Pixel Scroll 3/31/17 Once The Pixel Is Scrolled, Mr. File Is No Longer Your Friend

(1) SOMETHING EXTRA FOR YOUR STOCKING. Fans associate Doctor Who and Christmas because of the annual specials. But do you remember the Max Headroom Christmas episode? No, you don’t, because it was never produced…. Until now.

George R.R. Martin, who wrote that script (!), is in fact hosting a week-long Max Headroom marathon at the Jean Cocteau Cinema from May 13-20.

Twenty minutes into the future… thirty years into the past… it was 1987, and Max was the hottest television personality in the world, with the hottest television show….

Yes, that’s right. We’ve having a whole week of Max, to celebrate his 30th anniversary. We’ll be screening all fourteen episodes of his show: the original British pilot, “Twenty Minutes Into the Future,” and the American remake of same, plus every one of the ABC hours that followed….

Oh, and one more thing. We’ll also be featuring, for the very first time anywhere, two Max Headroom episodes that have never been seen or heard before anywhere, two episodes written by a guy you won’t find listed anywhere in the credits for the show: me.

Yep. That’s right. MAX HEADROOM is the great “what if” in my own television career.

For me, MAX came along after my stint on TWILIGHT ZONE and before BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. When ABC first greenlit the US show, they ordered six original scripts to follow the pilot, almost all of which ended up getting assigned to writers just coming off TZ. I was one of those. Mine was supposedly to be… hmmmmm, let me see now… the fourth episode of the series. My title was “Mister Meat.”…

I got a second chance when MAX was picked up for a second season, however. As a freelancer, I got the choice assignment of writing the Christmas episode. And this time I went to town. Wrote the story, rewrote the story, wrote the teleplay, revised the teleplay. “Xmas” was the title of the episode, and it got as far as pre-production…

And then the show was cancelled. Rather suddenly and unceremoniously, I must say. America was spared from celebrating Xmas with Max.

Ah, but with strange aeons even death may die… and like all good writers, I never throw anything away. So as part of our Jean Cocteau M-M-M-Maxathon, the world will meet “Mister Meat” and “Xmas” for the first time. “Mister Meat” is just a short treatment, so I will be reading it myself on the third day of the marathon, in the slot it would have filled if it had been filmed. Come and hear the episode that ABC deemed too offensive and disgusting for Ronald Reagan’s America.

As for “Xmas”… hell, we have a whole finished script of that one, so we’re going to be performing it, live, on the tiny little stage at the Jean Cocteau. Lenore Gallegos will direct, and the parts of Edison Carter, Bryce, Theora, Blank Reg, Max himself, and all the rest of the gang from Network 23 and the ZikZak corporation will be performed by a fearless cast of local actors…

(2) OTHER THINGS NEVER BEFORE DISPLAYED. Oxford’s Bodleian Library will host a major Tolkien exhibit in 2018 , and will publish a companion book.

The Bodleian Library is set to release a book – Tolkien: The Maker of Middle-earth – next year to accompany a major Tolkien exhibition due to take place at the Library.

The exhibition, due to take place in June 2018, will feature an unparalleled collection of Tolkien manuscripts, letters, illustrations and other material from the Bodleian’s Archives. The Bodleian houses the majority of Tolkien’s archives, and many of the items have never before been publicly exhibited. The collection, and the accompanying book, has been described as “unprecedented” by Samuel Fanous, the Head of Publishing at the Bodleian.

(3) THE TRAVELER SPEAKS. Gideon Marcus re-introduces the concept behind his brilliant blog — “[Mar. 31,1962] Read All About It! (What Is The Galactic Journey?)”

This weekend, the Journey travels to WonderCon, a midlin’-sized fan convention with an emphasis on comics and science fiction.  It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce Galactic Journey to a host of new readers, folks who have a keen interest in what this column has to offer.

So what is Galactic Journey?  Quite simply, it is the most comprehensive ‘zine you’ll find covering all of the coolest, the quirkiest, the most far out stuff, as it happens, day-by-day.

In 1962.

…When he started documenting this trip, it was October 21, 1958.  Sputnik was just a year old.  Buddy Holly was still around.  Now, three and a half years later, we have a new President.  We have a new dance craze.  There have been five men in space.

Along the way, he and his fellow travelers have written on every aspect of current science fiction and fantasy…

Galactic Journey is one of my favorite things on the internet – inventive and full of fascinating references to things beloved, forgotten, or never known to begin with!

(4) WEATHER REPORT. Darren Garrison employed his famous phrase-making skills again in comments: “Breaking news; Rainn makes Mudd.”

Star Trek: Discovery” has cast “The Office” alum Rainn Wilson in the role of Harry Mudd, Variety has learned. It is unknown how many episodes Wilson will appear in at this time.

Mudd was a charismatic interstellar con man who had repeated run-ins with the crew of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek.” The character, who was first played by Roger C. Carmel, also appeared in an episode of “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. In comments, kathodus pointed out that you can play Ms. Pac-Man on a map based around the area supposedly containing Pratchett’s locale: https://www.google.com/maps/@51.0300925,-1.9468899,18z/data=!1e3.

You just need to click the little Pac-Man icon at the bottom left of the map. Reportedly, this will work until April 2. But when I tried to play, and it said my browser did not support the game, and recommended I download Chrome.

(5) NO FOOLING. The Horror Writers Association will begin taking applications for its HWA, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Dark Poetry, and Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarships on April 1.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five published

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • March 31, 1943  — Christopher Walken, whose sci-fi and horror movie credits include The Mind Snatchers, Brainstorm, The Dead Zone, Sleepy Hollow, and Blast From The Past.

(8) BIG DEAL, YES OR NO? Well, it must be for the BBC to run an article reporting “Doctor Who gets first openly gay companion” – although they had to work a little harder to define what exactly is the news here, bearing in mind Doctor Who’s wife is bisexual, and how often the show’s had gay supporting characters.

Bill Potts’s sexuality will be revealed pretty much straightaway in her second line of dialogue when the show returns to BBC One on 15 April.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it?” Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill, told the BBC.

“That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show.”

She added: “It’s important to say people are gay, people are black – there are also aliens in the world as well so watch out for them.

“I remember watching TV as a young mixed race girl not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognise yourself on screen is important.”

“[Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”

Gay and bisexual characters have featured in Doctor Who before, such as Captain Jack and River Song, but this is the first time the Doctor’s permanent companion has been openly gay.

Although Captain Jack – played by John Barrowman – travelled with the Doctor for a number of episodes, he was not a full-time companion in the traditional sense.

(9) COMIC SECTION. Truly an inside sf joke in Bliss today.

(10) THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE RECOMMENDED. Jason of Featured Futures returns with another report from the March campaign on the Speculative Front with his “Summation of Online Fiction: March 2017”.

Compelling was off this month and the other twelve prozines produced forty-nine stories of 168K words. Only three of those struck me as especially noteworthy but that was partly offset by several honorable mentions. Tor.com came alive (mostly thanks to Ellen Datlow) when most other zines were below their average. Like Tor, Nightmare was also a little more impressive than usual–and in a month when it had a lot of competition, as many zines seemed to want to include some horror in this spooky month of March…

(11) PLIGHT FLIGHT. UK gaming companies may stage a counter-Brexit.

Some 40% of British gaming companies say they are considering relocating some or all of their business because of Brexit.

Companies cited losing access to talent and funding as major risks when Britain leaves the bloc.

A survey by industry group Ukie polled 75 of the more than 2,000 games firms in the UK, most of which worked in development.

(12) DATA. Counting authors’ uses of text in Ben Blatt’s book — “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve’ Crunches The (Literary) Numbers”.

But that’s what statistician Ben Blatt’s new book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, sets out to do, thin slice by thin slice.

He loaded thousands of books — classics and contemporary best-sellers — into various databases and let his hard drive churn through them, seeking to determine, for example, if our favorite authors follow conventional writing advice about using cliches, adverbs and exclamation points (they mostly do); if men and women write differently (yep); if an algorithm can identify a writer from his or her prose style (it can); and which authors use the shortest first sentences (Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain) versus those who use the longest (Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Edith Wharton).

Unexpected results include Tolkien being #5 in use of exclamation points, while Elmore Leonard is dead last.

(13) NEW TRANSLATION AWARD. As Oneiros said in comments: “Not strictly SFF but there is a new UK-based prize for women in translation”.

Coventry’s University of Warwick has announced the launch of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, to have its first winner in November.

The goal of the prize, according to the announcement, is “to address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership.”

Prof. Maureen Freely, head of English and comparative literature studies—and perhaps better known as the president of English PEN—is quoted in the university’s announcement, saying, “We’ve come a long way with the championing of world literature over the past decade, welcoming in a multiplicity of voices which have gone on to enrich us all.

“In the same period, however, we’ve noticed that it’s markedly more difficult for women to make it into English translation.

“This prize offers us an opportunity to welcome in the voices and perspectives that we have missed thus far.”

…The prize money of £1,000 (US$1,235) is to be split evenly between the winning female writer and her translator(s). Publishers are invited to submit titles starting on April 3. A shortlist is to be announced in October and the winner is to be named in November.

(14) THE VASTY FIELD OF TOLKIEN. David Bratman responds to “A reviewer’s complaint” on the Tolkien Society blog.

That’s part of the title of a little opinion piece by Thomas Honegger in the latest issue of Hither Shore (v. 12, dated 2015), “To whom it may concern – a Reviewer’s Complaint.” Honegger’s complaint is over a lack of “a certain minimal level of professional quality” in Tolkien studies. He mentions fact-checking and proofreading, but his main concern is lack of bibliographical research, scholars unaware of major and basic work in the areas they are covering. “How are we going to advance Tolkien studies if scholars in the field are ignorant of each others research?”

Well, I know how and why this happened. It’s the explosion in the size of our field. About 30 years ago – it seems such a blip in time – I wrote an article for Beyond Bree giving a potted summary of every book about Tolkien that had ever been published, including the art books and parodies. I had them all in my head, and almost all of them on my shelves. I couldn’t do that any more. There’s just too much stuff out there.

(At this point a real article would provide statistics. This is not a real article, and I lack both time and inclination to do that work right now. But if you’ve been paying attention to the field over the years, you know this too.)

Scholars were used to knowing off the top of their heads what work had been done in specific areas of the field. Perhaps they’re still trying to do so, but failing.

Thomas Honegger has, of course, the answer to this. Research. There are bibliographies, online databases, etc. And don’t I know it. I’m right in the middle of doing my lonesome best at compiling the bibliography of Tolkien studies for 2015 that will be going in the next issue of Tolkien Studies….

(15) HONORVERSE WAR COLLEGE. Baen Books hosts “Honorverse Analytics: Why Manticore Won the War” by Pat Doyle and Chris Weuve.

Pat and Chris are members David Weber’s Honorverse consulting group, BuNine. Both are defense professionals who use their day-job expertise to help David flesh out the background worlds and ways of the Honor Harrington series novels. The analysis below is an example of the sorts of briefs and articles BuNine prepares for David as he continues his imaginative journey exploring the Honorverse and bringing his stories to millions of readers.

…The size disparity between the two star nations goes beyond just resources. It also effects what is known as strategic depth, which is usually viewed as the ability to trade space for time. Think for a moment about the disparity between Israel (a country with no strategic depth) and Russia (a country with a lot of strategic depth, as Napoleon and Hitler discovered). At the beginning of the war Manticore has virtually no strategic depth, as the vast majority of both its population and its economic wherewithal is concentrated in the Manticore home system. Haven, on the other hand, has lots of strategic depth—it can and does lose star systems over the course of the war with little decrease in its own warfighting capability. Worth noting, though, is that strategic depth is a more nebulous concept in the Honorverse than in our own universe. Even leaving aside the hyperbridges, the nature of hyperspace travel in the Honorverse has the effect of making space non-contiguous, by which we mean that you can get from point A to point C without going through point B. In theory, then, the Royal Manticoran Navy could appear above Nouveau Paris without warning, just as a Havenite Fleet could do the same at Manticore.

(16) A SERVICE TO MANKIND. Timothy the Talking Cat, being the altruist that he is, thinks anybody should be able to turn out a Cattimothy House book cover in five minutes, not just its publisher. Read “A Message from the CEO of Cattimothy House” and go play.

Here’s a screenshot of the control panel and my first masterpiece.

(17) WHAT’S THAT FLOATING IN THE PUNCHBOWL? Were you in need of a libertarian take on Beauty and the Beast? Look no farther – let Dan Sanchez tell you about “Belle’s Tax-Funded Fairy Tale Life”, a post at the Foundation for Economic Education.

Not to be a childhood-ruining killjoy, but who paid for all this? It’s not like the Beast is an entrepreneur: the local Steve Jobs, providing the townspeople with mass-produced magic mirrors that can make FaceTime calls.

As the new film’s opening sequence makes explicit, the prince paid for his lavish lifestyle by levying taxes—so high that even lefty Hollywood regards them excessive—on the hard-working, commercial townspeople discussed above. The party-animal prince being transformed into a sulking beast may have amounted to a 100% tax cut for the town; no wonder the townspeople are so cheerful and thriving when we first meet them!

(18) DANSE MACABRE. This is bizarre – is that enough reason to use the service in the ad? Get the background from AdWeek in “Skeletor Dances to the Theme From Fame in the Most ‘80s-Tastic Ad You’ll See This Year”.

With an undead head and inhuman abs, Skeletor might literally live forever, which could explain why he’s now jamming out to the lyrically appropriate theme from Fame.

Mattel’s cackling villain from the 1980s cartoon (and blatant toy marketing machine) He-Man and the Masters of the Universe returns to the marketing world after a three-year hiatus, most recently having taken over Honda’s Twitter feed in 2014.

Now Skeletor is shilling for MoneySuperMarket, a British financial-comparison site that promises to help users save on insurance, bank rates and more. And, as you’d imagine, He-Man isn’t far behind.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Oneiros, kathodus, Darren Garrison, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Bratman Reviews “Geeks! The Musical”

Geeks The Musical LogoBy David Bratman: File 770 sent me to the theater, so I ought to owe it a review.

Back in May, Mike blogged about an upcoming production in San Diego of a show called Geeks!: The Musical. Hey, I thought, Berni and I plan to be in San Diego while this is on, it might be fun to go.

Finding tickets was not the easiest thing. Mike’s main link was to a casting call on the site of the theater company that was hosting the show but not producing it, so they posted no further information. Fortunately the show had a separate website which was eventually updated with a ticket-purchase link to the San Diego production. It’s at http://www.geeksthemusical.com/. The story is set at Comic-Con, and it’s running through the real-life con and on to August 16.

We knew we were in for a low-rent job when we could hardly find the tiny theater, tucked behind a dry cleaner in the Hillcrest District, and when the door didn’t open to the waiting ticketholders until the supposed showtime, despite the flood of production personnel and cast members rushing in and out. On the other hand, once the door opened the show then got started in ten minutes, which you can do in a sixty-seat theater on a slow Thursday when it’s only half-full.

Let’s say what we can for it. The music, by LASFS’s own Ruth Judkowitz, was lively and tuneful. The accompaniment, prerecorded on keyboard by one of the cast members, worked functionally – there was only one minor production slipup in this performance – but it was overloud and sometimes drowned out the singers. The script and lyrics, by Thomas J. Misuraca, were very clever and often tickled my fancy.

The story takes place over several days at a Comic-Con, though it could be any large generic media-oriented SF con – the coincidence of running into somebody and the difficulty of finding them when you’re looking for them plays some role in the plot. It’s the story of three pairs of friends who come to the convention, one set specifically in hopes of selling the avant-garde comic they’re working on, the others to buy collectibles or to attend programming or just to people-watch. They interact, and romantic pairings, both straight and gay, ensue.

There’s lots and lots of references to media favorites, frequently in the form of metaphors, so even if you don’t know the referent you’ll probably get the point. But I got almost all the referents, so I’ve no doubt that most F770 readers minded to go will have no trouble. There’s a whole song in which one enthusiast tries to teach the rest of the characters the sequence of Doctors Who, but the rest of the songs are not quite that doggedly educational.

I was particularly caught by a couple of true geekish interactions in songs. One character makes a reference to Harry Potter’s cape and another actually interrupts the song to point out that it was a cloak, to which the first snaps, “Poetic license.” In another song, two characters are trading names of shows and authors to see if they have any mutual likes; when Tolkien comes up, the exchange is “Have you ever actually read him?” “No, but I saw the movies.” I’ve previously come across the claim that The Lord of the Rings is too hard a book to read, and I’d like to know to what extent that assumption is actually a thing in geek culture.

Berni was particularly pleased with a song in which the two female characters, a fangirl played by Sarah LeClair and a goth wanna-be writer played by Lorina Alfaro, extol female heroes. (That there aren’t a lot of women at the con is one aspect of the plot that’s perhaps a little unrealistic today.) I was equally taken by the solo song from a flamboyantly gay snob, played by James P. Darvas, whose refrain was “I Hate It” – “it” being just about any work you could mention. As a snooty critic myself, I could identify with that part. Many of the songs were appealing, though we could have done with less blatantly in-your-face declarations of sexuality.

Cast quality was mixed. LeClair as the romantic female lead was a good singer and a perky actress; she was also responsible for the pre-recorded accompaniment. Darvas is a very strong actor and dominated the stage whenever he was on. Probably the best in both singing and acting was the oldest member of the cast, Ed Hollingsworth as the seventh main character, a washed-up actor who’d once starred in a popular SF tv show decades ago, and who’s come to the con to make a few bucks selling autographs and in hopes of finding that he still has a few fans. His duet with LeClair was the most professional number. Unfortunately it’s not a good sign for a show when the male romantic lead is the worst singer, not even ready for a high-school show, let alone prime time, so let’s just pass over him anonymously.

So there were places where we winced, but a lot was also enjoyable. Thumb down from Berni, but thumb up from me as long as you expect what you’re getting.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Nausea

KTVI in St. Louis reported ”The Hobbit Making Some Movie-Goers Sick” on opening night, blaming the movie’s novel 48 frames-per-second rate for giving some viewers upset tummies.

David Bratman saw The Hobbit screened in the traditional format – he says it’s the movie itself that made him sick:

I saw it in 2D, 24 fps, and I still feel as if I’ve been bludgeoned by a giant stick.

Nobody who loves the book should be wooed thereby into seeing this movie (unless, poor sods like me, they feel they have to). Nobody.

I doubt I’ll have any more to say until the bruises begin to go down.

I expect to see it in the next couple of days and will report any adverse effects… 

Not Ready for Mythcon Players

Not Ready for Mythcon Players

Diana snapped this photo of the Not-Ready-For-Mythcon-Players in action at Mythcon XXXIX last weekend. Adhering to a long-standing tradition, the troupe always appears in bedsheets, worn either as togas or cloaks. Their legendary comedy has even warranted a mention in the pages of the New York Times.

The Players in the photo are: Autumn Rauscher (in mask), Ellie Farrell, Bonnie Rauscher (behind microphone), Carl Hostetter, Marion Van Loo, Lee Speth (seated), Edith Crowe, Berni Phillips, Chris Gilson, and David Bratman (narrator).

Update 8/24/2008: Thanks to Wayne Hammond for the full, corrected list of Players, and his description of the action (see his comment below).