Two Fantasists Going First-Class in 2009

2009 postage stamps

The US Postal Service will honor two fantasy writers on postage stamps next year: Rod Serling and Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan PoeI checked — neither was on the list of historic sf figures Chris Barkley gathered petitions to honor ten years ago (see File 770:133, page 18).

That Serling should be selected ahead of everyone else on the list is a little bit ironic because it validates one of Chris’ own arguments  — he told Science Fiction Weekly that the writers he named deserved recognition because they laid the foundations for currently-popular sf tv series and movies:

We know that without the influences of E.E. “Doc” Smith, Murray Leinster, Leigh Brackett and Edmund Hamilton, it’s doubtful you would be enjoying Star Trek, Farscape, Babylon 5 and Star Wars today. Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg might have well been sitcom producers without them.

In case you’re curious, here are the leading lights Chris wanted to see on stamps:

Artists: Frank R. Paul, Chesley Bonestell, Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay, Vaughn Bode, Roy Krenkel, Ed Emshwiller, Jack Gaughan. Editors: John W. Campbell, Jr., Judy Lynn Del Rey, Anthony Boucher, Terry Carr, T.E. Dikty, Geoff Conklin, Terry Carr. Authors: E.E. “Doc” Smith, Robert A. Heinlein, Clifford D. Simak, Paul Linebarger (Cordwainer Smith), Will Jenkins (Murray Leinster), Theodore Sturgeon, C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Edmund Hamilton, A. Merritt, Alfred Bester, Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.), Philip K. Dick, Cyril M. Kornbluth, James Blish, Fritz Leiber, Frank Herbert, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Pangborn, Stanley Weinbaum.

It’s still a good idea, Chris!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Muscling in on Popeye

It’s been 70 years since Popeye creator Elzie Segar died, and on January 1 the spinach-eating sailor will fall into the public domain in Britain under an EU law that sets the limit on copyright. News reports encourage the belief that beginning Thursday anyone can print and sell Popeye art and paraphernalia without paying any royalties.

Then again:

The Popeye trademark, a separate entity to Segar’s authorial copyright, is owned by King Features, a subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation — the US entertainment giant — which is expected to protect its brand aggressively.

Mark Owen, an intellectual property specialist at the law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said: “The Segar drawings are out of copyright, so anyone could put those on T-shirts, posters and cards and create a thriving business. If you sold a Popeye toy or Popeye spinach can, you could be infringing the trademark.”

My musical instincts tell me:

Lawyers will fight to the finish
Over rights to the spinach
From Popeye the Sailor Man (toot-toot!)

[Thanks to Taral Wayne for the link.]

The Love [to Spy on You] Boat

Something I didn’t know about the cruise experience is that apparently passengers are incessantly spied upon. News coverage about the woman who went overboard from the Norwegian Pearl, far from expressing surprise, treated it as a welcome development:

The Coast Guard spokesman called the three-hour search “standard operating procedure for them, when they aren’t certain that someone has actually gone overboard.” He also said that the videotape, which is being analyzed by the FBI, is “crucial” to search efforts. According to Orlando, Fla., TV station WFTV, there were about 1,000 surveillance cameras aboard the Norwegian Pearl, raising hopes that more images might help authorities figure out what happened to Ellis-Seitz.

I knew that was standard in Las Vegas (remember the Corflu Silver progress report that warned against the hotel’s intrusive security?)

Coincidentally, the Norwegian Pearl is operated by the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). The company’s passenger fleet once included the S.S. Norway, proposed site of the 1988 Worldcon. Mike Resnick witnessed the birth of the Bermuda Triangle bid at L.A.con II:

That night I went out onto the lanai with John Guidry. After awhile we found a couple of empty chairs and sat down to visit with Neil Rest, who was busy fantasizing about making a Worldcon bid for a cruise ship. Before long he had attracted a hell of a crowd, and by daylight hundreds of people were urging him to make it a real bid. John walked away thinking if there was so little serious support for any Central Zone cities that people actually would support a cruise ship, maybe it was time to put together a New Orleans bid. So that evening saw the birth of two bids: Nolacon II, which won the 1988 Worldcon; and the Boat, which came in second in a field of four.

The committee’s letter of agreement with NCL called for $1.8M to be paid before the boat left the dock. That would have been a sobering thought if sobriety had been much valued by Hurricane-drinking site selection voters.

A final bit of trivia: the S. S. Norway was retired by NCL in 2001. Today it is beached at Alang, India, ready to be broken up. The courts have spent two years reviewing environmental reports and finally given permission for it to be scrapped.

No Trees Were Harmed
in the Making of this Picture

United Features Syndicate is perfecting its game plan to market comic strips in a world where newspapers are of declining importance:

Today, serves more as a marketing tool than a significant source of revenue. Ms. Wilson says the site does bring in money from advertisers, which include cellphone companies and Netflix. But its primary function is to build a fan base — and to provide links to sites where fans can buy books, calendars and other items featuring characters from the comics. No one expects to fully compensate for what Ms. Wilson calls “declines on the print side.” The site, she says, is “a platform for what comes next.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

The Day the Earth Stood for Anything

In a New York Times opinion piece, a writer gives a side-by-side comparison of two versions of The Day the Earth Stood Still and the cultures that received them.

I compared the two earlier this month, watching the vintage version for the first time in at least 25 years. I was reminded of how deeply it had insinuated itself into the DNA of popular culture. I also thought of Norma Desmond, the fallen movie idol in “Sunset Boulevard,” who said of her spent career: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

[Thanks to David Klaus and Andrew Porter for the link.]

A Red S and a Black Eye

As James Hay was developing “Heroes and Villains” themed programming for the next ConDor, he discovered two radio stories involving Superman in the archives of “This American Life.”

Act Three. People Like You If You Put a Lot of Time Into Your Appearance.
To prove this simple point—a familiar one to readers of any women’s magazines—we have this true story of moral instruction, told by Luke Burbank in Seattle, about a guy he met on a plane who was dressed in a hand-sewn Superman costume. (13 minutes)

Act Four. Just Be Yourself.
Former TAL producer Jonathan Goldstein with a story about what it’s like to date Lois Lane when she’s on the rebound from Superman. Jonathan Goldstein is currently the host of CBC’s Wiretap, and the author of the novel Lenny Bruce Is Dead. (13 minutes)

Edd Cartier Passes Away (1914-2008)

Cartier illustration for Hoka story

Edd Cartier, who created some of the signature images from the Golden Age of Astounding Science Fiction, including the one above for Dickson and Anderson’s Hoka tales, died on Christmas Day at the age of 94. Robert Greenberger’s obituary for ComicMix reminds that Cartier not only was John W. Campbell’s favorite artist, he also did hundreds of illustrations for Street & Smith’s other magazines, such as The Shadow, Red Dragon and Super-Magician Comics.

Here is a link to a gallery of his art, including images collected and published as a 1950 calendar by Gnome Press:


[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

Charges Soon Against “Rockefeller”?

The Boston Herald speculates that charges may soon be forthcoming against “person of interest” Christian Gerhartsreiter in the Sohus murders.

Assistant Suffolk District Attorney David Deakin would not comment on whether California authorities are close to charging Gerhartsreiter, 47, in connection with the San Marino missing persons case of his former landlords, Jonathan and Linda Sohus.

However, he told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Detective Timothy Miley’s affidavit in support of a warrant to search six computer hard drives Deakin’s office holds in evidence against Gerhartsreiter in his pending parental kidnapping case is “17 or 18 pages” long and lays out the case they’re building against the chameleon con artist.

Meanwhile, Gerhartsreiter’s lawyers are considering a plea to the child kidnapping charges he faces for abducting his daughter last summer.

Herald reporters have also managed to make the prisoner’s haircut resemble news:

Gerhartsreiter, 47, who’s battling baldness behind bars in addition to a parental kidnapping charge, paid to have a hairstylist brought into Nashua Street Jail to give his do a modern makeover, rather than trust his tresses to the Big House barber shop, the Herald has learned.

Disney Leaves Before Dawn

Disney Studios won’t be a partner in the third Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, industry sources revealed this week.

Getting a new partner to take on half the risk could prove a challenge for Walden given that “Prince Caspian” fell below expectations when it was released in May. The film generated $419 million in worldwide ticket sales, far less than the first “Narnia” movie, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which grossed $745 million in 2005.

As in the case of many films, “Prince Caspian” did not earn its money back from ticket sales. But Disney and Walden hope it will become profitable as the result of DVD sales.

Count me in as someone else who hopes they sell a bazillion copies of Prince Caspian. Why? Last July, Diana appeared on-camera at the request of film-makers who are preparing extra feature material for an educational edition of the Prince Caspian DVD, aimed at teachers who want to use the movie in the classroom. The higher profile the commercial release has, the likelier people will be to think of it as a classroom resource.

During the July filming they interviewed her Diana for two hours. They found things going so well that at times the crew forgot the script and became totally caught up in what they were talking about. The camera man and make-up artist told Diana they wanted to go back to school, it was all so interesting.