Celebrating “E.T.” On His 40th Birthday

By Steve Vertlieb: On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T.

I was being groomed at the time to be a weekly entertainment and film critic for WTAF TV29 (then an affiliate of Taft Broadcasting). The segments would have aired on Friday mornings, as part of the station’s daily, hour long “Newsprobe” news and information series. The TV station was subsequently purchased by Fox Television, and changed its call letters to the current WTXF TV.

While considered a noble “pilot” effort by everyone concerned, the idea was ultimately abandoned, and this fledgling television film critic found his on air career in shambles, except for some sporadic “guest” appearances in museums, universities, and on competing tv stations.

Here, however, and in celebration of a beloved film’s first release, is a portion of that original television review from forty years ago …

I was taken completely by surprise and delight by this enchanting holiday gift from NBC Universal that premiered Thanksgiving morning, 2019, during NBC’s telecast of the annual Macy’s holiday parade.

Sure, you can argue that it’s a crass commercialization of Steven Spielberg’s beloved 1982 children’s classic fantasy but … you know what … it’s a beautiful, sweet, and loving sequel featuring Henry Thomas reprising his original role as Elliott, fully realized special effects, and John Williams’ gorgeous original motion picture score.

If this doesn’t fill your eyes with tears of happiness, nothing ever will again. What a joyous Thanksgiving surprise, gift, and treat for “children” of all ages. Celebrating Steven Spielberg’s beloved fantasy classic which premiered forty years ago on June 11, 1982.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Forty-Second

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here!

Can you believe it? We’ve been getting emails from Writer X for ONE YEAR NOW! Honestly, when this started, I wasn’t sure how long it would take for her to work out that I wasn’t Gladys and neither were any of you.

If you’ve been here the whole time, I want to thank you for coming along with me on this trip. If you’re just arriving, welcome! And thank you for reading.

Here’s to success, however you frame it. I hope that Writer X continues to figure out how to be “the next big epic fantasy writer of all time.” Perhaps more importantly, I hope she learns how to finish a first draft. That’s kind of an important step in the process.

I wonder what Tryxy means by his note. I also hope we hear from Silverfox soon. It sounds like he’s back in Cradensburg and didn’t stay with the foxes, but I hope it’s for the right reasons.

Without further ado…



Dear Gladys,

My clairvoyance is telling me that you are not going to join us in Writeria in time to share our writer’s vacation. I’m highly psychic Gladys and my ESP is able to pick up on things the ordinary mind can’t conceive. There are psychic vibrations that are telling me you’re just not going to make it. We are getting ready to head back through the very last portal before it closes and I don’t see you anywhere. Did you change your hair? Or possibly your face? There’s this little frog person with purple ears that sort of resembles you if I squint really hard and poke myself in the left eye while smearing cottage cheese over my right.

Knowing you, you are probably lost back in the snow drifts with the Deadly Gaimans who bear no connection to celebrated author and my PERSONAL MENTOR, Neil Gaiman. But thanks to our tireless work here in overcoming Dark Armies and the weird blizzards that have taken over this place, the snows should be clearing up pretty soon. So then you’ll just have to battle the Deadly Gaimans in the muck and probably the mosquitos will come out, but, with your history of advanced anbo-jitsu and that summer you spent concocting bug repellent out of bottles of apple cider vinegar and a can of sardines, you should be fine!!!!

But you may be stuck in this alternate world forever since we’ve gotten the whole portal issue worked out thanks to all the stolen fantasy masterwork books, Silverfox, a misplaced nose, the orb from the Belgariad (better you don’t ask), and a bottle of expired Tutti Fruiti Polar Seltzer (definitely don’t ask, it’s TOP SECRET!!!!!) 

Anyhiccup, this vacation couldn’t have ended at a better time. It’s early June and summer is just heating up!!!! Tod Boadkins and my romance is back on an even keel with the power squarely in my lap and Tryxy and I have plans for matching outfits and a weekend trip to Ninevah for him to “Reconnect.” Most importantly, I have BIG plans for my writing Gladys!!!!!!

I can feel it!!!! This is the summer I’m not only going to perfect my Writer’s Tan, I’m ALSO going to become a famous EPIC FANTASY WRITER. My closet should be a lot quieter. My romantic life is finally back to the way I like it which is NOT single, and I have singlehandedly proven to Tod Boadkins that REAL WRITERS DON’T USE OUTLINES!!!!!

Oh. Gotta go, Gladys!!! The portal is getting ready to close. Have anice livfe here in WRiteria!!! I’ll send you new pages soon!!!!! YOU”RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVES HWAT”S NEXT!!!!!!!!! IT’S EPIC!!!!!!!!!



sent from my iPhone


Dear Gladys,

I have just arrived back here in Cradensburg and I have two important things to tell you.

!1.) THE WIFI WAS MUCH BETTER IN A MAGICAL LAND THAT HAD NO WIFI!!!! WHy is 9/10ths of New Hampshire without reliable WIFI????

@.) I can’t get in my house.

Tryxy is very mad.

Whatever he tells you, it’s way more complicated than that. ANd it’s TOTALLY NOT MY FAULT!!!!



sent from my iPhone

Subject: We’re crashing at your place tonight but also there’s another third thing

Dear Gladys,

I have calmed Tryxy down by saying that you’ve invited us over to your house. Since you’re probably trapped in Writeria forever, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. We’ll keep the place dusted and I’ll let out your dachshund.

This doesn’t change the news I have to tell you.

Hang on.

Okay I’m back. Silverfox was texting me and asking me if we want to come stay at his place since our house is currently uninhabitable for reasons that have NOTHINGTO DO WITH ME but I just told him that you were going to let us stay at your place.

Apparently the vortex that opened up over Tryxy and my workplace IS THE DEMON AUTHORITIES LOOKING FOR TRYXY.

Not to worry, I’m going to handle this.

But that isn’t the news that I want to tell you.

The news I want to tell you is

Gotta go, Gladys!!!! It looks like the windows of our house are about to blow and flood the neighborhood. I have to go tell my neighbors it’s NOT MY FAULT.



P.S. Did you know it’s August? How did it get to be August??????? I’m two months behind on my writer’s tan!!!!!!


sent from my iPhone


Dear Gladys,

We only broke your basement window. It wouldn’t have had to come to this if you had unlocked the doors like I asked you to in my last email.

Right now I need you to call your alarm company and get this horrible siren turned off!!!!! How am I supposed to become a bestselling, world-famous fantasy author if I have to write with this stupid alarm?????? WRITERS NEED A VERY SPECIFIC SONIC ATSMOPSHERE TO WRITE!!!!!

Also, you’ve added a lot more art to you walls since I was last here. Im going to take some of it down. I need a good blank wall to stare at. That’s how I get most of my writing done. Or the WRITING-STARING that is ESSENTIAL to creating a SOLID FANTASY NOVEL.

In fact, one of the things I’m going to do that will take my writing to NEW places is I’m going to incorporate a LOT more WRITING-STARING. I may have to take the art down from several of your walls. But that STILLLLL isn’t my BIG NEWS!!!!!

BTW, Gladys (that means “by the way”), Tryxy just used your contact solution as a nasal rinse. You may not want to use it for your contacts after that. It’s pretty much now solidly in nasal rinse territory. He can’t get the smell of all the pencils in our house out of his nose. Producing lots of mucus. Demons don’t like cedar and my signature pink pencils are of the highest quality so they’re made from cedar.

I SEE YOUR COUSIN BLANCHE!!! I think she’s huffing across the hill because she can hear the sirens!!!! ABout time!!!! Wow, has she always been that red???? Oh look, she has a shot gun!! I didn’t know she collected shot guns, Gladys!!!!

Gotta go!!!



sent from my iPhone


Dear Gladys,

Well, well, well, your cousin Blanche has told me a very interesting thing. Apparently you are in PARAGUAY and NOT bringing me extra ham in Writeria for #bestkitten like I asked a week and a half ago in WRiteria time, but TWO WHOLE MONTHS AGO in your time!!!!!!

I’m not sure what to think about this. Fortunately Tryxy and I are getting very comfortable in your house since mine has accidentally become full of pink cedar pencils thanks to that little multiplication spell I found all those months ago. A critical ingredient of the spell is Amish Friendship Bread starter. Apparently, you’re supposed to take the lid off the spell or else the Amish Friendship Bread explodes and then you’re stuck with the results.

Gladys, I need you to understand that I am VERY PREOCCUPIED WITH other things. For one, the fact that it is UNEXPECTEDLY AUGUST has THROWN OFF my FAMous by summer plans!!!! My whole writing pace has to be reworked!!!!

In the meanhwhile., I need you to send me the number of a good archeological excavator. They have all the right tools for getting our house back to normall!!!

AND I DO MEAN AN ARCHEOLOGICAL EXCAVATOR GLADYS. NOT a backhoe Or WORSE, the commercial excavator you called the last time this happened with the moon cheese during the 2020 pandemic!!!!! Someone needs to be very careful around all the arcane memento boxes I have left from C___ and I don’t want anyone damaging my collection of live laugh love paraphenalia!!!! That’ll be very valuable someday, Gladys!!!!!

Anyhonk, this email is to inform you that Tryxy and I are making some light renovations to your place. Don’t worry, we’ll put your sledgehammer back where we found it. WE’RE GOOD HOUSE GUESTS!!!!



P.S. The Big NEWS will just have to wait until next week after I sort out my new writing approach. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE GLDSY!!!

sent from my iPhone


















Hidden Talents: A Story

Fans at a con getting autographs.

Introduction: The reclusive (but convention-attending) J. Franklin March sometimes comments at File 770 and is retired, living in Florida. March says: “I wrote most of this story (my first fiction publication) over three years ago by hand and without having to think about it. After I edited the text into English, it took me over a year to come up with a satisfactory ending–the method I used was to write one with an alien text and then attempt a sequel; the sequel didn’t work but in the process of figuring out the magic system, I got an idea for a better ending.”


By J. Franklin March

Part 1: The Convention

Anna carefully arranged the necessary objects around her desktop computer into a pentagon: sharpened pencils, a legal pad, a half-empty coffee cup, and a copy of Science Without Sorcery, with the chair at the fifth point. This done, she intoned the spell that would open the channel to her muse for long enough to write the final pages of her work-in-progress. Then she could get ready for the convention.

Like most pros, Anna was both appreciative and protective of the talent that enabled her to channel the muse. Other facets of writing fiction could be learned: beginnings, middles, ends, plotting, pacing, character depth, and even voice. But without the muse, these were all useless. One had to be born with talent—or one had to steal it.

Having gotten her badge and name tent (already folded to stand up) at program ops, Anna headed for the green room. It was safe there with only other pros and a couple of carefully vetted volunteers. Every pro had their own talent with no desire for another’s. Soon, however, she would have to appear at her first panel of the con. It was on “Writing Believable Antagonists”, so the audience would be full of would-be writers, the most dangerous fans. But as a seasoned science fiction pro, she had been on over a hundred panels; it would be okay, especially after the panelists’ magical introductions.

At the start of her Kaffeeklatsch later, Anna realized that one of the fans there had attended both her panels so far. He had a hypnotic stare and a badge that said, “Not That Jim”.

“Which of you want to be writers?” she asked the people sitting around the table. Most of them, including that particular fan, raised their hands.

That’s what I was afraid of, she thought, a likely talent-stealer. Readings were tricky, but Kaffeeklatsches were the worst—one was so exposed to the fans’ curiosity. Now, autographing sessions were perfectly okay, provided one took the precaution of always scribbling something that bore no resemblance to one’s real name.

At her following reading, Anna decided that a story on her phone would be best—the phone had both the story-guard and the talent-guard apps installed. Printouts just weren’t safe.


Early the next morning in her hotel room, Anna edited the work-in-progress on her laptop. She saw where the first page could be tightened, swapped two scenes, and eliminated some adverbs that had slipped in. There. Now it was time to do her daily no-matter-what writing, which not even rogue asteroids could drag her away from. She set the objects up as before, intoned the spell, and sat in the chair with fingers poised. But nothing happened.

Oh no; writer’s block! How could this happen? Could it be talent-theft after all her precautions? If so, it violated the convention code of conduct. But no; going to the safety committee was out of the question. The news would quickly become public, with an article and vigorous discussion on that notorious science fiction news site Page 404. Then she’d be in trouble with SFWDCA—the Science Fiction Writers’ Defense Council of America.

A wretched four hours passed. Anna could hardly eat the expensive hotel buffet breakfast. Fortunately, P.D.A. McAllister, Grandmaster and author Guest of Honor of the con, was in the green room when she arrived. She told him what had happened and he agreed with her conclusion.

“I’ve seen this sort of tragedy occur many times before, though note that we’re not entirely out of resources. There’s a special ritual that can be used to recover a talent that’s been stolen. One of the challenges is that it requires proximity to the thief.”


Jim was seated at a table in the hospitality suite, delighted at finally writing a complete story. He had resisted the temptation to edit as he went along, since all that could be done later. After all, he’d attended all of Anna Coral’s writing panels so far and anticipated the ones remaining.

Why could I not have accomplished this years ago, he wondered.

He was getting a lot done. Last night’s Color and Shadow filk circle had been satisfying, too. Especially after he’d had to type and print the lyrics sheets at the last minute.


Anna and Grandmaster McAllister got to the panel room just as the audience was applauding the preceding panel. McAllister had arranged with program ops to substitute for another pro, who, it turned out, hadn’t known why they’d put him on the panel anyway. The moderator would tacitly let them insert the disguised recovery spell into the ritual introductions. But would the thief show up? Anna scanned the crowd. Where was that guy?

It was 3:00 pm now. The moderator started speaking her opening lines. Just then, the fan in question entered the room and managed to find a chair in the third row. Perfect. The spell was cast and the rest of the panel on “Raising the Stakes” proceeded smoothly.

Anna hurried to her hotel room, excited to be “back in the saddle.” Arrangement, spell, butt in chair, ready to write. Yet, again, nothing happened! What had gone wrong?

Anna found McAllister in the green room.

“It, the spell, it failed!”

“Calm down and let us determine why.”

He pulled out an old, old book issued only to SFWDCA Grandmasters and, not too soon, located the appropriate page.

“Ah. It says there are only two reasons why that spell could fail to restore a stolen talent. When (A) the talent is not the one stolen and (B) the talent didn’t originally belong to the victim. When did you first channel your muse?”

“I always made up stories as a child, even before the teacher taught me the spell in creative writing class. I started submitting stories at age fourteen.”

“Then it must be (A). We’ve got the wrong thief.”

Just then, there was a commotion at the door. A number of pros were coming in, audibly upset.

“I tell you, I never get writer’s block and now this,” said Bob Azuneau.

“Me too, and don’t tell me I spent too much time at the bar,” said Linda Mills.

“If I don’t get my talent back, I’ll be forced to work as an editor,” some author said.

“Hey, I heard that,” said an editor from the green room.

McAllister said to Anna, “It’s not an isolated case, I see.”

He stood up and, in the calm, professional manner of an award winner, got the attention of the room. “My fellow authors, this situation is clearly bigger than any of us individually. First, how many of you have developed writer’s block since arriving at the con?”

Most of those present responded.

“Before we can magically solve the problem, we must determine the cause.”

At this point, there are secrets which must not be divulged to the mass of ordinary fans. Suffice it to say that the volunteers were dismissed and consultations were made as well as literal hand-waving, albeit without success.

But the green room volunteers would be anxious to return to their duties. There must be another venue for the continuation of the discussion. The bar, of course. Only pros would be there, including a few who were (for financial reasons) not actually attending the con. Their input might be crucial.


Sometime later, someone asked, “What time is it?”

“5:50. I think I have a panel coming up somewhere and I’ve lost my name tent,” said Linda.

“Don’t worry,” said Bob, “I’ll look it up in the pocket program. Saturday evening. ‘Pseudo-Lovecraftian filk circle’? No, that’s Friday night. Why don’t they print the day on the pages? Oh here it is. ‘Writing Hard Fantasy’, in Garden III. And it looks like you’re the moderator, Linda. Better hurry.”

“Did you say that Lovecraftian songs were sung last night? That could be dangerous,” said McAllister. “In fact, that may be why the talents were erased, if the right people sang the wrong words.”

“It’s not theft?” asked Anna.

“No, it will require a ritual completely different from what we’ve tried, and the presence of people in costumes. We must, for once, attend the masquerade!”


“Are you all clear on your lines? It must be perfect,” McAllister said a while later, having carefully hand-copied the talent-restoration ritual from the ancient book.

Anna and the others outside the hall nodded.

“And now,” said the convention Toastmaster, “we have a special presentation while the judges are deliberating.”

The pros filed onto the stage with the costumed competitors and recited the innocuous-sounding, yet potent, lines of the spell. They would have to wait to see the result, just as everyone else present would await the judges’ decisions.


Finally, it was Sunday morning. Anna sat down in front of her laptop, having again performed the muse-invoking spell. Triumphantly, she began to type:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Hank Gunnison, the new hired gun, was getting ready to deal with those pesky renegades.

Part 2: Trouble at the Gulch

Back at home, Anna got on the phone.

“I’ve got a big problem, Linda. I just realized I’m writing a western.”

“So what’s the problem? Just look up the markets for westerns when the story’s ready.”

“You don’t understand. It’s not even a good western. It’s full of clichés and has other problematic elements.”

“That’s what rewrites are for.”

“Why couldn’t it at least be paranormal romance?” Anna resisted the temptation to moan.

“Well I’m sorry, but I have other worries.”

Anna turned back to her desk computer thinking, “I wonder if I can somehow force myself to write science fiction?” She intoned the writing resumption spell and began typing:

Meanwhile, back at the asteroid base, Hank Starshooter, the space mercenary, was getting ready to deal with those pesky Qq’Xcj’hs.

She stared at the screen. No good. Magical intervention was needed. She would have to get in touch with P.D.A. McAllister or maybe another Grandmaster, since it was the ritual he’d selected that hadn’t quite worked. Now, Bob knows some Grandmasters fairly well. She tried his number, but got the recording:

“Hello. This is Robert Azuneau. I’m busy dumping information. Leave a message with your name and number and I might call you back. BEEP.”

Anna left her message. She would just have to wait.


Jim was humming the tune to one of the pseudo-Lovecraftian filk songs. Editing his story was going well, except for the punctuation. Learn too many languages and proper English punctuation bites the dust. He’d have to look up all the rules again before sending the story out to a critique group.

Getting a little too exuberant, he clumsily knocked a pile of papers off his desk. Drat. He started to pick them up. What’s this? One of the song sheets. Something about it bothered him. Then he saw the typos. Why hadn’t he noticed them during the filk session? Also, what might happen if you sang an ode to the Ether Gods instead of the Elder Gods? Probably nothing; the occult wasn’t real. But he should fix these before the next convention.


Bob finally did call back.

“Hi Anna. Do you have more engineering questions?”

Bob was overqualified for writing hard science fiction.

“No, it seems I’m working on a western.”

“A what?”

“A cowboy western. That spell at the masquerade connected me with the wrong muse!”

“Are you sure? I’ve been in editing mode and following the asteroid news, not writing new material.”

“I’m certain. What about the asteroids?”

“A new object appeared in the asteroid belt today. There was no sign of it before. The astronomers have been watching it and are wondering if it’s an alien artifact.”

“That’s very interesting—I’ll have to follow up on it—but right now I need the magical help of a Grandmaster. Aren’t you on good terms with a couple of them?”

“I know several. They’re not equally adept at magic. Some of them were selected for their fiction-writing abilities. I’ll see what I can do.”


Grandmaster Godfrey Burke was explaining to Anna over the phone. “The trouble with magic is that using it reveals the presence of flaws, not the absence.”

“I thought all those spells and rituals were old and tested many times, like the phone apps.”

“They are, but each situation provides new input to the spell. The techno-magical interface still presents some interesting questions, even for the phone apps.”

Anna thought about that. “So what was new?” she asked. “It was at the masquerade, with all the contestants on stage with us.”

“Were any of the masquerade entries occult-related? Or it could be the presence of some magical object or person, as rare as they are, affecting a global variable assumed by the spell. Or a combination of factors. Do you know exactly which ritual McAllister selected?”

“No, he guards the book carefully. The masquerade theme was first contact. But why was only my talent affected?”

“Why, indeed. I shall have to study the matter.”


Jim had enjoyed the masquerade even though the entries weren’t as good as those based on last year’s steampunk theme. But that moment when those pros and all the contestants were on stage together was such a magical experience, figuratively speaking. Now back to work. Jim had to finish writing a critique of some other writer’s story before he’d be allowed to send his own to the group. Not so easy!


Until contacted by Godfrey Burke, McAllister was unaware of Anna’s misdirected talent. Oh dear! Though he supposed that badly written westerns could be considered alternate history, a sub-genre of fantasy. Godfrey might come up with a new magical solution—he was after all the leading expert in magic among science fiction writers—but it was time for P.D.A. McAllister to act! So, he intoned the “Don’t just stand there, do something!” spell.


Anna was also thinking about action. “It’s time to be proactive,” she told herself, “since I have no trouble writing characters with agency. I can’t depend on magic or even techno-magic. What’s left? Burke mentioned magical objects and persons. Search engines!” She tried searching for those phrases. Too many results. If she were a fictional character, she’d simply hack a database or even upload herself into a hypothetical hypernet. “Let’s think of something practical.”


Jim scored a few Anna Coral books he didn’t already own at the new used book store. Too bad they weren’t there last week; he could’ve gotten them signed at the con. Hmmm. Doesn’t she live somewhere in this region? I wonder if there’s a bus route. Strictly as an exercise, I could find out—No, better not.


Anna was leaving an electronics repair shop when a bus arrived and let out a stream of passengers. One of them turned out to be that fan from the convention. He saw her and looked very surprised. She was surprised too.

“Anna Coral,” the fan said, “What a coincidence! I just bought your Unlikely Planet trilogy.”

“It certainly is a surprise—I remember seeing you at the convention. Where did you find the books?”

“At Peggy Sue’s, a new used book store. I’m Jim, by the way.”

Suddenly, a weird, ethereal glow appeared. A magic portal opened up, changing the city street in front of them into a forest clearing. In the middle of it stood a large, boxy machine. Anna walked up to it and pressed the START button. Now, strange bell-like sounds and fragrant odors emanated from the machine. Then, a previously unseen door to the machine irised open and out stepped a magnificent being.

Part 3: Divine Coffee

Anna asked the being, “Are you a god?”

The being answered with a question: “Why do you want to know?”

“Because a deus ex machina is just what we need to solve all the problems.”

Just then, McAllister walked around the machine.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said. “I thought I heard voices. I suppose Godfrey should have warned me. And who is this magnificent person?”

“Grandmaster McAllister, may I present the deus ex machina, and vice-versa?” said Anna.

“Pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise. Would that Godfrey you mentioned be one Godfrey Burke? He would surely try to disassemble my machine.”

“Yes, he would.”

Jim said, “Maybe he could be next year’s Guest of Honor.”

“Please, let’s get back on topic,” Anna said. “We still haven’t restored my original talent or solved any of the other problems.”

“Other problems?” asked McAllister.

“When I last connected with my muse, I got gibberish. Look at this transcript,” said Anna, pulling out a printed page that looked like a bunch of passwords. “And on top of that, everyone’s too concerned about that mysterious object in the asteroid belt to care.”

They were interrupted by flashing red and blue lights. A police car pulled up to the edge of the forest clearing and two officers emerged.

The man said, “You have to move this apparition. It’s blocking traffic.”

“Do you know who this is?” asked Jim, indicating the god.

“I don’t care who any of you are. You’ve got to clear this street. Now.”

“Okay, wait a sec,” said the god. He pulled a phone out of his toga and invoked a hide-portal app. The forest scene, along with the machine, disappeared and two long lines of honking cars took its place. Satisfied, the police officers got back in their car and drove away. Anna, Jim, McAllister, and the god decided to head for the nearest Miami’s Best Coffee franchise.

“Mr. Deus ex Machina,” said Jim, once they had all gotten their orders, “We can’t keep calling you that. Do you have a name we can use?”

“I suppose you could call me Am-a-deus,” the god replied. “Of course, that’s not my real name.”

“I notice you don’t have mouth tentacles, Amadeus. Are you not a Lovecraftian Elder God?” asked McAllister.

“No, I’m an Ether God, invoked by a song. The Elder Gods don’t exist in this universe.”

“A song?” asked Anna, “Not a spell? How can that work?”

“It must be sung by someone who’s inherently magical,” said Amadeus, looking at Jim.

“That explains a lot,” said McAllister, “But why didn’t you show up at the convention?”

“I didn’t have a membership.”

Amadeus took another sip of his complimentary café con leche. “Ah, this is excellent. We don’t have anything like it back in the ether. I’m glad you invoked me even if I can’t solve your problems.”

“What do you mean, you can’t solve our problems? That’s what a deus ex machina is for!” said Anna, almost spilling her café cubano.

“The thing is, resolving the external conflict requires resolving the internal one.”

“I didn’t know we had an internal conflict,” said Jim.

“I suspect Amadeus is referring to Anna’s distrust of fans,” said McAllister.

“Finish up your cappuccino, Grandmaster, so you can return home.”

Amadeus pulled out his phone again and made the forest scene reappear. As the god entered the machine, McAllister walked around it, cup in hand. Finally, the magic portal faded out.

“Might I see that transcript?”

“Sure, here it is. By the way, I’m sorry I suspected you were trying to steal my writing talent. Thank you for understanding.”

De nada. Say, I wonder if this is a telepathic transmission from that object near the asteroid? I understand that experts can take years to figure out this sort of thing.”

While Jim studied the transcript, Anna had to decide if she could trust him with any aliens; he might say the wrong thing. Fans tended to do that, at least when talking to authors.

“But how can we possibly understand it, much less reply?” she asked.

“We need a magical solution. Let’s schedule a brain-storming session.”

“Okay, then, I’ll call Bob Azuneau.”


McAllister sent Burke a text message reading, Godfrey, you were absolutely right about the magical person. He showed up with Anna as you said, along with a literal deus ex machina—who, incidentally, seemed to know a lot about you. More later.

When he reentered his house, his wife asked, “Where did you go?”

Still holding the cup, he said, “Just out for a cappuccino at Miami’s Best Coffee.”

“I didn’t know they had a franchise in this town.”

“They don’t.”

Part 4: Alien Messages

Anna and Bob arrived together at Jim’s apartment. Bob had been inexplicably wrong about the object being in the asteroid belt; it was a near-Earth asteroid that had the new companion. There was media talk about sending a robotic mission to investigate, but any launch would still be many weeks in the future. Everyone was arguing about dangerous alien visitors and what the powers-that-be might do about them, but there was no indication that the object was interested in Earth or humanity—except maybe Anna’s gibberish text. If it was indeed a telepathic alien message, was it a one-way communication or could she transmit back? They could only try and see.

They all talked about possible magical solutions, but to no avail. After Jim went to the kitchen, Bob said, “I’ve obtained this little book—don’t ask how. I think it may have some language-related spells.”

“Let me look,” said Anna. “How about this one: Universal Translator?”

“You’re forgetting about Jim’s talent. The spell has a high probability of malfunctioning.”

“You’re right. We need the opposite, a language garbling spell.”

Now Bob looked through the book. “I think I’ve found it. Babel Spell: will confound communication by changing the languages. Jim’s talent will almost certainly reverse the effect. But wait—a tower of some kind is needed.”

“Does it have to be a real tower, or can it be a miniature tower we could construct?”

“Oh. The latter is better, since the tower is toppled by the spell. But what can we make it with?”

Just then, Jim returned from the kitchen holding a large tray. “Does anyone want some bagels?” he asked.

“Bagels? That’s it! We can build the tower using bagels. How many do you have?”

So they constructed the tower of bagels next to Anna’s laptop, inside the pentagon.

“Here goes,” said Anna.

WHOOMPF! Bagels went rolling everywhere. It was a good thing they hadn’t used the cream cheese.

“Anna,” said Jim, “try typing something now.”

Anna sat in front of the computer and typed: We are the <Qq’Xcj’h> hive. We are speaking to each hive of this stellar complex. What hives will answer us?

“It worked!” they all said.

Why hive?” asked Bob.

“Well, aliens are always assumed to be like social insects in science fiction,” said Jim.

They decided that Jim would tell Anna how to reply.

Jim said, “We are the SciFiFan hive. What do you need from us?”

Anna typed that.

The aliens responded with an explanation of their activities, with Jim interposing queries.

Bob said, “Those responses were pretty quick. Alien telepathy must not be limited to the speed of light.

Finally, Anna typed: We will leave a gift for the SciFiFan hive.

Jim said, “I guess that’s all.”

Bagels were retrieved. While Anna and Jim relaxed, Bob studied the astronomy news on his tablet. After almost an hour, he announced that the object in question had disappeared, according to those currently able to observe it.

Anna asked, “Does that mean I get my original muse back now?”

Jim said, “I hope you do—I’m not a fan of westerns.”

“What about the gift they said they’d leave us? We can’t just run out to that asteroid and pick it up!”

“It doesn’t matter; somebody will someday.”

With Bob and Anna gone and everything taken care of, Jim felt a little let down. Not only that, he realized he’d never gotten Anna to autograph the books. Oh well, there would always be another convention—and magic!


Anna was glad to be back at her desktop computer, ready to write science fiction again. Pencils, paper, coffee, book, and chair set in their places and the spell intoned, she typed:

Once enough energy has been gathered, the child ships bud off from the adult ship and land on the asteroid to collect matter. Some of this will be returned to the adult ship, but the rest will enable the child ships to grow and eventually become adult ships themselves.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Forty-First

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here.

It seems our friends are still trapped in the closet land of Writeria and the battle continues.

Oh, did you think I meant the battle between the native Fox People and the Dark Armies? No, my friends, that’s just background for the epic battle that’s been waging between writers who write without a plan (Brandon Sanderson—may he write forever, calls these types “discovery writers) and writers who develop an outline (Brandon Sanderson—may he write forever, calls these types “architects.”)

Personally, I’m neither of the two camps. In a world of Discoverers and Architects, I’m an Archeologist.

Without further ado…


Dear Gladys,

I’m sure you want to know EVERYTHING that’s going on with my writing, not to mention how we’re doing in my magical closet land called Writeria. That’s pronounced wry-TARE-ria and NOT like DIARRHEA like Tod Boadkins keeps saying!!!!

As for my newest pages, you are just going to have to wait because now I have a lot of Fox writers who are going to read my pages and give me feedback!!! My latest pages are handwritten because the battery on my laptop is dead but when I get them back from the foxes, I’ll make sure I send them to you, too. Once I figure out how to send you physical pages.

Maybe if I trap a small pigeon and feed it french fries and secretly bring it under my spell so that it flies through my closet and brings you my fresh pages…

But I’d have to tear the pages into very tiny pieces so that it could fly. It would take a TON of TRIPS. WELL, NO TIME LIKE HTE PRESENT, GLADYS!!!

Also, my battery on my phone is almost completely dead and I keep looking around in all the trees and I still haven’t found an outlet that is compatible with my phone!!!! Stupid tree outlets!!!

LOTS to catch up on!!!

Oh wait, you know what? I think I see Tod Boadkins over there in the hospital tent recovering from his arrow wound and scrolling on his phone. He still has battery!!!

Hang on, Gladys, I’ll have Tod Boadkins email you.

BTW, I’m NOT talking to him. The romance is almost definitely COMPLETELY OVER!!!! He is pushing his OUTLINING WAYS ON ME!!!!

Real writers don’t use outlines!!!!

Anyhoo, I’m going to go talk to him to tell him to email you about my writing and then I’m not talking to him again.

Off to look for a french-fry loving flying rat!!!!



From: Tod Boadkins

Subject: Um…hi?

Hello Gladys,

My name is Tod Boadkins. I’m the author of the dark fantasy novel, Broken Tides, published by Blood Wine Press late last year. Your friend, Writer X, has asked me to email you. She and I are currently dating, I’m not sure if she mentioned that to you.

Unfortunately, X hasn’t been clear about what I’m supposed to be emailing you about. I’m not sure how you’re going to read this email as I have no cell service out here. Every time she looks at me and sees me tapping letters into my phone she seems a little less mad at me.

I’m just going to keep typing and let X be none the wiser.

I noticed you have a Cradensburg email address. Is that where you live? I’m assuming that you’re another writer, knowing X? All of her friends that I’ve met seem to be writers of one kind or other, even Tryxy is a songwriter. Have you met Tryxy? He’s a hoot. If a hoot can also be terrifying.

I have no idea what I should be writing.

Not sure you’ve known X for very long, but I can advise one thing: don’t get her angry. It’s hard to land on the other side of her scowl. She appears to be the sort who could go to her grave holding a grudge, be dug up a thousand years later, and still have that grudge clasped in her adamantium claws.

Not complaining: I like the idea of women who don’t get over things easily. My ex-wife got over me pretty quickly. Leaves a poor taste in the mouth.

The taste doesn’t go away quickly, either.

Alright, since I seem to be typing to myself until X stops looking at me, care to hear why she’s pissed?


A stupid conversation about outlines. It could have been an intelligent conversation about outlines, but it became the dumbest conversation about outlines I have ever sank to the level of having.

Let me give you the background on what’s been happening as I need to contextualize this for myself.

A little over a week ago, X and I found a hole in the back of her writer’s closet. That hole led to this other land that X calls Writeria (sounds like diarrhea.) X invited myself and few of her writer friends to join her in Writeria for a weeklong vacation. Since we’ve gotten to this snow infested place, I have learned how to fly, our friend Silverfox has been captured, and we were attacked by Dark Armies.

I was also shot down by X’s fox friends. I suspect it had something to do with outlines.

Are you familiar with the writing expression “Plotters and Pantsers”? If not, here’s the rundown: plotters are writers who draw up an outline and have a sense of the structure of their book before they begin writing; pantsers are those writers who ‘fly by the seat of their pants.’ Most writers start as pants-ers and you know why?

Because writing is hard.

My mother used to embroider pillows. The side of the pillow that faces the viewer would have tchotchke rustic cottages and pictures of cranberries. The side of the pillow that I would see sitting at my mother’s knees was a hot mess.

Reading is like looking at the cottages and cranberries. Writing is living in the middle of the hot mess. For most, the process is much less intuitive than you think. We assume that, since reading is easy, the difficulty of writing should be proportional to the ease of the read.

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

At some point in your writing journey, you buckle in and realize that this is always going to be hard. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes the words fly out of a secret stash in your wrists. But most times you have to liberate the words from a thousand miles of ice with a single pick axe and you think “there’s got to be an easier way.”

Young writers engage in a kind of tribalism. They divvy up across boundary lines and declare themselves Tribe Pantser or Tribe Plotter. If you suggest to the Plotter that maybe they should try free writing, they’ll smash their bottle of Moxie and glass you in the ribs. If you suggest to the Pantser—let’s call her “Writer Z” that perhaps the reason she keeps stalling out in her epic fantasy novel is because she needs get to the core of what her story structure is…

She will stop talking to you except to command you to write to her friend Gladys, even though you have no cell reception or wifi.

My mom embroidered anchors onto pillows and sold them at miserable country fairs. She also was a psychologist. I understand a few things about the human mind, thanks to her. The writer’s mind is a human mind, whatever the alien worlds we dream up.

What X is doing to me is simply denial. It’s not me she’s angry at. Denial happens when we’re confronted with a truth that makes us anxious. Writing is a daunting task and it takes many years to learn. What you don’t know is overwhelming and, if you feel too overwhelmed, you’re likely to quit. So writers wear their labels and methods as a shield against the idea that this is going to be hard and stay hard. We cling to the one thing we think we know to protect us from the reality of all we don’t know.

X wants to be famous by December. Call me weird, but I think it’s kind of adorable. At least she still has the courage to name her dreams. I know she’s terrified that I know more about writing than she does and some of it is pride. The other part of it is anxiety. But if I could just get her to see that I know a thing or two and, if she took my advice, she’d get more of her book written.


Just caught glimpse of my own denial. I want X to accept my advice because I’m afraid I don’t know as much as I think I do about writing. That’s why I’ve been strong arming her into accepting that my way is better.

Wow, Gladys. You’re good. You should start charging people to write you emails.

Let me close this quickly. We’re camping with a tribe of fox people (I know, unreal.) We’re on our way to the kingdom capitol to rendezvous with the “royal kitten” (???). Somewhere on the other side of that, X is going to “talk to the manager” of Writeria to make her writing life easier.

To abuse a cliché, if she’s happy…I think I’m happy, too.

I should go. There’s a nasally-voiced, doe-eyed writer in pink I need to apologize to.







I Sing Bradbury Electric: A Loving, Personal Remembrance 

Ray Bradbury at his home in Los Angeles (photo by Danny Tuffs, Getty Images)

By Steve Vertlieb: He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction. He shared with Ernest Hemingway the simplicity of phrase inspired by genius. No more legendary literary figure ever claimed Earth as his home, and yet Ray Bradbury was a childlike gargantuan whose life and artistry were shaped by the wonder and innocence of curiosity and tender imagination.

He was born into a world of rocket ships and monsters, a universe traversed by Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Frankenstein, Dracula, and a miraculous primordial ape called KING KONG. His boyhood was transformed by the promise of distant worlds and stranger creatures whose outward malevolence masked secret torment, the sadness of being deemed somehow different.

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois (a hometown he shared with Jack Benny) on August 22nd, 1920. From birth he shared an affinity with the magical realm of motion pictures. His middle name was dedicated to the imagery of screen swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks, and so Ray always knew that his spiritual ancestors consisted of pirates and colorful masked swordsmen. Coming of age during America’s great Depression, the gregarious youth was lifted by the seat of his pants by silken images painted in celluloid. His heroes consisted not only of daring cavaliers such as Fairbanks, but by the pervasively exotic characterizations of Lon Chaney Sr., Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The mystic lure of far away worlds beckoned the impressionable adolescent with the promise of tomorrow, while monstrous cinematic cadavers and rockets to Mars replaced the mundane scenery of a Depression-stricken America.

As sympathetic souls and kindred spirits came together in pre-destined unison, Bradbury found himself drawn to the early worlds of science fiction, fantasy, pulp fandom and, together with fellow teenagers Ray Harryhausen and Forrest James Ackerman, began their journey of discovery, forming what has come to be recognized as “first fandom,” in pursuit of creative profit and recognition. Bradbury would later state that he owed everything to Forry Ackerman who sold his first published story. The third member of the imaginative trio, Ray Harryhausen, formalized their creative partnership with the visual realization of Bradbury’s short story “The Fog Horn.” Published in a celebrated issue of The Saturday Evening Post, the short story concerning a sea beast consumed by the tantalizing image of an isolated light house, became the basis for Harryhausen’s first solo screen effort, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Rod Serling encouraged the celebrated writer to join his literary enclave at CBS Television as the decade reached its conclusion and, while Bradbury submitted several scripts to Serling’s classic science fiction/fantasy anthology series, The Twilight Zone, only one was aired as a part of the series. “I Sing The Body Electric,” inspired by Walt Whitman’s famous poem, served as the basis for a Bradbury story in which an electric grandmother is hired by a wealthy widower to work as his children’s nanny. The episode aired as a part of the series on May 18th, 1962 and was later included in a famous Bradbury anthology of the same name published in 1969. While this remains the only episode of the series penned by Bradbury, Serling managed to include an affectionate reference to the writer in his own melancholy tale (“Walking Distance”) of an advertising executive on the verge of a nervous breakdown, coming home once more to the small town in which he had spent his boyhood. As Martin Sloan (Gig Young) walks along the streets of Homewood, he makes a casual reference to the Bradbury house standing prominently in his gaze. Homewood sweetly represented small town Americana from which both writers had migrated.

Ray Bradbury turned his adolescent energy and enthusiasm into poetic imagery, and brought a human face to Man’s exploration of the stars. When Neil Armstrong took his first small steps upon the lunar landscape in July,1969, generating a giant leap of faith for all Mankind, Bradbury’s frustration over the lack of excitement shown by the television networks covering the monumental story exploded into headlines, and a memorable tirade by the world’s most eloquent innocent. Bradbury sat solemn and quiet as a guest on a network Lunar themed telecast, struggling to fill time with inanity after insanity. Unable to contain his rage at the proliferation of stupidity filling the national airwaves, the child in a man’s body rose to his feet…outraged by the lack of understanding and exhilaration being exhibited by David Frost and his disinterested panel of guests…and threatened to walk off of the live telecast. His contempt for the bland assemblage of guests apparent, Bradbury admonished them as he would a poor student in the gaze of a disappointed teacher. “This is the greatest night in the history of the world,” he raged. The lack of excitement over this cherished, awe inspiring moment in time, was just too much for this child of wonder either to accept or to absorb. The moment that Ray, and millions of children around the world, had dreamt of and imagined since Buck Rogers and Superman had first flown into space some thirty years earlier was finally here. That these simple, uninspired talk show guests were consumed with themselves, rather than this extraordinary moment of mortal achievement and exploration, was more than Bradbury could endure.

Like millions of imaginative children inhabiting Bradbury’s world, I revered his name and legend. Ray Bradbury signified everything I’d ever dreamt of or aspired to.

As a quiet, introspective boy growing up in Philadelphia during the nineteen fifties, I became a poster child for what would one day become known as “A Monster Kid” — a generation of “baby boomers” weaned on, and inspired by, television, the huge monster movie craze of the fifties, and the introduction of a genre movie magazine with the unlikely name of Famous Monsters of Filmland. The progenitor of this magical publication was none other than the editor who had first brought Ray Bradbury to the attention of publishers. Forrest J Ackerman, or as he was known to his millions of adoring children, “Uncle Forry.”

Forry was the Hans Christian Anderson of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a Walt Disney father figure who, like the proverbial “Pan,” would lure willing children to worlds and concepts beyond the stars, filling their imaginations with inspirational promise and invitation. He was a joyous Pied Piper who, together with his boyhood friends, Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, would cause generation after generation of creative youth to embrace their dreams, and create their own fantastic lives and careers. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were only two of the many artists who found their singular paths among the clouds inhabited by Bradbury, Harryhausen, and Ackerman.

Ray Bradbury with Steve and Erwin Vertlieb

It was during the wonderful Summer months of 1974 that I traveled for the first time to Los Angeles, and came face to face with the land of fantasies, dreams, imagination, and motion pictures that had so consumed and mesmerized my own impressionable childhood. I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store. Everywhere I turned represented the reflection of my own childhood longing and wanderings.

Among my friends of the period was composer and orchestrator John Morgan. John announced one afternoon that he had received an invitation to Ray Bradbury’s house that evening, and he wondered if my brother Erwin and I would like to join him for the royal summons. I swallowed my singular exhilaration, and excitedly accepted his generous invitation. Bradbury’s residence was a large yellow structure in a quiet residential neighborhood. We nervously climbed the outer steps and rang the door bell. As the door opened, Ray greeted us personally and ushered the three of us into his living room. I was both thrilled and frightened, for here within my gaze was the legendary writer smiling at me and extending his hand. His hands, I remember, were very large and inviting and I became lost inside their welcome grasp. Ray asked me about my own career, and I told him that I was a published writer and minor film historian. My day job was, I explained, a film editor at a Philadelphia television station.

He asked if I knew that he had written the screen play for John Huston’s magnificent 1956 production of Moby Dick. I assured him that I had. He was very proud of the gift that Huston had given him after the picture had been released. It was a 16-millimeter Technicolor print of the Warner Bros. release given him personally by the director. Ray was like a little kid proudly showing off his Hopalong Cassidy pistol. He asked if I’d like to see a few minutes of the film. I said yes, of course, and he ran to find the print. His joy was infectious as I watched him delicately thread the projector and share his treasure with us.

As the film began to unspool on the screen in his living room I could see that the print was immaculate. My film editor’s eye, however, noticed just the beginnings of an emulsion scratch in the otherwise gorgeous Technicolor print. I took my life in my hands, and asked Ray to stop the film for a moment. I don’t know if it was courage on my part or youthful arrogance. It’s difficult now to say which. Ray looked at me with a puzzled expression. I asked him if he ever cleaned his projector “gate.” He asked what I meant. I said “Ray, do you have a box of cue tips and some Isopropyl Alcohol?” Here was one of the most important writers of the Twentieth Century going dutifully to fetch a box of cue tips for this young upstart transgressing his hospitality. I honestly thought he would lift me bodily from my chair, and hurl me out the door to the street below. Instead, like the gentle soul he was, he went out into another room to bring what I had requested. I took a cue tip from the box he had handed me and immersed it in the accompanying bottle of alcohol. I showed him how to clean the “gate” of the projector in the areas that came into contact with the film print and assured him that this procedure would help to keep his beloved Technicolor print from being torn and permanently scratched. He thanked me for this simple lesson in film maintenance, and appeared grateful, but I was thoroughly convinced at the time that I would soon be black listed all over Hollywood, and forbidden from ever encountering or confronting this splendid Ice Cream Man again. That was Ray. He was just a big kid…a gentle, enthusiastic child with the talent and intellect of a genius.

During that same trip out West we had the unique opportunity to sit in the audience with Ray and his wife for a live, small theater production of Fahrenheit 451. Ray told me that he adored Bernard Herrmann’s original score for the Truffaut film version of his famous novel and, at his insistence, the small theater troupe used excerpts from the Herrmann recording of his score for London Phase 4 Records, with the composer conducting The London Philharmonic Orchestra. The experience was surreal.

After that, Ray and I maintained a sporadic, yet steady correspondence for the rest of his life. I remember running into him at one of Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters Of Filmland conventions in Virginia in 1993. I hadn’t seen Ray in years. He was surrounded, as he always was, by a burgeoning crowd of awe-struck fans. I approached him and asked if he remembered an arrogant young man some twenty years earlier who had had the temerity, in his own living room, to lecture him on the care and feeding of his 16-millimeter movie projector. He looked up at me from the hotel couch on which he was sitting and grinned somewhat impishly, pointing his finger in my direction. “Was that YOU?” I assured him that I was, indeed, that brazen young lad. We both chuckled over the recollection of that embarrassing episode so many years earlier. He might have cringed at my appearance, but he didn’t. He simply chuckled in delight. He was A Medicine For Melancholy.

Among the many ties that bound us together was Ray’s passionate interest in symphonic motion picture music written for the screen. We shared a love for the music of such composers as Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, and Max Steiner among others. I had known Miklos Rozsa as a friend for nearly thirty years, and Ray not only admired his music, but had worked together with the composer during the filming of King Of Kings for MGM in 1961. Rozsa had won a richly deserved Oscar for his magnificent 1959 score for Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer’s Ben-Hur, and so was asked to write the music for the studio’s early sixties remake of the original 1927 Cecil B. DeMille silent classic. Ray was hired by Metro to write the narration spoken by Orson Welles scattered throughout the picture, and attended some of the recording sessions with Rozsa.

In 2007 the historic Castro Theater in San Francisco was preparing a special film festival honoring the work of the legendary composer, and I was asked to choose the films for the presentation, write the liner notes for the program, and co-host the festival. As it turned out, the Miklos Rozsa film festival became a major San Francisco event in late 2007 and early 2008 with seventeen motion pictures presented to packed houses over a nine-day period. The composer’s daughter, Juliet Rozsa, along with his granddaughters Nicci and Ariana, all drove in from Los Angeles and appeared with me on stage during the introductions. I was honored to read proclamations from both the Mayor of San Francisco, as well as the Hungarian Ambassador to The United States. However, the introduction that thrilled me the most was one written expressly for the event by Ray Bradbury.

Knowing Ray’s love for film music, I wrote him about the festival. He wrote me back asking if he might contribute his own written introduction to the festival. I was honored to accept his lovely request. After all, who was I to say say “no” to Ray Bradbury. Consequently, I felt a tingle of excitement as I read Ray’s brief, loving words from the stage to an audience of some seven hundred people just prior to my “live” interview with Juliet Rozsa, and a 35-millimeter screening of the composer’s masterpiece, Ben-Hur.

Over the years that followed I continued to correspond with Ray, both my mail and through the internet. Each Christmas would bring Ray’s newest holiday poetry which seemed to arrive not through conventional mail delivery but, rather, upon wings of angels within a snow covered sleigh. On one memorable occasion, after sending him an article I’d written pertaining to the science fiction genre we both so adored, he wrote me a lovely note thanking me for continuing to write about the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. He felt a singular obligation to keep the faith, so to speak, through his own place in literary history, and wanted to thank me, as well, for continuing to carry the torch along with him. Despite his advancing years and assorted health problems, which included a debilitating stroke in 1999, he was still the same little boy who had discovered the wonder of other worlds and galaxies so many decades before. Like Ray Harryhausen and Forry Ackerman, with whom he had shared his first spiritual journeys to outer space, he wrote “Steve…You’re a good pal.” I nearly cried when I read that, and wanted to reach out and hug this gentle soul whose life and work had so touched and impacted my own.

Ray continued to find wonder in the music of the movies and particularly loved Jerry Goldsmith’s valiant score for The Wind and The Lion. His affection for Goldsmith’s exhilarating musical themes for the romantic Sean Connery adventure film inspired his own work, and he proudly acknowledged his debt to the composer’s symphonic poetry in creating Now And Forever: Somewhere A Band Is Playing, published by William Morrow Company in 2007.

Jerry Goldsmith

I published my own tribute to Jerry Goldsmith and his music for another epic score, First Knight, in June, 2011, at Film Music Review, and discussed Ray’s love for that earlier Goldsmith music. I sent the article to Ray’s beloved daughter, Alexandra (Zee) shortly after its online publication. I think that one of the greatest thrills of my life, perhaps, was when Zee took my work along with her during a trip to her dad’s home a few weeks later, and read it to him. She wrote me that he smiled from ear to ear and offered his own enthusiastic comments as she read him my words about the Goldsmith music. 

Several weeks later I received a small parcel from Ray in the mail. On the face of the large white envelope were two postage stamps honoring Edgar Allan Poe.

Next to the stamps, Ray had drawn an arrow pointing toward Poe, and written in big letters “My Pa.”

Inside the envelope were a photograph of Ray standing next to a painting of Poe, along with a handwritten note which read…


Thanks for “Mickey” (Miklos Rozsa)
4E (Forry Ackerman)
& ME!


I got to see Ray a couple of more times, and those visits were the most wonderful love fests that I could have imagined. After the death of his lifelong friend friend Forry Ackerman, I sent Ray my Rondo-nominated tribute to my own forty-seven year friendship with Uncle Forry and, as I sat at his side, Ray said “I owe him everything.” I visited Ray shortly after his ninetieth birthday in late August, 2010. He was busily involved in numerous tributes, interviews and appearances honoring his birthday, but he told Zee to please somehow fit me into his schedule…and so I traveled with my little brother Erwin to Ray’s house to spend a loving hour at his feet. It was difficult for him to speak due to ill health, but he was obviously happy to see us and felt invigorated by our visit. I continued to feel astonished that this world renowned literary figure, this giant of a writer, was still living within the confines of the very same humble home he’d shared with an unsuspecting, quiet residential neighborhood for some fifty years. When I asked him about it, he told me that he’d raised his family and enjoyed much of his fame and success in his beloved house. Why would he ever wish to leave it?

In January, 2010, I discovered that my own health had been dramatically failing and that I would need major open heart surgery quite soon if I were to survive. In mid February of that year we scheduled surgery for a few weeks hence. I wrote Ray of my impending procedure, and he playfully instructed Zee to write me of the poetic irony of my requiring heart surgery right around Valentine’s Day. He further instructed her to tell me that he would not allow me to die. Who was I to contradict Ray Bradbury?

I was able to visit Ray one more time during the closing days of August, 2011. Once again, the demands on his time had become nearly impossible, as the world around him was beginning to understand and respect the significance and singular importance of the solitary inspiration who had so profoundly influenced the better part of their lives. Once again, Ray grew excited at the prospect of my impending visit and asked Zee to please arrange his schedule so that he might find time to see me. When Zee wrote me that “Dad” was excited about seeing me during my visit to Los Angeles, I humbly pondered the reasons why Ray Bradbury…this living legend…would grow excited over seeing me, of all people. I think the reason for his enthusiasm had little to do with me personally. It was just that Ray had never truly grown up. He was still the eternal innocent…still the little boy possessed of childlike awe and wonder who was eager to stop time and simply visit with an old “pal.”

Ray had just turned ninety-one and was visibly excited over the news that a film production company had just purchased the rights to his novel Dandelion Wine. As we entered the house, Zee told me that her dad was thrilled by the report and that he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. When I entered his den I found him in good spirits and quite animated. We talked of the sale, and of our nearly forty-year friendship. As the time wore on, and Ray was growing tired, I grew unusually sentimental as we were to preparing to leave. I filled up with tears as I told Ray how deeply I loved him, and how he had so profoundly impacted not only my life, but the lives of literally millions of friends and admirers all over the world who loved him as well, and owed him so very much. I arose from my chair and embraced this frail, gentle soul. I kissed him on his cheek, and told him how much he meant to me. He said “I love you, too, Steve” as each of us smiled and fought back the inevitable tears.

As we left the modest home on Cheviot Drive, I turned once more to see the façade and stood there for a moment, deep in thought and contemplation. As we got into the car, I said to Erwin “I have a terrible feeling that this is the last time we’ll ever see Ray.”

The remaining months of 2011 slipped quickly away. A new year was dawning but, with it, came new health concerns…not only for me, but for my beloved mom who had celebrated her one hundredth birthday six months earlier. In the early morning hours of February 1st, 2012, I received the dreaded telephone call that my mother had passed away. Among the treasured notes and letters of condolence that I received was a touching E-mail from Ray and Zee Bradbury expressing their sadness over the loss of my mom.

Nostalgia for things past and for a simpler time, perhaps, has become a common thread shared by so many so called “baby boomers.” In December, 2011, I was interviewed in my home for two hours by film director Robert Tinnell and a camera crew for a new film documentary concerning the “Monster Kid” phenomenon inspired by Forrest J Ackerman, his groundbreaking Famous Monsters Of Filmland Magazine, and the hugely popular, affectionately remembered monster movie craze of the 1950’s. Such luminaries as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas owe their careers to the phenomenon, as do such decidedly minor players as myself. While the film has not yet been completed, the producers released a theatrical trailer promoting their forthcoming documentary in the Spring. I sent the link for the trailer to Zee Bradbury, inspiring her to write back that “Dad should really be a part of this.” I telephoned Bob Tinnell on his mobile phone while he was driving in West Virginia to let him know that Ray Bradbury was interested in appearing in his film. He pulled off to the side of the road in excitement over the news. I put Bob in touch with Zee, and they arranged for Bob to come and visit Ray either in late May or early June, 2012, to interview him for the film.

In the meantime, I had spoken with Zee about my own impending return to Los Angeles in late August, 2012 and, as usual, she wrote back that her dad was excited about seeing me, and had asked her to re-arrange his schedule so that he might find the time to do so. While at work on the morning of Wednesday, June 6th, I received an E-Mail from Bob Tinnell letting me know that Ray had passed away during the night before at his home in Los Angeles. I stared at my Blackberry phone in stunned silence, unable to fully grasp the news. Ray Bradbury was gone. I began to cry. My lifelong hero and friend had died. I would no longer behold his wonderful face and childlike smile, nor would I ever again find my own hands lost in his. He had joined Forry and his other pals in what must surely be Science Fiction Heaven. Ray shared our lives and existence for an all too brief and shining moment in eternity, and now he had departed, leaving us to face a world sadly dreary in his absence.

Ray has found peace in another realm of immortality, having joined The Ghosts of Forever, and yet his work lives on beyond his fabled physical presence, and we shall continue to sing Bradbury Electric in joyful celebration and chorus for the remainder of our own solitary sojourn upon this wondrous sphere.

— Steve Vertlieb, June 2012
Contributing writer – Film Music Review

Originally published by Roger Hall in Film Music Review.

[Some of the images in the remembrance are from the author’s personal collection. Others are from online sources and no copyright infringement is intended or implied.]

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Fortieth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here!

First things first, we have received an email from furry fantasy writer, Silverfox. It’s great to know that he’s safe for now, but I can’t believe that he’s about to do…what he’s about to do.

I love being a writer. It’s the hardest and best thing in the world, but I don’t think I could ever make the kind of decision he’s making.

Could you?

When last Silverfox wrote us, he was off to rendezvous with a band of dangerous fox warriors with his enemy the Neutral Ninja. He had asked that Gladys (which is us, apparently) tell the others, in case of his demise, to complete his unfinished work of fantasy called The Wile of Herindor which is about “a tribe of foxes searching for a mythic fox hero lost to time.” I don’t know about you but I’m kinda upset that he hasn’t finished it because I kind of want to take a look at that story.

A lot of things can change in two weeks, or two days, as it seems that a day in the world our friends are currently lost in is a week in our own world.

I’ve taken the liberty of adding links to his email for your convenience, should you need them.

Without further ado…

From: Silverfox Firepaw

Subject: A Goodbye


Several days ago, when X asked me to join her and investigate a world she discovered in her closet, I knew that if I said yes, something about my life would change. I thought maybe we would get a little closer as friends or maybe we would stop being friends altogether. I had no way of knowing that I would be writing what I am about to write, but please know that I have never felt so hopeful and so sure over a decision.


Shortly, I shall detail the events that have led to my decision. First, I must begin with saying goodbye.

I am not returning to our world. I will stay here with the ones I have met. Know that this decision is a permanent one. When last I wrote you, I detailed that I had been rescued from the cages of the Dark Armies’ wagon train by a person who could shape-shift into a rock. That person was M I L F R E D—it’s not his real name, but it is what is now scratched on his forehead thanks to Writer X writing it on him with her signature pink pencils while he was in rock form. Painful, no doubt, but everyone calls him that now.

Milfred is the Neutral Ninja, the very soul our Fellowship has sworn to stop. It is he who has been slipping into the homes of Cradensburg residents and stealing autographed first printings of masterworks of fantasy. He has stolen an autographed copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Elfstones of Shannara, A Wizard of Earthsea, Song of Ice and Fire, The Name of the Wind, The Lord of the Rings, Interview With A Vampire, Titus Groan—so many diverse volumes of the Fantastic! He has even stolen a copy of Watership Down. I swore that I would do everything in my power to stop him and return those stolen books back to their rightful owners.

Instead, I am going to assist him.

The Unexpected Portals

You see, the Fellowship had previously believed that the Neutral Ninja was stealing these seminal works to unlock something called MAP—a device that would reveal the hidden locations of the Relics of Writing—which X calls the Anti-Horcruxes. We had also erroneously believed that the Neutral Ninja was from our world.

We were wrong on both counts.

Milfred, the Neutral Ninja, is from whatever world this is inside X’s closet. And I’m no longer sure this world is actually in X’s closet. Rather, I believe that X’s closet has a portal in it that leads to this world which X named Writeria.

In fact, it is one of many portals that have opened to this world. The snow, the Dark Armies, and the Snow Pants Wars have all come from other worlds through rifts torn in the fabric of reality. It is destroying their world. Milfred aims to take his stolen trunk of books to a place called The Grove of Dreams beyond The Waterfalls of Chasing. The books—which are portals themselves, will be used to divert the portal flows away from this world and send all foreigners and foriegn things back to their origins.

This would include me.

But, soon, it will not.

Rendezvous with the Foxes

Gladys, up until this point I have revealed to you my decision to stay in this world forever, but I have no yet revealed to you why I have come to this decision.

When I last wrote you, I mentioned that Milfred and I were to rendezvous with a scout party of Fox Warriors who flanked us from above and below our mountain path. I had also relayed to you in confidence some days ago that I thought we were being followed by a creature that had fox ears. I had not mentioned this to the others, in part because I did not want to frighten them, but also because I did not trust myself.

You see, a part of me has wanted this place to be Narnia. It’s so close in all the grandest ways: it’s covered in snow as Narnia once had been. It is accessed through a Wardrobe—or, at least Writer X’s walk-in closet. And I had hope that we would meet talking animals or at least Mr. Tumnus.

Gladys, may I confess a little more? I’ve always been mad at other fantasy readers and even more angry at fantasy writers. Why is it that Furry Fiction is treated like it belongs in some juvenile age of interests? Why, when we fantasize and imagine worlds, do we fail to extend that imagination to the living things we share our world with? Why do we call that “growing up”?

I was talking to a Black writer some years ago about her experience as a lover of the genre and as a fantasy writer. She once said to me that it confounded and eventually hurt her when, as a child, she read glorious adventures in wondrous lands but that—of all the wonders the writers could imagine, they could never seem to imagine a hero that looked like her. She felt omitted from reality. And as the industry bit by bit published the occasional fantasy with a Black main character, she noticed that non-Black lovers of fantasy wouldn’t read it. She could read white main characters or other magical races with white features, but the favor was never returned.

This has shifted some and, hopefully, will continue to shift as we learn to live up to the visions and human ideals our genre celebrates. But—and it was not appropriate to say this to her at the time and, even if it had been appropriate, I would not have had the courage to say this out loud, this is how I feel about other animals. Stories about birds, princes trapped as frogs, lion Kings, and Animal Farms are relegated to the realm of fiction for children. It’s not serious fantasy.

If you write characters that are animals, anthropomorphic or not—and it’s not for middle grade readers, you are SOL. I’ve attended critique circles in which other fantasy writers won’t read a piece of fantasy if it’s “furry.” I won’t begin to mention some of the comments I’ve received—or the accusations. I know I’m failing to mention the furry community which boasts some of the most creative and diligent writers, but I suppose I have long been jaded by the relegation of furry fiction—fiction which imagines the very creatures with which we share our planet—off to the margins.

Why I’m Staying

Milfred and the Fox People share this world with a number of other talking species that I have just learned of but never beheld. I wish to meet and learn every one!

But what about my writing? Does leaving my old world also mean leaving behind my identity as a fantasy writer? No! It furthers it!

You see, the Fox Warriors which we have met have welcomed me. At first they were not sure what I am but now conclude that, however I present in my fur suit, I must be what fox people look like in my world. And, in so many ways, that is a correct assumption, albeit figuratively. They have called me, not so much one of their own, but one like them. It feels astonishing to be among the kinds of people I have written about— who welcome me and see me how I wish to be seen.

Yes, there is some dilemma regarding my fur suit. Namely, it’s getting quite dingy and I do not have the ability or desire to clean it with my tongue. I will have to find some way to step away from my new tribe for a day or two to clean and dry my fur suit. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to be amongst my own and maybe, by and by, they can come to accept me without my fur suit.

But before I say more, I should tell you how this decision will help my writing. The fox people are a tall, agile, and courageous race. They are true renaissance beings—fighters and bowmen, magic users (magic, Gladys!), and strategists and—though I have only met about thirty or so of their people, each and every one of them are writers.

Writers of ALL sorts of fantasy—including that fantasy which calls itself Science Fiction! At night, when the quiet feasting is done, each fox retires to their pages to add lines to their latest fantasy work. I was among the group who gathered water and do you know what we discussed while at this most banal of camp tasks? Characterization! More specifically, how to characterize species in ways that do not rob them of personhood.

My heart is singing! And beneath that I do have sadness because I will miss X and Tryxy, wise #bestkitten and Tod Boadkins and my furry critique group at home. I’ll miss my old job as a technical writer and I’ll miss my old life, but this new one will be a life of dreams.

Before I help Milfred close the rifts at the Grove of Dreams, I will visit the Waterfall of Chasing which citizens say is actually called Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls (a complicated dynamic—apparently sound bytes from streaming radio and TV in our world penetrate their reality and rob people and places of their original names. It masks the individual or place with snatches of song and phrases like Ohhhhh, Snap! and Give it To Me Baby and her consort Uh Huh, Uh Huh. After a time, no one is able to remember the original name. Yet another reason the portals must be closed lest we all end up being lyrics to a Backstreet Boys song.)

At the Waterfall of Chasing, one can pass through the magical waters and leave behind their old destiny to embrace a new one. I will pass through them to leave behind my destiny in our world and begin my destiny in this one as a Fox person. I may even discover that my fur suit is replaced by the real thing—which would be good and be quite a relief for I truly fear that they will lose trust for me if they discover what is underneath.

Gladys, it is truly wonderful to be accepted for what you really are. Tomorrow at dawn we travel with the Fox Warriors back to the hidden stash of snow pants, and then, on to Destiny!

Please send my love to the others. Perhaps it is better that they don’t know of my decision. I don’t want them to worry. And do not tell them about my WIP, the Wile of Herindor, I will finish it myself.

Now, I must go. It is writing time in the camp and I’ve agreed to give feedback on about thirty manuscripts before dawn. Know that I do treasure the others and I believe all their writing dreams will come true if they persist. This is mine.

In dreams,


“writing is weaving real worlds from invisible threads”
















A Photographic Memory

Steve Vertlieb, Ray Bradbury, Erwin Vertlieb

By Steve Vertlieb: It may not come as much of a surprise to anyone that I was a sheltered, lonely, sensitive kid.  I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands.  It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life.  The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive.  Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence.  Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television.  I can recall being transfixed by this odd, unusual box that would ultimately transfigure my identity, bridging the highway that would carry me into maturity.  I was frightened, perhaps, and uncertain of the path that lay before me.  Yet this wondrous brown box would open worlds and dimensions as yet unsuspected and unknown to me.  I would sit at its feet in the living room of the house where I grew up, staring endlessly at its darkened screen, waiting expectantly for it to come alive.  An image of an American Indian stared back at me throughout the afternoon hours, enticing me to somehow breach its invisible persona and find meaning beyond its seemingly impenetrable identity.  Then, magically each night, the screen would flicker and begin to waken, coming to life in foggy, black and white imagery that was at once both astonishing and hypnotic.  There I discovered the adventures of Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and their adventurous sidekicks.  There was also the music of Paul Whiteman and Kate Smith, as well as the unbridled hilarity of a young comedy team known as Martin and Lewis whose unrestrained anarchism exploded joyously through the screen showcasing The Colgate Comedy Hour.

Milton Berle had his adult audience on The Texaco Star Theater but reached out of the holiday shadows at Christmas time to emerge just for little children like myself as “Uncle Milty.”  There was Walt Disney and Pinky Lee, Gene Autry and Champion and many other purveyors of experimental broadcasting, but the true charm of those early impressionable years of growth and development, not only for the new medium, but for my own developmental path, was in the utterly fascinating exploration of outer space.  There was Rod Brown of the Rockets Rangers broadcast live every Saturday morning on CBS, and starring a young actor in the lead with the vaguely cavernous name of Cliff Robertson.  There was Space Patrol later in the morning sponsored by Rice Chex and Wheat Chex, airing on ABC, and starring actor Edward Kemmer as Commander Buzz Cory, fighting interstellar tyrants and extra-terrestrial creatures that kept this impressionable little boy wide eyed for countless years of his sheltered childhood.

While the new medium of television struggled to find revenue and an audience for its virtually prehistoric programming, it often rescued nineteen thirties movie serials from oblivion and introduced Larry “Buster” Crabbe to a virginal audience of innocents as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, while William Boyd strode valiantly into the saddle once more to star as the beloved cowboy hero for the ages, Hopalong Cassidy.  Dressed in black, astride his white stallion, “Topper,” “Hoppy” captured the hearts, minds, and souls of an entirely new generation in both screenings of his original Western classic films, as well as newly produced thirty minute episodes produced expressly for television.

Later came Guy Williams as Walt Disney’s swashbuckling hero, Zorro for ABC, as well as countless forgotten heroes of the so called “Baby Boomer” generation of impressionable children who grew emotionally and intellectually alongside their magical companion throughout those youthful years of development … that magic box called television.

Television or “TV,” as it came to be known protected me from the ominous dangers of societal prejudice.  I was a quiet, sensitive kid with an expansive imagination as wide at the stars.  If threats of violence came too near, or the cruelty of name calling, too emotionally shattering and disruptive endangered my world, I had only to retreat for comfort and reassuring solace to the protective universe of my tiny RCA television screen.  It was there, after all, that I rode the calamitous dusty trails of the American West alongside Hoppy, Roy, Gene, Zorro, and The Lone Ranger.  It was there that I handily escaped the earthly gravity of troubled reality, and flew to the stars and planets in rocket ships commanded by Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Buzz Cory, and Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers.

I came to cherish the faces, voices, and imagery of nearly spiritual heroism found within the magical realm of fantasy inherent in my television screen.  Later, as I grew to troubled maturity, I discovered the realization of larger than life, more spectacular dreams coming to exhilarating life on the motion picture screen.  It was there, at The Benner Theater in the Oxford Circle neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, that my dreams escaped the boundaries of the tiny box in my childhood living room, and my imagination soared to levels of profound discovery and comprehension that shaped the trajectory of my teenage years into young adulthood.

It was there that I learned to identify the names, faces, and identities of actors, actresses, writers, directors, and composers whose influence upon my life would define my own emerging identity for the rest of my life.  I began writing about my admiration and affection for these larger than life personalities in youthful journals and personal diaries at, perhaps, the tender age of seven years.  It was in 1968, at the invitation of a friend and correspondent in England, that I excitedly accepted an invitation to write for his fledgling magazine, L’Incroyable Cinema.  It was later, in 1972, that I began to write for the first time as a paid professional in the pages of New York City’s first, original, and only bi-weekly fantasy film tabloid, The Monster Times.  Since those early, impressionable years of self discovery more than fifty years ago, I’ve found my work published in relatively distinguished books, magazines, journals and, more recently, on line at a variety of film and entertainment oriented websites.

My fascination with, and adoration of, the art of motion pictures has neither abated or diminished.  That magical box and its theatrical cousin continue to nourish and tantalize my dreams and aspirations.  Along the way, I have been blessed with the gift of personal interaction with many of the artists, musicians, performers, and technicians whose incalculable contributions to the craft of cinema have shaped and inspired my life.  I can imagine no greater blessing than to have been honored by the gift of friendship given me by countless artists whose talent and influence have inspired my own singular journey across a sea of stars and time, and I remain humbled by their kindness and friendship.  In these photographs, letters, and signatures, I’ve endeavored to offer a mere suggestion of the honor that has humbly been bestowed upon me by the often selfless, kind, loving, and most gracious gift of their friendship and influence upon my life.  I shall remain forever grateful for this glorious kindness.

[Photo gallery follows the jump.]

Continue reading

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Thirty-Ninth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here.

If you haven’t been following, Writer X and her friends have been lost in a land that isn’t Narnia. Silverfox has discovered the true identity of the Neutral Ninja and Yacht Rock will never be the same for me.

I received one scrambled email from X this week which I’m pasting below. Apparently she’s been captured by fantasy writers who are holding her hostage in exchange for beta readers and connections to Hollywood?

Wait. That sounds about right. Fantasy writing is hard in any world you might live in.

Something weird is happening. Other text keeps jumping in when I try to hit paste. I think Tryxy’s trying to talk to us.

Without further ado…

Hello Filers,

JUST as I threw off the soldiers from the Dark Armies like flies, the Fox Warriors had the hot idea to attack us. Would have been FINE if not for their magic user.

Am frozen in the magic user’s tent while X negotiates to free me and am HEATED. Almost popped off on magic user for binding me but X said losing temper wouldn’t help so should keep myself “occupied.” Decided to write you instead. Good thing don’t need phone or laptop or hands to send emails. Demons have built in wifi and speech to text. Am sure that will come up later. Could break out of this stone if really wanted to but don’t feel like dealing with more foxy magic.

Let’s see. What do you want to know? Let me read your mind. Oh!

#bestkitten is fine. Safe and warm. X doesn’t know how Fox Warriors will react to a kitten so has #bestkitten snuggled in her back pack. Lots of ham in there. You know how #bestkitten likes her ham.

Awwww. She’s so cute. Becoming less mad.

X is handling all with calmness. Her boyfriend, Tod Boadkins, has gone missing, dear friend Silverfox has been captured, BFF is trapped in a trident geode by PITA magic user and she’s “totally not freaking out.” X is always freaking out. Usually about writing. Guess that this is still easier than writing her first epic fantasy novel.

Need to get out of this stone, find Tod Boadkins and Silverfox, and find mysterious manager of X’s writing so can get back home to coziness of my basement abyss.

…oh. Right. Just remembered.

ThEY are coming for me. Will want to put me back in void thanks to Ninevah. Will be locked away from all friends.

Sad demon is sad.

K. Little calmer. Lil Nas X dropped a new single and he can do no wrong. Feeling pumped. New song idea to show #bestkitten. Will go right in her key.

X still talking to fox mage. Fox mage is very tall, very fine bones that would go crunchity-crunch. Has longer, thinner ears than other foxes. Wears long blue and red robes with gold demonic sigils embroidered on sleeves.

One of those sigils is the name of a cousin of mine, eight times removed. Her name is WMBLENXEA, Little Timmy, for short. She loves fried chicken. But don’t say her name out loud. You’ll summon her. Also loves fried people.

Lots of wizard junk around tent. Including stupid cramped stone I’m stuck in. X is sitting across from mage at thick wooden table that is strewn with scribbled parchments.

Fox mage still doesn’t trust X but is warming up. Now mage is gesturing to hot mess of parchments. X is nodding understandingly.


They are talking about their stories. Fox mage is also a writer when isn’t fighting Dark Armies and TRAPPING DEMONS.


Fox mage writes original fantasy screen plays about humans who live in desert and chase monsters. Cool. But won’t shut their yap about it. Has been blathering for FOUR HOURS. Asking X if she knows good producer to pitch it to. Mage imagines ZENDAYA as good person to play main character. Does she know ZENDAYA.

X says she may know Zendaya. Fox mage very excited. Now talking about scenes where Zendaya-main character will fly across desert canyon on magical device and trap a WHOMPNEIVER in a FIDDLETRIX. Zendaya will wear blue and red robes and have long, thin fox ears.

Fox mage shows scars from trapping a WHOMPNEIVER in a FIDDLETRIX. Explains series is partly auto-biographical. Has started a memoir. Will X read it.

X is biting her lip. Both of them. Says “sure, right after you get us out of here.”

Think I want to go back into that stone just so that they STOPS.

#bestkitten is deep in ham nap.

Oh dear lord of darkness, please just throw me back in the void now.

We have met MORE WRITERS.

Fox mage has snuck X, me, and #bestkitten to tent of Assistant to the Fox Leader to see about releasing prisoners secretly. Smells like oiled armor and rusty cans in here. Assistant to the Fox Leader is completely against setting free. Says they shouldn’t trust foreign creatures who come through portals. Fox mage says “but where would we be without Elvis? Elvis came through a portal and so did the Bee Gees and C.S. Lewis” and Assistant to the Fox Leader says “that’s a good point but it’s my neck that’s on the line and not yours and Fox Leader is in a bad mood because second draft of Sword and Sorcery novel is lumpy.”

X says “wait a minute, where’s Elvis?”

Fox mage licks lips a bunch of times. Picks words carefully. Says that X knows Zendaya and could connect to Good Hollywood Producer for streaming fantasy show. Assistant to the Fox Leader looks skeptical but curious. Fox mage says, “I’m sure she could connect you with the beta readers you’ve been looking for all these years.”

Now Assistant to the Fox Leader is still skeptical but needs this to be true. “Ordinary fantasy readers don’t want to read the kind of fantasy I write. These days it’s Brandon Sanderson this, Brandon Sanderson that. But some of us write things more nuanced and LITERARY in nature. Finding a beta reader for your 900 page masterwork of LITERARY FANTASY is harder than finding a sword in a stone that happens to want liberation. How do I know this foreign writer who has come through the portal can connect me with RIGHT beta readers, hmmm? What do they know of John Crowley’s Little, Big, hmmm? Have they read Thomas the Rhymer, hmm? What about Murakami’s 1Q84? Has their heart leapt at the immaculate yet banal details and ghostlike ambience of Kazuo Ishiuguro’s Buried Giant, hmmm? In other words, WOULD THEY KNOW THEME IF IT BIT THEM IN THE FACE????? Arf, you know what happened the last time I sent my manuscript to that beta reader you connected me with. How can you just waltz in here and tell me that this pink creature can connect me to the beta readers of my dreams? No, I tell you, NO. Return to your tent and keep watch over the prisoners.”

X is taking out phone. She says “please hold, I’m getting you your beta readers now, but you’ll have to release us with provisions and a map before I will send them copies of your manuscript.”

X is typing something. Now hitting send.

Subject: Beta Readers

Dear Gladys,

No time to go into the details but I need you to get me a couple beta readers for this SELF IMPORTANT Assistant to the Fox Leader’s LITERARY FANTASY MANUSCRIPT as part of the conditions of my release from imprisonment!!!!!

#bestkitten is fine. She is deep in a ham-induced coma of contentment. HOpefully I Can nedgotiate our release before she wakes up and starts meowing!!!!!! Although the sounds of her bellowing may temporarily deafen our captors and allow us to escape.

Anyhoo. Beta readers will need to be willing to give up ten to fifteen weeks of their life and CAREFULLY COMB THROUGH BARF LoRd’s 900 page behemoth. He is looking for feedback on every single word choice. He says its a generational tale about a family home with a window that ancestors have disappeared into and keep reappearing out of and marrying their descendants years in the future and/or past.

Don’t worry about follow through. I’m pretty sure by the time they’re done reading it, we’ll be long outta here!!!!

Also, please send me the emails for the Duffer Brothers. For a ten percent cut, I will connect them to their next STRANGER THINGS HIT!!!!!!!! This story has it all!! Romance!!! Cockroaches!!! A MAGIC ORB!!!!! Everything Except FENCHIN!!!!

I haven’t heard back from you about my Author Bio!!!!!



Hello Filers,

X has sent her email to Gladys (and, hence, to Melanie who will send it to you.)

Assistant to Fox Leader looks open to negotiation. Says that he doesn’t have a word document version of his manuscript but has written it by hand and will have to sneak into the Fox Leader’s tent and use her scanner. Should take four or five days to get it all scanned if the camp stays in the same location.

Fox mage says “we need it now.”

Assistant to the Fox Leader says “That’s not going to happen. You should consider the deal OFF. And, to think, I was going to pitch your prisoner release idea to Fox Leader in exchange for help on her blurb for an Urban Fantasy graphic novel she’s been working on and you had to be unreasonable about waiting.”

Uh oh. Commotion going on outside the tent. Assistant to the Fox Leader is being summoned by Fox Leader in loud, angry barks.  Foxes are screeching outside. Something is flying around over their heads. They are going to shoot it down.

I think I know where Tod Boadkins is.

Tod Boadkins has been shot down. An arrow skimmed his left elbow and he fell out of the sky screaming.

Fox warriors are brandishing spears and Fox mage is threatening to put me back into the stone and find a way to cram X in there next to me even if it means separating her from her body.

Might be the time to unleash hell on all of them. Just hate to think that I’d be wiping out an entire Fox tribe especially with Ninevah so fresh on mind and heart.

It’s getting bad. Assistant to the Fox Leader is saying that it was all a trick and that Tod Boadkins was a spy in the sky.

They’ve wrestled X’s phone out of her hands and someone is snatching the back pack with #bestkitten in it.


#bestkitten has leapt from the back pack and into the fray.

Fox warriors are falling away. Smitten by the cuteness of #bestkitten.

Now #bestkitten is licking her paws.

They’re all saying “Awwwww. So cute!”

Fox Leader drops to her knees and bows to the ground before #bestkitten. Is saying, “Your majesty, we had no idea these foreigners were with you. Please forgive us, we were only defending the realm.”

The rest of the foxes are prostrating.

Well, Filers. It looks like we’ve found a way out of the camp. Now to find a way to the manager and then the regular world where All Hell™ is waiting for your Tryxy.

Francis Hamit Update

[Longtime File 770 contributor Francis Hamit brings us up to date, and shares an appeal.]

Francis Hamit

By Francis Hamit: People in the fan community may have been wondering why I have not been heard from lately.  Well, I’ve been very sick.  In September 2019 I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis when an occlusion was detected at the C-3 vertebrae that was cutting into my spinal cord.  That had to be corrected or I would die.  After high-risk surgery in December of that year I had further complications when parts of my C-6 and C7 vertebrae collapsed. This was just as Covid shut everything down so corrective surgery for that was delayed until about a year ago.  That required two operations.  One to install a titanium box in my neck to hold my head up and the other to place plates and screws from my C-3 to my T-2 vertebrae.  That was followed by four-and-a-half months in a skilled nursing facility learning to walk again among other things.  A pretty horrible experience for me and for Leigh. 

The attached photo is me today, in the new promotional T-shirt for my film The All American.  The film project is one I started developing in 2018 and kept researching and writing throughout all of these troubles.  I also wrote a 172,000-word novel that is under consideration at a publisher.  The script just won an Honorable Mention at the Hollywood Script Awards so I am moving forward raising money for it.  The t-shirt campaign is the first step.  I need money for legal fees and other costs for a crowdfunding securities campaign.  This may seem like fantasy or science fiction to some, like building a starship with your ever handy multi-tool but I think it’s the best way for me to go. 

The shirt says “Ground Crew” on the back and those who buy and wear it become members of the film’s ground crew.  The ground crew in North Africa with the 414th Bomb Squad were the guys who kept the aircraft flying and were so attached to them that they called them “her” gave them names and personalities and slept under them at night to protect them (This is from a unit logbook).  They were real Fans.  I am hoping that today’s fans will help this along but buying a shirt now and maybe some shares later on. Here’s the link: “Join The All American’s Ground Crew Custom Ink Fundraising”.

The “On a Wing and a Prayer” motto comes from the popular song inspired by the incident when the All American was struck by a German fighter and still made it back to base. Fitting for what I’m trying to do here. 

I won’t be at Chicon 8 or any other for awhile.  Still a long way to go before I am fully recovered.  But I hope that people will buy a shirt or one of the other items I’ll be offering in an expanded definition of “authorship” towards getting this film made.  I am as sane as I ever was.  Remember that Gene Roddenberry flew B-17s.  Respect for the Master. 

The All American returns to base in World War II.

Seth Macfarlane and “The Orville: New Horizons”

Steve Vertlieb and Seth MacFarlane

By Steve Vertlieb: While I’ve spent much of my seventy-six years purchasing and perusing TV Guide Magazine, and subscribing to their editorial opinions as “industry gospel,” I must vehemently part company with the opinions of their editorial board and take issue with their condemnation of the third season premiere of The Orville. Having been on hiatus for several years, moving from Fox to Hulu and laboriously filming new episodes of the series for the popular streaming service, the editorial writers for the venerable television publication condemned the premiere episode of The Orville: New Horizons for its “joyless season opener.”

It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned the program as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions.

Consequently, the long awaited third season of The Orville opened its premiere episode with a heartfelt salute to comic Norm Macdonald who had played the voice of a gelatinous member of the ship’s crew, and had sadly passed away from cancer during the show’s hiatus.

MacFarlane has long aspired to escape the self imposed boundaries of his satiric origin, and tackle more serious issues, much as his science fiction series has gradually escaped the limitations of time and space. Its season premier, “Electric Sheep,” dealt with the theological morality of an artificial intelligence deciding to take its own life for the imagined betterment of the ship’s crew, and of mankind. Mark Jackson as “Isaac” had betrayed his fellow crew members in the second season finale and gone, if you will, to “The Dark Side.” His suicidal redemption was, in a sense, an act of nobility and self sacrifice on behalf of his betrayed crew mates.

Seth MacFarlane has shown his adaptability as a creator and performer, as well as his growth and maturity as an artist. This remarkably talented writer, director, comedian, actor, and voice-over artist is also a wonderfully gifted interpreter of “The Great American Songbook.” In a delightful two hour concert at The Mann Music Center in Philadelphia during the Summer of 2014, he performed a heartfelt selection of classic Nelson Riddle/Frank Sinatra charts with amazing grace and definitive vocal prowess, leaving the packed outdoor theater’s audience screaming for more. He literally came back for something like six encores, all to the delight of everyone fortunate enough to have been in attendance.

I first encountered Seth’s beautiful voice and charming performance skills a year earlier when he appeared as the featured vocalist during a splendid John Williams concert at The Hollywood Bowl where I was honored to actually meet and speak with him back-stage after the performance. In a multi-national musical climate where mediocrity is passionately applauded and embraced, Seth MacFarlane (whose adoration of Francis Albert Sinatra, and his legacy is clearly and joyfully evident), along with his deeply personal musical persona, and sublime transformation, is like a swirling, exhilarating breath of fresh air. This was fine wine waiting to be tasted, savored, and cherished well into the gentle conclusion of a warm, romantic Summer’s evening.

In much the same spirit as his maturity has grown as a popular singer, MacFarlane’s aspirations as a serious writer and actor seem to have blossomed on his popular science fiction series. Its third season opener provided a somber, sobering look at suicide and the consequences of life taken both willingly and prematurely. The Orville has grown and matured beyond its humble, satiric beginnings and evolved into a more daring, provocative journey to worlds beyond imagining. For this valiant journey and adventure, Seth MacFarlane and his crew must be applauded.