By Rich Lynch: Somewhere around 60 years ago I had the bejeezus
scared out of me.
I recently read in the File770.com newsblog that November 29th was the 60th anniversary of the premiere of the Cold War-era sci-fi movie The Atomic Submarine. I didn’t see it until probably a year or so later, when it was shown on one of those Saturday afternoon scary movie matinees that were popular on television stations back then. And boy was it scary! I was not yet a teenager and I remember that at the most intense point of the movie I had covered my face with my hand and squinted through the gap between my fingers.
Six decades later I’m trying to figure out why it seemed so frightening to me. The plot was fairly pedestrian as B-grade sci-fi movies go – a U.S. Navy atomic submarine (which was pretty new real-world technology back then) was sent on a mission, under the Arctic ice pack, to find out why ships had gone missing in that part of the world. It turns out that an undersea UFO was the cause, which is not much of a spoiler since the promotional poster for the movie shows a flying saucer. Why the UFO was hanging out and destroying ships that passed by its vicinity was never explained, but it all was just a MacGuffin to get the submarine and the UFO next to each other so we could get to see the alien monster.
And a nightmare-inducing monster it was! One-eyed, ugly, and truly evil – it killed off the redshirts of the boarding party in terrifying ways, and was planning to bring samples of humanity back to its own world to dissect in preparation of a large-scale invasion of Earth. How in the world (literally!) could the U.S. Navy prevent that from happening?
I expect that this movie is obscure enough that probably only the scary movie aficionados have ever seen it. But it turns out that if you want to see it, you can – it’s apparently now in public domain, and there’s a pretty good digital transfer available on YouTube. So you know what? I’m gonna watch it again. I know it’s not going to be very much of a “Keep Watching the Skies!” sense-of-wonder experience, but I still want to see if I’m even remotely as scared as I was way back then. And I’m kind of hoping that I will be. Well, maybe just a little anyway.
offer is good (available) through “11:59 p.m. (PST), December 31st, 2019.”
your subscription will automatically convert to the full $9.99/month price if
you don’t cancel.)
took advantage of one of these offers sometime over the past year, cancelled
when the cheap period was over, and have just ponied up a fresh $0.99 and made
a “cancel K/U” note in my calendar file…
that if you are already a K/U subscriber at the regular price, you can use
this, and get this price instead, for the 3 months. Read the site offer
carefully; I am not Amazon.
bunches of interesting and interesting-enough stuff here, particularly at the
example, pretty much all of Nathan Lowell’s Tales of the Solar Clipper Age
(somewhat hard or harder for my library to get print copies of). And those led
me to “tales of a space accountant” — a pleasant enough trilogy whose
author I fergets but could look up. Etc.
there’s a fair bunch of comic books/graphic novels/collections. (best read on a
display big enough that you don’t have to squint or fuss — like the admittedly
not-cheap iPad Pro 12.9, or, perhaps, a large enough 2-in-one, etc.
this price, if you only find and read one or two, you’ve gotten your money’s
long as you remember to cancel, if you don’t plan to continue at full price.
Steve Vertlieb: I had
the great pleasure of seeing Sony’s new release, A Beautiful Day In The
Neighborhood last evening. This sweet, lovely trailer both previews and
promises faithfully that this new film, based upon an incident occupying the
later years of Fred Rogers, will become the feel good movie of the year. Tom
Hanks is, as ever, a magical presence on the screen. It is, indeed, A
Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood when spiritual goodness is shared,
honored, and cherished by both film maker and audience.
this lyrical and wondrous motion picture is so much more than I could ever have
imagined. It is loosely based upon the friendship between journalist Tom Junod
and television’s most beloved children’s host, after a jaded, embittered
magazine writer is assigned a purely “fluff” assignment to interview
Public Television’s “Mr. Rogers” for Esquire Magazine.
that the character of “Mr. Rogers” is merely a scripted persona, the
writer goes about his work with both cynicism and restrained contempt … until
events in his own life force him to look inward toward the scarred, unhappy
soul that he has, perhaps, unknowingly, become. Rogers, a former Presbyterian minister,
gently pierces the bitter facade of his interviewer, subtly forcing the writer
to believe in his own inherent goodness, and in the deceptively hidden beauty
of the world and people around him.
with deep sensitivity by Marielle Heller from a screenplay by Micah Fitzerman
Blue and Noah Harpster, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood features
sweet, lovely performances by Matthew Rhys as the troubled journalist, Chris
Cooper (in what’s sure to become an Oscar-nominated supporting performance as
his troubled father), Susan Kelechi Watson as his wife and, of course, Tom
Hanks in the role that he was, perhaps, born to play as Mister Rogers.
Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a tender, sweet parable about fathers
and sons, and about the absolute power of goodness. Heller’s direction of the
film plays with children’s perceptions of love and strength, while softly
interweaving them with the sadness, distrust, and cynicism which often, sadly,
replace the innocence of youth with the jaded wisdom of maturity. In these
deeply divisive and conflicted times, we truly need this sweet story of faith,
spiritual goodness, and the remarkable beauty and consequence of love and
forgiveness. To that end, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a both
a revelation, and a miracle.
Walter Day, the trading card creator who also celebrates video games and historical figures, has announced that Balticon will host his 2020 Science Fiction Trading Card Award Ceremony on Saturday, May 23 at 2 p.m. Day will unveil the newest cards in the Science Fiction Series and present ornate awards to worthy honorees who have contributed greatly to the global science fiction culture.
In recent years this ceremony has been conducted at WorldCon 74
(Kansas City), WorldCon 75 (Helsinki, Finland), WorldCon 76 (San Jose) as well
as smaller ceremonies at the last five years of the Nebula Awards Weekend.
This year’s awards ceremony will be held at Balticon 54, which is the annual Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention put on by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Here are some of the trading cards that will be unveiled during these ceremonies and given away as free gifts to the attendees at the event. I thank Walter for including my card in this release!
(Note: Day says he has already corrected the spelling of Leibowitz, but he hasn’t posted the new art.)
Day has held his ceremony in conjunction with major cons and
events over the past several years. Card #65 (author C. J Cherryh) was presented on the stage during the 2016
Nebula Awards weekend festivities, in Chicago, IL. Card #34 (author Robert
Silverberg) was among many presented on the stage during the Grand Masters Talk
at the 2016 WorldCon, in Kansas City, MO. On Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the
2019 SFWA Nebula Awards Conference in Los Angeles, Science Fiction Historical
Trading Card #211 was presented to William Gibson — the author of Neuromancer — as part of the ceremonies that enshrined him
as the 2019 SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction.
Day first gained fame as a video arcade owner and for his work certifying video game achievements for the Guinness Book of Records. He is widely recognized as the inspiration for Mr. Litwak, the beloved arcade owner in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph animated film released in November 2012.
Ready Player One author Ernest Cline says Walter Day (along with Twin Galaxies arcade and Billy Mitchell) were the inspiration for writing his story in 2011, later adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg.
By Ingvar: Timo Tay
sat at the short end of the meeting table, looking down at the two lines of
Guild members seated before him. He lifted his small wooden mallet.
chairbeing. I declare the fourth annual general meeting of the Guild of
Copycats and Plagiarists open.”
thudded onto the small protective butt, rather than the table.
item is the financial report for the previous year. Could Miss Cristina
Blatante please read the economic report?”
stood up and cleared her throat. “The Guild received 81,000 Solar Credits
in membership dues. The Guild spent 147 Solar Credits for buying off one
complainant. The Guild member whose unsubtlety caused the ruckus has been fined
500 Solar Credits. We further spent 40,000 Solar Credits on legal insurance. In
total, last year saw a gain in the funds of 41,353 Solar Credits. The Guild has
no outstanding debt to service. This concludes the economic report.”
you, Miss Blatante. Anyone opposed to adding the economic report to the Guild’s
archives? Hearing none, the economic report is filed. Next, we need to elect
Guild heads for the coming year. The proposal is that Timo Tay is elected as
Guild Master; Cristina Blatante is elected as Mistress of Treasure; and, a
change, Slem ven Pocketry is elected as Voice to the World, replacing the
esteemed Anna min Scortch, who has decided to step down for personal reasons.
Anyone opposed to this proposal in bulk?”
rang out from the far end of the table. “Yes!”.
heard an objection to electing in bulk, I will proceed position by position.
Anyone opposed to Timo Tay staying on s Guild Master? Hearing no objection, I
find myself elected Guild Master. Anyone opposed to Cristina Blatante as
Mistress of Treasure? Hearing none, I find Miss blatant re-elected as Mistress
of Treasure. Anyone opposed to Slem ven Pocketry being elected as Voice to the
rang out from a single voice.
in agreement with electing Slem ven Pocketry as Voice to the World?”
rang out from most of the assembly.
that the voices in agreement vastly outnumber the voices in opposition, I find
Slem ven Pocketry elected as Voice to the World.”
we have a motion to amend the rules of acceptable standards for Guild members.
Mr ven Fengsler, if you would be so kind?”
Fengsler stood up and cleared his throat.
as I am to public speaking, I find it still necessary to proceed in front of
this august assembly. I have put forward a motion to amend the rules of
acceptable behaviour of Guild members. Having perused the Guild archives, I
have found that many of our esteemed members have, in the last five years,
neither plagiarized nor copied. As the Guild rules stand, this is not required.
But my motion purports to make it mandatory to commit at least one plagiarism
every three years, for continued membership. With a sunset clause, requiring
any member who does have more than three years since the last plagiarism to
commit one in the next 18 months, or risk expulsion after investigation by the
board. The full text has been duly added to the agenda, and everyone should
have a copy. As a side note, the motion is a slightly edited copy from the
Performing Works section of the constitution of the Sulphurian Society, so
technically counts as a plagiarism.”
have heard Member ven Fengsler present his motion, and will now proceed to
debate. Debate will start with those opposed, alternating between supporting
and opposing, until such a time as we have exhausted one side. Who is first?
Ah, proceed, Voice ven Pocketry.”
am, as is Member ven Fengsler, part of the Sulphurian movement. I was one of
the people arguing for our movement having a similar rule, but I oppose it
here. For one simple reason. Sulphuric poetry, song and art is tolerant of
mistakes. But, in plagiarism, there can be no margin for error. If you plagiarize
unwisely, we would attract the notice of the authorities. And as we heard, even
without this policy, in the last year our Guild have spent over 40,000 Solar
Credits either to preemptively protect us, or as a direct result of someone
having been caught. And for that reason, I am opposed.”
well. Anyone speaking for? Member ven Fengsler has the floor.”
are a Guild of plagiarists, for a guild of plagiarists. It is imperative that
our members actually practice the trade we propose to regulate and foster. And
in plagiarism, as in many things in the world, skills decline if left unused. I
have not looked deeply into our member that was caught, but I would not be
surprised if the time since last registered plagiarism before unfortunate most
recent is more than four years. My research shows that plagiarism skill
declines slowly over a period of 20-26 months, then with an accelerated decay
from there to 34-40 months, at which point it normally drops below the level we
would accept from a competent Guild member. It is for this reason I urge the
Meeting to pass this motion and add it to the Laws of our Guild.”
are now looking for someone in opposition? No one? That means the floor is open
for either opposing or supporting. Ah, Member min Scortch wishes to
Guild members. Member ven Fengsler consulted with me before putting this motion
to the Meeting. At that point, I was in favor. But, I must say that Memb, ahem,
Voice ven Pocketry have convinced me that this is a cure that is worse than the
disease. For that reason, I urge the Meeting to oppose this motion.”
spoken, and clearly against. We are now looking for a speech supporting. No
one? Anyone wanting to argue against? Finding none, I will now take votes.
Anyone opposed? I see a raised hand. Member Bobbingsley, what is the
call for this Meeting to vote via secret ballot. It is far too divisive a
question for open voting.”
ballot has been called for. Every member should have been given two stones, one
white and one teal. In an orderly queue, please walk to the voting table, then
deposit your vote into the urn marked ‘Vote’ and your other stone in the urn
marked ‘Discard’. If you would like the motion to pass, please deposit a white
stone as your vote and if opposed, the teal one.”
meeting dissolved into a chaos of people moving about, slowly forming into
something that looked like a pale imitation of an orderly queue. When people
eventually returned to their seats, Chair Tey picked the urn marked
“Vote” and spilled it onto the table in from of him.
have not yet done a count, but from the look of the pile of voting stones in
front of me, I would say that the Ayes have it. I will now proceed to do an
accurate count.” A few minutes later, the stones had been separated into
one white and one teal pile, the white pile towering over the teal.
“Having counted the votes, the Ayes have 48 votes, the Nays have 17. The
Ayes carry the vote, and we now have a rule requiring committing at least one
plagiarism every three years. As of this moment, all members with more than
three years are on an eighteen-month grace period.”
the point where we leave the remainder of the annual general meeting of the
Guild of Copycats and Plagiarists to wend its own way.
was sitting at the kitchen table, his morning bowl of cereal and syntxemilk in
front of him, spoon in hand, chewing the first mouthful of cereal, when he
decided something was definitely not as it should be. He wasn’t quite sure what
was wrong, but something was. This, this was not normal.
Coraline, did we get the right cereal?”, he asked.
Trigger, it should be Nutty Neptune Nuggets, as usual”, his wife replied.
Something’s not right, then.”
stood up and walked to the dry-goods cupboard, opened the doors and looked. He
could see the cereal box, and it looked as it should. Wait. No, something was
carefully at the package again.
Coraline, it seems we have purchased a box of NÃ¼tty NeptÃ¼ne NÃ¼ggets?”
darted out from the bedroom, hair still in disarray from the night. She stopped
beside Trigger and looked at the cereal box.
indeed. This is not Nutty Nuggets, at all. Whyever did this happen? Let me
telephone the General Store right now!”
having dressed, Trigger walked downstairs, to his office.
Trigger”, Coraline said, “I have spoken to the store manager and he
is as surprised as we are.”
I shall do, beloved Coraline, is to walk over and talk to him in person. We
know this is not right, and it needs to be investigated.”
walked through the front doors of Fort Corallium General Store.
It’s Trigger. What’s up with the cereal delivery?”
Sheriff, I have looked at the shipping manifest and we should have received a
pallet of Nutty Neptune Nuggets, half a pallet of Sugary Snowflakes, and half a
pallet of Maize Crispies. But, looking carefully at the contents, it seems that
a full third of the Nutty Nuggets are these… NÃ¼tty NÃ¼ggets, And all of the
Sugary Snowflakes are, instead, some sort of impostor Snowy Sugarflakes, that I
have never seen. Most of the Maize Crispies are right, but one out of about ten
is a Maze Cruspies packet. I have checked and double-checked, and it just makes
scratched his square, manly jaw with his right hand. Something was afoot, and
it was not good game.
indeed, Abner. Odd indeed.”
Pocketry sat down in front of the table. On the other side sat Timo Tey, in the
middle, flanked by Cristina Blatante and Lena Bobbingsley.
cleared his throat.
ven Pocketry, you have a report?”
chairbeing Tey, I have a plagiarism to report. I have successfully infiltrated
fake cereal onto the market, at normal market price, at a 55% profit on my
initial investments. As a dues-paying Guild member, I wish this to be recorded
in our books.”
done. Does any of the other members of the inquisitors panel have any remarks
ven Pocketry, could you explain why you chose cereal products for your
plagiarism, instead of something more conventional, like books, illustrated
magazines, or art?”
member Bobbingsley. It is actually a much higher return on investment. Having
previously primarily focused on plagiarizing furniture and sculpture, my
profits tended to be in the 5% to 20% range, but in cereal, my initial probing
attempt incurred a 40% profit and with some streamlining of my counterfeit
production line, I could easily realize the current 55% profit margin. It is
thus much more profitable and I envision the ability to expand this to plagiarizing
and counterfeiting other food items. Alas, my learnings really do not carry
over to luxury items, all my attempts at counterfeiting caviar have, for
example, all fizzled out. While I can make a convincing replacement, I do so at
a cost higher than what I can sell it for.”
how, exactly, are you recouping your costs?”
this is possibly the most clever bit. I have contacts at a wholesaler, and I am
using that to essentially pad their stocks and shipping my copies out mixed in
with shipments of the originals. Quite ingenious, even if I say so
Snowflake had checked up on the transport company that had sent the shipment to
Fort Corallium General Store, and they were headquartered in Ytterbium Valley.
While outside his jurisdiction, he had a pretty good feeling he would be able
to get permission from the local law to investigate.
at the Ytterbium Valley Sheriff’s Office and knocked on the door.
Scrogginski? It’s Trigger, from Fort Corallium. I need to be accredited to do
some investigation and a few interviews here in Ytterbium Valley.”
You know you can call me Urbel. What’s up?”
have this weird case with counterfeited breakfast cereals, and I thought I
would simply go and talk to the next step in the transport chain. I’ve already
interviewed the store manager and he seems to be on the up and up. Next, I
thought I would talk to the transport company, but since they’re here, I either
need you to do it, or you can deputize me and I can use that to ask the
questions that will be needed.”
well, that seems quite straight-forward. Let me just give you a deputy star to
complement the one you have from Fort Corallium.”
hour later, properly deputised, Trigger arrived at Intersolar Transports, the
transport company he was after. He walked up to the reception, where a young
man was sitting behind the counter.
I am Trigger Snowflake, deputy to Sheriff Scrogginski. I need to interview a
few people in regards to a crime. Who would be the logical first person to talk
Eh. Well… You probably want to talk to the general manager, who can guide you
can you give me directions to his office?”
Ah, the general manager. Yes, if you walk down this corridor, her office is the
thrird door on the right-hand side. It says ‘General Manager’ beside the door.
I’ll just give her a call and tell her to expect you.”
knocked on the door, and a gruff voice called out “Come in”. He
opened the door and quickly scanned the room, not really for threats, just out
of sheer unbridled habit. Angled against the far right corner was a sturdy
desk, behind which was sitting a woman, dressed in tough-wearing coveralls.
I am Trigger Snowflake, deputy to Sheriff Scrogginski. I am here to investigate
a crime discovered in my home jurisdiction of Fort Corallium, where counterfeit
cereal was shipped to our General Store. The shipment came from this company,
and I would like to get to the bottom of this.”
crime? This is unheard of! Oh, pardon me, I am Jenna J. Jameson, the general
manager for Intersolar Transport in this orbit. Well, if you can tell me,
roughly, when the shipment was delivered?”
maybe as many as four, days ago.”
hummed, as she walked over to a filing cabinet. She pulled open a drawer,
rifled through the paperwork, then slammed it shut, only to open another one
and rifling through some more papers.
Yes, this is a shipment that came in from Luna, a week ago, and was delivered
three days ago, to the Fort Corallium General Store. The shipment should have
been half a pallet of cereal boxes, a quarter pallet of canned goods, and a
quarter-pallet of chocolates and other sweet items. Let me see… Ah, as I
thought. You need to speak to Ear-John. Follow me.”
about five minutes of rapid walking, they arrived at a small glass-walled hut,
in the middle of a gigantic warehouse. Inside was a man, again dressed in the
seemingly ubiquitous hard-wearing coveralls. Stitched to the right breast of
the man’s coverall was a name badge, reading “J Marriott”.
this is Sheriff Snowflake, from Fort Corallium. He’s been properly deputized
and is here to ask you some questions. Please answer them as fully as you
can.” With that said, Ms Jameson turned around and walked away, at quite a
I am John Marriott, foreman of local loading. They call me Ear-John, because I
have a good memory for details and, for this noisy environment, good hearing.
What can I help you with?”
days ago, you sent a pallet of goods to the Fort Corallium General Store. Was
there anything unusual about it?”
really. We used a new subcontractor to ship it from Luna, but other than that,
it was all pretty standard. Why Was there any damage?”
no. Well, not damage as such. It’s just that when the shipment arrived, a large
proportion of the cereal boxes had been substituted for fakes.”
must’ve been before it arrived at this warehouse. Hm. Actually, I think we have
a representative from the subcontractor, over by the arrivals processing area.
If you follow me?”
few minutes of brisk walking, then Ear-John walked up to a man dressed in a
ven Pocketry? From Sniiki Transport? I have someone who wants to talk to
ven Pocketry turned around, he saw Trigger Snowflake and went suddenly very
pale, as if all blood had just left his face. “It wasn’t me, Sheriff. I
don’t forge cereal. You can’t prove ANYTHING. I want my lawyer!”
Snowflake was stunned. Not only was this a ne’er-do-well that he had
encountered before, but ven Pocketry had pretty much confessed without a single
question being asked.
ven Pocketry, I am placing you under arrest, on suspicion of cereal forgery.
Anything you have said, are saying, or will say can and will be held against
you in a court of law. Will you follow willingly, or will I have to hand-cuff
the Ytterbium Valley sheriff’s office, ven Pocketry was sitting in a
straight-backed wooden chair, looking morose.
we can either do the interview here, or if you rather I take the suspect back
to Fort Corallium?”
as well do it here, Trigger. I have this nagging feeling that you want to be
close to the spaceport.”
extensive interrogation, which we will skip, since it is no fun at all, ven
Pocketry had duly confessed to forging the cereal boxes, and had named three
other persons involved, all based on Luna.
and his prisoner arrived at Luna Spaceport, having duly sent ahead a message
listing the Luna-based suspects. As they passed through the arrivals check, the
processing officer suddenly froze.
Sheriff Snowflake. I have a note here that you should go straight to the Office
of the Peace, where you and your prisoner are needed as soon as possible. I
will now take the liberty of requesting a buggy to take you there, unless you
strongly prefer to run?”
buggy will be fine, gentle herm. Will it be long?”
is just pulling up behind the door to my right. If you walk through, you will
be taken to the Office of the Peace.”
driving through Luna Colony later, they arrived at the Office of the Peace, the
main office of the organization that appointed sheriffs throughout the Solar
System. Trigger had only been at head office twice before. Once for his
official swearing-in, and once to receive his transfer order from being a
sheriff-at-large on Mars, to his posting at Fort Corallium. They walked the
limestone stairs up to the main entrance.
Snowflake, Fort Corallium, with a prisoner, as ordered. What next?”
excellent. We have the suspects you named under arrest, and we’ve started
interviewing them. It seems, from all we can tell, that the only counterfeiter
among them is ven Pocketry here, who will be prosecuted under the False Pretenses
act, while the rest of them mainly seem to be in it for the opportunity to
defraud the shipping industry, also a serious crime.”
is good to hear. Will you need me to give further statements?”
as such, we just need you to counter-sign the telefacsimiles you have sent, in
order to make it less of a contentious point at trial. Would you like to stay
for the proceedings?”
Officer, I would rather go home to my beloved wife, not having to think about
By Kim Huett: The Day The Earth Caught Fire is a 1961 British Lion/Pax Universal film produced and directed
by Val Guest (director of the Hammer films, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and
Quatermass 2 (1957)), who with Wolf Mankowitz, also wrote the screenplay.
Additionally, I also see in the credits that Beatnik music was provided by
Monty Norman and you don’t see too many science fiction films featuring Beatnik
stars Leo McKern, Janet Munro, and Edward Judd and deserves to be better
remembered as not only is it quite well made (barring some slightly dodgy
special effects) but it also avoids the overused Earth being invaded by aliens
plot. Instead The Day The Earth Caught Fire revolves around the idea of
what would happen if H-bomb testing knocked the Earth out of its orbit and sent
it spiraling towards the Sun. It’s a rather earnest anti-nuclear story that’s
very much a product of the early sixties, but that’s what makes it so
(Just as an aside, I see Leo McKern and Edward Judd were both in an earlier SF film I’m keen to watch, X the Unknown, which features a living radioactive mass. These two don’t seem to have had much luck with
radioactivity. In other startling news during Janet Munro’s disappointingly short
film career she was in The Crawling Eye, a 1958 mess that made it on to
MST3K. Despite the film being quite terrible it has her, Forrest Tucker, and
Warren Mitchel in the cast.)
apart from anything else much of the film is set in the offices of a daily
newspaper which means that scene after scene is filled with the technology of
yesterday in full use. However the best scene as far as I’m concerned involves
Edward Judd entering the Press Office of the Meteorological Centre only to discover
Janet Munro attempting to clean (or so I assume) a certain piece of technology once
central to fanzine production. As far as I’m aware The Day The Earth Caught
Fire is the only science fiction film to feature a mimeograph machine and
that alone makes it special in my book.