Masked Filers Read SFF:
Love Bites

Masked Filer Kevin Hogan is reading Ry Herman’s Love Bites. Kevin’s original ambition was to get into the other series but it’s all good —

I left this out when I wasn’t reading it, but not one of the cats wanted to sleep on it.  

If you want to see this series continue, send photos of your mask and social distancing reads to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 3/19/20 Using The Robotic Arm To Push The Mole

(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps being taken to protect the health of the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite link to secure access.

N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.

The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.

And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular media’-type publications.”

(2) BALTICON NEWS. Dale S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.

We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.

The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.

Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.

A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds  etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.

(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here – then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.

…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.

(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum through January.

Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times:  ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’

Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory.  “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.

(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads, Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City & The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are Hugo winners.  He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin, noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.

The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.

(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.

This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.


  • March 19, 1990 Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
  • Born March 19, 1919 Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). 
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film. 


(10) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON COMICS MARKETING. “Image Comics Publisher Asks for Retailer Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic”. The Hollywood Reporter explains the new returns strategy adopted by the publisher of Saga, The Walking Dead, Monstress and many other famous titles.

As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.

In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days. 

(11) THE WAY THROUGH. Elizabeth Bear, in her latest newsletter, looks for the tunnel that has the light at the end of it: “Adapt, improvise, overcome. And some strategies for coping with that cabinet full of shelf-stable STUFF.”

One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”

A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.

But it’s also true that we adapt….

(12) AS CHAYKIN SEES IT. “Graphic Content: At The Intersection Of Comics And Crime With Howard Chaykin” is a fascinating profile by CrimeReads’ Alex Segura.

….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.

“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”

(13) COME TIME TRAVEL WITH ME. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be doing a “Come Time Travel with Me” show on March 27. Sign up online.

It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately.  In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled.  Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months.  That’s all fallen by the wayside.


Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!

That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.

We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it.  And we mean YOU.  After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program.  And the best questions will win a prize!

So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT.  All you need is a screen and an hour.  We’ll provide the rest.

See you there!

(14) IT FEELS SO GOOD WHEN I STOP. “At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars” – the PopSci version.

NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.

Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.

Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.

The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.

“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.

But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.

(15) UNDER DEADLINE. Nature reports “How China is planning to go to Mars amid the coronavirus outbreak”.

China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…

(16) BEHIND THE SCENES. “We Spent 24 Hours Searching for the Elusive ‘Butthole Cut’ of Cats”. You probably don’t really need the Vanity Fair article – you intuited the whole story immediately.

You can blame—or thank—Seth Rogen.

On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).

In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”

(17) AREA 51. “Rise of Skywalker Has An Awesome John Williams Easter Egg You Missed”ScreenRant points the way.

…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.

The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

The Smithee Awards

By Kevin Hogan:


My esteemed compatriots and I desperately need your help.

We have a problem that requires your input.

All alone in the dark — maybe lost in the woods, or trapped in an abandoned mineshaft — you hear a noise, turn, and find one of these five creatures facing you:


Movies are (clockwise from upper left): The Jitters (1989); Blood Freak (1972); Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973); Rock’n’Roll Nightmare (1987); and Rana, Queen of the Amazon (1994).

Which one would you laugh hardest at?

Only you can tell us: Which is the Stupidest-Looking Monster?


B-movies need love and recognition, too. That’s why we’re here. The Smithee Awards are like a People’s Choice Awards for bad movies, but live and in real-time.  We watch sub-par cinema from all eras and many nations, then we show you clips in 19 different categories, starting with Most Ludicrous Premise, winding our way through Worst Science and Acting Appropriately Stupid, finally ending at Worst Picture.  We show five clips per category, and the audience votes on which clip “wins.”

After five years of “winners,” we have enough clips to do a Contest-of-Champions-style show, where these “winners” compete against one another.  We call those Mega-Meta Smithee Awards.

We are now at the point where we have five Mega-Meta Smithee Awards in the books, and have put together a show pitting the “winners” of those Mega-Meta shows against one another:  Ye Ultra Mega-Meta Smithee Awards, capturing 25 years of B-movie curation.  This is the show which will be happening on October 21, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and again in June 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.

To say that I am excited about this is an understatement.


It all started with It Came From the Late, Late, Late Show.   In this game, the players role-play actors who are playing characters in a bad movie.  One of the suggestions for getting players (and the Director, who runs the game) into the mood is the “Late Show Cast Party,” for getting together and watching these bad movies.

At one of these Cast Parties, during a movie called The Alchemist (1983) (which contains no alchemist), one of the characters slips on some broken glass and falls onto a fireplace poker, conveniently impaling herself.  “There should be an awards show for movies like this,” someone said out loud.

Twenty categories were quickly brainstormed, “Worst Music” discarded, and that was the fateful genesis of The Smithee Awards.  Of course, The Alchemist by itself doesn’t make an awards show, and so more movies were watched.

The first Smithee Awards show was in Ann Arbor in 1992.  It was a fancy, one-off affair.  Until the next year, when it wasn’t.

At the third Smithee Awards show, in 1994, some representatives from Stellar Games (publisher of It Came From the Late, Late, Late Show) came up from Toledo to see what we had wrought.  One of them was the President of the Game Manufacturers Association, which puts on the Origins Game Fair.  He invited us to Origins the following year.

The fourth Smithee Awards show was in Ann Arbor in 1995 — and in Philadelphia at Origins.  The year after, Origins moved to Columbus, Ohio, and has been there ever since.  And so have The Smithee Awards.

There are four members of the Smithee Supreme Committee (aka the Smith-ka-teers).  By year six, only two remained in the Ann Arbor area.  In 2005, the two remaining Ann Arborites decided that we wanted to hone our Smithee ballots and started showing a Smithee Awards Primary at our local gaming convention (U-Con).  It differs from a proper Smithee Awards primarily in format.  There are generally between 3 and 10 clips per category, and we ask the audience to vote for their top two.

In 2007, we started showing The Smithee Awards at Smith College’s ConBust in Northampton, Massachusetts.  A friend who had moved away was teaching at Smith, and one of her students was the President of the Con that year.  Ever since, we have shown Smithees to Smithies.

In 2008, we accidentally expanded our showings by making inquiries at a local sci-fi / unix / miscellaneous geek convention (Penguicon).  We said, “How does one propose an event for Penguicon?” and the event coordinator said “I know you guys.  You’re on the schedule,” and we said, “Thanks.” And that is how we backed into Penguicon 2009.

At this point, we do four point five Smithee Awards shows a year (counting the Primaries as half a show).  Mega-Meta years up this number to six point five, since we run the special shows in Ann Arbor (the longest-running show) and in Columbus (the show which all four Smith-ka-teers attend).

Attendance numbers run roughly 24-36 at the Primary, 50-75 at Smith, 250-280 in Ann Arbor, 110-125 at Penguicon, and 280-335 in Columbus.  In addition to our main site, we have a Facebook group, and a Tumblr.


Like a sporting event, there are certain chants you may hear at a Smithee Awards.  When there is an onscreen explosion (anywhere from a station wagon falling off a cliff to a large mushroom cloud from a nuclear reactor), the crowd will often chant “U! S! A!  U! S! A!  U! S! A!” At quieter moments, or when an affirmative response is called for, the chant is “Praise the Ray!” (from Shredder Orpheus (1990)).  And always, multiple times a show, there is the call and response which began with Guns of El Chupacabra (1987):  “Chupa!”  “Cabra!”

Over a decade ago, we started making buttons and puppets to give away.  The puppets are based on Stupid-Looking Monsters, and the buttons span a wide range of topics (ninjas, monsters, quotes from films gone by).  Fans appear bedecked in buttons of years past, and bring their puppets back year after year.


This picture shows an example of every Smithee puppet, except one (invisi-lizard not pictured).

We have given away two physical awards to stars of Smithee Award films in the past twenty-six years.  They were sculpted into trash cans out of floral foam bricks, then lacquered, painted gold, and hot-glued to a film can.

The first one went to Walter Koenig for Moontrap (1989) (which won the very first Worst Cover Copy Smithee). Lest you forget that Walter Koenig, of Star Trek fame, was in Moontrap, the cover helpfully took any and all opportunities to remind you. In loving detail. On both sides. The back cover was essentially a Walter Koenig filmography.  Walter’s response was an instant Smithee Classic Memory:  “But I don’t want it.”

Jeff Conaway (A Time to Die (1991)), on the other hand, was so enamored of the idea that he agreed to appear onstage at The Smithee Awards show in Columbus in 1999.  He talked to the audience about why bad movies get made, told some stories, and accepted his golden trash can.  A minute after he walked out of the room, he stuck his head back in, clearly pleased with the quality of the award. “It already broke!”

In 2006, the Worst Picture winner was Guns of El Chupacabra, and it became an instant audience favorite.  There were a lot of scenes where people stood on-camera (occasionally naked) and fired guns at unseen monsters offscreen.  It turns out that in California, you need a permit to shoot blanks for a movie.  So they used live ammunition instead.  The director Scott Shaw (the actor and martial artist, as opposed to Scott Shaw! the writer and comic book artist), e-mailed us out of nowhere, saying he had seen on the Internet that we gave one of his movies some kind of award.  So we responded, “Yes, we did,” and waited to see what would happen.  Did we mention that he was a martial artist first, before he became an actor and a director?

It turns out that he sells his movies directly through his website, and after seeing our show, enough people ordered copies that he got curious and tracked us down. He sent us a promotional video to play at the next year’s Smithee Awards — and another four movies to watch for future years.


What kind of movies “qualify” for The Smithee Awards?  We have a few broad guidelines.  We like movies to be commercially available (so that the audience can track them down if so inclined).  We like movies to be of professional quality (and the details on that have changed vastly in the past 25 years).  We do not go after big budget movies (they are acknowledged by their own set of awards).  We only do movies which are in English (or Esperanto).  We don’t do bad comedies (because the hallmark of a bad comedy is that it isn’t funny).  We prefer not to show already-acknowledged bad movies (e.g. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)).  When a movie is right on the line, we look at its overall tone.  A few outlier scenes won’t disqualify an otherwise-acceptable movie.

Here are a few of my favorite examples which do not appear in Ye Ultra Mega-Meta 1.

The Lift (1983) is a movie about an elevator which is upgraded with some special computer chips which cause it to gain sentience and start killing people.  It’s a Dutch film, and for some reason, when it was dubbed into English, they did not dub the word “chip.” So every piece of dialogue that references these computer chips is spoken by the original actor.  It lead to decades of dropping our voices an octave when ordering salsa and chips.

Amsterdamned (1988) is my other favorite Dutch movie.  A killer is stalking the canals of Amsterdam, and our intrepid police detective is just the man to catch him.  It features a wonderful speedboat chase sequence through the canals where we play “Count the chase scene clichés” (through a marching band, through an outdoor cafe, etc) and get into the double digits.

Shock Waves (1977) (with Peter Cushing and John Carradine) is a movie that features Underwater Solar-Powered Nazi Zombies.  This features the classic scene where Obnoxious Sailor #2 is running from a strange noise in the woods on this tropical island.  He runs out of the woods and into the water, where he steps on a spiny sea urchin and dies.

Zombie Lake (1981) is a movie that was shown locally on Sir Graves Ghastly’s show on TV2 in Detroit.  I did not grow up in Michigan, but multiple people recommended it to me.  When we tracked it down to watch it, we were stunned.  It is a French zombie movie, and there is a lot of nudity.  The woman at the beginning of the film who takes down the No Swimming sign?  Skinny dipping.  The women’s volleyball team who stops for a little swim?  Skinny dipping.  There were at least three different random skinny dipping scenes.  It made a little more sense when we realized the only bonus features on the DVD were the “alternate clothed sequences” shot for American television.  All of the underwater scenes are clearly shot in a swimming pool.  There is also a good-Nazi-zombie-versus-bad-Nazi-zombie knife fight.


Three and a half of the four and a half shows have snack tables.

U-Con’s snack table has the highest variability.  Some years there is a lot of food donation, and other years it’s two bags of off-brand chocolate cookies and a two-liter bottle of carbonated kvass (with raisins).

Ann Arbor’s snack “table” is the biggest.  The “table” is actually six lecture hall tables.  The official enticement is “Unhealthy Snacks and Drinks of Colors Not Found in Nature.” Traditional snacks here include Utz Cheese Balls, Giant Pixy Stix, Chicken-in-a-Biscuit crackers, and Save a Lot brand carbonated beverages (Bubba Cola, Mountain Holler, Dr Pop).  Many people bring snacks of their own to contribute, and I often make several batches of bacon bars.  Occasionally there is cake. Truly memorable homemade contributions include: bacon, lettuce, and tomato cupcakes; chocolate sauerkraut cake; Velveeta fudge; Heinz ketchup and peanut butter cookies; and roast beef fudge.

Smith’s snack table probably has the most homemade food, including alien abduction cupcakes.  Traditional snacks here are the Polar sodas, Moxie … and Utz Cheese Balls.

Penguicon has a small snack table (as the con has a well-stocked Con Suite), and usually consists of weird things that I can’t buy in large quantities.  Our #1 homemade item here is peep sushi

Peep sushi is available as rolls or nigiri.

Columbus has no snack table, since Origins Game Fair has a very strict No Outside Food policy.


Each show takes four to five hours from start to finish, although we encourage people to float in and out if they don’t have the stamina (or the time) for the whole thing at one go.  Our regular shows run typically in November (Smithee Primary), March (ConBust), April (Ann Arbor), April/May (Penguicon), and June (Origins).  The special Mega-Meta shows run during the fall in Ann Arbor and we double up at Origins.

We have exposed audiences to clips from over 1000 movies in twenty-six years (and are always open to movie suggestions), met the strangest people and befriended them, eaten a lot of junk food, and even microwaved several packages of Mr Corkers (a combination microwave-popcorn-and-pork-rinds product from the late 1990s).  In all that time one thought has driven us through the late-night movie marathons, the Type II diabetes, and all the other necessary prep work: “I stayed up to watch the end of THIS?!”