Snapshots 130 Hercules

Here are 9 developments of interest to fans.

(1) The faannish proclivity to improve on English by adding an extra “a” or an extraneous “h” springs from the same impulse our ancestors had to tack odd characters onto the tail of the language, as Mental Floss shows in “12 Letters That Didn’t Make the Alphabet”. Here’s one of the most familiar examples —

Have you ever seen a place that calls itself “ye olde whatever”? As it happens, that’s not a “y”, or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to be. Originally, it was an entirely different letter called thorn, which derived from the Old English runic alphabet, Futhark.

Thorn, which was pronounced exactly like the “th” in its name, is actually still around today in Icelandic. We replaced it with “th” over time—thorn fell out of use because Gothic-style scripting made the letters y and thorn look practically identical. And, since French printing presses didn’t have thorn anyway, it just became common to replace it with a y. Hence naming things like, “Ye Olde Magazine of Interesting Facts” (just as an example, of course).

Did Foo write in Futhark?

(2) I was enthralled by the Alien Abduction Lamp so it’s only natural I cracked up when I saw the Cow Abduction website.

(3) After satirizing the D-box vibrating movie seat experience Jordan Jeffers settles down to deliver a well-phrased critique of Peter Jackson’s use of Tolkien in “The Hobbit and the Watchful Dragons of Our Hearts”

For Lewis, Christian fantasy is like Bilbo Baggins, an invisible burglar that can sneak the message of Christ past the “watchful dragons” of our hearts. And this is the biggest difference between Lewis and his good friend and fellow Christian fantasist Tolkien. When Lewis writes a fairy story, he’s always concerned with what a thing means: Aslan means Jesus; the Stone Table means the Law of Moses; the White Witch means Satan (or perhaps sin).

Tolkien is far more interested in what a thing is. Here is a forest, and a dragon, and an evil ring. Here is a hobbit, and a beautiful jewel, and a dwarf full of greed. Tolkien is a storyteller, a myth maker, for he believed that myths demonstrated truth, that truth cannot actually be understood apart from myth. We can have no true vision of the stars unless we can first see them as “songs of living silver,” no true understanding of the earth until we can first understand it as our mother. Our myths matter a good deal, and how we think of elves is of vital importance to how we think of ourselves.

Jackson’s Hobbit movies have so far managed to miss this Tolkien essential almost completely. Jackson is neither a communicator nor a mythmaker. He is a spectacle maker, a ringmaster, a showman. And he is very, very good at this.

(3) A fan has made even less pure use of “Common People” by William Shatner from his album Has Been, though for obvious reasons no one has been complaining…

(4) “What do Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and the Muppets have in common? A creator of iconic images,” is the hook in a 2008 article about film industry artist Drew Struzan

Guillermo del Toro is among the filmmakers who rave about Struzan’s ability to expand the world of a movie through his pictures — images that, while printed, hardly seem static. “What Drew does isn’t really distilling the elements of a movie,” says Del Toro, who has enlisted Struzan to do posters for “Hellboy” and its upcoming sequel, as well as a limited-edition piece for “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “It’s almost alchemy. He takes images and makes them quintessentially cinematic. His style has been copied so many times in a bad way, people don’t realize until they revisit his posters just how powerful the pure Struzan style is, how purely filmic it is.”

An exhibit of poster art by Drew Struzan and Bob Peak is on display in the Forest Lawn – Glendale Museum from January 24-May 26. They did the poster art for everything from Blade Runnerto Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Walking Dead.

(5) Jay Lake had made his entire genetic sequence open source through the Personal Genome Project. Money to do the sequencing came from Sequence a Science Fiction Writer. The work was done in an effort to reveal a new treatment path for Lake’s colon cancer. Lake’s cancer has been diagnosed as terminal, but by releasing his genome online he hopes to help others to study and defeat the disease.

(6) George T. McWhorter is the curator of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection at the University of Louisville’s Ekstrom Library.

The Burroughs Memorial Collection contains all first editions in dust jackets, as well as reprints in 35 languages, pulps, comics, newspapers and extensive periodical files, clippings and scrapbooks, toys and games, biography and bibliography, including the working papers of Irwin Porges and Erling B. Holtsmark, and a reference collection of films, filmstills and scripts, original art and sculpture, posters, correspondence and memorabilia.

He talks about his life and interests in an interesting 15-minute video “A Conversation With George T. McWhorter” [Vimeo file]. The guy can even sing!

(7) Two fellows have created a car from Legos powered by a 256-cylinder compressed air engine. Would you like to guess what the biggest problem was in designing the first full-size Lego car? Well, I’ll tell you anyway.

Sammartino and Oaida say that the hot rod is capable of 20-30 kph, but that they drive it slowly as they’re scared of a ‘giant Lego explosion.’ Presumably there is a hard limit on how much air pressure the Lego cylinders can withstand, and thus how high the engine can rev. Or considering the blocks are almost certainly glued together, maybe the limiting factor is heat dissipation — those pistons, without any kind of real air or liquid cooling, are probably generating a fairly large amount of heat.

(8) Some of you have other reasons for wanting to go to Las Vegas. John King Tarpinian says this is his – The Sci-fi Center, at 600 East Sahara Ave. They also keep a Facebook page.

(9) Bill Higgins’ article “Antimatter’s Science Fiction Debut” in a 2008 issue of Symmetry: Dimensions of Particle Physics traces where and when this scientific discovery first cropped up in an sf story.

News accounts of the controversy introduced [Vladimir] Rojansky’s word “contraterrene” to a wider public, along with the idea that contraterrene asteroids or comets might orbit the Sun.

This sparked John Campbell’s restless imagination. He imagined that space-going miners might pursue contraterrene asteroids as a rich source of energy, despite the deadly radiation risks in handling untouchable material.

He handed off the idea to Jack Williamson, who eventually turned it into his Seetee series.

[Thanks for these links goes out to John King Tarpinian, David Klaus, Ed Green and Bill Higgins.]

Update 01/09/2014: Removed the extra b in alphabet, per comment.

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15 thoughts on “Snapshots 130 Hercules

  1. I can’t help wondering whether “Alphbabet” is a typo, or an intentional example of the fhannish proclivity for inserting extra letters into words.

  2. It takes a wonderful imagination to think that any mispelling around here would be anything but a typo. Bless you my son, you shall have a chromo.

  3. As I recall, from ancient reading, English is unusual among modern European languages for drawing a distinction between the “eth” and “thorn.” (ie: “birth” & “then. One is voiced and the other not.) It may be the only Germanic (or possibly even Indo-European) language that does. But it’s been a long time since I read Mario Pi. I can’t be certain of the details.

  4. Another amusing detail just surfaced in my memory. Since other European languages have one or the other “th” sound, but not both, the typical non-English accent reduces both sounds to one or the other. So “Geev zat to me!” is standard “dialect” for French accented English. But French Canadians don’t speak Parisian French, so Quebecois French accented English is often rendered into “Geev dat to me!”

  5. Intrigued to learn that there are actual letters that didn’t make the alphabet. And here I thought the Dr. Seuss book “Beyond Zebra”, which posited obscure letters such as “Yuzz”, was pure fantasy.

  6. Viberating seats. Wasn’t that used by William Castle in one of his flicks? It was used as a gag in MATINEE (directed by Joe Dante). The Monster on the screen grabs the girls behind and the seats buzz.

  7. After that antimatter article came out, Stephen Haffner asked me to write a historical introduction to a chapbook edition of Jack Williamson’s third Seetee story, Opposites–React!. So I retold the story in much more detail: How the idea of antimatter arose among the quantum physicists, how astronomers grabbed it to explain some mysteries involving meteorites, how it was picked up by a few SF writers before Williamson, how it came to John Campbell’s attention, and how he persuaded Williamson to write the series of stories that placed antimatter firmly in the toybox of SF. It was great fun to get my research down onto paper.

    While I was pleased to see my name on the cover of a book, only 75 copies of the chapbook were published, nearly all of them now sold. I ought to find another place to reprint my long article.

  8. I suppose I’ll be accused of pedantry for saying this, but the plural of “Lego” is “Lego”.

    The non-word “Legos” seems to be a peculiarly American thing.

  9. Then what are we, your humble students, to make of this — the corporate website consistently refers to Lego bricks, Lego pieces, etc. It never uses Lego as a plural noun, but as a trade name in conjunction with another pluralized noun.

    Amazon and Wal-Mart, those insidious American retailers, do sell “Legos.”

    I’m sure some of my ancestors are to blame for putting the “c” in “scissors,” too. That’s probably why they had to move to America.

  10. My conclusion is that there is only one Lego, and that its plural is “bricks”.

    (What’s the plural of “File 770”? Is it “Files 770”, or “File 1540”, or something else?)

  11. And is “Hercules” the plural of “Hercule”?
    1 Hercule
    2 Hercules
    130 Hercules

  12. The authoritative handbook says the plural is “File Seven-Seventies.”

    I like your analysis of the Hercule problem.

    I probably would have ducked the question and claimed any mass number of them is a Labor of Hercules…

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