I’ve been having a brutal time getting online all afternoon. And having suitably paranoid thoughts that my internet provider knows I spent the morning trying to replace its service (only to discover the company that had been sending me its advertising doesn’t actually cover my address), and is punishing me for my disloyalty. Therefore I have prepared this placeholder which I will load if I can get online long enough to do so. And I will add the rest of the birthdays later, since I assume at some point things will start working again
(1) BAEN WRITERS REMEMBER ERIC FLINT. On the Baen Free Radio Hour, Griffin Barber hosts and participates in a roundtable remembrance of the late Eric Flint, featuring David Weber, Charles E. Gannon, Kevin Ikenberry, and Bjorn Hasseler.
(2) PAUL COKER (1929-2022). MAD Magazine artist Paul Coker died July 23. Coker’s first appearance in Mad was in 1961; he has since gone on to illustrate over 375 articles for the magazine. In 1968, he illustrated the Mad paperback MAD for Better or Verse; written by Frank Jacobs, the first of eight all-new paperbacks drawn by Coker. In 2002, the magazine also published a collection of “Horrifying Cliches,” the long-running feature that featured Coker art. Coker also was a production designer on more than a dozen Rankin/Bass specials and shorts, including Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ to Town.
(3) MEMORY LANE.
2011 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Just twelve years ago on this date, a rare beast slouched forth. Cowboys & Aliens was an SF Western film which was directed by Jon Favreau with the cast Daniel Craig as the memory fogged cowboy and Harrison Ford as a wealthy landowner, and Olivia Wilde as a mysterious traveller. Yes, they got top billing.
It was based off the rather excellent graphic novel created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley, with art by Dennis Calero and Lucian Lima. It’s available from the usual suspects as a Meredith moment as it only seven dollars. Do be very careful what you download as there’s a not so choice bit of erotica called Cowboys & Aliens as well. Really. Truly. There is.
The screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby from the story by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby and Steve Oedekerk. Notes about the film by Orci and Kurtzman says they thought it has a strong Trek and a Indy Jones feel.
Before Universal Studios picked up the option, Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Studios, Fox Family Films, Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney Entertainment, and Paramount Pictures passed out on it. Mind you Universal Studios didn’t take all the financial risk here as they formed a complex consortium of DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Relativity Media, Imagine Entertainment, K/O Paper, Products Fairview Entertainment and Platinum Studios.
Oh I’d loved to have seen the profit sharing paperwork there! Not that there weren’t any as it made just ten million over its production costs of one hundred and sixty four million. With publicity costs, it definitely lost money.
SPOILERS! BEWARE! GO AWAY!
A mysterious men with no memories wearing alien tech. Corpses that come back to life. Aliens kidnapping locals for nefarious reasons. Well to mine gold. Huh? A lot of this could fit into The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. episode if you tried. Sorry it just felt that way to me watching it.
It ends happily, more or less, for almost everyone still living with the townsfolk using the gold after after the Aliens have been killed off to rebuild the flatten town, and the Mysterious Stranger, no not the Olivia Wilde character, but the character with the alien tech allowed to leave town.
IT’S SAFE TO COME BACK NOW. REALLY IT IS.
It’s not bad but I’ll note the mixing of genres didn’t please many critics. As the Salon reviewer said it was “a mediocre western clumsily welded to a mediocre alien shoot-’em-up”. And Slant concluded that “Cowboys & Aliens mashes up genres with a staunch dedication to getting everything wrong, making sure that each scene is more inane than the one that preceded it.”
It has a forty-three rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 29, 1915 — Kay Dick. Author of two genre novels, The Mandrake Root and At Close of Eve, plus a collection, The Uncertain Element: An Anthology of Fanta. She is known in Britain for campaigning successfully for the introduction of the Public Lending Right which pays royalties to authors when their books are borrowed from public libraries. There should be a statue of her for that. She’s not available in digital or print currently. (Died 2001.)
Born July 29, 1927 — Jean E. Karl. She founded Atheneum Children’s Books, and she edited the beginning of Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence. As an author, she wrote three genre novels, Strange Tomorrow, Beloved Benjamin Is Waiting and But We Are Not of Earth, and a reasonable amount of short fiction, all of which is In the Clordian Sweep series. Nine of those stories are in The Turning Point collection. The Turning Point collection is available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
Born July 29, — Curtis C. Smith. Editor of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, plus two genre biographies, Olaf Stapledon: A Bibliography with co-author Harvey J. Satty, and Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. Not active since the mid Eighties as near as I can tell. Clute in EoSF notes “The brief biographical sections are generally accurate; the critical pieces vary in quality, with some excellent short essays by a wide range of authors; but the bibliographies are flawed by a murkily inconsistent methodology (perhaps due to the series’ house style), and are error-strewn.” (Died 2014.)
Born July 29, 1941 — David Warner. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark in Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. (Died 2022.)
Born July 29, 1888 — Farnsworth Wright. Editor of Weird Tales, editing an amazing 179 issues from November 1924–March 1940. Mike Ashley in EoSF says, “Wright developed WT from a relatively routine horror pulp magazine to create what has become a legend.” His own genre fiction is generally considered undistinguished. He also edited during the Thirties, Oriental Stories and The Magic Carpet. The work available digitally is a poem, “After Two Nights of the Ear-ache”. He was nominated at Loncon 3 for a Best Editor Retro Hugo. (Died 1940.)
Born July 29, 1956 — Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 66. Author of the India set magical realist The Brotherhood of the Conch series. She also has three one-off novels, The Palace of Illusions, The Mistress of Spices, and her latest, The Forest of Enchantments. Her website is here.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]