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Archive for the ‘Classic Science Fiction’ Category

Ha! In honor of the crappy re-makes that Hollywood keeps on turning out (and budgeting over and over and over again) – don’t you think the word we use to describe these things ought to be “re-tread”? (captures the cheap, shoddy, will fall apart within the first ten minutes feel), I just finished a re-make of the Classic Science Fiction Channel’s ‘moving images’ page.

The page was originally all text links. Now I’ve replaced the text links with film posters and title screen images. Too bad there isn’t an industry standard size for these advertisements. If they were all the same size, the page would look really cool. As it is, I think it still looks pretty cool.

Besides, there’s just something right about sticking a poster for Skiffy Tube’s short-lived Flash Gordon series next to one for Plan 9 From Outer Space…

You can check out the goodness here.

I’ll probably re-make the radio show page next. What I’d really like to do is find a book cover for each of the episodes that are based on a short story – but in most cases such covers aren’t available: most of these shorts appeared in pulp magazines and more often than not they weren’t the cover stories. But have no fear, I’ll figure something out.

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Warning – this is going to be a multi-post day (including pictures of the snow that is keeping me inside) – so check back often!

Upcoming: the C’s from the continuing series of reviewing the reviewers (getting a lot of comments and emails on that one) – which includes my massively brilliant solution for those bloggers who are ‘nervous’ about their upcoming review – and – snow pictures!

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Got an email request to hunt this one down. (I liked it, but have been concentrating on television show episodes of late.)

I decided to just give it a shot and – what do you know – there it is on Veoh.

You can get to it easily from The Classic Science Fiction Channel.

Happy Holidays!

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We’ve been pretty steeped in TDTESS over here and some of the forum discussions about the original and the remake got me thinking about the nature of classic.

I’m thinking that very little, if anything, that’s produced from oh, say, 1995 on, will ever find itself into the halls of classicdom – and I’m thinking that one of the reasons that TDTESS became a classic (and perhaps why other things from its era have also) is because the culture that it was created in lasted long enough for at least two, if not three generations to have experienced the ‘feel’ of that culture.

My theory is this: if the property (movie, book, tv show) resonates with the audience and that audience is pan-generational, it stands a good chance of making it onto the list.

TDTESS was a ‘cold war message’ film, written when the red scare was beginning to peak. The cold war, and the cold war mentality, lasted well into 80s; audiences exposed to the film well after its debut still shared the cold war mentality, and could easily identify with the elements in the film. Believing that the world could end in nuclear armageddon (actually, living with the very real possibility that it would occur while you were sleeping) was a very immediate thing for everyone.

These days, shared culture seems to last three, four, maybe six months, and then we’re off on the next import. Someone seeing Wall-E five years from now will have experienced an entirely different set of sensibilities about conservation and environmentalism, and there’s a good chance that the film just won’t push the buttons for them that it did for contemporary audiences -let alone three or four generations of audiences.

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The article you are looking for can be found HERE on the new version of my blog.

Please update your links and readers.  Thank you.

 

I was hoping that William Gray’s answers to my questions would go up yesterday, the actual The Day The Earth Stood Still To Watch The Original Movie Day – but a mistaken read of his original email response led me to believe that he wasn’t interested in answering questions. My fault. I thought I had things covered in the comprehension department, but I guess not.

Anyway. Who is Wiliam Gray and why does what he have to say about The Day The Earth Stood Still have any importance?

Because William Gray is Billy Gray – the actor who starred alongside Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal in the movie, playing Bobby Benson, that’s why!

I haven’t done extensive research, but I believe that Mr. Gray is the last surviving member of the original movies’ cast.

I was therefore kind of surprised that no one had bothered to get in touch with Mr. Gray regarding the remake. I waited to see if anyone would – but such never materialized, so I decided to give it a go myself. A brief search revealed his website – www.billygray.com – and this picture right up front:

billgray

Given his caption, I figured there was a decent chance he’d be willing to answer questions – and he was.

COF: You display the above picture on your website and caption it as your favorite. What was it about that photo/scene that makes it your favorite?

Billy Gray: The acting

(I gather that Billy is referring to the sense of awe and wonder that Bobby is displaying – the same expression we all had when watching the movie for the first time.)

COF: Were you eager for the role, or was it ‘just another job’?

BG: The Latter

COF: Who among the cast and crew stood out, and why?

BG: Robert Wise, because he was so nice.

(Robert Wise was the director)

COF: When you read the script, did you get its ‘message’? Did you think of it as a ‘red scare’ film at the time?

BG: I didn’t get ‘the message’. I don’t think it was a ‘red scare’ film.

COF: Did you think the GORT mock up was ‘creepy’ or ‘keen’?

BG: It was just a prop to me

COF: Were you a science fiction fan at the time the movie was made?

BG: Not then and not now.

(Oh well…can’t have everything)

COF: What did you take away from the experience of making this movie that has stayed with you?

BG: The ‘diamonds’. But somehow I lost them

COF: How many times have you watched the original version of the movie?

BG: About two dozen times and it still holds up, but I don’t remember seeing it when it first came out.

COF: What are your thoughts about the remake?

BG: What balls! or it might be just mindless cashing in on the movie’s good rep. We’ll see.

COF: Do you plan on seeing the remake?

BG: Yes

***

Mr. Gray also urged me to encourage everyone to visit www.nti.org by saying –

People should support the Nuclear Threat Initiative: What with all the mad men in the world: 57 years later – it is still the most important movie ever made and should be required to be viewed and discussed, in school, by all, by the seventh grade!

Mr. Gray closed with this post script: All the press the title is getting will mean that the first one will be REVISITED on DVD and that is GOOD! SO IT DOSN’T MATTER IF THE NEW ONE IS JUST FOR GREED OR NOT.

I think Mr. Gray has a bit of a sense of humor (what did you take away from the film – the diamonds: lol) but I think it is also pretty obvious that despite the distance of 57 years, the experience has stayed with him.

Mr. Gray continued acting for a number of years, appearing (according to IMDB) in The Vampyre Wars as recently as 1996. He is probably best known for his portrayal of ‘Bud’ in the 50s classic television series ‘Father Knows Best’.

He is also the inventor of the ‘F1’ guitar pick and spent a number of years as a Class A motorcycle racer. Given the other links on his website and the invention of the pick, I’m going to guess that he also has a thing for surf music…

I really appreciated William giving me the time to answer a few questions regarding TDTESS. I hope to follow-up after he’s had a chance to see the remake.

And – Klaatu? Bobby lost his diamonds. Do you think you could give him a couple more?

Tomorrow, the remake hits the theaters. I’ll be going and will be doing a review. I’m going to try my best to deliver an unbiased take on it – and I hope the rest of you all chime in and let me know whether I did or not.

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TDESS FINAL 15 copy

Click the pic to watch the original movie.

skiffytube copy

Skiffy Tube ups its purity rating this week with a WHOLE DAY! devoted to MOrk & Mindy reruns!

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Housekeeping First. There are now some 220+ authors and well over 500 novels, novellas, novelettes and short stories up in the literature section of the Classic Science Fiction Channel. This section of the site contains both the printed and audio word, and there are some VERY fine authors and stories cataloged there. I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting (actually, a colored asterick) favorite authors and stories of particular note. They may be historically significant (Edison’s Conquest of Mars, for example) or personally significant (such as Ted Sturgeon’s The Girl Had Guts: if you want to see a master craftsman at work, let Ted pull you by the nose through this humorous, snappily concluded story…) As usual, all stories are (so far as is ascertainable) legal.

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The various selections of pulp magazine covers that I’ve published here over the past several months have been amongst my most popular entries. Particularly the ones that mention sex. As if that were any surprise.

I’d really like to witness the reaction of some pubescent who’s snuck onto the internet and is feverishly looking for the modern day equivalent of Dad’s Playboy hidden-under-the-mattress. What happens when they hit the blog entry for The Top Science Fiction Sex Slaves? Are they disappointed or thrilled? Do those covers now inform their fantasies, or do they curse me to this day for having wasted their ‘personal’ time with drawings of women (and men) who are best described as ‘mostly clothed’? Will some poor soul now grow up with a fetish for robots and rayguns? (“Honey, will you for once put the damn Buck Rogers water pistol down and look at ME!”)

One wonders, one does.

This morning I came up with another subject (not nearly as sexy as SF Chicks with Whips), but something that is important to those who do fetishize the pulp magazines – the collectors. I’ve put together a list of the top ten collectible SF pulps – magazines that because of rarity or historical signifigance are the objects of desire for those of us who love the smell of pulp and dust.

If you want to see them though, you’re going to have to click on through to the self-hosted version of the blog. Which brings me to another housekeeping point: will you people PLEASE update your feeds to at least include the new version? I’m still getting twice as many visits on the old blog as on the new. If I’m missing some easy way to get you all to do this, please slap me upside the head with the information.

Thank you.

And now – The Top Ten Collectible Science Fiction Magazines:

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The Classic Science Fiction Channel’s literature page, featuring E book and Audio classic science fiction is now up on the website. Join famous science fiction authors like Stanley G. Weinbaum, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Andre Norton, more

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Well, now seems as good a time as any to mention Ry Cooder and the release of The UFO Has Landed, the Ry Cooder anthology from Rhino.

I got this in the mail from the same folks who asked me to pump up Warren Zevon’s re-release and I promised that I’d give it a look see and a plug.

Today, BoingBoing has a piece from Mister Jalopy that covers a travel article in the Sunday NY Times featuring Ry and HIS California.

It is a strange landscape indeed, reminscent of Ry’s music.

I’d never heard of Cooder before but I have heard his music as has most everyone else (and many, like me, without realizing it). He’s played with the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, Van Morrison, The Chieftans, Bill Wyman, Randy Newman…

His claim to fame is slide guitar and his touches remind me greatly of Leo Kottke; the hickabilly tunes – a blend of folk, blues, rock and the kitchen sink remind me of a mix of The Band and The Little River Band.

If it weren’t so cold out, I’d be hitting the back porch with a stick, my whittling knife and Ry. Maybe a corncob pipe too.

Ry Cooder The UFO Has Landed, is available from Rhino records – a two CD set with full liner notes. If you’re looking for some good foot stomping slide guitar blues – give it a listen.

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Futurismic talks about sensawunda (which I’m getting from my listen to Ry right now) and the fact that its missing. Huh? Well, yeah. I do notice its lack in a lot of the new stuff I’m reading. The stuff coming from authors with literary pretensions and those who seem to think that characterization is more important than technology.

Ok, so I’m a neanderthal, sue me. I’ll go to the dictionary when I want to be introduced to new words thank you. You know why the classic novels were so short compared to the stuff coming out now? Because the classic authors CHOPPED OUT ALL THE FLOWERY CRAP! that’s why.

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Baen Books is resurrecting Poul Anderson’s Technic league with a series of reprints and recoveries. I know this will make Fred happy. The first compilation is called The Van Rijn Method.

If you want to start (or reminisce) with this 30 some odd year’s long future history – go here.

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My friend Joe visited Philcon yesterday and is writing up a report. He spent a little time with Darrel Schweitzer (bought a coin too, lol) and took pictures of hotel restaurant condiments – despite the presence of ‘female ninjas’ at the costume contest. I’m waiting for his write up.

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Courtesy of SFSignal, I watched the official trailer for the revamped Star Trek.

Yawn.

Seriously. Yawn. I’ve gone from being mildly interested – will watch it if only from a sense of duty – to – meh. Could care less.

Let’s see what brings on such ennui.

More

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Straczynski, we love you but

NO NO NO NO NO!

YET ANOTHER REMAKE OF A (ALREADY PERFECT) 50S FILM!?!?!?!?!

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that J. Michael Stracynski has been hired to write the script for a (barfing in my mouth) remake of the science fiction epic film of epic films – FORBIDDEN PLANET.

The one based on J. William Shakespeare’s script – The Tempest.

(What the hell is it with the Hollywood J’s? The Jays are invading and remaking everything!)

Whay can’t we wait a century for remakes – why does it have to be every half century (or in some case once every other week…)?

WHY THE FUCK CAN’T WE LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE!

Here’s an idea. If you’re current crop of Hollywood A list ideators can’t come up with new ideas that are good enough to make into movies and tv shows – GET RID OF THEM!

OR – I’ll bet just about anything I own that people like J. Michael have a file somewhere that’s just spilling over with original scripts they’ve been trying to find a market for.

AND – if that’s not good enough for some bizarre Hollywood logic reason, there are companies like TOR and ACE and PYR that have these little paper things called books, written by these strange little people called science fiction authors, and they keep on writing and publishing those book things every day, and every single one of them is an ORIGINAL FUCKING IDEA!

How about giving them some attention and a little cash, huh?

Look, I don’t begrudge J. Michael his paycheck – and I’ll bet he’s pretty excited about the challenge he’s just accepted (all the best and please do a really good job – the kind we’ve come to expect from you) – but I know, deep in my heart of hearts (whatever the hell that means) that you’d much rather be spending your time creating your own characters, universes and adventures. I know protest is futile – if you’d said ‘no’, they’d just hire some hack to churn this thing out – but aren’t you getting sick of the mentality? (Maybe not, probably depends on the word rate…)

Monsters from the Id indeed…

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Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of Herbert George Wells’ novel – The War of the Worlds.

H.G. wrote the original novel in 1898 – One Hundred and Ten years ago, 40 years before the radio broadcast (why aren’t we ballyhooing the 110th anniversary of the book instead of the 70th anniversary of the radio broadcast?).

The War of the Worlds is often co-opted by science fiction historians and literary analysts as one of the first SF novels (which it can’t really be since the genre wouldn’t be invented for nearly another three decades), so it is really only safe to refer to it as a ‘proto’ SF novel – albeit one that has been enjoyed by a huge worldwide audience, adapted into numerous mediums (the Task Force Games board game is one of my favorites among the games, comics, books, music, movies and televisions shows) and is recognizably ‘science fiction’ even to those who religiously avoid the genre.

I find it fascinating that there exists an MP3 of a radio interview featuring both H.G. Wells and Orson Welles, which you can listen to by going here. Even more fascinating is the subject – Welles’ recent broadcast and the stir he caused with it. Wells (if this is going to make sense, you need to pay close attention to the presence or absence of that all important ‘E’) is both amused and bemused by the uproar it caused amongst those silly, impressionable and naive colonists. He even mentions the political hay Adolf Hitler tried to make out of it during a Munich speech (if anyone knows the location of a copy of that speech, I’d really like to know).

While the original novel is decidedly Victorian in composition (and the radio adaptation decidedly post-great depression in nature), it nevertheless lays down some tropes that would become seminal: descriptive methodology of an alien invasion; the isolated survivor coming to grips with a terribly transformed landscape, learning the lessons of survival through fear, terror and a bit of luck, the use of a previously unknown and unanticipated external event as metaphor for the examination of our own society, the resolution by means of yet more things from the unknown, in this case deus ex biologic-machina.

The War of the Worlds as novel defined an entire sub-genre before such even existed, and it’s theme has echoed throughout science fiction ever since – the unknown holds the keys to both our destruction and our survival. Humanity’s job is to hang on for the ride, learn from the experience and prepare itself for the next wave.

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It never ceases to amuse me that Welles chose New Jersey as the initial invasion site. Most folks think of the Garden State as the last place anyone would want to invade. I wonder if they weren’t telling a joke similar to “I live in New Jersey”, “Oh? What exit?” back in the thirties.

I’m a Jerseyite and have made my own pilgrimage to Grover’s Mill. It sits in the middle of farm country, close to the pine barrens (home to the other famous monster from New Jersey, the Jersey Devil) and does not really provide a tactical advantage for invading Martians – but it is out in the ‘sticks’ and was even more isolated back in the 30s, so staging the landing there does make some sense (close to NYC where the broadcast originated, familiar to core audience listeners as farm country).

I wonder of Orson thought an alien invasion of New Jersey was as funny as I think it is. I was amused by that concept so much that when it came time to design my own ‘War of the Worlds’ board game, I used it: the game was called ‘Venus Invades’ (subtitled ‘Stomp!’). The conceit is that the Venusians watched the failed Martian invasion and figured they could do it better. They land in Manhattan (isolated, good for establishing a beachhead) and their strategic objective is to get across the bridges into New Jersey. If the human player is lucky, the NYPD, FDNY and citizen vigilantes will slow the Venusians down long enough for the NJ Army National Guard – 50th Armored Division – to arrive on the scene. But that’s kind of difficult because the citizens of New York are all in a panic, streaming through the streets, across the bridges and into the tunnels, trying to get away from the Venusian Stompers, giant, huge-footed machines developed by the Venusians to deal specifically with Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

It was fun in play testing.

Back in the day, no one in Grovers Mills was laughing. In fact, several people attacked this water tower, thinking (in the dark) that it was a Martian tripod –

martian war machine

This water tower fueled my own tripod fantasies back in the 60s –

cherry hill water tower

Yes, too many legs, but it does have that little control pod up on top.

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The folks at the Not a Planet Anymore blog are encouraging people to ‘blog like its the war of the worlds’. In other words, look out your window and describe the invasion as if it were happening now.

It’s a great idea and has already started, though I’m not sure if enough folks know about it to make it a happening.

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You can read the original novel, accompanied by original illustrations, here. And of course, you can listen to the broadcast here on the radio dial at The Classic Science Fiction Channel.

Project Gutenberg also has a PDF of the novel and an audio version as well.

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For those who listened to me whine yesterday about not being able to read, flinging my angst out onto the web seems to have helped. I was able to read several chapters of Multireal last night in bed before falling asleep – even with taking time out to watch the Obama Infomercial. (We’re in bed early at the Davidson estate as we have a 3 am wake up call.)

Thanks for the suggestions and well-wishing.

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