(1) CUTTING CAPERS. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures picked a highly suitable day to announce they have added an important item to their collection.
(2) KNIVES OUT AT JPL. No gourd is safe when “NASA-JPL Holds Its Annual Pumpkin-Carving Contest”.
In a dark conference room, a pumpkin gently landed on the Moon, its retrorockets smoldering, while across the room, a flying saucer pumpkin hovered above Area 51 as a pumpkin alien wreaked havoc.
Suffice to say that when the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, the solar system’s the limit. Now in its ninth year, the contest gives teams only one hour to carve (off the clock, on their lunch break), though they can prepare non-pumpkin materials – like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts – ahead of time….
(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour Cthulhu with World Horror Grandmaster Ramsey Campbell – serving is in progress in Episode 108 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Ramsey published his H. P. Lovecraft-inspired first book of stories The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants in 1964 when he was only 18, and hasn’t stopped since. He’s a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, a four-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and a TWELVE-time winner of the British Fantasy Award. He’s also received lifetime achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, and was named a World Horror Grandmaster. Previous guest of the podcast T. E. D. Klein called his collection Demons by Daylight “perhaps the most important book of horror fiction since Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others.” High praise indeed!
We got together on the final day of Worldcon, long after the 4:30 p.m. closing ceremonies had ended. So instead of traipsing around to the usual dead dog parties, we had dinner at Rosa Madre, which I found via Eater’s list of the 38 Essential Dublin restaurants — where at one point as I looked across the table, it seemed as if he was nibbling on Cthulhu! (And sure, I know it was only baby octopus, and not the the Great Old One … but we horror writers like to dream.)
We discussed his early relationship with Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth, who he might have been had he never discovered H. P. Lovecraft, how this master of unease is able to keep the sense of dread going for the length of a novel (hint: he’s not entirely sure himself), why he loves The Blair Witch Project, what it was like writing novels in the Universal monsters universe, how he felt when The Times listed The Doll That Ate its Mother as one of the silliest titles of 1987, how Twilight Zone editor T. E. D. Klein changed his life, our shared memories of the 1979 World Fantasy Convention, why he feels his attempts to write science fiction have been “clumsy,” the way he was made speechless on his first meeting with J. G. Ballard, why he admires Vladimir Nabokov, and much more.
(4) DO THE POSTER MASH. Space.com points to some free downloads: “‘Galaxy of Horrors!’ NASA Posters Highlight Spooky Alien Planets”.
This Halloween season, NASA wants to open your eyes to the glorious spookiness all around us in the Milky Way galaxy.
The space agency has just released two new “Galaxy of Horrors” posters, which highlight a few of the most bizarre and inhospitable alien planets that scientists have discovered. And NASA created a fun 2-minute video, styled like a trailer for a 1950s horror movie, to promote the posters.
You can download the posters for free here.
(5) PAST TOMORROWS. Barbara Kiser’s book reviews for Nature touch on Sarah Cole’s study of H.G. Wells, Inventing Tomorrow.
H. G. Wells was, asserts scholar Sarah Cole, a pioneer adept at “rescaling the cosmos and humanity’s place in it”. He straddled the border between science and literature, but not all his complexities were benign: he both repudiated racism and for some time shamefully ascribed to ideas on eugenics. Cole adroitly captures Wells, from his mould-breaking books (such as the 1895 science-fiction classic The Time Machine and 1920 Outline of History) to his unlikely intellectual kinship with subtle modernists such as Virginia Woolf.
(6) GRADE INFLATION. Morning Consult attempts to answer the question: “Rotten Tomatoes Scores Continue to Freshen. What Does This Mean for Movies?”
In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe for the picking by movie marketers that want to tout a film’s high critics score from the website in their advertising. But as the Tomatometer’s average score continues to increase, experts are divided on why this is happening and how the industry will harvest Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings going forward.
David A. Gross, a movie consultant that runs Franchise Entertainment Research Inc., found that scores for wide-release films have been fluctuating since 1998’s recorded average of 46. However, averages have been increasing every year since 2014, with this year’s average coming in at 59.3, as of Oct. 28, 1.4 points higher than 2018’s 57.9.
(7) MORE REACTIONS TO SCORSESE, COPPOLA. Michael Ordoña asks “If comic-book movies aren’t emotional and psychological cinema, why are we crying?” in the Los Angeles Times.
… The director of “The Godfather” and “Captain EO” added: “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”
Andrea Letamendi, associate director of mental health training, intervention and response at UCLA, sees more in the best of these films than these giants of cinema do.
“Superhero films are giving us a way to practice and explore really important emotional processes that we may not be able to examine in our everyday lives. In ‘Endgame,’ the more fantastical, the better, because that gives us the supportive safety net to be open and vulnerable and curious about these things,” she says.
“Not to pat ourselves on the back,” says Christopher Markus, co-writer (with Stephen McFeely) of six MCU movies including the three-hour “Endgame,” “but we snuck an hourlong movie about loss and grief into the [start of the] biggest movie of all time. That’s a lot of people who sat with that issue in their heads for an hour.”
He says of villain Thanos’ cataclysmic action, “We wanted the Snap to be as profound as we could make it. The way to do that was to have all the characters sit with the impact, the unfixability of it, rather than scrambling around. We were interested in seeing what happens to these people whose sole purpose in life is solving problems, faced with a problem they did not solve.”
… Clinical psychologist Letamendi agrees. ”It’s a truly sophisticated portrayal. … How different characters cope with that loss really matters in terms of how we relate to them and how we might relate to our own losses.
“The term for that is ‘parasocial relationships’ — non-delusional emotional connections with fictional characters. I know Tony Stark isn’t real, but I’ve formed a long-lasting relationship with his character, so when we see him go through these difficult changes: the adversity, his self-doubt and, ultimately, his death, this is, in our world, difficult to deal with. The grief, the confusion, sometimes the anger — those feelings are real. I think there’s some value to that.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- October 31, 1962 — First Spaceship On Venus premiered In the Eastern Bloc. It’s a 1960 East German/Polish film based on the 1951 Stanis?aw Lem novel The Astronauts. Lem did not like it at all and ask his name to be removed as he hated the strident politicization of the story. IMDB still lists him as the story source. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon it in 2008.
- October 31, 1964 — Doctor Who returned to BBC with the premiere of its second season. The first arc was titled “Planet of Giants.” William Hartnell Was the First Doctor with three companions present: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) and William Russell (Ian Chesterton). Episodes 3 and 4 are for the most part missing in the Great BBC Purge.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born October 31, 1923 — Arthur W. Saha. A member of the Futurians and First Fandom who was an editor at Wollheim’s DAW Books including editing the Annual World’s Best SF from 1972 to 1990 and Year’s Best Fantasy Stories from 1975 to 1988. And he’s credited with coming up with the term “Trekkie” in 1967. (Died 1999.)
- Born October 31, 1936 — Michael Landon. Tony Rivers inI Was a Teenage Werewolf. (That film made two million on an eighty thousand dollar budget. Nice.) That and playing the lead as Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven are I think his only genre roles. (Died 1991.)
- Born October 31, 1946 — Stephen Rea, 73. An extensive genre history including V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Underworld Waking, The Werewolf Among Us and Counterpart.
- Born October 31, 1950 — John Candy. Best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs but he also played Wink Wilkinson in Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors, Kalishak in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, and was the narrator of the “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” of Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. (Died 1994.)
- Born October 31, 1959 — Neal Stephenson, 60. Some years back, one of the local bookstores had an sf book reading group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made re-read that (which was good) and Snow Crash (equally good). My favorite novel by him is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
- Born October 31, 1961 — Peter Jackson, 58. I’m going to confess that I watched and liked the first of the Lord of The Rings films but got no further than that. I was never fond of The Two Towers as a novel so it wasn’t something I wanted to see as a film, and I like The Hobbit just fine as a novel thank you much. Now the Adventures of Tintin is quite nice indeed.
- Born October 31, 1979 — Erica Cerra, 40. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica, plus one-offs in pretty much anything you’d care to mention in roles such as Pretty Girl.
- Born October 31, 1993 — Letitia Wright, 26. She co-starred in Black Panther playing Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda. (Yes, she is in both Avengers films.) Before that, she was Anahson in “Face the Raven”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and was in the Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode.
- Born October 31, 1999 — Danielle Russell, 20. She played Hope Mikaelson in The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Dairies. In something I’ve never seen before, she went on to portray that character in Legacies, a spin-off of The Originals which makes it a spin-off of a spin-off!
(10) FAN FICTION BLOSSOMS. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles the horror fan fiction site Nosleep, whose alumni have sold novels and gotten writing gigs on the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House: “Inside the horror website that’s freaking out millions of people”.
…Druga is the top administrator on Nosleep, whose indistinguishable mixture of the real and merely realistic (weighed heavily toward the latter, most likely) has helped it grow into the Internet’s main source of amateur horror stories — with more than 13 million subscribers and hundreds of thousands of posts along the lines of “My neighbor has been mowing his lawn for 12 hours straight” and “My granddad used to come to my room at night wearing a mask. Now I know why.”
(11) MORE JEOPARDY! WRONGNESS. Andrew Porter would hate for you to miss another fabulously bad guess by a Jeopardy! contestant.
Category: Fictional Flags Flying.
Answer: After arriving by submarine, this character claims the South Pole with a black flag baring a gold “N”.
Wrong question: “Who is Bugs Bunny?”
Right question: “Who is Nemo?”
(12) THE DEATH OF FRANCHISES? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Dueling articles in today’s Guardian offer arguments against two major franchises, as Ben Child argues that it’s no longer possible to make a ‘good’ Star Wars movie, and Stuart Heritage proclaims bluntly that Game of Thrones should die. While each of them makes some good points about the flaws that seem to be plaguing the subjects of their respective ire, they might go a little far.
Ben Child challenges: “Spent force: why is making a good Star Wars film so hard?”
Star Wars’s directors must feel like the Hollywood equivalent of all those unfortunate Imperial admirals in the original trilogy. One misplaced Rebel fleet and it’s instant death by studio chokehold.
Stuart Heritage says “It’s time for the Game of Thrones universe to die”.
Television is littered with the corpses of unnecessary spinoffs, from Caprica to AfterMASH, Baywatch Nights to Joey. … At this point, with a tainted brand, an irritated fanbase and a pilot that’s proved a colossal waste of effort,perhaps the sensible thing would be for HBO to ditch Game of Thrones altogether.
Overall, the articles do beg the question: under what circumstances should a franchise be left to die, or at least be abandoned to lie fallow before they can be rediscovered by a new generation? It’s a question that’s worth discussing in an era of nonstop franchise maintenance.
(13) ION STORM AHEAD CAPTAIN. Nature tells of “A 100-kiloparsec wind feeding the circumgalactic medium of a massive compact galaxy”. From the abstract —
…Theory points to galactic winds as the primary source of the enriched and massive circumgalactic medium3,4,5,6. Winds from compact starbursts have been observed to flow to distances somewhat greater than ten kiloparsecs7,8,9,10, but the circumgalactic medium typically extends beyond a hundred kiloparsecs3,4. Here are observations of the massive but compact galaxy SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 of a 100-kiloparsec wind.
(14) JAVA IN WESTEROS. BBC delves into “Game of Thrones’ coffee cup and 6 other TV and film bloopers”.
Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke has revealed who was responsible for the show’s infamous coffee cup scene.
In one episode of the eighth season, eagle-eyed viewers spotted a coffee cup on the table in the great hall, as Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen sat, more appropriately, with goblet in hand.
Now, Clarke has revealed her co-star Conleth Hill, who portrayed master of spies Lord Varys, admitted to being responsible for the error during a pre-awards show party in September.
(15) DEAD PERFECT. Google Nest was holding auditions for its Nest doorbell, you see….
She was born to die to play this role. Obvi. It wasn’t easy, but we found an actual ghost to record spooky, Halloween sounds for the Nest Hello doorbell.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]