Pixel Scroll 12/24/19 Yes, But Is It A Pixel And A Scroll Wax?

(1) ASIMOV 100. There will be an Asimov-themed meetup at the New York City College of Technology on January 4.

Andrew Porter adds: “I’m one of the panelists, along with Sheila Williams and Erwin ‘Filthy Pierre’ Strauss. Remind me to dig out Asimov’s FBI file…”

(2) THEY’RE THE TOPS. Ed Power of The Independent wants to explain “Why The Muppet Christmas Carol set the gold standard for Dickens adaptations”.

…But when 58-year-old Michael Caine walked in they knew they had their Ebenezer. He had prepared for his audition not by immersing himself in Victorian literature but by turning on the news. Caine revealed that he had got into Scrooge’s headspace by “watching CNN and seeing the trials and tribulations of all the Wall Street cheats and embezzlers”. 

“I thought they represented a very good picture of meanness and greed,” he added. “My Scrooge is particularly irredeemable, and more psychotic than most.”

(3) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 24, 1916 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916). Silent film directed and written by Stuart Paton premiered. Starring Allen Holubar and Jane Gail, Carl Laemmle, later to be founder of what would become Universal Pictures, produced it. Paton used most of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel and elements of Mysterious Island as well. Yes, it’s in the National Film Registry as it should be. Indeed, it was a box office success as it made eight million on a budget of two hundred thousand. You can watch it here.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 24, 1910 — Fritz Leiber. I can say that my fav work by him is The Big Time which I either read or listen to every year. And yes, I’ve read the Change War Stories too, difficult to find as they were. Yes, I know it won a Hugo — much, much deserved!  I’m also fond of Conjure Wife, but otherwise I prefer his short fiction to his novels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 24, 1945 — Nicholas Meyer, 74. Superb and funny novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is.  Much better than the film, I think. Now his Time After Time film is spot on. And let’s not forget his work on the Trek films, The Wrath of Khan (much of which went uncredited), The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.  
  • Born December 24, 1964 — Mark Valley, 55. He made my Birthday list first by being the lead, Christopher Chance, in Human Target, a short-lived series created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for DC, that was weirdly well done. He was also John Scott in Fringe as a regular cast member early on. He voiced Clark Kent / Superman in the second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Born December 24, 1966 — ?Diedrich Bader, 53. I know him best as the voice of Batman on The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. No, he’s not Kevin Conroy but his Batman is quite enjoyable and interesting in his own right. He’s best cast as Batman / Bruce Wayne in the new Harley Quinn series on the DC Universe service.
  • Born December 24, 1969 — Mark Millar, 50. Comic book writer whose resume is long. The Millar/Quitely era on The Authority was politically edged and often got censored by DC as it commented on the Iraq War — well worth your reading. His run on Swamp Thing from 142 to 171 has a lot of other writers including Morrison. He did the Ultimates at Marvels and a lot of the superb series ended in the Avengers film. Finally, his excellent Civil War was the basis of the Captain America: Civil War film and his not to be missed Old Man Logan was the inspiration for Fox’s Logan film.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

36 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/24/19 Yes, But Is It A Pixel And A Scroll Wax?

  1. Regarding Fritz Leiber, he wrote a lot of excellent works, but my favourites are the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, which are very much comfort reading for me.

    I remember enjoying Mark Millar’s take on The Authority a lot in the early 2000s.

  2. Two more free ebooks at the TAFF site as we near the end of Walt Willis’s birth centenary year: The Willis Papers from 1961, showcasing his first eleven years of fanwriting, and Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator (1991) with James White, official sequel to the 1954 classic. See the whole list, with latest releases first, at …

    https://taff.org.uk/ebooks.php?all&chron

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Conjure Wife is my favourite of Leiber’s and after that, it is You’re All Alone.

  4. When Gregg Press optioned to reprint YOU’RE ALL ALONE, they used the paperback edition of it that had been rewritten to make it a bit “spicier”. Leiber did not know it was tinkered with. Still, a good book, akin to a PKD novel.

  5. I recall enjoying Gather, Darkness too. “Creature from the Cleveland Depths” is a very early Singularity story, so that’s of note.

  6. Happy and Merry Christmas to tthose who celebrate.

    Re: Leiber. So much to love, even beyond the awesomeness that are one of the iconic duos of SFF.

  7. Gather Darkness is another really great Fritz Leiber novel. He took the standard Campbellian “science masquerading as sham religion” trope and ran with it.

  8. Joe H. says I really need to read more non-Fafhrd Leiber.

    Which led me to check how well he’s stocked in the digital stores. Apple Books stocks him poorly but the Kindle store does rather well with pretty much everything available. NOOK claims to have the deepest listings for him.

    What’s the name of the Archive that does amateur recordings of audiobooks? I remember trying their production of The Big Time some years back and cringing at the bloody awfulness of it.

  9. I’m much more of a lurker than a regular participant, but I hope everyone here has a lovely Xmas.

  10. 2) I tend to agree with Connie Willis that Mr. Magoo’s interpretation was one of the strongest Ebenezer Scrooges in history.
    Happy Holidays!

  11. The songs in Magoo’s Christmas Carol were written by accomplished Broadway tunesmiths.

  12. Robert Whitaker Sirignano says The songs in Magoo’s Christmas Carol were written by accomplished Broadway tunesmiths.

    Jule Styne, the composer, was the composer for the 1953 Peter Pan play, his lone SFF credit. Bob Merrill who did the music also has one genre credit, music for a film called The Red Shoes which has nothing to with The Red Dairies series.

  13. Robert Whitaker Sirignano says The songs in Magoo’s Christmas Carol were written by accomplished Broadway tunesmiths.

    Jule Styne, the composer, was so for the 1953 Peter Pan play, his lone SFF credit. Bob Merrill who did the music also has one genre credit, music for a film called The Red Shoes which has nothing to with The Red Dairies series.

  14. I was only recently reminded of the existence of the 1970 Albert Finney Scrooge musical, which I promptly ordered from Amazon (although it will not, alas, arrive until sometime on Friday):

  15. Another big fan of Gather, Darkness here. And Fafhrd was the main inspiration for the lack of vowels in my nick. Dated as they are in spots, the Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser stories remain on my frequently-reread list.

    I think I only met Mr. Leiber once, but he seemed very pleasant and charming (at least from my privileged perspective), and, my god, the man had presence! The theatrical training, I’m pretty sure. He wasn’t loud, but somehow, he could still command attention without half trying.

    As for A Christmas Carol, my favorite take is “A Blackadder Christmas”, although I suppose that’s more of a subversion than a version.

    (And yes, my favorite Christmas song is by the Kinks. It’s not that I don’t like the holiday; I just like seeing people take the piss out of things.) 😀

  16. Counting the Retro-Hugo, but not counting retrospective collections, Grand Masters, Lifetime Achievement, and Special Awards, Leiber won major SF/F awards for work in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. That’s five decades of greatness.

    I agree that most of Leiber’s best work is at shorter lengths, but some of his novels are excellent.

    I would love to see a stage production of The Big Time. It was obviously written as a play for a theater in the round. Everything is there, costumes, set design, and stage direction. I reread it recently to see if it had been damaged by the Suck Fairy. I think not, but it is showing its age. The Big Time was an angry radical story for its time. But its time is different in many ways from now. A lot of shit is still the same, but I think you have to put yourself in the mindset of the 1950s to fully appreciate the novel. Which is another reason I’d like to see it on stage — directors can adapt scripts to whatever time they want.

    Another favorite is Our Lady of Darkness. It won the World Fantasy Award. It is a brilliant fantasy, and the deepest and most personal of Leiber’s novels.

  17. While some of the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories are truly excellent (Lean Times in Lankhmar is a favourite) I was going to recommend [i]Our Lady of Darkness[/i] too.

  18. @jayn @Andrew: My personal favorite A Christmas Carol is the George C. Scott (1984) film, but the Mr. Magoo version is a very close second.

  19. Merry Christmas, all!

    I have not yet felt like killing my father today, so yay! OTOH, I’ll be here til tomorrow, so there is still time…..

  20. The history of the text of Leiber’s “You’re All Alone” is … complicated. Details may be found here: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?11452

    And a big yes to “Our Lady of Darkness”. But wait there’s more! The novel was a two part serial in F&SF as “The Pale Brown Thing” and it’s different:

    “The Pale Brown Thing isn’t so much an earlier draft of the story as it is a different version. I later learned that Leiber felt “the two texts should be regarded as the same story told at different times. If Franz’s story is longer in Our Lady of Darkness, the reason is that he recalls more the second time he tells it.” ” https://swanriverpress.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/fritz-leibers-the-pale-brown-thing/

  21. @Xtifr: I think I only met Mr. Leiber once, but he seemed very pleasant and charming (at least from my privileged perspective), and, my god, the man had presence! This is what I’ve read from other sources; I’ve seen mention of him mesmerizing a Masquerade audience as a Spider operative, wearing nothing costumish beyond a couple of collar tabs. His work makes it obvious that his father was a working actor (from whom Fritz Jr. picked up skills by some combination of drill and osmosis); I think of him as having a tool set on the level of Lorenzo Smythe.

    @Tom Becker: it’s not clear to me that The Big TIme needs updating, any more than Patience does — there are always careless commanders, as there are always esthetic frauds. I know of a production in the 1980’s in Utah (the tape was shown at a Westercon, but I foolishly managed not to get to it); a group of us in Boston tried to get together a performance for Constellation but didn’t have the groundwork. It’s particularly unclear to me that in-the-round is necessary; both rooms need to be visible, but ISTM there needs to be concealed space for the operatives to appear from.

  22. 2) I think part of the wonder of the Muppet Christmas Carol is…well, whenever an artist adapts a work, there’s always this feeling that they need to do something to make it theirs. They need to change it somehow so that it’s not just a straight lift.

    When the Muppets do an adaptation (Treasure Island is similar in this regard) the fact that it’s the Muppets is enough. So they do as faithful an adaptation as you can when one of your main characters is a felt frog.

  23. @Cat Eldridge: I suspect you’re thinking of LibriVox. The stuff on there ranges from “worth what you paid for it” to “nearly professional quality”. I’m still fairly proud of the two Lewis Carroll readings I participated in. Anyway, I checked, and they do have a reading of The Big Time. If it’s poor quality, maybe I should go ahead and do another one.

  24. David Goldfarb says I suspect you’re thinking of LibriVox. The stuff on there ranges from “worth what you paid for it” to “nearly professional quality”. I’m still fairly proud of the two Lewis Carroll readings I participated in. Anyway, I checked, and they do have a reading of The Big Time. If it’s poor quality, maybe I should go ahead and do another one.

    Oh please do so and I’ll do a review of it over on Green Man. Just give me a nudge to do so when you’ve got it done. It’s my fav work by him.

  25. Meredith Moment: Neal Stephenson’s Fall; or, Dodge in Hell (his punctuation, not mine) is currently $3.99.

  26. Re: Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time on stage: I think the way you do it is to have two actors playing Greta Forzane, costumed identically. One is the character on stage, the other narrates the play from various places in the audience. And to emphasize that they are one & the same, they could occasionally change places. This allows the wit and wisdom of Greta’s narration to emerge, rather than being lost on stage in her role as a largely observer character.

  27. Is The Big Time really public domain? I’d have thought it would need to be 90 years after Leiber’s death, or whatever it is.

  28. David Goldfarb asks Is The Big Time really public domain? I’d have thought it would need to be 90 years after Leiber’s death, or whatever it is.

    Oh it’s copyrighted by the Estate of Fritz Leiber with the last date being 2000 according to the digital copy I purchased as I read it often. Does that mean you can make an audio recording without permission? No, you shouldn’t.

    Yes there are splendid audio recordings of The Big Time done commercially with two being narrated by Suzanne Toren and Alice Marti who both do a marvellous Greta. It’s been recorded a lot.

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