The Day I Became a Space Cadet

Stairs comp

Atop the Stairwell to Space!

By Rich Lynch: Those of you who know me are probably aware of something that I’ve been doing since about the beginning of 2011. During an otherwise uneventful day at work I had misinterpreted a comment by my then-boss that I really needed to get out from behind my desk more often. She had been wanting me to be a bit more interactive with other interagency organizations. But for a few moments I had thought she had meant that I needed to be getting more exercise.

And she would have been right – I was way too deskbound. So I decided to break each day up with a few one-mile walks within the building where I work. This increased my metabolic rate, which has helped me to manage calories and weight, and the endorphins generated by this mild exercise have helped to sharpen my thinking while I’m at work.

But to make things interesting, I plotted a virtual “Walk Across America” to keep track of my total distance walked and to serve as a motivation to keep going even farther. Five years of these one-mile walks have “brought” me more than 3,200 miles, or the distance from my home in Maryland down to New Orleans, across Texas and the desert Southwest to Los Angeles, then up the coast toward San Francisco.

And there’s more – each mile walked includes more than 100 feet of stair climbing. And as of February 3rd, I reached a milestone – my total distance climbed passed the 62-mile mark, the so-called Kármán Line which represents the internationally-recognized boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and space. Years ago at a meeting, someone not-entirely-in-jest accused me of being a space cadet. I can now claim to have officially fulfilled that prophesy!

But, truth be told, I’ve probably been a space cadet for most of my life – I was nine years old, when I discovered science fiction. This was back in the autumn of 1959, and it was before I found out there were science fiction books in the school library – it would be about another year before I would read Arthur C. Clarke’s Islands in the Sky. No, my first exposure to science fiction was on television.

men into space logoIt was a show titled Men Into Space, televised in 1959 and 1960 at the very end of the Eisenhower administration, back when the Space Race with the Soviets was becoming a national priority. It depicted the U.S. Space Program as a part of the Air Force – the main character was Col. Edward McCauley, who was portrayed as being the number one U.S. astronaut. He took part in practically all manned space missions, many of them to the moon. The program was only on the air for one season, but that season was 38 episodes long.

Seeing an episode of Men Into Space was a true sense-of-wonder experience, before I even knew what that meant. In the course of its single season, manned space flight progressed from the building of a space station, to the first test of an orbital flight around the moon, to a moon landing, to a moon base, to a trip to a near-earth asteroid, and ending the series with a trip to the planet Mars! Along the way there were episodes that addressed the question on whether we are alone in the universe. Great stuff to a kid who was about to turn 10 years old!

Lundigan COMP

Col. McCauley shows off a moon rocket model

Episodes were only a half-hour long, so the plots were pretty direct: a team of astronauts, headed by McCauley, was sent off into space for some purpose. Something unexpected happens, often imperiling the crew, and McCauley has to quickly find a way to save the day. It all worked because the actor William Lundigan, who played McCauley, was a military man himself, having served in the U.S. Marines during World War Two. On screen he comes across as an in-charge authority figure who is nevertheless very likeable. And it helped that Lundigan believed that all the space science depicted in the series was attainable someday in the real world without the need for any huge leaps in technology. He was reported to have said that: “What helped me to make up my mind [to be in the series] was the fact that this was not some Buck Rogers type show. It was not a science-fiction series, but a science-fact series. You might even say it’s a combination of a public service show and a dramatic series.”

One other thing that has reserved Men Into Space a place in my memory for all these years was how realistic the series seemed to be. And there was a reason for that – visual backdrops and spacecraft designs were created by the famous space artist Chesley Bonestell. There was also extensive technical assistance provided by the U.S. Air Force’s space medicine office, which helped give the series a sense of humanity in amongst all the space technology.Bonestell credit COMP

Men Into Space ended its run more than half a century ago but since then I have always remembered how amazing it had seemed to me. So it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that the new cable television network Comet TV, amongst its offerings of Grade-Z monster movies and 1990s sci?fi, had found room to include it in their schedule. The evening of my ascendency into Space Cadet-hood I watched an episode – it guest-starred a very young-looking Robert Vaughn five years before he became famous as The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  The plot, about a radioactive cloud of gas in a lunar crater, was a bit retro but you know what? It still held together pretty well.

Anyway, I’m pleased that after fifty-seven years I finally got another chance to watch what had been my favorite television show.  And I’m still a fan.

Pixel Scroll 1/11/16 Pixels For Nothin’ And Your Scrolls For Free

(1) GALLO WINS ART DIRECTOR AWARD. The Society of Illustrators has named Irene Gallo the recipient of the 2016 Richard Gangel Art Director Award. The linked site includes a wide range of examples.

Society of Illustrators

Society of Illustrators

The Richard Gangel Art Director award was established in 2005 to honor art directors currently working in the field who have supported and advanced the art of illustration…

Irene Gallo is the Associate Publisher at Tor.com and the Creative Director at Tor Books.  She has art directed countless illustrators and her work has received numerous awards, including this year’s Gold Medal winning image by Sam Weber for The Language of Knives.

Gallo’s shared her reaction in a four-part tweet.

(2) WIBBLY-WOBBLY MUSIC. Open Culture tells “The Fascinating Story of How Delia Derbyshire Created the Original Doctor Who Theme”.

What we learn from them is fascinating, considering that compositions like this are now created in powerful computer systems with dozens of separate tracks and digital effects. The Doctor Who theme, on the other hand, recorded in 1963, was made even before basic analog synthesizers came into use. “There are no musicians,” says Mills, “there are no synthesizers, and in those days, we didn’t even have a 2-track or a stereo machine, it was always mono.” (Despite popular misconceptions, the theme does not feature a Theremin.) Derbyshire confirms; each and every part of the song “was constructed on quarter-inch mono tape,” she says, “inch by inch by inch,” using such recording techniques as “filtered white noise” and something called a “wobbulator.” How were all of these painstakingly constructed individual parts combined without multi track technology? “We created three separate tapes,” Derbyshire explains, “put them onto three machines and stood next to them and said “Ready, steady, go!” and pushed all the ‘start’ buttons at once. It seemed to work.”

(3) SPACESHIP SALESMAN. Interviewer Lauren Samer learned “John Scalzi Thinks Nerd Gatekeeping Is Complete Nonsense”, posted at Inverse.

[John Scalzi] Science fiction and fantasy is becoming more diverse in who writes it and what is represented — and I, for the life of me, cannot see what the problem is. I mean, come on. I write meat-and-potatoes classic science fiction. I’ve got spaceships, I’ve got lasers, I’ve got aliens. To suggest that there’s not a market for that type of science fiction is absolutely ridiculous. I’m doing great!

It just also happens that there’s lots of other cool stuff out there that is not like the sort of stuff that I write, and I think that’s great. Not everybody is going to be interested in the stuff I write — and not everybody should be. There should be science fiction and fantasy of all genres. It should be as inclusive as possible about the possibilities of the future and the possibility of alternate worlds and alternate setups. Otherwise, it’s fundamentally missing the point of what science fiction and fantasy can achieve.

(4) PACIFIC RIM 2 IS FEELING BETTER. No sooner did I relay the news that there would be no Pacific Rim sequel than its director, Guillermo del Toro, took to Twitter with this reassurance —

(5) PAY IT FORWARD. Kevin Standlee asks for help finding European references to the Hugo.

The WSFS Mark Protection Committee is assembling citations of usage of The Hugo Award in Europe (including the UK) in support of our application for registering it as a service mark in the EU. Things that could be useful include mentions of a being a Hugo Award winner (or nominee) on the cover of a work published within the EU and references to the Hugo Awards in EU-based publications, including fanzines. Mentions in non-EU publications aren’t as useful, because we’re working on backing the claim that The Hugo Award has been used in Europe for a long time. British references are just fine; the UK is part of the EU.

If you have material you think might be useful for this, write to Linda Deneroff (lindandee@gmail.com), Secretary of the WSFS MPC. She’ll let you know how to get the material to her for our compilation.

(6) CLASSIC SF RERUNS. In the middle of 2015 the Comet TV network came into existence. It specializes in showing old sf TV episodes, and selected movies. Among its offerings is my childhood favorite – Men Into Space, which was on the air for one season in 1959.

According to Wikipedia, Comet has affiliation agreements with television stations in 78 media markets encompassing 33 states and the District of Columbia. The nearest station to me airing this content is KDOC in Orange County.

MenIntoSpace_front-500x500

(7) BOWIE TRIBUTE 1. Molly Lewis and Marian Call (both singers of nerdy songs and frequent performers at Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage and Paul and Storm’s W00tstock variety show) cover “Space Oddity,” but only using the thousand most common words in the style of Randall Munroe’s Up Goer 5 and Thing Explainer:

(8) BOWIE TRIBUTE 2. Laurel and Hardy dance to “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie.

(9) CLOTHING THE IMAGINATION. Ferrett Steinmetz does not miss George Lucas’ input to the franchise, for reasons explained in “A Brief Discussion of Star Wars Costumes”.

So I was thinking about the lack of imagination in the prequels versus the Force Awakens.  And some of that’s evident in the costumes.

Because I just saw a picture of Obi-Wan… and he’s wearing basically the same outfit in the prequels that he wears in A New Hope.  Which implies that Obi-Wan basically has dressed the same for, well, his entire fucking life.  He retreated to Tatooine as part of a secret mission, wearing what are clearly fucking Jedi robes in retrospect, and Lucas didn’t care because, well, the characters weren’t what he cared about.

How ridiculous is it that someone would wear the same outfit for seventy years if he wasn’t some sort of bizarre cartoon character or performer?  Especially if he went into hiding?

(10) KICKER PUPPY. Joe Vasicek’s headline says “George R.R. Martin may not be your bitch, but I am”, however, this is not exactly an exercise in humility.

This discussion is not new, even with regard to Mr. Martin. Way back in 2009, Neil Gaiman addressed this issue in a blog post where he stated quite memorably that “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch”:

People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.

You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.

So that’s one end of the spectrum: that writing is an art, that it can’t be forced, that trying to force it is wrong, and that writers have no obligation to their readers to force anything. …

So George R.R. Martin may not be your bitch, but I most certainly am. Writing is not something that happens only sometimes: it’s my job, and I do it every day. And as for accountability, I absolutely feel that I’m accountable to my readers. They are the whole reason I am able to do this in the first place. If that makes me their bitch, then so be it.

(11) SAD MUPPETS 4. The start of a groundswell?

(12) WALTZING POTATO. They’re called YouTubers, and I’d bet 98% of them never hear the intrinsic pun. UPI reports — “YouTuber builds 6000 piece Star Wars AT-AT from Legos”.

[Charlie of the BrickVault channel,] a Lego-loving YouTuber followed instructions posted online to build a more than 6,000-piece Star Wars AT-AT in 26 hours and posted time-lapse footage online….

The BrickVault team said it took thousands of dollars to procure all of the supplies from website BrickLink, far more than the $218.99 price tag for Lego’s official 1,137-piece AT-AT kit.

 

(12) BUT CAN YOU TUNA FISH? This has been rightly captioned a “Bizarre Star Wars Japanese Commercial.” Aired in 1978, it shows galactic peace being achieved with canned tuna fish.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Steven H Silver, James H. Burns, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Wendy Gale, and Lorcan Nagle for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3 Ten Things I Slate About You

(1) Disney has optioned the movie rights to Ursula Vernon’s childrens book Castle Hangnail for an adaptation to be produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres will produce with Jeff Kleeman, her partner at A Very Good Production banner.

The book tells of a 12-year old witch who shows up at a dark castle that needs a master or be decommissioned by the bureaucratic Board of Magic and its many minions, such as a hypochondriac fish and a letter ‘Q’ averse minotaur, dispersed into the world. She projects confidence as she tackles the series of tasks laid forth by the board but underneath lie several simmering secrets, including one of her being an imposter….

DeGeneres and Kleeman are busy in the television world but Hangnail is their second notable move on the movie side and keeps their feet firmly in the fantasy field. Earlier this year the duo set up Uprooted, the novel from Temeraire author Naomi Novik, for Warner Bros.

(2) A magisterial essay by Ursula K. Le Guin at Tin House, “’Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?’”.

American critics and academics have been trying for forty years to bury one of the great works of twentieth-century fiction, The Lord of the Rings. They ignore it, they condescend to it, they stand in large groups with their backs to it, because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid of dragons. They know if they acknowledge Tolkien they’ll have to admit that fantasy can be literature, and that therefore they’ll have to redefine what literature is.

What American critics and teachers call “literature” is still almost wholly restricted to realism. All other forms of fiction—westerns, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical, regional, you name it—are dismissed as “genre.” Sent to the ghetto. That the ghetto is about twelve times larger than the city, and currently a great deal livelier, doesn’t bother those who live in ivory towers. Magic realism, though—that does bother them; they hear Gabriel García Márquez gnawing quietly at the foundations of the ivory tower, they hear all these crazy Indians dancing up in the attic, and they think maybe they should do something about it. Perhaps they should give that fellow who teaches the science fiction course tenure? Oh, surely not.

To say that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to imply that imitation is superior to invention. I have wondered if this unstated but widely accepted (and, incidentally, very puritanical) proposition is related to the recent popularity of the memoir and the personal essay. This has been a genuine popularity, not a matter of academic canonizing. People really do want to read memoir and personal essay, and writers want to write it. I’ve felt rather out of step. I like history and biography fine, but when family and personal memoir seems to be the most popular—the dominant narrative form—well, I have searched my soul for prejudice and found it. I prefer invention to imitation. I love novels. I love made-up stuff.

(3) “The Call of the Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing“ by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs in Uncanny Magazine #7 uses Joanna Russ’ text to diagnose some critics’ responses to Ancillary Justice.

I snorted. For the past week, Natalie Luhrs and I had been discussing the book in the context of the ongoing fight for the soul of the science fiction community, most recently played out in the failed attempt to take over the Hugo Awards. In HTSWW, Russ uses an alien species called the whelk–finned Glotolog to illustrate the methods by which human cultures control women’s writing without direct censorship (4). These days, the tactics the so–called “sad puppies” use to paint themselves as the true heirs of science fiction, bravely holding the line against the invading masses, are the very same tactics Joanna Russ ascribed to the whelk–finned Glotolog in 1983…

False Categorizing of the Work She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (HTSWW)

False Categorization is, essentially, bad faith. It allows the critic to shift the focus to something else—usually something trivial in the larger context, so as to dismiss the whole. So once again, we’ll look at the pronouns in Ancillary Justice. By focusing on the pronouns, the sad whelkfins are able to dismiss the entire work as nothing more than a political screed against men, as turgid message fiction that doesn’t even tell a good story.

That’s a massive tell to anyone who has actually read the book—because while the pronouns do take some adjustment, they’re a small part of the novel’s world–building and not a major source of plot or conflict. They just are, the way there is air to breathe and skel to eat.

(4) “Updates on the Chinese Nebula Awards and the Coordinates Awards” at Amazing Stories has the full list of award winners (only two were reported here on the night of the ceremony). Since Steve Davidson is able to reproduce the titles in the original language, all the more reason to refer you there.

(5) Liu Cixin participated in “The Future of China through Chinese Science Fiction” at the University of Sydney on November 3.

(6) Crossed Genres Magazine will close after the December 2015 issue reports Locus Online.

Co-publisher Bart Lieb posted a statement:

Two primary factors led to this decision. First, one of Crossed Genres’ co-publishers, Kay Holt, has been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for more than two years. It’s made it extremely difficult for her to help with the running of CG, leaving the lion’s share of responsibilities on the other co-publisher, Bart Leib, who’s also working a day job. Magazine co-editor Kelly Jennings, ebook coordinator Casey Seda, and our team of first readers have all been heroic in their volunteer efforts, but we’ve still been unable to keep from falling behind.

The second factor is simply that the magazine has run out of funds to continue. In April 2014 we ran a successful Kickstarter to keep CG Magazine going, but once another year had passed, roughly 90 percent of those who’d pledged to the Kickstarter chose not to renew their memberships….

(7) Today In History

  • November 3, 1956 — On this night in 1956, CBS presented the first broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.  It was a major event for which the network paid MGM a quarter of a million dollars for the rights (over $2,000,000 in today’s dollars.)
  • November 3, 1976 — Brian De Palma’s Carrie is seen for the very first time

(8) Today’s Birthday Monster

  • November 3, 1954 — Godzilla was released in Japanese theaters.

(9) Today’s Belated Birthday

  • Lovecraft’s 125th birthday (in August) was celebrated in many ways in Providence. A new plaque was installed near his birthplace at 454 Angell Street, designed, created, and installed by Gage Prentiss.

(10) Today’s Yodeling Marmot

(11) “Transparent Aluminum: IT’S REAL!” at Treehugger.

Remember Star Trek: The Voyage Home, where Scotty talks into a computer mouse and then instantly figures out keyboards and gives away the formula for transparent Aluminum? And remember Galaxy Quest, where Commander Taggart tells the Justin Long character about the ship: “IT’S REAL!”

Mash those two scenes together and you have Spinel, described by US Naval Research Laboratory scientist Dr. Jas Sanghera as “actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate. The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.” He likes it for the same reason Scotty did, according to an NRL press release

(12) Arlan Andrews told Facebook friends that Ken Burnside has answered the Alfies.

The Wreck of the Hugo

So, today I received this 3D-printed crashed rocket ship, titled “The Wreck of the Hugo” as created by artist Charles Oines and commissioned by Ken Burnside. Others went to Kary English, Mike Resnick, and Toni Weisskopf. According to Ken Burnside, the official 2015 Hugo voting tallies showed each of us recipients as runners-up to the 2500-vote NO AWARD bloc that wrecked the Hugos this year in many categories. I gratefully accept the gifted award in the spirit in which it was given, and sincerely hope that no future Hugo nominees are ever again voted off the island in such a fashion.

(That last part resonates strangely, at least in my memory, because “I accept this award in the spirit in which it is given” was Norman Spinrad’s answer when handed the Brown Hole Award for Outstanding Professionalism in 1973. And he was right to be suspicious.)

(13) Meanwhile, the curator of the Alfies, George R.R. Martin, is already making recommendations for the Dramatic Presentation categories in “Hugo Thoughts”.

In the past, I have usually made my own Hugo recommendations only after nominations have opened. But in light of what happened last year, it seems useful to begin much sooner. To get talking about the things we like, the things we don’t like. This is especially useful in the case of the lesser known and obscure work. Drawing attention to such earlier in the process is the best way to get more fans looking at them… and unless you are aware of a work, you’re not likely to nominate it, are you? (Well, unless you’re voting a slate, and just ticking off boxes).

Let me start with the Dramatic Presentation category. Long form….

(14) Damien G. Walter does best when the target is as easy to hit as the broad side of a barn. “Gus. A Case Study In Sad Puppy Ignorance”.

Firstly, is Gus actually asking us to believe that Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed early feminist icon, daughter of philosopher and political activist Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of romantic poet and political radical Percy Byshe Shelley, close friend of paramilitary revolutionary Lord Byron, and author of  seven novels (many science fictional) and innumerable other stories, essays and letters, all of them revealing a life of deep engagement with political and social issues of gender, class, sexuality and more, that this same Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus (a subtitle explicitly invoking the mythical act of stealing fire from the gods as an opening rhetorical reference to the risks of scientific endeavour) as, and I quote, “the sole purpose of…macabre entertainment”? Because I would suggest, on the basis of all available evidence, including every single thing ever written about Frankenstein, that Gus is in a minority on this one. In fact, I will go so far as to say that he is utterly, absurdly and idiotically wrong.

(15) John Thiel’s responses to Steve Davidson’s queries about “trufandom” appear in “The Voices of Fandom” at Amazing Stories.

Steve’s introduction notes –

I posed a series of interview questions to members of the Fan History group on Facebook.  I thought it would be a good place to start because that group is made up entirely of Trufans.

Today, I present the first in a series of responses to those questions and I should point out that, in typical Fannish fashion, the answers are anything but monolithic.  Apparently Fans have as many different ideas about what it means to be a Fan as there are Fans, which just serves to point out how difficult it is to get a handle on this question.

(16) A video interview with Dame Diana Rigg.

Five decades since she first appeared as Emma Peel in The Avengers (1961-1969), fans of the show still approach Dame Diana Rigg to express their gratitude. Rigg joins BFI curator Dick Fiddy to reflect on the influence of Peel on real-life women and acting with Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry.

(17) Jon Michaud reviews Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons in The New Yorker and accuses the biographer of shielding Gygax rather than exploring more deeply the controversial topic of his religious views.

Dr. Thomas Radecki, a founding member of the National Coalition on TV Violence, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the game Dungeons & Dragons is causing young men to kill themselves and others.” In her book “Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society,” Tipper Gore connected the game to satanism and the occult. All of this prompted a “60 Minutes” segment in which Gygax rejected these myriad accusations, calling them “nothing but a witch hunt.”

What was largely unknown or omitted from this brouhaha is that Gygax was an intermittently observant Jehovah’s Witness. This startling fact crops up about halfway through Witwer’s biography, when he notes that Gygax’s “controversial” game, along with his smoking and drinking, had led to a parting of the ways with the local congregation. Up until that point, the matter of Gygax’s faith had gone unmentioned in the biography, and it is barely discussed thereafter. (The book’s index does not have an entry for “Jehovah’s Witness” or “Gygax, Gary—religious beliefs.”) Given the furor that D. & D. caused, the absence of a deeper analysis of Gygax’s faith is a glaring omission. In a recent interview with Tobias Carroll, Witwer acknowledged that Gygax “was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He would go door-to-door and he would give out pamphlets. He was pretty outspoken about it, as a matter of fact.” The reason for almost completely excluding it from the biography, Witwer says, is that “I couldn’t find it [as] a huge driving force in his life.…I didn’t want to be too heavy-handed with that, because I’m not clear that, especially with his gaming work and even his home life, how big a factor that was on a day-to-day basis. But I do know he was practicing.”

(18) Galactic Journey visits the year 1960 where young Mike Glyer’s favorite TV series, Men Into Space, is still on the air, and there’s even a tie-in novel by Murray Leinster.

men into space cover COMP.jpg

“Men Into Space” consists of short stories following the career of Space Force officer Ed McCauley:

As a lieutenant, McCauley makes the first manned rocket flight.

As a captain, McCauley deals with an injured crewman while piloting the first space-plane.

As a major, McCauley deals with a potentially-fatal construction accident while in charge the building of the first space station.

As a colonel, McCauley deals with a murderous personnel problem while overseeing the establishment of a series of radio relays to the moon’s far side, then deals with a technical problem aboard a rocket to Venus, and another personnel problem on a Mars mission.

Lots of nuts and bolts details about ballistics, rocket fuels, radiation, the van Allen belts, and so forth.  And with each story, McCauley deals with progressively more complex human problems as he moves up in rank.

Although 7-year-old me would have loved the tie-in novel, 35 cents would have been a king’s ransom in my personal economy….

(19) Here’s a photo of the Cosmos Award presentation to Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Planetary Society 35th anniversary celebration on October 24.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society's Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek" (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek” (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Before the award was given to Tyson, Nye reminisced about meeting Tyson through the organization. Nye then showed a photo of what Tyson looked like in 1980, when he was a wrestler (Tyson wrestled in high school and college), and Tyson joked that he kicked some serious butt.

Tyson had come prepared, and showed a photo of Nye in 1980, in a “Coneheads” costume, with a silver ring around his head.

(20) The Red Bull Music Academy website has published David Keenan’s “Reality Is For People Who Can’t Handle Science Fiction”, about the influence of SF on French progressive rock from 1969 through 1985.

In 2014 I interviewed Richard Pinhas of Heldon, still one of the central punk/prog mutants to come out of the French underground. I asked him about the influence of the visionary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick on his sound and on his worldview. “Philip K. Dick was a prophet to us,” Pinhas explained. “He saw the future.”

It makes sense that a musical and cultural moment that was obsessed with the sound of tomorrow would name a sci-fi writer as its central avatar. Indeed, while the Sex Pistols spat on the British vision of the future dream as a shopping scheme, the French underground projected it off the planet altogether.

When Pinhas formed Heldon in 1974 he named the group in tribute to sci-fi writer Norman Spinrad’s 1972 novel The Iron Dream, conflating his own vision of a mutant amalgam of Hendrix-inspired psychedelic rock and cyborg-styled electronics with Spinrad’s re-writing of history.

(21) At CNN, “Art transforms travel photos with paper cutouts”:

That’s what happened when Londoner Rich McCor began adorning pictures of British landmarks with whimsical paper cutouts and posting the results online.

Originally, the 28-year-old creative agency worker intended the photos for the amusement of himself and friends.

Then he got a lesson on the impact of “viral” when Britain’s “Daily Mail” publicized some of his photos.

 

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 [Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Janice Gelb, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

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.

Men Into Space: A History

MenIntoSpace_front-500x500Steve Davidson gave a glowing review to Men Into Space by John C. Frederiksen on the Amazing Stories blog. Men Into Space was the late-1950s hard science fiction adventure series that in the eyes of pre-teen Mike Glyer took up where the space exploration episodes of Disneyland left off.

Publisher Bear Manor Media’s description is in synch with my memory of the show’s only season:

Popular actor William Lundigan appeared as the redoubtable Colonel Edward McCauley, who grappled with many of the same problems that real astronauts encountered in their quest to reach the Moon a decade later. It was a somber departure from previous televised science fiction fare, aimed at juveniles, and served up the drama and excitement of space flight in realistic fashion.

In 38 black-and-white episodes, McCauley endures lunar crashes, renegade satellites, runaway space stations, meteor strikes, and colliding tankers, in addition to memorable encounters with feuding scientists, balky subordinates, hostile cosmonauts, and space babes. All told, Men Into Space is a classic slice of 1950s Americana and exuberantly reflects the national obsession with astronautics of its day. It is a must for devotees of the heroic age of spaceflight and early science fiction television.

Davidson praises all aspects of the book, especially its episode summaries —

Where Men Into Space really shines though is John’s presentation of all 38 episodes. With loving detail and an evident encyclopedic familiarity with each one, Frederiksen lays out the action, the conflict, the personalities and the emotion in a page-turning, exciting and completely engaging manner; the closest comparison I can find to his semi-fictional presentation are James Blish’s Star Trek (TOS) episode novelizations.

You’ve sold me, Steve. Dialing my Kindle now…

Stuart James Byrne (1913-2011)

William Lundigan in Men Into Space.

Stuart James Byrne died September 23, 2011 according to the Social Security Administration, although so far as Andrew Porter can tell this is just now coming to the attention of fandom.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Byrne’s stories were published in Science Stories, Amazing Stories, Imagination, and Other Worlds. In the mid-1950s he wrote a novel called Tarzan on Mars that the Burroughs estate would not authorize to be published, a minor controversy stoked by Ray Palmer, Other Worlds’ editor. In the 1970s, Byrne also worked as a translator on the Perry Rhodan series from German to English.

What especially caught my eye in Byrne’s Wikipedia entry is that he wrote for Men Into Space, which aspired to be a realistic weekly drama about near-future space exploration. It aired in 1959 and 1960 – my 7-year-old self watched it the same season The Flintstones premiered (see Yabba Dabba Doo Time from the other day.)

What would I think of it today? Impossible to guess, though from an effects and design standpoint the show’s producers seem to have invested a lot of effort, using Navy pressure suits in the premiere, taking inspiration from Von Braun’s proposed spacecraft, and hiring Chesley Bonestell to contribute some of the imagery.

Byrne wrote the series’ episode entitled “Quarantine” (1959) and the story for “Contraband” (1960).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]