Cosplay at a 1966 Science Fiction Convention

What's not to love about this gallery of images from the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, OH? The cameras may have acquired color and the cosplay may have become a bit more sophisticated, but the spirit of the players seems to have remained unchanged.

These images were taken by the late photographer, and sci-fi mega-fan, Jay Kay Klein. You can see the massive collection of Klein's photos and papers of science fiction fandom on the Calisphere website.

Image: Composite of images from the Jay Kay Klein collection, via Cosplay Central Read the rest

Pre-order the sequel to Ernest Cline's Ready Player One

The much-awaited sequel to Ernest Cline's Ready Player One (2012), called Ready Player Two, is available for pre-order. It'll be released on November 24. According to Wikipedia, Cline says the sequel will have a "different story-line involving all of the characters, while still exploring pop culture references like the first book." Read the rest

The Accidental Sci-Fi Writer

[This is a guest post from Tara Altebrando, who has a new sci-fi thriller out, called Take Me With You. -- Mark]

The Accidental Sci-Fi Writer By Tara Altebrando

It’s always nerve-wracking when the first review of your newest novel appears in your inbox. It’s particularly terrifying when that review is from a publication whose anonymous reviewers are not known for their tendency toward high praise. So when I clicked through an email from my editor and saw that this particular anonymous reviewer liked my YA thriller Take Me With You—“Hurray!” said my editor—I was pleasantly surprised. And then just plain surprised…because they tagged the book as “Science Fiction.”

What? Who me?

I actually said to my husband, “How on earth did I become a science fiction writer?”

But upon reflection, it’s not as crazy as I first thought. Yes, I spent a lot of my YA career writing solidly contemporary realistic YA. Way back in 2005, my first YA, The Pursuit of Happiness, was a textbook, semi-autobiographical coming of age story. As recently as 2013, Sara Zarr and I coauthored Roomies, which is firmly grounded in the reality of two-college bound teens. Even my 2015 book The Leaving could technically be thought of as contemporary realistic in that it could maybe happen…but not really…so maybe that’s when I started to delude myself.

The Leaving tells the story of six children who disappear when they’re five years old then return (well, five of them do) when they’re sixteen with no memory of where they’ve been. Read the rest

New edition of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother/Homeland with intro by Edward Snowden

I loved Cory Doctorow's 2008 novel, Little Brother, and its 2013, sequel Homeland. Today, Read the rest

"Southland Tales" is the perfect hot mess of a movie for the 4th of July in the hellscape of 2020

Southland Tales has long occupied a special place in my heart. The only thing I knew about it was that it was written and directed by Richard Kelly, the guy who made Donnie Darko, and starred my cousin's former high school baseball teammate, the Rock, in a dramatic role. So I ordered it on Netflix DVD in the summer of 2007, and popped it in while I did some laundry, only half paying attention.

Reader, Southland Tales is not a movie to half-pay attention to. Hell, even your full attention won't do it justice.

I was so confused by the end of that first viewing that I went and read the Wikipedia plot summary, which made it sound like the most ambitiously epic end-of-days political sci-fi movie based on the Book of Revelations. So I immediately re-watched it … and still only barely understood what was being implied as a "plot" that fit kind of loosely within the framework of that Wikipedia plot summary. Then my roommates came home, and I forced them to watch it with me — my third viewing of the day — and frankly, I still don't think they've forgiven me.

I have remained fascinated by this glorious trainwreck of a movie ever since that first accidental triple-viewing, even seeking out bootlegs of the infamous Cannes cut (which is neither better, nor worse, but rather, a different disaster of beautiful ambition). I'm not alone in this captivation; the movie has developed a cult following of people who love it both for and in spite of itself. Read the rest

Philip K. Dick: "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others"

In September 1977 at the 4eme Festival de la Science Fiction in Metz, France, surrealist author Philip K. Dick delivered an astounding address with the title, "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others." He wasn't joking. The speech spanned the themes that define Dick's work and also his life: visionary experiences, déjà vu, the simulation hypothesis, and the nature of reality. Far fucking out. Here are a few choice bits:

The subject of this speech is a topic which has been discovered recently, and which may not exist all. I may be talking about something that does not exist. Therefore I’m free to say everything and nothing. I in my stories and novels sometimes write about counterfeit worlds. Semi-real worlds as well as deranged private worlds, inhabited often by just one person…. At no time did I have a theoretical or conscious explanation for my preoccupation with these pluriform pseudo-worlds, but now I think I understand. What I was sensing was the manifold of partially actualized realities lying tangent to what evidently is the most actualized one—the one that the majority of us, by consensus gentium, agree on.

We are living in a computer-programmed reality, and the only clue we have to it is when some variable is changed, and some alteration in our reality occurs. We would have the overwhelming impression that we were re-living the present - déjà vu - perhaps in precisely the same way: hearing the same words, saying the same words.

Read the rest

Troop of monkeys attack lab assistant, steal COVID-19 samples

The badly written dystopian fiction that is our global pandemic continues. Read the rest

Original band does wonderful isolation version of the Cowboy Bebop theme song

The SEATBELTS, the original band that recorded the theme song to the amazing Japanese anime TV series, Cowboy Bebop, have recreated the song in social isolation. "Tank," the jazzy theme song, was recorded at home by each of the ten individual players. The song has always been memorable and this performance nails the its intensity and excitement.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Look at this 'Ludo' beastie made by a 'Labyrinth' fan

So real, I can smell it! Read the rest

Exquisite crochet Dalek

IMGURian @zikikki1 does wonderful “nerdy crochet,” and this Doctor Who 'dalek' is a fantastic example of their work. Read the rest

Kim Stanley Robinson on how the coronavirus is rewiring our imaginations

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars, New York 2140, Aurora) has a fascinating piece in The New Yorker on how the pandemic is opening our thinking up to new possibilities, both good and bad, as we suddenly find ourselves in a world we only used to know in dystopian fiction.

Imagine a heat wave hot enough to kill anyone not in an air-conditioned space, then imagine power failures happening during such a heat wave. (The novel I’ve just finished begins with this scenario, so it scares me most of all.) Imagine pandemics deadlier than the coronavirus. These events, and others like them, are easier to imagine now than they were back in January, when they were the stuff of dystopian science fiction. But science fiction is the realism of our time. The sense that we are all now stuck in a science-fiction novel that we’re writing together—that’s another sign of the emerging structure of feeling.

Science-fiction writers don’t know anything more about the future than anyone else. Human history is too unpredictable; from this moment, we could descend into a mass-extinction event or rise into an age of general prosperity. Still, if you read science fiction, you may be a little less surprised by whatever does happen. Often, science fiction traces the ramifications of a single postulated change; readers co-create, judging the writers’ plausibility and ingenuity, interrogating their theories of history. Doing this repeatedly is a kind of training. It can help you feel more oriented in the history we’re making now.

Read the rest

Science fiction author Marc Laidlaw is reading his work on YouTube

On his blog, Cory Doctorow alerted me to the news that science fiction author Marc Laidlaw has started a YouTube channel and is re-reading his short fiction. He does an excellent job creating voices for the characters in his stories. Marc has also released his novels as Kindle editions, and if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership (try a month for free) you can read them as part of your membership. Read the rest

Sci-fi author David Brin's recommended reading list

Science fiction author and futurist, David Brin, has put together an excellent list of sci-fi books to read. He posted this list years ago, but has re-surfaced it to remind people that now is a great time to READ.

He has the books divided up into interesting categories, like Harbingers of Hope, Sci-Fi for Kids, the Hard Stuff, Fantasy - with Brains, etc. Hundreds of great recommendations here.

Image: Glogger CC BY-SA 3.0 Read the rest

Yaphet Kotto turned down the role of Jean-Luc Picard

Viral again this week is the casting wishlist for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which reveals that Denise Crosby was originally to be cast as Counselor Troi, not Lt. Tasha Yar, and Predator's Kevin Peter Hall was considered for both Lt. Cmdr. Data and Lt. Geordi LaForge.

Best of all, Bond and Alien legend Yaphet Kotto was close to being cast as captain Jean-Luc Picard, a part that ultimately went to Patrick Stewart. I've shooped how the big fella might have looked in the role: take me to that timeline!

From an interview:

You also turned down the role of Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation? I think I made some wrong decisions in my life, man. I should have done that but I walked away. When you’re making movies, you’d tend to say no to TV. It’s like when you’re in college and someone asks you to the high school dance. You say no.

Read the rest

Syfy makes all four seasons of Battlestar Galactica free to stream online

The Syfy Network is making all fours seasons of Battlestar Galactica available for streaming online. No registration is required.

The network has also made the two BG films, Battlestar Galactica: Razor and Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, available for streaming. But wait! There's more! The Battlestar Galactica mini-series (which I've never seen) is also now available for free streaming.

This is welcome news for all of us who are fans of the critically-acclaimed 2004 reboot of the original 1979 Glen A. Larson series.

Image: Publicity photo Read the rest

Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse

I greatly enjoyed Max Barry's 2013 novel Lexicon (Cory loved it, too -- here's his review). Barry has a new novel that came out today from Putnam, called Providence, which I started reading. It's a space thriller about a four person crew on an AI controlled spaceship programmed to seek and destroy "salamanders" - creatures that kill by spitting mini-black holes. It's terrific so far (I'm 70% finished).

I'm happy that Max wrote this op-ed for Boing Boing, titled "How Science Fiction Prepares Us For the Apocalypse." -- Mark

My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.

I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes.

Popular fiction regularly mirrors the times in which it’s published. Two hundred years ago, society readers were thrilled by dangerous flirtations in Jane Austen novels; a century ago, people living in newly urbanized cities devoured mysteries and detective stories; and the 1930s gave rise to the Golden Age of science fiction, with stories that asked where technology might take us. Read the rest

400 pages of Judge Dredd available for free

Rebellion has released the critically- and fan-acclaimed Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol.5 free to download and view on the 2000 AD app.

This 400-page collection includes classic Judge Dredd stories such as The Mega-Rackets, Judge Death Lives!, Diary of a Mad Citizen, The Hotdog Run, and the all-time great mega-epic Block Mania and The Apocalypse War!

Written by John Wagner (A History of Violence) and Alan Grant (Batman), it features artwork by some of the titans of comics, including Brian Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke), Carlos Ezquerra (Preacher), Colin Wilson (Blueberry), Ian Gibson (Halo Jones), Mick McMahon (The Last American), Ron Smith (Transformers), and Steve Dillon (Preacher)!

[H/t Rodney Orpheus] Read the rest

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