Pixel Scroll 3/13/21 If You Like Antikythera, And Getting Caught In The Rain

(1) WHAT MONEY CAN’T BUY. ALLEGEDLY. “’Batman Is Ours Alone to Exploit.’ DC Comics Warns Against Using Its Characters in NFTs”Yahoo! Finance has the story. (Does that headline remind you of “All These Worlds Are Yours, Except Europa. Attempt No Landing There” – or is it just me?)

Publisher DC Comics, a subsidiary of Warner Bros, itself a unit of Time Warner, is unhappy with artists using its intellectual property (IP) in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and said it has its own plans for characters.  

In a letter sent to freelancers employed by the firm Thursday, Jay Kogan, DC Comics’ senior VP of legal affairs, stressed it is against company policy to sell digital images featuring DC’s IP with or without NFTs.

… Recently NFTs have become a craze with millions of dollars being spent on rare or desirable digital artworks. On Thursday, a piece of digital artwork or NFT by crypto artist Beeple was sold for a record $69.3 million by the auction house Christie’s….

What is a non-fungible token? Wikipedia says:

Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a digital file whose unique identity and ownership are verified on a blockchain (a digital ledger). NFTs are not mutually interchangeable (see fungibility). NFTs to things such as a digital artwork are commonly auctioned at online NFT marketplaces. The token can be bought with cryptocurrency and resold.

NFTs are used to commodify digital things, such as digital art, video game items, and music files. Access to any copy of the original file, however, is not restricted to the owner of the token.

(2) WHO STARTED THIS SUBGENRE ANYWAY? Jeff Somers goes looking for “The Untold Truth Of The Origins Of Cyberpunk” at Grunge. (Even if you lived this history, a refresher course might be helpful just the same.)

These days, the word cyberpunk conjures up images of Keanu Reeves and, per Gizmodo, terribly, horribly broken video games.

Cyberpunk, a sub-genre of science fiction that explores a counter-cultural and anti-authoritarian worldview through the lens of a dystopian, technologically-advanced, and dehumanized future, has proved to be prescient. No other genre of speculative fiction has remained as relevant and useful over the course of decades. Cyberpunk stories are as powerful as ever, and examples dating back decades remain evergreen in a way that most sci-fi can’t manage….

…In the early 1980s, two short stories clarified the fact that this wasn’t just a loose collection of themes and tropes, but rather a distinct sub-genre of science fiction. As noted by The Verge, the first was “Burning Chrome” by William Gibson, published in 1982. Not only did this story literally introduce the word “cyberspace” to our vocabulary, it’s often identified as the first true example of cyberpunk. It tells the story of two hackers who use sophisticated software to steal a criminal’s fortune, only to be left bereft and heartbroken.

The word “cyberpunk” didn’t exist yet, however. As reported by the Encyclopedia Britannica, that happened when Bruce Bethke published a short story in 1982 that (per Infinityplus) was literally titled “Cyberpunk.” According to Neon Dystopia, Bethke purposefully invented the word to describe a future generation that would combine the nihilism and violence of angry teenagers with technical proficiency….

(3) FANHISTORY ONLINE. Joe Siclari provides a roundup of the incredible number of recent additions to The Fanac Fan History Project website in Fanac Newsletter 15 [PDF file]. A big part of their work is scanning fanzines and securing permission to host them online.

…The reason for digitally archiving fanzines is to make them accessible to fans everywhere. When someone hears how wonderful a storied fanzine like Quandry or The Acolyte was, they can use the archive to read the issues instead of just wonder what they were like. Originally, in the 1990s, we started retyping issues (and hey, thanks Judy Bemis!). In the 2000s we started putting up JPGs of each page, so readers could just click their way through. Now, we’re putting up searchable PDFs. One of our projects is to replace those fanzines that were accessible in typed or JPG form with searchable PDFs. Since the last newsletter, we have replaced our complete runs of the following titles with searchable PDFs: Aporrheta (H. P. Sanderson), Bane (Vic Ryan), Double Bill (Bill Bowers and Bill Mallardi), Fanscient (Donald Day), Fantastic Worlds (Edward Ludwig and Sam Sackett), Granfalloon (Linda Bushyager), Hyphen (Walt Willis and Chuck Harris), Innuendo (Terry Carr), Mota (Terry Hughes), Slant (Walter A. Willis), Stellar (Ted White and Larry Stark), Toto (Walt Willis et al), and Void (Jim and Greg Benford, Ted White). We’ve also replaced all the issues we have of: Cry of the Nameless (134 issues, F. M. Busby, Wally Weber, et al), Outworlds (70 issues, Bill Bowers, except for a one page flyer), and Spanish Inquisition (8 issues, Jerry Kaufman and Suzle Tompkins).

The latest newsletter includes two short and rather interesting articles about applying genealogical research to answer fanhistorical questions.

  • “Other people’s genealogy” by Leah Zeldes

…Transferring the list of names, I realized at least a third of the pre-reg members of Chicon, the 1940 Worldcon, were fictitious — alter egos of some of the others. Forry Ackerman accounts for at least seven of them…

  • “Using Genealogical Records to Find More Information on (Mostly Dead) Fans” by Laurie Mann

… Recently, I’ve started to give Mark Olson & Leah [Zeldes] Smith a hand with research for Fancyclopedia 3. We were trying to straighten out how some attendees of the 1939 Worldcon, Nycon 1, were related. There were a few attendees with the same last name (https://fancyclopedia.org/Nycon_1_Membership_List). Were they related? Multiple Nycon 1 registrants had last names like Alberti, Racic, Sykora, & Unger. I searched in the 1930 census through ancestry.com to see what I could find….

(4) DRACULA HAS QUESTIONS. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says Dracula has been a good citizen and has been hiding in his castle, but now that the vaccine is coming, he wants to know if the vaccine has garlic in it and if he flies around as a bat during the day, does he have to wear a mask? “I have not left my castle in ages, and I have some questions about post-vaccine guidelines”.

…Yes, CDC, I have been living in seclusion for some time, unable to go out and about and enjoy all the delicacies of taste that I would wish. So my questions for you are legion. First: Should I get the vaccine? The only doctor I know, Van Helsing, counseled strongly against my receiving the vaccine at all, but in the past he has tried to stab me through the heart with a sharpened wooden stake, and I fear he does not have my best interests in mind….

(5) HE DID THE MASH. “Hergé’s heirs sue artist over his Tintin/Edward Hopper mashups”The Guardian has the story.

A French artist who imagines romantic adventures for the boy adventurer Tintin in the landscapes of Edward Hopper has been sued by the Tintin creator Hergé’s heirs, who said it was not funny to take advantage of Tintin by putting him in an erotic universe, especially as Hergé had chosen not to caricature women.

In Breton artist Xavier Marabout’s Hergé-Hopper mashupsTintin is variously painted into Hopper’s Road and Houses, scratching his head as he greets a woman in a car; looking disgruntled in a version of Hopper’s Cape Cod Evening, 1939; and kissing a girl in a car, in a spin on Hopper’s Queensborough Bridge, 1913. On his website, Marabout describes his work as “strip art”, in which he “strips distant artistic universes to merge them together” in a style where “parody [is] omnipresent”….

(6) CROWN RESTORED. “’Avatar’ once again highest-grossing film of all time at the box office”CNBC explains how the 2009 movie regained the record.

…Over the weekend, James Cameron’s sci-fi epic was rereleased in China and garnered enough in ticket sales to overtake “Avengers: Endgame” for the record.

“Avatar” first became the top-selling global release of all time in 2010 when it usurped Cameron’s “Titanic.” In 2019, “Avengers: Endgame” won the title with a $2.797 billion box office haul.

As of Saturday, “Avatar’s” box office gross surpassed $2.802 billion, allowing it to earn back its crown…

(7) CAT WITH NO HAT. “Sam and Bucky Debate If Doctor Strange Is a Wizard in Comedic Sneak Peek” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

…In the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame, Sam and Bucky will team up for “a global adventure that tests their abilities — and their patience.” The six-episode spinoff is set to be a “cinematic experience” in which the pair navigate a world post-Steve Rogers’ Captain America. Expect plenty of action and more pop culture references.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 13, 1855 – Percival Lowell.  Founder of the Lowell Observatory.  Three books he meant as nonfiction, MarsMars and Its CanalsMars as the Abode of Life; posthumously published poem “The Canals of Mars”.  Honorary degrees from Amherst and from Clark.  Prix Jules Janssen.  Traveled in and wrote about Japan and Korea.  Better data later showed his astronomical life-work was mistaken, but let us not minimize him.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard.  Never aspiring to great literature, he may have achieved it with Fear; he sought to be, and was, a first-rate yarn-spinner; his stories sold, among us and in Westerns, aviation, travel, romance.  So fluent he used many pseudonyms.  I’ve always liked the Ole Doc Methuselah stories, comedy on the science fiction – fantasy border; look for the Edd Cartier illustrations.  H toward the end of his life turned out another dozen novels in the old pulp style.  Battlefield Earth, the first of them, has a hero who loves his horse more than his girl; when he’s beaten the evil aliens, we get to wonder who was behind them, which proves to be interstellar bankers – sharkmen.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1932 Richard Lawrence Purtill, He’s here because EoSF lists him as the author of Murdercon, a 1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1933 – Diane Dillon, age 83.  Widow of Leo Dillon; they worked together so intimately they sometimes said their graphic art was by a third person made of them both; anyway among our very best, likewise outside our field.  A hundred sixty covers, two hundred twenty interiors for us.  No. 10 here has my note on LD.  More? certainly: here is Mother Goose, Numbers on the Loosehere is Le Morte d’Arthurhere is To Every Thing There Is a Seasonhere is The People Could Fly; here here is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1934 – Barry Hughart.  Lovable for Bridge of Birds (World Fantasy Award, Mythopoeic Award) and two sequels, set in “an Ancient China that never was”, or as one of us said, “filled with Chinese legend, mostly invented by the author…. [its] verisimilitude demonstrates the care with which Hughart studied actual Chinese folklore and history”, hello Steven.  Also worked on eight movies (will films pass out of use, or continue like hang up the telephone?).  So far this Website can still be viewed.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1944 – Bonnie Dalzell, age 77.  Four covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Apr 76 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is the May 77 Galaxy.  Here is a Pierson’s Puppeteer; here is a bandersnatch.  Official Artist at Boskone 12.  Contributor to Mythologies.   [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 71. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the RescueThe Night of the Headless HorsemanJurassic Park IIISahara and The Tale of Despereaux. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 65. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. And though definitely not genre or even genre related, i must single out her role in Tombstone. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1959 – Steve Davies, age 62.  Chaired Eastercon 50.  Member, RSFG (Reading SF Group, i.e. of Berkshire, England; it ‘has a proud tradition of not organising things’).  Chaired Birmingham Univ. SF Soc.  Active in the PLOKTA (Press Lots Of Keys To Abort, ‘the journal of superfluous technology’) Cabal, thus part of two Nova awards and a Hugo for Best Fanzine. Composes filksongs (linking to Fancyclopedia III although I still think the Wikipedia article with E. Bull and P. Nielsen Hayden is swell).  [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 55. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City is fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to have any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series which leaves me cold. His next novel in the Revelation Space series, Inhibitor Phase, is out this July. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 54. A Hugo-winning editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net,  Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1986 – Ashley Christman, age 35.  Three novels.  “Grace Caldwell [is] so intimately connected with death that it frightens her….  Vampires are afraid of her and the Sidhe are confused by her….  her ex-boyfriend, FBI agent Jack Montgomery, blackmails her into helping him solve [omitted – JH].

(9) START THE PRESSES! “Marvel is going back to print on comics that sold out thanks to WandaVision craze” reports Yahoo! (In a way, Gene Wolfe would be shocked. He used to say – sarcastically – that the difference between a professional publisher and a fanzine editor is that if a faned sells out his zine he’ll print more.)

Never doubt Wanda Maximoff’s power to change reality. Her starring role in the Disney+ series WandaVision didn’t just dominate pop culture discourse for the past few months, it also has created a huge run on many of the most relevant Marvel comics featuring Scarlet Witch and the Vision.

EW has confirmed that Marvel has been going back to press for new print runs of Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Scarlet Witch by James Robinson and various artists, and Vision and Scarlet Witch by Steve Englehart and artists like Don Heck and Bill Mantlo, among other comics. House of M, the 2005 event series in which Wanda changed the entire reality of the Marvel Universe to one where her adoptive father Magneto ruled over mankind, had its print stock depleted “almost overnight” in the wake of WandaVision‘s premiere.

(10) SECRET IDENTITIES. “This Jewish female artist from the comic book golden age was overlooked for decades” at Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Like the comic superheroes they invented, the Jewish creators of the characters often had secret identities – at least different names. Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerome Siegel used the pseudonyms Joe Carter and Jerry Ess. Bob Kane, born Robert Kahn, created Batman. Jack Kirby, the pen name of Jacob Kurtzenberg, concocted Captain America.

Although lesser known, the comic book heroine Señorita Rio was Hollywood starlet Rita Farrar by day and Nazi-fighting secret agent by night. The artist who drew Rio’s action-packed panels in the 1940s, and signed as L. Renee, lived a sort of double life, too.

“Everybody assumed I was a man,” artist Lily Renee Phillips has said of the fan mail she received at the time, which was always addressed to “Mr. Renee.” Fans knew neither Renee’s gender nor her incredible origin story, which rivaled the plotline of Señorita Rio. 

In the New York offices of Fiction House, the comic book publishing firm where Renee worked, she was a scrappy immigrant who worked her way up from erasing pencil marks to drafting her own heroines. Outside work she was a Vienna-born Holocaust survivor who fled Austria after the 1938 Anschluss, the Nazi annexation of Austria. She escaped to England on a Kindertransport and reunited with her parents in New York in 1940….

(11) WORLDBUILDING IS CHARACTER BUILDING. In “The Mystery Is The Human Psyche: On Shakespeare, Crime, and Human Motivation” on CrimeReads, E.J. Beaton discusses how she studied Shakespeare’s use of psychology in her DAW fantasy novel The Councillor.

…If Julius Caesar were simply a retelling of political events, it wouldn’t be so compelling. The real drama lies not in how the assassination is arranged, but in why the main characters commit their crimes. Both Cassius and Brutus have feelings about Caesar as a person, and both have ideas about power and justice. One man prioritizes his envy, and the other lets his ideals override his friendship: that is where the humanity lies. We all choose between emotion and logic in our daily lives, and even high-ranking politicians question their loyalty to their leaders, oscillating between personal values and collective order….

Another dimension of Beaton’s novel is discussed in “My Favorite Bit: E.J. Beaton Talks About THE COUNCILLOR” at Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog.

…While I worked on my debut novel The Councillor, I realised that I wanted my main character, Lysande, to live in a world where being bisexual is normal. Because The Councillor is a fantasy novel, I had the chance to create a world where Lysande’s sexuality is not only accepted, but utterly unremarkable. She has a parcel of secrets to conceal, but in the realm of Elira, where the story is set, her sexuality isn’t one of those. I tried to people the story with other queer characters, and to include casual references to same-sex couples, too.

By the time I finished the novel, a word for these kinds of societies was floating around fantasy book spaces – “queernorm.” The power of that word rings in its very sound. Queerness is, by definition, strangeness, and in most societies, queer people are positioned as other to the cultural norm of straightness. So for queer to be norm sounds like a revolution. It feels like a sudden leap into full sun, hart-swift, with no going back.

(12) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. CrimeRead’s Cynthia Pelayo says “Fairy Tales Are Dark For a Reason—They’re Trying to Warn Us About Danger”.

…It’s thought that the brothers [Grimm] kept much of the grim and gore, even heightening it a bit, because it stoked reader’s interests. Murder and mayhem sells. It’s also thought then that situations like mentions of pre-marital sex, like in Rapunzel, where her young suitor climbs into her tower, was omitted—or quickly glossed over.

So why did the brothers leave in so much terror, and I suppose why did Walt Disney find these tales suitable to adapt into childhood fantasy? Perhaps the horrible things were left in as a warning. That is all that most of us can assume right now, because in many fairy tales it is clear to interpret who is the protagonist and who is the villain. The lines are usually clearly drawn between good and evil, and in fairy tales, very often that evil is by chance—just like in life.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “System Error” from DUST.

George works at a convenience store, desperately hoping for a friend. But George is a robotic service unit, and robotic service units do not have friends. Not yet, anyway.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Bill and Andrew (not Werdna).]

Operacon Report

Cassandra Black as the Snow Dragon. (Photo: Dragon Media Photo)

Cassandra Black as the Snow Dragon. (Photo: Dragon Media Photo)

By Martin Morse Wooster: Operacon (Hilton Center City Milwaukee, March 12-15, 2015)

I’ve loved classical music for as long as I have loved science fiction. So when I saw a flyer for Operacon at Capclave, I knew I had to go, and I was very glad I did. This was an excellent small convention and I had a very good time.

Dick and Leah Zeldes Smith organized Operacon so that fans could get together and attend The Snow Dragon, an opera by Somtow Sucharitkul that premiered at the Skylight Theatre in Milwaukee in March. Attendees received a ticket to the opera, a copy of the libretto signed by Somtow and artist Mikey Jiraros, and admission to a very well run consuite run by Alan Rosenthal and Jeanne Bowman.

Even though Operacon was small, we had most of the features of larger conventions. There was a dealer’s room, run by Greg Ketter. Leah Fisher brought a bag full of games, and some of us spent a pleasant evening playing Yahtzee and Clue.

Attendance was about 60, of whom half were from the Chicago or Milwaukee areas and the rest from all parts of the country. There was one international attendee, British journalist Michael Proudfoot, on assignment for opera magazines in Great Britain and Germany. Two Canadians tried to come, but were thwarted by bad plane connections.

Among the attendees was Elizabeth Anne Hull of Palatine, Illinois, Fred Pohl’s widow. I had several long conversations with Hull, and told her how much I enjoyed Pohl’s novel Narabedla Ltd., a 1988 work in which aliens kidnap second-tier opera singers and have them perform to appreciative aliens who love opera but can’t replicate human voices. Hull explained that she and her husband had been subscribers to the Chicago Lyric Opera for many years, and she still is an avid opera and theatregoer to events in the Chicago area.

When you have a group of fans intensely interested in classical music, the talk turns to musical ideas. Among them: what’s your local classical music station like? What’s your local opera like? And how cool is it to hear Renee Fleming? (Very cool indeed.)

We even got into some highly specialized topics. I had a good discussion about Regietheater, where egomaniac European directors think any operas can be improved with the addition of gorillas and nudity. I even had a discussion with a fellow oldphart about the great Milton Cross, the Vin Scully of opera broadcasters, who was the host of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts until his death in 1975.

Somtow Sucharitkul arrived with an entourage of five, including a personal assistant and his mother, Thaitow. Somtow has not been to a science fiction convention since L.A.Con III in 1996, because he isn’t a science-fiction writer any more. He is a composer, conductor, and creator and manager of the Siam Philharmonic and Bangkok Opera. Somtow has written five symphonies and nine operas; his most important operas include Mae Naak (2003) the first grand opera based on Thai themes, and the Japanese-inspired Dan No Ura (2012). When Somtow began composing, his work was brutal and atonal. But after a spiritual crisis in 2001 (which led to his becoming a Buddhist monk for an extended period), he decided to become a “neo-Asian, neo-romantic” composer.

One afternoon, Somtow told stories about his life in Thailand. He prides himself on introducing Gustav Mahler’s symphonies to the Thais. (The performances are on YouTube.) His efforts led him to receive a treasured relic from the International Mahler Society — the baton Leonard Bernstein had used the last time he had conducted Mahler. The baton, Somtow noted, had yellowed, because of Bernstein’s decades of chain smoking.

Somtow also told about the time he tried to bring an elephant for a performance of Aida. He didn’t know that elephants in Bangkok had to be licensed, and was surprised when the pachyderm police showed up and arrested the elephant, taking him to the elephant impoundment lot or wherever it is that unlicensed elephants in Bangkok go. The resulting performance of Aida was elephant-free.

Fandom assembled for the March 13 premiere by going to the Milwaukee Ale House for a good old Wisconsin Friday fish fry. Then we went to the Skylight Theatre.

We were encouraged to dress up for the event, and about half of us did. Amy Axton, for example, showed up in full steampunk regalia, including goggles, a blaster, and various pieces of watches used for decoration. But the clear winner in the costume contest was Greg Rihn, whose outfit replicated a famous one worn by Giuseppe Verdi, including top hat, tails, a cane, a long flowing white scarf, and a white waistcoat underneath his tux. It was a magnificent effort, and Rihn seemed a time traveler from the sunny part of the past where it is always 1895.

The Skylight Theatre is a very pretty place that seats about 500. It has three tiers and curved light-brown walls. The theatre was meant to be a pastiche first of the nearby Pabst Theatre, second of nineteenth-century opera houses generally. The architects did a very fine job.

The fans were introduced to the crowd. The management also knew what fans liked, and we all enjoyed the little bags of chocolates given us as a present.

The opera is based on Somtow’s short story “The Fallen Country,” which he later expanded to a YA novel. Billy Binder is the victim of an abusive stepfather, who at one point beats him so badly he goes to the hospital. Dora Marx, a social worker who quickly recognizes that Binder is a victim of child abuse, treats him. To mentally escape his plight, Binder, with the Snow Dragon as his guide, uses his anger to travel to The Fallen Country, ruled by the Ringmaster, an avatar of his stepfather who uses a whip instead of a belt. The Fallen Country is a land of perpetual emotional and physical cold. Can Binder beat the Ringmaster—and use his victory in an imaginary world to fight back against his stepfather in our world?

The cast was all good, but 12-year-old Luke Brotherhood as Billy Binder was excellent. The Snow Dragon was played by Cassandra Black, a Wagnerian soprano in good voice. Her costume was a silver lame dress, complete with a bustle, silver boots, and a helmet with spikes and bells. The women I talked to admired Black’s dress and said that costumers would faunch after it.

As for the music, I asked Michael Proudfoot, the British music critic. He detected traces of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Der Rosenkavalier, and thought the trio that concludes The Snow Dragon was very Straussian. But he also saw a lot of Benjamin Britten in Somtow’s work, particularly The Turn of the Screw. Somtow wrote in the program notes that many of Dora Marx’s arias were atonal, symbolic of Marx’s Freudian beliefs.

After the opera, there was a post-concert reception, and I saw Thaitow Sucharitkul sitting quietly at a table. “You must be very proud of your son,” I said.

Mrs. Sucharitkul smiled. “I am,” she said.

The following day there was a discussion of the opera with Somtow and Skylight Artistic Director Viswa Subbarman. I missed the discussion, because I was in Milwaukee, and I had to drink beer.

That evening Dick and Leah Zeldes Smith held a special reception honoring their 30th wedding anniversary. They had Kiddush cake, a Jewish delicacy, and a special cake congratulating the Smiths on their anniversary. Of course the cake had a snow dragon on top.

Somtow showed up briefly, as he had given talks at a performance that night and had to prepare for a matinee the next day. But he decided to bring his personal copy of The Laughing Dead, a 1989 gorefest that Somtow wrote, directed, provided the music for, and acted as Dr. Um-Tzec, a villain who cackles, ”I want to bring a new age — of death!”

Somtow suggested we look at the reviews on Amazon, and the critics there had such comments as “very clumsy and slow,” “this movie is so, so bad” and “Amazon really needs to add minus numbers to the ratings.” These critical comments are quite accurate. The film is best known for the large number of pros in the cast, with Tim Sullivan in the lead, with substantial supporting roles for Gregory Frost as a tourist and Ed Bryant as a bus driver. Those of us who think of Ray Ridenour as a debonair Baltimore fan will be surprised to see him here wearing a tacky yellow leisure suit. A lot of other pros showed up to play corpses and zombies, including Tim Powers and Forrest J Ackerman, who can be glimpsed for two seconds near the film’s conclusion.

How could one man write The Snow Dragon and The Laughing Dead? I’ve known Somtow for 35 years and I don’t know the answer to this question. The paradox of Somtow Sucharitkul is that a man who can write arias fit for the gods once had feet of cheese.

The Snow Dragon is an important artistic achievement and Operacon was one of the most pleasant weekends I have ever had in fandom.

Sucharitkul’s Snow Dragon Premiere Attracts Fans To Operacon

Colleen Brooks and Luke Brotherhood perform in “The Snow Dragon.” Photo by Kevin Pauly.

Colleen Brooks and Luke Brotherhood perform in “The Snow Dragon.” Photo by Kevin Pauly.

Congratulations to Leah and Dick Smith who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary at Operacon, an event synchronized with the world premiere of Somtow Sucharitkul’s “The Snow Dragon” last weekend in Milwaukee.

Quite a number of fans attended and Martin Morse Wooster has promised a conreport for File 770.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gave the opera a fine review:

In the opening moments of “The Snow Dragon,”Skylight Music Theatre’s world premiere opera, firefighters rescue a frostbitten boy clinging to the steeple of an old church — in Florida, during a heat wave.

That boy, Billy Binder (Luke Brotherhood), is referred to a school counselor, Dora Marx (Colleen Brooks). Billy is frozen with rage at the physical abuse he regularly endures. Marx, on the other hand, feels burned out and talks often about the suffocating heat. Her sleeveless blouse does more than reinforce her struggle with the temperature. It also emphasizes her long, wiry arms, likening her visually to the wiry Billy. They appear destined to take a journey together…

Brotherhood’s voice is smaller and quieter than the opera professionals around him, but the experienced young actor nails his portrayal of Billy, skittish and traumatized but also defiant and angry after internalizing so much abuse. Brooks communicates beautifully in her singing. Her performance suggests that the heat her character feels comes from a failure, professional or personal, to love fully.

Local TV feature reporter Julie Collins has posted several short videos about the opera, including brief interviews with Sucharitkul and the lead singers.

To learn more about the opera and the relaxacon read these two progress reports, Flavor Forecast 1 and Flavor Forecast 2.

Larry Tucker Funeral on 3/7

I’m copying this item to File 770 (with permission) not just for the news but for its touching story of a friend's persistence.

By Leah Zeldes Smith: The remains of Lawrence Keith Tucker, who died October 8, 2013, will at last be laid to rest on Friday, March 7, 2014.

11 a.m. – Muehlig Funeral Chapel, 403 S. 4th Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104

1 p.m. – Great Lakes National Cemetery, 4200 Bedford Road, Holly, MI 48442

A brief memorial will take place beginning promptly at 11 a.m. at Muehlig Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor, followed by interment with military honors at 1 p.m. at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

Transportation from the funeral home to the cemetery will be provided for anyone who needs it. Please contact me as soon as possible to reserve.

Please pass the word to anyone who might attend.

Larry Tucker. Photo by Mark Olson.

Larry Tucker. Photo by Mark Olson.

If you are in the area, I hope you will try to come to the funeral home, at least. Even if you didn’t know Larry well, science-fiction fandom owes him a lot, and he deserves a good send off.

If you can’t attend, please devote a few minutes to thinking about Larry on Friday. He was a wonderful person, and he deserved better than what fate handed him.

I am very grateful to Kevin Jacobi of Muehlig Funeral Chapel, part of the Dignity Memorial network, which is providing mortuary and transportation services pro bono, and who took on the legal red tape involved in getting Larry’s remains released from the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s office.

As you may know, Larry died as a penniless ward of the state of Michigan. If you die without family or friends to pay your burial expenses, Michigan will cremate your body and put your ashes into a common grave. That had been going to be Larry’s fate, too. It was already a month after Larry’s death that I found this out, thanks to Tom White of WhiteKnight Personal Services, who was Larry’s state guardian till his death, and Jennifer Hawes of St. Joseph Mercy Hospice, where Larry died.

Although it was known that Larry was a U.S. Navy veteran and entitled to burial in a national cemetery, he wasn’t going to be buried there because — as I found out after weeks of phone calls and emails — there is no agency responsible for getting indigent veterans to the cemetery. The government provides free burial for veterans. They don’t provide mortuary services, that is, preparation of the body, a coffin and transport to the cemetery.

I talked to the director of the Washtenaw County Department of Veterans Affairs, who informed me that “Both the State of Michigan and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) have policies regarding the appropriate and honorable burial of Indigent Veterans and the Unclaimed Remains of Veterans” and that “the coordination between the State, the USDVA National Cemetery, and the Medical Examiner’s Office should be seamless….” I talked to the cemetery, to the ME’s office, to several offices of the VA and to U.S. Rep. John Dingell’s office. All of whom also assured me that there were such policies, but none of whom could tell me what those policies were or whose job it was to implement those policies. They all also assured me, however, that it was not theirs.

I reached out to my own friends and, thankfully, Mary Cruickshank-Peed, herself a Navy veteran, found out about Dignity Memorial’s charitable efforts for indigent veterans, and got in touch with Mr. Jacobi. It has taken from then till now to get permission from the courts, the state and the VA to bury Larry.

Amazing’s 50 Shades of Blog

Amazing Stories relaunch continues January 2 when over 50 bloggers will begin contributing to its Social Magazine Platform.

Publisher Steve Davidson has lined up personalities from all over the field to stoke discussion of an enormous array of subjects of interest to genre fans.

We’ve got authors and agents, bloggers and editors, podcasters and broadcasters; we’ve got gamers and game designers; artists and art collectors; pulpsters and indie authors; we’ve got Hugo winners, John W. Campbell Memorial Award winners, John W. Campbell Best New Writer winners, Nebula and Hugo Award winners and nominees and winners and nominees of many other awards; people who review films, people who make films; we’ve got fanboys and fangirls; we’ve got former editors of Amazing Stories, writers who’ve become synonymous with the field and writers who are just getting started; comic artists, book reviewers; traditionally published authors, self-pubbed authors and authors who’ve done it all. The response to my request for participation was phenomenal.

They’ll cover 14 principal topics: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, (lit), Film, Television, Gaming, Comics and Graphic Works, the Visual Arts, the Pulps, Audio Works, Anime, the Business of Publishing, Science and Fandom.

Here’s the starting lineup:

Cenobyte – http://www.cenobyte.ca
Mike Brotherton – http://www.mikebrotherton.com
Ricky L Brown – http://doctorfantastiques.com/author/rickbrown
Michael A Burstein – http://www.mabfan.com , http://www.bursteinbooks.com
Cait Coker – http://www.aggiescifi.wordpress.com
Johne Cook – https://twitter.com/theskypirate
Paul Cook – http://www.paulcook-sci-fi.com
Gary Dalkin – http://www.tothelastword.com
Jane Frank – http://www.wow-art.com
Jim Freund – http://www.hourwolf.com
Adam Gaffen – http://www.thekildaran.blogspot.com
Chris Garcia – http://efanzines.com/DrinkTank
Chris Gerwel – http://elflands2ndcousin.com
Tommy Hancock – http://www.allpulp.blogspot.com , http://www.prosepulp.com
Liz Henderson – http://www.true-blood.net , http://www.onceuponafansite.com , http://www.nicegirlstv.com
Samantha Henry – http://www.scifidramaqueen.com
M. D. Jackson – http://www.michaeldeanjackson.blogspot.com
Monique Jacob – http://www.moniquejacob.com
Geoffrey James – http://www.geoffreyjames.com , http://www.sorcerer.net
J. Jay Jones
Peggy Kolm – http://blog.sciencefictionbiology.com
Justin Landon – http://www.staffersbookreview.com
Andrew Liptak – http://www.andrewliptak.wordpress.com
Meilissa Lowery http://www.true-blood.net , http://www.sidcity.net , http://www.chucktv.net
Barry Malzberg
C. E. Martin – http://www.troglodad.blogspot.com , http://www.mythicaltheseries.blogspot.com
Farrell J. McGovern – http://www.can-con.org
Steve Miller – http://stevemillerreviews.blogspot.com , http://nuelow.blogspot.com/
Matt Mitrovich – http://alternatehistoryweeklyupdate.blogspot.com
Aidan Moher – http://aidanmoher.com/blog
Kevin Murray – www.kevinmurray.ca , http://www.falloutfiles.com
Ken Neth – http://nethspace.blogspot.com
Astrid Nielsch – http://webdesign.asni.net/ , http://www.asni.net , http://www.asni.net/newsletter.php , http://music.asni.net/ , http://conceptart.asni.net/
D. Nicklin-Dunbar –http://mouldysquid.wordpress.com/book-reviews
John Purcell – http://efanzines.com/Prior/index.htm
James Rogers – http://scienceismagic.com/
Diane Severson – www.divadianes.blogspot.com , http://www.starshipsofa.com/category/podcast/fact-articles/poetry-planet/ , http://www.sfpoetry.com
Doug Smith – http://www.smithwriter.com
Lesley Smith
Bill Spangler
Duane Spurlock – http://pulprack.blogspot.com , http://spurandlock.blogspot.com , http://duanespurlock.blogspot.com
Michael J. Sullivan – http://www.riyria.com
G. W. Thomas – http://www.gwthomas.org
Erin Underwood – http://www.underwords.com
Stephan Van Velzen – http://www.rantingdragon.com
Cynthia Ward – http://www.cynthiaward.com , http://www.writingtheother.com
Michael Webb – http://www.martianexpatriate.com/
Keith West – http://www.adventuresfantastic.blogspot.com , http://futurespastandpresent.blogspot.com
John M Whalen – http://johnmwhalen.wordpress.com
Ann Wilkes – http://sciencefictionmusings.blogspot.com
Karlo Yeager
Leah Zeldes – http://www.zeldes.com , http://www.thewaythefutureblogs.com , http://www.diningchicago.com/blog

The full press release follows the jump.

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