Name An SF Film With a Mimeograph In It

By Kim Huett: The Day The Earth Caught Fire is a 1961 British Lion/Pax Universal film produced and directed by Val Guest (director of the Hammer films, The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Quatermass 2 (1957)), who with Wolf Mankowitz, also wrote the screenplay. Additionally, I also see in the credits that Beatnik music was provided by Monty Norman and you don’t see too many science fiction films featuring Beatnik music.

The film stars Leo McKern, Janet Munro, and Edward Judd and deserves to be better remembered as not only is it quite well made (barring some slightly dodgy special effects) but it also avoids the overused Earth being invaded by aliens plot. Instead The Day The Earth Caught Fire revolves around the idea of what would happen if H-bomb testing knocked the Earth out of its orbit and sent it spiraling towards the Sun. It’s a rather earnest anti-nuclear story that’s very much a product of the early sixties, but that’s what makes it so interesting.

(Just as an aside, I see Leo McKern and Edward Judd were both in an earlier SF film I’m keen to watch, X the Unknown, which features a living radioactive mass. These two don’t seem to have had much luck with radioactivity. In other startling news during Janet Munro’s disappointingly short film career she was in The Crawling Eye, a 1958 mess that made it on to MST3K. Despite the film being quite terrible it has her, Forrest Tucker, and Warren Mitchel in the cast.)

Anyway, apart from anything else much of the film is set in the offices of a daily newspaper which means that scene after scene is filled with the technology of yesterday in full use. However the best scene as far as I’m concerned involves Edward Judd entering the Press Office of the Meteorological Centre only to discover Janet Munro attempting to clean (or so I assume) a certain piece of technology once central to fanzine production. As far as I’m aware The Day The Earth Caught Fire is the only science fiction film to feature a mimeograph machine and that alone makes it special in my book.

[Reprinted by permission.]

Talkin’ About the 50 Ways

So many capsule histories of fan fiction are appearing under the influence of Fifty Shades of Grey that one occasionally defies Sturgeon’s odds.

The Guardian’s Ewan Morrison presents an exceptionally coherent history of fan-fic, “In the beginning, there was fan fiction: from the four gospels to Fifty Shades”, noteworthy for its gloss of this faanish classic:

The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw was a metafiction based on Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, but which described a world populated with sci-fi fans. It chronicles the adventures of hero Jophan in “the land of Mundane”. All of the characters in the book are renamed versions of real fans from the London SF circle of the 50s and the book was created entirely for their pleasure.

(Note: This post cried out to be named “50 Shades of Purple” — in America the word “duplicator” triggers images of volatile-smelling copies fresh from the school’s spirit duplicator. However, as anyone likely to care already knows full well, The Enchanted Duplicator is a mimeograph. The technology A.B. Dick trademarked in America as the mimeograph was often called in Britain by its generic name, stencil duplicator, otherwise shortened to duplicator.)

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

In the Beginning

It’s appropriate that during Corflu weekend an antique Edison mimeograph machine is being auctioned on eBay.

Several large photos show the item in all its glory, enough to set the heart of any steampunk fan racing. A metal plate on the mimeo’s wooden box says it was made by A.B. Dick in Chicago and displays a patent date of 1880. There are interior compartments for the flatbed mimeo screen and ink roller. Sure looks like this equipment has seen heavy use somewhere along the way.

The original set of operating instructions is still inside. (So it obviously never belonged to a guy.)

The seller is asking for an opening bid of $49.99.

[Thanks to Steve Davidson for the story.]