Snapshots 71 Blackbird

Here are 14 developments of interest to fans:

(1) In “‘Raiders’: Damon Lindelof’s love letter to a ‘perfect movie’” the writer/producer from Lost and the 2009 Star Trek movie gushes about the Spielberg/Lucas collaboration Raiders of the Lost Ark. (From the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog.) —

And here’s the thing: Although it’s easy to reduce “Raiders” to a “popcorn” movie — a piece of escapist adventure with fantastic action — very rarely is it appreciated for its pure innovative genius.  This is something people seemed to be well aware of back in 1981 (it was nominated for a best picture Oscar), but over time, the legacy of “Raiders” seems to neglect just how incredibly revolutionary it was as a film. Therefore, as a debt of gratitude (and for everything I’ve stolen from it in my own work), I feel it’s only fitting to write a long overdue love letter to one of my favorite films ever.…

(2) If only George Lucas could be that happy with Star Wars. Lucas has never been able to fully accept his 1977 work. He is still tinkering with it and changes made in a forthcoming Blu-Ray edition are being met with a storm of complaints.  CNET reports:

The most significant alteration is a change to [Return of the Jedi], in which Darth Vader now yells “Nooo! Nooo!” as he lifts up the Emperor, who is electrocuting Luke Skywalker aboard the Death Star II. The response online to this change has been severely negative. Even the Amazon listing for the Star Wars Blu-ray collection has dozens of negative reviews based on this one update alone.

One Star Wars fan puts it quite bluntly. “With one of these new changes (the ‘Noooooo’ added to the climax of “Return of the Jedi”) he has destroyed the dramatic impact of one of the most iconic scenes in American film history,” writes Cody Clarke on Amazon. “This is embarrassing.” What a waste of a release. I won’t even get into the other changes, because that change is enough for a 1-star review.”

(3) It’s messing with success that fans object to. Other times, we wouldn’t mind if somebody made a billion changes. Take, for example, The Starlost TV series created by Harlan Ellison. Ben Bova’s latest column for the Naples News tells about his experience as the show’s science advisor. The experience was so bitterly laughable that he wrote a novel (The Starcrossed) about it.

As science advisor, my job was to see if there were any scientific errors in the scripts, and suggest ways to fix those errors without throwing the entire script in the wastebasket. This I did. I was thanked profusely by the producers. I was paid handsomely. And my advice was ignored; the scripts were shot as written, errors and all. It turned out the producers weren’t interested in scientific accuracy. All they wanted was a “name” in the list of credits to show that they had a science advisor.

(4) Etsy’s alternate history art site offers humorous exotica like a faux 19th century map of the Pittsburgh Zombie Outbreak and a Revolutionary-era lithograph of the Beast in Boston Harbor.

(5) Another clever counterfeit is the carton for Soylent Green, now a real product:

The Parallax Corp. introduces the officially licensed Soylent Green, a high-energy plankton food. The all-natural crackers, which contain real high-energy plankton, are made in the U.S. at a small-batch gourmet food manufacturing plant.

(6) Here are Richard Man’s Hugo Award reception photos.

(7) Michael Dirda has reviewed Jonathan R. Eller’s Becoming Ray Bradbury in the Washington Post:

In his later years, Bradbury seems to have acquiesced in allowing publishers to refer to him as “the greatest living science fiction writer,” but, in truth, he isn’t and probably never was. Like J.G. Ballard, another visionary who doesn’t quite fit comfortably in any genre, Bradbury actually writes about “inner space,” about loneliness and troubled hearts and our deep-seated fear of otherness. In that regard, he is simply what he always wanted to be: a great storyteller, sometimes even a mythmaker, a true American classic.

(8) Thinking of a voyage that will take rather longer than that fabled 5-year mission, DARPA is asking what will it take to create a spaceship capable of traveling to the stars and have it ready for launch within the next 100 years?

It may sound like the premise of a science fiction show or reality TV series. But these are serious questions being asked by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research-and-development arm of the U.S. military.

This fall, DARPA intends to award up to $500,000 in seed money to a group that proves it would do the best job of developing the necessary technologies — whatever they may be — for interstellar travel. The proposals had better be good — if none of them are up to snuff, the agency won’t hand out the money. To stimulate discussion on the research possibilities, DARPA officials will hold a symposium that brings together astrophysicists, engineers and even sci-fi writers so they can brainstorm what it would take to make this starship enterprise a success.

(9) Here’s something George Lucas won’t find easy to edit – the statute of Yoda at Lucasfilm headquarters:

Within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge lies another landmark cherished by a small but fervent group of travelers: a full-size replica of Yoda, George Lucas’ master of the Force. Since the statue of the Jedi sage went up amid the Presidio’s landscaped lawns in 2005, Star Wars fans have made a pilgrimage to take pictures with their beloved character and take in Lucasfilm Ltd.’s sleek headquarters.

Given the franchise’s huge impact not only on pop culture but on the tourism industry, the diminutive Yoda fountain is just one of dozens of location shoots and special sites visited by Star Wars acolytes. Others include Luke Skywalker’s desert home in Tunisia, Guatemalan pyramids and a Tuscan lakefront villa.

For the Van Zweiten family of Oploo, Netherlands, a stop to see the pointy-eared master was a key part of their summer holiday in the United States.

“The Dutch guidebook said `Love it, you will,’ and we decided we had to come,” said Tom Van Zwieten, a tax attorney who has also visited another shoot site in Tenerife, and who brought up his children watching the trilogies.

(10) The SETI Institute found the money to get the Allen Telescope Array running again:

Citizens of the world: You are awesome. This week the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute announced that it had raised more than $200,000 from a crowd-sourced fundraising effort that launched this spring. The money, which came from just over 2,000 people who want to keep the search for alien life alive, will help the institute put its Allen Telescope Array back online.

(11) It’s Always News to Somebody Dept. I have yet to report that Elon Musk is the second winner of the Heinlein Prize for advances in space commercialization.

Trustees of the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust announced today that the second-ever Heinlein Prize will go to Elon Musk, founder, CEO and CTO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). The Heinlein Prize honors the memory of Robert A. Heinlein, a renowned American science fiction author. The purpose of the prize is to encourage and reward individuals for making practical contributions to the commercialization of space. Mr. Musk will be honored at a luncheon and award ceremony on June 29, 2011 at the Hyatt in Washington, DC and will receive $250,000, a gold Heinlein Medallion, [the Lady Vivamus Sword (as described in Heinlein’s book Glory Road)] and a Laureate’s Diploma.

(12) A newly discovered, never before published Henry Kuttner story, “The Interplanetary Limited” has been added to Thunder in the Void from Haffner Press, a collection of 16 vintage Space Opera stories.

Prior to his marriage to fellow science-fantasy writer Catherine L. Moore in 1940, Henry Kuttner wrote stories of Lovecraftian horror, weird-menace “shudder” tales, and thrilling adventure stories. But he also wrote blood-n-thunder Space Opera stories in the vein of Edmond Hamilton (one of young Kuttner’s favorite authors) told with a rough-edge style similar to Kuttner’s protege Leigh Brackett.

Award-winning author (and the only writer to stage a live performance of a Kuttner Space Opera story) Mike Resnick contributes an introduction reflecting on his admiration for stories by Kuttner (and Moore).

(13) Patrick Cahalan at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen lit into the NPR’s list of Top 100 SF and Fantasy novels:  

I like Neil Gaiman quite a bit but no one single author deserves four entries in the top 52 of a science fiction/fantasy list, not even one of the gods of the golden age of science fiction, one of which, of course, Neil ain’t. Heck, no one author deserves 4 entries in the top 52 of any top 100 list for any genre unless his initials are W.S. So in that sense this list interests me less than, say, William Shatner’s list of top 10 novels (no, he’s not the W.S. I was thinking of – madeyathink!)

The tone Cahalan uses to nitpick the results of the reader survey makes me want to rush to the defense of things I didn’t give a damn about the minute before. I could even twist around his admission (in a comment) that he’s never read PKD’s Man in the High Castle to sound like a major fault his critique. Or maybe I will just applaud his honesty. After all, what about my own list of the important sf&f stories I’ve yet to read? Yes, let’s cancel that exhibition of stone-throwing in my glass house!

(14) I’ll conclude with this inspirational picture from Darthmojo, a site that boasts endless examples of this kind of graphic hilarity:


[Thanks for these links goes out to Andrew Porter, David Klaus, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster and all the ships at sea.]

4 thoughts on “Snapshots 71 Blackbird

  1. “(9) Here’s something George Lucas won’t find easy to edit – the statute of Yoda at Lucasfilm headquarters:”

    I was aware of the statue of Yoda, but I never knew about the “statute” of Yoda. I’m guessing it must be something like: “Make better movies, you will!”

  2. For the cover of the second printing of Starcrossed, the artist used Gregory Peck as his model for the Harlan Ellison character.
    It’s one of my favorite brain-hurting covers.

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