Ellison Reference in Paul?

Reviewer James Ward at The Californian.com says the movie Paul is loaded with sf references, and one of them is unlikely to be caught by anybody — except fans like us!

The script by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost — who also star in the film as Clive and Graeme — is full of loving references to “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.”

The script also at times gets esoteric with a pointed joke aimed at the famously grumpy sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison. It’s a joke that only a few hundred people will get, but those who do will appreciate the laugh.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Snapshots 61* HR Record

Here are 14 developments of interest to fans:

(1) Back issues of Time magazine now are searchable online. Fans immediately homed in on the July 10, 1939 issue of Time with its report of the first World Science Fiction Convention. Craig Miller calls it “perhaps the first instance of ‘science fiction fans are weird’ journalism” —

Having formed, through correspondence, an organization called the New Fandom, some 200 fans gathered in a small Manhattan hall this week from California, New Mexico, the metropolitan area for three days of speeches, pseudo-scientific movies and discussion of stories with their authors. Cried Fan Will S. Sykora, from Astoria, L. I.: “Let us all work to see that the things we read in science fiction become realities.” Said Leo Margulies, managing editor of Standard Magazines (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories and Strange Stories): “I am astonished. I didn’t think you boys could be so damn sincere.”

And Ray Cummings – coincidentally, author of the first sf story Bob Tucker ever read – may have been the first pro quoted in mainstream media hyping the genre’s foundations in hard science:

Ray Cummings, a veteran pseudo-fictioneer who once was Thomas Edison’s secretary, claims to have originated in his stories the word Newscaster and the phrase The World of Tomorrow. Says he: “It is astonishing how many things come true.” Chief themes of scientifiction are rocket trips by earth-dwellers to other planets, invasions of the earth by Martians, Mercurians. Authors may be as fantastic as they like in their inventions but publishers warn them not to do violence to the commoner scientific principles lest readers denounce their errors.

(2) Book View Café is now featuring collections from seven of its members. Titles include: Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Super Mouse” comic book, Jay Caselberg’s “Angel on the Beach” stories, Judith Tarr’s instructional memoir, “Writing Horses,” Pati Nagle’s two collections “Coyote Ugly” and “Many Paths,” Syliva Kelso’s “Three Observations and a Dialogue: Round and About SF,” and Sue Lange’s cross-genre stories, “Uncategorized.” Much of the work was already available at Book View Café, but now has been gathered into collections for easy browsing. 

(3) A NY Times writer says Mars Needs Moms will be remembered as one of Hollywood’s most spectacular failures:

In the movie business, sometimes a flop is just a flop. Then there are misses so disastrous that they send signals to broad swaths of Hollywood. “Mars Needs Moms” is shaping up as the second type. 

Walt Disney Studios spent an estimated $175 million to make and market “Mars Needs Moms,” which sold $6.9 million in tickets at North American theaters in its opening weekend. That grim result puts the 3-D animated adventure on track to become one of the biggest box-office bombs in movie history, on par with such washouts as “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” “Cutthroat Island” and “The Alamo.”

Wait a minute!  I paid to see The Alamo twice. Shocking to see that wasn’t enough to keep it off this list.

(4) Not coming to a theater near you is a thought-provoking source of film commentary. Sam Bett’s and Glenn Heath Jr.’s analysis of Monty Python and the Holy Grail won me over:

Sam Bett:  …As professional satirists, Monty Python understood that for irreverent humor to be sound and effective, one must thoroughly understand one’s target. The outrageous accents, costumes, and ornately adorned sets are only some of the details to which Monty Python attended to meticulously, executing the intense care and compassion that distinguishes satire which is insulting from that which is artful and even complementary.

Glenn Heath Jr.: …The following booming musical score segues into the “seriousness” of medieval England, circa 932 AD, and the icon King Arthur traverses the countryside riding an imaginary horse, his manservant making the sound of clacking hooves by smacking two coconuts together. The absurdity of Arthur’s actions is called into question when a castle guard confronts the pair about their preferred mode of transportation. The conversation descends into repetitive chaos, and the entitled earnestness of Arthur and the snarky irony of the guard introduce the core form of banter that will come to define Holy Grail’s keen wit and commentary on the class system in England, both past and present.

There is quite a bit of good stuff here, some of it better than what I quoted but that would suffer from being taken out of context.

(5) I’m also looking forward to reading good stuff from Chunga’s Randy Byers who has launched a film review blog of his own:

I’ve been writing a lot about film in the past few years, and the first impulse behind this blog is to make that writing more widely available — if only to Google. My ideas about what to publish here are still evolving, however, and I’m likely to at least include reviews of the early science fiction that I’ve also been writing about in the past few years. I guess I’ll figure it out as I go along.

(6) It’s croggling how often news coverage is driven by a predetermined narrative. When the LA Times reported that the National Book Critics Circle honored Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit From the Goon Squad with its fiction prize, the article was illustrated by a photo of Jonathan Franzen, whose novel, the caption noted, did not win. Readers complained that the Times seemed to think the story was that Franzen lost, not that Egan won. Marjorie Osterhous of Seattle demanded, “Please spend a couple of minutes gazing into your editorial navels today and ask yourselves what happened.”

(7) Bob Levin’s article about the Frazetta family feud in The Comics Journal begins with this intricate and amusing paragraph:

The Frazetta Museum, in Marshalls Creek, Pennsylvania, unlike the Toy Museum of Sciota, the Pocono Indian Museum of North Bushkill, or the Zane Gray Museum of Lackawanna, is not listed in the Monroe County phone book. There is no address posted on its website. It is absent from the full-color “Pocono Mountains Attractions” brochure. It does not join Yuppy Puppy, Tie-Dye Dave’s, or Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the “Official 2010 Cartoonmap” of the region. Driving Route 209 from our motel in its presumed direction, we saw signs for Discount Fireworks, Tenderheart Learning Center, the Pocono Snake, and Animal Farm but not it. The road score was Dead Furry Animals: 6; Espresso Bars: 0. “We’re not in Berkeley anymore, Toto,” Adele said.

However, the author’s subjective wanderings aren’t enough to bring fully alive what is largely a clip article. So your decision whether to click the link should depend on your level of passion for this story.

(8) Craig Ferguson correspondents Chris Hardwick and Bridger visited the 22nd annual Gallifrey One convention on February 19. Here’s a link to their video [YouTube]. Convention chairman Shaun Lyon is on this for a few seconds around the 3:50 mark.

(9) Frank Robinson has sold his renowned pulp collection to a Maryland collector, reports Steve Duin in The Oregonian:

The celebrated author of Pulp Culture and the speech writer for former San Francisco Mayor Harvey Milk, Robinson spent the last 30 years assembling the finest collection of high-grade pulp magazines in the world. The pulps were displayed — gloriously — on the wooden shelves of a floor-to-ceiling wall in the living room of his San Francisco home.

But shortly after he returned from playing himself in Gus van Sant’s “Milk,” Robinson realized the thrill of owning that collection was gone.

“I’m looking at them one day,” Robinson said, “and I realized I hadn’t read a single one. I was collecting magazines in near mint and you don’t read a magazine in near mint and have it stay in near mint. Then I realized I wasn’t even looking at them. If a couple magazines fell off the shelf, I left them there.”

(10) AbeBooks remembers Victor Gollancz:

Gollancz was ahead of this time. He placed full-page adverts for his books in newspapers (very rare for this period) and his designers established a recognizable style featuring powerful typography and yellow dust jackets. Gollancz was creating ‘branding’ 50 years before marketers embraced the buzzword.

(11) Fritz Leiber would have been 100 last December 24. Fogcon’s blog shows the plaque placed in his memory on 811 Geary Street, the building where he wrote Our Lady of Darkness and which figures in the novel.

(12) “Calling all Artists, Crafters and Hoarders!” At Minicon in April they’re running an art materials swap. Most anything is welcome, craft and art supplies, tools, books and patterns, and anything that has costuming potential. Stuff will be out on tables and anything not swapped will be kept for Minicon children’s supply boxes or donated to Art Scraps.

(13) Maybe there will be enough ingredients for someone to make their own Hans Solo in Carbonite Throw Pillow?
(14) However rarely science fiction may be mentioned in The New Yorker’s hallowed pages, Billy Collins, a past Poet Laureate of the United States, has set a good example for the rest of the literary establishment with poems like “Man in Space”. In fact, the poem’s final line references the genre’s most famous visual cliché.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Janice Gelb, David Klaus, Craig Miller, Steven H Silver, Joel Zakem, Lisa Hertel  and Andrew Porter.]

Michael Gough (1916-2011)

Veteran British actor Michael Gough died March 17, aged 94. He played Alfred in Batman (1989) and the three sequels. His numerous other genre appearances include Horrors of the Black Museum (1959), Konga (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Doctor Who (tv, 1966 & 1983), They Came From Beyond Space (1967), Trog (1967), Horror Hospital (1973), Satan’s Slave (1976), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Alice In Wonderland (2010) and All-Star Superman (2011).

[Thanks to Steve Green for the story.]

Gerhartsreiter Indicted for Murder of John Sohus

Christian Gerhartsreiter has been charged with the murder of John Sohus. Sohus’ remains were found in 1994, buried in the backyard of a San Marino home that once belonged to his mother. Gerhartsreiter, living under an assumed name, had been a tenant in the Sohus’ guesthouse.

John and his wife Linda, both LASFS members, disappeared in 1985. Linda is still missing.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office filed the charges on March 15. In the single-count indictment prosecutors allege Gerhartsreiter used a “blunt object” to kill John Sohus.

The Boston Herald reports that prosecutors are seeking Gerhartsreiter’s arrest and extradition from Massachusetts, where he is serving time for kidnapping his daughter during a custody dispute:

Ellen Sohus, John Sohus’s younger sister, said she received a call from Los Angeles authorities earlier this afternoon telling her about the charges against Gerhartsreiter.

“We feel like that this has been a very, very long ordeal over the last 25 years and it gives us hope that we will have closure, finally,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Arizona.

The statement by prosecutors today was the first time they had acknowledged that they had determined the remains found in the yard belonged to John Sohus.

Gerhartsreiter’s lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, who represented him during his kidnapping trial, said his client is innocent.

Christian Gerhartsreiter was living under the name Clark Rockefeller when he was arrested on charges of kidnapping his daughter. He has admitted being “Christopher Chichester”, previously sought as a “person of interest” in the Sohus disappearance.

Vanity Fair, in a 2009 article, said that during the 1994 search “along with human bones, investigators found a flannel shirt and blue jeans, John Sohus’s standard dress. (Using the chemical luminol, they also detected traces of blood on the floor of Chichester’s apartment.)”

Long: SF in Unexpected Places

By Sam Long: The March 7 issue of The New Yorker magazine has a poem titled “Megamouth Shark” by John Kinsella on page 53 (subscription required).  I quote the following lines from the middle of the poem:

   …and I can’t help but think
   that this tank and its inhabitants are prescient fulfillment
   of Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” a pox on emperor houses
   of curators and scientists, this Guild Navigator the benign
   encapsulation of Edric shrouded in orange gas,
   so distorted to outside eyes, plotting the courses of ships
   through space without collision, …

SF is rarely mentioned or even alluded to (as here) in the The New Yorker, such that when it is, it stands out.

Seeking Word of Japanese Fans

In the hours since a massive quake hit Japan fans have hoped to find that their friends in that country came through all right.  

Two contacts were reported on the Smofs list. Miho Hiramoto, Takumi and Sachiko Shibano’s daughter, told Craig Miller that both she and her mother (and their homes) are fine. Andrew Adams and his wife Tomoko, reached by Martin Easterbrook, are also okay.

LASFSian Tadao Tomomatsu wrote on Facebook that although his parents live in the U.S., 90% of his family lives in Japan and he is anxiously waiting to hear how they fared.

Update 03/13/2011: In later posts to Smofs, Nippon 2007 chair Hiroaki Inoue and his wife Tamie Inoue, and Nippon in 2017 bidders Tomoki Kodama and Saori Yamamoto were confirmed fine by Glen Glazer.  Andrew Adams also reported that “the HalCon/JASFIC/Nippon 2007 folks all seem to be fine. No reports of anyone hurt or missing.”

Fantasy Stamps

The Royal Mail has issued a “Magical Realms” stamp set celebrating British magical figures from Arthurian legend and the fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, and J.R. Rowling.

There are illustrations of Merlin, and Morgan le Fay, Nanny Ogg, Rincewind, and Aslan.

Sir Michael Gambon and Ralph Fiennes appear in character as Dumbledore and Voldemort from the Potter movies and Tilda Swinton is shown as the White Witch from the Narnia films.

In the collectible Presentation Pack one gets, in addition to the stamps, a look at the evolution of British fantasy from the tales of King Arthur to Harry Potter by cultural historian, novelist and film critic Kim Newman.

Dumbledore and Voldemort

Nanny Ogg and Rincewind

Aslan and the White Witch

[Thanks to David Klaus and Andrew Porter for the link.]

Earlybird Discount for Corflu Glitter

Memberships in next year’s Corflu Glitter, to be held in Las Vegas in April 2012, are available at the rock bottom price of $50 through April 15.

Joyce Katz, chair, and team have proposals from over 30 hotels to host the con. They will not consider return to the Plaza, site of Corflu Silver, and in fact are likely to choose someplace outside of downtown Las Vegas. As Arnie Katz explained, “Since this is the fourth Vegas Corflu, we want to inject some variety into the experience.”

Memberships can be purchased via Paypal (deposit $50 into Joyce’s account, joyceworley1@cox.net) or send a check, payable to “Joyce Katz,” to: Joyce Katz, 909 Euegene Cernan St., Las Vegas, NV 89145.

[Thanks to Arnie Katz for the story.]

This Old Fanboy

Roger Ebert does not like Battle: Los Angeles:

The aliens are hilarious. Do they give Razzies for special effects? They seem to be animal/machine hybrids with automatic weapons growing from their arms, which must make it hard to change the baby. As the Marines use their combat knives to carve into the aliens, they find one layer after another of icky gelatinous pus-filled goo. Luckily, the other aliens are mostly seen in long shot, where they look like stick figures whipped up by apprentice animators.

In fact he reads it out of the sf genre, saying:

Here’s a science-fiction film that’s an insult to the words “science” and “fiction,” and the hyphen in between them.

And he knows whereof he speaks — about science, about fiction, and especially about the hyphen.  Here you see Ebert seated beside Walt Willis (lower right) in a photo from 1955 (via Fanac.org):

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the link.]


So I’m reading the sports news and right in the middle of “Professor, 60, sucker punches mascot” I see the words “furry fan” – except they have nothing to do with the topic near and dear to Taral. The phrasing is coincidental, however much it seems to fit someone dressed as Goldy the Gopher:

“You know, it’s the old trick where you tap people on the wrong shoulder and they turn and don’t see you because you’re on the other side,” Goldy’s coach, Mike Elder, told the Tribune.

Goldy had reportedly played the trick on other fans, inducing smiles and laughter from the kids trailing behind him.

But Dokken had no initial reaction to the furry fan favorite. [Emphasis added] It was only after Goldy made a third attempt to get the math professor’s attention that Dokken suddenly turned and punched the mascot, knocking him back into the bleachers.

Interestingly, after the wire services picked up the story from StarTribune.com the source publication edited the piece and eliminated the phrase. I guess they’ve already heard about the clanger.