Pixel Scroll 11/7/20 My Favorite Lightyear

(1) NEWTON’S LAW LAB. From 2010, “William R. Newman on Why Did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy.”

Indiana University professor of History and Philosophy of Science, William R. Newman presents his lecture, entitled Why Did Isaac Newton Believe in Alchemy? Through historical documents and experiments that demonstrate alchemical processes, this lecture explains why one of the most insightful scientists in history was convinced that alchemical transformations were scientifically plausible.

(2) IT’S AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE. “Apocalypse Always: On Matthew Wolf-Meyer’s ‘Theory for the World to Come’” – a review by Sean Guynes at LA Review of Books.

Theory for the World to Come offers short, personal readings of a handful of familiar SF texts, including blockbuster films like RoboCop and novels by Octavia Butler, Orson Scott Card, Stephen Graham Jones, and Kurt Vonnegut. To these quintessentially SF texts he adds more loosely speculative ones, including funk music and Dougal Dixon’s speculative nonfiction book Man After Man. Wolf-Meyer identifies in each text an attempt to deal with a singular apocalypse and argues that in reading them collectively, in imagining their futurities together, we can better respond to the multiplicity inherent in all apocalypse. For Wolf-Meyer, apocalyptic imaginaries “produce models to think about society and how it might recover from devastating — if not ontology shattering — events.” Nothing new to scholars of SF, but Wolf-Meyer contends that these collective imaginings of devastating events offer a titular “theory for the world to come.” Indeed, in the time of ongoing apocalypse, we are already living in need of such theory and have only to produce it through engaging, praxis-oriented readings of speculative fiction.

(3) MULTI-STORY HOMES. Ray Bradbury and other writers are part of The Argonaut’s survey: “The Westside’s Hidden Literary History Is Written In Its Lost Architecture”.

…Bradbury would take advantage of the burgeoning bohemian atmosphere, living on Venice Boulevard — although moving a few blocks closer to the beach in 1947 — until the end of the decade. In 1950, the same year “The Martian Chronicles” was published, he left Venice.

The 670 property stayed in town a while longer, until it was demolished and replaced with a New York-style art gallery. The gallery opened in 2010, held a Bradbury-themed exhibit in 2012 and closed in 2013.

The Cheviot Hills property where Bradbury lived from the 1960s until his death in 2012 suffered a similar fate when it was torn down by the new owner, resulting in a public outcry.

Properties in Los Angeles can be designated Historic-Cultural Monuments, which gives them a protected status. Properties can be nominated for the designation by anyone, and they are often nominated by the owners themselves, Bernstein said. However, there are not as many Historic-Cultural Monuments on the Westside as there are in other parts of Los Angeles.

“Land values are so high and many might envision a land development in their future,” he said.

Of course, not every piece of Westside literary history has vanished. The house where Christopher Isherwood wrote his landmark novel “A Single Man” still privately observes the Santa Monica Canyon from its Ocean Avenue vantage point.

And sometimes, rather than vanish, literary history generates spontaneously. William Faulkner was rumored to have lived on an El Greco Street in Santa Monica — no such street seems to have existed in the city.

Another writer whose Westside presence was slightly overstated was Raymond Chandler. Loren Latker, operator of the Raymond Chandler fan website Shamus Town (www.shamustown.com), started investigating the crime writer’s many Los Angeles area homes and quickly noticed something amiss. Chandler lore had it that the writer lived at 723 Stewart St. in Santa Monica in the early 1920s when he was an executive at the Dabney Oil Syndicate.

“I went there looking around, and the addresses are wrong,” Latker said. “It’s not possible that he lived on Stewart in Santa Monica.”

Old maps of the area backed him up. Stewart did not cross Wilshire, where the 723 address would have been, Latker said. Chandler most likely lived on a Stewart Street in downtown Los Angeles, which was later renamed Witmer, he said. That would be near the Mayfair Hotel, an infamous Chandler haunt where the writer would check in, get drunk, call his office and threaten to kill himself….

(4) GOFUNDME. Steve Perrin has launched a GoFundMe to assist his wife Luise, a member of the SCA and LASFS: “Care for the Phoenix”

My wife Luise Perenne, known as Luise of the Phoenix  in the early days of the SCA, an artist in both dance and illustration, is going into hospice care after a very close call from a heart attack and pneumonia. She is extremely weak and at age 76 needs more help than I (at age 74) can provide. She starts hospice care at home on Monday. We need a caretaker to come in a couple of hours a day to help Luise, take care of her personal needs, and so forth. The usual charge is $25.00 an hour. Assuming 2 hours a day for a caretaker,  that’s $1500 a 30-day month, and I am  asking for more  to cover extra time or other emergencies.  After the 1st month we will have a better idea of what is needed and I will do another GFM. 

Offers to physically help from local friends are always appreciated.

(5) RING ME UP. Looper has made a directory: “Lord of the Rings: Every Ring-bearer in chronological order”. I knew who the first and last ones were – in between it gets busy!

It should come as no surprise that the first person to bear the One Ring is none other than the Dark Lord himself. After all, it’s Sauron who forges the overpowered loop of metal in the first place, right smack dab in the middle of the Second Age of Middle-earth history.

Of course, Sauron was around for a very long time before he made the One Ring. He started out as an angelic being that predated time itself. Eventually, the world was created, and he joined forces with the original Dark Lord, Morgoth. When Morgoth was defeated at the end of the First Age, Sauron stepped into his shoes and became the new Dark Lord.

(6) MALKIN GREY REMEMBERED. Now online, Pippin Macdonald’s tribute to her mother, Debra Doyle

…As a member of the SCA, she was known as Malkin Grey. She was chronicaler for the Barony of BhaKail, and later Tir-y-Don, and as such claimed she needed to be unbiased in any feuds that may crop up, so she could properly report on them. Really, it was her way of staying out of their drama. 

While in the SCA she wrote, with her best friend Peregrynne Windrider, “The Song of the Shield Wall.” Mom said it might have been the most wide reaching thing she ever wrote. Stanzas of it have ended up written on the walls of army outposts in Iraq. When my brother, Brendan, went to Pensic one year, when he told the bards his mom was Malkin Grey, it was as if he told them he was Mick Jagger’s kid. She earned numerous awards for her service to the SCA, including Mistress of the Pelican. …

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 7, 1997 — Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers premiered. It’s based loosely off Robert Heinlein’s Hugo Award winning novel of the same name.  It had a cast of Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards Jake Busey,  Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon and  Michael Ironside, and it received a mixed reception by critics ranging from utterly loathing it to really, really loving it and a generally negative one by most SF fans; it currently garners a seventy percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among the quarter million audience reviewers who’ve given an opinion, and has long since earned back its modest budget. It would spawn a number of sequels, mostly bad, and one rather excellent animated series. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 in The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. (Died 1946.) (CE)
  • Born November 7, 1914 – R.A. Lafferty.  One of our most original and strange.  A score of novels, two hundred thirty shorter stories, three dozen poems.  Outside our field, see particularly The Fall of RomeOkla Hannali.  His name and Sir Arthur Clarke’s saying “One of the few writers who have made me laugh aloud” gave rise to LaffCons (here in 2019 even Darrell Schweitzer, 2nd from L, is almost at a loss); they and RAL’s East of Laughter gave rise to Feast of Laughter, 5 vols. so far; but while RAL is indeed comic, remember that the difference between comic significance and cosmic significance is a single sibilant.  One Hugo; Phoenix Award, World Fantasy Award, for life achievement.  Even the titles are strange (“Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne”, “Maybe Jones and the City”, “Or Little Ducks Each Day”).  Past Master may be the best start.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1917 – Mike Rosenblum.  Pioneer British fan.  Attended the 1937 Leeds convention.  Leading collector.  Doc Weir Award (for U.K. service).  Famous for Futurian War Digest; also in FAPAVector.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1923 – Blanche Howard.  One novel for us; five others of which one was co-authored and then adapted for stage, a dozen shorter stories, correspondence with co-author.  Last novel at 87.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1934 Wendy Williams. You know I’ll work a Doctor Who reference in and she was in a Fourth Doctor story, “The Ark in Space” as Vira. Other genre appearances include Danger ManJack the Ripper, Leap in the Dark and The Further Adventures of the Musketeers. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1947 – Margaret Ball, Ph.D., 73.  Three novels with Anne McCaffrey, two dozen more, a dozen shorter stories.  Fulbright scholar.  Univ. Cal. Los Angeles professor.  Now retired in favor of fabric arts, see here.  [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 70. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role of Lady Smallwood on Sherlock in  “His Last Vow”, “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers. (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 66. The story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was being a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? The Finovar trilogy which I love is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise which is wonderful somewhat resembles renaissance Italy. My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called am urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. Let’s not forget that he was the Toastmaster at ConFrancisco. (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 60. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here. (CE)
  • Born November 7, 1963 – Robh Ruppel, 57.   A score of covers, threescore interiors, trading cards, for us; here is Dragon 232here is Earth Hourhere is Passage to Dawn.  Among other things, here is his book Aspect Ratiohere is a review of his book Graphic L.A.  [JH]
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born November 7, 1982 – Zhang Yueran, 38.  Won Mengya magazine’s 2001 New Concept writing competition.  Her 2004 collection Ten Loves tr. Engl. 2013, see particularly “The Ghost of Sushui City” tr. Engl. as “A Sushui Ghost Story”.  Int’l Writing Program Fall Residency 2011, Univ. Iowa.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FACETIME. “Star Wars: Why Tusken Raiders Wear Masks”. ScreenRant wants to explain, but heck, doesn’t everybody now?

…Star Wars: A New Hope also introduced the audience to some of the creatures and alien species that inhabit this vast universe, though many of them weren’t fully identified until many years later when George Lucas brought the prequel trilogy. Such is the case of the Tusken Raiders, who made their first appearance in A New Hope but weren’t identified as such until Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, where viewers spent a lot of time in Tatooine, following a young Anakin Skywalker. After that, Tusken Raiders were absent for the rest of the Star Wars saga, but they recently returned in Disney+’s The Mandalorian, which has brought back some questions about them, such as why they wear masks and why they never take them off.

(11) GET YOUR CANDLES READY. November 13 is the day — “‘Fantasia’ Turns 80: Why Its Technological Achievements Can’t Salvage Its Shortcomings” Or so says Christian Blauvelt.

…We’re not here to bury “Fantasia.” A lot of it is impressive, even absorbing: the “Toccata and Fugue” sequence that opens this unique anthology plays like an experimental film, and the “Rite of Spring” transplants Stravinsky’s inflammatory ballet to the beginning of life on Earth before delivering the best dinosaur epic pre-“Jurassic Park.” But “Fantasia” is also the ultimate example of “white elephant art” in film, to borrow critic Manny Farber’s label. This is a case of Walt Disney being so committed to making an “important” film, a “breakthrough” film — one he felt would make critics take animation that much more seriously — that he ends up with a work of just intermittent artistry.

(12) ALFRED BESTER’S MARINER SCRIPT. “Eight Months to Mars” on YouTube is a 1965 documentary, done for the U.S. Information Agency and narrated by John Fitch, about the Mariner IV mission to Mars.  It includes copies of covers from Amazing and Galaxy, an argument that the Martian atmosphere could be made of sugar, the first photos of craters on Mars, and a prediction that human spaceflight to Mars would begin in 1980.  The script for this documentary is by Alfred Bester.

(13) WHO YA GONNA CALL? AutoBlog promises “Lego’s 18.5-inch Ghostbusters Ecto-1 will make you feel like bustin'”.

…The set is comprised of a whopping 2,352 Lego pieces and when completed, will measure 18.5 inches long. It’s one of the more accurate Lego vehicles the company has created, and features a steering box connecting the steering wheel to the front wheels, hinged doors and an opening hood with replica V8 engine inside.

Like the movie car, it’s packed with ghost-fighting gadgetry….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Mokapzu Park on Vimeo, Art and Graft shows what a park would be like after all the plants and animals died and scientists have to create new animals from discarded plastic bottles.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Lis Riba, Will R., JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

34 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/7/20 My Favorite Lightyear

  1. (3) Check with the utility companies. They have records that go back a long way. (I saw streets in west LA that had two or three prior names. Admiral Way started out as “Admiral Togo”…)

  2. (8) The only Lafferty fables I know are those reprinted in mixed-author anthologies of the late 1960s and 1970s. I hope to remedy this someday. My favorite (at this point in my life) is “The World As Will and Wallpaper.”

  3. 8) With Guy Gavriel Kay, I am particularly fond of A Song For Arbonne because it is a stand-alone that does a superb job of integrating gender politics into every aspect of the story. The Fionavar Tapestry and Tigana are also great, but I think the later books lean too close to actual history (Sarantium?).

  4. Some of the short stories of the Sixties had the best, most portentous story titles. Like Lafferty’s “Continued on Next Rock.”

  5. 8) I think Ysabel gets called “urban fantasy” because we don’t currently have a better genre name for “fantasy that takes place in the real world during contemporary times”?
    The only Lafferty story I’m certain I’ve read is “Been a Long, Long Time”, which I encountered in Brian Aldiss’ Galactic Empires anthology. It’s a good one! (Both the story and the anthology.)

    10) They weren’t called Tusken Raiders in the movie, but I’m certain that term (much like the name Emperor Palpatine) first appeared in the 1977 novelization of the original Star Wars.

  6. 8) Joe H., I think your comment fits in with the evolution of the term “urban fantasy.” If I recall correctly, the term came into fashion with Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, and the Borderlands series. Then it became permanently associated with all those mega-series (Dresden Files, Anita Blake, October Daye, et cetera). Does this sound right?

  7. 8) I’d pick “The Reefs of Earth”(*) over “Past Master” as a place to start with Lafferty… or even “Fourth Mansions”, which is chaotic and heavy on the theological references but also very good eccentric fun. His short stories are probably more accessible, if not quite as strange. Joe H already mentioned “Been a Long, Long Time”… I’d maybe add “Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne” or “The Seven Day Terror” as recommendations. And I remember liking “Rainbird” when I was a kid, though I think it’s not one of his best.

    Linda Nagata, meanwhile, is one on those authors I keep wanting to like and not really getting on with. The exception is “Vast”, which I like a lot and re-read occasionally. It’s very fine 90s space opera with biological themes – competition, adaption, symbiosis – and nice worldbuilding. I’d recommend it.

    (*) “To slay the folks and cleanse the land/And leave the Earth a reeking roastie/High purpose of this gallant band/And six were kids and one a ghostie”

  8. The first Lafferty I read was “Slow Tuesday Night” which was a mind-blower for thirteen-year-old me. I’m also fond of “Eurema’s Dam.”

  9. @Rob Thornton: Yes, I’d agree. As I recall, and to grossly simplify, “urban fantasy” was initially a term applied to de Lint, Bull, Borderlands, Mercedes Lackey’s SERRAted Edge, et al., and kind of signified rock ‘n’ roll elves, but these days it’s primarily applied to Butcher, Blake, the Sookie Stackhouse books, etc., and usually signifies some combination of real-world magical detective stories and sexy vampires. (Which, interestingly, Mercedes Lackey also kind of pioneered with her Diana Tregarde books, although they never really took off at the time; I think Anita Blake was really the inflection point.)

    Aside from, well, Charles de Lint and the recent Borderlands revival, is there anybody else writing the more early 90s-style urban fantasy these days?

  10. Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness is an early (1977) work that pops into my mind as being urban fantasy.

  11. Yeah, there were other books that kind of fit the mold prior to that, but I think a lot of them were categorized as something closer to horror at the time. Leiber’s Conjure Wife probably also fits the bill.

  12. I got a kick out of Lafferty’s humour and wordplay when I was a kid, while sometimes missing some of his work’s deeper aspects. I was also very much struck by the central idea of his story “All Pieces of a River Shore”, which was in one of the “Orbit” anthologies. For me a memorable story.

  13. I love Lafferty, and we’ve read a couple of his short stories for my story discussion group. For people that are interested in Lafferty, I highly recommend the SF Masterworks collection edited by Jonathan Strahan. If you like short stories, seriously, he’s awesome and one of the true masters of the speculative short form.

  14. Never could figure how the “-punk” affix got affixed to Linda Nagata’s work. But then, I’d be happy to see “punk” retired (or buried at a crossroad with a stake through its heart) as a subgenre descriptor. Wikipedia taxonomists have a lot of bad nonce terminology to answer for.

  15. Watch out — if somebody gets rid of “-punk” the scandal that follows will be known as Punkgate!

  16. Mike Glyer says Witch out — if somebody gets rid of “-punk” the scandal that follows will be known as Punkgate!

    And that’d mean an end to Ellen Kushner’s mannerpunk tales which the term so nicely describes. If you’ve not read Swordspoint you’ve missed one of the oh so best nmannerpunk books ever.

  17. Regarding urban fantasy, the term first popped up in the 1980s for works like Charles de Lint’s, Emma Bull’s, etc… and was eventually applied to the Dresden Files, Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse, Mercy Thompson type stories, which showed up around the term of the millennium (Anita Blake goes back to the 1990s) and had their heyday in the early 2000s.

    However, the phenomenon of fantasy set in the contemporary world is much older and there are stories which are very much urban fantasy to be found in Weird Tales and Unknown in the 1930s and 1940s. You even have the fusing with crime fiction in various occult detective stories such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John Thunstone and Judge Pursuivant stories or Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin stories.

    And the lineage goes back even further. I guess you could claim Dracula for urban fantasy, since it was set in contemporary times (and referenced modern technology like typewriters) when written.

  18. re: Looper has made a directory: “Lord of the Rings: Every Ring-bearer in chronological order” it seems the author of this list only watched the movies. If you read the books, you realize that Tom Bombadil was briefly a ring-bearer. When Frodo and company are in his home in the Old Forest, Bombadil puts it on, and surprisingly doesn’t disappear. Some people think Boromir also briefly held it when it slipped off Frodo’s neck during the attempt on the Redhorn Pass, but that happened only in the movie.

  19. In my head, I consider urban fantasy to be a subset of contemporary fantasy. That’s how I group the books on my Kindle.

  20. @Joe H.

    10) They weren’t called Tusken Raiders in the movie, but I’m certain that term (much like the name Emperor Palpatine) first appeared in the 1977 novelization of the original Star Wars.

    You are correct. And they also were called by that name in the Marvel comic book adaptation, which came out in the summer of 1977.

    And so many of the newspaper articles that came out with the movie’s release mentioned “Tusken Raiders” that some of the film’s publicity materials must have mentioned them by name.

  21. Whatever the origins, I tend to read the “urban” in “urban fantasy” as an American euphemism for race – stories of the dangerous but alluring lives of people who live in the parts of town that are invisible to white suburbanites, kind of thing.

  22. My favourite Lafferty story is ‘Polity and Custom of the Camiroi’ (collected in 900 Grandmothers’. I recall it chiefly for it’s distinctive farewell – ‘There will be many a dry eye hear when you leave’.

    Also currently applicable is the Camiroi dekalog of defamatory insults, fully 8 of 10 of which are perfectly applicable to he who has recently become and ex-president.

    Currently reading ‘Parable of the Sower’, which might not have been the best choice for the past week. Finding that ol’ HPL has lifted his game somewhat in ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, but if I have to read about another gambrell roof it will be much too soon.

    Listening to ‘Solid Rock’ by Goanna

  23. @ Bill and Joe H – yes, I remember that from the novelisation. Not, sadly, from the Marvel comic book adaptation, which was released as a pair of albums. I was given the second one for Christmas, which would have been a little before being taken in to the movie 3/4s of the way through. Yes, it has scarred me deeply :).

  24. Currently reading ‘Parable of the Sower’, which might not have been the best choice for the past week.

    Don’t know if it’s mentioned in the first book as well, but the sequel actually has a President with the slogan “Make America Great Again”

  25. (7) Misplaced comma department: for “Dina Meyer Denise, Richards” read “Dina Meyer, Denise Richards” …

  26. 6; Thanks to Pippin for this. I hope I could make half as glowing a tribute to my mother in her time. I only met Doyle a handful of times but I always remember those fondly.

    11: I find myself disagreeing fervently with that author about WHICH sequences were good and which terrible in Fantasia, even as I agree with the general overview. (The Rite of Spring dinosaurs have not survived the passage of scientific knowledge, for one, but even as a kid I didn’t find them as exciting as I ought. Meantime, despite its cutesiness and the knowledge there was a racist fragment I have thankfully never had to see, the Pastoral riveted me as a kid and has lasting moment of beauty as an adult.)

    I DO think the best Fantasia would take the best pieces from Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 and dismiss the rest (“Rhapsody in Blue” was brilliant.) Or maybe they will do what they’ve talked about and make yet another Fantasia sometime, and the real best will be the combination of the best of all 3.

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