Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

(1) THESE AREN’T THE PRACTITIONERS WE’RE LOOKING FOR. A Jedi group was unable to convince the UK’s Charity Commission that they are a religion reports The Guardian — “Jedi order fails in attempt to register as religious group”.

A Star Wars-inspired organisation has failed to use the force of its arguments to convince the charity watchdog that it should be considered a religious organisation.

The Temple of the Jedi Order, members of which follow the tenets of the faith central to the Star Wars films, sought charitable status this year, but the Charity Commission has ruled that it does not meet the criteria for a religion under UK charity law.

The commission wrote that Jediism “lacks the necessary spiritual or non-secular element” it was looking for in a religion.

The Temple of the Jedi Order was an “entirely web-based organisation and the Jedi are predominantly, if not exclusively, an online community,” the commission noted. There was “insufficient evidence that moral improvement is central to the beliefs and practices of [the group].”

(2) A SWING STATE’S VIEW OF ROGUE ONE. John Scalzi shares his reactions to the new movie and its marketing strategy in “Rogue One, or, the Disneyfication of Star Wars is Complete (and This is a Good Thing)”. There are no spoilers in the review, however beware the comments where spoilers are allowed.

And this random dude in Piqua, Ohio was absolutely correct: Disney yet again did not fuck up Star Wars. In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. The Disneyfication of the Star Wars universe is now complete, and this is a good thing. As I’ve noted before, Disney, for all its sins, consistently drives to entertain, and drives to entertain intelligently, meaning that it doesn’t see its audience as a mark but as a partner. Disney gives us thrills and fun, and we give them money, and wait for the cycle to repeat, as it does, consistently.

Yes, fine, Scalzi, but how is the film itself? Well, Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars films, consistently darker and more adult than any since Empire and really the first where I, at least, didn’t feel like the potential additions to the merchandising lines were a key driver of story (hello, BB-8, adorable as you are).

(3) HE’S NOT ACTUALLY FEELING BETTER. Washington Post writer Michael Cavna, in “One of the best performances in ‘Rogue One’ is by an actor who died in 1994”, looks at how Peter Cushing is “acting” in Rogue One despite being dead for decades and how this could lead the way for other dead actors to make posthumous comebacks.

This all feels like an organic continuation of what some of the sharpest minds at Lucasfilm/ILM/Disney-Pixar et al. (including effects veteran/ILM executive John Knoll) have been pushing toward since at least the dawn of the ’80s, as the digital milestones began to come fast and furious. The power to manipulate the pixel forever beckons the imagination now, and 2016 has put the state of that long, Jedi-like journey on distinct display.

After all, Disney even gave us a scene this year in which Robert Downey Jr., looking like his ’80s-era self, registers as mostly real in “Captain America: Civil War,” even if the CGI tweaks of a motion-capture performance can still be distracting when involving a too-human countenance.

(4) COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE. Some people review the story, some the marketing, some the effects, some the film’s rank in the hierarchy of quality. Here’s what John C. Wright reviews, in “Rogue One (Spoiler Free Review)”.

I freely confess I had precisely zero interest in seeing this film, but a friend who was visiting for the evening came by, and we talked each other into going to see it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a good film.

As with many a film of late, my main reluctance was fear of some Leftwing sucker punch. Far too many shows I used to watch had the habit of pausing the action for a Two Minute Hate against all I hold dear, like a satanic version of a Public Service Announcement.

I had heard from several sources that the cast starred no white males except as villains, and I had even heard that the writer did this deliberate as a message to express hatred for America in general and for all Conservatives in particular. His vision was to portray the Empire as Trump-supporting, Make the Galaxy Great Again, White Supremacist Patriarchs, and the rebellion as the multi-culti proletarians rising up against their oppressors. Therefore this film had all the earmarks of being just one more  bit of Lefteroo Hate-Whitey bigot-prop, like Disney’s POCAHONTAS.

My misgivings turned out to be entirely unfounded.

I was a little surprised that the main male protagonist was Caucasian, and for a while I wondered what the writer’s comment that there were no Caucasians among the protagonists. The actor is named Deigo Luna.  I had not remembered (because I am not a psychiatrist) that in the delusional world-system of the Left, Spaniards are not considered to be from Europe hence are not considered Caucasians. Spaniards are considered by the Left to be oppressed by Whites, and are not considered, for some reason, to be responsible for the introduction of black slaves to the New World. Go figure.

So, there is no pro-Left nor anti-White nor Anti-West message in this film. If the film makers meant there to be one, they failed miserably.

(5) MEASURING AUTHOR POPULARITY. Today, John Ringo posted a “Redshirt call” on Facebook.

To explain for people who haven’t seen this before, I just need a name. Just post “Me” in the comments. If you’ve been named before please don’t post. One of the first comments wins. I may go back to it for subsequent names. No guarantees of how much ‘screen’ time you get. May or may not die. (Right now, probably falls into ‘won’t’.) I’m the final judge and there is no appeal.

Go.

One hour later 496 volunteers had left comments.

(6) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON THE INTERNET. Congratulations to Ethan Mills whose Examined Worlds is celebrating its second blog-iversary.  

I started this blog primarily as a place to post philosophically-enriched reviews of all the science fiction books I was reading.  I figured I spent so much time reviewing books on Goodreads (check out my Goodreads profile!) that I might as well make a blog out of them.  While I primarily blog on science fiction and philosophy, I have strayed into other territories, especially politics both within and without science fiction fandom and academia.  See My Favorite Posts for some of the posts I’ve found particularly enjoying or fulfilling to write.

(7) THEN IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. Annalee Newitz deconstructs the Blade Runner 2049 teaser trailer for Ars Technica.

Then the scene shifts to a glowing red landscape, perhaps in a heavily polluted desert outside LA. We get to see Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, looking tough and cool in his knee-length leather jacket, because global warming shouldn’t stop the fashion train. There’s a haunting image of a giant (replicant?) head on the ground, which seems like it might be a reference to some of the images from the famously trippy 1973 sci-fi movie Fantastic Planet.

Officer K is trying to solve a mystery that takes him right to the mysterious lair of Deckard, who has apparently been missing for decades. It almost looks like Deckard is living in a spiffed-up version of Sebastian’s home for broken replicants in the first film.

Mark-kitteh says of the trailer, “I think there needs to be a mashup where Harrison Ford says ‘Chewie, we’re home.’”

(8) PARAGRAVITY COMICS. Stephen Haffner of the Haffner Press is now shipping the comic strip collection Beyond Mars, written by Jack Williamson, artwork by Lee Elias, edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. The 160-page full-color hardcover is $55

Drawn from the same setting of Jack Williamson’s novels SEETEE SHIP and SEETEE SHOCK, BEYOND MARS takes place 200 years in the future, when a new force—paragravity—has enabled men to live and breathe on the asteroids. The strip stars Mike Flint, a spatial engineer who lives on Brooklyn Rock, an asteroid “beyond Mars.” With Sam, his green-skinned metallic partner from Venus, Flint gets involved in a series of lighthearted adventures, battling space pirates, teaming up with beautiful and strong-minded women, and dealing with addicts of the mysterious drug called “star dust.” The restored color is outstanding and the artwork is creative and imaginative. Bruce Canwell contributes a wonderful introduction, putting this in the context of early 1950s science fiction. The book also includes original art by Lee Elias on other features like Black Cat, Terry & the Pirates and Tommy Tomorrow.

(9) DARMOK AND JELAD AT THE MANGA. Brigid Alverson of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls out “The Best New Manga Series of 2016”.

Whatever you say about the balance of 2016, it was a good year for manga. Publishers expanded their lines in all different directions, bringing us new titles from popular creators as well as interesting debuts from newcomers. The category has grown richer than ever before, with more manga for more tastes. Here’s a look at 15 of the best series that launched in the past year.

Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura The women who live in the Amamizu-kan boardinghouse are fans (otaku) of very specific things: Trains, jellyfish, kimonos, The Records of the Three Kingdoms. They’re happily nerdy together, but they freeze whenever they run up against someone stylish, and members of the opposite sex are out of the question—in fact, they call themselves the “amars” (nuns). So it’s a huge shock to Tsukimi, the jellyfish fanatic, when a stylish girl helps her rescue a jellyfish—and an even bigger shock when the girl turns out to be a boy. Not just any boy, though: Kuranosuke is the younger son of a wealthy, politically connected family, and although he dresses as a woman to dodge any notion that he would go into politics himself, he understands how things work. When a developer announces plans to buy and raze Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke helps the amars glam up to do battle. Meanwhile, Tsukimi has caught the eye of Kuranosuke’s nerdy older brother, and the attraction is mutual—but he doesn’t realize the beautiful girl he encountered at the jellyfish tank in the aquarium and the dowdy amar in sweats are the same person. Princess Jellyfish puts a uniquely manga spin on some classic rom-com tropes, and the result is a refreshingly funny story about fashion, politics, and extreme nerdiness….

(10) DARNED NEAR THE BEST. Pornokitsch’s array of contributors have assembled an eclectic and far-reaching list of things they liked or nearly liked — “Pornokitsch’s Absolute and Definitive Guide To The Best of Everything in 2016”. Here’s one example —

Erin

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. From the founders of one of New York’s most celebrated cocktail meccas, this book is part mixologist’s handbook, part all-American tale of two Irish boys making it in the Big Apple (complete with Gangs of New York reference). Be warned: the list of ingredients sometimes read more like a scavenger’s hunt than a recipe, but if you’re prepared to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

Hibernacula. My favourite thing about NYCC this year was visiting this jewelry shop on a tip from Seanan McGuire. I was lucky to come away only a few hundred dollars lighter in the wallet, not because the fantasy-inspired designs are so expensive, but because there are just so damn many of them I want to buy. I settled for a silver ring inspired by Castiel of Supernatural, plus this Cthulhu-friendly pendant. I’m still dreaming about commissioning a piece based on the Bloodbound novels, because garnet studded jewelry would be the best.

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails. If you’re a fan of Ticket to Ride – and really, who isn’t – you should definitely check out the latest release in the franchise. Not only is it two games in one, with a world side of the board and a Great Lakes side, it’s got enough twists and extra layers of strategy to keep even the most hardened T2R veterans on their toes.

Read what villains Erin liked (and didn’t) in 2016. Or, better yet, read The Bloodsworn, the awesome conclusion to her epic fantasy trilogy

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/16 The Tick Against the Box

(1) CAN’T STOP LOOKING. CinemaBlend’s Gregory Wakeman waited to finish his post about this Jar Jar Binks movie poster before gouging out his eyes…

(2) ADD THIS WORLDCON BID TO YOUR SCORECARD. Kevin Standlee reports that, at the request of this bid, he has added UK in 2024 to the Worldcon.org list of bids. The link is a Facebook page. Kevin notes, “They did say to me when they contacted worldcon.org that they plan to have an actual web site eventually as well, not just a Facebook page.”

(3) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. In “The Celebrity Campaign” on National Review Online, Kevin D. Williamson summarizes William Gibson’s Idoru and explains why Gibson’s work is important for understanding the vapid, celebrity-driven campaign we have this year.

(4) OCTOCON. Forbidden Planet bookstore’s correspondent James Bacon easily mixes dance with journalism: “Science Fiction in Ireland: James Reports from Octocon”.

Even though I finished work at 5.30AM in London on a mild autumnal Saturday morning, within a few hours I was in the Camden Court Hotel in Dublin’s city centre, amongst friends and fans at Octocon. The enthusiasm and excitement then carried me through until I hit the sheets at 4.30AM on Sunday morning, fed by the energy of the convention, dancing well past midnight and imbibing great cheer.

This year’s committee is youthful, bucking a trend with similar conventions in the UK, and possess a dynamism that brought together a nice programme, good fun social elements and of course overall a very enjoyable convention. The Guests of Honour, Diane Duaine and Peter Morward and Rhianna Pratchett, allowed much ground to be covered and attracted great audiences. With over two hundred people in attendance, the five-stream programme was busy.

(5) SETTING THE STUPID AFLAME. This Bradbury-related tweet went viral.

Here’s the text:

I love this letter! What a wonderful way to introduce students to the theme of Fahrenheit 451 that books are so dangerous that the institutions of society — schools and parents — might be willing to team up against children to prevent them from reading one. It’s easy enough to read the book and say, ‘This is crazy. It could never really happen,’ but pretending to present students at the start with what seems like a totally reasonable ‘first step’ is a really immersive way to teach them how insidious censorship can be I’m sure that when the book club is over and the students realize the true intent of this letter they’ll be shocked at how many of them accepted it as an actual permission slip. In addition, Milo’s concern that allowing me to add this note will make him stand out as a troublemaker really brings home why most of the characters find it easier to accept the world they live in rather than challenge it. I assured him that his teacher would have his back.

(6) REMAINS OF THAT DAY. The demolition of Ray Bradbury’s house inspired Joshua Sky’s Omni story “The House Had Eyes”.

The exterior was yellow with a brown triangle thatched roof and a thin brick chimney. The windows had been destroyed—the frames, like the living room, were gutted. Their remains tossed into a large blue dumpster resting on a hillside covered in dying grass. All that was left were two large cragged square shaped holes that bore inward yet outward all at once. Inward, laid the wisps of soot polished ruin. Hardwood floors, a mantle, masonry, some shelves and dust. Outward—the structure telepathically transmuted its emotions of loss and sorrow. She knew she was dying.

I was transfixed, my eyeballs locked with the house’s. It was like something straight out of a Bradbury story! My hands tightly gripped the fence, chain-links dug into my finger tendons. Focused on the yellow lawn, my mind pictured a phantom montage of Bradbury, time-lapsed: Watering the grass. Reading on the steps. Puttering about. Stalking the sidewalks. Talking to the neighbors. Talking to himself. Writing. Staring at the sky. Staring at the stars. Staring beyond. Marveling in awe. Downright dreaming—of rockets and Martians and technicolored time travelers.

It all felt so cosmically unfair. Why’d they have to tear it down? Why’d they have to piss on a legacy? It felt like we were all losing something—even if we didn’t know it. That our country—the people—the vanishing literate—were losing not only a landmark, but a sense of our collective wonderment. That we were continuing a bad trend that had no hint of ending—swapping our heritage for a buck. That’s the American way some would say. Some—maybe—but not all.

(7) FROM VELOUR TO MONSTER MAROON. With Halloween just around the corner, Atlas Obscura offers guidance to cosplayers: “How to Read The Secret Language of Starfleet Uniforms”.

It’s Halloween time again, and as it has been for the past 50 years, a Star Trek costume is a safe bet for anyone looking to dress up. But do you want to be a Starfleet captain in 2268? A ship’s doctor in 2368? For the uninitiated, deciphering the language of colors and symbols that place you in the show’s universe is a crapshoot.

Luckily, Atlas Obscura is here to help, with a bit of cosplay codebreaking….

The most recent Star Trek television series, 2001’s Enterprise, was actually a prequel, taking place in the mid-2100s, and strangely, their uniforms take cues from every era of the Star Trek franchise. Taking place prior to the formation of the Federation Starfleet seen in later incarnations, the uniforms of the very first space-faring Enterprise, were once again standardized into a purple workman’s jumpsuit (echoing the red-washed uniforms of the later Original Series films). Position on the ship could be determined by the color of a seam that ran along the shoulder of the jumpsuit, with the colors corresponding to the original command gold, science blue-green, and operations red.

And then rank was indicated by the number of silver bars over the right breast, just like the pips used in The Next Generation. While not everyone’s favorite, this suit kind of had it all.

(8) NEXT AT KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will present John Langan and Matthew Kressel, on Wednesday, November 16, beginning at 7p.m. in New York’s KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

John Langan

John Langan is author of two novels, The Fisherman and House of Windows.  He’s also published two collections, The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters.  With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters.  He is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards and he currently reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.

New and forthcoming are stories in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki.  In February of 2017, his third collection of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

John Langan lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and teaches classes in creative writing and Gothic literature at SUNY New Paltz.  With his younger son, he’s studying for his black belt in Tang Soo Do.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has been twice nominated for a Nebula Award and has or will soon appear in such markets as Lightspeed, Nightmare, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9.com, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and the anthologies Cyber World, After, Naked City, The People of the Book.

From 2003-2010 he published and edited Sybil’s Garage, an acclaimed SF magazine. He also published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities and for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional. He co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series alongside Ellen Datlow. When not writing fiction he codes software for companies large and small, studies Yiddish (Nu?), and recites Blade Runner in its entirety from memory.

(9) NEW SF BOARD GAMES. In a piece on arstechnica.com called “Essen 2016: Best board games from the biggest board game convention”, Tom Mendlesohn reports from the International Spieltage convention in Germany, where most of the new board games have sf/fantasy content.

terraforming-mars

Terraforming Mars

FryxGames, 1-5 players, 90-120 mins, 12+

One of the most buzzworthy releases of the whole show, this title sold out by 3pm on the first day—a whole hour before Ars even arrived. The one table that FryxGames ran with a playable copy was booked every day. Fortunately, Ars US staffers already got their grubby little hands on the title and gave it a thorough—and hugely positive—review.

You’re playing as a futuristic global megacorp attempting, as the title suggests, to terraform Mars. Your tools are lots of plastic cubes, which track your resources and which are traded to in for asset cards, which get you more cubes. (The game is a total engine-builder.) Though the art isn’t terribly exciting, this is a terrific thinky Eurogame of interlocking systems and finding the most efficient ways to exchange one set of numbers for a higher set of numbers. 

(10) HE MADE IT SO. In a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by Mike Moffitt called “The Real James T. Kirk Built the Bridge of the Enterprise – In the Sunset District” profiles a guy named James Theodore Kirk, who was born a month before Star Trek went on the air and who built a replica of the Enterprise in his house.  He also is a Trekker who once won a chance to meet William Shatner, but he was dressed as the villianous reptile Gorn and wouldn’t tell Shatner his name really was James T. Kirk.

Captain’s log, Stardate 21153.7: After straying into a wormhole, the Enterprise has somehow crash-landed on Earth in early 21st-century San Francisco. We are attempting to effect repairs from a location in the city’s Sunset District.

James T. Kirk commands the Starship Enterprise from the captain’s chair of the ship’s bridge, conveniently located in the back of his house in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset.

The bridge is equipped with a wall of computers blinking with colorful lights, a transporter room and the main viewer, which would toggle to show flickering stars, sensor data or the occasional Romulan or Klingon message demanding the Enterprise’s immediate withdrawal from the Neutral Zone.

There is even an “elevator” in the back that makes a “whoosh” just like the one on the classic 1960s show “Star Trek.” Of course, the bridge is not an exact duplicate of the show’s — it’s a smaller area, so the key fixtures are a bit crammed and the helmsmen seats are missing altogether. But the overall impression is clearly Mid-century Modern Starship.

(11) KUTTNER. You can find Stephen Haffner hawking his wares this weekend at World Fantasy Con. Or you can order online today!

Haffner Press does it again! In 2012 we included a newly discovered Henry Kuttner story—”The Interplanetary Limited”—in THUNDER IN THE VOID. Now, with the upcoming release of THE WATCHER AT THE DOOR: THE EARLY KUTTNER, VOLUME TWO, we are pleased as pandas (!) to announce we have discovered ANOTHER unpublished Henry Kuttner story!

MAN’S CONQUEST OF SPACE or UPSIDE-DOWN IN TIME is an early gag-story (featuring pandas) supposedly written for the fanzines of the 1930s. It likely predates Kuttner’s first professional sale in 1936. “And how can I get a copy?” you ask? Well, we made it simple. So simple that it’s FREE* if you place (or have already placed!) a PAID preorder for THE WATCHER AT THE DOOR: THE EARLY KUTTNER, VOLUME TWO. We’re printing a limited quantity of this new Kuttner story, so Do. Not. Delay.

(12) KEEP WATCHING. Martin Morse Wooster recommends an animated short, Borrowed Time.

A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on.

“Borrowed Time” is an animated short film, directed by Andrew Coats & Lou Hamou-Lhadj, and produced by Amanda Deering Jones. Music by Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla.

 

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 11/10 The nine and sixty ways of constructing Pixel Scrolls

(1) Oscar handicappers have The Martian running second for Best Picture says Variety.

In the Oscar race for best picture, “The Martian” has taken off like a rocket among the predictions by media experts at Gold Derby. One month ago, it wasn’t even in the top 10, but now it’s tied for second place with “Joy,” both sharing 17 to 2 odds. “Spotlight” remains out front and has picked up support as it debuts in theaters.

(2) J. K. Rowling tweeted her favorite fan art of Sirius and James Potter:

https://twitter.com/lilymydeer/status/653257716232757248

(3) Auditioning to be the next Doctor?

(4) “Future’s Past: The astronauts of 2001: A Space Odyssey at The Space Review covers actors Keir Dullea’s and Gary Lockwood’s appearance at Dragon Con.

Lockwood also said that they got to meet the Apollo 11 crew, and then he paused and said, “I liked Neil… I don’t like Buzz.” He added that often when he and Dullea do joint appearances at film showings, somehow Buzz Aldrin always seems to appear and people want to introduce Aldrin to him. Lockwood drolly replies that he already knows the moonwalker. He implied that he had a similar low opinion of William Shatner, with whom he appeared in the second television pilot for Star Trek.

Lockwood also told a great story about working on the centrifuge set, which he thought was brilliantly designed. He joked that he realized that Kubrick hired him for the job because of his previous experience as a cowboy stuntman. One day Lockwood found himself strapped into his chair, eating goop from his food tray—upside down. Keir Dullea was supposed to climb down the ladder at the center of the set and then the whole set would rotate as he walked over to where Lockwood was sitting. Kubrick called “action” and told Lockwood to take a bite, and Lockwood then watched as the three squares of goop slowly peeled off his tray… and fell nearly 70 feet to the floor below, splattering everything on the pristine white set. They didn’t shoot for the rest of the day.

The actors took some questions from the audience and had some really interesting answers. For instance, somebody asked if they knew that the film would be a classic. Dullea said that he had his doubts because the early reviews were so poor. In particular, he mentioned New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael’s infamous devastating review, where she referred to 2001 as “trash masquerading as art” and “monumentally unimaginative.” Kael later recanted upon seeing the film a second time, but 2001 received numerous other lackluster and even harsh reviews. Considering that 2001 was released way behind schedule and over budget, expectations had been high, and presumably many critics were waiting to pounce.

(5) Entertainment Weekly has the good word — “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Is Returning”.

Next year, TV viewers will be able to relive all manner of classic ’90s shows, with new episodes of The X-FilesTwin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, and Full House on the horizon. Add one more returning series to that list, as Joel Hodgson is announcing Tuesday that his beloved cult creation Mystery Science Theater 3000 is coming back after 15 years of dormancy.

For those unaware, the premise of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is brilliantly simple: A mad scientist has launched a man into space, and he torments said subject with psychological experiments that involve him watching some of the worst movies ever made. In order to keep it together, the poor marooned host talks back at the screen, aided by a pair of pop culture-obsessed robots. The MST3K crew may not have invented talking back to the screen, but they certainly brought it to the masses.

(6) Gray Rinehart finds connections between running for local office and his experience as a Hugo nominee in “Political Lessons and… the Hugo Awards?”

I ran for elective office this year, and lost. (For the record, I spent about 0.41% of the total that all four candidates in my district spent up until the election, and I got 3.5% of the vote. Not close to winning, but a good return on my meager investment.)

I was also nominated for a Hugo Award this year, and lost. The story behind that has been chronicled on this blog and elsewhere, and I won’t go into it in this post. (For the record, and as nearly as I can tell from trying to figure out the preferential voting numbers, about 9% of the 5100 novelette voters selected my story as their first choice. I ended up in fourth place . . . two spots below “No Award.”)

I introduce the fact of my being on political and literary ballots this year because I observed two things in the recent Town Council election process that seem pertinent to this year’s Hugo Awards. Specifically, that the political parties inserted themselves deeply into what was supposed to be a nonpartisan race, and other players also wielded considerable influence; and that a lot of voter information was readily available for the candidates to use.

A lot of food for thought. Among Rinehart’s many points:

And as long as we divide ourselves, or in the case of fandom subdivide ourselves; as long as we separate ourselves into (virtual or actual) walled-off enclaves and echo chambers, and associate only with those who look like us, act like us, and believe the things we do; we will find it harder to understand, relate to, and get along with one another — in civil life as well as in the SF&F community.

I think we would be well-served as a fannish community if we talked more about what we love and why we love it, without implying that those who do not love it as we do are ignorant or contemptible. And I think we would be better off if we recalled another RAH observation, also from Friday (emphasis in original): “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms . . . but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

(7) A fascinating installment of Robert W. Weinberg’s memoirs published by Tangent Online in 2011, “Collecting Fantasy Art #5: Lail, It Rhymes With Gail”

Six months later, Victor grew tired of the Freas and traded it to me.  The impossible had happened.  So much for my predictions. I now owned the original cover paintings for the first and second serial installments of Robert Heinlein’s novel, The Door Into Summer.  Immediately, I contacted Al, the guy I had met at the 1976 World SF Convention in Kansas City, to see if he still owned the third and final cover painting for the serial.  I had passed on that cover, though it had been priced cheap, because I had felt certain at the time I would never obtain the second cover painting for the novel.  Now that I had that piece, I really wanted the third cover so I would have all three paintings for the novel.

No such luck.  Al had sold the Freas painting at the convention.  He didn’t remember who bought it, and he didn’t even remember how much they had paid for it.  The painting was long gone.  I had had a chance to buy it back in Kansas City and had passed it by.

I learned my lesson that day.  Only too well.   Never pass up a painting of minor importance because someday that minor meaning might explode.  It was a difficult lesson to learn, but an important one.  It’s one I have never forgotten.

(8) No other writer handles one-star reviews this badly. “British Writer Tracks Down Teen Who Gave His Book a Bad Review, Smashes Her With Wine Bottle” at Gawker.

A 28-year-old British man, most notable for his 2006 victory on the quiz show Countdown, tracked down a Scottish teenager who’d written a negative review of his self-published novel and shattered a bottle of wine on the back of her head. The aspiring author pleaded guilty to the 2014 assault in a Scottish court Monday, the Mirror reported.

Brittain claimed the early reception for The World Rose was strong, blogging that “The praise I received was remarkable and made me feel great; I was compared to Dickens, Shakespeare, Rowling, Raymond E Feist and Nora Roberts.”

…But he also complained about bad reviews from “idiots” and “teenagers.”

One of those teenagers was Paige Rolland, the eventual victim of Brittain’s savage bottle attack. Her entire harsh (but fair) review has been preserved on Amazon, but this passage really sums up her criticism:

As a reader, I’m bored out of my skull and severely disappointed in what I might have paid for. As a writer (albeit an amateur one) I’m appalled that anyone would think this was worthy of money.

Not only does it begin with “once upon a time” which you could argue is perfect as this is a fairytale (and it doesn’t work, it’s incredibly pretentious), but it’s filled with many writing no-nos. Way too much telling, pretentious prose, and a main character that I already hate. Ella is the perfect princess (true to fairytales, so we can at least give him a little credit despite how painfully annoying this is coupled with a complete lack of real personality shining through).

Rolland also noted that Brittain “has gained a bit of infamy on Wattpad where he’s known for threatening users who don’t praise him (pray for me),” which turned out to be quite portentous.

(9) Here’s a word I’m betting you haven’t in your NaNoWriMo novel yet.

(10) Strange poll.

It’s a perennial question. I remember at the 1995 Lunacon that Mordechai Housman, an Orthodox Jew, was having fun circulating copies of his provocative arti­cle Hitler’s Crib, which tries to determine wheth­er religious law would permit time travel and, specifically, wheth­er it would permit travel­ing in time to kill Hitler.

(11) You know this guy: “Plane” at The Oatmeal.

(12) Today In History

  • November 10, 1969Sesame Street debuts.
  • November 10, 1969 — Gene Autry received a gold record for the single, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 20 years after its release.

(13) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • November 10, 1960 – Neil Gaiman

(14) James Whitbrook presents “The 7 Least Subtle Political Allegories on Doctor Who. His pick at number one (most lacking in subtlety) is “The Happiness Patrol.”

But it’s the despot herself who is the most obvious pastiche. Sheila Hancock openly plays the leader Helen A as a satirical take on then-Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” who dominated British politics. At the time, this barely made ripples, but a 2010 story in the British newspaper The Sunday Times about the connection—featuring a quote from Sylvester McCoy describing Mrs. Thatcher as “more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered”—saw Conservative politicians in uproar at the anti-Conservative bias this revealed on the part of the BBC. Ex-script editor Andrew Cartmel was brought onto the BBC news program Newsnight to answer claims that the 1980s Doctor Who creative team had been a source of left-wing propaganda in the wake of the “revelation”… despite the story having been no particular secret, 22 years earlier.

Always remember – science fiction is never about the future….

(15) A previously unpublished Leigh Brackett story is one of the lures to buy Haffner Press’ tribute book, Leigh Brackett Centennial.

SF and mystery author Leigh Brackett (1915-1978) – who also wrote screenplays for The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and The Empire Strikes Back —?is represented by an array of nonfiction pieces by and about here, as well as the previously unpublished story “They,” which Haffner describes as “a mature science fiction tale of power and intrigue, of homegrown xenophobia versus stellar exploration, with an answer to the ultimate question: ‘Are we alone?’” The volume collects the majority of Brackett’s nonfiction writings, supplemented with vintage interviews and commentaries/remembrances from such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Richard A. Lupoff and more.

Brackett writes of bringing Philip Marlowe into the 1970s for Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye in “From The Big Sleep to The Long Goodbye and More or Less How We Got There.”

SF-author and NASA employee Joseph Green records the time he hosted Brackett at the launch of Apollo XII . . .
Midwest bookseller Ray Walsh documents the day he escorted Brackett to view a new groundbreaking space-fantasy film in the summer 1977…

Order the book at this link: http://www.haffnerpress.com/book/lb100/

(16) John Scalzi gives his take on balancing awards and mental health:

I’ve won and lost enough awards to know an award is not The Thing That Changes Everything. An award is fun, an award is nice, an award may even be, at times, significant. But at the end of the day, whether you win or lose, you still go home with yourself, and you don’t change — at least, not because of an award. It’s perfectly fine to want an award (I’ve wanted them from time to time, you can be assured) and it’s perfectly okay to be disappointed if you don’t get one. But ultimately, putting the responsibility for your happiness onto an award, which is, generally speaking, a thing over which you have absolutely no control, is a very fine way to become unhappy. Which will not be on the award, or any of the people who voted for it. It will be on you, whether you want to own that fact or not.

(17) Luna Lindsey reviews two competing online tools in “Panlexicon vs. Visual Thesaurus — Who Will Win?” at the SFWA Blog.

I kept Visual Thesaurus on retainer as my go-to onomasticon until I stumbled upon Panlexicon.com in all of its simple, elegant magic.

The power of Panlexicon lies in its ability to search on multiple terms, which will bring up a larger spectrum of metonyms than most thesauri (including Visual Thesaurus). So it’s perfect for finding that just-out-of-reach expression when all you can remember are remotely-related numinous approximations of what you’re going for. Simply type two or more related words or phrases, separated by a comma, and voilà. (And of course, you can always search a standalone word.)

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Jim Meadows for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Haffner Press Will Commemorate Brackett Centennial

The 100th birthday of Leigh Brackett arrives December 7, 2015 and publisher Stephen Haffner says that the Haffner Press plans something special to observe the occasion – though you’ll have to wait to find out what.

Behind the scenes we’ve been preparing for every contingency to celebrate the Centennial of one of America’s unique literary voices.

As of this writing, it’s too soon to share our final plans, but rest assured that we will spare no expense or care in designing a finished product that honors the First Lady of Space Opera as well as a hallowed addition to your personal library.

Meantime Haffner drew his Facebook readers’ attention to this blurb from Startling Stories, April 1952 for Brackett’s “The Last Days of Shandakor,” a story collected in the Haffner Press edition Shannach – The Last: Farewells To Mars:

Master Painter Brackett Haffner

Today’s Birthday Boy 4/7

Henry Kuttner

Henry Kuttner

By Stephen Haffner: [Reprinted with permission.] One hundred years ago today (April 7, 1915) Henry Kuttner was born in Los Angeles, the youngest
of thee sons of Henry Kuttner, Sr. and Annie Levy. Kuttner was five years old when his father died and he relocated to San Francisco.

A reader of the early fantasy magazines, he had letters published in issues of  Air Wonder Stories and Weird Tales. Prior to completing high school, he returned to Los Angeles and eventually worked as a reader for the literary agency of his uncle Laurence D’Orsay.

During his correspondence with H.P.Lovecraft, he sold his first story, “The Graveyard Rats”, to Weird Tales in early 1936 (preceded in print by the poem “Ballad of the Gods” in WT, Feb. ’36). Kuttner continued to sell prolifically to the pulp magazines, appearing in Thrilling Mystery, Weird Tales, Marvel Science Stories, Strange Stories and more under a plethora of pseudonyms. Before moving to New York in 1939, he mentored two future giants: Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury.

Following brief visits—and a lengthy correspondence—with Indianapolis-based Catherine L. Moore, the two were married in New York on June 7, 1940. Singly, and in collaboration with Moore, this marks the beginning of Kuttner’s longest sustained output of high-quality work with: “The Twonky,” “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” “Nothing But Gingerbread Left,” “Housing Problem,” “Call Him Demon,”; the “Gallagher series,” the “Baldy” series, the “Hogbens” series, and novel-length works such as Fury, Earth’s Last Citadel and The Dark World.     

When World War II saw Robert A. Heinlein depart for Philadelphia, the Kuttners rented the Heinlein’s Hollywood home. In 1942, Kuttner entered the Army Medical Corp (serving at Fort Monmouth, NJ until 1945) and Catherine lived in nearby Red Bank, NJ. After Kuttner’s discharge, they lived in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY until moving to Laguna Beach, CA in 1948.

Feeling burned-out with their prolific fiction output for the pulps, they branched out into novels starting with The Brass Ring (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946). In 1950, Kuttner & Moore curtailed their fiction writing to focus on their new academic efforts at the University of Southern California. Kuttner earned his bachelor’s degree in 3½ years and Moore completed hers in 1956 (she earned her master’s in 1963). Kuttner was working on his master’s thesis on the works of H. Rider Haggard at the time of his death from heart failure on February 4, 1958.

It was while working on their degrees that Kuttner & Moore added teaching at USC to their resumés, as well as their first screenplay work at Warner Bros. on Rappaccini’s Daughter. Following Kuttner’ death, Moore took over Kuttner’s teaching duties, as well as handling screenwriting jobs for Maverick, Sugarfoot and 77 Sunset Strip. Some of this under the eye of former Amazing Stories editor, Howard Browne.

[Editor’s Note: And now that you’re thinking about Henry Kuttner, here’s a great opportunity to read a batch of Kuttner stories. Quoting from the press release….]

Haffner Press is very pleased and proud to be able to collect and re-present the work of Henry Kuttner (DETOUR TO OTHERNESS, TERROR IN THE HOUSE, THUNDER IN THE VOID) and we hope to have you with us we continue to publish the work of this excellent writer: THE MICHAEL GRAY MYSTERIES, HOLLYWOOD ON THE MOON/MAN ABOUT TIME and  . . .

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Coming later this year is the long-awaited follow-up to TERROR IN THE HOUSE: THE EARLY KUTTNER, VOLUME ONE is the second volume of early Kuttner: THE WATCHER AT THE DOOR.

Legendary fan Robert A. Madle handles the foreword to this 700-page collection of 30 (count ’em!) Kuttner Koncoctions from the pages of Weird Tales, Thrilling Mystery, Strange Stories, Fantastic Adventures, Science Fiction, Startling Stories, and more.

We are taking preorders now for this title. Even better for those of you that missed on getting a copy of Volume One: for a limited time, we are offering the out-of-print TERROR IN THE HOUSE as a combo with preorders of THE WATCHER AT THE DOOR. It won’t be cheap, but it will be easy. See the homepage for the combo offer at www.haffnerpress.com.

Haffner Press Releases
Tales From Super-Science Fiction

Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg, is shipping this week from Haffner Press.

Super-Science Fiction, launched during one of the cyclic sf booms of the 1950s, was notable for paying 2 cents a word, then a top rate — enough to lure contributions from legendary pros like Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Jack Vance, and newcomers on their way to being famous like Harlan Ellison and Donald Westlake.

Silverberg, who always does a great job editing story collections anyway, is the perfect choice for this assignment because he had multiple stories in nearly every issue of S-SF – often published under pen-names to help disguise how much material had come from one author. Silverberg reached his peak in the August 1959 issue with four stories published under four different pseudonyms.

The 400-page hardcover sells for $32. It has full-color endpapers showing covers from S-SF by Kelly Freas and Ed Emshwiller, and original interior illustrations by Freas. Here is the table of contents:

Introduction by Robert Silverberg
“Catch ‘Em All Alive” by Robert Silverberg
“Who Am I?” by Henry Slesar
“Every Day is Christmas” by James E. Gunn
“I’ll Take Over” by A.Bertram Chandler
“Song of the Axe” by Don Berry
“Broomstick Ride” by Robert Bloch
“Worlds of Origin” by Jack Vance
“The Tool of Creation” by J.F. Bone
“I Want to Go Home” by Robert Moore Williams
“Hostile Life-Form” by Daniel L. Galouye
“The Gift of Numbers” by Alan E. Nourse
“First Man in a Satellite” by Charles W. Runyon
“A Place Beyond the Stars” by Tom Godwin
“The Loathsome Beasts” by Dan Malcolm (aka Silverberg)

I’m gratified to see Robert Moore Williams represented, even if I don’t know this particular story. When I was in college he kindly allowed a friend and me to spend the afternoon interviewing him. Williams was an under-appreciated SF writer. The reason he was under-appreciated seems clearer in hindsight. One of the things he told us is that no SF editor would buy a too-literate story for his magazine, so “You have to stink ‘em up just right.” He was admirably frank. There was no pretense about the man.

2012 Williamson Lectureship

Daniel Abraham and Carrie Vaughn will be the guests of honor at the 36th annual Jack Williamson Lecture, to be held March 29-30 at Eastern New Mexico University. This year’s theme is Urban Fantasy. All events except the luncheon are free.

Daniel Abraham writes epic fantasy set on other worlds (The Long Price Quartet and The Dagger and the Coin series) and as “MLN Hanover” he writes urban fantasy set in something very like our world (The Black Sun’s Daughter series.)

Carrie Vaughn is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Kitty Norville” series (the 10th novel, Kitty Steals the Show is due Spring 2012).

Connie Willis, Misstress of Ceremonies for the event, is herself fresh from winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards for the newest novel in her Oxford time travel series (published as two volumes: Blackout and All Clear).

See the schedule and full press release following the jump.

Still available from Haffner Press is Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship, a collection of transcribed speeches and presentations by a variety of Lectureship guests since its beginning.

[Thanks to Stephen Haffner for the story.]

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Haffner Press Makes Splash

Stephen Haffner evidently kept things well-balanced at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in April. He moved so many copies of Haffner Press editions of Williamson, Hamilton and Captain Future that he “had to sneak away for 8 hours in the middle of the night to the Secret Moon Base to get more inventory.” But he also snagged a lot of old pulps with tales by Henry Kuttner whose stories will be used in future projects.

Many more details in the full press release, which follows the jump.

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Super-Science Tales Selected

The Haffner Press collection Tales of Super-Science Fiction, edited by Grand Master Robert Silverberg, is rounding into a shape. Stephen Haffner’s latest press release announces some of the authors whose stories will appear:

  • Don Berry
  • Robert Bloch
  • J. F. Bone
  • A. Bertram Chandler (as George Whitely)
  • Daniel F. Galouye
  • Tom Godwin 
  • James E. Gunn 
  • Alan E. Nourse
  • Charles W. Runyon
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Jack Vance
  • Robert Moore Williams

The cover art will be by Frank Kelly Freas. Silverberg and Haffner are still securing rights to additional texts.

There are details of several other projects in the full press release, which appears after the jump.

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Super-Science Fiction Coming from Haffner Press

Robert Silverberg is assembling a collection of 14 stories from Super-Science Fiction for Haffner Press. SSF launched during the sf boom of the mid-1950s. Paying a princely rate of 2 cents a word the magazine attracted fiction by Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison. James Gunn, Jack Vance, and Donald Westlake, and featured cover art by Frank Kelly Freas and Ed Emshwiller.

Running for 18 bi-monthly issues (Dec ’55 to Oct ’59), the magazine eventually devolved into a publication capitalizing on the then-current craze of “monster” stories. Editor Silverberg traces the genesis of Super-Science Fiction from it’s beginnings as an outlet for numerous colonization/expedition stories to its conclusion with such stories as “Creatures of the Green Slime,” “Beasts of Nightmare Horror” and “Vampires from Outer Space.” It’s fun, it’s cheesy, and we’re really looking forward to it!

Stephen Haffner plans to bring out the collection in 2011.

The full press release appears after the jump.

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