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.]

Remembering Yvonne Monlaur (1939-2017)

Yvonne Monlaur, left, Steve Vertlieb, center, Veronica Carlson, right

By Steve Vertlieb: Yvonne Monlaur was the young, fabulously lovely, sweetly innocent French actress who co-starred with Peter Cushing in Hammer Films’ classic vampire thriller Brides Of Dracula (1960), directed by Terence Fisher, and appeared opposite Christopher Lee in Hammer’s Terror of the Tongs (1961).

She was a sweet, gentle lady who cherished her fans, and was ever grateful for the opportunities that she’d been given. Yvonne, and dear friend Veronica Carlson introduced me from the stage when I presented the posthumous “Laemmle” life achievement award to Bernard Herrmann (accepted by his daughter, Dorothy) at the wonderful Fanex monster film convention in Crystal City, Virginia in 2000.

She was always the most gracious, kind, and humble actress that you’d ever wish to meet. Yvonne passed away, sadly, this past week on Tuesday, April 18th, at age 77. Her gentle presence will be missed by all of us who frequented these events, but her radiant beauty and generosity of spirit will live on in her many screen appearances, as well as in the joyful memories of those of us fortunate enough to have met, and known her. May God rest her tender soul.

Pixel Scroll 4/14/17 A Long Time Ago, When Pixels Scrolled The Earth, A Filer Was Climbing Mount Tsundoku

(1) SF IN CHINA. At Amazing Stories, Shaoyan Hu highlights the developing science fiction scene in China

Science fiction is a growing phenomenon in China: the various organizations are living evidence of that. It’s not just Star Wars or The Three-Body Problem now, but a substantial foundation quickly coming into shape. Although speculative fiction is still a small portion of the market, the large population in China suggests a considerable potential return for whoever ventures into this new area. As it happens, quite a few principal investors already have eyes on the genre, but this is perhaps a topic for another time. For now, suffice it to say that the unceasing efforts of all the people within the SF community have given the genre a positive outlook in China and a flourishing future is yet to come.

(2) FILLING THE MISS PIGGY BANK. The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund conservation of its Muppet collection reports the Seattle Times.

A museum is asking fans of Jim Henson’s Muppets to help pay for an exhibition featuring original puppets of beloved characters like Elmo, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.

The Museum of the Moving Image launched a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday seeking $40,000 to help preserve the puppets for posterity.

“Jim Henson’s work has meant so much to so many people, myself included,” actor Neil Patrick Harris says in a video on the Kickstarter page. “His humor and inventiveness have inspired people to find their own creative voices.”

The Queens museum owns hundreds of Henson puppets and other objects including costumes and props, all donated by Henson’s family in 2013. Henson died in 1990.

Museum staff members are working to conserve the items along with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which was founded by Henson in 1979 and carries on his work, and fine-arts conservators.

The Kickstarter campaign has already raised $66,416, far in excess of its goal, with 26 days remaining.

(3) JEDI CRITIC. USA Today’s Jesse Yomtov took a look at The Last Jedi teaser trailer and decided it was time to speak up: “Why the Jedi were actually the worst and really should ‘end’”.

At the end of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII), Luke Skywalker brings up an important issue.

“I only know one truth,” he says. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

That sounds ominous and bad, but Luke is 100% correct. It’s not even up for debate that a group like the Jedi would be the bad guys in any other movie.

The Jedi were nearly brought to extinction at the end of Episode III, and while yeah it was the result of Palpatine’s super-evil scheme, it only got to that point because of their own incompetence and self-destructiveness.

Here are some of the most off-putting things about the Jedi Order:

(contains information/spoilers from The Clone Wars animated show, which ended three years ago so that’s kind of on you)…

(4) FINAL WORD ON CARRIE FISHER’S FUTURE IN STAR WARS. VIII yes, IX nay. That’s the word from Kathleen Kennedy.

Carrie Fisher will not appear in Star Wars: Episode IX, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said on Friday.

The announcement came during an interview with ABC News and was something of a bombshell, as Todd Fisher, the late actress’ brother, previously said his sister would be in the planned ninth installment of the blockbuster franchise. Kennedy said he was “confused.”

“Sadly, Carrie will not be in nine,” said Kennedy. “But we will see a lot of Carrie in eight.”

(5) FAMILY PORTRAIT. On the first day of the Star Wars Celebration happening in Florida, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford posed with Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter.

(6) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ken Liu was finally able to reveal he is at work on a Star Wars book.

So, the news is out: I’m writing a Star Wars book as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi project. Working with the team at Lucasfilm Publishing has been such a pleasure — they’re the best.

I can’t tell you much about the book yet, except that it’s called The Legends of Luke Skywalker, it’s going to go on sale on 10/31/2017, and it’s going to be awesome….

I think a writer’s job is to build a strong, welcoming house. Readers then move in and fill the rooms with their individual experience and understanding of the world. And only then, after they’ve settled in and begun to explore, do they discover its little nooks and crannies, its hidden passages and secret staircases, and following these, they find breathtaking vistas of other planets, rogues who prize friendship more than treasure, mystical sages full of wisdom, princesses leading grand armies, and farm boys dreaming of walking among the stars …

The Star Wars universe is grand and beautiful, and it is ever expanding. To be able to build a house in this universe after my fashion, to welcome fellow fans and readers into this house, and to see them get comfortable and discover its secrets … I don’t have the words for my joy.

(7) ZUCCHINIS VS. BEETS. On March 31, Margaret Atwood discussed 10 of her favorite speculative fiction novels at the website Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review. But as you might expect, she has a few things to say about defining the term first:

There is still some fuzziness around the terms “speculative fiction” and “science fiction.” Some say that “speculative fiction” includes such things as horror and reality-based dystopias and vampire stories, with “science fiction” being a subset. Others make a distinction between “science fiction” – hard and soft, but involving other planets and universes accessed by devices we do not currently have and cannot realistically expect to have – and “speculative fiction,” located on this earth and containing no devices that we cannot currently foresee. Let’s just say that there is a difference in nature between stories set in a universe far, far away – some call these “science fiction fantasy” — and those set on this planet, in a future we can plausibly describe, though not infallibly predict. (No predictions are infallible.) All fictions both entertain – otherwise nobody turns the pages – and also instruct – because stories will inevitably be given a moral interpretation by readers, language and people being what they are. But the far, far away galaxy kind – let us call them “zucchinis” – will inspire less immediate fear than the other kind – let us call them “beets.”

The list below is a list of “beets.”  There are many more, but these are some of the books I have read and enjoyed. They concern this earth and what is possible on it, given the knowledge available at the time of their writing. They are mostly dystopias – they describe a world we would rather not have. But some are utopias – they point to improvements.”

From the middle of her list –

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

A personal favourite. Written in the Future-English of a post-apocalyptic British teenager. The apocalypse has been atomic, as they once were. Young Riddley is on a quest, as his riddle-based first name and his ambulatory last one would suggest. A puppet show featuring Mister Clevver is his day job, insofar as he has one. Beware of Mister Clevver!

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY. The investigation begins at SFWA.

(9) TAKE-OUT. Episode 34 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast takes place in the middle of Brian Keene’s live-streamed fundraising telethon. At first, Keene couldn’t find time in his schedule —

But when it came time for Brian to record the 100th episode of The Horror Show as a live 24-hour-long telethon to raise funds for the Scares That Care charity, he had a brainstorm—that I invade his event with a meal of some sort, and record my own show as part of his livestream.

So that’s what I did—show up at a conference room of a Hunt Valley hotel with a ton of takeout from Andy Nelson’s Barbecue, which has repeatedly been voted best BBQ by Baltimore Magazine—bringing enough to feed Brian, his co-hosts, and some of the live studio audience you’ll hear in this episode, too.

Brian’s published more than 40 novels, including the best-selling The Rising, and he’s the winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award. He’s also written comics, including the adventures of the Doom Patrol.

We discussed why the ending to The Rising isn’t as bewildering as some seem to think it is, whether new horror writers should try to replicate his career path, how Marvel Comics creator Steve Gerber is responsible for him becoming a writer, the shady way Brian amassed the largest comics collection in the sixth grade, if he’s a Scully who changed into a Mulder as he got older or if he’s been a Mulder all along, and more…

(10) GETTING AROUND HELSINKI. Going to Worldcon 75? Then this info is for you:

The Helsinki Regional Transit Authority (Helsingin Seudun Liikenne) has announced that as of June 19, 2017, tickets will no longer be sold on Helsinki commuter trains, and therefore must be purchased in advance from one of the available outlets: ticket machines (map of ticket machine locations), the HSL mobile phone application, or HSL Travel Cards.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 14, 1912 – The Titanic strikes the iceberg.

(12) A NIGHTMARE TO REMEMBER. As a child, Steve Vertlieb was haunted by the image of the Titanic:

One hundred five years ago tonight, at 11:40 PM, RMS Titanic fulfilled its terrifying date with history as innumerable heroic souls perished beneath the icy waters of The Atlantic. This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own 71 years. As a little boy, during the early-to-mid-1950s, I was tormented night after night by nightmares of finding myself upon the deck of a huge ocean liner cruising the darkened waters of the Atlantic. After a time, I’d find myself walking along the brooding ocean floor, enveloped in crushing darkness, when I sensed a horrifying presence behind me. I’d turn slowly each night with fear and encroaching trepidation. As I gazed up into the watery sky, I’d find myself next to the enormous hull of a wrecked and decaying ship. I awoke screaming on each of these nights. I’d never heard of Titanic in my early years, but I was tormented by these crippling dreams, night after suffocating night, for years. To this day, the very sight and sound of the name “Titanic” sends me into cold sweats and an ominous sense of dread, and foreboding. I’ve come to believe that I may have been aboard the doomed ocean liner that awful night, and that I’d been reincarnated three decades later. I fear the ocean still. Suffice to say, it is a chilling remembrance that will forever haunt my dreams. May God rest Her immortal soul, and all those who perished that terrible night.

(13) HOPE FOR THE WORLD. It’s Good Friday, but this is not about that. Rather, James Artimus Owen draws our attention to another epochal breakthrough:

I’m…feeling some very, very strong emotions that I don’t know how to process. I think I knew, somehow, but didn’t realize until just now – Burger King really does have Froot Loops shakes. They exist. And thus give me hope for the whole world. #apexofcivilization

We confirmed this with Fox News. (How often do you get to say that with a straight face?) Froot Loops shakes debut at participating Burger King stores nationwide on April 17, but will only be around for a limited time.

So what, exactly, is in a cereal milkshake?

According to a spokeswoman for Burger King, the drink features “velvety Vanilla-flavored Soft Serve, Froot Loops Cereal pieces and sweet sauce.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SLAYER

  • Born April 14, 1977 – Sarah Michelle Gellar

(15) PUPPIES FOR PRESIDENT. Lou Antonelli ran a poll on his Facebook page asking people to vote for the sf writer they’d most like to see as President of the U.S.

In Antonelli’s case, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was looking for any great departure from the current tenant of the White House – and he certainly didn’t end up with one.

TRUMPETS!

DRUM ROLL!

THROAT CLEARING…

President… Larry Correia!

The clear winner with 18 votes.

It was very close for second place. John Ringo had nine votes and Tom Kratman had eight.

A strong fourth place showing goes to an author who would not be considered right-of-center by any definition, David Brin – which shows there is come diversity of political opinion among my Friends.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle received five votes, and Ursula LeGuin – also certainly not a right-winger – received four.

(16) TAD WILLIAMS. Patrick St-Denis of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist interviewed Tad Williams about his return to the universe of Osten Ard in The Witchwood Crown.

Stephen R. Donaldson once said that he waited for so long to write The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant because he wasn’t ready and needed to grow as an author before he felt comfortable tackling such a project. Would you say that, at least to a certain extent, this was one of the reasons why it took so long for you to finally decide to write the long-awaited sequel to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn?

Yes, but not necessarily in the same way as Donaldson’s talking about. I said for years that I wouldn’t write a sequel to anything or even re-visit a world unless I had a story first, a story that cried out to be written. And for years Osten Ard was in that category, although I had thought a bit about the Chronicle project. Then, when I sat down one time to list off for Deborah (my wife and business partner) all the reasons I had no more stories about Simon and Miriamele and Binabik and the rest, I realized that I had left most of the main characters still very much in the bloom of their youth, and that after decades of life and growing responsibility — which I had undergone myself since I wrote it — they must all look at the world very differently. That set me to thinking, and within one night the first rudiments of the story for The Last King of Osten Ard (the title for the whole series) had begun to take real shape. So every moment I was aging, and moving from one country to another, and becoming a parent, and so on, I was actually creating a plot for new Osten Ard books without realizing it.

(17) YOUR SHADOW CLARKE JURY AT WORK. Racing to finish ahead of the shortlist announcement, scant weeks away —

This is the first novel I’ve read from my shortlist that feels like it belongs on the actual Clarke shortlist. Written by a genre outsider, but built definitively upon a classic sci-fi concept, and clearly aware of decades of science fiction fandom and inside jokes, it ticks a few those well-established Clarke-preferred boxes. It’s also quite enjoyable for those same reasons.

It follows the Toula/Tolliver family over four generations of delusions of grandeur beginning with Ottokar Toula: family patriarch, pickle cultivator, and mad scientist of the pre-Atomic Age. His “discovery” of the Lost Time Accidents is overshadowed by the work of “the patent clerk” in Switzerland, dooming the Toula name to forgotten history. That is, until his son, Waldemar, seizes upon Ottokar’s ideas and uses Nazi-era concentration camps to carry out his secret, malevolent time experiments…

We awaken in a contemporary alternate Finland, a country whose path diverged from its realworld twin’s shortly after World War One. We discover that Finland is now a eusistocracy – all for the best in the best of all possible worlds – separated technologically and politically from the ‘hedonistic democracies’ of the rest of Europe and forging its own path to racial purity, social stability and material content. In this new Finland, a systematic program of eugenics has been implemented in order to reinstitute traditional gender roles and relieve the increasing psychological and social tension that has been the inevitable result of female emancipation:

Nowadays, when people talk about science fiction being socially relevant, they often gesture towards Dave Hutchinson’s on-going Fractured Europe series and how the early books seemed to pre-empt not only the break-up of the European Union but also the brutal militarisation of European borders. Though dystopias will always have a role to play in helping us to prepare for unwanted futures, there is also something to be said for books that make a positive case for what it is that we are about to lose. Hutchinson’s books may be about the ugly, regressive, and nationalistic future we are going to get but Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is about the beautiful, strange, and unapologetically multicultural future we need.

Science fiction is not and never has been about predicting the future. But it is about using satire, extrapolation, exaggeration, distortion and any other tools at its disposal to reflect and comment upon the present. Right now, Europe is in a parlous state. The enterprise of friendship and cooperation that began in the wake of the Second World War is under unprecedented threat from the emergence of just such nationalist movements that it was deliberately conceived to counter. There are currently populist movements whose avowed aims are directly counter to the European ideal active and prominent in the UK, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere. This is the world we live in. It is not the world we encounter in contemporary science fiction.

The Fractured Europe sequence may not be a perfect way of bringing this modern world into science fiction, but since it is the only way that anyone is currently attempting, it is de facto the best.

The last one is a roundup rather than a review:

…On which note, it seems only fair that I come clean regarding how I, personally, feel about my personal shortlist now that I’ve read it. Did the books I chose turn out to be as worthwhile, not to mention as Clarke-worthy, as I hoped they would be? The short answer, I suppose, would have to be partly, and no. Above a certain level, very few books are ever entirely a waste of reading time, and that certainly holds true here….

(18) BE YOUR OWN RORSCHACH. Who was that masked man? — “How what you wear can help you avoid surveillance”.

Imagine you’re living in a dystopian future. Surveillance cameras scan the streets to recognise and record the faces of passersby – but you’re wearing a HyperFace scarf. Amid a kinetic assortment of grid-like structures printed on the fabric, black squares suggest tiny eyes, noses and mouths. The cameras’ facial recognition algorithms are confused. Your identity is secure; your privacy, protected.

(19) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On April 19, Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Laura Anne Gilman & Seth Dickinson.

Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the best-selling Devil’s West novels (Silver on the Road and The Cold Eye) which NPR described as “a true American myth being found,” the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, and the story collection Darkly Human. Her writing past encompasses a ten-book urban fantasy series, a quartet of cozy mysteries, three paranormal romances, and a middle-grade Arthurian adventure. A once and future New Yorker, she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson’s short stories have been published in in ClarkesworldStrange HorizonsLightspeed and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere. He also contributed writing to video games, including Destiny: The Taken King. His first novel the epic fantasy The Traitor Baru Cormorant was published in 2015 and he’s working on a sequel.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, 7pm at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

(20) CONCERN TROLL ON DUTY. Superversive SF’s “sciphi” (which I believe is editor Jason Rennie) is worried about the impact Monica Valentinelli’s decision to quit as Odyssey Con GoH will have on other women authors. Sure he is. — “Why doesn’t Monica Valentinelli want women as Guests of Honour?”

What I am wondering though is, has Monica considered the wider implications of this sort of diva behaviour? If you were organising a Con would you invite her as Guest of Honour? I wouldn’t given this is her idea of professional behaviour. More than that, this will likely cause any rational Con organiser, even if only unconsciously, to be less willing to invite any women as Guest of Honour. Who wants the headache of someone flaking at the last second because they have decided their feelings of “unsafeness” trump any consideration of professional behaviour or the enormous problems it will cause other people? Monica in her betrayal of the trust shown in her has made it harder for women everywhere. What if a guest you have invited and planned for decides to “Pull a Valentinelli” at the last second? I suppose it isn’t fair to generalise this to all female authors, as much as it would be more reasonable to generalise this to any sort of grievance peddling group instead.

The people I feel most sorry for are the Jagi Lamplighters, Sarah Hoyt’s and other female authors of the world who are actual professionals and would never engage in this sort of childish tantrum, but whose prospects are damaged by one ridiculous drama queen and idiots who are enabling her behaviour.

(21) SUPERVERSIVE SF’S RESPECT FOR WOMEN. Immediately preceding that post on the site is a reprint of one of their “more popular Superversive articles,” “The Bosom-Jiggle Factor”, which is indeed about what you were assuming. With illustrations. And the name of the author? Answer: L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright.

“The Needs of Drama vs. The Needs of Culture, as illustrated by the BJF Index:”…

The Needs of Drama—the qualities that make a story dramatic, eye-catching, intriguing. Sex, sizzle, bang, POW! Seduction! Explosions! LOTS OF CAPTIALS AND EXCAMATIONS!!!!!!

The Needs of Culture—the desire to use the story to teach lessons needed to participate in the culture, like an Asops Fable or a morality play. These stories include topics like: How to behave. How to treat friends. How to treat strangers. What is and is not moral. – the message of the work.

It is not my opinion that one of these forces is better than the other. Rather, I believe that there needs to be a harmonious marriage of the two of a work to be really great.

Too much drama leads to meaningless sex and bloodshed. Too much culture leads to boring message fiction….

(22) A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR. Because you don’t watch enough commercials already, click this link to watch Baby Groot and the GEICO gecko trying to sell you insurance.

(23) CIRQUE DU PIZZA. Hampus Eckerman is right – you shouldn’t miss this.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 4/10/17 The Phantom Scrollbooth

(1) OFF THE HOOK. Remember when she said she didn’t write sf? Now she is sf. Margaret Atwood makes a cameo in the game Zombies Run:

Hampus Eckerman adds, “I do recommend that game as a very good way of activating oneself for jogs or long walks. There is an additional game called Zombies, Run! 5k Training by the same creators for people who aren’t fit enough to jog as yet. It works as a prequel and lets you do basic exercises and gradually increased walk/runs for eight weeks to get fit enough to hit the main game. The main game works as a radio theatre, where your progress is checked by GPS and where (configurable) zombies sometimes attack you, forcing you to increase your pace.”

(2) MAYDAY. On Obscura Day, May 6, Atlas Obscura plans an international self-celebration.

Join us at an event.

We’re hosting over 170 events in 36 states and 25 countries.

A kayak exploration through the largest ship graveyard in the Western Hemisphere. A private tour of the world’s original nuclear power plant. A classical concert in an abandoned hilltop spy station outside Berlin. What discoveries await you?

There are a bunch of events in the LA area, including a walking tour of The Kitschy Culture of Los Feliz Village, not far from Forrest J Ackerman Square.

(3) AN UNORTHODOX MOVE. Michael A. Burstein helped his Facebook readers translate the Four Questions. But not the way you might assume….

Once again, for those of you celebrating Pesach (Passover) as it begins tonight, here are the Four Questions in Klingon:

(4) MORE ABOUT CHINESE SF. Another interview with the author of “Folding Beijing” — “Award-Winning Sci-Fi Writer Hao Jingfang Sets Her Sights Closer to Home”.

When you first posted Folding Beijing for free on a Tsinghua university server, was that also for pleasure?

Yes, when I was in school, I had lots of time.

I am very surprised that studying physics, especially quantum physics, gave you a lot of time?

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t become a scientist! I was a good student, but not one good enough to become a scientist. Probably 95% of the physics students entered other fields after graduation. Only 5% to 10% of the top students became real physicists.

Is sci-fi an effective tool for investigating social issues?

I think science fiction is perhaps the freest genre for me to set my characters and everything else according to my opinion. Because in pure literature, I need to make sure I have the whole background and the reality of the people. You cannot just change the reality, if you do that the readers will be like ‘oh no! Life isn’t like that’. In science fiction you’re free, you can set the stage and tell readers, life is this, and you can form other stories on that stage. In my longer novel, I created one society on Mars and another on Earth, and then I can compare different policies and methods in these two places. The two societies can mirror each other. This is the kind of freedom I cannot find anywhere else.

(5) COODE STREET ADDRESS. The April 2 edition of The Coode Street Podcast promotes “A New Theory of Science Fiction.” The podcast is looking at Robinson’s New York 2140 which Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan claim is more in keeping with the Heinlein thesis that capitalism can fix Big Problems without a change in political and social structures. And they believe it’s also critiquing the controversial usage of info dumps and the belief that they’re particular to SF.

They also cover the history of the Crawford Award, the ICFA and Gary’s new History of Science Fiction.

(6) FIRST ON THE LIST. Popsugar ranks this café as “The 1 Place in Scotland that All Harry Potter Fans Should Visit at Least Once”.

Scotland is a veritable mecca for Harry Potter fans, considering J.K. Rowling herself lives there and wrote a large majority of the series there. Everywhere you turn, you can see Rowling’s inspiration or something that could easily be found in one of the films. While our Harry Potter travel bucket list can take you all over the world, it’s important to make a stop at where it all began: the Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The cafe in the heart of Edinburgh touts itself as the birthplace of Harry Potter, because Rowling spent countless hours in this shop penning Harry Potter. She sat in the back of the restaurant, overlooking Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard, where a grave for a man named Tom Riddell can be found.

(7) BROWN OBIT. Chelsea Brown (1942-2017), best remembered as a cast member on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in the Sixties, passed away March 27 at the age of 74. She also had a genre credit — as Rosey Grier’s love interest in The Thing With Two Heads (1972). As the New York Times explains —

In that film, the head of an ailing bigot, played by Ray Milland, is grafted onto the body of a death-row inmate played by Mr. Grier, a former defensive lineman in the N.F.L. Car chases, gunfights and bickering ensue.

Mr. Grier and Mr. Milland eventually reach Ms. Brown. At first undaunted by Mr. Grier’s second head, she moves in for a kiss, then quickly withdraws and deadpans, “Honey, I know you don’t like to answer a lot of questions — but, but, how did that happen?”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1981 The Howling was released in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 10 – David Langford

(10) TIME’S A-WASTIN’! There’s less than a week left to vote in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards and Steve Vertlieb would like people to take a look at his nominated blog.

My blog, BETTER DAYS; BENNER NIGHTS, has been nominated for BEST BLOG OF 2016 in this year’s annual RONDO AWARDS competition. To vote for my series of articles, 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.

Thanks sincerely for your consideration of my work. 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, Hopalong Cassidy, “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.

(11) LIADEN UNIVERSE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have posted their appearance calendar for the rest of the year.

We’ve had some queries about upcoming publications, and upcoming appearances, and, and — herewith an attempt to get them all in one place, for you, and for us.  Please note that the list is probably not complete; it’s only as complete as far as we know, as of Right Now.

(12) MAKE SCI-FI COME TRUE. GeekWire claims “NASA funds ideas from science fiction”. Well, if they’re smart they do.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, also known as NIAC, has been backing far-out aerospace concepts for almost 20 years. It started out as the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, modeled after the Pentagon’s DARPA think tank.

NIAC’s latest crop of 22 tech projects was announced this week, and they include a few concepts that were virtually ripped from the headlines of science fiction’s pulp magazines. Here are our favorite five:

Flying airships of Mars: The idea of sending airships floating through the Red Planet’s skies dates back to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom novels of the early 20th century.

One big problem: Mars’ actual atmosphere is so thin that an airship would have to maintain a vacuum to become buoyant. That’s exactly what Georgia Tech’s John-Paul Clarke intends to do with an experimental double-shelled, reinforced vacuum airship….

(13) EVEN BETTER. The 2084 anthology of dystopian fiction hit its funding target and now is plowing through its stretch goals.

Stretch goals!

After an opening week like that there’s only one thing we can do… And what better way to make the anthology better than with more stories? We’ve got more great writers lined up – people who will bring a fresh angle to the theme, people whose writing we love – and they’re poised and ready to go, right now. The first target is nice and easy, as well…

£6,000 – we add another story – HIT!

£7,500 – we add a second bonus story – HIT!

£9,000 – we add a third extra story

(14) SOUND OF HUGOS. Camestros Felapton can’t believe his ears. (I really want to make this a Spock reference. I’m sure you do, too.) “Hugo 2017 Review: Splendor & Misery by Clipping”.

Experimental Hip Hop group, Clipping are not a stereotypical Hugo nominee but I’d be hard pressed to name an album that is so tightly linked to the Hugo tradition. Science fiction themes are not new to popular music from David Bowie to Janelle Monae but Splendor & Misery approaches science fiction from a different direction musically. Rather than reaching for the broader aesthetics of SF visuals, Splendor & Misery dives directly into science fiction as both a narrative and as a distinct historical genre.

(15) THOSE TRAD PUB JUNKIES. Claire Ryan (intentionally) revives the Sad Puppies favorite argument in “The Hugo Awards are irrelevant”.

I went to Amazon.com, and I took a look at the current bestsellers for sci-fi and fantasy in Kindle. I found a couple of self-published authors immediately. Let’s not hash out the same tired arguments that the indies are somehow less worthy or less talented, please. Clearly the readers don’t think so. Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking probably have more readers than all the current Hugo Best Novel finalists put together, and they’ve never even been nominated.

(16) LONDON CALLING. Shhh! Please remember, Jonathan McCalmont abhors attention.

(17) KAEDRIN BLOG. Mark Kaedrin says the novel category of the final Hugo ballot looks pretty good.

The novel ballot looks pretty good and indeed, I’ve already read three of the nominees, all of which were pretty good (and two of which were in my nominations). Ninefox Gambit is the clear front-runner for me, with its intricate worldbuilding and simple, pulpy plot. A Closed and Common Orbit ranks a distant second, but I liked its focus and positive attitude enough to throw it a nomination. All the Birds in the Sky has a great, whimsical tone to it, but of the novels I’ve read, it’s the one that could fall behind some of the things I haven’t read yet. Speaking of which, Cixin Liu returns to the ballot with Death’s End, the conclusion to the story begun in the Hugo-winning Three Body Problem and the one I’m most looking forward to catching up with (even if it requires me to read the second novel, which I never got to last year). Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning has been on my radar for a while, but I never pulled the trigger. It sounds like it has potential for me. N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate rounds out the nominees. A sequel to last year’s Hugo-winning The Fifth Season, a book that I have to admit that I did not enjoy at all. Well written and executed, but it felt a little too much like misery-porn for my liking, and thus I’m not particularly enthused about reading the sequel. I realize this puts me in the minority here, but it’s got me seriously considering not actually participating this year. I really don’t want to return to that gloomy world of suffering and despair, as well written as it may be…

He’s able to restrain his enthusiasm about some of the others.

(18) RED, WHITE AND BLUE. But somebody in their comments says they use Russian rockets – “Building on ULA’s Heritage, Setting the Pace for the Future of Space Launch.”

As a new era dawns, ULA continues to set the pace in space launch. Building on a heritage extending to the early days of American space launch, ULA is bringing future innovations to the table to support human launch from American soil and next-generation technology that will create transportation infrastructure to support a permanent human presence in space.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Remembering James H. Burns

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

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

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

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

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

JAMES H. BURNS POSTS

OBITUARY

James H. Burns Has Died

A Close Encounter With John Wayne

By Steve Vertlieb: My brother Erwin and I had been listening to the “Red” Benson Show late one night in 1962 over WPEN Radio here in Philadelphia when Paramount Pictures was promoting its then new release from director Howard Hawks, Hatari. Red’s guests on that quite memorable radio program were “Red” Buttons (it was a scarlet evening), Bruce Cabot (King Kong leading man, Jack Driscoll), and a fella named Marion Michael Morrison…or John Wayne. It was a delightful interview with the cast of the newly-released summer escapist family adventure film which was to premiere locally the next morning at The Stanton Theater in downtown Philadelphia.

Erwin and I desperately wanted to see the new Wayne film, but wanted even more to see John Wayne in person. I determined that we could see the film at our local movie “palace,” The Benner Theater, but that this might be our only opportunity to ever see the “Duke” in person. So, rather than sit at the back of a packed movie house and catch merely a brief glimpse of the cast on a tiny distant stage, we resolved to go to the back of the movie theater and see them as they re-emerged from their special appearance.

At the outer entrance to the theater in the waiting alley was a tiny fleet of zebra striped jeeps awaiting their occupants return. As the door flew open, Red Buttons appeared, followed in quick succession by Bruce Cabot…and, at last, The “Duke” himself. I asked both Red Buttons and Bruce Cabot to sign my little autograph book. As the outer door to the movie theater swung open once more, I gasped…for there in front of me stood John Wayne, a giant mountain of a man literally towering over me. I was much too much in awe of this amazing super star and motion picture icon to do much of anything but watch him move gracefully from the theater to his jeep, but we did race to Independence Square on this July 4th holiday to watch him deliver his keynote address at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall that morning.

Some years later I wrote Wayne at his production company, “Batjac” Films (taken from the name of Luther Adler’s shipping company in Wayne’s Wake of the Red Witch), of that quite remarkable day, and of my lifelong love for both the man and his movies. This, then, is the letter that he was kind enough to write me in response.

The “Duke,” John Wayne, in his Oscar-winning characterization as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. I’d written of my affection for this wonderful actor to his production entity, “Batjac” Productions in Hollywood, and he was kind enough to respond with both a personally inscribed photograph and a lovely letter which I shall also post. While his politics may have been diametrically opposite from mine, both Erwin and I have maintained a lifelong love, admiration, and respect for the “Duke,” whose body of work in motion pictures places him easily, along with Gable, Cooper, Tracy, and Stewart, among the greatest stars in motion picture history. There will never be another John Wayne, nor shall we ever see his like again. He belongs to an era of Hollywood, sadly, “Gone With The Wind.”

Oh Captain, My Captain – Jim Kirk, Flash Gordon, Buzz Corey

By Steve Vertlieb: William Shatner, the iconic actor who first sailed the Star Ship Enterprise through three intergalactic seasons on NBC Television beginning September 8th, 1966, and starred in six Star Trek feature-length motion pictures, turned eighty-six years young recently. He was the valiant inspiration for millions of young boys and men for decades of thrilling cinematic heroism. I conducted, perhaps, the very first “fan” interview with William Shatner ever published during July, 1969, whilst the series was still being aired over NBC in its final re-runs, for the British magazine, L’Incroyable Cinema. He was both delightfully witty, and warm, sharing a memorable hour of his valuable time with us. Here are Erwin and I together with Captain James Tiberius Kirk outside his dressing room at The Playhouse In The Park where he was starring in a local Philadelphia Summer Stock production of “There’s A Girl In My Soup,” with Exodus star Jill Hayworth.

Together with boyhood hero and cherished friend, Buster Crabbe, here in Philadelphia in 1979. On this particular occasion, Buster and I had dinner together in “Chinatown.” Although Jack Nicholson was nowhere to be found, Buster playfully emptied the remains of some his dinner into my plate, insisting that I “Eat, Eat, Eat.” My Jewish mother would have been proud. Buster, along with Ed Kemmer and William Boyd, was among my earliest childhood heroes. Buster and I were good friends over the last two decades of his life, and I remain honored to think of myself as one of Flash Gordon’s pals. Knowing him personally was a thrill beyond imagining. My affectionate remembrance of Larry “Buster” Crabbe, and “Fantastic” children’s television during the 1950’s, has been nominated as “Best Blog of the Year” under the heading of Better Days, Benner Nights in the annual Rondo Awards.

Steve Vertlieb and Buster Crabbe.

Together with one of my earliest boyhood heroes and role models, Ed Kemmer, who starred as Commander Buzz Corey of the “Space Patrol”, broadcast every Saturday morning on ABC Television in the mid 1950’s. He also co-starred with William Shatner in “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet,” the original classic episode of The Twilight Zone written by Richard Matheson. Shatner’s own Star Trek series was heavily influenced by Ed’s Space Patrol, as well as MGM’s Forbidden Planet. After this initial meeting, Ed and I remained friends through correspondence until his passing. He loved Sinatra, and so I’d periodically record tapes of Francis Albert for him, and send them to his apartment in New York. Ed remained conspicuously among the few stars refusing to accept compensation for posing for pictures or signing autographs. He felt that charging money for his image would be a betrayal of the millions of children who made him so popular during the nineteen fifties. He was not only a tv hero, but a real hero, as well. During the second world war, Ed was a pilot who had been shot down behind enemy lines and imprisoned as a POW. He was quite a remarkable human being, both on screen and off.

Steve Vertlieb with Ed Kemmer, who played Cmdr. Buzz Corey in Space Patrol.

Happy Birthday, William Shatner

By Steven J. Vertlieb: William Shatner, the iconic actor who first sailed the Star Ship Enterprise through three intergalactic seasons on NBC Television beginning September 8, 1966, and starred in six Star Trek feature-length motion pictures, turns eighty-six years young today. He was the valiant inspiration for millions of young boys and men for decades of thrilling cinematic heroism. I conducted, perhaps, the very first “fan” interview with William Shatner ever published during July 1969, whilst the series was still being aired over NBC in its final re-runs, for the British magazine, L’Incroyable Cinema. He was both delightfully witty, and warm, sharing a memorable hour of his valuable time with us. Here are Erwin and I together with Captain James Tiberius Kirk outside his dressing room at The Playhouse In The Park where he was starring in a local Philadelphia Summer Stock production of “There’s A Girl In My Soup,” which co-starred Exodus star Jill Hayworth. Wishing James Tiberius Kirk a joyous, healthy, and especially “spacial” Happy 86th Birthday.

Issue No. 2 of The Monster Times, America’s premiere Creature Feature bi-weekly tabloid” (1972) that featured my cover story and interview with William Shatner (reprinted from my original 1969 L’Incroyable Cinema Magazine article). Quoting Jim Kirk at the conclusion of Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, when questioned by “Bones” about how he felt on his birthday, he said…”I Feel…YOUNG.” Wishing the iconic Bill Shatner, A.K.A. Captain Kirk, a spectacular 86th Birthday. May you remain forever young.