Dale Nelson’s red-ginger tomcat kitten is Giles, from Tolkien’s red-bearded farmer of Ham. The Mind-Twisters Affair was a media tie-in novel of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. co-written by Buck Coulson, producer with Juanita of the fanzine Yandro. Nelson says, “I’ve just arrived at the point where Napoleon Solo is going to investigate a locally-disliked fellow named Whateley, who operates TV station WHPL.”
Photos of your felines (or whatever you’ve got!) resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com
….What you don’t know is what happens when they mess up Harrison Ford’s eggs. The plates come, two Farmer’s Breakfasts. Mine’s good: over easy. As Ford cuts into his first poached egg, I’m asking, “So would you say the character of Indiana Jones has some of your own boyhood—”
He lays down his fork and knife. His shoulders droop in defeat.
The egg white is rubbery, the yolk chalky. He looks up at me.
“You couldn’t have been clearer,” I say.
The waiter, seeing a problem, scurries over, eager and recoiling at the same time. Ford just looks up at the poor guy, not with anger but with something worse: disappointment. It’s not a mean look. It’s a look that says, “We can do better, friend.”
The waiter is smiling and trying to speak, and he looks as if he might cry. “Are they . . . not soft?” He slinks away. Ford tries to refocus….
…Since these revised mini-Indy movies are appearing on Disney+ for the first time, we picked out the six most important episodes you might want to watch as you count down to “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” … though it must be said that every episode is worth your time…
Their list begins with —
My First Adventure
Exactly as the title says, “My First Adventure” is the first adventure of the young Henry Jones, Jr. It begins with a nine-year-old Indy living at Princeton with his parents when his life gets turned upside down when he has to accompany them on a journey around the world. The family heads to Oxford first, where Indy picks up his tutor, Ms. Seymour. They find themselves in Egypt and Indiana Jones helps T.E. Lawrence (yes, the “Lawrence of Arabia”) solve a murder mystery. Then, they travel to Africa, where Indy learns a lot about colonialism, slavery, and languages. It’s a good taste of what the younger side of Indy’s adventures will hold for audiences and an essential introduction to the series.
(3) ANOTHER FIRST FOR EKPEKI. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is the first Black winner of the Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers Award editor Sheila Williams told him today. Part of the reason, she adds, is that they published Octavia Butler’s stories, which won major awards, before the Asimov’s SF Readers Award was created.
(4) IT’S REAL! I’M ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN OF IT! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Prepare for a barrage of proclamations that this is a real ET message, and the government is just covering things up by pretending it’s a test. Pfffft!
For decades, a dedicated international band of researchers has searched the skies in the hopes of finding some sign that humanity is not alone in the universe. They’re engaged in SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. So far, the hunt for an alien signal has turned up only falsepositives. But that hasn’t stopped anyone from speculating abouthow people might respond to a real communication attempt. Now, Daniela de Paulis, an artist in residence at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, is simulating just such an alien message to see how humans react and whether they can figure out how to decipher it.
Her group’s project, A Sign in Space, began last week by transmitting a mysterious radio signal from the Trace Gas Orbiter, a European Space Agency craft that’s orbiting Mars. Participating astronomers at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, the Allen Telescope Array in California, and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station in Italy received the signal, removed the telemetry data, and posted the remaining encoded message on the project’s website for anyone to download. Now it’s up to the people of Earth to crack the code, interpret the message, and—de Paulis hopes—make some art. She and her colleagues are leading a series of online workshops to encourage people to discuss the concept of alien communication, including an event she hosted yesterday at which people shared thoughts and artwork inspired by the project so far….
(5) THE MAN FROM GONDOR. A classic fanfic is now available on the ConChord website, The Tenth Nazgul Affair by William Baker Glass, with illustrations by Richard Paul Glass. Barry Gold has made it available in HTML and EPUB formats.
Napoleon and Illya are engaged in a firefight with several T.H.R.U.S.H. agents when Illya is struck by lightning and ends up in Middle Earth. He helps King Elessar Telcontar (aka Strider) fight off Shelob and one extra Nazgul that somehow survived the destruction of the One Ring.
(6) SOMETHING NICE TO SAY ABOUT AI. Rob Hansen says he’s recently begun using A.I. for extrapolated reconstruction of old photos and sent links to work done on pictures of Forties LASFS members. Bill Burns found the online site to do this and produced this enhanced Tigrina image. Then Hansen followed with Art Joquel and Sam Russell.
Rob adds, “These are extrapolations rather than reconstructions, of course, but I think the results are pretty remarkable. Using A.I. for good; who’da thunk it?”
(7) EARLIEST RAY. Phil Nichols has launched a “Chronological Bradbury!” sequence with the latest episode of his Bradbury 100 podcast.
The idea is to work through Ray Bradbury’s fiction output in the order of publication, discussing each item as we go.
In this first “Chronological Bradbury”, I start right at the beginning, with a discussion of Ray’s earliest published works, which appeared in amateur magazines in 1938.
Harry wasn’t a bad person. You just couldn’t take him too seriously, that’s all. Whatever Harry said, whatever Harry did, whatever Harry put down as his meta-ethic, this week, on his Areteprofile, be it the ends justify the means or the greatest happiness for the greatest number or do what thou wilt be the whole of the law,Harry never meant a word. Harry changed his meta-ethic more often than he changed his clothes….
…There’s debate over whether the trolley problem is really the right framing to interrogate ethical choices (specifically whether decisions made in the simulation really reflect what you would choose in real life), and the experiment itself has also been criticized for both its setup and assumptions. But the Moral Machine does provide a fascinating example of an algorithm that observes your ability to make decisions in a handful of tense driving situations, and then spits out a bulleted list of your preferences for saving babies over dogs, and how that compares with the rest of the world (or at least the rest of the people who have taken the test)….
The event is the fourth and final in the series for the Applied Sci-Fi Project, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it, and to study the ways that sci-fi storytelling can a tool for innovation and foresight.
We’ll be joined by our opening speaker, science fiction and nonfiction author Annalee Newitz (The Terraformers, Four Lost Cities) and four special guests: sci-fi author and futurist Tobias Buckell (Arctic Rising, “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”); policy expert, foresight consultant and sci-fi author August Cole (Ghost Fleet, Burn-In); anthropologist Amy Johnson, who researches the use of speculative futures techniques at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center; and Tory Stephens, climate fiction editor at Grist Magazine. The panel will be moderated by CSI’s managing editor Joey Eschrich, who will also share his perspective on CSI’s own “Future of X” book anthologies, contests, and other projects.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1998 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
Tricia Sullivan is the writer responsible for our Beginning this time.
A US-born author who moved to the United Kingdom in 1995. Four years later, she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel Dreaming in Smoke which is where we get this Beginning. To date, it’s her one Award won.
She writes SF under her own name and fantasy as Valery Leith. She is a very prolific novelist, writing thirteen novels over a period of twenty-two years.
She’s written a double handful of fiction. Interestingly she stopped getting published six years ago. And she stopped updating her blog seven years ago. There’s a story there, isn’t there?
Dreaming in Smoke is a Meredith Moment at the usual suspects.
So here’s our Beginning…
my man’s gone now
The night Kalypso Deed vowed to stop Dreaming was the same night a four-dimensional snake with a Canadian accent, eleven heads and attitude employed a Diriangen function to rip out all her veins, then swiftly crocheted them into a harp that could only play a medley of Miles Davis tunes transposed (to their detriment) into the key of G. As she contemplated the loss of all blood supply to her vital organs it seemed to her that no amount of Picasso’s Blue, bonus alcohol rations, or access privileges to the penis of Tehar the witch doctor could compensate for having to ride shotgun to Azamat Marcsson on one of his statistical sprees with the AI Ganesh. She intended to tell him so–as soon as she could find her lungs. Ganesh was murmuring through her interface.
KALYPSO, IT’S GETTING TOO LOOSE AND KINKY IN HERE.
‘Did you hear that, Azamat? Keep it off my wave!’ she sent, annoyed at being reduced to verbing. She simply didn’t have the resources to image him, for by now the snake had decomposed into a flight of simian, transgressive bees, which were in the process of liquefying her perception of left and right. Everything seen through her right eye became negative and sideways. The alarming part was that it didn’t seem to make any difference.
Marcsson’s response came back as a series of pyrotechnical arrays, which, loosely translated, meant, ‘Relax. It’s only math.’
I DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR ABACUS, said Ganesh. KALYPSO, GET YOUR DOZE UNDER CONTROL OR I WILL.
The AI had a point. Kalypso mustered her wits and started cutting sensory intake to the Dreamer, feeling a little defensive about Miles Davis. Maybe she shouldn’t have been listening to the jazz Archives; maybe if she’d endured the boredom of monitoring the feeds between Ganesh and Marcsson she could have cut off the sudden explosion of parameters in the Dream the instant it began. But she had been shotgunning Marcsson for a long time, and he had always been safe. Marcsson had been Dreaming since before Kalypso was even born–he knew what he was doing with the AI, which could take data and weave them into Marcsson’s sensory awareness while he floated in a state of semi-conscious, lucid thought. He could immerse himself in literalized math through Dreams that improved a hundred-fold on the raw visions that humanity had experienced in its sleep for eons. He could be secure in his own safety because he had technique.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 1, 1914 — George Sayer. His Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times won a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies and is considered one of the best looks at that author. He also wrote the liner notes for the J. R. R. Tolkien Soundbook, a Cadmeon release of Christopher Tolkien reading from excerpts from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. (Died 2005.)
Born June 1, 1926 — Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
Born June 1, 1928 — Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone.British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
Born June 1, 1940 — René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder Woman, The Outer Limits, Night Gallery, The Bionic Woman, Batman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Enterprise, Stargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13. He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
Born June 1, 1947 — Jonathan Pryce, 76. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote.
Born June 1, 1950 — Michael McDowell. Screenwriter and novelist whose most well-known work is the screenplay for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. He also did work on Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas though he’s not listed as the scriptwriter. He wrote eleven scripts for Tales from the Darkside, more than anyone else. And he wrote a lot of horror which Stephen King likes quite a bit. (Died 1999.)
Born June 1, 1965 — Tim Eldred, 58. Author and illustrator of Grease Monkey, a most excellent humorous take on space operas and uplifting species. As an illustrator alone, he was involved in Daniel Quinn’s superb The Man Who Grew Young
Born June 1, 1966 — David Dean Oberhelman. Mike has an appreciation of him here. The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote withAmy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Poorly Drawn Lines’ Astronaut Bill shows friendship is the best. (And if you go to the link, preceding this date are four or five really great cartoons about various other characters.)
(13) MARRIAGE IS WHAT BRINGS US TOGETHER. Actor Alex Kingston remembers her time on Doctor Who as the Doctor’s enigmatic time-travelling wife in “Alex Kingston on 15 Years of River Song”, a feature in the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine. This excerpt appears at the link.
“I spoke to Steven [Moffat] on the phone and he said, ‘I’ve got this idea and I need to know if you’re available for it, because if you’re not I can’t write this.’ I let him know when I was available and he told me the outline, but I had to swear not to tell anyone. I’m very good at keeping secrets. Matt, Karen and Arthur had guessed I knew something and tried to persuade me to tell them, but I wouldn’t! Even when we had the script for that episode, the reveal wasn’t in it. They kept those pages out so the crew didn’t know. The actors were given the single pages – I’m not even sure when. And even on shooting day, the pages weren’t there and it was only then, at the last minute, that the crew saw the reveal. They managed to keep the secret and avoid any leaks at all. That takes a lot of doing.”
The season climaxed with THE WEDDING OF RIVER SONG (2011), a game-changer that, despite its title, left the status of the relationship between the Doctor and River up to the viewer’s interpretation. “I still get people going, ‘You’re not really married to him because he was a Teselecta!’” Alex laughs, referring to the shape-shifting craft that had taken on the Eleventh Doctor’s form. “I’m like, ‘Thank you very much, I was married to him. I’m his wife!’”
…The problem with all of these items is that they are quick to purchase, but take a long time to use. You can add a game to your Steam collection in minutes, but chances are most will take you 20 hours or more to play. (Howlongtobeat.com says Tears of the Kingdom takes 52 hours for the main story alone.)
How many more games will you impulse-buy before you’ve finished that one? How many skeins of yarn will you snap up (they were on sale! And so soft!) before you’ve finished the sweater you’re currently knitting? It’s the same problem as the TBR pile, really. And I promise, there is a solution…
…The key to his reading of Orwell is what happened to him in Spain. Though married to Eileen only six months before, he was determined to fight for the Republican cause (“Good chaps, the Spaniards, can’t let them down”) and on his return became far more politically engaged: “at last [I] really believe in Socialism, which I never did before”. But he’d seen bullying and infighting too. For the rest of his life and in his two great novels, this was the war he fought, on behalf of a wholesome, English, sweetly C of E brand of socialism, as opposed to Stalinist totalitarianism….
(16) STRIKES HINDER SCI-FI LONDON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Sci-Fi-London film fest is now go… But sadly rails strikes made its opening day Wednesday difficult for fans to attend except by bus. Rail strike also on Saturday. Nonetheless hoping to make Sunday’s two sessions of shorts and there’s a free cyber tech exhibition and demonstration there too…. 2023-Hackstock.
(17) JAWS: THE OVERBITE. Check out the WTF! photo of a Goblin Shark at the National Geographic.
Swishing through the deep sea, a goblin shark notices a small, yummy-looking squid. The animal inches toward its prey. But as the fish closes in, the snack starts to dart away. So the shark thrusts its jaw three inches out of its mouth! (The jaw is connected to three-inch-long flaps of skin that can unfold from its snout.) The predator then grabs the squid in its teeth. After scarfing down the meal, the shark fits its jaw back into its mouth and swims off….
…This photo is part of my Fake Holidays series. At the beginning of the project, more than 15 years ago, I went to Lara Beach in Antalya, Turkey, where there is one luxury five-star hotel after another, all along the coastline. On the other side of the road were the tents of the workers who had built the hotels. Luxury hotels are like little ghettoes. You take your plane and your taxi, then you are in the middle of an isolated luxury area.
The Kremlin Palace hotel, where this photo was taken, has an exact copy of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow. I have been to Moscow and seen the original church, which is a focal point – all tourists take a picture there. But here in Turkey, there is a swimming pool in front of the cathedral. I was fascinated. There were many Russian tourists.
I saw a weird guy, an astronaut, walking around the pool. “What’s happening here?” I asked. It turned out the hotel had a huge room with costumes for the entertainers who perform for the tourists. Superman was one of them. I found him by the pool and immediately asked to take his picture. I took about three shots. I chose the photo point, in front of the church with the pool between us, then asked Superman to jump. It was a very childish approach, perhaps, but he did it. The way he jumped was perfect. I felt in the moment: “That’s the picture.”…
…The new super-plume was spied by the James Webb Space Telescope. Previous observations had tracked vapour emissions extending for hundreds of kilometres, but this geyser is on a different scale.
The European Space Agency (Esa) calculated the rate at which the water was gushing out at about 300 litres per second. This would be sufficient to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just a few hours, Esa said.
Webb was able to map the plume’s properties using its extremely sensitive Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument.
The instrument showed how much of the ejected vapour (about 30%) feeds a fuzzy torus of water co-located with one of Saturn’s famous rings – its so-called E-ring.
“The temperature on the surface of Enceladus is minus 200 degrees Celsius. It’s freezing cold,” commented Prof Catherine Heymans, Astronomer Royal for Scotland.
“But at the core of the moon, we think it’s hot enough to heat up this water. And that’s what’s causing these plumes to come out.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Barry Gold, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Las Vegas fan Bill Mills died January 9 at the age of 69, less than a week after coming home from the hospital.
Mills was a musician, filker, collector of sf movie props, and a masquerader. He was a prolific maker of videos featuring his singing.
As a young actor Mills had an uncredited appearance in the Disney movie Follow Me Boys (1966). Later in life he had acting roles or stuntman credits in a half dozen low-budget film productions.
After Mills found his way into fandom he joined LASFS in 1970. He and his friend Robert Short were the self-proclaimed world’s biggest Man from U.N.C.L.E. fans and amassed a fantastic collection that they displayed at Westercon 23 in 1970, filling an entire room with props, scripts and other materials used on the program, plus merchandising items from around the world.
They also were part of the T.H.R.U.S.H. squad put together by David McDaniel, an LA-area author of several U.N.C.L.E. media tie-in novels. He had obtained some T.H.R.U.S.H. logo patches from the studio, and everyone in the group sewed patches on dark suits and showed up together at a local theater where U.N.C.L.E. star Robert Vaughn was playing Hamlet. After the performance they stood politely in line to greet Vaughn, and equally politely insisted they were from the “Public Relations” department of T.H.R.U.S.H. There were several more “T.H.R.U.S.H. runs” to places where they could startle people who weren’t expecting a group of fictional villains to show up. The group included Barry Gold, Robert Short, Bill Mills, Evan Hayworth, Gail Knuth, and Charles Lee Jackson II, many of whom had been Tuckerized in McDaniel’s novels.
Years later he moved to Las Vegas and became active in the Vegrants. Around 2006 he created a new website, The Voices of Fandom, which hosted fannish podcasts, historic soundbites and classic filk music. An oral history page played short testimonials by various Las Vegrants in April 2006 about how they discovered fandom. Much of the material has been saved to the Internet Archive and can be accessed here. Bill’s tech expertise also led to him being part of the Corflu 25 committee in 2008.
In recent years, Bill has been active creating music videos for his YouTube channel.
…In a press release, Arkhaven Comics notes they “did not hesitate to take advantage of Bennett’s unexpected availability, and promptly signed the former DC and Marvel illustrator as its lead artist on two series being written by legendary comics writer Chuck Dixon.”
Not only was Bennett the artist for Immortal Hulk, but his resume also includes Savage Hawkman, Deathstroke, and Arrow Season 2.5 among others at DC Comics.
…Dixon, who has also been subject to a Marvel Comics blacklist since 2002, welcomed Bennett to Arkhaven Comics stating, “It’s a sign of where the American comic industry is at the moment that they would let a powerhouse talent like Joe Bennett go because his personal politics are not in line with their own.”
“I’m looking forward to working with Joe on both of the projects we have in motion at Arkhaven,” he added….
(2) BARBARIAN AT THE GATES. Funcom has purchased the Cabinet Group, which currently holds the trademarks to Conan and most other Robert E. Howard characters. This mainly affects comics and videogames, since there apparently are no movies, TV shows or new books in the works, although they say a game is in development. “Funcom Acquires Full Control of Conan the Barbarian and Dozens of Other IPs”.
…Funcom CEO Rui Casais said he has high ambitions for the IPs and noted at least one unannounced project is already in development.
“We are currently overseeing the development of an unannounced game which will combine many of the characters in the Robert E. Howard universe,” said Casais. “And if you combine Funcom’s knowledge of games with Heroic Signatures’ knowledge of the TV/entertainment, publishing, and licensing industries, it makes us perfectly placed to take this venture to the next level. It’s exciting times ahead for us and for fans of the IPs.”…
…Lavie: I love the original “Witcher” stories by Andrzej Sapkowski, collected in English as “The Last Wish” in 2007 and translated by Danusia Stok. They were originally published in the Polish magazine Nowa Fantastyka. I got to read “The Last Wish” in proof before it even came out, but I don’t know that anyone then expected it would become as big as it did. For a time, it was nearly titled “The Hexer” but, hexer or witcher, Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia is a worthy successor to its earlier influences….
In the May 1961 issue of the fantasy fanzine Amra, future stalwart of Appendix N, Michael Moorcock, wrote a letter to the editor in which he proposed the term “epic fantasy” for the literary genre pioneered by Robert E. Howard in his stories of Conan the Cimmerian. In the July issue of that same year, however, Fritz Leiber offered another term in reply, writing, “I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story.” Leiber elaborates a bit on his coinage, adding that this term “accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element,” as well as being useful in distinguishing these stories from other popular pulp genres….
…But, in the same essay Moorcock began refining these broad parameters, focusing on a subset of fantasy stories “which could hardly be classified as SF, and they are stories of high adventure, generally featuring a central hero very easy to identify oneself with …. tales told for the tale’s sake… rooted in legendry, classic romance, mythology, folklore, and dubious ancient works of “History.” These were quest stories, Moorcock added, in which the hero is thwarted by villains but against all odds does what the reader expects of him….
(6) RACISM IN S&S. This isn’t new, but Charles R. Saunders’ famous essay “Die, Black Dog, Die” about the latent and not so latent racism in sword and sorcery and fantasy in general from the 1970s is available again online here: “Revisiting ‘Die, Black Dog!’” at Reindeer Motel. (It’s posted as a single image file, so no excerpt here.)
(7) BACKSTAGE TO THE FUTURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Back To The Future: The Musical, which recently opened in London. Roger Bart, who played Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, plays Doc.
“As in the film, restless teenager Marty McFly escapes his humdrum home life by hanging out with doc and ends up taking the wheel of the DeLorean for an early voyage. But he gets more than he bargains for when that voyage lands him back in 1955 and in the hugely awkward position of meeting his teenage mum–who promptly develops a crush on him. Gale’s script gleefully replicates the film (with a few wise excisions, such as the Libyan terrorists), while relishing the irony that from 2021, 1985 looks like old hat and that, for many in the audience, the whole show is an exercise in nostalgia–coupled with curiosity to see time travel on stage…
…A mix of pastiche and sincerity characterises the show. The songs (Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard) channel the periods–such as a peppy Fifties number in praise of gasoline and DDT–and there’s a nice streak of self-mockery.”
Who among us has not dreamed of having superpowers? We are urged thereto by the avalanche of comics, movies, novels, and roleplaying games featuring abilities beyond mortal ken. Yet not all superpowers are created equal. Some superpowers require secondary superpowers to survive. Other abilities have disquieting consequences for their possessors.
I’m not going to talk about superhumans with powers that would kill them or their friends if exercised. No one dreams of being any of the following:
X-Bomb Betty (can self-detonate, producing a 150 million megaton explosion (once))
Absorbing Man (can duplicate the properties of materials he touches; see footnote)
I’m talking, here, about powers that appear on their surface to be useful but later reveal themselves to be harmful to, or at least extremely alienating for, those who wield them. Below are my musings about five such examples…
The U.S. streaming giant announced Wednesday it has bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the rights to the British novelist’s characters and stories. It comes three years after Netflix signed a deal to create a slate of new animated productions based on the works of Dahl. (CNBC)
Under the previous deal, Taika Waititi is working on Roald Dahl animated series projects for Netflix, covering Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. That’s in addition to two different versions of Matilda, including a film version of Matilda the Musical and an animated series, plus plans to make a BFG cartoon. (The Verge)…
…[Joseph] Campbell’s ideas have rippled out in the culture for decades — especially after a popular series hosted by Bill Moyers in 1988 — but he has long demanded a feminist response. It would be hard to conjure up a more suitable person to provide one than Maria Tatar, the Harvard professor who is one of the world’s leading scholars on folklore.
Her new book, “The Heroine With 1,001 Faces,” out this month from Liveright, is an answer to Campbell, though she is careful not to frame it as an assault. “Even though my title suggests that I’m writing a counternarrative, or maybe an attack on him, I think of it as more of a sequel,” Tatar said in a video interview from her home in Cambridge, Mass.
She is stirring what J.R.R. Tolkien once called the “cauldron of story” in search of the girls and women, some silenced and some forgotten, some from the Iliad and some from Netflix, who live in Campbell’s blind spot. The reader jumps from Arachne’s battle with Athena to the escape of Bluebeard’s trickster wife to Pippi Longstocking and Nancy Drew and even to Carrie Bradshaw typing away on her laptop.
Exposure to fluorescent lights gives people a 98% chance of developing a superpower under conditions of duress.
(13) J. RANDOLPH COX (1936-2021). Randy Cox died in a nursing home on September 14 reports Mysteryfile.com. Cox edited The Dime Novel Round-Up for over 20 year. He wrote several books including Man of Magic & Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson, about the man who created The Shadow; Flashgun Casey: Crime Photographer, co-authored with David S. Siegel, about the character originally created for Black Mask by George Harmon Coxe; Masters of Mystery and Detective Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography; and The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. He received the Munsey Award at PulpFest in 2014.
(14) MEMORY LANE.
1964 – Fifty-seven years ago on NBC, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. premiered. It was created by Sam Rolfe who was responsible for Have Gun, Will Travel and Norman Felton who directed All My Children, the first daytime soap which debuted in the Forties. It starred Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll. It would last four seasons of one hundred and five episodes, most in color. Harlan Ellison scripted two episodes, “The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair” and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” A reunion film, Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. with the subtitle of The Fifteen Years Later Affair with Vaughn and McCallum reprising their roles with Patrick Macnee replacing Leo G. Carroll, who had died, as the head of U.N.C.L.E. There was a film reboot recently that was very well received.
(15) 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, 1952 — Paul Kincaid, 69. 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, 67. 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.
Born September 22, 1957 — Jerry Oltion, 64. 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, 50. First, let’s all wish her a speedy recovery from her cancer surgery which was this week. Her first sff series was a superb trilogy, which might be considered cyberpunk, centered on a character named Jenny Casey. She’s a very prolific writer; I’m fond of her Promethean Age, New Amsterdam and Karen Memory series. She won an Astounding Award for Best New Writer, a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and a Hugo for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. One of only five writers to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the Astounding Award! Very impressive indeed! It is worth noting that she was one of the regular panelists on now sadly defunct podcast SF Squeecast, which won the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards for “Best Fancast”. (CE)
Born September 22, 1981 — Maria Ashley Eckstein, 40. She’s voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She even has a voice only cameo as Ashoka in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. And she voiced the character in the audiobook of E. K. Johnston’s Star Wars: Ahsoka.
Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper, 39. 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, 36. 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’ll be playing Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk in the upcoming Marvel She-Hulk series.
(16) SHARP POINTY TEETH. Of course it’s a vampire movie. Was there ever any doubt? Night Teeth coming to Netflix on October 20.
…It starts with progressive authors who rose to prominence in the conservative 1950s, challenging the so-called Golden Age of science fiction and its linear narratives of technological breakthroughs and space-conquering male heroes. The book then moves through the 1960s, when writers, including those in what has been termed the New Wave, shattered existing writing conventions and incorporated contemporary themes such as modern mass media culture, corporate control, growing state surveillance, the Vietnam War, and rising currents of counterculture, ecological awareness, feminism, sexual liberation, and Black Power. The 1970s, when the genre reflected the end of various dreams of the long Sixties and the faltering of the postwar boom, is also explored along with the first half of the 1980s, which gave rise to new subgenres, such as cyberpunk.
Dangerous Visions and New Worlds contains over twenty chapters written by contemporary authors and critics, and hundreds of full-color cover images, including thirteen thematically organised cover selections. New perspectives on key novels and authors, such as Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, John Wyndham, Samuel Delany, J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, Judith Merril, Barry Malzberg, Joanna Russ, and many others are presented alongside excavations of topics, works, and writers who have been largely forgotten or undeservedly ignored.
Here’s a sample page that was posted to the book’s Kickstarter site:
(19) THE QUICK SAND AND THE DEAD. Juliette Kayyem remembers a hazard much on the minds of young TV viewers back in the day:
Her tweet inspired E. Gruberman to round up a zillion YouTube links to relevant scenes from old shows of TV heroes up to their hips in quicksand.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Transformers: Age of Extinction Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says in the fourth Transformers movie, Sam Witwicky disappears without an explanation because Shia LeBouef didn’t want to be in Transformer movies anymore. The writer explains that the Transformers are powered by “transformium,” “which can change into any product placement we want.” but the third act will be “our usual visual mess” but will feature “guns, boobs, America, victory.”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
By James H. Burns: When I chatted with Robert Vaughn a few weeks ago, there was a fascinating surprise… Now, I’m pretty certain he had only agreed to the interview, because, as you know, it was primarily about his friend, Allard Lowenstein, the late, great liberal political leader, and the time Vaughn spent campaigning for him, in Long Island. It’s possible he remembered me from another long chat, when we met years previously, at an actors’ function — or, at least, he remembered when he heard my voice (kind of unique!), and some other neat, unknown tales, he had told me then, though I think that’s unlikely.
But I am a good interviewer (the key, my friends is, of course, listening), and we wound up talking about many things, some of which you’d be familiar with, from his terrific memoir, A Fortunate Life. To me, it’s always astonishing to be talking with someone who knew Robert F. Kennedy, one of my personal heroes, and there was, naturally, some chat about American politics, then and now…. But when we wound up ultimately talking about U.N.C.L.E., there was an intriguing revelation:
Because Vaughn had just spent, for the first time, I believe, a great deal of time watching “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”!
When the U.N.C.L.E. marathon was on, a few months ago (was it on the DECADES cable channel?), Vaughn found himself checking in, within the coziness of his Connecticut home.
He had never really seen the episodes, and was now watching a number of the excellent first season shows.
Now, this isn’t unusual for any actor. In the 1960s, the schedule on television shoots could be overwhelming. (That’s been true, really, in any era of filmmaking.) Vaughn was also busy with his private education, and of course, civic pursuits.
By the time a television episode’s broadcast date rolled around, often months after an episode had been filmed, it would have been on an evening when the actor was probably exhausted from a day shooting a new episodes, or at least getting ready for a good night’s rest, for the next day’s efforts.
And some actors simply don’t like watching themselves.
(And there can be other interesting reactions: William Shatner once said that if he’s changing channels, and Star Trek is on, it’s like watching film of a son…!)
I’m certain Vaughn must have seen some shows, while at press event screenings, or at the unveiling of one of the U.N.C.L.E. feature compilations. (Over twenty-five years ago, he also showed some very good fellowship, hosting an U.N.C.L.E. marathon on a local Connecticut television station, taping several introductions.) But in this past pleasant spring, along with many others across our plugged in nation, Vaughn was watching those mini-movies first lensed over fifty years ago.
And he was pleasantly surprised, at how good he thought they were, and how well he thought they still played.
He was also pleased that some subtle things he told me he was trying to do with his portrayal of Napoleon Solo, came through on film.
Fourteen years ago, I had mentioned to Vaughn that I thought his management may have made a miscalculation, that U.N.C.L.E. had established him as a terrific, suave leading man, one of the only American actors ever able to do what I called “the Cary Grant” thing, being charming and debonair on camera, without pretense…
But then, right after the series, he was back to playing the heavy, or the figure of authority…
Vaughn seemed legitimately astonished.
Years later, I knew why.
Because to Vaughn, Grant was the great movie actor, and one of his personal celluloid heroes.
Towards the end of the chat, I told Vaughn that this might be silly for me to mention, but that I thought I should, that anyone who ran into him around his neighborhood always said wonderfully nice things about him, that he was a gentleman.
I mentioned a story where some years ago, some guy I knew said, “Hey, you know, I saw Napoleon Solo at a restaurant last week!
I said, “You mean, Robert Vaughn,”
And then Vaughn, smiling, said to me, the other evening:
“No, Jim. He was right. You see, I am Napoleon Solo.”
Vaughn had actually been on the South Shore only nine months earlier, in Valley Stream, when his U.N.C.L.E. co-star, McCallum, got married to model and actress Katherine Carpenter from Cedarhurst. The couple had met in 1965, when the U.N.C.L.E. stars participated in a photo shoot for Glamour magazine.
News of the nuptials was attempted to be kept quiet but by the afternoon of September 16, 1967, at the Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, an estimated 2000 kids (and some of their parents!) filled the sidewalks at at the corner of Rockaway and Dubious Avenues in Valley Stream.
“The number of people there was tremendous,” says Vaughn. :”It was like one of the Beatles was getting married. In fact, they used to call David, “The Blonde Beatle!”