(1) DESIGNS FOR THE TIMES. Jane Frank reviewed a portfolio project by famed sff artist Richard Powers as a vehicle for studying his career and influence: “Richard Powers: The World of fFlar” at NeoText.
…Powers happily obliged, by portraying the Portfolio as a single story told in 16 (17, if you include the cover) illustrations even though the very first painting reproduced in the portfolio, The Ur-City of fFlar, cropped on the right, began life in 1958 as the cover to the fourth in a popular digest anthology series Star Science Fiction, edited by Frederik Pohl. And the same image served further duty, cropped on the left side this time, as the cover for The Deep by John Crowley, published by Berkley, 1976.
This use, and re-use of imagery, I should add, was common for Powers’ – who excelled in “re-purposing” his art, both to gain monetarily from additional usages, but also to save time. He had no qualms about cutting up and pasting portions of existing artworks in order to fashion “new” illustrations, and publishers either didn’t realize it, or didn’t care. Not only the images themselves, but also certain compositional elements, can be spotted on other covers, as if both publishers and Powers himself enjoyed creating variations on a favored theme . . . and there are fans of Powers’ art who make a sport out of discovering such connections. The humorous caption for The Ur City of fFlar indeed suggests that Powers was well aware of several uses to which one painting could be put:
Jane Frank also did an analysis of the paperback covers and other works of an iconic sff artist in “Paul Lehr: Unexpected Rhythms” at NeoText.
…Freed from the need to produce garish imagery designed to lure adolescent readers to buy magazines, Lehr soon developed his own unique voice and palette.
One of Lehr’s studio experiments ended up being his first published cover.
“I constructed spaceships out of wire, cardboard toilet paper tubes, ping pong balls and the like, making strange looking ships. I painted them silver and white, and hung them up as still lifes against dark backgrounds, shining a strong light upon them, embellishing them with stars, bursts of fire, and other bits of painterly cosmic excitement. I also bought model kits and assembled them in crazy ways. A B-17 would become a moonlander or shuttleboat.” (Visions of Never” 2009)…
(2) INCREDIBLE BABEL. Cora Buhlert’s latest contribution to Galactic Journey is a review about the brand-new-in-1966 novel Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany: “[MAY 16, 1966] SPIES, POETS AND LINGUISTS: BABEL-17 BY SAMUEL R. DELANY”
With so much grim news in the real world, you just want to escape into a book. So I was happy to find Babel-17, the latest science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delany, in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore. The blurb promised a mix of space opera and James Bond style spy adventure, which sounded right up my alley….
(3) JOHNNY B BAD. “The Ballad of Russell & Julie”, performed a decade ago, is a hysterical “Musical Tribute to the Creators of the Rebooted ‘Doctor Who’ Series” as Laughing Squid explains. It’s newsworthy for a line that alludes to the kind of behavior which saw John Barrowman back in the headlines this week. (Around the 2:02 mark.)
During a Doctor Who wrap party in 2011, actors David Tennant, Catherine Tate, and John Barrowman performed “The Ballad of Russell and Julie,” a musical tribute to Russell T. Davies (RTD) and Julie Gardner, the creators of the new version of Doctor Who, which was first broadcast ten years ago today. The tribute pokes gentle fun at RTD’s smoking uncertainty and Gardner’s incredible confidence.
(4) PREDICTING STAR TREK. And there’s still time for you to add your guess to Galactic Journey’s poll about what that soon-to-premiere TV show Star Trek will be like. (Is the second choice below really a title? It looks like a code off my phone bill.)
(5) WELL-MET IN LAKE GENEVA. James Maliszewski, who runs the RPG blog Grognardia, has dug up a 1976 report about GenCon IX by none other than Fritz Leiber: “Fritz Leiber at GenCon”.
Earlier this month, I posted an image of an article penned by author Fritz Leiber that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on September 5, 1976. Leiber recounts his experiences as guest of honor at GenCon IX and, as one might expect, what he writes is of great interest. He begins by briefly recounting the recent history of wargaming, starting with the publication of Gettysburg by Avalon Hill in 1958. (Why he starts there rather than with Tactics in 1954, I am not sure)
Moving on from that, he speaks of GenCon, the “oldest gathering of tabletop generals in America,” which is “held at the pleasant Wisconsin resort-town near Chicago.
(6) ESFS AWARDS OPEN. The European Science Fiction Society is gathering nominations for the Next ESFS Awards.
Nominations are now open for the ESFS Awards that will be held at the 2021 Eurocon in Fiuggi, 15th to 18th July. The last day nominations will be accepted is Tuesday 15th June 2021. This is also the last day that bids for future Eurocons will be accepted for discussion in the Business Meeting, and the last day that topics to be raised in the Business Meeting will be accepted.
There should only be a single nomination from each country, as selected by their own rules. In the event of multiple nominations from one country, only matching nominations or nominations without a competing name will be accepted. In the event that all ballots from one country contain different names, there will be no nominees accepted for that country.
Nominations are made for a country by representatives of that country. If you are not familiar with how your country chooses its nominations, the EuroSMOF Facebook group is a good place to connect with other Eurocon attendees from your country.
(7) MONSTROUS FUN FOR TOURISTS. Travel Awaits encourages you to come and look for yourself: “Unicorns, Kelpies, And Wulvers: 7 Of Scotland’s Most Captivating Mythical Creatures”.
You probably know about the Loch Ness Monster, but have you ever heard of kelpies or wulvers?
Scots are legendary storytellers (they even host an International Storytelling Festival), and their culture is rich with imaginary creatures — or, perhaps, creatures not so imaginary… Here are some of my favorites.
No list of Scottish mythical creatures would be complete without mentioning Scotland’s national animal — the infamous unicorn, which adorns the country’s royal coat of arms. In Celtic mythology, the unicorn represents both purity and power, innocence and dominance. The creature has been part of Scotland’s ethos for centuries….
Pro Tip: Unicorns are ubiquitous in Scotland! The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, Craigmillar Castle, and St Giles’ Cathedral — all in Edinburgh — sport unicorns. But, really, anywhere you go in Scotland, you can find a unicorn. Consider visiting on National Unicorn Day (celebrated on April 9) to get your unicorn fix.
(8) FOLLOW THE BOUNCERS. On “The Muppet Show” on Saturday Night Live: “Security! Security! Statler and Waldorf are causing trouble again!”
(9) RITTENHOUSE OBIT. Juris doctor, conrunner and Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse (1957-2021) died May 16.
Steven H Silver paid tribute on Facebook.
I woke up to the news that my longtime friend and fellow Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse has lost his final battle. Jim welcomed me into fandom early and we discovered our shared love for alternate history. While working on my first Windycon under the auspices of the late Ross Pavlac, Ross was listening to Jim and me discuss alternate history and at the next meeting he presented each of us with Captain Midnight decoders, so he would be able to understand what we were talking about in the future.
Eventually Jim founded the Apazine Point of Divergence, which I was a founding member of and stayed with for a while. I later invited Jim to become a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, for which he was one of the longest serving judges.
Jim had a deep and personal interest in Chinese history and last year when I was working on my story “The Prediscovered Country,” we discussed the history of the Ming Dynasty to figure out what a Chinese colony in Australia would look like. In return, I modeled the Dutch character De Bruijn after Jim.
There will probably be a memorial service for Jim at either Windycon or Capricon.
May his memory be for a blessing.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
- 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Alfred Bester’s Demolished Man wins a Hugo for Best Novel. It was first serialized in three parts, beginning with the January 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. The novel is dedicated to Galaxy’s editor, H. L. Gold, who made writing ideas to Bester. Bester’s suggested title was Demolition!, but Gold talked him out of it. It would be his only Hugo Award.
(11) TODAY’S DAY.
National Mimosa Day – They’re celebrating the six-time Hugo-winning fanzine at Fanac.org.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning. Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter. A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to Magic Realism blurring the real and imaginary. Here is Union Mixer. Here is Mindscape. Here is The Dream. (Died 2003) [JH]
- Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott. Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken; a score of covers, as many interiors. Here is Black Hearts in Battersea. Here is A Small Pinch of Weather. (Died 2002) [JH]
- Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet. Author and (under another name) pharmacist. Towards a Lost Future; Babel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history. In The Empire of Baphomet an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; six dozen novels, plus shorter stories, essays. (Died 1995) [JH]
- Born May 16, 1937 — Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy” on the original Trek. She also one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, Land of the Giants, Fantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
- Born May 16, 1942 – Judith Clute, age 79. Two dozen covers, thirty interiors. Here is the Dec 90 Interzone. Here is Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol. Here is Pardon This Intrusion. Here is Stay. [JH]
- Born May 16, 1944 — Danny Trejo, 77. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-Files, From Dusk till Dawn, Le Jaguar, Doppelganger: The Evil Within, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Muppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously he’s really done a lot of really low-budget horror films. (CE)
- Born May 16, 1953 — Pierce Brosnan, 68. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man,and he was lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones. (CE)
- Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod, age 68. Four dozen covers, plus interiors, for us. Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards. Batman, Howard the Duck, Pocahontas (i.e. Disney’s). Air Force Art Program. Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000. For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here. [JH]
- Born May 16, 1962 — Ulrika O’Brien, 59. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of zines in Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — Fringe, Widening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APA memberships include APA-L, LASFAPA, Myriad and Turbo-APA. U. O’Brien won Best Fanartist in the 2021 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. (CE)
- Born May 16, 1968 — Stephen Mangan, 53, Voiced Bigwig, Silverweed and Shale in the 1999 Watership Down series, Green Javelins in the Hyperdrive SF comedy series, and Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot. (CE)
- Born May 16, 1969 — David Boreanaz, 52. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line including of course an Angel puppet. (CE)
- Born May 16, 1978 – Marion Poinsot, age 43. Illustrator of comics, role-playing games. In the audio series The Keep [«le donjon»] of Naheulbeuk by John Lang, here is MP’s Quilt of Oblivion; here is Chaos Under the Mountain. Here is a poster for her Nina Tonnerre. Here is Perle the black dragon. [JH]
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Arantza Peña Popo’s “Respectable Book Covers” in The New Yorker had me laughing for five minutes.
- La Cucaracha has a vision of dueling monster piñatas.
- Baby Blues discloses a horrible masculine truth.
(14) AUDIO FICTION. The latest episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast from Space Cowboy Books includes Jean-Paul Garnier reading Cora Buhlert’s short story “Little Monsters” and “Hidden Underneath” by Toshiya Kamei.
(15) WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. In the Washington Post, Stuart Miller interviews five actors on The Underground Railroad about their work on the Amazon Prime show. “Filming ‘The Underground Railroad’ was grueling. But the cast grasped ‘the weight of what we were doing.’”
…So while Mbedu always felt well cared for during filming — there was a guidance counselor on set “to bring me back to myself,” she says, and Jenkins himself “was always checking up on me” — the supportive cast and crew understood that putting on the chains and the burdens of being Black in antebellum America naturally took a toll.
“I had to have tricks, like moving through the set with my eyes downcast, so that when I opened my eyes I’d be experiencing everything only as Cora, because otherwise it would be too much for Thuso to take in,” Mbedu says.
The South African actress grew up in the immediate aftermath of apartheid and, like Cora, lost her parents at a young age. But she drew a sharp border between her life and Cora’s, relying on “a whole lot of research” to bring the character’s vocal, physical and psychological journey to life.
“The one time in the past where I made the mistake of trying to draw from my own experience, my brain went, ‘That was too traumatizing, we’re shutting down now.’ I can empathize, but I cannot personalize because it’s too traumatic to relive.”…
(16) IRREPLACEABLE. The Guardian gets Patrick Ness’ reaction to various books he’s read. One genre author stands out: “Patrick Ness: ‘Terry Pratchett makes you feel seen and forgiven’”.
My comfort read
Discworld by Terry Pratchett. I am always at some point through the cycle (I’m currently on The Thief of Time). They’re not only gloriously funny, they’re humane in a way that makes you actually feel seen and forgiven, with all your faults. He was a one-off, Sir Terry. When I finish reading them through, I simply put the last book down and pick the first one up again.
(17) GREATEST OF ALL TIME TRAVEL. Ryan Britt makes a daring claim at Inverse: “The best time-travel show of all time is streaming for free right now”. And that show is? Quantum Leap!
…Trying to figure out the actual sci-fi rules of Quantum Leap is a bad idea. As stated in the voice-over, Sam Beckett “stepped into the quantum leap accelerator and vanished.” The premise of the series is that his consciousness is transferred into various people’s bodies — regardless of gender — throughout time. Once Sam shows up in one of these bodies, a holographic projection from his associate Al (Dean Stockwell) advises him on what he’s supposed to accomplish in whatever historical period he’s found himself in.
Basically, Quantum Leap is a paint-by-numbers science fiction drama. Every episode begins with Sam trying to acclimate to his new body, while Al tells him the stakes. Despite the fact that Al is assisted by a super-computer named “Ziggy,” there’s never a clear path for what Sam is supposed to do. His essential mission — which is ill-defined — is to “set right what once went wrong” — but what that means exactly is relatively opaque until the end of each episode. This makes zero sense. It’s also brilliant.
[Thanks to John Hertz, Andrew (not Werdna), Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day OGH.]