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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One word helps explain why: immersion.

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

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

The category: 20th Century Novels.

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

Wrong question: “What is 1984?”

Correct question: What is “A Clockwork Orange?”

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

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

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