The End of an Era: The Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-manI’ve watched cartoons most of my life. It started with Spider-Man, Underdog and Star Trek: The Animated Series in the 1970s. In the 90s, it was Ren and Stimpy, Pinky and the Brain, and the brilliant The Tick. When my kids came along, we’d watch Gargoyles, Samurai Jack, Static Shock, and especially the great Batman Beyond together. For most of my first four decades, Saturday mornings meant curling up on the couch to share the adventures of my favorite funny animals and cartoon superheroes.

Over the last ten years, more stations have abandoned Saturday morning animated programming. Now The Washington Post is reporting that the CW, the last broadcast station with a full slate of animated shows on Saturday morning, has just done away with them.

This past Saturday, the CW became the last broadcast television network to cut Saturday morning cartoons. The CW is replacing its Saturday cartoon programming, called “The Vortexx,” with “One Magnificent Morning,” a five-hour bloc of non-animated TV geared towards teens and their families.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, Saturday morning time slots were synonymous with cartoons. Broadcast networks and advertisers battled for underage viewers. But that started to change in the 1990s. In 1992, NBC was the first broadcast network to swap Saturday morning cartoons for teen comedies such as “Saved by the Bell” and a weekend edition of the “Today” show. Soon, CBS and ABC followed suit. In 2008, Fox finally replaced Saturday morning cartoons with infomercials.

In the 1970s and 1980s, a Saturday morning cartoon viewership could grab more than 20 million viewers. In 2003, some top performers got a mere 2 million, according to Animation World Network.

Read the bad news here (and for Slash Film’s take, read Peter Sciretta’s article Saturday Morning Cartoons Are Officially Dead.)

Eugie Foster, December 30, 1971 – September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Eugie FosterAuthor and editor Eugie Foster died of respiratory failure today at Emory University in Atlanta.

Eugie announced last October that she has been diagnosed with cancer, a “malignant, fast-growing tumor, around 6cm, in my sinuses and hard and soft palate regions.” She was undergoing aggressive treatments, including a stem cell transplant, which left her vulnerable to infections. In one of her last blog posts, on August 12, 2014, she wrote:

[One] opportunistic bacteria infection has taken up residence in my lower bowels and another one has set up shop in my stomach. Not only is food unpleasant to eat but it’s not doing anything enjoyable once it hits my GI Tract, including staying put. Waaaahhhh!!

They have me on lotso antibiotics and other meds to make this easier on me. I appreciate that but honestly, I just want to be unconscious. None of this is unexpected but it all sucks. Hurry up stem cells. Graft! Graft already!!

I first encountered Eugie when she took over Tangent Online after Dave Truesdale stepped down. Her own short stories were appearing in Interzone, Apex, Fantasy Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and other places; her story “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” won the 2009 Nebula Award. Jason Waltz introduced me to Eugie at Dragon*Con in 2010, at her busy press station where she produced the onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. I found her charming and highly articulate, filled with drive and energy, and seemingly unstoppable.

Her death was announced in a brief blog post by her husband, Matthew M. Foster. She was 42 years old.

Lou Anders Steps Down as Editorial Director at Pyr

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lou Anders-smallPublishers Weekly is reporting that Lou Anders, editorial director and art director of Prometheus’s Pyr imprint, will be leaving the company.

Lou has been the mastermind at Pyr since the imprint launched 10 years ago. We’ve written here of his success with the line many times over the years, and in my recent comments on K.V. Johansen’s The Leopard, I called Lou “the closest we have to Lin Carter in the field today: an editor with impeccable taste and boundless energy, who has also been a tireless champion for sword & sorcery.”

The highlight of my trip to Dragon*Con in 2010 was sitting in the front row of the Pyr Books panel, and the reason for that was the incredible stable of authors Lou had assembled — and the gorgeous books they had on offer. It was exciting to see so much terrific fantasy pouring out of one company, and Lou has been personally responsible for much of the finest adventure fantasy published over the last decade.

The reason given for his departure won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s watched the success of Lou’s first fantasy novel Frostborn, released through Crown Books for Young Readers last month. As a result of that success, Lou has chosen to “devote his professional energy to being a full-time author.” Rene Sears, Lou’s editorial assistant and slush reader, will step in to replace him as interim editor for Pyr.

Congratulations to both Lou and Rene for this career change. We wish them both luck. And Lou — you will be missed!

Forbes on the World’s Top-Earning Authors

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Veronica Roth joins Forbes list of highest-earning authors for the first time

Veronica Roth joins Forbes list of highest-earning authors for the first time

Forbes Magazine reported on the World’s Top-Earning Authors this week and as always the list includes several genre writers — and a few new names.

Twenty-six year old Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, joins the list for the first time at #7 — ahead of John Grisham, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling. Once again, James Patterson tops the list, as he has for the last several years, earning $90 million in 2013. He produced an amazing 14 books last year (same as the previous year), most written with an assortment of co-authors; his novels account for one out of every 17 hardcover novels purchased in the United States. His successful series include the Alex Cross and Michael Bennett titles; in addition to adult fiction, he’s also the bestselling living author of young adult and middle grade books.

Next on the list is Dan Brown at $28 million, mostly on the successof  Inferno, the fourth in his Robert Langdon series (The Da Vinci Code and others), which sold more than 1.4 million copies in the U.S. Third and fourth are Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel.

I was pleased to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney on the list at #6; Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins ranks #10, and George R.R. Martin clocks in at #12. The top authors on the list are as follows.

Read More »

Alan Moore Completes 1 Million+ Word Historical Fantasy Novel, Jerusalem

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Alan-Moore-smallAlan Moore’s daughter Leah has posted a report on Facebook that her father has completed the first draft of his second novel, Jerusalem, and that the draft clocks in at more than one million words.

To give you a sense of perspective, that’s more than five times the length of Dune (186,000 words), and twice the length of all three novels of The Lord of the Rings (473,000 words). As The A.V. Club puts it, “Alan Moore wrote a novel so heavy even he can’t lift it.”

Jerusalem reportedly examines history of a small section of Moore’s native Northhampton, with chapters written in dramatically different styles. Here’s Moore’s description:

I’ve done a chapter that’s like a mid-sixties New Wave, New Worlds Michael Moorcock-era science fiction story. There’s one that’s like a piece of noir fiction. It’s all these different styles…

In some ways, the book sounds similar to his first novel, The Voice of the Fire, which portrayed 6,000 years of English history by following twelve different characters in the same region of central England. As Comics Beat points out, it’s also similar in some respects to his unfinished comic opus Big Numbers.

Alan Moore is the writer of some of the most famous comics of the 20th Century, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moore does not yet have a publisher for the mammoth tome.

Graham Joyce, October 22, 1954 – September 9, 2014

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Graham Joyce-smallGraham Joyce, the World Fantasy Award winning writer of The Facts of Life, The Tooth Fairy, and Some Kind of Fairy Tale, died yesterday of lymphoma. His first novel, Dreamside, was published in 1991. He followed it a year later with Dark Sister, the first of his many fantasy novels to be nominated for (and win) the British Fantasy Award. All told, he won the British Fantasy Award for best novel a total of six times, for Requiem (1995), The Tooth Fairy (1996), The Stormwatcher (1998), How To Make Friends With Demons (2009), and Some Kind of Fairy Tale (2012). His 2002 novel The Facts of Life won the World Fantasy Award; his final novel, The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit (published in the UK as The Year of the Ladybird in 2013) was released in 2014.

I met Joyce only a handful of times, most recently at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego in 2011, where he entertained the Black Gate team — including Katie Redding, Scott Taylor, and I — with his stories and his relentless energy. A month ago Graham wrote of his diagnosis in a powerful post in his blog:

This is what I mean by the shocking clarity that cancer brings… if a dragonfly buzzes my ear like an aeroplane I’ll still be going, ‘What did it say?‘ Because the screw that has for so long been loose in me hasn’t been tightened by cancer. Actually I know what the dragonfly said. It whispered: I have inhabited this earth for three hundred million years old and I can’t answer these mysteries; just cherish it all.

And in turn the Heron asks, with shocking clarity as it flies from right to left and left to right: why can’t our job here on earth be simply to inspire each other?

Graham Joyce died on September 9th, at the age of 59. He is survived by his wife Suzanne and their two children. He will be missed.

The 2014 British Fantasy Award Winners Announced

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

A Stranger in Olondria-smallThe 2014 British Fantasy Award winners have been announced, and once again I’m reminded that there’s a lot of fantastic fantasy out there I’m not reading.

Every year, while I’m struggling to catch up on Henry Kuttner short stories I haven’t read or something, another must-read fantasy escapes me. This year it appears to be Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria, which so far has been nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. On Sunday, it also won the British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy novel (also know as the Robert Holdstock award.)

We haven’t reported consistently on the British Fantasy Awards in the past and, looking back, that was an obvious error in judgment. They’ve selected some terrific winners over the years and it’s time we paid more attention. Besides, they have an award named after Karl Edward Wagner — that alone should make them noteworthy.

The complete award list follows.

Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award):

A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer Press)

Best Horror novel (the August Derleth Award):

 The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes (HarperCollins)

Read More »

Take Zombies Seriously: The Pentagon, Mayo Clinic Researchers, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control All Do

Monday, September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

are-you-ready-for-a-zombie-attack_1First there was the much-ballyhooed U.S. Strategic Command document discovered earlier this year outlining a plan of action in case of a zombie apocalypse (read the CNN report HERE). Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention capitalized on the zombie zeitgeist with their campaign for zombie outbreak preparedness (HERE). Even researchers from the Mayo Clinic, the top-ranked hospital in the United States, have participated in “Bounce Day,” which describes itself as “an integrated disaster response experience” that simulates a zombie plague (HERE).

Such stories are noteworthy and amusing, especially to a horror maven such as myself, but perhaps they aren’t as surprising as some folks may first think. Really, they make perfect sense.

Protocols for dealing with a zombie outbreak are pretty similar to those for virtually any pandemic (minus gunshots to the head). As the Bounce Day blog notes, using “actors simulating illness (zombies) and those affected by the crumbling of society” in such training scenarios helps “participants [learn] both medical and nonmedical response protocols ranging from vaccination and treatment to refugee camp management and security.” In other words, even though zombies don’t exist, the skills we would need to utilize in order to contain them are highly practical for many real-world threats (avian flu, Ebola — take your pick of scary viruses that keep World Health Organization officials up at night).

Zombies provide a fill-in-the-blank marker for such quarantine situations — a growling, rot-faced placeholder for any number of nightmare scenarios. Ironically, by giving such hypothetical scenarios the zombie veneer, you make them less scary. Practicing for a bird-flu pandemic is kind of depressing, and really kind of terrifying. Zombies are fun because they don’t exist. Hence we have an illustration of how monsters are often used to sublimate real fears under the guise of stand-in bogeymen. We can deal with our real fears at one level removed, without having to cogitate on them directly.

And as an added bonus: in the unlikely event the dead do start rising again with a hunger for human flesh — hey, we’ll be prepared for that too.

Kirby McCauley, September 11, 1941 — August 30, 2014

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Kirby McCauleyIn late fall 2000, Dave Truesdale convinced me to reprint Edmond Hamilton’s first published story, the creepy pulp tale “The Monster-God of Mamurth,” from the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales. Harlan Ellison told us “it’s an awful story,” but what does he know? It has ancient lost cities, valiant explorers, horrible curses, and seriously spooky giant spiders. I loved it.

So I dutifully tracked down the rights, and discovered they were controlled by the Pimlico Agency in New York. In short order, I found myself on the phone with a guy named Kirby McCauley, negotiating the right to reprint the story in the second issue of Black Gate for $200.

Now, I’d certainly heard of Kirby McCauley. He was Stephen King’s first agent, and King had famously related some of the guidance McCauley gave him early in his career. More interesting to me, McCauley was also an accomplished editor. His Dark Forces was easily the most acclaimed horror anthology of the 1980s (it included Stephen King’s The Mist, among many other notable stories.) So in between our business dealings, I mentioned to Kirby that I was a fan. He was very gracious and surprisingly easy to deal with.

For a good many years, Kirby McCauley was one of the most successful agents in the industry, with a client list that made his peers green with envy. George R.R. Martin said “Kirby revolutionized agenting in SF and fantasy and horror,” and that was no exaggeration. However, McCauley’s career suffered a significant downturn in the late 90s, and he lost most — but not all — of his biggest clients.

Kirby McCauley passed away last weekend, and his death has largely been ignored by the industry. But today, I found a lengthy appreciation written by his client and friend George R.R. Martin. It’s definitely worth the read, both as a remembrance of a man who made a big difference in the industry and as a wonderful snapshot of what publishing was like in the 70s and 80s.

Read More »

Action Comics #1 Sells For $3,207,852 on eBay

Monday, August 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Action Comics Issue 1-smallIf you’ve been on eBay at all in the last ten days, you’ve probably seen banner ads for an unusual auction: a copy of Action Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman. Written and drawn by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action #1 was published on April 18, 1938 (cover-dated June) by National Allied Publications, the company that eventually became DC Comics. Although it had a print run of over 200,000, only some 50-100 copies of Action #1 are still known to exist.

The seller, Darren Adams of Pristine Comics in Washington, had the comic professionally graded by CGC at a 9.0. Only one other copy has ever achieved a 9.0, and it sold for $2.16 million in 2011. Until yesterday, that was the highest price ever paid for a comic book. Adams didn’t restrain his enthusiasm in the auction description:

For sale here is the single most valuable comic book to ever be offered for sale, and is likely to be the only time ever offered for sale during many of our lifetimes… This is THE comic book that started it all. This comic features not only the first appearance of Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but this comic began the entire superhero genre that has followed during the 76 years since. It is referred to as the Holy Grail of comics and this is the finest graded copy to exist with perfect white pages. This is…. the Mona Lisa of comics and stands alone as the most valuable comic book ever printed.

This particular copy is the nicest that has ever been graded, with an ASTONISHING grade of CGC 9.0! To date, no copies have been graded higher and only one other copy has received the same grade. It is fair to say though that this copy blows the other 9.0 out of the water. Compared to the other 9.0 that sold for $2.1million several years ago it has significant superior eye appeal, extremely vibrant colors and PERFECT WHITE PAGES.

The auction ended at 6:00 pm Pacific time on Sunday. Bidders had to be pre-qualified and there were a total of 48 bids. The winning bid, placed 32 seconds before the end of the 10-day auction, was made by an unidentified eBay veteran with feedback from over 2,500 sellers. See the eBay auction listing here.

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