into the possibility of “Protecting whales from the noise people make in the ocean”.
There is a rising din in the oceans – and whales are having to struggle to compete with it.
“They’re spending more time or energy trying to communicate… by essentially screaming at each other – what we would have to do at a nightclub,” explains says Mark Jessopp at University College Cork.
Dr Jessopp was recently involved in a research project to study the effects of marine seismic surveys on animals such as whales and dolphins.
He and his colleagues found a “huge decrease” in sightings of such species when the work was going on, even when accounting for other factors such as weather.
Seismic surveys are carried out by a range of organisations, including oil and gas companies, as a means of mapping what lies beneath the seafloor.
Shockwaves fired from an air gun – like a very powerful speaker – are blasted down towards the seabed. The waves bounce off features below and are detected again at the surface. The signal that returns reveals whether there is, for instance, oil locked in the rock beneath.
The process creates a tremendous racket. “It’s like an explosion,” says Lindy Weilgart at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. She says that there is now plenty of evidence to show that many marine animals are negatively affected by the clamour.
…And yet a technology exists that could be far less harmful. It is called marine vibroseis and is a low-energy alternative to air guns. Instead of explosive blasts, vibroseis uses smaller vibrations to transmit waves down to the seabed. It actually emits a similar amount of energy overall but spreads it over a longer period, meaning the survey has a less “shocking” impact.
(15) BY THE NUMBERS. “Google asked to justify Toronto ‘digital-city’ plan” – maybe it’s not just the cats that need to be wary of this much curiosity.
The “appropriateness” of Google’s sister company’s plan for a “digital city” in Toronto has been questioned.
A panel set up to scrutinise Sidewalk Labs’s plan has asked it to explain what the benefits would be for citizens in collecting large amounts of data.
The company wants to build a sensor-laden, eco-friendly neighbourhood with all the latest technology innovations.
But it has faced opposition locally. A final decision on whether it can proceed is due next month.
Sidewalk Labs’s plans for a “city… built from the internet up” include sensors to monitor traffic, noise, weather, energy use and even rubbish collection.
But now, the Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel has questioned the “appropriateness and necessity” of some of its innovations and asked whether “sufficient benefits had been identified to justify the proposed collection or use of data”.
(16) THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE. “Coronavirus: Amazon removes overpriced goods and fake cures”.
Amazon has banned more than one million products which claim to protect against the coronavirus – or even cure it.
The online retailer told Reuters it had also removed “tens of thousands” of overpriced health products from unscrupulous sellers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern about some misleading Amazon listings earlier this month, including fake treatments.
The virus, which causes Covid-19, has killed about 2,800 people worldwide.
The WHO said fake coronavirus claims online were causing mass confusion, and urged tech giants to combat the spread of misinformation.
A search for “coronavirus” on Amazon brought up results for face masks, disinfectant wipes and newly-published books on viral infections, revealing how some sellers are cashing in on the health crisis.
It also offered results for vitamin C boosters – a fake cure for the virus that has been widely disseminated online.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Charles M. Schulz Interview on Peanuts (1997)” on YouTube is an interview Charles Schulz did on The Charlie Rose Show.
[Thanks to Christian Brunschen, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Tolan, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew. Will this be the first time the title is longer than the Scroll?]