(1) SMACK IN THE MIDDLE (EARTH) WITH YOU. Amazon Prime put out “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” main teaser today.
Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
(2) WESTERCON COVID TALLY. Westercon 74, held in Tonopah, asked that any person who contracted COVID-19 during the con or for one week following send them an email so they could track any outbreak. Kevin Standlee reports that at the end of the week 11 members reported positive COVID-19 tests. That represents 7% of the members who picked up their badges and attended the convention. The contact reports by those who gave permission to have their information published are at http://westercon74.org/covid/.
(3) STOKING THE FLAMES. LitReactor interviewed Bram Stoker Awards administrator James Chambers to find out “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Bram Stoker Awards® | LitReactor
… Each year there’s an official Stoker reading list. I have used this list a lot both to make recommendations and to read recommended works. A few questions about the list: Is it open for public viewing?
Yes, a public version of the list for works published in 2022 is available here. Members recommend works they think merit consideration for a Bram Stoker Award, and we share their selections with the public. It’s a great resource for anyone looking for reading suggestions or wondering what’s new that year. Libraries sometimes refer to this list to make book selections for their patrons. Anyone, HWA member or not, can view this record of horror publishing from year to year. Last year’s list is available here.
Who is allowed to recommend books to the list?
Any member of the HWA in good standing may recommend books….
(4) GETTING TO KNOW YOU. Kelley Armstrong discusses the historical research she did for her time travel mystery A Rip Through Time in “Adventures in Writing Time Travel” at CrimeReads.
…I decided to try a time-travel mystery… with a modern detective, transported into the body of a housemaid working for an undertaker-turned-early-forensic-scientist in 1869 Edinburgh. That meant researching domestic service, undertaking, law enforcement, medicine, forensics and so much more, all of it in Scotland while most of the resources are English.
I quickly learned that secondary resources aren’t necessarily reliable. I spent the first quarter of the book referring to my local police detective as Inspector McCreadie, based on secondary sources that insisted that was the proper title in both England and Scotland. Then I started poring over firsthand police accounts and contemporary newspapers, only to discover the correct title was Detective….
(5) PUPPY PUPPETRY [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming discusses a new musical version of 101 Dalmatians, which is playing at the Open Air Theatre (openairtheatre.com) in Regent’s Park through August 28. She interviews the theatre’s artistic director, Timothy Sheader.
“There is the matter of 101 spotty dogs. And that’s before you get to the canine alliance that springs into action to rescue the stolen pups. A pack of hounds on stage, park or no park, seems inadvisable, so while there might be a fleeting glimpse of a real puppy–‘things may get changed in previews,’ says Sheader — the vast majority of dog action will be down to puppets and children — ‘We have 96 puppets, four children, and a dog.’
For Sheader, puppets are not just a practical solution: they also invite you to identify with the dogs. ‘What the cartoon does brilliantly is what the novel does: it manages to be from the perspective of the dogs,’ he says. ‘And when you go to (actual) dogs that can’t talk, they get sidelined. We have managed to control the dogs like the cartoon. What I like about puppetry is the invitation to an audience to use their imaginations.'”
(6) A FAMILY TRADITION. “Long before Frank Oz brought many Muppets to life, his father, an amateur Dutch puppeteer, made a Hitler marionette as an act of defiance. He buried it during the war.” “The Saga of a World War II Ancestor of Miss Piggy, Bert and Yoda” in the New York Times.
A marionette of Hitler that was created in the 1930s as an instrument of parody by Frank Oz’s father, Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz, will be displayed at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.via Frank Oznowicz, Jenny Oznowicz and Ronald Oznowicz; Jason Madella
The puppet stands 20 inches tall, hand-painted and carved out of wood, its uniform tattered and torn. But for all it has endured over more than 80 years — buried in a backyard in Belgium at the outset of World War II, dug up after the war and taken on a nine-day cross-Atlantic journey, stored and almost forgotten in an attic in Oakland, Calif. — it remains, with its black toothbrush mustache and right arm raised in a Nazi salute, immediately and chillingly recognizable.
It is a depiction of Hitler, hand-carved and painted in the late 1930s by an amateur Dutch puppeteer, Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz, and clothed by his Flemish wife, Frances, as they lived in prewar Belgium.
The Hitler marionette, an instrument of parody and defiance, offers an intriguing glimpse into the strong puppetry tradition in the family of the man who retrieved it from that attic: Frank Oz, one of its creators’ sons, who went on to become one of the 20th century’s best-known puppeteers, bringing Cookie Monster, Bert, Miss Piggy and others to life through his collaborations with Jim Henson, and later becoming a force in the Star Wars movies, giving voice to Yoda. The marionette will be shown publicly for the first time later this month at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco….
(7) CHECKED OUT FOR GOOD. A local library is a casualty of the culture wars. “What’s Happening With The Vinton Public Library” asks the Iowa Starting Line.
Residents of a small Iowa town criticized their library’s LGBTQ staff and their displaying of LGBTQ-related books until most of the staff quit. Now, the town’s library is closed for the foreseeable future.
After having the same library director for 32 years, the Vinton Public Library can’t seem to keep the position filled anymore. Since summer 2021, the Vinton Public Library has gone through two permanent directors and an interim director who has served in that role twice.
Located about 40 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, the doors of the Vinton Public Library—housed in a brick and stone Carnegie—have been open to the public since 1904, but were shuttered on Friday, July 8, while the Vinton Library Board tries to sort out staffing issues seemingly brought on by local dalliances with the national culture wars….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1999 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Muppets in Space which premiered on this day was the first film released after the death of Jim Henson. As such, it came with great hope and quite a few individuals expected it to, well, fail as it didn’t have the magic of Jim Henson in it.
It was written by written by Jerry Juhl, Joseph Mazzarino, and Ken Kaufman. Juhl wrote every Muppets films that had been done as well as the chief writer on The Muppets, Mazzarino was the chief writer on Head Writer and Director on Sesame Street. So serious writing creds here. Well excepting Kaufman who had none.
The plot is an SF one with Gonzo being told by a pair of cosmic knowledge fish, that he is an alien from outer space. Yes, I’m serious as he really as we will see an entire ship full of gonzo beings. Now having said that very weird tidbit, I’m not going to say another word about the story.
One of the co-writers, Mazzarino. has repeatedly said that he left the film before shooting started, due to changes made to his draft of the screenplay. He said that his draft included parodies of Alien, Contact and Men in Black but most of that got removed on the request of the studio.
Reception was decidedly mixed. Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune said, “Muppets from Space is just not very good.” However, Robin Rauzi of the Los Angeles Times exclaimed “The magic is back.” Frank Oz, who was not there for the filming, kvetched that it was “not the movie that we wanted it to be.”
Indeed, it lost money, not much, as it made just about two million less than the twenty-four that it cost to make.
Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent sixty-three percent rating.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 14, 1906 — Abner J. Gelula. One of the many authors* of Cosmos, a serialized novel that appeared first in Science Fiction Digest in July 1933 and then has a really complicated publication that I won’t detail here. It was critiqued as “the world’s most fabulous serial,” “one of the unique stunts of early science fiction,” and conversely “a failure, miserable and near-complete.” The entire text, chapter by chapter, can be read here. [*To be precise, Earl Binder, Otto Binder. Arthur J. Burks, John W. Campbell, Jr., Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Ralph Milne Farley, Francis Flagg, J. Harvey Haggard, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller, M.D., Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, P. Schuyler Miller, Bob Olsen, Raymond A. Palmer, E. Hoffmann Price and Edward E. Smith. Gulp!] (Died 1985)
- Born July 14, 1910 — William Hanna. American animator, voice actor, cartoonist, and who was the co-creator with Joseph Barbera of Tom and Jerry as well as the creator of the animation studio and production company Hanna-Barbera. He’s also responsible for The Flintstones and Jetsons. (Died 2001.)
- Born July 14, 1926 — Harry Dean Stanton. My favorite genre role for him? The tarot card player in them video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding. He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.)
- Born July 14, 1943 — Christopher Priest, 79. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders (both of which won BSFAs) and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound? What would you add in?
- Born July 14, 1964 — Jane Espenson, 58. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 (2003) for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 (2012) for Game of Thrones, season one. She was on the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica.
- Born July 14, 1966 — Brian Selznick, 56. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a traveling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre. His next work, Kaleidoscopic, due out this autumn looks to just as fantastic.
- Born July 14, 1987 — Sara Canning, 35. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events, Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, she also appeared in Once Upon a Time, War for the Planet Of The Apes, Android Employed, Supernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Some JWST humor from Shane Bevin.
(11) NARRATIVE HOOK. Molly Odintz interviews Liz Michalski “Liz Michalski On Peter Pan, Motherhood, and the Meaning of Perpetual Youth” at CrimeReads.
In Darling Girl, Wendy Darling was merely the first of many generations of women to be visited by the perpetually youthful Pan. Is this a stand-in for generational trauma?
I was thinking more along the lines of the Me Too movement and what a struggle it has been for women to be heard. Peter Pan’s story has been told for years — now it’s the turn of the Darling women.
(12) USUAL THINGS. Once again – don’t let people work con security who want to work con security: “’Stranger Things’ Fans Brought Joseph Quinn to Tears After Security Yelled at Him for Speaking to Them” – Yahoo! relays the latest example why.
“Stranger Things” breakout Joseph Quinn broke down in tears during a recent appearance at London Film and Comic Con. The actor, who became an instant fan favorite thanks to his performance as Hellfire Club leader Eddie on the fourth season of the Netflix series, couldn’t hold tears back after a fan stood up to thank him for sharing his time with fans.
Reports surfaced on social media during London Film and Comic Con that security hounded Quinn for interacting with fans for too long while signing memorabilia (via BuzzFeed). The event reportedly oversold tickets to Quinn’s meet-and-greet, and thus wanted to filter guests in and out quickly. Quinn apparently was chatting with his fans for longer than security would have liked.
“The way Joseph Quinn was treated at LFCC is fucking disgusting,” one attendee wrote on social media “Staff fully yelled at him to shut the fuck up and to just sign and not to interact with fans [because] they over sold and couldn’t get all people seen.”
During a larger Q&A session with Quinn, one fan stood up and said, “Mine’s not really a question, it’s just more an extension of gratitude. A lot of us have heard of what happened yesterday, whether it’s true or not, about how you were treated. I really want to say, we’re really grateful that you’re sharing your time. Thank you for signing our things, for spending time with us and making our summer.”
(13) OVERDRAWN AT THE BLADE BANK. “House of the Dragon Iron Throne prop had to borrow swords” says SYFY Wire.
We regret to inform you that the supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 health crisis have finally reached Westeros. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly for a lengthy feature about the upcoming House of the Dragon (premiering on HBO and HBO Max late next month), co-showrunner, executive producer, and series director Miguel Sapochnik estimated that around 2,500 swords were used to build the show’s interpretation of the coveted Iron Throne.
Construction on this prop required so many blades, in fact, that the Game of Thrones prequel was forced to borrow a few sabres from other fantasy projects like Netflix’s The Witcher and Duncan Jones’ Warcraft movie.
The resultant amalgamation of steel representing the epicenter of Targaryen power isn’t just a harmless bit of set dressing — it could actually take an eye out. “Literally we had to put [up] fences when we first built it,” Sapochnik revealed. “Some of them are real swords. It is as dangerous as it is [described] in the books.” While the crew could have gotten away with recycling the Iron Throne created for GoT, they decided to build something that felt more accurate to the one described in the books penned by George R.R. Martin.
(14) ALTERNATIVE TO RUSSIAN LAUNCHER. “Successful debut flight for Europe’s Vega-C rocket” reports BBC News.
The medium-lift vehicle was sent up from French Guiana to deliver seven satellites to orbit, the largest of which will test Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Vega-C has enormous importance for Europe’s continued access to space.
It’s needed to fill a big gap in capability now that Russian rockets are no longer available because of the war in Ukraine.
The withdrawal from the market of Moscow’s Soyuz launchers earlier this year left European institutional and commercial satellites scrambling for alternative rides.
Vega-C will be the obvious option for many, although even before Wednesday’s successful maiden flight, the new Italian-led rocket system was fully booked through 2023, 2024 and 2025.
And there’s a further reason why Vega-C’s entry into the launcher business is critical. Its first stage, the segment of the vehicle that gets it up off the ground, is also going to be used on Europe’s forthcoming heavy-lift rocket, the Ariane-6.
Sharing the stage technology across both launcher systems is expected to lead to significant cost savings…
(15) THIRD FIFTH. The Season 5 teaser for The Handmaid’s Tale dropped today.
In Season 5, June faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford while struggling to redefine her identity and purpose. The widowed Serena attempts to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada. Commander Lawrence works with Aunt Lydia as he tries to reform Gilead and rise in power. June, Luke, and Moira fight Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah.
(16) SPLISH SPLASH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It could be Waterworld Part II if Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, et al. were anime characters. (Well, I hope I’m mistaken.): “Netflix’s ‘Drifting Home’ trailer introduces a mysterious, water-filled anime world”. Available to stream on September 16.
…The film follows two childhood friends who go to play in the now-abandoned apartment building where they grew up, only to suddenly find themselves floating through a watery world with their old neighbourhood no longer in sight.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Stranger Things (Season 4),” the Screen Junkies say that Stranger Things has run out of Stephen King material to copy, so they’re riffing off of heavy metal album covers and ’90s movies. The character David Harbour plays “should be dead. But someone wanted David Harbour tortured–a lot.” And what rocker in the ’80s preferred Kate Bush to Lynyrd Skynyrd?
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Todd Mason, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jennifer Hawthorne, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daneel Dern.]