(1) YOU COULD BE HEINLEIN. Once upon a time, in 2011, there was a role playing game called The Big Hoodoo. You might recognize some of the PC’s –
… The Big Hoodoo is Lovecraftian noir in 1950s California with a ripped-from-history plot centered on the explosive death of real-world rocket scientist, science fiction fan, and occultist Jack Parsons in a garage laboratory in 1952. The investigators are iconic figures active in the science fiction scene at the time of Parsons’ death, and their inquiries lead them from the mean streets of Pasadena to the edge of the Mojave Desert and the mountains of southern California as well as the beaches of Los Angeles.
Play sci-fi great Robert Heinlein, his ex-Navy engineer wife Virginia, renowned editor and mystery writer Tony Boucher, or a young Philip K. Dick as they confront the lunatic fringe in La-La Land, and find themselves caught in a charlatan’s web of chicanery, mendacity, and deceit-laced with a strong strand of mythos menace.
The adventure includes brief biographical hooks for the PCs to orient players to their investigators as well as suggestions for alternate and additional investigators. Brief rules for a magic system intended to evoke the Enochian “magick” invented by John Dee and Edward Kelley, adopted by Aleister Crowley, and passed on to Jack Parsons are appended, and are used in the adventure. It can be played as a convention one-shot, or serve as the basis for a slightly longer set of episodes covering two or three evenings of entertainment.…
In 2012, Jasper van der Meer told “Geeklists for The Big Hoodoo” readers a better way to play the game.
Ugh, I didn’t run this game, but I’m glad I didn’t. The Keeper had prepared diligently for a Classic Trail of Cthulhu game. We, as players, shifted this scenario to a Pulp mode of play in pretty short order, then ran it off the road into the desert for a third mode of play: Fiasco.
To start our traffic accident, my pre-generated Robert Heinlein P.C. snatched an autographed copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics from a fan boy, then smacked him in the face with it, asking, “Why are you with this grifter’s cult, son? Nothing good will come from that snake oil salesman. I’m taking his book away from you. You’ll thank me later.”
From there, we swerved a bit between lanes, then launched off the shoulder of the road into insanity. Heinlein’s wife, also a P.C., engaged in a catfight with Heinlein’s ex-wife, flicking a lit cigarette into her eye to get a brawl at a prominent Satanist’s funeral rolling. Phillip K. Dick, another P.C., knocked back a lady cultist’s hip flask of space mead. He was tripping pretty hard, blowing through stability. The silliness didn’t stop. We piled on the antics like we were playing Fiasco Classic.
After five hours of play, three of the four pre-generated P.C.s died and did not die well. The sole survivor would go on to author a large catalogue of science fiction by way of trying to come to terms with what happened to him.
(2) WITH SIX YOU GET INSIGHT. In “6 Books with Adrian Tchaikovsky” at Nerds of a Feather, the author makes substantial and fascinating comments about a half dozen choices to curator Paul Weimer.
4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
Gene Wolfe – The Shadow of the Torturer
So I bounced the hell of this when I was about 15. I saw rave reviews and I went in with great expectations and just could not get any of it. The language was opaque and the plots just seemed to go nowhere and basically just what the hell, man?
Fast forward to now: Wolfe is most definitely one of my all-time favourite authors. I just hit him too young, and with all the wrong expectations. He doesn’t write the sort of straightforward narrative I was anticipating, and there are puzzles within puzzles hidden in the story for the reader to disentangle – to the extent that I’m sure that there’s plenty in Book of the New Sun that I haven’t ever clocked, despite reading it multiple times. But that’s fine, because even those strata that I have exposed tell such a remarkably rich story on multiple levels. There is all the complexity of Severian and his own rather suspect take on events (Wolfe is the master of the unreliable narrator), and there is the incredible world built through Severian’s travels and reminiscences and chance mentions. Then again there’s a profound burden of philosophical speculation woven through the text, much of which I suspect has passed me by.
From a pure worldbuilding perspective, the New Sun books are a real education. Because you can build a world through saying too little and you can build a world through saying too much, and both ways can go wrong. Wolfe somehow manages to do both without it going wrong at all. There is a vast, living, breathing world in those books, seen through Severian’s fleeting attention and obsessions, so that we’re dragged hither and yon by his stream of consciousness. The overall impression, once you settle into the way the story is being told, is of a vastness of creation beyond the details on the page. And because, when Severian does want to give us a deep dive into some small aspect of his world, he really goes deep, the implicit assurance is that the same level of detail is waiting invisibly in absolutely everything else, even those aspects that he gives only the briefest mention of.
(3) DAVIDSON UPDATE. Amazing Stories’ Kermit Woodall gave a progress report about Steve Davidson’s recovery from heart surgery:
Steve is doing well at the hospital, will probably be discharged into a local extended-stay inn until he’s cleared for travel home.
(4) IT’S A FORD. Reviewers ooh-ed and ahhed when they found this book available on Netgalley. Tor Books will release it on September 21.
(5) NATIONAL THEATRE NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 14 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming discusses After Life, which will open at the National Theatre on June 2. The play is by Jack Thorne, who wrote Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,
If you had to choose just one memory to live with through the whole of eternity, what would you choose? That’s the nigh impossible question posed in After Life, the new play that will reopen London’s National Theatre this summer.
Based on Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-ada’s beautiful 1998 film of the same name, After Life is set in a post-life institution, where a group of strangers grapple with this dilemma, sifting through their lives for the moment they want to preserve forever…
…The setting honours the low-key nature of the memories–a moment on a park bench; a cool breeze on a tram journey–and looks like the sort of half-remembered building you visit in dreams. For stage, the creative team has sought to preserve that quality. The play–a co-production with Headlong theatre company–is not a straight adaptation of the film but draws on the teams personal memories and a very British version of humdrum bureaucracy.
(6) SHREK. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary of a film franchise: “‘Shrek’ at 20: How a Chaotic Project Became a Beloved Hit”.
… Key to the film’s success was the unforgettable comic voice work delivered by a cast that included Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Cameron Diaz as the princess.
…Casting was still an issue when she [the director] came onboard. Diaz and Murphy were in place, but who would play the title character was up in the air. The former “Saturday Night Live” star Chris Farley was originally cast and had recorded many of his lines when he died at the age of 33 that year.
Jenson said she and her colleagues were big fans of “S.N.L.” and Mike Myers. “It kind of took a little selling to the studio because he was still breaking in, but he wasn’t the huge name that he is now,” she said.
(7) ANOTHER LOOK AT LOKI. Marvel dropped this teaser for Loki today.
The clock is ticking. Marvel Studios’ “Loki” arrives in three weeks with new episodes every Wednesday starting June 9 on Disney+.
(8) EVIL TRAILER. Netflix will begin streaming Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness on July 8.
The landmark survival horror video game series Resident Evil has shipped over 110 million copies worldwide. Popular characters Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield appear in this CG serialized drama, the first in series history! Don’t miss this new epic entertainment on a scale more spectacular than ever before!
(9) LIVINGSTONE OBIT. Actor and writer Douglas Livingstone died April 19 at the age of 86 reports The Guardian. Their tribute praises his primary genre credit:
His compelling six-part small-screen adaptation of The Day of the Triffids (1981), a rare excursion into sci-fi, remained faithful to John Wyndham’s novel, apart from re-setting the story from the 1950s to the near-future. One critic described it as “the most effective TV realisation of Wyndham’s writing”.
(10) GRODIN EULOGIES. Miss Piggy tweeted an appreciation of Charles Grodin who died yesterday.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 19, 1901 – George Pendray. Early rocketeer; co-founded the American Interplanetary Society (its successor Am. Inst. Aeronautics & Astronautics gives the Pendray Award); invented the time capsule, for the 1939 World’s Fair; coined the word “laundromat”; helped establish Guggenheim Jet Propulsion Center at Cal. Tech., Guggenheim Labs at Princeton Univ., U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n. Wrote SF as science editor of Literary Digest, e.g. “A Rescue from Jupiter”. Co-edited The Papers of Robert H. Goddard. (Died 1987) [JH]
- Born May 19, 1920 – Walter Popp. Prolific pulp illustrator for e.g. Amazing, Fantastic, Startling, Thrilling; see here. Also Gothic-romance fantasy, see here, some becoming limited-edition prints for fine-art galleries, see here. Outside our field, true-crime and men’s-adventure magazines, paperbacks including Popular Library; toy and sporting-goods manufacturers; greeting cards. (Died 2002) [JH]
- Born May 19, 1921 – Pauline Clarke. Children’s fantasy The Twelve and the Genii won the Carnegie Medal and the Kinderbuchpreis. The Pekinese Princess has talking animals and trees. Thirty novels for various readers; Warscape, for adults, “lurches into the future”, says a remarkable 4,300-word Wikipedia entry. (Died 2013) [JH]
- Born May 19, 1937 — Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer, then he was Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And of course he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh and he played a very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.) (CE)
- Born May 19, 1944 — Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens, before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight. (Died 2019.) (CE)
- Born May 19, 1946 — Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of all-time favourite films. Also an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born May 19, 1948 — Grace Jones, 73. Singer, best known for a song about looking for a parking spot (link here), but also acts. In addition to other genre roles, she was a companion of Conan in Conan the Destroyer and a Bond Girl in View to a Kill. (AB) (Alan Baumler)
- Born May 19, 1948 – Paul Williams. Created Crawdaddy! Literary executor of Philip K. Dick, co-founder of PKD Society, biography of PKD Only Apparently Real; worked with David Hartwell on Age of Wonders – also The Int’l Bill of Human Rights; edited vols. 1-12, Complete Works of Theodore Sturgeon; also The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits (including Winnie-the-Pooh; The Little Prince; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater), four on Bob Dylan, twenty more. (Died 2013) [JH]
- Born May 19, 1955 – Elise Primavera, age 66. Author and illustrator of children’s books, some fantasy: The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls, Fred & Anthony Meet the Heinie Goblins from the Black Lagoon (as Esile Arevamirp), Marigold Star. Here’s a book cover. [JH]
- Born May 19, 1966 — Jodi Picoult, 55. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Woman, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder). She also has a most excellent two-volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. (CE)
- Born May 18, 1981 – Kiera Cass, age 40. Seven novels, five shorter stories, many about the Selection in Illéa, which in KC’s fiction was once the United States. Among 100 things she loves: being married; elephants; paper; the sound of water; Japan; dipping her fingers in melted wax; not walking up but looking at a beautiful staircase; small forks; voting; reasons to make wishes. [JH]
- Born May 19, 1996 — Sarah Grey, 25. Before DC Universe cast the present Stargirl Brec Bassinger for that series, Legends of Tomorrow cast their Stargirl as this actress for a run of three episodes. The episodes (“Out of Time”, “Justice Society of America” and “Camelot 3000”) are superb. I’ve not see her as Alyssa Drake in The Order but I’ve heard Good Things about that series. (CE)
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro finds a mundane moment in a fairy tale courtship.
- Bliss shows it could matter what lunar explorers don’t find.
(13) AVENGERS SUIT UP. In partnership with Bandai Spirits of Japan, Marvel Comics will release a brand-new Avengers comic series this August: Tech-On Avengers. This collaboration will be a tokusatsu-inspired action-adventure comic series featuring stellar new armor designs for some of Marvel’s most iconic heroes and villains. Tech-On Avengers #1 is out August 11.
When the Red Skull wields a strange new power that strips heroes of their powers and threatens the entire world, the Avengers turn to Tony Stark’s experimental new technology to save us all. Here come the Iron Avengers — TECH ON AVENGERS! Sleek high-tech power suits bristling with energy and amped-up attack power face off against super villains enhanced to match. It’s mechs and mayhem in the Marvel Mighty Manner!
Check out the cover by famous Japanese manga artist Eiichi Shimizu who contributed new character deigns for the series as well some action-packed interior artwork by Chamba.
(14) BIG NAME PRODUCERS REBOOT BIG NAME SUPERHEROS. “New Batman and Superman Animated Series Coming to HBO Max” – Yahoo! Life has the story.
The two greatest heroes of the DC Universe are coming back to long-form television at last. DC and Warner Bros. Animation, along with HBO Max and Cartoon Network, have announced two brand-new series based on Batman and Superman. And they both have incredible pedigree among their creative teams. A new animated era will soon begin for the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.
HBO Max and Cartoon Network have greenlit a straight-to-series order for Batman: Caped Crusader. This is an all-new animated series and reimagining of the Batman mythology. It’s told through the visionary lens of executive producers Bruce Timm, J.J. Abrams, and Matt Reeves. The series is jointly produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Bad Robot Productions, and 6th & Idaho….
(15) JUST ONE THING GOT IN THE WAY. Leonard Maltin wrote a tribute to the late actor who recently died at the age of 106: “Remembering Norman Lloyd”.
… He graciously welcomed my daughter Jessie and me into his home in 2018 to record an episode of our podcast. (click HERE to listen.) For Jess and many others her age, his role in Dead Poets Society is the first performance that comes to mind. And while he spoke of possible projects to take on he confessed, “I tell you what blocks me from really finding a property: the ball game every day. The ball game comes on and everything stops. In my ancient age, my trainer says, ‘You’ve got to walk so much every day. You’ve got to do these physical exercises’ and so forth. And I think that’s very good advice… And then the ball game comes on.”
(16) NOT WHO SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS. Paul Weimer gets readers fired up in “Microreview [book]: Floodpath by Emily B Martin” at Nerds of a Feather.
… The other classic Martin touch is to be willing to “blow up Vulcan” and show a ground floor change in the status quo, as Tamsin’s vocal disability leads her to a way to use her voice in a way that is hitherto unknown in this world. If the spread and the use of Tamsin’s clever idea is maybe a little faster than it might be in reality, the power of the story of such a revolutionary change, especially since the consequences and advantages only come to mind with time, feels accurate and right. I suspect that the invention, which delighted me when I realized what Martin was doing (and I desperately do not want to spoil) is going to have permanent and long lasting impacts on her entire world. Martin’s world is not a static one where things remain the same without change for generations–inventions, ideas and the actions of people can and do make a difference and a lasting difference.
(17) CHEETOS PROSPER. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Licks his wounds, find they’re delicious… The Los Angeles Times reports “Richard Montañez book a go despite Flamin’ Hot investigation”.
The publisher of Richard Montañez’s upcoming memoir, “Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise From Janitor to Top Executive,” is moving ahead with the book after a Los Angeles Times investigation found Montañez was not involved in the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
“During his 40+ years at Frito Lay, Richard Montañez repeated the story of his involvement with this product hundreds of times, in speeches, books, and media interviews,” Adrian Zackheim, president and publisher of Portfolio Books, said in a statement Tuesday. “Only now, just as his book is announced, are we suddenly hearing an alternate narrative about the development of this product, which seeks to diminish Richard’s contribution and to question the details of long-ago events.”
Zackheim says the book’s June 15 release date still holds.
“We are proud to stand with our author,” he continued. “Richard Montañez embodies the entrepreneurial spirit; we salute his dedication to inspiring people to own their own stories no matter what their circumstances.”
Parts of the memoir that recount Montañez’s story about inventing the product do not align with the archival record, which indicates that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos had already entered the market and were distributed to stores before the events Montañez describes. Frito-Lay conducted an internal investigation that concluded Montañez was not involved with the 1990 debut of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay wrote in a statement to The Times. “We have interviewed multiple personnel who were involved in the test market, and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate Richard,” the statement read, “but the facts do not support the urban legend.”
(18) HISTORY THROUGH DVDS. “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree begins a commentary series about “History of Sci-Fi — Movies of the Eighties — Part One!”
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Objects are much smaller than they appear! “Flying Baby Yoda – Building The Hover Pod from The Mandalorian”.
This is my second build from the Mandalorian, which has become one of my favorite bits of Star Wars in a long time. The project is based around figure from the 6 inch scale Black Series line. I used the electronics out of an old Fast Lane quad I had in my parts bin, and some upgraded motors and props. The shell is formed around the pod/egg from the new Mission Fleet line, and everything is packed carefully inside. This build tested my patience, and vision, at times trying to get all the electronics to fit into the tiny shell. I eventually broke out the magnifying gear when it was time to solder up the motors. The completed model weighs less than one ounce and is only about an inch wide!
[Thanks to, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]