By Steve Vertlieb: After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, followed by Wide Country on NBC.
Over the ensuing years, as I matured physically and John matured musically, I grew to love the man and his music. I sensed a new maturity in his music with the release of the TV adaptation of Jane Eyre featuring George C Scott. I recall being thrilled on New Year’s Eve when going to a first night screening of The Poseidon Adventure, and hearing his expansive themes for the thrilling finale and end titles. By the time that I’d both heard and seen The Towering Inferno, I’d become convinced that John Williams had stunningly evolved into one of the screen’s greatest composers.
Then came Jaws, and a minor space opus called Star Wars, for which he won an Academy Award for the year’s best score. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman (which old friend Ron Borst called “John Williams’ Christmas gift to the world”), the Indiana Jones trilogy, E.T.,JFK, Born On The Fourth of July, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Space Camp, Hook, Home Alone, War Horse, and so many other glorious themes and scores followed, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind that John Williams, along with Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Victor Young, Hugo Friedhofer, Elmer Bernstein, Alex North, John Barry, Henry Mancini, and Jerry Goldsmith, had become one of the screen’s premiere composers of the past ninety years.
I’d tried for decades to meet John, and yet it seemed that it might never happen. Beaten back time after time … Close Encounter after Close Encounter … I’d given up my dreams of meeting this joyous soul… and then, just a few months after enduring nearly six hours on the operating table during major open heart surgery, I received a message of hope from Juliet Rozsa. My brother had chosen to reward me for surviving, and embracing life once more, by having me visit him in Los Angeles for my first visit West in thirty years. Juliet had graciously promised to try to arrange for a meeting between my last living life long hero and I.
This particular evening with John in his dressing room, backstage at The Hollywood Bowl in August, 2010, was one of the greatest, most exciting nights of my life. My eyes filled with tears as I approached him and, thanks to the kind and generous friendship of Juliet Rozsa, I’d move from death’s door and finality to the smiles and warm embrace of “America’s Composer,” John Williams.
God Bless You, Maestro. Thank You So Very Much for the wonder and beauty that you’ve brought to my life, and for your most gracious generosity and kindness. Wishing you health, love, happiness, and continued artistic brilliance in this, your 90th year.
By Steve Vertlieb: Boris Karloff remains the definition and symbol of cinema’s classic age of “Horror.”
He was a gentle giant who charmed children of all ages, while thrilling their parents in beloved tales of classic terror. The wonderful Boris Karloff was born on November 23rd, 1887, and is the subject of a new, full length, screen documentary, written and produced by Ronald Maccloskey, entitled Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The “Monster”.
“Karloff, The Uncanny” became Frankenstein’s “Monster” to generations of adoring movie goers but, at his core, was a cultured gentleman, loving father, and hard working performer who co-created the legendary Screen Actor’s Guild in his quest for equal rights for actors all over the world.
His cinematic legacy is incalculable. William Henry Pratt was a cultured, lovely soul whose presence enriched the timeless fabric of motion pictures, television, radio, and the Broadway stage, and became the most enduringly beloved actor in the checkered history of classic “Horror Films.” Read my affectionate remembrance of this gentle giant … the undisputed “King of Horror” …the one and only Boris Karloff at The Thunder Child: “Vertlieb’s Views: The Life of Boris Karloff”.
(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Meg Elison and Clay McLeod Chapman on Wednesday, October 12, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Meg Elison is a Philip K. Dick and Locus award winning author, as well as a Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Otherwise finalist. A prolific short story writer and essayist, Elison has been published in Slate, McSweeney’s, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fangoria, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and many other places. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley.
Clay McLeod Chapman
Clay McLeod Chapman writes books, comic books, children’s books, and for film and television. His upcoming novel Ghost Eaters hit shelves on September 20th, from Quirk Books. He lives in Brooklyn.
Masks welcome at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).
(2) THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] This somber new three part documentary by film maker Ken Burns is among the most sobering, heartbreaking, and horrifying indictments of humanity that I have ever encountered. It was extremely difficult to watch but, as an American Jew, mere hours away from the start of Yom Kippur, I remain struck by the similarities between the rise in Fascism in the early nineteen thirties, leading to the beginnings of Nazism in Germany, and the attempted decimation of the Jewish people in Europe and throughout the world, with the repellant echoes of both racial and religious intolerance, and the mounting hatred and suspicion of the Jewish communities and population residing presently in my own country of birth, these United States.
I am reminded of the disturbing adage that “those who forget the lessons (and atrocities against mankind) of the past are condemned to repeat them. While I have struggled these many years to keep my observations and postings limited to appreciations of films, music, and the arts, I can no longer, in clean conscience, remain silent as the clear signs of domestic and international Fascism are once again on the rise.
Perhaps these concerns have no place in this setting and personalized forum, but I can no longer keep silent as the horrific remnants of Nazism and racial genocide reach out their despicable tentacles from the graves of millions once more, threatening to consume both America and our planet in the decimation of freedom by the frightened zealots of bigotry, stupidity, and arrogance.
The warning signs are unmistakable as fear and hatred threaten enlightenment, while intolerance escalates alarmingly among those broadcasting their supposed patriotism as an end to democracy in what was once proclaimed as “The Land of the Free, and The Home of the Brave.” Intolerance must not be permitted to cloak itself yet again in the guise of patriotism to the detriment of free thought and speech.
We alone are responsible for the course and degree of our own success or failure. No other people or group can truly symbolize or camouflage our personal dissatisfactions. To hide our grievances and individual frailty beneath the cloak of blame is not only dishonest, but cowardly. For America to thrive and endure, freedom of expression, as well as the embrace and cultivation of our differences, is essential if we are, indeed, to survive the smoldering, unforgiving passage of time.
As a lifelong reader of all things folklorish and fantastical, like many of my American contemporaries, I grew up on a diet of European tales and legends—a satisfying but ultimately limited fare. These days readers have an enormous range of stories to delight them as contemporary fantasy engages with an ever-widening pool of cultural sources that encompass the world’s collective mythologies. This season publishers have presented readers with a veritable feast for the imaginative mind….
Illustrator Joseph Namara Hollis has won the 2022 Klaus Flugge Prize for Pierre’s New Hair, illustrator Joseph Namara Hollis, editor Emilia Will, designer Jade Wheaton (Tate Museum).
The book is described as being “about a bear obsessed with looking good but also desperate to show the world his roller-skating flair.”
In accepting the award—which is personally funded by Klaus Flugge rather than by the Andersen Press that Flugge founded—Hollis is quoted, saying, “Winning the Klaus Flugge Prize is invigorating.
… Hollis wins the program’s purse of £5,000 (US$5,555) and helps bring needed attention to the work of illustrators—like translators, far too often overlooked for their critical importance to publishing. …
(5) MIGHTY STEEDS. File 770’s coverage of the National Toy Hall of Fame and the comments from Breyer horse fan Cat Rambo and Masters of the Universe fan Cora Buhlert caught the eye of the Breyer History Diva: “Test Color Bears and Other Dreams”.
…A discussion about Breyer on a Science-Fiction Fandom news web site!?! If some of the names are not familiar to you, Cat Rambo was President of the SFWA from 2015-2019, and Cora Buhlert just won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer….
(6) MEMORY LANE.
1972 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Ngaio Marsh’s Tied Up in Tinsel (1972)
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I am very fond of British Country House mysteries, be the written form such as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (which yes I know has became several excellent filmed versions including one with the beloved David Suchet) or filmed works such as Robert Altman’s rather good Gosford Park.
Fifty years ago this year, Ngaio Marsh’s Tied in Tinsel was published by the Collins Crime Club. It was the twenty-seventh novel to feature Inspector Roderick Alleyn. It was late in the series, so there would only be five more as she’d live but a decade more.
(Lovely title, eh? Guaranteed to catch the eye of the shopper in a bookstore nigh unto Christmastime when they’re desperately shopping for that mystery lover they’re buying for as you can see from the image below with its excellent design on the Collins Crime Club edition. Very Christmasy I’d say.)
In a brief recapping that really has no spoilers to speak of, his wife Troy Alleyn is at Hilary Bill-Tasman’s manor for Christmas time to paint a portrait of her husband and, while she’s there take part in the Christmas festivities that includes a Pageant along with the other guests who being in a Marsh novel are, to put it mildly, rather eccentric. Troy is enjoying these festivities until one of the Pageant’s players wanders off into the bitterly cold, snowy night. So her husband, Sir Roderick Alleyn is called upon to figure out what happened.
I liked it. It is a light affair I grant you, but it is a perfectly done Christmas Manor House mystery that any fan of Golden Age mysteries will no doubt enjoy very much.
For reasons I’ve never figured out, she is considered a second rate mystery author when compared to Agatha Christie when I think is very, very unfair. (Reviews of her writings are often exceedingly harsh.) She’s just as good a writer as Christie was. I wonder if a large part of that bias was based in her not being properly British as she from New Zealand originally. British readers and critics can be harshly xenophobic.
The Blackstone edition audio version as narrated by Wanda McCaddon is available to Audible members for free. Need I say that’ll I will be listening to it? It’ll be interesting to see how it comes across as an audio drama.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 2, 1911 — Jack Finney. Author of many novels but only a limited number of them genre, to wit The Body Snatchers, Time and Again and From Time to Time. He would publish About Time, a short story collection which has the time stories, “The Third Level” and “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime”. The film version of The Body Snatchers was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon ‘79. He has a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 1995.)
Born October 2, 1919 — Edward Wellen. Mostly remembered for the most excellent mysteries he wrote in great number that showed up in the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and other outlets. He’s here because he wrote an ongoing column in Galaxy called Spoofs with first one in July entitled “Origins of Galactic Slang”. It was followed by similar Galactic Origins well call them for lack of a better term spoofs over the following decade. He wrote a fair amount of short fiction, all if it quite good, most, if not all, is collected in two digital Golden Age Metapacks. (Died 2011.)
Born October 2, 1932 — Edmund Crispin. He’s well remembered and definitely still read for his most excellent Gervase Fen mystery series. It turns out that he was the editor of the Best SF anthology series that ran off and on between 1955 and 1972. Writers such as Kuttner, Moore, Blish, Bradbury and Von Vogt had stories there. These anthologies alas to my knowledge are not available digitally or in hard copy. (Died 1978.)
Born October 2, 1944 — Vernor Vinge, 78. Winner of five Hugo Awards, though what I consider his best series, the Realtime/Bobble series, was not one of them. And he won the Robert Heinlein Award in 2020. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge.
Born October 2, 1948 — Avery Brooks, 74. Obviously he’s got his Birthday write-up for being Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine, but I’m going to note his superb work also as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk which are aren’t even tangentially genre adjacent. He retired from acting after DS9 but is an active tenured theater professor at Rutgers.
Born October 2, 1950 — Ian McNeice, 72. Prime Minister Churchill / Emperor Winston Churchill on Doctor Who in “The Beast Below,” “Victory of the Daleks,” “The Pandorica Opens,” and “The Wedding of River Song,” all Eleventh Doctor stories. He was an absolutely perfect Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune series. And he voiced Kwaltz in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Born October 2, 1953 – Walter Jon Williams, 69. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be that SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few Awards that he’s won, just three with two Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.
Born October 2, 1954 — Diane Carey, 68. A major contributor to the Trek multiverse of novel. I mean really, really major contributor. I learned there are lines of Trek novels that I never knew existed. She uses three pen names (Lydia Gregory, Diane Carey, and D. L. Carey) which helps when you’re pumping out a lot of product. She has novels in the Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise. So nothing surprising there you say. Then under Diane Carey, she has the New Earth series and there’s at three other series which extrapolate off the existing series. She also did a novel about Kirk as a cadet at Starfleet Academy.
(8) WESTERCON ARCHIVES. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] The minutes of the 2022 Westercon Business Meeting, the current Westercon Bylaws as of the end of Westercon 74, and links to the video recordings of the Westercon 74 Business Meeting and the Committee of the Whole on 2024 Westercon Site Selection are now posted on the updated Westercon Business page at http://www.westercon.org/organization/business/
In Leni Lauritsch’s gritty sci-fi thriller “Rubikon,” the final frontier could well be humankind’s last refuge.
The film, which stars Julia Franz Richter, Georg Blagden (“Versailles”) and Mark Ivanir, screens in the Zurich Film Festival’s Focus Competition.
Set in a dark future in which a polluted and barely sustainable Earth is plagued by corporate armies battling for depleting resources as the wealthy live in air domes that protect them from the contaminated atmosphere, the story centers on three astronauts aboard the space station Rubikon, where scientists have developed a possible means of survival, a sustainable algae project to provide oxygen and food….
Some historical battle re-enactors in New York are holding their musket fire because of worries over the state’s new gun rules — an unplanned side effect of a law designed to protect the public’s safety.
The law that went into effect this month declares parks, government property and a long list of other “sensitive” places off limits to guns. The rules were geared more for semiautomatic pistols than flintlock weapons, but re-enactors who fear being arrested if they publicly re-stage battles from the colonial era to the Civil War are staying off the field.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration insists that historical battle re-enactments are still OK, and some have still taken place this month. But persistent skepticism among event organizers and participants has resulted in some cancellations, like an 18th century encampment and battle re-enactment planned for last weekend north of Saratoga Springs.
“We’ve been getting reports from units that were supposed to attend that they don’t feel comfortable transporting muskets or bringing muskets to the site,” said Harold Nicholson, a re-enactor involved in the event at Rogers Island. “And so at that point, we decided that it was probably best not to (go ahead).”
The consternation stems from a law quickly approved after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated New York’s requirement that people must demonstrate an unusual threat to their safety to qualify for a license to carry a handgun outside their homes.
Hochul and her fellow Democrats in control of the state Legislature responded with a law that set strict new licensing criteria and limited where handguns, shotguns and rifles can be carried. Some re-enactors looking at the letter of the law have concluded the old-style weapons they use could place them in the crosshairs of the new rules….
One side depicts the tentacled head of Cthulhu above the sea. Its tentacles are wrapped around a sailing ship, which is tiny in comparison; in the field incuse 2022.
The other side features numerous tangled tentacles, and between them the silhouette-like portrait of H.P. Lovecraft. Legend H. P. LOVECRAFT / 1890 / 1937. Above, the coat of arms of Palau with the circumscription REPUBLIC OF PALAU 20 $.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Kevin Standlee, Steve Vertlieb, 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 Bill.]
…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!
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!
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 Scavenger, Viper’s Spawn and Blood Ties.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 22, 1917 — Samuel A. Peeples. Memory 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.
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….
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.
…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.]
[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.
(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
(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 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 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.
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 Later, The 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.
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.
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.)…
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.”
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.]
(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.)
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….
“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:
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.
(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.
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 1973. In 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.
(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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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…
Thanks for “Mickey” (Miklos Rozsa) 4E (Forry Ackerman) Xmas & ME!
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.
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.