Pixel Scroll 8/3 Crisis in Infinite Victories

A Hollywood bomb that made money, a cable hit with a future, and the perpetual love feast that is the Worldcon, all in today’s Scroll.

(1) James Earl Jones played B-52 bombardier Lt. Lothar Zogg in Dr. Strangelove.

It was his seventh professional credit. In five of his first 10 roles he was cast as a doctor. That early typecasting wasn’t enough to get him the part of Dr. Strangelove himself, though… Jones first appears in this YouTube clip at :40.

James Earl Jones would establish his greatness as an actor a few years afterwards on Broadway, earning a Tony as the lead in The Great White Hope, and an Academy Award nomination in the film version of the play. Because of his prominence in mainstream entertainment, gigs like voicing Darth Vader or Mufasa in The Lion King seem like sidelines, however, Jones has often worked in genre, fantasy and offbeat productions.

He played alien abductee Barney Hill in a 1975 TV movie, Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian, the warrior Umslopogaas in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), reclusive author Terence Mann in Field of Dreams (1989), and also has been in many obscure genre and animated productions.

(2) J. Michael Straczynski, interviewed by Comic Book Resources, is cautiously optimistic about a second season of Sense8.

While the streaming service hasn’t officially given the green light to second season, a promising gesture occurred when Netflix hosted a “Sense8″ panel during the Television Critics Association summer press tour with cast and creators in attendance, including Straczynski who updated the status of a possible renewal. “We’re still awaiting word,” he said on stage. “We’re in the process. We’re waiting for a final determination. We’re cautiously optimistic, but ultimately it’s Netflix’s call.”

If the call does come, Straczynski said he and the Wachowskis have already given plenty of thought to the next phase of the “Sense8” universe. “We’re looking at expanding that as far as logic goes,” he said. “What’s kind of fun about the characters is that what they’re sharing are not necessarily [powered] – like, in other concepts, which might be superpowers, flight. They have ordinary abilities, and we’re trying to say that there is value and merit and power in [that] – whether you’re an actor or you are a martial arts person or a bus driver, you have something to contribute.”

(3) You have til tomorrow to bid on a copy of the American first edition of Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Currently up to $2,400.

twenty thousand leagues vern

(4) “7 Science Fiction Publishers that Pay $750+ for Short Stories” seems to have valid info (I checked the Analog entry and it is good) even if the page itself is an ad for writing jobs.

(5) Today’s birthday boy – Clifford D. Simak, three-time Hugo winner, for “The Big Front Yard” (1959), “Grotto of the Dancing Deer” (1981), and one of my very favorite sf novels, Way Station (1964). He was named a SFWA Grand Master, received a Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, and won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.

After the original Dean of Science Fiction, Murray Leinster, passed away, Isaac Asimov considered only two writers had earned the right to succeed to the unofficial title, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Clifford Simak

Clifford Simak

(6) Artist Bob Eggleton predicts the demise of the Worldcon art show in “We LOVE Worldcon….but here’s what happened…”

Back in the 1980s, it was commonplace for us Pro Artists to schlep or ship our work to the convention. The 80s was a great time,  SF looked good,  major authors were doing major works, the covers were the best they’d ever been.  Costs were low.  Even in the 90s it was still viable. I can remember in 1996 shipping 3 large boxes of artwork to the LACon of that year in Anaheim.  It was a lot of fun, I won a Hugo in fact. The boxes cost me something like $300.00 each way for a total of $600 and change.  I made something like $4500 in the show, so including everything, I still made money.

….It’s the shipping costs that it all comes down to vs the return in sales that are not always congruent. So while people ask “What happened to all the name artists?”….it’s simply cost that we can’t do this anymore. My personal view is also that, Worldcon has changed and few people are interested in the physical art like they used to be, with all the interest in digital media. And it has become a lot of work to prepare for these events. My memories are long and I will always remember the good times, but, they’ve passed. I see a future of an artshow-less Worldcon, due to insurance costs and lack of manpower and, as digital art becomes the mainstay, a lack of physical art.

(7) Dave Freer’s “Show me” at Mad Genius Club is a one-man roundup post.

In this case I’m talking about all those folk who have been telling us ‘we’re doing it wrong’. You know precisely the sort of individuals I’m talking about. They’ll tell me I’m an evil cruel man for killing a chicken or a wallaby… but they have never done it. They’ve never been faced with a choice of that, or no food (let alone meat). They buy a product in the supermarket… which magically makes it appear in the freezer. They’ll tell you that you did your book all wrong and that it is terrible and full of typos… but they haven’t written one. Or if they have, they didn’t have to survive the mill of the slush-pile as I did (or self-pub), but thanks to their ‘disadvantages’ and connections had a publisher pay an editor to help, and proof reader to clear some of those typos. They’ll tell you that the puppies efforts are dragging sf back in time (yes, JUST in time), yet they’ve done nothing to alter the catastrophic plunge of sf/fantasy sales from traditional publishers. If you force them to confront the figures showing they’ve been part of excluding anyone to the right of Lenin from traditional publishing and the various awards (which, it seems extremely likely, downgraded the sale-value of those awards, and the popularity of the genre… they’ll tell you there might be a problem (but of course nothing like as bad as you make it out to be) and we, the puppies just did it wrong.

(8) But never let it be said the Puppies haven’t left their noseprint on the field. Dave Hicks’s cover art for Novacon 45’s progress reports is themed for GoH Stan Nicholls’s Orcs fantasies. Here’s the topical #2.

Art by Dave Hicks.

Art by Dave Hicks.

[Thanks to David Langford and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Snowcrash.]

Straczynski Picked To Script Red Mars

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski will write Spike TV’s Red Mars, based on the first book in Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy about the terraforming of Mars.

HBO’s Game of Thrones co-executive producer Vince Gerardis is the producer, and author Robinson is a consultant.

All three novels in the trilogy won major sf awards — Red Mars (Nebula), Green Mars (Hugo) and Blue Mars (Hugo) — and are esteemed as examples of hard sf.

In recent years Straczynski has written the Clint Eastwood feature The Changeling and co-wrote Thor and World War Z. On the TV side, he is wrapping the first season of Sense8 for Netflix, an sf series he co-wrote and executive produces/runs with the Wachowskis.

JMS Bringing Sense8
To Netflix in 2015

Sense8 is an upcoming sf drama series created, co-written and co-directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix). J. Michael Straczynski, executive producer of Sense8, pulled back the curtain a little more on the project for his Facebook fan group on October 13.

[Now] that we’re about a month from the end of shooting on season one of Sense8, with vast amounts of the footage now in hand, I’m sufficiently confident with what we’re doing to make another promise.

Sense8 is going to debut on Netflix in 2015. And it is going to change the way you see television, in terms of production values, storytelling, scope, scale, and action. All of it.

We are going to tell a story on a planetary scale. No cheats. In ways no one else has ever done before.

We are going to treat subjects that most TV series, and pretty much all SF series have avoided.

We are going to present visuals and action in ways that you have simply never, ever seen before. Anywhere.

In 2015 we are going to blow the doors off the television business.

Count on it.

That’s not all Straczynski has in the works. As quoted in the JMS News, he told an audience at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con —

Here’s the plan: We’re going to have, through Studio JMS, at least two, maybe three TV series on the air next year. We’re going to have at least one or two movies going ahead. And we’ll use that to parlay serious investment in the studio. I’m not talking Kickstarter, I’m talking about one hundred million dollars, two hundred million dollars; we already have people who are lined up and interested in doing that.

So in 2015 I will write a Babylon 5 screenplay. I’ll be giving Warner Bros. the opportunity – if they want to step up, “Help yourself”. If they don’t, 2016: We make it. I’m not going to wait around for more of our cast members to die.

The B5 movie would be a reboot, however, he plans to use many of the original cast in other roles.

Straczynski’s Back

Netflix has ordered 10 episodes of Sense8, a science fiction drama produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski in partnership with J. Michael Straczynski.

Just what it will be about has yet to be made public. The Wachowskis only toldThe Hollywood Reporter —

“We’re excited to work with Netflix and Georgeville Television on this project, and we’ve wanted to work with Joe Straczynski for years, chiefly due to the fact his name is harder to pronounce than ours, but also because we share a love of genre and all things nerdy,” said Andy and Lana Wachowski. “Several years ago, we had a late night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us, and out of that paradox Sense8 was born.”

The show will debut in late 2014.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Before Watchmen Panel at C2E2

James Bacon said in an e-mail, “I got the opportunity to see a Before Watchmen presentation, so I told the Vice President I was pissed off.”

“Biden?” I wondered. But no, James’ report for Comic Buzz shows he meant someone with real power — in the comics industry:

I waited a little, then approached the stage…trying to catch Dan Didio [Co-Publishers of DC Comics]…. He leaned over, and I said; ‘I’m one of those angry guys, you’ve pissed me off with this, and I didn’t want you thinking people like me are not here’.

The panel also featured several of the talents who are working on Before Watchmen. One of them addressed the controversy in fandom about enlarging on Alan Moore’s creation:

JMS [J. Michael Straczynski] fields the question about how he is dealing with criticism. He explains that on an ‘Emotional level’ he ‘gets it’, but goes on to state that DC ‘Legally and contractually have the right.’ to do this. As an analogy for the use of Watchmen characters, he makes mention of Hyde from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and wondered Robert Louis Stevens approve of Mr Hyde raping a character to death. He of course makes light of this analogy, saying it will be reported out of context, but I don’t think the specific is the issue, rather that this is a weak argument, Stevenson is dead, and the copyright for his character is available, Hyde is used cleverly in another work, not rewritten as a whole novel. Its a poor comparison, and one that sits badly with me, but the crowd lap it up.

Check the report for more information and reaction about DC’s new project.

#4 With a Bullet

harlan with birdWhen Harlan Ellison learned he was ranked fourth in my list of Top Newsmakers of 2011 he gave me a call.

I was away, so he gave Diana the number and promised “He’s not in trouble.” I don’t believe a science fiction writer has ever said that about me before. Readers of this blog will be amazed one has said it now.

When I returned his call Harlan said he was pleased to have appeared in the list of Top 10 Newsmakers – and told me a great many more things I should have reported about him last year. Very true. And here they are.

In 2011 Harlan was voted his fourth Nebula by the members of SFWA, for “How Interesting: A Tiny Man.” At the age of 77 he is the oldest person ever to win the award. He’s the only author with three Nebula-winning short stories. (Harlan won his other Nebula years ago for a novella, A Boy and His Dog.) He’s also a past recipient of SFWA’s Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award (2006).

Last year one of my favorite writers, Robert Crais, dedicated his latest Joe Pike mystery to him. Harlan says over 200 books have been dedicated to him in his lifetime.

He’s been blessed with a revitalization of his writing after being diagnosed and treated for Clinical Depression – ending a stretch of time when he believed he was simply dying and had announced his last convention appearance.

Last year Harlanbooks.com produced four Ellison projects.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison, Volumes One and Two collect his television scripts, which appear exactly as they did when he pulled them from his Olympia manual typewriter, before any alterations by the shows’ producers.

A limited edition of Volume One with special material, signed by Ellison and J. Michael Straczynski (author of the introduction), made over $70K he says.

The second volume of Brain Movies features an introduction by Patton Oswalt and six more Ellison teleplays. Among them are “Mealtime,” an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea that resulted in an ABC censor having his pelvis broken by a model of the Seaview (and was aired under the Cordwainer Bird pseudonym); plus two episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Then there were two “101” books. Harlan 101: Encountering Ellison, which boasts a foreword by Neil Gaiman, is an introduction to Ellison’s work and advice to writers. There are seven essays on the craft of writing and short stories including his latest Nebula winner, “How Interesting: A Tiny Man,” and five Hugo Award winners “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” “The Deathbird,” “Jeffty Is Five,” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour.”

Harlan 101: The Sound of A Scythe and 3 Brilliant Novellas is notable for the reappearance of Ellison’s second novel (The Sound of A Scythe) in a substantially revised and expanded form and using the author’s preferred title (the original publisher renamed it The Man With Nine Lives without Ellison’s consent). It’s 25% longer than in the 1960 edition, which Ace chopped by 40,000 words.

In one week in December he had 5 books come out. One of them, Bugf#ck: The Worthless Wit & Wisdom of Harlan Ellison, has already sold through two printings – something like 70,000 copies. The small-sized hardback book (128 numbered pages with a 4 x 5.5 inch trim size) gathers Harlan’s best bon mots.

There is more on the way in 2012.

Harlan has a story in the forthcoming Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller & Mort Castle. There will be a numbered edition limited to 500 signed by all the contributors except Bradbury, priced at $75, and a lettered edition limited to 26 copies, which is signed by Bradbury, going for $500. For more information and to order, click this link. Among the other contributors are Margaret Atwood, David Eggers, Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman, and Joe Hill.

In 2012 Kicks Books of Brooklyn will reissue the gang stories he wrote as Paul Merchant in the late 1950s.

Without a doubt, Harlan’s already hard at work securing a spot at the front of the field of this year’s newsmakers.

In the Original Babylonian

The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his (and Cordwainer Bird’s) legend. So naturally many fans will be intrigued to read the master’s own versions of these scripts, the prose as it came directly from his Olympia manual typewriter, when the publisher releases a three-volume set this fall titled Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison:

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 1
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his scripts for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (two different drafts!), The Outer Limits, The Hunger and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” (featuring the unfilmed original ending) and “Crazy as a Soup Sandwich” from The Twilight Zone, along with their original treatments.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 2
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his scripts for Ripcord, four episodes of Burke’s Law—weighing in at an average of 75 pages each—and the Flying Nun teleplay (and treatment) written in the hopes of landing a date with Sally Field.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 3
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his unmolested teleplay for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, two episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Cimarron Strip, the pilot for Ellison’s own series The Starlost (recently adapted into a graphic novel by IDW) and a bonus treatment for the Logan’s Run tv series.

Volume One presents six of Harlan Ellison’s teleplays reproduced from actual file copies, including his handwritten deletions and emendations. Readers also have an immediate opportunity to order the “Limited Babylonian edition” of Volume One signed by Ellison and J. Michael Straczynski which features three documents Straczynski commissioned Ellison to write at the outset of Babylon 5:

(1) A detailed manifesto explaining to potential writers for the series what not to do in science fiction television.

(2) The UNABRIDGED opening narration to be read by Michael O’Hare as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair over the beginning of each episode, written in collaboration with Straczynski and never featured in its entirety in the finished episodes.

(3) Thirteen never-heard humorous voice overs written to be spoken over the Warner Bros. logo that ended each episode. What you heard spoken was, “Babylon 5 was produced by Babylonian Productions Inc. and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.” But Ellison had other ideas.

Straczynski has written an open letter to Babylon 5 fans plugging Ellison’s collection:

In many cases, the book contains both the script and the treatment, something almost never seen outside the studio. Most amazing of all, the book contains not just the shooting script for Harlan’s HITCHCOCK episode, it contains an earlier draft filled with his handwritten annotations and changes.

When an episode is broadcast, you don’t get to see the writer’s mind at work, don’t have the opportunity to experience the moment he decided to make a line of dialogue or a scene go this way instead of that way, how a turn of phrase was altered in just the right way at the last moment, you see only the end product. By including the draft with the handwritten annotations, you can see the creative process being enacted right before your eyes. The opportunity to see inside the writer’s mind is unspeakably rare.

Best of all, these are not re-typeset versions of the script, they are painstakingly scanned reproductions of the ORIGINAL SCRIPTS, exactly as they were written.

And for the budding science fiction writers out there, what better than having Harlan Ellison break down in his manifesto how to write effectively in the genre, how to avoid various kinds of traps and make your writing better?

Not just those budding writers, many fans who have followed Ellison’s print and media work over the decades still have infinite curiosity about Harlan Ellison’s writing process. What a window this will be into his creative process.

It’s a characteristically bold move, Ellison giving any interested reader the opportunity to compare his original vision to the aired episodes and understandably betting on himself.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

New Forbidden: Not a Breath Mint,
Not a Candy Mint

Slowly but surely we’re learning what the new Forbidden Planet project isn’t. It’s not a remake. And it isn’t a continuation, either, says J. Michael Straczynski. The writer has denied the recent Ain’t It Cool News report:

That report is totally incorrect. It’s not going to be retro, and it’s not going to be a continuation. When Altair 4 blows up, it blows up. I have, however, found a way to honro [sic] the original movie without in any way besmirching it in order to do this iteration. Once folks find out what we’re actually going to do, I think they’ll be most pleased.

[Thanks to R-Laurraine Tutihasi for the story]