Once Upon a Time in the North

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One of my delights discovered this year was the series of audiobooks narrated by Philip Pullman. One of the short stories tells how out balloonist Lee needs Iorek’s help to sort out some political shenanigans in the Arctic town of Novy Odense. Pullman has a wonderful reading voice, and these full cast recordings bring the stories to life.

The full dark materials trilogy is available, read by Pullman himself. Highly recommended.


Hawking’s Ph.D. Crashes Cambridge Site

Interest in “Properties of Expanding Universes” is at an all-time high: Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis of that name crashed Cambridge University’s open-access repository on the first day the document was posted online.

The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download from its website, […]
By late Monday local time, the well-known theoretical physicist’s thesis had been viewed more than 60,000 times, says Stuart Roberts, deputy head of research communications at Cambridge. He added, “Other popular theses might have 100 views per month.”

— item from  file770.com


Crit Mass: Nov 1st

Just to round off the year for Critical Mass, we invite you to jot down some notes on your best new discovery for the year, so that you can spend five minutes telling us about it. What genre book, film, TV show, comic or play took your fancy this year? Come along and tell us about it!

As it’s our last meeting for the year, we’re inviting you to join us for dinner after the meeting: around 8:15 at East of Norman, a short walk from the meeting at Kappy’s.
As usual, a 7pm start Wednesday night!

Thor:Ragnarok full of Aussie/Kiwi humour

Directed by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, [Ragnarok is] the daftest movie from the comic book studio to date, shot through with the anarchically quirky humour in Waititi’s films like What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy.

Filmed on the Gold Coast at Hemsworth’s request and employing plenty of locals, including indigenous people, there are a surprising number of Aussie (and Kiwi) accents and in-jokes.

All of the spaceships featured in the film are named after Holden models, including the Statesman, the Kingswood, the Torana and the Commodore.

— more details in The New Daily: http://thenewdaily.com.au/entertainment/movies/2017/10/24/thor-ragnarok/

Oct 11th Crit Mass: Margaret Cavendish’s “Description of a New World…”

Adam’s going to talk about Margaret Cavendish, utopian feminist — 7pm at Kappy’s, 22 Compton St, Adelaide. Don’t miss it! Note this is on the second Wednesday of October.


First published in 1666, written by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World is the first fictional portrayal of women and the new science. Blazing World is the first science-fiction novel known to have been written and published by a woman, and represents a pioneering female scientific utopia.

While you can download the original edition from project Gutenberg, the 2016 edition by Sara Mendelson includes additional critical material and is considered the preferred edition (available online from broadview press).


“Sara Mendelson’s edition of Blazing World is a major contribution to the ever-increasing scholarship on the works of this remarkable woman. Cavendish’s utopian romance, which also functions as a critique of the new experimental science, is becoming one of the canonical texts of the Scientific Revolution.”
— Lisa Sarasohn, Oregon State University

Provenance: the new Ann Leckie

Provenance-Leckie[…] The Imperial Radch trilogy [by Ann Leckie] impressed a lot of people, as witnessed by the array of awards and award nominations it took home. But after such a successful debut—after such a lauded debut trilogy—there is always going to be a question when the author moves on to something new. Can the next book live up to the quality of what has gone before while breaking new ground? Or will they spend their career telling different versions of the same story?

The answer, in Leckie’s case, is Provenance, which is every bit as good as her previous work and very different in theme, tone, and approach. Provenance takes place in the same universe as the Ancillary books, but outside the Radchaai sphere of influence. Hwae is a small planet-nation of limited importance to anyone except its inhabitants and near neighbours. Unlike the Radchaai, the people of Hwae have three genders (and consequently three sets of pronouns, she, he, and e) which young people choose between as one of the signs they have become adult. Hwaeans ascribe immense social and cultural importance to relics, which play a significant (and legitimating) role in their culture and politics. […]

—  “Exploring a New Corner of the Universe: Provenance by Ann Leckie” by Liz Bourke on tor.com

A Good Omen

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David Tennant and Michael Sheen Filming Good Omens In St James’s Park

Filming began this week on the six-part TV adaptation of Good Omens, the comic apocalyptic novel by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett. The series has been written by Neil Gaiman and stars David Tennant as Crowley, ‘Hell’s most approachable demon’, and Michael Sheen as his counterpart, the fussy angel and rare book dealer Aziraphale.

Good Omens will be filming for the next six months in London, Oxfordshire and locations in South Africa. Equal parts humour and horror, fantasy and drama, it will launch in the UK in 2019 on Amazon Prime Video before airing on BBC Two. It has also been confirmed it will air in over 200 countries and territories via Amazon.
Commenting on the start of production, Neil Gaiman says: “People have fallen in love with an angel and a demon in a book by Terry Pratchett and me, and they have been excited and nervous to see how they would appear on screen – and I was probably the most nervous and excited of all. This is a first look. Michael Sheen is the best and finest of bookseller angels, David Tennant the coolest and most delightful of demons. Together they are one hell of a double act (or do I mean one made in Heaven?)”


— more info at http://tennantnews.blogspot.sg/2017/09/photos-david-tennant-and-michael-sheen_19.html

P K Dick series: Electric Dreams

The Guardian reports that Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston is to star in a new 10-part science fiction series called Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K Dick, from Battlestar Galactica’s Ronald D Moore.

Each episode will be adapted and made contemporary by a team of British and American writers, “both illustrating Philip K Dick’s prophetic vision and celebrating the enduring appeal of his work”.

more info from the Guardian

Lem predicts E-books & tablets in 1961

Stanisław Lem was probably the first sci-fi writer to accurately predict the end of paper books and the arrival of electronic formats and e-book readers. He did so in his 1961 novel A Return from the Stars, some 40 years ahead of any first attempts with e-paper.

I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century. And how I have looked forward to them, after the micro films that made up the library of the Prometheus! No such luck. No longer was it possible to browse among shelves, to weigh volumes in hand, to feel their heft, the promise of ponderous reading. The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They could be read with the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it.

More about things predicted by Lem in the article from culture.pl http://culture.pl/en/article/13-things-lem-predicted-about-the-future-we-live-in