Vintage Trek and Batman Clips

By James H. Burns: It’s easy — particularly across a matter of decades! — to lose sight of the era, or milieu, in which a teleseries, or movie, first appeared. I’m intrigued by this sequence of clips someone put together of original commercials that aired during a Star Trek broadcast in 1967.

I’m reminded to ask about what remains one of the few Star Trek mysteries – why did NBC (or Desilu?) come up with that alternate series title logo — one which appeared on so much of the show’s initial merchandising and advertisements?  Although no one could have known that Trek’s TYPOGRAPHY would also become near iconic, it’s odd that anyone thought that using a logo NOT featured on the series itself was a good idea!)

Also of note is this relatively recently discovered Adam West-as-Batman public service announcement for our government’s once-upon-a-time youngsters’ savings stamps/bank program:

For a stunning reason, in a way, which will become evident!

(In all my years of following “Batmania” — going back to its 1966 origins! — I don’t recall ever having seen this!)

Today In History 10/21

Damnation_Alley_1977October 21, 1977: Post-apocalyptic classic Damnation Alley opened in theaters. The film was based on a novel by Roger Zelazny. (Well, about as much as any “based on” movie ever is. It had the same title, anyway.)

Landmaster

Damnation Alley involved a cross-country trek in a vehicle dubbed the Landmaster. When production ended, it was parked beside the Hollywood Freeway by Dean Jeffries’ automotive shop from 1977 to 2005 where every passing science fiction fan might blink and ask himself, “Didn’t I see that in….?”

Furry Future Updates and Issues

Anthology editor Fred Patten sent this status report about his current project:

I’ve accepted eight stories so far for The Furry Future, from J. C. R. Coates, Dwale, M. (Maggie) C. A. Hogarth, David Hopkins, Mary E. Lowd, T. S. McNally, Watts Martin, and Michael H. Payne, for about 80,000 words of FurPlanet Productions’ requested 120,000-word minimum; all G-rated. I’ve accepted several more proposals, and I expect the finished stories to really start streaming in during November.  

Patten also made an interesting point about an issue confronting some of his authors:

A couple of furry fans who haven’t appeared in books before are dithering over revealing their real names or not. At least one has a real reason not to. I’ve edited a previous furry anthology to which a good author declined to contribute because he said that his superior of his multi-year job was looking for any excuse to fire him. When I pointed out that he would have excellent grounds for a wrongful-termination-of-employment lawsuit in that case, he replied that he’d rather not be fired in the first place. I’ve assured them that they can continue to use their fursona names even in their copyright statements.

Do writers of anthropomorphic stories have more risk from becoming identified with their work than the sf writers who historically adopted pen names to conceal their authorship of pulp stories or keep it separate from their professional work in another field?

Eric Farrell: Applying Music and Pop Art Marketing Insights To DIY Publishing

IN_THROUGH_ASSETIntroduction: Eric Farrell is the author of In Through the Out Door, an online serialized science fiction novel available at www.ericmatthewfarrell.com

On a quiet street on the outskirts of Greenwich Village, Saul Selinger stumbles across a grandfather clock frozen in time. When he realizes it’s the same one buried deep within his sub conscience, it sets off a bizarre adventure that questions where he’s been, what he’s done, and the very state of the world he lives in.  

Each week, readers can discover a new “episode” of Farrell’s novel and, he explains, “find themselves enthralled in a moody, graphic world where two men struggle with faith, peace of mind, and the will to live.”

Eric Farrell is a reporter by trade, having written for a variety of college, local and metro publications in the LA area, including the Orange County Register. In Through the Out Door is his first novel. Farrell posts regular updates on his Facebook page.

In this guest post, Farrell discusses the influences on his DIY book marketing from the music and pop art industries. 

By Eric Farrell: Outside a quiet suburban 7-11 convenience store a young, aspiring rapper once approached me and shoved a hastily put together mixtape into my hands, telling me that yes, he would love it if I could donate some money to his cause, but more than anything else he was just grateful to have someone take a chance on his music.

For some reason, that single memory, years ago at this point, has stuck with me as a particularly aggressive, effective way of marketing. As an author, in a different entertainment medium entirely, it’s become increasingly apparent just how much more effective other disciplines of the arts are at marketing.

More importantly than the divide itself is the willingness for authors in a tenuous, shifting world of publishing and marketing to adapt to the changing marketplace and reader base. Let’s be real here: a lot less people get jazzed about reading than, say, movies, or television, or music, and as a result it’s a constant need to up sell your work – especially for authors that aren’t well established like myself.

For that reason, I’ve unwittingly been heavily influenced by the intense, visceral grassroots form of marketing that the young kid outside the 7-11 utilized that day. The independent music scene can teach the world of DIY literature a lot about adversity, persistence and the prudent need to stand out. Here in LA, dating all the way back to the eighties with the rise of hair metal and still lingering about today, it’s not uncommon to see a barrage of intrusive flyers featuring an artist’s name in bold typeface plastered about the entire city. Is it hamfisted? Yes. Is it effective? I genuinely believe so.

It’s not just the marketing that the writing world can take some tips on, though. Dare I say it, television and film does dialogue – does writing in general – better than we do a lot of the time. Where dense fiction falls prey to stiff, forced dialogue, a weekly hour-long drama can yield dialogue so utterly evocative and organic it draws you in and keeps you hooked. There is something about the timing and structure of a television show, or a movie, that benefits writing in a concise and expressive way. A line of script is written with the intention of its specific intonations being directed to an actor. A page of script is written with the intention of it seeming real when put on the screen.

What I’m getting at, ultimately, is accessibility. The quick-witted, pragmatic dialogue of television and film is easily digestible and creates a pace that’s more palatable to modern tastes than the often methodical, occasionally archaic style of literature. I’m not going to say we have to cater to a different group of people entirely, because first off that term is pejorative and alienating but second because it’s not a different group of people, it’s a changed group of potential readers. Viewers don’t even watch television in the same way that they used to: instead of barging through the door to watch the latest episode of Breaking Bad, they DVR it and watch it on their own time. Or they’ll catch it on Netflix in the future. These aren’t a different group of television viewers – it’s the same people, they’ve just grasped at the new media in front of them.

In the reading world, it’s the same: people don’t read actual newspapers, they get quick, one sentence push updates on their phones. Instead of sitting cross-legged in the aisle of a bookstore, browsing the jacket summaries of a stack of novels, people kick back on their sofas and browse through their phones for the same information, or scan their tablets. Since these gadgets essentially allow consumers to read, watch, and listen all on the same device, there is already an inescapable assimilation between the different disciplines of entertainment. On my money, people aren’t going to take to dense speculative fiction after immediately watching an episode of the hottest current television drama.

That dialogue people love to soak up in movies and television really works effectively in novels as well: it’s not hard to digest yet it’s never insulting any intelligence, plus since it’s so organic it adds a whole new level of immersion into the story. It can be utilized in dialogue and description itself, painting a picture eloquently and concisely that instantly arouses without the need to dig for the beauty to begin with.

There is no need to lament this progression of taste. If we did, we would all write like Mary Shelley, and praise be, it would be upon a scourge to the dregs of society, but alas it is not an appeasing endeavor such as the opening of the skies to the heavens and by degrees an ineffectual relationship with the manufacture of currency, and thus we find it pertinent to crawl back into our respective hovels to refigure our creations.

Literature has lost its sense of savvy and, compared to the other entertainment media, has held strong as the most aloof of the bunch when it’s come to adapting to the changing marketplace and readership. Like anything, this world has its hardcore fans who sniff at the pages of used books like fiends, shuddering at thoughts of ebooks. They’ll always be loved and treasured by authors like myself for their element of loyal enthusiasm that sustains morale. Are they enough, though?

Ed Green’s Oktoberfest Moment

Ed Green, LASFS President emeritus and veteran commercial actor, appears in this Passenger music video — you’ll see him at about 1:26 playing a tuba. His musical effort and intensity is apparent from his bright red face, although the fact that it was 106 degrees on the day they shot the video may also have something to do with it.

Today in History 10/18

Moby Dick script dustjacket1851: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville was published.

It was an important book in American literature and central to a big step in Ray Bradbury’s screenwriting career. Here’s a video of him speaking about being hired by director John Huston to work in Ireland and write the motion picture script of the classic novel.

A true story inspired the novel. Nathaniel Philbrick wrote a history about it and that is about to become a movie in its own right. Ron Howard’s In The Heart of the Sea opens March 13, 2015.

In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance.  The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.  But that told only half the story.  “In the Heart of the Sea” reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive.  Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.

Chris Hemsworth stars. Here’s the trailer.

Special Guest Tanith Lee Will Launch Two Books at 2015 Eastercon

Dysprosium, the 2015 British Eastercon, has added Tanith Lee as a special guest and announced that her publisher, Telos, will launch two of her books at the convention — a newly-commissioned collection of vampire tales, Blood Twenty, and a reissue of her 2004 detective novel, Death of the Day.

Tanith Lee is a British writer of sf, fantasy and horror who has published over 90 books and 300 short stories during her 43-year career. She also wrote two episodes of the TV series Blake’s 7. Lee received the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

Dysprosium will be held Easter weekend of 2015, April 3-6, at the Park Inn Heathrow.

That’s Not A Collectible, That’s a Paycheck

The last few years of Ray Bradbury’s life coincided with the first years of this blog, which is how I learned there was a corner of the publishing industry that thrived on mining his files to find material he’d written for Hollywood that had never been produced, or was drafted for some other purpose and never reached the public, that could be turned into a profitable small press project. New Bradbury material was always in demand.

Harlan Ellison is another writer with deep files who’s kept that Midas touch. The latest example is Ellison’s contribution to DC Comics’ Batman ’66 project based on an unproduced outline for the Adam West Batman series. Ellison’s episode would have introduced Two-Face.

Alex Ross cover for he Two-Face issue of Batman '66

Alex Ross cover for he Two-Face issue of Batman ’66

Len Wein told ComicsAlliance how the project came together:

ComicsAlliance: …Did you work from a full script, a pitch that never got used for the series…

Len Wein: It is an adaptation of a lost outline. Harlan Ellison – the legendary Harlan Ellison, I should say – had done an outline for this show back in the ’60s, which for reasons not important here, never got produced, and he’d put it in a drawer and forgotten about it.

So, several months ago he was cleaning out his files and went, “Oh my god, this old thing… Hey wait, DC’s doing a book on this [Batman '66], maybe I can sell them the outline!” And he called up and said, “I’ve got this outline for an episode, are you guys interested?” and they all went, “Sure, yeah, uh-huh!” because, after all, it’s Harlan. So he sold them the outline, and called me up – Harlan’s my oldest friend, we’ve been buddies for forty-odd years – and he told me what I just told you, and said that now they needed to get somebody to script it. And I said, “I’m available!” So he said great, he called DC, they called me up and said, “you wanna do this?” and I said, “you bet.”

And then my dear old friend [José Luis] Garcia-López, one of the great artists in the history of the biz, got involved as penciller. And it started to snowball from there, it became this A-List thing. Joe Prado called up and said, “I hear there’s a Garcia-López job that needs inking” and we went, “sure, it’s yours.” Alex Sinclair called up and said, “I hear there’s this special thing going on that needs coloring.” And then Alex Ross calls up and goes, “You mind if I paint a cover for this?” And it just became this insane project.

See the complete interview here.

Brandon Engel: Starman

By Brandon Engel: When the name John Carpenter comes up, people tend to think more about his involvement with movies like Halloween (1978), The Thing (1982) or Escape from New York (1981). These thrillers helped to shape the horror and sci-fi aesthetic of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. However, with the film Starman (1984), Carpenter broke with his standard themes and made a movie that looked at science fiction in a new way, and proved to detractors that, as a filmmaker, he wasn’t purely reliant upon sensational themes (Halloween) or over-the-top special effects (The Thing).

The movie depicts an alien from an unknown planet who has decided to visit earth after hearing an invitation that was transmitted via Voyager 2 — an invitation for all other lifeforms to connect with earthlings. The alien soon discovers that earth is a hostile place. He ends up getting shot down in a remote location in Wisconsin. As with many movies of the time, the US government had been tracking the skies with typical Cold-War era paranoia. After exiting its craft, the alien proceeds to a nearby home to find the first body it can inhabit on this world. The government, meanwhile, calls in experts from SETI, police departments and the military to conduct an extensive search for the entity from the crash.

Starman_film_posterBack in the Wisconsin home, a woman, Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen), has been reminiscing about her late husband, Scott (Jeff Bridges). The protagonist first appears as an ominous ball of light floating through the air. The alien finds a lock of Scott’s hair and replicates the DNA to recreate the body and inhabit it. This sequence still features some of the well-known tropes of the science-fiction genre. The ball of light floats through the air in a supernatural way, accompanied by background music that seems to forebode something scary and possibly horrific right on the horizon.

Upon replicating the DNA from the hair, the alien undergoes a gruesome transformation from a fetus to a fully developed man. The special effects seem somewhat dated now, but still have some impact. Carpenter also makes use of an abstract sci-fi montage to show what is happening on the cellular level during this transformation. After this point, though, the movie heads in a completely different direction, focusing more on the interaction between the widow and her deceased husband’s alien doppelganger.

The alien manages to communicate and to manipulate his new human form enough to tell Jenny that he needs to get to Arizona to return to his home planet. He is now an exact clone of the man on the home videos that she was watching just moments before. Most of the rest of the movie deals with how she handles the uncanniness of the situation, and the sudden appearance of this entity who is physically identical to her husband but knows nothing about life on Earth. Part of what’s notable about the film is that it plays like a romantic road film, peppered with elements of classic science-fiction.

The studio had originally envisioned Starman as a vehicle for special-effects. Carpenter wanted to downplay the significance of the effects, and focus instead on the interaction between the two main characters. John Carpenter might have learned his lesson from The Thing, which was a superb science-fiction film that failed to gain any sort of box-office draw from outside the built-in science-fiction fanbase. And where the The Thing failed in terms of box-office receipts, Starman went on to sell well for the home viewing market, and it’s still shown frequently on niche television networks (more details), and it has actually aged quite well.

Through this process of travelling and encountering humans in different situations, the alien makes some incisive comments on how people act. Many of these moments are comedic and existential, such as when he learns what people do in the bathroom. Also, through the way he treats the people and animals he meets, he changes how Jenny thinks about the life and death of her husband.

The starman also highlights other human frailties like smoking, and discrimination against people who are different. His story also symbolizes the tension between science and the military, as well as the fear of government overreach near the end of the Cold War — a major theme of 1980’s movies that Carpenter blended into this sci-fi movie with an emotional touch. What’s more, it integrates some of the sensibility of science-fiction films from the 1950’s (the height of the Cold War) such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), wherein humanity is in a state of pandemonium over the presence of an outsider — and all the aliens want to tell us is to relax.