From the Moon to Mars: The British Library Science Fiction Classics by Mike Ashley

Sunday, August 19th, 2018 | Posted by Todd McAulty

Lost Mars The Golden Age of the Red Planet-small Moonrise The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures-small

The Moon and Mars have fascinated science fiction writers for generations, although I thought the era of classic Mars and Moon anthologies was over. But it turns out that’s not the case. At least not while editor Mike Ashley is on the job, anyway.

Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet, which collects pulp-era tales (and pre pulp-era tales) from Wonder Stories, Amazing Stories, Astounding, and Worlds of If, was published in April 2018. Its sister anthology Moonrise: The Golden Era of Lunar Adventures, with stories from F&SF, Amazing, Tales of Wonder, Astounding, New Worlds, and Fantastic, arrives in September. Both are part of the British Library Science Fiction Classics, which I’ve never heard of, but for which I immediately have a deep and passionate love. Near as I can figure out, it’s a relatively new imprint devoted to early 20th Century SF. Or maybe just stories of Mars and the Moon, I dunno. But either way, love love love.

These are very welcome books. They include tales of adventure and exploration from the pre-spaceflight era (the most recent stories are from 1963, only two years after the start of the Apollo space program), which means they’re not particularly concerned with getting the science right. Scientific verisimilitude was the province of late 20th Century SF; these stories concern themselves chiefly with imagination and adventure.

And when it comes to the Moon and Mars, human imagination has been pretty darn fertile. These books contain some of the greatest SF ever written, including Arthur C. Clarke’s brilliant tale “The Sentinel,” which inspired 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Stanley G. Weinbaum’s groundbreaking “A Martian Odyssey,” which Isaac Asimov said, “had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science fiction writer.” There’s also a Martian Chronicles tale by Ray Bradbury, an excerpt from H.G. Wells’ classic First Men in the Moon, and stories by Walter M. Miller Jr, J. G. Ballard, Gordon R. Dickson, Edmond Hamilton, John Wyndham, E. C. Tubb, and many others.

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Birthday Reviews: D.G. Compton’s “In Which Avu Giddy Tries to Stop Dancing”

Sunday, August 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Edward Miller

Cover by Edward Miller

D.G. (David Guy) Compton was born on August 19, 1930.

Compton’s 1971 novel The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award, and in 2007 he was named Author Emeritus by the SFWA. In addition to writing science fiction, Compton also writes Gothic novels and crime novels. Compton has used variations of his own name, and has also published using the pseudonym Frances Lynch. Compton collaborated with John Gribbin on the novel Ragnarok.

“In Which Avu Giddy Tries to Stop Dancing” appeared in Starlight 3, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden in 2001. It is Compton’s most recent science fiction short story, and has not been reprinted.

The characters in Compton’s “In Which Avu Giddy Tries to Stop Dancing” live in a world where it is illegal not to dance, although Compton never fully describes what life is like in a world in which everyone dances as they go about their private lives. Instead, he looks at Avu Giddy’s decision to set himself apart from the law-abiding masses and the effects it has on his relationships, none of which were particularly good to begin with.

Avu’s main relationship for the purposes of the story is with the narrator. Although the narrator doesn’t particularly like Avu, the two are of a similar age and have known each other a long time, having grown comfortable in each other’s presence. They work relatively close to each other and meet for lunch in a park with some regularity. When Avu makes his decision to quit dancing, the narrator is dragged into the situation by Avu’s estranged daughters, Jenna and Karen who sought his help in talking sense to their father.

Jenna, who had a husband and children of her own, was mostly concerned with the perception people would have of the family with such an out-law father, while single Karin, who only recently left Avu’s house, firmly believed her father had made his decision with the sole purpose of embarrassing her.

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Fantasia, Day 11, Part 2: Wilderness Parts One and Two, and Parallel

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

WildernessI like to make out a rough schedule for Fantasia well ahead of time. But things always change. You hear things about movies as the festival goes on. What seems important a few days out seems less important in the moment. And then some choices are just hard to make. On Sunday July 22 I had one of those tough choices, which I’ll walk through here for the sake of recreating a bit of the subjective experience of Fantasia.

The Hall Theatre would host Our House, a science-fictional horror film, at 4:45. Then The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, an action-superhero film, at 6:45; then I Am A Hero, a Japanese zombie film, at 9:15. On the other hand, starting at 4:20, the J.A. De Sève would host a five-hour-plus screening of a near-future boxing story called Wilderness, a two-film series playing here back-to-back with a brief intermission between the two parts. That would be followed by a science-fictional suspense film called Parallel at 9:45.

I was initially planning to stick with the movies at the Hall. Then I began to reconsider. The Witch and Hero had second screenings. Parallel did not. That meant it made more sense to watch that one, and catch Hero on its second screening on the 23rd. Witch had a question-and-answer session afterward, which I wouldn’t get at the second screening. But I found myself intensely curious about Wilderness. It was a bold programming choice to schedule a five-hour block. And I wondered how its setting would inform its story; it was adapted from a novel written and set in the 1960s. I decided at the last minute to choose Wilderness over Our House. I missed what I later learned was a touching question-and-answer session, where the lead of The Witch was surprised with the festival’s award for Best Actress. But in terms of the movies I ended up seeing, I was quite pleased.

Wilderness (Ah, kôya, あゝ、荒野) was directed by Yoshiyuki Kishi and written by Takehiko Minato based on the novel by Shuji Terayama. Terayama’s Ah, kôya was published as a serial in 1965, and in one volume the year after; the film’s set in 2021, imagining a near future filled with social unrest. As the government mulls over legislation imposing a kind of conscription on Japan’s youth, and the numbers of suicides spike upward, two different men are drawn to take up boxing. One, Shinji (Masaki Suda, who voiced the lead in Fireworks and appeared in Gintama, Death Note: Light Up the New World, and the Assassination Classroom movies), is looking for revenge on a former friend, Yuji, who himself has taken up boxing. The other, the introverted stuttering Kenji (Ik-joon Yang), finds boxing is simply something he can do, something in which he can take confidence, something that might help him stand up to his abusive father. Both men are trained by gym owner Horiguchi (Yûsuke Santamaria, the voice of Hideo in Giovanni’s Island) as they learn how to box and go pro. A subplot sees a group of college activists planing an art project about the rise of suicides across the country.

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Deadpool Writer Gerry Duggan Creates New Image Series: Analog

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Analog Image 1-small

Many people know Gerry Duggan from his long run as the writer of Deadpool, or possibly as a TV writer on Attack of the Show. He’s recently paired with artist David O’Sullivan, colorist Mike Spicer and letterer Joe Sabino on Analog, a future noir action comedy Image comic set in a world where internet communications are not secure. The first trade is coming out soon, and a feature film adaptation is in the works at Lionsgate with the director of the John Wick trilogy, Chad Stahelski.

In the world they’ve created, computers and internet are no longer secure, so valuable corporate information must be carried by private couriers, who go armed and anonymous.

Jack McGuinness is one such courier, who has to fight his way through a lot of resistance to deliver his packages. His larger problem is that NSA’s surveillance function is also adapting to the analog world and he’s part of their answer. I managed to catch up with Gerry and David for an e-interview.

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The Complete Carpenter: Village of the Damned (1995)

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


Here’s a crossover I want to see in a comic: Superman vs. The Village of the Damned. I just thought of that as I sat down to write because Christopher Reeve is in this movie. Hey DC, you’re welcome! You need all the help you can get.

Anyway, welcome to the late period of John Carpenter’s career. It’s downhill from this point, dear readers.

Village of the Damned came about when Carpenter and his producer Sandy King (whom he married in 1990) signed a contract with Universal and tried to set up a Creature From the Black Lagoon remake. When project planning bogged down, Tom Pollock at Universal handed Carpenter a script for a remake of the 1960 British SF/horror picture Village of the Damned (based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham) and asked the director if he’d make this before continuing with Creature. Carpenter agreed to do it as part of his contract.

Village of the Damned was a commercial failure when released in April 1995 after Universal rushed its release schedule. The Creature From the Black Lagoon remake never got the greenlight from the studio and faded away. So rather than getting a John Carpenter remake he was passionate about, sort of a follow-up to The Thing, we got a John Carpenter remake he was just trying to get out of the way.

The Story

A bizarre phenomenon strikes the Northern California town of Midwich: for six hours, every person and animal in the town and surrounding countryside falls unconscious. Pretty weird. But weirder is that a month later local doctor Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve) finds out that ten Midwich women are pregnant — and the conception date is the day of the blackouts. Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley), an epidemiologist studying the occurrence for the US government, offers financial incentives for the pregnant women to carry their children to term so the offspring can be studied.

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Birthday Reviews: Brian W. Aldiss’s “Tarzan of the Alps”

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Edward Miller

Cover by Edward Miller

Brian W. Aldiss was born on August 18, 1925 and died on August 19, 2017, the day after his 92nd birthday.

Aldiss won a Hugo Award in 1962 for his short story “Hothouse” and a non-fiction Hugo in 1987 for his history of the science fiction field, Trillion Year Spree, written with David Wingrove, in which they continued to popularize Aldiss’s contention that science fiction began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In 1966 his novella “The Saliva Tree” received the Nebula Award. He has won the British SF Association Award five times and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award once. His novel Helliconia Spring won both of those awards as well as the Kurd Lasswitz Preis. Trillion Year Spree also won the Eaton Award. Aldiss has won a Ditmar Award for Contemporary Author and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Prix Utopia, Pilgrim Award, IAFA Award, and World Fantasy Award. He was inducted into both the First Fandom Hall of Fame and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2004. Aldiss was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2000. In 2005, Aldiss was awarded the title Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth as part of the Birthday Honors list for his service to literature.

Aldiss first published “Tarzan of the Alps” in the first issue of the magazine Postscripts, edited by Peter Crowther in 2004. The following year, the story was used by Aldiss to lead off his collection Cultural Breaks. The story has not appeared anywhere else.

Aldiss sets “Tarzan of the Alps” in Patagonia, about as far from Africa or Switzerland as one could get. It tells the story of José Pareda, whose truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere and Alejo and Maria Galdos, who just happen to live in the middle of nowhere and come to his aid, along with their son who works in the nearest town as a mechanic. In the days that Pareda stays with the Galdoses while his truck is being repaired, they bond over their shared life experiences, being of a similar age, and Pareda thanks his hosts with his stock in trade, a traveling movie that he projects from his van.

The Galdoses live so far from anything that this is the first film they have ever seen, a version of Tarzan of the Apes, which they misunderstand as Tarzan of the Alps. Being the first film they saw, the movie made a huge impression on the Galdoses and they decide that they wanted to visit the jungles of the Alps before they die. Unfortunately, Alejo dies before they have enough money for the trip and the story ends with Maria preparing their son for his journey to see the Alps as they imagine they existed in Tarzan.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 11, Part 1: Fireworks and Lôi Báo

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

FireworksI knew Sunday, July 22, was going to be a long day for me at Fantasia. That was a good thing: it meant I’d be watching a lot of movies. At a certain point, I knew I’d have to make a choice about which ones I’d be seeing. But at least the first two were set in my mind, both playing at the Hall Theatre. The first was Fireworks, an anime tween love story with a time-twisting aspect. The second was Lôi Báo, a Vietnamese super-hero movie.

Fireworks, or to give its full title, Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or The Bottom? (Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka?, 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか?横から見るか?), was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi from a script by Hitoshi Ohne, and is based on a 1995 film of the same name written and directed by Shunji Iwai. It follows youngsters Norimichi (Masaki Suda, Gintama, Death Note: Light Up the New World, Assassination Classroom, Princess Jellyfish) and Nazuna (voiced by Suzu Hirose, the lead in Laplace’s Witch), schoolmates in a seaside Japanese town. One morning, the morning her mother plans to leave town with her, Nazuna finds a strange glass sphere. Norimichi has a crush on her and had been planning to ask her to watch a large fireworks display with him that evening, but things go awry and Nazuna chooses to go with Norimichi’s friend Yusuke (Mamoru Miyano) instead. Only, at about the halfway point of the film, everything changes: a secret property of the strange glass sphere emerges, and the day begins again with Norimichi given another chance to get together with Nazuna.

Stylistically, this is a very realistic-looking movie with a few departures into fantasy sequences. Lighting effects, as you might imagine given the title, are extensive and often beautiful. This is a bright film in general with highly saturated colours. The design and direction works with the animation to create a strong sense of place — the village feels like a real hillside village, laid out in three dimensions. You get the idea swiftly where everything is relative to everything else, and a few shots of the town as a whole help. The character animation is mostly effective; I didn’t notice especially subtle touches to Norimichi or the boys he hung around with, but their body language does do a decent job of establishing who they are. The coltish Nazuna’s a little more distinctive, with a dream sequence near the end giving a sense of her character through movement (as well as through exposition and imagery).

Narratively, the movie uses a setup not unlike Groundhog Day, with a protagonist who gets to live through a day and change things as needed. Fireworks presents a useful twist, though, in that the world around Norimichi gets a little smaller and a little more deformed each time he does this. You can see that the final version of the world won’t be stable. But then you can also see that there are limits to how much the young people in this film can affect the world in any case; their ability to connect with each other is limited by circumstance, and in a way that’s what the movie’s about. If one of the characteristics of a fireworks display is its intensity, another is its transience: however beautiful, fireworks fade.

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Mel Hunter and Hal Clement’s Needle

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Doug Ellis

hunter clement needle unpublished-small

The Monday before this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I drove up to LA to visit a longtime SF fan and art collector. Among the two dozen pieces of art I picked up from him is this painting by artist Mel Hunter. Hunter was active in the SF field, contributing cover art to paperbacks and digests, as well as digest interiors, primarily from the early 1950’s until the early 1960’s, though he was still contributing an occasional cover into the early 1970’s. From December 1955 through December 1957, he also was the art director of If (the sister magazine to Galaxy). Over time, the painting has suffered some damage along the edges, so this image is a bit cropped.

Written on the back of the illustration board is a note stating that this painting is an unpublished illustration for Needle by Hal Clement, and that Hunter gave this painting to Edward Everett Evans and Thelma Evans. Another note below that mentions that the collector I bought it from purchased this from the estate of E.E. Evans (who passed away on December 2, 1958) for $25. Not surprisingly, I paid significantly more for it!

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The Mercutio Effect

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

MercutioI’m sure most of you know this, but just in case: There’s a character in the play Romeo and Juliet that Shakespeare kills off. He’s a friend of Romeo’s named Mercutio. It’s his murder that leads to Romeo’s killing Juliet’s cousin, and everything goes down hill from there. So you can see how important Mercutio is from a plot/narrative point of view.

There’s something special about this particular character, though. He’s very witty, very quick, has some great lines/scenes. Actors of my acquaintance say they love to play him. He’s so popular, in fact, that the story is Shakespeare killed him off (instead of one of Romeo’s other friends) because he was a more interesting character than Romeo himself. After all, the play’s not called “Mercutio and Juliet” – though now that I think about it, that would have made a great play too, but probably not a tragedy.

Are secondary (or even tertiary) characters always doomed to die when they are more interesting than the lead? In fact, isn’t it necessary that the audience likes and cares about characters before you kill them? Certainly it happens that way in a movie, or in a novel for that matter. We’re always being told (and we tell others) that you have to make the audience/reader invest emotionally in characters that you plan to kill.

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Birthday Reviews: Rachel Pollack’s “Burning Beard: The Dreams and Visions of Joseph Ben Jacob, Lord Viceroy of Egypt”

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Connie Toebe

Cover by Connie Toebe

Rachel Pollack was born on August 17, 1945.

Pollack won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1989 for the novel Unquenchable Fire and the World Fantasy Award in 1997 for the novel Godmother Night. She was also nominated for the Nebula Award in 1994 for Temporary Agency, which was also nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award and the Mythopoeic Award. Godmother Night received additional nominations for the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award and the Lambda Award. Her story “The Beatrix Gates” was nominated for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award. In addition to science fiction, Pollack has written for comics and Tarot, including the creation of her own Tarot Deck and books about reading Tarot and Dali’s Tarot deck.

“Burning Beard: The Dreams and Visions of Joseph Ben Jacob, Lord Viceroy of Egypt People of the Book” was first published in Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing, edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss in 2007. Three years later, Rachel Swirsky and Sean Wallace included the story in People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy. It was reprinted a second time by John Joseph Adams in the May 2014 issue of Lightspeed.

Pollack retells the story of Joseph from Genesis from Joseph’s point of view, with additional depictions of the events surrounding Moses’ story from Exodus in “Burning Beard: The Dreams and Visions of Joseph Ben Jacob, Lord Viceroy of Egypt People of the Book.”

Joseph is shown to be somewhat insufferable, giving an understanding of why his brothers would choose to throw him into a pit and sell him into slavery. At the same time, Joseph is well aware that his prophecies are going to come true, whether people believe them or not and whether he wants them to or not. What makes this even more poignant is that he sees the destruction Moses will level on Egypt and Joseph not only feels responsible for it, but sees both the Hebrews and the Egyptian as his people.

The story shifts between times, covering Joseph’s life from his childhood when he doesn’t understand his gifts through his fall and rise in Egypt and finally his death, although one of the interesting aspects of Joseph’s prophecy is that he gets his visions from a future Moses (and occasionally Aaron or Miriam). He develops a sort of one-sided relationship with his brother’s three descendants, determining that he does not like Moses for a variety of reasons, even before he sees what Moses does in his efforts to free the Hebrews, although the prophecies have a strange tendency to focus on the attempts to release the Hebrews form Egypt while glossing over their servitude to the Pharaoh.

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