Hollywood Icons Go on the Block December 18

Heritage Auction’s next Hollywood Auction on December 18 will feature Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch of the West” screen-worn flying hat from The Wizard of Oz. Among the other goodies you can bid on are —

  • Elizabeth Taylor “Cleopatra” lavender gown and headdress from Cleopatra (1963).
  • Marlon Brando “Fletcher Christian” Royal Navy officer uniform from Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
  • Original Lucasfilm-sanctioned “Darth Vader” promotional costume for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi
  • Frank Darabont personal 3-sheet poster from Planet of the Apes signed by Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and James Whitmore.
  • Ultra-heavy “Thor” Mjölnir hammer used by all the Avengers in the “worthy test” sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Moe Howard’s (70+) page handwritten manuscript for his autobiography Moe Howard and the Three Stooges.
  • Robert Keeshan’s iconic “Captain Kangaroo” jacket from Captain Kangaroo
  • Lou Ferrigno “The Hulk” screen worn costume on custom display from The Incredible Hulk
  • Kevin Costner “Mariner” costume ensemble from Waterworld
  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s annotated shooting script from The Addams Family.

Plus the Michael Keaton original “Batman” cowl and display from Batman Returns.

Also the helmet worn by actor Michael Ansara in the “Soldier” episode of Outer Limits. (Which John King Tarpinian assures me was also worn by Robin Williams in an episode of Mork and Mindy.)

Or maybe you’d like to exchange a pile of dollars for these cubits from Battlestar Galactica.

And I’m sure we all remember Apocalypse Kong – don’t we?

Finally, for your listening pleasure, a recording of a Star Trek score — but which episode? Perhaps “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the third episode which aired two days after the date on the box.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Fireside Editor Apologizes for “Auditory Blackface” by Narrator of Essay in November Issue

Fireside Magazine has come under intense criticism because in the audio recording of one of its essays the white voice actor used an offensive stereotype of the American southern Black accent in his narration. 

“Da Art of Speculatin’” by Dr. Regina N. Bradley was offered as a free-read article accompanied by a free-to-listen audio of the text.

Fireside editor Pablo Defendini has since taken the audio down. The essay itself, discussing the influence of the Southern hip hop group OutKast, is still available at Fireside.

Dr. Bradley (@redclayscholar on Twitter) tweeted these grievances about how her work was treated, illustrated by a sound bite from the now removed audio:

There have been many responses and expressions of empathy, including —

Tressie McMillan Cottom

Daniel José Older

N. K. Jemisin

Roxane Gay

Mikki Kendall

Fireside editor Pablo Defendini tweeted apologies (thread starts here) which were incorporated in his longer write-up “Regarding our audio recordings” explaining what happened. A major revelation is that he didn’t listen to the audio before putting it online,

Earlier today we published an essay about OutKast by Dr. Regina Bradley. This is an essay written by a Black woman, about Black musicians, and edited by a Black man. I hired a white man to narrate the audio version of the essay, and that narrator decided to use an offensive stereotype of the American southern Black accent in his narration. This basically amounted to auditory blackface, in the worst tradition of racist minstrelsy. So why did I publish it? Frankly, I didn’t listen to it before I posted it. More on that, and on the other errors I made, in a second, because this is the context, not an excuse.

There is no excuse for having published it. I apologize for having done so. Specifically, I apologize to Dr. Bradley for having undermined her work, to Maurice Broaddus for having stained the otherwise outstanding issue of Fireside Quarterly that he edited, and to Chelle Parker, our copyeditor, for having put them in the line of fire for this, when they had no visibility into the audio production process or ability to prevent this from having happened.

On Twitter he emphasized:

Just to be explicitly clear: I’m the only one who manages the audio production process—this was entirely my doing, and no one else who works on Fireside had a chance to hear the audio, much less rectify. This is all absolutely my fault, no one else’s.

The work was done by voice actor Kevin Rineer, who tweeted his own apologies but has since taken down his account. Here are screencaps:

Rineer’s video says in part:

I know that it was completely inappropriate for me to have recorded especially with that accent. It was almost the same as if you tied a blindfold to a high school quarterback and expected him to make the game winning throw. It was horrible disgusting and a complete miss that’s what i meant by the the analogy there… My actions though were disgusting inappropriate and for that I do apologize

Yet it’s hard to reconcile the person capable of the self-flagellation of this apology with the one who made the original choice he did about his performance.

[Update: Rineer now has also closed his YouTube account. The video formerly linked here is no longer available.]

Defendini underscored his own failure to review the audio:

Apart from the inappropriate choice of narrator, I also didn’t provide any pertinent direction at the outset of the engagement. Normally, when I hire voice talent for narration, I send them some notes about the pieces I want them to narrate, pointing out special considerations, or particular pronunciations of tricky or uncommon terms. I failed to do that here.

I also failed to check each recording when I took delivery of them. I was pressed for time and trying to get work out the door, and I did not take the time to review the finished recordings. As many have correctly pointed out, it takes two seconds of listening to the recording to realize that this one was deeply, deeply problematic. I did not do so — I just moved the files along — and the result is that I allowed an extremely hurtful racist caricature to be published on Fireside’s website.

While it may not have been intentional, intent doesn’t matter. The harm caused is real. And this particular type of harm — in this particular moment in history — is extra fucked up. All I can do at this point is apologize, try to fix it, ensure it doesn’t happen again, and try to make up for it.

Because Kevin Rineer voiced the recordings for all the stories in the current issue of Fireside Quarterly, Defendini has pulled them all and will have them re-recorded.

And he will be making other changes to the production process:

  1. Starting with the Winter 2021 issue of Fireside Quarterly, which ships on January 1st, all stories will be narrated by individual narrators as opposed to by one narrator for an entire issue’s worth of stories.
  2. Starting with the Winter 2021 issue, I’ll send the final audio of each story to its author, in the same way we send them proofs of the print issue before it goes to press.
  3. Starting with the Spring issue of Fireside Quarterly, I’ll consult with the editor of each issue on the choice of narrator for each story before we hire anyone.

Defendini closed his post with further self-criticism and intent to make amends:

Finally, my personal neglect allowed racist violence to be perpetrated on a Black author, which makes me not just complicit in anti-Black racism, but racist as well. I have to grapple with that, and make amends. I’m not sure exactly how, yet, but some kind of concrete reparation is absolutely called for. I’m speaking with various folks who have reached out (and who I’ve reached out to as well), in order to figure out what that looks like.

This letter is the beginning of the process of making amends. I know that words don’t mean much without action to back them up. I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure that nothing like this happens again.

Some writers commented that there needs to be a change in editor, Kate Dollarhyde, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, and Sarah Gailey, who indicated the issues raised today are not the only ones besetting Fireside:

Last Dangerous Visions Will Be Submitted to Publishers in 2021

J. Michael Straczynski dropped the fifth of his attention-grabbing “data packets” this afternoon with the biggest payload of all:

The Last Dangerous Visions, was announced in 1973 and scheduled to appear in 1974, but of course it didn’t. Even now the volume which will bear that name will be quite different from what it would have been like fifty years ago, as Straczynski explains in an open Patreon post.

  • The Last Dangerous Visions will not republish the stories originally accepted for the anthology that have in the intervening years been withdrawn and published elsewhere.
  • Some of the remaining stories that “have been overtaken by real-world events, rendering them less relevant or timely” will be omitted. (The rights to those stories will be returned to the authors.)
  • Of the remaining stories JMS says “many more are as innovative, fresh and, in some ways, even more relevant now than when they were first written. These are rich, compelling stories by some of the best known science fiction and fantasy writers to work in the genre that deserve to be seen by the world.”
  • Tim Kirk’s artwork commissioned for the original volume will also be included.
  • Additional stories are being contributed by “some of the most well-known and respected writers working today… Their names will be announced the deeper we go into this process, with more still being added at this time.”
  • Also, The Last Dangerous Visions “will present stories by a diverse range of young, new writers from around the world who are telling stories that look beyond today’s horizon to what’s on the other side.”
  • Plus, one last slot will be opened up for submissions from unknown and unpublished writers, giving “one new voice, one last chance to make it into The Last Dangerous Visions.”
  • The final stories will be organized by topic, interweaving original, heavy-hitter and new writers into a narrative flow.

Adding to the suspense, Straczynski says, “There is one last, significant work by Harlan that has never been published, that has been seen by only a handful of people. A work that ties directly into the reason why The Last Dangerous Visions has taken so long to come to light. That piece will be included in this volume to close off the last of Harlan’s major unpublished works.”

Once all the stories are in place, the book will be taken to market around March/April 2021. Several major publishers have already expressed significant interest in picking up the book upon completion.

The Harlan and Susan Ellison Memorial Library. Straczynski also reports that the Ellison home will become The Harlan and Susan Ellison Memorial Library, “a place where lovers of art, architecture and comics can come in small groups for tours, and academics can study decades of correspondence between Harlan and some of the most famous writers in and out of the SF genre, along with his original manuscripts and drafts. We are also working toward having the house declared a Cultural Landmark, possibly in association with a local university.”

Royalties from The Last Dangerous Visions will go into the Trust that supports the Library.

Patreon. A lot of expenses for the LDV story rights, legal work on the trust, etc., are being fronted by JMS, “tens of thousands of dollars” (see his post for specifics). He invites fans of Harlan’s work or SF in general who would like to help defray some of those costs in return for the exclusive opportunity to see The Last Dangerous Visions come together in real-time to subscribe to his Patreon.

There is a tier here that will only remain online for five months, through April, when the book is slated to be completed. 

Patrons will be the first to know the names of the authors contributing to TLDV, first to see partial manuscripts and story excerpts before the book is published, and will be given peeks at Tim Kirk’s amazing art. Beat by beat, they (and other Patrons operating at that level or above) will be a part of the process of finishing one of the most discussed and eagerly anticipated books in the history of modern science fiction.

It starts right here, right now, today.

Fourth Packet of JMS’ Dangerous Message

J. Michael Straczynski started posting these messages on Facebook on November 9 with the introduction: “Five discrete data packets to be broadcast, one every 24 hours.” They’re also repeated on Twitter.

The fourth “packet” posted today is the word “Visions.”

In aggregate we now have —

How will tomorrow’s fifth packet end this sequence?

Straczynski’s Dangerous Message

J. Michael Straczynski started posting these on Facebook on November 9 with the introduction: “Five discrete data packets to be broadcast, one every 24 hours.” Today he tweeted as a set the messages unveiled on FB so far. Til JMS finishes the transmission you can make up your own mind what the executor of the Ellison estate is trying to tell us:

Sorry, that’s all there is for now.

DreamHaven Books Owner and Employee Robbed, Beaten

Owner Greg Ketter and an employee were attacked and robbed as they were closing Minneapolis’ DreamHaven Books for the night on November 9. Ketter said in a public Facebook post:

2020 is the just the gift that keeps on giving. Ryan and I were just beaten and robbed tonight as we were closing the store. Ryan took some serious punches to the head and face. I must have been hit in the head but it happened so fast that all I remember is being on the floor as the two assailants kicked, punched and scattered books and shelves. Somewhere along the way they did get my wallet (I think it fell out of my pocket as I was fighting them off) and the days total cash. I managed to get up and get behind the counter and grab a baseball bat I keep for just such a purpose and they ran out. I chased them (I’m pretty slow). They had an accomplice waiting across the street and they peeled out before I could get their license number. We’re bruised and battered but we’re still whole. I’m going to be sore tomorrow.

Ketter added in a comment:

I think we’ll all be OK. Tomorrow is Ryan’s day off and I’ll check in with him to make sure he’s all right. We have some shelves to fix up and books to sort out but it’s mostly minor stuff. It’s mostly emotional damage for me – I’m just so tired of this stuff.

Earlier this year, DreamHaven suffered damage in the wave of vandalism that struck Minneapolis during protests in May against the death of George Floyd, but no one was present or injured when the store was broken into and damaged that time.

[Thanks to Kathryn Sullivan and James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Banned Books Week 2020

The American Library Association opened Banned Books Week 2020 (Septembe 27-October 3) with the Office for Intellectual Freedom’s release of their list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of the previous year.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Of the 566 books that were targeted, here are the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”
  2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
  3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
    Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning
  4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate” 
  5. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
    Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
  6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”
  8. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”
  9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals
  10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content

The ALA says the difference between a challenge or banning is that a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

[Thanks to Contrarius for the story.]

In Conversation with Dirk Maggs, Producer of The Sandman

Neil Gaiman (L) and Dirk Maggs (R)

The Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine podcast recently featured a conversation between host Jo Reed and producer, director, and writer Dirk Maggs. In a career spanning 30 years, Maggs has won many national and international awards. He first made a name for himself turning DC comics into audio productions, and when Douglas Adams heard those adaptations, he pulled Dirk in to bring his Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy series back to audio. Maggs has also had a longtime collaboration with Neil Gaiman, which most recently has resulted in an audio adaptation of The Sandman, Gaiman’s beloved classic comic book series.

Listen in as they discuss Maggs’ decades of work bringing audio dramas to life.

James McAvoy

Partial Transcript:

Jo Reed:  I’m curious, when you go into the studio, for example, and let’s talk about SANDMAN specifically, do you have a sense of how the narration should sound to you? Are you hearing it already in your head? Do you know what you want from each actor? I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying—

Dirk Maggs:  Do I prepare?

JR:  No. No, I’m sure you do prepare, but how much do you leave open for the actor?

DM:  That’s a good question, Jo. The challenge of making SANDMAN was, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I was also very aware that this is a much loved, much cherished piece of work.  One of the biggest issues with THE SANDMAN is, it’s been in existence for over 30 years now. People know what they want to hear from it. And I realized quite early on that if I was going to be clever and try and reinvent the wheel, I would be in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation. But the thing about SANDMAN was, I don’t think audio, as a medium, need feel inferior to any other medium, because I believe that our medium works just like movies and TV do. The only difference is that the stimulation bypasses the optic nerve. It doesn’t go in through the front door. It sneaks in through the side doors and then it creates the image on your cerebral cortex. Between your ears is the single greatest imaging chip in the computer world, which is the human brain. Your brain will create visions from what you hear. Some people, there are conditions where people don’t have this, but most people have this, which is really what we rely upon in the audio business to tell our stories. You visualize from what you hear.

Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven

JR: OK, so let’s bring it back to SANDMAN.

DM: So I was ready to go with an adaptation of SANDMAN, and I knew this wouldn’t be so much an audio dramatization. It would be an audiobook sort of riding on a dramatization, because we would need to find a way to stick very close to the original. I felt that that was the plow to furrow, because then Neil, as exec. producer with me on this, we could then concentrate and make this as quintessentially SANDMAN as we could.

JR: Well that’s easier said than done. How did you go about making this happen?

DM: I immediately gave up any thought of updating it, making it present day, introducing cell phones or the internet or all of this. It had to stay set in the late ’80s, early ’90s. It had to be something with Neil’s authentic voice in it, and that was the real revelation, because I said to Neil, “The only way I can think of doing this is to see your original scripts, the scripts you wrote for the artists and Todd Klein, who was doing the lettering, and the inkers and the colorists. Those will have the descriptions of what you wanted to see, and if I blend those descriptions with what you actually see in the comics, we will end up with something which will be as quintessentially SANDMAN as you can get. Then if somebody wants to pick the comic book up and look at it alongside, there will be a fair degree of correlation.

Tales in The Sand – Cathy Tyson, John Macmillan, Amaka Okafor, Don Gilet, Joseph Marcell, Inel Tomlinson

So Neil dug out from these ancient hard drives, and I think the first one I got was episode three. I think one and two have disappeared into the ether. I was looking at it, and as soon as I opened this thing, I’m with Neil, I’m standing at his shoulder while he’s writing this in 1987, and he goes into what this episode’s going to be about and the general feel of it. And then he starts describing the panels. Then something wonderful happens: This stuff I’m reading, these descriptions of what he’s seeing in his mind’s eye, it’s poetry. It’s like Dylan Thomas. Suddenly, I can see exactly what this needs to be. This needs to be Neil.  He’d already asked if he could narrate and I said, “Well, of course. Of course, my dear.” But when I saw this, I thought oh, this is it. This is the motherlode, and that was one of the best parts of the job for me.

Arthur Darvill

JR:  He’s a wonderful narrator. He has just such a beautiful voice and intonation. And he can lead you into some dark places, as he does in the book, without being threatening.

DM:  Yes. Neil has a very particular way of reading. If you hear one of Neil’s books read by the author, he has a distinct style. He has a rhythm and he has a way of massaging a sentence which keeps you interested to the very end. Neil reading this stuff, and with the action playing underneath, with the wonderful cast we had and with, you know, I’ve brought every inch of sound designing experience I’ve had over the last 40 years into the sound design. And then James Hannigan’s music, which adds a whole new layer of magic to the thing. When it’s all mixed together, you’re transported, and you’re in this guy’s head. It was so wonderful. About 10pm one night, three or four months ago, while I was doing post-production, I emailed Neil and I said, “Do you know how good you were when you wrote this stuff?” I didn’t expect an answer, but almost immediately came back, Neil saying, “Yes, but I don’t remember doing it. I’m not the person who wrote this. He’s a different person to me.” And I thought, what an interesting answer, because this young man, who’s what? Neil wasn’t yet 30 when he started SANDMAN. He was a library brat. He brought himself up just devouring books, and all of it is in THE SANDMAN. He’s got the poetry. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got all this eclectic stuff that’s just gathered in his brain. It’s just falling out on the page. It’s magical, absolutely magical. It was magical to do it. Some jobs, you know, in the end it’s a job of work, and some jobs are hard work. You think, gosh, I really could have picked a less onerous duty here.  But this was a joy, from start to finish.


AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks. Subscribe to Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine for daily audiobook recommendations from AudioFile editors and contributors, and for bonus interview episodes for a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of favorite audiobooks.

[Based on an AudioFile Magazine blog post.]

Brian Keene Terminates The Horror Show Podcast

The Horror Show with Brian Keene is ending with next week’s episode the host announced today in “Curtain Call”. He’s still going to do some video interviews with authors on YouTube, but the podcast is ending.

Brian Keene

..I’ll focus ONLY on giving them a platform, rather than a format where they have to share the spotlight with whatever terrible fucking thing happened in the industry that week…

Keene feels that doing a podcast with the premise of The Horror Show – delivering news of the field – requires spending time on some painful disclosures.

If you’re going to do a show that — at least in part — focuses on fairly presenting news that impacts the horror genre and industry — then you’re going to have to give oxygen to some of that poisonous stuff. And when you give oxygen to the poisonous stuff, it slowly takes your own oxygen away.

Here lately, I’m having trouble breathing.

(And yes, it occurs to me that “I can’t breathe” has very particular connotations in our society right now, so let me take this as an opportunity to reiterate that Black Lives Fucking Matter, and if you disagree with me, that’s okay. Stop buying my books).

At times in 2020 Keene was required to report about people he knew well, like Borderlands Books owner Alan Beatts, and author Matt Hayward. And in June a single episode of his podcast covered allegations against 10 different individuals in the comic book, horror, science fiction, book fields involving everything from sexual coercion to sexual assault.

Keene says he continues to enjoy “giving a platform to other voices and shining a spotlight on the genre’s history. …Those things don’t take away my oxygen.” So he will be transferring the interviews planned for The Horror Show with Gabino Iglesias, Stephen Graham Jones, Cina Pelayo, Tim Waggoner, Wesley Southard, and Somer Canon, to his YouTube channel.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Judge Who Was Kramer’s
Co-Defendant Loses Election

Gwinnett County (GA) Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, still awaiting retrial on charges of computer trespass, lost her bid for re-election in a runoff held August 11.

Ed Kramer earlier this year took a plea bargain on charges of computer trespass and in February testified against Schrader, his former co-defendant. Her trial ended in a hung jury. A new trial had originally been scheduled for April, but the court system has been shut down since March because of the pandemic.

Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but he has not been a co-owner since 2013.

Schrader polled 41% of the vote, the winner 59%.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]