(1) HIS DARK MATERIALS TRAILER. Decider has eyeballs on Comic-Con@Home where this new trailer was aired today.
HBO is celebrating Comic-Con@Home with a first look at Season 2 of His Dark Materials. During today’s virtual panel for the show, HBO unveiled the trailer for the upcoming season of the drama, which introduces some fresh faces.
The YouTube description adds –
His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.
(2) DO IT YOURSELF. There’s only one of me so I can’t write a post about every one of these items – darn it! Here is programming for Thursday, July 23, 2020, for Comic-Con International – much of it available for replay on YouTube.
(3) COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE? A second trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music. Available On Demand and in theaters September 1.
(4) SCARES THAT CARE. Brian Keene and friends have done a few 24-hour telethons to raise funds for Scares That Care. The most recent event was canceled due to Covid.
They are opting to do a virtual fundraiser on August 1st. It’s only 13 hours, but it looks like it will be packed with lots of interesting panels. See the FAQ and schedule at the Scares That Care Virtual Charity Event link. Say, they get the same kind of questions as the Worldcon!
Q: I’m a celebrity who works in the horror genre. Why wasn’t I included in programming?
A: We tried to accommodate as many horror professionals as we could, but unlike our physical Scares That Care Weekend charity events, we are limited by the technological restrictions and time constraints of this virtual event. However, you can still help the cause by sharing the event with your fans and encouraging them to donate.
(5) HOLY SH!T. The New York Times shared a discovery — “How to Sell Books in 2020: Put Them Near the Toilet Paper” .
If you want to sell books during a pandemic, it turns out that one of the best places to do it is within easy reach of eggs, milk and diapers.
When the coronavirus forced the United States into lockdown this spring, stores like Walmart and Target, which were labeled essential, remained open. So when anxious consumers were stocking up on beans and pasta, they were also grabbing workbooks, paperbacks and novels — and the book sales at those stores shot up.
“They sell groceries, they sell toilet paper, they sell everything people need during this time, and they’re open,” said Suzanne Herz, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor. “If you’re in there and you’re doing your big shop and you walk down the aisle and go, ‘Oh, we’re bored, and we need a book or a puzzle,’ there it is.”
Big-box stores do not generally break out how much they sell of particular products, but people across the publishing industry say that sales increased at these stores significantly, with perhaps the greatest bump at Target. In some cases there, according to publishing executives, book sales tripled or quadrupled.
Dennis Abboud is the chief executive of ReaderLink, a book distributor that serves more than 80,000 retail stores, including big-box and pharmacy chains. He said that in the first week of April, his company’s sales were 34 percent higher than the same period the year before.
“With the shelter in place, people were looking for things to do,” he said. “Workbooks, activity books and just general reading material saw a big increase.”
(6) PROMOTION TOOLS. C.E. Murphy gives readers a look behind the curtain in “Writing Career: Running The Numbers”.
…And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! 🙂
So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))
Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.
(7) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Even God Has a Place Called Home” by Ray Mwihaki, a story about environmental health, witchcraft, technophilia, and transcendence.
On Monday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they wll host another virtual event on Zoom, with Ray and science fiction author Christopher Rowe.
(8) CLARKE AWARD LOWDOWN. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter about this year’s nominees for the prize: “The Best Science Fiction of 2020”.
…In terms of who the audiences are for these books, on the one hand, if you like science fiction, you’ll find much to enjoy here but if you haven’t really tried the genre before, or if you might have been put off, I’d stress that these are all books published in 2019, for a 2020 prize, so they’re very contemporary-feeling in terms of their characterisation, quality of prose, plotting and so forth. You can definitely trace their lineage through the different eras of science fiction as it has evolved as a genre, and all of these books interrogate and tease and play with that tradition in different ways, but are also respectful of it. That’s the difference between, say—insert name of mainstream author—who has discovered a science fiction concept and written a book about it, then does a press tour where they try and convince you they’ve somehow invented robots, or space travel or parallel universes, or whatever. You know: ‘Before me science fiction was just cowboys in space, but my book is about real futures…’
(9) RENDEZVOUS WITH JOHN CLUTE. In “Arthur C. Clarke’s Scientific Romances Eschew Spectacle for Dumbstruck Wonder”, John Clute takes Rendezvous with Rama as the text to explore his views for LitHub readers.
… In his rendering of the 2001 story, Clarke may be marginally more emollient than Kubrick when it comes to assessing humanity’s chances of genuine uplift at the hands of a transcendent superbeing, but compared with contemporary in-house American SF visions of the future, both novel and film are baths of cold water.
Both were tortuously understood by many genre viewers as optimistic paeans to technological progress, with a bit of hoo-ha at the end; and Clarke himself never directly contradicted Kubrick’s dramatic rendering of his own exceedingly measured presentation of his clear message—also articulated in Childhood’s End, and hinted at strongly in Rendezvous with Rama—that as a species we may simply not quite measure up.
But this calm magisterial verdict, couched smilingly, mattered little to his own career, even when understood correctly. The huge success of 2001 had both made him rich and transformed him into a world gure; an addressable, venerated guru whose declarations on the shape-of-things-to-come were now given to the world at large. The best of this nonfiction work was collected years later as Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (1999), a huge volume whose title perfectly sums up the coign of vantage from which he wrote: which is to say, as though from the future itself, from somewhere on the far side of the slingshot ending….
(10) MORE UK FANHISTORY ONLINE. Rob Hansen has expanded THEN’s 1961 coverage of the SF Club of London. And “I’ve also added a link to a report by George Locke on the 1960 Minicon in Kettering. I didn’t think any report beyond a couple of sentences in Skyrack existed for that con so I was quite surprised to stumble across it.” Scroll down to 1960s section for links on the THEN index.
Then there’s the 1967 London Minicon, with photos. All part of filling in the history.
(11) BACK TO BASICS. “It’s Time to Re-Re-Re-Meet the Muppets”, and the New York Times makes the introductions.
At the dawn of “The Muppet Show” in the late 1970s, a visit to the Muppet Labs consisted of watching its nebbishy proprietor, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, demonstrate misbegotten inventions like an exploding hat or a self-destructing necktie with a brief burst of pyrotechnics, a canned explosion sound and a puff of smoke.
Today, a return visit to those labs on the Disney+ series “Muppets Now” features Honeydew and his agitated assistant, Beaker, using a homemade device called the Infern-O-Matic to reduce everyday items — a carton of eggs, a wall clock, a guitar — to smoldering piles of ashes.
If this scene from “Muppets Now” feels manic and combustible — and even a bit familiar — that is by design: as Leigh Slaughter, vice president of the Muppets Studio, explained recently, she and her colleagues are hopeful that this series will conjure up “that true Muppet anarchy — that complete chaos.”
She added: “If they’re going to take on real-world science, we thought, we have to burn things. We have to drop things. We have to blow things up.”
“Muppets Now,” a six-episode series that debuts on July 31, is both Disney’s attempt to bring those familiar, fuzzy faces to its streaming service and a parody of internet content. Its segments feature characters like Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef in rapid-fire comedy sketches that lampoon popular online formats.
The new series also strives to reconnect the Muppets with the disorderly sensibility they embodied in the era of “The Muppet Show” and get back to basics after other recent efforts to reboot the characters fizzled out.
“The thinking is to stop trying so hard to be like everybody else and just be the Muppets,” said Bill Barretta, a veteran Muppet performer and an executive producer of “Muppets Now.” “Let’s celebrate the fact that they all have to deal with each other and just be silly and play and entertain again.”
(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- July 23, 1995 — The Outer Limits aired “I, Robot”. This is a remake of the November 14th, 1964 episode that aired during the second season of the original Twilight Zone. This is not based on Asimov’s “ I, Robot” but rather on a short story by Eando Binder that ran in the January 1939 issue of Amazing Stories. The script was by Alison Lea Bingeman who also wrote episodes of Robocop, Flash Gordon, Forever Knight, Beyond Reality and The Lost World at that time. Adam Nimoy was the director and Leonard Nimoy, his father, was in it as he been the earlier production playing a different character. (CE)
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born July 23, 1889 – Yuri Annenkov. Illustrator, portraitist, theater and cinema designer. Zamyatin said he “has a keen awareness of the extraordinary rush and dynamism of our epoch.” Here is a Synthetic landscape. Here is the photographer M.A. Sherling. Here is Zamyatin. Here is a frog costume. Here is Miydodir, an animated washstand that eventually makes the boy at left wash. (Died 1974) [JH]
- Born July 23, 1910 — Ruthie Tompson, 110. An animator and artist. Her first job was the ink and paints, uncredited, on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was involved in every animated from film Disney for three decades, stating with Pinocchio (Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form). Some she was an animator on, some she was admin on. She worked on Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, too. (CE)
- Born July 23, 1914 – Virgil Finlay. Pioneering illustrator. Hugo for that in the first year we gave them; five Retrospective Hugos. First sale, the Dec 1935 Weird Tales; probably 2,600 works of graphic art; fifty poems, mostly published after his death. Here is a cover for The Stars Are Ours. Here is the Dec 56 Galaxy. Some of his marvelous monochrome: The Crystal Man; “Flight to Forever”; I haven’t identified this, can you? SF Hall of Fame. First Fandom Hall of Fame. See the Donald Grant and the Gerry de la Ree collections. (Died 1971) [JH]
- Born July 23, 1926 — Eunice Sudak, 94. Novelizer of three early Sixties Roger Corman films: Tales of Terror, The Raven and X, the latter based of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. She wrote a lot of other novelizations but they weren’t even genre adjacent.(CE)
- Found Fandom July 23, 1937 – Cyril M. Kornbluth. Wikipedia says July 2 is his birthday — 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom says July 23 is the date he discovered fandom. I certainly read and liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on. Given his very early death, he wrote an impressive amount of fiction, particularly short fiction which Wildside Press has all of n a single publication, available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1958.) (CE)
- Born July 23, 1947 – Gardner Dozois. Three novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors, translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian. Two Nebulas. Editor of Asimov’s 1984-2004; two dozen Asimov’s anthologies, many with Sheila Williams. Four years editing Best SF Stories of the Year, thirty-five of The Year’s Best SF (no, I shan’t explain, and I shan’t tell the jelly-bean story, either). Four dozen more anthologies; one Nebula Showcase. Fifteen Hugos as Best Pro Editor; one as Best Pro Editor, Short Form. Skylark Award. SF Hall of Fame. (Died 2018) [JH]
- Born July 23, 1948 – Lew Wolkoff, 72. Long-time laborer in fanhistory and the workings of our conventions. Some highlights: co-chaired ArtKane IV, an art-focussed con in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1979; assembled Phoxphyre, a fanzine anthology of the 1936 Philadelphia convention, with reminiscences by Baltadonis, Goudket, Kyle, Madle, Newton, Pohl, Train, 1983; Program Book appreciation of Barbi Johnson, a Guest of Honor at Lunacon 26, 1983; helped design the base for the 1951 Retro-Hugo trophy, 2001; chaired PSFS (Philadelphia SF Soc.) Young Writers’ Contest, 2018; got 120 audiotapes of Philcon proceedings to the SF Oral History Ass’n; founded, or purported to found, the SF Union of Unpublished Authors (“ess-eff-double-U-ay”, i.e. taking off SFWA the SF Writers of America). [JH]
- Born July 23, 1949 – Eric Ladd, 71. Twenty covers for us. Here is The Falling Torch. Here is Convergent Series. First suggested to Bob Eggleton that BE should exhibit in our Art Shows. [JH]
- Born July 23, 1954 – Astrid Bear, 66. One of the great entries in our Masquerade costume competitions was The Bat and the Bitten, Karen Anderson and her daughter Astrid at the 27th Worldcon. In 1983 Astrid married Greg Bear; they have two children. Here is AB at the 76th Worldcon on a panel discussing the 26th (L to R, Astrid, Tom Whitmore, Mary Morman, Ginjer Buchanan, Suzanne Tompkins, Gay Haldeman). For the 71st, since Jay Lake whom she and all of us loved had contrived to obtain whole-genome sequencing, and AB had become a fiber artist, she made Jay Lake Genome Scarves in time to give him one, as you can see here. Fanzine, Gallimaufry. It’s not true that this book is about her. [JH]
- Born July 23, 1970 — Charisma Carpenter, 50. She’s best remembered as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She was also Kyra on Charmed and Kendall Casablancason Veronica Mars. She was Sydney Hart in Mail Order Monster and Beth Sullivan in the direct to video Josh Kirby… Time Warrior! Franchise. (CE)
- Born July 23, 1982 — Tom Mison, 38. He is best-known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which crosses-over into Bones. Currently he’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to that he Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. (CE)
(14) COMICS SECTION.
- Fresh from his Hugo voter reading, Dann writes, “In light of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, I thought this xkcd might be useful. Check out the mouse-over/alt text.”
(15) WORLDCON TIME OUT OF JOINT. Bill Higgins started out teasing David Levine about CoNZealand’s July 16 “Wild Cards” panel, then his imagination ran away with him:
(16) THIS JUST IN…THE ONION. “Disaster: Luigi Left His Space Heater Plugged In For 3 Days And The Entire ‘Paper Mario’ Kingdom Burned Down”.
For years, Luigi’s kindhearted nature and well-meaning oafishness have endeared him to millions of fans who were willing to look past his lengthy history of incompetence. But it seems like the iconic Nintendo character might have just passed the point of no return: The big guy in green apparently left his space heater plugged in for three days straight, and now the entire Paper Mario kingdom has burned to the ground….
(17) STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. CBS All-Access dropped a clip today.
Get an exclusive look at a hilarious scene from the upcoming series premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, an all-new animated comedy featuring the voices of stars Jack Quaid (Ensign Brad Boimler) and Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner).
(18) LONG MARCH TO MARS. NPR reports “China Launches Ambitious Mission To Mars”
A heavy-lift Long March-5 roared off a launch pad on Hainan Island Thursday, carrying China’s hopes for its first successful Mars mission – an ambitious project to send an orbiter, lander and rover to the red planet in one shot.
If everything goes according to plan, Tianwen-1 will be China’s first successful mission to Mars, after a previous attempt failed in 2011 — gaining it membership in an elite club including only the U.S. and Russia, of nations who have successfully landed on the planet. (Even so, the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander, which touched down in 1971, transmitted for mere seconds before contact was lost.)
…The goals of the mission are to map surface geology, examine soil characteristics and water distribution, measure the Martian ionosphere and climate and study the planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields.
The BBC adds details: “China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth”.
China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.
The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).
It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.
Called Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, the rover won’t actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.
This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.
…The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars’ equator. The rover will study the region’s geology – at, and just below, the surface.
Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.
A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.
This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit, using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.
(19) THERE WLL BE SPACE WAR. Or so Jerry Pournelle might have said.“UK and US say Russia fired a satellite weapon in space” – BBC has the story.
The UK and US have accused Russia of launching a weapon-like projectile from a satellite in space.
In a statement, the head of the UK’s space directorate said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.”
The statement said actions like this “threaten the peaceful use of space”.
The US has previously raised concerns about this Russian satellite.
In his statement, Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, head of the UK’s space directorate, said: “Actions like this threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.
“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”
(20) FIRST PEOPLE. “Earliest evidence for humans in the Americas”.
Humans settled in the Americas much earlier than previously thought, according to new finds from Mexico.
They suggest people were living there 33,000 years ago, twice the widely accepted age for the earliest settlement of the Americas.
The results are based on work at Chiquihuite Cave, a high-altitude rock shelter in central Mexico.
Archaeologists found thousands of stone tools suggesting the cave was used by people for at least 20,000 years.
(21) DIH-DIH-DIH-DAH. “Secret Morse code tune sees game removed in China”.
A popular mobile game has been taken offline in mainland China for “rectification work”, after netizens discovered its musical director had written a song containing Morse code with a hidden Hong Kong pro-democracy message.
According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the Cytus II musical rhythm game, produced by Taiwan’s Rayark Games, has been removed from China’s mainland app stores.
This was done after netizens discovered a controversial song by Hong Kong musical director ICE, real name Wilson Lam, on his Soundcloud account.
The piece, Telegraph 1344 7609 2575, was actually posted on his page in March, but after netizens discovered it contained in Morse code the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, many in the mainland called for him to be sacked.
(22) RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER YOU. Floors that can scare you – a gallery of wild images at Imgur.
(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games’ Honest Game Trailers: SpongeBob Square Pants–Rehydrated on YouTube says that “children and extremely inebriated adults” will enjoy this new version of a classic SpongeBob SquarePants game featuring “Rube Goldberg machines that require a Ph.D. in SpongeBob to complete.”
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Dann, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]