Pixel Scroll 9/16 Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Scrolls of Our Lives

(1) “A Halloween garden gnome” is what John King Tarpinian calls one of the pieces Tokyo University of Arts students created for a festival —

tako-2

This massive work of art, which features a giant octopus wrapped around a Greek-style temple, has captured the attention of people across Japan. Now that the festival is over, though, the students are asking if anyone wants to buy it! 

More photos of the work on parade at the Rocket News 24 website.

(2) Of course, being scientists, these folks had to do what every science fiction fan knows better than to do — revive the ancient giant virus.

It’s 30,000 years old and still ticking: A giant virus recently discovered deep in the Siberian permafrost reveals that huge ancient viruses are much more diverse than scientists had ever known.

They’re also potentially infectious if thawed from their Siberian deep freeze, though they pose no danger to humans, said Chantal Abergel, a scientist at the National Center for Scientific Research at Aix-Marseille University in France and co-author of a new study announcing the discovery of the new virus. As the globe warms and the region thaws, mining and drilling will likely penetrate previously inaccessible areas, Abergel said.

“Safety precautions should be taken when moving that amount of frozen earth,” she told Live Science. (Though viruses can’t be said to be “alive,” the Siberian virus is functional and capable of infecting its host.)

…The new virus isn’t a threat to humans; it infected single-celled amoebas during the Upper Paleolithic, or late Stone Age.

(3) Next step, Wolverine? Claws still required, and it’s titanium not adamantium, but… a Spanish hospital recent replaced a significant amount of a man’s rib cage and sternum with a titanium replacement.

Putting titanium inside people’s chests is nothing new, but what made this different was the implant was 3D printed to match his existing bone structure.

(4) Lost In Space first got lost on September 15, 1965. The Los Angeles Times visited with some of the original cast.

Fifty years after the CBS sci-fi series “Lost in Space” blasted into orbit on Sept. 15, 1965, the show’s five surviving stars are still very close. A few gather each year to have dinner to celebrate the birthday of Jonathan Harris, the late actor who played the diabolical and very funny Dr. Zachary Smith.

“We have stayed very much like a normal dysfunctional family,” said Bill Mumy, who played child prodigy Will Robinson during the series’ three-season run.

Baby boomers who grew up watching “Lost in Space” still have a strong connection to the campy show, which boasted a terrific early score from Oscar-winner John Williams, then billed as Johnny Williams.

“When I do these conventions, people are still so wrapped up in it,” said June Lockhart, who played matriarch Maureen Robinson. “The last time I did one, I said, ‘Excuse me.’ I looked out at the audience and said, ‘I must remind you: It was all pretend!'”

“Lost in Space” was created and produced by Irwin Allen, who went on to make such disaster film classics as “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972) and “The Towering Inferno” (1974).

The series revolved around the Robinson family — John Robinson (Guy Williams), his wife (Lockhart) and their children Judy (Marta Kristen), the brilliant Penny (Angela Cartwright) and Will.

On the anniversary date, Cartwright and Mumy released a new book, Lost (and Found) in Space, a memoir with rare photographs.

(5) Steven H Silver recreates a convention report of the 1976 Worldcon in Kansas City in “A Brief History of MidAmeriCon” at Uncanny Magazine.

Early projections seemed to indicate that Big MAC would have as many as 7,000 members and the committee knew they couldn’t handle a con that size. To ensure it didn’t happen, they introduced the sliding rate scale, making the con more expensive the later a fan bought a membership, they announced that they would not run an all–night movie room, and they also announced there would be no programming related to comic books, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, or the Society for Creative Anachronism. All of these decisions were met with howls of protest. MidAmeriCon was clearly attempting to destroy fandom and the Worldcon.

Keller was also concerned that people would crash MidAmeriCon, so prior to the convention, he announced that the convention would have a foolproof way of ensuring that only paid members were in attendance. There was much speculation prior to the Worldcon that this meant holograms on the badges. Keller had something else in mind and each attendee was given a plastic bracelet that could not be put on again once it was taken off. Of course, foolproof doesn’t mean fanproof, and some fans set themselves the goal of subverting the security measure. They found a woman who was being released from the hospital and convinced her to continue to wear her hospital ID, so they could try to bring her to the various official functions of the convention. They succeeded.

(6) People are still hard at work mapping what parts of the universe SFWA controls.

(7) Ursula K. Le Guin is interviewed by Choire Sicha at Interview Magazine.

SICHA: There’s a sort of growing professional class of writers that may not have had access to being a professional. Before the internet, you would go to your terrible job and then you would write at night. I actually found that system really rewarding, separating out the money and the work.

LE GUIN: On the other hand, if it was a nine-to-five job, and if you had any family obligations and commitments, it’s terribly hard. It worked very much against women, because they were likely to have the nine-to-five job and really be responsible for the household. Doing two jobs is hard enough, but doing three is just impossible. And that’s essentially what an awful lot of women who wanted to write were being asked to do: support themselves, keep the family and household going, and write.

SICHA: And the writing was the first thing to go when things got tough, I’m sure.

LE GUIN: I had only a little taste of that. I did have three kids. But what my husband and I figured—he was a professor and teaching a lot—was that three jobs can be done by two people. He could do his job teaching, I could do my job writing, and the two of us could do the house and the kids. And it worked out great, but it took full collaboration between him and me. See, I cannot write when I’m responsible for a child. They are full-time occupations for me. Either you’re listening out for the kids or you’re writing. So I wrote when the kids went to bed. I wrote between nine and midnight those years. And my husband would listen out if the little guy was sick or something. It worked out. It wasn’t really easy but, you know, you have a lot of energy when you’re young. Sometimes I look back and I think, “How the hell did we do it?” But we did.

(8) A Kickstarter appeal seeks to fund the printing of 5,000 copies of Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice by David Pilgrim.

David Pilgrim is the founder and curator of the About the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI.

For many people, especially those who came of age after landmark civil rights legislation was passed, it is difficult to understand what it was like to be an African American living under Jim Crow segregation in the United States. Most young Americans have little or no knowledge about restrictive covenants, literacy tests, poll taxes, lynchings, and other oppressive features of the Jim Crow racial hierarchy. Even those who have some familiarity with the period may initially view racist segregation and injustices as relics of a distant, shameful past. A proper understanding of race relations in this country must include a solid knowledge of Jim Crow—how it emerged, what it was like, how it ended, and its impact on the culture.

Understanding Jim Crow introduces readers to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, a collection of more than ten thousand contemptible collectibles that are used to engage visitors in intense and intelligent discussions about race, race relations, and racism. The items are offensive. They were meant to be offensive. The items in the Jim Crow Museum served to dehumanize blacks and legitimized patterns of prejudice, discrimination, and segregation.

Using racist objects as teaching tools seems counterintuitive—and, quite frankly, needlessly risky. Many Americans are already apprehensive discussing race relations, especially in settings where their ideas are challenged. The museum and this book exist to help overcome our collective trepidation and reluctance to talk about race.

(9) In “An Interview With Jennifer Brozek” at Permuted Press, the author and editor is unflinching, positive and brave.

Permuted: With the Hugo Awards sparking so much debate this year, do you have any thoughts on the controversy in general as a nominated editor?

Jennifer: Awards are a funny thing. I’m honored to have been nominated. I’m glad my part in the controversy is over. I’m also really pleased that there is a renewed interest in the Hugo award itself. Talk about an adrenalin shot in the arm.

Permuted: Your protagonist in the NEVER LET ME series, Melissa, has bipolar disorder. Can you describe your experience writing a character with a mental illness?

Jennifer: As a high functioning autistic adult, I am very aware of how people in media are portrayed. Either the mental illness is a superhero power (Alphas, Perception) or it makes a person a psychopathic criminal. It is rarely shown in-between. It is rarely shown as it really is—something millions of people deal with every single day. There are a lot of physical aspects to mental illness as well as coping mechanisms. With Melissa, I wanted to show a protagonist who had mental illness but it was neither a “power” nor something that made her unable to cope with the world. She is medicated and it works. This is the goal of every person suffering from mental illness on meds.

(10) Light in the Attic Records has released soundtrack to the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune. It is available in 2xLP and CD.

This is the soundtrack to the story about the greatest film that never was.

Jodorowsky’s Dune tells the tale of cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel, Dune, to the big screen. Composer Kurt Stenzel gives life to a retro-futuristic universe as fantastic as Jodorowsky’s own vision for his Dune–a film whose A-list cast would have included Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger in starring roles and music by psychedelic prog-rockers Pink Floyd.

Building upon director Frank Pavich’s idea for a score with a “Tangerine Dream-type feel,” Stenzel lays out a cosmic arsenal of analog synthesizers that would make any collector green at the gills: among other gems are a rare Moog Source, CZ-101s, and a Roland Juno 6, as well as unorthodox instruments like a toy Concertmate organ and a Nintendo DS. “I also played guitar and did vocals,” says Stenzel, “some chanting… and some screaming, which comes naturally to me.” The score also features narration by Jodorowsky himself. As Stenzel notes, “Jodo’s voice is actually the soundtrack’s main musical instrument–listening to him was almost like hypnosis, like going to the guru every night.”

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Will R., Mark, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Ib Melchior (1917-2015)

REPTILICUS_(3) COMPFilmmaker and writer Ib Melchior passed away March 13 at the age of 97. His short story “The Racer” was twice adapted for the screen – as Death Race 2000 (1975) and Death Race (2008).

He wrote and directed The Angry Red Planet (1959) and The Time Travelers (1964), and co-wrote Reptilicus (1961), Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964).

For television, he wrote two episodes of Men Into Space, “Water Tank Rescue” (1959) and “Voice of Infinity (1960), as well as “The Premonition” episode of The Outer Limits (1965).

He also claimed to be the creator of the original idea upon which Irwin Allen based the TV series Lost In Space, an allegation documented in Ed Shifres’ Lost in Space: The True Story.

He was the son of opera singer and movie star Lauritz Melchior, about whom he wrote a biography, Lauritz Melchior: The Golden Years of Bayreuth.

In recent years he was a regular at the annual LA Vintage Paperback Show.

Robert Kinoshita (1914-2014)

Tobor_the_Great_posterRobert Kinoshita, who designed three of the most famous robots in science fiction, died December 9 at the age of 100.

He was the principal designer for the robot in Tobor the Great (1954); Robby the Robot from the films Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Invisible Boy (1957); and the “B9 Environmental Control” robot from the 1960s TV series Lost in Space (privately nicknamed “Blinky.”)

Robby and Blinky even appeared together in two episodes of Lost in Space, “War of the Robots” and “Condemned of Space.”

(Robby  also appeared in a 1958 episode of The Gale Storm Show and a 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone.)

Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet

Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet

Kinoshita gave an interview to the B9 Robot Builders Club about his creation for Lost in Space, which he said was initially conceived without an operator because “at any moment it could stop or trip wherever and inside there is all kinds of stuff that he could get hurt on. There was a yellow cord running up the back of the Robot that held 2,000 volts.” However, they decided having someone inside would help give the robot personality (Bob May got the job) – manipulating the plexiglass head, turning the body, moving the arms, etc.

Jonathan Harris and Robot from Lost in Space.

Jonathan Harris and Robot from Lost in Space.

Kinoshita made other artistic contributions to these productions, designing the lab of Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) in Forbidden Planet and the final version of the Jupiter 2 spaceship for Lost in Space.

He was a free-lancer on Gene Roddenberry’s pilot Planet Earth . His non-sf credits include TV shows Highway Patrol (1955–1959), Bat Masterson (1960–1961), Hawaii Five-O (1970–1971), and Kojak (1973–1974).

[Thanks to Mark R. Kelly and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Dick Tufeld Passes Away

Dick Tufeld, one of the most influential voices in the history of science fiction, died January 21 at the age of 85.

His most famous role was the Robot from Lost In Space, uttering the iconic line “Danger, Will Robinson!” He performed this role again in the movie and an episode of The Simpsons.

Prior to that he earned science fiction immortality as the narrator of Space Patrol on radio where he opened the show saying:

Space Patrol! High adventure in the wild vast reaches of space … missions of daring in the name of interplanetary justice. Travel into the future with Buzz Corry … commander-in-chief of … the Space Patrol!

Tufeld also served as the announcer on other Irwin Allen TV shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and The Time Tunnel. He introduced Disney’s prime-time anthology series, and its Zorro series.

Other credits included Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends,The Fantastic Four and many non-genre programs.

Theme Songs

Awhile ago I wrote about the death of Vic Mizzy, composer of The Addams Family theme. Thinking about his playful, finger-snapping song made me remember many other 1960s TV theme songs. As they began to replay in my mind there seemed no end. Of course, I spent more hours watching television during that decade than in any other.

Probabilities aside, I wonder if theme songs were more important to marketing series in the 1960s than later in the history of television. It wasn’t just the successful shows like the Munsters or The Addams Family that had unforgettable songs. There were plenty of shows whose catchy themes have outlasted nearly all the other memories about them.

I loved Richard Rogers powerful march for The Great Adventure, a short-lived American history anthology series that aired in the fall of 1963. And I can still hum the theme from the otherwise forgettable astronauts-meet-cavemen series It’s About Time (“It’s about time, it’s about space, About two men in the strangest place.”)

This represented a change in emphasis from 1950s series which often chose public domain classics, the way Alfred Hitchcock Presents used “Funeral March of a Marionette.”

There were memorable exceptions, of course, such as Henry Mancini’s theme for Peter Gunn. The Rawhide theme so engraved itself in a generation’s memory that it became the subject of a joke in the movie Blues Brothers, being the only country-western tune they knew. And the lyrics to Car 54 Where Are You? were fodder for endless Mad Magazine parodies. (Proving what a small world it is, when Car 54 ended its two leads went their separate ways, Fred Gwynn to The Munsters and Joe E. Ross to It’s About Time.)

We know that in the early days of television some decisions were made in the hopeful expectation that a show would go on for years, like the most popular radio programs had. Originally, when networks launched a prime-time show they ordered a full season’s worth of shows, a 39-episode run. The shows that bombed died a lingering death.

Few science fiction TV shows can boast scripts more powerful than their themes. I still enjoy hearing the opening music for The Time Tunnel but I never need to see another episode.

The instrumental opening of Lost in Space, a tune far superior to the silly stories, is one of the most science-fictional-sounding themes of any show in the genre. With the cadence of a navigational instrument desperately pinging for traces of the familiar, its repeating cycles dramatize the unfulfilled search for home.

Ironically, while Star Trek was a much better-written show, if the theme by Alexander Courage hadn’t played over images of a starship zooming past would I have thought of it as science fiction music? I doubt it. That shrill and breezy tune sounded like the excited humming of a classroom of high school girls preparing for a formal dance featuring Xavier Cugat and his orchestra.

Since the Sixties there seem to have been far fewer TV themes that have remained a vivid part of the popular culture. Nearly everybody can sing The Brady Bunch Theme song. (Well, I can’t. I alone remain pure…)

Bob May, Hollywood Suit

Lost in Space cast in 1995

He had an important part in the Sixties series Lost In Space, but viewers never saw his face. His character had a lot of lines (“Danger, Will Robinson!”), but none of them were spoken by him. Bob May was the fellow who wore The Robot’s suit, and that was enough for fans to seek him out at memorabilia shows. He passed away January 18 at the age of 69, from congestive heart failure.

“He always said he got the job because he fit in the robot suit,” said June Lockhart, who played family matriarch Maureen Robinson. “It was one of those wonderful Hollywood stories. He just happened to be on the studio lot when someone saw him and sent him to see Irwin Allen about the part. Allen said, ‘If you can fit in the suit, you’ve got the job.'”

That was the important thing because an announcer (Dick Tufeld) would actually record the character’s lines. May lucked out – the suit fit. After that, they could hardly get him out of it.

“He was a smoker,” Lockhart remembered. “From time to time (when he was on a break), we’d see smoke coming out of the robot. That always amused us.”

Bob May is the gray-haired fellow on the left in the back row of this photo taken in 1995.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the alert.]

Alexander Courage

About 150 people attended the memorial service for Alexander Courage on June 29 in Pacific Palisades, California. Courage, who passed away on May 15, was well-known to fans as the composer of the Star Trek theme. He also worked on many other movies and tv shows during his career, earning an Oscar nomination in connection with the 1960s movie Doctor Doolittle.

[Composer John Williams] spoke of Courage’s importance as an arranger and orchestrator on the MGM musicals of the 1950s, linking him with Robert Russell Bennett and Herbert Spencer as the best in their field. He called Courage “a fantastic artist, craftsman and connoisseur. He loved sports cars, cigars and life,” Williams said, adding that he led “a joyous, happy, highly contributive life. I feel so honored and privileged to have been Sandy‘s friend and colleague.”

A 10-minute video tribute, assembled by Michael Matessino and David Fein, showcased Courage, his professional colleagues and family members, to Courage’s music from Star Trek (“The Cage,” “The Conscience of the King,” “The Naked Time”) and Lost in Space (“The Great Vegetable Rebellion”), among other pieces.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]