Pixel Scroll 3/9/17 ‘Is There Anyone There?’ Said The Pixeler, Knocking On The Moonlit Scroll.

(1) DINOS DOUBLE DOWN. Jurassic Park 2, planned for release in 2018, is starting to crank up its publicity machinery 

(2) BLOGGERS STICK TOGETHER. Steve Vertlieb reminds me his blog Better Days, Benner Nights, is up for a Rondo Award as Best Blog of 2016.

It’s an affectionate remembrance of the Saturday Matinee and 1950’s television when classic cliffhanger serials thrilled and excited “children of all ages”… when careening spaceships and thundering hooves echoed through the revered imaginations and hallowed corridors of time and memory…and when Buster Crabbe lovingly brought “Flash Gordon,” “Buck Rogers,” and “Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion” to life in darkened movie palaces all over the world. Return with us now to “those thrilling days of yesteryear” when Zorro, “Space Patrol,” Ming, The Merciless, and Larry “Buster” Crabbe lit the early days of television, and Saturday afternoon motion picture screens, with magical imagery and unforgettable excitement.

Anyone can vote in the Rondos – see the nominees here —  just send your selection (along with your name and E-Mail address) to David Colton whose voting address is taraco@aol.com prior to Sunday night, April 16th, 2017, at midnight.

(3) TO THE MOON. A Business Insider writer says we’re getting close to having a Google Lunar XPrize winner.

A real lunar race that has been in the making for years is now in the final stretch.

The Google Lunar XPrize Foundation recently announced five final teams that will compete for the honor of being the first private group to land on the moon — and a $20 million prize.

The Google Lunar XPrize is more than pronouncements by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. It will prove the utility of commercial lunar exploration.

Sometime before the end of 2017, one or more of the final five groups will shoot for the moon. The Final Five are Moon Express, SpaceIl, Synergy Moon, Team Indus, and Team Hakuto.

All the winning team has to do to gain the prize is to cross a quarter of a million miles of space, soft land on the lunar surface, return high resolution videos and images to Earth, and move 500 meters from the landing site.

(4) UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Cat Rambo is grieving the loss of her cat Raven.

I record the notes of my grief: my eyes feeling as though filled with hot sand, the tired and lonely ache inside my heart, the way my throat hardens,  my vision blurring more at the bottom than the top when tears well. The wet tremble as they linger on my cheeks. It’s the only thing I can think to do.

(5) IT’S COMPLICATED. Paul La Farge writes about “The Complicated Friendship of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Barlow, One of His Biggest Fans” in The New Yorker.

On June 18, 1931, a young man named Robert Barlow mailed a letter to the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s stories about monstrous beings from beyond the stars were appearing regularly in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, and Barlow was a fan. He wanted to know when Lovecraft had started writing, what he was working on now, and whether the Necronomicon—a tome of forbidden knowledge that appears in several Lovecraft tales—was a real book. A week later, Lovecraft wrote back, as he nearly always did. It’s estimated that he wrote more than fifty thousand letters in his relatively short lifetime (he died at the age of forty-six). This particular letter was the beginning of a curious friendship, which changed the course of Barlow’s life, and Lovecraft’s, too—though almost no one who reads Lovecraft these days knows anything about it. Who keeps track of the lives of fans?

Raises hand.

(6) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY LONGLISTS. The longlists for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals have been announced.

The Carnegie Medal, established in 1936, is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. The Kate Greenaway Medal has been given since 1955 for distinguished illustration in a book for children.

Locus Online identified the following as titles of genre interest:

Carnegie Medal

  • Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, Frank Cottrell Boyce (Pan Macmillan)
  • Whisper to Me, Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
  • Beetle Boy, M.G. Leonard (Chicken House)
  • Beck, Mal Peet & Meg Rosoff (Walker)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press)
  • Orbiting Jupiter, Gary D. Schmidt (Andersen)
  • Island, Nicky Singer (Caboodle)
  • Time Travelling with a Hamster, Ross Welford (HarperCollins)

Greenaway Medal

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay (Bloomsbury)

The shortlists will be announced on March 16, and winners will be announced June 19.

(7) ALETA JACKSON OBIT. Loretta Jackson Delong, known in fandom as Aleta Jackson, died December 4, 2016.

Aleta worked for Xerox for ten years as a repair technician and wrote both science fiction and non-fiction stories. She worked for the L-5 Society, both in Tucson and later in Washington DC. During her stay in DC, Aleta became an aide to General Daniel Graham and helped create the DC-X launch vehicle, later renamed the Clipper Graham. She also edited the Journal of Practical Applications of Space while with Graham’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization.

As an indefatigable supporter of launch vehicle development, Aleta then became one of Rotary Rocket Company’s first employees, where she was general office manager. When the propulsion group was laid off from Rotary, Aleta was the person who told Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong, and Doug Jones that they had to stick with it, and founded XCOR Aerospace.

I first met her at NOLAcon II in 1988. Years later, when she was at XCOR and I was organizing Loscon program we crossed paths again.

(8) WELCOME ABOARD. “’Star Trek: Discovery’ Finds Its Captain In Jason Isaacs” reports Deadline Hollywood.

Former Awake and Dig star Jason Isaacs has been cast in Star Trek: Discovery for CBS All Access as Captain Lorca, Captain of the Starship Discovery. It is a major role opposite lead Sonequa Martin- Green in the series, which eyes a debut in late summer or fall….

Isaacs’ recently co-starred in the Netflix mystery drama series The OA and will next be seen in Weinstein Co.’s Hotel Mumbai and Armando Iannucci’s Death of Stalin.

(9) FACE THE TRUTH. Wesley Chu, the Edison of digital publishing, has invented a new service for authors.

(10) ANOTHER GAME OF THRONES CASUALTY? The Azure Window of Malta collapsed into the sea after a recent storm. The Azure Window was a backdrop for the wedding of Daenerys Targaryen, a recurring character played by Emilia Clarke, to Khal Drogo, portrayed by Jason Momoa, in the first episode in mid-2011.

(11) TRASH BECOMES TREASURE, AGAIN. Atlas Obscura says they were hidden in a circulation chamber in an old Chicago theater — “Found: A Treasure Trove of Candy Wrappers Dating Back to the Depression”. Pictures over there.

Eric Nordstrom of Urban Remains has been exploring Chicago’s Congress Theater, which was built in 1926 and is currently under renovation. Earlier this year, Nordstrom, whose business reclaims objects from old buildings, started working his way through the old theater, finding newspapers, pipes, tools, and blueprints left there since the 1920s.

Recently, he returned to the theater, and this time, as DNAInfo reports, he found a trove of candy wrappers and matchbooks that date back to the theater’s earliest years.

(12) WHEN MAN PURSUETH. Motherboard says the “Anti-Social ‘Shybot’ Rolls Around the Sonoran Desert, Running Away From Humans”.

We’re all afraid of our future robot overlords, but what if those robots were afraid of us, too?

Over the course of the last week, California’s Coachella Valley hosted a strange, anti-social visitor. Its name was Shybot, a six-wheeled rover whose only purpose in life is to roam the Sonoran desert avoiding humans at all costs.

(13) A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. In “This Land of Mine Revised” on Vimeo, Nina Paley updates the classic song from Exodus to show the bloody history of the Middle East.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 11/13/16 ROFLMPO – Rolling On File, Laughing My Pixels Off

(1) LITIGATION. File 770 reported in September about the Kickstarter appeal raising funds for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman.

The holders of the Dr. Seuss rights have objected and sued for damages reports TMZ.com in “Oh, The Lawsuits You’ll See”.

Dr. Seuss‘ stories should NOT be rehashed with Vulcans or Klingons in the mix — at least not without permission … according to a new lawsuit.

The Doc’s camp just filed suit against ComicMix, which thought it’d be neat to make a ‘Star Trek‘ version of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In the docs, obtained by TMZ, the Seuss’ co. says ComicMix fused elements of the classic book with their own story, and even jacked actual prose from the original … all without asking.

They say ComicMix knew damn well it was doing the Doc dirty because its Kickstarter page for the project mentioned they might have to go to court to prove their work was parody and not a violation of copyright. They acknowledged, “we may even lose.”

Team Seuss is suing for damages. A lawyer for ComicMix tells us they love Dr. Seuss and hope to resolve the suit amicably.

(2) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MARS SERIES. Don’t wait until the November 14 premiere. Stream the Mars premiere now.

The year is 2033, and humanity’s first crewed mission to Mars is about to become a reality. As a clock counts down the final 90 seconds to landing, an expert crew of astronauts endures the final harrowing moments before touching down on the red planet. Even with the best training and resources available, the maiden crew of the Daedalus spacecraft must push itself to the brink of human capability in order to successfully establish the first sustainable colony on Mars. Set both in the future and in the present day, the global miniseries event MARS blends feature film-caliber scripted elements set in the future with documentary vérité interviews with today’s best and brightest minds in modern science and innovation, illuminating how research and development is creating the space technology that will enable our first attempt at a mission to Mars.

(3) TAOS TOOLBOX. Walter Jon Williams announced today the “Most Famous Author in the World” George R.R. Martin will be joining the Taos Toolbox faculty as a special guest. The Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop takes place June 18-July 1, 2017.

George was our guest for the very first Taos Toolbox, and now he’s consented to return for our tenth anniversary. We’re pleased and flattered to have him, even if it’s only once per decade.

The other faculty are Walter Jon Williams, Nancy Kress, with special lecturers Steven Gold and E.M. Tippets.

(4) DINO DUTY. Tastes great? Less filling?  “Jurassic World 2 Will Be Both a Jurassic World Sequel and Jurassic Park 5, Says J. A. Bayona” at CinemaBlend.

Earlier today, I had the great pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with J.A. Bayona in promotion of his upcoming movie A Monster Calls, and it was towards the end of our chat that we talked a bit about his next project. I posed the aforementioned question to the filmmaker, and he not only enjoyed the challenge of the query, but explained why his installment in the dinosaur franchise will be both Jurassic World 2 and Jurassic Park 5.

(5) TOVAR OBIT. Lupita Tovar, the Mexican actress who starred in the 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula that was shot at the same time on the same sets as the Bela Lugosi picture has died at the age of 108 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

… Lupita returned to Mexico to great acclaim to star in Santa (1932), her country’s first talking film, and later appeared in The Invader (1936) opposite Buster Keaton, Blockade (1938) with Henry Fonda, South of the Border (1939) with Gene Autry and The Westerner (1940) with Gary Cooper….

Lupita Tovar’s daughter is Susan Kohner, who earned an Oscar nomination for portraying the young woman who rejects her black mother (Juanita Moore) and tries to pass herself off as white in the 1959 Douglas Sirk melodrama Imitation of Life.

Other survivors include her grandchildren Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, Kohner’s sons, who shared an Oscar screenplay nomination for About a Boy (2002).

Tovar was married to Czech-born producer and Hollywood agent Paul Kohner, who represented the likes of Greta Garbo, John Huston, Lana Turner, Ingmar Bergman, Yul Brynner, David Niven, Billy Wilder and Charles Bronson, from 1932 until his death in 1988.

(6) DRACULA EN ESPAÑOL. For those unfamiliar with the movie, here’s some background: “Night Shift: 6 Reasons to Watch Universal’s Spanish-language Dracula (1931)”.

They worked like children of the night, shooting from sundown to sunrise. Directed by a man who didn’t know a word of their language, the Spanish-speaking actors filmed an obscure alternative version of what would become one of the most famous movies of all time.

“Above all,” explains Lupita Tovar, the film’s heroine, “we wanted our version to be the best.” And, in many ways, it is.

For those of us who’ve watched and rewatched the Lugosi version, the simultaneously shot Drácula opens up a mind-boggling parallel universe—one with much improved camerawork and often more convincing acting.

This is a lavish, artful film in its own right, so much more than the “bonus feature” it’s listed as on home releases. If I haven’t hooked you already, here’s why any movie buff or horror fan needs to see Drácula.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man premieres. Did you know: in order to achieve the effect that Claude Rains wasn’t there when his character took off the bandages, James Whale had him dress completely in black velvet and filmed him in front of a black velvet background.
  • November 13, 1940 — Walt Disney’s Fantasia premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York; first film to attempt to use stereophonic sound.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born November 13, 1955 — Whoopi Goldberg

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 13, 1947 – Joe Mantegna, who appeared in both the stage production and the Disney movie of Ray Bradbury’s Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.

(10) NORTHBOUND SEASON 2. Production has begun on GeekNation sci-fi series Northbound Season 2. Watch the Season 2 Teaser.

Northbound is a post-apocalyptic webseries set in a North American wilderness soon after a mysterious, cataclysmic event killed millions in a single day. Season 1 of the series is available to view for free exclusively through the entertainment website, GeekNation. The filmmakers are comprised of a Michigan and Los Angeles-based team that is dedicated to shooting in Michigan, and contributing to the long-term growth of the Upper Peninsula region.

Season 1, and the upcoming Season 2 of Northbound are designed as a prelude series to a feature film titled Northstar. Taken as a whole, The Northstar Saga will tell the story of a father as he works to discover why his daughter was one of the rare survivors to be rendered comatose after The Cataclysm. His journey will put him into contact (and inevitable conflict) with others that are struggling to rebuild lives, communities and an overall sense of purpose in a hazardous new world.

northbound-northtar

(11) PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH. Ethan Mills reviews the movie Arrival (beware copious spoilers) at Examined Worlds.

Director Denis Villeneuve has created a beautiful adaptation, from the striking cinematography to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s unnervingly sublime score. Amy Adams portrays the quiet strength and struggle of the main character, Dr. Louise Banks. I think I speak for most of my fellow college professors when I say it’s great to see a college professor depicted in a movie as a full human being rather than a pompous jerk, an emotionless egghead, or the absent-minded comic relief.

(12) STYLING ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Stephanie Merry takes the aliens in Arrival as a cue to look at how Hollywood has looked at aliens in sf films of the past 40 years, including Close Encounters, Mars Attacks! and Edge of Tomorrow. Beware mild spoilers in “The aliens in ‘Arrival’ are stunning. How do they compare to other film creatures?”

The aliens in “Arrival” are spectacular, and that’s no small feat. In most “first contact” movies, the otherworldly creatures almost always let us down. Either they’re predictable — you know, little green men speaking an echoey, indecipherable language or stereotypical “Greys” with the big eyes and the egghead — or they look fake.

Carlos Huante tested many iterations with director Denis Villeneuve before they settled on the final design for “Arrival,” which came out this week and follows a linguist (Amy Adams) who’s trying to understand what these visitors want. The creature artist first considered a very conventional look but also tried out beings that were more like stone creatures; ones composed of stacks of paper; and egg-shaped critters ambling around on spider legs.

(13) ROLL ‘EM. Victoria Silverwolf at Galactic Journey finds fiction sometimes parallels Hollywood in “[November 13, 1961] (Un)moving Pictures (December 1961 Fantastic)”.

Back to the movies.  Point, by John T. Phillifent (perhaps better known under his pen name John Rackham), deals with a group of filmmakers who travel to Venus to make their latest blockbuster.  The proposed feature involves beautiful female Venusians, and seems intended to provide a bit of satire of silly science fiction movies such as Queen of Outer Space.  Although the author’s description of Venus is a bit more realistic than that, it’s still not terribly plausible.  The Planet of Love is a very dangerous place, inhabited by all kinds of deadly creatures, but its atmosphere is breathable, and humans can walk around on its hot, steamy surface without spacesuits.  The plot deals with a pilot who agrees to take the film crew into the Venusian wilderness.  As you might expect, things quickly go very wrong, and the story turns into a violent account of survival in a hostile environment.  All in all it’s a fairly typical adventure yarn, competent but hardly noteworthy.  Two stars.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/16 Sevenfives

(1) TURING POPCORN TEST. “Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense” promises Ars Technica, where it’s free to view.

Knowing that an AI wrote Sunspring makes the movie more fun to watch, especially once you know how the cast and crew put it together. Director Oscar Sharp made the movie for Sci-Fi London, an annual film festival that includes the 48-Hour Film Challenge, where contestants are given a set of prompts (mostly props and lines) that have to appear in a movie they make over the next two days. Sharp’s longtime collaborator, Ross Goodwin, is an AI researcher at New York University, and he supplied the movie’s AI writer, initially called Jetson. As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor.” Then Sharp randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. “As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars. The actors interpreted the lines as they read, adding tone and body language, and the results are what you see in the movie. Somehow, a slightly garbled series of sentences became a tale of romance and murder, set in a dark future world. It even has its own musical interlude (performed by Andrew and Tiger), with a pop song Benjamin composed after learning from a corpus of 30,000 other pop songs.

After viewing, Pat Cadigan begged to differ, “Actually, it was neither hilarious nor intense. It was incoherent. And non-intense.”

(2) BAREFOOT CONTESTED. Aaron Pound reported “obnoxious and surly” behavior by hotel security at Balticon 50 including the now-famous “Shoe Cop” who was “enforcing their previously unannounced policy that shoes had to be worn at all times.”

Longtime fan Hobbit, whose preference is to go barefoot, was particularly upset.

I and a traveling companion were some of the first casualties … we only made through less than a day there before simply bailing out. While the barefoot issue was only about a third of what pushed me over my limit by the time we put it all in the rearview, I complained bitterly to Marriott’s customer-care department [as Renaissance is one of their brands] about the way we were treated.

Hobbit has posted the complaint letter and corporate replies.

I would like to lodge a formal complaint against your property at Renaissance HarborPlace, in Baltimore.  I was there for an event scheduled through this past Memorial Day weekend, May 26 – 30 2016, to help with its technical setup and operations.  The event was a science fiction convention named Balticon, in fact its fiftieth year in existence, put on by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS). This was its first year at this particular hotel property, and may well be the last.

Within mere minutes of arriving to unload gear and begin building our technical infrastructure, I and several of my colleagues were harassed by the hotel security staff for not wearing shoes. Some number of my crew generally work without shoes for an extensive set of positive reasons, including but not limited to increased agility, comfort, *safety*, and situational awareness.  While perhaps a bit unusual in the relevant activities, it is our personal right and freedom to enjoy and presents no unacceptable risk or concern to either ourselves or the venues we occupy.  The many health *benefits* of going barefoot are also well known.  We accept full responsibility for our own care and safety, and at that level it is not up to any other entity to dictate to us about it either way.

The harassment continued and escalated through that evening, even after our staff offered a temporary compromise by confining our activities to our assigned function space and slipping on shoes to go elsewhere on the property. The only shoes I had with me were effectively light-duty slippers which would cause me to be significantly *less* surefooted and safe while working, and thus were not a viable option.  This was also true of our other staff, who only had open-toe sandals and other seasonally-appropriate footgear on hand.  Ultimately I was unable to continue working the convention setup, and wound up simply leaving the entire event prematurely because it seemed like the only reasonable option left open to me….

Hobbit also has barefoot advocacy information online.

In early 2016 I began to correspond with some of the other online barefoot advocates in my area, and participate in various group activities like hikes and dinner gatherings.  I viewed this as further support in my own journey, particularly with helping bring awareness and reason to typically stodgy organizations that harbored some unreasoned sixties-holdover fear and loathing for bare feet.  In keeping with my own personal tradition of advising any number of companies on best customer-facing practices in the online world, it seemed a short step to use those same techniques and reach out to them to discuss customer and client policy decisions about footwear in an escalated fashion.

While my past efforts to inform have met with an entire spectrum of successes and failures, I’ve chosen this point in time to start bringing it to the web and chronicle some of the major interactions

(3) UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The Digital Antiquarian begins an opus about “god-game” development with “SimCity Part 1: Wil Wright’s City in a Box”.

This description subtly reveals something about the eventual SimCity that is too often misunderstood. The model of urban planning that underpins Wright’s simulation is grossly simplified and, often, grossly biased to match its author’s own preexisting political views. SimCity is far more defensible as an abstract exploration of system dynamics than as a concrete contribution to urban planning. All this talk about “stocks” and “flows” illustrates where Wright’s passion truly lay. In other words, for him the what that was being simulated was less interesting than the way it was being simulated. Wright:

I think the primary goal of this [SimCity] is to show people how intertwined such things can get. I’m not so concerned with predicting the future accurately as I am with showing which things have influence over which other things, sort of a chaos introduction, where the system is so complex that it can get very hard to predict the future ramifications of a decision or policy.

When SimCity was finally released, the public, including plenty of professionals in the field of urban planning who really should have known better, credited Wright’s experiment with an authority it most definitely didn’t earn. I’ll return to this point in my next article, in the course of which we’ll try to figure out what so many thought they were seeing in Wright’s simplistic take on urban planning.

After working on the idea for about six months, Wright brought a very primitive SimCity to Brøderbund, who were intrigued enough to sign him to a contract. But over the next year or so of work a disturbing trend manifested. Each time Wright would bring the latest version to Brøderbund, they’d nod approvingly as he showed all the latest features, only to ask, gently but persistently, a question Wright learned to loathe: when would he be making an actual game out of the simulation? You know, something with a winning state, perhaps with a computer opponent to play against?

(4) SEASONING. Life eventually taught Alma Alexander what her younger self had needed to know about “Madness and the Age of Innocence” (at Book View Café.)

Back when I was nineteen years old and steeped up to my innocent ingenue ears in the Matter of Britain, I dreamed up a story – technically a novel, I guess, seeing as it was over 40,000 words, but not much over. It was a solid chunk of writing, though, pretty much written over a year or so when I was about 18, and it told the story of Queen Guenevere….

Andre Brink, South Africa’s pre-eminent novelist, started his report thusly:

“This is an impressive piece of writing, especially if it is taken into account that it was written by a 19-year-old. I have no doubt that this young woman will be a major writer one day.”

But…

You heard the but coming, didn’t you?…

He went on to say that the story was too tame, especially given the subject matter of lust and adultery and multi-layered betrayals. There was plenty of drama, he said, but there was none of… oh, let me quote him again… “…it lacks what Kazantzakis calls ‘madness’.”

Today, I know of this madness. I understand it from within. I take no issue with his comments, not from this side of the bridge of time, because he was probably right – my story was one of innocence rather than guilt and machinations, my Queen was a child caught up in an adult world, much as I was at the time. But when he wrote this report, I had yet to read Kazantzakis. I had heard of Zorba the Greek, but I had not read the book, nor seen the movie at that time.

(5) DEPRESSION ART. MD Jackson reminds you of everything you’ve forgotten (or never knew) to answer the loaded question: “Why was Early Comic Book Art so Crude? (Part 1)”, at Amazing Stories.

A friend of mine recently asked why it is that the artwork in comic books has gone from being so crude and rudimentary in the beginning to being so much more photo-realistic today. Well, I thought that was a good question, so I am setting out to answer it. And although the question seems simple, the answer is not, and it will take more than one post to fully cover.

Were the early comic book artists untalented hacks? Or did the early limitations of printing technology hamper their creative expression? The answer, in my view, boils down to: a bit of both.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 10, 1922 — Judy Garland

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak

(9) DINO DUDES. Den of Geek has “Jurassic Park 4: new concept art from lost film”.

Artist Carlos Huante recently shared concept art from a much earlier take on Jurassic Park 4…

If you Frankensteinized the DNA of the Hulk, Wolfman and a velociraptor in a petri dish, you’d get Raptorman. He was due to appear in a Jurassic Park film, but ltimately it wasn’t meant to be.

Raptorman was part of a screenplay envisions by John Sayles and William Monahan when they were penning an earlier take on Jurassic Park 4, featuring genetically enhanced soldier-o-saurus reptiles created by a corporation to be mercenaries that are supposed to wrangle the rogue dinos trampling North America.

(10) DELANY. From Shelf Awareness: Image of the Day: NYS Writers Hall of Fame.

NYS Hall of fame COMP

Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell

For the seventh year, the Empire State Center for the Book inducted a group of diverse writers into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Honorees Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell (pictured, l.-r.) attended the June 7 event at New York City’s 3 West Club, where Maya Angelou, Jean Craighead George, Grace Paley and Don Marquis were recognized posthumously. Stephen Sondheim was not able to attend due to illness. In his acceptance remarks, science fiction writer Delany told of his fondness of fellow inductee Don Marquis’s famed characters Archy and Mehitabel.

(11) INDIEGOGO. Scholar Kenneth James wants to raise $60,000 of support for his work on “Autumnal City: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany”.

Currently I am compiling and editing Delany’s personal journals.  The journals will be published by Wesleyan University Press in what is projected to be a series of at least five volumes, with each volume covering approximately one decade’s worth of material.  I have recently completed the first volume, In Search of Silence; this volume is now in the final stages of production at Wesleyan and is slated to appear at the end of this year. It covers the period from Delany’s teenage years in the late 1950s to the end of the 1960s, during which time Delany established himself as a major figure in what came to be called New Wave science fiction.  The second volume, Autumnal City, will present Delany’s journals from the 1970s, during which time he wrote the bulk of what many consider the pivotal work of his career, Dhalgren (1975), as well as Trouble on Triton (1976), the first volume of the Nevèrÿon tetralogy (Tales of Nevèrÿon [1979]), and many works of criticism.

In this campaign I am seeking funding to produce the second volume.  If I secure this funding, the project – which involves researching, compiling, transcribing, editing, and annotating the text – will take two years to complete.  The total amount I am seeking, for two years of full-time work on the project, is $60,000.

There has been $1,355 pledged to date, and the appeal has 2 months to run.

(12) JOURNAL EYEWITNESS. Matthew Cheney enthsiastically endorses the project.

I’m just back from spending a few days at the Delany archive at Boston University, and I’ve looked through a few of the 1970s journals. They’re truly thrilling for anybody interested not only in Delany the writer, but in the writing and thinking process in general. They’re especially interesting for those of us who think that after 1969, Delany’s work only got more brilliant. They are working journals, not really diaries as we generally think of them, and they clarify a lot of questions of when particular things were written, and why, and how. That makes them, if nothing else, of immense scholarly value. But they’ve also got material in them that just flat-out makes for good reading.

(13) ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE SF. “Sharman Apt Russell Guest Post–‘BFF: Science Fiction and the Environmental Movement’” at Locus Online.

In 1864, a hundred years after the start of the Industrial Revolution, the American scholar George Perkins Marsh wrote about the impact of a society rapidly cutting down its forests, destroying its topsoil, and polluting its water. Marsh thundered, “The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature has established, and she avenges herself upon the intruder by letting loose her destructive energies.” He predicted an impoverished Earth with “shattered surface,” “climatic excesses,” and the extinction of many species, perhaps even our own.

In his own way, Marsh was an early science fiction writer.

(14) DO YOU WANT TO GET PAID? Peter Grant’s Mad Genius Club post “Writing your passion…or not?”  makes an argument for avoiding saturated markets. The commenters overall favored passion-directed writing.

In the same way, I see authors trying to ‘break in’ to the market in a particular genre and getting discouraged.  That may be because it’s a crowded genre (e.g. romance and/or erotica) where there are already lots of books and authors and it’s hard to get noticed;  or it’s a field where there are relatively few readers in relation to the overall book market (e.g. those interested in the domestic life of the Polynesian parrot!);  or it’s a moribund genre which hasn’t attracted interest or support from either publishers or big-name authors for some time (e.g. Westerns).  To authors facing such challenges, my advice is:  Why not try to write in a genre where you will be noticed, and where you can offer a quality product that will attract reader interest?  You may not be passionate about that genre, but is that any reason not to try your hand at it?

(15) OLDERS Q&A. “Malka Older and Daniel José Older Discuss Infomocracy, Cyberpunk, and the Future!” — Leah Schnelbach covered the event for Tor.com.

There was already a nice crowd gathered for the concatenation of Olders at Greenlight Bookstore, and by the time the reading began, the seats were full, and many people already had copies of Malka Older’s debut novel, Infomocracy. The novel takes us into the near-future, twenty years after Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, guided the world in a shift from a fractious collection of nation-states to global micro-democracy. Now the world is entering another election year, and idealists, policy wonks, spies, and rabble-rousers are all struggling to see which democracies will come out on top.

Older read, and then her brother, Bone Street Rumba series author Daniel José Older, joined her in front of the crowd for a lively interview and Q&A. You can read the highlights from their conversation below!

(16) SILENT MOVIE. Here’s a video documenting what Mystery and Imagination Bookshop looked like on June 9, 2016.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22 No Certain Elk

(1) Nick Skywalker’s touch of genius —

(2) Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow is teasing plans for a sequel. Cinema Blend says here’s what to expect:

It all has to do with what B.D. Wong’s Dr. Wu said in this summer’s blockbuster: “We’re not always going to be the only ones who can make a dinosaur.” In an interview with Wired U.K., Trevorrow said he found that to be an interesting idea:

What if this went open source? It’s almost like InGen is Mac, but what if PC gets their hands on it? What if there are 15 different entities around the world who can make a dinosaur?

Though Trevorrow admits this isn’t really covered in the original movie, it’s something in which he sees potential for growth. Looking back to the first Jurassic Park film, we saw Wayne Knight’s Dennis Nedrey attempt to steel the genetic material from dinosaurs and smuggle them off the island for a third party. While he didn’t succeed, this seems to be along the same lines that Trevorrow is talking about.

(3) Tom Galloway: “Seems Mark Zuckerberg’s project for this year was to read a lot of books (for values of “lot” that amounts to one every two weeks. Well, he is busy). There’s a Facebook page to serve as an online book club for them, and the latest choice is the Hugo-winning Three Body Problem.”

(4) David Gerrold has made his novelette “Entanglements,” published in the May/June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a free read via Dropbox. [PDF file]

(5) Aya de Leon’s article “Space Babe Fantasies: On Geoff Marcy and Sexism in Science and Sci-Fi” for The Toast begins with a headline example of harassment, and moves on to comment about the genre, including three paragraphs about Sad Puppies.

Last Thursday, my colleagues and I received an email from the Chancellor of UC Berkeley informing us that Marcy had resigned. A panel had found that he had sexually harassed female students for nearly a decade. According to Azeen Ghorayshi, the reporter who broke the story for BuzzFeed, Marcy’s great success was part of the reason why his pattern of harassment went unchallenged. As Ghorayshi explained, “Marcy’s is the rare ilk of scientific research that is capable of both reaching the peak of his field and capturing the public imagination.”

Ghorayshi lays out in painful detail how Marcy’s behavior was both widespread and well known; her article documents incidents of alleged misconduct with female colleagues dating back to the 1980s. BuzzFeed also noted that “UC Berkeley is currently under federal investigation for its handling of dozens of sexual violence complaints on campus.”

(6) Adam-Troy Castro offers an analogy in “Enough With the Fershlugginer Chocolate Cake, Already”.

Look, I’m going to explain this in terms you might be able to understand.

I like chocolate cake just fine.

I think chocolate cake is one of the things that makes life worth living.

As a fat guy, I not only return to chocolate cake more often than is healthy for me, but can actually wax rhapsodic about great slices of chocolate cake from my past.

I’m perfectly capable of sitting down with you and geeking out over chocolate cake.

But I can’t eat just chocolate cake.

(7) And apparently you can’t drink Pepsi Perfect either.

“Back to the Future” fans had hoped to be sipping a Pepsi Perfect by now, but most of them are making sad eyes at their computers after facing a fast sellout of a special release of the bottles.

Fans have been waiting for this day ever since the 1989 sequel, when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived in the future on October 21, 2015. In honor of the film, Pepsi decided to make 6,500 limited-edition bottles of Pepsi Perfect available.

Pepsi Perfect makes a cameo appearance at an ’80s-theme cafe in the future. Fans got extra-excited about the prospect of owning it because it feels both iconic and attainable (selling for $20.15, about £13, AU$28). The release date? October 21, 2015, naturally.

Now imagine the stress when Back to the Futurites discovered that some of the Pepsi Perfect bottles went on sale early and that other people had snapped them up. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. Here’s a selection of what they said:

Amazon reviewer Pissed AF wrote: “I am SO upset!! This didn’t even pop up in the search! And you released it a whole hours early? Are you kidding me?????????” This is currently the top most-helpful review on the Pepsi Perfect Amazon page.

(8) Notes Adweek: “During his stay in the future, McFly often references a copy of USA Today, which was created specifically for the movie. To celebrate the occasion, USA Today wrapped its paper in a replica of the movie edition.”

(9) Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd rolled onto the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live in a classic DeLorean and got a standing ovation just for showing up.

(10) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • October 22, 1938 — Christopher Lloyd
  • October 22, 1952 — Jeff Goldblum

(11) Now for something completely different. Entertainment.ie names its “Top 10 Time Travel Movies That Aren’t Back To The Future”

(12) How It Should Have Ended – why Big Hero 6 should have been a lot shorter.

(13) James H. Burns praises the Mets’ broadcast crew:

Another reason for those who admire near Hall of Fame first baseman Keith Hernandez (famous for his stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets), now a long time Mets broadcaster, to like him:  In the local post game after the Mes clinched the National League title, when talking about first baseman Luca Duda, “We’ve seen him go from the depths of Mordor, to the heights of the Swiss Alps…”

Frequently, during unusual moments in Mets seasons past, Hernandez and lead broadcaster Gary Cohen, and former Mets pitcher Ron Darling (also a broadcaster with TBS), will discuss ancient Saturday mornings, and cartoons; CHILLER THEATRE; Kurt Vonnegut, and puppet shows….

(14) An artist used Google Street View to visit all the places in Around the World in 80 Days and created postcards of those places.

(15) Mark Kelly in Part 4 of his “Rereading Isaac Asimov”  series comments —

“Nightfall” is still, I would guess, Asimov’s most popular story, though it was one of his earliest stories, and one which Asimov came to resent — he felt that he must have improved as a writer over the subsequent decades (the story was published in 1941, just two years after his first-published story) — and was perplexed by how fans kept gravitating to this early story.

(16) Gregory N. Hullender touts a new article, “The Locus Reading List and Hugo Awards” at Rocket Stack Rank.

This new article looks for selection bias in Locus Recommended Reading List short fiction over the past fifteen years. We found that although stories from the reading list regularly make up about 70% of Hugo-nominated stories, there doesn’t seem to be any actual bias, either in terms of which sources they come from or in terms of the authors.

So while we can’t speak for how good a job Locus does with novels, we don’t find any obvious problems with their recommendations for short fiction.

(17) Really funny compilation of comics bloopers from Mental Floss.

Here are some classic screw-ups, printing errors, and unfortunate coincidences that have graced the pages of comic books and newspaper strips over the years.

(18) We end with a serious fan edit of what Han Solo sees before his eyes when he tells Rey and Finn about the past in the new trailer for The Force Awakens.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, Steven H Silver, James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13 Another Fine Pixel You’ve Gotten Us Into

(1) Nicole Dieker at The Billfold says “Joss Whedon Made More Money With ‘Dr. Horrible’ Than ‘The Avengers,’ Unbelievably”.

Okay. Let’s compare two scenarios.

1) You decide to write, direct, and produce a 45-minute web musical. You fund the musical’s production out of your own pocket. It is free to watch online.

2) Marvel hires you to write and direct a summer blockbuster that becomes the third highest grossing film of all time.

Which one should make you more money? As Vulture reports, it’s not the one you think:

Joss Whedon shared an eye-opening fact during Saturday night’s reunion of the “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” team: He’s made more money from his independently financed 2008 Internet musical than he did from writing and directing Marvel’s first blockbuster “Avengers” movie.

(2) Nancy Kress, skillfully interviewed by Raymond Bolton

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

(3) He grew up to be the leading fantasy cover artist – here is some of his earliest work. Frank Frazetta’s Adventures of the Snowman reviewed by Steven Paul Leiva for New York Journal of Books.

Frazetta snowman

Frazetta is probably the most widely known—and revered—illustrator of science fiction and fantasy subjects, having gained much fame and a large following for his paperback book covers, putting the image into the imaginative worlds of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Conan the Barbarian, among others. Several generations of young minds looking for escape into fantastic realms of adventure where landscapes were often dark and danger-filled, men were perfect specimens of well-muscled heroes, and women were beyond beautiful as their “attributes” were beyond belief, will never regret having made the trip. But earlier in his career Frazetta worked in comics and comic books, even ghosting for Al Capp on his Lil’ Abner strip.

And at the age of 12 1/2, stuck in his bedroom on a snowy day, and inspired by a snowman in his backyard being battered by a winter wind, Frazetta created the Snow Man. This wasn’t a gentle character associated with winter wonderlands and Christmas, but rather a righteous fighter against the evil Axis, which America and its allies were fighting in the Second World War. A few years later, at the still young age of 15, Frazetta created at least two Snow Man comic stories, one of which was published in Tally-Ho Comics, and the other that makes up this current book.

(4) Larry Correia pulls back the curtain on another corner of the writing business in “Ask Correia #17: Velocity, Releases, Rankings, and Remainders”.

So if you turn over constantly, stores tend to like you, and will order more. The more shelf space they give you, the more new people are likely to see your stuff. Success breeds success.

Here is an example. A bookstore orders 3 copies of your first novel. If all of them sell in the first week, then the bookstore is probably going to reorder 3 more. Then when your second novel comes out, they’ll look at their prior sales, and instead of ordering 3, they’ll order 6. Do this for decades, and it is why new James Patterson or Dean Koontz novels are delivered to your local book stores on pallets.

But if those 3 copies of your first novel sat on the shelf for months before selling, then the store probably didn’t bother to restock when it finally does sell. They may or may not order 3 copies of your second, but either way they’re not super excited about you.

I’ve been inside about 300 book stores since I started my professional writing career in 2009. I can usually tell how well I’m doing at any particular store even before I talk to any of the employees, just by going by where my books are and seeing how much space they give me on their shelves. A couple of books means that I don’t do well at that store. Five or six books tells me I’m okay. Eight or ten tells me I’m kicking ass in that town. If the books are faced out, that means I’ve got somebody on staff who is a fan (and that is incredibly important).

(5) Steven Murphy commences a kind of nonlethal Death Match with “Them’s Fightin’ Words: Harry Potter V. Ender Wiggin” at ScienceFiction.com

The following is the first of a new series pitting the merits and abilities of similar characters against each other. We open with a disclosure of the personal bias of the author then outline some ground rules and end with an example of how a fight between the two might unfold.

Personal Bias: The popularity of JK Rowling’s series has cemented Harry Potter as the go-to magical youth. He is the modern personification of the fantasy genre. The perfect contrast to Potter would then be the boy who personifies science fiction, Ender Wiggin of Orson Scott Card’s novel ‘Ender’s Game‘. The two characters have a great deal in common–both are children with the fate of their kind resting on their shoulders. I prefer ‘Ender’s Game’ over any single Harry Potter book, but I can’t argue that the Potter series as a whole succeeds on a level that the Ender series of books does not.

Ground Rules: The Goblet of Fire follows Harry into a series of trials that place him in a mindset that parallels Ender’s nicely. For my purposes the version of Harry with the skills and experience gained from this book and those previous will be used. The Ender used will be the one post ‘Ender’s Game’ and before ‘Speaker for the Dead’. This will allow the two characters to be roughly the same age. Ender will not have the assistance of his friend and database intelligence, Jane. The surroundings will compliment Ender in that the arena is the Battle School’s gravity free training room complete with the immobile obstacles called “astroids” for cover. Ender will have a blaster and Harry will have his wand. They enter the arena at opposite gates, neither with a clear view of the opposing gate.

(6) Tom Knighton reviews Chuck Gannon’s Raising Caine:

Like the first in the series, this one starts out somewhat slow.  The action tends to be minimal and sporadic, but for good reason.  However, the writing is good enough that it will get you through to the moments where the action picks up.  Further, none of the other stuff is filler.  Almost all feels vital to the story (and I can’t think of anything that comes up that isn’t important later on).

When the story does pick up, it becomes something very special indeed.  That’s just Gannon’s gift, however.  The previous book, Trial by Fire contained more of the action I prefer just be necessity, and that book was definitely on my list of “special” books.

While I don’t think Raising Caine was quite up to that level, that’s not a slight on this book.  The only books I’ve read recently that were on that level included Seveneves and A Long Time Until Now.  Both of those are on my Hugo list, and Raising Caine is a contender for one of those slots as well.

(7) The Nerf Nuke fires 80 darts in all directions.

(8) Tom Galloway, past contestant and inveterate Jeopardy! watcher, saw this on the October 12 show —

Heh. Today’s Jeopardy! round was a themed board on Game of Thrones, with categories Winter Is Coming, A Song of “Ice” and “Fire”, You Know Nothing, The North Remembers, Always Pay Your Debts, and wrapping up with Game Of Thrones, of course the only category actually about the work (specifically the tv series).

(9) Sometimes there’s a reason this news is hard to find — “’Lizard men abducted me to the moon for sex,’ woman claims”.

A former U.S. air force radar operator was abducted to the moon by lizard men for nightly sex – and was also forced to stack boxes.

What our reptilian overlords want with these sinister boxes can only be guessed at.

Niara Terela Isley is just one of several witnesses quoted by Alien UFO Sightings in an expose of the U.S. military’s secret moon bases – where reptiles rule, and humans are passed around like sex toys.

(10) James Schardt delivers “A Response to Charles Gannon” at Otherwhere Gazette.

At one point, Mr. Gannon used the term “The Evil Other”. I’m not sure he has grasped the full significance of this label.

Would you talk to a Homophobic Neo-Nazi that tried to hijack a literary award?

How about a racist who married a minority wife and had a child with her to hide his racism? These have actually happened! We know, it was talked about in such serious publications as Salon, Entertainment Weekly, The Daily Beast, The Guardian, and Slate. They had to get their information somewhere. Someone sent this information to them and they should have done due diligence. Otherwise they might not have as much credibility as people thought.

Now, those two characters, above, don’t even sound plausible in comic books. But these are not just insults that have been thrown at the Puppies. This is what many of the Science Fiction Establishment actually BELIEVE. With these beliefs, almost any action becomes allowable. What tactic should be disallowed when fighting Evil? Are you going to let a prestigious award go to a Nazi? Someone might think it validated his ideas, then you have more Nazis. Would you pay for a hundred more people to vote to prevent that? Would you tone back your rhetoric for any reason? You certainly wouldn’t apologize for calling them Nazis. That’s what they are. Good grief, we’re talking about Fascists, here! It cost 60 million lives to defeat them last time! Vox Day is sadly mistaken. Social Justice Warriors don’t always lie. When you are fighting for Good, there is no reason to lie. Social Justice Warriors tell the truth as they see it.

Of course, the problem is, the Puppies are not Nazis. Even Theodore Beale, the infamous Vox Day, doesn’t quite reach that level (probably). In the face of this, the Puppies can’t back down. Not won’t, CAN’T! They know. They tried. This is the biggest problem with telling the Puppies to moderate their responses.

(11) Someone was not pleased to see the topic heat up again —

(12) John Scalzi did, however, enjoy explaining his now-famous Nerdcon somersault in the first comment on “My Thoughts on Nerdcon:Stories”.

(13) “A Harry Potter Where Hermione Doesn’t Do Anyone’s Homework For Them” by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast.

“Okay, write that down,” Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, “and then copy out this conclusion that I’ve written for you.”

“Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” said Ron weakly, “and if I’m ever rude to you again –” He broke off suddenly. “This just says DO YOUR OWN GODDAMN WORK in fourteen languages.”

“Fifteen,” said Hermione. “One of them’s invisible.”

(14) Kimberly Potts’ “The Big Bang Theory Recap: What the Filk Is Happening” sets up the next video.

Thankfully, just as so many episodes of Will & Grace were Karen-and-Jack-ed away from the main characters, “The 2003 Approximation” is stolen, or rather saved, by Howard and Raj. In a far more entertaining half of the episode, we’re introduced to the joys of Filk. What, you may ask, is Filk? It’s a genre of music that puts a science-fiction/fantasy spin on folk, and yes, it is a real thing. It’s also the reason that, for at least the next week, many of us will be trying to get the chorus of “Hammer and Whip: The Untold Story of Thor vs. Indiana Jones” out of our heads.

 

(15) Jurassic World gets the Honest Trailer treatment.

Spoilers.

Also not very funny.

On second thought, was there some reason I included this link?

(16) Because it’s a good lead-in to Bryce Dallas Howard’s defense of her Jurassic World character’s shoe preferences?

Her insistence on wearing high-heels throughout the movie, including a memorable scene that sees her outrunning a T-Rex in stilettos, was dismissed as “lazy filmmaking” by Vulture and called “one tiny but maddening detail” that set up the film to “fail” by The Dissolve.

The actress herself disagrees. She explained to Yahoo why her character’s footwear choice is totally “logical” for the movie, seemingly putting the conversation to bed once and for all.

Watch our exclusive interview with Bryce Dallas Howard for the DVD and Blu-ray release of ‘Jurassic World’ on 19 October above.

“[Claire] is ill-equipped to be in the jungle. This person does not belong in the jungle,” reasons Bryce.

“And then when she ends up in the jungle it’s how does this person adapt to being in the jungle?”

“From a logical standpoint I don’t think she would take off her heels,” she adds.

“I don’t think she would choose to be barefoot. I don’t think she would run faster barefoot in the jungle with vines and stones.”

[Thanks to Nick Mamatas, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

My Father, And The Brontosaurus

1190429869_1By James H. Burns:  “I couldn’t believe I found myself talking to a dinosaur, Jim,” my father told me, some years ago. “I should have felt silly, but there I was, with this happy Tyrannosaur, saying, ‘Good afternoon, my friend.’ ”

Some people, of course, would have seen the T-Rex as glowering, rather than  with a smile.

My parents had gone to what must have been one of the very first editions of “Dinosaurs Alive,” in 1989, a neat attraction featuring “life-sized” primevals in a natural setting,” moving and roaring in animatronic splendor.

One could actually walk around the dinosaurs.

(My folks saw this “prehistoric park,” at Sand Points, along the  Long Island Sound, in New York — also the site of the magnificent 1923 medieval-styled castle, Falaise.)

My Dad, Hugh — known to almost all by the nickname “Hy” (derived from his original birth-name,  Hyman Birnbaum) — was a retired mechanical engineering professor (at NYU, Polytechnic, and the City College of New York), and a decorated World War II veteran. In other words, he wasn’t necessarily one to be overwhelmed by whimsy, although he certainly embraced that part of his personality.  (If you were there, with the dinosaurs by the woods, you might have seen a rather dignified looking gentleman, about six feet tall — imagine, if you will, Telly Savalas with a grey crewcut, and beard; or, from certain angles, Dean Martin, under similar accoutrements…)

113bHe was also a science fiction guy going back to the golden age of Flash Gordon in the newspapers, and Stanley G. Weinbaum and Jack Williamson (and Astounding and Planet Stories magazines) on the newsstands,  in the 1930s.

He first must have seen dinosaurs come to life in the halcyon era of 1933’s King Kong, probably later in its run, when a movie really could only cost a nickel…

(One of the few easily accessible miracles of the Depression (still the greatest economic calamity to ever face our nation), was that ANY American for the equivalent today of about a buck, could see a cinematic miracle; or for a bit more purchase over one hundred pages of pulp parables; and, for absolutely free, tune into wonder on the radio, with a myriad of adventure serials, comedies, and other entertainment.)

As others have pointed out, has there been a child of the century who wasn’t fascinated by dinosaurs?

dinoland-1964-5-world-s-fair_imagelargeThe first dinosaurs we would have shared must have been at the New York World’s Fair in 1965, in Flushing Meadows, Queens (where the baseball Mets still play).  In the second, and final year of that unparalleled spectacular’s existence, we saw Dinoland,  Sinclair Oil’s famous “dinosaur garden.” (A small plastic stegosaurus soon became one of my prized possessions).

But the most stunning experience at the Fair — and a highlight not only of childhood, but of many attendees’ lifetimes — was “The Magic Skyway.”  The Ford Motor Company in collaboration with Walt Disney and associates, fashioned a “ride” where you actually sat in a real car.  The brand new automobile first took you through the distant past — dinosaurs and early man — and then as you went through what felt like a tunnel in time, you were suddenly surrounded by dioramas of the worlds of tomorrow, including a happy future in space.

(For decades before the internet’s inception — and the ability to prove  a veracity of memory — people would doubt my toddler’s reminiscence  that the Ford vehicles first went through a window, and journeyed on a track outside the building, several stories high, in what resembled a glass corridor, before reentering, and commencing this voyage through the eons!

tumblr_n4gn3hwA9X1s6mfc6o1_500(Memory, of course, can be tricky. My father, beginning in the 1980s, swore that as a three-year old, I insisted that the family wait for a Ford convertible.  But when fact-checking this small memoir, I discovered that every one of the cars used for the exhibition was a convertible.  Perhaps, in 1965, I urged that we should wait for a Mustang, which was debuted at the Fair, a year earlier!)

(The other featured automobiles included Galaxie 500s,  Lincoln Continentals, Mercury Montereys, Ford Falcons, Thunderbirds, and Mercury Comets.)

Sadly, Disney felt that “The Magic Skyway” was too expensive to remount at Disneyland, but some of the dinosaurs were transferred to the park, as well as a reconfigured cave man.  (Certainly, much of the spirit of the Flushing Meadows EXPOSITION  lives on in certain venues at Disney’s EPCOT, in Orlando, Florida.)

Pasta-Brontosaurus COMPThere was also, of course, the Hall of Dinosaurs at New York’s Museum of Natural History, a chamber of awe that my Dad first saw in his own youth.  (There are few places I have been in my life, that seem permeated with such reverence.) And in 1968, on one of my first trips to a movie theatre to see an adult motion picture (as opposed to a “kiddie matinee”), we saw a Saturday afternoon double-bill of One Million Years B.C. featuring the incredible stop-motion animation dinosaurs of Ray Harryhausen (Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Jason And The Argonauts), and the particularly resplendent Raquel Welch, paired, remarkably, with Planet of the Apes!

how_and_why_dinosaursVirtually forgotten today, though, is what must have been one of the most widely viewed of “filmed” dinosaur depictions, or at least the one in the most American homes…

In 1956, Irwin Allen (Lost In Space, The Poseidon Adventure) put together a theatrical documentary, The Animal World, which included a lengthy sequence on dinosaurs, created by stop-motion animation filmmakers Willis O’Brien (King Kong, Mighty Joe Young) and the aforementioned Harryhausen.

Viewmaster — the amazing company that innovated three-dimensional images released on circular reels that could be seen through a special hand-held, dual lens device — licensed the movie, using its Mesozoic sequences for a packet entitled, Battle of the Monsters.

Unexpectedly (and rather incredibly), the reels make a cameo in Jurassic World.

Before home video, Viewmasters offered the most readily affordable chance to “own” a TV show or movie that one liked, or at least a reproduction of such.  It can still be a thrill to see 3-D shots from other genre fare as Zorro, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, The Addams Family, Batman, Star Trek, The Green Hornet…. There were also excellent sets devoted to NASA and our early manned space missions.

The most fantastic Viewmaster reels may have been their fairytale and mythology editions, for which they devised their own models and dioramas.  The inherent enchantment of these hand-crafted vistas seemed to touch a special place in the imagination, and have remained timeless.

(These miniatures, and their photography, were largely the work of Florence Thomas, and later, her assistant, Joe Liptak, in Portland, Oregon..  Thanks to their artistry, and ingenuity, it was also marvelous to see many of the most famous cartoon characters (including Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker) be brought to “realistic” stereoscopic life. I can still remember my shock, as a boy, in seeing The Animal World’s ceratosaurus, through the viewer, drawing bloood from its prey.  (Although I can guarantee you that, at the time, I had no idea of the first dinosaur’s name!)

Battle of the Monsters was released under different titles, over the decades:  its model work easily holding its own against more contemporary effects outings. (And coincidental to this article, it’s intriguing to note that Viewmaster was introduced at the very first World’s Fair, in 1939!)

LR-22422_TP_00042RI felt bad, when my father lay dying in the summer of 1993, that he may have missed Jurassic Park, a movie that could have fulfilled what might have been some of his early dreams.

(It was, of course, the least of my family’s sorrows.)

But my mother told me that he had gone out one July afternoon, to catch it locally.

I knew that he had already been impressed by a sequence he saw on TV, which he recounted as the heroes being afraid that they’re about to be trampled by a herd of dinosaurs, only to be ultimately IGNORED by the charging horde–action which reminded him of a jungle stampede he thought he once saw in King Solomon’s Mines, or one of the other “Africa” movies of the past.

Somehow, my Dad wound up conveying to me that he did indeed love the movie. I wasn’t as crazy about Jurassic Park, apparently, but especially enjoyed, and admired — and was struck by, really — its last moments, when the paleontologist gazes through the window of a soaring helicopter, watching a flock of pelicans flying over the sea: The film’s subtle reflection on the long held theory that birds may be the modern descendants of dinosaurs.

I’m not sure when I first encountered that premise, but it has resonated with me as a lovely possibility, for what now seems ages.

My parents always had a deep affinity for all creatures. I grew up watching my mom — with my dad’s encouragement! — put food out daily for the birds and squirrels—

A habit I continue to this day.

Often now, for years, as I watch the sparrows and mourning doves and starlings a dancing, I think how lucky I’ve been, to know all these primordial, and blissful kingdoms.

Pteranodonte_di_Charles_Knight

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April Balances the Scales

They say April is the cruelest month. I say there’s evidence for both sides.

  • April 27, 1951:  The Thing from Another World opens in Los Angeles.

  • April 26, 1991:  Family sitcom Dinosaurs premieres on ABC.

  • April 20, 2015: Jurassic World Official Trailer #2 is released.