Pixel Scroll 9/22/22 On Tsundoku Did OGH, A Stately Pixel-Scroll Decree

(1) TO BOLDLY SNIFF. No need to be shy about writing this subgenre:“Imagining The Real World by Rae Mariz” at Stone Soup.

…I write climate fiction and it took me a while to realize how saying that in a declarative sentence made publishing professionals recoil like I’d asked them to smell my skunk. I put it proudly in my pitches and query letters. Climate! Fiction!… Smell! My! Skunk! I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to say the c-word in polite company. I’m still not sure why that is, why it’s not something people are actively “looking for” in fiction. Because for me, stories are ideal places to work out the tangles of complicated issues—especially the “what are we not talking about when we refuse to talk about the climate crisis?” questions….

(2) BAIKONUR BOOGIE. Today I learned there is also a Russian Space Forces (they use the plural). And I’m told this is their anthem. You can dance to it!

(3) WINDOW ON CHICON 8. Keith Stokes’ photos of the Worldcon are now online at “Chicon 8 – the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention”.

Here’s his shot of the Chengdu Worldcon exhibit table.

(4) TOLKIEN IN THE BOOT. The New York Times covers “Hobbits and the Hard Right: How Fantasy Inspires Italy’s Potential New Leader”

Giorgia Meloni, the hard-right leader who is likely to be the next prime minister of Italy, used to dress up as a hobbit.

As a youth activist in the post-Fascist Italian Social Movement, she and her fellowship of militants, with nicknames like Frodo and Hobbit, revered “The Lord of the Rings” and other works by the British writer J.R.R. Tolkien. They visited schools in character. They gathered at the “sounding of the horn of Boromir” for cultural chats. She attended “Hobbit Camp” and sang along with the extremist folk band Compagnia dell’Anello, or Fellowship of the Ring.

All of that might seem some youthful infatuation with a work usually associated with fantasy-fiction and big-budget epics rather than political militancy. But in Italy, “The Lord of the Rings” has for a half-century been a central pillar upon which descendants of post-Fascism reconstructed a hard-right identity, looking to a traditionalist mythic age for symbols, heroes and creation myths free of Fascist taboos.

“I think that Tolkien could say better than us what conservatives believe in,” said Ms. Meloni, 45. More than just her favorite book series, “The Lord of the Rings” was also a sacred text. “I don’t consider ‘The Lord of the Rings’ fantasy,” she said….

(5) HORROR FILM MAGAZINE INTERVIEWS VERTLIEB. The new issue of We Belong Dead Magazine, the prestigious British horror film magazine, includes a twelve-page interview and color layout on the life and times of Steve Vertlieb. It’s issue No. 31, and is available now at Barnes and Noble, and wherever good books and magazines are sold throughout the globe. Get your copy now!

(6) I LIVE IN A CLOCK NOW. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele take on steampunks in this 2020 sketch. “When Your Friend Goes Steampunk”.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] Time Travel series aren’t exactly rare, are they? A quarter of a century ago on this evening one such series, Timecop, premiered on ABC. It was based on the much more successful Jean-Claude Van Damme Timecop film. Yes, I liked that film a lot. 

If you blinked you missed this series as it lasted just nine episodes before the cancellation blues played out.

Mark Verheiden who later co-produced the more successful Falling Skies series for TNT created this series. 

It starred Ted King as the Timecop, Officer Jack Logan. You may remember him as Andy Trudeau on Charmed during its first season. There is only one character, Captain Eugene Matuzek, carried over from the film, but the premise is the same. 

And yes, the beautiful female character trope held true here. 

I wouldn’t say its originality quota was high as here’s the story for the pilot: “A time traveler from the twenty-first century kills Jack the Ripper and takes his place.” That Jack becomes the main antagonist.

Nine of the thirteen episodes ordered were televised. No, there’s not four unaired episodes out there as they were never produced.

A trilogy continuing the story was published by Del Rey Books: The ScavengerViper’s Spawn and Blood Ties.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 Samuel A. PeeplesMemory Alpha says that he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Star Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek lore, “[Gene Roddenberry] got ‘Wagon Train to the stars’ from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, ‘Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?’” (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 22, 1939 Edward A. Byers. Due to his early death, he has but two published novels, both space operas, The Log Forgetting and The Babylon Gate. EOFSF says “Byers was not an innovative writer, but his genuine competence raised expectations over his short active career.” There’s no sign his double handful of stories was collected, though his two novels are in-print. (Died 1989.)
  • Born September 22, 1952 Paul Kincaid, 70. A British science fiction critic. He stepped down as chairman of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in April 2006 after twenty years. He is the co-editor with Andrew M. Butler of The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology. He’s also written A Very British Genre: A Short History of British Fantasy and Science Fiction and What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction. His latest publication is The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest.
  • Born September 22, 1954 Shari Belafonte, 68. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well known genre performance. Bet hardly of you saw her as Linda Flores in Time Walker, an Eighties SF horror film, or the Mars SF film in which she played Doc Halliday. 
  • Born September 22, 1957 Jerry Oltion, 65. His Nebula Award winning Abandon in Place novella is the beginning of the Cheap Hyperdrive sequence, a really fun Space Opera undertaking. Abandon in Place was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 (2013). The Astronaut from Wyoming was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. 
  • Born September 22, 1971 Elizabeth Bear, 51. I’m only going to note the series that I really like but of course you will course add the ones that you like. First is her White Space series, Ancestral Space and Machine, which I’ve read or listened to each least three times.  Next up is the sprawling Promethean Age series which is utterly fascinating, and finally The Jenny Casey trilogy which just came out at the usual suspects.
  • Born September 22, 1982 Billie Piper, 40. Best remembered as the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played the dual roles Brona Croft and Lily Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful. She played Veronica Beatrice “Sally” Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in The North. 
  • Born September 22, 1985 Tatiana Maslany, 37. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the Orphan Black which won a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried“ episode. She received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards. She is Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk in the new Marvel She-Hulk series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) IT COULD ALWAYS GET WORSE. Stephen King reviews Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts for the New York Times: “Celeste Ng’s Dystopia Is Uncomfortably Close to Reality”.

The definition of “dystopia in the Oxford English Dictionary is bald and to the point: “An imaginary place in which everything is as bad as possible.”

Literature is full of examples. In “The Time Machine,” the Morlocks feed and clothe the Eloi, then eat them. “The Handmaid’s Tale” deals with state-sanctioned rape. The firefighters in “Fahrenheit 451” incinerate books instead of saving them. In “1984”’s infamous Room 101, Winston Smith is finally broken when a cage filled with rats is dumped over his head. In “Our Missing Hearts,” Celeste Ng’s dystopian America is milder, which makes it more believable — and hence, more upsetting.…

(11) MORE HORRIFYING THAN PUMPKIN SPICE. “Demonic Doll ‘Chucky’ Gets Pumpkin Beer for Halloween”. The official collaboration between Elysian Brewing and NBCUniversal has been launched to celebrate the second season of Chucky’s eponymous TV show. (That red color comes from the added cranberry juice.)

…”Chucky is one of Halloween’s most iconic, beloved characters, and we have found the perfect partner in Elysian Brewing to capture his spirit this season,” Ellen Stone, executive vice president for entertainment consumer engagement and brand strategy at the networks’ parent company NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, stated. “This custom pumpkin beer provides a fresh, unique way for fans and beer fanatics alike to quench their thirst with a taste of Chucky ahead of the season two premiere….

(12) IRON CONTRACT. “’Iron Widow’ YA Bestseller to Be Adapted Into Movies” reports Variety.

Iron Widow,” the New York Times bestselling novel by Xiran Jay Zhao, is headed to the big screen.

Erik Feig’s Picturestart has obtained adaptive rights and is plotting a franchise around the science fiction premise, with J.C. Lee (of the forthcoming “Bad Genius” remake) set to write the screenplay.

The book is set in the fictional world of Huaxia, where humanity’s only hope against alien invaders are giant transforming robots called Chrysalises, which require a boy-girl pair to pilot…. 

(13) THE 3-D LAWS OF ROBOTICS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature’s cover story is about new robots — move over Asimov… “Builder drones”.

Ground-based robots have potential for helping in the construction industry, but they are limited by their height. In this week’s issue, Mirko Kovac, Robert Stuart-Smith and their colleagues introduce highly manoeuvrable aerial robots that can perform additive 3D construction tasks. Inspired by natural builders such as wasps and bees, the researchers created BuilDrones (as shown on the cover) that can work in an autonomous team to perform 3D printing tasks using foam- or cement-based materials. They also created ScanDrones to assess the quality of the structures being built. The team hopes that this approach of ‘aerial additive manufacturing’ could help to build structures in difficult to access areas.

Aerial-AM allows manufacturing in-flight and offers future possibilities for building in unbounded, at-height or hard-to-access locations.

(14) JWST LOOKS AT NEPTUNE. “New Webb Image Captures Clearest View of Neptune’s Rings in Decades”. Read the NASA release at the link.

…Webb also captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons. Dominating this Webb portrait of Neptune is a very bright point of light sporting the signature diffraction spikes seen in many of Webb’s images, but this is not a star. Rather, this is Neptune’s large and unusual moon, Triton….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes you inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Pinocchio (2022)!

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, N., Lise Andreasen, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steve Vertlieb, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Steve Vertlieb is “Back From The Suture”

Steve Vertlieb

[Editor’s Note: A week ago I met Steve and his brother Erwin for lunch. Instead of heading home the next morning, it turns out Steve collapsed at a farewell dinner that night. Fortunately, Steve is back to writing and able to tell all of us what happened.]

By Steve Vertlieb: Sooooooooo, I’ve been back from my vacation in Los Angeles for about a week, but have posted very little since my return … and there is a reason for my silence. My trip was decidedly a mixed bag of disappointments and delights … the latter category encompassing delicious encounters with Nick Meyer, Lee and Elisa Holdridge, Mark McKenzie, Pat and Shirley Russ, Les and Ania Zador, Gregg Nestor, Mike Glyer, and Paul Day Clemens.

I was feeling frail and somewhat fragile in the blazing 105 degree California sun, but still feeling relatively fine by the last day of the trip on Wednesday, September 8th. We were planning on getting together with some friends in the early evening for a farewell dinner celebration.

By three in the afternoon I began experiencing a crushing, near totally debilitating sense of deep, hopeless despair and depression. I was perspiring profusely, and suffering both hot and cold sweats. Our dinner wasn’t until six in the evening, and return flight home not until six o’clock the following morning, and so I continued with my plans for that evening.

By the time that we arrived at Micelli’s Italian Restaurant in Studio City, I had rallied somewhat and was feeling better. The air conditioning at the restaurant had broken down, and so the sweltering heat from outside began permeating the dining area within the restaurant. I began feeling light headed, and had difficulty focusing on the conversation of our friends. It soon became difficult to speak, and I merely stared at my dinner, unable to lift my fork. My companions were speaking to me, but I found myself unable to concentrate on the conversation or respond to it. One of my friends became alarmed and said that “there’s something wrong with Steve.”

Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak.

I was wheeled into a section of the hospital emergency room and given a bed. For the next four or five hours, I was probed, prodded, given injections, and a Cat Scan. By this time I had become aware of my surroundings and was conversing with my brother Erwin who was the only visitor permitted to stay with me. I must have begun recuperating because I starting assaulting Erwin with a persistent barrage of bad jokes and dreadful one liners.

While no definitive diagnosis was offered by my doctors, the assumption was that my collapse was caused by a variety of possible precipitating causes. These may have included severe heat stroke, anxiety over my lack of rest and impending early morning departure from California, as well as a potentially severe seizure.

I was forced to delay my return home to Philadelphia by twenty four hours and, at the insistence of my adoring brother Erwin, Shelly and I were accompanied home by cherished sibling. Erwin stayed with me here at my apartment for nearly a week in order to make certain that I had indeed returned to normal. His caring and concern for me remains deeply moving. He returned home to Los Angeles, and to his own life, early this morning.

In the week since my attack, I have felt significantly weakened and more than a little fragile. I have had little energy either to check my e-mail or post here on Facebook. I must schedule a follow up appointment with my neurologist shortly. I’m feeling better now and more myself physically. However, I continue to feel the threat of yet another deep, debilitating depression lurking ever menacingly in the deeper recesses, and proverbial shadows of my mind. It’s as though I were Henry Jekyll, fearing a final and total consumption of reason by Edward Hyde. I’m fighting this sense of encroaching hopelessness and poverty of joy as best I can … but I cannot help feeling that, should this despair grasp my heart once more, I’ll become lost to an emotionally vegetative existence. I feel like I’m walking a tightrope.

As a result of the emotional toll of my five weeks of hospitalization this year, I’ve begun bi-weekly telephone consultations with a psychologist. This week’s session was particularly meaningful.

Pixel Scroll 9/7/22 The File Is In The Mail

(1) FILER SUMMIT MEETING. I got to meet Steve Vertlieb and his brother Erwin for the first time today! Steve was visiting from the East Coast. His earliest contributions to File 770 date to 2009. I’m glad we finally got together.

(2) GILLER PRIZE. The 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist was released September 6. The Prize is a celebration of Canadian literary talent. There are two works of genre interest:

  • Kim Fu’s story collection Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
  • Sheila Heti’s Pure Colour

The complete longlist is here.

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Nicholas Kaufmann and Naseem Jamnia in-person at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Nicholas Kaufmann

Nicholas Kaufmann is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated, Thriller Award-nominated, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated, and Dragon Award-nominated author. He’s written numerous works of horror and fantasy, including the bestsellers 100 Fathoms Below (written with Steven L. Kent) and The Hungry Earth. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Interzone, and others. In addition to his own original work, he has written for such properties as Zombies vs. Robots, The Rocketeer, and Warhammer. He and his wife Alexa live in Brooklyn, NY.

Naseem Jamnia

Naseem Jamnia is the author of The Bruising of Qilwa (Tachyon Publications), which introduces their queernormative, Persian-inspired world. Their work has appeared in The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, The Writer’s Chronicle, The Rumpus, and other venues. They’ve also received fellowships from Lambda Literary, Bitch Media, and Otherwise, and were named the inaugural Samuel R. Delany fellow. A Persian-Chicagoan, Naseem now lives in Reno with their husband, dog, and two cats.

At the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs) on September 14 at  7:00 p.m. Eastern.

(4) 3DOA. Austin McConnell looks at the 2004 Indian film Aabra Ka Daabra, a Harry Potter imitation that featured 3D gimmicks, dancing, and some incredibly intrusive product placements and bombed spectacularly.“Why Bollywood’s Harry Potter Was A Box Office Bomb”.

(5) STRAUB’S DAUGHTER PAYS TRIBUTE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Emma Straub wrote about her father on Twitter. Includes never-before-seen by us photos. Thread starts here.

Emma Straub will be one of the many writers at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2022 to be held from September 25 through October 3. She and A. M. Holmes will be on the “Alternative Histories” panel on October 2.

(6) PHILLIP MANN (1942-2022). New Zealand sff author Phillip Mann died September 1. His first science fiction novel, The Eye of the Queen appeared in 1982. His novel The Disestablishment of Paradise was a 2014 finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Her wrote four novels in the A Land Fit for Heroes series, and two in the Gardener series.

He celebrated his 80th birthday last month at the launch of his most recent novel Chevalier & Gawayn: The Ballad of the Dreamer with family, friends, colleagues and former students.

He won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for services to science fiction, fantasy and horror in 2010. In 2017, he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to theatre and literature.

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1985 [By Cat Eldridge.] Star Wars Ewoks (1985 – 1987)

The Star Wars video universe is vast and full of series that likely you didn’t know existed. Such is the case with the animated Star Wars Ewoks series that lasted but two years thirty-seven years ago. Panned by many critics at the time as excessively cute, and well it was, it was a children’s show after all.

The press kit at the time described it thusly: “A stand-alone collection of stories, Star Wars Ewoks focuses on the fur-balls from Return of the Jedi and their many misadventures into the unknown, the magical and downright absurd. So is the life of an Ewok.”

It was released the same time as Star Wars Droids which I think was better series but – alas — lasted but a single season. 

It featured the characters introduced in Return of the Jedi (yes, I won’t used the revisionist titles later introduced) and further known through Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and its sequel Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

I was surprised to discover Paul Dini along with Bob Carrau were involved in this project and Star Wars Droids was his only work in this universe.  It had an extensive voice cast with Cree Summer who I recognize from Batman: The Animated Series work being the only one knew.

Critics either were hostile or just didn’t like it. Syfy thought it was a market scheme to sell toys, toys and more toys. Well if it was meant to do that it failed as the ratings were poor and it was cancelled after two seasons. Oh, and ironically it was later broadcast in reruns on Sci-Fi Channel’s Cartoon Quest where it was used to sell product. 

Was it any good? Really? You’re asking me? I’m not the right person to ask that but yes, I’ll say that they did a reasonable job with storytelling here. 

It lasted two seasons and twenty-six episodes. It is now on Disney + as is all is all such material.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7, 1795 John William Polidori. His most remembered work was “The Vampyre”, the first modern vampire story published in 1819. Although originally and erroneously accredited to Lord Byron, both Byron and Polidori affirmed that the story was his. Because of this work, he is credited by several as the creator of the vampire genre of fantasy fiction. (Died 1821.)
  • Born September 7, 1937 John Phillip Law. He’s probably best remembered as the blind angel Pygar in the cult film Barbarella which featured Jane Fonda in that bikini. He shows up in Tarzan, the Ape Man as Harry Holt, and he’s in a South African SF film, Space Mutiny, as Flight Commander Elijah Kalgan, that’s set on a generation ship. Look actual SF!  (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 7, 1955 Mira Furlan. Another one who died far, far too young. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost. She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in Marc Zicree’s Space Command. She had a recurring role as The Traveller in Just Add Magic YA series. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 7, 1960 Christopher Villiers, 62. He was Professor Moorhouse in “Mummy on the Orient Express”, a Twelfth Doctor story. It’s one of the better tales of the very uneven Capaldi run. He’s also Sir Kay in First Knight and is an unnamed officer in From Time to Time which based on Lucy M. Boston’s The Chimneys of Green Knowe.
  • Born September 7, 1966 Toby Jones, 56. He appeared in “Amy’s Choice”, an Eleventh Doctor story, as the Dream Lord. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he voiced Dobby the house elf. And in Finding Neverland, Mr. Smee, Captain Hook’s bo’sun. Guess what work that film was based on. Finally, I’ll note that he was — using motion capture — Aristides Silk in The Adventures of Tintin. 
  • Born September 7, 1973 Alex Kurtzman, 49. Ok, a number of sites claim he destroyed Trek. Why the hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems them for me. Fringe is streaming now on Amazon Prime and HBO Max
  • Born September 7, 1974 Noah Huntley, 48. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days LaterThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (a truly great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (woo, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series (ok, so he’s got a truly mixed track record) and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, got a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent approval rating, a phenomenal thing to do. Ouch. 
  • Born September 7, 1993 Taylor Gray, 29. He’s best known for voicing Ezra Bridger on the animated Star Wars Rebels which I highly recommend if you’re into Star Wars at all as it’s most excellent.  He also played Friz Freleng in Walt Before Mickey

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Headline: Not at all costs. 

Text: I still think it’s a good idea that we insisted that climate projects shouldn’t decrease the level of jobs and welfare.

(10) FANTASTIC FOUR. This month, Ross returns to the Marvel comics universe with Fantastic Four: Full Circle, a long-awaited passion project. Publishers Weekly interviewed him about it: “Alex Ross Comes Full Circle”.

Why was it important for you to be the artist as well as the writer for this work?

For one main reason: Jack Kirby. Jack plotted his comics and did not work from full scripts for the majority of his career, but he wasn’t able to get that autonomy of single-creator status on the Fantastic Four because he did develop it with Stan Lee and it became identified with Stan’s style of voice. He yearned to take the reins of everything, and it didn’t happen on that book, despite the fact that the creative contribution he gave to it was so extensive and unfortunately underappreciated. It’s his work history and example that drove me to make sure that the work I do here and all storytelling I personally draw in the future benefits from his experience. I will still collaborate with others, but my fully drawn works need to be just me so there is no confusion as to whom to attribute the effort.

(11) WE’RE NOT EVOLVED TO LIVE IN SPACE. Which you already know. Space.com reports “Astronauts’ blood shows signs of DNA mutations due to spaceflight”.

Astronaut cancer risk needs careful monitoring, concludes a study that stored spaceflyer blood for 20 years.

All fourteen astronauts in the study, from NASA’s space shuttle program, had DNA mutations in blood-forming stem cells, a Nature Communications Biology study(opens in new tab) Aug. 31 concluded. The mutations, though unusually high considering the astronauts’ age, was below a key threshold of concern, however.

While the study is unique for keeping astronaut blood around for so long, the results are not show-stopping. Rather, the researchers suggest that astronauts should be subject to periodic blood screening to keep an eye on possible mutations. (And it should be considered in context; another 2019 study, for example, found that astronauts are not dying from cancer due to ionizing space radiation.)…

(12) ROARING OTTER. Did we hunt these guys out of existence, too? “In Ethiopia, scientists identify a fossil otter the size of a lion”Phys.org has the specifications.

Scientists have identified a new species of long-extinct otter in Ethiopia that was the size of a modern lion. Weighing an estimated 200 kilograms, or 440 pounds, it is the largest otter ever described; it would have rubbed elbows, and possibly competed for food, with our much smaller ancestors when it lived alongside them 3.5 million to 2.5 million years ago. A paper describing the animal just appeared in the French scientific journal Comptes Rendus Palevol.

“The peculiar thing, in addition to its massive size, is that [isotopes] in its teeth suggest it was not aquatic, like all modern otters,” said study coauthor Kevin Uno, a geochemist at the Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We found it had a diet of terrestrial animals, also differing from modern otters.”

(13) FORWARD, MARCH! [Item by Daniel Dern.] Another “I’ll take ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ for $200…” “Scientists Create Cyborg Cockroaches Controlled By Solar-Powered Backpacks”Slashdot restrains its enthusiasm.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET:

In a new study, published Monday in the journal npj Flexible Electronics, an international team of researchers revealed it has engineered a system to remotely control the legs of cockroaches from afar. The system, which is basically a cockroach backpack wired into the creature’s nervous system, has a power output about 50 times higher than previous devices and is built with an ultrathin and flexible solar cell that doesn’t hinder the roach’s movement. Pressing a button sends a shock to the backpack that tricks the roach into moving a certain direction.

Cockroach cyborgs are not a new idea. Back in 2012, researchers at North Carolina State University were experimenting with Madagascar hissing cockroaches and wireless backpacks, showing the critters could be remotely controlled to walk along a track….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Cult of the Lamb,” Fandom Games says this “well-crafted Indy” begins with the premise:  what happens if cuddly animal characters were bloodthirsty advocated of evil?   The characters are “adorable idiots you can manipulate” So in one game you can have huggable characters and grisly human sacrifice.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Lise Andreasen, 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 Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/22/22 This Is The Story Of A Scroll, Who Cried Tsundoku And Filed The Whole World

(1) MUSIC OF THE GEARS. Yoon Ha Lee has composed and released a soundtrack for his Machineries of Empire books. Available on Bandcamp: “Banner the Deuce of Gears”.

A “soundtrack” for the Machineries of Empire space opera books! Includes themes for Jedao One, Jedao Two, Cheris, and the bonus song “Burn It Down with Math (feat. Liozh Dia)”!

(2) TWITTER TROLLS WINNING. Jason Sanford is reporting Twitter has banned Harry Turtledove and Patrick Tomlinson, two well-known sff authors. Thread starts here.

Patrick Tomlinson was banned while discussing threats sent to Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki.

Sanford concludes: “@TwitterSafety’s saying if someone threatens to kill you, that’s too bad and you can’t tweet about it at all.”

(3) OP-ED ABOUT GENCON’S MOVING PLANS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Indiana University law professor Timothy William Waters criticizes Gen Con’s decision to move the convention out of Indiana after 2024 because of the state’s restrictive abortion laws, noting that Gen Con is not a political space and “how our politics improved if the elves abandon Indiana to the orcs?” “We wanted to play Bunny Kingdom. Gen Con wanted to talk about abortion”.

… Despite its earlier threats, Gen Con said after the abortion legislation passed that the convention would return at least next year. But if organizers eventually flee, where would they go? The South and Midwest would be mostly off-limits. More likely, the convention would go into deep-blue exile, leaving behind the Indiana Convention Center — the same hall where I attended the 2019 National Rifle Association convention. Booths that sold 20-sided dice this month were selling Glocks then. The NRA is returning to Indianapolis in 2023. How are politics improved if the elves abandon Indiana to the orcs?

Politicizing companies makes sense when there’s a real link to the politics. Organizations naturally take positions on social questions that affect their operations. But activists drive truckloads of preferences through that pretext: In 2013, Indiana University opposed a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage on grounds that went far beyond institutional concern. (Selectively: I’ve never seen a university object to laws antithetical to conservative faculty or students.)

Gen Con opposed that amendment, too, and now opposes the abortion law. Apart from saying the legislation would “have a direct impact on our team and our community,” Gen Con doesn’t pretend that’s a business decision — “hurt, angry, and frustrated,” it simply considers the law unjust.

Maybe it is, maybe not. I don’t know if Gen Con’s community agrees on abortion or anything else: The man playing Galaxy Trucker with us didn’t mention his voter registration.

But what about the women who support freedom of choice who might feel alarmed in “The Handmaid’s Tale” Indiana? It is Gen Con’s business to make them feel welcome — as it is the convention’s duty to make every attendee feel welcome, including gamers whose position on abortion Gen Con declared inhumane.

The answer is to make sure no one’s preferences dominate our shared space. Basic game design: Don’t fix the rules so only your side can play. Politicizing everything ignores that lesson….

(4) VERTLIEB INTERVIEW. B-Movie Cast devoted its501st episode to an interview with Steve Vertlieb

“The B-Movie Cast is back from a brief hiatus following our 500th episode! This show is a bit different from most as instead of featuring a film, Mary, Nic, and Mark Mawston are joined by Steve Vertlieb!

Steve is one of America’s leading film archivists and historians who is a true living link between the golden age of Hollywood and today! A cinema journalist and film music educator Steve is a bit different from some film historians. Many of them collect film memorabilia, Steve, collects friendships, memories and stories!

Join us as we talk with Steve about some of his most memorable friends among many of Hollywood’s greatest directors, producers, actors, special effects masters and music composers! Steve is a true wealth of knowledge and we’re very lucky to have him on the show as we talk about everything from Ray Bradbury’s 16mm camera troubles to Ray Harryhausen and more!”

(5) CHICON 8 PRESS REGISTRATION. Isn’t it NICE that journalists can just go onto the Chicon 8 website and just sign up so easily? 

Hello and Greetings from the Chicon 8 Press Office

The Chicon 8 Press Registration Page is now open and ready to receive your request for either a Press Pass or Press Credentials at this link:

https://chicon.org/home/about-worldcon/press-and-media/press-accreditation/

Our Attending Press Policy and Guidelines for Press Passes and Press Credentials can be found here:

The Chicon 8 Press Office will be located close to main registration, along with a bookable interview room.

…We anticipate that holders of Press Passes will be able to collect their badge, giving access to the convention, directly from the Press Office, to avoid the need to queue at main registration. If you are being granted Press Credentials, you will need to collect your badge from main registration first. You can then come to the Press Office at your convenience to check in and pick up your Press Ribbon.

In line with the Press Policy, we have a strong line on consent in general, and for photography in particular, and would appreciate your understanding on this. Attending Press are also asked to familiarize themselves with our Code of Conduct: (https://chicon.org/home/for-members/code-of-conduct/) and our Covid Policy (https://chicon.org/home/for-members/covid-policy/). In accepting our offer of a Press Pass or Press Credentials, you are committing to abide by these policies.

(6) US IN FLUX. Read ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us In Flux story “Sympathy” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa about the politics and economics of childcare, the contested science of child development, and our hopes and anxieties about the role of robotics in our lives, then see the related Zoom discussion:

Us in Flux is a series of short stories and virtual gatherings that explore how we might reimagine and reorganize our communities in the face of transformative change.

Join us for a conversation with author Suyi Davies Okungbowa and Lance Gharavi, professor of film, dance, and theatre and affiliate faculty at the Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming at Arizona State University. They’ll discuss “Sympathy,” Suyi’s story about robotics, the politics and economics of childcare, and the complexities of early childhood development.

The webinar takes place August 25, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Register at the link: Suyi Davies Okungbowa & Lance Gharavi: “Sympathy”.

(7) TRANSPARENT PROCESS. Interstellar Flight Magazine’s Holly Lyn Walrath discusses their “Acquisitions from the 2021 Short Story Collections Call”, which were chosen with the help of guest editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. They’ll be publishing five of the submissions.

Interstellar Flight Press is pleased to announce that we have finished reviewing all submissions from our 2021 short story collection call. As the managing editor, I would like to thank all the amazing authors who submitted to this call. We were blown away by the quality of work out there. Suffice it to say, we wish there were more presses publishing short story collections, as there are SO MANY great books out there waiting to find a home. It was lovely to see how many wonderful writers are excelling in the field of short SFF fiction.

Great thanks is owed to our guest editor for this call, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who helped select the final books. Oghenechovwe is a talented writer and editor, and I remain humbled by the amazing writers who have served as guest editors. This position is so important and helps us select books from unique perspectives….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

2005 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this day in the United Kingdom, the oddest thing happened: a film sequel to a failed television series premiered. Serenity, the sequel to the short-lived (but much beloved by a small group of rather fanatical fans) Firefly science fiction series, saw its debut. 

Now I don’t know how well the Firefly series did in the United Kingdom but I do know well how it did in States. By mid-December, it was averaging 4.7 million viewers per episode and was 98th in Nielsen ratings. Ouch. Now admittedly its eleven (of fourteen produced) episodes were shown out of order, so that didn’t help, did it?

Now DVD sales following its cancellation were particularly strong and the Browncoats, its fans, mounted a campaign that surprisingly convinced the film studio to produce Serenity. Odds are better than even that those responsible for that decision aren’t there anymore.

Ok, I’m not going to talk about it on the infinitely small chance that some of you have not seen this film. (Ha!) All I’m interested in here is how it did and that is quite simple. Though y’all loved it and gave it a Hugo at L.A. Con IV, and it also got a Nebula for Best Script, it did not do well at the box office. It cost forty million to produce and made, errr, forty million. 

Browncoats  quickly spread the rumor that a third film was already being planned but Whedon squashed that idea noting that he was contracted to other productions. 

Serenity is a ninety-one percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and the series has a near perfect ninety seven percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 22, 1907 Oliver McGowan. He played The Caretaker in the “Shore Leave” episode of the original Trek which I just rewatched recently and it holds up much better than I thought it would. McGowan has one-offs on One Step Beyond, Wild Wild West, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 22, 1909 Paul W. Fairman. His story “No Teeth for the Tiger” was published in the February 1950 issue of Amazing Stories. Two years later, he was the founding editor of If, but he edited only four issues. (Anyone know why?) In 1955, he became the editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic which he would hold onto for three years. There are several films, Target Earth and Invasion of the Saucer Men, based on his stories, plus some TV episodes as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. Seriously where do I start? He wrote some of the most wonderful stories that I’ve ever ever read, genre or not, many of which got turned into quite superb video tales on the Ray Bradbury Theater. As for novels, my absolute favorite will always be Something This Way Wicked Comes. (I’m ambivalent on the film version.) And yes I know it isn’t really a novel but The Illustrated Man I treat as such and I loved the film that came out of it with Rod Steiger in that role. Let’s not forget The Martian Chronicles. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 22, 1948 Susan Wood. She received three Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer in 1974, 1977, and 1981, and a Best Fanzine Hugo as coeditor of Energumen in 1973In 1976 she was instrumental in organizing one of the most impactful feminist panels at a con, at MidAmericon. The reaction to it contributed to the founding of WisCon. While teaching courses in SF at UBC, one of her students was William Gibson. “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” which is his first published story was written as an assignment in her SF class. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 67. Of his novels, I strongly recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, and Dogland. (Emma’s Finder novel, another Borderland novel is also recommended.) He is married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing. They’re on the chocolate list of course. 
  • Born August 22, 1959 — Mark Williams, 63. He was Arthur Weasley in seven of the Potter films. He also played Brian Williams in the BBC series Doctor Who, appearing with the Eleventh Doctor in “The Power of Three” and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He was also Olaf Petersen on Red Dwarf. His first genre role was as Fearnot’s Brother in the “Fearnot” episode of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. 
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 59. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams) and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman is based on her. I wonder if she’ll be in the Sandman series?

(10) BRADBURY BIRTHDAY. As John King Tarpinian does on Ray Bradbury’s birthday these days, he went and left a little gift at Bradbury’s grave.

I had a lovely visit today. Gifted Ray a Chicago made coin-changer, which he used on his only real job selling newspapers. Left him a little guardian angel, too. As I have done in the past, I gave the cake to the cemetery staff.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM SLASH TO STEM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Stephanie Merry profiles a romance writer who uses the pseudonym “Ali Hazelwood” and whose day job is as a neuroscientist.  Hazelwood got her start writing slash fiction about Spock (Leonard Nimoy, not Zachary Quinto) and went on to write Kylo Ren/Rey fiction until an agent discovered her and convinced her to write non-genre fiction. Now she writes “STEMinist” novels in which women fall in love with “broody, emotionless science men.” “Ali Hazelwood talks ‘Love Hypothesis,’ ‘Love on the Brain’”.

… And now here she is, less than a year after her debut became a bestseller and days from releasing her second novel, “Love on the Brain.” Both are about female scientists who fall for, well, broody, emotionless science men. Hazelwood also published three novellas this year. (“I should be doing research,” she says, “but I’m doing this other thing.”)

Hazelwood’s novels fall into the growing genre of “STEMinist” fiction that also includes recent feel-good bestsellers “Lessons in Chemistry,” by Bonnie Garmus, and “The Soulmate Equation,” by Christina Lauren. “Love on the Brain” revolves around two scientists, Bee Königswasser and Levi Ward, who areworking on a NASA project to create a helmet that uses transcranial magnetic stimulation to reduce an astronaut’s “attentional blinks,” which, as Bee describes it, are “those little lapses in awareness that are unavoidable when many things happen at once.”…

(13) WHODUNNIT? Here’s a bizarre opportunity. If you’re going to be in the vicinity of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT on August 26, you can go on the “GET A CLUE Interactive Murder-Mystery Tour with Sea Tea Improv.” Register here.

Friday, August 26 starting at 7pm: GET A CLUE Interactive Murder-Mystery Tour with Sea Tea Improv

Who killed Pap Finn?? Was it Tom Sawyer in the Billiard Room with the wrench? Queen Guinevere in the Conservatory with rope? The Prince (or was it the Pauper??) in the Library with the revolver. We need YOU to solve this mystery on our hilarious, interactive GET A CLUE TOUR of The Mark Twain House! With Twain’s most famous characters as suspects, portrayed by comedians from Sea Tea Improv, this larger than life version of the classic game is a fun chance for you to play detective.

(14) PHYSICS AND SF IDEAS. The Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination at the University of Kansas presents “The Higgs Boson In This Particular Universe” with Phil Baringer, Professor Emeritus KU Physics and Astronomy, on Wednesday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. Central at the Lawrence (KS) Public Library.

What science-fiction ideas does this inspire? Award-winning SF author, educator, and Ad Astra Center director Chris McKitterick leads a Q&A and idea-generation session with Dr. Baringer to help attendees imagine possibilities and launch your own stories.

There will be a recorded livestream of the talk on their YouTube channel. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.

(15) WHERE DO THEY ALL COME FROM. “Machine learning locates meteorite source on Mars” in Nature.

This unusually multicoloured view of Mars shows the distribution of 90 million impact craters across the planet’s surface, mapped by researchers using a machine-learning algorithm trained on data from previous Mars missions. The colours represent the size, age and density of the craters: for example, blue areas depict the largest and youngest ones.

Scientists made the map while investigating the origin of a meteorite called Black Beauty, which was found in the Sahara Desert in 2011. The lump of rock was thrown out into space when an asteroid struck Mars at least 5 million years ago. The team used the algorithm to narrow down the possibilities, and eventually worked out the exact location of this impact (A. Lagain et al. Nature Commun. 13, 3782; 2022). The researchers suggest that the 10-kilometre-wide crater — named Karratha — could be the focus of a future Mars mission.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, Joey Eschrich, Anne Marble, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Celebrating “E.T.” On His 40th Birthday

By Steve Vertlieb: On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T.

I was being groomed at the time to be a weekly entertainment and film critic for WTAF TV29 (then an affiliate of Taft Broadcasting). The segments would have aired on Friday mornings, as part of the station’s daily, hour long “Newsprobe” news and information series. The TV station was subsequently purchased by Fox Television, and changed its call letters to the current WTXF TV.

While considered a noble “pilot” effort by everyone concerned, the idea was ultimately abandoned, and this fledgling television film critic found his on air career in shambles, except for some sporadic “guest” appearances in museums, universities, and on competing tv stations.

Here, however, and in celebration of a beloved film’s first release, is a portion of that original television review from forty years ago …

I was taken completely by surprise and delight by this enchanting holiday gift from NBC Universal that premiered Thanksgiving morning, 2019, during NBC’s telecast of the annual Macy’s holiday parade.

Sure, you can argue that it’s a crass commercialization of Steven Spielberg’s beloved 1982 children’s classic fantasy but … you know what … it’s a beautiful, sweet, and loving sequel featuring Henry Thomas reprising his original role as Elliott, fully realized special effects, and John Williams’ gorgeous original motion picture score.

If this doesn’t fill your eyes with tears of happiness, nothing ever will again. What a joyous Thanksgiving surprise, gift, and treat for “children” of all ages. Celebrating Steven Spielberg’s beloved fantasy classic which premiered forty years ago on June 11, 1982.

I Sing Bradbury Electric: A Loving, Personal Remembrance 

Ray Bradbury at his home in Los Angeles (photo by Danny Tuffs, Getty Images)

By Steve Vertlieb: He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction. He shared with Ernest Hemingway the simplicity of phrase inspired by genius. No more legendary literary figure ever claimed Earth as his home, and yet Ray Bradbury was a childlike gargantuan whose life and artistry were shaped by the wonder and innocence of curiosity and tender imagination.

He was born into a world of rocket ships and monsters, a universe traversed by Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Frankenstein, Dracula, and a miraculous primordial ape called KING KONG. His boyhood was transformed by the promise of distant worlds and stranger creatures whose outward malevolence masked secret torment, the sadness of being deemed somehow different.

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois (a hometown he shared with Jack Benny) on August 22nd, 1920. From birth he shared an affinity with the magical realm of motion pictures. His middle name was dedicated to the imagery of screen swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks, and so Ray always knew that his spiritual ancestors consisted of pirates and colorful masked swordsmen. Coming of age during America’s great Depression, the gregarious youth was lifted by the seat of his pants by silken images painted in celluloid. His heroes consisted not only of daring cavaliers such as Fairbanks, but by the pervasively exotic characterizations of Lon Chaney Sr., Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The mystic lure of far away worlds beckoned the impressionable adolescent with the promise of tomorrow, while monstrous cinematic cadavers and rockets to Mars replaced the mundane scenery of a Depression-stricken America.

As sympathetic souls and kindred spirits came together in pre-destined unison, Bradbury found himself drawn to the early worlds of science fiction, fantasy, pulp fandom and, together with fellow teenagers Ray Harryhausen and Forrest James Ackerman, began their journey of discovery, forming what has come to be recognized as “first fandom,” in pursuit of creative profit and recognition. Bradbury would later state that he owed everything to Forry Ackerman who sold his first published story. The third member of the imaginative trio, Ray Harryhausen, formalized their creative partnership with the visual realization of Bradbury’s short story “The Fog Horn.” Published in a celebrated issue of The Saturday Evening Post, the short story concerning a sea beast consumed by the tantalizing image of an isolated light house, became the basis for Harryhausen’s first solo screen effort, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

Rod Serling encouraged the celebrated writer to join his literary enclave at CBS Television as the decade reached its conclusion and, while Bradbury submitted several scripts to Serling’s classic science fiction/fantasy anthology series, The Twilight Zone, only one was aired as a part of the series. “I Sing The Body Electric,” inspired by Walt Whitman’s famous poem, served as the basis for a Bradbury story in which an electric grandmother is hired by a wealthy widower to work as his children’s nanny. The episode aired as a part of the series on May 18th, 1962 and was later included in a famous Bradbury anthology of the same name published in 1969. While this remains the only episode of the series penned by Bradbury, Serling managed to include an affectionate reference to the writer in his own melancholy tale (“Walking Distance”) of an advertising executive on the verge of a nervous breakdown, coming home once more to the small town in which he had spent his boyhood. As Martin Sloan (Gig Young) walks along the streets of Homewood, he makes a casual reference to the Bradbury house standing prominently in his gaze. Homewood sweetly represented small town Americana from which both writers had migrated.

Ray Bradbury turned his adolescent energy and enthusiasm into poetic imagery, and brought a human face to Man’s exploration of the stars. When Neil Armstrong took his first small steps upon the lunar landscape in July,1969, generating a giant leap of faith for all Mankind, Bradbury’s frustration over the lack of excitement shown by the television networks covering the monumental story exploded into headlines, and a memorable tirade by the world’s most eloquent innocent. Bradbury sat solemn and quiet as a guest on a network Lunar themed telecast, struggling to fill time with inanity after insanity. Unable to contain his rage at the proliferation of stupidity filling the national airwaves, the child in a man’s body rose to his feet…outraged by the lack of understanding and exhilaration being exhibited by David Frost and his disinterested panel of guests…and threatened to walk off of the live telecast. His contempt for the bland assemblage of guests apparent, Bradbury admonished them as he would a poor student in the gaze of a disappointed teacher. “This is the greatest night in the history of the world,” he raged. The lack of excitement over this cherished, awe inspiring moment in time, was just too much for this child of wonder either to accept or to absorb. The moment that Ray, and millions of children around the world, had dreamt of and imagined since Buck Rogers and Superman had first flown into space some thirty years earlier was finally here. That these simple, uninspired talk show guests were consumed with themselves, rather than this extraordinary moment of mortal achievement and exploration, was more than Bradbury could endure.

Like millions of imaginative children inhabiting Bradbury’s world, I revered his name and legend. Ray Bradbury signified everything I’d ever dreamt of or aspired to.

As a quiet, introspective boy growing up in Philadelphia during the nineteen fifties, I became a poster child for what would one day become known as “A Monster Kid” — a generation of “baby boomers” weaned on, and inspired by, television, the huge monster movie craze of the fifties, and the introduction of a genre movie magazine with the unlikely name of Famous Monsters of Filmland. The progenitor of this magical publication was none other than the editor who had first brought Ray Bradbury to the attention of publishers. Forrest J Ackerman, or as he was known to his millions of adoring children, “Uncle Forry.”

Forry was the Hans Christian Anderson of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a Walt Disney father figure who, like the proverbial “Pan,” would lure willing children to worlds and concepts beyond the stars, filling their imaginations with inspirational promise and invitation. He was a joyous Pied Piper who, together with his boyhood friends, Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, would cause generation after generation of creative youth to embrace their dreams, and create their own fantastic lives and careers. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were only two of the many artists who found their singular paths among the clouds inhabited by Bradbury, Harryhausen, and Ackerman.

Ray Bradbury with Steve and Erwin Vertlieb

It was during the wonderful Summer months of 1974 that I traveled for the first time to Los Angeles, and came face to face with the land of fantasies, dreams, imagination, and motion pictures that had so consumed and mesmerized my own impressionable childhood. I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store. Everywhere I turned represented the reflection of my own childhood longing and wanderings.

Among my friends of the period was composer and orchestrator John Morgan. John announced one afternoon that he had received an invitation to Ray Bradbury’s house that evening, and he wondered if my brother Erwin and I would like to join him for the royal summons. I swallowed my singular exhilaration, and excitedly accepted his generous invitation. Bradbury’s residence was a large yellow structure in a quiet residential neighborhood. We nervously climbed the outer steps and rang the door bell. As the door opened, Ray greeted us personally and ushered the three of us into his living room. I was both thrilled and frightened, for here within my gaze was the legendary writer smiling at me and extending his hand. His hands, I remember, were very large and inviting and I became lost inside their welcome grasp. Ray asked me about my own career, and I told him that I was a published writer and minor film historian. My day job was, I explained, a film editor at a Philadelphia television station.

He asked if I knew that he had written the screen play for John Huston’s magnificent 1956 production of Moby Dick. I assured him that I had. He was very proud of the gift that Huston had given him after the picture had been released. It was a 16-millimeter Technicolor print of the Warner Bros. release given him personally by the director. Ray was like a little kid proudly showing off his Hopalong Cassidy pistol. He asked if I’d like to see a few minutes of the film. I said yes, of course, and he ran to find the print. His joy was infectious as I watched him delicately thread the projector and share his treasure with us.

As the film began to unspool on the screen in his living room I could see that the print was immaculate. My film editor’s eye, however, noticed just the beginnings of an emulsion scratch in the otherwise gorgeous Technicolor print. I took my life in my hands, and asked Ray to stop the film for a moment. I don’t know if it was courage on my part or youthful arrogance. It’s difficult now to say which. Ray looked at me with a puzzled expression. I asked him if he ever cleaned his projector “gate.” He asked what I meant. I said “Ray, do you have a box of cue tips and some Isopropyl Alcohol?” Here was one of the most important writers of the Twentieth Century going dutifully to fetch a box of cue tips for this young upstart transgressing his hospitality. I honestly thought he would lift me bodily from my chair, and hurl me out the door to the street below. Instead, like the gentle soul he was, he went out into another room to bring what I had requested. I took a cue tip from the box he had handed me and immersed it in the accompanying bottle of alcohol. I showed him how to clean the “gate” of the projector in the areas that came into contact with the film print and assured him that this procedure would help to keep his beloved Technicolor print from being torn and permanently scratched. He thanked me for this simple lesson in film maintenance, and appeared grateful, but I was thoroughly convinced at the time that I would soon be black listed all over Hollywood, and forbidden from ever encountering or confronting this splendid Ice Cream Man again. That was Ray. He was just a big kid…a gentle, enthusiastic child with the talent and intellect of a genius.

During that same trip out West we had the unique opportunity to sit in the audience with Ray and his wife for a live, small theater production of Fahrenheit 451. Ray told me that he adored Bernard Herrmann’s original score for the Truffaut film version of his famous novel and, at his insistence, the small theater troupe used excerpts from the Herrmann recording of his score for London Phase 4 Records, with the composer conducting The London Philharmonic Orchestra. The experience was surreal.

After that, Ray and I maintained a sporadic, yet steady correspondence for the rest of his life. I remember running into him at one of Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters Of Filmland conventions in Virginia in 1993. I hadn’t seen Ray in years. He was surrounded, as he always was, by a burgeoning crowd of awe-struck fans. I approached him and asked if he remembered an arrogant young man some twenty years earlier who had had the temerity, in his own living room, to lecture him on the care and feeding of his 16-millimeter movie projector. He looked up at me from the hotel couch on which he was sitting and grinned somewhat impishly, pointing his finger in my direction. “Was that YOU?” I assured him that I was, indeed, that brazen young lad. We both chuckled over the recollection of that embarrassing episode so many years earlier. He might have cringed at my appearance, but he didn’t. He simply chuckled in delight. He was A Medicine For Melancholy.

Among the many ties that bound us together was Ray’s passionate interest in symphonic motion picture music written for the screen. We shared a love for the music of such composers as Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, and Max Steiner among others. I had known Miklos Rozsa as a friend for nearly thirty years, and Ray not only admired his music, but had worked together with the composer during the filming of King Of Kings for MGM in 1961. Rozsa had won a richly deserved Oscar for his magnificent 1959 score for Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer’s Ben-Hur, and so was asked to write the music for the studio’s early sixties remake of the original 1927 Cecil B. DeMille silent classic. Ray was hired by Metro to write the narration spoken by Orson Welles scattered throughout the picture, and attended some of the recording sessions with Rozsa.

In 2007 the historic Castro Theater in San Francisco was preparing a special film festival honoring the work of the legendary composer, and I was asked to choose the films for the presentation, write the liner notes for the program, and co-host the festival. As it turned out, the Miklos Rozsa film festival became a major San Francisco event in late 2007 and early 2008 with seventeen motion pictures presented to packed houses over a nine-day period. The composer’s daughter, Juliet Rozsa, along with his granddaughters Nicci and Ariana, all drove in from Los Angeles and appeared with me on stage during the introductions. I was honored to read proclamations from both the Mayor of San Francisco, as well as the Hungarian Ambassador to The United States. However, the introduction that thrilled me the most was one written expressly for the event by Ray Bradbury.

Knowing Ray’s love for film music, I wrote him about the festival. He wrote me back asking if he might contribute his own written introduction to the festival. I was honored to accept his lovely request. After all, who was I to say say “no” to Ray Bradbury. Consequently, I felt a tingle of excitement as I read Ray’s brief, loving words from the stage to an audience of some seven hundred people just prior to my “live” interview with Juliet Rozsa, and a 35-millimeter screening of the composer’s masterpiece, Ben-Hur.

Over the years that followed I continued to correspond with Ray, both my mail and through the internet. Each Christmas would bring Ray’s newest holiday poetry which seemed to arrive not through conventional mail delivery but, rather, upon wings of angels within a snow covered sleigh. On one memorable occasion, after sending him an article I’d written pertaining to the science fiction genre we both so adored, he wrote me a lovely note thanking me for continuing to write about the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. He felt a singular obligation to keep the faith, so to speak, through his own place in literary history, and wanted to thank me, as well, for continuing to carry the torch along with him. Despite his advancing years and assorted health problems, which included a debilitating stroke in 1999, he was still the same little boy who had discovered the wonder of other worlds and galaxies so many decades before. Like Ray Harryhausen and Forry Ackerman, with whom he had shared his first spiritual journeys to outer space, he wrote “Steve…You’re a good pal.” I nearly cried when I read that, and wanted to reach out and hug this gentle soul whose life and work had so touched and impacted my own.

Ray continued to find wonder in the music of the movies and particularly loved Jerry Goldsmith’s valiant score for The Wind and The Lion. His affection for Goldsmith’s exhilarating musical themes for the romantic Sean Connery adventure film inspired his own work, and he proudly acknowledged his debt to the composer’s symphonic poetry in creating Now And Forever: Somewhere A Band Is Playing, published by William Morrow Company in 2007.

Jerry Goldsmith

I published my own tribute to Jerry Goldsmith and his music for another epic score, First Knight, in June, 2011, at Film Music Review, and discussed Ray’s love for that earlier Goldsmith music. I sent the article to Ray’s beloved daughter, Alexandra (Zee) shortly after its online publication. I think that one of the greatest thrills of my life, perhaps, was when Zee took my work along with her during a trip to her dad’s home a few weeks later, and read it to him. She wrote me that he smiled from ear to ear and offered his own enthusiastic comments as she read him my words about the Goldsmith music. 

Several weeks later I received a small parcel from Ray in the mail. On the face of the large white envelope were two postage stamps honoring Edgar Allan Poe.

Next to the stamps, Ray had drawn an arrow pointing toward Poe, and written in big letters “My Pa.”

Inside the envelope were a photograph of Ray standing next to a painting of Poe, along with a handwritten note which read…

Steve:

Thanks for “Mickey” (Miklos Rozsa)
4E (Forry Ackerman)
Xmas
& ME!

Love,
Ray

I got to see Ray a couple of more times, and those visits were the most wonderful love fests that I could have imagined. After the death of his lifelong friend friend Forry Ackerman, I sent Ray my Rondo-nominated tribute to my own forty-seven year friendship with Uncle Forry and, as I sat at his side, Ray said “I owe him everything.” I visited Ray shortly after his ninetieth birthday in late August, 2010. He was busily involved in numerous tributes, interviews and appearances honoring his birthday, but he told Zee to please somehow fit me into his schedule…and so I traveled with my little brother Erwin to Ray’s house to spend a loving hour at his feet. It was difficult for him to speak due to ill health, but he was obviously happy to see us and felt invigorated by our visit. I continued to feel astonished that this world renowned literary figure, this giant of a writer, was still living within the confines of the very same humble home he’d shared with an unsuspecting, quiet residential neighborhood for some fifty years. When I asked him about it, he told me that he’d raised his family and enjoyed much of his fame and success in his beloved house. Why would he ever wish to leave it?

In January, 2010, I discovered that my own health had been dramatically failing and that I would need major open heart surgery quite soon if I were to survive. In mid February of that year we scheduled surgery for a few weeks hence. I wrote Ray of my impending procedure, and he playfully instructed Zee to write me of the poetic irony of my requiring heart surgery right around Valentine’s Day. He further instructed her to tell me that he would not allow me to die. Who was I to contradict Ray Bradbury?

I was able to visit Ray one more time during the closing days of August, 2011. Once again, the demands on his time had become nearly impossible, as the world around him was beginning to understand and respect the significance and singular importance of the solitary inspiration who had so profoundly influenced the better part of their lives. Once again, Ray grew excited at the prospect of my impending visit and asked Zee to please arrange his schedule so that he might find time to see me. When Zee wrote me that “Dad” was excited about seeing me during my visit to Los Angeles, I humbly pondered the reasons why Ray Bradbury…this living legend…would grow excited over seeing me, of all people. I think the reason for his enthusiasm had little to do with me personally. It was just that Ray had never truly grown up. He was still the eternal innocent…still the little boy possessed of childlike awe and wonder who was eager to stop time and simply visit with an old “pal.”

Ray had just turned ninety-one and was visibly excited over the news that a film production company had just purchased the rights to his novel Dandelion Wine. As we entered the house, Zee told me that her dad was thrilled by the report and that he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. When I entered his den I found him in good spirits and quite animated. We talked of the sale, and of our nearly forty-year friendship. As the time wore on, and Ray was growing tired, I grew unusually sentimental as we were to preparing to leave. I filled up with tears as I told Ray how deeply I loved him, and how he had so profoundly impacted not only my life, but the lives of literally millions of friends and admirers all over the world who loved him as well, and owed him so very much. I arose from my chair and embraced this frail, gentle soul. I kissed him on his cheek, and told him how much he meant to me. He said “I love you, too, Steve” as each of us smiled and fought back the inevitable tears.

As we left the modest home on Cheviot Drive, I turned once more to see the façade and stood there for a moment, deep in thought and contemplation. As we got into the car, I said to Erwin “I have a terrible feeling that this is the last time we’ll ever see Ray.”

The remaining months of 2011 slipped quickly away. A new year was dawning but, with it, came new health concerns…not only for me, but for my beloved mom who had celebrated her one hundredth birthday six months earlier. In the early morning hours of February 1st, 2012, I received the dreaded telephone call that my mother had passed away. Among the treasured notes and letters of condolence that I received was a touching E-mail from Ray and Zee Bradbury expressing their sadness over the loss of my mom.

Nostalgia for things past and for a simpler time, perhaps, has become a common thread shared by so many so called “baby boomers.” In December, 2011, I was interviewed in my home for two hours by film director Robert Tinnell and a camera crew for a new film documentary concerning the “Monster Kid” phenomenon inspired by Forrest J Ackerman, his groundbreaking Famous Monsters Of Filmland Magazine, and the hugely popular, affectionately remembered monster movie craze of the 1950’s. Such luminaries as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas owe their careers to the phenomenon, as do such decidedly minor players as myself. While the film has not yet been completed, the producers released a theatrical trailer promoting their forthcoming documentary in the Spring. I sent the link for the trailer to Zee Bradbury, inspiring her to write back that “Dad should really be a part of this.” I telephoned Bob Tinnell on his mobile phone while he was driving in West Virginia to let him know that Ray Bradbury was interested in appearing in his film. He pulled off to the side of the road in excitement over the news. I put Bob in touch with Zee, and they arranged for Bob to come and visit Ray either in late May or early June, 2012, to interview him for the film.

In the meantime, I had spoken with Zee about my own impending return to Los Angeles in late August, 2012 and, as usual, she wrote back that her dad was excited about seeing me, and had asked her to re-arrange his schedule so that he might find the time to do so. While at work on the morning of Wednesday, June 6th, I received an E-Mail from Bob Tinnell letting me know that Ray had passed away during the night before at his home in Los Angeles. I stared at my Blackberry phone in stunned silence, unable to fully grasp the news. Ray Bradbury was gone. I began to cry. My lifelong hero and friend had died. I would no longer behold his wonderful face and childlike smile, nor would I ever again find my own hands lost in his. He had joined Forry and his other pals in what must surely be Science Fiction Heaven. Ray shared our lives and existence for an all too brief and shining moment in eternity, and now he had departed, leaving us to face a world sadly dreary in his absence.

Ray has found peace in another realm of immortality, having joined The Ghosts of Forever, and yet his work lives on beyond his fabled physical presence, and we shall continue to sing Bradbury Electric in joyful celebration and chorus for the remainder of our own solitary sojourn upon this wondrous sphere.

— Steve Vertlieb, June 2012
Contributing writer – Film Music Review

Originally published by Roger Hall in Film Music Review.

[Some of the images in the remembrance are from the author’s personal collection. Others are from online sources and no copyright infringement is intended or implied.]

A Photographic Memory

Steve Vertlieb, Ray Bradbury, Erwin Vertlieb

By Steve Vertlieb: It may not come as much of a surprise to anyone that I was a sheltered, lonely, sensitive kid.  I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands.  It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life.  The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive.  Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence.  Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television.  I can recall being transfixed by this odd, unusual box that would ultimately transfigure my identity, bridging the highway that would carry me into maturity.  I was frightened, perhaps, and uncertain of the path that lay before me.  Yet this wondrous brown box would open worlds and dimensions as yet unsuspected and unknown to me.  I would sit at its feet in the living room of the house where I grew up, staring endlessly at its darkened screen, waiting expectantly for it to come alive.  An image of an American Indian stared back at me throughout the afternoon hours, enticing me to somehow breach its invisible persona and find meaning beyond its seemingly impenetrable identity.  Then, magically each night, the screen would flicker and begin to waken, coming to life in foggy, black and white imagery that was at once both astonishing and hypnotic.  There I discovered the adventures of Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and their adventurous sidekicks.  There was also the music of Paul Whiteman and Kate Smith, as well as the unbridled hilarity of a young comedy team known as Martin and Lewis whose unrestrained anarchism exploded joyously through the screen showcasing The Colgate Comedy Hour.

Milton Berle had his adult audience on The Texaco Star Theater but reached out of the holiday shadows at Christmas time to emerge just for little children like myself as “Uncle Milty.”  There was Walt Disney and Pinky Lee, Gene Autry and Champion and many other purveyors of experimental broadcasting, but the true charm of those early impressionable years of growth and development, not only for the new medium, but for my own developmental path, was in the utterly fascinating exploration of outer space.  There was Rod Brown of the Rockets Rangers broadcast live every Saturday morning on CBS, and starring a young actor in the lead with the vaguely cavernous name of Cliff Robertson.  There was Space Patrol later in the morning sponsored by Rice Chex and Wheat Chex, airing on ABC, and starring actor Edward Kemmer as Commander Buzz Cory, fighting interstellar tyrants and extra-terrestrial creatures that kept this impressionable little boy wide eyed for countless years of his sheltered childhood.

While the new medium of television struggled to find revenue and an audience for its virtually prehistoric programming, it often rescued nineteen thirties movie serials from oblivion and introduced Larry “Buster” Crabbe to a virginal audience of innocents as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, while William Boyd strode valiantly into the saddle once more to star as the beloved cowboy hero for the ages, Hopalong Cassidy.  Dressed in black, astride his white stallion, “Topper,” “Hoppy” captured the hearts, minds, and souls of an entirely new generation in both screenings of his original Western classic films, as well as newly produced thirty minute episodes produced expressly for television.

Later came Guy Williams as Walt Disney’s swashbuckling hero, Zorro for ABC, as well as countless forgotten heroes of the so called “Baby Boomer” generation of impressionable children who grew emotionally and intellectually alongside their magical companion throughout those youthful years of development … that magic box called television.

Television or “TV,” as it came to be known protected me from the ominous dangers of societal prejudice.  I was a quiet, sensitive kid with an expansive imagination as wide at the stars.  If threats of violence came too near, or the cruelty of name calling, too emotionally shattering and disruptive endangered my world, I had only to retreat for comfort and reassuring solace to the protective universe of my tiny RCA television screen.  It was there, after all, that I rode the calamitous dusty trails of the American West alongside Hoppy, Roy, Gene, Zorro, and The Lone Ranger.  It was there that I handily escaped the earthly gravity of troubled reality, and flew to the stars and planets in rocket ships commanded by Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Buzz Cory, and Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers.

I came to cherish the faces, voices, and imagery of nearly spiritual heroism found within the magical realm of fantasy inherent in my television screen.  Later, as I grew to troubled maturity, I discovered the realization of larger than life, more spectacular dreams coming to exhilarating life on the motion picture screen.  It was there, at The Benner Theater in the Oxford Circle neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, that my dreams escaped the boundaries of the tiny box in my childhood living room, and my imagination soared to levels of profound discovery and comprehension that shaped the trajectory of my teenage years into young adulthood.

It was there that I learned to identify the names, faces, and identities of actors, actresses, writers, directors, and composers whose influence upon my life would define my own emerging identity for the rest of my life.  I began writing about my admiration and affection for these larger than life personalities in youthful journals and personal diaries at, perhaps, the tender age of seven years.  It was in 1968, at the invitation of a friend and correspondent in England, that I excitedly accepted an invitation to write for his fledgling magazine, L’Incroyable Cinema.  It was later, in 1972, that I began to write for the first time as a paid professional in the pages of New York City’s first, original, and only bi-weekly fantasy film tabloid, The Monster Times.  Since those early, impressionable years of self discovery more than fifty years ago, I’ve found my work published in relatively distinguished books, magazines, journals and, more recently, on line at a variety of film and entertainment oriented websites.

My fascination with, and adoration of, the art of motion pictures has neither abated or diminished.  That magical box and its theatrical cousin continue to nourish and tantalize my dreams and aspirations.  Along the way, I have been blessed with the gift of personal interaction with many of the artists, musicians, performers, and technicians whose incalculable contributions to the craft of cinema have shaped and inspired my life.  I can imagine no greater blessing than to have been honored by the gift of friendship given me by countless artists whose talent and influence have inspired my own singular journey across a sea of stars and time, and I remain humbled by their kindness and friendship.  In these photographs, letters, and signatures, I’ve endeavored to offer a mere suggestion of the honor that has humbly been bestowed upon me by the often selfless, kind, loving, and most gracious gift of their friendship and influence upon my life.  I shall remain forever grateful for this glorious kindness.

[Photo gallery follows the jump.]

Continue reading

Seth Macfarlane and “The Orville: New Horizons”

Steve Vertlieb and Seth MacFarlane

By Steve Vertlieb: While I’ve spent much of my seventy-six years purchasing and perusing TV Guide Magazine, and subscribing to their editorial opinions as “industry gospel,” I must vehemently part company with the opinions of their editorial board and take issue with their condemnation of the third season premiere of The Orville. Having been on hiatus for several years, moving from Fox to Hulu and laboriously filming new episodes of the series for the popular streaming service, the editorial writers for the venerable television publication condemned the premiere episode of The Orville: New Horizons for its “joyless season opener.”

It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned the program as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions.

Consequently, the long awaited third season of The Orville opened its premiere episode with a heartfelt salute to comic Norm Macdonald who had played the voice of a gelatinous member of the ship’s crew, and had sadly passed away from cancer during the show’s hiatus.

MacFarlane has long aspired to escape the self imposed boundaries of his satiric origin, and tackle more serious issues, much as his science fiction series has gradually escaped the limitations of time and space. Its season premier, “Electric Sheep,” dealt with the theological morality of an artificial intelligence deciding to take its own life for the imagined betterment of the ship’s crew, and of mankind. Mark Jackson as “Isaac” had betrayed his fellow crew members in the second season finale and gone, if you will, to “The Dark Side.” His suicidal redemption was, in a sense, an act of nobility and self sacrifice on behalf of his betrayed crew mates.

Seth MacFarlane has shown his adaptability as a creator and performer, as well as his growth and maturity as an artist. This remarkably talented writer, director, comedian, actor, and voice-over artist is also a wonderfully gifted interpreter of “The Great American Songbook.” In a delightful two hour concert at The Mann Music Center in Philadelphia during the Summer of 2014, he performed a heartfelt selection of classic Nelson Riddle/Frank Sinatra charts with amazing grace and definitive vocal prowess, leaving the packed outdoor theater’s audience screaming for more. He literally came back for something like six encores, all to the delight of everyone fortunate enough to have been in attendance.

I first encountered Seth’s beautiful voice and charming performance skills a year earlier when he appeared as the featured vocalist during a splendid John Williams concert at The Hollywood Bowl where I was honored to actually meet and speak with him back-stage after the performance. In a multi-national musical climate where mediocrity is passionately applauded and embraced, Seth MacFarlane (whose adoration of Francis Albert Sinatra, and his legacy is clearly and joyfully evident), along with his deeply personal musical persona, and sublime transformation, is like a swirling, exhilarating breath of fresh air. This was fine wine waiting to be tasted, savored, and cherished well into the gentle conclusion of a warm, romantic Summer’s evening.

In much the same spirit as his maturity has grown as a popular singer, MacFarlane’s aspirations as a serious writer and actor seem to have blossomed on his popular science fiction series. Its third season opener provided a somber, sobering look at suicide and the consequences of life taken both willingly and prematurely. The Orville has grown and matured beyond its humble, satiric beginnings and evolved into a more daring, provocative journey to worlds beyond imagining. For this valiant journey and adventure, Seth MacFarlane and his crew must be applauded.

Pixel Scroll 6/19/22 She Filed Me Into A Scroll! (I Got Better!)

(1) HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN. [Item by Meredith.] Someone(s) used the names and email addresses of several members of sf/f fandom including Paul Weimer, Patrick S Tomlinson, John Scalzi, and Adam Rakunas to send racist abuse to a black author (@fairyfemmes) through the contact form on their websites (where the email address can be entered manually). The author originally believed it was real, but is now wanting to know who is behind it. They’ve taken their account private.

John Scalzi tweeted:

Paul Weimer posted on Patreon about “The Trolls Harassing others in my name”.

The Trolls that have harassed me for years in my name have come up with a new and horrible trick–they are harassing others, in this case, a POC, and using my name to do it.  

So it’s a double whammy–to hurt someone else, and to blacken my name at the same time.

Patrick S. Tomlinson addressed a message sent under his name, and another from the person posing as Adam Rakunas.

(2) TONOPAH PROGRAM UPDATED. The most recent (June 19) Westercon 74 Program Schedule  version has downloadable PDFs of the Program Grid, which shows items by date/time/location. Click on the link.

(3) WISCON’S COVID OUTCOME. The “WisCon 2022 Post-Con COVID-19 Report” begins with a fully detailed account of the extensive COVID-19 safety measures instituted by the committee, then assesses the results. 

…Two weeks out from the end of the convention, we are stopping our case tracking efforts. While it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether some members arrived sick, contracted COVID-19 during travel to/from, or contracted COVID-19 at the con, we can, with much gratitude, report that we had a total reported count of 13 cases including one possible false positive, or 3% of our estimated 407 in-person attendance. That’s just about miraculous.

We want to especially extend our thanks to those who tested positive very soon after arriving and took the necessary measures to take care of themselves and keep those around them safe, up to and including leaving the convention entirely. We know it must have been so gut-wrenching and disappointing. Thank you….

(4) STOP DISCOUNTING CRAFTSMANSHIP. Mark Lawrence reacts to a viral tweet by someone who rates books highly for other things than good writing in “I don’t care how good a writer you are…”

…It’s as if people are celebrating the idea that writing doesn’t matter and that “good writing” is some form of intellectual elitism that doesn’t have anything to do with them. They’re death metal fans and they don’t care about opera.

But that is, of course, nonsense. It’s akin to saying “I don’t care how good a brain surgeon you are, as long as you get this tumour out.” “I don’t care how good a mechanic you are, as long as you fix my car.” Sure, the end is the thing that’s important to you … but the end is generally strongly correlated with the means….

(5) SCARE PALS. Adrienne Celt advises New York Times Magazine readers that “You Need a Horror Movie Friend for a More Frightening, Less Lonely Life”.

… A lot of people hate horror movies, but I don’t. In fact, I frequently find myself strong-arming my friends and loved ones into watching something scarier than they would prefer, just for the company. It’s a difference of philosophy as much as a difference in taste. Horror deniers often claim there’s nothing emotionally valuable in the experience of being frightened. I disagree. When I first watched “The Last Unicorn” (a horror movie masquerading as a children’s cartoon) at age 8, the image of a naked harpy devouring a witch was burned into my brain, but so was the realization that the conditions that created the harpy also allowed for the unicorn. The existence of horror is inevitably proximate to the existence of wondrous possibility.

Meeting another person who loves horror as much as I do, then, is like meeting a fellow traveler from my home country while stuck somewhere distant and strange….

(6) A LOT TO LIKE. Rich Horton continues his project of filling in the historic blank spaces with “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1954” at Strange at Ecbatan.

… This was a remarkable year for SF novels, and the five that I list as nominees — the same list the Retro Hugo nominators picked — are all certified classics in the field. There some impressive alternate choices too — among those I list, Leiber’s The Sinful Ones (an expansion and in my opinion an improvement on his 1950 short novel “You’re All Alone”) is a personal favorite. In my Locus article I picked The Caves of Steel as the winner, but I’m really torn. Nowadays I might lean to either More Than Human, or to the Retro Hugo winner, Fahrenheit 451….

(7) REREADING PRATCHETT. Nicholas Whyte discusses “Mort, by Terry Pratchett” at From the Heart of Europe.

…You’ve read it too, so I won’t go on at length. It is as funny as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised on re-reading by the breadth and depth of references to classic (and Classical) literature. The main driver of the Sto Lat subplot, the rewriting of history and destiny, is actually more of a science fiction trope, rarely found in fantasy (and the description of it is fairly sfnal). And Death’s slogan resonates still for me, 35 years on.

THERE’S NO JUSTICE. THERE’S JUST ME.

(8) A VISION FOR SF. Pop quiz: What editor’s name immediately comes to your mind when you read the statement that Astounding shaped modern science fiction? My guess is it won’t be the name that came to Colin Marshall’s mind when he wrote this post for Open Culture: “Revisit Vintage Issues of Astounding Stories, the 1930s Magazine that Gave Rise to Science Fiction as We Know It”.

Having been putting out issues for 92 years now, Analog Science Fiction and Fact stands as the longest continuously published magazine of its genre. It also lays claim to having developed or at least popularized that genre in the form we know it today. When it originally launched in December of 1929, it did so under the much more whiz-bang title of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. But only three years later, after a change of ownership and the installation as editor of F. Orlin Tremaine, did the magazine begin publishing work by writers remembered today as the defining minds of science fiction….

(9) HAPPY 90TH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur celebrates John Williams’s 90th birthday with recommendations about his orchestral music to try (ever heard his flute concerto or his violin concerti?) “Composer John Williams being feted with performances at Kennedy Center”.

… For “John Williams: A 90th Birthday Gala,” conductor Stéphane Denève will lead the NSO in a sprawling celebration of Willams’s famed film music. Special guests cellist Yo-Yo Ma, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will cue up selections from some of Williams’s most beloved scores, including “Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Harry Potter,” “Indiana Jones” and “Schindler’s List.” The program will also highlight Williams’s most recently lauded work, the score to Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane’s Oscar-winning 2017 short film “Dear Basketball.

A pair of companion concerts flanking the gala celebration will focus on two of Williams’s best-known scores — representing a fraction of his 29 collaborations with Spielberg. (Their latest project, “The Fabelmans,” is due out in November). Steven Reineke will conduct the composer’s scores for “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” on June 22 and 24, respectively. (The NSO will also perform Williams’s score for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” with a screening of the film at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on July 29.)

Taken together, the birthday party is three days of music that will hit all the subconscious buttons that Williams has wired into our collective memories over the past five decades — a rich catalogue of instantly identifiable melodies, moods and motifs that can conjure entire worlds with the stroke of a bow.

The party, however, conspicuously forgot to invite Williams’s concert music — the province of his output that truly opened my ears to his compositional mastery. (It also leaves out selections from “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a deep cut that represents some of his best work with Spielberg, but that’s another story.)

I get it. We have come to equate Williams with Hollywood so closely that it can be hard to fathom him freed of cinema’s frame.

But in Williams’s many concertos, chamber works and solo pieces, his familiar compositional voice is fully present, albeit put to completely different use. His connections to multiple classical traditions register more clearly: his Berg-ian penchant for darkness and dissonance, his Copland-esque ease with evoking natural grandeur, his inheritance of gestures from Debussy, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Korngold.

Here are some of my favorite Williams works that have nothing to do with the movies — and have a lot more depth than you might expect from a composer we associate with the silver screen….

One of the pieces Michael Andor Brodeur recommended of John Williams was his “Fanfare For Fenway” so here it is as Williams and the Boston Pops perform the world premiere at Fenway Park in 2012.

(10) THINK FAST. Deadline calls it “Zaslav’s First Movie Crisis: What To Do With Ezra Miller, The Erratic Star Of Warner Bros’ $200M ‘Flash’ Franchise Launch”

Even though it isn’t on the Warner Bros release calendar until June 23, 2023, The Flash is becoming Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s first movie crisis, because of the escalating coverage of incidents of volatile and odd behavior involving the film’s star, Ezra Miller.

Zaslav has made clear his desire to grow the DC Universe to MCU scale and has all the ingredients of a first foot forward in The Flash, including the return of Michael Keaton as Batman along with a reprise by Ben Affleck, a $200 million budget and a hot director in Andy Muschietti, who delivered the blockbuster It for the studio. The Warner Bros Discovery CEO exercised his well known penchant for micro-management by declining to greenlight Wonder Twins for being too niche. Zaslav will have to soon make a decision of what to do with the completed picture that is The Flash, and what to do with a young actor who appears to have serious off-set issues….

(11) VERTLIEB MEDICAL NEWS. Steve Vertlieb is home after his fifth hospital stay of the year. He brings everyone up-to-date in “Back To The Suture 3” on Facebook.

… Days upon days of antibiotic treatment were required before they dared to open the wound and clean out the bacteria. This additional procedure was accomplished on Monday, June 13th.

Consequently, I was admitted yet again to the cardiac unit where I remained for nine days more until my delayed and eventual release this afternoon. I’ve a “Wound V.A.C.” attached to my groin where it hangs rather uncomfortably, and shall continue to do so for, perhaps, the next week or two. I’m home once more, and praying that this is where I shall be permitted at long last to remain….

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forbidden Planet debuted sixty years ago on this date in the United Kingdom. I had the extremely good fortune of seeing Forbidden Planet at one of those boutique cinema houses some four decades back. Great sound and print, and a respectful audience who were there to see the film so everyone paid attention to it. 

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack who had no genre background and who would die of a heart attack, age forty-nine just two years later. It was directed by Fred Wilcox, best known for Lassie, Come Home. The script was written by Cyril Hume who had prior to this written scripts for two Tarzan films. It is said that is based off “The Tempest” as conceived in a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. Huh. 

I’ll skip the cast other than Robbie the Robot. He cost at least one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to produce, and was based off the design originating with ideas and sketches by production designer Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie, art director Arthur Lonergan, and writer Irving Block. Robbie was operated (uncredited at the time) by stuntmen Frankie Darro and Frankie Carpenter, both rather short actors. And his voice in the film was done in post-production by actor Marvin Miller. 

The budget was about two million of which it was later estimated that Robbie was actually well over ten percent of that because of the cost of Miller’s time which added considerably to his cost. It made two point eight million, so yes it lost money. 

So what did the critics think? Variety thought it had “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the production a top offering in the space travel category” while the Los Angeles Times thought it was “more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.’” 

It has a most stellar eighty-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 — Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which included some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 — Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two very low budget TV horror films in the late Sixties that don’t show up on Rotten Tomatoes, appear to be his first venture into our realm. And no, I can’t say I’ve seen either one of them. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later which gets a most excellent seventy-eight rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. (No, don’t ask what they got for ratings. Please don’t ask.) Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (It’s Moore, again don’t ask.) (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 — Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman : Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available from the usual suspects though Cora can read him in German. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 — Salman Rushdie, 75. I strongly believe that everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (So let the arguments begin on that statement as they will.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories which I essayed here. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1952 — Virginia Hey, 70. Best remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fantastic Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it, so who has? 
  • Born June 19, 1957 — Jean Rabe, 65. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written at least five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. She has won the Internation Assoication of Media Tie-In Writers’ Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark celebrates Fathers Day.
  • zach can foretell the present!

(15) OVERCOMER. [Item by Steven French.] Interesting interview with Sarah Hall, author of plague novel Burntcoat (not sure writing a book during the pandemic is quite comparable to what Sarah Connor did but ok …) “Sarah Hall: ‘I used to almost fear opening a book’”.

When did you begin writing Burntcoat?
On the first day of the first lockdown in March 2020, with notebooks and a pen, which I’d not done since my first novel, 20 years ago. It felt like a response to what was going on – this odd scribbling in the smallest room in the house, really early in the morning when it was quiet and eerie.

And you kept it up even while home schooling your daughter?
There was some part of me that thought: “This is just one more thing that’s going to make it difficult to work and I’m going to do it anyway.” I was anxious, but I’m a single parent and I go into, as I call it, Sarah Connor mode from The Terminator: it’s out there, here’s my child, what do I need to do? Get buff! I got pains in my hand because I wasn’t used to writing so much.

(16) WACKY WIKI. If for any reason you were wondering whether Vox Day’s Infogalactic is still around, Camestos Felapton permitted his eyeballs to be stabbed with its content in order to research this post: “Incredibly, Voxopedia is still running”.

(17) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, A.A. Dowd celebrates the 40th anniversary of E.T., saying the film “has the simplicity of a fable and the texture of ordinary American life.” “’E.T.,’ 40 years later, is still the most soulful of box-office sensations”.

… Not that the movie subscribes to the idea of adolescence as a carefree, unburdened time. By now, it’s conventional wisdom that “E.T.” grew out of Spielberg’s memories of his emotionally fraught teenage years. The director modeled his title character on a real imaginary friend he came up with to cope with his parents’ divorce. As written by Melissa Mathison, who combined elements from two scrapped Spielberg projects, the film became a melancholy fantasy deeply haunted by parental absence. At heart, it’s about a broken nuclear family trying to piece itself back together….

(18) WHO NEEDS SPECIAL EFFECTS? Gizmodo is delighted that “Doctor Strange 2 Gets a Dance-Heavy Blooper Reel Before Disney+ Drop”.

… Beyond that, it’s funny to watch the cast’s long capes and skirts get stuck in the scenery and have them try to fight off errant leaves as they wave their arms around doing pretend magic.

(19) A COMMERCIAL MESSAGE FROM OUR FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Estonian company Milrem Robotics has joined with a partner company (who supplied the 30 mm autocanon) to demonstrate what their “Type-X“ armored, uncrewed, AI-powered Robotic Combat Vehicle could do if outfitted as a tank. “Robot Tank Firing at Cars and Other Targets Is the Stuff of Nightmares” at Autoevolution.

The disastrous use of tanks by the Russians in Ukraine isn’t stopping defense contractors from researching such platforms, though. Of course, even if they look like traditional tanks, these new machines are as modern as they get.

Take the so-called Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, developed over in Europe by Milrem Robotics and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. That would be an autonomous, AI-governed, tracked vehicle that could become a common presence on the battlefields of tomorrow….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Meredith, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/22 Don’t Step On My Blue Suede Stepping Disks

(1) RUSSIA PUTS SF WRITER ON WANTED LIST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Popular Russian science fiction author Dmitry Glukhovsky has been put on a list for prosecution based on his anti-war comments. He’s one of the first major figures to be targeted under a new law in Russia that criminalizes opposition to the war in Ukraine. “Russia Adds Popular Sci-Fi Writer to Its Wanted List” on Reuters.

 “Stop the war! Admit that this is a war against an entire nation and stop it!” he wrote on Instagram. (The post is here. It’s in Russian.) 

Russia on Tuesday placed Dmitry Glukhovsky, a popular science fiction writer, on its wanted list after accusing him of spreading false information about its military intervention in Ukraine.

…The Interior Ministry’s website listed Glukhovsky, best known for the “Metro 2033” sci-fi novel and its sequels, as wanted under an unspecified article of the criminal code.

Russia has already targeted opposition figures and journalists with a law seeking jail terms of up to 15 years for those convicted of intentionally spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.

Glukhovsky is the first major cultural figure to be put on the wanted list due to the new law, adopted days after Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24….

Glukhovsky is not in Russia according to the BBC.

(2) PIX THAT SELL TIX. In “‘Prey’: Intense New Trailer Brings Back the Predator in Ferocious, Deadly Fashion”, Variety introduces the trailer.

From 20th Century Studios, the newest installment in the “Predator” saga features a face-off between the alien super-hunter and the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Throughout the two-minute trailer, viewers get to see the Predator in full apex-hunter mode, murdering bears with ease, showing off its skilled hand-to-hand combat and invisibly chasing down human prey through a field.

“Prey” is set to follow the story of a young Comanche woman, Naru, played by Amber Midthunder. The vicious and deadly warrior sets out to protect her people from the horrifying killing machine, vowing that she can kill the creature. Of course, that task is easier said than done. Nevertheless, Naru must use wit and intense skill to stand a chance against the ancient alien being.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg of “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “The Boys,” the filmmakers behind “Prey” aimed to create an accurate portrayal of the Comanche. The film thus features numerous Native American identities in front of and behind the camera, including Native Comanche producer Jhane Myers and a cast made up almost entirely of Native and First Nations talent. Joining Midthunder is Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp and Julian Black Antelope. Dane DiLiegro plays the Predator….

(3) WOODEN YOU LIKE TO BE A PEPPER TOO? Joan Acocello explores “The Transformations of Pinocchio” in The New Yorker. “How Carlo Collodi’s puppet took on a life of his own.”

Of the half-dozen or so films that turned Walt Disney, in the public’s mind, from the father of Mickey Mouse to the creator of the animated fairy-tale feature—thereby making his work a fixture in the imaginative life of almost every American child—“Pinocchio” (1940) feels like the odd one out. Many people say it is their least favorite. It is surely the most frightening. Go to anyone you know who was in grammar school in the nineteen-forties and fifties and ask, What was the Disney movie that scared you the most? Was it “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), where the evil queen falls off a cliff to her death? (Dr. Benjamin Spock once wrote that all the seats in the vast auditorium of Radio City Music Hall had to be reupholstered because so many children wet their pants while watching the film.) Well, what about “Dumbo” (1941), where the baby elephant has to watch as his mother is whipped and chained, howling for her child? O.K., what about “Bambi” (1942), where the fawn’s mother is shot to death a few feet away from him? You can’t beat that, can you?

But, for some reason, “Pinocchio” does. Perhaps the answer lies not in any one scene but in the movie’s over-all bleakness….

(4) FREE READ. Issue 5 of Whetstone Magazine of Sword and Sorcery is now available, and Cora Buhlert has a story called “Village of the Unavenged Dead” in it. There also are stories by G.T. Wilcox, Michael Burke, George Jacobs, Dariel Quiogue, T.A. Markitan, Robert O’Leary, Charles Dooley, Jason M. Waltz, Gregory D. Mele, H.R. Laurence, Anthony Perconti, Chuck Clark, Nathaniel Webb, Patrick Groleau, J. Thomas Howard, B. Harlan Crawford, Rev. Joe Kelly, Rett Weissenfels and Scott Oden as well as an evocative cover by Carlos Castilho. And it’s 100% free.

 (5) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Vertlieb, who made it through heart surgery, told Facebook friends his recovery from another procedure to fix a pseudoaneurysm and blood clot is not going well and will require more work by the surgeon.

I remain in a weakened and fragile condition due to these latest setbacks. My vital signs for my heart and lungs appear strong, however. Everyone’s continued prayer support would be deeply and most genuinely appreciated. Thanks most sincerely.

(6) OH, YOU RASCAL! John Scalzi will do it his way. Of course!

(7) SHALLOWFAKE. How a crisis actor conspiracy theory rises in times of tragedy: “Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the Man in This Photo” says the New York Times.

In the outpouring of grief immediately after the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, posts appeared on Twitter and other social media platforms about a man named “Bernie.” He was a teacher at Robb Elementary School who died sheltering his students from gunfire, the posts said. Many of the posts included a picture of a grinning, bearded man in glasses.

Some commenters piped up, saying they had seen that face, and that name, before.

On that point, they were right. “Bernie” and the photograph had appeared before on some Twitter accounts that looked as if they were from news organizations like CNN, Fox News and the BBC. One of those accounts said the man was a journalist executed in Kabul by the Taliban. A second one said he was an activist killed in Ukraine by a mine planted by Russian-backed separatists. A third said he was murdered in last month’s massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo.

For those inclined toward conspiracy theories, the conclusion was obvious: “Bernie” was a so-called crisis actor, employed by the left to drum up sympathy for causes like gun control. His repeated appearances were used to prop up theories that major tragedies were hoaxes and that the mainstream media was complicit.

On all those points, the conspiracy theorists were wrong. There is no “Bernie,” he’s not a crisis actor, and news organizations are not behind the posts. And the photo? It is of a 36-year-old online gamer, Jordie Jordan. He’s alive, and he had nothing to do with the posts.

Instead, the posts are part of a yearslong harassment campaign against him, taking place on online platforms like Twitter, Reddit and Discord….

…Mr. Jordan, who streams himself playing video games on YouTube under the Wings of Redemption handle, has nearly 440,000 subscribers. He began playing Call of Duty for an online audience in 2008, after losing a job at a steel mill. Before that, he regularly appeared on a podcast, where he attracted some criticism for his statements, including some homophobic and racial slurs, and comments in support of lowering the age of consent. “I have apologized profusely for the error of my juvenile thought process and live with the ramification of that every day,” he said, attributing the comments to his “shock jock” routine.

He said he had first learned of the “Bernie” meme from Reddit posts in 2020. The photo that is used is a selfie he took on his front porch in 2018 and posted on Twitter….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [By Cat Eldridge.] If you had HBO back a quarter of a century ago on this night, you might have seen the first episode of the Perversions Of Science series. It is a spin-off of the horror series Tales from the Crypt, another HBO series, and like that series, all of its episodes were based on EC Comics’s Incredible Science FictionWeird Fantasy and Weird Science books.

William Gaines, the publisher and co-editor of EC Comics, gets credit as creator of this series. 

Perversion of Science is hosted by a computer-generated female robot named Chrome which is voiced by Maureen Teefy. Chrome both introduces the story and adds a coda. Unlike the Crypt Keeper who was decidedly grim, Chrome preferred a light banter with element of sex tossed in. 

There was but one season of ten episodes — unlike Tales from the Crypt which lasted seven seasons and eighty-nine episodes. It was supposed to be pure SF with the added elements being HBO of graphic violence, nudity, profanity and sex. I did say it was HBO. 

It really had a lot of well-know performers — Will Wheaton, William Shatner, Sean Astin, Jeffery Coombs, Yancy Butler and Keith Carradine are but some of the actors you’ll recognize there.

The stories I remember as being, well, not bad, not great. HBO never did really get the jones for doing true SF. They were more comfortable with horror. A lot more comfortable. 

As Chris Varner of Dallas Morning anew summed up neatly: “The formula goes something like this: Take liberties with sex and psychopaths whenever possible and let the plot chips fall where they may. ADVERTISEMENT  Unfortunately, they tend to fall in big, ungainly heaps. No one expects Serling-esque profundity from an after-hours HBO fantasy. But with only one of the first four episodes transcending the series’ comic-book source material, the future of Science looks dim.”

It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes because to my knowledge it was never released on any digital media, and it’s not available anywhere to buy, rent or stream anywhere. I think they put it back in the vault and decided to keep it there.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 7, 1915 Graham J. Ingels. Illustrator best remembered for his work in EC Comics during the Fifties, most notably on The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. He illustrated one genre magazine, Planet Stories cover as you can see here. Though he didn’t do any other covers, he was a regular interior artist for both Planet Stories and Planet Comics. (Died 1991.)
  • Born June 7, 1932 Kit Reed. Her first short story, “The Wait” (1958), was published by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She would write more stories than I care to count over her career for which she was nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award three times. I’m not at all familiar with her novels, so do tell me about them please. The usual suspects now have a generous amount of her fiction available which wasn’t true a few years ago. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 7, 1937 Jack Zipes, 85. A truly amazing academic who once royally irritated a friend of mine for having an unrelentingly negative attitude towards Walt Disney whose films, he believes, corrupted the original works of folklorists such as Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Disney, according to Zipes, completely distorted those stories. Need I add that friend lived near Disney World and had met Disney more than once? I like him and think that he’s a folklorist of the first order. His Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales is required reading for anyone interested in that subject, and if can accept if his anti-Disney bias, The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films is fascinating reading. Again setting aside that matter of the anti-Disney bias, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales, Children, and the Culture Industry is really great reading. He did a lot of fairy tale anthologies of which I’ll single out Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves and Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic French Fairy Tales. Both are most excellent reading. 
  • Born June 7, 1952 Liam Neeson, 70. He first shows up in genre films as Gawain in Excalibur and as Kegan in Krull. He plays Martin Brogan In High Spirits, a film I enjoy immensely. Next up is the title role in Darkman, a film I’ve watched myriad times. He’s Dr. David Marrow In The Haunting which I’d contend is loosely off of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Now we get him as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Followed unfortunately by his horrid take as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and as a cameo in The Dark Knight RisesNow he voiced Aslan with amazing dignity in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise and I hope voiced Zeus as well in the Titans franchise. Recently he showed up on The Orvillle — who hasn’t? — as Jahavus Dorahl in “If the Stars Should Appear” episode. He’s in the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series as Qui-Gon Jinn in two episodes by using archive material and in the Tales of the Jedi series voicing the same character.  
  • Born June 7 1954, Louise Erdrich, 68. Writer of novels, poetry, and children’s books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Her genre work includes according to ISFDB the Ojibwe series of The Antelope Wife, a work which won a World Fantasy Award, and The Painted Drum, plus stand-alone novels of The Crown of Columbus (co-written with her husband Michael Dorris) and Future Home of the Living God. She’s amply stocked at the usual suspects at reasonable prices.
  • Born June 7, 1955 Mark Schultz, 67. His best work I think is his own written-and-largely-illustrated-by-him Xenozoic Tales book series about a post-apocalyptic world where dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures coexist with humans. He’s done more mainstream work including Star Wars and Aliens (Dark Horse), The Flash (DC) and Prince Valiant currently at King Features.
  • Born June 7, 1960 Bill Prady, 62. Impressively, he’s co-creator with Chuck Lorre of The Big Bang Theory and The Muppets series which he did in 2015 with Bob Kushell. Well maybe not impressively in the case of the second… He wrote one episode of Voyager, “Bliss”.  And he’s the writer of a Munsters film I’ve never heard of, Here Come the Munsters.
  • Born June 7, 1968 Sarah Parish, 54. In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. 

(10) UNICORN RETURNING. Paste Magazine boats an “Exclusive Cover Reveal: Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn Reissued in Author’s Preferred Text Edition”. See the design at the link.

…Though the new edition of The Last Unicorn will officially arrive on July 26, 2022, we can exclusively reveal its (gorgeous!) new cover below….

(11) WHEN IT’S EASY BEING GREEN. Quartz offers an explanation why green screens are – guess what color? — in “A brief history of green screens”.

Where would Superman be without the red flutter of his cape, the yellow light of Earth’s sun—and the green screen behind him? The green screen never makes it into the movies, of course; it’s replaced by a sky full of stars, or the skyline of Metropolis. For more than a century, filmmakers have been using the “green screen” technique—or, to be precise, chroma key compositing—to allow us to believe that their actors are doing the impossible. That they’re soaring above the Earth, or investigating a crime in Toontown, or assembling the Avengers, or encountering a T. rex.

In fact, green-screen filmmaking is so easy—and, studio execs will admit thankfully, so cheap—that it’s even used for less fantastic scenes. Men getting out of a car near a motel in David Fincher’s series MindhunterGreen screen: there was no motel, just a sign on a studio set in front of a big ol’ screen of green. Man explaining the cold front on the nightly news? Green screen. It’s gotten to the point where not using green screens, as in the recently released (and box office smash) Top Gun: Maverick, is a matter of sweaty, hard-working pride.

So where did the green screen come from? And why is it so popular? And most importantly: why is it green?….

(12) QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie found a video of the “Platinum Party at the Palace” that is watchable outside the UK. He advises, “For optimal viewing include one large mug of builders tea and/or pint real ale served at cellar temperature (4 – 5’C) and commence viewing 1 hour 50 minutes before sunset (to get a feel of the live experience).”

(13) YIKES. Meanwhile, Cliff photographed this off-trail celebration of the Jubilee: “Imagine my wife and I’s surprise when, during a hospital visit, we stumbled upon the lair of the Lich Queen of Chelsea And Westminster!”

(14) CLASSIC BRICKWORK. “The Vincent van Gogh ‘Starry Night’ LEGO Set Is Now Available: It’s Created in Collaboration with MoMA” reports Open Culture.

…A collaboration between MoMA and LEGO, the set reinterprets Van Gogh’s thick impasto brushwork in 2316 tiny plastic bricks, including a mini figure of the artist, equipped with paintbrush, palette, easel, and an adjustable arm for positioning him at sufficient distance to gain perspective on his world famous work.

… The set is the winning entry in a LEGO Ideas competition. Designer Truman Cheng, a 25-year-old LEGO fan and PhD candidate focusing on  medical robotics and magnetic controlled surgical endoscopes. He had long wanted to render The Starry Night in LEGO, but its execution required a lightbulb moment…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Fantastic Beasts:  The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the Screen Junkies say the film has “magic politics” and “Magic black-site prisons and execution chambers” that “bleeds the child-like wonder from this franchise like a necromancer’s jacuzzi.”  But what glop is in this film that reminds the narrator of “The Mexican pizza at Taco Bell?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Jan Vaněk jr, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cliff, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]