Folly from a Loon

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1260)  Nineteen books after The Fall of the Dutch Republic (1913), The Rise of the Dutch Kingdom (1915), and The Golden Book of the Dutch Navigators (1916), which incidentally had three different publishers, he wrote An Indiscreet Itinerary or How the Unconventional Traveler Should See Holland, by one who was actually born there and whose name is Hendrik Willem Van Loon (1933) for another.  In between he had eight more, one of which having brought out The Story of Mankind (1921; winner of the first Newbery Medal) proceeded to Tolerance (1925) and The Liberation of Mankind: the story of man’s struggle for the right to think (1926); yet another, Multiplex Man, or the Story of Survival through Invention (1928).

Twenty-two books after Itinerary Simon & Schuster published as its fourteenth Van Loon’s Lives: Being a true and faithful account of a number of highly interesting meetings with certain historical personages, from Confucius and Plato to Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson, about whom we had always felt a great deal of curiosity and who came to us as dinner guests in a bygone year (1942), and in 1942 the great reprint house Walter J. Black, Inc., may have been the original publisher (I know no other) of The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, with a short life of the Author by Hendrik Willem van Loon of Rotterdam who also illustrated the Book.

I hear a 1946 ed’n of Roget’s Int’l Thesaurus is dedicated “To the memory of Hendrik Willem Van Loon [1882-1944], who month after month, year after year, sent additions and changes for this edition”.  I haven’t seen but am willing to believe in C. Van Minnen, Van Loon: Popular Historian, Journalist, and FDR Confidant (2005; F.D. Roosevelt 1882-1945), all which appellations I understand to be correct.

Since one speaks of Rembrandts, or Cézannes, it might be tempting to call his illustrations Toony Loons, but his name rhymes with hone, not moon; he told people to think of loan.  So much of him resonates with us that it might be tempting to say It’s a proud and Loonly thing to be a fan.

His Folly is J. Wilson’s 1668 translation, with L’s eighty-page Life.  I could quarrel with him.

He says “stuffing the book full of learned notes…. might have caused … resentment [when] the erudition of the professor became the real center of interest” (p. 86), leaving readers with no help for Endymion, Momus, Priapus (just to take p. 116), nor perhaps realizing e.g. that in “the Musitian with all his division” (p. 127), division was a technical term of music in the 17th Century.

With “the burghers of Erasmus’ day were completely provincial” (p. 67), “Erasmus [1466-1536] and Luther [1483-1546] were bound to dislike each other….  dressed differently…. laughed at a different kind of joke…. for one of them was a Dutch burgher and the other, a German peasant” (pp. 70-71), he seems to have forgotten explaining “the Middle Ages were … cosmopolitan … in the matter of a common culture and a common code of manners” (p. 56).

Folly is dedicated to Sir Thomas More; alas, Van Loon says M’s Utopia (1516) “represents … England … ruled on a basis of justice and enlightenment” (p. 62).  Utopia is a satire.

The 1993 Penguin Classics ed’n has the 1971 B. Radice translation with A. Levi’s introduction, notes including discoveries since R died in 1985, and markings of E’s revisions through 1532 (E seems to have written Folly privately for M in 1509, rev. for publication 1511 which was faulty, the first ed’n E authorized was 1512, then several more — I couldn’t resist; E’s own title Moriás ’Encómion is a Greek pun [the book is mostly in Latin] on M’s name and anóitos, fool), also E’s 1515 letter to Maarten van Dorp.

The 2015 Princeton Classics ed’n has a foreword by A. Grafton with H. Hudson’s 1941 introduction, translation, outline, notes, and index of proper names (incidentally, both H & R avoid division, H p. 29, R p. 36).  I find Levi’s notes more (shan’t apologize) helpful, and they’re at the feet of pages, where notes belong.  His introduction, which does give the scholarly ground on which E stood, is perhaps a little heavy-handed and Hudson’s better.

But who can set aside Van Loon?  If you know the players without a program, if you know 17th Century English (which he chose “because in [W’s] revaluation of the original Latin he seems to have caught a great deal of the liveliness and vigor of the Erasmian text”, p. 86), if you know the issues of the day enough to catch the jokes, if you can tell when a satirist’s editor has his own axe to grind (meaning all these folks), get him.

Is The Praise of Folly worth your taking up Hudson, then Levi & Radice, then Van Loon & Wilson?  You jes’ betcha.


Looney Tunes, Warner Bros. 1930-1969; toon, apparently Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (R. Zemeckis dir. 1988).  “It is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan”, R. Bloch’s “A Way of Life” (1956, the pun already circulating in fanzines; “It is a proud and lonely thing to be a man”, W. Macfarlane’s “To Watch the Watchers”, 1949 [Quis custodiet ipsos custodes {Latin, “Who shall guard the guardians?”; Juvenal’s Satire VI, ll. 347-48, about the year 100} had already appeared, brilliantly, in Heinlein’s Space Cadet, 1948]).

Fantasy or Science Fiction: Do You Know Your Stuff?

[Republished as a post by permission of the author.]

By Camestros Felapton: Materials classified as either fantasy or SF. A handy list so you can keep your novel from wandering off into the wrong genre.

wood = fantasy

metal = both

metal subtypes:

iron = fantasy

wrought iron = steam punk

steel = both

sub-sub types

stainless steel = SF

damascus steel = historical fantasy

aluminium = SF

gold = fantasy

silver = fantasy

platinum = cyberpunk

chrome = cyberpunk

lead = steam punk

copper = fantasy and steampunk


brass = steampunk

bronze = fantasy

tin = historical romance set in Cornwall

adamantium = high fantasy or superhero

plastic = SF

glass = both

any substance with “synth” in its name = SF

any substance with “elvish” or “dwarvish” in its name = fantasy

ale (without modifier) = fantasy

ale (with modifier of alien species) = SF

beer = both

wine = fantasy

vodka (unless overtly in an Eastern European setting) = cyberpunk

gin = steam punk

leather = fantasy (but see note for “synth” above)

fur = fantasy

gutta-percha = steam punk

silicon = cyberpunk (unless modified by “based life form” in which case SF)

sulphur = horror

phosphorus = both

carbon = punk (cyber or steam)

hydrogen (in atmosphere) = SF

hydrogen (inside a blimp) = steampunk

helium = see hydrogen

all other named elements not already mentioned above = SF

rock = fantasy

mineral = SF

lava = fantasy

magma = SF

granite = fantasy

limestone = some sort of historical novel set in England about a misunderstood young person finding their way in the world

sandstone = steam punk

coal = why are you even asking? Steam punk obviously.

shale = none, shale is not allowed in any genre

slate = fantasy or steam punk

marble = both

rubber = steam punk

latex = cyber punk

spandex = ironic parodies of superheroes

wool = fantasy or dystopian YA

linen = fantasy

cotton = steam punk

silk = both and/or silkpunk

flax = fantasy

methane (in general) = SF


marsh gas = fantasy

natural or manufactured gas = steam punk

farts = fantasy

biogas = post-apoclayptic

This was a good use of my time.

The New Science Friction

By Steve Davidson: Everybody is getting hung up on SF definitions, usually ending up by arguing over sub-genres.  The problem is not with Science Fiction, the problem is to be found in the definitions themselves.  They are inaccurate, do not define boundaries accurately and are misleading.

In order to rectify the situation, a selection of definitions for popular sub genres of science fiction are herein offered:

Hard Science Fiction:  A science fiction work that is impossible for anyone not possessing genius level cognitive abilities to understand (and even then…).  Alternatively, a science fiction work that no reviewer has managed to read past the first chapter, (often confused with “Bad Science Fiction”).

Space Opera:  Published as a libretto, and always in Italian.  Very few true extant examples of Space Opera can be found, as few authors manage to find suitable arrangements for their arias.

Mundane Science Fiction:  Only found in newspapers under “Headlines”.  Based on the concept that fiction should reflect reality, its purpose is often explained as “real life sucks, your fiction should too”.

Alternate History:  Taught in charter schools supported by DeVos’s Dept. of Education;  follows the civics section on “Alternate Facts”.  (It’s a nice segue…alternate facts lead to alternate history…)

Military Science Fiction:  Any science fiction work shipped to a war zone in support of our troops.  (Works may or may not retain this status when removed from a war zone.)

Steampunk:  Science Fiction for people who may understand plumbing, but not electricity.

Dieselpunk: Science Fiction for people who may understand electricity, but not electronics.

Cyberpunk: Science Fiction for people who DON’T want to understand electronics.

Superhuman Science Fiction:  Previously referred to as “comic books”; now a major motion picture.

Space Western:  Science Fiction that is based entirely and solely on white, anglo-saxon, western-European cultural precepts.  Hitler’s The Iron Dream is frequently held up as an exemplar.

Apocalyptic Science Fiction:  Science Fiction based in the here and now.  Unlike Mundane Science Fiction, ASF is less discriminatory in its reliance on believable scientific extrapolation;  for example, a whole sub-branch of this sub-genre is devoted to alternate realities in which Donald J. Trump was elected to the presidency of the United States.

Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction: Science Fiction that takes place in a very near-future time frame.  Specifically, beginning at 1 second following the end of Trump’s term in office and extending until the heat death of the universe.

Libertarian Science Fiction:  formerly a branch of Apocalyptic SF, Libertarian Science Fiction – frequently referred to as “I can too play with myself in public, I have rights, ya know!?” – has now been relegated to that branch of literature known as “Fantasy”.

Feminist Science Fiction:  A movement of late has attempted to remove “Feminist” from the label.  In point of fact, most author’s desire the label, deserving or not, as it almost guarantees that white people will be featured on the cover art.  Most lexicographers consider it to be synonymous with “Science Fiction”.

Science Fiction Romance: Two alternate definitions prevail here:  1: Bodice Ripper In Spaaaaaaaace!  (This rarely results in successful fiction as the object of desire almost always dies within a few seconds of their spacesuit’s bodice being ripped.)  2. See previous definition for Feminist Science Fiction

Easy to remember blanket definition:  It’s fantasy, with science.  Maybe.

Pulp Recognition Whiz

In yesterday’s Scroll I threw out this link with a challenge —

Look for the SF pulps! Photos of old newsstands.

Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories actually did it. Here are his results. The titles are flagged in red.

  • Argosy

  • Astounding, Amazing, and Weird Tales

  • Planet Stories

  • Weird Tales

  • Wonder and Amazing

  • Action Comics

I asked if Steve used a computerized microscope? He answered, “Nah, squinting and an intimate familiarity with pulp SF title fonts, lol.”

Oldies Goldies

Curated by Carl Slaughter: Sci-fi oldies, but definitely not sci-fi goldies:

(1) How can a sci-fi television show fail with the likes of Vincent Price, Earnest Borgnine, Lorne Greene, and a hunk from Dallas?  Fail they did.

  • Future Cop
  • Time Express
  • Fantastic Journey
  • Invisible Man
  • Gemini Man
  • Man from Atlantis
  • Project UFO
  • Beyond Westworld
  • Tales of the Unexpected
  • Spiderman
  • Logan’s Run
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • Battlestar Galactica

(2) Bad and hideously bad failed speculative TV pilots.  Including Leonard Nimoy’s Baffled.  Try this quote from Clone Master:  “I’m working on some very sophisticated cloning experiments.  But working on cloning and being a clone are two different things.”  And this Morgan le Fay quote:  “I am Kali, goddess of destruction!  I am Lilith, queen of demons!  I am Ishtar, bloody Ishtar!”

  • Dr. Strange
  • The Man With The Power
  • Northstar
  • ExoMan
  • The Archer; Fugitive from the Empire
  • The Tribe
  • Clone Master
  • Baffled!

(3) Remember these old, tacky, short-lived sci-fi shows of the 80s?

  • Automan
  • Manimal
  • The Wizard
  • Wizards and Warriors
  • Misfits of Science
  • Shadow Chasers
  • The Phoenix
  • Powers of Matthew Star
  • Starman
  • Outlaws
  • The Highwayman

(4) 80s sci-fi gems and duds, mostly duds.  Including Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman’s Beauty and the Beast.

  • Darkroom
  • Galactica 1980
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • V
  • Otherworld
  • Hard Time on Earth
  • Voyagers
  • The Greatest American Hero
  • Once a Hero
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Werewolf
  • Max Headroom
  • Twilight Zone

(5) Remember these old, tacky, short-lived sci-fi TV shows from the 90s?  Including Steven Spielberg’s seaQuest DSV and Stephen King’s Golden Years.

  • Space Rangers
  • The Flash
  • M.A.N.T.I.S.
  • Mann and Machine
  • Viper
  • seaQuest DSV
  • The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage
  • Eerie Indiana
  • Nightmare Cafe
  • Dark Shadows
  • Earth 2
  • Touched by an Angel
  • Twin Peaks
  • X Files
  • Golden Years

Superheros: Best and Worst Video Roundup

Curated by Carl Slaughter: (1) Screen Junkies’ list of best comic book screen casting

  • Chris Evans as Captain America
  • J.K. Simmons as JJ Jameson
  • Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki
  • Michael Keaton / Christian Bale as Batman
  • Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool
  • Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
  • Robert Downing as Iron Man
  • Heath Ledger as Joker

(2) CBR’s list of worst superhero castings:

  • Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider
  • Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern
  • George Clooney as Batman
  • Eric Bana as The Hulk
  • Jessica Alba as The Invisible Woman
  • Ben Affleck as Daredevil
  • Shaquille O’Neall as Steel
  • Seth Rogen as The Green Hornet
  • Topher Grace as Venom
  • Halle Berry as Catwoman

(3) 8 openly gay superheroes

(4) Superhero Movie Moments That Make Absolutely No Sense

(5) Movie essayist Patrick Willems, who has a keen eye for colors in superhero movies, especially likes the way Patty Jenkins used colors in Wonder Woman.

(6) 10 Actors Who Thought They Were Playing Other Comic Book Villains

Pop Super-Character Quiz

By Carl Slaughter: Identify the superhero, supervillain, superrelative, superalterego, or superbuddy who uttered these famous catch phrases or one liners.  Easy ones first.

  1. “I’m Batman.”
  2. “I am Iron Man.”
  3. “This is a job for Superman.”
  4. “I’m your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
  5. “Hulk smash!”
  6. “I am Groot.”
  7. “Shazam!”
  8. “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight.  Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”
  9. “Kneel before Zod.”
  10. “Hail Hydra.”
  11. “Back in a flash.”
  12.  “Flame on!”
  13. “My Spidey sense is tingling.”
  14. “Assemble!”
  15. “Kowabunga!”
  16. “Spoon!”
  17. “Bub.”
  18. “Why so serious?”
  19. “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”
  20. “I could do this all day.”
  21.  “It’s clobbering time!”
  22. “It’s morphing time!”
  23. “The power of the Sun in the palm of my hand.”
  24. “I am vengeance.  I am the night.”
  25.  “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me.”
  26. “With great power comes great responsibility.”
  27. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
  28. “Don’t make me angry.  You won’t like me when I’m angry.”
  29. “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.”
  30. “I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me.”
  31. “Men get arrested.  Dogs get put down.”
  32. “This city’s afraid of me.  I’ve seen it’s true face.”
  33. “You’ve got me?  Who’s got you?”
  34. “Is she with you?”  “I thought she was with you.”
  35. “It is our sacred duty to defend the world.  And it is what I am going to do.”

Answer key:

  1. “I’m Batman.”
  2. “I am Iron Man.”
  3. “This is a job for Superman.”
  4. “I’m your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
  5. “Hulk smash!”
  6. “I am Groot.”
  7. “Shazam!” AKA Captain Marvel
  8. “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight.  Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”
  9. “Kneel before Zod.”
  10. “Hail Hydra.”
  11. “Back in a flash.”  — The Flash
  12.  “Flame on!”  — The Human Torch
  13. “My Spidey sense is tingling.”  Spider-Man
  14. “Assemble!”  — Avengers
  15. “Kowabunga!” – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  16. “Spoon!”  The Tick
  17. “Bub.”  — Wolverine
  18. “Why so serious?”  — The Joker
  19. “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”  — Tony Stark
  20. “I could do this all day.”  — Steve Rogers
  21.  “It’s clobbering time!”  — The Thing
  22. “It’s morphing time!”  — Power Rangers
  23.  “The power of the Sun in the palm of my hand.”  — Doctor Octopus
  24. “I am vengeance.  I am the night.” — Batman
  25.  “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me.” — Batman
  26. “With great power comes great responsibility.” — Peter Parker’s uncle, Ben
  27. “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” — Harvey Dent
  28. “Don’t make me angry.  You won’t like me when I’m angry.” — Bruce Banner
  29. “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.” — Professor Xavier
  30. “I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me.” — Rorschach
  31. “Men get arrested.  Dogs get put down.” — Rorschach
  32. “This city’s afraid of me.  I’ve seen its true face.” — Rorschach
  33. “You’ve got me?  Who’s got you?” — Lois Lane
  34. “Is she with you?”  “I thought she was with you.” — Superman, Batman
  35. “It is our sacred duty to defend the world.  And it is what I am going to do.” — Wonder Woman

Sci-Fi Pop Quiz 2

By Carl Slaughter: Here is a list of titles you are to use in answering the questions that follow.

  • The Mysterious Island
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau
  • From the Earth to the Moon
  • The First Men on the Moon
  • The Time Machine
  • The Invisible Man
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • The Adventures of Captain Nemo
  • The Adventures of the Nautilus
  • The Land That Time Forgot
  • The People That Time Forgot
  • The Lost Continent
  • The Lost World
  • Journey to Venus
  • Lost on Venus
  • Escape on Venus
  • Journey to Mars
  • Return to Mars
  • Marooned on Mars
  • Robinson Crusoe on Mars

(1) Which of these stories did Jules Verne write?

(2) Which of these stories did H.G. Wells write?

(3) Which of these stories did Edgar Rice Burroughs write?

(4) Which of these titles are fake?

(5) Which title is incomplete?

(6) Which title is slightly misspelled?

(7) Which stories have a crossover character?

(8) Which story originated as a movie?

(9) Which story originated as a comic book?

(10) Which two stories were written by famous authors writing out of their usual genre?

The answer key follows the jump.

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