Another Henson Exhibit Exists!

By Rich Lynch: My friend Martin Morse Wooster’s February 3rd File 770 post about visiting the Jim Henson exhibit at the University of Maryland has inspired me to write about my own Jim Henson exhibit experience.  Only this one was up in New York City, not over in College Park, Maryland.  It was part of a four-day mini-vacation in NYC that Nicki and I did back in early January which also included a theatrical performance (which I’ll describe in part 2 of this essay) that was very much in the science fiction/fantasy genre.

Part 1: It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights.

The Museum of the Moving Image is a gem of a place that I can hardly believe Nicki and I have missed seeing until now.  MMI is out in Queens next to the Kaufman Astoria Studios, and according to the museum’s website its intent is to “advance the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television and digital media”.  And from what we saw there was ample evidence that it was succeeding.

There’s not a whole lot of space available (just two floors), but what they had was used intelligently.  The upper floor was set up as a walk through the history of the moving image, beginning with a collection of magic lanterns dating back to the end of the 19th Century.  A lot of it was hands-on — the core exhibition, Behind the Screen, provides a simplified immersive experience, as the museum’s website describes it, “in the creative and technical process of producing, promoting, and presenting films, television shows, and digital entertainment”.  This included small studios for demonstrating various post-production techniques such as adding foley sound effects to a recorded video.  It was all pretty fascinating to observe, and just by itself was worth the visit to the museum.

But that’s not what we had come there to see.  The other floor of the museum, since 2017, has been home to The Jim Henson Exhibition.  MMI describes it as a “dynamic experience [which] explores Jim Henson’s groundbreaking work for film and television and his transformative impact on culture.”  In all there are about 300 items on display for what is really a quite inclusive retrospective of Henson’s career as a puppeteer, animator, actor, inventor, and filmmaker.  This includes many of the Muppets, and the museum had obviously arranged them with the assumption that they would be part of countless numbers of selfies and photo ops.  Ours included.

Nicki Lynch, Big Bird and Cookie Monster

The exhibition consisted of more than just static displays.  There were also video screens which showcased some of Henson’s earliest involvement in television, including the Sam and Friends show for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. which aired for several years starting in the mid-1950s.  That was where Kermit the Frog made his first appearance.

Henson and his fellow puppeteer Frank Oz gained national popularity in the early 1960s when one of their Muppets, Rowlf the Dog, had a continuing role as a sidekick of sorts on The Jimmy Dean Show.  And then international popularity in the late 1960s when their Muppets became featured performers on the public television show Sesame Street.  But for me and Nicki, we became fans of the Muppets when they got their own syndicated television series in the mid-1970s.

Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge

The Muppet Show was ostensibly a variety show, hosted by Kermit, and featured some very entertaining sketch comedy as well as a plethora of famous guest stars.  So it was really a pleasure to spend half an hour, in the exhibition’s screening room, re-watching an episode which had originally aired more than 40 years ago.  The one they were showing featured Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge as musical guests, but the Muppets themselves had the most amusing bits: Resident daredevil The Great Gonzo recited a multiplication table while standing on a hammock and balancing a piano (with predictably disastrous results).  Mad scientist Dr. Bunsen Honeydew debuted his latest invention, atomic elevator shoes.  Weight-conscious Miss Piggy ordered up a watercress sandwich on whole wheat with four ounces of rhubarb juice, otherwise known as the ‘Fatso Special’.  Feral rock band drummer Animal ate a TV dinner, which turned out to be an actual TV.  And the show’s resident stand-up comic, Fozzie Bear (accompanied by Rowlf), sang “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, An Actor’s Life for Me”.  More than 40 years on, it was all just as enjoyable as the first time we’d seen it.  Ah, nostalgia!

Next:  Livin’ it up on top with Hadestown.

Wooster Visits Jim Henson Exhibit at University of Maryland

By Martin Morse Wooster: I went to the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to see a performance of Thais.  Before the opera, I saw “Inspired! Jim Henson at Maryland”, an exhibition at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at the center.  The exhibit, with curators from the University of Maryland and the Jim Henson Company, and was funded by the Jane Henson Foundation.  It will be at the library until June.

I thought the exhibit was really well done and anyone interested in Henson’s art will learn from it.  But it’s very small: I took it in in 15 minutes, and I’m a guy who sees and reads everything when he’s at the museum.

Henson went to Maryland because he was a legacy; on exhibit was his father’s master’s thesis, about endosperm in corn.  He started off doing art for Northwestern High School publications, and you can see some of them.

When he was at Maryland in the late 1950s, Henson created all sorts of art.  He created a silkscreen business, and you can see several posters he did.  He also took two courses in fashion illustration to expand his skill set, and some of these illustrations are shown in the exhibit.

But Henson’s first love was puppetry.  His first commercial puppetry assignment was commercials for Wilkins Coffee, which featured two puppets named Wilkins and Wontkins.  He then followed this with “Sam and Friends,” a five-minute puppet show which was the first appearance of Kermit the Frog.

A video in the exhibit shows some of the coffee commercials and two episodes of “Sam and Friends.”  My favorite joke: Wilkins the puppet is shown with four cups of coffee.  Why only four?  “Because I’m taking the fifth.”

Finally, I learned that as part of the Henson family’s philanthropy, they’ve funded fellowships for current Maryland students interested in puppetry, and you can see what today’s puppeteers are doing.

The impression I got of Jim Henson at the University of Maryland was that he was a bright, creative guy who left Maryland with a great deal of potential.  Anyone who likes the Muppets will find “Inspired!” worth seeing.

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/4/18 A Pixel Came Down To File770, It Was Lookin’ For A Scroll To Steal

(1) FOLLOWING IN GODZILLA’S FOOTSTEPS. The Harvard Map Collection presents “Where Disaster Strikes: Modern Space and the Visualization of Destruction”.

Floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanoes, bombings, droughts, and even alien invasions: disaster can take many forms. And, although disasters are always felt dramatically, a disaster’s form and location impacts who records its effects and what forms those records take. “Where Disaster Strikes” investigates the intertwined categories of modern space and disaster through the Harvard Map Collection’s maps of large destructive events from the London Fire to the present.

The map collection includes a Godzilla feature. Stacy Lambe figured out how many times stomped all the cities. Then Danielle Brown mapped them. (I can’t get the link to function here, but go to the Harvard Map Collection link and click “30” on the left sidebar, that worked for me.)

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Safe Surrender” by Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, is this month’s entry in the Future Tense series that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. The series is offered through a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

The laws are so old that they were written with fully human children in mind. Before first contact, two humans might make a fully Terran baby and still abandon it, because they didn’t have enough money or because one of their ancient tribal honor codes forbid them from breeding. It still happens, but nobody talks about it. Humans like to forget what they used to be. Now, safe surrender sites are known as places where hemis get dumped. Hemis like me.

It was published along with a response essay “Oppression of the Future in ‘Safe Surrender’ by tech policy lawyer Laura Moy.

As technology advances, will we use it to promote equity, or to serve and preserve systems of oppression? This question is central to Meg Elison’s “Safe Surrender,” which explores a future in which humans are in regular contact with extraterrestrials called Pinners, who exchange diplomats, trade goods, and even interbreed with Earthlings. In “Safe Surrender,” a grown-up human-Pinner hybrid (a “hemi”) struggles to find their identity and make sense of their origin—surrendered at birth by a mother who did not want or perhaps felt she could not care for or protect a hybrid infant.

In Elison’s not–totally foreign, not-so-distant future, the racial prejudices, inequities, and oppression that plague humankind today map easily onto extraterrestrials….

(3) POOHOGRAPHY. Who needs $200,000 when you can have this map? Atlas Obscura knows where you can find it: “For Sale: A Winsome Map Showing the Way to Pooh Corner”.

But all the adventures of a boy and his bear started here, alongside illustrations by the English artist E. H. Shepard. In its opening pages, a map shows the way around the Hundred Acre Wood, sometimes stylized as “100 Aker Wood.” There’s “Where the Woozle Wasnt” and the route to the North Pole. Now, for the first time in nearly 50 years, the original map is on sale at the British auctioneer Sotheby’s, along with four other illustrations. They are expected to fetch as much as $580,000 together when they go on sale at the auction house in July, the BBC reported.

It’s a lot of money for a map—but then, this isn’t any old map.

(4) MEXICANX. John Picacio introduces the next set of MexicanX Initiative guests who’ll be coming to Worldcon 76.

(5) MERRY MONTH OF MAY. Eric Wong sent along Rocket Stack Rank’s May ratings highlights.

  1. New Prolific Reviewer Added

Gary Tognetti @ 1000 Year Plan

  1. Most-Recommended Stories

Here are 15 stories (out of 72) recommended by at least 2 out of 4 prolific reviewers who post at the end of each month (GTognetti, JMcGregor, RSR, SFRevu). That’s 21% of 72 stories, while 56% (40 stories) got no recs from any of the 4 prolific reviewers.

Novellas (click for story & review links)

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells 1h:48m Tor Novella 05/08/18

Bubble and Squeak by David Gerrold & Ctein 1h:50m Asimov’s 05?06|18

Novelettes (click for story & review links)

The Thought That Counts by K.J. Parker 28m BCS 250
Crash Site by Brian Trent 29m F&SF 05?06|18
Inquisitive by Pip Coen2 25m F&SF 05?06|18
Fleeing Oslyge by Sally Gwylan 30m Clarkesworld 140
Angry Kings by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam 25m BCS 250
Argent and Sable by Matthew Hughes 47m F&SF 05?06|18
Hubpoint Of No Return by Christopher L. Bennett 41m Analog 05?06|18

Short Stories (click for story & review links)

A Green Moon Problem by Jane Lindskold 20m Lightspeed 96
Unstoppable by Gardner Dozois 19m F&SF 05?06|18
Blessings by Naomi Novik 07m Uncanny 22
Cold Blue Sky by JE Bates2 13m Apex 108
Godmeat by Martin Cahill 23m Lightspeed 96
While You Sleep, Computer Mice™ Earn Their Keep by Buzz Dixon 07m Analog 05?06|18

(Sometimes RHorton’s recs are included if Locus Magazine releases his latest column online by the end of the month. The recommendations from the 5 major awards and 4 major SF/F anthologies are typically available within 5 months after the calendar year and are shown in the 2018 YTD.)

  1. Most-Recommended Magazines

Every BCS and Lightspeed story got a recommendation from at least 1 out of 4 prolific reviewers. Every magazine got at least 1 story rec except Strange Horizons.

(All 11 magazines included in RSR Monthly & YTD ratings are covered by at least 3 of the 4 prolific monthly reviewers, except for Tor Novellas.)

  1. Stories by New Writers

Stories by 2019 Campbell Award-eligible writers, grouped by year of eligibility.

Year 1 Eligible: 5 stories, none recommended.

Year 2 Eligible: 6 stories, 3 recommended.

Coen, Pip Inquisitive 25m F&SF 05?06|18
Bates, JE Cold Blue Sky 13m Apex 108
Falowo, Dare Segun Ku’gbo 19m F&SF 05?06|18

The remaining 61 stories were written by authors whose first pro SF/F story was before 2017.

(6) BEING INVENTIVE. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett says “Let’s consider how to add a little local colour to steampunk fiction with some interesting but failed nineteenth century inventions. Necessity might be the mother of invention but that doesn’t mean all her children are born equal.” — “With A Strange Device”.

Putting some steampunk junk in the trunk.

I’ve long been a fan of Jack Vance’s fiction for a number of reasons. One of these is the way he liked to throw quirky details into his stories. There were often no reason for these details as they weren’t designed to advance the plot (well okay, very occasionally yes they did but usually no they didn’t). Mostly Vance just liked to add a little local colour to the fictional landscapes his narrative was passing through. A little local colour, as actually exists in the real world, is something far too rare in science fiction of any era.

(7) SAURON’S DIGS. Olga Polomoshnova pieces together a description of “The tower of adamant” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

Barad-dûr was built in the Second Age when Sauron chose Mordor as his abode. He began the construction of the Dark Tower in c. 1000 SA and finished it in c. 1600 SA — the same year when the One Ring was forged in the fires of Orodruin. The foundations of Barad-dûr were thus strengthened with the power of the One Ring, so the tower was virtually indestructible by any force and could stand as long as the Ring lasted. After the War of the Last Alliance and the seven-year siege of Barad-dûr its foundations remained, though the tower itself was destroyed, and thus the Dark Tower rose again in the Third Age.

The appearance of Barad-dûr is left rather vague by Tolkien. Readers can catch only glimpses of the Dark Tower by means of visions or looks from afar, without many details provided. Those glimpses offer a very uncertain picture, as if just allowing a peek at the mighty tower: we look at it quickly and then withdraw our glance so that the never-sleeping watch of Sauron does not catch us at looking at his citadel longer than it is necessary.

The main impression that can be gathered from those fragmentary glimpses is that of hopelessness and terror: the Dark Tower is huge and impregnable. In this case less is more, and the lack of detailed descriptions does the trick, but one thing is certain: we are dealing with a very serious stronghold here.

(8) THE QUIET MAN. Jon Del Arroz hasn’t been tweeting for the last few days. Part of it is because he was officiating a wedding for a friend, but the main reason is that his Twitter account was frozen. JDA says I have to get the details from the response piece he has written for The Federalist….

(9) VON TIESENHAUSEN OBIT. WAFF-TV has the story: “‘Father of the Lunar Rover’ dies at 104”

Georg von Tiesenhausen, who is dubbed the “Father of the Lunar Rover,” has died at age 104.

Tiesenhausen was the last living rocket scientist who came to the U.S. under Operation Paperclip with Wernher von Braun at jump-start the U.S. space program.

(10) PHIPPS OBIT. Actor William Phipps, who had a huge number of genre TV and movie roles on his resume, died June 1—The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

…He starred as a young poet, one of the five people on Earth to survive a nuclear explosion, in Five (1951), then fought martians in The War of the Worlds (1953) and Invaders From Mars (1953), a giant spider in Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) and the Abominable Snowman in The Snow Creature (1954).

Walt Disney himself heard Phipps’ audition tape and hired him to play Prince Charming opposite Ilene Woods in Cinderella (1950). The actor said he was paid about $100 for two hours’ work on an afternoon in January 1949….

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 4, 1982 Poltergeist premiered.
  • June 4, 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan debuted in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 4 — Angelina Jolie, actress in the Tombraider films and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock says Rhymes With Orange believes they could never remake Wizard of Oz quite the same way today.

(14) JIM HENSON. “The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited” is on display at LA’s Skirball Cultural Center from June 1-September 2.

Immerse yourself in the imaginative world of Jim Henson (1936–1990) and discover his groundbreaking approach to puppetry and transformative impact on contemporary culture.

Featuring more than 100 objects and twenty-five historic puppets—including Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, Ernie and Bert, Grover, and other popular favorites—The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited illuminates Henson’s unique contributions to the moving image. Along with a talented team of designers, performers, and writers, Henson created an unparalleled body of work that continues to delight and inspire people of all ages to create a kinder and gentler world.

Explore Henson’s enduringly popular productions—from The Muppet Show, the Muppet movies, and Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth—through character sketches, storyboards, scripts, photographs, costumes, film and television clips, and behind-the-scenes footage. Then design your own puppet and try your hand at puppeteering in this highly interactive exhibition.

Highlights include:

  • Kermit the Frog puppet from 1978
  • Handwritten scripts from Henson’s first television series, Sam and Friends (1955–1961)
  • A clip from Henson’s Academy Award–nominated experimental short film Time Piece (1965)
  • Puppets from Sesame Street (1969– ), including Grover, Ernie and Bert, and Count von Count
  • Section on The Muppet Show (1976–1981), including puppets of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, and Scooter, as well as material from the Muppets’ transition to the big screen, such as set models and storyboards
  • Jen and Kira puppets from The Dark Crystal (1982)
  • Red Fraggle from Fraggle Rock (1983–1987), which celebrates its thirty-fifth anniversary this year
  • Jareth’s and Sarah’s ballroom costumes from Labyrinth (1986)

(15) BEGONE, I HAVE NO POWER HERE. NPR reports “‘Sherlock’ Star Benedict Cumberbatch Saves Cyclist From Muggers” — no mystic powers needed.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays detective Sherlock Holmes in the television series Sherlock, foiled an attempted robbery by fighting off a gang of muggers in London. The attack occurred near his fictional character’s home on Baker Street.

(16) CONCAROLINAS. Yesterday’s Scroll reported the terms under which David Weber agreed to be a ConCarolinas special guest next year, his characterization of those who had issues with Ringo’s selection as a special guest, and the statement delivered by the ConCarolinas chair at closing ceremonies of this year’s con (wording negotiated with Weber).

There has been mixed reaction to the ConCarolinas statement.

So, apparently, ConCarolinas committee gave a closing statement where they doubled-down on being open to having special guests who are bigots, racists, sexists, etc claiming the onus is on the people these hate-mongers target to be willing to sit in a room with them as a sign of tolerance and mutual respect.

Listen, it’s not on me to be willing to tolerate someone who thinks I shouldn’t even be in the room or any group who supports bigotry, racism, misogyny, or hate speech.

Now, for those of you who gave ConCarolinas a pass this year and went anyway they’ve made where they stand abundantly clear. You either support that or you don’t – there’s no middle ground. Don’t think you can continue to support it and be my “friend”. Pick a side. You’re either with the people who support giving a platform to hate or you’re an ally of the marginalized people those bigots/racists/misogynists would like to see excluded from SFF and fandom. Don’t expect me to be ok with it.

My thanks to those allies who made a principled stand and withdrew from ConCarolinas, both guests and attendees. I appreciate your willingness to take a stand for what’s right and not try to parse your participation down to some justification for continuing to support people who CLEARLY want to be in a position to give a platform to people who would like nothing better than to target women and people of color.

  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

  • Rabid Sparkle Badger

  • Stabby Carpenter

  • Nick Mamatas

  • Stephanie Souders

  • Keffy

So, the director of Con Carolinas has made a choice of who is welcome, and who is not. This is now a convention openly antagonistic to the health, comfort, and safety of anyone who is not straight, cis, male, white, and conservative.

Two important wins vs. the antisocial injustice crusaders in SFF.

  1. ConCarolinas, with prompting from DavidWeber, has declared themselves politically neutral.
  2. DragonCon fired the head of its fantasy lit track, who was apparently trying to impose a political litmus test.
  • Shaun Duke

  • Ari Marmell

  • Declan Finn

ConCarolinas is beginning to see the first groundswell of criticism for the position Jada took at final ceremonies yesterday. I expect it to get pretty ugly, because she and the concom are now officially recidivists. I would request that anyone who supports the con’s efforts — and fandom in general’s effort — to . . . diminish the scope for the ex post facto dis-invitation of guests to speak up in support of the con’s position, but lets not take this any farther into Mutually Assured Destruction territory than we have to. I know the temptation will be to lob H bombs back in response to the fission warheads coming in in condemnation of the con’s position. I understand that, because I’ve got a temper, too. But if we want to minimize the bigots and the fanatics on both sides of the divide, then we can’t be fanatics ourselves. Determined, unyielding, and unwilling to put up with or yield to cyber bullying — all of those things, damned straight. But if we’re going to be the grown-ups in the room, then let’s BE grown-ups. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t approve of banning anyone for anything short of criminal acts or DEMONSTRATED personal harassment of an innocent bystander who didn’t lob the first grenade in any exchange between them. Don’t care whether they are on the right, and they’ve been screaming about John’s withdrawal from ConCarolinas and Larry’s banning from Origins, or if they are on the left, and they are now screaming about ConCarolinas’ response to the arguments voiced by people on the right. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion and to attend or not to attend any convention because of guest lists or for any other reason(s) that seem(s) good to them. They also have a right to voice and explain those opinions. I’d just really prefer for us to do it as civilly as possible. It is at least remotely possible we could shame the hate merchants (of whatever political persuasion), but I’m not looking for any miracles here. What I would like to accomplish, however, is to APPEAR as the reasonable parties by BEING the reasonable parties so that those who have not already drawn their own lines in the sand can form their own opinions and reach their own conclusions about who is truly in favor of diversity and inclusiveness and who isn’t.

(17) IN THE FRAME. Gary Tognetti reviews “The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts” at The 1000 Year Plan.

Watts falls within the lineage of classic hard SF writers who can make far-future science magic seem tangible, but his true gift lies in how personable he makes it feel. Heavy themes like alienation, the value of existence, and the nature of consciousness are woven into the brisk narrative with humor and pathos. Watts may be too smart to let a big idea pass by without picking it to pieces, but above all, “The Freeze-Frame Revolution” is fun to read.

(18) WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG. Frederik Pohl’s IF magazine floats The Traveler’s boat at Galactic Journey: “[June 4, 1963] Booked passage (July 1963 IF)”

Down to the Worlds of Men, by Alexei Panshin

14-year old Mia Havero is part of a society of human space-dwellers, resident of one of the eight galaxy-trotting Ships that represent the remains of Earth’s high technology. She and 29 other young teens are dropped on a primitive colony as part of a rite of passage. There is always an element of danger to this month-long ordeal, but this episode has a new wrinkle: the planet’s people are fully aware (and resentful) of the Ships, and they plan to fight back. Can Mia survive her coming of age and stop an insurrection?

Panshin hits it right out of the park with his first story, capturing the voice of a young almost-woman and laying out a rich world and an exciting adventure. Finally, I’ve got something I can recommend to the Young Traveler. Four stars, verging on five.

(19) THEME SONG. Wil Wheaton declares “This Is Brilliant”.

When we worked on Next Generation, Brent Spiner and I would sit at our consoles on the bridge, and make up lyrics to our show’s theme song. I vaguely recall coming up with some pretty funny and clever stuff, but nothing that held together as perfectly as this, from the weirdos over at meh.com:

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, mlex, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Top Elf, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lanodantheon.]

Museum of Pop Culture 20th Anniversary SFF Hall of Fame Inductees

MoPOP in Seattle

MoPOP in Seattle

Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) has announced 24 new inductees to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame for 2016 year.

Creators:

  • Douglas Adams
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Keith David
  • Guillermo del Toro
  • Terry Gilliam
  • Jim Henson
  • Jack Kirby
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • C.S. Lewis
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Leonard Nimoy
  • George Orwell
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Rumiko Takahashi
  • John Williams

Works:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Blade Runner
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • The Matrix
  • Myst
  • The Princess Bride
  • Star Trek
  • Wonder Woman
  • X-Files

Last spring, as part of its 20th anniversary celebration, the public was invited to nominate their favorite creators and works for the Hall of Fame. Twenty finalists were selected and the public was given a May 2016 deadline to vote, however, the results were never published, and the current class of inductees includes some who were not finalists, and omits others who were.

According to today’s press release:

Inductees were nominated by the public and selected by a panel of award-winning science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, editors, publishers, and film professionals. The 2016 committee included Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Torchwood), Cory Doctorow (Co-Editor, Boing Boing; Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom), Jen Stuller (Co-Founder, GeekGirlCon), Linda Medley (Castle Waiting), and Ted Chiang (Story of Your Life and Others).

A new exhibition commemorating the 20th anniversary Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, opening March 4, 2017, will invite visitors to explore the lives and legacies of the 108 current inductees through interpretive films, interactive kiosks, and more than 30 artifacts, including Luke Skywalker’s severed hand from George Lucas’ The Empire Strikes Back, the Staff of Ra headpiece from Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, author Isaac Asimov’s typewriter, and the “Right Hand of Doom” from Guillermo del Toro’s film Hellboy.

The Hall of Fame was previously shown as part of the Icons of Science Fiction exhibit when MoPOP was called the Experience Music Project Museum. Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to EMP in 2004.

Today’s Birthday Boy 9/24

Born September 24, 1936: Jim Henson

Jim Henson was the beloved creator of the Muppets. However, an entirely different universe and collection of characters led him to attend his first World Science Fiction Convention.

The Dark Crystal, which Henson co-directed with Frank Oz and co-wrote, was released in 1982. The movie’s creatures and characters were based on the conceptual artwork of Brian Froud.

Jim Henson and producer Gary Kurtz promoted the film at Chicon IV, the Worldcon held in Chicago in September 1982.

Curiously, what is misidentified on The Dark Crystal “Making of” page as a photo from the 1982 Worldcon (below), actually is from a 1983 ceremony in France. Craig Miller, who worked on the film’s convention PR, verified that Froud did not attend Chicon IV. The correct identification (repeated below) comes from an entry at Jim Henson’s Red Book.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Also released in 1982 was The Dark Crystal computer game by Sierra Online — a re-creation is available for free play here.

(And Taral will appreciate it if I mention that his beloved Fraggle Rock, another Henson project, started shooting that same year in Toronto.)

Henson came to the Worldcon again in 1983, when it was held in Baltimore. Henson made a presentation about The Muppets Take Manhattan, then fielded questions about the Muppets and the world of The Dark Crystal. Henson spent some time wandering around the convention afterwards.

Although Henson did not come to the 1984 Worldcon, his presence was still felt. Two entries in the L.A.Con II masquerade re-created characters from The Dark Crystal. The following year, a participant had the chance to show him a folio documenting the presentations, and got back a nice letter about them.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

Just like those costumers, many creative people were and continue to be inspired by Henson’s artistic vision.