Joseph Ruskin (1924-2013)

Joseph RuskinActor Joseph Ruskin, longtime SAG board member, died Saturday of natural causes December 31. He was 89.

With more than 120 television credits in a career spanning six decades, Ruskin had a resume of sf/fantasy genre shows few could match, appearing in Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Star Trek, Land of the Giants, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Planet of the Apes (TV series), The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Project U.F.O., Airwolf, Max Headroom, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise.

His film work includes roles in The Scorpion King and Star Trek: Insurrection.

He also did voice work in two Star Trek video games.

File 770 Issue #163 Available

File770-163I couldn’t let a year go by without a new issue of File 770 and, with creative help from Taral, John Hertz and John King Tarpinian, I managed to get one done just before the last page was torn from the calendar.

File 770 #163 [PDF file] boasts Taral’s diplomatic memoir about his brief time as an artist for an sf publisher, a full LoneStarCon 3 report from John Hertz, and Martin Morse Wooster’s account of Readercon 24, the first one since It Happened.

This is an especially good a day to visit to Bill Burns’ eFanzines site. The latest three zines to be posted, besides my own, are Robert Lichtman’s Trap Door #29, Steven H Silver’s Argentus #13 — and Journey Planet #18, guest edited by Helen Montgomery, where anonymous contributors say what they think about the effects of social media on fandom.

Harlan Ellison on The Simpsons 1/12

Married_to_the_Blob_promo_7Harlan Ellison and Stan Lee voice their own characters in The Simpsons episode “Married to the Blob,” airing Sunday, January 12.

Here is a synopsis of the story:

Comic Book Guy realizes his comics are nothing if he can’t share them with anyone. Then he meets Kumiko, a Japanese woman writing an autobiographical manga, and he seeks out Homer’s advice on how to date her, ending happily for everyone.

Ellison said earlier this year he appears in a scene with show characters Milhouse and the Comic Book Guy.

Stan Lee, reports Entertainment Weekly, “swings by Comic Book Guy’s store and doles out some advice on comics, romance, and, yes, romance comics”.

One Critic’s Opinion

How idiocyncratic is Christopher Campbell’s list of the 13 best sci-fi and fantasy films of 2013? Here’s your first clue. His number one film was actually released in 2009 – it just took him four years to get around to seeing it.

Here’s your second clue. If you postulated that someone would put both The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Europa Report on his list of the best films of the year, would you expect him to rank Peter Jackson’s epic behind an outer space Blair Witch Project? Campbell is full of surprises like that. He really loves Europa Report:

Disregard any stigma attached to the found footage idea (even though this film makes the best reasoning for that idea since the climactic fight in Chronicle), and Europa Report is an easily enjoyed and constantly chilling interplanetary mission movie about a crew traveling to the titular moon of Jupiter, where there seems to be signs of life. This smart, modestly budgeted yet perfectly realized effort should be the antidote for all who hated Prometheus (I love both, actually), as well as to all the bloated sci-fi movies we got from Hollywood this year (including another co-starring Sharlto Copley), but it still doesn’t seem to be catching on as the sleeper hit it ought to be. Having been a fan of director Sebastian Cordero for a while, I can only wish this is at least a stepping stone to him becoming the Ecuadorean Alfonso Cuaron. Very interestingly, The History of Future Folk co-director Jeremy Kipp Walker was a producer on this very different kind of sci-fi film.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

Strand Book Store Surprise

youve-got-mail-christmas1I’ve been conditioned by the movie You’ve Got Mail to assume any announcement made by a bookstore around Christmastime will be a sad one. But not this year!

Greenwich Village’s Strand Book Store reported record sales on the Monday before Christmas.

“Yesterday we had our best sales day in the history of 86 years at the store. So thankful for all of you,” the bookstore tweeted early Christmas Eve.

On Friday, the store tweeted a photo of bibliophilic Christmas shoppers packed on the celebrated store’s main floor, near the cash registers. Books and buyers stretched back as far as the eye can see. This was accompanied by a simple declaration: “Bookstores are not dead.”

(Well, some are. Did you read The Onion’s article about Fox Books filing for bankruptcy?)

Another TAFF Candidate Announces

Randy Smith has entered the 2014 TAFF race. On his Facebook page he posted “I am informed by the TAFF administrators that my name will appear on the ballot for 2014. Many thanks to my nominators: Christoper J Garcia, Kevin Standlee, Mark Olson, Colin Harris, and Pat McMurray!”

This makes a three-way race, Curt Phillips and Brad and Cindy Foster having announced a few weeks ago. The nominating deadline is December 31, leaving open the possibility one or two more fans may decide to vie for the trip to the 2014 Worldcon in London.

[Thanks to Chris Garcia for the story.]

Sherlock Holmes Free At Last

The pre-1923 Sherlock Holmes stories are no longer covered by U.S. copyright law a federal judge has ruled. Anyone may use elements from them without seeking a license from the Conan Doyle estate.

Or, as The Guardian put it —

Prospective authors of Sherlock Holmes fan fiction take heed: under a new court ruling, you may write that Sherlock Holmes was a cocaine-addicted martial arts aficionado cohabiting occasionally at 221B Baker Street, with a friend called Dr Watson.

You may not, however, freely describe Dr Watson’s own athletic background, the juicy fact of his second marriage or the circumstances of Holmes’s retirement.

The estate had argued Conan Doyle continually developed the character therefore, because his final Holmes story was published in 1927, copyright protection should extend until the last story enters the public domain in 2022. The judge treated this view with polite disdain, calling it a “novel legal argument.” However, he agreed that details first created in stories remaining under copyright could not be freely used — Watson’s second wife, for example.

The ruling came in response to a civil complaint, reported here in March, filed by Leslie Klinger, editor with Laurie R. King of In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new Holmes stories. They had paid $5,000 licensing fee for an earlier collection of latter-day Holmes stories but had balked when the estate threatened to keep their new book from being sold unless they paid another fee.

Judge Ruben Castillo cited a 1989 decision in which CBS tried to stop a Broadway adaptation featuring Amos ‘n’ Andy, characters in a once-popular radio comedy that debuted in 1928 and in a 1950s TV series. The characters were ruled to be in the public domain, but some “increments of expression” that further “delineated the characters and story” remained under copyright.

The ruling applies to the United States – in Britain, the entire Sherlock Holmes canon has been in the public domain since the end of 2000.

Visit To A Bookshop

Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro

By John King Tarpinian: Sometimes you get lucky. I happened to be going over to my neighborhood bookshop, Mystery and Imagination, to show them an article in the current Los Angeles Magazine, which just happened to have a quote by Guillermo in it. As I was in front of the bookshop there was Guillermo, he waved at me, we shook hands and came into the bookshop. He was home for Christmas, taking a break from his duties in Canada. While Guillermo was in the shop he took the liberty to sign a couple dozen books of his the shop had in stock. More copies of his newest book, Cabinet of Curiosities, a set of the new Penguin Horror series he edited and some first editions of The StrainThe Strain was one of the things he has been working on in Canada. One of the nicest men you’d want to meet.

AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales in 2013

AbeBooks’ 25 Most Expensive Sales in 2013 include four Bibles, Shakespeare’s works in French, poetry from Emily Dickinson, handwritten spell-books and classics from Charles Dickens, J.K. Rowling, William Golding, and Frank Herbert.

Of interest to fans —

6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $20,000
First edition from June 1997 – one of the 500 copies printed.

7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding – $19,877
A 1954 first edition with its dust jacket. Written under the text of the half-title “for Angharad Ryder from William Golding with best wishes.” Loosely inserted is a hand-written envelope from Golding with a hand-written postcard inside, “Dear Miss Ryder, Yes Lord of the Flies is the alleged translation of Beelzebub. I will sign your Nobel Speech if you send it. Yours sincerely William Golding.” Also included are two hand-written letters from Golding to Ryder.

13. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – $15,950
Published in 1922, first US edition of one of the first modern picture books for children.

16. Dune by Frank Herbert – $15,000
Signed first edition published in 1965 by Chilton. This copy was complete with the first issue dust jacket and the $5.95 price on the front flap.

19. Original Personal Handwritten Manuscript Grimoire by Persephone Adrastea Eirene – $13,865
Two spiral-bound books of spells handwritten in the 1960s by a high priestess of Wicca called Persephone Adrastea Eirene, an American witch of Swedish and English ancestry who led her own coven.

About the last item AbeBooks adds —

The spell-books, or grimoires to give them the correct Wiccan name, are particularly interesting as they are cursed. We have not heard from the buyer since the purchase – and that could be good or bad. The opening page of the first one is inscribed with the warning:

“To those not of the craft – the reading of this book is forbidden! Proceed no further or justice will exact a swift and terrible retribution – and you will surely suffer at the hand of the craft.”

The first comment on the post makes an interesting case against the authenticity of the grimoire on theological grounds…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]