(1) SOMTOW’S PLAN. It’s nothing like Selden’s. Somtow Sucharitkul will be the composer when “Ed Wood’s cult film ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ Gets Opera Adaptation”. He gave The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough the exclusive story.
Flying saucers over Bayreuth! Unspeakable horrors descend on the Philharmonic! Ten words I never thought I’d write. But Plan 9 From Outer Space is being turned into an opera.
The legendary, and legendarily bad, cult film from 1957 — which Tim Burton paid tribute to in his Oscar-winning 1994 feature Ed Wood starring Johnny Depp as the Plan 9 director — will get the classical music treatment courtesy of Thai composer, and B-movie fanatic, Somtow Sucharitkul.
Plan 9 From Outer Space: A Really Grand Opera by Somtow Sucharitkul is currently in the libretto stage. Rehearsals will begin in earnest next year. Sucharitkul plans to release a teaser “suite from the opera” next fall and to premiere the full opera in 2024. Torsten Neumann, director of the Oldenburg Film Festival, Germany’s leading indie film fest, is producing.
“Plan 9 is, of course, celebrated as the worst picture ever made and a cultural icon,” Somtow said. “Movie buffs have all the lines memorized. I intend to compose the score in the spirit of Ed Wood — with utter seriousness and high moral intent, as befits the exalted subject matter about aliens saving humanity from itself — so timely in these, ah, times.”
“Of course, we’re not intending to produce the ‘worst opera’ in history,” says Neumann, “quite the opposite. …”
The interview with Somtow also brought out this fact:
…Sucharitkul’s students can also be seen in this year’s awards season contender Tár. The Siam Sinfonietta is the orchestra performing in the film’s final scene. Sucharitkul was a musical consultant on the movie. …
Somtow says Roxborough’s doing a story on that now, interviewing some of the kids in his youth orchestra about what it was like being conducted by Cate Blanchett.
(2) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2023 cover art is by Kent Bash.
(3) A LOOK UNDER THE HOOD. John Scalzi’s “Process Notes on Starter Villain” at Whatever talks about the novel he just finished in a deadline-pushing whirlwind of writing. While I’m always interested in that kind of background, what I appreciated most was his discussion of post-COVID brain. I had wondered if the funk I’ve been in since I caught it on Halloween was a hangover from Covid, or mourning for Martin Morse Wooster, or if I just needed to buck up, since I was still producing material here everyday (and yet never getting around to certain things that seemed to require more “brainality”.) Covid is a definite contender as the explanation.
(4) NYC LIBRARY BOOK STATS. The Gothamist can tell you “These were the most borrowed books from NYC’s public libraries in 2022” but it can’t tell you why so few of them are genre. However, on the systemwide list the most-borrowed book of the year is listed as a fantasy, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. The plot as described in the Wikipedia – beware spoilers:
The book’s protagonist is a young woman named Nora Seed who is unhappy with her choices in life. During the night, she tries to kill herself but ends up in a library managed by her school librarian, Mrs. Elm. The library is situated between life and death with millions of books filled with stories of her life had she made some different decisions. In this library, she then tries to find the life in which she’s the most content. For example, in one possible life she tries to reunite with her boyfriend and finds herself married to him, but it isn’t the way as she expected. She also sees herself as a glaciologist doing research in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic – a very different life from the one she tries to escape, but not necessarily a better choice.
Gothamist also has separate lists for each borough. Brooklyn had three books of genre interest in the top 10 (the Haig book was one of them).
(5) PHONING A NEW HOME. The original mechanical model from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has snagged a staggering sum: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Model from 1982 Spielberg Classic Sells for $2.5 Million at Auction”.
…The highly desirable film item (for those with very deep pockets) was part of the recent Julien’s Auctions and TCM Presents: Icons and Idols Hollywood auction, going for a final bid of $2,560,000, according to the auction house.
The no. 1 “hero” used with the actors, the aluminum alloy skeletal model of E.T. was originally estimated by the auction house to fetch between $2 million and $4 million. Bidding opened at $500,000. The winner was not identified….
(6) MEMORY LANE.
1999 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Mary Poppins Statue in Maryborough, Australia
She stands but five feet tall and weighing only two hundred twenty of bronze statue , this particular Mary Poppins, the world’s most famous nanny, keeps an eye on the comings and goings in Kent Street and Richmond Lane, in Maryborough,Queensland, Australia.
So how did she come to be here, and why this street corner? Well Mary Poppins’ creator, author P.L. Travers, was born Helen Lyndon Goff, in one of the rooms on the second floor of the building adjacent to the statue, and she lived in this Australian city for the first eighteen months of her life. Not long I’ll frankly admit but a City will claim an author based on the most tenuous of connections, won’t they?
Formerly the Union Bank, Travers’ first home provided lodgings to the family of the Union Bank manager – a position that was occupied by her father, Travers Goff, and immortalised in the character, Mr Banks. Although she later went to some lengths to hide her Australian origins, the writer’s home town has gone to quite some effort to commemorate her life and work. She would, after moving to England, vist Australia.
Maryborough residents and the Proud Marys Association, the group that was founded in 1999 and was aimed at celebrating all things Maryborough and Mary Poppins, raised more than $40,000, with an additional $5500 each from its city council and the state government for the statue.
Dr Rhyl Hinwood, who did the model in clay in part because she broke one of her wrists and could not work in harder material choose a local lass, Imogen Marnane from Atherton, as the model for Poppins. That story and the process of her working on the statue is well worth reading here.
Now do keep in mind it is not based the Disney character but on the one from Helen’s books, so it, as you’ll see in the image below, is rather different from that Poppins.
And then there’s the Poppins traffic lights there….
(7) GABRIELLE BEAUMONT (1942-2022). Television director Gabrielle Beaumont died October 8 at the age of 80 reports the Guardian. She was best known for her work on Dynasty, however, she also had many genre credits.
…In 1989, she directed Star Trek: The Next Generation, the first live-action sequel to the 1960s sci-fi series. Later, she worked on episodes of the Star Trek series Deep Space Nine (in 1997) and Voyager (in 2000).
At the beginning of the 80s, Beaumont was among fewer than 100 professional female directors in the US, whereas by the end of the decade there were about 500….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 19, 1902 — Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke:The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball. And a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh my, he had an interesting genre film career. (Died 1983.)
- Born December 19, 1922 — Harry Warner Jr.. Fan historian and legendary letterhack. Dubbed The Hermit of Hagerstown, as he was rather reclusive, he did nearly all his fanac on paper. He’s known now for the many LOCs he wrote and his two books on fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays, (1969), and A Wealth of Fable which won a Hugo in 1993 for Best Related Book. Rich Lynch has a full essay, “Remembering Harry”, here today. (Died 2003.)
- Born December 19, 1952 — Linda Woolverton, 70. She’s the first woman to have written a Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She also co-wrote The Lion King screenplay (along with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts).
- Born December 19, 1960 — Dave Hutchinson, 62. Best known for his absolutely fascinating Fractured Europe series which consists of Europe in Autumn, Europe at Midnight, Europe in Winter and Europe at Dawn. Stellar reading! He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
- Born December 19, 1961 — Matthew Waterhouse, 61. He’s best known as Adric, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He was the youngest actor in that role at the time. And yes, he too shows up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
- Born December 19, 1972 — Alyssa Milano, 50. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running original and need I say only great Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, Embrace of the Vampire, Double Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre, an excellent animated short.
- Born December 19, 1979 — Robin Sloan, 43. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me for reviewing and I need to write up soon, is Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, and it is improbably genre but is also weirdly about food as well. Quite tasty it is. Am I rambling? So I am. And he’s a really nice person as well.
(9) HEARING FROM HISTORY. Another birthday is being celebrated today by the BBC World Service. Hear a tribute in “The World Service is 90” at BBC Sounds.
For 90 years the BBC World Service has been broadcasting in dozens of languages to audiences so huge they are counted in the tens of millions all over the globe. World Service began transmitting on 19 December 1932. It was called the BBC Empire Service, speaking in slow English via crackly short-wave radio to a now-vanished Empire which then ruled a fifth of the globe. The Second World War saw radio services expand massively, broadcasting in more than 40 languages to listeners hungry for truth and facts they could trust. In every crisis and conflict since, individual voices out of the air have offered news, but also drama, music, education and sometimes hope to their audiences. In a special 90th anniversary programme, the broadcaster Nick Rankin, who worked for more than 20 years at the BBC, digs into a treasure trove of sound archive and talks to journalists who made and still make the BBC World Service such a remarkable network. With Peter Pallai of Hungarian Section; Seva Novgorodsev MBE, star of BBC Russian Service; Najiba Kasraee, broadcasting to Afghanistan and Elizabeth Ohene from Focus on Africa.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side has a grotesque idea about the fate of a beloved Peter Pan character.
- The Far Side also introduces us to three silly scientists with an insurmountable problem.
- Popeye takes an unexpectedly Lovecraftian turn.
(11) OPPENHEIMER SECURITY DECISION REVERSED. “J. Robert Oppenheimer Cleared of ‘Black Mark’ After 68 Years” reports the New York Times.
The Secretary of Energy on Friday nullified a 1954 decision to revoke the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a top government scientist who led the making of the atomic bomb in World War II but fell under suspicion of being a Soviet spy at the height of the McCarthy era.
In a statement, the Energy Secretary, Jennifer M. Granholm, said the decision of her predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, to bar Oppenheimer’s clearance was the result of a “flawed process” that violated its own regulations.
As time has passed, she added, “more evidence has come to light of the bias and unfairness of the process that Dr. Oppenheimer was subjected to while the evidence of his loyalty and love of country have only been further affirmed.”
Historians, who have long lobbied for the reversal of the clearance revocation, praised the vacating order as a milestone….
“History matters and what was done to Oppenheimer in 1954 was a travesty, a black mark on the honor of the nation,” Mr. Bird said. “Students of American history will now be able to read the last chapter and see that what was done to Oppenheimer in that kangaroo court proceeding was not the last word.”…
(12) THE YEAR’S FANCIEST PHYSICS TRICKS. Scientific American’s year-end roundup lists “6 Times Quantum Physics Blew Our Minds in 2022”. “Quantum telepathy, laser-based time crystals, a glow from empty space and an “unreal” universe—these are the most awesome (and awfully hard to understand) results from the subatomic realm we encountered in 2022…”
Here’s the first example:
THE UNIVERSE IS KINDA, SORTA UNREAL
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to researchers who spent decades proving the universe is not locally real—a feat that, to quote humorist Douglas Adams, “has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” “Local” here means any object—an apple, for instance—can be influenced only by its immediate surroundings, not by happenings on the other side of the universe. “Real” means every object has definite properties regardless of how it is observed—no amount of squinting will change an apple from red to green. Except careful, repeated experimentation with entangled particles has conclusively shown such seemingly sensible restrictions do not always apply to the quantum realm, the most fundamental level of reality we can measure. If you’re uncertain as to what exactly the demise of local realism means for life, the universe and, well, everything, don’t worry: you’re not alone—physicists are befuddled, too.
(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George brings us into the meeting between “The Guys Who Wrote Frosty The Snowman”.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Cathy Green, Somtow Sucharitkul, Gordon Van Gelder, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]