Remembering James H. Burns

James H. Burns and Steve Vertlieb at Sardi’s.

By Steve Vertlieb: With my dear pal and cherished friend, Jim Burns, over dinner at Sardi’s Restaurant in New York at Christmas, 2014. Jimmy was one of my closest buddies. He could always make me laugh. Jim was a gifted writer and actor, and could charm the ladies with just a mischievous smile. He was one of my greatest supporters and champions, and had pushed for years to get me a lifetime achievement award at the annual Rondo competition. He finally succeeded in his quest, and woke me from a sound sleep only a year ago to tell me that I’d finally been elected to the prestigious Rondo Award Hall of Fame. That was last April, 2016. Two months later Jimmy was gone. He died far, far too early, and too young on Thursday, June 3rd, 2016. Today would have been his birthday. I miss you every day, Jimmy. I miss the sound of your voice. I miss your incessant telephone calls from New York. I miss your terrible jokes, and I miss the sound of your laughter. I miss you. Happy Birthday in Heaven, Jim.

James H. Burns with Steve Vertlieb at Vertlieb’s 70th birthday party.

Together with one of my best pals at my 70th birthday bash here in Philadelphia on December 15th, 2015. James H. Burns was the picture of health when this photograph was taken. Jimmy was loved by men and by women alike. He was charming, and handsome. He was a gifted writer, film historian, and actor, and was one of the funniest men I ever knew. Just four months after this picture was taken, Jim grew ill. On June 3rd of last year, Jimmy passed away. He was a young man with everything to live for. Today would have been his birthday. I’m thinking of my friend, Jim Burns in Heaven just now. Happy Birthday, Jimmy. I’ll never forget you.

[Editor’s note: That image of a light shining brightest just before it goes out comes immediately to mind when I list all the posts Jim wrote here in his last six months.]

JAMES H. BURNS POSTS

OBITUARY

James H. Burns Has Died

Pixel Scroll 11/23/16 A Pixel On All Your Houses

(1) COVER GIRL. Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff continues her critique of the clothing (or lack of it) depicted on sff book covers in “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover, Verse 2: The Bimbo Wears Black Leather” at Book View Café.

I may be outvoted, but so far the winner of the award for Wardrobe Malfunction is the Dutch cover of Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake (Droomslang in Dutch). Vonda assures me that she has no problem with full frontal nudity. She does, however, have a problem with full frontal nudity that is nowhere in the book.

(2) ELLISON KICKSTARTER. Jason Davis, needing to squeeze out another $17,000 to reach the Harlan Ellison Book Preservation Kickstarter’s $100,000 goal, sent an e-mail to his list reminding them about the donor perks. This one’s my favorite —

$300 — A Piece of the Puzzle, signed by Harlan: In the earliest days of HarlanEllisonBooks.com, Harlan entrusted to me an unusual item: a book of New York Times crossword puzzles. All the puzzles were completed between 2010 and 2011, and Harlan had signed and dated each page.

(3) HINES CONTINUES CHARITY AUCTION. Jim C. Hines fundraiser for Transgender Michigan is in its second day, auctioning a Tuckerization and Autographed ARC from A. M. (Alyx) Dellamonica.

Full details and bidding instructions at the site.

(4) BRANDON SANDERSON’S BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE. Tachyon Publications knows where you can find Brandon Sanderson on the road, from Seattle to Hoboken.

(5) THE SOUND AND THE FURY. The print edition is on the way for a novella that, unusually, was first offered as an audiobook: “Subterranean Press Announces Print Edition of John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher (Tor.com).

As promised, John Scalzi’s new novella The Dispatcheroriginally released as an audiobook from Audible, will also be available in print. Subterranean Press announced today that it will publish The Dispatcher in May 2017, in both trade hardcover edition as well as a limited signed hardcover edition.

Subterranean Press shared the cover, by Vincent Chong, who also handled interior illustrations. The trade edition is a fully cloth bound hardcover edition; 400 limited-edition versions are signed numbered hardcover copies, bound in leather.

(6) KOWAL’S LADY ASTRONAUT PROGRAM. Tor.com also brings word of a “New ‘Lady Astronaut of Mars’ Book Series Coming, Based on Hugo-Winning Novelette”.

Tor Books is happy to announce that author Mary Robinette Kowal will build on the universe of her Hugo Award-winning novelette “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” with two new books coming in 2018!

From Kowal: “I jokingly call the Lady Astronaut universe ‘punchcard punk’ because it’s rooted in the 1950s and 60s. It’s a chance to re-imagine the science-fiction of Ray Bradbury and Cordwainer Smith, where all of the science was very physical and practical.”

The novels will be prequels, greatly expanding upon the world that was first revealed in “Lady Astronaut”. The first novel, The Calculating Stars will present one perspective of the prequel story, followed closely by the second novel The Fated Sky, which will present an opposite perspective; one tightly woven into the first novel.

(7) THORNTON OBIT. From The Hollywood Reporter: “Ron Thornton, Emmy-Winning Visual Effects Guru on ‘Babylon 5,’ Dies at 59”:

Ron Thornton, an Emmy-winning visual effects designer, supervisor and producer who worked on such shows as Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Voyager, has died. He was 59.

Thornton, often credited with bringing the power of CGI to television visual effects, died Monday at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., after a short battle with liver disease, his friend, veteran VFX supervisor Emile Smith, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Thornton received his Emmy for the 1993 telefilm Babylon 5: The Gathering (the pilot for the series) and also was nominated for his work on episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and on the 2002 telefilm Superfire.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOLT BOY

  • Born November 23, 1887 – Boris Karloff

(9) THANKSGIVING DAY TV MARATHONS. The Los Angeles Times says “’Mystery Science Theater 3000′ returns with new blood for the Turkey Day marathon”:

Twenty-eight years ago the little science fiction show that could, “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” premiered on Thanksgiving Day. It all started with one Earthling, series creator Joel Hodgson, and his gang of lovable robot puppets. Together they drifted through space in the “Satellite of Love,”…

In Los Angeles, we also have KTLA’s annual 18-episode marathon of Rod Serling’s classic anthology series “The Twilight Zone.” 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

RETRO MARATHON MAN. This will be the first Thanksgiving since File 770 contributor James H. Burns passed away. If he were still with us I know he’d have come up with a brand new way for me to point to his trilogy of articles at The Thunder Child about the era when a New York City TV station persuaded whole families to park in front of the set on Thanksgiving and watch King Kong for the zillionth time.

King Kong in the City: A Thanksgiving Tradition: Burns tells about his father’s affinity for the famous ape movie, and his personal memory of discovering the film on Saturday morning TV in the Sixties. The station was New York’s channel 9 (the former WOR-TV) and in the next decade it broadcast the movie every Thanksgiving, before long adding the sequel, Son of Kong, and 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, another stop-motion animation picture from Kong’s creators. The annual tradition lasted until 1985.

Chris Steinbrunner: A Renaissance of Fantasy: Chris Steinbrunner, an executive with WOR-TV, is according to Burns “one of the great unsung heroes of fandom, who helped run many of his era’s conventions, was an Edgar-award winning author, wrote one of the very first books on science fiction and fantasy movies, published many books (with Centaur Press)… and produced what may well be a lost 007 special!…”  Burns says, “My old pal was a pretty neat guy, and a while ago, I was stunned that save for a short Wikipedia entry, there was virtually none of Chris’ history on the web.” Articles like this surely will keep him from being forgotten.

One of the great times Chris and I were together came early one morning in 1983 when we ran into each other high atop the Empire State Building, gathered on the Observation Deck for a special press party commemorating King Kong’s fiftieth anniversary. With the men in suits and the ladies elegantly attired, champagne was poured as we looked towards the bi-planes in the distance, booked especially for the event, that buzzed as though in a dream, above the shores of Manhattan.

When someone asked Chris about Kong Thursdays, he replied, as he almost always did, with a quick pause, a sudden smile, and said:  “King Kong on Thanksgiving…? Whoever would have thought of such an odd idea?”

Meanwhile, At the Empire State Building: The third installment is about the Empire State Building and Fay Wray.

(10) BANG BANG. Jonathan McCalmont of Ruthless Culture delivers two cheap shots for the price of one tweet.

(11) A BEASTLY MOVIE. Book View Café’s Steven Harper Piziks has seen it – “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them–An Extensive Review” (beware spoilers).

Is there good stuff?  Sure.  It’s fun to see the Harry Potter world in 1920s America.  The movie focuses on magical animals instead of spells and potions, a potentially fun new area to explore.  The effects are lovely.  Dan Fogler as Mr. Kowalski is a delight as the stand-in for the audience as he’s accidentally thrust into a wizardling world he can barely understand but gamely does his best to master.

But…

The movie has serious pacing problems.  Things take forever to get moving in the beginning. We  spend too much time dealing with unimportant issues, like the annoying niffler’s thieving and the preparation of food in a witch’s kitchen, and not enough time on actual plot points, like what the villain wants and how he intends to get it.  The latter is annoyingly muddled and confused.  Less time on special-effects creatures and more time on human character development would have been a better scripting choice.

(12) EVERYBODY NEEDS A HOBBY. “Mr. Night Has The Day Off,” on Vimeo, is a charming cartoon from Lithuania about what happens when Night wanders around during his day off and zaps things (cars, clothes) black.

(13) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT. Is there anyplace where the grapes have more wrath than Westeros? Now you can buy Game of Thrones wine, albeit at Lannister prices.

Vintage Wine Estates announced that they’ve partnered with HBO to release three different officially licensed Game of Thrones wines—a Chardonnay (suggested retail $19.99), a Red Blend (suggested retail $19.99) and a Cabernet Sauvignon (suggested retail $39.99). We haven’t heard Tyrion mention a preferred varietal, but based on his wine habit it seems safe to assume he’d back all of these.

 

gotr-wine

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS GIFT PAST. A computer that can fit in your pocket – if you’re Captain Kangaroo – and at such a reasonable price! Of course, that’s back when $169.95 really was worth $169.95…

tra80

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

Pixel Scroll 11/11/16 Some Say Scrolls, It Is A Pixel, That Leaves Your Eyes To Bleed

(1) RELIGHTING FIREFLY. CinemaBlend’s Nick Venable has been listening to actor Alan Tudyk, who says “Nathan Fillion Has an Awesome Idea for More Firefly”.

[Alan Tudyk] “I’m always hopeful that it’ll come back in some form or fashion. I think as long as you have Nathan Fillion – truly, if you have the captain – he can put the crew back together. Some new faces, some old faces, and get back in the air. I think Nathan pitched an idea once to me, and I think he actually got it from some fan fiction: Now, out in some shack on some forgotten moon somewhere, somebody comes and knocks on [Mal’s] door and says, ‘We need you.’ And he answers the call.”

I know that you guys might not have gotten goosebumps like I did when Alan Tudyk was saying it, but I’m sure everyone pictured that potential opening scene accordingly. It’s the perfect set-up for an action narrative, with the unpredictable hero getting picked out of reclusion to head back out for one last mission. One. Last. Mission. Not that anyone said this would have to be the final mission for Mal Reynolds, who may or may not still have his Captain status, since there should never be a last mission for him.

I’m picturing Nathan Fillion with a big giant beard, and he’s complaining about the “gorram WiFi never working” on his moon. There’s probably some kind of a booze still behind his shack. And something happened that was so foul that he vowed never to get back out into the cosmos again, for either fun or profit. But then maybe Jayne or Zoe is in trouble – take that, Jayne – and only Mal can be the one to bring him/her/them/all the gold back. Combine that with the masterfully wild shot that Joss Whedon never got to bring to Firefly, and it all starts to write itself, though that’s only helpful if the project can also order itself to series and air itself.

(2) KC DISCOVERS SUSHI. Scott Edelman of the Eating the Fantastic podcast invites you to “Take a break for sushi with Kathleen Ann Goonan” in Episode 22 of the series.

Kathleen Ann Goonan

Kathleen Ann Goonan

I may have given you the impression, based on the three previous episodes of Eating the Fantastic, that all I ate while I was in Kansas City for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention was BBQ. Not true! This episode’s guest requested sushi, which led us Bob Wasabi Kitchen, giving me some respite from the meat sweats.

And who’s the guest this time? Kathleen Ann Goonan, whose first novel, Queen City Jazz, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and who won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for In War Times. And, I should add, who wrote the story, “The Bride of Elvis,” which I had the honor of publishing twenty years ago (yikes!), back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine.

(3) LIFE OF TOLKIEN. The Verge reports “J.R.R. Tolkien biopic Middle Earth will add new depth to Lord of the Rings”.

Earlier this week, Deadline revealed that New Line Cinema would be revisiting the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. Rather than adapting one of his many novels or stories, director James Strong will be helming a film about the author himself, which has the potential to give viewers an entirely new way of looking at the works that he’s most famous for.

Middle Earth is described as following Tolkien’s “early life and love affair with Edith Bratt,” as well as his service to the British Army during the First World War. The film, to be written by Angus Fletcher, is reportedly based on years of archival research on Tolkien’s life.

(4) VAUGHN OBIT. Actor Robert Vaughn (1932-2016) died November 11. His most famous role was Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which aired from 1964-1968, and reprised in a 1983 reunion movie for television. When reruns of the late-1950s series Men Into Space began airing recently, Rich Lynch spotted a young Robert Vaughn in his first sf genre role, the episode “Moon Cloud.”  He appeared in episodes of dozens of TV series over the decades, and in several movies, notably Bullitt and The Magnificent Seven.

The late James H. Burns wrote several File 770 posts about Vaughn, whom he had interviewed for print articles.

When I chatted with Robert Vaughn a few weeks ago, there was a fascinating surprise…

…Vaughn had just spent, for the first time, I believe, a great deal of time watching “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”!

When the U.N.C.L.E. marathon was on, a few months ago (was it on the DECADES cable channel?), Vaughn found himself checking in, within the coziness of his Connecticut home.

He had never really seen the episodes, and was now watching a number of the excellent first season shows.

Now, this isn’t unusual for any actor. In the 1960s, the schedule on television shoots could be overwhelming. (That’s been true, really, in any era of filmmaking.) Vaughn was also busy with his private education, and of course, civic pursuits….

 

We were at a tribute to Vaughn at the Players Club in Manhattan, and were chatting amiably afterwards:

Vaughn was I think I bit surprised and happy that there was someone to talk with who knew a bit about various aspects of his career… (Plus, I had just explained the ending of Bullitt  to him, something which had apparently eluded the both of us, for years!)

…In the early ’70s. Vaughn had signed to star in The Protectors, a syndicated, half-hour action adventure series about international detectives, from ITC and producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The Andersons, of course, are well known to TV buffs and science fiction fans of a certain age for Supercar, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet — all marionette shows, and the live-action series UFO, and Space: 1999.

The Protectors was a big deal for Anderson, his first major (and, as it turned out, last) mainstream–non-fantasy–endeavor.

The Andersons invited Vaughn and his then business partner to their London home for dinner, for a celebratory meal.

Vaughn and his business manager/pal had drinks in the living room, and then Gerry and Sylvia led them into the formal dining room…

It was only this small group, but the huge table was set for MANY:

And seated at each gilded chair was one of the Andersons’ famous Supermarionation figures!

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 11, 1922 – Kurt Vonnegut

(6) VERTLIEB ON FILM HISTORY PANELS AT PHILCON. Steve Vertlieb wants you to know you can find him at Philcon 2016 in Philadelphia discussing Ray Harryhausen and Hammer Films.

The Convention of The Philadelphia Science Fiction Society at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on Saturday, November 19th, 2016, presents…

THE CLASSIC HAMMER FILMS: AN OVERVIEW

[Panelists: Steve Vertlieb (mod), Richard Stout, John Vaughan, Tony Finan, Mark Leeper, James Chambers]

Hammer Films released numerous productions from the 50’s through the 80’s. From Frankenstein and Dracula with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to the astonishingly brilliant Quatermass films, these movies helped set up the future of Science Fiction media

Sat 5:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)

RAY HARRYHAUSEN: A LIFE

[Panelists: Steve Vertlieb (mod), Richard Stout]

An affectionate remembrance of a motion picture special effects pioneer, and a nearly fifty year admiration and friendship. Writer Steve Vertlieb recalls the Harryhausen legacy, and a profoundly moving personal relationship with a fantasy film legend

(7) SHATNER DRAMA. The Nate Sanders firm is auctioning a handwritten soliloquy “William Shatner Sincerely Wants to Know Why George Takei Doesn’t Like Him – ‘…Not so long after that very friendly time he began to say very mean things about me. – Why?’”

Fascinating account by William Shatner on his relationship with George Takei, where he seems to try to sincerely understand why Takei doesn’t like him, even perhaps using the account as a public question. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, autograph signed recollection reads in full, ”George Takei was living in a beautifully appointed apartment. I was there to interview him for a book I was writing. He was most gracious – kind, mannered even formal. He was the essence of an Asian gentleman. We talked memories of Star Trek, his very difficult childhood given that he and his family were put behind a wired fence – in effect a concentration camp. We were at war with Japan and American fears were such that the government put everybody with a Japanese background into those camps – what a terrible beginning of life. But George had overcome [by] working hard and with intelligence he had bettered himself – he had disciplined his body as a runner and he had done the same with his mind; he was running for office as well. His apartment showed all that discipline – it was ordered, it had character, it was immaculate and so was George. I had never really got to know him. He would come in every so often during the week while we were shooting Star Trek. I was busy learning lines and dealing with my life, so I really can’t remember a meaningful conversation – I’m sure that would be my fault – my lack of attention – Never the less when we all wrapped that last day of shooting it was all meaningfull [sic] – for all of us – Star Trek was cancelled. Until this moment in his apartment we had not spoken. Not so long after that very friendly time he began to say very mean things about me. – Why? / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(8) BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Also on the auction bloc: “William Shatner Defends His Decision Not To Attend His Friend Leonard Nimoy’s Funeral – ‘…we’ll mourn Leonard, say his name and then pledge your money….’”

Very interesting handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner on the death of his friend Leonard Nimoy, who served as Shatner’s best man at his 1997 wedding, but with whom he was no longer speaking to in 2015 when Nimoy died. Shatner famously did not attend Nimoy’s funeral, which he explains here: ”Leonard was very sick – he was in the hospital. His health was difficult – he was in fact dying – but nobody but his family knew – certainly I didn’t. A month or so prior to his going into the hospital, the American Red Cross asked me to do their largest fundraiser. It would be a huge event, thousands of potential donors, millions of dollars. I enthusiastically said yes. I was to leave on a Friday night for a Saturday performance when the news of Leonard’s death was delivered – the funeral was to be Sunday – what to do? My immediate thought given the blinding news of his death, my appearance or non appearance would not be noticed – also what about the people who had given good money with the expectation of seeing me – heartbroken dilemma – I chose to go the Red Cross and as I said to the people there – all is dust – your name, my name, Leonard’s name will soon be forgotten – but the good deeds you do tonight will be long remembered – I meant those emphatically. Helping others ever reverberates through time – we’ll mourn Leonard, say his name and then pledge your money. / William Shatner”. Single page composed on Shatner’s personal stationery measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(9) COMPARING HORNBLOWER AND KIRK. The Nate Sanders house also is auctioning this handwritten anecdote: “William Shatner Describes Captain Kirk: ‘…the gravity of each decision, the mastery of everybody on board…riding a stud horse bareback, loving the ladies – sound familiar?…’”

Fantastic handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner, reflecting on Captain Kirk, his famous alter ego from ”Star Trek”. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, he offers an unexpectedly frank and humorous account of Kirk: ”’Horatio Hornblower’ – Roddenberry said in answer to my question ‘who is he like’ – so I read Horatio Hornblower. Horatio is a captain of a British ship plowing the unknown oceans of America in the 1600’s – the loneliness of command, the gravity of each decision, the mastery of everybody on board – awesomeness of command. Yes, very good I got it- and that was the basis of the character of Kirk – I had just, the year before, shot a movie of Alexander the Great, this marvelous, historical character who was one of the great and noble characters of history – using a sword, riding a stud horse bareback, loving the ladies – sound familiar? And those tight costumes!! I had been lifting weights and put on some muscle, I was ready to play Capt. James Tiberius Kirk. Now all I had to do is remember ten pages of dialog – a lot of those words had no basis in English – Scientific goblygook that required head pounding memorization. Memorizing is difficult, some actors, like James Spader, have a photographic memory – they glance at a paper and it’s there forever – me? I have to go over and over and over – it’s a source of great tension – what’s the next word? The eternal actor’s question. / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(10) GENE FOUGHT FOR THE EARS. The fourth item of Shatner holography being auctioned by the Nate Sanders firm is — “William Shatner Reflects on Gene Roddenberry & the ‘Star Trek’ Pilot – ‘….there was some objection to Spock’s ears. ‘Too devilish’ somebody said – Gene fought for the ears….”

 Fantastic handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner on Gene Roddenberry and getting the ”Star Trek” pilot made, as well as his relationship with Roddenberry as the show progressed. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, in full: ”I met Gene Roddenberry over the phone – he had called me in New York to ask me to come see a pilot film he had just made for N.B.C. He was calling it Star Trek. I flew to Los Angeles and went to see this pilot film that N.B.C. didn’t want to buy. I thought it was terrific – I sat in Gene’s office and made a few suggestions – I thought the pilot was a little slow, a little ponderous. It could use some lightness, some humor – He looked at me from across the desk and after a silence said ‘Let’s do it’ – We shot the pilot film for the second time and we were rewarded by a sell. He told me later there was some objection to Spock’s ears. ‘Too devilish’ somebody said – Gene fought for the ears and like in a really good bullfight, he was awarded the ears. Gene was on the set in these early shows and we looked to him for guidance and counsel – which he freely gave. I would frequently go to the office and talk to him about the script, some item of dialogue, some thought that I might have – in these early years he was open – that slowly changed as time went on. / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(11) HEIRESSES OF RUSS. A.M. Dellamonica posts the “Heiresses of Russ 2015 ToC Announcement”.

I am so pleased to announce the finalized line-up for Heiresses of Russ 2016, from Lethe Press, edited by Steve Berman and myself. This is my editorial debut and it’s the sixth, I believe in the HoR series. As the Lethe Press site says, Heiresses of Russ reprints the prior year’s best lesbian-themed short works of the fantastical, the otherworldly, the strange and wondrous under one cover.

Here’s the line-up:

(12) SECOND FIFTH ELEMENT. Sciencefiction.com invites us to “Check Out The First Trailer For Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’”

Although Luc Besson has only occasionally ventured into the realm of science fiction, with films like ‘Lucy‘ and of course ‘The Fifth Element’ to his credit, he has nonetheless made a substantial mark on the genre. And now he is poised to do so once again, with his upcoming film ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets‘.

Based on the long-running French comic ‘Valerian and Laureline’, created by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres (who collaborated with Besson, a longtime fan, on ‘The Fifth Element), the film follows Valerian and his partner/love interest Laureline, a pair of government operatives tasked with investigating Alpha, a vast, alien metropolis that may harbor a grave danger to human civilization….

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Remembering Jim Burns

Jim Burns and Steve Vertlieb.

Jim Burns and Steve Vertlieb.

By Steve Vertlieb: My win for the 2016 Rondo Hall Of Fame Award the other night was, is, and always will be tempered by the heartbreaking news and realization that my beloved friend and brother, Jim Burns, has tragically passed away at age fifty-four of an undisclosed illness. Jim was one of the best friends that it’s ever been my honor to have. He was a cherished pal, confidante, and brother. Jim and I would speak for hours on the telephone, catching up on the latest news, talking, and always, always laughing.

When I nearly died just six or so years ago during major open heart surgery, Jim was ever on the telephone, and always sending me supportive e-mails and love.

Jim pushed hard for my lifetime achievement award at the Rondo’s every year, and it was Jim who joyously announced my win for the Hall Of Fame by awaking me from a deep sleep just two months ago to inform me that I’d been elected to the Rondo Hall Of Fame.

My elation on Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky, was abruptly shattered when David Colton (the head ot the Rondo Awards, and former editor of U.S.A. TODAY) gave me the terrible, terrible news that Jim has passed away on Thursday, June 2nd.

Jim…I love you. I shall always love you. I cannot believe that I’ll never hear your voice, or your terrible jokes ever again. I cannot believe that I’ll never again know the happiness of reading your prolific commentary on the arts. Your work was sheer poetry. It was beautiful, haunting, and evocative. Your last years were tortured, and I hope that you found a degree of comfort in my love and respect for you, and in our profound bonding and friendship.

I dedicated my Rondo Award to you in my acceptance speech in Louisville Saturday evening. You always wanted to win a Rondo but never had an opportunity to do so. May it bring you a degree of solace to know that David Colton dedicated this year’s Rondo Awards ceremony to you. I love you, Jim. I miss you…and I cannot believe that I will never have an opportunity to speak with you again. God Bless you, my friend. God Bless you, my cherished brother. Sleep well, Prince Jim. Sleep throughout eternity in the knowledge that you shall always be loved….both by me, and by so many adoring friends and fans.

Pixel Scroll 6/4/16 Later on We’ll Scrollspire, as We Dream by the Fire

(1) SUPERHERO CONSUMER REPORT. The Verge warns “Thanos’ almighty Infinity Gauntlet defeated by above-average oven heat”.

The most powerful weapon in the universe has a weakness: it cannot withstand the necessary heat to remove a cast iron pizza pan once warmed to 400-plus degrees. Reports of the weapon’s fragility have been making the rounds by way of Loot Crate, which shipped an Infinity Gauntlet oven mitt to subscribers in its May product bundle. Following many failed attempts to hold hot objects and presumably eradicate Marvel superheroes, the device has been dubbed defective.

 

(2) RUNAWAY MIND MELD. When SF Signal closed, a couple of people were still at work on installments of its popular “Mind Meld” feature. James Aquilone has now posted the one he was curating, that asks participants the question:

Q: What are your favorite visions of the future in the SF genre?

Answers come from Sean Williams, Stewart Baker, Stephen Merlino, Matt Dovey, John Lasser and Christoph Weber, all published in the latest Writers of the Future anthology.

(3) FEELING BETTER? While the SF Signal blog is shuttered, somebody (John DeNardo?) is still issuing regular news tweets from the SF Signal Twitter account.

(4) CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN. Tom Smith’s protest filk “Just A Kid From Brooklyn” – a $1 download.

…You’ve heard about his shield, to keep him safe from harm,
And how he used it like it was an extension of his arm,
You’ve heard about his buddies, and how some paid the cost,
The woman that he loved, the childhood friend he lost.

But most of all, you’ve heard about the man behind the mask,
How fighting for our freedom was his most important task,
Sometimes it was a rescue, sometimes it was a fight,
But sometimes it was just his words and knowing he was right

And now you tell me… he’s a Nazi
You want to prove the best of us can end up like the rest of us
You’ve undone his whole purpose, and then shoved him off a ledge,
And tell us it’s so bold of you, how it’s oh so cutting edge….

(5) THE I-FILES. Gillian Anderson has a new gig says Variety, having been cast in Starz’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Anderson will play Media, the mouthpiece for the New Gods, functioning as their public face and sales representative, by taking the form of various iconic celebrities. She lives off the attention and worship that people give to screens — to their laptops, their TVs, to their iPhones in their hands while they watch their TVs. Ever the perky spokesperson, and always in control, she spins stories in whatever direction best suits her.

(6) PEACE BLIND YOUR WEAPONS. Police have warned those attending Armageddon 2016 in Wellington this weekend to cover their fake weapons to avoid public panic. The New Zealand Herald has the story.

Many of those attending the expo, which has been dubbed the Wellington Geek Event, arrive dressed in costumes which may include accessories such as fake weapons. While they were fake, they looked real, police warned this evening.

“Those attending the festival are asked that they be careful when they are walking to and from the events around Wellington and that they carry these ‘weapons’ with care so as not to scare members of the public.”…

Police had already today been called to Porirua after a man travelling to the expo was seen carrying a fake weapon.

(7) RALPH OBIT. SF Site News reports Patrick Ralph passed away.

Illinois fan Patrick “PJ” Ralph died on June 2 following a battle with cancer. Ralph was an active and was currently developing a game for market with some friends. He was part of the “Bermuda Triangle” hoax Worldcon bid for the 1988 Worldcon, which took second in a field of four.

(8) G.O.A.T. John Scalzi, who at age 8 knew Muhammad Ali was “The Greatest of All Time”, at age 47 has a far deeper appreciation why it was true.

But — and this is the second thing — you cannot love or honor Ali properly without acknowledging that blackness and Islam are at the core of his greatness. It seems to me, and I think the events of his life bear this out, that the greatness of Ali — who he was — was did not come out to you, was not there for you, and in a fundamental way did not care what you thought of it. It was there, and you could come to it or not, and if you did, you had to take it on its on terms. On Ali’s terms. And Ali’s terms were: He was a black man, in America and in the world. He was a Muslim man, in America and in the world. He was who he was. He did not have to transcend those things about himself. You, however, might have to overcome your understanding of what you thought of both blackness and Islam to appreciate him. People did or did not; Ali went on regardless.

(9) WHEN JIM BURNS MET ALI. Jim Burns posted this memory of meeting the champ in person:

AliSupermanI’ll always be grateful that I got to meet Muhammad Ali when he was still in the full height of all his many powers. The occasion was an odd one–a 1978 press party at the Warner Communications building on Fifth Avenue, heralding Superman Vs Muhammad Ali, a special edition “deluxe” comic book volume that DC Comics produced (in which aliens compel the two titans to tussle, “to save the Earth”).

(10) CARTOON SECTION. Today’s Close To Home by John McPherson concerns a hellish to-do list.

(11) MIKKI KENDALL. Tasha Turner pointed to Mikki Kendall’s “WisCon 40 Highs, Lows & What The Actual F*ck?”. Now I think I can see what was behind that committee tweet I wondered about.

That brings me to the “WTAF?” part of this post. We’re going to start with the Con Suite. Because I made the actual beef for it, and because it is an exceptionally glaring example of an overarching problem. Time & time again I saw people come in, take umbrage that a place staffed by volunteers serving free food had imperfect service. Not dangerous service, not unhealthy (AFAIK no one got food poisoning which I did from a place where I actually paid for the food), just imperfect. Because a delivery didn’t show up on time the menus had to be shifted around. Because two of the aging fridges went out food was in shorter supply than expected. Because there weren’t enough volunteers actually willing to show up & work when scheduled some things took longer than expected. You know..normal things that can go wrong at any event.

Now, there are a lot of theories about the entitled attitudes on display from some con attendees. Some of it was definitely about race & gender (funnily enough all the Black women serving in the con suite that I know have similar stories about rudeness despite being there on different days, I didn’t get a chance to check in with other POC, but I have some guesses based off stories relayed to me), some of it was about bizarre expectations and a total lack of home training (possibly related to reason #1) but at base none of it was okay. Here is where I remind you that Julia, the con suite chair pays for a flight & hotel from Boston to Madison to spend an entire weekend volunteering. To feed hundreds of strangers three meals and unlimited snacks every day. Here is where I remind you that con suite staff are all volunteers. Here is where I ask you why a con that prides itself on being at a union hotel can’t remember to treat volunteers like people.

(12) THE PERPETUAL CAMPAIGN. The BBC’s roundup of electoral futurism starts with the spectre of a holographic Trump campaigning in 20 places at once.

Then it moves on to a candidate with a strongly science-fictional view of the future.

Forty-foot coffin

“Why not?” offers Zoltan Istvan, an US independent presidential candidate who identifies as a futurist and transhumanist.

“Many other jobs are being replaced by robots. Why not our leaders?

“We’re about 10-15 years from having a machine that’s as smart as anyone in this room. It might make sense at some point to have a machine lead us.”

I met Istvan this week at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, a gathering of companies working on augmented, virtual and mixed reality technology.

He certainly stood out. First, he’s built like an action figure. Second, he wants to live forever (that’s the transhumanist part). His presidential campaign is built around calls to fund further science that will – the movement hopes – one day make immortality a reality.

He, of course, is not going to become the next president. But that’s not the point. His campaign is designed to bring attention to his call for the US to put more money into research. This publicity drive is enhanced by his campaign bus – a 40-foot long coffin on wheels.

(13) CLICKBAIT. Tickld’s “30 Things You Probably Missed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens” are on 30 different pages, so a lot depends on how irresistible you find this kind of lure.

(14) BILLBOARD PROTESTED. Yahoo! reports “Rose McGowan is speaking out against a billboard of Jennifer Lawrence in ‘X-Men’ for an important reason”.

The purpose of a movie billboard is not just to give viewers an idea of what the movie’s about, but also excite them enough to go see it. That’s why some people are concerned about what’s going down on a current billboard in Los Angeles for X-Men: Apocalypse featuring Jennifer Lawrence‘s character, Mystique, and Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. I know what you’re thinking: how could anything involving Oscar Isaac and Jennifer Lawrence be bad? However, actress Rose McGowan, and a handful of others, have pointed out that it sends a pretty weird message, and we can’t help but agree. The billboard shows Apocalypse with his hand around Mystique’s throat, strangling her.

 

(15) TABLET HARDWARE. “Hello From Londinium: Oldest Handwritten Documents In British History Discovered” on NPR.

Archaeologists in London have unearthed the oldest handwritten documents in Britain — a collection of notes, bills and contracts dating back nearly 2,000 years.

The discovery, a collection of more than 400 Roman waxed writing tablets, was announced Wednesday by the Museum of London Archaeology. The tablets were unearthed in London’s financial district during excavation work for a new building.

The Guardian has more on the tablets’ discovery:

“The tablets were found under a 1950s office block in the still smelly, wet mud of the lost river Walbrook, as the site was being cleared for a huge new European headquarters for Bloomberg.

” ‘They give us a glimpse into a carpet-bagging community in the new wild west frontier of the Roman empire,’ said Roger Tomlin, the expert on early Roman writing who spent a year poring over the faint scratches on slivers of fir wood recycled from old barrels.

The Bloomberg tablets, as the museum is calling them, date back to as early as A.D. 43.

(16) THE LATE PLAYWRIGHT. Francis Hamit, in “Film Producer Reveals Truth About Christopher Marlowe’s Death”.

After years of intensive research Francis Hamit is satisfied that he knows exactly how and why the Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe died on May 30th, 1593.

“It was a hit,” Hamit said, “A political assassination for reasons of state, ordered by Queen Elizabeth herself. Marlowe professed atheism, which would have been no big deal if he had not been the most famous and popular playwright of the Elizabethan stage. His fame meant that the deed had to be done secretly. Marlowe was also one of her spies and worked for the Secret Service under Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Robert Cecil. The other men in the room with Marlowe at the time of his death were all friends of his and long-time agents for the Crown.”

“Marlowe infiltrated the Jesuit Seminary at Rhiems as a spy in 1585, and probably did other missions. He was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s group of freethinkers, the so-called ‘School of the Night,’ and gave a lecture about atheism. His former chambermate and lover Thomas Kyd was arrested for having atheistic literature and revealed under torture that the documents were Marlowe’s. Additional accusations from informers got Marlowe arrested by the Privy Council and he was under investigation and restrictions when he died.”

For the last six years, Hamit has been developing these details into a screenplay, now being produced by famed film producer Gary Kurtz in the UK. The film will be directed by American film director Michael John Donahue, DGA. The underlying material is Hamit’s 1988 stageplay “MARLOWE: An Elizabethan Tragedy”.

“Actually the whole thing was Mike Donahue’s idea,” Hamit said. “He read the original stage play and suggested we make the film. We decided to make it in the UK because of the locations, the very deep bench of acting talent, and the generous tax incentives.” To that end, Hamit and his partner formed The Kit Marlowe Film Co. PLC with offices in London as well as Los Angeles and negotiated a North American film and video distribution deal with Lightyear Entertainment in 2015.

Hamit has done several drafts of the screenplay and just added a scene where Queen Elizabeth orders Marlowe’s death. “She did it for the best of reasons from her point of view,” Hamit said. “Her authority as Queen was based upon the Divine Right to Rule. Saying there was no God was a direct challenge to that authority. Marlowe had to go, and as quietly as possible. She pardoned the man who murdered him a month later.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

James H. Burns Has Died

James H Burns

A day of mourning. Frequent File 770 contributor James H. Burns has died, found by his landlord on June 2. A month ago Jim was hospitalized for blood clots in his legs and put on blood thinners. After he was released, Jim also told me he was troubled by other medical “mysteries,” comparing his case to an episode of House but without ever saying in so many words what the problems were.

Now other friends of Burns’ are saying on Facebook that doctors found a lump in his lungs and he’d been scheduled for a biopsy on Wednesday, but having no one to go with him had stayed home. By the next day he passed away.

Jim was about 56 years old. When this photo was taken by Patrick O’Neill in 1976 or 1977, he was about thirteen or fourteen years old – and already writing for some of the science fiction film magazines. (On the right is longtime sf fan and 1970s convention organizer, Steve Rosenstein.)

File 770's very own James H. Burns (back when he was more usually known as Jim!), circa 1976 or 1977 (when he was only thirteen or fourteen years old, but already writing for some of the science fiction film magazines!), with long time SF fan and 1970s convention organizer, Steve Rosenstein. Photo by Patrick O’Neill.

James H. Burns circa 1976 or 1977 with long time SF fan and 1970s convention organizer, Steve Rosenstein. Photo by Patrick O’Neill.

He was among the first writers for Starlog and a contributing editor to Fantastic Films, and Steranko’s Prevue. Jim was one of the first genre magazine nonfiction writers to cross over to mainstream publications like Gentleman’s Quarterly, Esquire and American Film, while continuing to write for Cinefantastique, Starburst, Heavy Metal and Twilight Zone magazines.

Jim also had the chance to appear in some movies, given minor parts in Igor and the Lunatics (1985), On the Q.T. (1999) and For Love of the Game (1999).

In his last years he became active in radio, and authored Op-Eds and features for Newsday, The Village Voice, thesportingnews.com and The New York Times.

Jim had a large fund of anecdotes about sf, movies, tv and the New York theater, which he enjoyed sharing on several fannish blogs and in the forums at the Classic Horror Film Board.

Around 2012, Jim discovered File 770. Initially I was signal boosting his pieces for other sites, Jim earning his way by authoring entertaining original “hooks” that made fans want to click and read the rest.

I always wished Jim was writing that stuff for me – and eventually my wish came true. He became one of the most active and creative participants here. The past two years we’ve exchanged e-mails every couple of days, Jim constantly coming up with ideas, drafting new articles, or finding ways to adapt material published earlier in his career.

Jim was especially proud of a trio of posts that paid tribute to the influence of his father — My Father, And The Brontosaurus, Sons of a Mesozoic Age, and World War II, and a Lexicon in Time.

Quite often his posts here were inspired by memories of “growing up fannish,” such as the very popular Once, When We Were All Scientists, and CLANKY!.

He also wrote about celebrities he’d known (Joe Franklin, R.I.P., THE Man from U.N.C.L.E.), comics history (Marvel Comics to Implode — End of a Fifty-Plus Year Era and Lee Falk’s Phantom of Happy Memory), longtime figures in NY fandom who’d passed away (Alan Levine, “Original Dealer,” 79 Years Old, R.I.P.), and pop culture classics that needed a champion (Are We Ready Again For George Pal’s Puppetoons?).

Jim’s strength as a writer was his ability to remind readers why they were – as he was – sentimentally attached to the works and experiences that brought us into fandom. That’s been a lifeline for me amid the uninterrupted controversies that fill my blog. Filers often ask each other what they love. That question was one Jim clearly enjoyed answering over and over. How much he will be missed.

Pixel Scroll 5/30/16 You Only Five Twice

july-1942-patriotic-pulps

(1) MEMORIAL DAY. Honoring service and sacrifice — James H. Burns’ 2015 tribute to the WWII generation:

Yet, one of the biggest influences on that generation has remained generally uncommented on. Decades later, it can almost be viewed as a secret text, or a  vast compendium, that may well have helped prepare our country’s youth for the immense challenges that awaited them.

In the 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression–still the toughest economic calamity that ever faced the United States–ANYONE could tune in, on the radio, to the terrific adventure series, comedies and dramas that were performed LIVE, for national broadcast.

It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, or what race or creed you encompassed. There was a wide array of delights simply waiting to be discovered….

(2) LLAMA DROP. Kameron Hurley has a book out tomorrow that she expects to be controversial. She recommends several rules of engagement to her readers, beginning with —

Hey, hey folks, my first essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, drops TOMORROW, May 31!

In anticipation of its release, here are some things you should know that I know and some things you should know about how I’ll be comporting myself online during the launch:

  1. Some people (the minority, but oh, what a vocal minority!) will HATE this book, even and especially those who’ve never read it and have never heard of me and have no idea what it’s actually about. I fully anticipate several pile-ons. I expect lots of garbage in my social feeds. But fear not! All of my email is screened, I’ve muted the majority of the worst accounts and keywords on Twitter, and buttoned up other things to ensure this goes as smoothly as possible. I WILL BE FINE. CHIN UP.
  2. This leads us to THIS point, which is: NO WHITE KNIGHTING. All I ask if there’s a pile-on is for you to NOT tag me if you argue with trolls. My troll policy is mute and ignore. I’ve found that very effective. You are, of course, free to argue with whomever you want on the internet, but as a courtesy, I ask that you keep me out of it, or I’ll have to mute you too, and we don’t want that! In related news: DON’T POINT ME TO BAD REVIEWS or TELL ME TO READ TERRIBLE COMMENTS. I mean, unless you’re a troll? But I don’t think you’re a troll. Like, I mean, for real, folks? I never, ever, read the comments, and I’m not going to be reading bad reviews, even funny ones, for months yet. Thank you….

(3) LLAMA THUMBS DOWN. At Fantasy Literature, reviewer Bill Capossere’s verdict is The Geek Feminist Revolution: Just didn’t do it for me”. I’ve heard of “damning with faint praise,” on the other hand, this review is devoted to “damning with faint damns.”They follow after a three-paragraph confession of the expectations he brings to a book of essays.

The pieces certainly aren’t badly written, but there just wasn’t enough there for me, whether in terms of style or content. Often, the thrust of the piece wasn’t all that fresh. What does it take to succeed in writing? Persistence. How does one succeed? One has to be willing to fail. Women are horribly trolled on the net. Writers have a responsibility to consider the impact of how they present their worlds and the people who inhabit them, etc.

Now, I don’t have an issue with covering territory that has been covered extensively for a long time or, in the case of more contemporaneous issues, has been covered extensively elsewhere (well, maybe I have a little issue). But if you’re going to present me content I’ve seen lots of other places or have been reading for some time, then you need to do something else for me. When I talk to my students in creative writing I call this the “so what” issue with non-fiction. You have to give the reader a reason to keep reading something they’ve seen before. Maybe it’s the beauty of the language, maybe it’s the stimulating structure. But something.

With regard to structure, the essays in The Geek Feminist Revolution are almost strictly linear and mostly singularly focused. As for language, it’s adequate for communicating the ideas, but rarely rises above that. It’s conversational, passionate, but nothing will have you linger over the phrasing or is particularly dense with meaning.

(4) CHINA SF CON. Shaoyan Hu’s article at Amazing Stories covers “A Time to Share, a Time to Enjoy – The Closing Ceremony of the 8th Shanghai Science Fiction & Fantasy Festival”.

In the main hall, the ceremony was incorporated with the final stage of a mind contest called ‘Useless Superpowers’, in which the participants were encouraged to come up with ideas of superpowers that had no practical values but could become interesting under certain circumstances. They were requested to present the ideas with any means of their choice, such as videos, pictures, stage performances, and so on.

The winner was a student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The imaginary superpower he had fabricated was ‘Immovable’, which meant the owner of the power could prevent anything from moving by simply touching it. Now, just imagine, someday in the future, if an asteroid is going to crash into the Earth, guess who will be sent out to the space to stop it?

(5) BALTICON AUTOGRAPH MACHINE. See George R.R. Martin sign and sign and sign in Chris Edwards’ half-minute video on Facebook.

(6) WISCON WARNING. Wondering what happened.

(7) CAPTAIN AMERICA SPOILER WARNING. With the mandatory warning out of the way, here is Brad Torgersen’s warning about violating fans’ expectations for a franchise.

Of course, the whole Captain America = Hydra Nazi thing, is a stunt. It will be eventually written up such that this shocking reveal is just the top-most layer on a plot cake wherein good old Steve is still true-blue American, and so forth. But by then the writers will have gotten what they wanted out of said stunt: attention, eyeballs, chatter, and (theoretically) sales.

Or . . . not?

Sometimes, stunts like this can dramatically backfire. If the audience suspects that it …is being shown contempt (by the creators) then the audience may very well turn its back. Superheroes are treasured icons for fans across the spectrum, and if you mess with those icons too much, you truly are playing with fire.

(8) IN A CAPTAIN CRUNCH. Echoing one of Torgersen’s notions about the fans no longer accepting the authority of the creator, comics veteran Gerry Conway has been besieged by fans trying to tell him the history behind Captain America. Here are a few examples from the Twitter exchange.

However, not everyone is engaging in the Captain America controversy with the same firestorm intensity….

(9) AUDIO BANDERSNATCH. Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Kickstarter funded – in fact, later today it achieved its first stretch goal.

I’m walking on SUNSHINE!! We met our funding goal for “Bandersnatch Goes AUDIO!!” Michael Ward will be narrating this book, and I am absolutely THRILLED. We still have one more day to meet some delicious stretch goals: I’d love to give each and every backer a copy of the 20-page discussion guide, and I’m still wondering if James A. Owen can draw a bandersnatch blindfolded. But for now, here’s the important thing: this is a real dream come true. This  audiobook will really really happen, and I want to thank YOU for taking part. I’m so excited and so, so grateful. WOOT!! Bandersnatch is going AUDIO!!

10) FAMILY REUNION. Fanac.org has uploaded video of “Science Fiction’s 50th Anniversary Family Reunion” from Noreascon 3 (1989). After the Sunday brunch, many of the greats reminisced – including Isaac Asimov, Terry Pratchett, Jack Williamson, Samuel Delany, Fred Pohl, Forry Ackerman, David Kyle, Connie Willis, and others.

(11) IT WAS A NEEDLESS TRAGEDY. The Onion has learned “Leaked Documents Reveal Studio Executives Knew About ‘Gods of Egypt’ Before It Released Onto Public”. Gasp!

Suggesting that the disastrous events of three months ago could have been averted, federal investigators stated Wednesday that a trove of leaked documents confirmed high-ranking studio executives had full knowledge of Gods Of Egypt long before the film was released onto unsuspecting Americans….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael J. Walsh, and Leslie Turek for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/16 The Pixels Scrolls Don’t See

(1) THE SICHUAN CHICKEN EMERGENCY. Last year’s Hugo-winning novelist has received a new honor — “Dinosaur relics named after science fiction writer Liu Cixin”.

A new kind of bird-footed dinosaur footprint was discovered in Gulin county, Southwest China’s Sichuan province and named for Chinese science-fiction writer Liu Cixin, to honor his contribution to raising public interest in science.

Liu, who was thrilled to hear the news, said that he has great interest in paleontology.

“It is like a science fiction we’re reading that the dinosaur in Gulin county was preserved so well for billions of years. It helps us travel back in time. I hope the relics could be studied and preserved well.”

(2) SUPERGIRL ADDS W, LEAVES BS BEHIND. Variety makes it official — “’Supergirl’ Lands at the CW for Season 2”.

After nearly two years of rumors, “Supergirl” is heading to the CW for its second season, Variety has learned….

At CBS, “Supergirl” averaged a 2.5 rating in adults 18-49 and 10.03 million viewers overall in Nielsen’s “live plus-7” estimates. It was CBS’ top-rated rookie drama this season in the demo, and was also its youngest-skewing drama with a median age of 55.6 — however, it was down from comedies in the Monday night timeslot last year.

The hotly anticipated crossover with “The Flash” on March 28 was a ratings hit for the CW, prompting the rumors to begin swirling once again that “Supergirl” would head over to the younger-skewing network, in order to nab a renewal. That episode, co-starring “Flash’s” Grant Gustin, averaged a 2.5 rating in 18-49 and 9.6 million total viewers in L+7 — the show’s best numbers in the second half of its run.

(3) KRYPTON. Vulture says Supergirl’s home planet is also going to be on the tube: “Syfy Orders Pilot for Krypton, a Show About Superman’s Grandpa Who Lives on a Planet That Definitely Isn’t Going to Explode Any Time Soon”.

And you thought Batman was the only DC Comics superhero who would get a TV show about what everyone around him was doing before he became interesting: THR reports that SyFy has ordered a pilot for Krypton, a Superman prequel from David S. Goyer set on the eponymous doomed planet. The series will follow Superman’s grandpa as he “fights to redeem his family’s honor and save his beloved world from chaos,” which is one task at which he is guaranteed to fail (because the world will blow up) and another that is a bit of a moot point (because, again, the world will blow up).

(4) GEMMELL VOTING STARTS TOMORROW. Voting on the longlists for 2016’s David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy (the Legend, Morningstar, and Ravenheart Awards) opens midday on Friday, May 13 and closes at midnight on Friday June 24.

The award’s Facebook page revealed there will be 48 nominations for the Legend Award, 6 for the Morningstar and 39 for the Ravenheart.

Voting on the shortlist opens at midday on Friday July 8 and closes at midnight on Friday August 19.

The presentation takes place at 8pm on Saturday September 24 at Fantasycon in Scarborough.

(5) MIND MELD. SFFWorld threw a lifeline to Rob B, whose Mind Meld installment needed a home after SF Signal went offline. The participants are N. E. White, Jonah Sutton-Morse, Yanni Kuznia, and Summer Brooks.

“MIND MELD: Recent SF/F/H You’ve Read & Enjoyed About Which You Knew Little”

Q: What recent SF/F/H books have you read and enjoyed which you knew little to nothing about beforehand? (For example, you go into a bookstore and picked a book off the shelf based on title and/or cover alone.)

(6) NEW YORK NEW YORK NEW YORK. Pornokitsch compares and contrasts in “Will Eisner and Three Visions of New York”.

Both Eisner and Fantasia 2000 also recognise this aspect of the city: it can grind people down, even to the point of death. Using the darkness of the city in this way all three of these representations show the city itself to be an active force working on their various protagonists. Dark Dark Dark focus more on the elemental aspects of the city while Eisner examines the interaction of the people and their home, but both are aware of the inherent magic of the place. Dark Dark Dark present in their enigmatic lyrics and the swirling otherworldliness of their instrumentals what Eisner recognised in his introduction to ‘The Building’, there is something “unexplained and […] magical” about the city which can affect those that live in it.

(7) NEW DESTINATION. Variety’s article “Winchester Mystery House Movie Attracts Spierig Brothers” discusses the next project by the Spierig Brothers, Winchester, about the famous San Jose, CA haunted house.

Keith Kato writes, “Michael and Peter Spierig, the Spierig Brothers, are favorites of (and members of) The Heinlein Society for their most recent film, Predestination (2014 U.S. release), based on the Robert A. Heinlein short story ‘All You Zombies.’ We have been told by the Brothers that they will be out of the country from July-September, presumably for filming commitments for this project and they regret they will not be able to attend the Kansas City Worldcon.”

(8) FURNITURE. I don’t think we’ll be able to order a park bench from them, though it’s nice to know Sancal’s Futura collection is based on 1960s sci-fi space stations.

Dezeen promotion: Spanish brand Sancal has launched a “retro-futuristic” collection of furniture, featuring tables, chairs and ornaments that reference 1960s science fiction films (+ movie).

The Futura collection, which was exhibited by Sancal during this year’s Milan design week, is modelled on the set designs of movies such as the 1968 epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

futura-furniture-collection-sancal-milan-design-week-2016_dezeen_936_8

(9) NEW AWARDS? Bleeding Cool passed on this rumor about the San Diego Comic-Con.

The word on the street is that we are about to get a brand-new, very well-funded awards show for San Diego Comic Con.

I understand that high level talks are taking place between Jennifer O’Connell, Executive VP of Alternative Programming, Seth Lederman, Executive VP General Manager of the new streaming channel Comic-Con HQ and David Glanzer, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer of Comic-Con International, the people behind San Diego Comic Con.

While the existing Eisner Awards cover the comic book industry, and have been the premier awards at San Diego for some time, this new award show is planned to cover comics, TV, film, games and all manner of fan and genre culture. So expect very big names on hand to host and present awards…..

Lionsgate is said to be interested in producing the show.

(10) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY. Can it be May 11th was National Twilight Zone Day….? And I missed it?

Well…! Then I guess that makes it appropriate to feature a “lost episode”…

(11) STARFLEET TRAINING. “’Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience’ is coming to the USS Intrepid this summer”. MeTV has the story.

The museum exhibit will allow fans to study Starfleet culture as part of “Starfleet Academy’s Career Day.”

Beginning July 9, those lucky enough to get to New York City can visit Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. The museum exhibit is opening aboard the USS Intrepid, which sits on Pier 86 along the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan. A naval museum might seem like a strange location for a Star Trek exhibit, but what is Star Trek if not a space navy? Besides, NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Museum.

The Intrepid Museum will be the first venue in the United States to host this immersive “Trek Tech” experience, a sort of quick fantasy camp. The exhibit allows visitors to join Starfleet Academy’s Career Day, which includes orientation and nine zones of study in language, medicine, engineering, navigation, command and science. Tickets cost $18–$35. The exhibit runs through October 31, 2016. (That final day will be a cosplay dream.)

Visit the Intrepid website for more information.

(12) MEMORIES. Here’s a Lou Stathis artifact I never heard of before.

The cover image comes from here.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 12, 1937 — George Carlin (comedian; first to host Saturday Night Live)
  • Born May 12 – Heather Rose Jones
  • Born May 12 – David Doering

(15) WILL FANAC FOR CHARITY. Jim C. Hines is back with another example of “SF/F Being Awesome: Lar DeSouza and Sailor Bacon”.

If my math is right, Lar [DeSouza] and his fans have raised around $40,000 in total to fight MS.

There’s even a new Sailor Bacon plush, with a portion of the proceeds going to MS research.

Fighting MS by con light,
Winning breakfast by daylight,
Rainbow beard that is so bright!
It is the one named Sailor Bacon!

The MS Walk was May 1 this year, but it looks like you can still donate.

(16) END OF DISNEY DOLLARS. Paleofuture at Gizmodo mourns that gift cards have killed Disney Dollars.

When I was a kid I loved Disney Dollars. For those unfamiliar, they’re Disney’s paper notes that look like real money and feature cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Dumbo on the front. They’re only good at Disney Parks and stores, making them essentially like gift certificates. But Disney will stop printing Disney Dollars on May 14, 2016.

It’s truly the end of an era for Disney nerds. As reported by WDW News Today, the move is being blamed on the rise of gift cards and the general death of paper money. Disney staff were told just a couple of hours ago but the company has yet to make an official statement.

Disney Dollars will continue to be accepted at Disney locations, since they have no expiration date. But unless you have hundreds of notes to unload you should probably just hold on to them for a bit. The resale market for even once-common Disney products can be pretty lucrative after a few years.

John King Tarpinian recalls, “A long time ago when friends would have a kid or a grandkid I would buy one share of Disney stock. (Usually with a $25 premium over the stock price.) The certificates were beautifully framed, not to mention that with even one share it would get an invite to corporate events. Then Disney went electronic and that was gone. Now Disney Dollars. Gift cards are just not the same.”

(17) CAP’S PSA. Jim Burns says, “With all this Captain America chat (my all time favorite super hero, by the way!), a truly rare piece of film: a public service announcement, circa 1980 (or thereabouts)!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Keith Kato, Will R., Tom Galloway, Andrew Porter, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doctor Science.]

Stoop Lore

Tiempo04James H. Burns: Call this one, a bit of life insurance, of the man-made kind (but, as always, divine intervention is welcome)!

One night, about thirty years ago, I had to worry that someone had requested a hit be placed on me.

My girlfriend’s mother was furious, rightly or wrongly, and threatened my life.

…Which might not have been such a big deal, in the larger view, or necessarily unusual as such relationships go, except that one of her former boyfriends was what we used to call, anyway, kind of “mobbed up.”

(Years later, my girlfriend and I deduced that he may have been associated with the Queens, New York crew shown in the Nicholas Pillegi book, Wiseguy, and its film adaptation, Goodfellas.)

I was in my early twenties, and turned to my father for counsel, at first insuring that he wouldn’t tell my mother:

There was absolutely no need to worry her.  (Besides, she was the one with the vicious temper in the family, and there was no telling what she would do.)

My Dad, a mechanical engineering professor, was a tough guy, as the occasion merited, and a decorated World War II veteran.  He had also been misled by too many Godfather movies, and other Mario Puzo tales.  (We shared an affection, by the way, for Puzo’s too-long overlooked ability, as a potentially wonderful storyteller.)

My father thought that a hit had to be warranted.  But the ’80s were dangerous times in New York, with, as history has shown, some semi-connected guys just running out of control.

(Then, as now, the greatest hazard could come from “wannabes,” fellas with no particular affiliation at all, but who wanted to be perceived as such.)

It was entirely possible that for no other reason than as a favor to an old girlfriend, or in the hopes of wanting to impress an old flame, a guy could try to take someone out, or at least have someone else beat the hell out of him.

I handled it simply by sitting on my front stoop (the steps in front of my family home).

I figured, if someone was indeed after me — as unlikely as that may seem in the cold light of years — to make it easy; to bring it to a head, and see what happened…

As it turned out, I learned decades later, my girlfriend had promised her mom her own wrath, should anything untoward befall me.

Women are often our better tigers.

But I was on the stoop again, the other night; a different house, to be sure, but under similar circumstances.

A local restaurant was convinced I was behind a controversy that they were having, which was beyond ridiculous.  A relative of the owner’s warned me, oddly, through my landlord.  (Why not just call me?)

Some text messages, hopefully, quickly worked everything out.

But before then?

I brought my coffee outside, and made it easy for anyone who might be looking… I then walked one of my familiar routes through town.

(My neighborhood remains one of the few Long Island areas still harboring a bit of a reputation, rightly or wrongly, as a “Mafia” town.)

Our demise, of course, is always somewhere in the times ahead, but we can hope that it’s never over a misunderstanding.

If you know you’ve doing nothing wrong, you might as well grab a shave, and take a stroll.

Night’s actual dark angels should, hopefully, hold no clouds as to your designs.

Dave Cockrum, and a Secret Storm

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Introduction: One of Star Trek’s earliest journalist/historians, chronicler of many epics, and a frequent File 770 contributor, recalls an encounter with fantasy legend, Dave Cockrum.

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Dave Cockrum

By James H. Burns: The late Dave Cockrum was a comics virtuoso, contributing to such classic titles as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and The Avengers. He also created his own series, both science fiction adventures, The Futurians, and Soulsearchers and Company.

The artist’s greatest legacy may have been developing The New X-Men, in 1975, with Len Wein.  Revising the super hero team that had been originated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Cockrum and Wein devised such characters as Storm, Nightcrawler and Colussus.

Dave also loved Star Trek.

An admiration, in fact, that may have had a greater influence on the world of (billion dollar) pop culture, than has been previously realized…

In February of 1976, Dave saw me at one of the original, classic Star Trek conventions, at New York’s fabled Commodore Hotel. He must have seen me hanging out with one of the show’s actors, because Dave — whom I had met only briefly, at a previous comics con — asked me if it would be possible for me to get a painting he had done, to Nichelle Nichols.

(Now, just for the sake of my own ridiculous ego, I have to point out that back then, I was only an early teen. I had begun writing professionally, not long before that, and more to the point — and a lot of confusion for folks, over the years — I looked like I was in my mid-twenties…)

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Dave was far more famous already than almost anyone who was on that hospitality suite floor of the hotel. I pointed out to him that I’d be glad to help, but since I didn’t really know Nichelle (at that point), all he’d really have to do was introduce himself to one of the folks running the convention, whom, I was sure, would be happy to introduce him, to the actress.

My memory’s foggy here, but I think I brought Dave over to one of the convention organizers….

Crystal clear to me, even then, though, was what struck me as the remarkable modesty of this fellow, who didn’t seem to begin to have an inkling that the folks running the convention would be thrilled that he was actually there, attending the event.

And I was also touched that this established professional loved something so much, that, really, just for the joy of creating it, he had taken the time to paint a huge, lovely canvas, of Star Trek’s only continuing female lead.

What’s also fascinating to consider is that when Cockrum, and Len Wein, relaunched the X-Men, many of the new lineup came from characters that Dave had been sketching/noodling with, for years…

If Cockrum loved Star Trek and Nichelle Nichols so much that he was moved to create a painting of her — I wonder how far the actress, and her portrayal of Lt. Uhura, could have been from his mind, as he doodled the delight that would one day become one of Marvel Comics’, and later Hollywood’s, first significant female super heroes?

The prototype for Storm was one of the characters that Dave had been drawing for ages.cockrum-outsiderscockrum-trio039-star-trek-theredlist COMP4782545244_e64204c9c9

[An earlier version of this reminiscence appeared in Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego magazine, from TwoMorrows, devoted to comics history!]