Order Keep Watching The Skies

Keep Watching the Skies cover

Keep Watching the Skies cover

Bill Warren’s Keep Watching The Skies: The 21st Century Edition, a detailed study of hundreds of science fiction movies released from 1950 through 1962, will ship from McFarland immediately — so order now.

Bill devoted five years to this update (Keep Watching the Skies first appeared in two volumes about 20 years ago), drawing on remarks by the filmmakers that have emerged in the quarter century since the original edition. He gives a detailed plot synopsis of each film, lists cast and credits, and summarizes  its critical reception. The best part is his discussion of the movies, studded with anecdotes about the people who made them.  Now it’s in one volume that Bill says seems “as thick as a Manhattan phone book.”  

Another attraction is a foreword by Howard Waldrop.

And Kerry Gammill has done a beautiful cover – exactly what Bill was looking for, only better.  Bill says:

Isn’t it great?  Kerry Gammill is a comic book artist, living in Texas.  He lived out here for a while when he worked for a makeup effects company, and we often had lunch.  Originally, McFarland was going to use, yet again, a shot from The Day the Earth Stood Still for the cover (Klaatu and the robot on the front porch of the flying saucer–which was already the cover for the paperback of the original KWTS).  I told Kerry I wanted the cover to resemble a poster from those movies–most of which were done by one guy, Reynold Brown–but he demurred at first, saying that he didn’t do oil paintings like Brown did.  I said that I wanted a comic book look because comic books also underwent a big change in the 1950s (and were very important to me).  I said maybe show the Robot Monster (the gorilla in a diving helmet) wrestling with the Man from Planet X, giant sized, people fleeing in the foreground.  Maybe add some other icons of the 50s in that kind of cornucopia effect that Jack Davis and Frazetta sometimes used in their movie poster work.

I was gob-smacked by what Kerry turned in. Talk about taking a flimsy idea and running with it — he galloped off for a full touchdown. I’ve had posters made from the art, which I hope to hand out as door prizes for some panel I’m on this weekend at Loscon.

Update 11/24/2009: Bill Warren confirmed with McFarland that orders will be immediately fulfilled, even though the website lists March 2010 as the “official release.” So I have made the necessary changes to this post.

Ars Longa

At Big Hollywood, John T. Simpson rightly believes today’s readers should not continue unaware of Harlan Ellison, The Original Hollywood Rebel.

For those of you here at Big Hollywood who think you are playing a whole new game in taking on the Tinseltown establishment in force, I have news for you. Scribe Extraordinaire and futurist iconoclast Harlan Ellison beat you all to the punch by about forty-five years. And if you don’t know who Harlan Ellison is, shame on you! He is a living legend with more Hugos and Nebulas than I care to count, as well as four WGA Awards and an Emmy nod. And all that’s just for starters.

Much of Harlan’s writing defies description or genre. If I had to describe it, I would say that Harlan paints with words like Picasso and Salvador Dali painted with canvas.

There’s some scoffing in the comments by twits trying to score personal points off Ellison (though he’s not involved with this piece at all). Simpson deftly countered one of them:

And Salvador Dali used to wear fruit baskets on his head, Vorpal. The magnificent art stands.

WexWorlds Saturday Report

Alexandra Drafilova at WexWorlds

Alexandra Drafilova at WexWorlds

By James Bacon: So as Ireland took it upon itself to deftly sink in parts, the phrase ‘grand soft day’ was rapidly replaced with ‘Jesus Mary, Mother of God.’

Saturday, Day two, began with a strong sun bitterly shinning down coldly on a damp Wexford. Nearby Enniscorthy was now  impassable.

Deterred, not the young Jedi of Wexford, I tell you.

You just cannot beat duct tape, plastic piping and foam, for shutting children up, yes the light sabre shenanigans was very popular. Especially exciting was the more violent football jersey wearing kid who decided he was going to single handedly murder everyone, I was impressed with his energy, so took him on myself, and enjoyed teaching him rubbish moves, that made perfect sense to both of us. Full House for the boys.

The library continued to be a good focus of support, Sarah Rees Brennan is an awesome girl, so delightful, and she is also very with it, her reading went well, while more serious discussions about weather comics are just for boys seemed to spark a lot of interest.

Of course, problems arise. Problemo 1 was a guest MIA. OK so it’s Wexford and its a festival, but the retort ‘one of our guests is missing’ made me laugh for a moment or two, but we must be serious now, and that’s not very professional is it…. ah well. They remain nameless…

Darren Shan was excellent, from Elephant and Castle, it was nice to chat with someone who knows where Croydon is, he is beyond nice, and was especially good with his younger fans and he writes out individual long inscriptions, tailored to the reader – awesome. He looks like a indie rock star, who might DJ of an evening, in a hoodie top, a stylish jacket and with curly hair and a real cheeky smile.

Dr. Emma now has a Wexford fan club, with the science of another thing well-attended, and children took every opportunity to run down to the stage to stare closer at her. Fascinated.

So one of our other guests, left his keys in his door, at the guest house, but they were missing, but feared that MIA guest may have taken them, the plot not so much thickened, as stewed.

I was unsure how a comic workshop would work out, but it filled to capacity (24 youths) and they made very good use of all the materials we brought along, is it natural that kids will attempt to up their game, when provided with professional equipment?

The big show of the day was Darren Shan and Eoin Colfer in conversation, they both read some, and it was a great ‘discussion’ the two of them are very funny, Eoin has the ability of a stand up comedian, and paired with Darren it was great laugh out loud laughter. Then they signed and signed and signed.

So a third guest reported that he had been ‘invaded’ in the middle of the night. MIA guest had apparently gained access to his room in the early hours, unclear how this was, or if door was unlocked, but the second time, guest 3, freaked a little, exited guest house and departed. Oh Dear.

So the Curator, arranged new accommodation and profusely apologised to Guest 3. Reimbursed emergency hotel accommodation and offered a received hug. All was well.

Time Travel, short stories and hitchhikers all proved very popular. Very impressed with Ian McDonald’s reading about confectionary, brilliant stuff.

But then came the cabaret.

Caca Millis Cabaret is a regular light entertainment evening, first off we had the hostess, looking French, singing Duke Ellington and Edith Piaf. Then we had a belly dancer with a sword, Alexandra Drafilova from the Khelashi Dancers, it was, well, we had to stop men and women running to the stage to be fascinated. Paul Creane was next, with Seamus, on mouth organ and occasional guitar accompaniment, Sarah Rees Brennan made everyone laugh with a short reading from her, book, and then a reading by Oran Ryan, one that was full of metaphor and insight, followed by some really great poetry readings (yes, I said that) by Patrick Chapman, I especially liked “Darwin’s Vampire,” “Saint Dracula” (which had everyone pissing themselves laughing) and his reading of his title poem, from his book A Shopping Mall on Mars, was very science fictional.

But then, there was something really rare and delightful. Eoin Colfer had said a few times during the day that he would be reading something that he had never read out loud before, something that most people did not even know about, something that he could never read to kids.

And so, he appeared on stage, with a book of crime stories, set in Dublin and deep hidden away in dark pages about Dublin, he read a story he had written. There was a Batman reference in the story, which drove the gathered crowd, who had been guffawing and laughing to cheering and it was very good, violent, dark, full of vulgarity and abuse and Dublinisms.

The weekend was made.

More music, Jacques Brel’s “The Port of Amsterdam,” and some amazing footage by a local teenager Chris O’Neil — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TywmpMQYojs — who was on stage, and due to the baying of the crowd, was forced to endure an encore and replaying.

Then, as things wound up, we had a humourous clip, and it went dark and quiet, and then we saw a man in an attic, scurrying nearly, being pursued, and a real hush befall the venue, and we saw Rick Deckard slip and fall and grip to a girder for dear life, and as Roy Batty saved his live a real tingle ran through the audience, and then, we all watched, and some even cried, as we watched what must be the best science fictional movie moment of al time.

No humour, no post modern ironic bull, no laughs, just the words as they were meant to be seen.

Not much could follow that, really, and the night shortly drew to a close.

Reference Director: Zotz!

Editor’s Note: John’s contribution, reprinted by permssion from Vanamonde, made me think it would be good to have a new category devoted to fannish references and in-jokes.

By John Hertz: When one is to master ceremonies one doesn’t know whether they will need stretching or shrinking. It is good to be prepared.

On the day of the L.A. S-F Society’s 75th-anniversary dinner I happened upon a used-book sale at Nick Smith’s place, the Pasadena Central Public Library, where I see him working sometimes, and there was a copy of Walter Karig’s Zotz! (1947). Of course I bought it. I had it in my briefcase, with my propeller beanie and the speech Paul Turner gave me to read about the Building Fund.

Of Zotz! I could have told, a fantasy novel well-made and worth reading, its author a United States Navy captain (1898-1956) who wrote Nancy Drew books and a five-volume Battle Report of the World War II Navy assigned him in parallel with S.E. Morison’s history; a novel whose neat satire escaped the posthumous 1962 movie (indeed I don’t perceive how the tragedy of Ch. 32 could have gone onto the screen); a novel which, despite its modest but definite merit, became the butt of the annual LASFS Gift Exchange as copies kept appearing, glutting, surfeiting, until Zotz! was a byword for an unwanted unvalued gift.

But just as the fannish god (or ghod) Roscoe brought me and the book together that day, he (or if you don’t believe, the course of human events) brought no moment to take the book forth that night. How would it have been received? Would it have been known at once? Could I have given it the honor, comic and other, it deserved? Perhaps those of us who love the small and not only the great, those who relish what might have been (indeed see “I Thought I Had a Pumpkin Bomb”, Trap Door 23), may be pleased that our dinner was adorned, among its other ornaments, with a ready but never unleashed copy of Zotz!

WexWorlds Friday Report

Eoin Colfer at Wexworlds Library Talk

Eoin Colfer at Wexworlds Library Talk

James Bacon tells what happened on November 20, opening day of WexWorlds in Wexford, Ireland:

Friday is over, but it was mental. In lots of good ways.

644 children in a hall is awesome, especially if you get them cheering and booing. Eoin Colfer had them laughing and screaming and it was very good to see. It was a very full venue.

The Oisin McGann Library talk was excellent, he is very personable with kids, but the best bit was at the end, the library are one of the venues where we have free comics, so the kids went into a bit of a frenzy at the end, taking comics. Was pretty cool.

Chairman of the Bourogh Council, Anna Fenlon opened the festival, but councillors and TD’s in attendence.

Dr. Emma J. King’s “Fun With Liquid Nitrogen” talk and instant ice cream, full house again, and hugely popular. Lots of cheering and excitement as the experiments took place.

Followed by Eoin and Andrew Donkin’s amazing talk about the mechanics of comics, and something I think that should be seen again, elsewhere.

Sarah Rees Brennan did a superb job leading the discussion on Paranormal Romace, while Bui Bolg were a costume workshop in an hour and half and good with it. 3 sewing machines on the go.

Cosplay disco was more cosplay, live Gig, with teen band Discord. This is something that we need to change, having band(s) is great, much more real, the tech set up in WAC is amazing, beyond anything I have worked with before. 30 mins to go from discussion of set-up to full band rig – including monitors and everything.

2009 Nova Awards: Full Results

Steve Green has distributed the full voting statistics for the 2009 Nova Awards announced at last weekend’s Novacon in Nottingham, UK. Banana Wings, Claire Brialey and Sue Mason took top honors.

The Nova Awards are for achievement in British sf fanzines as voted by members of the convention able to “demonstrate a basic knowledge of current fanzines.”

Best fanzine:  1, Banana Wings (30 points); 2, Journey Planet (24); 3, Head (20); 4, Prolapse / Relapse (18); 5, Plokta, Quasiquote (11); 7, No Sin But Ignorance (7); 8, The Descent of Fan (6); 9, Lost in Space (3); 10, Ansible, Procrastinations (2), 12, The Banksoniain, Critical Wave (1).
Best fan writer:  1, Claire Brialey (26 points); 2, James Bacon (15); 3, Doug Bell (14); 4, Mark Plummer (11); 5, Dave Langford (9); 6, Christina Lake (8); 7, Sandra Bond, Peter Weston (7); 9, Max (5); 10, Greg Pickersgill (4); 11, John Nielsen Hall (3); 12, John Coxon, Alison Scott, Nicholas Whyte (2); 15, Caroline Mullan, Yvonne Rowse, Alan Sullivan, Ian Williams (1).
Best fan artist:  1, Sue Mason (13 points*); 2, Alison Scott (13*);  3, John Toon (12); 4, Steve Jeffrey (8); 5, Steve Green (7); 6, D West (6); 7, ATom (5); 8, Clarrie O’Callaghan (4); 9, Dave Hicks (3).

[*Although Sue Mason and Alison Scott tied both for points and first-place votes, Sue received more second-place votes.]

WexWorlds Day 1

James Bacon writes that the first WexWorlds convention is under way in Wexford, Ireland:

Despite torrential weather and a cancelled ferry, I arrived in Wexford yesterday, to find all is well here.

The first event of the weekend, a talk by Eoin Colfer is full. 644 school children are booked in. Our second event a Library talk with Oisin McGann is also full to capacity.

Two clothes shops, Chemical Afflictions and Psychosis, both have free comics to give away, as does the library.

We were inundated with volunteers, of a variety of ages, which is good. Was on South East Radio yesterday with Eoin, and Darren Shan is on Morning Ireland this morning, a national radio programme.

So its all go.

2011 Worldcon Begins Online Registration

Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon, now has online registration up and running. 

Renovation has installment plans and family plans, as well as special rates for children.  

The committee’s press release tells fans: “Remember, nothing says Christmas, like a trip to Reno for the World Science Fiction Convention.” But don’t consider that an ironclad limitation. If it will sell a membership I bet they’ll happily amend the text to “Remember, nothing says Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, the Winter Solstice or Pearl Harbor Day” like a trip to Reno…

Picacio Airs Worldcon Payment Problem

John Picacio outlined for readers of his On the Front blog the problems some U.S. artists have experienced negotiating checks from Anticipation for art show sales:

American artists were in fact mailed checks well after the 60-day period. However, those checks were drafted with questionable routing number information that were subsequently denied by many American financial institutions. A letter accompanied those checks stating that the checks provided a legitimate US routing number, when in fact, they didn’t. They were effectively foreign checks that would necessitate gross collections fees and punitive processing delays of up to eight additional weeks. Not acceptable. When this was communicated to the con, its response was “the checks are fine; it must be your bank.”

Wrong answer, Worldcon.

Anticipation co-chair Rene Walling replied that he did, in fact, believe it was a problem with U.S. banks, because the account had been used to issue checks to other people in the U.S. for the past four years. However, the Worldcon has opened a temporary bank account in the U.S. to work around the problems and keep artists from incurring these fees for handling Canadian checks.