Snapshots 148 Dunbar’s Number

Here are 19 developments of interest to fans.

(1)  “Half the DNA on the NYC Subway Matches No Known Organism” reports

The PathoMap project, which involved sampling turnstiles, benches, and keypads at 466 stations, found 15,152 life-forms in total, half of which were bacterial. The Wall Street Journal has created a fun, interactive microbial map of the subway out of the data, showing where on the lines the bacteria “associated with” everything from mozzarella cheese to staph infections was found.

Nothing wrong with the article, it’s just awfully hard to live up to a headline like that…

(2) When the typewriter used by Joseph Stefano to script the movie Psycho was put up for auction in November there were no takers.

Stefano was commissioned by Alfred Hitchcock to write the adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel in 1960, and the horror film went on to become a critical and financial success, breaking the mold of what constituted ”terrifying”. The film was nominated for an Academy Award and selected for preservation in the National Film registry in 1992.

Stefano also wrote 12 episodes of The Outer Limits on the same typewriter. It’s practically a holy relic! But the $25,000 minimum was enough to cool the ardor of potential bidders.

(3) Vintage NASA photos also have gone on the auction block

Perhaps the most notable image in the collection (given today’s astronauts’ propensity for Instagram and Twitter) is a so-called selfie taken by Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. It’s arguably the first selfie ever taken in space. The archive of more than 600 photos include another impressive first — the first ever photograph of Earth taken from space. The portrait was taken by a camera mounted to a rocket launched up and out of Earth’s atmosphere in 1946.

The catalog is here. [PDF file, 46MB]

(4) Much more recent is the imagery from NASA’s Scientific Visualizations Studio showing the far side of the Moon.

A number of people who’ve seen the annual lunar phase and libration videos have asked what the other side of the Moon looks like, the side that can’t be seen from the Earth. This video answers that question. Just like the near side, the far side goes through a complete cycle of phases. But the terrain of the far side is quite different. It lacks the large dark spots, called maria, that make up the familiar Man in the Moon on the near side. Instead, craters of all sizes crowd together over the entire far side. The far side is also home to one of the largest and oldest impact features in the solar system, the South Pole-Aitken basin, visible here as a slightly darker bruise covering the bottom third of the disk.

(5) Gregory Benford has summarized his thoughts about the 2014 Worldcon in “Afoot at LonCon”.

So be it real estate, crowd attention, or undermining the former great, the con and indeed, fandom, has acquired the air of a contested ground. Think of it as a compliment: sf and fandom are important enough to steal.

…These currents I saw at Loncon: social commentary, inept economics preached by Marxists (!), announcements that some special complaints were somehow privileged. Yet Loncon wasn’t really supposed to be about grievances at all. It was about our manifest, burgeoning future. You know, that old one, with technology opening new doors to prospects vast and strange.

That’s the sort of future that interests me. I’d like more of it, especially at worldcons.

(6) A few months ago I covered Sheldon Teitelbaum’s crowdfunding appeal for Zion’s Fiction: An Anthology of Israeli Fantasy & Science Fiction. He was unsuccessful in raising the necessary $65,000 amout. Teitelbaum has written an 8-point post-mortem considering where they went wrong which begins —

So where did we stumble? Here’s my own sense (my confreres may well disagree, and probably with good reason):

We failed to convey the actual parameters of this book. Who would be published? Which stories were under consideration? What kind of stories were they? How many would there be? What kind of themes might be explored? What SF’nal tropes might manifest? Are we talking hard or soft SF? Stories set only in or involving some facet of Israeli existence (as Emanuel puts it, “hora stories”) or sagas with protagonists called Bob who live in Redondo Beach? What ratio of fantasy to science fiction would be maintained? To what extent would the work featured reflect a Jewish perspective? An Israeli perspective? A minority (Moslem Arab, Christian Arab, Druze, Bedouin, Bahai Radical Syndicalist) outlook? A representational gender mix? A political inclination, whether deliberate, inadvertent or perhaps, in a book called Zion’s Fiction, unavoidable? How was Israeli science fiction and fantasy different from mainstream (English-language) or international variants of the genre?

(7) Here’s the kind of editorial you don’t see in science fiction magazines anymore. Of course, you usually didn’t see them in 1956, either. From Infobarrel, “A Typical Edition of Authentic Science Fiction” —

E C Tubb’s editorial is a bizarre discourse hypothesizing that the age of the Bible’s leading geriatric, Methuselah, of 969, was by no means uncommon for his time and the human lifespan has declined since the Flood. Tubb believes a vegetarian diet would see a turnaround (“The answer could be as simple as that”), although we should not discount the effects of radio waves in aging human tissue.

(8) They call it a billboard in space but that word doesn’t mean what you think it means… The promoters will put advertising on a CubeSat satellite roughly the size of a milk container and launch it into orbit.

Although the billboard will not be visible from Earth, all messages will be continuously visible on the SpaceBillboard website as well as used in the customers’ branding campaigns.

cubesat billboard COMP

(9) The Visit’s director Michael Madsen says Earth authorities are completely unprepared for alien visitors, so humans should get themselves ready by watching his movie.

Intriguingly, the movie is filmed from the perspective of the first alien arrivals — with a series of experts and authority figures talking to the camera as if to welcome our new extraterrestrial friends. “If this happens you should go to watch this film, this is a manual for this,” the 43-year-old Madsen told AFP in an interview.

James H. Burns is more than a little skeptical about Madsen’s claims:

This new film’s contention, apparently, is that the world’s governments don’t have a plan in place if the moment ever comes when extraterrestrials come forth. That argument seems to me to be filled with all sorts of hooey, in that hasn’t there been all sorts of evidence — at least tip of the iceberg type stuff — that the CIA (at their think tank level, anyway) and other branches of our government, as well as such far ranging sources as the Vatican, have long held contingencies for such a moment?

Maybe so, but I can’t forget Bruce Willis’ character in Armageddon being awfully disappointed that NASA really didn’t spend all its time “thinking shit up” to handle threats from space.

(10) Don’t you suppose people would be a lot more enthusiastic about meeting aliens if they looked like Susan Oliver? And they could begin their studies with The Green Girl, a documentary about her acting career.

A feature-length documentary about Susan Oliver, known primarily today as Star Trek’s first iconic Green Orion Slave Girl (from the original 1964 Star Trek pilot, reused in the 2-part 1966 episode The Menagerie).  She was a highly- prolific actress of the ’50’s/’60’s/’70’s/’80’s, a record-setting female aviator, an original member of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women, and one of the only women directing major TV shows in the 1980’s.  Tragically taken by cancer in 1990, she’s been inexplicably forgotten by the industry to which she gave so much of herself.  This documentary chronicles the remarkable achievements of her all-too-short life.

(11) Congratulations to Europa SF: The European Science Fiction Portal for their insightful interview with Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bidder Brian Nisbet:

Europa SF: Talking about the bidding team, who are the other members of the bidding team 2019 and what is your role in this project?

Brian Nisbet: Right now we have a committee of seven, with a wider bid team of 38 people (at time of writing. You can see all of the names on our webpage. James Bacon, who has a storied history in conrunning, including Director of Programme for Loncon 3, the 72nd Worldcon, is our Chairman. Emma England, another veteran conrunner, is heading up our Promotions & Volunteers activities. Gareth Kavanagh and John ‘JC’ Clarke, our Registrar and Treasurer, are both heavily involved in Octocon the Irish National SF convention and the recent Eurocon. Tammy Coxen, who ran the 2014 NASFIC in Detroit, is taking care of our North American activities and Esther MacCallum-Stewart, a highly qualified academic with lots of con experience is keeping us organised.

My role is as Irish Officer, overseeing all of our promotions and activities in Ireland, a small country, but one with over thirty genre events a year. I’ll be working to engage the community and recruit people to the cause as we build (hopefully!) towards 2019.

(12) Here’s a story that gives new meaning to the saying “always wear protection”

An Australian man taking a nearly 10,000-mile walk across the country in his Star Wars stormtrooper costume said the armor saved him from a deadly snake bite.

Scott Loxley, whose 9,320-mile walk across Australia is aimed at raising money for the Monash Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, said he was leaving Yalboroo, Queensland, Wednesday on his way to Mackay when he spotted what appeared to be a dead snake at the side of the road.

“He’s lunged at me and bit me. But the good news is the armor — he bit me in the shin — and the armor actually protected me and stopped the bite,” Loxley said. “I could feel the teeth scraping on the plastic, but the armor actually stopped something.”

(13) Harlan Ellison was interviewed by Grammy-winning audiobook producer Stefan Rudnicki  for Downpour. He spoke about audiobooks, writing “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Star Trek, and touring with The Rolling Stones.

(14) Turner Classic Movies will premiere its restored version of Harry Houdini’s 1919 film The Grim Game at its TCM Classic Film Festival in March.

The only known copy of the complete film was held by Larry Weeks, a 95-year-old retired juggler who lived in Brooklyn. Weeks had obtained the film from the Houdini estate in 1947, had only shown it a few times and  never had been willing to sell it. [Film preservationist Rick] Schmidlin got in touch with Weeks and visited him to assess the condition of the film. Weeks showed him the two film cans that contained The Grim Game. Schmidlin explained that TCM was willing to make an offer, and after two hours of discussion, Weeks finally agreed.

(15) Sarah Brightman, the famous singer who once was married to Andrew Lloyd-Webber, has purchased passage to the International Space Station. She is about to embark on her space training at Russia’s Star City in preparation for the September 2015 launch.

Ironically, Brightman had a huge hit with “I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper” in 1978. (Please don’t sue me if you want to gouge your eyes out after viewing this.)

(16) Here’s a link to James Doohan’s home movies, including many shots of his fellow Trek cast members.

(17) James H. Burns claims it is a myth that women don’t like The Three Stooges. Read his testimony at TV Party.

One night, in one of the popular Broadway joints, I’m having a couple of drinks with an actress I had recently met. A lovely, musicals-type gal. And we’re talking; and schmoozing; and maybe she couldn’t hold her booze as well as she might have liked. Somehow, old movies came up.

And. somehow, I mention the Stooges. She tells me she LOVES the Stooges. In fact, she grew up loving them in the mid-West. Now, I figure she’s just kind of fibbing, trying to get in good with me by professing she shares my affection for the brothers Howard, and Fine….

(18) Francis Hamit sends along a link promoting his Christopher Marlowe movie:

This film doesn’t have a lot to do with science fiction and fantasy. Christopher Marlowe did write that “required reading” play about the man who sold his soul to the Devil,. Doctor Faustus. More importantly Mike Donahue, who will direct this feature film this year, is a well known fan. He was Fan Guest of Honor at the 2013 LosCon. Mike and I met many years ago at some convention and it was his idea to make my 1988 stage play into a film. Our efforts have been met with the usual skepticism and bad will that happens when Fans wander off the reservation and try to do something important and meaningful, but this project is happening. This video clip is part of our ongoing promotional effort on our Facebook page.


(19) andrew j. offutt was a prolific author – perhaps even more than you know. His son Chris writes about processing his father’s archives in a New York Times article, ”My Dad, the Pornographer”.

My father, Andrew Jefferson Offutt V, grew up in a log cabin in Taylorsville, Ky. The house had 12-inch-thick walls with gun ports to defend against attackers: first Indians, then soldiers during the Civil War. At 12, Dad wrote a novel of the Old West. He taught himself to type with the Columbus method — find it and land on it — using one finger on his left hand and two fingers on his right. Dad typed swiftly and with great passion. In this fashion, he eventually wrote and published more than 400 books. Two were science fiction and 24 were fantasy, written under his own name; the rest were pornography, using 17 pseudonyms.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Dan Goodman, Michael Walsh, Lex Berman, James H. Burns, John King Tarpinian and Andrew Porter.]

Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

7 thoughts on “Snapshots 148 Dunbar’s Number

  1. Christopher Marlowe’s connection to fantasy also includes being a major character in two Elizabeth Bear novels, Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth.

  2. Howard Waldrop’s “Heart of Whitenesse” is another Marlowe fantasy.

    (I got to hear Waldrop read the story at the 1996 El Paso Westercon. Man, that guy’s good at storytelling, both written and vocal.)

  3. Mike: In your piece about Joseph Stefano’s typewriter, you make one reference to “Joseph Stefan” instead of Stefano.

    Greg Benford: Perhaps the reason German fans “felt uncomfortable” about jokes about Schindler elevators is that Schindler is NOT a German company, It’s Swiss.

    Martin Wisse: Thanks for the link!

Comments are closed.