Colbert Farewell Number Doesn’t Bomb

George Lucas, Sir Patrick Stewart, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Elijah Wood, J.J. Abrams and Smaug represented sf and fantasy in the musical finale of The Colbert Report , coming to an end so its host can replace Letterman on CBS.

An army of celebrities emerged from the wings to join Colbert in singing “We’ll Meet Again,” beginning with his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart, then Willie Nelson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Kissinger and dozens of others — the full array of cameo appearances is listed here.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

Others of genre interest for one reason or another, scientist Francis Collins, economist Paul Krugman, an astronaut on the International Space Station and Marvel Comics’ Joe Quesada.

Even “We’ll Meet Again” is an sf reference — it’s the song played at the end of Dr. Strangelove while the nukes are going off.

Today In History 12/19

Apollo 17 splashdown COMPDecember 19, 1972: The splashdown of Apollo 17 marks the end of the United States’ manned moon exploration program.

The Apollo 17 spacecraft landed in the Pacific Ocean at 2:25 p.m. and soon after Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt were picked up and flown by helicopter to the recovery ship U.S.S. Ticonderoga.

Although that closed the first chapter in the history of manned space exploration, it is not the most famous fact about the mission.

As Apollo 17 was en route to the Moon, the crew took a photo of the Earth from space that became known as  “The Blue Marble” photo.  NASA archivist Mike Gentry has speculated that may be the most widely distributed image in human history.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17 COMP

Ironically, the photo is such an icon that it was even used in the 1995 Tom Hanks film Apollo 13 — every time the crew looked out the window that was the view, a photograph taken by Apollo 17. (This, despite there being photos of Earth actually taken by Apollo 13.)

Scott_1371,_Apollo_8The “Big Blue Marble” should not be confused with the famous “Earthrise” image taken by Apollo 8, and used in a 1969 stamp commemorating the mission.

Apollo 17 is also notable for furnishing pop culture with a couple of fictional characters. One-time astronaut Steve Austin of The Six Million Dollar Man (based on the 1972 novel Cyborg) is described in the book as watching the Earth “fall away during Apollo XVII” – implying he was a crew member. Likewise, in Deep Impact (1998), the President calls Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner, portrayed by Robert Duvall, the “last man to walk on the moon,” implying he was a crew member.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

2015 World Fantasy Judges Selected

The World Fantasy Awards Association has announced that the judges for the 2015 awards are:

  • Gemma Files (Canada)
  • Nina K. Hoffman (US)
  • Bénédicte Lombardo (France)
  • Bruce McAllister (US)
  • Robert Shearman (UK)

World Fantasy Con 2015 will be held November 5-8 at the Saratoga City Center and Saratoga Hilton, Saratoga Springs, NY. The Guests of Honor will be Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Steven Erikson, David Drake (Special Guest), and Glen Cook (Special Guest).

An attending membership costs $175, which does not include the Awards Banquet.  Banquet tickets will be available in July.  Information and forms can be found on the convention website.

Holiday Cheers! at the KGB Bar with Steven Gould and Rajan Khanna

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, December 17, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Steven Gould and Rajan Khanna in the Red Room at the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The Bar, up a steep and very narrow stairway, known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, seemed incongruously bedecked with Christmas wreaths and lights, making perhaps an even more fitting venue for sf readings.  The Series, co-hosted monthly by award-winning editor Ellen Datlow and Mathew Kressel, presents readings (always free) both by well-known speculative fiction writers and up-and-coming future luminaries, nicely epitomized in the night’s double bill.

Customarily, as the audience settled in, Datlow whirled around photographing the crowd (the photos are posted on the website). The event opened with Kressel welcoming the audience, thanking the Bar and announcing upcoming readers: On January 21, 2015, Gregory Frost and Andy Duncan; on February 18, Mike Allen and Ben Loory; on March 18, Caitlin Kiernan and Lisa Manetti; and on April 15, James Morrow and Ken Liu. (It was reported that Kiernan would soon after be moving from the area to Georgia. “Which one?” In a place named KGB one couldn’t make an assumption.) He then introduced the first reader of the evening, a personal pleasure, as Rajan Khanna is also a friend.

Khanna’s short fiction has been published in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and several anthologies, his articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com, and his podcast narrations may be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. It was easy to see why, as his soft voice is, as we heard, well-suited for narrating.

Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna

He presented several scenes from his first novel, Falling Sky, which was released in October. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic near-future where fuel is so expensive that airships have come back, and, if that weren’t cataclysmic enough, there’s a global pandemic, the Bug, that regresses people to a violent, animalistic (and, of course, hungry) state; they are called Ferals, and their blood splashing on one is enough to spread the infection. The first scene that he read was set on the Cherub, the protagonist’s, Ben Gold, airship; his companion, Miranda, is among those trying to cure the Bug, taking what he views as unacceptable risks. In a later scene, he is driven from the ship, his only home. The final scene read was selected, because, as Khanna noted, Ben is Jewish and “it’s Hanukkah” (for the record, it was the second night). Ben, settled on an island refuge, encounters a rabbi and his makeshift synagogue, and reminisces about his father and his cursory education in his religion during what was already the era called the Sick. (Understandably, and already living in the Cherub, he identified with the story of Noah.) Reinvigorated, he resolves to regain his airship. (As a “token Jew,” said Kressel, “I approve this message.”)

Steven Gould

Steven Gould

After an intermission, Datlow introduced the second and final reader. Gould – not to be confused with the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould – the author of 10 science fiction novels including Jumper, has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Compton Crook, Locus and Prometheus Awards, and the recipient of the Hal Clement award for Young Adult SF as well as having his novels cited by the American Library Association as best books for young adults. During the 1990s, Jumper – which, by the way, I heard him read from way back at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings when they were at Dixon Place – was one of the most banned books in the U.S., which, he has mused, “only shows that most people should read past page nine.” He read from his latest novel, Exo, the fourth official book in the Jumper series.

(There is a fifth book, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, that is a tie-in to the 2008 movie Jumper, which only cursorily resembled the novel.) The series begins with someone, Davy Rice, who can teleport, and, as it proceeds through Reflex and Impulse, we find out that others can as well. “The real secret to teleportation,” says Gould, “is reading. Be transported, imagine!”

In Exo, from which he read, Davy’s now-teenage daughter Cent (short for Millicent), who shares the ability, uses it to go into space (in a pressure suit). The selection began slow, with techno-jargon about adding velocity to a teleport, then became amusing as Cent’s satellite phone company intercepts her conversation with her father, baffled as to how and why her handset is orbiting west to east some 210 miles up, moving at 45 miles per second. (That’s not in her family’s plan’s Terms of Service!) Unfortunately, Gould’s reading was briefly interrupted by sirens outside; there arose such a clatter, that people flew to the window to see what was the matter.

Books by both readers were for sale at the back of the room from the Word bookstore in Brooklyn. Much of the audience hung around for a while afterward, then an expedition headed out for dinner.

George R.R. Martin Offers To Screen “The Interview” at His Theater

Outraged by what he calls “a stunning display of corporate cowardice”, George R.R. Martin complained on his blog that “Regal, AMC, and  every other major theatre chain in the United States have cancelled their plans to show the new Seth Rogen/ James Franco comedy The Interview, because of – yes, seriously, this is not a South Park sketch (though I expect it soon will be) – threats from North Korea.”

He scoffed, “It’s a good thing these guys weren’t around when Charlie Chaplin made The Great Dictator.  If Kim Jong-Un scares them, Adolf Hitler would have had them shitting in their smallclothes.”

Martin, owner of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM said thousands of small independent theaters around the country would be glad to screen The Interview and offered his theater as a venue.

Regardless of how good the movie may be, said Martin, “it astonishes me that a major Hollywood film could be killed before release by threats from a foreign power and anonymous hackers.”

[Via Tom Galloway.]

HWA Announces Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship

Rocky Wood

Rocky Wood

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) has created the Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship in honor of the organization’s late president, who passed away on December 1 as a result of complications from ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Wood, a two-time recipient of the Bram Stoker Award®, was best known for his extensive work involving the writings of Stephen King.

The Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship will focus on nonfiction. The new scholarship joins the existing Horror Writers Association and Mary Shelley Scholarships.

Succeeding Wood as HWA’s President will be Lisa Morton. For the last two-and-a-half years, Morton served as Vice President. A screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, and an award-winning prose writer, Morton is a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®. She commented, “It’s daunting for me to now step into the Presidential shoes, but I also consider it an honor to continue the great work Rocky started. Because he was such a master at organization, he’s left behind manuals and instructions and a trained corps of volunteers, and together we look forward to continuing his legacy.”

Nancy Holder, who has been part of HWA for decades, will step in as Vice President.

[Based on HWA’s press release.]

Top 50 Sales of 2014 at AbeBooks

AbeBooks’ 50 Most Expensive Sales of 2014 included five books from the sf and fantasy genres — two of them copies of the same edition of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali.

However, the highest price paid in 2014 was $43,450 for a collection of books containing posters from Les Maîtres de L’Affiche, a French art magazine that reproduced the finest posters at the height of the Art Nouveau movement, with work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, William Nicholson and Maxfield Parrish.

And in second place was the $40,000 pricetag on an 1867 edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.

The top genre works on the list are:

Salvador Dali art for Alice in Wonderland.

Salvador Dali art for Alice in Wonderland.

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll & illustrated by Salvador Dali$20,000 The 1969 Maecenas Press/Random House edition, signed by the artist. The seller described the book ‘as new’ and its leather Solander box as ‘fine’. Only 2,500 copies were produced, containing 12 memorable illustrations from the surrealist.

12. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling$15,956 An uncorrected proof in white with a yellow stripe, 224 pages long. It lists Joanne Rowling on the copyright page and J A Rowling on the title page.

13. Dune by Frank Herbert – $15,000 A 1965 signed first edition of this famous science fiction novel complete with its dust jacket. One of 4,000 first edition copies.

27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Salvador Dali – $11,500 The 1969 Random House edition signed by Dali, who provided 12 color plates. This is number 533 of 2,500 copies. Similar copies sold for $20,000 in January 2014 and $7,650 in November 2013.

30. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – $11,000 A second edition and 11th overall impression. Signed by Tolkien on the title page. The book and its jacket are in near fine condition.

Also in the top 50 was this space exploration collectable:

33. Apollo 11 Large Color Photo – Signed – $10,031 Color photo of Buzz Aldrin standing next to a seismic experiment on the moon with the Lunar Module Eagle and U.S. flag prominent in the background. It is mounted to a 20″ x 16″ board signed by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, and inscribed, “To His Royal Highness/ Prince Bernhard/ of the Netherlands/ From The Apollo 11 Crew”.

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

National Film Registry Adds Genre Movies

Houseofwax1Three fantasy and horror films are among the 25 films selected in 2014 by the Library of Congress to be preserved as part of the National Film Registry, House of Wax (1953), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).

Also on the list is the Western, Rio Bravo (1959), whose screenplay was co-written by Leigh Brackett. Called the “Queen of Space Opera” during the pulp era, she became famous for her work on The Empire Strikes Back screenplay.

House of Wax, the first full-length 3-D film from a major U.S. studio, stars Vincent Price. Rosemary’s Baby was based on the novel by Ira Levin and directed by Roman Polanski.

Other selections of interest to fans for various reasons:

  • The Dragon Painter (1919) is a silent film that stars Sessue Hayakawa as a mentally disturbed young painter who believes that his fiancée is a princess who has been captured and turned into a dragon.
  • Little Big Man (1970) is more revisionist history than alternate history, the recollections of a 121-year-old man (Dustin Hoffman) about his life as an Indian in the Old West.
  • Luxo Jr.(1986) was a Pixar short directed and co-produced by John Lasseter, the first 3-Dl computer-animated film to be nominated for an Oscar.

The complete list follows the jump.

[Thanks to Mark Blackman for the story.]

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Jerry Pournelle Suffers Stroke

Jerry Pournelle was hospitalized on Tuesday, December 16 after experiencing “a small stroke”. Alex Pournelle told Chaos Manor readers:

He is recovering well at a local hospital. Prognosis is good, though they’re running more tests and he’s expected to stay at least another day or two.

He felt well enough to call Mom [Mrs. Pournelle] from the hospital.

Today, Rich Pournelle commented on Facebook after talking to his father: “He’s still all there and his speech is getting better. Sounds like they caught it in time.”

The Yoda of Oz

yodaYoda will be in an episode of Star Wars Rebels airing January 5 on Disney XD.

Though Rebels takes place between the two Star Wars movie trilogies — a time when the few surviving Jedis are in hiding from the Empire — the 800-plus-year-old icon is drawn from hiding to offer counsel to fledgling Jedi knight Kanan and his new padawan, Ezra, on the remote planet of Lothal. The twist: He only “appears” as a disembodied voice.

Best of all, it will be Frank Oz speaking, who has voiced the character of Yoda in five Star Wars films.