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.]
I’m spending the day accompanying my mother to an in-office surgery, so this will be Scroll Lite. Cat has run up the birthdays. I hope you’ll add in the comments whatever other links of sff interest deserve to be Scrolled today.
(1) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
2006 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Sixteen years this evening on SyFy, the Eureka series premiered. I was fascinated with it from the very first episode and watched it all the way through. Set in the fictional town of Eureka located apparently in Oregon (though it also showed up in California and Washington), the group of mad geniuses at Global Dynamics engage in creating technologies that are, well, science fictional in nature. It did not, to my surprise, get nominated for any Hugos.
SPOILER TIMER. REALLY MAJOR SPOILER! GO AWAY! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
I love how it ended with our Sheriff leaving town to take his daughter to University meeting himself on the road first coming to town with her. I wonder if the co-creators of Andrew Cosby who helped found BOOM! Comics and Jaime Paglia, who go on to be the Executive Producer on The Flash series as well a writer there, had that in mind all along? It’s a very cool coda to the series.
MAJOR SPOILER DONE! NOW YOU CAN LOOK BACK.
I was always impressed with its rather large ensemble cast and how each character managed to developed over time. And stories were allowed their proper time to unfold, no hurrying things there. And the digital effects were stellar too.
The setting of the small town anchored of course by its cafe where everyone could encounter everyone else in the town was archetypally perfect. And really, really sweet. Pie, anyone?
I’m also please that it was allowed a proper wrap-up, so that like Farscape with The Peacekeeper Wars, we weren’t left wondering how The Story ended.
There’s been two BOOM! Box series and three novels (Substitution Method, Brain Box Blues and Road Less Travelled).
It’s streaming oddly enough on Peacock. NBC must have been one of the investors in SciFi as Warehouse 13 is streaming there to. I believe it’s also free on Amazon Prime and Roku.
(2) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 18, 1913 — Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes. I remember Freddie the Freeloader. He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which is also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider at least genre adjacent. (Died 1997.)
Born July 18, 1938 — Paul Verhoeven, 84. Responsible for Starship Troopers, Total Recall, Hollow Man and Robocop. He’s made films nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation three times (Starship Troopers, Total Recall and Robocop) but has not won it.
Born July 18, 1943 — Charles G. Waugh, 79. Anthologist who is amazingly prolific. I count over two hundred anthologies, most done with co-anthologists, and many done with Martin Greenberg. Oft times a third anthologist would be listed, i.e. Poul Anderson for Terrorists of Tomorrrow, or Isaac Asimov for Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction series. His latest is Killing London done just a year co-edited with Don Wismer.
Born July 18, 1980 — Kristen Bell, 42. Veronica Mars. Genre, well not really, but a lot of y’all watch it. A favorite series of Charles de Lint. She also voiced Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies which I highly recommend as it’s highly meta.
Born July 18, 1982 — Priyanka Chopra, 40. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit very nicely into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as is Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a key role in the Matrix Resurrections film. No, I’m not saying what it is as many of you haven’t seen it yet.
(3) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Stephen Fry narrates this video by advocates in Britain calling for a four-day work week.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]
(1) THIS IS WILD. Brandon Sanderson invites you to watch as “We Back Every Publishing Kickstarter*”. As one commenter said, “Never thought I would watch a 30+ minute video of someone funding Kickstarters.” I had to watch the whole thing myself!
Today we are going to do something awesome. The Kickstarter has been successful beyond my wildest dreams, so I got my team together and I said what can we do to give back a little to this community that has supported us so well? So we are going to back every single Kickstarter in the publishing category. This is going to be awesome. …And indeed, some of these we’re going to pull out and we’re going to talk about why we’re backing them and what’s cool about them and so we’re going to do a time lapse for you and you can watch in real time as we back these all…
In the middle of this, the Sanderson team tripped over a previously unknown-to-them Kickstarter function which sends all of their own backers an email every time they back another one. After a load of emails had gone out Kickstarter locked up their account! The team had to open a new account to keep going. (At first they worried that — doing the multiplication – they had unintentionally generated nine million emails. They soon learned it was a lot less – the emails only go to those who opt-in to receive such notices.)
(2) ELDEN RING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews FromSoftware’s release The Elden Ring.
Here is the DNA which defines a FromSoftware game: difficulty which borders on masochism; finely-tuned combat that rewards patience; and storylines told through text that necessitates elucidation in YouTube explainers. Elden Ring continues the tradition, weaving the classic ingredients through a storyline written with the assistance of Game of Thrones author George RR Martin. You are ‘a Tarnished,’ tasked with venturing across the decaying ‘Lands Between to reunite pieces of a broken ring and become the ‘Elden Lord.’
It doesn’t matter. For most players, the plot will come a distant second in a bold change in the FromSoftware formula: a vast open world of great beauty where almost everything wants to kill you. While the graphics look dated by current standards, the design is stunning: misty forests, golden cities, and rotting red deserts you race past on your trusty spirit-horse, Torrent.
Russian premier Vladimir Putin has delivered a TV address in which he claimed the West is “trying to cancel” his country.
During a deranged-sounding rant, translated and broadcast by Sky News, Putin at one point said that Harry Potter author JK Rowling had been similarly cancelled “just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights”….
JK Rowling has hit back at Vladimir Putin, after the Russian president cited her in a wide-ranging speech that saw him criticise “cancel culture”.
At a televised meeting on Friday, Mr Putin compared recent criticism of the Harry Potter author to that faced by pro-war Russian composers and writers.
In response, Ms Rowling denounced the invasion of Ukraine in which she said Russia was “slaughtering civilians”.
Rowling has been criticised for her views on transgender issues.
“Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics,” the Harry Potter author wrote on Twitter.
In the lengthy speech, which was given to the winners of various cultural prizes, President Putin claimed Russian composers and writers were being discriminated against.
By large majorities, American say they oppose recent efforts to remove books from schools and libraries, and say they trust in librarians to make appropriate collection decisions. The news comes from a national poll commissioned by the American Library Association, released this week at the Public Library Association conference in Portland, Ore.
Amid a proliferation of new legislation in some states and an uptick in efforts to ban books nationwide, the ALA poll found that 71% of voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, including majorities of voters across party lines. Furthermore, 74% of parents of public school children expressed “a high degree of confidence” in school librarians to make good decisions about which books to make available to children. The poll also found librarians to be held in high in their communities….
(5) COVER REVEAL. [Item by Bence Pintér.] Valancourt Books unveiled the cover for Attila Veres’s debut collection in English: The Black Maybe. Attila is the top Hungarian weird/horror author, I am really glad to see him published in the US. The book will be released in October.
…This volume collects ten of his best tales in English for the first time, ranging from weird fiction like ‘In the Snow, Sleeping’, in which a couple’s vacation to a health spa erodes into a surreal nightmare, to folk horror like ‘Return to the Midnight School’, in which the things that emerge from the soil in one rural farming community are bizarre and horrific, to Lovecraft-inspired tales like ‘Multiplied by Zero’, written as a wry travelogue in which a man sets out on a deadly holiday tour to explore Lovecraftian landscapes. And in the title story ‘The Black Maybe’, which Steve Rasnic Tem calls ‘one of the weirdest tales I’ve read in years’, a girl and her family escape the bustling city to experience farm life, only to discover with unimaginable horror the truth of what is really being harvested there….
(6) ESSAY: FRITZ LEIBER’S HUGOS. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] I recently listened to one of the audio versions of Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time, the one narrated by Suzanne Toren, which was his first Hugo win for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon (1958). It would be the first of six Hugos and two Retro Hugos that he would garner in a long and distinguished career. (A movie based on one of his books also won.) So let me recount these.
After the win for The Big Time, he next picked two nominations at Detention (1959), one for a novelette, “A Deskful of Girls” and one for a short story, “Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee” (and may I say that I really, really love that title?); another short story, “Scylla’s Daughter”, was nominated at Chicon III (1962), the same year he picked a Special Award for “The Use of SF in Advertisements”. Anyone care to tell me about this award pretty please?
At the first DisCon (1963) he picked up a short story nomination for “The Unholy Grail”. Also nominated for Best Dramatic Production that year was Burn, Witch, Burn, also known as Night of the Eagle, which as you know is based off Leiber’s Conjure Wife,
Loncon II (1965) saw The Wanderer novel pick up a Hugo, and “Stardock” was a finalist at Tricon (1966) as a short story nominee. “Gonna Roll Them Bones” picked up the Novelette Hugo at Baycon (1968) with “Ship of Shadows” garnering the Best Novella at Heicon ’70.
The first Noreascon (1971) would see his “Ill Met in Lankhmar” novella win a Hugo. (I truly love those stories, one and all.) And then the first Aussiecon (1975) would see his “Midnight by the Morphy Watch” novelette nominated for a Hugo and the next year at MidAmeriaCon (1976), his “Catch That Zeppelin!” short story won a Hugo.
That’s it for Hugos, though there’s the matter of Retro Hugos too. L.A. Con III (1996) would see his Destiny Times Three novel nominated and Millennium Philcon saw the “Coming Attraction” short story likewise. Another short story, “The Sunken Land”, got nominated at Worldcon 76 (2018). At Dublin 2019, where two of his novels were on the Retro Hugo ballot, Conjure Wife outpolled Gather, Darkness for Best Novel, while his “Thieves’ House” novelette was also a finalist.
His last Retro Hugo was CoNZealand (2020) for Best Fan Writer. He’d also get a nomination that year for Best Related Work for The Works of H. P. Lovecraft: Suggestions for a Critical Appraisal.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 25, 1927 — Sylvia Anderson. Film producer, writer, voice actress and costume designer, best known for her collaborations with husband Gerry Anderson on such Supermarionation series as Thunderbirds, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray. She was responsible for much of the actual shows and the characters on them, in particular creating the iconic characters of Lady Penelope and Parker in Thunderbirds. (Died 2016.)
Born March 25, 1920 — Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor, of course. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before proceeding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Telly-wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and later on in The Feathered Serpent, a children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico where he starred as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h (Died 1987.)
Born March 25, 1939 — D. C. Fontana. You know that I’m not going to be able to give her complete précis here? She’s that complex a writer and producer, so I’m sticking to her writing side here. She’s first of all a script writer and story editor, best known for her work on the original Trek franchise but she was also involved on Logan’s Run, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She was a story editor on the short-lived Fantastic Journey, and so many revisions made to her script for Battlestar Galactica’s “Gun on Ice Planet Zero” that her name is nowhere near it. Oh, and she created the story that became “Encounter at Farpoint”. Impressive that. My absolute favorite work by her is “The War Prayer” episode for the first season of Babylon 5, based on a idea by Straczynski. She even wrote an episode of the series Reboot! (Died 2019.)
Born March 25, 1942 — Richard O’Brien, 80. He wrote The Rocky Horror Show forty-nine years ago which has remained in almost continuous production globally. He also co-wrote the screenplay of The Rocky Horror Picture Show film which came out just two years later. He appears in the film as Riff Raff. He’s in Casino Royale as a stunt performer and in the 1980 Flash Gordon as Fico. The Robin of Sherwood series had him in a recurring role as Gulnar.
Born March 25, 1942 — Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 80. She was nominated at the second DisCon for Best Fan Writer, the year Susan Wood won, and Neffy (National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Award) for Fan of the Year thirty-four years later. She’s written a number of Trek works and more fiction in the Sime/Gen ‘verse which I hadn’t known existed until now. If you’re so interested in the latter, she’s extremely well stocked at the usual suspects.
Born March 25, 1947 — Paul Levinson, 75. “The Copyright Case” novelette would garner him a much deserved HOMer Award. It was the first work in a series of novels and short stories featuring the fascinating NYPD forensic detective Dr. Phil D’Amato who first appeared in Levinson’s “The Chronology Protection Case” novelette. You can purchase it from the usual digital sources.
Born March 25, 1964 — Kate DiCamillo, 58. She is one of only six people to win two Newbery Medals for her novels The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. I’m not familiar with the latter work, but the former is a wonderful read that got turned into a remarkably good film as well, something that but rarely happens alas.
We’re pleased to offer collectors nearly 400 lots of Prince Valiant artwork from the estate of John Cullen Murphy, the man handpicked by creator Hal Foster to continue Val’s epic journey of adventure, romance and bravery. Never before have so many lots of original Prince Valiant art been available at auction, ranging from preliminary sketches by Hal Foster, to full-page strips by John Cullen Murphy from the 1970s to 2000s. The result is a feast for the eyes and heart, the grand illustrations that Prince Valiant is known for, coupled with the characters and tales that have captivated millions of fans the world over.
Over the decades, part of what has made the Star Wars franchise so interesting to its fans is the slew of questions that have arisen from the films. While some of them were answered in future movies and TV shows, others remained largely unanswered or unexplored in any form of media. However, that doesn’t mean that there may not be some history to it in some way, and a great example of that fact can be found in C-3PO’s silver leg from the Original Trilogy.
In an interview with Threepio actor Anthony Daniels, he explained the various changes and updates to his suits over the years and how they’ve adapted over time. For example, when he reached The Empire Strikes Back, he discussed how his shin was never gold but a shade of silver. While it was easy to see on the action figures, most of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back made it far more challenging to see. But Daniels also explained some clever behind-the-scenes reasons as to why the leg appeared gold on camera….
The fearsome boa constrictor (Boa constrictor) lives up to its name. Whenever it’s hungry, the 4-meter-long snake wraps itself around rodents, birds, or even pigs, literally squeezing the life out of them. So why don’t boas collapse their own lungs in the process?
To find out, scientists strapped a blood pressure cuff (like the one your doctor uses) around the midsections of eight boas in their lab….
… Through the Guide to the Farroe Islands website, fans of Ian Fleming’s legendary creation can now book what’s being called “the official James Bond tombstone tour.” On this seven hour excursion, a guided tour will take participants through the sights and sounds of Kalsoy island, where No Time To Die filmed its sequences involving the evil lair of Rami Malek’s Safin. The main attraction is the very spot where James Bond stood in his last moments, as that is now the spot of a tombstone honoring the man himself….
First came the rhinestone-encrusted rotary. Then the cherry-red lips. After that, the cheeseburger.
By last summer, Chanell Karr had amassed a collection of six landline phones. Her most recent, an orange corded model made as a promotional item for the 1986 film “Pretty in Pink,” was purchased in June. Though she only has one of them — a more subdued VTech phone — hooked up, all are in working order.
“During the pandemic I wanted to disconnect from all of the things that distract you on a smartphone,” said Ms. Karr, 30, who works in marketing and ticketing at a music venue near her home in Alexandria, Ky. “I just wanted to get back to the original analog ways of having a landline.”
Once a kitchen staple, bedside companion and plot device on sitcoms such as “Sex and the City” and “Seinfeld,” the landline phone has all but been replaced by its newer, smarter wireless counterpart….
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Spider-Man–Best Picture Summary,” the three Spider-Men make fun of the Best Picture nominees. With The Power Of The Dog, they say, “You want Dr. Strange acting like a jerk? We have that!”
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Melanie Stormm, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Bence Pintér, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]
Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!
… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.
… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?” He said “No. But my characters do.” As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”
… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …
… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests.
… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.
His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….
Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.
… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios. Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each. To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations.
There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.
… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble. Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while. It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house. And then it was gone from sight. I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…
On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)
This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….
Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.
There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”
And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show. Working on Dublin was like that for me as well. I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”
But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…
… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”
… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….
Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.
The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….
The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….
… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….
…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…
Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.
If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….
… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few….
The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?
Then down the long hall there arose so much chat, that I sprang from my chair to see what was that? Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng as the loud murmuration came strolling along.
… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.
I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….
Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….
… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….
The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.
A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.
“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”
“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”
“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…
… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….
By Cat Eldridge: Forty-six years ago on this date, the Rocky Horror Picture Show film premiered. But before we get to the film, we need to go back to the London show as the film is based off the music, book, and lyrics that Richard O’Brien did for that production, which was a parody tribute to the SF and horror B-movies of the Thirties through to the early Sixties. The stage show was produced and directed by Jim Sharman. The original London production of the musical premiered at the Royal Court Theatre (Upstairs) on June 19, 1973. It would move around to several locations during its run before closing on September 13, 1980 after a total of 2,960 performances. It would go to tour the world pretty much everywhere.
Now the film premiered just two years into the run of the London show. It was directed by Jim Sharman, and the screenplay by himself and O’Brien. (No surprise there.) it was produced by Lou Adler, co-owner of the Roxy Theatre which is where the live show had its first U.S. engagement, and Michael White who just produced Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in London’s West End.
The cast is phenomenal: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf, along with cast members from the original Royal Court Theatre, Roxy Theatre, and Belasco Theatre productions, including Nell Campbell and Patricia Quinn. It is narrated by Charles Gray who was Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds are Forever.
Some critics liked it, some thought it “tasteless, plotless and pointless.” I think Time Out London summed it up best: “A string of hummable songs gives it momentum, Gray’s admirably straight-faced narrator holds it together, and a run on black lingerie takes care of almost everything else.” The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rocking eighty-five percent rating. And it has earned one hundred seventy million dollars to date on a total budget of one point four million dollars.
An entire post could be written on audience participation which includes dancing the Time Warp along with the film, and throwing such things as toast, toilet paper, hot dogs, and rice at the appropriate points in the movie. And, of course, responding to dialogue in the film. Dressing up is expected for these fans and many locals approach that of professional theatre companies In their acting skills.
A sequel by O’Brien was planned but obviously never happened. The title? Rocky Horror Shows His Heels.
By Cat Eldridge: Twenty two years ago this weekend, on August 6, The Iron Giant premiered. Directed by Brad Bird who would later be responsible for the Incredibles franchise and two Mission: Impossible films as well, it was produced by Allison Abbate and Des McAnuff. Bird wrote the story off The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights, a SF novel by Ted Hughes. It had a most amazing voice cast of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald and M. Emmet Walsh.
Yes, critical reception for it was wonderful. Roger Ebert compared it to the work of acclaimed Japanese artiste Hayao Miyazaki, and nary a negative comment was to found outside of the Washington Post whose reviewer — rather oddly — thought that it had “the annoyance of incredible smugness.” Huh? Alas, the box office didn’t follow the lead of the majority of critics — it grossed a little over thirty million against its fifty million dollar budget not counting advertising.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura, president of Warner Bros. at the time, explained, “People always say to me, ‘Why don’t you make smarter family movies?’ The lesson is, Every time you do, you get slaughtered.” But let it be noted audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do like smart films as it has a rather stellar ninety percent rating. So there.
If you venture into the toy market, there are some rather cool Iron Giants to be had at prices ranging from almost reasonable to, well, not so reasonable. Here’s one of them here.
By Cat Eldridge: Twenty-five years ago this week, George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones was published. It’s the first novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. It was published simultaneously by Bantam Spectra (US) and Voyager Books (UK).
The novel won the Locus Award and was nominated for both the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards, but was only on the long list for the Hugos. It was a preliminary nominee for the BFA August Derleth Fantasy Award. A Game of Thrones has received critical acclaim with several reviewers comparing it to A Wheel of Time for its epic sweep.
The “Blood of the Dragon” novella taken from the Daenerys Targaryen chapters from A Game of Thrones would win a Hugo Award for Best Novella at LoneStarCon 2.
Martin, of course, would go onto to write A Clash of Kings in 1998 and A Storm of Swords in 2000. Then, in November 2005, A Feast for Crows, and in 2011, A Dance with Dragons. A Storm of Swords would finish second to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at Millennium Philcon. A Feast for Crows was a Hugo finalist at L.A.con IV, the year Robert Wilson’s Spin won. A Dance with Dragons was nominated at Chicon 7, which was the year that Jo Walton’s Among Others won. Finally Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) was on the long list for Best Novel at Dublin 2019.
As you know, it became a HBO series which deviated from the storyline of the series. At Chicon 7, the first season won the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. At LoneStarCon 3 the next year, the “Blackwater” episode from season two would win a Hugo as well.
Two prequel series, Bloodmoon and House of Dragons are currently approved at HBO.
By Cat Eldridge: Fourteen years ago this week, the Stargate SG-1 series ended its decade-long run. Based on the Stargate film by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, it was created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. The former was a writer for Forever Knight and Highlander; the latter was a writer on such series as War of The Worlds, Time Trax, Star Trek: Voyager and The Outer Limits. Both had worked together on The Outer Limits.
It started off as a Showtime series running there for five seasons before moving to Sci-fi for the last five seasons. The creators were the primary producers.
The primary cast was Richard Dean Anderson (as Col. Jack O’Neill), Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge and Don S. Davis. Much later on the series, several Farscape alumni would show up as Claudia Black and Ben Browder would join the cast.
The show would spawn the series Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, and a Stargate Origins miniseries and two DVD films as well, Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum. Wiki lists a series that I wasn’t aware of, an animated television series called Stargate Infinity. There is an audio series as well.
It off course has the usual collectibles — novels, action figures, t-shirts. Some have become quite expensive. The General Jack O’Neill Stargate SG-1 Diamond Select figure mint now fetches several hundred dollars.
By Cat Eldridge: Thirty-four years ago, RoboCop premiered in American theaters. The film was conceived by Edward Neumeier while working on the set of Blade Runner, and he developed the idea further with Michael Miner who he wrote the script with. They approached Paul Verhoeven who wasn’t at all convinced that he want to direct it until his wife convinced him to do so.
The Executive Producer was Jon Davison whose previous genre experience was on Twilight Zone: The Movie as associate producer (segment 4) and producer (segment 3). Verhoeven would later use him on RoboCop 2 and Starship Troopers as Producer.
Cast included stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, and Miguel Ferrer. It’s got a lot of what I’ll call stunt casting: Verhoeven is in it as a dancing nightclub patron, Davison provides the voice of ED-209, and Landis has a cameo in an in-film advert. Smith’s partner Joan Pirkle appears as Dick Jones’s secretary. Talk show hosts Mario Machado and Leeza Gibbons portray, errr, news hosts Casey Wong and Jess Perkins.
RoboCop’s extreme violent content made it difficult to receive a desired R rating. Verhoeven did cut several scenes including making Murphy’s death scene far less gruesome, but refused to remove the scene of Emil being disintegrated by Boddicker’s car. (Shades of Toxic Avenger?) (Actor Paul McCrane as Emil wore a full prosthesis over his upper body to give the appearance of his skin melting.)
The RoboCop costume took six month to design going through some fifty versions and there were a number of them used in filming weighing up to eighty pounds. Designers say they were heavily influenced by robots of Metropolis and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The film spawned an entire franchise. There were three original RoboCop films, two with Weller. There would be a reboot. There would be two tv series, RoboCop and RoboCop: Prime Directives, plus two animated series, RoboCop and RoboCop: Alpha Commando. And there’s been many comics including some superb ones by Frank Miller.
It was nominated for a Hugo at Nolacon II which was the year that The Princess Bride won. Cuteness over extreme violence gets the most votes? Who knew?
By Cat Eldridge: Eighteen years ago today, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film premiered. It was bastardized off the first volume of the series of the same name by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. It was produced by committee, I think to keep anyone from being blamed for what happened, and Sean Connery is listed as one of the producers. I doubt he actually did anything.
Speaking of Connery, he one of the cast which also including Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West, Jason Flemyng and Richard Roxburgh. The casting was one of the places where it went awry wrong from the source material as Pet Wilson’s Mina Harker character is a vampire even though in the novel she’s freed from the curse, the second is Shane West as Tom Sawyer, a casting done at the insistence of the studio as they wanted a character American audience would connect with. Apparently the studio had forgotten about the Bond series…
Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”
It’s been a cursed film for some involved as director Stephen Norrington and screenwriters Kevin O’Neill and James Dale Robinson have not worked again on a live action feature length film. (In 2020, Robinson was credited as the writer for an episode, “Brainwave Jr.”, of the Stargirl TV series.)
Need I say that the critical response was hostile? Well it was. Ebert for one said it had “inexplicable motivations, causes without effects, effects without causes, and general lunacy.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a forty-four percent rating which I think is being generous.
It actually did well at the box office earning well over two hundred million by the time global earnings were tallied. And it’s been a steady seller on DVD. Maybe a lot of folks like a train wreck. If you’re interested in reading the source material, it’s available from the usual suspects for a reasonable twelve bucks.