Star Wars: My Force Awakens

Steve Vertlieb and Daisy Ridley

By Steve Vertlieb: Among the many highlights of my recent pilgrimage to Hollywood was an entirely unexpected, nearly miraculous, accidental “close encounter” with the current star of one of the most lucrative and beloved movie franchises in motion picture history. I’m still amazed, weeks after this most astonishing occurrence, that our meeting actually occurred, as these remarkable photographs will happily attest.

While waiting backstage to speak with composer John Williams at the venerable Hollywood Bowl, I noticed that Daisy Ridley’s name was posted on one of the dressing room doors. She hadn’t appeared on stage with Maestro Williams during the Star Wars concert selections, and so I wondered why. I turned to my brother to mention the strangeness of the occurrence when I inwardly gasped at the realization that the young star of both Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi was standing just inches in front of me. Hearing her British accent in conversation with the director of the latest sci-fi epic, I nudged my brother Erwin, and whispered “I think that Daisy Ridley is standing right in front of me.” Hearing my admittedly excited observation to my little brother, she turned toward me with a big smile and said hello. She was as delightfully adorable in person as she is as “Rey” on the big screen in the spectacular continuation of the cherished science fiction franchise. I couldn’t help but recall John Williams’ own wonderfully charming admission, upon receiving his A.F.I. Life Achievement Award last year, that he didn’t want any other composer but himself writing music for this lovely young actress. I completely understood his feelings upon meeting Miss Ridley.

Take Two: Steve Vertlieb and Daisy Ridley

Pixel Scroll 9/16/17 We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun, ‘Til Her Daddy Scrolls The Pixel Away.

(1) PROOF AND REPROOF. David Brin, after congratulating N.K. Jemisin for her latest Hugo win, asks readers to predict what’s coming next in the sff genre, in “Perspectives from Science Fiction: Hugos and other marvels”.

Oh and also, let’s celebrate that science fiction has always – and yes always, ever since it was founded by our revered grandmother of SF, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) – been the genre of literature most welcoming to bold ideas about human and non-human diversity, and brashly exploratory authors. Yes, SF was always “better than its times” when it came to such things, though every decade deserved the reproof of later decades, for its own myopic misdeeds. Leaving our self-critical movement always looking for the next cause for self-improvement!

So what are we doing now, that will cause later generations of brave questioners and boundary-pushers to reprove? What terrible habit will reformers tell us to break next, when we get the upper hand on racism, sexism and cultural conformity? I think I know what it will be! (Hint: what is the most harmful and nasty thing that even good people now routinely do to each other, with barely a thought to fairness or consequences? And I include people as good as you envision yourself to be. Discuss in comments, below.)

(2) THE SHAPE OF YEARS TO COME. And at Examined Worlds, Ethan Mills wants to know “Where did all the far-future science fiction go?”

This is a question I’ve thought about a lot lately.  I recently re-read the last book in the Dune series and am working my way through the delightfully/impossibly difficult Book of the New Sun, which my Goodreads review describes as “like taking an acid trip through a thesaurus.”

These days far-future stuff is harder to find.  There’s even a popular genre of science fiction that takes place in the past: steampunk.  Contemporary readers will call a book “far future” if it takes place a mere few hundred years or even sooner. See this list of allegedly “far future” science fiction that puts Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 on the list, and even more weirdly, Charles Stross’s Accelerando.  One of the main complaints about Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves was that people didn’t care for the the part that takes place in thousands of years (which for the record was my favorite part — see my review for more).

(3) THE RONDO OF A LIFETIME. Steven J. Vertlieb recently found buried digital treasure:

Discovered these wonderful photographs for the first time recently on my brother’s cell phone while vacationing in Los Angeles just a couple of weeks ago. This marvelous shot was taken in Louisville, Kentucky during the prestigious annual Rondo Award ceremony in early June, 2016, after which actor, director, artist, writer, and old pal Mark Redfield and I were awarded these coveted Rondo “Hall of Fame” plaques in joyous recognition of a lifetime of creative productivity, and dedication to the arts.

(4) PUPPIES AND RACE.  In “Words Matter, Actions Matter and Race Definitely Matters” at Amazing Stories, Chris M. Barkley rebuts author Christopher Nuttall’s editorial, “A Character Who Happens To Be Black”.

When a writer, of any ethnicity, admits using characters of different ethnicities without even the slightest hint of any sort of context for doing so, it is the worst sort of cultural appropriation and is an insult to his readers as well. Using the “I don’t see color” explanation to pander his own world view about race may be satisfying to his bubble of readers ordering online, but I am quite willing to bet it would not pass muster at most publishing houses or with discerning and critical readers as well.

By erasing ethnicity, class or race as a factor in his characters, Mr. Nuttal is stating those centuries of history and culture, on which his future or fantasy worlds are built upon, don’t matter or worse, never happened. By homogenizing his black characters with his white male viewpoint, he is giving them the “gift” of being white and being as good as anyone else and calling for their heritage and culture is a bad thing and should essentially be swept under the rug. His attempt to do so does not make them equal, it diminishes them. It’s disingenuous at the very least and a patronizing example of white privilege at worse.

No person who is consciously aware of their ethnicity, culture and history would tolerate such a cleansing. By taking away their joy, you also take away their sorrow and their history. We are all human and that is the factor that should unites us, not divide us. By erasing our differences to make everyone the same, no one is special or an individual.

(5) APOLOGIZING. At Fast Company, Mike Su proffers “7 Lessons White People Can Learn From Bodega’s Apology”.

… Setting aside the idea of rebranding a mini-bar and putting it in apartment buildings and street corners and calling it disruption, there are some important lessons that can be learned from their poor apology that can be particularly important for well-meaning white people to understand when they unintentionally offend. Here are my key takeaways:

1. “I Didn’t Mean To” Doesn’t Matter

“Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas…”

Most of the post was focused on helping people understand what they were really trying to do. Why they weren’t super evil, and all the steps that they took, and basically, “I know we seemed like assholes, but we’re not! Or, at least, we didn’t mean to be!”

But here’s the thing?—?just cause you didn’t mean to hurt someone doesn’t mean you didn’t actually hurt them.

But if you spend all your time explaining what you meant to do?—?you’re spending all your effort on trying to make yourself look less bad, and make yourself feel less bad. That may do it for you, but then your apology is not about actually making the person you offended feel any better. Which leads me to…

(6) IN THE NEWS. Brookline, MA Town Meeting member (and noted sf writer) Michael A. Burstein isn’t kidding: “Town Leaders Seek to Make ‘Selectwoman’ the Official Title”.

“There’s been some recent interest in Massachusetts to change the name of board of selectmen to something that would be a bit more gender-neutral,” said Michael Burstein, a town meeting member.

Two warrants have been submitted to the Board of Selectmen and take aim at changing the governing body’s title and title of its members.

“One of them is kind of a straight forward and just wants to create gender-neutral language,” said Hamilton.

The other warrant filed by Burstein is very specific.

“I deliberately and specifically filed a warrant to change the name of Board of Selectmen to Board of Selectwomen,” he said.

The Boston NBC affiliate interviewed him for its September 14 news broadcast.

(7) ROMM OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of Minneapolis fan Baron Dave Romm.

Fan Dave E Romm (b.1955) died on September 14. Dave was active in Minneapolis fandom and was an avid photographer, taking pictures of various Minicons and other conventions he was able to get to. He traveled to Antarctic in 2005 and wrote about his experience in Argentus. He also hosted Shockwave Radio Theatre on KFAI-AM and archived the podcasts on his website. Romm became a baron of the micro-country of Ladonia in 2001.

(8) GOGOS OBIT. Bloody Disgusting bids farewell to “Legendary Monster Artist Basil Gogos” (1939-2017)  who died September 14.

Some of the most iconic pieces of classic monster art were found on the front covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine throughout the ’60s and ’70s, that art no doubt responsible for countless monster kids being bitten by the proverbial bug. Vibrant and eye-catching, the magazine’s cover art made horror stylish, beautiful and cool.

Those paintings were the work of illustrator Basil Gogos, who we’re sad to report is the latest in a long line of true horror legends who have recently left us….

Gogos also provided cover art for several other Warren magazines including Creepy, Eerie, Spaceman, Wildest Westerns and The Spirit.

(9) HANGDOG CHARACTER ACTOR. Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017) died September 15 says The Hollywood Reporter.

Stanton, who also was memorable in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981) and John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink (1986) — in fact, what wasn’t he memorable in? — died Friday afternoon of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent, John Kelly, told The Hollywood Reporter.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Play-Doh Day

Play-Doh Day is an opportunity for everyone, whether a child or simply young at heart, to celebrate this iconic modeling clay. Play-Doh was originally developed in the 1930’s, not as a toy but as a product for cleaning wallpaper! It was not until the 1950’s that it was marketed as a toy, in the trademark vibrant colors of red, blue, yellow and white.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1926 — Many people reported seeing lake monster Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan, British Columbia.
  • September 16, 1963 The Outer Limits premiered on television.
  • September 16, 1977 — Returned television audiences to the world of Logan’s Run.
  • September 16, 1983 – The aptly-titled Strange Invaders was first screened.

(12) TODAY’S FORBIDDEN PLANET BIRTHDAYS

  • Born September 16, 1927 — Jack Kelly
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 16, 1917 – Art Widner

(14) JAY KAY KLEIN PHOTOS. Crowdsourced identification of Jay Kay Klein’s digitized fanhistorical photos is proceeding apace.

J.J. Jacobson, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian at the UC Riverside Library, says —

The first re-index of the Klein photos on Calisphere has loaded. We’ve harvested amazing amounts of amazing information, thanks to the generosity of the fan community.

She has been keeping an eye on the info form and as of September 11 there had been 448 entries, many of them containing multiple identifications.

(15) QUARRELING CURATORS. New Statesman says “Two museums are having a fight on Twitter and it’s gloriously informative”. They’ve collected the tweets.

2017 is undoubtedly the year of the feud. As celebrities and corporations alike take to Twitter to hash things out, two of the UK’s most respected scientific institutions, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum have got in on the action.

It all started with this rather innocous tweet, during The Natural History Museum’s Ask a Curator event on Twitter, where users could tweet in questions to The Natural History Museum’s twitter account. The resulting back and forth is both amusing and educational….

(16) THE TRUE MEASURE OF A MAN’S INTELLIGENCE… JC Carlton’s goodbye to Jerry Pournelle at The Arts Mechanical begins with a memory of the author’s opposition to the lowered expectations policy of the Seventies. That was one of the first things that came to my own mind when I heard he had died. And while Carlton was looking at another collection of his science essays, I was taking down That Crazy Buck Rogers Stuff from my own shelf.

At a time when technical optimists were as scarce as hen’s teeth, at least in the public eye, Jerry was unabashedly that technical optimist.  I did a post about  A Step Farther Out when I started this blog and how relevant it still remains today.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/stepping-farther-out/

At a time when the language of the day all across the media was how we were all DOOMED, DOOMED by the monsters of our own creation and that there was nothing that could be done to save us.  Even the best stuff in media, like the classic series Connections was mildly pessimistic. Contrast that with any column in A Step Farther Out. 

… He thought though that, that people wouldn’t just collapse into a series of unending ghettos and endless tyranny.  he thought that people would use the skill and minds, the technologies that humans had created to overcome the problems we had.  He never accepted that we would just surrender and mostly die. he was also optimistic that with a little more oomph people would reach for the stars and create wealth for all.

(17) THE BREWS THAT MADE SPEC FIC FAMOUS. Charles Payseur is back with another installment of his review column where he pairs short stories with the appropriate beer: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 08/2017”.

Welcome! Pull up a stool—let me tell you what’s on tap today. August represents the height of summer for some, and for others the first step toward Autumn. For my SFF reading, the month seems full of heat, decay, distance, and ghosts. Which makes a certain amount of sense, what with 2017 on its downward slope, having cleared the peak of June and July and entered into the fast descent toward the end of the year. And what a year…

The flavors are mostly heavy, alluding to the coming harvest with the sweet tones of apple and barley. Looming behind that, though, is the specter of winter, and scarcity, and cold. The bite of IPA stands as a resistance to going gentle in that good night, a fire to guide lonely travelers through the chilling dark. The stories are pulled from across SFF, with a lean toward fantasy, from contemporary to historical to second world, but there’s a hint of science fiction as well, a glimpse of the void and a voice calling out into the distance of space….

Tasting Flight – August 2017

“Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb (Book Smugglers)

Notes: Singing with notes of sweet romance complicated by the spices of trust, betrayal, and perception, its cloudy pour slowly resolves into a golden hue that shines with warmth.

Pairs with: Chai Spiced Ale…

 

(18) FAVORITE SON. Are you ready? In “Holy Adam West Day, Walla Walla!” the Union-Tribune tells everyone what’s laid on for the celebration happening Tuesday, September 19.

From before noon and into the evening, businesses around town will display Bat signal stickers and posters of West and offer special promotions. The city will also install a new sign commemorating West near his childhood home at the intersection of Clinton Street and Alvarado Terrace.

Other memorials to West can be found at the post office at 128 N. 2nd Ave and at the Marcus Whitman, both based around photos from the collection of Joe Drazan.

West will also be the focus of a series of events throughout the day. Here’s the itinerary, as listed by Grant:

11 a.m. — Opening ceremonies at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. Mayor Alan Pomraning will present a key to the city to members of West’s family, and attendees will have the opportunity to meet Batman and pose for photos with an exact replica of the Batmobile that West drove as the Caped Crusader….

(19) ESTATE SALE. The LA Times reports “Debbie Reynolds’ family ranch and dance studio to hit the auction block in October”.

The ranch-estate in Creston, Calif., had been offered for sale before Reynolds’ death last year for $4.8 million but was taken off the market in June. The studio on Lankershim Boulevard is for sale, with an asking price of $6.15 million.

Both will hit the auction block Oct. 7-8 in Los Angeles as part of the Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds personal property collection, according to auction house Profiles in History.

Owned by Reynolds for more than two decades, the 44-acre ranch comprises a main house, a guesthouse, a caretaker’s cottage, an art studio and a barn. A 10,000-square-foot support building with metal and stage workshops and a 6,000-square-foot film and television production studio are among other structures on the estate.

(20) HOBBITS INHALE. Matt Wallace’s tweetstorm shows that where there’s smoke….there’s even more smoke.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Andrew Porter, JJ Jacobson, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 7/4/17 The Land Of The Pixel, And The Home Of The Scroll

(1) HAIL TO THE CHIEF. This would not be a typical way of celebrating Independence Day anywhere but fandom. ScienceFiction.com compiled a list of the “Top 10 Supervillains Who Have Taken Over America”. At number nine —

  1. Doctor Doom

Doom conquered the United States in 2099, made himself President and did what you’d expect Doom to do in that position. It’s worth noting that he also became a God of his own universe in 2015’s ‘Secret Wars’, so this President thing isn’t that impressive.

(2) LOWERING THE BOOM. It’s not only the blowing up part that’s dangerous for humans. The wastes are, too. The Verge explains “How Hollywood and the Army are shaping the future of fireworks”.

Another ingredient in fireworks, called perchlorate, helps the fuel combust and makes the colors shine more brightly. But it’s also thought to be toxic, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency regulates how much of the stuff can seep into drinking water.

As with air pollution, it’s not completely clear the extent to which fireworks displays contaminate water systems with perchlorate. But a 2007 study conducted by EPA scientists found that perchlorate levels in Oklahoma surface waters increased by between 24 to over 1,000 times baseline levels after an Independence Day display — and it took from 20 to 80 days to go back down.

Scientists with the US Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) are trying find a cheap, effective replacement for perchlorate. For the military, which uses pyrotechnics to mimic actual battlefield conditions in training simulations, perchlorate contamination of groundwater can shut down training operations. “When soldiers get deployed to real combat theaters, they are less prepared,” says Jared Moretti, a scientist with ARDEC who specializes in pyrotechnics.

(3) A CHANCE TO HELP. In the aftermath of Dwain Kaiser’s death, a GoFundMe has been launched to assist his widow.

We are raising money to help his wife, JoAnn Kaiser, who is in her 80s and lives well below the poverty level. Dwain and JoAnn owned one of the last used bookstores in Pomona, not because they made a enough money to live on, but because they loved educating our community. More importantly, they loved BOOKS. JoAnn is unable to cover the overwhelming expenses she will incur during this time of great loss: funeral, a memorial service, moving, and paying store bills. We reach out to all of you for support. Any assistance you can provide will impact JoAnn’s ability to grieve the loss of her best friend and husband without the burden of wondering how she is going to survive financially. All proceeds will go toward Dwain’s funeral, a memorial service, and moving expenses.

The goal is $10,000, and at this writing they are halfway there.

(4) LORD OF THE RINGS SETTLEMENT. Yahoo! Movies, in “Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle Massive ‘Lord of the Rings’ Lawsuit”, reports the parties have reached agreement.

Warner Bros. and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien have resolved a rights dispute over “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” the two parties said in a court filing.

The Tolkien estate and its book publisher HarperCollins had filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. for copyright infringement and breach of contract, in 2012, as reported here in  “What  Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”

The gist of the suit is that their agreement allows the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise based on the books, not digital products like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.

…The suit also complained the defendants had asserted rights to exploit the books through anything from ringtones and downloadable games to hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

(5) DC AT SEA. Batman features in the new livery some Italian ferryboats — “Batman jumps on board the new Tirrenia ships”.

Tirrenia, partnering with Gruppo Onorato Armatori and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, has started a great restyling of their ferry ships.

The classical white and blue livery will progressively be substituted by the DC Superheroe par excellende: Batman!

Sharden, docked today 7th April of 2017 at pier 18 of the Port of Civitavecchia, is one of the first Tirrenia ships to wear the new colours: both sides of the ships are different from one another: at one side are Batman and Robin, at the other Batman with his fierce enemy, the Joker.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the hammer of Thor (the Norse god of thunder and lightning) as a religious symbol for veteran gravestones. Two soldiers have headstones bearing the hammer.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.
  • July 4, 1939 — Julius Schwartz ditched the last day of the first World Science Fiction Convention and went with Mort Weisinger and Otto Binder to see a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. He still got to see fan history being made. Baseball fan history.

A very special thing happened that afternoon: Lou Gehrig announced his retirement from the game of baseball. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It’s something I will never forget.

Gehrig’s famous lines echoed throughout the park:

For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

(8) THE FIRST COUNCIL. Noting with pleasure that the President has reestablished the National Space Council, Jerry Pournelle remembers the final achievement of the original Council of which he was part.

When the Bush I administration took office, most of the Reagan people were replaced by Bush supporters. As a Reagan man – I chaired the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy that in 1980 wrote the Space and Space Defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration – my White House access and contacts effectively came to a halt. There were no more Reagan men in the White House.

However, there was the newly created National Space Council, headed by the Vice President, Dan Quayle. Mr. Quayle was not a space cadet, and hadn’t been well known in the pro-space community. Until the day he was asked to be then Vice President George H. W. Bush’s running mate, he was referred to as “the distinguished junior Senator from Indiana”, and generally well regarded; the day after he joined the ticket he became a buffoon not to be taken seriously by the very same news media. However, he took the post of Chairman of the National Space Council seriously, and when the Citizen’s Advisory Council proposed an X project, the SSX, he met with General Dan Graham, rocket genius Max Hunter, and council chairman Jerry Pournelle.

We presented our proposal for the SSX, a 600,000 gross liftoff weight (GLOW) single stage to orbit (SSTO) X Project; as Max Hunter said, we hoped it would make orbit; it would sure scare it to death. It would also be savable; and it could be flown sub-orbital. Of course it was fully recoverable. The preliminary design description was done mostly in my office, with visiting members of the Council working on it.

Mr. Quayle listened to us, and the asked advice from his technical people. He was told that recoverable single stage to orbit was impossible and had been proved to be so in a RAND study. Mr. Quayle then asked RAND to review that study, which they did, and Lo! It turned out not to be impossible after all. It was a possible X Project. Mr. Quayle tried to get it funded; apparently he took us quite seriously. He was unable to get full funding, but he did get Air Force funding for a scale model. Douglas won the competition for that X project, and it was built, on time and within budget, and delivered to White Sands test range for flight testing. It became known as the DC-X (Douglas Aircraft gave all their aircraft, such as the SC-3, that kind of designation).

One big controversy about vertical rocket landings was that it could not be controlled at low altitude and the speeds involved. Another was that it would re-enter nose down, and wouldn’t be able to turn tail down. DC-X flew 10 successful missions, landing and being refueled and flown again; there are plenty of reports on that. On one of those missions it went from nose up the nose down, then back to nose up in which orientation it made a perfect landing.

Alas after the 10th flight the Air Force turned the ship over to NASA. On the eleventh mission, it successfully landed, but a NASA technician had failed to connect the hydraulic line to one of the landing feet, and it fell over. It could have survived that, but due to over vigorous (and needless testing) the NASA test people cracked the hydrogen fuel tank, then welded it and sent it to fly. Falling over cracked that tank and DC-X literally burned on the ground a hydrogen leaked out.

Mr. Clinton won the 1992 election, and in 1993 abolished the National Space Council. President George W. Bush did not revive it, nor did President Obama.

(9) BREAKING OUT. The Verge interviews “Fantasy author Myke Cole on grounding a medieval world with demons in it”.

…For his next act, Cole is changing things up a bit. His upcoming series, The Sacred Throne, exchanges the modern-day world that he’s been using as a setting for a more traditional fantasy realm. The Sacred Throne series is very much a modern-day fantasy thematically, but more on the “grimdark” side of the genre in the vein of authors like Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or George R.R. Martin than the more optimistic worlds of Tolkien or Lewis….

Why the change from the more urban fantasy setting from your Shadow Ops series to something closer to traditional swords and sorcery?

This book is super important me. So the Shadow Ops series, when it sold and when it got praised, it was always the authentic military voice. I think I might have been the only currently serving military member writing. At the time I was still on duty to the Coast Guard when that book came out. There’s a lot of retired military guys writing, but I don’t know anyone who is actually active and writing, which is what I was doing. So I kept getting praise for my “authentic military voice.” I was just kind of like, “Okay, I’m glad that people like this, and I’m definitely happy if it sells books,” but the truth is that you start to think “Well, is this a gimmick?” Do people like my writing because I’m a good writer, or do people like my writing because it’s authentic and it’s a military voice? And of course that set me up for kind of growing insecurity, and so it became very important to me to prove to myself that I was a writer with a capital W. That I can do other things.

(10) PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE.  They make number one sound far ahead of the other four — “Five Writers Who Could Be the Next Stephen King”.

  1. Andrew Pyper

The number one writer who could challenge the King for positioning is Andrew Pyper. Pyper’s most recent novel titled “The Damned” is rapidly becoming a massive success. The 2013 novel has already become a best seller. This is number six and by far the most pleasing to his following. The Writer from Toronto has written the horror story and makes no apologies. The book follows “The Demonologist” which established quite a fan base for the writer who is beginning to delve more deeply into horror genre, but without the commercial nonsense that many come to expect. He’s not prone to cliche and you’ll have to read it to find out how he makes use of throwing curves so you won’t really know what’s coming up.

(11) BANGARANGING ON. The Washington Post’s Ada Tseng interviews Dante Basco, who played Rufio in Hook (an orange-mohawked guy who was killed by Captain Hook in the film), and has now made a short-film about Rufio, Bangarang, which is available online — “Remember Rufio in ‘Hook’? The actor is trying to keep his cult character’s legacy alive.”.

Basco has a cameo in the film, but is too old to play the young Rufio. A new generation of kids now knows him better for his voice-over work as Prince Zuko in the Nickelodeon cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” But he still gets recognized by “Hook” fans every single day.

“I’ve been Rufio longer than I’ve not been Rufio, for sure,” he says. “To this day, it’s a blessing and a curse. Some people have such strong memories of me as a young actor, that it’s hard to see me as anything else. But everyone comes to Hollywood hoping to get a role people are going to remember them for, and I get girls saying I was their first crush, or Asian guys saying Rufio was the first time they saw an Asian kid on-screen that wasn’t nerdy or stereotypical, so I was lucky the character that resonated was cool.”

 

(12) TZ. John King Tarpinian told me he’d be at home today watching the Twilight Zone Marathon. And Steve Vertlieb made a timely recommendation that I read his 2009 post “The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time”:

“The Twilight Zone: An Element Of Time” is my published 2009 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the original, classic Rod Serling television series. With original teleplays by Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and the visionary pen of host Rod Serling, along with accompanying scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and Fred Steiner, among others, this tender recollection of the iconic sci-fi/fantasy anthology series may bring to mind your own special memories of the program. Be swept away into another dimension with this sweet remembrance, adrift upon rippling currents of time and space, only to be found in…”The Twilight Zone.”

Here’s the beginning:

For a writer searching for his voice in the midst of corporate conservatism during the late 1950s, the creative horizon seemed elusive at best. Television, although still a youthful medium, had begun to stumble and fall, succumbing to the pressures of financial backing and sponsorship in order to survive its early growing pains. Navigating a successful career through a cloak of fear and indecision became problematic for a young writer struggling to remain relevant.

Rod Serling had penned several landmark teleplays for The Columbia Broadcasting System, including Patterns, and Requiem For A Heavyweight, but the perils of network censorship were beginning to take a toll on the idealistic author. As his artistic voice and moral integrity became increasingly challenged by network cowardice, Serling found his search for lost horizons alarmingly elusive.

(13) HALF CAST. Stewart Clarke in “Second ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Film Starts Shooting as New Plot Details Emerge” on Variety, says that the second Fantastic Beasts film will be set in Paris in the 1920s and will have Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore.

The studio offered new details of the upcoming film, which will see Eddie Redmayne return as magical beasts lover Newt Scamander to take on Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard played by Johnny Depp, who was unmasked at the end of the first movie.

Jude Law will star as future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the film, a younger version of the character originally played by the late Richard Harris and Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter films. The sequel moves the main action to 1920s Paris, shortly after Scamander’s capture of Grindelwald at the end of the first installment.

Warner Bros. revealed that “Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape and has been gathering more followers to his cause – elevating wizards above all non-magical beings. The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore. But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander.”

(14) MORE THAN JUST DECORATIVE. JJ sends this along with a safety warning, “Totally not a suggestion for Hugo winners with annoying neighbors. Purely hypothetically.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the e.e. cummings of filers. clack.]

My Father/Myself

Vertlieb family in 1948.

By Steve Vertlieb: This is a love letter to my dad. It’s Father’s Day and, while there isn’t a moment that goes by when he isn’t alive in my thoughts, the inspiration that fuels my heart, I guess that his memory becomes ever more special to me, ever more dear, on this day that honors dads. I know that everyone thinks that their dad was, or is, the most wonderful dad who ever lived, but he and I know the truth. No other dad ever possessed the purity of soul, and of tenderness, that was his. He seemed, at times, the wisest man on Earth. Whenever I needed advice or direction, his words seemed to guide me toward right and satisfying conclusions…and yet there were times when I might confidently have sworn that he was no older than I. There was a gentle sparkle in his eyes that radiated almost childlike wonder…a tender innocence of spirit that joyously belied his age. His silver hair always made him appear older than his years, but those silver threads shone in wondrous profusion, and reflection of God’s lyrical rhapsody.

As a little boy, I idolized the fatherly images of Western star Hopalong Cassidy, as portrayed by William Boyd. Hoppy was unlike other heroic cowboy movie stars of the period in that his hair was prematurely silver, as well. His hair sparkled as vibrantly as his famously white stallion, Topper. Hoppy represented everything that was strong, good, and wholesome to a generation of boys my age and now, as my own hair magically sparkles in well-earned luminescence, it occurs to me that it was actually my dad astride that gallant stallion, adorned in spectacular black hat and attire, bringing bad guys to justice, while rescuing the downtrodden and innocent. If other children teased me about his superficially elderly appearance, I found solace and quiet redemption in the darkened theaters of my youth watching the embodiment of my dad ride across dusty Wyoming trails atop his brilliant steed in the unforgettable imagery of Hopalong Cassidy. Yet, it was actually my father who secretly became my Saturday matinee silver screen role model and hero.

I know that our relationship sometimes sailed upon troubled waters. Perhaps, it was because we were too close…too similar…too much the same person. It is when I gaze into the mirror now that I often see his face. It is when I speak aloud that I frequently hear his voice. If I grow frightened or afraid, I know that it is his own insecurities that continue to haunt me. If I feel pride over some accomplishment or achievement, I know that the best that I can be is the finest that he ultimately was. Whatever goodness dwells within me is simply the tender legacy of the sweet and gentle soul that dwelt eternally within his fragile frame.

When I was but a small and lonely child, his shadow and influence stretched out in immensity across my path, a wondrous tapestry of goodness, offering shelter and comfort from the imagined terrors about me. When I grew to strength and maturity, he became the child and I was, in times of quiet desperation, His sturdy blanket of security and peace. Some years ago when my dad led his loyal family on a Summer excursion to the shore, we were accompanied by a succession of small, medium, and very large suitcases on our journey. Ever a gentleman, and an undeniably proud remnant of the “old school,” he insisted upon becoming the valiant protector of our small entourage, shouldering the brunt of the heavy luggage on his own. He wanted us to have faith that he was the strong head of our household, and that he would lovingly make any sacrifice in order to spare us the burdens of toil or drudgery. He was not a young man, and my mother grew understandably concerned for his safety and physical well-being Reacting from emotional fear, rather than cool logic or deliberation, she yelled at him to put down the luggage, reducing his stature before a crowd of strangers, and unwittingly humiliating him. My dad retreated from the limelight, and walked silently away from us. He had only wanted to be a hero to his family. Instead, he felt somehow emasculated…no longer a man. I followed him to see if he was all right, and I could see that he was crying. I went back to my mom to let her know what had happened, and she wept “Oh, My God,” racing to his side to hold and reassure him that she loved him, and was only concerned for his health. I saw in that moment that my dad was not a super being, but merely a man, a gentle, fragile soul as conflicted, frightened, and vulnerable as the rest of us.

Yet, whether healthy or sick, strong or frail, youthful or aged…he was always unfailingly there…ever at my side…until his legs would no longer hold him erect…until the breath of life and sustenance would no longer support him. One day, several months before his death, I took him out to lunch, and we shared several meaningful hours together as joyful father and son. We sat together on a bench, and I observed his frail, trembling hands. I took them in mine, looked into his eyes, and told him that I loved him. He looked sheepishly down at the ground, embarrassed somehow, but obvious moved. He smiled at me, and said “I know.” As I held his hands tenderly in my own, and gazed into his fatherly image, I felt that he had ascended at last to the spiritual summit of sublime humanity and that, in that miraculous moment, that God and he were as one.

On this Father’s Day remembrance, I need to tell my dad that he remains, even now, the very best of me. I am his proud legacy…and he is mine. His love was unconditional and is, as it was, a cherished chord in my own enduring melody…for, without him, I could never have become the man that I am. Each of us, in every successive generation, rides through life upon the shoulders of those giants who have gone before us, basking in their accomplishments, reflecting their virtues, yet perpetuating their legacy by building upon the foundation that they have so nobly pioneered on our behalf. I doubt that a moment has gone by or expired in the thirty years since my dad left us that I haven’t asked myself if I’ve honored his memory today, or somehow expanded the building blocks that he so gracefully lifted me upon by his own cherished example. I try each day to live my own life as he lived his…in honesty, decency, integrity, and in the profoundly sacred nobility and goodness that characterized his soul. I kiss the fragrant image and memory of his cheek. I grasp the sacred recollection and warmth of his hand, and I am forever comforted by the sweet reality that he lives on within each vaporous breath that I absorb…My Father…Myself.

Family trio at wedding in 1979.

Hermann and Hitchcock: The Torn Curtain. The Story of the Most Illustrious Collaboration in Screen History

By Steve Vertlieb: Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann each reached the zenith of their respective careers during their celebrated artistic association, inspiring the brilliant cinematic expression and triumphant realization of their collaborative productivity. Each a genius in his field, Hitchcock was “The Master of the Eloquent Absurdity,” while Bernard Herrmann was its Maestro. This is the story of their rise and fall, the provocative, often torrid creativity and passion that would unite them, and ultimately tear them apart…the jagged edge of their sublime artistry that resulted in “Herrmann and Hitchcock: ‘The Torn Curtain'”.

It was in 2000 that I was honored to present a posthumous life achievement award to one of the screen’s greatest composers, Bernard Herrmann. I traveled to Crystal City, Virginia to appear on stage with the Oscar winning composer’s daughter, author Dorothy Herrmann. I was introduced on stage by Hammer Films’ actresses Veronica Carlson and Yvonne Monlaur. As I offered my personal tribute to Bernard Herrmann, a film clip was projected behind me on the great auditorium screen. There was Maestro Herrmann in his prime, conducting the orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in a sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. Hours earlier, I’d sat next to Patricia Hitchcock participating in a panel discussion of her father’s films. At the conclusion of the panel, Dorothy Herrmann came over to me, and introduced herself. There I was standing between Pat Hitchcock and Dorothy Herrmann. I feared for a moment that these two delightful ladies might reignite their fathers famous feud. Happily, they laughed about it, and got along famously. That evening, Dorothy Herrmann joined me on the film conference stage, along with her two nephews, gratefully accepting the trophy that I was so deeply privileged to present to her.

With a striking cover by renowned artist Eddie Jones for the Spring, 1971 issue of Harry Nadler’s British cult magazine, L’Incroyable Cinema, my initial substantial essay examining the life, work, and career of Alfred Hitchcock, “Master of the Eloquent Absurdity,” first appeared in print. While this lengthy examination of Hitchcock’s work was my original attempt at dissecting the director’s career, nearly thirty more years would expire before I’d attempt another significant exploration of Hitchcock’s films, this time focusing on both the professional and personal lives of the director and his most profound collaborator, composer Bernard Herrmann in “Herrmann And Hitchcock:  The Torn Curtain” for Midnight Marquee Magazine in 2000.

Young Steve Vertlieb’s TV Appearances — and Disappearances

By Steve Vertlieb : In the Summer of 1982, a young aspiring television film critic reviews a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T. I was being groomed at the time to be a weekly entertainment and film critic for WTAF TV29 (then an affiliate of Taft Broadcasting). The segments would have aired on Friday mornings, as part of the station’s daily, hour-long “Newsprobe” news and information series. The TV station was subsequently purchased by Fox Television, and changed its call letters to the current WTXF TV. While a noble “pilot” effort by everyone concerned, the idea was ultimately abandoned, and this fledgling television Roger Ebert found his on air career in shambles, except for some sporadic “guest” appearances in museums, universities, and on competing tv stations. Consequently, “A Star Was Shorn.”

  • STEVE VERTLIEB – “Review of E.T.” WTAF TV 29 clip (8/6/82)

Here’s a 1985 Halloween television appearance on NBC network affiliate, KYW TV, in Philadelphia during which host Dana Hilger and I discuss the often snobbish, yet universal popularity of horror films through the years. This is one of several television appearances that I made during the late Seventies, and early- to mid-Eighties. As you can readily tell from my youthful look on camera, this was taped, quite obviously, just a couple of weeks ago.

  • STEVE VERTLIEB – “People Are Talking” Halloween Special (circa early 1980s)

Remembering James H. Burns Who Died A Year Ago Today

Burns and Vertlieb at Sardi’s

By Steve Vertlieb: With the late James H. Burns at Sardi’s in New York for dinner during a chilly Winter’s evening in December, 2014. Jimmy was one of my most cherished pals. He was my friend, my muse, my collaborator, and my brother. We would chat literally for hours each week into the proverbial “wee small hours of the morning.” We’d laugh, we’d argue, we’d celebrate the best and the worst in the arts and in life.

Jimmy was as “corny as Kansas in August,” but he could also challenge one’s core beliefs with spirited discussion, and overwhelming intellectual conviction. He was a passionate, tireless advocate of the arts, both in journalistic pride, as well as theatrical participation.

Jimmy loved baseball, and was its most inspired supporter. Whether arguing over the big leagues, or merely cheering on a tiny little league game on the corner of his block late one balmy Summer’s night, no one loved the game more than Jimmy.

His puns were terrible, and his laughter infectious. He could be maddeningly persistent in his sometimes self-righteous beliefs, and spirited interrogation, but Jim was never a phony. He stood by his own personal standards of equality and justice, and fought ferociously for his beliefs.

He was among the original writers and columnists for Fangoria Magazine, and a compelling contributor to Newsday, The New York Times and, in his final days, Mike Glyer’s Hugo Award winning File 770. Jimmy grew more introspective and, perhaps, melancholy in his later years, writing what amounted to sheer poetry in his brief, yet utterly charming and beautiful remembrances of days and years “past remembered”, but not forgotten.

He was among the most dedicated and creatively committed individuals that I’ve ever known. Jimmy was my conscience, and my shadow. When I nearly died seven years ago during major open heart surgery, he was my humorous cheerleader and spiritual angel, telephoning me often three or four times during a single day to make me laugh, and to remind me of just how special life could be.

I cherished our friendship, and revere his memory. I miss our infinite, often interminable telephone correspondence, conversations, and arguments.

Jimmy loved New York more than anyone I’ve ever known. It was during that sweet Christmas of 2014 when he enthusiastically “dragged” Shelly and I all over Manhattan to show off the vibrant city that he so loved.

He was a writer, an actor, a journalist, a film and baseball historian, and a deeply passionate human being. More than that, however, he was my brother, my champion, and my friend. I’m thinking of Jimmy today and always, but particularly on this poignant first anniversary of his untimely physical passing, and departure from this all too lonely planet, and remembering the wonderful James H. Burns. I miss you, dear friend. Rest well, Jimmy.

Sir Peter Cushing Remembered

Steve Vertlieb, left, Peter Cushing, right, in 1975.

By Steven J. Vertlieb: We lovingly remember and celebrate the 104th Birthday (born May 26, 1913) of the magnificent Peter Cushing, the cultured gentleman of horror who, along with partner and friend Christopher Lee, led Hammer Film Productions in England to near mythical success and legend during the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies.

Peter became a friend through correspondence during the Sixties and Seventies. His letters were often searingly open, and heartbreakingly honest. We met finally at New York ‘s “Famous Monsters of Filmland” film convention during the torrid Summer of 1975.

Here I am with Peter upon our meeting at this memorable gathering. When I reminded him of our long correspondence, he said “Ah, Yes…You used to write me with your brother…just like Laurel and Hardy.” Just adorable.

With our beloved Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing was, perhaps, England’s most cherished export during his shared tenure as Hammer Films’ most prominent actor and star. Wishing Abraham Van Helsing and Baron Frankenstein a joyous, Gothic, Happy Birthday in horror Heaven.

Remembering The Wonderful Frank Capra

By Steven J. Vertlieb: Spending a quiet afternoon with one of cinema’s greatest, most distinguished motion picture directors, the brilliant Frank Capra. An intoxicating afternoon in which Frank and I sat alone together for a couple of hours on a bench at the home of a mutual friend…just the two of us…watching a 16 mm print of his Oscar winning classic. It Happened One Night. Absolutely sublime. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Thanks for your friendship, Frank, and for the enduring legacy of your work in film. Today would have been your 120th year, and “Name Above The Title.” Happy Birthday, old friend.

Steven J. Vertlieb and Frank Capra.

During a particularly sad and lonely Christmas for my friend and hero, I wrote Frank Capra a few ineffectual words of hope and inspiration. His nearly heart-breaking response remains one of my most treasured letters. Today, May 18th, would have been his 120th birthday. He made, and continues to make, millions of people around the globe happy with the hope filled messages and optimism of his classic motion pictures, including It’s A Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and, of course, “Zuzu’s Petals.” Wishing you a joyous, and Happy Birthday in Heaven, Frank. Thanks for the memories. It truly was “A Wonderful Life.”

Pixel Scroll 5/14/17 Ain’t Any Ivory Soap Deal

(1) TOMORROW’S NEWS TODAY: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction will be Wikipedia’s featured article of the day on May 15. Thanks to Gordon Van Gelder for the hot tip.

And if you’d like to amaze your friends by predicting what the featured articles will be for some number of days into the future — just change the digits in the URL….

(2) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist completes its questioning in “Tad Williams Interview, part 2”.

With your wife Deborah, you have an in-house editor perusing everything you write. Then, at Daw Books you have Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert editing your novels. With that many editors having you under the microscope (and I reckon that your British editor also has something to say before anything goes into print), some would think that it could become a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. And yet, this approach obviously works well for you. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, I’m stubborn. As much as I love and respect all those folks, including my overseas editors, ultimately the complaints and/or suggestions have to make sense to me before I’ll make any large changes. I’ve been doing this writing gig for quite a while now and I don’t think you get to the point I have — making a living at it for decades — without trusting your own instincts. So if one person says they don’t like something, I’ll look at it and consider it but won’t necessarily change it unless the complaint strikes a chord for me. However, if all or at least several of them say that such and such a section is boring or confusing or whatever — well, I’m not stupid. On the other hand, because I have intelligent, skilled readers and editors like the three you mentioned, I also feel I can try new and unusual things and they are all clever enough to understand what I’m trying to do, which gives me a certain sense of freedom combined with the reassuring feeling that if I screw up too badly, they have my back and will help me fix it.

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER EXHIBIT AT THE HUNTINGTON. It would be commonplace to start an item like this, “I wonder if Octavia Butler would have been surprised to hear that one day she’d be the subject of an exhibit at the Huntington Library?” But after viewing some of the ambitious notes to herself shown in this article, I don’t think it would have surprised her that much. “At the Huntington, see the inspirational note black sci-fi writer Octavia Butler wrote to herself” in the LA Times.

Octavia E. Butler was a powerful and pioneering voice in science-fiction. The first black woman acclaimed as a master of the genre, she was known for vivid, expertly crafted tales that upended conventional ideas about race, gender and humanity.

Although her creations were bold, Butler, who grew up poor in Pasadena, was “a private, reflective person who struggled with shyness and self-doubt,” said Natalie Russell, curator of a new exhibition at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.

How such struggles influenced her life and art is one of the themes explored in “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories.” Russell said the show uses an invaluable resource — the author’s archive — to examine both her published work and “who she was as told through her personal papers.”

(4) CASE STUDY. Paul Linebarger may have written the military classic Psychological Warfare, but don’t assume he didn’t need some shrinkage himself — “Remembering Cordwainer Smith: Full-Time Sci-Fi Author, Part-Time Earthling” in The Atlantic.

One hot June day, probably in the late 1940s or early 1950s, psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Lindner received a phone call from a physician who wanted to refer a troubling case to him for treatment: “The fellow I’m calling you about is a man in his 30s, a research physicist with us out here. As far as I can tell, he’s perfectly normal in every way except for a lot of crazy ideas about living part of the time in another world—on another planet.”

This famous case study, which Lindner shared in his 1955 book The Fifty-Minute Hour, is now believed by some to be a real-life account of Paul Linebarger (1913-1966)—better known to science-fiction fans under the name of Cordwainer Smith, a writer who still retains a strong cult following in this year of his centenary. The accumulated evidence suggests that Smith, who published more than two dozen short stories and a single sci-fi novel during the 1950s and 1960s, may have drawn on his personal experiences, broadly defined, in crafting his peculiar and visionary tales of intergalactic life. Brian Aldiss first reported the possible linkage between Smith and Kirk Allen—the name used by Lindner for his patient—in 1973, and subsequent research by Alan Elms and Lee Weinstein has tended to substantiate, although not definitely prove, the connection.

(5) WONDER WOMAN HEALTH FOOD. Forget those protein bars —

Ahead of the release of the new Wonder Woman movie, Cold Stone Creamery is releasing a fierce new flavor. The promotional flavor is called Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream, and the new Creation is called the Wonder Woman Berry Bold, which has the Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream plus chocolate shavings, raspberries, and gold glitter. And that’s not all. The ice cream shop is also releasing a new cupcake called Triple Berry Wonder, which has layers of moist Red Velvet Cake and Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream, topped with chocolate frosting, gold glitter, and a Wonder Woman logoed Chocolate Medallion.

(6) FAN MAIL. Be part of Worldcon 75’s postcard exhibit –

(7) GOLDEN AGE. “Science fiction’s new golden age in China, what it says about social evolution and the future, and the stories writers want world to see” in the South China Morning Post.

…Some 104 original sci-fi titles were published in China in 2016, compared to 75 the previous year, and 461 novelettes were released last year.

Author Regina Wang Kanyu, 27, a long-time sci-fi fan, has witnessed its growth in recent years. “It’s the golden age of Chinese science fiction,” she says.

Wang is a co-founder of AppleCore, a group of mostly university students who get together in Shanghai to read science fiction. It grew from an alliance of several university clubs into a community, and organises film screenings, visits to virtual reality labs and annual festivals.

She now works full time in the science fiction field – as a public relations manager for start-up Storycom by day and a sci-fi writer by night. Storycom purchases and publishes works by Chinese authors, and Wang’s task is to promote them in foreign markets. “We are not simply marketing the works owned by our company, but the entire genre of Chinese science fiction. We would like to increase its influence, outside China and especially beyond the field of literature, into arts and tourism.”

Last month, writers Regina Wang, Wang Yao and Hao Jingfang attended Melon Hong Kong, the city’s first science-fiction conference to bring together Chinese and Western writers….

Note that Wang Yao writes as “Xia Jia”. Regina Wang Kanyu is a contributor to Amazing Stories.

(8) TIME TRAVEL. A zoomable copy of Berenice Abbot’s photo “Newsstand, Southwest Corner of 32nd Street and Third Avenue, November 19, 1935” can be viewed at the Heritage Auctions site.

Travel back in time to the pulp era, when you could have bought a copy of Weird Tales Nov 1935, with a Conan story by R. E. Howard and a letter by Forrest Ackerman, for the original price!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

(10) THE VIEW FROM ECBATAN. Rich Horton carries on with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Short Story”.

My ballot will look like this:

1) “That Game We Played During the War“, by Carrie Vaughn

Easy pick for me. It was the only story on my nomination list to make the final ballot. (As I’ve noted before, that’s not unusual.) And it’s SF. More importantly, it’s really good. From my Locus review: “”That Game We Played During the War” is a moving piece about Calla, a woman who was a nurse for Enith during their war with the telepathic Gaant people. The war is over, and Calla is visiting Gaant, trying to meet and continue a game of chess she had been playing with Major Valk, whom she had encountered both in Enith and later after she was captured, in Gaant. This version of chess is unusual — because of the Gaantish telepathy — and it’s not so much the point — the point, of course, is how enemies can come to a peaceful meeting (and, too, how telepathy complicates that!)” So — a core SF idea used very well in service of a worthwhile moral point. With good writing and good characters. Works for me.

(11) BLASPHEMY. That’s what John King Tarpinian said when he spotted this LA Times headline: “So many books to help you get rid of stuff (like too many books)”. The related article, at least, does not single out books as targets of the de-cluttering process.

That stuff-to-happiness equation is at the heart of one of the hottest trends in publishing for the last few years. Publishers have been pumping out book after book celebrating the rewards of getting rid of stuff. Japanese author Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy” have sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and she’s got another coming next month: “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story” a graphic novel which casts Kondo as a kind of joy-sparking Sailor Moon who helps a disorganized young woman get her life in order.

(12)  OLD BLUE EYES. He passed away 19 years ago today. Read Steve Vertlieb’s “Sinatra All The Way” tribute at The Gull Cottage.

On the night of Thursday May 14th, 1998, America and the world lost the most iconic, beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. Sadly, it has been nineteen years since the passing of The Chairman Of The Board. William B. Williams assigned that name to Francis Albert Sinatra on his WNEW Radio program a half century ago, and it stuck. No performer either before or since has had the cultural impact of Sinatra. Singer, Actor, Director, Dancer, Painter, Producer, and Social Activist, Frank Sinatra remains the single most influential multi media artist in show business history. On the anniversary of his passage into both history and legend, we take a look back at his remarkable career and commemorate more than one hundred years, as well as one of The Greatest Stories Ever Told, with this retrospective and one hundredth birthday celebration of the life and times of Frank Sinatra.

(13) BROTHER GUY IN THE NEWS. Fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno got some ink this week — “The Vatican Is Looking for God in the Stars”.

If you think faith and science can’t share common ground, think again. Experts in both realms met last week at the Vatican Observatory to prove their theory that you can’t have one without the other. “If you have no faith in your faith, that is when you will fear science,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno the Vatican’s chief astronomer, whose works include such titles as “Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial?

Brother Consolmagno led the three-day conference called Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Spacetime Singularities at the Vatican Observatory’s Castel Gandolfo labs outside of Rome, the former papal summer residence that is remote enough to allow for clear stargazing with minimal light pollution.

He challenged astronomers, cosmologists. and other experts in the field who also believe in God to “come out” and talk about the intersection of faith and fact. What he ended up with are talks like, “The Internal Structure of Spinning Black Holes” and “The Big Bang and its Dark-Matter Content: Whence, Whither, and Wherefore.” Not once in the whole program does the word “God” or “religion” even appear, which is rare for a conference sponsored by the Vatican.

(14) A SCRIBE IN KALAMAZOO. Heather Rose Jones has posted her extensive and fascinating notes about the paper sessions she attended at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo. For example –

What Did it Mean to Be a Magician in al-Baqillani’s Baghdad? The Social Implications of the Discourse on Magic – Mushegh Asatryan, Univ. of Calgary

(could not be present due to immigration status concerns, but sent paper to be read)

11th c Baghdad, implications of magical practice. Book concerns difference between saintly miracles, tirckery, soothsaying, magic, and ??.  Works to distinguish and offers examples. Clear case where theological speculation is informed by social context of author. Life experiences that led the author to compose the work. “Prophetic miracles” (only prophets can perform) vs. “saintly miracles”.

Miracles: something only God can perform, and not others including supernatural creatures. Breaks the usual custom of events. E.g., flying through the air, moving mountains. One test is claim of prophecy. If someone claims to be a prophet and can still perform the action, it’s a miracle not a trick/magic.

Tricks are manipulation of people’s perceptions.

Magic is considered to be real, and is otherwise similar to miracles in breaking the usual course of events.

The author considers these categories in the context of determinism and atomism. Things are considered magic/miracles only because their break the apparent habit of what God wills, but they are still in alignment with God’s will. A magician cannot effect change in an object but any change is due to God’s action. So a magician can’t prove his actions to be proof of prophecy., as God won’t coincidentally break his habits to create the appearance of the effectiveness of his actions. Unless he’s a prophet and they are actual miracles. So if a magician makes a false claim of prophecy, either he must be punished, or the apparent miracle must be made into a natural law (i.e., a habit of God).

While the author condemns Muslim magicians for this reason, he does not do so for Christian or Jewish magicians,. They post no threat to the Islamic power structure of Baghdad, while Muslim magicians did. Internal political conflicts may have been relevant, e.g., Shi’ites were associated with claims of magical powers. (There is discussion of the authority structure with regard to scriptural interpretation.) The author defends the concept/acceptability of magic in order to counter Shi’a magical claims.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Gordon Van Gelder, Bill Mullins, Cat Eldridge, Steve Vertlieb, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Raymond Chandler, with an assist from John A Arkansawyer.]