(1) BOLD GOING. Jason Sanford says “Space operas boldly go to the heart of the human soul”.
Only after seeing Star Wars did I begin reading literary science fiction and discover that the film not only wasn’t overly original, but that George Lucas had borrowed his themes and motifs from a number of genre sources. Among these was what is likely the first space opera as readers would recognize the genre, The Skylark of Space by E. E. “Doc” Smith, published in Amazing Stories in 1928.
There are a number of earlier stories which can lay claim to being space operas, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ highly influential Barsoom series, featuring his famous hero John Carter of Mars. But E.E. Smith introduced something different with Skylark: true interstellar travel and space ships combined with adventures on other planets. He continued this trend with his influential Lensman series of stories.
He also introduced mediocre writing and poor science, with the space engine at the center of his Skylark adventures powered by copper which is magically transformed when connected to an unknown “element X.” But if the heart of the ship’s space drive made no sense, the heart of the story resonated with readers. They ate it up.
As did other authors, who began playing in the space opera sandbox of stars, mixing romance with the clash of civilizations and interstellar drama and action. Authors such as Leigh Brackett (known as the “Queen of Space Opera”) and C. L. Moore filled the pulp magazines with these exciting stories. As did A. E. van Vogt, who published the well-known novel The World of Null-A. Even Isaac Asimov space opera’ed away with his extremely influential Foundation series. These space operas and many more set the stage for the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
(2) FLINT ON THE COVER. An excerpt from his interview in the December issue of Locus, “Eric Flint: Remaking History”, has been posted at Locus Online.
‘‘I’ve been a full-time author since the end of 1999. I never had a job that lasted more than five years. I thought about it the other day. Of course, I’m 69, so I don’t know that anybody would want to hire me as a machinist. If I wanted to go back to work in a factory, I couldn’t put together a résumé because most of the places I’ve worked have gone out of business. It’s ironic for me, being a writer, but that’s partly because I stayed on topic. Jim Baen once said to me, ‘You know, I’m surprised. For a commie, you haven’t made any career mistakes.’ I said, ‘Jim, it’s because I’m never caught off-guard when capitalism lives down to my expectations.’ I’ll give him credit: he laughed. He thought that was funny. I’ve had a very successful career.
‘‘Andre Norton’s prose is pedestrian, and I hear her rough drafts were even worse, and she needed a lot of editing. Nevertheless, she had one of the most successful careers in the field, because she was a terrific storyteller. I like to think that I write better than that, but, like her, I’m first and foremost a storyteller. I can teach the craft of writing, but what I cannot do is tell someone how to make a good story. I have a good friend, a photographer, and he used to be a professional for years. It’s not his eyesight – he’s got terrible eyesight. It’s just that he can look at something, and I’ll see exactly the same thing he’s looking at, but he can see that if you framed it this way, it’d be a great picture. I can’t see the frame. That’s what a storyteller does, is frame a sequence of events in such a way that there’s a point to it, it makes sense, and you go somewhere with it. I don’t know how you teach that.”
(3) GRAPHIC NOVELS. Comixology has put together its list of 50 Essential Graphic Novels which, coincidentally, they would love to sell you.
(4) MIYAZAKI PROJECT. A BBC profile, “Hayao Miyazaki: Japan’s godfather of animation?”, includes hints about a possible upcoming film.
Miyazaki has tried to retire – reportedly at least six times – but it appears he is not finished telling his stories. Since last year he has been working on a short film called Boro the Caterpillar, based on a story in development for two decades.
Last month he said it would be turned into a full-length film, which may only be released in 2021 – he will be 80 years old by then.
(5) IN SUO ANNO. When C.S.E. Cooney won a World Fantasy Award, her hometown paper took notice: “World award is no fantasy for Westerly author Claire Cooney”
When she was in third grade, Claire Cooney wrote her first musical. When she was in sixth grade, she wrote her first novel.
When she was 33, she was nominated for a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America-sponsored Nebula Award for her first novella, “The Bone Swans of Amandale.”
In October the soon-to-be 35-year-old Westerly resident earned another feather for her colorful cap. She won the 2016 World Fantasy Award for “Bone Swans: Stories,” in the Best Short Story Collection category.
“I had no expectation of winning so I didn’t prepare any comments,” said Cooney, whose stories take readers on fantastical journeys through reimagined fairy tales and myths. “I just sat there saying ‘No way’ … until my friends started screaming.”
(6) HORROR APPRECIATION. This week on Jump Scare, Cierra breaks gives us a brief look at how gothic literature has help to inspire and shape horror. “A Brief Look at the Inspiration of Gothic Literature”
(7) BINKS STILL STINKS. Jerseys and bobbleheads galore in this article at Cut4 — “Get weird with 10 of the best Minor League promotions from 2016”.
MLB promotions are always a joy, but the Minors are where the most unique promotions are going to be. Teams routinely honor ’90s cartoons, give away weird bobbleheads and have the best and strangest between-innings contests.
But even in the world of zany promotions, we still must separate the wheat from the chaff. These were 10 of our favorite promotions from the last year….
- Altoona Curve – Jar Jar Binks jerseys
Given that “Star Wars” might be the most successful and profitable film franchise of all-time (somehow more than Space Jam), it makes sense that plenty of teams at both the Minor and Major League level host nights devoted to the space opera. But only the Altoona Curve, the Double-A affiliate of the Pirates, were willing to look back at that cruelly overlooked and maligned character: Jar Jar Binks.
— Sean McCool (@NotSoMcCool) June 4, 2016
The team would lose, 3-0, that night, though. Perhaps Jar Jar is fairly maligned.
(8) MONSTER MAINTENANCE MAN. Ray Harryhausen Podcast “Episode 11 – Conservation and Restoration with Alan Friswell”.
Episode 11 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast sees us interview Alan Friswell, the Foundation’s official conservator, about the work he has carried out in maintaining Ray’s models for future generations.
Listen to Alan speak about how he ended up working with Ray, and the amazing models which he has restored over the years, including most recently the original latex model of ‘Gwangi!’
(9) MTV FOR MILLENNIALS. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Swann reports that MTV is rebroadcasting Clone High, a 2003 cartoon about “historical figures resurrected as part of a government experiment (that) return to high school” because it’s part of a plan to bring back any show that appeals to cord-cutting Millennials who liked to watch cartoons as kids. The show was one of the first projects of Chris Miller, who went on to co-create The Lego Movie and The Last Man on Earth — “Feeding the nostalgia beast: MTV and other networks bring back their vintage shows”.
Abraham Lincoln spent the entire summer growing out his sideburns in the hopes of impressing Cleopatra, but it was a goth-styled Joan of Arc who yearned for his attention at John F. Kennedy’s back-to-school kegger.
Such was the plot of the pilot for “Clone High,” an animated teen comedy series whose premise was so absurd — historical figures cloned as part of a government experiment return to high school — that it could have only been produced by MTV in 2003. The network was experimenting in its attempt to find a follow-up to “Daria,” which also championed teen misfits and social outcasts. But “Clone High” never caught on; it was canceled after just 13 episodes.
“It was just like the kookiest idea ever, but that show was gone, lost,” says Erik Flannigan, executive vice president of music and multiplatform strategy for MTV. He’d all but forgotten about its existence until meeting Chris Miller, the series’ co-creator (better known as co-director of “The Lego Movie”) when their children attended the same kindergarten in Los Angeles. Around the same time, MTV was undertaking a massive archiving project, working with the data management company Iron Mountain to digitize its assets, eventually spurring Flannigan and his colleagues to launch a new network centered entirely on old content.
(10) A LITTLE SUNDAY MAGIC. Chris Pratt (Star-Lord) entertained with this card trick on The Graham Norton Show.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]