(1) BEGIN AT THE FRONT. Alex Shvartsman is including File 770 in today’s cover reveal of The Middling Affliction, his humorous urban fantasy novel forthcoming form Caezik SF&F on April 12, 2022. Art is by Tulio Brito.
What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.
Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.
(2) WHEN YOUR STORY’S FINISHED, WHAT NEXT? [Item by Melanie Stormm.] John Wiswell recently wrote a thread on how a Nebula winner submits short fiction. Thought it might be helpful to someone. Thread starts here. An excerpt from his advice:
(3) LOOKING AT THE SUBJECT FROM ALL SIDES. Brenton Dickieson has launched his “Blogging the Hugos 2021” novel review series at A Pilgrim in Narnia. His introductory post tells why he’s writing it, and gives the schedule.
…The 2021 Hugo Awards ceremonies will be on Dec 18th at DisCon III in Washington, DC. Ahead of the event, Signum University is hosting a panel discussion of the nominees. My job will be to represent Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, not so much in a battle of books but a winsome argument about great storytelling. Last year, I was delighted to represent Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, a novel that did not win but was also nominated for the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Locus Award in the category of Best First Novel. It’s a beautiful, evocative book, and I very much enjoyed last year’s Signum Roundtable.
Thus, in looking forward to December’s conversation, I am blogging through the Hugo novels, offering a review or thoughtful essay each week leading up to the convention. I hope you can join in as we read and talk about the leading speculative fiction of the past year! This week, we’ll look at Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut Universe, followed by Martha Wells’ Network Effect next week….
Dickieson’s first review is up: “Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon and the Lady Astronaut Universe (Blogging the Hugos 2021)”.
…Not lost in world-building details, the structures of catastrophe and the struggles for liberation in the Lady Astronaut Universe are the context for stories of personal growth, trial, and triumph. The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky (2018) are from Elma York’s viewpoint, a friendly and self-conscious intellectual working as an IAC (human) computer with an unusually adept and intuitive mathematical sense. Elma finds herself in a battle to be heard as the mathematician who predicted the first global winter and subsequent global warming, as well as a skilled pilot vying to be the first woman in the space program. Her real battle, however, is with a general anxiety disorder that is triggered by stress and tragedy and an intense fear of the media or interpersonal conflict. With a winsome sense of relational connection and a rugged commitment to the possible, Elma finds a way to become “the first Lady Astronaut” (insert an earnest and upbeat 1950s TV commentator voice here).
In The Relentless Moon (2020)—the first nominee in my Blogging the Hugos 2021 series—Elma York is on her way to Mars…
(4) GORILLA MARKETING. [Item by John L. Coker III.] From a 1997 interview, here’s Julie’s take on the popularity of gorillas in DC comic books in the early-1950s, a topic mentioned in the November 9 Scroll (item #14).
Julius Schwartz: One day someone came into the office and said, “What has happened? Strange Adventures went sky-high.” I said, “Well, you know how it works. It must have been the cover,” because covers sold the magazines in those days. You went into a mom and pop store, where you saw hundreds of comics. You looked them over and picked out something that was interesting. I said, “Let’s look at the cover.” And on the cover, roughly, was this. It took place in a zoo, and there’s a cage, and inside the cage is a gorilla. And outside is an audience looking up at him, including a pretty girl whose name was Helen, as I vaguely recall. The gorilla had a little blackboard in his hand, and with a piece of chalk had written the following message: “Dear Helen, Please Help me. I’m the victim of a horrible scientific experiment.” You laugh, but it made you want to find out what it’s all about, so obviously you bought the magazine.
One way to find out is to try it again, so we tried another gorilla story, the secret being that the gorilla was not a gorilla, so to speak, but acting and reacting like a human. And it worked again.
We knew we had something, so I did a series of stories with gorillas on them, until finally all the other editors wanted to do one. Wonder Woman had one, Batman, they all had gorilla covers, until the editorial director said, “That does it. From now on, only one gorilla cover a month.” And then when that caught fire, they said, “We’re doing so well on this Strange Adventures, let’s put out another science fiction magazine.” I said, “Impossible. There are so many science fiction magazines being published that there are no titles left. I can’t even think of another title.” I’m sorry I never thought of Strange Gorilla Stories.
[Interview with John L. Coker III, 1997.]
(5) SPEAKING OF GORILLA ART. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] “King Kong” … Willis H. O’Brien … Ray Harryhausen: Exploring The Cultural Influence And Legacy Of A “Monstrous” Motion Picture Classic!
I had an opportunity quite recently to sit down once more with Host, Actor, Comedian, and Writer Ron MacCloskey for his Emmy Award Winning Public Television Series, “Classic Movies with Ron MacCloskey.”
Ron is the writer and producer of the new feature length documentary motion picture, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster,” now playing in theaters all across the globe.
For this Halloween themed episode of the popular program, however, we explored the cultural significance, history, and legacy of the most famous “Monster” of them all … King Kong … and his nearly ninety year influence on gorilla films of all shapes and sizes, as well as his career defining impact on the lives and reign of Stop Motion Animation legends, Willis H. O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen.
Our spirited conversation both precedes and follows the film segment. Simply click on the projector, or the blue link, in order to screen the program. ” Classic Movies: “The Gorilla”
(6) ON THE WEB. The Marvel’s Avengers – Spider-Man game character reveal trailer dropped today.
Watch the Marvel’s Avengers Spider-Man reveal trailer. Spider-Man swings into Marvel’s Avengers on November 30th, 2021. Get a first look at the Marvels Avengers PlayStation exclusive character joining the team in this cinematic Marvels Avengers Spider Man trailer!
(7) SELKIES SPOTLIGHTED. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] CrimeReads had an interesting piece listing a number of novels about selkies. I was kind of surprised that I only recognized one of the books listed. “The Story of the Selkie: Eight Novels Based in Powerful Folklore” by Melanie Golding.
… I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales….
(8) WFC GALLERY. Ellen Datlow has posted her World Fantasy Con photos on Flickr: WFC 2021 Montreal, Canada.
(9) AIRING OUT THE PROBLEM. Adam Rogers in WIRED has an interview with Neal Stephenson about Termination Shock and how didactic writers should be when composing near-future climate sf. “Neal Stephenson on Building and Fixing Worlds”.
… Stephenson stressed that achieving net-zero carbon emissions isn’t enough and that there’s no more important idea than developing technologies that can quickly suck carbon out of the atmosphere. “We need carbon capture on an enormous scale,” he said. “We have to do that. That’s the big solution that we really need to implement.”
“It truly is a solution,” he continued. “It would get rid of the underlying problem and kind of undo the mistake that we made by putting all that CO2 into the atmosphere in the first place.”…
(10) SOMETHING YOU CAN RELATE TO. James Davis Nicoll leads readers to stories that test whether blood is thicker than…money: “Five SFF Stories Where Interplanetary Trading Is a Family Affair” at Tor.com.
Nothing spells plot like an independent trader plying the spacetime lanes in search of profit, in a world very much skewed against the little guy. Nothing, that is, unless one adds family! Now in addition to scrabbling after profit, one has extra motivation: failure isn’t merely an individual catastrophe. Bad judgement, terrible luck, or the machinations of a vast inhuman corporation could drag one’s whole family down into poverty…or worse….
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1951 — Seventy years ago, Flight to Mars as produced by Monogram Pictures premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman and Cameron Mitchell. The screenplay was by Arthur Strawn and it would be his only SF work. Critics who really didn’t like it compared it to the previously released Destination Moon and Rocketship XM with the comparison not being at all great as one critic noted: “Destination Moon was scientifically accurate, and Rocketship XM had a gripping dramatic script. This copycat production has neither.” This movie reused the ship interior from the Rocketship XM production, and the suits from the Destination Moon shoot. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twenty-two percent rating.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 11, 1916 — Donald Franson. Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964. With Howard DeVore wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970. When I stumble across an author and their works like this, I’m reminded how deep the genre is. (Died 2002.)
- Born November 11, 1917 — Mack Reynolds. I assume you know he was the first writer to write an original novel based off the Trek series? Mission to Horatius came in 1968. I’m fond of his very first novel, The Case of The Little Green Men. He was a Hugo finalist at Chicon III (1962) for his “Status Quo” short story. Worked as an organizer for the Socialist Labor Party, then later was the most prolific short fiction writer in Campbell’s Analog – go figure. (Died 1983.)
- Born November 11, 1922 — Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan which was nominated for a Hugo at Pittcon was his first SF novel, followed by Cat’s Cradle — which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. It was nominated for a Hugo at Pacificon II. Next up was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, which is one weird book and an even stranger film. The book was nominated for Hugo Award at Heicon (1970) but lost to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. However, the movie Slaughterhouse Five won a Hugo at Torcon II (1973 — over a field that also included Between Time and Timbuktu, a TV adaptation of other Vonngeut material.) While I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
- Born November 11, 1925 — Jonathan Winters. Yes, he did do quite a few genre performances including an early one as James Howard “Fats” Brown in “A Game of Pool”, a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. He next shows up as Albert Paradine II in More Wild, Wild West. He had a recurring role in Mork & Mindy as a character named Mearth. You’ll find him in The Shadow film, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones, both of The Smurfs films and quite a bit more. He of course was a guest on The Muppets Show. Who wasn’t? (Died 2013.)
- Born November 11, 1935 — Larry Anthony. Actor who made two appearances on the original Trek in “The Man Trap” (uncredited) and “Dagger of the Mind”. He also appeared on The Wild Wild West, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and had five appearences on Batman playing two different characters. He made two appearances on Get Smart! And his final genre role was on Mission Impossible. (Died 2005.)
- Born November 11, 1947 — Victoria Schochet, 74. Wife of Eric Van Lustbader. She co-edited with John Silbersack and Mellisa Singer the most excellent The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy that came out in the Eighties. SFE says she has worked editorially at Analog though not what she did there.
- Born November 11, 1960 — Stanley Tucci, 61. Actor, Director, and Producer with a lengthy resume of character roles in genre films including The Core (Yay! The Core!), Prelude to a Kiss, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Muppets Most Wanted, Beauty and the Beast, The Lovely Bones, Captain America: The First Avenger, Jack the Giant Slayer, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and The Hunger Games films, as well as numerous voice roles including Leonardo da Vinci in Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
- Born November 11, 1962 — Demi Moore, 59. Ghost, of course, for getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature. She has a recurring role as Linda in the Brave New World series that aired on Peacock for just one series before being cancelled.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro earns its name with a superhero joke that could have been inspired by the quality of copyediting I do here…
(14) WHO’S WHO? Radio Times keeps the pot roiling with more ideas about Jodie Whittaker’s replacement: “Lydia West says Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who will have a modern twist”.
…The rising star has had roles in Russell T Davies’ Years and Years and It’s a Sin, and with Davies set to take over from Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall next year, many have wondered whether he might bring West – or her It’s a Sin co-star Olly Alexander – along for the ride.
West herself addressed the rumours during an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com.
“I mean, the fact I’ve been named as one of the favourites is quite special,” she said. “So I mean, it would be an honour to be the Doctor. I’m glad people think I could do it. So yeah.”
(15) KEEP GUESSING. Radio Times is also fueling speculation about the course of Season 13 now in progress. Could it be mining a never-produced script? “Doctor Who: Flux might be adapting lost story Lungbarrow”.
It’s official – no Doctor Who theory is too outlandish any more. After series 12’s finale essentially canonised the Morbius Doctors and added Jo Martin’s Time Lord to the roster of regenerations, we’d say any and all bets are off for deep-cut fan ideas about the series as it continues.
Which is why we’re not dismissing out of hand the latest theory about Doctor Who: Flux, and specifically the idea that the series might be drawing from a story that never actually made it to TV – Lungbarrow, written by Marc Platt for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor but left on the shelf until Platt adapted it into a book some years later.
… That story would have delved into the ancestry and backstory of the Doctor, centred around his/her ancestral home of Lungbarrow – and now some fans think they might have seen that abandoned family seat in new series 13 episode War of the Sontarans, specifically within a black-and-white vision scene where Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor gazed up at a ruined, floating house before the main action of the story kicked off….
(16) DOGGING IT. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast revisits “Puppy Play: The Saga of the Sad Puppies”.
In this episode, we re-examine the saga of the notorious Sad Puppies. What happened? What ripple effects did it have on the sci-fi/fantasy community? Did we learn anything from this? Should we learn anything from this? And is there more to the story than the official narrative?
Kurt Schiller joins us to talk about angry mobs, squeecore writing, and the musical stylings of forgotten 90s techno group Psykosonik.
(17) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 44 of Octothorpe is up. What are John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty saying this time? Listen here.
We discuss burning melons and the latest news from Reclamation 2022 before discussing what an Eastercon might look like if it were held at a campsite. To round it off, we talk a lot about Dune. With sound effects.
(18) ASIMOV NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover story of this week’s Nature concerns soft robots. Soft robots have garnered interest thanks to their ability to carry out complex tasks such as crawling and swimming. But making soft actuators remains difficult. This week’s Nature sees researchers’ new bubble-based method based on elastic polymers (plastics/rubbers) .
Inspired by living organisms, soft robots are developed from intrinsically compliant materials, enabling continuous motions that mimic animal and vegetal movement. In soft robots, the canonical hinges and bolts are replaced by elastomers assembled into actuators programmed to change shape following the application of stimuli, for example pneumatic inflation…
Research paper: “Bubble casting soft robotics”.
(19) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. And one for your home team… “US astronomy’s 10-year plan is super-ambitious” – “Its ‘decadal survey’ pitches big new space observatories, funding for large telescopes and a reckoning over social issues plaguing the field.”
A long-anticipated road map for the next ten years of US astronomy is here — and it’s nothing if not ambitious.
It recommends that NASA coordinate, build and launch three flagship space observatories capable of detecting light over a broad range of wavelengths. It suggests that the US National Science Foundation (NSF) fund two enormous ground-based telescopes in Chile and possibly Hawaii, to try to catch up with an advanced European telescope that’s under construction. And for the first time, it issues recommendations for how federal agencies should fight systemic racism, sexism and other structural issues that drive people out of astronomy, weakening the quality of the science….
(20) THEY CAN FLING IT FASTER THAN YOU CAN CATCH IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An interesting idea, and of course, nothing could possibly go wrong – “Company Wants to Launch Satellites With Huge Centrifugal Slingshot” (Gizmodo) — like, say, supercriminal seizes control of the aim controls, or there’s a sinkhole, and suddenly it’s aimed at Cleveland or whatever…
…Alternatives to launching rockets haven’t exactly been runaway successes, however. In the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence formed a joint partnership called Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project) to essentially develop giant Earth-based guns that could blast objects into space. HARP successfully fired a projectile 180 KM into the atmosphere using a 16-inch cannon built at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’ Yuma Proving Ground, but by the late ‘60s both governments had withdrawn funding for the research project, and it was officially shut down before it came to fruition.
SpinLaunch is taking a somewhat similar approach to Project HARP, but the kinetic space launch system it’s been developing since 2015 does away with explosive materials altogether. In its place is an electric-powered centrifuge that spins objects inside a vacuum chamber at speeds of up to 5,000 MPH before they’re released through a launch tube that is roughly as tall as the Statue of Liberty….
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Back4Blood,” Fandom Games says this slaughter-fest “still fuflills the need to kill a million zombies” and “feels like riding a bicycle after a mild concussion.”
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John L. Coker III, Melanie Stormm, John Coxon, R.S. Benedict, Alex Shvartsman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]