Pixel Scroll 6/22/19 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Files And His Churls

(1) MÜNCHHAUSEN DEBATE. Some regard Retro-Hugo nominee Münchhausen to be the best thing on the ballot, while others are considering refusing to rank it at all because the movie was made in Germany during the Third Reich. Cora Buhlert and Evelyn C. Leeper are two fans who are on opposite sides of the argument.

Buhlert analyzes a lot of the ethical questions in “Why you should not dismiss “Münchhausen” out of hand”.

… This post grew out of a comment on Steve J. Wright’s blog (whose Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews you should really read), where Steve expressed that he was unsure whether he should vote for Münchhausen due to its provenance. His is not the only comment along those lines I have seen, so here is a post explaining why you should not dismiss Münchhausen out of hand.

… However, quite a few Hugo voters have issues with Münchhausen, because it was made in Germany during the Third Reich and they don’t want to vote for “a Nazi film”. This is wrong, because – unlike some of the pretty crass propaganda stuff found elsewhere on the Retro Hugo ballot, particularly in the dramatic presentation and graphic story categories – Münchhausen is not a propaganda film, merely a film that happened to be made during the Third Reich. For while the Nazi propaganda movies are infamous – even though hardly anybody has seen them, because they still cannot be publicly displayed in Germany except for educational purposes* – these propaganda movies (about forty) only make up a small percentage of the total film output of the Nazi era. In fact, it’s a lot more likely to find propaganda in a random Hollywood movie made during WWII than in a random German movie. For the vast majority of the German movies made during the Third Reich were apolitical entertainment: musicals, melodramas, comedies, romances and the like.

…It’s also notable that most of the Münchhausen cast and crew, including director Josef von Baky, had careers that continued unimpeded in postwar Germany. And considering that both the Allies and the postwar West and East German authorities came down harder on artists who were involved with questionable movies than on Nazi doctors, judges, civil servants, military officers, etc… who were actually responsible for the deaths of many people (cause the latter were deemed important for building up the postwar state, while the former were not), this means that most of the people involved with Münchhausen were not Nazis….

Evelyn C. Leeper takes the other side in “Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Reviews” at MT VOID.

MUNCHHAUSEN was an attempt to provide the German audience with the lush Technicolor films they were not getting from Hollywood in 1943. And the film is beautiful, with some scenes reminiscent of Brueghel paintings, and the scenes on the moon quite fantastical. As a Hugo finalist, though, it has two flaws. One is that long stretches are fairly boring–I just don’t find Munchhausen’s intrigues with Catherine the Great very interesting. The second is that if people balk at giving an award to a film directed by someone accused of sexual misconduct and possible rape, what should one think of awarding a Hugo to a film made by the Nazis as a propaganda film (of the “Volksfilm” style)? It’s a fine line, I agree, but while I think the film worth watching (it’s available free on YouTube, and if you get it on DVD, whoever is getting the royalties, it’s not the Nazi party), I cannot vote to give it a Hugo.

(2) SCALING MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by rcade.] Wajahat Ali, a New York Times opinion writer and CNN contributor, asked for advice on Twitter about meeting his goal of reading 3 books a month:

In the replies, someone recommends the essay “How to read a lot of books” by David Evans, an economist who read 104 books in 2018:

The favorite suggestion among Twitter users is to get off social media. 

(3) GOING FOUR IT. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane is there when “’Toy Story 4’ Plays It Again”.

…“Toy Story 4” is directed by Josh Cooley, and it must be said that, for a while, the tale doesn’t seem like the freshest that Pixar has ever told. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks, as ever), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their bunch of pals are forced to adjust when young Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), in whose bedroom they reside, departs for orientation day at kindergarten and returns with a toy—or a thingamajig—that she has made. His name is Forky (Tony Hale), he was put together from cutlery, pipe cleaners, and goggly eyes, and he clings to a fervent belief that he is trash. Time and again, despite not having read Dostoyevsky, he has to be stopped from throwing himself away. Parents with children of Bonnie’s age may find these scenes difficult to explain….

(4) CARRYING A TUNE IN A BIG DIPPER. James Davis Nicoll was inspired by File 770 comments to consider the definition of space opera: “Single Star System Space Opera; or, Those Pesky Belters, Revisited” at Tor.com.

One world is not enough (probably). There are space operas that center on one world—novels such as Dune or The Snow Queen come to mind—but their plots require interactions between that planet and the rest of the narrative universe. The story may take place on one world, but this world is only one of many.

Space travel is a therefore a necessary feature of space opera. Travel can delightfully complicate the plot: trade, migration, proselytization, and the chance that the local equivalent of the Yekhe Khagan might pop by with ten thousand of his closest friends to discuss taxation and governance.

(5) PREFERRED SFF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tyler Cowen interviewed Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, in his podcast “Conversations With Tyler.” (“Hal Varian on Taking the Academic Approach to Business”).  In minute 38 of the interview, Varian recommended some sf.  He liked Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague” in which robots produce so much stuff that the rich live lives of bucolic simplicity while the poor have to consume until they keel over.  Varian also liked L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, and said that if he could live at any time in history, it would be in the Rome of the fifth century described in de Camp’s classic novel.

(6) EXPERIENCE TOR AUTHORS. Available free from Macmillan for various digital formats: “Tor.com Publishing 2019 Debut Sampler: Some of the Most Exciting New Voices in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Read free sample chapters from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy today, including C. S. E. Cooney, Katharine Duckett, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Kerstin Hall, Vylar Kaftan, Scotto Moore, Tamsyn Muir, Lina Rather, Priya Sharma, and Emily Tes.

(7) ALL FOR SCIENCE. Via the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off’s FB group, Mark Lawrence has asked for self-published authors to provide titles for the purpose of looking at how Goodreads ratings might correlate with sales.  

In the past I have looked at the relationship between “number of Goodreads ratings” and “sales” for recent traditionally published fantasy books.

“What do Goodreads ratings say about sales?” (from 2015.)

Data from self-published authors has shown a much greater variability.

If you want to help out (note your name and your book name will not be used) then message me the following information for each fantasy book you want to tell me about. It will become a point on a graph. I will not share your figures with anyone (except as an anonymous point on a graph). Note – please only submit info for books with more than 200 Goodreads ratings:

  1. Year the book was published
  2. number of Goodreads ratings for the book
  3. number of copies sold via Kindle Unlimited
  4. number of copies sold in all other formats
  5. estimate the % of all non KU sales (i.e number listed in 4) that were free / £0.00

(8) FIELDS OBIT. Star Trek writer Peter Alan Fields died June 19. StarTrek.com paid tribute: 

For Trek, Fields wrote or co-wrote a total of 13 episodes, most notably the TNG hours “Half a Life,” “Cost of Living” and “The Inner Light,” as well as the DS9 installments, “Dax,” “Duet,” “Blood Oath,” “In the Pale Moonlight” and “The Dogs of War,” among others. In short, he had a hand in several of both shows’ finest moments. He also served DS9 as a co-producer and later producer from 1993 to 1994, spanning seasons one and two.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 22, 1925 The Lost World enjoyed its original theatrical premiere.  The feature starred Wallace Beery and Bessie Love. And yes, Arthur Conan Doyle was said to have approved of this version. Indeed in 1922, Conan Doyle showed O’Brien’s test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. He refused to say if it was actual footage or not. 
  • June 22, 1979 Alien debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 Kris Kristofferson, 83. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly, he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes. 
  • Born June 22, 1947 Octavia E. Butler. As you know, I do research before I decide who gets a Birthday write-up. I kept running across her detractors who grumbled that she was one of those dread SJWs. Well let’s note that she’s a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and she became in 1995 the first genre writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. As regards her fiction, I’d suggest the Xenogenesis series shows her at her very best but anything by her is both good and challenging. I’m pleased to note that iBooks and Kindle have everything of hers available. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 Meryl Streep, 70. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that it.
  • Born June 22, 1953 Cyndi Lauper, 66. Ok I’m officially old as I’m thinking of her as always young. Genre-wise, she played a psychic, Avalon Harmonia, on the Bones series. She also has one-offs in series as diverse as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!Shelley Duvall’s Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Oddly enough she has one serious acting credit, Jenny (Ginny Jenny/Low-Dive Jenny) in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera
  • Born June 22, 1958 Bruce Campbell, 61. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved him so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally like just as much The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and godawful, often in the same film. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1971 Laila Rouass, 48. She was Sarah Page, an Egyptologist on Primeval, a series I highly recommend if you’ve not seen it. She played Colonel Tia Karim, a traitorous UNIT officer in the two part “Death of The Doctor” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. This story was the last to feature Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor, The Eleventh here, together onscreen. Jo Grant would also show up. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 Ian Tregillis, 46. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a rather good serial fiction anthology (if that’s the proper term) and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I need to check out. 

(11) UPDATE. Jim C. Hines tells fans why he needs to start a “Writing Hiatus and Other Changes”:

There’s no real news on the cancer front. If all goes well, Amy will get the next dose of chemo on Monday and Tuesday. But we have to wait a bit longer to see if and how well this is working. We’re also waiting on insurance approval for the CAR T-cell procedure she needs. In the meantime, she’s still pretty weak, but her pain is better managed, which helps a lot.

This last round – discovering the masses in her abdomen after six months of chemo and treatment – flipped a switch in my brain. Before, I’d been struggling to make time to write, squeezing in anywhere from 200-500 words a few times a week. But with this setback, I just stopped.

I’m not quitting forever. Terminal Peace is still under contract, and I’ve got an idea for a contemporary fantasy I want to do next. But…priorities, you know? I need to spend time with my wife. I need to be there for the kids. And I need to stop pushing myself to do ALL THE THINGS, and to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

My editor has been incredibly understanding. So much love for Sheila and DAW! The longer gap between books two and three of this trilogy is going to suck, but c’est la vie. I just can’t worry about that right this minute….

(12) TROTTING THE GLOBE. Rich Lynch has posted the 22nd issue of his zine My Back Pages online at eFanzines.com.

Because of the temporal nearness of the upcoming Irish Worldcon, Issue #22 has a travel-oriented theme and has essays involving Native American culture and Indian food, tall mountains and ocean vistas, ancient computers and modern cell phones, completed walks and works-in-progress, rental cars and water buses, famous writers and somewhat obscure composers, small spittoons and large ash heaps, opened time capsules and preserved brains, strange stories and familiar melodies, glass artifacts and wooden bells, sunny afternoons and inky-dark skies, colorful theories and black & white comics, intense business meetings and serene beach life, fine cheese and a traffic jam, labyrinthine passageways and an expansive convention center, old friends and “old school”…and 15 minutes of media fame – in Estonia!

(13) LOOKING TO REDECORATE? Popular Mechanics displays the latest fashions from Star Wars.

(14) BITE YOUR TONGUE. The Warp Zone’s sketch shows scenes from Steve Rogers’ domestic life with Peggy Carter in “Captain America’s Life After Endgame.”

(15) COLLECTOR’S ITEM. Sorry, wrong number.

(16) BIG TICKET ITEM. Comicbook.com astonishes with the news that “Disneyland Has Already Sold Three of the $25k R2-D2 Droids at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

If you had a spare $25,000 lying around, what would you spend it on? Believe it or not, a total of three people have already spent that amount of money on a very specific purchase at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the latest Disneyland attraction that immerses fans in the galaxy far, far away. According to The OCR, the park is selling a “$25,000 life-size custom astromech unit” which is sold at Driod Depot and “looks just like the 3-and-half-foot-tall R2-D2.”

(17) LOCKED AND LIDDED. Alasdair Stuart says, “This week’s The Full Lid  takes us from the mutable dimensions of grief and horror to how much fun dying slowly in orbit can be.”

In the first instance, I take a look at Starfish, AT White’s fiercely inventive and intensely personal exploration of grief and inter-dimensional invasion. It’s a great, determined and uniquely voiced movie and one you should definitely seek out.

Elsewhere, Matt Miner’s eco-noir direct action specialists return and get WAY more than they bargained for in Lab Raider issue 1. I’ve enjoyed the way Matt’s explored this world through the two previous standalone mini-series, Liberator and Critical Hit and this new series looks to be just as good.

Finally, I take a look at Adr1ft, the under-rated EVA/Survival game released a couple of years ago. It has interesting things to say about the pressures of modern spaceflight, looks absolutely beautiful and is frequently terrifying. An overlooked gem, albeit one leaving a trail of empty oxygen cylinders in its wake.


Adr1ft

I’ve spent a good chunk of this week slowly dying in space. it’s been fun! Adr1ft, by Three One Zero and published by 505 Games is a pared down, minimalist game that demands attention and cheerily punishes you for not giving it. I found a lot to enjoy in there, not the least of which is the killer opening. You wake up in a damaged space suit, in a decaying orbit, surrounded by the shattered remains of a vast space station that has very recently exploded. Player and character enter the game in identicla states of confusion and the plot unfolds at the same pace you follow the debris trail around the shattered station. You are Commander Alex Oshima, head of the HAN-IV project. You are the lone survivor of a catastrophic accident. The accident was your fault.

Now what?

The game perfectly embodies the brutal math of orbital survival without ever getting over-excited about how unforgiving it is….

(18) ELECTRICITY BY THE BALE. Nature reports on “Sunlight harvested by nanotubes”.

The efficiency of junction-based solar cells has almost reached its theoretical limit, and it is therefore imperative to explore methods for converting sunlight into electricity that do not require semiconductor junctions. Writing in Nature, Zhang et al. report a key advance in this direction. They demonstrate a junction-free solar cell that is produced by curling an atom-thick semiconductor layer into a nanoscale tube.

(19) IN TONGUES WITHOUT FLAME. “Cambridge language conference marks Game of Thrones lingo”.

The brains behind some of science fiction’s most popular invented languages are gathering for a conference to showcase their skills.

The San Diego-based Language Creation Society has brought together “conlangers” – or people who “construct” languages – in Cambridge.

Among the languges represented is Dothraki, as used in Game of Thrones.

UK organiser Dr Bettina Beinhoff said the convention would enhance the network of language creators worldwide.

(20) WASP. Like the Eric Frank Russell novel, a tiny cause had a large effect: “Rogue slug blamed for Japanese railway chaos”

A power cut that disrupted rail traffic on a Japanese island last month was caused by a slug, officials say.

More than 12,000 people’s journeys were affected when nearly 30 trains on Kyushu shuddered to a halt because of the slimy intruder’s actions.

Its electrocuted remains were found lodged inside equipment next to the tracks, Japan Railways says.

The incident in Japan has echoes of a shutdown caused by a weasel at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider in 2016.

(21) CRUSH IT LIKE QUINT. The Narragansett brewery claims it’s not only music that soothes the breast of the savage beast:

(22) FOR NEVER IS HERD. What’s that smell? “Curiosity rover finds gas levels on Mars hinting at possibility of life”.

It’s easy to get jaded about potential signs of life on Mars, but a recent discovery might raise eyebrows. The New York Times has learned that NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected “startlingly high” levels of methane — the gas typically produced by life as we know it. The quantities are still tiny at 21 parts per billion, but that’s three times the amount Curiosity spotted during a surge in 2013. The rover’s operators were reportedly surprised enough to pause regularly scheduled studies to obtain follow-up data, with the additional findings slated to arrive on June 24th.

(23) BOT DYNASTY. You think their football team is good? Well… University of Alabama News: “UA Robotics Team Wins NASA’s Grand Prize for Fifth Consecutive Year”.

For the fifth consecutive year, the student robotics team from The University of Alabama won NASA’s grand prize in its Robotics Mining Competition.

[…] Made up of 60 students, primarily from UA’s College of Engineering, Alabama Astrobotics won the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, the grand prize, in NASA’s 2019 robotic mining competition, NASA announced. UA’s teams previously placed first in 2012 and from 2015-2018.

[…] In a separate event hosted at The University of Alabama, UA’s team bested 27 other robotics teams from across the nation to win first in mining, first in the Caterpillar Autonomy Awards and the SSERVI Regolith Mechanics Award.

In the Robotic Mining Challenge held at UA, teams demonstrated how a robot they built over the past year could autonomously navigate and excavate simulated lunar and Martian soil, known as regolith.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, rcade, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

76 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/22/19 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Files And His Churls

  1. Cyndi Lauper first played a psychic in Vibes with Jeff Goldblum in 1989 (her appearances on Bones was a nice call back to the film role).

  2. 1) Well, I guess the same people will vote No Award for Black Panther as a propaganda movie for CIA involvement in backing up authoritarian regimes. And that they will be dead set against nominating Captain Marvel, as it was sponsored by the US Military as propaganda for recruitment during the Trump era, to be ready for a war against Venezuela or Iran or possibly to support the dictatorship of Honduras.

  3. (10) Kristofferson starred in the six-episode ABC miniseries Amerika in 1987. This brief description at IMDB seems to comport with what I remember of it: “America has been bloodlessly taken over by the Soviet Union, leading to slave-labor camps for some, collaboration for others and rebellion for yet others.” From what I recall, it wasn’t particularly compelling – I know I didn’t watch through to the end.

  4. (10) Speaking of Octavia Butler, the birthdays of two of the characters from her Earthseed books are coming up – in “Parable of the Sower” Lauren Oya Olamina notes that on July 20, 2024, she is 15 and her father is 55. This means that her father was born on the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon, 50 years from next month.

  5. 10) The one Bruce Campbell movie to watch is Bubba Ho-tep, an absolutely brilliant movie with Campbell as a spot-on Elvis fighting a mummy in a home for the elderly.

  6. I always liked Bruce Campbell as Autolycus, King of Thieves. Especially that time he was possessed by the ghost of Xena and got to kiss Gabrielle.

  7. (10) Ash in Army of Darkness is my favourite role for Bruce Campbell. The graveyard scene always makes me laugh, no matter what kind of mood I’m in.

  8. @Hampus Eckerman

    1) Well, I guess the same people will vote No Award for Black Panther as a propaganda movie for CIA involvement in backing up authoritarian regimes. And that they will be dead set against nominating Captain Marvel, as it was sponsored by the US Military as propaganda for recruitment during the Trump era, to be ready for a war against Venezuela or Iran or possibly to support the dictatorship of Honduras.

    I’d just be happy if these folks would no award the actual US propaganda films and comics on the 1944 Retro Hugo ballot. Which Evelyn Leeper may be willing to do, at least with regard to the Batman serial. But if propaganda crap like The Führer’s Face (worst Disney cartoon ever) wins, but Münchhausen does not, it shows that a lot of people have no problems with actual propaganda, as long as it’s US war propaganda.

    Also, Münchhausen is not a film made by Nazis. I didn’t investigate everybody involved, but none of the major cast or crew members, not even Ferdinand Marian, were actual Nazis. At worst, they were opportunists (Ferdinand Marian), at best they were people trying to survive in a hostile country they could or would not leave for various reasons (Erich Kästner, Hans Albers, Brigitte Horney, Hubertus von Meyenrinck, Eduard von Winterstein, Marie Nejar).

    And in case anybody is concerned about who holds the rights for Münchhausen, the rights are held by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, the German national film archive and a non-profit organisation, and if you buy a DVD, the funds go towards restoring classic German movies, which IMO is a worthy cause. Though you can also watch it online for free. Just as a lot of the actually banned Nazi propaganda movies are available online for free.

  9. 10) I find Haggard really quite surprisingly readable for a 19th century author, and would highly recommend She, King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain (more or less in that order).

    I’ve been slowly working towards reading all of his published fiction; early in his career, at least, he was kind of alternating between more traditional Victorian family melodramas and the sorts of adventure tales for which he’d be best known.

    The part I usually have the most difficulty with, FWIW, is the beginnings of the stories, which almost universally start with lengthy expeditions across Africa, during which they shoot pretty much every large animal they come across.

  10. @Joe H.
    I like Haggard, particularly She and its sequel Ayesha as well as King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quartermain, a whole lot. Though the traveloogue, complete with the great white hunter (TM) shooting various animals is a common trope in his novels and other adventure novels of the period.

  11. Cora Buhlert: …worst Disney cartoon ever…

    I don’t know how the Hugo voting is going to turn out, but Der Führer’s Face won an Academy Award.

    Of course, not everything that once won an Oscar is immune from criticism. I note that it was one of a number of Disney cartoons and movies that the Disney company kept out of circulation for decades (Song of the South being another example). It only became available again in 2004. But usually people object to cartoons like this because of how Asian characters are depicted (and other races in some of the other works). Not because of how the fascists are depicted. And looking through the list of BDP Hugo winners, I spotted four that have unflattering portrayals of Nazis.

  12. I agree with Hampus about Bubba Ho-Tep. I thought Bruce Campbell was so astonishingly believable as Elvis that he deserved to be on the Oscar ballot, not that that would ever happen in this universe.

  13. I will vote for Münchhausen myself. It is more than 20 years since I saw it, but I still remember it as very good. I will not vote for Der Führers Face as it is a pure propaganda movie, not very good and also racist. I’m of course ok with unlattering portraits of nazis, but I have harder time with movies that don’t even show germans that aren’t nazis.

    But I have no hard rules against voting for propaganda movies. Hell, Chaplin’s The Dictator is a fantastic movie and so is Casablanca.

  14. Jeff,

    Bubba Ho-Tep is somewhere on my top 10 list of movies ever made. And it shares a first place with They Live for movies I try to get people to see because so many have never heard of it.

    That movie has many things that work together. A plot that at first look sound ludicrous, a thoroughly inspired casting, a soundtrack that perfectly reflects the mood, Campbell who manages to present an Elvis with both heart and dignity, the last especially impressive when wearing a full on scene costume and using a walker. To mix Elvis, Mummies, John F Kennedy and an elders home and get a movie about personal growth, male friendship and self-respect.

    For you that haven’t seen it, the feel is kind of hard to explain. I’d say mix Grumpy Old Men, Big Fish and Army of Darkness and it is the closest I can get. It is one of a kind.

  15. 1) I’m still debating whether my own quixotic approach to the Retro Hugos (attempt to read/watch the version that was available in 1944, not later revised editions—tracking down some of the original editions has been quite challenging, but the revisions in modern printings are often substantial) means I need to discard out of hand Munchasen, The Glass Bead Game, and The Secret of the Unicorn, because in all cases there was no existing edition, circa 1944, in a language I’m capable of understanding. The German edition of The Glass Bead Game may be an excellent novel, but I can’t read it; the English translation of The Glass Bead Game may be an excellent novel, but it’s not what was nominated.

  16. @Mike Glyer
    A lot of crap won and continues to win (unless you actually like Green Book) Academy Awards.

    Der Führer’s Face was still in regular circulation when I was a kid in the 1970s/early 1980s and I saw it during one of those afternoon cartoon shows on German TV. If it was pulled from regular circulation, that happened later. And yes, I find the cartoon deeply offensive and xenophobic, because it’s not just Nazis it’s targeting, but all Germans. As a kid, it horrified me, because here was Donald Duck, a cartoon character I liked and of whom I had a toy figurine, basically telling me that I deserve to be bombed and killed just for my nationality. And at the time, every kid in Germany had parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc… who talked about WWII bombings, so it’s not as if anybody didn’t know what bombing civilian targets meant.

    Meanwhile, most, if not all, of Warrner Bros’ Censored Eleven were already out of circulation by the time I was a kid and I didn’t see them until I specifically sought them out. Coincidentally, one of the censored eleven, Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarves, was also eligible for the 1944 Retro Hugos. From an artistic POV, it’s a much better cartoon than Der Führer’s Face, the jazz music is great, but it contains racist stereotypes. Oddly enough, that cartoon was not nominated, while Der Führer’s Face, which is just as problematic and not even a good Disney cartoon, was.

    By the way, Hal Clement was a pilot during WWII who took part in bombing raids on European cities. Nonetheless, I am not no awarding “Attitude”, even though Clement may well have been involved in attacks that targeted my parents (then small kids) and grandparents, because there’s nothing wrong with the story itself, nor is it propaganda. Just as Münchhausen is not propaganda and to my knowledge, nobody involved was a bomber pilot, though some actors, most notably Ferdinand Marian, also appeared in propaganda movies. However, I am no awarding Der Führer’s Face, because it is propaganda and a bad cartoon. Not sure yet about the Batman serial.

    @ambyr
    The Münchhausen version on YouTube I linked in my post is the German original with English subtitles, i.e. very close to what you would have seen in 1944. The Glass Bead Game isn’t much of a problem for me, because I have the German version anyway (and I don’t like it any better now than the last time I tried to read it). And I first read many of the classic Franco-Belgian comics in French or Flemish anyway, though I’m not sure in what language I first read this particular Tintin comic.

  17. @Cora Buhlert Since I don’t have broadband Internet, streaming video is a last resort for me. I’ve borrowed friends’ televisions and connections for a couple of things I couldn’t easily lay my hands on any other way, but for the most part I’m tracking down DVDs. (I do generally find the commentary tracks quite interesting, so that’s a nice bonus.)

  18. @1: AFAICT from the link, Leeper provides no details on her claim that Münchhausen is a Nazi propaganda film. That does not surprise me.

    @2: The favorite suggestion among Twitter users is to get off social media. Lovely irony there.

    @10: I can just imagine Lauper as Jenny Diver (the bog-standard acting translation of Spelunken-Jenny, at least when I TD’d a production in college); I’m sorry I missed that performance.

    @18: the paper talks about potential and uncertainties; it will be interesting to see which wins out.

    I’m seeing a lot of love for Bubba Ho-Tep; the premise seemed dumb at the time, but maybe I’ll give it a look if I can pry a hole in my unread stack.

  19. (2) SCALING MT. TSUNDOKU.

    One of the respondents says, “Sign up for Kindle Unlimited. Plan on not remembering much about what you read, just enjoy it for the mindless entertainment.”

    and I thought, how sad that this person thinks that their Kindle Unlimited experience of mindless forgettable books is typical of all book reading, and that it’s the only way to get a lot of books read. 😐

  20. The original Bubba Ho-Tep novella by Joe R. Lansdale is wonderfully weird. The movie is a truly inspired adaptation. It gets everything right.

  21. (4) I notice he draws a distinction between “Space Opera” and “Planetary Romance” such that the former has space travel (at least as an option, even if the characters don’t use it) and the latter does not. I think that’s a useful distinction, but I’m not sure “Planetary Romance” is the best term to use.

    I never use “Planetary Romance” to categorize stories because I don’t think very many people know what it is. (That doesn’t stop me from using “Pastiche” though.) 🙂 Worse, I think a lot of people would expect a story involving a romance between two different people.

    Instead, I label such stories “Colony SF.” It’s not a “standard” term, but I think it’s pretty clear to anyone what it has to mean. It’s for stories set on a single planet (not Earth) where travel to any other inhabited planet is either difficult or impossible.

    If they’ve lost touch with Earth entirely (or don’t even remember it), then I call it “Lost Colony SF.”

  22. (1) My reason for not voting for Munchhausen is the same reason I’m not voting for The Glass Bead Game, Garth, or The Secret of the Unicorn: none of them would have been generally available in English (in the United States, at least) in 1943 or 1944. (Moreover, The Secret of the Unicorn is neither science fiction nor fantasy.)

    There are a number of the dramatic presentations that are to a little or large extent American propaganda, Der Fuehrer’s Face being the most problematic (aside from not being a very good cartoon). There are also several of the finalists which are only sff by a huge stretch of the definition. And then, most of the ones that aren’t racist or propaganda but are sff aren’t particularly well made. The dramatic presentation finalists as a whole are very poor indeed. The graphic story finalists aren’t much better for the same reasons.

  23. Cora Buhlert: “A lot of crap won and continues to win (unless you actually like Green Book) Academy Awards.”

    Is Green Book actually crap? I’ve read article after article telling me so and I’m not convinced. (Or curious enough to watch it.)

  24. Pingback: AMAZING NEWS FROM FANDOM 6/23/19 - Amazing Stories

  25. “My reason for not voting for Munchhausen is the same reason I’m not voting for The Glass Bead Game, Garth, or The Secret of the Unicorn: none of them would have been generally available in English (in the United States, at least) in 1943 or 1944.”

    Ah, so that is the logic. Well, I guess I will have to skip voting for everything that wasn’t available in Swedish then. Should I do the same for this year?

  26. @Greg Hullender: The “romance” in “planetary romance” is a literary rather than interpersonal-relationship term, a nod to medieval prose narrative (though examples extend back through classical literature and forward to Shakespeare’s late plays) rather than contemporary commercial fiction.

    I know this because apparently I coined the term decades ago in an introduction to Philip José Farmer’s The Green Odyssey. (I was also thinking of Jack Vance, particularly Big Planet and the Planet of Adventure series, when I wrote the piece.) The kinship with space opera is pretty clear: a setting or story-space that enables a particular kind of adventure. A range of variations and optional-extras is available, but the point of the category is to indicate the role of setting as a determiner of story.

    BTW, I was not the first to recognize the category, just the deviser of a label to paste on it–and even that is not much more than an adaptation of “scientific romance,” a descriptor for early SF that had been around for a while. In his Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy, my friend and colleague Gary K. Wolfe used “interplanetary romance” to describe earlier examples of this story setting/type.

  27. I love the term “planetary romance.” I had forgotten it existed until recently, when it sent me into a deep dive of the interwebs. There are a lot of books in that forgotten subgenre I’d like to read.

    While we’re talking terminology, is there a term to describe SF stories where a solitary protagonist is extremely isolated on a remote place like a mining station or asteroid and must exhibit extreme self-reliance to survive? I’m a sucker for those and have been calling them “lonely outpost” tales, but I feel like there’s an actual term for them.

  28. Hampus Eckerman: Well, I guess I will have to skip voting for everything that wasn’t available in Swedish then. Should I do the same for this year?

    Good question. I wonder what that would leave (maybe some of the BDP nominees?). But if we could only nominate Swedish fanwriters I wouldn’t have any trouble thinking of a few names — fortunately, they write in English, too.

  29. Cora Buhlert: Your comments about how you react to these cartoons are of great interest to me and I appreciate them. While Der Furhrer’s Face undeniably is propaganda, is that why contemporary voters would nominate it for the Hugo? I think one must look elsewhere for the explanation – to the way the cartoon shows extreme disrespect to the poster boy for the Holocaust, and for the bravado music popularized by Spike Jones. I’m guessing those are the traits that appeal to the contemporary Hugo voters who nominated it. There may even be some who find it resonates with the way they feel about Donald Trump.

  30. Given that the nominated version of Baron Munchausen was directly commissioned by Joseph Goebbels and Goebbels and others involved in its production viewed every artistic discipline a vehicle for creating the mindset in the general population which its ruling class wants to create, a very strong argument can be made that all state-sponsored art is, by definition, propaganda in a dictatorship.

    Goebbels considered everything produced under his oversight to be part of Gleichschaltung. So it would be a propaganda film in Germany in 1943 by the lights of the state in which it was produced.

    I intend to vote for Baron Munchausen, but I’m voting for Der Fuehrer’s Face as well. Neither will be my top choice. I see both as products of their time and judge them accordingly.

    Both are propaganda. Munchausen has aged better.

  31. @JJ: I took that comment as a critique of the quality of Kindle Unlimited works, not a description of what the respondent thinks all reading is.

  32. @Andrew: I took it as a reference to the studies which are hinting that the experience of “reading a book” on a screen device is not the same as reading an actual codex, a physical book; that the reader of a work on a device gains less insight and comprehension, and retains less of what they have read, than the reader of an actual physical book.

  33. @Michael J. Lowrey : That makes sense. I still read both paper and ebooks (in fact sometimes I read an ebook and reread it in paper – or do it in the other order). I haven’t dipped into Kindle Unlimited though (it seems like dipping into Borges’ Library of Babel – even if I liked something, I’d never find it again!).

  34. Russell:

    Interesting that you coined the term “planetary romance.” Thanks. Whenever I first heard it, I must have retroactively applied it to my memory, because that’s what I thought it was called when I was reading it in the sixties, all the Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis Adelbert Kline and whatever else Ace was publishing at the time. The Wollheim anthology Swordsmen in the Sky from 1964, which I thought said “planetary romances,” I see now was billed as “great stories of interplanetary adventure.” I think I learned the literary meaning of romance soon after I learned the literary meanings of tragedy and comedy. I don’t imagine Don Wollheim assumed his readers knew the literary meanings of anything.

  35. Robert Reynolds:

    “Both are propaganda.”

    True. But one is apolitical propaganda written by an anti-nazi, meant to take minds of the war for a while, and the other is political propaganda to dehumanise and mobilize for more war.

  36. @Hampus Eckerman:

    This is true.

    Have you seen Tulips Shall Grow, a short produced by George Pal?

    It was also nominated for an Academy Award in the same year as the Disney and I much prefer the Pal to the Disney and feel it should have won.

  37. @Chip —

    I’m seeing a lot of love for Bubba Ho-Tep; the premise seemed dumb at the time, but maybe I’ll give it a look if I can pry a hole in my unread stack.

    I liked the story a lot. Oddly, I’ve never seen the movie, even though I’m a huge Campbell fan.

    @Hampus —

    Ah, so that is the logic. Well, I guess I will have to skip voting for everything that wasn’t available in Swedish then. Should I do the same for this year?

    I think the point was that works only become eligible for Hugo nominations in the year they are published in English (or published in English in America), by the official Hugo rules. If these works were not available in English in that year, then they would simply not be eligible for nomination. Swedish has nothing to do with anything.

  38. “I think the point was that works only become eligible for Hugo nominations in the year they are published in English (or published in English in America), by the official Hugo rules. “

    That’s not correct. The rules state:

    “The Hugos are World awards. Works are eligible when they are first published. They can be published anywhere in the world (or out of it), and they can be published in any language.

    Because the vast majority of Hugo voters currently come from English-speaking countries, works first published in a language other than English are also eligible in their first year of publication in English translation.

  39. Well, that’s what I get for not double-checking first! 😉

    “Any work is eligible, regardless of its place or language of publication. Works first published in languages other than English are also eligible in their first year of publication in English translation.”

    So they get TWO years of eligibility — first year published AND first year published in English.

    Actually, I wonder if that could be extended to THREE years of eligibility?

    “Because the vast majority of Hugo voters currently come from English-speaking countries, works first published in a language other than English are also eligible in their first year of publication in English translation.”

    “Because a large proportion of the people who nominate on the Hugo Awards reside in the USA, and because those people often do not get to see works first published outside the USA until those works get US publication, WSFS extends the eligibility of works first published outside the USA. Works published in prior years outside of the USA are eligible if they were published for the first time in the USA in the current year.”

    This seems to mean that, for instance, if a book is first published in Chinese in China (year #1), and later translated to English in the UK (year #2), and then LATER published in the US (year #3), it would actually have three chances to win a Hugo.

    Has that ever happened?

  40. Concerning the Retro-Hugos Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, I’ve now seen all six on the ballot, although it has been a few years since I have seen Munchhausen, and I’ll want to re-watch before I cast my vote.

    I enjoyed Phantom of the Opera. It has some good music, and includes Fritz Leiber Sr. playing the part of Franz Liszt. However, it isn’t science fiction or fantasy. I’m not sure what genre it is. Perhaps horror.

    The Batman serial is of historical-literary interest, in seeing how the character was interpreted back then, but I wasn’t impressed. The antagonist, a Japanese spy/saboteur, has a mind-control device and an atomic-blaster, so I’d say it is science fiction.

    Heaven Can Wait is a typical Lubitsch film, except for the framing story being the protagonist’s life being reviewed at an entrance to Hell. No divine or diabolic intervention in the life itself, which lacks any fantastic or science fictional elements. (There is a possibility that one of the actresses, who played an age-9 love interest, still survives.)

    Cabin in the Sky and especially A Guy Named Joe, have more active intervention from the afterlife.

  41. Andrew: I took that comment as a critique of the quality of Kindle Unlimited works, not a description of what the respondent thinks all reading is.

    I’d buy that — except why even mention it, as if it’s the only way to get a lot of books read?

  42. @2 — wait, they’re recommending that someone take the advice of a person who only read 104 books in a year?

    I have read 93 books so far this year; my assumption is that James Davis Nicoll has read about 150 so far. (He actually reviews them; I just mention their titles and whether I liked them.) The year is not yet halfway through.

    Amateurs.

    Anyway, the correct way to read more books is (a) make more time to read books and (b) that’s it, just prioritize reading over other things.

  43. -dsr-: the correct way to read more books is (a) make more time to read books and (b) that’s it, just prioritize reading over other things.

    Exactly. Though the guy is a freelance journalist and speaker, and has two small children, so right now he’s got obligations that require a lot of his time and might preclude reading a lot of books, and that’s the way it goes.

    His best bet is to keep an activity log for a couple of weeks so that he can see where his time is going, and decide whether it’s really being spent on the things he deems most important.

  44. @JJ:
    I’d buy that — except why even mention it, as if it’s the only way to get a lot of books read?

    Just to snark about KU, probably.

    I usually hit about 60 books a year (plus a 300 or so shorter pieces) – back when I was in college I could get to over a hundred, but I had easy access to a college and a local library, and could squeeze in reading before classes (and during in some cases), etc.

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