Pixel Scroll 12/21/16 Ancillary of Green Gables

(1) MARS’ VIRGIN FIELD EPIDEMIC. Nautilus writer Christopher McKay, in a piece called “Make Mars Great Again”, says that Mars has life because of microbes sent aboard non-sterile Mars probes, and if the planet gets warmer in a century these microbes can be used for terraforming.

Mars is currently inhabited by an estimated 1 million microbes. They coat the surfaces and crowd the innards of our robotic landers and rovers, which international policy requires to be cleaned, but not fully sterilized. The bugs are dormant, but viable. If Mars warmed up and water began to flow again, these microorganisms would revive and reproduce. And it is within our power to make that happen.

The concept of terraforming—making a barren world suitable for widespread life—is well developed in science fiction. The term was first used in a science-fiction story published in 1942. It implies the creation of a copy of Earth, which need not be the goal, but the word caught on. (It is definitely more euphonious than the suggested alternatives of “ecopoiesis” or “planetary ecosynthesis.”) In the ’90s the award-winning science-fiction trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars centered on the science and ethics of terraforming. But terraforming is no longer just science fiction.

(2) DIFFERENT CURRENCIES. Sarah A. Hoyt raises compelling points in “Some Hard Thinking About Our Business”. Why doesn’t everybody go indie? And how much money is it costing them to go with traditional publishers?

So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any traditional writer I know succumbing to the lure of a traditional contract.  I’m not disapproving, mind you — who the hell am I to be disapproving of other people’s business decisions? If I had my time again, I doubt I’d have made most of the ones I made.  I’d still want to write for Baen, but that’s about it — I’m just jaw-dropped shocked.  Because they’ll be giving up 90% of their income or so.  But perhaps they want the respectability.  And perhaps they think it will give them further reach.

Is the reach thing true?  For now.  For a time. More on this later.

Is the respectability that important?  Sure, if you want to have some sort of job as a “real writer” such places are starting to choose indies, but not really.  Some conferences too (though we’re not absolutely sure, in this new era how much attendance of conventions contribute to sales, with the remarkable exception of hard copy books [more on that later.]) expect you to flash your “real writer” credentials in the form of  contract.  I even understand it from the social point of view, where when you’re at a party and people ask what you do, the question after you answer “writer” is “so have anything published?” (Or maybe that’s just to me, because of the accent.)  Mind you, you can answer “Sure” and  list your books and not say “indie” but I also know that when I say “Sure, x books with Berkley, x with Bantam and x with Baen” people’s attitude changes completely.  And I can see that when people suspect you’re indie they say “So you published yourself” and dismiss it.  I know that’s a stupid reason to give up 90% of your income, but humans are social animals and I can see “not being embarrassed at parties” making a difference.  I can even see the velveteen writer thing, wanting to be a “real” writer in your own eyes, the way you envisioned it.

(3) LONG RELIEF. At MLB blog Cut4, “Superfan Sean Doolittle reviews ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”‘. Doolittle is a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

Big Star Wars fan Sean Doolittle was kind enough to take some time away from his rigorous offseason sock-throwing regimen to write a film review of Rogue One … yes, really! Enjoy it all below, and don’t worry — there are no major spoilers, as Sean knows what he’s doing. 

What really separates this movie from any other episode in the Star Wars franchise, though, is how dark and harsh it is. Rogue One is as much a war drama, with real, raw emotion, as it is a sci-fi adventure movie. This movie drops you into the middle of a brutal galactic civil war, one that’s taken everything from these characters and turned them into soldiers willing to fight for the Rebellion.

(4) NOT THE REASONS FOR THE SEASON. I thought Tor.com had a great discussion-generating post idea in “The Non-Holiday Movies We Always End Up Watching Over the Holidays” but they had more misses than hits as far as my tastes are concerned. (Anyone else watched Rocky II this month? I did.)

And it’s a discussion you can have on more than one level. I decided to watch Tracy and Hepburn in Desk Set the other night I’d long since forgotten that most of the climactic events happen at the office Christmas party. So can I count it as “non-holiday” or not?

(5) GHIBLI AND GRAVY. The YouTube video “Studio Ghibli in Real Life” is a charming YouTube video in which Studio Ghibli characters are placed into real-life Japanese settings.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California. It was the first animated feature-length film with sound and color.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 21, 1937 – Jane Fonda

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 21, 1957 — Tsutomu Kitagawa, a Japanese actor and stuntman best known for playing Godzilla in the Millennium (or Shinsei) series. He also played the costumed actor for the Blue (and occasionally, Black) Ranger in many of Toei Company’s Super Sentai Series in the 1980s, better known in the US as Power Rangers.

(9) BRAIN CANDY. John Scalzi did not write an incisive political commentary today.

Me: I want to write a long piece on politics today!

Brain: Sorry, man. Not up for it. Too much thinking involved.

Me: But I have important things to say!

Brain: You should have thought about it before you decided to fuel me exclusively on Christmas cookies for three days straight….

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #22. The twenty-second of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a set of autographed books from Pamela Dean.

Today’s auction is for a set of books from Pamela Dean, including signed hardcover first editions of THE DUBIOUS HILLS and JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY, along with a signed mass-market paperback set of the reissue of the SECRET COUNTRY trilogy. That’s a total of five autographed books for you to enjoy!

About THE DUBIOUS HILLS: Centuries after a group of warring wizards eliminate war from the Dubious Hills, the Hills are a place where knowledge and ability are parcelled out in strange ways. Only the group known as the Akoumi understand death, only the Gnosi know how to teach, and only the Physici can know pain. Dean weaves a strange and compelling examination of knowledge, responsiblity and death.

About JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY: Three sisters live comfortably with their parents: Juniper, 16, who likes cooking and computer chats; Gentian, 13, who likes plays and astronomy; Rosemary, 11, who likes Girl Scouts. Enter Dominic, handsome as the night, quoting poetry, telling riddles, and asking help for a complex and fascinating science project. Gentian isn’t interested at first–she has her own life. But gradually her life, and her time, belong more and more to Dominic and his project, and her father begins to fear that the lad may be more than a charmer…

About THE SECRET COUNTRY: Each vacation for the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played a game they call the “Secret”—and invented, scripted world full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring, court intrigue, and the Dragon King. In the Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape destiny. Then the unbelievable happens: by trick or by chance, they actually find themselves in the Secret Country, their made-up identities now real. The five have arrived at the start of their games, with the Country on the edge of war. What was once exciting and wonderful now looms threateningly before them, and no one is sure how to stop it… or if they will ever get back home.

(11) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MENTIONING RACE. Foz Meadows engages a recent controversy involving YA commentators — “YA, Race & Assimilation: A Response”.

Which is why, returning to the matter of QOP and Whitney Atkinson, pro-diversity advocates are so often forced to contend with people who think that “separating races” and like identifiers – talking specifically about white people or disabled people or queer people, instead of just people – is equivalent to racism and bigotry. Whether they recognise it or not, they’re coming from a perspective that values diverse perspectives for what they bring to the melting pot – for how they help improve the dominant culture via successful assimilation – but not in their own right, as distinct and special and non-homogenised. In that context, race isn’t something you talk about unless you’re being racist: it’s rude to point out people’s differences, because those differences shouldn’t matter to their personhood. The problem with this perspective is that it doesn’t allow for the celebration of difference: instead, it codes “difference” as inequality, because deep down, the logic of cultural assimilation is predicated on the idea of Western cultural superiority. A failure or refusal to assimilate is therefore tantamount to a declaration of inequality: I’m not the same as you is understood as I don’t want to be as good as you, and if someone doesn’t want to be the best they can be (this logic does) then either they’re stupid, or they don’t deserve the offer of equality they’ve been so generously extended in the first place.

Talking about race isn’t the same as racism. Asking for more diversity in YA and SFF isn’t the same as saying personhood matters less than the jargon of identity, but is rather an acknowledgement of the fact that, for many people, personhood is materially informed by their experience of identity, both in terms of self-perception and in how they’re treated by others at the individual, familial and collective levels. And thanks to various studies into the social impact of colour-blindness as an ideology, we already know that claiming not to see doesn’t undo the problem of racism; it just means adherents fail to understand what racism actually is and what it looks like, even – or perhaps especially – when they’re the ones perpetuating it.

(12) APOLLO 11 ON YOUTUBE. Ars Technica helps relive history – “Heinlein and Clarke discuss the Moon landings as they happen”.

Thanks to documentaries and YouTube, the younger set can experience some of the flavor of the late 1960s today, as well as what the Moon landing meant at the time to America and the world. The zeitgeist of hope and possibility might perhaps best be captured in a CBS News discussion on July 20, 1969—Apollo 11 landing day. Hosted by the inimitable Walter Cronkite, the great newsman interviewed science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein about the implications of NASA’s achievement. The program featured a discussion just after the landing, with a second segment following the first moonwalk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

“Time just stopped for me, I think it stopped for everybody,” a 51-year-old Clarke said, describing how it felt to watch the lunar module touch down. “My heart stopped. My breathing stopped.”

(13) CURSUS HONORUM. James Langdell raises a good question:

How do you become a Ghost Of Christmas Past? Do you work your way up after starting out as Ghost Of National Pickle Day Past?

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS LAUGHS. Curator John King Tarpinian delved into the archives for these Stan Freberg Christmas parodies —

  • Green Christmas

  • Christmas Dragnet (1953) / Yulenet (1954)

  • The Night Before Christmas (1955)

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

Stan Freberg (1926-2015)

Stan Freberg, in the days when he voiced puppet characters on "Time for Beany."

Stan Freberg, in the days when he voiced puppet characters on “Time for Beany.”

Revered satirist and actor Stan Freberg died April 7 at the age of 88. His body of work included more than 400 voiceovers for Warner Bros. animation, comedy albums, TV shows like Time for Beany and The Chun King Comedy Hour, and funny commercials for which he won 21 Clio Awards. Time magazine said his 1961 album Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America may have been the “finest comedy album ever recorded.”

He extolled the power of radio advertising in this unforgettable bit —

PAUL FREES: Radio? Why should I advertise on radio? There’s nothing to look at, no pictures…

STAN FREBERG: Look, you can do things on radio you couldn’t possibly do on tv.

FREES: That’ll be the day.

FREBERG: All right, watch this…ahem, okay people, now when I give you the cue, I want the 700 foot mountain of whipped cream to roll into Lake Michigan, which has been drained and filled with hot chocolate. Then the Royal Canadian Air Force will fly overhead towing a 10-tom maraschino cherry, which will be dropped into the whipped cream to the cheering of 25,000 extras. All right – cue the mountain!

Freberg was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.

He also believed in humorous TV commercials and is remembered for taglines like “Today the pits; tomorrow the wrinkles. Sunsweet marches on!,” and Contadina’s “Who put eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can?”

Freberg was close friends with Ray Bradbury. Ray served as best man when Stan married his first wife, Donna — Ray having introduced the newlyweds.

In the Sixties, Freberg put Ray in one of his Sunsweet Prunes commercials. Freberg ‘s narrator praises Ray’s power to predict the future as Ray repeatedly interrupts, “But I never mentioned prunes in any of my stories!”

The two friends had a reunion in the aisles at the 2009 Comic Con when Freberg was 82 and Bradbury was 88 — both made the rounds in wheelchairs. Just a few years later Freberg was among the speakers at Comic Con’s Bradbury memorial (2012).

Ray Bradbury and Stan Freberg at Comic Con 2009

Jerry Beck recalls, “He thanked me, often, for giving him credit in print for all the Warner Bros. cartoons he had a part in. He had been miffed that he was unable to get screen credit (Mel Blanc had an exclusive credit by contract) – save for one classic Friz Freleng short, Three Little Bops (1957).”

Mark Evanier’s tribute mentions —

Stan was the guy who’d been at it the longest. He recorded his first cartoon voice roles in 1945 for release in 1946. As far as I know, his last job was in an episode of The Garfield Show I voice-directed last year. It’s currently scheduled to run on Cartoon Network this October, giving Stan a career span of 69 years.

Once when Frank Sinatra toured Australia, he took along Freberg as his opening act.

Freberg’s first wife, the former Donna Andresen, died in 2000. In addition to his son, Donavan, he is survived by his wife, Hunter; his daughter, Donna Jean; and one granddaughter.

Update 04/11/2015: Corrected info about Bradbury introducing Freberg to his wife — it was Donna that Ray introduced to Stan.

The Stan Freberg/Ray Bradbury Connection

Ray Bradbury and Stan Freberg at Comic Con 2009

Ray Bradbury greets Stan Freberg at Comic Con in 2009. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Stan Freberg, yesterday’s birthday boy, was a close friend of Ray Bradbury’s. Ray served as best man when Stan married Hunter — Ray having introduced the newlyweds.

The two friends had a reunion in the aisles at the 2009 Comic Con: Freberg was 82 and Bradbury was 88 and both made the rounds in wheelchairs. (See more photos of Ray with famous people from that con in John King Tarpinian’s article John and Ray Attend Comic Con 2009.)

A few years later Freberg was a speaker at Comic Con’s Bradbury memorial (2012).

Stan Freberg

Stan Freberg

Today’s Birthday Boy 8/7

Stan Freberg in 1926.

He has a scroll of credits that would stretch from coast-to-coast, however, I will never forget this bit —

PAUL FREES: Radio? Why should I advertise on radio? There’s nothing to look at, no pictures…

STAN FREBERG: Look, you can do things on radio you couldn’t possibly do on tv.

FREES: That’ll be the day.

FREBERG: All right, watch this…ahem, okay people, now when I give you the cue, I want the 700 foot mountain of whipped cream to roll into Lake Michigan, which has been drained and filled with hot chocolate. Then the Royal Canadian Air Force will fly overhead towing a 10-tom maraschino cherry, which will be dropped into the whipped cream to the cheering of 25,000 extras. All right – cue the mountain!

August 26 Tripleheader

Mystery & Imagination Bookshop weaves together three events on Sunday, August 26 from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

The Devil’s Coattails signing party brings together the story collection’s editors, authors and publishers — William F. Nolan, Sunni K Brock, Jason V Brock, Marc Scott Zicree, R. C. Matheson, Paul G. Bens, Jr., Earl Hamner, Jr., and Paul J. Salamoff.

At the same time some of those same folks, plus others, will participate in “Ray Bradbury: A Celebration of Life” — William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson, Marc Scott Zicree, R. C. Matheson, Paul G. Bens, Jr., Earl Hamner, Jr., Stan Freberg, Terence McVicker, Dennis Etchison, Pete Atkinson, and Paul J. Salamoff.

And there will be a simultaneous signing party for The Nefertiti-Tut Express, the last book of Bradbury’s to appear before he left us. Publisher Terence McVicker, the publisher, will be in attendance. The book features illustrations by Gary Gianni.

Mystery & Imagination is located at 238 N. Brand Bl., Glendale, CA 91204.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Tarpinian: A Comic-Con Tribute to Ray Bradbury

Rachel Bloom speaks at Comic-Con's Bradbury tribute. (Photos by John King Tarpinian.)

By John King Tarpinian: The Saturday evening tribute to Ray was very beautiful and moving.  The hall sat 4,000 people and followed a Gleek Fest.  I know of a few people who attended the Glee event in order to get a good seat for the tribute.

Even with having a line-up and an outline we had fifteen minutes to set-up and decide how to actually do the panel.   It was decided to take the tables off the stage and have a single podium so each speaker would be able to give their personal tribute to Ray.

Sam Weller was the organizer-host (The Bradbury Chronicles, Listen to the Echoes & Shadow Show).  He shared podium duties with Mark Evanier (Kirby: King of Comics).  Each tribute was separated by video clips of Ray over the decades.

First up was Rachel Bloom who had prepared a PG-13 version of her Hugo-nominated song.  When she came on stage she asked the assembled masses if they wanted to hear the CENSORED version or the real version.  Not one person in the hall opted for the CENSORED version and Rachel added some audience “call & response.” 

A number of the people who spoke have known Ray for half a century or more, William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson and Stan Freberg.  Both Bill and George let people know how Ray helped those two young writers.  If you youngins’ do not know the name Stan Freberg, just Google “Ray Bradbury Stan Freberg prunes” then sit back and prepare to laugh out loud.  Ray introduced Stan’s wife to him and was best man at their wedding.

Joe Hill gave a lovely tribute, of course.  He mentioned he had only met Ray the one time at the 2010 Comic-Con and that a man came over to him asking if he’d like to say hello to Ray.  I am proud to say that I was “that man.”  Joe also read a moving tribute from Frank Darabont.

Margaret Atwood had never met Ray and was supposed to visit him earlier this week but that was not to be.  She talked about how she read, as a young girl, Ray’s books as they first came out. That she used some of his themes in her books.  In The Handmaid’s Tale she used that women were not allowed to read because of Fahrenheit 451.

Marc Scott Zicree told how he first met Ray.   As a young man, Marc had done a “mixed tape” mashing up various audio renditions of Moby Dick.  Marc handed this out to a few friends.  A copy wound up with Ray.  Marc says he came home one day to find a message from Ray on his answering machine asking him to call.  Marc was afraid he was in trouble when in fact Ray loved the tape and they became fast friends.

On a final personal note, the only times I attended Comic-Con were with Ray.  Not a bad way to visit the zoo.  I did not speak but in talking to the guest speakers backstage I told how Ray’s hearing aids really did not work well with the den of noise in the hall but that hundreds of times an hour you could hear people shout out such phrases as, “OMG it’s Ray Bradbury.”  “I LOVE YOU RAY.”  “THANK YOU Ray.”  But the one that really got to me was when a young father and his son, who was riding on his shoulders said to the son, “There goes Ray Bradbury the greatest writer of all time.”  Once a man came up to Ray, got down on his knees bowed three times, got up and just walked away without saying a word.  There were lots of laughs, hugs and tears backstage and that will be how I will always remember Comic-Con.

Sam Weller

Margaret Atwood

Gary Gianni

George Clayton Johnson

Joe Hill

Marc Scott Zicree

Mark Evanier

William F. Nolan

Stan Freberg

Extra Credit Bradbury Links

There have been so many Bradbury tributes that no matter how heartfelt each one may be eventually a fan becomes jaded from reading them. Despite that I still find these worth recommending:

(1) This one, from The Economist , is brilliant:

With his eyes shut, he unbuttoned his shirt, slowly.

The young man, and the camera, stopped.

Beneath the old man’s shirt was an illustration of a forest, something like a coloured tattoo. But the forest moved. The giant ferns and trees of prehistory crowded in on a silver path that hovered six inches above the ground. Men were walking along it, tourists on a Time safari, out to kill dinosaurs. A hunter called Eckels blundered off the path into deep moss, and later found a butterfly, glistening green and gold and black, embedded in the mud on his boot. Because of that dead butterfly history changed, in a whisper or a roar, all down the aeons of time. The tale was called “A Sound of Thunder”.

“Want to see more?” the old man asked.

For the old man has so many more tattoos he can display, you know.

(2) A much younger Bradbury – age 14, to be precise – appears in this photo with George Burns in 1934, taken in the days when he was submitting jokes to the Burns and Allen radio show. Decades later when they met again, George was astonished to learn that Ray was the same kid who once wrote for him. “That was you!?” he exclaimed.

(3) Did you know Bradbury once starred in a futuristic Sunsweet Prunes commercial produced by Stan Freberg? Yes, even in the future prunes still have wrinkles.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Sandra Miesel, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter and the Harlan Ellison Forum.]