By Steve Vertlieb: (Beware spoilers.) The frenzy of joyous controversy swirling over director Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up has stirred a healthy, if frenetic debate over the meaning and symbology of this bonkers dramedy. On its surface a cautionary satire about the impending destruction of the planet, Don’t Look Up is a deceptively simplistic tale of moronic leadership refusing to accept a grim, unpleasant reality smacking it in its face. While some have written of its hidden ecological message, the film clearly takes unrelenting aim at the vulgar stupidity which has dominated domestic politics and the American landscape over the past half dozen years. Delicately bending genders in its casting of both The President of The United States and the most prominent “child” occupying the White House are Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill as, presumably, the former President and First Daughter, both concerned only with their own selfish pleasures and narcissistic gratification.
When scientific expert Leonardo DiCaprio brings the pair the news that an humongous comet, roughly the size of Mount Everest, is dangerously hurtling toward the Earth on a collision course that will devastate and ultimately destroy the planet, they choose to minimize the threat and look the other way in order to avoid the moral responsibility of facing an Inconvenient Truth. The allusions to Covid and its official denials from the commander-in-chief are unmistakable. If we just choose to ignore the impending disaster and indefinitely postpone potential solutions, then the threat will simply disappear.
Mark Rylance in a chilling turn as creepy media guru Peter Isherwell is a ne’er-do-well in a self absorbed caricature that appears to fluctuate uneasily between Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Orwellian “double speak” proliferates the troubling lines of communication between science and political ambition while a deadly comet continues to its deadly destination and fate, untroubled by mortal greed and smug complacency. Ignorance is apparent bliss, as reality is met with anger and suspicion. While Covid appears a not so subtle substitute for the planet killer and coming genocide, Proud Boys entrenched within the political establishment continue to laugh contemptuously at the indisputable fact that life on Earth is swiftly nearing its inevitable conclusion. Philosophical allusions continue with disturbingly similarity to descriptions of the January 6th insurrection by Conservative Republican zealots as a “love fest” in which rioters “hugged and kissed” capital police.
While comedic in much of its tone and scripted tenor, there lies an ominous blinding light at the end of the structural tunnel that portends a frightening prophecy come true, recalling the melancholy conclusions of films like Knowing, Deep Impact, and Searching For A Friend At The End of The World. The ultimate irony of the film lies in the subtle truth that reality happens whether one chooses to accept it or not… whether one chooses to turn a blind eye to it or not. A character in the film at its finale, hearing a deafening roar, looks up into the night sky, asking in understated terror “WHAT IS THAT”? By then, of course, it’s too late. The proverbial door has quite literally kicked us in the ass. We’ve chosen to turn away from the truth while being told Don’t Look Up. By the time we’ve instinctually turned our direction toward the sky, it’s too late.
Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!
… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.
… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?” He said “No. But my characters do.” As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”
… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …
… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests.
… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.
His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….
Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.
… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios. Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each. To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations.
There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.
… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble. Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while. It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house. And then it was gone from sight. I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…
On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)
This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….
Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.
There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”
And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show. Working on Dublin was like that for me as well. I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”
But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…
… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”
… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….
Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.
The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….
The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….
… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….
…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…
Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.
If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….
… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few….
The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?
Then down the long hall there arose so much chat, that I sprang from my chair to see what was that? Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng as the loud murmuration came strolling along.
… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.
I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….
Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….
… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….
The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.
A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.
“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”
“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”
“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…
… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….
Steve Vertlieb’s tribute to actor Nehemiah Persoff is still finding new audiences on Facebook – enough to make his August birthday post File 770’s most-read item of November. And Steve’s item about the music used in an episode of the Fifties Superman TV series was also a hit last month.
Here are the 10 most-read posts of November 2021 according to Google Analytics.
(1) KEEPING THE RR IN GRRM. Thanks to checks from George R.R. Martin and his fellow investors, a moribund Santa Fe, NM railroad is being revived as the Sky Railway, open to riders on December 3. Martin told readers of Not a Blog:
On December 3, right here in New Mexico, we will be opening the Sky between Santa Fe and Lamy.
Sky Railway, to be precise.
That’s the new name of the old Santa Fe Southern, the historic short-haul railroad originally build by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe back in the nineteenth century. Largely moribund since 2012, the railway was acquired in 2020 by a group that included me, Bill Banowsky (founder of Magnolia Films and Violet Crown Cinemas), bestselling mystery author Douglas Preston, and five other prominent Santa Feans (Margaritas may have had something to do with our decision). We’ve been busy ever since restoring and refurbishing the cars, repairing the tracks and tressels, replacing old seats, fixing broken windows, even installing a new engine into one of our old locomotives. All of which took longer and cost more than we had originally anticipated… but hey, that’s pretty much always the case….
DAC: What is your mood on climate politics in fall 2021? What developments are keeping you up at night? What developments are making you optimistic that we can avoid the worst?
KSR: I’m scared by the latest IPCC report, which confirms that we are in terrible trouble — on the edge of catastrophe. And we need to act fast.
I’m encouraged by the discoveries that I’ve made since writing The Ministry for the Future. I wrote that book mostly in 2019. That’s like a previous geological era now, because of the pandemic. Certainly the timeline that I portrayed in Ministry for the Future, which was vague and notional anyway, is shot, because things are happening faster in the mitigation front.
The catastrophes are coming faster than scientists predicted, but within the range of their predictions. The response is picking up, because the pandemic was a slap in the face. I didn’t know about the Network for Greening the Financial System: 89 of the biggest central banks trying to figure out how to tweak finance towards green work.
I didn’t know that there were actual papers in Nature quantifying the possibilities of pumping water out from under the big glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland. I wrote about them in Ministry for the Future, but I wrote about them as if they were not yet in existence — when they already had been for a few years. So I was behind the curve in some ways.
The Road might go “ever on and on” for Bilbo Baggins, but it has come to a sharp end for the developer of a cryptocurrency called JRR Token, after the estate of JRR Tolkien took legal action to block it.
The Lord of the Rings-themed cryptocurrency, with the tagline “The One Token That Rules Them All”, launched in August. It came with a video endorsement from Billy Boyd, the actor who played Pippin in the films, and the head-scratching claim that “Saruman was trying to unify Middle Earth under centralised rule whereas the fellowship wanted decentralisation. Cryptocurrency is literally a decentralised network.”
The Tolkien estate was not convinced. It took action almost immediately via the World Intellectual Property Organization’s arbitration procedure, where it argued that the product infringed its trademark rights to JRR Tolkien’s name, and that the domain name was “specifically designed to mislead internet users into believing that it and the website to which it resolves have some legitimate commercial connection” with Tolkien….
See, the estate might not have minded if these fellows had started the relationship off right, by paying them a bunch of money (not cryptocurrency, of course.)
The storyboards for the doomed 1970s film version of sci-fi classic Dune have sold for €2.66m ($3m) at auction, about 100 times the expected price.
Long considered a mythical object by sci-fi fans, the notebook of drawings for the film by Franco-Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky triggered a bidding war at Christie’s in Paris.
The film project was supposed to bring together some major stars of the period, including Salvador Dalí, Mick Jagger and Pink Floyd – but fell apart after four years of preparation due to lack of funding.
The auction went down to two determined bidders, with an American eventually emerging victorious.
Christie’s admitted their initial valuation for the drawings – between €25,000 and €35,000 – had failed to account for the spike in interest triggered by the new version of the film starring Timothée Chalamet, which has topped box offices around the world.
(5) MAZE BRUNNER. The New Yorker tells “How the World’s Foremost Maze-Maker Leads People Astray”. “Adrian Fisher has devoted the past four decades to bringing back mazes, long regarded as historical curiosities. He has created more than seven hundred—including one on a skyscraper in Dubai and another that’s now reproduced on Britain’s five-pound note.”
…[Archbishop] Runcie’s dream gave him an idea: Fisher wrote to the letters page of the London Times, briefly outlining the maze’s long history as a Christian symbol and noting that, as in the Archbishop’s dream, a maze’s goal is typically reached not by “pressing toward the center” but, rather, by “returning almost to the edge,” in order to find the proper path. In his signature, Fisher styled himself a “Maze Consultant,” and, before long, this stealth marketing had reeled in a customer, and Minotaur’s first public commission. Lady Elizabeth Brunner, a former actress who was married to a chemical magnate, invited Fisher to tea. Over scones and jam, she wondered aloud whether he might create an Archbishop’s Maze, inspired by Runcie’s words, in her garden at Greys Court, a Tudor manor house in Oxfordshire….
(6) WARHAMMER AGAINST HATE GROUPS. It is unknown what the inciting incident (if any) was for this, but Games Workshop put out a very strong statement about not wanting any real-life hate groups represented at their events and stores: “The Imperium Is Driven by Hate. Warhammer Is Not.” The full statement is at the link.
…That said, certain real-world hate groups – and adherents of historical ideologies better left in the past – sometimes seek to claim intellectual properties for their own enjoyment, and to co-opt them for their own agendas.
We’ve said it before, but a reminder about what we believe in:
“We believe in and support a community united by shared values of mutual kindness and respect. Our fantasy settings are grim and dark, but that is not a reflection of who we are or how we feel the real world should be. We will never accept nor condone any form of prejudice, hatred, or abuse in our company, or in the Warhammer hobby.”
If you come to a Games Workshop event or store and behave to the contrary, including wearing the symbols of real-world hate groups, you will be asked to leave. We won’t let you participate. We don’t want your money. We don’t want you in the Warhammer community….
What happens when fans of Joss Whedon grow up and start working in television and movies? Netflix’s remake of Cowboy Bebop.
I can’t say for sure if the writers and showrunners on Bebop were, like I once was, huge fans of Buffy or Angel, the two shows that put Whedon on the map. Based on the way the characters speak, it sure sounds like it, though. Over the years, I’ve begun to notice more and more “Whedonspeak,” as the phenomenon used to be called, in mainstream television and movies. Describing the qualities that make dialogue sound Whedonesque is now difficult though, because those qualities are ubiquitous.
….Characters in Whedon’s shows talk a lot, and they talk in very particular ways. Characters are often imprecise in their language, letting sentences trail off as they struggle to articulate themselves. They turn nouns into verbs and vice versa. They say “thing” or “thingy” or “stuff” in place of more descriptive terms. Often these characters metatextually comment on their surroundings or the environments they’re in, usually in a sarcastic or snarky way. The tone of this is pretty “wink wink, nudge nudge,” as if the writers are speaking through the characters to the audience, rather than the characters commenting on the situation they are in….
When Buffy Summers says, “Well, if this guy wants to fight with weapons, I’ve got it covered from A to Z, from axe to… zee other axe,” that’s a prime example of Whedonspeak. When, in long-running BBC show Doctor Who, the titular Doctor says, “This is my timey-wimey detector. It goes ding when there’s stuff,” that is also Whedonspeak. This clip, where the lead characters of Star Wars movie The Rise of Skywalker say “They fly now? They fly now!” to each other shows you how far the phenomenon of Whedonspeak has spread….
…Fans have been waiting for it since 2014, when Written in My Own Heart’s Blood left them hanging, but Gabaldon has been somewhat delayed by the television adaptation of her series, which kicked off that year and on which she is a consultant. Go Tell the Bees, in which Jamie and Claire have finally been reunited with their time-travelling daughter Brianna and her family in 1779 North Carolina, only for the American revolution to cast its shadow over their lives, also runs to more than 900 pages.
I feel sorry for George RR Martin – his show caught up with him. But they’ll never catch me
“It was definitely more of a challenge to write, mostly because of the chronology, which was very complicated,” she says. In any event, seven years is less time than fans of George RR Martin have been holding on for the sixth Game of Thrones novel; Gabaldon has, incidentally, included a chapter in her latest doorstopper called The Winds of Winter – a “nod or a dig, depending on how you want to interpret it” at Martin’s writing speed.
“Poor George, I feel very sorry for him,” she says. “What happened is that his show caught up with him, and he then met with the showrunners and he told them what he was planning to do in that book, so that they could then write accordingly. Only they didn’t write accordingly, they took his stuff, and distorted it and wrote their own ending, which wasn’t at all what he had in mind but used all the elements that he told them.”
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1963 — Fifty-eight years ago, “An Unearthly Child”, the very first Doctor Who story, began airing on the BBC. Scripted by Australian writer Anthony Coburn, the serial introduced William Hartnell as the First Doctor and his original companions of Carole Ann Ford, the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan Foreman, with Jacqueline Hill and William Russell as school teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton.
Reception was mixed with The Mail, Daily Worker and Television Today liking it very much while the Guardian was rather unimpressed by it. Current critics think it’s fine if a bit long in the latter two parts. There’s a story that it was cancelled after this series due to quite poor ratings before being revived a month later but that makes no sense give the short turn-around time between the two series. It has a sixty-eight percent rating currently among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 23, 1887 — Boris Karloff. Where do I start? Well, consider the Thirties. He portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, and Imhotep in The Mummy. And he played a great pulp character in Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu too! Now let’s jump forward to the Sixties and the matter of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! which featured him as both the voice of The Grinch and the narrator of the story as well. I know I’ve skipped four decades of that means not a word about such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he was the latter. (Died 1969.)
Born November 23, 1914 — Wilson Tucker. Author and very well known member of fandom. I’m going to just direct you here to “A Century of Tucker” by Mike as I couldn’t say anything about him that was this good. (Died 2006.)
Born November 23, 1916 — Michael Gough. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifities and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. Speaking of Doctor Who, Gough appeared there, as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Burton again in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. He would mostly retire that year from performing though he would voice later that Corpse Bride role and the Dodo in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. (Died 2011.)
Born November 23, 1951 — David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to the Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.)
Born November 23, 1955 — Steven Brust, 66. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing reviewing of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille that he told us at Green Man that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, is stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, ““Songs From The Gypsy” is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
Born November 23, 1966 — Michelle Gomez, 55. Best known genre role is Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master so later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used but she made a fine one. She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. And she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. She is now playing Madame Rouge on the Doom Patrol.
Born November 23, 1967 — Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 54. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but she charmingly voiced Eliza Mazda, the main human character, on the Gargoyles series! She shows up as the character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would.
Born November 23, 1970 — Oded Fehr, 51. Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: Apocalypse, Extinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, Stitchers, V, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series. He appeared in the third season of Discovery as Fleet Admiral Charles Vance.
(11) BIRTHDAY P.S. — CELEBRATING BORIS KARLOFF’S BIRTHDAY![Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Born November 23rd, 1887, Boris Karloff would have celebrated his birthday today.
He was a gentle giant who charmed children of all ages, while thrilling their parents in beloved tales of classic terror. The wonderful Boris Karloff was born on November 23rd, 1887, and is the subject of a new, full length, screen documentary, written and produced by Ronald Maccloskey, entitled “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The “Monster.”
“Karloff, The Uncanny” became Frankenstein’s “Monster” to generations of adoring movie goers but, at his core, was a cultured gentleman, loving father, and hard working performer who co-created the legendary Screen Actor’s Guild in his quest for equal rights for actors all over the world.
His cinematic legacy is incalculable. William Henry Pratt was a cultured, lovely soul whose presence enriched the timeless fabric of motion pictures, television, radio, and the Broadway stage, and became the most enduringly beloved actor in the checkered history of classic “Horror Films.” Here is my affectionate remembrance of this gentle giant … the undisputed “King of Horror” …the one and only Boris Karloff. “The Thunder Child: Vertlieb’s Views: The Life of Boris Karloff”.
…But on Nov. 1, staffers from Image Comics — home to Spawn, The Walking Dead and Savage Dragon franchises — formed a union called Comic Book Workers United (CBWU), with 10 of the 12 eligible staffers voting to organize and go public. The employees were assisted by organizers from the Communications Workers of America, a labor giant organizing workers across multiple industries.
…While unions are a long-standing reality for the movie-making parent companies of publishers like DC and Marvel, the comic book industry has historically been resistant, with publishers having fired creators discussing the possibility in the past. No creative guild exists solely for comic book freelancers; the Writers Guild of America’s minimum basic agreement is based upon work developed for broadcast rather than print, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America only recently voted to admit comic writers and graphic novelists. “We’re crafting membership requirements for this new group of creators,” SFWA president Jeffe Kennedy says of the organization’s current position.
Of the nine goals the CBWU lists on its website, there is an obvious through-line, visible via repeated requests for transparency in terms of workload and employer expectations; the group asks for the opportunity to provide “white glove attention for all the books we publish … in reasonable proportion to the actual quantity of output we generate.”…
(13) SIGHTED BY SOCIAL MEDIA’S HUBBLE TELESCOPE. John Scalzi explains the growth on his 2008 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award.
(14) STAR TREK MAKES HISTORY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw an episode of “The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek” on the History Channel. The episode, narrated by Gates McFadden, was about the animated series of 1973-74. The show’s creators were proud that it is the only version of Star Trek to win an Emmy for writing (others have won for makeup) and that it was the first version of Star Trek to feature Native American mythology. Larry Niven and David Gerrold were both interviewed about their scripts for the series; Niven’s was the rare episode where a character died on Saturday morning cartoon television.
The Center Seat: 55 Years Of Star Trek is a multi-episode documentary series that takes viewers on the definitive in-depth journey behind the scenes of one of the greatest landmark franchises of all time: Star Trek. Celebrating the show’s 55th anniversary, each episode focuses on a different chapter in the groundbreaking program’s history, starting with its inception at Lucille Ball’s legendary production company Desilu. Interviews with the cast, crew and experts reveal never-before-heard backstage stories and offer fresh insights. No stone is left unturned, including lesser-known aspects of the franchise like The Animated Series and Phase II. Additionally, The Center Seat features one of Leonard Nimoy’s final in-depth Trek interviews. Star Trek is the most iconic television science-fiction saga of all time and remains more popular than ever. The Center Seat details how it began, where it’s been, and how it’s boldly going where no television series has gone before!
(15) DUEL. Artist Will Quinn did this piece based on David Lynch’s Dune (1984):
Plan 9 From Outer Space is often regarded as the worst movie of all time, and the making of it is well documented in the Tim Burton biopic Ed Wood, which is about the titular eccentric writer and director. However, as bad as it is, there are a lot of great ideas in it.
As outrageous as it sounds, the movie’s narrative of extraterrestrials attempting to stop humanity from creating a doomsday device that could destroy the universe is oddly relevant. With so much war and nuclear weapons that could be detonated at any time, a Plan 9 From Outer Space could be shockingly dramatic and could play out like an episode of Black Mirror.
…There’s a medical algorithm that favors white patients over sick or black ones, which is unforgivable in a system that already treats black people like an afterthought. Unfortunately in America getting appropriate health care is a lot like playing chess: when you’re white you always get to go first. That’s why my strategy and either one is to just yell “King me!” and see if i get anything extra…
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Shang-Chi And The Legend of Ten Rings” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the movie is about “the ultimate power fantasy: Kicking your dad’s ass” and the film combines Jackie Chan comedy, wuxia super action, and “the CGI toilet slurry of a Marvel third act.”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Jennifer Hawthorne, N., Ben Bird Person, Chris Barkley, Steve Vertilieb, John A Arkansawyer, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]
By Steve Vertlieb: I just saw a tribute to an old friend at Dick Klemensen’s Facebook page. Dick, the editor and publisher of Little Shoppe of Horrors Magazine, is seated to the left of frame, next to Don Kraar, wearing glasses and his trademark smile. This photo goes back a bit. Several of the celebrants pictured are, sadly, no longer with us. Old pal Ron Borst, happily still vital and healthy, is pictured to the right of frame. To his right is the late Gary Dorst whose friendship brightened the lives of everyone who knew him while, Jimmy Bernard, the great British film composer who scored most of Hammer Films’ Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee horror classics is seated to the left of Dick.
In the center, however, with his large hands leaning upon my shoulder, is a giant, bearded bear of a man named John Farnham Scott. John was a wonderful actor, and an even better pal. A pal is someone whom you look to for happy memories, unwavering support and, above all, the love that sometimes can only be shared by men whose common interests and close proximity unite them over the passage of time as more than friends, but as brothers. John was such a soul.
As Dick eloquently recounted in his own tribute to John this morning, he was a solid actor and seasoned performer who had a featured role in the three part television mini-series George Washington which starred Barry Bostwick in the title character role, and which aired on network television many years ago. “His major roles were as General Henry Knox in the 3-part miniseries George Washington (with Barry Bostwick) where he gave a very powerful and touching performance reading the Declaration of Independence. The lead in a romantic comedy (based on Cyrano) called Fat Chance/Fat Angels. And one of the comedy supporting cast in the Robert Hay comedy Touched.”
John was the very definition of a big, loveable teddy bear. He was a big man with a bigger heart. He loved his friends. They were his family. We, his family, loved him back. He was a generous soul who shared his warmth, humor, and affection with everyone fortunate enough to know him. I lost track of John when he grew ill several years ago, and entered a nursing home. I gather from Dick that he’d suffered a stroke at the end. He was a joyous man, and a beloved friend to many of us. I was honored to think of him as such.
“Goodnight, Sweet Prince. And Flights of Angels Sing Thee To Thy Rest.”
(1) BEGIN AT THE FRONT. Alex Shvartsman is including File 770 in today’s cover reveal of The Middling Affliction, his humorous urban fantasy novel forthcoming form Caezik SF&F on April 12, 2022. Art is by Tulio Brito.
What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.
Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.
(2) WHEN YOUR STORY’S FINISHED, WHAT NEXT? [Item by Melanie Stormm.] John Wiswell recently wrote a thread on how a Nebula winner submits short fiction. Thought it might be helpful to someone. Thread starts here. An excerpt from his advice:
(3) LOOKING AT THE SUBJECT FROM ALL SIDES. Brenton Dickieson has launched his “Blogging the Hugos 2021” novel review series at A Pilgrim in Narnia. His introductory post tells why he’s writing it, and gives the schedule.
…The 2021 Hugo Awards ceremonies will be on Dec 18th at DisCon III in Washington, DC. Ahead of the event, Signum University is hosting a panel discussion of the nominees. My job will be to represent Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, not so much in a battle of books but a winsome argument about great storytelling. Last year, I was delighted to represent Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, a novel that did not win but was also nominated for the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Locus Award in the category of Best First Novel. It’s a beautiful, evocative book, and I very much enjoyed last year’s Signum Roundtable.
Thus, in looking forward to December’s conversation, I am blogging through the Hugo novels, offering a review or thoughtful essay each week leading up to the convention. I hope you can join in as we read and talk about the leading speculative fiction of the past year! This week, we’ll look at Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut Universe, followed by Martha Wells’ Network Effect next week….
…Not lost in world-building details, the structures of catastrophe and the struggles for liberation in the Lady Astronaut Universe are the context for stories of personal growth, trial, and triumph. The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky (2018) are from Elma York’s viewpoint, a friendly and self-conscious intellectual working as an IAC (human) computer with an unusually adept and intuitive mathematical sense. Elma finds herself in a battle to be heard as the mathematician who predicted the first global winter and subsequent global warming, as well as a skilled pilot vying to be the first woman in the space program. Her real battle, however, is with a general anxiety disorder that is triggered by stress and tragedy and an intense fear of the media or interpersonal conflict. With a winsome sense of relational connection and a rugged commitment to the possible, Elma finds a way to become “the first Lady Astronaut” (insert an earnest and upbeat 1950s TV commentator voice here).
(4) GORILLA MARKETING. [Item by John L. Coker III.] From a 1997 interview, here’s Julie’s take on the popularity of gorillas in DC comic books in the early-1950s, a topic mentioned in the November 9 Scroll (item #14).
Julius Schwartz: One day someone came into the office and said, “What has happened? Strange Adventures went sky-high.” I said, “Well, you know how it works. It must have been the cover,” because covers sold the magazines in those days. You went into a mom and pop store, where you saw hundreds of comics. You looked them over and picked out something that was interesting. I said, “Let’s look at the cover.” And on the cover, roughly, was this. It took place in a zoo, and there’s a cage, and inside the cage is a gorilla. And outside is an audience looking up at him, including a pretty girl whose name was Helen, as I vaguely recall. The gorilla had a little blackboard in his hand, and with a piece of chalk had written the following message: “Dear Helen, Please Help me. I’m the victim of a horrible scientific experiment.” You laugh, but it made you want to find out what it’s all about, so obviously you bought the magazine.
One way to find out is to try it again, so we tried another gorilla story, the secret being that the gorilla was not a gorilla, so to speak, but acting and reacting like a human. And it worked again.
We knew we had something, so I did a series of stories with gorillas on them, until finally all the other editors wanted to do one. Wonder Woman had one, Batman, they all had gorilla covers, until the editorial director said, “That does it. From now on, only one gorilla cover a month.” And then when that caught fire, they said, “We’re doing so well on this Strange Adventures, let’s put out another science fiction magazine.” I said, “Impossible. There are so many science fiction magazines being published that there are no titles left. I can’t even think of another title.” I’m sorry I never thought of Strange Gorilla Stories.
[Interview with John L. Coker III, 1997.]
(5) SPEAKING OF GORILLA ART. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] “King Kong” … Willis H. O’Brien … Ray Harryhausen: Exploring The Cultural Influence And Legacy Of A “Monstrous” Motion Picture Classic!
I had an opportunity quite recently to sit down once more with Host, Actor, Comedian, and Writer Ron MacCloskey for his Emmy Award Winning Public Television Series, “Classic Movies with Ron MacCloskey.”
Ron is the writer and producer of the new feature length documentary motion picture, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster,” now playing in theaters all across the globe.
For this Halloween themed episode of the popular program, however, we explored the cultural significance, history, and legacy of the most famous “Monster” of them all … King Kong … and his nearly ninety year influence on gorilla films of all shapes and sizes, as well as his career defining impact on the lives and reign of Stop Motion Animation legends, Willis H. O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen.
Our spirited conversation both precedes and follows the film segment. Simply click on the projector, or the blue link, in order to screen the program. ” Classic Movies: “The Gorilla”
(6) ON THE WEB. The Marvel’s Avengers – Spider-Man game character reveal trailer dropped today.
Watch the Marvel’s Avengers Spider-Man reveal trailer. Spider-Man swings into Marvel’s Avengers on November 30th, 2021. Get a first look at the Marvels Avengers PlayStation exclusive character joining the team in this cinematic Marvels Avengers Spider Man trailer!
… I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales….
Nothing spells plot like an independent trader plying the spacetime lanes in search of profit, in a world very much skewed against the little guy. Nothing, that is, unless one adds family! Now in addition to scrabbling after profit, one has extra motivation: failure isn’t merely an individual catastrophe. Bad judgement, terrible luck, or the machinations of a vast inhuman corporation could drag one’s whole family down into poverty…or worse….
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1951 — Seventy years ago, Flight to Mars as produced by Monogram Pictures premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman and Cameron Mitchell. The screenplay was by Arthur Strawn and it would be his only SF work. Critics who really didn’t like it compared it to the previously released Destination Moon and Rocketship XM with the comparison not being at all great as one critic noted: “Destination Moon was scientifically accurate, and Rocketship XM had a gripping dramatic script. This copycat production has neither.” This movie reused the ship interior from the Rocketship XM production, and the suits from the Destination Moon shoot. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twenty-two percent rating.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 11, 1916 — Donald Franson. Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964. With Howard DeVore wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970. When I stumble across an author and their works like this, I’m reminded how deep the genre is. (Died 2002.)
Born November 11, 1917 — Mack Reynolds. I assume you know he was the first writer to write an original novel based off the Trek series? Mission to Horatius came in 1968. I’m fond of his very first novel, The Case of The Little Green Men. He was a Hugo finalist at Chicon III (1962) for his “Status Quo” short story. Worked as an organizer for the Socialist Labor Party, then later was the most prolific short fiction writer in Campbell’s Analog – go figure. (Died 1983.)
Born November 11, 1922 — Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan which was nominated for a Hugo at Pittcon was his first SF novel, followed by Cat’s Cradle — which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. It was nominated for a Hugo at Pacificon II. Next up was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, which is one weird book and an even stranger film. The book was nominated for Hugo Award at Heicon (1970) but lost to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. However, the movie Slaughterhouse Five won a Hugo at Torcon II (1973 — over a field that also included Between Time and Timbuktu, a TV adaptation of other Vonngeut material.) While I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
Born November 11, 1925 — Jonathan Winters. Yes, he did do quite a few genre performances including an early one as James Howard “Fats” Brown in “A Game of Pool”, a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. He next shows up as Albert Paradine II in More Wild, Wild West. He had a recurring role in Mork & Mindy as a character named Mearth. You’ll find him in The Shadow film, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones, both of The Smurfs films and quite a bit more. He of course was a guest on The Muppets Show. Who wasn’t? (Died 2013.)
Born November 11, 1935 — Larry Anthony. Actor who made two appearances on the original Trek in “The Man Trap” (uncredited) and “Dagger of the Mind”. He also appeared on The Wild Wild West, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and had five appearences on Batman playing two different characters. He made two appearances on Get Smart! And his final genre role was on Mission Impossible. (Died 2005.)
Born November 11, 1947 — Victoria Schochet, 74. Wife of Eric Van Lustbader. She co-edited with John Silbersack and Mellisa Singer the most excellent The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy that came out in the Eighties. SFE says she has worked editorially at Analog though not what she did there.
Born November 11, 1960 — Stanley Tucci, 61. Actor, Director, and Producer with a lengthy resume of character roles in genre films including The Core (Yay! The Core!), Prelude to a Kiss, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Muppets Most Wanted, Beauty and the Beast, The Lovely Bones, Captain America: The First Avenger, Jack the Giant Slayer, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and The Hunger Games films, as well as numerous voice roles including Leonardo da Vinci in Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Born November 11, 1962 — Demi Moore, 59. Ghost, of course, for getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature. She has a recurring role as Linda in the Brave New World series that aired on Peacock for just one series before being cancelled.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
Bizarro earns its name with a superhero joke that could have been inspired by the quality of copyediting I do here…
…The rising star has had roles in Russell T Davies’ Years and Years and It’s a Sin, and with Davies set to take over from Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall next year, many have wondered whether he might bring West – or her It’s a Sin co-star Olly Alexander – along for the ride.
West herself addressed the rumours during an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com.
“I mean, the fact I’ve been named as one of the favourites is quite special,” she said. “So I mean, it would be an honour to be the Doctor. I’m glad people think I could do it. So yeah.”
It’s official – no Doctor Who theory is too outlandish any more. After series 12’s finale essentially canonised the Morbius Doctors and added Jo Martin’s Time Lord to the roster of regenerations, we’d say any and all bets are off for deep-cut fan ideas about the series as it continues.
Which is why we’re not dismissing out of hand the latest theory about Doctor Who: Flux, and specifically the idea that the series might be drawing from a story that never actually made it to TV – Lungbarrow, written by Marc Platt for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor but left on the shelf until Platt adapted it into a book some years later.
… That story would have delved into the ancestry and backstory of the Doctor, centred around his/her ancestral home of Lungbarrow – and now some fans think they might have seen that abandoned family seat in new series 13 episode War of the Sontarans, specifically within a black-and-white vision scene where Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor gazed up at a ruined, floating house before the main action of the story kicked off….
In this episode, we re-examine the saga of the notorious Sad Puppies. What happened? What ripple effects did it have on the sci-fi/fantasy community? Did we learn anything from this? Should we learn anything from this? And is there more to the story than the official narrative?
Kurt Schiller joins us to talk about angry mobs, squeecore writing, and the musical stylings of forgotten 90s techno group Psykosonik.
(17) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 44 of Octothorpe is up. What are John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty saying this time? Listen here.
We discuss burning melons and the latest news from Reclamation 2022 before discussing what an Eastercon might look like if it were held at a campsite. To round it off, we talk a lot about Dune. With sound effects.
(18) ASIMOV NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS.[Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover story of this week’s Nature concerns soft robots. Soft robots have garnered interest thanks to their ability to carry out complex tasks such as crawling and swimming. But making soft actuators remains difficult. This week’s Nature sees researchers’ new bubble-based method based on elastic polymers (plastics/rubbers) .
Inspired by living organisms, soft robots are developed from intrinsically compliant materials, enabling continuous motions that mimic animal and vegetal movement. In soft robots, the canonical hinges and bolts are replaced by elastomers assembled into actuators programmed to change shape following the application of stimuli, for example pneumatic inflation…
(19) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. And one for your home team… “US astronomy’s 10-year plan is super-ambitious” – “Its ‘decadal survey’ pitches big new space observatories, funding for large telescopes and a reckoning over social issues plaguing the field.”
A long-anticipated road map for the next ten years of US astronomy is here — and it’s nothing if not ambitious.
It recommends that NASA coordinate, build and launch three flagship space observatories capable of detecting light over a broad range of wavelengths. It suggests that the US National Science Foundation (NSF) fund two enormous ground-based telescopes in Chile and possibly Hawaii, to try to catch up with an advanced European telescope that’s under construction. And for the first time, it issues recommendations for how federal agencies should fight systemic racism, sexism and other structural issues that drive people out of astronomy, weakening the quality of the science….
(20) THEY CAN FLING IT FASTER THAN YOU CAN CATCH IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An interesting idea, and of course, nothing could possibly go wrong – “Company Wants to Launch Satellites With Huge Centrifugal Slingshot” (Gizmodo) — like, say, supercriminal seizes control of the aim controls, or there’s a sinkhole, and suddenly it’s aimed at Cleveland or whatever…
…Alternatives to launching rockets haven’t exactly been runaway successes, however. In the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence formed a joint partnership called Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project) to essentially develop giant Earth-based guns that could blast objects into space. HARP successfully fired a projectile 180 KM into the atmosphere using a 16-inch cannon built at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’ Yuma Proving Ground, but by the late ‘60s both governments had withdrawn funding for the research project, and it was officially shut down before it came to fruition.
SpinLaunch is taking a somewhat similar approach to Project HARP, but the kinetic space launch system it’s been developing since 2015 does away with explosive materials altogether. In its place is an electric-powered centrifuge that spins objects inside a vacuum chamber at speeds of up to 5,000 MPH before they’re released through a launch tube that is roughly as tall as the Statue of Liberty….
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Back4Blood,” Fandom Games says this slaughter-fest “still fuflills the need to kill a million zombies” and “feels like riding a bicycle after a mild concussion.”
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John L. Coker III, Melanie Stormm, John Coxon, R.S. Benedict, Alex Shvartsman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]
By Steve Vertlieb: I nearly fell off my chair when I listened to the music played (or “under scored”) during this promotional clip comparing High Society with The Philadelphia Story produced by Turner Classic Movies for a Fandango theatrical release of the 1956 MGM musical.
I’d guess that you’d have to be from my age bracket or generation in order to recognize this wonderfully lovely scoring, but I was delightfully astonished to hear it once more, and I’m dying to know who decided to utilize it, where they found it, and why they chose to use it.
Its title is “The World of Tomorrow,” and it’s from a particular style or thematic genre called “British Light Music.” For people of my generation, however, this particular piece of background scoring was a part of television source music utilized throughout the early-to-mid-Fifties, and emanated from what was known as the “Francis, Day and Hunter” collection of recordings. That library of cues was later restored and is, apparently, still available through “KPM Music” for industrial use.
Composed by Jack Beaver and conducted by Sidney Torch, this haunting theme was used on countless TV series of the period but, in particular, The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves and, most memorably, from a beloved episode of the television series entitled “Around The World With Superman,” airing originally on March 13, 1954, in which a blind child enters a contest to win a flight around the world, carried tenderly in the arms of Superman, as well as during the touching conclusion of “The Dog Who Knew Superman,” first airing on November 14, 1953, as Clark Kent surrenders the little dog that he loves in order to protect his dual identity.
These episodes, which aired in late 1953 and early 1954, are from the second season of the classic television series, and were both directed by Thomas Carr. It’s a truly lovely piece of music that somehow defined this impressionable period of my youth, and has miraculously been rescued from literal obscurity from nearly seventy years ago. Watch and Listen. This IS truly Television History!
By Steve Vertlieb: Remembering Sir Sean Connery, born August 25th, 1930, whose larger than life cinematic exploits, and joyous masculinity brought exhilaration, vibrant sexuality, and swashbuckling romance to the motion picture screen and who left us, sadly, on October 31st of last year.
Sean Connery, the iconic actor and super star whose irresistible presence on the motion screen happily dominated our lives for nearly sixty years died at age ninety. Few actors of his or any other generation possessed the wit, charisma, and staggering masculinity that this remarkably gifted actor brought to the screen. With the probable exception of Cary Grant, with whom Connery shared male dominance and magnetism, no other actor before or since has attracted both men and women with his nearly startling sexuality.
Born August 25, 1930, Connery achieved international recognition with his smoldering portrayal of Ian Fleming’s James Bond in Dr. No in 1962. Although he’d appeared in relatively minor parts in a variety of television and movie roles, it was his remarkable major screen debut as James Bond in 1962 that instantaneously, and deservedly, elevated him to super star status.
Connery followed his singular appearance as “Bond … James Bond” in Dr. No with six additional star turns as the invulnerable secret agent in From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (the definitive Bond thriller in 1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and, finally, in Never Say Never Again, (1983) whose clever title noted the irony of his having said repeatedly that he’d never play the part again. Having played Bond in seven motion pictures, Connery established himself as the definitive characterization of Fleming’s deadly British agent.
After this last performance as the impeccably tailored spy, Connery defied critics who’d complained about his being a single dimensional actor, by joyously emerging as one of the finest character actors of our time. In such films as Darby O’Gill and The Little People for Disney (1959), Marnie for Alfred Hitchcock (1964), The Hill (1965), The Anderson Tapes (1971), and Zardoz (1974), Connery proved to his critics that he was, indeed, a gifted, dangerously provocative performer.
Six of his most joyous, exquisitely layered performances followed in the years that lay before him. As the irascible, inherently masculine “Raisuli” in the enormously entertaining John Milius film The Wind And The Lion, Connery’s striking individuality quite literally lit the screen with his colorful interpretation as the leader of a noble Arab tribe, timed imaginatively by Jerry Goldsmith’s electrifying musical score.
As the sadly proud, yet vulnerable Robin Hood in Robin And Marian (1976), Connery showed rare sensitivity and elegance as the aging warrior whose difficulty transitioning from young rebel to graceful elder champion wove poetic lyricism to the legend of Robin, accompanied by composer John Barry’s wistfully romantic themes.
For John Huston’s epic 1975 film translation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, the actor delivered one of his most delicious, multi-textured performances as a loveable rogue whose innocent aspirations to royalty, and desire to achieve something greater in his lifetime, leads to dire, unexpected consequences beyond his boyish vision, dreams, and hope filled enthusiasm.
In The Untouchables (1987) for director Brian De Palma, Sean Connery’s Oscar winning performance as “Malone,” the simple cop on the beat whose street intelligence and long tenured wisdom helped Eliot Ness bring down Capone, would at long last silence the critics who had cynically predicted his rapid departure and absence from the screen after leaving the lucrative “Bond” franchise.
For Steven Spielberg, Connery would deliver his most wonderful portrayal, perhaps, as the colorful, cantankerous Professor Henry Jones as Harrison Ford’s father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1987), elevating another beloved franchise to sublime levels of joyous delight and perfection. Connery’s comedic gifts and unexpected pathos turned this third entry of the iconic film series into its most beloved chapter.
For First Knight (1995), a highly romanticized screen version of the Arthurian legend, Connery was at his most regal in his performance as literature’s legendary King Arthur. Bringing both nobility and grace to a classic role that only he, in suave maturity, could deliver, Connery once again brought quiet dignity and eloquence to the image of expiring royalty in the face of danger and finality.
Sean Connery has left us, but his indelible face and distinctive voice shall remain forever burned into the haunting imagery of the motion picture screen. We came alive in the sweet mirror of your artistry. Rest Well, Sir Sean. May angels sing you to your rest on this melancholy anniversary of your birth.
By Steve Vertlieb: 101 YEARS. As I remember what would have been his 101st birthday on August 22nd, my memories drift back to a time not that long ago when I was proud to think of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century as my treasured pal.
Here is my affectionate tribute to cherished friend Ray Bradbury, whose loving presence occupied my world and my heart for nearly four decades. Ray was one of the most distinguished writers of the twentieth century and, with H.G. Wells, perhaps the most influential, legendary science fiction writer of the past one hundred years.
More importantly, however, Ray was a gentle little boy whose love of imagination, fantasy, and stories of other worlds influenced thousands of writers and millions of admirers all over the world. His monumental presence upon this planet warmed and inspired all who knew him, and I was honored to call him my friend for thirty-eight years.
By Steve Vertlieb: Here is, perhaps, the most exciting moment of my pilgrimage to Los Angeles and Hollywood, California two years ago. I’ve been a huge fan of character actor Nehemiah Persoff for some sixty years. We’d begun a degree of correspondence in May, 2019. I was watching an episode of tv’s The Untouchables during a televised weekend retrospective in the late Spring and there, of course, was the great Nehemiah appearing as a guest in three separate episodes of the classic television series.
I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes.
I told him that I was coming West in a few months, and wondered if there was even the most remote possibility that I could visit him, and personally pay my respects. Born in Palestine (now Jerusalem) on August 2, 1919, this gifted actor was then about to turn one hundred years old.
Mr. Persoff generously consented to a visit and so, on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, my brother Erwin and I commenced our long drive to his home. We spent two hours at the feet of this remarkable human being, and shared a virtual Master Class on the art and history of screen acting. He spoke reverently of working with Marlon Brando at The Actor’s Studio, and in On The Waterfront, as well as studying with Elia Kazan in the late nineteen forties.
When Billy Wilder was casting Some Like It Hot, he’d chosen Edward G. Robinson to play Little Bonaparte, opposite George Raft and Pat O’Brien. When the two had a falling out, however, someone suggested Nehemiah Persoff for the part. The rest, as “Some People Say,” is screen history. His hilariously venomous tirades against George Raft provide the classic comedy with some of its most iconic moments.
When Barbra Streisand sang the moving “Papa, Can You Hear Me” in Yentl, she was singing to Nehemiah Persoff in a performance that, I’d like to believe, most effortlessly captured this remarkable actor’s gentle soul. When Ms. Streisand was honored with a Life Achievement Award by The American Film Institute, Nehemiah Persoff rose memorably from his table, smiled sweetly at the actress, and said “Barbara, you’re just like a daughter to me … You never phone … You never write.” It was an adorable moment between these two stars from vastly different generations.
Mr. Persoff occupied countless memorable characterizations throughout the nineteen fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties on television anthology series, most notably on both The Untouchables, and Naked City. He also voiced the lovely dialogue between father and son as “Papa Mousekewitz” in the beloved animated feature An American Tail in 1986.
However, it was his sensitive performance as Vladis Dvorovoi in an episode from the first season of Route 66, entitled “Incident On A Bridge,” that has become my favorite performance by the actor during a storied lifetime of fabled big and small screen appearances. Playing a troubled laborer who falls in love with Lois Smith, as a mute serving girl, provided this pioneering dramatic series with some of its most memorable moments in a haunting, nearly tragic variation of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” fantasy.
I shall remain forever grateful to have spent such joyous hours with this blessed soul … and for the gift of your friendship, dearest Nehemiah, I can only express my heartfelt gratitude. Wishing you a joyous, loving, and healthy 102nd Birthday. May God Bless and Keep You Safe.