Craig Miller’s Middle Eastern Project

Majid Kids TV is a new channel from the United Arab Emirates, and Craig Miller has developed two animated series for them, supervising the writing, and he wrote a half-hour special they used to announce the channel.

A sample video from Majid, about a teenage boy who travels around the world and solves mysteries, has been posted to YouTube.

It begins with a montage of scenes from scripts by Shaene Siders and Jeremiah Smith, and a full episode written by Genny Dazzo.

All the dialog is in Arabic.

A Martian Potato

Martian potato

Craig Miller’s postman just delivered his promotional tie-in potato from The Martian.

To promote the movie “The Martian”, 20th-Century Fox made a deal with Mail a Spud (an actual company, surprisingly) to send out potatoes.

With notes written on them — “Potatoes from Mars! And you thought only candy came from there.”

And because you can now print personalized postage stamps, the stamp on the potato (yes, stuck directly on the potato, just as the message is written in Sharpie-style marker directly on the spud) shows a photo of Matt Damon in costume as Mark Watney overlaid with the words “Bring Him Home”.

The Mail A Spud website is appropriately tongue-in-cheek:

  • Why would I spend $10 on a stinkin potato? Can’t I do this myself for half the price?

Of course you can! We’re here for the people who love the idea but don’t feel like going through the hassle of mailing it themselves. Mailing a potato isn’t so cheap either. Postage can come in at over 4 dollars per spud.

  • How much do the potatoes weigh?

Our Russet potatoes vary in weight but expect them to come in at around 10 – 12 ounces.

  • Can I eat the potato when it gets here?

We do not recommend you consume the potato after it has traveled across the country inside of trucks, planes, and postal service bags. It has touched a lot of germs by the time it arrives to the recipient.

  • Aren’t you wasting food?

No! Well yes, but each spud shipped is bringing more awareness to the beauty of the potato.

Time to rewrite the filksong —

Martian potatos, Martian potatos

Will you send a Martian potato to me….

Evil Signs

Craig Miller was invited to speak at the Animayo Animation & VFX Festival on the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands earlier this month on the subject of Star Wars. Craig worked for Lucasfilm in the 1970s as Director of Fan Relations and started the Official Star Wars Fan Club.

When he got back Craig repeated several anecdotes from his talk for Facebook friends.

One of the things I was prompted to mention during my talk was that, if, during the years I was at Lucasfilm, someone wrote to us asking for an autographed photo of James Earl Jones or David Prowse, the letter went to the actors (or their reps). If they asked for Darth Vader’s autograph, the photo came to me and *I* signed Darth Vader’s name on the photos. So, of course, some of the people who came up for an autograph, asked me to sign both my name and Darth’s. It took me a few moments to remember what “Darth’s” signature looked like but after I did, I’d sign that, too.

That struck me as funny, and it also set me to thinking about people who collect the signatures of famous fictional villains rather than the actors who play them.

Well, of course they do. Didn’t my daughter collect all the autographs of the Disney princesses? Same thing. Except evil, of course.

Naturally, Google has a lot of examples of Darth Vader photos autographed by Jones, who performed Darth’s lines, and Prowse, who did the physical acting.

There are also a bunch of websites with unrelated Vader autographs, many obtained by people in their childhood from random actors making “personal appearances” in costume at shopping malls.

Next I wondered, does somebody sign for Sauron, too?

The actor who played Sauron (while he still had a body) in head-to-toe armor in the first Lord of the Rings movie by Peter Jackson, Sala Baker, has signed his share of trading cards.

Sala Baker as Sauron

And now I like to think that fans who write directly to Sauron at the studio (and not to the actor) have their requests filled by Craig Miller’s counterpart, who has practiced signing the Dark Lord’s name with a flourish.

Today’s Birthday Boy 9/24

Born September 24, 1936: Jim Henson

Jim Henson was the beloved creator of the Muppets. However, an entirely different universe and collection of characters led him to attend his first World Science Fiction Convention.

The Dark Crystal, which Henson co-directed with Frank Oz and co-wrote, was released in 1982. The movie’s creatures and characters were based on the conceptual artwork of Brian Froud.

Jim Henson and producer Gary Kurtz promoted the film at Chicon IV, the Worldcon held in Chicago in September 1982.

Curiously, what is misidentified on The Dark Crystal “Making of” page as a photo from the 1982 Worldcon (below), actually is from a 1983 ceremony in France. Craig Miller, who worked on the film’s convention PR, verified that Froud did not attend Chicon IV. The correct identification (repeated below) comes from an entry at Jim Henson’s Red Book.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Also released in 1982 was The Dark Crystal computer game by Sierra Online — a re-creation is available for free play here.

(And Taral will appreciate it if I mention that his beloved Fraggle Rock, another Henson project, started shooting that same year in Toronto.)

Henson came to the Worldcon again in 1983, when it was held in Baltimore. Henson made a presentation about The Muppets Take Manhattan, then fielded questions about the Muppets and the world of The Dark Crystal. Henson spent some time wandering around the convention afterwards.

Although Henson did not come to the 1984 Worldcon, his presence was still felt. Two entries in the L.A.Con II masquerade re-created characters from The Dark Crystal. The following year, a participant had the chance to show him a folio documenting the presentations, and got back a nice letter about them.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

Just like those costumers, many creative people were and continue to be inspired by Henson’s artistic vision.

Photos of 1981 NYC Party for James White

Peter de Jong recently found a set of 27 photos taken at a 1981 party for LunaCon GoH James White, the Irish sf writer, and has posted them here.

The party, organized by Moshe Feder, was held at de Jong’s apartment in midtown Manhattan. Feder says he does not know who took the pictures.

James White wears his famous Saint Fantony blazer in photo #1.

Fans identified in the photographs are: Norma Auer Adams, Larry Carmody, Ross Chamberlain, Alina Chu, Eli Cohen, Genny Dazzo, Peter de Jong, Moshe Feder, Chip Hitchcock, Lenny Kaye, Hope Leibowitz, Craig Miller, Andrew Porter, Stu Shiffman, James White, Jonathan White, Peggy White, and Ben Yalow.

(There is also an unnamed fan in photo #4 I recognize. She occasionally looks at this blog and I will happily add her name to this article if she grants permission.)

[Thanks to Moshe Feder and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Jane Yolen on YA Hugo Possibility

Fans are divided over the proposal to add a Hugo category for YA books. No matter your opinion, it’s worth hearing what a leading YA author thinks about the idea.

Jane Yolen has enjoyed success in many literary categories and is renowned among YA audiences. Craig Miller had an opportunity to ask for her views. Here’s what she said about adding a YA book category to the Hugos:

All the YA and children’s book writers I know who do sf and fantasy WANT a Hugo within a designated category and don’t feel it would ghettoize the award at all. It will also make it much easier to “sell” sf/fantasy books to the teachers and librarians. They LOVE to see award stickers and lists of award winners and buy from those lists. It would make a huge difference.

[Thanks to Craig Miller for the story.]

Conrunners React to Cornell Initiative

Paul Cornell and Si Spurrier have called for a 50/50 male/female balance on all convention programs.

I am terribly prone to complacency, therefore, regardless of my initial skeptical reaction to the implied criticism, I think anybody who puts himself out there trying to raise the bar for con runners is doing me a service just by making me think about why I do things the way I do.

Although I don’t believe in being ruled by a canned number, I do believe in getting more women on programming. I was willing to ask — how well am I really doing? (See “Program Participation as Civil Disobedience”.)

Next, I wanted to know how other convention program organizers feel about Cornell’s initiative. Will it make any difference? Should it? How practical is it? I reached out to a dozen experienced conrunners (plus fandom’s best-known program reporter) with these questions:

  • What is your approach is to gender parity on panel programs?
  • Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?
  • Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?

Responses came back from Emily Coombs, Janice Gelb, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Mann, Craig Miller, Priscilla Olson, Arlene Satin and two fans preferring to remain unnamed. Most of their comments were so deeply thoughtful I decided to run them in full. That makes for a long post, of course, so I have placed their views after the jump.

Continue reading

All Bradbury All the Time

Moto Hagio with Ray Bradbury at Comic-Con 2010.

Time to refresh Taral’s screen with these links (courtesy of John King Tarpinian)….

(1) Artist Moto Hagio, who did a manga adaptation of R Is for Rocket, got to meet Ray for the first time at Comic-Con:

For me, and even more so for Hagio, the most moving moment was a very private one, in which Hagio was introduced to the great Ray Bradbury in a quiet room in the convention center. Mr. Bradbury has difficulty hearing and speaking, but the two of them were able to communicate quite well without words. (No interpreter required.) Ms. Hagio had tears in her eyes at the end of the meeting. For her it was a dream come true.

(2) Ray Bradbury’s play 2116, previewed in South Pasadena last December, gets its world premiere at the Fringe in Edinburgh on August 22. Claire Prentice interviewed Ray for the Scotsman:  

Relaxing in the study of his Los Angeles home, sandwiched between a Tiffany lamp and a large plastic dinosaur, Bradbury says: “To have it performed is a gift. When I saw it here in LA, I wept with joy.” While 2116 is on in Edinburgh on 22 August, Bradbury will be celebrating his 90th birthday with his four daughters and his grandchildren.

The man charged with resurrecting the piece was Steve Josephson, the multi-award winning artistic director of Gallimaufry Performing Arts. By the time Bradbury dug out the original script of 2116 to show Josephson, the musical was missing numerous pages, the original score and an entire second act. “All I got was pages and pages of lyrics with character names and no music,” recalls Josephson, sitting next to Bradbury in his study….

(3) FX Feeney’s Comic-Con report “Young Hearts Versus the Undead” offered a long quote from Ray Bradbury’s talk:

“The man you see here is in reality a twelve-year-old boy,” iconic sci-fi author Ray Bradbury thundered before a capacity crowd of a thousand or so who’d gathered to hear him speak. Bradbury’s hearing and eyesight may be at full fathom-five these days, but his mind is as sharp as Captain Nemo’s at the console of his submarine. “How do I do it, you ask? By exploding, every day! If you are dynamic, you remain a child. I’ve remained a boy because I’ve never looked back. That’s me—The Running Boy.”

As a bonus, several photos of Comic-Con panels accompany the article, and LASFSian Craig Miller appears in one of them.

(4) CNN ran a story on Ray’s approaching 90th birthday:

Ray Bradbury lives in a rambling Los Angeles home full of stuffed dinosaurs, a tin robot pushing an ice cream cart, and a life-sized Bullwinkle the Moose doll lounging in a cushioned chair.

The 89-year-old science fiction author watches Fox News Channel by day, Turner Classic Movies by night. He spends the rest of his time summoning “the monsters and angels” of his imagination for his enchanting tales.

(5) John King Tarpinian promises this is a link to a Classical Birthday Card for Ray on YouTube.

Help Rebuild Len Wein’s Comic Collection

Rebuild Len Wein's Comic Collection

When Len Wein and Christine Valada’s home burned on April 6, as Craig Miller explained, “The master bedroom and bath were burned out. The walls still stand but everything inside, including the ceiling, is gone. Nearby rooms had extreme heat and smoke damage and smoke damage runs throughout. DVDs, artwork, awards, etc. are gone forever.”

Wein’s friend Mark Evanier realized that even though insurance should provide the money to restore the house, many things, including Wein’s comics, were not covered.  Evanier thought it was a particular shame that Wein had lost the collection of comics he himself had worked on – and Evanier knew that, at least, could be fixed:

Some of us thought it would be grand if his friends and fans pitched in to help him recreate those shelves of the comic books he’s worked on.

So the crusade as been launched. At the “Let’s Rebuild Len Wein’s Comic Book Collection Project” site there is a frequently-updated PDF list of what they want, with lineouts of what’s been received. It looks as if half of the needed titles have already been secured, but dozens more are still being sought.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Self-Publishing Not Necessarily a Bowl of Cherries

After seeing stories here like “Self Publishing Success Story”, Craig Miller sent me a link to author Lee Goldberg’s skeptical warning about self-publishing titled “More Vanity Press Kool-Aid”. Craig explained:

Lee is a mostly-former TV writer and now writes a lot of tie-in mysteries (Monk books, for example) and original mysteries.  His blog is, like most people’s, about what he’s doing but he occasionally talks about self-publishing – because self-publishing authors who he’s never heard of contact him for reviews of their books.

Lee’s article particularly warns about the expense of self-publishing an inventory of books:

These articles never mention the tens of thousands of dollars that these “successful” self-published authors had to spend…and how extraordinarily rare it is for vanity press authors jump to a real publisher, which despite their hoo-hawing for vanity presses is what they all want.

He points to SFWA’s full discussion of the business on the Science Fiction Writers of America site, which says in part:

The average book from a POD service sells fewer than 200 copies–mostly to “pocket” markets surrounding the author–friends, family, local retailers who can be persuaded to place an order–and to the author him/herself. According to the chief executive of POD service iUniverse, quoted in the New York Times in 2004, 40% of iUniverse’s books are sold directly to authors.