Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 22 is International Talk Like William Shatner Day

I'm 3 days late for this, and 2 days late to wish Mr. Shatner a happy 81! birthday...

From the Examiner:
March 22 is International Talk Like William Shatner Day

Warm up your vocal chords and practice your pregnant pauses, because March 22 is International Talk Like William Shatner Day.

Originating in 2009, this celebration of all things Shatner takes place annually on William Shatner's birthday. The icon will turn 81 this year.

Shatner himself is going strong, currently touring the country with his one man show, Shatner's World. He'll be performing the show in Dallas on his birthday.

Meanwhile, Shatner's wife, Elizabeth, is working on a birthday present of her own: trying to get her husband's Twitter account up to one million followers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

John Carter of Mars - lousy marketing campaign, excellent movie

I had actually read the John Carter of Mars books 30 years ago, so I knew what to expect going in. (Like Tarzan, John Carter was created in the 1920s. I read them in the 1970s)

Unlike the poor schmucks who had only ever seen the commercials. Apparently, Disney spent $100 million on the ad campaign.

And what does the commercial show? The beautiful Dejah Thoris kissing the hunky John Carter? The beautiful Dejah Thoris kicking butt with her sword? The hunky John Carter kicking butt with his sword? The light-sailing, steam-punk like ships? The fight scenes between the two humanoid cities? Any fight scenes between the 10 foot tall, 4-armed Green tharks and humans?


We get John Carter facing this gigantic four armed white ape, we see him jump over it - in a shot similar to 300, ya know that oft-repeated schtick of the minuscule-clad warrior jumping up at full extension with arms raised, in slow motion, to plunge a sword into someone else... - Carter downs the ape with a big ol hunk of rock and then we see him roll his eyes as another ape enters the scene...

And from that echo of Star Wars (remember the beastie Luke Skywalker kills by dropping a gate on it) the movie-going public who has never heard of John Carter of Mars, let alone Edgar Rice Burroughs, is supposed to want to go see this movie?

Why not trade on Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of Tarzan! Is Tarzan to un-pc now that we can't even mention his name?

In any event, if you go to see John Carter of Mars, chances are you'll like it. Yes it's slow in bits and the beginning is confusing, as there's a lot of set-up before Carter even reaches Mars, but if you've read the books you'll understand it, and if you haven't read the books, you'll understand it about 15 minutes into the movie, and the beginning will slot into place and you'll appreciate it in retrospect.

Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it without flaws? No. But it is a very entertaining movie, the culture of Mars - the Tharks and the two warring cities of humans - is shown and indeed is a whole new world... it's just a fun film. Go see it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Benderspink And Roddenberry Adapting Graphic Novel Series ‘Days Missing’

From Benderspink And Roddenberry Adapting Graphic Novel Series ‘Days Missing’

The name Roddenberry has been synonymous with the science fiction genre for years. Best known as the creator of ‘Star Trek’, Gene Roddenberry’s career spanned over four decades and spawned six television series, 715 episodes, and eleven films, with a twelfth currently in development. And that’s only ‘Star Trek’.

After Gene’s passing, his son Rod took up the family business, and is now teaming up with Benderspink to co-develop the critically acclaimed graphic novel series ‘Days Missing’ for film and TV. This news from Deadline marks the first time a show has had the Roddenberry name attached to it since ‘Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda’ and ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’.

‘Days Missing’ chronicles 24 hour periods of time that have changed the course of human evolution, but have been erased from the collective human memory by an all-powerful and ancient being known as The Steward, who keeps all the forgotten events logged in his library.

Trevor Roth, creator of the graphic novels and head of development for Roddenberry Entertainment, says that Benderspink “really understands Roddenberry’s brand of science fiction and the potential of this property.” The heir to Roddenberry throne had this to say about the ‘Days Missing’ project:

“Days Missing is another wonderful example of the kind of science fiction Roddenberry stands for—an exploration of the human condition wrapped up in an extraordinary adventure that not only entertains but challenges audiences to think, question and explore. The depth of its characters and the relevance of its dilemmas provide opportunity for viewers to emotionally involve themselves in the story.”

Currently, the third installment of the graphic novel, ‘Days Missing: Enox’, is in production and is slated to be released later this year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cincinatti, Ohio: Millennicon 26: March 16-18

Millennicon 26 is March 16-18 at the Holiday Inn near I-275 in Sharonville. It’s $40 at the door for the weekend, $15 for Friday or Sunday only, and $25 for Saturday only. For more information, visit

She Blinded Me with Science (Fiction)

From SoapBoxCincinatti: She Blinded Me with Science (Fiction)
Christy Johnson, chair of Millennicon, the Tri-State’s oldest science fiction convention, talks to Soapbox about what it’s like to run a large-scale convention and geek out with sci-fi authors, and why sci-fi isn’t a “guy thing.”

Tell us about the origins of the convention.
Millennicon started out as a group of friends that wanted to hold a science fiction convention. They wanted to have an opportunity to meet with friends and enjoy all things convention related. Now we are in our 26th year and going strong!

How and why did you get involved?
My husband is a huge science fiction fan. He had gone to several conventions, including Millennicon. When we got married, I gave Millennicon a try and found out that I loved it. After a few years, I volunteered to help out at registration, was in charge of it the next and found myself chairperson the year after that. I have been attending Millennicon for almost 20 years now. I started as just an attendee and worked my way up. I have been active on the con-committee for 15 years, 13 as con-chair.

What does the convention represent in the community at large?
The convention is an opportunity to meet other like-minded people that are interested in science fiction, anime, science, fantasy, art, etc. It’s a great way of meeting the authors and getting to know them. Not just local authors but from all over the country and Canada. And many of our guests of honor have won numerous awards and are known all over the world.

How would you describe the types of people Millennicon attracts?
Millennicon is a family- friendly convention that has something for everyone, from the serious science fiction fan to those that just may be interested in the science topics and masquerade. We attract from all walks of life from the students, professionals, rocket scientists (professional and weekend), avid readers of all ages and up-and-coming authors.

Most people have this idea that science fiction is a "guy thing." How does the convention combat this idea?
The notation that science fiction is a “guy thing” hasn't really been valid since the mid-1970s. With the popularity of science fiction television shows and movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, women have always been interested in the genre. Millennicon also showcases some fantasy topics, and both men and women enjoy coming to the convention.

Do you have to go out of your way to attract more women?
No, not really. It is a nice mix of about 50/50 of men and women. What we try to do is attract those families where one spouse may be into science fiction, but we want to have programming for the non-interested spouse and children so that they will enjoy Millennicon, too.

Tell us about the charity the convention raises money for.
Millennicon is the major fundraiser for the Miami Valley Fandom for Literacy (MVFL). It was created in 1995 and was formed to fight both declining literacy and science achievements in the United States. MVFL is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)3 status. The main purpose is to promote the sciences, math and space sciences through the literature of science fiction and fantasy. We donate books and funds to various other non-profit organizations to support these goals.??This year, the convention is also raising money for the Lions Club. We will be collecting used glasses in good shape and auction a basket of goodies for their cause.

Were you always into sci-fi? I always enjoyed watching Star Trek on TV when I was younger. I’m an avid reader and love reading all sorts of books on different topics. I love the science fiction community and those that attend conventions as I feel we have a lot in common. Con-goers are usually well read, love movies of all kinds and have wonderful senses of humor. Before I got married, I still enjoyed reading some science fiction and fantasy.

What does sci-fi represent for you as a reader/viewer/consumer that other genres don't?
The Millennicon con-com (convention committee) as a whole have a variety of interests. We come together for Millennicon because we all enjoy what science fiction has to offer – science-based themes along with fantasy and through many other avenues such as astrology, innovations, technology, astronomy, art, music, and the like.

For example, our con-com has been made up of volunteers that have been teachers, scientists, lawyers, doctors, writers, business people, engineers, artists, systems engineers, computer specialists, students – and avid readers from all walks of life. This is a good representation of the sort of people that attend Millennicon.

Tell me about this year's convention. What's new/different?
As usual, we will have an art show filled with unique pieces that you can purchase, a dealer's room filled with not only books, but costumes, collectibles and all things fannish. Friday night is our dance. Saturday morning will be our charity auction with tons of stuff to bid on. We not only have a masquerade contest, but afterwards there’s a karaoke get-together for all to enjoy. All through the con, there will be things happening in our gaming room and late-night anime.

We have lots of diverse and interesting science and media panels. There will be art demos, makeup demos and concerts. Many folks are interested in steampunk panels so the convention should be very exciting. We’re also offering a well-rounded track for the younger fan. Our children's programming has been praised on many levels. We try to start our youth on the right track to fall in love with not only reading, but their curiosity for science and technology.

How has the convention changed over the years?
Well, not very much. Millennicon has always prided itself on being able to focus on the literary aspects of science fiction, highlighting the written word versus popular media representation of science fiction and fantasy. Our goal has always been to be a family friendly convention – something for everyone is what we strive for.

What did you change about the convention when you took over as chairperson?
My main strength was to delegate responsibilities while focusing on the strengths of my committee members. I have been able to utilize my organization skills to the benefit the convention as a whole. My proudest accomplishment is our registration process, which I am proud to say, gets more compliments about how organized and speedy our process is as opposed to other conventions that they have attended.

I also started doing surveys during the convention to gauge how well are doing, which has given us invaluable feedback from our con-goers. I also try to maintain a presence through the convention and talk with as many people as I can. This keeps me in touch with what we are doing right and what we can improve on.

Details: Millennicon 26 is March 16-18 at the Holiday Inn near I-275 in Sharonville. It’s $40 at the door for the weekend, $15 for Friday or Sunday only, and $25 for Saturday only. For more information, visit

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Non-Persons by Philip K. Dick

A PDF of Philip K. Dick's short stories, including one called The Non-Persons, is available here:,%20Philip%20K/Dick,%20Philip%20K%20-%20The%20Eye%20of%20Sibyl%20and%20Other%20Stories.pdf

One of the short stories in this compilation is The Non-Persons. I haven't read it, but it was brought to my attention by someone who wrote an essay about a couple of doctors, one of them from Oxford, who were proslethyzing "after-birth abortions" - that is, babies who are actually born can be aborted for any reason - even if they're perfectly healthy - because they don't become "persons" until they're actually old enough to comprehend what's going on around them.

(The article was called Oxford's Nazi Doctors - a misnomer:

Now - I admit that that is bushwa!

And I doubt if anyone except these two whackos would go along with this.

(On the other hand, once a kid has reached age 18 and has been violent since age 12, or whatever, I would think it's pretty obvious he - or she - will never be a contributing member to society. I'd have no problem aborting those schmucks! Or indeed, anyone convicted of a capital crime for which there is absolutely no doubt that they are guilty....)

The author of the abortion commentary was trying to make the point that the pro-lifers do. "IF a baby can be aborted at 3 months, why not 6 months, 9 months, right after birth, etc."

I can't help but think that that's a strawman argument. No one - except the insane - would want to abort a healthy child once it is born. Babies that aren't healthy = well, that's another issue.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Designer of 'Star Wars' look dies in Calif. at 82

From YahooNews: Designer of 'Star Wars' look dies in Calif. at 82
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Ralph McQuarrie, the artist who developed the look of the first "Star Wars" trilogy's signature characters, sets and spaceships, has died. He was 82.

McQuarrie's death Saturday at his Berkeley home was announced on his official website and Facebook page. John Scoleri, co-author of a book on McQuarrie's art, told the Los Angeles Times ( ) that McQuarrie had suffered from Parkinson's disease.

In a statement on the official "Star Wars" website, George Lucas said McQuarrie was the first person he hired to help him envision what would become some of the top-grossing movies of all time.

McQuarrie's original concepts included the look of some of pop culture's most recognizable characters, including Darth Vader, C-3P0 and R2-D2. He also created the look of the Stormtroopers and the lightsaber.

The Worst Science Fiction Novel of the 19th Century

From The Worst Science Fiction Novel of the 19th Century
A number of science fiction novels were published in the 19th century which hold up today and can genuinely be considered as good literature: Walter Besant's The Inner House, Joseph Nicholson's Thoth, and H.G. Wells' Time Machine. But the good novels are far outnumbered by the bad ones. The borders and matter of the science fiction genre were not consolidated during the 19th century, nor was a standard of professionalism in the genre set, and a number of bad writers produced wretched science fiction during that century.

Nonetheless, there is one novel which outstrips all others in its combination of unreadability, cliché, and thematic foulness: An Entirely New Feature of a Thrilling Novel! Entitled the Social War of the Year 1900, or Conspirators and Lovers. A Lesson for Saints and Sinners.

The Guilty Party

The Social War's author, Simon Mohler Landis (?-1902) , certainly has a record to match his novel. A Pennsylvanian clergyman, Landis claimed to be a doctor, although no proof of this could be found. He was forced to declare bankruptcy at least three times in the 1850s and 1860s, and all of his property was seized and sold by the county, yet within a few years he had always recovered and seemed to be prospering, through a combination of lectures and selling products like Dr. Landis' Celebrated Patent Compound Electro-Magnetic Hot and Cold Air Bath and the Patent Compound Male and Female Magnitude Syringe and Organic Bath. In 1865 he founded the "First Progressive Church of Philadelphia," and as its pastor wrote and A Strictly Private Book on Marriage: Secrets of a Generation (1870), a sexual education book that was so explicit (by the standards of the era) in the ensuing trial for obscenity the book was described as "so lewd and filthy, and obscene that it is unfit to be spread upon the records of this court…and hence to read in the presence of a public audience."

Landis was jailed for five months, then released. He moved from Philadelphia to New York City, then to Detroit, then to Boston, publishing an account of his trial (Prison Life Thoughts) and polemics against doctors, self-abuse, and free love. He died in Boston in 1902.

The Guilty Novel

The Social War was Landis' only work of fiction. Self-published in 1872, Landis turned it into a five-act play in 1873, although there's no record of it being successfully performed. Similarly, sales records are unavailable for The Social War, but its rarity (in print-it is widely available electronically and on microfilm) would indicate that it did not sell well.

And no wonder. Reading it is a painful experience.

Part of the problem is the prose style. Though published in 1872, The Social War reads as if it were written 40 years earlier. By turns impenetrably thick and bombastically hyper-emotionally, The Social War has dated very badly. Choosing a section at random:

The horses ran furiously away; Victor sprang back to the coach, and with the strength of a giant rolled the equipage aside, which relieved the sire; but, Oh! Horror, there was the most gloriously beautiful daughter, for whom the sire prayed for a safe deliverance, dead to all appearances; quickly Victor Juno raised her to his arms, and being a physician, took a small vial from his pocket, and placed to her lips a few drops of unfermented vegetable liquid, which immediately caused slight signs of life!

"Sire," cried Victor Juno, "shall I take the liberty to do my utmost-I am a physician-to restore your daughter?"

"Ten thousand dollars and an everlasting indebtedness to you, sir, for her restoration," responded the old gentleman.

"I'll safe her without dollars or indebtedness, or I am not a normal Naturalist," ejaculated Victor Juno.

The hero now speedily removes the jewels, satins and silks from her swan-like neck and Venus chest, and applies his powerfully magnetic hand upon the nape of the neck, and centring his giant will into his fingers, sends messengers of grace to the nervous centre of the prostrate form of the loveliest of her kind, and in a moment Miss Lucinda Armington opened her eyes, and gave a benignant look into the fiery and heaven-inspired eyes of our hero; and thus the life of the one became the joy and resurrection of the other.

400 pages of this is heavy going.

The Guilty Ideas

But there are any number of novels of earlier decades and centuries, bearing outdated styles but still worth reading because of the novels' ideas. The Social War is, in some ways, imaginative, but its ideas and themes are thoroughly repugnant.

The Social War is about the conflict between the American society and the Naturalists, a military secret society led by Victor Juno. Juno is a physician who believes in using animal magnetism rather than medicine to solve sickness. But Juno is also a minister obsessed with society's sinfulness, and he lectures about this sin at length.

Juno is opposed by organized religion, the medical establishment, and most of all the Conspirators, who are led by three people:

Rob Stew, "what the New Testament would call a Judas Iscariot, a viper, scribe, hypocrite and pharisee. A man who can dissemble and adapt himself to any kind of villainy, who goes about praying and exhorting, claiming to be a chosen vessel of the Lord!"

Joe Pier, who "has many refined, tender and noble feelings, but being one of those milk-and-water creatures who has no mind of his own, nor enough talent to succeed in life without some one to keep him stiff in the back bone, he is just the miserable, though useful instrument in the hands of a Judas-like Deacon Rob Stew-to aid in proselyting [sic] millions to the faith of blue-stocking orthodoxy."

Nancy Clover, "a finely formed female, of profound talent and wheedling capacity. She has the faculty of LOVE OF POWER immensely developed, in addition to a mountain of Self-conceit, which makes her bold and dauntless. Moreover, she possess almost a talismanic power to make every one fall in love with her, whether man or woman, and she always plays upon the lute-strings of affection of those whom she wishes to control, before she attempts to use her LOVE OF POWER over them."

The Conspirators and their followers have power in Philadelphia, but Victor and the aforementioned Lucinda Armington and her father do not bow to them, and the Conspirators kidnap and torment Victor and Lucinda, with Stew repeatedly attempting to rape Lucinda.

The New Utopia

Eventually Victor summons the forces of the Naturalists, who seize weapons and capture the Conspirators. A civil war breaks out, and after the usual plot twists, including the Victor's near-death-by-firing-squad, the Naturalists win. Juno has Stew castrated and the other prisoners of war shot. ictor then declares that the United States will be a theocracy-because "God is a dictator." Victor's ten point rule:

All money must be deposited into the Treasury

The "owners of filthy luchre" and those who have "sinned by indulging in unhealthy habits, such as rum, tobacco, medicine, profanity, licentiousness, and so forth" must "give up your sinning or die!"

"Idleness shall be a felony" and "obedience and submission to fixed law or death is the edict."

Each man, woman, and child must work at least two to three hours every day.

The Naturalists' soldiers were healed without medicines, therefore…medicines, fashions and all artificial and useless things must be abolished instantly!

Self and selfishness for mere isolated gratification shall be treated as a virulent disease, and such invalids must instantly be placed into the institutions of instruction until healed, or remain there for life."

Immigrants must abide by the new ways and are "positively forbidden to introduce, or themselves use, on our soil any agencies…that are prohibited by this proclamation and the new constitution.

No one shall be permitted, under the penalty of death, to destroy or remove valuables from the United States.

Those who do not understand how to act will be esteemed good citizens by instantly applying for information to any of the Secret Order of Naturalists.

Provisions, clothing, tenements, and all necessary things shall from this day be supplied to each as they need, and no one shall usurp more than his or her necessities demand, under the penalty of being imprisoned in the institutions of instruction."

Juno also forbids the free press, and decrees that all who wish to be married must be virgins ("in a natural state." Those who have previously libeled or slandered Juno are branded on the forehead. The parents of weak and sickly children are to be imprisoned. Stew, Pier, and Clover are sentenced to "be branded with our disgracing motto on their foreheads, cheeks, arms, legs, feet, trunk and each one have the letters B and C cut through their ears; after this is done, they shall all four be imprisoned for life in one room, unless I pardon them, where they shall work four hours a day, and be kept as a free show to all the world."

Then two years of famine and pestilence are sent to the United States by God, "to aid the cause of reform, by destroying those who led dissipated lives." The Naturalists are spared, but no one else is, so that "the path for the Naturalists was cleared of all its deteriorating rubbish, and the work of God and man went exultingly along."

As can be seen by the above description, The Social War is reprehensible trash, the most objectionable utopia of the 19th century, and the worst science fiction novel of that period.