Snapshots 104 Starfighter

Here are 12 developments of interest to fans.

(1) The Lava Lamp is 50 years oldSmithsonian Magazine has all the strange details. John King Tarpinian was surprised: “Who knew this was invented by an English nudist accountant?”  If you bet this was the invention of an engineer who kept his pants on — you lost!

I really wanted a Lava Lamp when I was in the sixth grade. Don’t seem as interested now. So if youth is wasted on the young, are paychecks are wasted on the old…?

(2) Asimov’s “Bicentennial Man” won a Hugo in 1977 and was made into a movie. In spite of those recommendations it took a recent article to convince me the story has literary depth.

“Asimov’s Embarrassing Robot: A Futurist Fable” by Irving H. Buchen in The Futurist (scroll down a ways and you’ll find it) sees it as a gateway to understanding the “the technological Singularity and of the projected symbiotic human relationships with machines has been hailed rightly as an evolutionary crossover…”

It is curious that Asimov, in a sense, used his own craft as a model for Andrew’s development. The capacity to create or respond to art has fascinated science-fictionists. To prove that the aesthetic response is not acquired but innate in man, Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein, has the creature stop in his tracks one moonlit night on the moors and almost swoon with delight at the beauty of the sky. Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite form of survival is the artful dodger. And all of Arthur C. Clarke’s computer beings are adept at design. Thus, art functions, as it always has for humans, as the ultimate test of creativity and independence of thought and imagination—except, of course, Andrew is an android. Nevertheless, art also serves as the threshold for Andrew’s next stage of development: freedom.

(3) Stanley Kubrick worried about making IBM upset after they’d been so helpful with the production of 2001. Letters of Note says Kubrick asked a studio executive Does I.B.M. know that one of the main themes of the story is a psychotic computer?” The answer, reports Slate was “so long as the company’s name was ‘not associated with the equipment failure,’ they had no problem with the movie.” That was a broadminded attitude for a big corporation to take in the Sixties. Nothing like, say, the builders of the S.S. Minnow for Gilligan’s Island — try finding their name in the credits.

(4) James Bacon in “Cosplay and Comics at Arisia” told Forbidden Planet readers there was a “superb convention” in Boston last month with a fine masquerade –

Let no one be deluded, these fans know their comics. The winners of the Novice category in the Masquerade, Antonia Pugliese and Raven Stern, were as excited about Gail Simone commenting on social media about their costumes, as any comic book blogger would be if they managed to get a comment from their favourite writer. Along with Julia Pugliese, their entry, The Birds of Prey, not only looked stunning, but their dance routine had the crowds cheering.

(5) DC Comics’ “New 52” celebrated love in a Valentine’s Day Special. A review by the prolific James Bacon.

(6) Andrew Liptak introduces a new generation to John W. Campbell in an article for Kirkus Reviews:

John W. Campbell Jr. was born in 1910, and had become a notable science fiction author in his own right throughout the pulp era. His first story, “When the Atoms Failed,” was published in the January 1930 issue of Amazing magazine and was followed by a number of other stories in a similar vein before shifting to a new, less campy style in 1934 under a pseudonym, Don A. Stuart. Along the way, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and Duke University in North Carolina, eventually earning a degree in physics in 1932. With few positions for physicists available, he continued to write, eventually producing some well-known stories, such as “Who Goes There?,” which would eventually be filmed three times as The Thing from Another World and The Thing (in 1982 and 2010).

And he takes the story through Campbell’s rise to the editorship of Astounding. Campbell literally put the “science fiction” in Astounding – the words weren’t originally part of the magazine’s title.

(7) Leslie Klinger is suing the Conan Doyle estate, hoping to end its practice of charging writers to use the Sherlock Holmes character in new stories.

On Valentine’s Day 2013, I made a big commitment: I filed an action in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. The Estate has for some time been insisting that creators who want to use the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in their new creation pay the Estate not insubstantial amounts for “permission” to do so. I believe that this violates U.S. copyright laws. Although 10 of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle remain protected by copyright for 95 years after publication date, the last expiring in 2022, 50 of the stories are in the public domain. Because the essential characteristics of Holmes and Watson are set forth in detail in those public domain stories, I believe that anyone can freely use the characters as they see fit. In particular, the Estate is trying to stop publication of a new anthology created by Laurie R. King and me, tentatively called “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,” a second collection of stories inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon by an amazing group of writers.

Copies of the filing and exhibits are available at Free Sherlock.

Nate Hoffelder analyzes the case at The Digital Reader:

The Conan Dolye’s justification for their legal shakedown is at best questionable and is based on a not-entirely settled point of copyright law. Allow me to explain.

As you probably know, the vast majority of the Holmes stories are old enough that they are no longer in copyright in the US. (The author died in 1930, so his entire body work is public domain everywhere but the US.) In the US you can legally download nearly any of the Holmes stories from sites like Project Gutenberg. If you wanted to, you could then format the stories as ebooks or bind them into a paper book and sell the stories. This is completely legal.

But according to the Conan Doyle estate, one thing you cannot do is write a new story that features Sherlock Holmes. There is exactly one remaining Conan Doyle book,The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, that still contains copyrighted Sherlock Holmes stories – 10 stories, in fact. Because some of the original stories are still in copyright in the US, the estate believes that they can control who writes new stories. They are using that control to collect fees from publishers, studios, and anyone with deep pockets.

(8) Joy V. Smith’s first novel, Detour Trail, will be released February 25; it’s a western and will be available from Melange Books, the publisher, and online. She’s interviewed about Westerns generally and Detour Trail in particular at The Western Online.

Joy hopes her SF novels make it to the starting gate soon…

(9) John Williams wants to score Star Wars VII. Greg Brian says – give him a chance!

That isn’t easy for an established composer who’s already over 80 years old. So goes the same issue other legendary film composers endured when reaching their career sunsets. Movie composing legends such as Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, and Henry Mancini were sometimes unfairly overlooked for new, higher profile features once they were deemed composers from an older, classic era….

Let’s also not underestimate Williams possibly using new musical ideas to update his sound. He already knocked over his traditionalist streak when he used a new fingerboard instrument called a Continuum in 2008 for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” It proved his astuteness to newer sounds and how it can keep him relevant in film scoring for at least another decade.

(10) Here are two videos about the home office of the future. I’d say Walter Cronkite’s 1967 prediction of what a home office would look like in 2001 [YouTube] came much closer to hitting the target than AT&T’s image of the future from a 1993 TV ad.

In 2001 people needed different hardware for all these purposes, as shown – something that has changed since then. AT&T missed the target by assuming people with all this technology would use it to watch pages turning in a physical copy of a book. That prediction was already obsolete in 1993!

Not that we should be ungrateful for the other cheap thrills AT&T gave us along the road to the future. John King Tarpinian vividly remembers “going to the County Fair as a wee lad and the ATT Pavilion had a dial phone next to a touch tone phone. The test was to see if you could dial you home phone number faster than you could dial an unknown number on the touch tone phone.”

(11) Fred Lerner’s donation to Columbia University is a continuing source of wonder to the librarians working with it, as are the memories it evokes about the Columbia University SF club of his day –

The magazines that Green is now processing were donated in July by Fred Lerner ’66CC, ’81LS — a collection of two thousand or so copies of such titles as the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Astounding Science Fiction,and, of course, Amazing Stories. Lerner, as an undergraduate, had founded the Columbia University Science Fantasy Society (CUSFS), which in the 1970s morphed into today’s Columbia University Science Fiction Society, with an identical acronym affectionately pronounced “cuss-fuss.”

Since its inception, CUSFS has hosted mini-conventions; produced a newsletter of reviews, essays, and fiction called CUSFuSsing (with that peculiar capitalization); screened movies like Metropolis and Blade Runner; held birthday parties for hobbit extraordinaire Bilbo Baggins; and conducted virgin sacrifices to Cthulhu, a creation of H. P. Lovecraft (“It typically involved wrestling in a pool filled with fake blood,” recalls former CUSFS president Eugene Myers ’00CC).

(12) The sources of Orwell’s political vision are concisely traced in 1984: George Orwell’s Road to Dystopia, a BBC News article by David Aaronovitch:

Orwell’s opposition to totalitarianism, of left and right alike, was toughened up by his association with the novelist Arthur Koestler, a communist who had been imprisoned under threat of execution by the fascists in Spain.

Koestler later escaped to England where he published his novel, Darkness at Noon, in 1940.

This bleak story of an old Bolshevik who confesses to crimes he has not committed and is shot by the Soviet authorities, was to have a profound influence on Orwell.

His many book reviews also reveal much about his political influences, but one name, James Burnham, stands out.

An ex-communist, Burnham’s 1941 book, The Managerial Revolution, filled Orwell with both horror and fascination.

In the book, he found two of the crucial elements of his novel: a world ruled by three super-states, and the idea that the overlords of the future would not be demagogues or democrats, but managers and bureaucrats.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Dan Goodman, David Klaus, James Bacon, Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian.]

4 thoughts on “Snapshots 104 Starfighter

  1. I’ve a few lava lamps, but they’re used a as night lights in the bedroom. Or if I awaken at an unreasonable time, I can watch the motions of the liquids and lull myself back to sleep.

    I’ve never noticed them in SF movies.

  2. I wonder if the Sherlock Holmes stories fall into that set of “MIckey Mose” laws that Sonny Bono enacted to kept Mickey Mouse from public domain. If Holmes were trademarked like the Mouse, then payment is due. But the laws here are not the same asthey are in England. Certainly a gray area and a different earlier time frome.

  3. My only excuse it that it’s a typo in the quoted source… But I didn’t notice it until you commented.

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