(1) THIS PRESENT CENTURY. The “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2022” doesn’t include sff text writers, however, it features an array of performers and filmmakers with genre resumes like (Artists) Simu Liu, Andrew Garfield, Channing Tatum, (Innovators) Taika Waititi, (Titans) Michelle Yeoh, and (Icons) Keanu Reeves, Jon Batiste.
As usual, the list is about influence, and not all influential people are wonderful – Vladimir Putin is on it.
(2) WRITER’S (LUCITE) BLOCK. Sarah Pinsker has posted her award acceptance remarks: “’Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather’ won the Nebula!” The excerpt is part of the lead-up, the remarks are at the link.
….As someone who has now accepted three Nebulas and a Hugo (the Hugos were in person, but I had an asymptomatic positive Covid test that week and stayed home) from this chair in my library, I can say there’s something weird about accepting an award live online. I’m a performer; I know how to channel energy. And yet, when they say my name, and the adrenaline hits while I’m trying to find the buttons to hit “accept promotion to speaker” and also remember to turn on my camera and mic, and also try to keep the dogs from barking as they feed off my excitement, there’s nowhere for the excitement to go. I can’t see other faces, so my excitement bounces off the computer and hits me square, telling me I should speed up instead of take a breath.…
(3) TOUR DE FORCE. An interview with Emily St. John Mandel at Bookforum Magazine: “Marquee Moon – Emily St. John Mandel talks about her postapocalyptic novel, which features a moon colony, time travel, and a book tour”.
There are all these disparate elements, but structurally and thematically it really coheres. I’m thinking of that early scene where Edwin is at home and criticizes British colonialism in India, which is somewhat the catalyst for his banishment. That has really compelling parallels to the moon colonies later in the novel. It’s not a perfect mapping, because there’s a difference between colonizing an inhabited land versus colonizing an uninhabited world, but how did it feel to raise those moral and ethical questions?
I started thinking about the simulation hypothesis, which is a big part of this novel. It is what it sounds like, for anyone who’s unfamiliar—the idea that perhaps we are all living in a computer simulation. And you can find very intelligent people who strenuously argue either side of that hypothesis. I thought that maybe there’s an interesting parallel between that idea and the tragedy of colonization, in the sense that the people who colonized the so-called New World did so in the grip of a false narrative. In Canada, where I’m from, it was a narrative of empty land, the idea that this is an empty country that’s there for the taking. Of course, it wasn’t empty—people lived there. There was something about establishing a country under fundamentally false pretenses that really reminded me in a strange way of this theory that we’re all living in a simulation. For me, there was a stronger parallel between those two things than between colonizing Canada and India versus colonizing the moon. Just because, to your point, they feel like such different circumstances. Nobody lives on the moon, so it’s fine….
(4) THE CAUSE. Tolkien sainthood advocate Daniel Côté Davis tells readers of The European Conservative “Why Some Catholics Think J.R.R. Tolkien Could Be a Saint”. It’s a Catholic church process, and the rest of the article focuses even more strongly on those requirements than this excerpt:
… Tolkien’s discussion of the Sacraments was not limited to the Eucharist, and Catholics can also find spiritual fruit in praying on his comments on Christian marriage. The comments are particularly poignant in the context of his love of Edith his wife. This love, along with that for Christ, animated his daily life. His love for he was so deep that the story that he felt was the very centre of his legendarium is based on their love story. Though not as widely-known as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, the tale of Beren and Luthien, told both in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion and in the recently-published Beren and Luthien. The tale mythopoetically expresses a love stronger than death, and Tolkien’s children decided to adorn their parents’ shared grave with the names Beren and Luthien. Whilst maintaining this reverential romanticism, Tolkien did not, however, shirk from teaching the reality of the necessity to found love on the will, and within a lifelong purgative struggle for virtue…
(5) WISCON. In “WisCon is back, and taking a hard look at itself”, local publication Tone Madison profiles the convention.
Back for its 45th year, WisCon will return to hosting an in-person convention at the Madison Concourse Hotel this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27 to May 30). A staple of the feminist science fiction and fantasy community since 1977, the entirely volunteer-run convention has served as a crucial space for critical and invigorating thought around issues of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and more for decades….
… While the global pandemic alone brought enough change to the convention-planning landscape, the con’s governing nonprofit, the Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction, or SF3 for short, also experienced a complete leadership turnover in the fall of 2021….
… To ensure that anti-racist work… continues on an institutional level, the con has also allocated a budget for creating a BIPOC outreach committee to create whatever programming the committee’s members see fit.
“One of the things that we the board have really championed is putting our money where our mouth is,” [SF3 secretary Essay] Manaktola says. “We [as in] the people who are running a con that has been racist. You know, not necessarily under our guidance, and not any more racist than the ambient culture around us, and hopefully less.” Organizers are hopeful that within its first year, the outreach committee will be able to develop a skeleton for a formal BIPOC Mentorship Program to draw in more young readers and fans of color to the con….
(6) THE NEXT ROSE. “‘I’m in awe’: trans actor Yasmin Finney on joining Doctor Who” – a Guardian profile.
…Finney’s character is called Rose, which was also the name of the companion famously played by Billie Piper in the mid-00s. The relevance of this is currently unknown. What we do know is that Finney was recently spotted filming scenes alongside David Tennant, AKA the Tenth Doctor, and Catherine Tate, AKA the Tenth Doctor’s companion, Donna Noble. In other words, there are more than enough cryptic developments to keep Whoniverse obsessives in a tizzy until the end product finally airs in 2023.
Finney squirms at the mere mention of Doctor Who – and what little she has to say about her casting only confuses matters further. “I didn’t know for a long time,” she says over Zoom, through curtains of sleek blond hair, “but I did know. I don’t want to give too much away.” My chances of gleaning anything meaningful seem practically zero. Was it mere coincidence that Davies’ mid-00s Doctor Who collaborator Euros Lyn also directed Heartstopper? “That was a huge coincidence!” exclaims Finney, before admitting that, actually, Lyn did recommend her to producers who were “looking for a trans girl”. But she doubts Lyn knew the precise nature of the project under discussion….
(7) SHORT SFF. Gizmodo’s Linda Codega answers the question “Which Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines Deserve More Love?” basically by saying they all do.
…So why aren’t more science fiction and fantasy readers reading short stories? I often find myself recommending SFF magazines to friends who are keen, avid, and voracious readers of science fiction and fantasy. Even fewer than readers are subscribers. A relevant example is that of Lightspeed, which, according to Locus Magazine’s State of Magazines in 2021, had 29,851 average monthly visitors, with 2,209 subscribers overall. Nightmare magazine, from the same report, had 13,651 visitors and only 1,477 ebook subscribers….
(8) NEAR MISS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Pace Jetboy: “I can’t die. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Look Up’ yet!” “Asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building barreling toward Earth on May 27” at MSN.com.
An enormous asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building will make a close approach to Earth on May 27, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
Fear not: the asteroid, named 7335 (1989 JA), will soundly miss our planet by about 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) — or nearly 10 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. Still, given the space rock’s enormous size (1.1. miles, or 1.8 km, in diameter) and relatively close proximity to Earth, NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” meaning it could do enormous damage to our planet if its orbit ever changes and the rock impacts Earth….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1979 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-three years ago, the first and I’m going to argue only Alien film worth seeing premiered on this day. Alien was directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon which in turn was based on a story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.
This was the first genre film by Ridley with his only previous film being The Duellists which is most excellent. (I should essay it.) Dan O’Bannon on the other hand was the writer of Dark Star, which had been directed and produced by John Carpenter and which had been co-written with him. He had also worked on Star Wars doing computer animation and graphic displays as well as miniature and optical effects unit. Shusett was the first to option Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” short story that became Total Recall.
Digression: I did see it at the theatre. It was a fascinating experience. Horrifying but fascinating. Yes it very much deserved the Hugo did it win at Noreascon Two.
It cost very little to produce, around ten million, and made at least a hundred million. Because it was so successful, it spawned it a lot of films that included three sequels, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (A fifth film is being talked about with Weaver coming back.) The Predator crossovers produced Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. And then there’s prequel series of Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Aliens is the only one of these I’ve seen.
So what the critics think?
Well Derek Malcom of the Guardian said when it came out that “Yet it does so, oddly enough, with a story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space. A dozen other 50s-sounding titles spring to mind – well, 60s at any rate. The point is the added 70s proficiency. You won’t see anything very original anywhere in the film, other than in the actual making of it. There, no holds are barred. Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he managed with The Duellists. His combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.”
And the staff of the TV Guide in their retrospective look at it liked it as well: “There’s nothing terribly complex or original about the movie, but it is distinguished by its clever and innovative use of B-movie staples in a hi-tech setting. Coming into his own as a director on his second feature, Ridley Scott wrings every possible ounce of suspense and atmosphere out of the proceedings. Swiss artist-designer H.R. Giger supplied the distinctive ‘bio-mechanical’ concepts for the film, which help make the alien one of cinema’s scariest creations: a nightmare synthesis of humanoid form, insect-like appendages, and mechanized structure that is all the more effective for not being seen too clearly for most of the film. The non-star cast acquits itself well, bringing an appealing quality to their characters. One of them, Weaver’s Ripley, would develop into one of the genre’s most memorable heroines through the subsequent sequels.”
It gets a ninety four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, not at all surprising to me.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 25, 1913 — Carl Wessler. Animator during the Thirties working on Musical Memories and other theatrical cartoon shorts for the Fleischer Studios, and a comic book writer from the Forties though the Eighties for including Charlton Comics, DC, EC Comics, Harvey Comics and Marvel. He also worked for editor-in-chief Stan Lee at Marvel’s 1950s forerunner, Atlas Comics. (Died 1989.)
- Born May 25, 1935 — W. P. Kinsella. Best known I’d say for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
- Born May 25, 1939 — Ian McKellen, 83. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course, he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats.
- Born May 25, 1944 — Frank Oz, 78. Actor, director (including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives), producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise though he no longer performing him. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000.
- Born May 25, 1949 — Barry Windsor-Smith, 73. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh my, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon.
- Born May 25, 1950 — Kathryn Daugherty. Yes, another one who damn it died far too young. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
- Born May 25, 1966 — Vera Nazarian, 56. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. She has two Nebula nominations, one for her “The Story of Love” short story and another for her “The Duke in His Castle” novella.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro shows two monsters squaring off – one with an obvious weapon, and the other – it will come to you.
(12) DOOM PATROL. “’One Of The Things They Definitely Are Is Queer’: An Interview With Rachel Pollack” in The Comics Journal.
To fast-forward, the story is that you took over writing Doom Patrol after meeting Tom Peyer at a party.
Tom and I both wrote introductions for the Omnibus volume. I wrote mine first and then I saw his and corrected mine. Because I did not remember all the details of how we met. I vaguely thought that Neil Gaiman, who I had met at a writers conference, had invited me to this event. It turned out that Neil was there, but we were both there because it was a reception for the Science Fiction Writers of America. He introduced me to Stuart Moore and I was gushing to Stuart about how much I liked Vertigo – it wasn’t even Vertigo yet – but particularly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. That it was such an incredible brilliant thing. He said, well the editor is right here, which was Tom Peyer. So I was gushing to Tom and I said – and I wasn’t trying to get a job – “I’m not looking to write a monthly comic but if I ever was interested, Doom Patrol was the only thing I could imagine writing.” He said, “Actually, Grant’s leaving in a few months, why don’t you send me a sample script?” In his introduction he wrote that he was desperate to find somebody. I’m not sure why. But that’s why he responded to me. He sent me one or two of Grant’s scripts I could look at for reference. Neil sent me one of his scripts, I recall. Maybe I looked at an Alan Moore script, or maybe that was later. But I got a sense of how people do it and what I wanted to do. And the script that I sent him was the first story. He liked it enough that he said it should be my first issue. I wrote it based on what he told me [about how] Grant was going to end it, and where I would want to go with it. Basically I just had them move to Rhinebeck. [laughs] I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to move the cast who are weird super cool wild strange superheroes to some nice little village in upstate New York. [laughs]
Pollack also discusses working with editor Lou Stathis, somebody I met when he first got in fandom but only today did it occur to me to check if he has a Wikipedia entry – he does, and it’s quite a good one.
(13) 3 FREE MONTHS OF APPLE+ TV, [Item by Daniel Dern.] Good news, you can enjoy Ted Lasso. So-so news, you can watch Foundation. “Apple Subscriptions Are Free Right Now, so Go Watch Severance, Already” urges The Inventory.
… The idea of paying for yet another streaming service is exhausting, I get it. So how about this: How about you don’t pay for it?…
The article sends you to a Best Buy site. The fine print says, “After free trial, plan automatically renews at $4.99/month until cancelled.”
(14) VARIABLE STAR. Jesse Hudson makes an interesting observation in his “Review of The This by Adam Roberts” at Speculiction.
Adam Roberts is that maddening sportsman who has trophies on the shelf to show he is a winner but doesn’t always show up to play. With an irregular training scheme and dynamic mentality, he instead depends on innate talent to win matches. Naturally, this results in inconsistency; he’s not always a threat for the podium. For the reader, this means they never know what they are going to get with Roberts—certainly one type of appeal. With 2022’s The This we get the chance to A) test the accuracy of Google’s search algorithm, and B) answer the question: has Roberts once again channeled his innate talent to make a run for the winner’s circle, or is it just another quiet bowing out in the group stage?…
(15) MINI-REVIEW OF DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Our local SF group has been to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In case anyone has not yet seen it, here is a more-or-less-spoiler free mini-review.
Action and spectacle from start to finish, director Sam Raimi takes viewers on a relentless ride. As Bond was once accused: ‘all this running around. It’s so exhausting.’ Best bits include the death of Picard and an appearance of the cybermen…. What’s not to like, if you have the stamina.
Also trailer here.
(16) PHONE HOME? The headline oversells the story, however, the information is of interest: “Astronomer may have detected the source of the famous extraterrestrial ‘Wow!’ signal” at MSN.com.
Astronomers may have found the source of the ‘Wow!’ signal, an enigmatic radio transmission from space that some believe could have originated from an alien world.
The signal – a 72 second-long radio burst that was 20 times stronger than its background emissions – was first detected in 1977, stopping at just over a minute because that is the longest duration that the Big Ear radio telescope was able to observe. Scientists believe it is likely that the signal would have lasted longer.
Drawing attention to the mysterious transmission on a printout, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled it and jotted down ‘Wow!’ next to it. Since then, it has become of primary interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, although it has never been heard since.
… Focusing on G- and K-type stars – which are very similar to our own Sun – Caballero identified one, known as 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which appears to be the most likely source of the signal – 1,800 light-years from Earth.
“Despite this star is located too far for sending any reply in the form of a radio or light transmission, it could be a great target to make observations searching for techno-signatures such as artificial light or satellite transits”, Caballero writes.
Out of the 66 stars identified, two other stars, with temperatures and brightness very similar to our Sun, were also highlighted as worth investigating, as well as 14 more with a potentially similar temperature but unknown brightness. Caballero suggests, though, that since all these stars are located in the same part of the sky, the entire area is an ideal source for techno-signatures and should be explored.
Caballero’s findings appeared May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology….
(17) DRAW A LINE THROUGH THEM. “The end of men: the controversial new wave of female utopias” is discussed by Sandra Newman in the Guardian.
All the men are gone. Usually this is conceived as the result of a plague. Less often, the cause is violence. Occasionally, the men don’t die and the sexes are just segregated in different geographical regions. Or men miraculously vanish without explanation.
Left to themselves, the women create a better society, without inequality or war. All goods are shared. All children are safe. The economy is sustainable and Earth is cherished. Without male biology standing in the way, utopia builds itself.
I’m describing a subgenre of science fiction, mostly written in the 1970s-90s. It was once so popular it was almost synonymous with feminist SF. In 1995, when the Otherwise Award, a literary prize for “works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender”, gave five retrospective awards, four of the works were set in such worlds: Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines and Walk to the End of the World, and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man and When It Changed. The fifth was Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a world whose inhabitants are all of the same sex.
Recently there has been a revival of the genre in radically different form, with titles including Lauren Beukes’s 2020 novel Afterland, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s 2021 thriller The End of Men, and my own new release, The Men. I think the way that these contemporary novels diverge from their earlier counterparts tells us something useful about gender politics in the 21st century. Part of the story, too, is a growing opposition to the basic premise, a conflict in which my novel has been recently embroiled….
(18) YES, SEX REX EVERYTHING. “’Prehistoric Planet’ shows another side to fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus Rex: The tender lover” at MSN.com.
…Working with producer Jon Favreau and the team that created the photorealistic visual effects used in films like “The Lion King,” the series shows the period’s now-extinct creatures as if a film crew was shooting them 66 million years ago.
Famed British naturalist commentator David Attenborough adds to the natural history heft with his narration, illuminating the T-Rex courtship ritual. The scene begins with an older male T-Rex, injured after battling a Triceratops, meeting a female at a river bed.
The meeting could lead either to fight or fancy. But the male shows a courtship posture and utters a low-frequency vocalization to the receptive female. This behavior, like many of the “Prehistoric Planet” dinosaur depictions, is derived from phylogenetic bracketing – studying the extinct dinosaur’s living family tree, from birds to crocodiles and alligators.
“We’ve got scientific reasons for being very confident for this behavior,” says Naish. “We discussed this behind the scenes in the most detailed way, preparing for this. So in terms of exactly what to show, we knew exactly what was happening. And it’s the first time people will see this type of behavior realistically, from a natural history background.”…
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] So who DOES put all the arrows back in the slots…? Ryan George considers, “The Guys Who Set Up Ancient Booby Traps”.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jennifer Hawthorne, 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 Joe H.]