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Posts Tagged ‘Orson Welles’

I picked up a copy of the revised edition of the SF Handbook by the de Camps, and I found his take on the late 30’s boom in SF publishing interesting.

Sprague lays the blame at the feet of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio play.

He notes that the boom began in the autumn of 1938, that there were four magazines on the stands at the time (Amazing, Astounding, Thrilling Wonder and Weird Tales) and a fifth – Marvel Tales – was being launched.

He then says “But it was an event unrelated to publising that gave the greatest momentum to speculative fiction. At 8:00 p.m., on the evening of October 30, 1938, the twenty-three-year-old orson Welles staged the first radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’s 1898 story, The War of the Worlds.”

…”For science fiction, however, the event was a turning point. Many who had never read Wells’s stories hunted them up. Others bought copies of those magazines  with the bug-eyed monster covers….Soon, seven more science fiction magazines were launched. On July 2, 1939, the First World Science Fiction Convention met at Caravan Hall on East 59th Street, New York City. Two hundred fans gathered from all over the United States and Canada….Time wrote up the convention…Harper’s…took a sharp and not friendly look at the phenomenon….Despite this blast, science fiction continued to expand.”

He notes that a similar expansion followed the end of WWII, much like detective fiction enjoyed a surge following WWI.

My own experience tells me that another ‘boom’ occurred in and around the excitement of the space program’s moon shot (including the Mercury and Gemini programs leading up to Apollo).

It makes a good case for the contention that the genre has only enjoyed expansion through the influence of events external to the genre, and it makes me wonder why, in times past when such things occurred, they led to an increase in both the production and consumption of literature and now, they lead to the increased production and consumption of any form that isn’t literature.

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A NEW EPISODE of One Step Beyond!

A NEW FEATURE FILM! (Zontar, The Thing From Venus)

NEW BRIT SF – QUATERMASS II – ALL SIX EPISODES!

A NEW TV SHOW’S PILOT EPISODE – TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN!

This last takes the cake:  directed by Curt Siodimak (an SF author too) and written by Henry Kuttner and his wife C. L. Moore.  This duo are also better known as Lewis Padgett…

Cool stuff.  WAY cool stuff.

Updated Update:  Forgot to mention Studio One’s presentation of THE NIGHT AMERICA TREMBLED.  This docudrama is narrated by none other than Edward R. Murrow and examines the panic that surrounded Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds.

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How We Plan To Put Men On The Moon/JFK The Last Full Measure NatGeo 03/1964Well, as I feared, the acquisition of an RSS Reader has caused information overload.  There are far too many things to comment on, rebut, extend, investigate, research and write about, for me to know where to start.  Considering that I can’t seem to remember more than two pieces of information at a time (and I never got into the habit of taking notes because I used to be able to remember everything) I now find myself twisting in the wind of half-remembered somethings that I wanted to say something about.

Couple that with my personal desire to give credit where credit is due when someone brings nifty information my way and you end up with a large bundle of frustration.

Not to mention that the new personal schedule has now kicked in and I will be awakening at 3:30 am to drive my wife to her car pool (my night owl internal clock insists that I can get by on two to four hours of sleep a night for at least two weeks); we may all have an opportunity to discover (yet again) why my Mother banished me from the breakfast table all those many years ago.

I’m going to try to remember to take notes.  Of course, the remembering part wouldn’t be so hard to remember if I could remember what I was just talking about…

One thing I definitely want to write about is a bit of weirdness – but the last three times I’ve posted, I’ve forgotten what the weirdness was, so I’ll have to skip that one for now.

I’m definitely going to have something to say about fanzine fandom, core fandom and the SMOF list, by way of commenting on the proposed change to the Hugo Awards voting rules.

I also want to mention a couple of blogs I’ve recently been exposed to, want to comment on Obama’s impending nomination, do a little review of the documentary When We Left The Earth,mention a nifty interview over at TCSFC Radio Division and – I can’t remember the other things.

So.  Fanzines.  One of my first pieces of fanac was fanzine writing, editing and publishing.  Among my first fannish friends were Big Name Fanzine Fans like Gary Farber, Linda Bushyager, Suzle Tompkins, Fred Haskell and the whole lot of folks that they exchanged letters and APAs with.  I hadn’t noticed until recently, but the advent of the internet and programs like PDF have revitalized and extended the reach of these little personal magazines that used to be lovingly cut and hand typed onto mimeo stencils and then printed on twilltone (don’t forget the slipsheets).  If you’ve never heard of a Gestetner, you owe it to yourself to take a trip back to pre-Xerox days.  You can take a look at some ‘zines here and here: I’m sure there are other archives and collections as well.  There’s some mighty fine writing in them thar zines.  Several sites have also been/will be added to the blogroll.

Core Fandom. Apparently used to describe the folks who really TRUfanly carry the traditions of fandom with them, direct descendants of Ackerman’s Ackzample.  One of those things that if you are one, you know it and the other people who are one know it too.

As usual, fandom is not fandom without a feud or pseudo-feud.  Some Core Fans are now warring with WSFS, claiming the mantle of being the ‘real’ fandom and casting WSFS as the upstart insurgents, perverters of the propeller-beanie.  The argument seems to be that ONLY those fans involved with fanzine fandom can stake a claim on the mantle of trufandom.  Naturally, the trufans over at WSFS object to this besmirching of their honor.

And of course there are folks at WSFS who kinda-somewhat agree with the Core Fandom people and lots of fanzine fans who either kinda agree with the WSFS side or disagree with the Core Fandom side.

Makes me wish we could go back to arguing over whether we should be using SF or Sci Fi…

I subscribe to the SMOFs email list  (Secret Masters of Fandom), which is available by application, with said application being accepted if the current members agree that you belong on the list (seems like my con activities in the late 70s, early 80s is still remembered and was enough to qualify me).

The current topic of discussion is the proposed change to the definitions of membership types in WorldCon.  WorldCon (TM) is the administer of the Hugo Awards.  The only people eligible to vote for these awards are those who have a current membership in WSFS (World Science Fiction Society), which you get by purchasing a membership to a WorldCon.

There are currently two levels of membership – attending member and supporting member.  Both types are eligible to cast nominations and votes for Hugo Awards.

There are a number of issues that come up surrounding the awards and memberships;  one on-going one is the objection some have to buying a vote (you’re not really, you’re buying a membership that gives you rights and privileges, one of which is the right to cast ballots) and another is the paucity of participation.  Votes for particular awards are typically in the several hundreds – not the several thousands you’d expect for a literary genre that has its own category on Amazon.

Now there’s a proposal to amend the membership types, the details of which are boring: Kevin Standlee has the proposal here if you are interested in the details.

The proposal has reignited the fire under Hugo voting issues:  big objections are again being raised to the possibility of special interests being able to ‘rock the vote’ (defined as a concentrated effort to purchase enough memberships to effectively guarantee a win for a particular property).  Fingers are being pointed at the people responsible for the Star Trek episode nominee this year.  Its fans are on a campaign and several SMOFs are objecting – not so much to what this particular group is doing but to the possible future dire consequences.

Here’s my take:  first, the Hugos ought to be far more representative of fandom in general, not just the very small numbers who actually vote out of the relatively small number of fans who get memberships in WSFS.  (Full disclosure: I can rarely justify the expense of a WSFS membership myself: when I have been a member, I have voted.)

Hugos are respected and utilized by publishers and such for marketing purposes: Hugo winning books have new editions rushed into print, proudly displaying the win on their covers.

So you can’t say they are a meaningless award, despite the small amount of participation.  But I believe that they would be MORE meaningful if, instead of winning on four or five hundred votes, a novel, story, artist, magazine or movie won with four or five THOUSAND votes.

In terms of marketing it just makes viral sense: rather than four hundred people telling their friends “I voted for the winner this year, check it out”, you’ve got ten times that number saying the same thing.

Then there’s the ‘buy the vote’ issue to consider.  As some have pointed out, future sales of a winning property may very well justify the expenditure of the ten to twenty thousand dollars necessary to buy a win.  We’re still discussing the formula (the Hugo voting and nominating process is a complicated one and isn’t subject to the simple solution of merely purchasing a majority of votes), but most of us agree that it is possible to do.

There are really only two solutions available to solve that potential problem.  First is to restrict voting with a set of complicated qualifying rules designed to prevent such from happening.  Possible and draconian – and still subject to manipulation.

The second solution is to make voting accessible to so many additional people that no single special interest group can possibly put together a large enough bloc to insure the success of their nefarious plans.  I’m not sure where the cut-off in terms of dollars is, but I’m very sure that if the total number of voters was in the ten to 50 thousand range, no one would bother to try.  And even if they did, their voice would only be one small one among many doing the same kind of thing and it could safely be ignored by those interested in maintaining the purity of the awards.

Arguments are made about the ‘dilution’ of the awards’ significance, but again, I disagree.  In terms of common sense, the MORE people there are who vote for something, the GREATER the perception of importance.  I believe that opening the vote up will bring in more TRUFANS, who have not participated for one reason or another, than it will people who are only interested in one specific category of award.  And even if an initial opening up of the award does bring in hordes of pseudo-fans, guess what? Many, many many of them will quickly become TRUFANS, because by participating in the vote, they will necessarily become exposed to the much wider world of fandom that exists beyond their Star Trek, BSG, Firefly or other special interest doors.

Two final arguments: first, the economic one.  Let’s suppose that WSFS makes a ‘vote for the Hugos only’ membership available for a nominal fee like, say, $10.  Will this reduce attendance at WorldCon?  Doubt. The people who purchase attending memberships in WSFS do so to attend the event and consider voting for the award as an additional benefit.  This ought to be made amply clear by the disparity between the total number of attending memberships and actual votes cast.  Those who purchase supporting memberships are either die-hard supporters of WSFS (good on you!) and do so regularly because they do so, or are folks who are hoping to attend but don’t think they’ll be able to for one reason or another.   Allowing people a ‘vote only’ membership (that’s convertible for an additional fee to supporting or attending) becomes a marketing tool for the convention. 

Think about all the bloggers and website publishers who’ll stick a mention of the Hugos on their scribblings.  More marketing.  Marketing that the customer is paying for the privilege of engaging in.

Not to mention the additional cash flow.  Its entirely possible that participation in such a program could being in enough additional cash that WSFS would be able to LOWER attending membership costs, which would obviously have a beneficial effect on actual attendance.

Last but not least:  opening up the vote is far more in keeping with the new electronic community/economy.  The basic concept seems to be to allow as many people to have a sense of ownership as possible (guided and managed).  People who have a sense of ownership spend more money and participate more regularly.  They contribute.  They give things away for free and add value to already existing products.  John Scalzi is doing something along these lines by offering free E-copies of nominees to those who can prove WSFS membership.  Imagine something along the same line that’s now available to tens of thousands.

I think, therefore, that WSFS ought to take a good hard look at creating a (managed) way in which many many more people can become eligible to vote for Hugos.  I can’t really see a downside, unless you consider raising awarness of the award a bad thing.

I just saw most of the episodes of When We Left Earth (Discovery channel).  Its a documentary version of The Right Stuff.  Some day, I’m going to gather up my DVDs of The Right Stuff, From The Earth to the Moon, Apollo 13 and this presentation, and sit down for a 24 hour session of viewing “Reasons Why My Childhood Was A LOT More Exciting”. 

Which brings me to Obama.  I’m voting for him.  He absolutely reminds me of JFK.  Worry all you want to about ‘inexperience’ (I don’t see it), believe as much as you want to of the BS the right is slinging at him (I don’t).  I’m voting for him DESPITE his apparent positions against a robust manned space program (hoping that will change) because, dammit, we need to hope again.  I’m sick and tired of the fear mongering.  This country has always been at its best when its had a goal to strive for and a vision of the future that’s bigger than our eyes can see.  We need to remember that and I believe Obama can give it to us.

Check this out.  Academicsare apparently reading me and adding me to their blogrolls.  Well, one academic anyway.  Of course this particular blog is lauding the virtues of BSG, so I don’t really know how excited I really ought to be getting, but…  I’m adding it to my blogroll to return the favor.

You might also want to check out zine dump if my discussion of fanzines interested you at all.

See.  Until I re-read the entry, I forgot all about the fact that I wanted to mention this.

This is a radio interview with H. G. Wells and Orson Welles that took place just a few short months before Welles’ (note the ‘E’) release of Citizen Kane, the movie that many regard as THE perfect piece of cinema.  (I like the movie, but THE perfect piece of cinema is Casablanca.  Sorry, Orson.)

The two things I find most interesting about the interview are: the fact that you can actually hear the voice of a man who was born in the 1800s, who incidentally wrote The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, First Men In The Moon and etc.  There he is, right there on the radio, talking and chuckling away, acting all deferential to Orson and the audience, seemingly bemused by the attention and enjoying every second of it.

The second thing I find fascinating is the mention of Hitler’s denunciation of the western democracies, using Welles’ radio production of Wells’ War of the Worlds, and the panic it induced, as an example of why the western democracies are corrupt and doomed to fall.

I wish I could find a copy of Adolf’s speech wherein he makes those accusations.  I’d like to hear how he links fear of a Martian invasion to corruption and failure.  Second only to the claims made about Hitler is Wells’ own unspoken commentary: Silly colonialists.  If you weren’t in the habit of believing twelve impossible things before breakfast, you’d have known the Martians can’t be invading because there are no Martians. 

I think he’d be just as amused today, what with school teachers burning crosses in their student’s arms and all.  The justifications for the Iraq war were just as impossible to believe as a Martian Invasion and yet our fellow country bumpkins bought them just as readily as they did the Invasion back in the 30’s.  Seventy plus years later we’re still running around with pitchforks and pulling the covers over our heads.

 

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