Somtow’s New Opera Debuts in Thailand December 5

Suwana Sama – The Faithful Son, a new opera in Somtow Sucharitkul’s series “Das Jati – Ten Lives of the Buddha,” will be performed for the first time on December 5 at the Suryadhep Music Sala in Rangsit, Thailand.

His work is based on the third of the iconic ten jataka tales, parables about the previous lives of the Buddha which decorate the walls of temples all over Southeast Asia and which are object moral lessons in Buddhist philosophy.

This is actually the fourth opera he has written in the series — “We had a bit of a Star Wars problem in that the idea of creating all ten did not come until I was already well into the Bhuridat, which is technically No. 6 of the ten lives,” Somtow explains.

He is also pleased to point to the scoreboard, which shows his series now contains as many operas as one by another historic composer. “Wagner’s Ring Cycle contains four operas. Now that the DasJati cycle also contains four operas, we’ve reached at least a kind of numeric parity. But of course, The Ring is 16 hours long … the entire DasJati cycle won’t be more than about 18,” he adds, “because it’s designed for modern audiences with movie-length attention spans.” When the entire cycle debuts in 2020, he says, “It’ll feel about like watching all the Star Wars one after another.”

Somtow points out that it is the most intimate and idyllic of the ten tales. In it, the Bodhisattva grows up in a forest looking after his ascetic parents, dedicating his entire life to their welfare after they are struck blind by an angry serpent. A passing king who wants to capture the golden-skinned youth for his collection kills the boy with a poison dart, but his filial piety is so powerful that his parents’ tears bring him back to life.

This is a magical story with legendary creatures, gods, a giant snake, a virgin birth, a madcap king, and a statue that comes to life.


Incidentally, here’s a link to the full video of Somtow’s The Snow Dragon, premiered last March in Milwaukee.

[Based on the press release. Thanks to Brian Z. for the story.]

Bradbury Dramas Reprised on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 Extra has online Ray Bradbury – Tales of the Bizarre, “Strange and chilling tales from the master of thrillers.”

First broadcast in 1997, each episode includes an introduction by Bradbury that explains how he came to write the story.

The episodes are available for a limited time after their original airing. (Other stories in the series have already cycled off.)

Many of the adaptations are by Brian Sibley. Of his three episodes currently available online he says —

‘The Wind’ (technically, one of the most evocatively-realized examples of my radio work), ‘The Scythe’ (a story that moved me when I first read it and which moves me still) and ‘Jack in the Box’ (in this version a tour de force conversation between narrator and character).Radio 4 Extra never notify writers when their programmes are being repeated, so if you want to hear these broadcasts, you’ll have to move fast to catch them before they vanish back into the ether!

The series includes two dramatizations by Catherine Czerkawska, “And So Died Riabouchinska,” and, airing November 29, “The Day it Rained Forever.”

Jack in the Box – 30 min – 2 days left to listen – Adapted by Brian Sibley

A young boy lives an isolated life – until a death opens the door to the outside world…

The Scythe – 30 min – 9 days left to listen — Adapted by Brian Sibley

A young farmer gets more than he bargained for when he stumbles across a seemingly deserted farm.

The Wind – 30 min – 16 days left to listen — Adapted by Brian Sibley

A man fears for his frantic friend, who claims he’s being pursued by enraged winds out to exact revenge.

And So Died Riabouchinska  – 30 min – 23 days left to listen — Adapted by Catherine Czerkawska

A man lies murdered in a basement – but there’s a surprising non-human witness.

Available after its November 29 airing will be –

The Day It Rained Forever – 30 min – not yet aired – Adapted by Catherine Czerkawska

The last remaining residents of a drought-stricken hotel receive salvation from an enigmatic source.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

How J.K. Rowling Spent Black Friday

J.K. Rowling was constantly online Friday trying to set her Twitter followers straight about why Harry Potter named his son after Snape (and also Dumbledore, but nobody minds that).

On the Friday After Thanksgiving: Enchanting Chances, And Cosmic Dances

AmericasBestComics COMPBy James H. Burns: There was a special television treat for youngsters, at Thanksgiving weekends during the 1960s and, if memory serves, some time beyond.

To be sure, many families began their holiday Thursday with the Macy’s Parade from Manhattan (and broadcasts of the processions from other cities).  I’ve written about some other fun traditions before, such as WOR-TV’s annual King Kong festivals, and WPIX’ long-time broadcasts of Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers (aka Babes in Toyland), which began many years earlier.

But almost forgotten today is the fun the ABC network fostered nationwide, on the Fridays after Thanksgiving.

For years, ABC would run an extra edition of their Saturday morning schedule!

Those were great days for fantasy fans, and particularly the youngest of that set.

The super hero boom of 1966 inspired many animated renditions across the airwaves.

In 1967, for example, ABC’s lineup included The New Casper Cartoons Show (this was the terrific series, also often overlooked, that had stories featuring many of the great Harvey Comics fairy-take like characters, in “The Enchanted Forest,” and not simply the theatrical shorts that seemed to recycle the same plot, continually!); Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man (the first from Hanna-Barbera, the second from Grantray-Lawrence Animation and Krantz Films,  the same studio that produced the previous season’s syndicated, daily Marvel Super Heroes Show);Journey to the Center of the Earth (one of Filmation Associates’ (Lou Scheimer, Norm Prescott and Hal Sutherland) first major network sales; King Kong (from Rankin-Bass, set in the same fictional universe as their live action King Kong Escapes! theatrical feature film); and another season of The Beatles cartoon!

As others have noted, Saturday mornings, on television, seemed to belong to us, when we were children. Our parents, and grandparents, may have had a day at the movie theatre, featuring cartoons, shorts, serial chapters, and a couple of feature films….  But with the flip of a switch, we could watch all these great comedies, and adventures, with ease (and often in our pajamas)!

After a day filled with turkey and family festivities, there was something delightful about several hours of entertainment designed specifically for us…  (Indeed, an extra Saturday!) There was disappointment when the episodes were sometimes repeats of segments we had already seen.

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One particular treat was one Thanksgiving–or perhaps another holiday week afternoon–when ABC ran a special daytime screening of their hit Batman television series. There was an extra pleasure in having the dates of one of our family friends sitting and watching with me, particularly as she resembled Wende Wagner, the female lead on the contemporary Green Hornet TV series!  The young lady kindly helped me spell out the fight-scenes’ sound effects “words.” (I wonder if it’s generally realized that the 1960s Batman TV show helped a bunch of us toddlers learn how to spell?)

Video cassettes and DVDs and now downloadable media have substituted for this special kind of fun. Kids and their families, of course, can watch whatever they want to see, virtually whenever they want to view it. (The phenomenon of kids wanting to watch the same movie or TV show over-and-over still strikes me as a mystery. When I was a child, my friends and I were annoyed by endless repeats!)

There was some kind of unique fun in knowing — even if one didn’t consciously realize it — that you were united with millions of other youngsters around the nation.  Once upon a time, we sat together in the greatest matinée theatre in the world — living rooms and bedrooms and dens, separated only by walls, and neighborhoods, but not by the smiles and laughter that endure in memory….

Or even when one pops in a disc, or scans the titles on You Tube!

A “Secret” Bookstore in Brooklyn, And a Black Friday, And a December 5-6 Sale!

33_47_arts_vintagecomics01_zBy James H. Burns: Can there be a secret bookstore?

One with over 40,000 volumes, many at a buck a piece?

And with over one million comic books?

And magazines, and games, and toys….?

And just oodles of items that would tickle the fancy of any genre fan?

Joe Koch has been an active bookseller for over forty years, and his ads in the collectors/traders of the late 1980s and for years thereafter, were a cornucopia of the best of comics, and science fiction, and fantasy film magazines.

The last decade has seen his shop make a transition to the internet, emphasizing Ebay, and Amazon.  (It’s of importance to note that Joe’s Ebay sales are non-auction; he takes pride in offering virtually everything at the best price.)

But somehow less well known is that Joe’s office —

“The Warehouse of Wonders” —

Is open to anyone, at any time, by appointment.

It’s like walking into a convention out of time.

Exactly like the best of convention dealers rooms, of another era, with treasures and smiles peeking out at every corner, with so many boxes and displays to go through, and admire!

mlAnd if you’re of the right temperament, that also makes the browsing — and indeed “the hunt!” — all the more intriguing,

The journey to Brooklyn — if this seems appealing! — is well worth the effort.

(As I’ve said to Joe many times, his shop should be on every bibliophile’s “list.”)

Koch is having a Black Friday sale tomorrow, taking twenty percent off the already low prices.

Next weekend, on December 5th and 6th, the shop is having another weekend blowout, with free goodies and treats for all who attend!

There’s one other intriguing facet. Working with Koch are at least a couple of folks that you might well recognize from the heyday of the New York convention scene, decades ago.

I’ve been working with Joe the past few weeks, and it’s been a delight. We figure we must have met about forty years ago, and have known each other, since about 1985. (When you get right down to it, there just aren’t too many left of us from those halcyon days of the Phil Seuling, and other New York conventions. (And, in fact, you will find some of the remnants of the Seuling collections, within the Koch office’s walls!))

Can time be preserved on the second floor of a building just blocks from the waters of Gowanus Bay?

Can all these wonderful old publications, and the folks who cherish them, project some kind of fluid, quantum bubble?

Here, and elsewhere, I’ve sometimes wondered…

And, I believe, it’s worth the time to find out!

Driving there is easy, to the destination at 41st and First Avenue in Brooklyn, just a block from the Gowanus. By subway, the trick is to take the D,N or R train to 36th and 4th (shortly  from the Barclay’s Center/Atlantic Terminal, coming from Manhattan), walk the five blocks to 41st, hang a right, and walk the short distance to 206 41st Street….

(More directions, and info, at

lsJoe is an old friend, and on Friday, and next weekend, I’ll also be there to say Hello!


The Celebrated Thanksgiving Ape

Lot464 King Kong

Intro by James H. Burns: For a generation of New Yorkers and indeed, folks all around the country, Thanksgiving became not just about family and friends, and the Macy’s parade (and football!), and early dreams of mistletoe, but a journey alongside Carl Denham, and Ann Darrow, and Captain Englehorn, through what remains one of the finest celluloid fantasies….!

(Besides, it’s also a chance to remember, again, my good friend, Chris Steinbrunner, who helped program that Thanksgiving wonderment, and was responsible for all so much else in the worlds of imagination!)

A Trilogy of Kong by Mike Glyer: James H. Burns’ trilogy of fine articles at The Thunder Child recalls the era when a New York City TV station persuaded whole families to park in front of the set on Thanksgiving and watch King Kong for the zillionth time.

King Kong in the City: A Thanksgiving Tradition: Burns tells about his father’s affinity for the famous ape movie, and his personal memory of discovering the film on Saturday morning TV in the Sixties. The station was New York’s channel 9 (the former WOR-TV) and in the next decade it broadcast the movie every Thanksgiving, before long adding the sequel, Son of Kong, and 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, another stop-motion animation picture from Kong’s creators. The annual tradition lasted until 1985.

Chris Steinbrunner: A Renaissance of Fantasy: Chris Steinbrunner, an executive with WOR-TV, is according to Burns “one of the great unsung heroes of fandom, who helped run many of his era’s conventions, was an Edgar-award winning author, wrote one of the very first books on science fiction and fantasy movies, published many books (with Centaur Press)… and produced what may well be a lost 007 special!…”  Burns says, “My old pal was a pretty neat guy, and a while ago, I was stunned that save for a short Wikipedia entry, there was virtually none of Chris’ history on the web.” Articles like this surely will keep him from being forgotten.

One of the great times Chris and I were together came early one morning in 1983 when we ran into each other high atop the Empire State Building, gathered on the Observation Deck for a special press party commemorating King Kong’s fiftieth anniversary. With the men in suits and the ladies elegantly attired, champagne was poured as we looked towards the bi-planes in the distance, booked especially for the event, that buzzed as though in a dream, above the shores of Manhattan.

When someone asked Chris about Kong Thursdays, he replied, as he almost always did, with a quick pause, a sudden smile, and said:  “King Kong on Thanksgiving…? Whoever would have thought of such an odd idea?”

Meanwhile, At the Empire State Building: The third installment is about the Empire State Building and Fay Wray.

Vincent Price Gallery at Creature Features

Vincent Price gallery at Creature Features. Photos by Robert Kerr.

Vincent Price gallery at Creature Features. Photos of exhibit taken by Robert Kerr.

By John King Tarpinian: This weekend Creature Features in Burbank, California hosted a photo gallery retrospective of the career of Vincent Price from the David Del Valle archives.  Lovely black-and-white photos of the man that gave us so much pleasure over the decades.

I have my own Vincent Price story.  While in high school and college I worked at the Los Angeles Zoo.  Mr. Price was a zoo patron and visited the zoo frequently.  When he wished to be left along he would leave his hair at home and be wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts, hard black shoes with black socks and garters.  People would either look away or totally ignore the funnily dressed older gentleman.  And as long as he did not speak nobody would be the wiser.

All the photos are by Robert Kerr. The white haired gentleman is Clu Gulager, best known for his role in The Virginian TV series.

Robert Kerr and Clu Gulager.

Robert Kerr and Clu Gulager.

David Del Valle’s introduction to his exhibit begins:

Vincent Price was fond of reminding his fans that “If you limit your interests, you limit your life.” In a career that spanned nearly six decades, Vincent Price made films in nearly every genre. However, it was the horror genre that made him an icon – especially in the turbulent 60s, with the youth market ready to cross boundaries in every aspect of life and art.

In the 50s, Price was already well on his way to becoming the heir to stars such as Boris Karloff with films like House of Wax and The Fly. The showmanship of William Castle presented Vincent as the elegant host of the House on Haunted Hill, and then allowed him to reveal The Tingler — shocking teenagers senseless as they were electrified with buzzers hidden beneath their theater seats.

A young director named Roger Corman did the rest, creating eight films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Poe Cycle presented the Gothic master of horror persona that would remain with Vincent Price for the rest of his life.

The Importance of Being Vincent is an exhibit of the finest Price images to be offered anywhere. It represents my favorite actor in the world, showcasing every aspect of his career in show business.

For the rest of the month, the exhibition will be available for viewing during regular hours at the Creatures Features store, 11a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 11a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

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John King Tarpinian and Clu Gulager.

John King Tarpinian and Clu Gulager.

Amazing Stories Plans 1940 Retro Collection

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00075]FuturesPast Editions, an imprint of Digital Parchment Services, will soon be releasing The Best of Amazing Stories, The 1940s Anthology.

FPE has advanced the publication schedule of this volume for the benefit of readers interested in nominating for 2016’s Retrospective Hugo Awards.

Already available are The Best of Amazing Stories: 1926 and 1927 anthologies; 1928’s volume release will follow shortly after the release of the 1940 edition.

All editions are available via online booksellers in both electronic and print editions.