Peter Wyngarde (1927-2018)

Wyngarde starred as Timanov in Doctor Who: Planet of Fire

British actor Peter Wyngarde died January 15, aged 90. Genre work included The Innocents (1961), Night of the Eagle (1962), and Flash Gordon (1980). He was announced as a guest at last October’s Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, but pulled out as he’d found a recent appearance at the MCM in London too exhausting.

The BBC calls him the cult TV star who inspired Austin Powers:

…In 1959, he starred in ITV’s South – which some have claimed was the first gay drama on British television.

Set during the US Civil War, it featured Wyngarde as a Polish army lieutenant Jan Wicziewsky, who must decide who he loves: Miss Regina, a plantation owner’s niece; or a tall, rugged officer called Eric MacClure.

Broadcast live at a time when homosexuality had not been decriminalised in the UK, the drama received scathing reviews in the press….

Unbeknownst to the general public, Wyngarde was himself gay and, after a brief marriage to actress Dorinda Stevens in the 1950s, and had a long-term relationship with the actor Alan Bates.

“I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role,” said BFI curator Simon McCallum when South was rediscovered five years ago.

The furore over the programme did not affect the actor’s career, and he guest-starred in a number of 1960s television shows including The Saint, The Prisoner and The Avengers before debuting Jason King in the spy drama Department S.

The character proved so popular that Wyngarde got a spin-off series, which made him a household name in the US and Australia.

King remained his best-known character, a globe-trotting playboy with an astonishing array of outfits. And it wasn’t just his sartorial extravagance that inspired Mike Myers to create Austin Powers: King even uttered the phrase “groovy, baby” in one episode.

“I decided Jason King was going to be an extension of me,” he once said. “I was inclined to be a bit of a dandy – I used to go to the tailor with my designs.”

[Thanks to Steve Green and Chip Hitchcock for the story.]

David Fisher (1929-2018)

David Fisher

By Steve Green: David Fisher, a British writer who scripted four Doctor Who serials, died January 10, aged 88.

He wrote “The Stones of Blood” and “The Androids of Tara”, both 1978; “The Creature from the Pit”, 1979; “The Leisure Hive”, 1980, and produced the original storyline for 1979’s “The City of Death” (rewritten by Douglas Adams under the pseudonym “David Agnew”).

Other genre work included one episode of Hammer House of Horror (“Guardian of the Abyss”, 1980) and two of Fox Mystery Theater (“The Corvini Inheritance” and “The Late Nancy Irving”, both 1984).

Heather North (1945-2017)

North was the second actress to lend her voice to Daphne (second from right); Stefanianna Christopherson was the first.

Heather North, the voice of Scooby-Doo’s Daphne, died November 30 at the age of 71.

She first did the voice of Daphne for the 1970 season of Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, then The New Scooby Doo Movies (1972-1973), Dynomutt Dog Wonder (1976), The Scooby Doo/Dynomutt Hour (1976-1978), Scooby Doo Goes Hollywood (1979), Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo (1979-1980), and six more iterations of Scooby Doo cartoons in the 1980s. And she voiced Daphne again in three Scooby movies/videos made in 2002-2003.

Prior to joining the Scooby gang, North had a busy conventional acting career , appearing on such TV shows as Mr. Novak, Gidget, The Fugitive, The Monkees, My Three Sons and Adam-12; the soap opera Days of Our Lives; in two films, Git! (1965) and I Love My Wife (1970); and on Broadway in the short-lived 1967 comedy The Girl in the Freudian Slip.

North also starred as Kurt Russell’s love interest in Disney’s The Barefoot Executive (1971), about a chimpanzee who can predict which TV shows will be a success on the air.

And she appeared an episode of Richard Matheson’s TV series Circle of Fear, “Elegy for a Vampire.”

Her husband, producer/director H. Wesley Kenney predeceased her in 2015. She is survived by a son and two stepchildren; another stepdaughter died just a week ago.

Heather North in The Barefoot Executive.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock for the story.]

Suzanna Leigh (1945-2017)

By Steve Green: Suzanna Leigh, British actress, died December 12, aged 72. God-daughter of Vivien Leigh, from whom she gained her stage surname. Genre appearances included Tom Thumb (1963), It Happened Like This (one episode, 1963), The Deadly Bees (1966), The Lost Continent (1968), Journey to the Unknown (one episode, 1968), Lust for a Vampire (1971), Beware My Brethren (1972), Son of Dracula (1974).

One for All

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1276)

“Turn!” he sang, with words
Of a king, and of his own,
“Do it now,” he meant,
“All things change,” so go change them,
“You can,” and from him, “you should.”

Randy Byers (1960-2017) was 57 when he died on November 20, 2017.

I knew he’d been in hospice care and why.  Luckily I’d been able to get addresses for his parents and a sister.  I sent a note hoping to expound the love he’d won among us.  Geri Sullivan told me the sister had read some of my message to him who though barely conscious seemed to understand.

Luckily he’d had some recognition.  The 12th and as it proved final issue of Science Fiction Five-Yearly, Lee Hoffman’s fanzine published on time for sixty years, was co-edited by him and Sullivan (2007); it won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.  Chunga by Byers, Andy Hooper, and carl juarez won four Fan Activity Achievement Awards (Best Fanzine 2003, 2005-2006, 2013) and was twice a Hugo finalist (Best Fanzine 2005-2006); Byers himself won three more FAAns (Best Fanwriter and Number One Fan Face [highest sum of points in all categories], 2003; Best Single Fanzine Issue, Alternative Pants, 2012).

Chunga 1 (2002) explained its title was a Frank Zappa allusion (Chunga’s Revenge, Bizarre Records 1970), which Byers predicted (p. 1) would dominate Chunga 23, as indeed it did, with superb covers by Ulrika O’Brien and multi-page graphics by Brad Foster, Teddy Harvia, Marc Schirmeister, España Sheriff, Stu Shiffman, Dan Steffan, Steve Stiles, D. West (2015).

By 2002 Byers had been with us a couple of decades.  In his part of the Chunga 1 edi­torial page he said he’d not helped with cons, raised money for fan funds, laughed at awful puns.  Like Hilaire Belloc breaking vows on The Path to Rome (1902) Byers falsified those statements along the road.

He was elected Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 2003; chaired Corflu XXVI (fanziners’ convention; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, readily dispensable and long indispensable; “Corflu Zed” for the Commonwealth-English name of the 26th letter in the alphabet United States and Commonwealth folk have in common), 2009; ran WOOF (Worldcon Order of Faneditors, an amateur publishing ass’n with collation at Worldcons), 69th World Science Fiction Convention, 2011; ran the Fanzine Lounge at the 73rd Worldcon, 2015.  For TAFF he beat inter alios Orange Mike who’d been nominated by inter alios Hooper, Byers afterward serving as North America Administrator until succeeded in 2005 by Suzle.  Puns – well, he solicited and published an article by me in Corflu XXVI’s Progress Report 1.

I had four poems in SF5Y he and Sullivan splendidly got Jae Leslie Adams to calligraph; one was on the back cover with a trillion trillion suns; to another he’d given fine editorial help.  I’ve fairly often been in Chunga.

Among other adventures Byers interviewed me for Tardum Flumen 7 (Westercon LXVI newsletter; West Coast S-F Conference, 4-7 Jul 13).  He seemed to find me a hopeful man.

From time to time he called me ambassadorial.  I told him I was taking it as a compliment.

Near the end he revisited Yap where he’d lived four years, and attended Corflu XXXIV.  As Mike Glyer said, “A small mercy is that many people who cared for or loved Randy had a final opportunity to share those feelings with him.”  R.I.P.


My title alludes to the fine Dave Hicks cover for Chunga 18, about which, when I saw it, I asked Byers “How do you contrive to draw left-handed from a scabbard at your left?” Pete Seeger’s “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” (1959) quotes Ecclesiastes (attr. King Solomon; 3:1-8).

Rance Howard (1928-2017)

Rance Howard in Ed Wood (1994).

By Steve Green: Rance Howard, US actor and screenwriter, died November 25, aged 89. Father of actor Clint and actor/director Ron.

Appearances of genre interest include Night Gallery (one episode, 1971), Battlestar Galactica (one episode, 1978), Mork & Mindy (one episode, 1981), Innerspace (1987), Superboy (one episode, 1989), Quantum Leap (one episode, 1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Ed and His Dead Mother (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Tales from the Crypt (one episode, 1994), Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter (1994), Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995), Independence Day, Mars Attacks! (both 1996), Babylon 5 (three episodes, 1996-97), Baywatch Nights (one episode, 1997 — from the ‘supernatural’ second season), The SenderSmall Soldiers, Psycho (all 1998), Angel (one episode, 2001), Ghost Whisperer (one episode, 2005), Sasquatch MountainHarrison Bergeron (both 2006), The X-Files (one episode, 2016), 40 Nights (2016). Co-wrote the screenplay for The Time Crystal (1981).

Randy Byers (1960-2017)

Seattle fan Randy Byers, known even more for his hospitality and friendliness than for his many fannish achievements, died November 20 of cancer.

Randy had shared publicly about having glioblastoma in December 2015, and about the surgery and treatments he’d been through. He was placed in hospice care earlier this month and had not been conscious for some time.

Randy won the 2007 Best Fanzine Hugo with co-editors with Lee Hoffman and Geri Sullivan for Science Fiction Five-Yearly.

He co-edited Chunga with Andy Hooper and Carl Juarez, a fanzine that won four FAAn Awards and garnered two Hugo nominations. He also won a FAAn Award in 2012 for his fanzine Alternative Pants.

He discovered fandom in 1979. His ever-growing circle of appreciative friends eventually raised him to a level of popularity he’d been reluctant to pursue on his own, electing him the 2003 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. He attended Seacon ’03, the 2003 British Eastercon in Hinckley, and wrote portions of a TAFF report with a working title of The King of TAFFland’s Bent Sprog. (Links to those chapters can found at the unofficial TAFF website.)

Randy was also a conrunner, part of the Corflu Zed leadership in 2009, and ran the Worldcon apa WOOF in 2011.

In his last year he traveled and spent time with friends as his energy allowed. Randy revisited Micronesia, where his family had lived for four years from 1966 to 1970 (ages 5 to 9 for Randy.) He also attended the Corflu in Los Angeles, where I got to speak with him . A small mercy is that many people who cared for or loved Randy had a final opportunity to share those feelings with him.

Randy Byers in 2007 holding a copy of Science Fiction Five-Yearly

Pixel Scroll 11/16/17 Pixel My Blue Suede Scrolls!

(1) SERFS ERRANT. Gizmodo covers “Amazon’s Last Mile”, about the people who actually bring you the stuff.

Near the very bottom of Amazon’s complicated machinery is a nearly invisible workforce over two years in the making tasked with getting those orders to your doorstep. It’s a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws. That program is called Amazon Flex, and it accomplishes Amazon’s “last-mile” deliveries—the final journey from a local facility to the customer.

While investigating the nature of the program, we spoke to 15 current or former independent drivers across nine states and two countries whose enrollment spanned between a few weeks and two years, as well as three individuals attached to local courier companies delivering for Amazon. Their identities have all been obscured for fear of retribution.

(2) PERITEXTUAL. Peter Watts, in “After Party”, tells about his experience at the “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” symposium about his fiction.

I knew it was bound to fail— but when people are flying in from Michigan and Chicago and fucking Australia to attend, what kind of a dick would I be if I said Nah, I can’t be bothered to take a twenty-minute subway ride…? So I gritted my teeth, and made the journey. Scheduled a haircut just an hour before, so at least I’d look a little less like Rick Sanchez.

And the lady cutting my hair told me about her parents, left homeless when Hurricane Maria crawled overtop Dominica and just sat there, sandblasting that island down to the bedrock, for four days. Told me that at least now she knew her family wasn’t dead (she’d had a month to wonder about that) but that cell and internet were still out so she still hadn’t had a chance to talk to them directly.

Coming out of that haircut, the number of people who might or might not show up in Room 100 of the Jackman Building suddenly seemed a lot less important than it had been. I showed up at “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” reality-checked, and significantly less self-absorbed. And you know what?

It was a pretty great time.

(3) MORE BOOK RECS. And in the wake of Andrew Weir releasing his list of six SF books, Elon Musk has listed eight books that he says made him who he is.  They include Lord of the Flies and the Foundation series: “Billionaire Elon Musk says he was ‘raised by books’ and credits his success to these 8”.

Up until Musk was 8, he lived with both of his parents Maye and Errol Musk in South Africa, Strauss reported. But he did not see them much and mostly lived under the watch of a housekeeper, who Musk said was mainly there to make sure he didn’t break anything.

“She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed,” Musk told the magazine. “I’m shocked that I have all my fingers.”

(4) WHAT GOES UP. CNN profiles the symbolic first step as “Asgardia, the world’s first ‘space nation’, takes flight”.

On November 12, Asgardia cemented its presence in outer space by launching the Asgardia-1 satellite.

The “nanosat” — it is roughly the size of a loaf of bread — undertook a two-day journey from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the United States, to the International Space Station (ISS).

It contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.

… The nanosat will then be detached from the NASA vehicle and begin its own orbital journey around the earth. Citizens’ data will remain in orbit for between five and 18 months, the typical lifespan of this type of satellite. It will then burn out and disappear.

For Ashurbeyli, the launch fulfills a pledge he made when establishing the “space nation” to take its citizens to space via their data.

“I promised there would be a launch,” he says. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner … because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.”

Getting it off the ground

Within 40 hours of the project being announced in 2016, over 100,000 people had applied for citizenship on Asgardia’s website. After three weeks, Asgardia had 500,000 applicants.

Anyone over 18 years old, with an email address, regardless of gender, nationality, race, religion, and financial standing can apply for citizenship — including ex-convicts, provided they are clear of charges at the time of application.

… Going forward, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in low-earth orbits — the first one located 100 to 200 miles (161 to 321 kilometers) from space, which is also where the ISS is located.

The first human flight to this location is projected to take place in eight years’ time.

(5) IT COMES IN THE MAIL, TOO. Craig Engler from Z Nation (currently in its 4th season on Syfy) has launched a crowdfunding appeal on the new Drip platform for The Last Days of Earth, a new kind of serialized SF novel that “blurs the line between fiction and reality.” It’s a story about the end of the world where readers receive mysterious objects and clues in the mail timed to coincide with the release of new story installments.

The Last Days of Earth is one of the hand-picked projects chosen by Kickstarter to launch its new Drip platform, which debuted yesterday. While Kickstarter is designed for one-time funding, Drip was created as a venue for ongoing funding such as recurring subscriptions. Kickstarter members can use their existing logins to seamlessly access Drip.

The Last Days of Earth started out as a TV pilot, but I realized the themes and concepts I wanted to explore would work better as a novel,” Engler said. “But not just any novel. To tell the story right, it needed to be a serialized online book that unfolded in ‘seasons’ like a TV show and included real-world objects that would show up in readers’ mailboxes.

“The mystery objects stem from a concept in narrative theory called paratext. The idea of paratext is that things outside the text of a book — the cover art, reviews, blurbs, etc. — influence how readers experience the book. I wanted to take that idea further and create a story where physical objects were integral to the experience.”

The Last Days of Earth starts when everyone on the planet learns the world will end in six months. It follows the lives of six characters, each uniquely impacted by the news, who will find their lives intertwined in unexpected ways. The main protagonist is Anna, a pregnant women who learns her due date is the day the world will end and is determined to find a way to save her unborn child.

(6) REALITY SHOW. Michael Damian Thomas had this response to the Dragon Awards category realignments:

(7) SECOND NATURE. Has this ever been seen in the wild?

(8) WHITEOUT. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rates the start of a new Richard Baker series: “The Troublesome Universe Of ‘Valiant Dust'”.

I’m giving Baker some credit here. The man has written a bunch of books. He’s a solid voice in the military sci-fi genre and served as a United States naval officer himself, giving an earned weight to his voice when it comes to describing the minutiae of naval matters. Valiant Dust is the foundation of a new series (called Breaker of Empires) which, presumably, will follow the characters introduced here through the universe he has built.

But that universe? It’s troublesome. Set centuries in the future (following the discovery of faster-than-light technology, a diaspora from earth as it falls to a barely mentioned global Caliphate, and the always convenient misplacing of several entire planets full of mono-ethnic peoples who then slip into a kind of futuristic techno-feudalism before being miraculously re-discovered hundreds of years later), Valiant Dust drops in at a point where the major “cosmopolitan” powers — the Euro-centric Aquilans, the Germanic Dremark Empire, and the Canadians, for some reason — have become a sort of First World commonwealth. In a peaceful state of détente, they are either nobly aiding the backwards human colonies recover from their isolation, or ruthlessly divvying up this galactic Third World as nouvelle colonial masters.

(9) CHATTING WITH CHATTERLY. A modern Eliza: “Tinder bot quotes Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Lady Chatterley’s presence on Tinder has come courtesy of Libby Heaney, who has created a profile for the character and programmed a bot to chat with real men, using only lines from the book.

She also created profiles for Clifford and Mellors.

After around 800 conversations with real romance-seekers, the exchanges are part of an artwork called Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, which will be exhibited for the first time in the UK at the Lowry arts centre in Salford from Saturday.

(10) UP IN THE AIR. Weather geekery: “The Hurricane Season, As Shown By Salt, Smoke And Dust” (text and video)

Hurricane Harvey as a ball of swirling sea salt. Hurricane Irma scooping up the sands of the Sahara. Hurricane Ophelia, bizarrely, taking smoke from Portugal and pulling it up to the coast of Ireland.

A new visualization from NASA shows the hurricanes from 2017 season from a new perspective — that is, their impact on particles carried in the wind.

The video pulls from satellite imagery and computer models to track how aerosols are affected by hurricanes.

(11) THROWING THE FIRST STONE. Action teaching: “Castle Gardens Primary School ‘hit by meteorite'”.

A tarmac company provided and transported the “meteorite” and altered the school playground.

The PSNI also went to the school to respond to the “emergency”.

Mr Gray said that staging the strike would have a number of benefits for the pupils.

“It gives the children the chance to experience and imagine an event they’d otherwise only see on video clips or photographs,” he said.

“We deliberately timed it to be the first Monday after the first AQE transfer paper so that pupils could take their minds off the test for a few hours.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “This is a step up from the why-witnesses-are-unreliable demo (a staple of journalism schools) that I got in junior high.”

(12) SLICE OF LIFE. The BBC reports: “First gene-editing in human body attempt”.

Gene-editing has been attempted on cells inside a patient, in a world first by doctors in California.

Brian Madeux, 44 from Arizona, was given the experimental treatment to try to correct a defect in his DNA that causes Hunter’s syndrome.

Mr Madeux says he was prepared to take part in the trial as he is “in pain every second of the day”.

It is too soon to know whether or not the gene-editing has worked in Mr Madeux’s case.

(13) RAMPAGE. There’s a new trailer out for a giant animal movie with Dwayne Johnson that’s coming out in April.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Lou Donato (1940-2017)

Myrna and Lou Donato, co-owners of the Amber Unicorn bookstore in Las Vegas. Photo by Benjamin Hager.

By Woody Bernardi: Lou Donato, longtime Las Vegas resident, sf con huckster, and co-founder, with his wife Myrna Donato, of Amber Unicorn Books, passed away November 8, 2017.

I first met Lou and Myrna some 30 years ago when Amber Unicorn was in its original location on W Charleston. Lou and Myrna have been staples in the Las Vegas science fiction community for four decades. They were among the original dealers for Vegascon 1991 which was held at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino over Nov 1-3, 1991.

Lou was a huckster at fan-run cons for years even before I encountered Fandom. Lou and Myrna ran dealers tables at cons for decades. They did cons in LV, Loscons, Coppercons (in Phoenix, AZ), Westercons, and Worldcons, including Renovation (the 1st Nevada Worldcon, in Reno).

Lou and Myrna also ran several Antiquarian Book Fairs in Las Vegas, at both the Sahara and Stardust Hotel & Casinos and in Southern California. I believe that it was Lou and Myrna who first put me in touch with the Beast Connection, a local fan club for the 1980s Beauty and the Beast TV show. Beast Connection ran three TunnelCons in LV, in the early 90s. They did TCon I at the Sahara Hotel & Casino and TCons II & III at the Stardust Hotel & Casino.

I recently came across a PM which Myrna sent me in 2013, when we were working on a new Fan-run SF con in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we had to cancel that event. But Lou and Myrna were always willing to help where they could to further any Fan Event.

From a PM sent to Woody Bernardi by Myrna Donato in 2013:

Woody, Between 1984 and 1997 Lou and I exhibited at various Science Fiction cons, that includes quite a few WorldCons, Westercons and other [local cons] throughout the Southwest.

In the early 90’s we put on 6-10 Antiquarian Book Fairs not only here in Las Vegas, but also in Southern California. These Fairs all had a minimum of 125 dealers exhibiting their books and they came from all over the states, England and Europe.

It is difficult for me to imagine a world which Lou no longer inhabits. I’ve been reeling from all the celebrity deaths over the past year or so. The idea that many of the icons of my youth are no longer with us, well I thought those were devastating losses. This, however, hits me far harder since I knew Lou personally. Another longtime friend of mine, in Fandom, passed away just over a year ago. Joyce Worley-Katz and her husband, Arnie Katz relocated to Las Vegas in 1989. It’s my understanding that they went into Amber Unicorn on W Charleston, just over a year later, and it was Lou and Myrna who introduced them to Local Fandom by giving them a flyer for Vegascon 1991.

Lou and Myrna have been stalwarts in Las Vegas Fandom and SW Fandom at large for decades and he will be sorely missed by scores, if not hundreds of Fans.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter John Przybys wrote an article about Donato’s passing in “Amber Unicorn Books co-founder dies at age 77” on November 9.