The Day I Became a Space Cadet

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Atop the Stairwell to Space!

By Rich Lynch: Those of you who know me are probably aware of something that I’ve been doing since about the beginning of 2011. During an otherwise uneventful day at work I had misinterpreted a comment by my then-boss that I really needed to get out from behind my desk more often. She had been wanting me to be a bit more interactive with other interagency organizations. But for a few moments I had thought she had meant that I needed to be getting more exercise.

And she would have been right – I was way too deskbound. So I decided to break each day up with a few one-mile walks within the building where I work. This increased my metabolic rate, which has helped me to manage calories and weight, and the endorphins generated by this mild exercise have helped to sharpen my thinking while I’m at work.

But to make things interesting, I plotted a virtual “Walk Across America” to keep track of my total distance walked and to serve as a motivation to keep going even farther. Five years of these one-mile walks have “brought” me more than 3,200 miles, or the distance from my home in Maryland down to New Orleans, across Texas and the desert Southwest to Los Angeles, then up the coast toward San Francisco.

And there’s more – each mile walked includes more than 100 feet of stair climbing. And as of February 3rd, I reached a milestone – my total distance climbed passed the 62-mile mark, the so-called Kármán Line which represents the internationally-recognized boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and space. Years ago at a meeting, someone not-entirely-in-jest accused me of being a space cadet. I can now claim to have officially fulfilled that prophesy!

But, truth be told, I’ve probably been a space cadet for most of my life – I was nine years old, when I discovered science fiction. This was back in the autumn of 1959, and it was before I found out there were science fiction books in the school library – it would be about another year before I would read Arthur C. Clarke’s Islands in the Sky. No, my first exposure to science fiction was on television.

men into space logoIt was a show titled Men Into Space, televised in 1959 and 1960 at the very end of the Eisenhower administration, back when the Space Race with the Soviets was becoming a national priority. It depicted the U.S. Space Program as a part of the Air Force – the main character was Col. Edward McCauley, who was portrayed as being the number one U.S. astronaut. He took part in practically all manned space missions, many of them to the moon. The program was only on the air for one season, but that season was 38 episodes long.

Seeing an episode of Men Into Space was a true sense-of-wonder experience, before I even knew what that meant. In the course of its single season, manned space flight progressed from the building of a space station, to the first test of an orbital flight around the moon, to a moon landing, to a moon base, to a trip to a near-earth asteroid, and ending the series with a trip to the planet Mars! Along the way there were episodes that addressed the question on whether we are alone in the universe. Great stuff to a kid who was about to turn 10 years old!

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Col. McCauley shows off a moon rocket model

Episodes were only a half-hour long, so the plots were pretty direct: a team of astronauts, headed by McCauley, was sent off into space for some purpose. Something unexpected happens, often imperiling the crew, and McCauley has to quickly find a way to save the day. It all worked because the actor William Lundigan, who played McCauley, was a military man himself, having served in the U.S. Marines during World War Two. On screen he comes across as an in-charge authority figure who is nevertheless very likeable. And it helped that Lundigan believed that all the space science depicted in the series was attainable someday in the real world without the need for any huge leaps in technology. He was reported to have said that: “What helped me to make up my mind [to be in the series] was the fact that this was not some Buck Rogers type show. It was not a science-fiction series, but a science-fact series. You might even say it’s a combination of a public service show and a dramatic series.”

One other thing that has reserved Men Into Space a place in my memory for all these years was how realistic the series seemed to be. And there was a reason for that – visual backdrops and spacecraft designs were created by the famous space artist Chesley Bonestell. There was also extensive technical assistance provided by the U.S. Air Force’s space medicine office, which helped give the series a sense of humanity in amongst all the space technology.Bonestell credit COMP

Men Into Space ended its run more than half a century ago but since then I have always remembered how amazing it had seemed to me. So it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that the new cable television network Comet TV, amongst its offerings of Grade-Z monster movies and 1990s sci?fi, had found room to include it in their schedule. The evening of my ascendency into Space Cadet-hood I watched an episode – it guest-starred a very young-looking Robert Vaughn five years before he became famous as The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  The plot, about a radioactive cloud of gas in a lunar crater, was a bit retro but you know what? It still held together pretty well.

Anyway, I’m pleased that after fifty-seven years I finally got another chance to watch what had been my favorite television show.  And I’m still a fan.

Ghostwords TV Launches

Steve Green 2016-01-05 screen test COMPChrissie Harper and Steve Green have released the first episode of Ghostwords TV, a fortnightly vidcast devoted to horror, dark fantasy, science fiction, comics and telefantasy.

The opening installment offers a lengthy chat with author Ramsey Campbell, including a discussion of the recent controversy over the World Fantasy Award and reminiscences of the late David Hartwell.

Other topics covered are the TV series Ash vs Evil Dead, the latest releases from comics legend Steve Ditko, personnel changes at Doctor Who, Graham Humphreys’ new artbook (including a discount offer for UK viewers) and a tribute to David Bowie.

The show is available via Rose of Eibon’s YouTube channel (where you can subscribe to all their vidcasts).

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Apex Magazine #81 Released

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Apex Magazine #81 features original fiction by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Daniel Rosen, and Betsy Phillips.

Heather Morris, Mike Jewett, Crystal Lynn Hilbert, and Laurel Dixon have contributed four poems.

Andrea Johnson interviewed Benjanun Sriduangkaew about her story and writing. Russell Dickerson talked with cover artist David Demaret about his work.

Also in the issue is a reprint of Nick Mamatas’s novelette “On the Occasion of My Retirement.”

Over the course of the month all of the issue’s content will be made available free online. The immediately available material is linked below and, for the rest, the release schedule is shown.

The full issue can be purchased now for $2.99, in PDF, ePub, or mobi formats direct from Apex of through one of their online retailers. Subscriptions are also available.

WEEK ONE

WEEK TWO

  • Anabaptist by Daniel Rosen (Short Fiction, February 8th)
  • Interview with David Demaret, Cover Artist by Russell Dickerson (February 10th)
  • Little and Red by Crystal Lynn Hilbert (Poetry, February 12th)

WEEK THREE

  • The Four Gardens of Fate by Betsy Phillips (Short Fiction, February 16th)
  • Arrhythmia by Heather Morris (Poetry, February 18th)

WEEK FOUR

  • On the Occasion of My Retirement by Nick Mamatas (Novelette, February 22nd)
  • Glitch Rain by Alex Livingston (Novel Excerpt, February 23rd)
  • Paper Unicorn by Laurel Dixon (Poetry, February 25th)

Podcast Fiction Download Podcast #32 (“The Four Gardens of Fate” by ) or listen using the player at the Apex website. (26:30 in length)

The Dark #11 Now Online

TheDark_Template_Final3aforlightbackgroundssampler11-220x340Editors Jack Fisher and Sean Wallace have released The Dark #11 (February 2016), their quarterly magazine of horror and dark fantasy.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Each issue of The Dark is also available in epub and mobi editions.

In addition, Kate Baker has done podcasts of two of these stories:

Birds of Lancaster, Lairamore, Lovejoy by Michael Wehunt
http://thedarkmagazine.com/birds-of-lancaster-lairamore-lovejoy/#podcast

Between Dry Ribs by Gregory Norman Bossert
http://thedarkmagazine.com/between-dry-ribs/#podcast

Rowling Unveils New Wizarding Schools

Four major international wizarding schools have been added to the canon by J.K. Rowling. Pottermore made the announcement on January 29 in tweets that link to introductory material penned by the author.

Discover new and exclusive writing from the pen of J.K. Rowling. Today we feature exclusive writing that explores the wizarding schools around the world…

 

Brand new writing by J.K. Rowling has revealed more information about the other schools of witchcraft and wizardry, and that the North American magical school’s name is Ilvermorny….

As for Ilvermorny… All of you eagle-eyed fans had an inkling that word was going to mean something special, and Pottermore will bring you more writing by J.K. Rowling on this magical school soon…

 

The fabulous castle appears to be a ruin to the few Muggle eyes that have ever fallen upon it (a trick shared by Hogwarts; opinion is divided on who got the idea from whom). Castelobruxo is an imposing square edifice of golden rock, often compared to a temple. Both building and grounds are protected by the Caipora, small and furry spirit-beings who are extraordinarily mischievous and tricky, and who emerge under cover of night to watch over the students and the creatures who live in the forest.

 

The only address ever given is ‘Mountains of the Moon’; visitors speak of a stunning edifice carved out of the mountainside and shrouded in mist, so that it sometimes appears simply to float in mid-air. Much (some would say all) magic originated in Africa, and Uagadou graduates are especially well versed in Astronomy, Alchemy and Self-Transfiguration.

 

While day students, wizarding children are flown back and forth to their homes every day on the backs of a flock of giant storm petrels. The ornate and exquisite palace of Mahoutokoro is made of mutton-fat jade, and stands on the topmost point of the ‘uninhabited’ (or so Muggles think) Volcanic island of Minami Iwo Jima.

Top Sales of 2015 at AbeBooks

AbeBooks, an online listing service for dealers in vintage books, publishes an annual list of the volumes it sold for the highest prices.

The most expensive item sold through AbeBooks in 2015 was Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo e adornata di figure intagliate in rame e miniate al naturale. Ornithologia methodice digesta atque iconibus aeneis ad vivum illuminatis by Saverio Manetti, a famous Italian ornithology book from 1765 that went for $191,000.

That sale also set a new mark as AbeBooks’ most expensive ever. The firm’s dual record holders before that were two books which each sold for $65,000 in 2003 — a 1937 first edition of The Hobbit and a 1644 copy of Areopagitica, John Milton’s defense of press freedom.

Works of genre interest AbeBooks sold for top dollar last year were —

charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – $25,000 A first edition from 1964 that had been signed and inscribed by the author with the words “For Jane and Alex with much love Roald Dahl October 1964.” The bookseller was Raptis Rare Books located in Brattleboro, Vermont. Published in September 1964 by Knopf, just 10,000 copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were published and they sold out within a few weeks. This copy is by far the most expensive Roald Dahl book to sell via AbeBooks and probably the most expensive Dahl book to ever be sold.
  1. Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – $19,492 Three volumes comprising The Fellowship of the Ring (signed by the author), The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, published in 1954, 1954, and 1955 respectively. All first editions.
  1. The Astronauts: The Story of Project Mercury, America’s Man-in-Space Program by Martin Caidin – $18,500 Project Mercury was America’s first mission to put men into space. First edition published in 1960 and signed by all seven of the project’s astronauts – Scott Carpenter, Leroy Cooper, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, and Gus Grissom. The project ran from 1958 and culminated in 1962 when Glenn made three orbits of the Earth.
  1. (tie) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – $15,000 1968 first edition signed and inscribed by Dick. The book served as the basis for the Blade Runner movie. The plot is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a bounty hunter is tasked with destroying six escaped androids.

A couple of other genre works outside the top 15 that were mention in AbeBooks’ roundup —

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett – $9,633 A 1983 first edition of the first book in the Discworld series that had a print run of just 506 copies, most of which disappeared into the library system. Sadly, Pratchett died in March 2015.
  • A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – $2,480 A signed 1979 first edition of one of the funniest books ever written.

Here are links to File 770’s coverage of AbeBooks’ sales roundups from the past couple of years.

Top Sales of 2014 at AbeBooks

  1. 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.

AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of 2013

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $20,000 First edition from June 1997 – one of the 500 copies printed.

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

“And Everyone I Ever Heard (Don’t Ask Me How I Know)”

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By James H. Burns:  One Sunday afternoon, at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, at one of Fred Greenberg’s erstwhile comic book marketplaces, the once-a-month comic book shows that took over from the late Phil Seuling’s “Second Sunday” events, I met a lovely young lady.

In the late 1980s, it was still rare to see women at comic book conventions, particularly “dealers’ room only” get-togethers.

If you saw a young lady, usually she was someone’s sister, or daughter, wife or girlfriend.

As in this case!

I was behind a dealer’s table when we met, and we chatted amiably.

About an hour later, she came walking by, and threw something at me…

It was a wadded up piece of paper.

“Well, that’s very nice,” I said.

“Open it!” she replied.

It was her phone number.

I was on a several-week break-up from my own girlfriend; this gal was just on a second date with someone, so I did give her a holler.

She was petite, and had a Carly Simon look (not unusual, intriguingly, for those years in New York), and was a perfectly nice, bright and funny person. We dated briefly, and remained friends.

But I was astonished, just a few years later.

Someone gave me a copy of the 1965 Hammer film, She, an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s fantasy-adventure novel about a lost kingdom, and its matriarch. (The film starred Ursula Andress, John Richardson, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee.) Early in the picture, heroes Leo Vincey and Major Holly unknowingly meet a member of Queen Ayesha’s “tribe,” while in an Israeli cafe.

Rosenda Monteros portrayed Ustane, and she was stunning and had a particularly winsome charm.

She also could have been the sister of the gal I met in New York City.

Perhaps the reason I was instantly attracted to the latter, was that the image of Ustane had been locked in my mind since I was a boy, and saw She in the late 1960s!

Ustane

Rosenda Monteros as Ustane

Flash back again with me, if you you will, to the Autumn of 1967, when ABC premiered a new Friday night hour-long series from MGM, which has now largely been forgotten, called Off To See The Wizard.  It was an anthology series featuring titles from the studio’s catalog that could be considered family viewing.

Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and Flipper were two of the bigger movies shown on the series, which usually split its offerings into two separate installments. (Genre-related titles of interest included Captain Sinbad, The Glass Slipper, Island of the Lost, Mike and the Mermaid, Tarzan the Ape Man, and What Ever Happened To Mother Goose (aka Who’s Afraid of Mother Goose?)  William Shatner’s pilot for an Alexander the Great television series, shot in late 1963, was also finally broadcast, co-starring Adam West as his best friend (along with Simon Oakland), and “guest-starring” Joseph Cotten and John Cassavettes…  (Had an Alexander series begun airing in 1964, starring Shatner and West, the course of 1960s pop culture might have been vastly altered!)

In late October, Off To See The Wizard also presented Lili, the charming 1953 movie, with some fantasy overtones, starring Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kurt Kaszner.

Lili, which takes place at a circus in a small French town was actually based on a very different tale by the popular sports-writer turned fiction author, Paul Gallico, about a misanthropic, if successful, television puppeteer in New York, entitled “The Man Who Hated People.” (Gallico’s short story originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post).  Helen Deutsch’s screenplay adaptation later served as the basis for the Broadway musical Carnival!, in 1961.  But oddly, nowhere in the credits of the original cast album, or some other material related to the play–presented by legendary Broadway impresario David Merrick (and with a script by Michael Stewart, and music and lyrics by Bob Merrill, for director Gower Champion) — is Gallico’s name….

The “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo” song sequence, in which Caron communicates with Mel Ferrer’s puppets just beyond their simple stage, stayed with me throughout my childhood, as it had for so many who saw the movie, a generation earlier!

But I was absolutely stunned, twelve years ago, when I finally caught up with the movie again, and discovered that some part of the picture had always lived within my subconscious. Because the styles worn by some of the film’s male cast I realized, had influenced elements of my own fashion sense, as a young man!

….All of which goes to prove that the films and television we show our youngsters are of importance.  There is no telling how, or when, they may continue to live in mind!

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X-Files Hate Roundup

Did you hate the X-Files revival, or love it? Brian Z. produced this roundup of critics’ negative responses to help jumpstart discussion.

The Original X-Files Pilot Perfectly Explains Why the Reboot Fails – Slate

We wanted to believe the revival of The X-Files would be a return to form, but after last night’s inaugural episode, our hope quickly faded. From the opening monologue, a seriously confusing snooze-fest, to the arbitrary new conspiracy theory, the episode veers off track early and never recovers.

To understand where it goes wrong, watch the video above, which goes back to the masterful original pilot of The X-Files to show how creator Chris Carter and his writers have forgotten what made the show work in the first place.

weird, but not in a good way – The Guardian

“You can’t say these things,” Scully tells Mulder after his epiphany (by the way: Anderson is great here, even without this monologue to endear her to the embrained members of the audience). “It’s fearmongering claptrap isolationist techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason. Saying these things would be irresponsible.”

I have another reason Mulder, and people who think the dumb things Mulder thinks, should stay silent: equating news reports of government surveillance (which is real) with the theory that the Trilateral Commission secretly orchestrated 9/11 (which is not real) makes it harder for people who want to stop things like the expansion of the former to be taken seriously.

‘I want to believe’Hollywood Reporter

After more than a few heavy-handed scenes that would otherwise seem like parody, there’s a moment in the first hour when — after an “oh-don’t-do-that” rant by Mulder about what’s really happening under their noses — Scully says something that serves as both descriptor and indictment of revisiting the series: “It’s fear-mongering, clap-trap, isolationist, techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason.”

Yes, what she said.

 I Wanted To Believe, But… – Yahoo!

The fault in the new X-Files is in some part our own fault. After all, Carter might not have executed his wish to get the old band back together for a reunion tour if there wasn’t an audience perennially agitating for it. This aspect of Nostalgia Culture — the one that is inspiring the returns of everything from Full House to Twin Peaks to Gilmore Girls — is both understandable and regrettable.

If ‘The X-Files’ Sticks Around, It Has To Abandon Its Bloated Mythology – Forbes

Now the story goes that aliens grew concerned for humanity’s survival when we started toying with nukes, but we in turn killed their emissary at Roswell in 1947 and stole their technology to further fuel a shadow government’s takeover of America, and then the planet. That’s just…well ok, that’s something I think is borderline plausible given the evils and atrocities on display by humankind lately. But I digress.

‘My Struggle’ Doesn’t Encourage Our Faith Or Trust – Indiewire

Behold Mulder, a man of the year 2016, which we know because apparently he’s learned how to use Uber. (This is something I honestly find a little hard to believe. Any man driven to investigate conspiracies on Mulder’s level ought to at least be a little familiar with that company’s shady underpinnings.)

Everything Is Wrong (PHOTO RECAP) – tv.com

But yeah, levitating invisible spaceships built by humans. It was like we were in a Syfy miniseries suddenly! Anyway, Mulder honestly looked like he’d rather stretch out on a futon than think about aliens for another second.

Every Episode of The X-Files, Ranked From Worst to Best

That said, it’s best to be forewarned that while the post-Mulder episodes of the series aren’t spectacular pieces of television, I find season eight incredibly underrated (and miles better than season seven, where David Duchovny seems as bored as all of us were at that point), and I actually like not only John Doggett, but Monica Reyes, too. Please don’t stop reading.

Neil Clarke Picked As SFWA Bulletin Editor

Congratulations to Neil Clarke on his hiring by Science Fiction Writers of America as permanent editor of The Bulletin. He has been acting as interim editor since John Klima’s departure last summer.

SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “I was overwhelmed by the talented applicants that applied for the position, and I’m happy that Neil was one of them. His editorial talents are rock-solid, he’s a congenial perfectionist, and I’m looking forward to having him as a more permanent part of the internal team. I expect great things for The Bulletin in 2016 and 2017.”

Neil Clarke is best known as editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, launched in 2006, three-time winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo, as well as a World Fantasy Award. He is also a three-time nominee for the Best Editor (Short Form) Hugo.

After graduating from Drew University with a degree in Computer Science, Clarke entered the educational technology field where he has worked at both the higher education and K-12 levels for the last twenty-seven years.

Since 2014 he’s published a crowdfunded cyborg anthology, introduced Chinese translations as a regular feature in Clarkesworld, and launched Forever, a reprint magazine. His next anthology is The Best Science Fiction of the Year which will be published by Night Shade Books this June.

Members and non-members interested in writing for the Bulletin should send a short pitch on their proposed topic, along with a bio of relevant experience, to bulletin@sfwa.org. The guidelines can be found here.

Questions, suggestions, and comments on the Bulletin may be directed to SFWA Bulletin Editor Neil Clarke at bulletin@sfwa.org, or Kate Baker at operations@sfwa.org.