(1) THE PHENOMENA BEHIND LEGENDS. Kim Huett has added two new posts to Doctor Strangemind.
The first is about the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio transmission: “The Great Radio Hoax”.
As appealing as I find the idea of Wells’ story taking in so many thousands of people who had been looking down their noses at science fiction I can’t bring myself to believe it. The prosaic alternative, that the supposed mass panic was in reality a beat-up by a newspaper industry hoping to scare advertisers away from radio back to print by labelling the former ‘irresponsible and untrustworthy’, seems far more likely to me. (Not surprisingly while CBS was keen to refute such newspaper claims Orson Wells was happy to play along in return for the massive amount of personal publicity it gave him.)
Now as it happens I recently discovered a small piece of evidence to back up my preferred assumption. In the March 1942 issue of Leprechaun is an article by Gerry de la Ree all about this incident. This is the Gerry de la Ree who later went on to publish books such as The Book of Virgil Finlay, A Hannes Bok Sketchbook, and Fantasy by Fabian: The Art of Stephen E. Fabian by the way. In his article de la Ree repeats most of the claims that appeared in the papers; injured people were admitted to hospital in New York, Minneapolis switchboards were inundated by calls, hundreds were fleeing by car in New Jersey. However amongst all this second-hand reporting Gerry de la Ree describes his own encounter with The Mercury Theater’s Halloween production. I suspect this hits closer to the mark than any of the newspaper hysteria.
The second is about the Flying Dutchman and sheep: “Far Beneath, the Abysmal Sea”.
The first reference in print to the ship appeared in 1795, when George Barrington mentioned the matter in his book, Voyage to Botany Bay. According to Barrington sailors had told him of a story about a Dutch ship that was lost at sea during a horrendous storm. This it was claimed was due to Captain Bernard Fokke for he was known for the speed on his trips from Holland to Java. The story went that Fokke was aided by the Devil and that he and his crew eventually paid the price for dealing with Old Nick and so were consequently doomed to sail the seas forever more despite their demise. Sighting the Flying Dutchman was said to be very bad luck.
Now what strikes me most about all this is how late in the piece this legend comes. The general agreement seems to be that the Flying Dutchman legend originated in the eighteenth century and that my friends is passing strange. If the Flying Dutchman obeys the principle of reality conservation in fiction then what changed to make such a story suddenly possible? Clearly some new phenomena was needed because mysteriously abandoned boats drifting with the currents is a scene as old as sailing itself. If it was simply a matter of sailors wanting to explain boats apparently travelling by themselves then I can’t imagine they would wait till the eighteenth century to invent the Flying Dutchman story.
Huett also says he’s working on a revised edition of his John Brosnan collection You Only Live Once for Dave Langford to add to the ebook page of TAFF freebies.
(2) JOT AND TITTLE. You’ve heard of the Oxford comma. Now there’s the Straczynski period.
Thanks to Twitter's new rules I can finally put a period and space after the J, which has been bugging me ever since I signed onto Twitter. These are the small joys that make up my life.
— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) November 18, 2017
(3) LOVE AMONG THE RAYGUNS. SyFy Wire names “The 26 greatest romances in science fiction’s last two decades”.
07 Amelia Pond and Rory Williams, Doctor Who
The Ponds are two of The Doctor’s most beloved companions. Amy (Karen Gillan) is best remembered for her eagerness to see every inch of every universe but her most compelling story arcs always foregrounded her relationship with Rory (Arthur Darvill). For example, when a trickster time lord traps the three time travellers in two potential realities and asks them to determine which is real lest they die, it’s up to Amy to sort them out. But she doesn’t rely on logic to guide them, she uses her heart; when Rory dies in one timeline Amy decides that it must be the fake one because for her no world without Rory could be real.
(4) JOHN GARTH AT OXFORD. The author of Tolkien and the Great War will speak this coming week at Oxford.
I have exciting things to reveal about Tolkien’s extraordinary Creation myth in a talk to the Oxford Tolkien Society (Taruithorn) in Lecture Room 2, Christ Church, Oxford, at 8pm next Thursday, 23 November. Non-members £2.
(5) MARVEL’S WORST PARENTS. Could it be the criminal Pride, or a negligent Hero? Find out in Marvel’s Top 10 Bad Parents!
(6) CROWDSOURCED HELP PAYS OFF. Last April the Scroll gave a signal boost for to a GoFundMe for a young writer’s medical expenses. Nick Tchan has sent along a good news update about Lachlan:
Scans and meeting with surgeon and oncologist today.
Lachlan is officially cancer-free!
Thank you for initially posting the GoFundMe link to File770.
Tchan wrote about the appeal in April:
“The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.
“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”
(7) HOME SAVED. And the GoFundMe to Help Mike Donahue keep his home has succeeded.
I’m overwhelmed. Thank you all. In just two days! I’m writing individual thank you cards to everyone but I want to post today that you have filled me with a tremendous sense of hope. If all the money comes in, this, along with what I have saved, will reinstate my mortgage. I’ve arranged for my attorney to talk with Ditech and verify the demand letter and make sure it will all work properly.
(8) FRIES WITH THAT. Nicola Griffith hunts for sff that passes “The Fries Test for disabled characters in fiction”:
…Most readers will be familiar with the Bechdel Test. Today I want to talk about the Fries Test for fiction:
Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?
…There are more novels in which the main character is disabled and isn’t cured or killed, such as the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, but those characters are alone in their disability.6 Novels in which crips talk to each other? Novels in which we talk to each other about something other than wanting to be cured, or how to get cured, or why we want to die because we can’t be cured? Novels in which we don’t die? I’m drawing a blank.
Think about that. I read a lot. I can only think of four novels for adults with two or more crip characters who talk to each other and who are not killed or cured. It’s true that until recently I might not have noticed whether or not characters were disabled but, still, five.7 FIVE.
Surely I’m missing some. Please tell me I’m missing some…
(9) BREW MATCHMAKER. Charles Payseur’s latest short fiction reviews on Nerds of a Feather: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 10/2017”.
“Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny)
Tasting Notes: A surprising tang gives this a punch of sweetness that almost overpowers with its joy, settled only by the complexity of its profile and the lingering smiles it leaves in its wake.
Pairs with: Peach Hard Cider
Review: Computron has a fairly ordinary job…for the only sentient AI in existence. He teaches kids about robots and artificial intelligence, something that he’s rather singularly qualified to do. Only it really doesn’t seem like people consider him the marvel that he is, judging him on the retro-futurist aesthetic he has, imagining he’s outdated despite his uniqueness, despite the fact that he’s sentient. It’s not until he finds a show that features a character much like himself, an older-style robot named Cyro, that he begins to understand just how much he was yearning to see himself represented in media, to interact with other people who won’t think he’s strange because of the way he looks. Enter fandom. I love how this story explores the ways that fan spaces allow people to explore and celebrate themselves. No, fandom isn’t perfect, and Computron does have to deal with aspects of that, but at the same time it gives him this new purpose, this new feeling of belonging. Where he doesn’t have to fit all he has to say into a tiny window inside a larger presentation on robotics. Where he can really get into something and be appreciated for it and make connections through it and shatter the isolation that had dominated his life. It’s a story about being a fan, and how fun and freeing that can be. The story revels in Computron’s journey into fandom, writing fic and offering feedback and just being an all around pleasant person. And it’s a joyous story to experience, clever and cute and playing with the tropes of how AI mirror humans, but how they are distinct as well, and valuable in how they are different, able to contribute in ways that are surprising and wonderful.
(10) MORE ON DIAN CRAYNE. The death of Dian Crayne received a write-up in her local paper, the Willits Weekly. Most of the text is unblushingly copied from the File 770 obit (!) but there are some interesting added details. Click here for the PDF edition.
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
- November 18, 1990 — The television version of IT premiered with Tim Curry.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian learned something unexpected about the afterlife in Close to Home.
(13) DISSATISFIED BABYLONIAN CUSTOMERS. “Garbageboy Stinkman” tells us about the evidence for one of history’s least reputable businessmen in cuneiform clay tablets.
The majority of the surviving correspondences regarding Ea-nasir were recovered from one particular room in a building that is believed to have been Ea-nasir’s own house.
Like, these are clay tablets. They’re bulky, fragile, and difficult to store. They typically weren’t kept long-term unless they contained financial records or other vital information (which is why we have huge reams of financial data about ancient Babylon in spite of how little we know about the actual culture: most of the surviving tablets are commercial inventories, bills of sale, etc.).
But this guy, this Ea-nasir, he kept all of his angry letters – hundreds of them – and meticulously filed and preserved them in a dedicated room in his house. What kind of guy does that?
(14) LEAPIN’ DRAGONS. John F. Holmes thinks the latest category changes mean the Dragon Awards have turned their backs on indie authors.
And the Dragon Awards jump the shark.
I’m fine with a new award, (even though I think the category is kinda bulls*t) but why the BLEEP do you drop Post-apocalypse awards?
“Best Media Tie-In Novel” is a huge slap in the face of indie authors. You have to be a big time writer to get permission to write for a brand, like Star Wars or Halo. And, to be honest, a lot of those novels kinda SUCK, though many are great. I’m thinking about the first new Star Wars novel, which was horrible.
Holmes is the first I’ve seen put that interpretation on it.
(15) UNDERSTANDING TOLKIEN RIGHTS. Kalimac analyzes why it’s probably accurate that the Tolkien Estate controlled the TV rights involved in the new Amazon deal.
…The most curious question is, what authorized entity is responsible for conveying the rights to do this? News articles in the past have often confused the Tolkien Estate – the family-controlled entity that owns Tolkien’s writings – with Middle-earth Enterprises (formerly Tolkien Enterprises), the company which owns the movie and associated marketing rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and which licensed them to New Line to produce the Jackson movies.
They’re not associated. Tolkien sold the movie rights outright in 1969, and they eventually wound up in the hands of the late Saul Zaentz, who was the producer of the 1978 Bakshi movie and the creator of the firm that now owns those rights. It’s this firm which is responsible for most of the trademark defense that’s hit the news over the years, but it’s the Estate that sued New Line for shafting it on royalties owed.
Since the Estate has no control over the LotR movie rights, its opinion on the topic is moot, though Christopher Tolkien, head of the family and his father’s literary executor, has expressed his distaste for them. Because of this, and because of the historical confusion between the entities, the assumption was that the new project came from Middle-earth Enterprises, despite news references to the Estate.
But that apparently is wrong, and it has to do with the fact that the new series will be television, not movies, and will be inspired by other writings by Tolkien. Middle-earth Enterprises does not own rights to either of these aspects; the Estate retains that.
This article on a Tolkien bulletin board is the fullest I’ve seen, and looks the most reliable to my eye. It cites scholar Kristin Thompson on this. Despite Thompson’s lack of comprehension of criticisms of the Jackson movies, I’ve found her well-versed on the facts of the history of the movie rights, so if she says this, I accept it.
That means, in turn, that the Estate did authorize this…
(16) FAILURES OF JUSTICE. Ethan Alter, in a Yahoo! article “Justice League before ‘Justice League’: Revisiting 4 less-than-super attempts to unite the DC heroes”, profiles four failed efforts to film the Justice League, Including “Legend of the Superheroes,” a late-1970s effort which would have been Adam West’s comeback as Batman had it been greenlit, and Justice League Mortal, a project of Mad Max director George Miller that was killed by the 2007 writers’ strike.
So far, early reviews are mixed, with some (including Yahoo Entertainment) suggesting that Justice League doesn’t live up to the high standards set by this summer’s blockbuster Wonder Woman. Nevertheless, these versions of the characters look positively super compared with the non-animated incarnations of the Justice League we’ve seen in the past. For Flashback (or, should we say, Flash-back?) Friday, we’re revisiting three less-than-super TV versions of DC’s all-star super team, as well as one film project that never came to fruition.
(17) IN THE BEAT OF THE NIGHT. The Washington Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr, in “Law clerk by day, ghost hunter by night, now Trump’s judiciary nominee”, profiled Brett Joseph Talley, whose previous appearance in the Post was in 2014 when, as a speechwriter for Sen. Ron Johnson, he took a Post reporter ghosthunting. O’Harrow quotes an interview done by the Unlocked Diary website with Talley where the interviewer said Talley’s Stoker-nominated novel That Which Should Not Be has “awesomestatic gooeyness coming frome very page to where you will be licking it off your fingers and savoring it for days to come.”
In 2012, Talley and Higdon co-authored “Haunted Tuscaloosa,” a short book of stories about ghostly doings in Alabama. At the time, Talley was working as a speechwriter for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
Higdon said Talley wrote the book using Higdon’s recollections and ideas. In the introduction, Talley raises questions about the line between personal experience and verifiable fact.
“In this book, there are children who died too early, professors who never left the classroom and even the spirit of a collie that still serves its master, long after his death,” Talley wrote in the introduction.
“Some will criticize these stories, saying they are not real history,” he wrote. “But that raises a question. What is real history? Sure, we know the dates and the major players, but the color, the heart of the matter — that we see through eyewitnesses.”
(18) BACK TO BILLY JOEL. He’d like to restart the fire.
We Didn’t Start The Fire 2017 would have to be performed over five nights like the goddamn Ring Cycle
— David Uzumeri (@DavidUzumeri) November 17, 2017
(19) FLASH IN THE PAN. An “observation camera” captured short video with spectacular end: “Meteor streaks across Arizona sky”.
The city of Phoenix captured a meteor on one of its observation cameras as the bright light flashed across the skyline.
(20) FRANCLY SPEAKING. Not quite Da Vinci (but ~genre): “Rare Tintin art fetches $500,000 at Paris auction”.
A rare India ink drawing of young reporter Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy has been sold for almost $500,000 (£380,000) at auction in Paris.
The picture from the 1939 comic album King Ottokar’s Sceptre was among items by Hergé, the Belgian artist who created Tintin, to go under the hammer.
An original strip from the book The Shooting Star fetched $350,000.
But a copy of Tintin adventure Destination Moon, signed by US astronauts, failed to find a buyer.
(21) SJW CREDENTIALS OF THE DESERT. Nerdist convinces you to click, and click again, in “Impossibly Adorable Sand Cat Kittens Caught on Film for the First Time”. Who can resist?
You might think you’ve seen all the cat videos on the internet, but here’s one you haven’t: the first known footage of sand cat kittens in the wild. It takes a lot to make us squee nowadays but wow — LOOK AT THEIR LITTLE FACES.
In case you aren’t familiar with them, sand cats (Felis margarita) are an adorable species of impossibly tiny cats that are perfectly adapted to live in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. They have a light brown/tan fur that blends in with sand and brush, and their extra-furry paws protect the sand cats from hot sand (and barely leave a trace of where they’ve been). Those oversized ears are not just super cute; they also give the sand cat exceptional hearing for tracking down its prey, typically small rodents, birds, or lizards.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]