Snapshots 57 Varieties

Here are 8 developments of interest to fans:

(1) The Illustration Exchange is a site that facilitates sale of original sf & fantasy art, in some respects an after-market for items originally purchased in convention art shows. I was fascinated by the online galleries where fans and artists are posting images of items in their art collections.

For example, “The Collection of Joe Siclari and Edie Stern” displays photos of Alicia Austin’s “Jirel of Joiry,” George Barr’s “The Spell Sword,” and several pieces by Hannes Bok. Vincent Docherty’s collection features Les Edwards’ and Jim Burns’ Souvenir Book covers from the 1995 and 2005 Worldcons. And items with a high skiffy quotient, like the sketch Charles Vess drew on a bar placemat for Dave Seeley while they were having a beer at Illuxcon 2.

(2) William Shatner blames the media for creating his negative image in this interview in New York Times Magazine, “The Many Iterations of William Shatner”. But even Shatner does not deny what every fan realizes — that by playing his legend so enthusiastically he has infinitely prolonged his career:

I asked him about “Star Trek.” Serious now, he said: “I never thought it’d become a big deal, just 13 episodes and out. I didn’t think I was hard to get along with. There were a few disaffected actors who came in once a week. I had nothing to do with them. Friendly! I was working seven days a week, learning 10 pages of dialogue a day. They had one line! Then after the show was canceled and the ‘Star Trek’ phenomenon began, those actors would go to the conventions. They’d get applause, praise, and begin to think, ‘Hey, I was wonderful, and Shatner stole the spotlight.’ ”

Which was the beginning of the William Shatner character… “They said I was this William Shatner character, and I figured I had to be it,” he said. “Pompous, takes himself seriously, hardheaded.” Shatner said that that character evolved slowly, until one day he realized he couldn’t change it. “So I played it. But I didn’t see it. That character doesn’t seem like me to me. I know the real William Shatner.” He laughed. “At least one of us should.”

(3) It turns out we didn’t need CERN’s research facilities to produce antimatter. NASA’s orbiting Fermi gamma-ray observatory discovered antimatter is routinely created in small amounts by lightning storms.  

(4) I hope it’s not too late to mention that Marty Cantor has edited and posted Phil Castora’s 44-page autobiography “Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?” You can find it here.  

(5) Click here to order your steampunk rubber stamps.

(6) Phaedra Bonewits posted on Facebook the postcard her late husband Isaac received from Harlan Ellison in 1972 thanking him for sending a copy of Real Magic. Harlan wrote, “It will help my background for a TV series I’ve just sold about a modern necromancer…” Bonewits also says Harlan once hired Isaac as a technical consultant for a 1980s Twilight Zone episode about doing an exorcism on a robot: “I have no idea if it ever aired.”

(7) Actor Stephen Tobolowsky, whose credits include one of my all-time favorites, Groundhog Day, was prompted by the deaths of several of his fellow character actors — Kevin McCarthy, Carl Gordon, Maury Chaykin, James Gammon and Harold Gould — to write about the nature of their work for the New York Times:  

There is one thing that Kevin, Carl, Maury, James, Harold, Larry and I have in common: we have all played parts that didn’t have names.

When you are Harrison Ford you play Richard Kimble or Han Solo. You have a first and last name, and the writer has thought enough about you to give you a life. Harrison Ford’s characters eat, sleep, drink coffee, shave, shower (from the back only, waist up), read the newspaper, get dressed, drive to work, run for their lives, shoot guns, deliver stirring oratory to alien warlords and possibly kiss Renée Zellweger — all because they have been named.

Compare that with James Gammon, who assayed the roles of “Texan,” “Paps” and “Double D.” Or Carl Gordon, whose characters were sometimes identified only by a job description like “Foreman” or “Luther the Pimp,” or simply age and location like “Older Man on Train.” Harold Gould was stuck with his location on the family tree when he played “Grandpa” in “Freaky Friday.”

I personally have felt the bite of having no name. In my time, I have played “Ranger Bob,” “Ringmaster Bob,” “Dr. Bob,” “Father Jon” and “Father Joe.” For the TV movie “Last Flight Out,” my name was “Tim” in the first half of the script and “Jim” in the last half. One of our stars was Richard Crenna, the funniest man who ever lived; he would always call me “Tim Jim” with a straight face during our scenes and in serious discussions with the director. No one noticed.

(8) The Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog was loaded with robots this season, such as:

*   A 7-foot-tall Robby the Robot (for a mere $50,000)
*   An emotive robot avatar, 54 inches tall, about the size of a large hobbit, for $65,000.
*  Or, if you’re looking for something less expensive, a 6-1/2-foot-tall B-9 “Lost in Space” robot for a mere $25,000. 

Also for sale are more practical robots like:

*  A 15-inch-tall model R2D2 ($200) that responds to voice commands and senses movement, so it can be used as a sentry, if you wish (batteries not included);
*  Several models of the robotic “Roomba” vacuum cleaners (various prices; typically about $400);
*  A robotic toy-picker-upper ($70, remote-controlled, batteries not included), for the kid who has everything – except somebody to clean his room, evidently.

[Thanks for these links goes out to David Klaus, Andrew Porter, Sam Long and James Hay.]

Update 01/15/2011: Corrected attribution of item (6) when I learned Isaac Bonewits passed away before it was posted. His passing on August 12, 2010 was widely reported by pagan interest sites but apparently overlooked by sf sources although Bonewits was a well-known figure in parts of fandom in the late Sixties and early Seventies, and also the Society for Creative Anachronism. Thanks to Lee Gold for the update. // Update 01/16/2011: Corrected spelling to “Robby the Robot” following Bill Warren’s comment. (The catalog spells “Robby” correctly, so this braino was all mine…)

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