(1) THE MUSIC OF HEAVY METAL. Maya St. Clair remembers “When Heavy Metal Magazine Made Playlists” at News from the Orb.
When I worked at Heavy Metal magazine, people in my life inevitably assumed it was a publication about heavy metal music. My usual response was “not really,” and I’d describe how Heavy Metal was a comics magazine focused on experimental, adult-rated sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve since realized that a better response would have been “fuck it, probably” — since Heavy Metal, like cosmic background radiation, seemed to presuppose and pervade everything, including music. Name a thing, and Heavy Metal had it: yellow, cyan, black, magenta, rectangles, circles, pterodactyls, Homer, Shakespeare, love, death, superheroes, hamburgers, Jane Fonda, H. P. Lovecraft, boobs, dicks, God, jazz, rockabilly, and (inevitably) heavy metal music, lower case….
St. Clair has compiled playlists at Spotify that emulate some Heavy Metal writers’ Eighties recommendation lists. Including two by my old friend Lou Stathis! Here’s the first —
In 1980, as it reached the height of its influence and circulation, Heavy Metal introduced music criticism by SFF editor/music nerd Lou Stathis and others, in the “Dossier” section. The contrarian Stathis was a fearless advocate for the experimental over the conventional (he hated the fucking Eagles, man, and Bruce Springsteen’s normie-ism was a running joke). Alternative icons like Brian Eno, Genesis, the Cure, Grace Jones, Gary Numan, Laurie Anderson, and Tangerine Dream got their recognition in Heavy Metal, plus uncountable niche bands.
Anyway, the HM squad would occasionally throw together a DJ set, album recs, or mixtape. I’ve consolidated them into playlists on Spotify, linked below….
The Metal Box: Lou Stathis’ 1983 Singles Picks
Stathis sometimes compiled lists of his “heavy rotation” singles and albums. In April 1984, he listed his top picks for the previous year. Some, like Michael Jackson and Eurythmics, are recognizable. Others are supremely obscure.
(2) ON A TANGENT. Dave Truesdale introduces the “Tangent Online 2023 Recommended Reading List”, once again targeting SFWA as the reason “real world politics” have intruded on the science fiction field. Not because Truesdale is unaware of the history of sf, but because he argues that somehow the Thirties political activism of young sff writers and editors didn’t really count.
For the most part, the literary aspect of the science fiction field proceeded as usual in 2023; the general machinery operated well enough to keep the magazines and books appearing on reasonable schedules, and SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, formerly for decades since its 1965 inception the Science Fiction Writers of America) the field’s one and only member-funded 501(c)(3) tax exempt administrative organization, was still alive and kicking, though to my mind and due to external “real world” politics, took a wrong turn that gave the outside world an entirely misleading picture of the organization as a literary organization, but instead revealed its political advocacy (or lack thereof) on any given issue.….
…Politics has entered the SF field directly but sporadically over the past 97 years, since its official birth as a genre began with the April 1926 issue of Amazing Stories. Early readers became fans when they corresponded with others through letter columns, and small SF fan clubs began to sprout all over the country. The first SF worldcon was held July 1-4, 1939 in New York City, to coincide with the World’s Fair in the same city. Attendance was in the dozens and many of the members were in their teens. Sam Moskowitz (later to become SF’s premiere historian) chaired, with a few of his friends, this first worldcon at the ripe old age of 19. A group of SF fans known by their club name of the Futurians, led by Donald A. Wollheim (later founder of DAW Books), Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth, Doc Lowndes, and a few others were at odds with Moskowitz’s group and wanted to attend the worldcon. Many of these young SF fans were fashionably members of the local socialist or communist branches; it was the cool thing to do at the time. Without getting into the details (there were many different accounts given from both sides) the Moskowitz faction turned the Wollheim, Pohl, faction (the Futurians) away and were thus excluded from the convention. This became known in fandom and the early fan press as “The Great Exclusion Act.” Wollheim and Pohl, among others were either in their teens (C.M. Kornbluth 14 or 15, Pohl 19) or early twenties (Wollheim 24, Doc Lowndes 22) and full of headstrong piss and vinegar. That the feud between fan groups and the turning away of some from the worldcon was primarily because of politics was downplayed by Pohl when he wrote in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, “We pretty nearly had it coming,” and then, “What we Futurians made very clear to the rest of New York fandom was that we thought we were better than they were. For some reason that annoyed them.”
So in essence what amounted to an early fan feud between SF fan clubs whose members were still in their teens or early twenties and had little to do with politics, has somehow become the one size fits all go-to argument that supposedly proves politics has always been a part of SF and SF fandom and is thus nothing new….
(3) STAY OR GO? Catherynne M. Valente’s post “On Recent Developments at Substack” at Welcome to Garbagetown analyzes the dilemma of persisting in using that platform.
Many people have reached out to me to discuss Substack’s not-always-stellar history of managing a diverse breadth of opinions and/or policies on monetization.
Let me make it clear: This was always an issue, and I have always been aware of it. It’s gotten worse of late. And now I just feel like Marc Maron trying to figure out what to do with his friends who voted for Trump….
…Yes, Substack has and does allow dipshit fascist transphobic and otherwise morally-cancerous fuckgiblets to post freely and make money from their platform. They also allow a lot of marginalized creators to flourish and make a livelihood here. Like every other site I’ve ever known, all of whom have been incredibly reluctant to crack down on extreme right-wing content despite that very policy allowing it to proliferate wildly and bring us to a very bad historical place. Do I want them to kick out anyone making money on hate? Yep. Do I understand the slippery slope argument about free speech? That it’s much easier to take no stance and allow everything, trusting the users to sort it out, than to take the step of defining what opinions can be allowed to be heard? Yep.
I do not know if I’m going to stay here. I just don’t know. I came to Substack because of the Twitter diaspora. I managed to build a small audience, built mostly on hating fascism and idiocy. I like the community I and all of you have built here and I’m reluctant to migrate and lose people. But I don’t want to support the Badness by being here. And yet, if I go, does that not just abandon another space because bad people are also here, handing them control of yet another hugely-recognized platform, control they could never achieve on their own just on numbers and popularity, while the people who have any moral compass whatsoever have to continually start over from scratch?…
(4) AWARD-WORTHY APPAREL. The “Costume Designers Guild Awards 2024 Nominations” include two sff-specific categories. (See the full list of finalists at the link.)
Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film
- Barbie – Jacqueline Durran
- Haunted Mansion – Jeffrey Kurland
- The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes – Trish Summerville
- The Little Mermaid – Colleen Atwood & Christine Cantella
- Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire – Stephanie Porter
Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television
- Ahsoka: Part Eight: The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord – Shawna Trpcic
- Loki: 1893 – Christine Wada
- The Mandalorian: Chapter 22: Guns for Hire – Shawna Trpcic
- What We Do in the Shadows: Pride Parade – Laura Montgomery
- The Witcher: The Art of the Illusion – Lucinda Wright
(5) OCCIDENTAL OCCULT. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton will teach a three-part online course “Confronting the Spectral: A History of Ghosts in the Western World With Lisa Morton” beginning January 22 through Atlas Obscura Experiences. Full details including schedule and prices at the link.
What We’ll Do
In this three-part lecture series, explore how people have thought about ghosts through time in the Western world.
In this course, we’ll trace the history of ghostly encounters reported across the Western world, both friendly and nefarious. We’ll begin with ghosts from the classical world who haunted heroes like Gilgamesh and Odysseus, and look at the Biblical story of Saul and the Witch of Endor. We’ll meet medieval necromancers, Victorian spiritualists, and finally, the modern ghost-hunter. By the end of our time together, you’ll not only have a deep understanding of how cultures have conceived of the most common supernatural entity throughout history, but also ideas and suggestions for engaging in your own supernatural investigations.…
(6) SEA DEVILS SPINOFF? “Doctor Who Spinoff Series Seemingly Confirmed, Will Feature Classic Villains” says CBR.com.
A production listing on the Film and Television Industry Alliance website confirmed pre-production has begun on a spinoff series of the massively popular sci-fi series Doctor Who, which is scheduled to begin filming in March. The listing also provides a brief summary of the project, describing it as a fantasy-action adventure featuring the Sea Devils, an old villain from the classic Doctor Who series.
The listing does not provide any further details about the show’s plot, but it does reveal some of the crew members involved in the project, such as Doctor Who showrunner Russel T Davies set to return as the series’ writer. Other names include producers Phill Collinson, Vicki Delow, Julie Gardner and Lord of the Rings TV series producer Jane Tranter….
…As for when the spinoff series may see a premiere, the listing does not provide any concrete information, though it does confirm the projected filming date of March 4, 2024. …
(7) NEEDS WORK. The Mary Sue’s Charlotte Simmons would like to be a Zack Snyder fan if only the auteur would make that a little easier: “’Rebel Moon’ Proves That Zack Snyder Needs To Grow Up, and I Say That With Love”.
…Sure, it would have given the infamously obnoxious Snyder cult some more ammunition, but more good movies is a win for everybody. Sadly, whatever remotely interesting set dressing Zack Snyder cooked up here was woefully undermined by incoherent storytelling at its most relentless and suffocating character development—nay, the bare essentials of characterization—behind a mountain of formulaic sci-fi battles and dialogue that not even an amateur could be proud of.
Indeed, Rebel Moon is proof in the pudding that Snyder has some serious work to do, and that’s a damn shame, because the nature of his raw creative pursuits is stupendously important in the genres he occupies, which perhaps makes his failures all the more depressing….
(8) OCTOTHORPE CENTURY. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Lis Batty receive a telegram in episode 100 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I Don’t Have Show Notes or Alcohol”.
We celebrate with a bevy of special segments, including ”letters of comment”, “talking about the Glasgow Worldcon”, and “aftershow involving games”. PRETTY ADVANCED STUFF.
(9) GLYNIS JOHNS (1923-2024). Actress Glynis Johns, best known to fans as Mrs. Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) and as a forest maiden who assists Danny Kaye’s character in The Court Jester (1955), died January 4 at the age of 100. She also appeared in several episodes of Sixties TV’s Batman as Lady Penelope Peasoup.
…Johns won a Tony for her role as Desiree Armfeldt in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” introducing the song “Send in the Clowns” — written for her by Sondheim. In addition she was Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in 1960’s “The Sundowners.”…
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 4, 1958 — Matt Frewer, 66. I encountered Matt Frewer the same way that I suspect most of you did when he was unrecognizable as Max Headroom almost forty years ago. That character debuted in April 1985 in the Channel 4 film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. It’s virtually identical to the premiere of the American television series, though there might be a bit of foul language if I remember correctly. Or not.
Two days after it was broadcast, Max hosted on the same channel The Max Headroom Show, a program where he introduced music videos, made pointed comments on various topics, and conducted rather off the wall interviews with guests before a live studio audience. These would eventually be aired in the States on Cinemax.
Max would become a global spokesperson for New Coke, appearing on way too many TV commercials with the catchphrase “Catch the wave!”. You can see one of those commercials here
Now we come to the Max Headroom series which on ABC from just March 31, 1987, to May 5, 1988 with just a total of fifteen episodes. Damn it seemed like it lasted longer than that. He, like everyone on the series, was spot on in creating a believable future. I consider it one of the best SF series ever done.
He’s got way too many genre roles to list them all here so let me focus on a few of my favorite ones.
He was Dr. Jim Taggart on Eureka. On screen for a total of eighteen episodes, his Aussie character was the Eureka’s veterinarian and “biological containment specialist”, which means he catches whatever needs to be caught. If it moved and it did something weird, he was after it.
And then he was Dr. Aldous Leekie, the primary Big Bad on the first season of Orphan Black. He was in charge of the handling the clones as if anyone should trust him.
Though I find it hard to believe, the Hallmark Channel produced the Hallmark Sherlock Holmes films. And he was Sherlock Holmes in four of these films — The Sign of Four, The Hound of Baskervilles, The Royal Scandal and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire.
My final role for him a silly one indeed, it’s in In Search of Dr. Seuss where he is the Cat in The Hat. This thirty-nine-year-old film is a delightful romp — Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Hunch, Patrick Stewart is Sgt. Mulvaney, and the list goes on far too long to give in full here.
And yes, he’s been in a lot of genre films, go ahead and tell me your favorite.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater finds an enterprising use for generative AI.
(12) WHO IS YOUR HOST. All you Tennant fans pay attention: “David Tennant To Host 2024 BAFTA Film Awards” reports Deadline.
…Jane Millichip, CEO of BAFTA, added: “We are over the moon that David Tennant will be our host for the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards. He is deservedly beloved by British and international audiences, alike. His warmth, charm, and mischievous wit will make it a must-watch show next month for our guests at the Royal Festival Hall and the millions of people watching at home….
(13) SEMI-MANDATORY VIEWING. Dylan sang “Everyone Must Get Stoned” but never mind that, CBR.com insists you see these 10 “Must-Watch Sci-Fi Movies For Fans of The Genre”. Or heck, maybe you already have! In the middle of the list comes the film that gave us Ripley.
5. Alien Combined Science and Horror Perfectly
The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission….
Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s biomechanical designs for the alien artifacts and creatures helped turn a great movie into an incredible one. With a story that starts out similarly to Forbidden Planet, in which a space crew investigates a distress signal, the film is transformed into an intense thriller with a horrifying Alien Xenophorph stalking and killing the crew. With stunning visuals and a premise too good for just one movie, Alien spawned a multi-media franchise that has entertained for more than four decades.
(14) MORE PICKUP. And it’s arguably appropriate to follow a mention of the Alien series (“Get away from her you bitch!”) with Giant Freakin Robot’s news item “Exoskeletons Take Huge Step Toward Becoming Common”.
Science fiction would appear to be becoming nonfiction in Europe. Indeed, in Italy, a groundbreaking pilot project involving real-life exoskeletons achieved exciting results. The Port System Authority of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea and the Livorno Port Company reported marked advantages using the exoskeletal tech, developed by IUVO and Comau (a subsidiary of Stellantis)….
…The workers regularly undertook strenuous tasks: loading and unloading goods, relocating heavy loads, and securing containers onto ships. Without the sci-fi-reminiscent exoskeletons, these activities are notoriously exhausting. They also pose genuine risks of introducing musculoskeletal disorders.
The initial evaluations conducted by IUVO and Comau involved measuring muscle activity and gathering feedback through questionnaires–all to assess the perceived drop in fatigue. The findings were overwhelmingly positive. Laborers reportedly adjusted well to the novel technology, additionally recognizing the exoskeleton’s significant impact on their efficiency and physical well-being.
Based on the data, utilizing MATE XT and MATE XB technologies can potentially lessen the effort required by workers.
By how much? As much as thirty percent….
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended crew knows “How Batman Should Have Ended” – meaning the version where Michael Keaton is Batman and Jack Nicholson is The Joker.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]