(1) PHILADELPHIA READ’EM. On January 18, 2023 the Galactic Philadelphia Literary Salon, curated by Lawrence M. Schoen and Sally Wiener Grotta, will host Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and C.S.E. Cooney as they read from their latest work, and “converse with them and other guests in an informal and engaging salon-style conversation.” This will be an in-person event at The Rosenbach Museum & Library – full details and registration cost at the link.
(2) KINDRED FOR TV. NPR’s program The 1A tells how “Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’ is being discovered by new readers, and now viewers”. At the link, listen to a conversation with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kindred’s executive producer and writer.
Imagine suddenly being pulled back in time, without warning or explanation. Where is the place you’d least like to go?
In the 1979 novel “Kindred,” author Octavia Butler sent her main character – a Black woman – back to the antebellum south of the 1800s. Dana lands amongst her ancestors, who were owned as slaves.
The sci-fi book is a modern classic – a cornerstone of afro-futurism that made waves in a genre dominated by white men. “Kindred” is still being discovered by new readers today – and by viewers.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapted “Kindred” into a new FX series of the same name on Hulu, which premiered Dec. 13. Jacobs-Jenkins is a talented writer in his own right, having received the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for “Appropriate” and “An Octoroon.”
He’s also a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama, and was the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” His previous TV production credits include the 2019 HBO series “Watchmen” and the Prime Video sci-fi series “Outer Range.”
(3) IN A WORLD WHERE. According to Gizmodo, “Court Case Ruling Could Make ‘Deceptive’ Trailers Legally Actionable”.
When two fans of Ana de Armas rented Yesterday after seeing de Armas in the trailer, only to realize at the end of the movie that her part had been cut, they were so unhappy that they went to court over it. And won. In a rather bizarre Free Speech case, a federal judge has ruled in favor of movie-goers over the protests of Universal Studios, saying that studios cannot release “deceptive movie trailers.”
The two de Armas fans, Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza, each paid $3.99 to rent Yesterday, an alternate-history speculative film about the disappearance of The Beatles, on Amazon Prime. de Armas’ part was cut after filmgoers responded that they didn’t enjoy the fact that the main character’s love interest (played by Lily James) had competition in the form of de Armas’ character. Woulfe and Rosza are seeking “at least $5 million as representatives of a class of movie customers,” according to Variety….
(4) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 73 of the Octothorpe podcast is “A Magic Cave Full of Games”. Listen at the link.
John Coxon is going to Sweden, Alison Scott is going to Australia, and Liz Batty isn’t moving back to Europe. We discuss Smofcon, Eurocon, Mastodon, and bacon lardons. (The last one is a lie.) We also chat about the Fan Funds and do picks (which don’t rhyme).
(5) HEAR FROM KEN MACLEOD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has just interviewed Ken MacLeod
I’m not really a scientist who became a science fiction writer. I’m a science fiction reader who tried to become a scientist, because science fiction made science cool. At school my progress in mathematics hit a brick wall at calculus, and in physics at electronics. So at university I chose biology — then the least mathematical of the sciences — and specialised in Zoology….
(6) WOOSTER MEMORIES. In “Martin Morse Wooster’s Front Row Seat” Reason’s Thomas W. Hazlett delivers an affectionate farewell.
… Martin devoured entire libraries as after-dinner mints, emerging ever more curious about what great work of history, politics, biography, economics, sports, or science fiction (pardon me, “S.F.”) to hoist next. He cherished baseball, exhibits, museums, stage plays, conventions, the science of beer making, free market capitalism, and the United States. He was bogged down neither by car payments nor dependents. He lived richly on a tidy budget, zipped about on public transport, viewed every parade, and devoured each spectacle. When he paid for a movie, he would always—his sister, Ann-Sargent Wooster, informs me—insist on sitting front row….
On the epic fall of the Soviet bloc, Wooster wrote frequently. In a 1989 Reason column introduced by Irving Kristol’s observation that “In Washington, people don’t read enough magazines,” it was game on.
“This may be true in Washington,” noted Martin, “but out here in Silver Spring, we read magazines by the truckload… Once each day, the factory whistles blow, the police officers stop traffic, and the double-wide tractor trailers lumber chez Wooster with the day’s reading matter.”…
(7) CHRIS BOUCHER (1943-2022). Writer and script editor Chris Boucher, who contributed milestone moments to Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, died December 11. The Guardian paid tribute.
… Having quickly made his mark on Doctor Who in 1977, he was recruited the following year as script editor of Blake’s 7, Terry Nation’s series about a gang of outlaws fighting against a corrupt Federation in the future. Responsible for commissioning and then polishing the scripts, Boucher capitalised on the bristling dynamic between the central characters, highlighted by his gift for caustic dialogue, and exploited the programme’s morally grey areas to give it dramatic complexity.
Among the scripts he wrote himself was the shocking 1981 finale, in which he killed off the whole cast, in a manner emblematic of the show’s flawed protagonists, dour outlook and uncompromising tone….
…Braden’s Week (1968), Dave Allen at Large (1971) and That’s Life (1973) used his material, and he secured himself an agent who pitched him to Doctor Who. He was well versed in science-fiction literature, so his first contribution, The Face of Evil (1977), had a bold concept: a misprogrammed spaceship computer thinks it is God, and so embarks on an exercise in eugenics involving its stranded crew. The story (originally entitled The Day God Went Mad: a tad strong for the BBC) also introduced a new companion for Tom Baker’s Doctor: instinctive, intelligent tribal warrior Leela (Louise Jameson) and contains one of Boucher’s great lines: “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views.”
Boucher was immediately hired to write the very next story, The Robots of Death. A fusion of Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert, it became more than a sum of its parts thanks to Boucher’s sardonic exchanges (“You’re a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain”), well-drawn characters, world-building through dialogue and hard sci-fi concepts. Augmented by a strong cast, excellent direction and striking art deco design, the story is still regarded as among Doctor Who’s very best. Image of the Fendahl (1977) is a spooky synthesis of modern technology and ancient horror with some shocking moments and amusing characters (“You must think my head zips up at the back,” says one)….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
2000 — [By Cat Eldridge.]
Ready for a really happy story? Well we have one for you.
It starts out because J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy, lived near the hospital, and was well known for donations to charity as he lived rather simply. He is listed as first donating to the hospital in 1908, and became more familiar with the hospital’s work after he hired a personal secretary, Lady Cynthia Asqueth, whose father was the chairman of the hospital board.
However when the hospital had asked Barrie to help with a fundraising campaign in 1929 by making a generous donation in order to purchase a vacated lot, he declined. That’s not the end of the story as two months later he announced that he would give the copyright of Peter Pan to the hospital. Of course the hospital was rather grateful to say the least.
(These arrangements should have expired in 1987, fifty years after the death of Sir James Barrie. But special measures were made in the Copyright Designs & Patents Act (1988), so that a single exception was made for the ongoing benefit of the hospital.)
A year after Great Ormond Street Hospital was given the rights to Peter and Wendy, Barrie asked the hospital to stage it in a ward for the sick children. The production was considered a wonderful affair by all involved and has become a tradition that still continues today.
There are many Peter Pan tributes within the children’s wing including a cafe and stained windows, some of which we will return to at another time, but today a bronze statue of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell outside the hospital entrance is what were interested in.
A statue of Peter Pan stands at the entrance to the hospital, blowing fairy dust at all visitors, young and old. It was sculpted by Diarmund O’Connor and was unveiled by Lord Callaghan on July 14, 2000. Tinkerbell, who is actually a separate statue, was added to Peter’s uplifted arm in 2005. Tinkerbell is officially London’s smallest statue.
The combined statue bears this inscription:
In grateful memory of Sir James Barrie (1860 – 1937) for his gift to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and in warm appreciation of the exceptional support of Audrey and James Callaghan.
The Tinker Bell statue once it was carefully attached to the Peter Pan was unveiled by the Countess of Wessex on September 29th, 2005. Although a later addition, it was part of the original conception back in 1999 when Peter was commissioned, but dropped at the time as being too ambitious. It is a credit to Peter’s popularity that the issue was redressed.
Why such a simple addition was considered too ambitious is a mystery. She is a rather simple sculpture after all. Here’s Tinkerbell by herself.
I don’t usually give you two versions of a statue but it’s rare that we get to see the clay version of it. So here is that version in the sculptor’s studio.
And here’s the final bronze state as it is in the garden outside the Hospital.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 22, 1917 — Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. (He did not do the voice you heard on film, that was done by Marvin Miller who in-studio replaced what was done originally.) Other than showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.)
- Born December 22, 1944 — Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So, you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors. Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: ‘We want to test this prototype for maneuverability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.’ Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: ‘When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.’” (Died 2009.)
- Born December 22, 1951 — Tony Isabella, 71. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning, who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics who’s played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series.
- Born December 22, 1951 — Charles de Lint, 71. I’ve personally known him for some twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The Heart, Someplace To Be Flying, Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
- Born December 22, 1962 — Ralph Fiennes, 60. Perhaps best-known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films that just wrapped up and started with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!
- Born December 22, 1965 — David S. Goyer, 57. His screenwriting credits include the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark City, Man of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well there’s there’s a Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh, he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForward, Constantine, Da Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, Krypton, Blade: The Series, Threshold, FreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers.
- Born December 22, 1978 — George Mann, 44. Author of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, a steampunk series set in a alternative Victorian England that I’ve read and enthusiastically recommend. He’s also got two Holmesian novels on Titan Books that I need to request for reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box. And yes I see that he’s written a lot more fiction than I’ve read by him so do tell me what else is worth reading by him.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro has the surly version of a childrens’ book hero.
(11) COPYRIGHT OFFICE REVOKES DECISION. “AI-Created Comic Has Been Deemed Ineligible for Copyright Protection” reports CBR.com.
The United States Copyright Office (USCO) reversed an earlier decision to grant a copyright to a comic book that was created using “A.I. art,” and announced that the copyright protection on the comic book will be revoked, stating that copyrighted works must be created by humans to gain official copyright protection.
In September, Kris Kashtanova announced that they had received a U.S. copyright on his comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, a comic book inspired by their late grandmother that she created with the text-to-image engine Midjourney. Kashtanova referred to herself as a “prompt engineer” and explained at the time that she went to get the copyright so that she could “make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI.”…
(12) TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS OF 2022. “Beaton’s ‘Ducks’ Tops PW’s 2022 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” proclaims Publishers Weekly.
Kate Beaton’s widely acclaimed debut graphic memoir Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn & Quarterly) has topped PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll for best work of the year by a significant margin, receiving nine votes from PW’s panel of 15 critics. This is Beaton’s second time winning the poll; she won in 2011 for Hark A Vagrant.
Beaton’s adroitly told personal narrative is a bracing exposé of the sexism and misogyny women face working in the nearly all-male oil fields, as well as a plaintive and incisive critique of the industry’s destructive impact on the environment. Nevertheless, Beaton’s personal story is balanced with humor and rich with canny, wry vignettes of her crusty work colleagues, rendered along with breathtaking depictions of the desolate landscape of the oil fields. One of very few women working in the male-dominated work force, Beaton tracks the two years she spent working various jobs (such as handing out wrenches at a tool crib) in Northern Canada’s remote oil fields, while depicting the lives of her co-workers—all of them separated from family and home lives….
…Indie publishers secured top positions overall in this year’s poll, with second place a tie between two titles that received four votes each: Keeping Two by Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics) and the graphic memoir The Third Person by Emma Grove (Drawn & Quarterly).
(13) THE BLUES. “Don’t give up, never surrender,” is not everyone’s motto. “Edie Falco Assumed Avatar 2 Flopped After Filming Part 4 Years Ago” is what People heard.
The 59-year-old actress shot her scenes four years ago and just assumed the movie had been released and potentially flopped since she hadn’t heard anything, she admitted while visiting The View on Friday.
“The second Avatar, the one that’s coming out, I think I shot four years ago,” she shared at The View roundtable. “And then I’ve been busy, and doing stuff, and somebody mentioned Avatar, and I thought, ‘Oh, I guess it came out and didn’t do very well,’ cause I didn’t hear anything.”
The actress continued: “And then somebody recently said, ‘Avatar is coming out.’ “
“Oh, it hasn’t come out yet?” she remembered asking, getting laughs from the audience. “I haven’t seen the new one, so I’m excited.”
Talking more about the film, in which she plays one of the few human characters, the Nurse Jackie actress admitted she was a little disappointed when she found out who she’d be playing.
“Well, I wanted to be blue,” she said, laughing. “I was excited – I was going to be blue and very tall… I didn’t get either of those things.”
(14) BEST PICTURES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature has open access loads of James Webb pics: “JWST’s best images: spectacular stars and spiralling galaxies” (example attached of Neptune).
Also open access best science pics of the year: “The best science images of 2022”. Example attached of an insect turned into a zombie by fungus. And the Tonga volcanic explosion from space
(15) REST IN DUST. “NASA’s InSight Mission Dies After 4 Years of Listening for Marsquakes” – the New York Times has the “obituary”.
…For months, mission managers have been expecting this as dust accumulated on the lander’s solar panels, blocking the sunlight the stationary spacecraft needs to generate power.
InSight, which arrived on the surface of Mars more than four years ago to measure the red planet’s seismological shaking, was last in touch on Dec. 15. But nothing was heard during the last two communication attempts, and NASA announced on Wednesday that it was unlikely for it ever to hear from InSight again.
“I feel sad, but I also feel pretty good,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview. “We’ve been expecting this to come to an end for some time.”
He added, “I think that it’s been a great run.”
InSight — the name is a compression of the mission’s full name, Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — was a diversion from NASA’s better known rover missions, focusing on the mysteries of Mars’s deep interior instead of searching for signs of water and possible extinct life on the red planet….
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, SG Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]