169 thoughts on “A Comment Tree By the Side of the Road 9/7

  1. Hampus: You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I suppose they make an exception for actual productions. But the superstition is certainly real. (Ngaio Marsh makes a lot of it in some of her works.)

  2. @Kendall and junego.
    That cover is gorgeous. I’m also sad to hear that the Moon, Stone and Jade stories will be coming to an end. And I also didn’t realize how close she was to giving up. Her books are amazing! They are comfort reading as well but so so beautiful.

  3. Which works of Shakespeare would be eligible for Hugos? Macbeth, clearly, The Tempest, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    The Winter’s Tale, though it depends on how you interpret the statue scene.

  4. The superstition is also weirdly specific: you can call the *character* Macbeth by name, especially if quoting, but you don’t name the *play* if you’re in any theatrical context (this even shows up in Hamilton.) A friend of mine was aghast when another Fringe (Theatre Festival) volunteer called it by name while we were doing ticket sales outside a venue, and none of us are actors. Nothing bad happened, so I suspect we were far enough outside the sphere of superstition (which you can interpret either as being in the circumstances where bad things happen if the taboo is broken — or within the sphere where the next bad thing that happens is blamed on the taboo action having been taken, regardless of any kind of actual correlation or causation effect).

  5. @John A Arkansawyer’s ex-other half.
    I got a perfectly serviceable paperback copy of Scholars of the Night from Amazon for only a couple of pounds the other day. Worth just keeping an eye out there.

  6. Even performances of the Scottish Play are, in theatrical legend, plagued by accidents. The real problem, though, according to superstition, is naming or quoting from the play in a theatrical setting but not during a performance.

  7. As I understand it, you’re allowed to say McBeth in rehearsal or performance, but not in a theater in any situation where you’re not onstage performing. The community theater I help out with did a performance of the Scottish Play a few years ago, and backstage or for notes the characters were referred to as Mr. M and Mrs. M.

    OBSF reference: I recall an SF novel some years back (can’t think of the title or author; the point-of-view character played both Mercutio and Juliet in one performance of R&J for a solar-system repertory theater because they’re not both onstage at the same time…. Help; it’s on the tip of my tongue…) where the point-of-view character opines that the reason that McBeth is so feared is because 1) there’s a LOT of duels and special effects, and Accidents Happen when you’ve got that much fighting going on, and 2) it was one of the most performed plays in repertory and so your odds of accidents go up even higher because of lots-of-performances and (because of repertory) inadequate rehearsals. This thesis seems entirely logical to me.

  8. @Cassy B: The Golden Globe, by John Varley?

    @Lis Carey: So there’s no Malcolm and Donalbain Aren’t Dead approaching?

    (Yes, I wikipediaed myself those two names. I have no regrets and hope you will not think any less of me. The milk of human kindness is not strained, you know.)

  9. Cassy B: Sounds like one of the Starship Troupers series by Christopher Stasheff…

    Ah, “We Open on Venus” mentions the company doing a production of Macbeth in the back cover blurb.

  10. John A Arkansawyer (re The dragon Waiting</i): ~"All low-tension SF is alike; each Ford is tense in its own way." He's noted some of the stupid objections (e.g., the reader who didn't like the use of "CE" instead of "AD"), but I think he'd admit there are reasonable people who just don't like/get specific works. He was juggling a \lot/ of balls in that one, and it's relatively early in his work.
    If you're willing to just read instead of owning,
    Scholars had a general release in hardback so it should be findable on interlibrary loan.

    James Moar (wrt Winter’s Tale): I argued this with Pamela Dean some time ago; my view may have been biased by the one production I saw many times (running board), but I’ve found I’m not the only person who thinks Paulina pulled one of the great fake-someone’s-death-until-the-mess-is-cleared-up jobs (one of several in Shakespeare, cf the currently-discussed Much Ado About Nothing). Here, the “aged” “statue” looks like a signpost.

    re Macbeth and bad luck: Houseman’s autobiography notes that the WPA production was one of the few he did with Welles in which the latter did \not/ manage to damage himself.

  11. @John A Arkensawyer and @Anthony, it appears I may have conflated a John Varley novel and a Christopher Stasheff novel in my head. It’s likely from the Stasheff novel, but I found the Varley novel more memorable (with the Romeo and Juliet dual-casting thing). Thanks, both!

  12. I’ve always thought the superstition was naming it in backstage conversation and that it was countered by calling it “The Scottish Play”.

    Around here, we refer to the home of the Big Mac as “The Scottish Restaurant.”

  13. Apropos of all the comments on The Scottish Play and the theater, here’s a short clip from The Simpsons, featuring Sir Ian McKellan:

  14. @Kurt Busiek on September 8, 2016 at 12:31 pm:

    Around here, we refer to the home of the Big Mac as “The Scottish Restaurant.”

    To follow that tangent a bit further: in Sweden, that particular chain of restaurants is sometimes rather poetically referred to as “Gyllene Måsen” – “The Golden Seagull”.

  15. “To follow that tangent a bit further: in Sweden, that particular chain of restaurants is sometimes rather poetically referred to as “Gyllene Måsen” – “The Golden Seagull”.”

    A long time ago. Nowadays, it is mostly called “Dånken” – “The Donk”.

  16. @John Arkansawyer: Interesting that The Dragon Waiting is the one you had trouble with. When I was younger, a lot of people I knew adored Ford’s writing, but it never really worked for me. Then I read The Dragon Waiting and it was something akin to a conversion experience. It may have helped that I prepared by reading Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy and Richard III beforehand (IMO the trilogy isn’t essential, but the latter play is). Part of it is that Dragon really is (again IMO) his masterwork; and part of it is that I matured as a reader.

    Part of my previous problem with Ford, I think, is that he was writing stories (probably influenced by his medical history) about people learning to live with impossible situations; while my reading protocols, based on reading a great deal of Golden Age science fiction, expected that problems were for solving. As a result I was unprepared to understand and appreciate what he was doing.

  17. You can only use the title of The Scottish Play on-stage, either rehearsal or performance. You can’t just go walking around in the theater saying the M word. I did see the curse strike. I spent enough time in theater that when I saw the trailer for the Fassbender/Cotillard version (no dialogue), I said to the husband “The Scottish Movie”.

    Now, knowing actual Scottish history about Mac Bethad, I can’t even with the play. It is SO WRONG.

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