Pixel Scroll 11/14/16 The Fen From S.C.R.O.L.L. And P.I.X.E.L.

(1) TRUTH IS STRANGER. Norman Spinrad has posted on Facebook the original English version of the afterward commissioned by the French publisher for the special 40th anniversary edition of the first French edition of Bug Jack Barron. That anniversary is now far enough in the past that Spinrad finally lost patience with the book appearing and gave the piece its freedom. Heinlein features in this afterward.

JACK BARRON & ME

by Norman Spinrad

It must have been 1969 because I had returned from London to Los Angeles and was writing for The Los Angeles Free Press, and the Charlie Manson trial was going on. We were covering it locally, it was a big national story and it came out that Robert Heinlein’s novel STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND was one of Charlie’s fave raves.

In this novel, the sympathetic lead character “discorporates” people who piss him off, always for a righteous reason of course, and Charlie Manson believed that Heinlein’s fictional justification for this likewise justified his own self-given license to do likewise.

I chanced to run into Bob Heinlein at some science fiction convention, and I just had to ask him how he felt about the widely accepted notion of his novel having inspired the Sharon Tate Murders or at least served as Charlie’s moral template for giving the marching order to his murderous posse.

He looked at me deadpan straight in the eye and hit me with a punchline that has stood me in good stead from then until. now.

“The manufacturer,” said Robert Heinlein, “takes no responsibility for the misuse of the product.”

Thus as the author of BUG JACK BARRON I thereby absolve myself of responsibility for the successful political campaign for Congress of Robert K. Dornan, the unsuccessful campaign of Pat Buchanan for the Republic Nomination for President, the march to the far reaches of the far right by the Republican Party, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation….

(2) ANCIENT BRITFANDOM. Martin Morse Wooster is enjoying Rob Hansen’s history of British fandom, THEN (recently published in book form by the redoubtable Ansible Press). Here’s his latest favorite anecdote:

This is from the memoirs of British fan Jim Linwood.  LXI con was the 1961 British national sf convention, where Kingsley Amis was GoH.

“The other famous author who made his debut at LXICon–Martin Amis.  He was 10 years old and spent most of his time running screaming throughout the corridors to the annoyance of the attendees.  A few years later, Kingdon Road fans cheered when we saw him fall to his death from the rigging of Anthony Quinn’s pirate ship in A High Wind in Jamaica — his only film performance.”

(3) DON’T TRIP ON TROPES. At Tor.com, “Charlie Jane Anders, Alyssa Cole, and Rumaan Alam on Avoiding Blind Spots When Writing Outside Your Experience”.

All agreed that tropes are an important tool for playing with genre expectations, as you can set up a particular familiar trope and then change them in a way that’s fresh and exciting for readers. Tropes “can help, can hurt,” Anders said, as they can be “a way of focusing your intentions in the story” but might also lead a writer astray by binding them to the often outdated, cliché, or downright offensive depictions of certain characters that genre. These blind spots occur when writers fall back on their knowledge of a movie for a certain character’s background rather than doing independent research into the personal histories and experiences of people other than the writer. “You should stop and educate yourself,” she said; if instead you think, in this kind of story, this always happens, “that’s death—that’s death of storytelling.”

When asked how to recognize when you’re in a blind spot, the panelists all shared their experiences and key pieces of advice:

  • Get beta readers and sensitivity readers who are familiar with the backgrounds of the characters you’re trying to write. “If you know you have a blind spot, you can even think that you’ve overcome a lot of the blind spot, but you haven’t,” Cole said. “The bottom line is, always have beta readers, but especially make sure you have beta readers from the particular group you’re writing about—if it’s not aliens or something.”
  • Have more than one sensitivity reader if possible. Cole found that in writing a suffragette novella set in 1917, with a main character from India, that two of her readers were from different regions of India and had different experiences; not necessarily contradictory, but enough that it provided more nuance to her work. And compensate them for their time!
  • “You also have to do a gut check 100 times,” Anders said—put the piece aside for a month, then return to it with a fresh perspective.
  • “It’s OK to get it wrong,” Alam said. Sometimes you can work the lack of understanding into the book by putting that perspective into the mouths of your characters; that can be just as valuable.

(4) THE POWER OF SFF. Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj will partner in the creation of Invisible 3, a third volume of collected stories shared by authors and fans “about the importance of representation in science fiction/fantasy.”

These stories help to create understanding and connection. They expose the power of our genre both to help and to harm….

We’re looking for personal, first-hand stories between 400 and 1000 words talking about the impact of SF/F stories and what it’s like to see yourself misrepresented or erased, or relegated to the backgrounds. We’re also interested in the ways underrepresented and marginalized writers have worked to reclaim space in the genre.

Accepted works will first be published online, and then collected and published in an anthology. Contributors will receive a $10 payment.

Once author and artist payments have been covered, all additional proceeds will go to the Con or Bust program, helping people of color to attend SFF conventions.

(5) CALL FOR PAPERS. The annual Literary London conference, will be held July 13-14, 2017. Their theme is “Fantastic London: Dream, Speculation and Nightmare.” They are taking proposals for papers until February 1.

Proposals are invited for papers, comprised panels, and roundtable sessions, which consider any period or genre of literature about, set in, inspired by, or alluding to central and suburban London and its environs, from the city’s roots in pre-Roman times to its imagined futures. While the main focus of the conference will be on literary texts, we actively encourage interdisciplinary contributions relating to film, architecture, visual arts, topography and theories of urban space. Papers from postgraduate students are particularly welcome for consideration. Indicative topics and writers who might be addressed:

  • Gaslight romance, the urban gothic, London noir, steampunk & speculative poetry
  • Future catastrophes, technological dystopias, nightmares of policing & surveillance
  • Forms of fictional flight into alternate ontologies of nationhood and urban belonging
  • Architectural caprice, replication and ruin in the development of the built environment
  • Stories of financial catastrophe, uncertain inheritance and precarious fortune
  • The search for ontological wholeness in a divided, doubled or allotropic city
  • The uncanny, arabesque and magical excrescences of the urban everyday
  • Dramatizing the life of hidden underworlds, anti-worlds & allegorical environments
  • The Weird: H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Lord Dusany, M. John Harrison
  • ‘Elsewheres’: Doris Lessing, William Morris, J. G. Ballard, Jean Rhys, Anthony Burgess
  • Urban Gothic: Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Thomas De Quincey, Charles Dickens
  • Underworlds: Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Michael Moorcock, Michèle Roberts
  • Make-believe: J. M. Barrie, Cassandra Clare, Philip Reeve, Christina Rossetti, John Clute

Please submit all proposals using the links under ‘Conference’ above. If you have any queries, please contact the conference organiser Dr Peter Jones at conference at literarylondon dot org

(6) STAGE PRAISE. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won a London theater award.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 14, 1851 Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, was first published in the U.S. And one hundred years later, Ray Bradbury wrote the script for the movie.

(8) THE DOCTOR IS OUT. Both Peter Capaldi and new companion Pearl Mackie will leave with Moffat — “Expect ‘Doctor Who’ In 2018 To Be A “Clean Slate… A Brand New Show” says ScienceFiction.com.

Expect a lot of loose ends to be tied up in the upcoming 2017 season of ‘Doctor Who’.  After this, showrunner Steven Moffat and star Peter Capaldi will depart the hit series, which unfortunately has seen waning ratings in the past few years.  They’ve never come right out and said it, but this is possibly because of the switch-over coming at the end of the new season, but it sounds like the changes will be sweeping!

Insiders are saying that when new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes over for the 2018 season, he will be left with a “clean slate” in order to build his own “brand new show.”  Reportedly this “brand new show” won’t be 100% fresh, however.  Instead, it is reported that the BBC, which has not only been unhappy with the weaker ratings of the Capaldi era, but the sharp dip in sales of “dolls, books, DVDs and toys” are looking to return to a winning formula….

Perhaps the most startling change is that Pearl Mackie, who has yet to even debut as new Companion Bill, is also expected to depart the series along with Moffat and Capaldi.  Often, Companions are used to help transition between Doctors and in a sense serve as guides until the new Doctor gains his bearings, as was the case with Clara Oswald, who bridged the gap between Matt Smith’s version and Capaldi’s.

But reportedly Mackie only signed on for a one-year contract.  She, Capaldi and Moffat are expected to make the 2017 Christmas Special their swan song.

(9) IT’S ABOUT NOT MUCH TIME. Did you know Time Tunnel only ran one season? That’s one of MeTV’s “8  time-defying tidbits about The Time Tunnel. ABC network programmers then screwed the pooch picking the successor —

The replacement didn’t fare much better.

The Legend of Custer went on to replace The Time Tunnel on Friday nights, but the new series only lasted 17 episodes. Ironically, an episode of the sci-fi series took place during the Battle of Little Bighorn, a.k.a. Custer’s Last Stand.

custer

“Let’s make a series about a young guy with long blonde hair who doesn’t surf or play in a rock’n roll band,” said the executive, who hadn’t noticed it was the middle of the Sixties.

(10) MORE VINTAGE SF TELEVISION. Echo Ishii continues her SF Obscure series.

So for this week’s post I decided to cover the half hour, SF/action show CLEOPATRA 2525.

The year is, uh, 2525. Humanity has been driven underground because the surface is controlled by giant floating robot armchairs (That’s what it looks like anyway) called Baileys.  Two fighters Hel(Gina Torres) and Sarge (Victoria Pratt) are resistance fighters who battle the robot overlords. helped by a mysterious voice called ‘Voice’ that taps into Hel’s brain. Anyway, Sarge gets hurt and needs a kidney so they go and get one at the local buy-a-body-part depot. Thus, the meet Cleo (Jennifer Sky), a women cryo-frozen in 2001 when her breast augmentation surgery went awry and she was stored until humanity had the tools to save her life. I am not making this up.

(11) BELLS AREN’T RINGING. A Wyoming bookstore banned the use of electronic devices on the premises.

A Wyoming bookstore is aiming to remind customers that its “a place for books” by refusing to offer WiFi and banning use of electronic devices.

A sign posted at the entrance to Wind City Books in Casper informs customers that there is no public WiFi available and calls on them to keep their laptops and cellphones out of sight inside the shop.

wyoming-bookstore-bans-wifi-electronics-from-place-for-books

(12) ANALOG MONSTER.

(13) GRIND ZERO. I don’t know if it’s a good column about writing, but Dave Freer sure has a lot of insights about “Making Sausage”.

There are myriad sausage recipes. Sausage made of everything from bear to squirrel, pork to beef, turkey to fish. Even vegan. Sausages with everything from cranberries to chardonnay in them. But oddly they have two essential ingredients, in essential proportions. Stray too far from either and your sausage doesn’t work. And those are fat and salt. Not the obvious – people say it’s a bear or boar or chicken sausage. They don’t say ‘it’s a fat sausage’. “Yuck!” would be the response. And indeed yuck is appropriate if you don’t get that proportion (around 20%) right. Too much and it becomes a greasy horrible thing. By the time it cooks out the sausage meat and other ingredients taste greasy and overcooked. And too little and it is dry and tasteless. Vegan is particularly difficult because of the whole ‘fat’ thing. I gather it’s considered bad to suggest using plump ones. But I gather one can buy vegan suet.

For me, in writing, that’s the story, the action, the adventure. In some shape or form it has to be in every worthwhile read. Yes, actually you can have too much. Or too little, and vast focus on the other ingredients – be they the setting or the social justice outrage of the week – they tend to dry and un-appealing. And the salt… well those are the characters. And yes, once again there is such a thing as too much – or too bland when it is merely count the pre-expected tokens. I wait with amusement for the first orange haired villain s to appear…

(14) THE BULLET BOX. Larry Correia provides “A Handy Guide For Liberals Who Are Suddenly Interested In Gun Ownership” at Monster Hunter Nation.

That title isn’t joking. This post is aimed at my liberal readers. I’m a libertarian leaning Republican and gun expert, who thinks you are wrong about a lot of stuff, but I’m not writing this to gloat about your loss. For the record, I disliked all the presidential candidates.

Judging by your social media over the last few days many liberals have been utterly terrified that your government might turn tyrannical or that evil people will now be emboldened to hurt you. I’m going to let you in on a little thing the other half of the country is familiar with to keep those unlikely, yet catastrophic, events from happening.

And that my lefty friends, is 2nd Amendment.

Having just gone through a war against a tyrannical government, the Founders understood that governments can go bad, so they made sure to note our God given right (or we’ll say naturally occurring right, since a bunch of you are atheists) to keep and bear arms in order to defend ourselves. The 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting or “sporting purposes”, it’s about having weapons that you can fight with. As an added bonus, being able to protect yourself from a tyrannical government means that you’re a lot better equipped to deal with any common criminal who decides to hurt you. Before I get into the details about how to enjoy your newly discovered 2nd Amendment rights, let me just say that I get you’re sad, angry, bitter, and fearful. But just like my people over the last few elections, you’ll get over it. The really hyperbolic freak outs about Literally Hitler make you sound just like the Alex Jones crowd worried that Obama was going to herd Christians into FEMA camps last time. So take a deep breath and relax. Your friends and neighbors are the same as they were last week. The vast majority weren’t voting because racism, they voted against the status quo and a really unlikable Democrat. And no, they aren’t going to round you up into cattle cars….

(15) CROTTLED PEEPS.  Daniel Dern advises, “Be sure to watch to the very end. Even better than when a character on The Good Wife said ‘A Lannister always pays his debts.’” Shared at io9 by James Whitbrook: “A Breakdown Of My Scattered, Confused Thoughts While Watching This Game of Thrones Sodastream Ad”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jim C. Hines, Martin Morse Wooster, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cadbury Moose.]

Mike Returns to the Time Tunnel

SF Signal has posted a new “Mind Meld.” I was lucky enough to be invited to answer a question that’s right up my alley:

Q: Which off-the-air science fiction television show deserves a remake? What changes would you make to update it?

My plan to redo Time Tunnel gives the Mind Meld a climactic ending. (Though it may only be that mine was the last piece to come in before the deadline…)

Theme Songs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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