(1) ALL IN THE FAMILY. Cora Buhlert has announced the winner of the 2020 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents. This year, she has a Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award winner as well.
… This year also marks the 40th annual Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.
Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page to various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner and the 2019 winner were announced here.
And there is no danger of spoiling this year’s result, for as Cora herself says —
This is another winner where many members of our esteemed audience will go, “Who?”
(2) ON SECOND THOUGHT. “Michael Sheen Hands Back OBE From Queen Elizabeth II” – in a report today Deadline says the Good Omens actor did it in 2017. But it’s news to me!
…Speaking in a YouTube interview with Guardian columnist Owen Jones, the Welsh actor said he handed back an Order of the British Empire (OBE) that he received in 2009 for services to drama.
He quietly returned the honor in 2017 after conducting research on Wales’ relationship with England as part of delivering the Raymond Williams Society lecture. He referenced his unease with practices such as handing the Prince of Wales title to the heir to the throne, despite that individual being English.
(3) STALLING SPEED. The Guardian reports on the woes of the famous bookstalls along the banks of the Seine in Paris: “Through gilets jaunes, strikes and Covid, Paris’s 400-year-old book stalls fight to survive”.
…One recent Sunday, though, Jérôme Callais made €32. And there was a day that week when he made €4: a single paperback, he can’t even recall which. It has not, Callais said, sheltering from driving rain on an all but deserted Quai de Conti, been easy.
“In fact, it’s been terrible,” he said, surveying a long, long row of shuttered boxes. “The culmination of three disastrous years. First the gilets jaunes and their protests. Then the transport strikes last winter. And now Covid: travel bans, lockdowns, curfews. In financial terms, a catastrophe.”
Not that anyone ever became a bouquiniste for the money. Even in non-pandemic times, small-scale, secondhand bookselling in the era of smartphones, e-readers and Amazon is never going to be much of a money-spinner….
(4) PIXEL ADJACENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Learned by having just watched 10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘A Christmas Story.
(The movie based on Jean Shepherd’s stories from his collection In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which many folks of my greying years listened to Shep read on his radio show over the years):
1, One of the 8,000 kids who auditioned for the role of Ralphie (Shep’s younger self) was Wil Wheaton. (This fact makes it sufficiently sf-adjacent to be a Scroll item.)
2, One of the auditioners for the role of the father was Jack Nicholson.
(5) THOMAS ON BRADBURY. This is from an interview with new F&SF editor Sheree Renée Thomas in the December Locus:
I really loved Ray Bradbury because he often wrote about small towns. Even though I’ve lived in New York, I don’t really think of Memphis as a small town–it’s a big city with lots of different little towns in it–but I liked that Bradbury wasn’t patronizing and dismissive. He recognized, like so many other writers, that in these places great complexity, mystery, and human drama can be found. He had some problematic things in his work, but he was more progressive than some of his peers at the time. I loved his language and his characters,
There’s a big excerpt of the interview at the link (although this paragraph admittedly isn’t part of it.)
(6) STAGING FRANKENSTEIN. The New York Times revisits “A ‘Frankenstein’ That Never Lived”. Tagline: “On Jan. 4, 1981, the effects-heavy production opened and closed on the same night. Forty years later, the creators revisit a very expensive Broadway flop.”
… The show’s human stars included John Carradine, in what would be his last stage role, as the blind beggar.
GIALANELLA Carradine had been doing such crap — B movies, commercials. He was an old man, but he still had that deep, rich, whiskey voice. During previews, Joe rented a screening room and showed us “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” [from 1935, in which Carradine had an uncredited bit part]. Someone turned to him and said: “That’s such a great film. What’s your memory of it?” He stood for a minute and said, “Two days’ work.”
CARRIE ROBBINS, costume designer His hands were so riddled with arthritis he could not dress himself. I had a lovely small-of-stature dresser who was able to hide in the “fireplace” of the old man’s hut and help him out.
The role of Victor Frankenstein went to William Converse-Roberts, a recent Yale Drama School graduate who would be making his Broadway debut. After extensive auditions of other actors, the part of the Creature went to Keith Jochim, who had originated the role in St. Louis.
GIALANELLA Nobody was nailing it. I went to Joe and said, “You’ve got to bring in Keith.” They didn’t want to do it. They wanted someone with at least New York credibility.
MARTORELLA Keith’s audition was incredibly moving. We had 10 minutes, and he ended up reading for a half an hour. Then he came back in the afternoon in the makeup he had designed [for St. Louis]. I wrote in my diary, “He had totally transformed himself into a heap of horror.” I can still see the faces of Tom, Joe and Victor. They were in awe.
The show, began loading in at the Palace on Oct. 23, 1980. The crew started with 15 stagehands, which quickly swelled to three dozen. The start of previews was delayed by the complexity of Douglas Schmidt’s sets, which rotated on a giant turntable, and by issues with effects like the Tesla coil, whose full intensity was ratcheted up over the course of rehearsals.
JOHN GLOVER, actor The first time [the Tesla coil] went off, it scared the crap out of me. Instead of falling into the orchestra pit, I jumped all the way over it.
(7) WELLS OBIT. Deadline reports “Dawn Wells Dead: ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Dies From Covid Compilations At 82”. She did a lot of TV work in addition to her iconic role as Gilligan’s Mary Ann, but that series’ animated spinoff transformed her character into a genre voice acting role in Gilligan’s Planet (1982-1983) —
Gilligan’s Planet is based on the premise that the Professor had managed to build an operational interplanetary spaceship to get the castaways of the original series off the island. This series creates a different timeline for the Gilligan franchise, rendering the two Universal Television film sequels necessarily in a different continuity, as those films had integrated the cast back into society….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born December 30, 1865 — Rudyard Kipling. Yea Kipling. He’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got His Hump“ and “The Cat That Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that he deserves a Birthday. Or there’s always The Jungle Book which runs to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.) (CE)
- Born December 30, 1869 – Stephen Leacock, Ph.D. Forty short stories for us; he called some “nonsense novels”, but as to their length that is numerically nugatory. Lorne Pierce Medal. Governor General’s Award. Mark Twain Award. Eponym of the Leacock Memorial Medal. Admirer of Robert Benchley, admired by Groucho Marx and Jack Benny. A complicated conservative, a consummate comic. Let us at his left write so well. (Died 1944) [JH]
- Born December 30, 1935 – David Travis, Ph.D. Bowler and mathematician. Five stories. Correspondent of Amazing, SF Review, Starship, hello Andy Porter. (Died 2011) [JH]
- Born December 30, 1931 – Ilene Meyer. Artist Guest of Honor at Rustycon 3. Here is the Norwescon 8 Program Book. Here is the Jul 88 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Here is the May 90. Here is the Jan 94. Here is Vance’s Chateau D’If. Here is the Fenners’ artbook on her. Covers for six volumes of P.K. Dick’s letters; here is 1980-1982. Here is The World Below; she did not live to complete The World Above. (Died 2009) [JH]
- Born December 30, 1950 — Lewis Shiner, 70. Damn his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone here that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on usual suspects with Joe Lansdale? It looks interesting. (CE)
- Born December 30, 1951 – Avedon Carol, age 69. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate and thus Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 34, whereupon she married Rob Hansen (see her report here) and both were Fan Guests of Honour at Eastercon 40. AC also FGoH at Wiscon 11, Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid; the FGoH is determined, um, idiosyncratically). Many fanzines, see here. [JH]
- Born December 30, 1952 – S.P. Somtow, age 68. Thirty novels, ninety shorter stories, many interwoven, interdependent, international. Forty poems; a hundred essays (thirty in Fantasy Review), letters, messages, reviews, introductions to introductions – I’m not making this up, he is. Here is his cover for The Other City of Angels. Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer. Locus Award. World Fantasy Award. Composer, conductor (Golden W from the Int’l Wagner Society), founder of performing companies, and in fact a prince of a man. In person I last saw him playing piano four-hands with Laura Brodian Kelly-Freas (as she then was). Website. [JH]
- Born December 30, 1959 — Douglas A. Anderson, 61. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there: Tolkien and Fantasy (CE)
- Born December 30, 1976 — Rhianna Pratchett, 44. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and being involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They of course helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon. (CE)
- Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku, 40. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching. She done a fair of other voicework, one of which I’ll single out as of note which is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies. (CE)
- Born December 30, 1986 — Faye Marsay, 34. Shona McCullough In a Twelfth Doctor story, “The Last Christmas”. She also was on A Game of Thrones for several seasons as The Waif. (Who that is I know not as I didn’t watch that series.) She also played Blue Colson in Black Mirror’s “Hated in the Nation” tale. Her theater creds include Hansel & Gretel, Peter Pan and Macbeth — all definitely genre. (CE)
- Born December 30, 1993 – Kaley Bales, age 27. Visual artist. Illustrations for Michael Ezell, Peter Madeiros. Here is Why She Wrote. “My biggest sources of inspiration are the Pacific Ocean coastline, fresh produce, and any mainstream media made before the 1970s.” [JH]
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater has a fine Justice League-inspired pun.
(10) TRADITIONAL GALLIFREYAN HOLIDAY CELEBRATION. “Doctor Who best Christmas episode revealed by fans” in a Radio Times poll.
…“God bless us, every one! A decade on, A Christmas Carol is still the Doctor Who festive special liable to turn even the greatest TV Scrooge into a true Christmas convert,” said Huw Fullerton, RadioTimes.com’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Editor.
“Filled with Who-letide cheer, adventure, flying sharks and even a Katherine Jenkins solo, this episode really does have it all. Is it any wonder it’s still at the top of any Whovian’s Christmas list?”
Also starring Michael Gambon, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill alongside Smith and Jenkins, the Steven Moffat-penned episode sees Smith’s Doctor try to evoke Charles Dickens’ classic tale to warm the heart of an old miser (Gambon), whose greed and apathy threaten the lives of countless people.
…Interestingly, the poll also recorded a high result for William Hartnell festive one-off The Feast of Steven (1965), which was actually the seventh part of the Daleks’ Master Plan serial, and saw the First Doctor break the fourth wall to wish everyone at home a Merry Christmas.
Considering this episode was irretrievably lost soon after broadcast and very few will have been able to see it, it seems likely fans were intending to show a general support for Hartnell’s Time Lord, and note his often-overlooked status as the first Doctor (and the only for 40 years) to have a Christmas special.
- A Christmas Carol (2010) 13 per cent
- The End of Time (2009/10) 11 per cent
- The Christmas Invasion (2005) 10 per cent (higher vote)
- The Feast of Steven (1965) 10 per cent
- Resolution (2019) 8 per cent (higher vote)
- The Husbands of River Song (2015) 8 per cent
- Voyage of the Damned (2007) 8 per cent
- Twice Upon a Time (2017) 7 per cent
- The Runaway Bride (2006) 6 per cent
- The Time of the Doctor (2013) 5 per cent
- Last Christmas (2014) 5 per cent
- The Snowmen (2012) 3 per cent (higher vote)
- The Next Doctor (2008) 3 per cent
- The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011) 2 per cent
- The Return of Doctor Mysterio (2016) 1 per cent
(11) GETTING READY FOR DISNEY+’S WANDAVISION SERIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This alone is enough to have me ready to subscribe to Disney+ (Yes, Loki also looks interesting, and as long as I (will) have a subscription, I will no doubt dip a mutant-clawed iron-armored toe into the other Marvel series). (And we’ll finally watch Hamilton: The Movie.)
Here’s the trailers. Yes it looks like it’s going to be a hopefully long strange trip.
In case you aren’t already sold, here’s a bit of background etc: (I assume there’s no spoilers, but can’t guarantee it.)
The show takes place after Avengers: Endgame (during which Vision died).
It takes (some of its) inspiration from Marvel’s House Of M event/story line (where W & V have young kids), and from Tom King’s superlative, heart-wrenching Vision 12-issue (2-15-2016) comic mini-series.
(King also, among other things, wrote the recent equally but differently moving Mr Miracle mini-series, for DC.)
And here’s several ways to get/read King’s series — worth doing for its own sake.
1, Buy the individual issues, or “graphic novels” (issues collected into book format), either The Vision (all 12 issues), or the done-in-two collections:
- The Vision. 1, Little worse than a man (1-6)
- The Vision. 2, Little better than a beast (7-12)
2, Read via Marvel’s Unlimited comics streaming service (https://www.marvel.com/unlimited). (All twelve issues are there — on the mobile app, easy to find via BROWSE/SERIES/VISION. I’m having trouble finding it via the web interface.)
(FREE) 3, Digital borrow from HooplaDigital.com (well, 2 borrows), assuming your library offers Hoopla as one of its digital services.
(FREE) or as a library book borrow, either as a single volume,
- The Vision / Tom King — https://find.minlib.net/iii/encore/record/C__Rb3714481__Svision
Or as two volumes, like Hoopla
- The Vision. 1, Little worse than a man
- The Vision. 2, Little better than a beast
(12) TAKE A TRIP BACK IN TIME. A group of fans on Facebook painstakingly colorized all the comics in this 1944 photo of magazine covers on a newsstand. Click to see the image.
(13) FIRST FIFTH. PBS program NOVA names “The top 5 science stories of 2020”.
…Despite facing coronavirus-related setbacks, researchers made profound discoveries and helped people understand some startling realities. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe grabbed a piece of an asteroid, and the Japan Space Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft returned samples of another asteroid to Earth. Scientists found signatures of water on the moon and nearby space rocks, and an obscure gas on our celestial neighbor, Venus. Meanwhile, other scientific endeavors—like climate change research at the poles—faced a freeze as the pandemic brought “normal” life here on Earth to a halt.
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers 2020,” the Screen Junkies say last year was “a live action version of The Book of Revelation, featuring fires, famine, rain, and other signs of the End Times.” Special Guest Patton Oswalt adds to the mirth.
[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]