Pixel Scroll 10/13/19 And Where’s Charles Laughton, Anyway?

(1) WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. David Harbour’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live made Stranger Things jokes.

Also terrifically funny is the “Grouch (Joker Parody)” which began with the premise, “What if the people behind Joker did a dark origin story for Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch?”

(2) PNH HEALTH UPDATE. Yesterday, Patrick Nielsen Hayden was hospitalized while attending a convention in Montreal. The symptoms sounded quite alarming to begin with, fortunately the diagnosis is not as bad as first feared.

(3) FIFTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. John Boston reviews the latest (in 1964) issue of Amazing at Galactic Journey: “[October 12, 1964] Slow Cruising (November 1964 Amazing)”

The November 1964 Amazing is distinguished by being the second consecutive issue with a cover depicting a guy in a flying chair, calling to mind the observation of the Hon. Jimmy Walker, erstwhile Mayor of New York City, before fleeing the country to avoid a corruption prosecution: “Never follow a banjo act with another banjo act.” Alex Schomburg’s rather static and solemn depiction of the device contrasts amusingly with Virgil Finlay’s interior illustration, which attempts to imbue the same gadget with all the energy and drama that the cover picture lacks.  Can we say Apollonian versus Dionysian?  I thought not.  Forget I mentioned it.

(4) SFF IN ENGLISH. Enjoy Robert Quaglia’s video of the “Writing in English as a foreign language” panel at the 2010 Eastercon in the UK.

(5) IMAGINED LANDS. Scott Bradfield’s first Oz book came as a Christmas present, and by now these tales have merged with his family DNA: “The End of Oz: Reflections on the Centenary of L. Frank Baum’s Death” at the LA Review of Books.

… I found myself immersed in a panoply of voices, and as they chattered, they carried me into fantastically believable landscapes. First, there was the colorful young Munchkin, Ojo the Unlucky, and his soon-to-be-turned-to-stone Unc Nunkie. Or the Crooked (in body, not in mind) Magician, Dr. Pipt, and his devoted wife, Margolotte. Or the magically animated glass cat, Bungle, who constantly alerted everyone to the fact that her brains were remarkably pink — “you can see them work.” But best of all was the optimist of all optimists, the Patchwork Girl herself, who adopted the name Scraps, since she was sewn together from remnants like a mad quilt, and never tired of admiring her own beauty and cleverness. “I hate dignity,” Scraps liked to say. And giving yourself over to a discordant, undignified mess of landscapes and personalities is a large part of what reading the Oz books is all about.

…For me, the most significant aspect of every Oz book I ever read as a child — or later reread to my son several decades later — was never simply the stories and characters they conveyed. Rather, they resounded with visions of my mother’s childhood in San Francisco, a landscape as far away and interesting to my youthful imagination as the color-coordinated kingdoms of the Winkies, Quadlings, Gillikins, and Munchkins.

(6) IT’S OFFICIAL? Interesting NZ Official Information Act request.

New Zealand publication Stuff inquires: “Is the Department of Internal Affairs being trolled, or do ghosts roam its halls?”

Scientific study, or a troll of Wellington’s halls of power? Either way, one government department is being grilled over its connection to the paranormal. 

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has been tasked with helping investigators discover if its Wellington headquarters is haunted. This request under the Official Information Act includes two years of air conditioning sensor readings, “in absolute detail”. It was also asked whether it had plans in place to alleviate paranormal incidents.

The department says its OIA response will cover many of these questions.

(7) ATTEMPTED HUMOR. NPR’s Andrew Lapin finds that “‘Jexi’ Is Siri-Ously Bad”:

In Jexi, Adam DeVine’s life partner calls him an idiot, a “little bitch,” and many other, less printable things. The abuse is near-constant. The person heaping it on him is his phone.

A would-be satire of millenial tech obsession, Jexi is like if the AI in Her were raised on Don Rickles. The phone (voiced by Rose Byrne in a weary-sounding Siri imitation) belittles DeVine’s Phil for being an antisocial loner, too quick to give up on his professional dreams, too cowardly to make friends or ask a girl on a date. Because this is an R-rated comedy made by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the guys behind the Hangover and Bad Moms movies, Jexi also makes fun of Phil’s penis.

It seems likely, based on the laziness of the concept and this film’s generic male-ness, that Lucas and Moore didn’t put a lot of thought into the specific nature of Jexi’s behavior. But funny enough, they’ve hit on something real here. Our devices do abuse us, a little more every day, barking out instructions on where to go, what food to eat, and what music to listen to, all while siphoning away more of our attention and making money off our data. We insist we are competent, independent adults, and yet we’d be lost without them, so we take whatever they dish out, even when they invade our privacy or laugh at us….

(8) OH, SNAP. NPR’s Danny Hensen is underwhelmed: “‘The Addams Family’ Isn’t Sufficiently Creepy, Kooky, Mysterious Or Spooky”.

Do you feel that chill? It’s the beginning of October, when store shelves are lined with Halloween products branded with the latest theatrically bound IP. This year, a cotton-candy funhouse animated version of The Addams Family hits theaters, returning the long-running franchise to something closer to its original form — cartoons in The New Yorker.

In this newest version, which often feels de-clawed, we see the marriage between Gomez and Morticia Addams, voiced by a maniacal Oscar Isaac and a quietly authoritative Charlize Theron, and their subsequent move to New Jersey, having been driven out of town by an angry mob none too pleased with their sundry differences in appearances and behavior….

Meanwhile, in what feels like 21st century homage to Edward Scissorhands, a pastel-tinted planned community develops in the valley adjacent to the mansion, and the town leader, Margaux Needler, the host of a home & garden reality television show, attempts to remodel the mansion and rid the town of the family. Voiced by Allison Janney, Needler looks like a boardwalk caricature drawing of Farrah Fawcett.

Fortunately, the film offers more than just a retread of its forebears, the Tim Burton movie included. Though at times clumsy, the film’s firm placement in the present allows for an only slightly exaggerated Nextdoor parody: Needler spies on her neighbors using an app. While intriguing in theory, the execution offers only vague, toothless commentary.

(9) MOORE OBIT. The unforgettable voice belonged to actor Stephen Moore, who died October 4:

Stephen Moore – known as the voice of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’s Marvin the Paranoid Android – has died aged 81.

He also played Adrian Mole’s father on TV, and the dad to Harry Enfield’s grumpy teenager Kevin.

Hitchhiker’s producer and director Dirk Maggs said Moore was the “most sweet, charming and affable of men”….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 13, 1966  — The Trek episode of “Mudd’s Women” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd and  his ‘cargo’ as played by Eve McHuron, Magda Kovacs, and Ruth Bonaventure. Memory Alpha notes that Roddenberry had planned for this to possibly be the pilot at one point.
  • October 13, 2016  — Zapped premiered in the United Kingdom. It lasted for three series and fifteen episodes. Set in two universes, most stories. are mostly set in and around the town pub.  You can see the first episode here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 13, 1906 Joseph Samachson. In 1955, he co-created with artist Joe Certa the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics #225. Earlier he penned a couple of Captain Future pulp novels around 1940 under a house name. (House names often blur who did what.) He also wrote scripts for Captain Video and His Video Rangers, a late Forties to mid Fifties series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born October 13, 1914 Walter Brooke. You know him for muttering a certain word in The Graduate but he’s earlier noteworthy for being General T. Merrit in Conquest of Space, a Fifties SF film, one of many genre roles he did including The Wonderful World of the Brothers GrimmThe MunstersMaroonedThe Return of Count Yorga and The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart). (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 13, 1923 Cyril Shaps. He appears in a number of  Doctor Who stories,  to wit The Tomb of the CybermenThe Ambassadors of DeathPlanet of the Spiders and The Androids of Tara which means he’s appeared with the Second, Third and Fourth Doctors. He was also Mr. Pinkus in The Spy Who Loved Me, and he was in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady as Emperor Franz Josef. The latter stars Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee as Holmes and Watson. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 13, 1952 John Lone, 67. He played the villainous Shiwan Khan in The Shadow, and he was the revived ice man Charlie in the Iceman. His first film role ever was Andy the Cook in the Seventies King Kong.
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 63. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled.
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 60. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru.
  • Born October 13, 1969 Tushka Bergen, 50. She first shows in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome as The Guardian at the age of sixteen. She’s got one-offs in the Fantasy IslandAngelFreakyLinks and The Others series, and an appearance in the Journey to the Center of the Earth series. The FreakyLinks episode is titled “Subject: Edith Keeler Must Die”.
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 43. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born October 13, 1983 Katia Winter, 36. She’s best known for being Katrina Crane on Sleepy Hollow, and Freydis Eriksdottir on Legends of Tomorrow. She also was Swede in Malice in Wonderland which is very loosely based off its source material. She’s currently Gwen Karlsson in Blood & Treasure which might be genre.

(12) FUTURE WAR. Australian sff writer Russell Blackford’s post “Science Fiction as a Lens into Future War” is the written version of his panel presentation “Science Fiction and Futurism – Philosophy and Ethics for a Global Era” at the Australian Defence College’s Profession of Arms seminar held in Canberra on October e.

There are limits to what we should expect of these narratives. Generally speaking, they cannot replace ethical and philosophical argument about the traditional questions of jus ad bellum and jus in bello, and that is not their purpose. There are some clearly pacifist science fiction novels, such as Joan Slonczewsk’s A Door into Ocean (1987). Overall, however, it is not the job of novelists to teach ethical theories.

Consider The War in the Air again. If we knew nothing else about Wells, we’d see that he despises naïve ideas of war that make it seem like an adventure, and likewise he has no time for the idea of military glory. But we’d not be able to tell whether he is against these things from, say, a pacifist perspective, a just war perspective, or a perspective based on realism in international relations. All of these schools of thought emphasise the cost and tragedy of war.

Nor can a book like The War in the Air predict the detail of what it warns about. In 1908, Wells portrayed large-scale aerial bombardment, capturing much of its power and terror, but not exactly what it would be like in practice. The same applies to other works by Wells, such as The World Set Free (1914), which memorably describes atomic bombs, although real ones turned out to be rather different. A more recent novel, such as Ghost Fleet, by P.W. Singer and August Cole (2015), depicts what high-tech non-nuclear warfare between great powers – including cyberwarfare, advanced stealth technology, and operations in space – might be like, but the reality would probably look rather different if such a war actually happened.

(13) BREAKTHROUGH. In the Washington City Paper, Kayla Randall profiles Elizabeth Montague, who at 23 is probably the first African-American woman to sell a cartoon to The New Yorker: “How Local Cartoonist Elizabeth Montague Creates Accessible, Reflective Art”.

Every morning, after waking up at 6:30 a.m., Elizabeth Montague creates a cartoon. They’re rough pencil drawings which take less than five minutes to complete at her Kalorama apartment work desk—little meditations that help keep her skills sharp and open up her day. 

For her day job, digital storyteller and design associate for the Aga Khan Foundation, she visually depicts various global issues, focusing on underrepresented narratives. Recently she visited Tajikistan for work, seeing firsthand how a community adapts to climate change.

But her own work is more personal. Aside from early morning sketches, she creates fully formed cartoons for her “Liz at Large” series, which is available on her Instagram and website….

 (14) TIME’S UP. Countdown on YouTube is a trailer for a horror movie released next week about an app that allegedly can predict the exact time when a person will die. In theaters October 25.

In COUNTDOWN, when a young nurse (Elizabeth Lail) downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and death closing in, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

(15) IRON VET. [Item by Daniel Dern.] io9 invites you to “Watch the Trailer for Robert Downey, Jr.’s Next Big Role, Which for Some Reason Is Doolittle. Like the musical, this movie is based on the original book(s) rather than simply moving the gimmick (“talk with the animals”) to contemporary times, like other DL books over the past decade or 3.

Live action (though no doubt lots of the critters aren’t). Lots of other big names. And looks like it’s being done largely as an “action flick.”

(Would I have preferred Hugh Jackson in the title role? I guess that depends on whether there’s any singing…)

(16) OLD GOLD. At Black Gate, Steven H Silver avails himself of Fanac.org’s online fanzine library to find the subject for his latest column:  “Golden Age of Science Fiction: Scientifriction #11, edited by Mike Glyer” (a 1979 issue.)

…Glyer also published his own article on the game Hell is High, which he would later rework for the second issue of my own fanzine, Argentus, published 23 years later. Glyer’s description of the game mechanics, camaraderie, and rivalry make the evenings spent playing Hell Is High sound like a wonderful place and time to have been able to experience….

(17) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Alexandra Pecci in the Washington Post has a travel piece comparing “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando with The Warner Bros. Studio Experience in London which includes tours of Harry Potter sets.  She finds that the Wizarding World has really cool things (when you buy a wand there and point it at objects, special things happen) but is really expensive particularly if you buy a pass for the two Harry Potter worlds at two Universal theme parks.  She thinks the London experience is a much better value — “Whether in Orlando or London, Harry Potter tourist attractions cast a magical spell”

…“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first installment in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book juggernaut, might be more than two decades old, but in many ways, the world of Harry Potter fandom seems more fevered than ever before.

One word helps explain why: immersion.

Fans (which, remember, is short for fanatic) want to do more than passively watch movies or read books. Instead, Potterheads long to taste Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, ride a broomstick, cast magic spells and get sorted into their Hogwarts house (I’m a Hufflepuff; Chloe is a Gryffindor).

(18) RECENTLY ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed this misplay not long ago —

The category: 20th Century Novels.

Answer: Nadsat, the fictional language in this book, is from the Russian suffix that means “teen.”

Wrong question: “What is 1984?”

Correct question: What is “A Clockwork Orange?”

(19) REALITY IS WORSE. Chris Yogerst argues “Why We Shouldn’t Fear Joker at the LA Review of Books blog.

At an early age most of us are taught not to judge a book by its cover. That’s exactly what happened this summer, when the Universal/Blumhouse release of The Hunt was shut down following political pushback. The film is based on an updated version of The Most Dangerous Game that gave some, including President Trump, discomfort with its political implications without having watched the movie. It has become far too common for people to jump to conclusions based on a film’s synopsis or advertising. The most recent controversy follows Joker, a film based in the Gotham City universe, that has led some to feel the story will inspire real-world killers. The problem, of course, is that a film about an unhinged murderer isn’t any more likely to provoke imposters than the news coverage of the same events in real life.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Jeff Jones, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek, with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/16 Think Baloo, Count Two

(1) TWO FIVES WORTH OF WISDOM. Cecilia Tan shares “Ten Things I Learned at SFWA Nebulas Weekend”. Here’s the outline, click through for details:

  1. We Clean Up Pretty Good
  2. Kickstarters Should Be Pretty
  3. At Patreon a Little Means a Lot
  4. Dictate for Artistry
  5. The Myth of Self-Publishing
  6. White Knights and Online Harassment
  7. Think Globally
  8. You Can’t Be in Two Places at Once
  9. John Hodgman is Really Funny
  10. Not the Hugos or the Worldcon

[Warning: One Filer says this was flagged on her system as NSFW. I don’t see anything problematic on that page. However, Tan does write some NSFW things which may be elsewhere on her site.]

(2) NEBULA WINNERS PHOTO.

View this post on Instagram

Nebulans

A post shared by John Hodgman (@johnhodgman) on

(3) NEBULA LOSERS CELEBRATION. Meanwhile, an informal survey showed only 50% of SFWAns know how to make an “L” sign on their foreheads.

(4) GRANDMASTER CHERRYH. Black Gate’s John O’Neill has posted a video of C.J. Cherryh’s SFWA Grandmaster panel.

This weekend I attended the 2016 Nebula Conference here in Chicago, where CJ Cherryh received the SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Part of the Friday afternoon programming included “An Hour With CJ Cherryh, SF’s Newest Grandmaster.” I sat in the front row, with Nebula nominees Ann Leckie and Lawrence M. Schoen, and captured the first part of the speech, in which Cherryh entertained the audience with recollections of her childhood ambition to be a writer, discovering science fiction, her early career, selling her first novel to Donald Wollheim at DAW Books, and her recent marriage to fellow novelist Jane Fancher.

 

(5) SAME NIGHT, AT THE BRAM STOKER AWARDS. Ace Antonio Hall knew from the look of Scott Edelman’s piñata-colored jacket there was still some candy left….

(6) WISE INVESTMENTS FOR YOUR PLAY MONEY. From Die Welt, “Game of Thrones: Real estate and Prices in Westeros”.

The dungeons and castles located on the continent of Westeros have kept the families known from the tv-show “Game of Thrones” safe and sound for centuries. What if several properties from the show were suddenly listed for sale? Christoph Freiherr Schenck zu Schweinsberg, leading expert on castles for the real estate agency Engel & Völkers, checked out some of the unreal estate objects….

Andrew Porter is skeptical about these exorbitant valuations:

I don’t believe any of the properties have indoor plumbing, and the thought of being shot with a crossbow while sitting on the throne (no, not the Iron Throne!) may give you second thoughts about buying any of these…

(7) TOLKIEN’S FRIEND. Tolkien scholar John Garth contributed to “Robert Quilter Gilson, TCBS – a documentary”.

When Tolkien writes in the Foreword to The Lord of the Rings that ‘by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead’, he is referring to his friends in a clique formed at school but later bonded by the First World War – the TCBS. Of these, Robert Quilter Gilson was the first to be killed, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 100 years ago this July. Tolkien’s shock and grief infuses one of the first items in The Letters of JRR Tolkien: ‘His greatness is … a personal matter with us – of a kind to make us keep July 1st as a special day for all the years God may grant to any of us…’

Geoffrey Bache Smith never returned from the Somme either; only Tolkien and Christopher Luke Wiseman, a naval officer, survived the war. The letters written by Tolkien, Gilson, Wiseman and Smith form the heartbeat of my book Tolkien and the Great War. For Gilson, thanks to the wonderful generosity of his relatives, I was also able to draw a little from the many letters he wrote home from the training camps and trenches to his family and to the woman he loved.

Now, with my help, Gilson’s letters have been used as the basis for a 40-minute documentary by the school, King Edward’s in Birmingham.

 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. John King Tarpinian has a Baum story —

A number of years back I went to an author event for a friend. She raises Cairn Terriers aka Toto Dogs. The author, a grand nephew of Baum was using a rubber stamp made from an imprint of Toto’s paw to sign the books.

Baum’s house was in Hollywood, just behind Musso & Frank Grill. It is now a mid-60s apartment building. In those days just about every house had an incinerator for burning trash, my parent’s home had one that also worked as a BBQ & wood burning oven.

Shortly after his death a niece came over to the house to visit her aunt to see how she was doing. Baum’s wife was in the back yard burning his papers. She figured since all of his books were on the shelves there was no need for the old papers. The niece explained to her why that was not a good idea to continue. You could feel the people in the event audience shudder at the thought.

(9) CHOOSING HELL. Brad R. Torgersen takes SFWA’s choice of Max Max: Fury Road for its dramatic award as the text for his message, in “The Martian and Mad Max”.

…Of course, The Martian was every inch a Campbellian movie, while Fury Road was almost entirely New Wave.

Guess which aesthetic dominates and excites the imaginations of SF/F’s cognoscenti?

I know, I know, I am a broken record about this stuff. But it never ceases to amaze me (in an unhappy way) how the so-called writers of Science Fiction, seem to be in such a huge hurry to run away from the roots of the field. I’ve read and listened to all the many arguments — pro and con, from both sides — about how Campbell rescued the field from the Pulp era, but then New Wave in turn rescued the field from the Campbell era. So it might be true that we’re finally witnessing the full maturation of SF/F as a distinct arena of “serious” literature, but aren’t we taking things too far? Does anyone else think it’s a bad idea for the field to continue its fascination with cultural critique — the number of actual nutty-bolty science types, in SFWA, is dwindling, while the population of “grievance degree” lit and humanities types, in SFWA, is exploding — while the broader audience consistently demonstrates a preference for SF/F that might be termed “old fashioned” by the modern sensibilities of the mandarins of the field?

Now, I think there is a very strong argument to be made, for the fact that Campbellian vs. New Wave is merely the manifestation of a deeper problem — a field which no longer has a true center. The two “sides” in the discussion have been taking shots at each other since long before I was born. The enmity may be so ingrained — in the internal conversation of SF/F — that nothing can reverse it. Save, perhaps, the total explosion of the field proper….

(10) BAD DAY IN SANTA FE. Bleeding Cool posted screencaps of a con committee’s rude Facebook comments in “Santa Fe Comic Con Makes Social Media Faux Pas”.

Instead of faux pas, how about we just say you shouldn’t call anyone a boob model?

(11) TIME TRAVEL ON FALL TV SCHEDULE. NBC’s new drama Timeless, starring Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter and Malcolm Barrett, follows a team chasing a criminal intent on destroying America through time.

(12) AND THIS. NBC’s new comedy The Good Place follows Eleanor Shellstrop and her mentor as she tries to become a better person in the afterlife.. Stars starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson.

(13) TIME OUT. Trouble, as one of last year’s Best Graphic Story Hugo nominees goes on hiatus. Mad Art Lab reads the Twitter tea leaves in “Tess Fowler Pushed Out of Rat Queens?”

Comic book fans were deeply saddened by the recent news that Rat Queens, the Eisner Award-nominated comic book series, was going on hiatus. As fans likely know, Rat Queens has had a tough run since the series launched in 2013. In 2014, artist/co-creator Roc Upchurch was removed from the series after being arrested on charges of domestic violence. His departure made room for Tess Fowler, who was a natural fit artistically – but also seemed to some a symbolic choice, given her history of speaking up for women in comics. Unfortunately, it seems that is at an end. Fowler announced she would be leaving the series a few weeks ago, with creator Kurtis Wiebe making the news of a hiatus official…

(14) MEMOIR COMPETES AT SF BOOK FEST. Congratulations to Francis Hamit – A Perfect Spy received recognition at the San Francisco Book Festival.

A Perfect Spy, Francis Hamit’s memoir from fifty years ago of his adventures as an undercover police operative fighting the drug trade while a student at the University of Iowa has been awarded runner up (or second place) in the Biography/Autobiography category by the 2016 San Francisco Book Festival.  It is an excerpt from a larger forthcoming work entitled OUT OF STEP: A Soldier’s memoir of the Vietnam War Years.

The book also includes Hamit’s encounters with notable figures such as novelist Nelson Algren, filmmaker Nicholas Meyer and the poet Donald Justice, and his enthusiastic participation in the Sexual Revolution even as he resisted the onslaught of the drug culture.  It was a transformative time for him that led to his abandonment of a theatrical career for one as a writer and his enlistment in the U.S. Army Security Agency at the height of the Vietnam War when most of his contemporaries were trying to evade military service.

(15) NEW BFG TRAILER. Disney’s The BFG comes to theaters July 1, 2016.

(16) STUDY TIME. Paul Fraser at SF Magazines reviews the stories in the June 1940 issue of Astounding, including Retro Hugo nominee “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert Heinlein.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Mark-kitteh, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Rare SF/F Items Sold at Heritage Auction Event

J.K. Rowling chair.

J.K. Rowling chair.

The results are in from the April 6 Rare Books Signature Auction held in New York by Heritage Auction.

Hogging (Hogwarting?) the headlines was the chair used by J.K. Rowling while writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It went for $394,000.

The winning bidder wanted to remain anonymous. “I was quite surprised [J.K. Rowling] would sell the chair; she originally sold it for a children’s charity,” said owner Gerald Gray, a native of England and the CEO of AutoKontrol USA, Inc. “Following in the tradition that J.K. Rowling started with this chair, I plan to donate 10% of the hammer price achieved to Lumos, Rowlings’s children’s’ charity.”

The chair comes from a set that Rowling was given for her government housing flat when she was a young, single mother living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Rowling took the most comfortable of the chairs and used it as her main writing chair, authoring the first two of what would become one of the most influential series of all time: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (released in America as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

On the stiles and splats, in gold and rose colors, she painted: “You may not / find me pretty / but don’t judge / on what you see.”

Rowling signed the backrest in the gold and rose paints. Then along the apron of the seat she painted: “I wrote / Harry Potter / while sitting / on this chair.”

“Gryffindor” is painted on the cross stretcher under the seat.

Accompanying the chair is the original “Owl Post” that Rowling typed and signed to the winner of the Chair-ish a Child auction. It reads: “Dear new-owner-of-my-chair / I was given four mismatched dining room chairs in 1995 and this was the comfiest one, which is why it / ended up stationed permanently in front of my typewriter, supporting me while I typed out ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ and ‘Harry / Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. / My nostalgic side is quite sad to see it go, but my back isn’t. / J. K. Rowling.”

 

Many science fiction and fantasy books and letters went under the hammer.

A unique copy Again, Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison, the major original SF anthology of the 1970s, with a 2-page “Idea for a story” handwritten by Ellison on the verso of the front free endpaper and the recto of the credits leaf, went for $400.

A 12-line Autograph Letter written by Bram Stoker to Charles E. Potts, on Tour 1887 — 1888 Lyceum Company letterhead, thanking him for sending pictures and clippings and in return, sending Potts a copy of his lecture on America, was worth $3,000.

The first edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune fetched $7,812.50.

Dune

A set of ten letters by H.P. Lovecraft to Frederic Jay Pabody went for $18,750.00, while Lovecraft’s original typescript for The Festival proved to be worth $8,750.00.

Lovecraft lettersLovecraft book

Two Sherlock Holmes items brought top dollar. A complete run of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Stories in their original Strand Magazine issues sold for $18,812.50, and an 1888 first edition of A Study in Scarlet  sold for $40,000.00.

Fifteen first editions of Oz books, 14 by L. Frank Baum and one by Ruth Plumly Thompson brought $16,250.00.

Here are a few other results:

FlatlandBradbury booksBradbury book 2

Pixel Scroll 9/19 Mouse wheel keep on turnin’ (turnin’) / Trolls gonna keep on burnin’ (burnin’)

(1) You might not have suspected that L. Frank Baum’s first book was about raising chickens.

At 20, Baum took on the then national craze—the breeding of fancy poultry. He specialized in raising of the Hamburg. In March 1880, he established a monthly trade journal, The Poultry Record.

And when he was 30, Baum published The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

(2) Peter Capaldi’s interview by a local LA Times writer signals the arrival of a new season of Doctor Who.

At the base of Los Angeles’ Bradbury Building, a slender man in an impossibly clever suit considers the wrought-iron coils of the past that adorned the future of Ridley’s Scott’s neo-noir film. Tucked behind his Ray-Bans, the eyebrows that launched a thousand GIFs furrow.

Just so we’re clear, the 12th Doctor is standing in the “Blade Runner” building….

“It’s a marathon,” Capaldi says. “[Matt] knows what it is like, when you’re on Episode 10 and you’re really sort of dying on your feet. You’re thinking, ‘I’m not going to be able to learn any more lines, I’m not going to be able to pull anymore faces.’ [Matt Smith is] great because I can text him and say, ‘This is where I’m at. Can you help or do you remember this?’ He has totally been such a huge support. As David [Tennant, the 10th Doctor] has as well.”

The last regeneration from baby-faced Smith to the gray-locked Capaldi wasn’t just a change in character age, but in tone as well.

“I think The Doctor has become more and more accessible as the show has become more successful, and this sounds bad, but weirdly I want to make him more distant,” he says. “I don’t want to be so user friendly. I didn’t want to go out and say to the audience, ‘Love me.’ I wanted to be a more spikey character. Hopefully I’m a character that might be uncomfortable to be around. But interesting.”

(3) And the Times ran a companion article full of hints about future episodes.

Spoilers are deadly here — to the fun, certainly, but conceivably to the person who reveals them as well — but a few cats have officially been let out of the bag. There will be Daleks — yes, again and already — including what feels like a nod back to Coleman’s first appearance in the series, before she became a companion, back in “Asylum of the Daleks.”

There will be Missy (Michelle Gomez), the transgender reincarnation of the Master — news whose goodness the two-part opener, “The Magician’s Apprentice” and “The Witch’s Familiar,” penned by show runner Steven Moffat, only confirms. (One of Moffat’s great gifts to the series is a string of memorable women — indeed, all his best inventions have been female characters.)

Also, as trailers have shown, the Doctor will play an electric guitar with all the authority of a man — Capaldi, that is — who once led a Scottish punk band (Dreamboys, with Craig Ferguson — that Craig Ferguson — on drums). It’s a pointed, and explicitly pointed-out, reminder that David Tennant’s and Smith’s young and madcap Doctors still live within him: “It’s my party, and all of me are invited.” Said another way: He’s not as old as he looks. (Some 2,000 years of living notwithstanding.)

(4) On Monkeys Fighting Robots the “Top 10 Doctor Who Episodes” begin with —

  1. The Doctor’s Wife

The Season 6 episode “The Doctor’s Wife” was guest written by Neil Gaiman, a man best known for writing Stardust, Coraline and The Sandman and his episode was awarded the 2011 Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Best Dramatic Presentation at the 2012 Hugo Awards.

This episode sees The Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams receiving a distress call from a Time Lord and enter into a rift between Universes to try and save him or her. Where they end up is a void made up from trash and space debris where a group of people have salvaged a living from the junk. Also with them is an eccentric woman called Idris who pretty much jumps on The Doctor when she first sees him.

What made this episode such a delight was Suranne Jones’ performance as Idris, a unhinged woman who is completely batty and has a mysterious connection to The Doctor. Jones was fantastic, letting out her inner Helena Bonham Carter and injected a lot of humor in the episode. Gaiman’s written ensure that was a balance of drama and comedy and references the history of the show.

(5) Missed a big 50th anniversary the other day – the first aired episode of Get Smart on September 18, 1965.

Max-and-99-get-smart-original-series-1716131-324-506The episode, Mr. Big, introduced Agent 86, Maxwell Smart played by Don Adams and his partner, the inimitable Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) as agents of CONTROL.

Headed by their boss, The Chief (Edward Platt), 86 and 99 worked together to fight the forces of KAOS.  In the pilot, Mr. Big, we see the only actual appearance of the head of KAOS, played by little person Michael Dunn, before he is killed by episode’s end by his own Doomsday death ray.

Inspired by The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which in itself was inspired by the James Bond craze of the early 60’s), Get Smart spoofed every aspect of spy culture including colorful villains, outrageous gadgets and ridiculous plots.

(6) Brian K. Lowe in “It’s the Little Things that We Count”.

Sure, this is all for fun, and everybody’s entitled, but there are issues out there that we should be paying attention to: climate change, record refugee migrations, wealth distribution, a presidential election season being run by reality stars. (Somebody has probably actually predicted this somewhere along the line.) Why should we care if No Award got the Hugo for Best Short Story when right outside the auditorium record forest fires, fueled by unprecedented drought, made the air seem less like Spokane than Beijing?

And why isn’t anyone blogging about that?

I have a simple theory: It’s too big. We can’t handle this stuff. This is the sort of thing we elected those guys in Washington to solve for us. See how well that’s worked out.

But you know what? We’re Science Fiction. We think about the big issues, the future. Up until now, instead of the guys in Washington, we’ve let the guys in SFWA do the heavy lifting, so we can concentrate on nominating patterns and voting blocs. Except now the guys in SFWA are right down there with us. We’re letting a thousand ant-like problems distract us from the elephants in the room. Because it’s easier.

I’m not going to sit here at my computer and claim I have the way out. I’m not to claim that I’m any better than anyone else, that I’ve been fighting the good fight while everyone else sat at their bivouac. I don’t, and I haven’t. I’ve fed the monster of small concerns like a lot of others.

But it’s time to stop. It’s time for us in science fiction to stop squabbling about petty matters and get back to bigger things. The kind of looming apocalypses that we can imagine, because we’re not afraid to. The kind of doomsday scenarios that used to be science fiction.

(7) Daniel in “The Forgotten Core of Science Fiction is Not Science” on Castalia House Blog takes on David Brin’s critique of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora.

Good science fiction may include politics of some sort, but despite what Brin asserts, that shouldn’t be its measure. Nor should “competence porn.” It is simply a myth that science fiction’s job is to correct any perceived tropes of the past.

Ken Burnside demonstrated an understanding of this very well in his Hugo award-nominated The Hot Equations. His counsel on the better implementation of physics into space combat is less focused on correcting tropes and is instead written entirely from the perspective of serving an underserved genre:

Thermodynamically limited space opera is a greatly underserved niche, in the overlapping circles of a Venn diagram between Hard SF and military science fiction. – Ken Burnside, The Hot Equations

Where Burnside is on target, Brin is off base. Brin’s argument is based on a premise: that in the future, Science Fiction depends on better political messaging and a commitment to progress.

Brin is half right: Science Fiction can be about an optimistic future that comes about through hard work and sound engineering. But does not, at its core only include that. Despite what Brin asserts, 1984 is not a positive self-denying prophecy. Orwell did not prevent a society that falls repeatedly under totalitarian thought policing – he merely provided a fictional setting that helped some readers identify it when it came for them.

(8) Amanda Palmer is a songwriter, musician and performance artist. She’s about to have her first child. She spoke with NPR’s Rachel Martin about the dueling demands of motherhood and art in “An Artist Worries: Will Motherhood Compromise Creativity?”

MARTIN: So you get this letter from your faithful fan. And you write in the response that this person essentially confirmed your deepest fears about being a mother and an artist. What a nice thing for this person to have done.

PALMER: Yeah, I mean, the part of the letter that confirmed my deepest fears wasn’t so much the are you tricking us into crowdfunding a baby. It was more of this fan’s terror that now that I was having a baby, I wasn’t going to be a good artist anymore.

MARTIN: And is the concern that having a baby – for obvious reasons, it changes your daily routines and your life in terms of how you use your time. But is your concern more about what will be the impact on your creativity?

PALMER: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s seems like there’s a paradox out there because on the one hand, so many artists who are parents will tell you that having children unlocks this unforeseen wellspring of creativity. On the other hand, some of the proof of concept (laughter) can fly in the face of that. And, you know, there’s definitely artists out there who kind of get boring after they have kids but seem to not be aware of it. So nobody’s anecdotal evidence can really prepare you for what’s going to happen. You just know that you’re going to change and you don’t know how.

(9) Best Related Work, Edible? Tattooed Bakers made this Groot Cake, a frosted Jupiter, and a cake referencing The Hobbit.

Groot-cakeJupiter-Square_viewHobbit-square_view

[Thanks to Will R. and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Washington Post Tries To Veto Oz Reference In Name of Indian Casino

YBR-Dec-2014This spring the Oneida Indian Nation will open The Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango, New York, the town where L. Frank Baum was born in 1856.

“Paying homage to the community’s identity as the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of ‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz,’ Yellow Brick Road Casino will feature more than 430 Vegas-style cash slot machines, a 500 seat bingo hall, two casual dining options, a country-western bar, and a general store,” says the tribe’s press release.

However, that does not pass muster with John Woodrow Cox of the Washington Post for two reasons. The first is Baum’s dark history of advocating Indian genocide:

“The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians,” [Baum] wrote in late 1890 for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer in South Dakota. “Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; it’s better that they should die than live the miserable wretches that they are.”

Two weeks later, Baum, the newspaper’s publisher, reiterated his point in an editorial written after the slaughter of as many as 300 Sioux at Wounded Knee. He demanded that the U.S. government “wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

The second reason is that the tribe has actively campaigned to change the mascot of the Washington Redskins football team, though it is the hobgoblin of inconsistency that rankles the Post, not the tribe’s attempt to tamper with a local institution.

The Post raised objections even though the Oneidas’ leader has accepted apologies offered by Baum’s descendants:

….[The] editorials so deeply stained his legacy that — 87 years after he died — two of his descendants traveled to a South Dakota reservation in 2006 to ask for forgiveness. Gita Morena and Mac Hudson apologized to Sioux families whose ancestors were killed in the massacre.

“We stand before you and before the citizens of both our great nations to suggest,” their statement read, “that ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ a great American fairy tale, and the Massacre at Wounded Knee, a great American tragedy, be forever joined in the hearts, minds and memories of all our people.”

Oneida leader Ray Halbritter, pointing to the apology, calls the new casino’s name the product of reconciliation.

“I think that’s a wonderful message — that we’re able to overcome by repentance and by forgiveness,” Halbritter said. “It’s looking forward rather than backward.”

But the Post quoted other Native Americans who criticize the chosen name, showing the apologies haven’t satisfied everyone.

As you can imagine, a lot of businesses in Chittenango capitalize on the Oz theme. After all, what else has the general public ever heard of in that part of the country?

Since the Oneida are fine with the idea and believe it will help them make a few more bucks, it’s surprising the Post doesn’t just chalk it up to the karmic balance and move on.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

 

2008 WSFA Small Press Award

[Press release.] The Washington Science Fiction Association is pleased to announce the winner of the 2008 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction: “The Wizard of Macatawa” by Tom Doyle published in issue 11 of Paradox magazine (www.paradoxmag.com), publisher and editor Christopher M. Cevasco. “The Wizard of Macatawa” tells the story of how the life of a young girl intersects with that of L. Frank Baum.

The award honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction. The award showcases the best original short fiction published by small presses in the previous year. An unusual feature of the selection process is that all voting is done with the identity of the author hidden so that the final choice is based solely on the quality of the story. The award consists of trophies for both the author and publisher and $250 for the author.

The other finalists were:

“Bufo Rex” by Erik Amundsen published in issue 347 of the magazine Weird Tales (http://weirdtales.net/wordpress/); publisher John Gregory Betancourt, fiction editor Ann VanderMeer,

“Orm the Beautiful” by Elizabeth Bear published in the January 2007 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/bear_01_07); publisher and editor Neil Clarke; senior editor Sean Wallace,

“Harry the Crow” by John Kratman published in issue 12 of the magazine Aeon Speculative Fiction (http://www.aeonmagazine.com/); editors Marti McKenna and Bridget McKenna,

“Mask of the Ferret” by Ken Pick and Alan Loewen published in the book Infinite Space, Infinite God by Twilight Times Books (http://www.isigsf.com); publisher Lida E. Quillen, Editors Karina Fabian and Robert Fabian, and

“The Third Bear” by Jeff VanderMeer published in the April 2007 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/vandermeer_04_07); publisher and editor Neil Clarke; senior editor Sean Wallace.

The winner is chosen by the members of the Washington Science Fiction Association (www.wsfa.org) and is presented at their annual convention, Capclave (www.capclave.org), held this year on October 17-19 in Rockville, Maryland. Present to accept their awards were Tom Doyle and Chis Cevasco, the editor and publisher of Paradox. Also present to accept their Honorable Mention certificates were: Alan Loewen; Neil Clark, publisher of Clarkesworld, accepting on behalf of Elizabeth Bear and Jeff VanderMeer; and John Gregory Betancourt, publisher of Weird Tales, accepting on behalf of Erik Admundsen.