(1) EXTREME 18TH CENTURY HORROR. For publishing this book author Lewis would live the rest of his life under a cloud, even though he did get to spend “the summer of 1816 with Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelly in Geneva, where the three of them recounted ghost stories to each other.” — “Brian Keene’s History of Horror Fiction, Chapter Eight: The Monk and 1796 Cancel Culture” at Cemetery Dance.
As I pointed out in our last column, Walpole’s novel is one of two that has inspired much that has come since, beginning with Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe (all of whom we’ll be getting to soon).
The other novel that serves as the genre’s ancestral blueprint is The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis.
Up until the publication of The Monk in March of 1796, the Gothics mostly followed Walpole’s formula. The books usually featured a mystery or threat to the main character, an evil villain threatening the virtue of a virginal female, supernatural elements such as a ghost or an ancestral curse, and secret passages in crumbling mansions or castles. That template carried over into the next century, as evidenced by the bulk of the stories published in the pulps during the 1930s.
But with The Monk, Matthew Gregory Lewis took Walpole’s formula, as well as the influence of Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and ran them through a meat grinder. The result was the most shocking novel of the century. If The Castle of Otranto was the world’s first horror novel, then The Monk was the world’s first extreme horror novel. As author J.F. Gonzalez once said, “In some ways, The Monk can be seen as the entire hardcore oeuvre of Edward Lee and Wrath James White of 1796. It was certainly hardcore for its time, and as a result it was banned and suppressed in later editions.”
(2) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Mar/Apr 2020 cover art is “Walkabout” by Mondolithic Studios.
(3) MO*CON. The day after Maurice Broaddus’ 50th birthday Mo*Con: Origins begins: “Imagine a convention that’s nothing but a barcon. writers, artists, publishing professionals, and fans having great conversations while enjoying great meals”.
The event takes place May 1-3, 2020 at Café Creative (546 E. 17th Street, Indianapolis, IN). Guests of Honor are Nisi Shawl, Chesya Burke, Linda Addison, Wrath James White, and Brian Keene, with Editor Guest Scott Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Publisher Guest of Honor Jason Sizemore, Special Guests K. Tempest Bradford, Jeff Strand, Lynne Hanson, and Featured Local Artists Deonna Craig and Rae Parker.
(4) RIPPLES OF RESENTMENT. Miss Manners answered a letter of complaint about the Hugo Losers Party at Dublin 2019 in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 3: “Party was for ‘losers,’ and that’s how they felt”.
No apology or explanation has been given by the party organizers, and that’s really all I want. The radio silence feels like an implication that I’m being the unreasonable one for being upset I wasn’t allowed into a party I was explicitly invited to. Am I in the right or wrong here?
George R.R. Martin wrote several thousand words of explanation here, and specifically said there were things he was sorry for, including — “They had to wait, yes, and I am sorry for that, and it should not have happened, and a number of mistakes were made, most by me.” Alex Acks, who was one of the invited Hugo losers stuck outside, thought the piece fell far short of being an apology (“I didn’t feel personally belittled until this moment: George’s Hugo Losers Party explanation”). Although the Miss Manners letter has parallels to Acks’ post, since that’s been on the internet since September anybody could have cribbed from it. (Question: Does Miss Manners really just wait for letters to show up, or does she have helpers searching for real-life inspirations like this?)
(5) CLASH OF OPINIONS. Deadline says SYFY Wire’s The Great Debate will begin airing this summer, hosted by comedian and actor Baron Vaughn (Grace & Frankie, Mystery Science Theater 3K) and his robot sidekick DB-8.
The show will throw a group of nerds in a room as they answer questions like “Who’d be a worse boss, Darth Vader or the Joker?” or “Would you rather have a Green Lantern ring or a Wizard Wand?”
(6) WE CAN REMOVE YOU WHOLESALE. Tor.com’s James Davis Nicoll calls these “Five SF Precursors to Murderbot”. Number two is —
Jenkins, a robot who appears in Clifford Simak’s City fix-up, at first glance seems an Asimovian robot, dutifully serving the Webster family across generations. Each new cohort of humans make decisions that seem justifiable at the time; each choice assists humans on their way to irrelevance and extinction. It’s little wonder, therefore, that ultimately Jenkins transfers his loyalty away from foolish, suicidal, and sometimes vicious humans to their successors, the gentle Dogs. Humans may have built Jenkins but rather like Frankenstein, they never earned his loyalty.
(7) A DIFFERENT ‘TUDE. The Times Literary Supplement’s Science Fiction Issue came out this week.
John Updike was not much of a fan of science fiction, objecting to the flash and glare of its imagined scenery, complaining that it “rarely penetrates and involves us the way the quietest realistic fiction can”. To Updike, the genre was little more than an “escape into plenitude”. This week, we certainly provide plenitude, but also an examination of the breadth of science fiction, not least the way it often involves much more than Updike ever allowed.
We begin with two authors whose membership of the SF canon comes with qualification: they are “more” than simply genre novelists. Both H. G. Wells and John Wyndham share a certain approach to the extra-terrestrial, “examining the impact on real-life society of a perturbing incident or two”. Pippa Goldschmidt notes that, when it comes to Wyndham’s triffids, only “persistent and hard physical work will succeed in clearing the protagonist’s land of these all-pervasive plants”. There is more quiet realism here than Updike might have noticed.
One of the pieces is “When we fought a lot of dwarves”, a memoir about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook.
… Robert Cohen, in The Sun Also Rises, liked to brag that if all else fails, a man can still make a living playing bridge. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve always known that if I hit rock bottom, there’s a shelf in the TV room of my parents’ house in Austin where I’ve got several hundred dollars’ worth of role-playing games. Not just the standard stuff (bent-sided bright red box sets of the old Basic edition), but specialist limited editions like Privateers and Gentlemen. The pick of the bunch, the one that gave me the most pleasure as a kid, is also the most obvious: my 1978 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook.
(8) BARNETT OBIT. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction crew mourns the death of one of their colleagues: “Paul Barnett (1949-2020)”.
Our old friend and fellow-encyclopedist Paul Barnett — who published mostly as by John Grant — died unexpectedly on 3 February 2020. Besides a prodigious output of solo-written sf, fantasy and nonfiction, he was Technical Editor of the second edition of the SF Encyclopedia (1993), and co-editor with John Clute of the 1997 Encyclopedia of Fantasy , for which they shared a Hugo; he also wrote many new artist entries and updated existing ones for the current online edition of this encyclopedia. See his SFE entry for some indication of his considerable achievement.
(9) KIRK DOUGLAS OBIT. Kirk Douglas, a throwback to Hollywood’s golden age, died February 5 at the age of 103. Although best known as the leading man in movies from Spartacus to Paths of Glory, his portfolio includes appearances in such genre productions as Ulysses (based on Homer), Disney’s production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, TV movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (he played both leads, of course), Saturn 3, the WW2 time-travel movie The Final Countdown, and an episode of the Tales From the Crypt TV series.
He also was the recipient of the 25th Ray Bradbury Creativity Award in 2012.
He wasn’t known as a singer, yet his rendition of “Whale of a Tale” is iconic.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- February 5, 1944 — The original Captain America himself — Dick Purcell — premiered theatrically in the silver screen serial. This Republic black-and-white serial film was based on the Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics) Captain America character. It was the last Republic serial made about a superhero, and the next theatrical release featuring a Marvel hero would not occur for more than forty years. It was the most expensive serial the company ever produced. You can watch it here.
- February 5, 1953 — Walt Disney’s Peter Pan premiered.
- February 5, 1983 — T. J. Hooker‘s “ Vengeance Is Mine” premiered. It’s being listed here as Shatner playing Sgt. T. J. Hooker encounters Nimoy in the role of a disturbed police officer whose daughter was raped. For this one episode, these two Trek stars were reunited.
- February 4, 1994 – The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” episode from their final season first aired. It’s being included here as the CBS All access service will be adding an animated series in 2020 to the Trek universe called Star Trek: Lower Decks which has already been given a two-season order. The episode itself is consistently ranked among the best episodes of that series making the Best of Lists, and ranking as high as Variety listing it as one of the fifteen best Next Gen episodes.
- February 5, 1998 — Target Earth premiered. It starred Janell McLeod, Dabney Coleman and Christopher Meloni, and was directed by Peter Markle from a script from Michael Vivkerman. It seems to have been intended as a pilot for a series but it faired poorly at the box office, critics didn’t like (“sheer rubbish” said several) and it currently has a 29% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 5, 1906 — John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance. After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun, I know) in The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, Bride of Frankenstein, Ali Baba Goes to Town, The Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Lost in Space, Night Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
- Born February 5, 1915 — Sam Gilman. He played Doc Holliday in the Trek episode,”Spectre of the Gun”. Surprisingly he’s done little additional in genre showing only up in a one-off in the Tucker’s Witch series, and a starring role in Black Sabbath. Now Westerns he was a pro at. (Died 1985.)
- Born February 5, 1919 — Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
- Born February 5, 1924 — Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
- Born February 5, 1941 — Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of, but you can see the premiere episode here. (Died 2010.)
- Born February 5, 1961 — Bruce Timm, 59. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him — Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League in several series and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
- Born February 5, 1964 — Laura Linney, 56. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
- Born February 5, 1974 — Rod Roddenberry, 46. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Shoe makes a confession when asked to define a word.
- Lio creates Dr. Jekyll & the Missing Link.
- Bizarro creates what I might call a “meowshup.”
(13) IS GOOFY JEALOUS? SYFY Wire wonders if “Pluto’s frozen heart could be causing all those strange formations on its surface”.
Pluto might have been demoted from planet status, but it still has a heart.
Tombaugh Regio is literally the beating heart of Pluto. Half nitrogen ice and half glacier-studded highlands, this frozen heart is located in the Sputnik Planitia basin and is now thought to control the dwarf planet’s wind circulation — kind of like how the human heart is the epicenter of the human circulatory system. It could also possibly be the source of many strange features, like those weird ice dunes that could be a landscape from beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones.
(14) FOUR WALLS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert reviews two stories, a James White prison break, and Jack Vance’s Space Opera. “[February 4, 1965] Space Prison of Opera (February Galactoscope #1)”.
When I spotted The Escape Orbit by James White in the spinner rack at my local import store, what first attracted me was the cover, showing two humans fighting a tusked and tentacled monstrosity. But what made me pick up the book was the tagline “Marooned on a Prison Planet”. Because stories about space prisons are like catnip to me.
(15) BEWARE KRAPTONITE. Io9 warns: “Forget Superbabies, Superman & Lois Will Feature Superteens Instead”.
Sorry if you were looking forward to seeing superpowered baby-raising shenanigans on the CW’s upcoming Superman & Lois spin-off series. The network just announced who’ll be playing the sons of Superman and Lois Lane, and it looks like the show will be leaning into teen drama instead. Well, it is the CW. What did you expect, really?
(16) RECYCLED HEAT. “Can we heat buildings without burning fossil fuels?”
The world is on average getting warmer, but we still need to keep buildings at liveable temperatures year-round. Is it possible to cut emissions while keeping warm in winter?
To look at, the dark, dripping sewers of Brussels seem an unlikely place for anything particularly valuable to be hidden. But a wet day reveals all.
During a winter downpour, the brick tunnels become subterranean waterslides. Fresh rain tumbles from drains in the street above, joining waste water already in the sewers from sinks, baths, showers and toilets on their long journey downstream. The volume of these fluids and, crucially, their temperature are the reason that the city’s energy experts’ minds are in the gutter.
“The heat of the tunnels always astonished me,” says Olivier Broers, head of investment at the city’s water company, Vivaqua. He first noticed the Belgian city’s dormant heat source 20 years ago when he worked in tunnel restoration. He recalls days when there was ice and snow in the city, but on climbing down a manhole, he would find the sewers an ambient 12-15C. “Enough to fog my glasses,” he recalls.
In Belgium, residential heating accounts for around 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Of that heat, the largest source of loss is through what goes down the drain and into the sewer. To try and recoup that loss, Broers has developed a prototype heat converter that can be installed in the sewers themselves….
(17) BEST SUPPORTING ROLE. “Green light for UK commercial telecoms Moon mission” – BBC has the story.
UK satellite company SSTL has got the go-ahead to produce a telecommunications spacecraft for the Moon.
The platform, which should be ready for launch in late 2022, will be used by other lunar missions to relay their data and telemetry to Earth.
Satellites already do this at Mars, linking surface rovers with engineers and scientists back home.
The Lunar Pathfinder venture will do the same at the Moon.
SSTL is financing the build of the satellite itself but will sell its telecoms services under a commercial contract with the European Space Agency (Esa).
It’s hoped other governmental organisations and private actors will purchase capacity as well.
…Nasa’s Project Artemis has identified 2024 as the date when the “first woman and the next man” will touchdown, close to the lunar south pole.
The plan is to put the UK satellite into a highly elliptical orbit so that it can have long periods of visibility over this location.
Pathfinder is expected to be particularly useful for any sorties – human or robotic – to the Moon’s far side, which is beyond the reach of direct radio transmission with Earth.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Turtle Journey: The Crisis In Our Oceans” on YouTube is a cartoon done by Aardman Animations for Greenpeace about the need to protect turtle habitat in the oceans.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Gordon Van Gelder, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xopher Halftongue.]