(1) SPARKS FROM A GOOD CONDUCTOR. Somtow Sucharitkul proudly announces, “I ranted in my Facebook page and the Hollywood Reporter picked it up as an Op-Ed!” Beware spoilers. “Tár Ending is Not Cate Blanchett’s Character’s Downfall: Consultant” in The Hollywood Reporter.
The closing shot of Todd Field’s Oscar-nominated drama has been taken to represent the final fall from grace of the film’s eponymous heroine. But maybe we’ve got the whole thing backwards, writes Thai conductor Somtow Sucharitkul….
Well before Todd Field’s Tár opened in Thailand, I got my first review of the film from my friend, director Paul Spurrier. Paul had seen the film while in Los Angeles for the American Film Market.
“So we have here a mad genius conductor, who is kicked out of a major European orchestra after an act of violence, has rather ambiguous dealings with some young prodigies, ends up in Southeast Asia conducting a youth orchestra in a tawdry venue …,” he began.
“Oh!” I said, “You went to a screening of our film?” Because Paul was giving me the exact plot of our own film, The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror, a horror fantasy we made two years ago, which I wrote and starred in as the aforementioned “mad genius” conductor.
“Actually, no,” he said. “I just saw Tár.”
Since, I too have seen Tár and, as it turns out, Paul wasn’t wrong. Field’s movie does have a similar plot to The Maestro. Alas, I am a poor substitute for the incomparable Cate Blanchett, and our film is wholly different in substance anyway, being a modest little tribute to the horror films of the 1980s. In any case, the fall of the mighty, from Prometheus to the present, has always been the very essence of what we mean by the word tragedy….
(2) GUNN CENTER BOOK CLUB. Everyone is invited to the Gunn Center for the Study of SF’s (CSSF) monthly virtual book club happening on Friday, March 31, 2023, at noon (Central Time). Register here.
For the month of March, the Center has chosen Donna Barbra Higuera’s The Last Cuentista. A comet has hit Earth and now Petra Peña’s world is collapsing. Petra, her family and hundreds of others venture to another planet to continue the human race. Petra awakes on a new planet 100 years in the future, and she is the only one who remembers the history of her people. Winner of the Newberry Medal and the Pura Belpré Award in 2022, Higuera infuses Mexican folklore with interplanetary elements to highlight the importance of preserving the history and culture through storytelling. All ages are welcome to join.
(3) KGB PHOTOS. Ellen Datlow shared her snapshots from the March 8 Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series with Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear: KGB March 8, 2023 at Flickr.
(4) I’LL BE STABBED! “Using ChatGPT to Rewrite ‘Game of Thrones’? OpenAI Co-Founder Says ‘That Is What Entertainment Will Look Like’” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story.
… “That is what entertainment will look like,” Brockman said at a Friday panel at SXSW. “Maybe people are still upset about the last season of Game of Thrones. Imagine if you could ask your A.I. to make a new ending that goes a different way and maybe even put yourself in there as a main character or something.”
Hollywood creatives have already begun considering the potential impact — both good and bad — that ChatGPT could have on the TV and filmmaking process. As The Hollywood Reporter examined in January, organizations like the Writers Guild of America West have said they are “monitoring the development of ChatGPT and similar technologies in the event they require additional protections for writers,” though screenwriters interviewed by THR said they could see ChatGPT as a tool to aid the writing process, rather than replacing the work of writers….
(5) MOVIE REVIEW. The Hollywood Reporter’s James Hibberd says “SXSW: ‘Mrs. Davis’ Is a Perfectly Timed Warning About A.I. Madness”.
What if ChatGPT, but too much? Too popular, too omniscient, and far too nefarious than today’s cutting-edge chatbots?
That’s the premise of Mrs. Davis, an ultra-ambitious series from Big Bang Theory veteran Tara Hernandez and Watchmen creator Damon Lindelof. Mrs. Davis, premiering at SXSW before its April 20 streaming debut on Peacock, tells the story of a heroic, street-savvy nun (three-time GLOW Emmy nominee Betty Gilpin) battling an omnipresent AI and its legion of obsessed fans who will do anything to please their tech deity (called Mrs. Davis), which is supposedly striving to make the world a better place. Oh, and there’s also a quest for the Holy Grail, possible Nazis with butterfly nets, nefarious magicians and a teary make-out session with Jesus — and that’s just in the first two episodes. As Gilpin’s character, Simone, says at one point: “It’s a lot.”…
(6) OFFICIAL FILTERS CHALLENGED. George Packer argues “The Moral Case Against Equity Language” in The Atlantic.
The Sierra Club’s Equity Language Guide discourages using the words stand, Americans, blind, and crazy. The first two fail at inclusion, because not everyone can stand and not everyone living in this country is a citizen. The third and fourth, even as figures of speech (“Legislators are blind to climate change”), are insulting to the disabled. The guide also rejects the disabled in favor of people living with disabilities, for the same reason that enslaved person has generally replaced slave : to affirm, by the tenets of what’s called “people-first language,” that “everyone is first and foremost a person, not their disability or other identity.”
The guide’s purpose is not just to make sure that the Sierra Club avoids obviously derogatory terms, such as welfare queen. It seeks to cleanse language of any trace of privilege, hierarchy, bias, or exclusion. In its zeal, the Sierra Club has clear-cut a whole national park of words. Urban, vibrant, hardworking, and brown bag all crash to earth for subtle racism. Y’all supplants the patriarchal you guys, and elevate voices replaces empower, which used to be uplifting but is now condescending. The poor is classist; battle and minefield disrespect veterans; depressing appropriates a disability; migrant—no explanation, it just has to go.
Equity-language guides are proliferating among some of the country’s leading institutions, particularly nonprofits. The American Cancer Society has one. So do the American Heart Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National Recreation and Park Association, the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, and the University of Washington. The words these guides recommend or reject are sometimes exactly the same, justified in nearly identical language. This is because most of the guides draw on the same sources from activist organizations: A Progressive’s Style Guide, the Racial Equity Tools glossary, and a couple of others. The guides also cite one another. The total number of people behind this project of linguistic purification is relatively small, but their power is potentially immense. The new language might not stick in broad swaths of American society, but it already influences highly educated precincts, spreading from the authorities that establish it and the organizations that adopt it to mainstream publications, such as this one.
Although the guides refer to language “evolving,” these changes are a revolution from above. They haven’t emerged organically from the shifting linguistic habits of large numbers of people. They are handed down in communiqués written by obscure “experts” who purport to speak for vaguely defined “communities,” remaining unanswerable to a public that’s being morally coerced. A new term wins an argument without having to debate. When the San Francisco Board of Supervisors replaces felon with justice-involved person, it is making an ideological claim—that there is something illegitimate about laws, courts, and prisons. If you accept the change—as, in certain contexts, you’ll surely feel you must—then you also acquiesce in the argument….
(7) ANOTHER IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Ever notice how often two movies with the same general idea reach theaters in the same year? Now ask how it comes to pass than two movies based on the same book might do so. Gizmodo looks ahead to when “Cixin Liu’s Novel Supernova Era Will Explode Into Theaters”.
…For those who want to see Liu’s work on the big screen, good news—his 2003 novel Supernova Era is coming to theaters.
In fact, two Supernova Era movies are technically on the way, and possibly a TV series as well. Conquerer Entertainment, which has the adaptation rights to the novel, has announced a Chinese-language version of the movie, which will be simultaneously produced with an English-language version. If you don’t know the book (which Tor Books released in English in 2019), it’s got a (somewhat literally) killer premise. Here’s the official synopsis:
Eight light years away, a star has died, creating a supernova event that showers Earth in deadly levels of radiation. Within a year, everyone over the age of thirteen will die.
And so the countdown begins. Parents apprentice their children and try to pass on the knowledge needed to keep the world running.
But when the world is theirs, the last generation may not want to continue the legacy left to them. And in shaping the future however they want, will the children usher in an era of bright beginnings or final mistakes?
“The book has captured my interest due to Liu’s imaginative world-building and thought-provoking themes such as the fragility of civilization, the importance of leadership, and the role of technology in shaping society,” Conquerer co-founder Vasco Xu told Deadline. “It also raises questions about the nature of power, the relationship between science and morality, and the implications of different forms of administrations. Due to its futuristic setting and the presence of a significant global event at its core, the book has the potential to be adapted into two enthralling productions that would appeal to both the domestic Chinese audience and the global market.”
Assuming both movies get made, it’ll be very interesting to see how they compare and contrast. But we likely won’t get a chance to do so until 2026 at the earliest.
(8) RED DWARF NEWS. Radio Times reports ”Red Dwarf’s future confirmed after legal dispute resolved”.
…The future of Red Dwarf has finally been confirmed after a legal dispute between its creators, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.
It’s no secret that the writers, who co-created the comedy series, haven’t always seen eye to eye, dissolving their partnership in the 1990s.
Naylor continued to write the Red Dwarf TV series but, in 2021, launched a High Court action against Grant over the rights to the show.
The dispute has now been resolved and it’s been confirmed that both of the writers will continue separately working on Red Dwarf in different media.
A statement reads: “Rob Grant and Doug Naylor are delighted to announce that the ongoing dispute over the Red Dwarf rights has been resolved.
“Moving onwards and upwards, Rob and Doug hope to launch separate iterations of Red Dwarf across various media, working again with the cast and other valued partners, and wish each other the very best.
“Smoke a kipper, Red Dwarf will be back for breakfast!!”…
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1970 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
This is something rather different for a Beginning.Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire would be nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo fifty-two years ago at the first Noreascon. It wouldn’t win and it’s the only album nominated until the Splendor & Misery recording by Clipping was nominated at Worldcon 75 for a Hugo in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category. That didn’t win either.
It is the first album to use Starship instead of Airplane, this under Kantner alone who produced the album, a name which Kantner and Slick would use for the Jefferson Starship that emerged after Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen left Jefferson Airplane.
Kantner claimed that the inspiration for the album was the work of Heinlein, particularly Methuselah’s Children where a group of people hijack a starship. Kantner even quotes the novel in the opening song, “Mau Mau (Amerikon)”: “Push the button, pull the switch, cut the beam, make it march”.
After listening to the album, I’ll be frelled if I can see how it relates to Methuselah’s Children at all. And I’d love to hear why it was nominated for a Hugo. Was it the Heinlein connection?
1974’s Dragon Fly was I think a much better SF album with “Hyperdrive” alone being one of the best SF songs done.
So I’ll pick the Beginning stanza of “The Baby Tree”
There’s an island way out in the sea
Where the babies they all grow on trees
And its jolly good fun To swing in the sun
But you gotta watch out if you sneeze-sneeze
You gotta watch out if you sneeze
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 11, 1921 — F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife — The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement. (Died 2005.)
- Born March 11, 1925 — Christopher Anvil. Pen name of Harry Christopher Crosby, a Campbellian writer through and through. He was a staple of Astounding starting in 1956. The Colonization Series that he wrote there would run to some thirty stories. Short stories were certainly his favored length as he only wrote two novels, The Day the Machines Stopped and The Steel, the Mist, and the Blazing Sun. He’s readily available at the usual digital sources. (Died 2009.)
- Born March 11, 1935 — Nancy Kovack, 88. She appeared as Nona in Trek’s “A Private Little War”. She also showed up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, as Medea in Jason and the Argonauts, Batman (twice as Queenie), Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I Dream of Jeannie, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, Marooned, Get Smart! and The Invisible Man.
- Born March 11, 1952 — Douglas Adams. Another one who died way too young. I’ve read and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. There’s also the Dirk Gently series which is, errr, odd and its charms escape my understanding. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See, their travels to various locations in the hope of encountering species on the brink of extinction. It’s more upbeat than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
- Born March 11, 1961 — Elias Koteas, 62. Genre appearances include the very first (and I think best of the many that came out) as the sports-crazed vigilante Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (I did warn you, didn’t I?), Cyborg 2 (just don’t, really don’t), Gattaca, Skinwalkers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Haunting in Connecticut.
- Born March 11, 1963 — Alex Kingston, 60. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors. I don’t see a lot of other genre work from her but she was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Now the latter I would have really to seen! Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the stellar Deborah Harkness All Souls Trilogy series of the same name.
- Born March 11, 1989 — Anton Yelchin. Yes another way too early death. Best known for playing Pavel Chekov in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.)
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Arlo and Janis work a genre reference into a strip about tonight’s change to daylight savings time.
(12) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Not sff, but the New York Times tells about a fascinating project that’s started to sift the centuries-old impounded mail taken to from prize ships during England’s colonial wars: “Long-Lost Letters Bring Word, at Last”. At the article are quotes from these old letters.
… None of those lines ever reached their intended recipients. British warships instead snatched those letters, and scores more, from aboard merchant ships during wars from the 1650s to the early 19th century.
While the ships’ cargoes — sugar from the Caribbean, tobacco from Virginia, ivory from Guinea, enslaved people bound for the Americas — became war plunder, the papers were bundled off to so called “prize courts” in London as potential legal proof that the seizures were legitimate spoils of war….
…For centuries since, the bulging boxes of those undelivered letters, seized from around 35,000 ships, sat neglected in British government storage, a kind of half-forgotten dead letter office for intercepted mail.
Poorly sorted and only vaguely cataloged, the Prize Papers, as they became known, have now begun revealing lost treasures. Archivists at Britain’s National Archives and a research team at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in Germany are working on a joint project to sort, catalog and digitize the collection, which gives a nuanced portrait of private lives, international commerce and state power in an age of rising empires.
The project, expected to last two decades, aims to make the collection of more than 160,000 letters and hundreds of thousands of other documents, written in at least 19 languages, freely available and easily searchable online.
Many of the papers haven’t been read in centuries, and many letters remain sealed and unopened….
(13) THAT’S WHO. At Galactic Journey, Jessica Holmes provides commentary on the very latest (in 1968) Doctor Who story arc. “[March 10, 1968] The Best Laid Plans (Doctor Who: The Web Of Fear [Part 2])”.
The latest serial of Doctor Who tempers the base-under-siege formula with an infusion of ‘whodunnit’, but is this a fresh take on the format or are the mystery elements just a red herring? Let’s take a look at the latter half of The Web Of Fear….
(14) BREAK IT TO HIM GENTLY. “What $27.2 billion buys NASA — and more space stories you may have missed this week” at Yahoo!
Tom Cruise, if you’re reading this, you may want to sit down
Back in October, the head of Universal Pictures made waves by hinting that an upcoming film led by none other than Tom Cruise could literally be heading to outer space. Now, at the time, it seemed a little outlandish, but given Cruise’s career of going to increasingly extreme lengths to pull off elaborate stunts, going to space didn’t seem like too much of a giant leap.
But, unfortunately, it appears someone already beat him to it. On Wednesday, a trailer for “The Challenge,” which was produced by Channel 1 Russia in partnership with Roscosmos and partially filmed aboard the International Space Station, was released. The story is said to follow a surgeon who’s taken aboard the ISS to perform an emergency procedure on an injured cosmonaut. No word on if “The Challenge” will see an official release in the United States, although Tom Cruise likely still hopes to one-up that production by becoming the first civilian to do a spacewalk outside the ISS. And you know what? I think there’s a pretty good chance he’ll actually try to do it….
(15) PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAPS. “To Save Physics, Experts Suggest We Need to Assume The Future Can Affect The Past” contends a writer for Science Alert.
…The quantum threat to locality (that distant objects need a physical mediator to interact) stems from an argument by the Northern Ireland physicist John Bell in the 1960s.
Bell considered experiments in which two hypothetical physicists, Alice and Bob, each receive particles from a common source. Each chooses one of several measurement settings, and then records a measurement outcome. Repeated many times, the experiment generates a list of results.
Bell realized that quantum mechanics predicts that there will be strange correlations (now confirmed) in this data. They seemed to imply that Alice’s choice of setting has a subtle “nonlocal” influence on Bob’s outcome, and vice versa – even though Alice and Bob might be light years apart.
Bell’s argument is said to pose a threat to Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which is an essential part of modern physics.
But that’s because Bell assumed that quantum particles don’t know what measurements they are going to encounter in the future. Retrocausal models propose that Alice’s and Bob’s measurement choices affect the particles back at the source. This can explain the strange correlations, without breaking special relativity.
In recent work, we’ve proposed a simple mechanism for the strange correlation – it involves a familiar statistical phenomenon called Berkson’s bias (see our popular summary here).
There’s now a thriving group of scholars who work on quantum retrocausality. But it’s still invisible to some experts in the wider field. It gets confused for a different view called “superdeterminism”….
(16) READY FOR MY CLOSE UP. “NASA spacecraft beams back tantalizing images of volcanic world Io” at MSN.com.
… Io is tortured because it’s stuck in a relentless “tug-of-war” between the massive Jupiter and two of Jupiter’s other big moons, Ganymede and Europa — a world that might harbor a sizable ocean. This powerful push and pull creates profound heat inside a world that’s a little larger than our moon. All this heat seeks to reach the surface, resulting in molten lava and extreme volcanism. It’s extremely unlikely a world swimming in lava could host conditions for even the hardiest of life to evolve. But other moons in our solar system could potentially contain suitable conditions for life to evolve in their subsurface, like the Saturnian moons Enceladus and Mimas (and, of course, Europa).
Scientists like [mission director Scott] Bolton use these images to, among other things, identify new volcanoes. The darker spots are often places where eruptions have occurred, and other recent NASA imagery shows that this volcanism is incessant. A looming question is whether a global magma ocean oozes inside Io, or if there are just giant pockets of molten rock.
When the Juno spacecraft gets nearer to Io, it’s not directly approaching the moon, but veering by the moon’s orbit, as shown in the graphic below. During each orbit, Juno will snap pictures at the closest approach before it once again whips around the gas giant Jupiter. By the end of December 2023, Juno’s orbit (PJ 58) will bring it within some 930 miles of Io. It’s a much-anticipated event.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert interviews Steven Spielberg about a now-ironic complaint about Spielberg’s Night Gallery episode. “Spielberg’s ‘Appalling, Irresponsible’ Contribution to the Horror Anthology, ‘Night Gallery’”.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Kathy Sullivan, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]