(1) HOTROOTING. Eddie Kim tells why he looks forward to the production, and shares a Redwall-inspired recipe: “’Redwall’ Netflix TV Series: The Best Food Porn Ever Written” at Mel Magazine. (“GRRM wept,” says N., who sent the link.)
The world of Brian Jacques’ Redwall is rife with every manner of woodland creature, depicting the lives of mice, moles, squirrels, badgers and beyond in mythic detail. As a young boy, I fell in love with everything about the series — the intricately illustrated covers, the sweeping tales of battle and camaraderie and the idiosyncrasies of each animal community. Over the course of 23 (!!) thick novels, Jacques weaves a tapestry of narratives, builds a unique lifestyle, dialect and even diet around various tribes and timelines.
I, being a Korean kid in Hawaii who loved the water, imagined myself as one of the river otters. They played hard, fought hard and adored the spicy flavor of hotroot in their foods. Just like me, I thought as I read another Redwall novel at the dinner table, eating spoonfuls of kimchi stew.
It wasn’t just the otters’ favorite shrimp ‘n’ hotroot soup that I craved; I’m fairly certain the Redwall books radicalized me at a young age into a type-A obsessive about delicious food. No matter whether I was reading Eulalia! or Martin the Warrior, I knew the book would feature page after page of lusty food prose, especially if it was a celebratory feast held in Redwall Abbey or another enclave. The words are straight out of a Chez Panisse menu: “Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg … crusty country pasties, and these were being served with melted yellow cheese and rough hazelnut bread.”…
(2) THE FELAPTON CUT. Camestros Felpaton has seen the elephant: “I watched Zak Snyder’s Justice League cut (slowly and pieces)”. (Don’t ask me where the “c” in Zack went.)
…This is very much a Zak Snyder film and contains all his intentional problems. It is pretentious, has lots of slow-mo, odd music-video like sequences, many people starring off into the distance to express their inner feelings and, of course, a colour palette that’s best described as “metallic”. The dialogue is grim. The characterisation is angst. It’s a clever but disaffected teenage kid’s idea that goofy comic books are essays on Nietzsche….
(3) POWER OF FIVE. This link waited patiently to be rediscovered in a cache of unopened February emails: James Davis Nicoll’s “Five SF Works That Explore the Mysteries of Alpha Centauri” at Tor.com.
… Not only is Alpha Centauri the nearest system to ours, two of its three stars are at least somewhat sunlike. Unsurprisingly, science fiction long ago saw the narrative potential offered by Alpha Centauri. Consider these five examples.
He begins with —
Alpha Centauri or Die! by Leigh Brackett (1963)
The Solar System is firmly under the thumb of an authoritarian government determined to bring peace with a stomping boot. While every reasonable need is filled, daily life is regimented and the space lanes are plied solely by robot ships. Not everyone is happy with this arrangement. The malcontents include among them men like Kirby—men with the skills to crew a one-way flight to Alpha Centauri and its known habitable world.
There are, of course, one or two catches. The State forbids such flights. The same robot ships that travel between the solar planets could follow the refugees to Alpha Centauri. Most importantly, there is a reason the Solar System’s authoritarian have never tried to annex Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri’s world may not be home to someone but it is definitely home to something. How it will react to invaders remains to be seen….
(4) GAMING HORROR IS HARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 10 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at the recent release of The Medium (set in “an abandoned Soviet resort”) to discuss whether video games can be as scary as horror movies.
I started out with the venerable Resident Evil series, which since 1996 has oscillated between survival-horror and action-oriented adventures, also spawning a surprisingly robust film franchise starring Milla Jovovich. 2017’s Resident Evil 7: biohazard, due a sequel this May, seemed promisingly spooky at first. I arrived at an abandoned house in the Louisiana bayou and felt genuinely unsettled by the ominous creaking noises of the house, the squalid family kitchen and the sculpture out front, a cross between Alexander Calder and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Yes as soon as a monster emerged and I had to start waving an axe around, I mentally flipped into monster-fighting game mode and all the tension abruptly vanished.
Horror needs to be paced slowly to allow tension time to build, to hide its monsters in the shadows, but this is a hard proposition for games, a medium defined by interactivity and action. A new breed of narrative horror games prioritises atmosphere over combat, including Soma and Amnesia by Swedish team Frictional Games, an eerie demo for a cancelled Silent Hill sequel called P.T., and Taiwanese game Devotion, a disturbing tale which was removed from online stores due to a controversial reference to Chinese premier Xi Jinping.
(5) THOSE MONEY QUOTES. Most of the story is behind a Wall Street Journal paywall, however, the introduction is entertaining: “Is It Time to Kill the Book Blurb?”
Pulitzer-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen would have preferred that his forthcoming book, The Committed, have no praise-laden blurbs at all, he says. “Kill it. Bury it. Dance on its grave. They create so much work, emotional labor and guilt, whether one is writing one or one is asking for one.”
Often fawning and sometimes composed after only a casual skim of the book, pre-publication endorsements have been an entrenched part of the publishing industry since Ralph Waldo Emerson mailed a little-known Walt Whitman a note about his first poetry collection, Leaves of Grass, in 1855. Sensing an opportunity, Whitman’s publisher emblazoned a standout line from Emerson’s letter on the second edition of the book’s spine in gold letters: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. RW Emerson.”
As blurbs multiplied, however, the public’s distaste for them also grew. In 1936, George Orwell claimed that “the disgusting tripe that is written by the blurb-reviewers” was causing the public to turn away from novels altogether. “Novels are being shot at you at the rate of fifteen a day,” he wrote in an essay, “and every one of them an unforgettable masterpiece which you imperil your soul by missing.”…
(6) NOT COMING TO A TELEVISION NEAR YOU. That Hashtag Show believes “Star Wars Detours Leaked Episode Gives Us A New Hope for Disney+ Release”. Your lack of faith is disturbing.
Anyone ever heard of Star Wars Detours? No? It’s no surprise, since no one has aired it since its production. Ever since Disney bought up Lucasfilm, they’ve locked up this Star Wars animated parody series in their vaults and never looked back. With the leak of a single episode though, there may be a new hope that Star Wars Detours may come to Disney+.
A few days ago on November 29, 2020; someone leaked a single episode of the never-aired Star Wars Detours series onto Reddit. The episode featured the bounty hunters Zuckuss and 4-LOM attempting to rob Dex’s Diner, with decidedly mixed results. An all-star cast of Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, and more contributed to the situation with utmost hilarity.
No one know who leaked this episode or why. All we know is that as soon as the leak occurred, Disney was just as quick to take it down with a copyright strike. By then though, it might as well have been closing the barn door after the horse already got out. Even Disney can’t make us unsee what we’ve already saw. Yet.
(7) A TITANIC MISSION. How far will it have to sink? “Seven Hundred Leagues Beneath Titan’s Methane Seas”. (Likely behind a New York Times paywall.)
What could be more exciting than flying a helicopter over the deserts of Mars? How about playing Captain Nemo on Saturn’s large, foggy moon Titan — plumbing the depths of a methane ocean, dodging hydrocarbon icebergs and exploring an ancient, frigid shoreline of organic goo a billion miles from the sun?
Those are the visions that danced through my head recently. The eyes of humanity are on Mars these days. A convoy of robots, after a half-year in space, has been dropping, one after another, into orbit or straight to the ground on the Red Planet, like incoming jets at J.F.K. Among the cargo is a helicopter that armchair astronauts look forward to flying over the Martian sands.
But my own attention was diverted to the farther reaches of the solar system by the news that Kraken Mare, an ocean of methane on Titan, had recently been gauged for depth and probably went at least 1,000 feet down. That as deep as nuclear submarines will admit to going. The news rekindled my dreams of what I think would be the most romantic of space missions: a voyage on, and ultimately even under, the oceans of Titan…
(8) TALE END. SYFY Wire broadcasts a promise: “DuckTales creators say series finale is going to have a lot of pay offs”.
…[The] series finale is aiming to go bigger and grander, as it sees Clan McDuck face off against their most devious foes yet: a secret evil organisation called the Fiendish Organisation for World Larceny, otherwise known as F.O.W.L. Led by Bradford Buzzard, F.O.W.L. is not only the biggest and most widespread threat the family has ever gone up against during all this time adventuring, but its also one whose roots began quite close to
the Money Binhome, with Bradford having served as the chairman of Scrooge’s company, with a seat on its board of directors at one point….
(9) HOW HE WANTED TO BE REMEMBERED. Only he would have said it in more flattering terms: “’Self-satisfied pork butcher’: Shakespeare grave effigy believed to be definitive likeness” reports The Guardian. An image is included at the article.
…The painted effigy is a half-height depiction of Shakespeare holding a quill, with a sheet of paper on a cushion in front of him. In the 17th century, a Jacobean sculptor called Gerard Johnson was identified as the artist behind it. Orlin believes that the limestone monument was in fact created by Nicholas Johnson, a tomb-maker, rather than his brother Gerard, a garden decorator….
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1976 — Forty five years ago, Joe Haldeman wins a Hugo for The Forever War at MidAmeriCon which was held in Kansas City. It had been published by St. Martin’s Press the previous year. The novel would also win a Nebula Award, a Locus Award for Best Novel and the Australian Ditmar Award. It has never been out of print and has a sequel, Forever Peace.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born March 20, 43 B.C.E. – Ovid. Among three great poets of Roman literature (with Virgil and Horace). Known to us, and perhaps best known today, for his Metamorphoses, 15 books recounting fantastic legends e.g. Daedalus; many translations, from Golding’s (1567, used by Shakespeare) to Rolfe Humphries’ (rev. 2018): see this comparing Mary Innes’ (1955); Golding’s; Dryden, Garth & Co.’s (1727); and cussing about them. (Died 17 C.E.) [JH]
- Born March 20, 1868 – Ernest Bramah. Orwell said What Might Have Been inspired Nineteen Eighty-Four; WMHB and two others are SF. The Bravo of London and a score of shorter stories about Max Carrados are detective fiction, some being ours too. Timeless for five books about the superb fantastic Kai Lung, who said e.g. “In shallow water dragons become the laughing-stock of shrimps”. Website. (Died 1942) [JH]
- Born March 20, 1932 — Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
- Born March 20, 1941 – Steve Sneyd. SFPA (SF Poetry Ass’n) Grand Master. Six collections e.g. Bad News from the Stars; Mistaking the Nature of the Posthuman – he knew very well that omitting a hyphen brought in resonance with posthumous. Four anthologies e.g. Laying Siege to Tomorrow. Nonfiction. Four hundred forty poems, three dozen short stories. Handwritten fanzine Data Dump, 226 issues 1991-2016. A note by me here. Some of where he led me here. (Died 2018) [JH]
- Born March 20, 1948 — Pamela Sargent, 73, She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships, is the one I like the best. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a woman determined to terraform that world at all costs is quite good also, and there is the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels, so please do tell me about them. (CE)
- Born March 20, 1948 — John de Lancie, 73. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse, though I was more fond of him as Janos Barton in Legend which stars Richard Dean Anderson (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it). He also was Jack O’Neill enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight Zone, MacGyver, Mission: Impossible (Australian edition), Get Smart, Again!, Batman: The Animated Series, and I’m going to stop there. (CE)
- Born March 20, 1950 — William Hurt, 71. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, an amazing film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, an Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows in up in that not really bad Lost in Space film as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead follows for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby, performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s phenomenal Robin Hood, and in horror film Hellgate was Warren Mills. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of notes, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitized blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. The other role worth noting is him as Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands. (CE)
- Born March 20, 1955 — Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 66. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are amazingly excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set in either California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
- Born March 20, 1959 – Suzanne Francis, age 62. Nine novels, including a novelization of Frozen. From King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, she went to Dunedin (rhymes with “need inn”), South Island, New Zealand, a UNESCO City of Literature. [JH]
- Born March 20, 1965 – Noreen Doyle, age 56. Archaeologist and in particular Egyptologist. Anthologies, The First Heroes with Harry Turtledove; Otherworldly Maine. A dozen short stories. Here is her cover for Spirits of Wood and Stone. [JH]
- Born March 20, 1974 – Andrzej Pilipiuk, age 47. Forty novels, two dozen available in English; two dozen shorter stories. Invented Jakub Wedrowycz (there should be a mark like a cedilla under the e, but the software won’t allow it), an alcoholic exorcist; in another series about a thousand-year-old teenage vampire, a 300-year-old alchemist-szlachcianka, and a former agent of CBS, the historical Michael Sendivogius sometimes appears. [JH]
- Born March 20, 1979 — Freema Agyeman, 42. Best known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised that role briefly in Torchwood and for several Big Finish audioworks. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. She was on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. I don’t think it was recorded, more’s the pity. (CE)
(12) NEVER GET AN ARTIST MAD AT YOU. They might do the monster mash – to you!Mental Floss unveils twelve “Secrets of Comic Book Artists”.
…Telling a sequential story across panels and pages is the purview of the comics artist, who must be accomplished in everything from the human anatomy to perspective to lighting. Whether they’re working with a writer or generating their own material, comic book artists must be versatile.
…To get more insight into how these fantasy illustrators operate, Mental Floss spoke to Coller and others. Here’s what they had to say about deadlines, owning their work, and getting penciled-in revenge….
8. COMIC ARTISTS CAN GET REVENGE IN THEIR ART.
It’s not uncommon for artists to use real people as models for their fictional characters—typically background or supporting figures. “You spend so many hours alone with a page that you get bored sometimes,” Jones says. “So you’ll draw your editors in the background.” Other times, it might be someone they’re annoyed with who meets an untimely end. “Maybe someone who has frustrated you becomes a bystander getting crushed.”
(13) DEAL OF THE DAY. Hey, I can’t afford it, but I’ve never seen an author make this offer before.
(15) LONG-DISTANCE MARRIAGE. [Item by David Doering.] I could have written this as an SF short story in the 70s. My home county, Utah County, will perform civil marriages via the Internet (as a Covid protection). However, it soon got noised about not just nationally, but internationally. Now couples in Israel who did not qualify to wed there could be officially married by a Utah administrator. As this article states, Israel will recognize marriages conducted by other countries, however — “Utah finds itself at the center of a new legal battle over Israel marriage rights” — at KSL.
Two Utah rabbis joined an administrative petition this week filed against the Israeli Interior Minister and the country’s population authority in an effort to lift an order that does not recognize civil marriages for Israeli couples completed through a Utah online system.
… Israel carries strict religious rules regarding marriage but recognizes legal marriages done by other states.
…However, once Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri learned of the practice, he ordered the population authority to stop registering the couples and counting their marriage as legitimate. The petition was filed in an effort to reverse the ban and take it all the way to the country’s Supreme Court….
(15) ON THE REVERSE. In “The Trouble with Charlotte Perkins Gilman” at The Paris Review, Halle Butler says admirers of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist sf and horror also have to take into account that Gilman was a supporter of nativism and eugenics.
…Herland, Gilman’s sci-fi novel about a land free of men, is an example of this. The inhabitants of Herland have no crime, no hunger, no conflict (also, notably, no sex, no art). They exist together in dreamlike harmony. Held one way, Herland is a gentle, maternal paradise, and the novel itself is a plea for allowing these feminine qualities to take part in the societal structure. Held another, we see how firmly their equality is based in their homogeneity. The novel’s twist is that the inhabitants of Herland are considering whether or not it would benefit them to reintroduce male qualities into their society, by way of sexual reproduction. Herland is a tale of the fully realized potential of eugenics, and for Gilman, it’s a utopia.
All of this is especially troubling when you consider that Gilman was a staunch and self-described nativist, rather than a self-described feminist, as the texts surrounding her rediscovery imply. Nativists believed in protecting the interests of native-born (or “established”) inhabitants above the interests of immigrants, and that mental capacities are innate, rather than teachable. Put bluntly, she was a Victorian white nationalist. When Gilman is described as a social reformer and activist, part of this was advocating for compulsory, militaristic labor camps for Black Americans (“A Suggestion on the Negro Problem,” 1908). Part of this is pleading for racial purity and stricter border policies, as in the sequel to Herland, or for sterilization and even death for the genetically inferior, as in her other serialized Forerunner novel, Moving the Mountain.
These ideas of Gilman’s are hard to reconcile with our current conception of her as a brave advocate against systems of oppression—a political hero with a few, forgivable flaws….
(16) HEATED EXCHANGE. Literary Hub recalls a sophisticated analysis offered to disprove the then-new theory of evolution: “Charles Darwin’s Great Uncertainty: Decoding the Age of Our Planet”.
…[William] Thomson was a man of faith but he had no truck with biblical literalists who believed the earth to be 6,000 years old. His position was that a slowly changing ancient earth stood in direct contradiction with the scientific principles that he had worked so hard to establish—that energy cannot be created or destroyed and that heat tends to dissipate. Using these laws, argued Thomson, it would be possible to estimate the age of the earth and investigate whether it was old enough for evolution to take place.
In April of 1862, he brought out a paper claiming that a thermodynamic analysis of the flow of heat in the earth showed directly that it must be younger than uniformitarians, and by extension Darwin, believed. It starts, “Essential principles of thermodynamics have been overlooked by geologists.” Dissipation was the key to Thomson’s argument. Observations from mine shafts and tunnels showed that the earth’s temperature increases with depth below the surface. Thomson’s friend the Scottish physicist J.D. Forbes, by taking measurements in and around Edinburgh, estimated that the earth’s temperature rose by one degree Fahrenheit for every 50 feet of descent. This persuaded Thomson that the earth was cooling, losing heat to the atmosphere.
Using elegant mathematics, Thomson combined Forbes’s measurements with others relating to the thermal conductivity and the melting point of rock. Even acknowledging uncertainties in the data, he concluded the earth’s age was somewhere between 20 million and 400 million years. This was far too short a time for evolution. Even if the older estimate was true, Thomson argued the earth would have been considerably hotter than it is now for most of its existence. Before around 20 million years ago, the temperature of the entire earth would have been so high that the whole globe was molten rock. Evolution’s requirement that the earth was much as it is now for eons defied thermodynamic sense.
Darwin was shaken. “Thomson’s views on the recent age of the world have been for some time one of my sorest troubles.” “I am greatly troubled at the short duration of the world according to Sir W Thomson.” “Then comes Sir W Thomson like an odious spectre”—these are lines from Darwin’s letters to friends. In turn, his allies felt unqualified to attack the physicist’s arguments and suggested that perhaps evolution worked faster than previously believed, a solution that didn’t satisfy Darwin….
(17) MARTIAN MINERAL WATER. “Mars’ Missing Water Might Be Hiding in Its Minerals” – Smithsonian Magazine has the story.
The Martian landscape is an arid expanse of craters and sandstorms, but scientists have spotted several signs that at one point in its life, the Red Planet was awash with blue waters. Scientists have theorized that much of the planet’s water was lost to outer space as the atmosphere dissipated.
But the planet’s vast oceans couldn’t have been lost to space fast enough to account for other milestones in Mars’ existence. The water must have gone somewhere else. A new study presents a solution: the water became incorporated into the chemical makeup of the ground itself. The research uses new computer models and found that if Mars once had a global ocean between 328 and 4,900 feet deep, then a significant amount of that water might now be stored in the planet’s crust.
The study, published on March 16 in the journal Science and presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, incorporated data collected from Martian meteorites and by NASA’s Curiosity rover….
(18) RADIO ACTIVITY. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait says a new search tool finds “No alien signals found from 31 nearby Sun-like stars” at SYFY Wire.
The results? They detected 26,631,913 candidate signals. Yes, 26 million. Their new algorithm (which I’ll get to in a sec) screened out 26,588,893 of them (99.84%) as anthropogenic — that is, coming from humans. Radio transmissions, satellites, radar, and all sorts of human tech can emit radio waves, and they were able to find those pretty well and eliminate them.
Of those left, 90% or so were close enough to known radio frequency interference that they could be weeded out as well.
That left 4,539 candidate signals. They checked all those by hand, amazingly enough, and found…
… they too were all from radio interference. So, out of 26 million sources, not a single one was from aliens. Bummer*.
[Thanks to N., Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]