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Yesterday Today:
SF’s Roots on View at Milford Festival

September 29th, 2017

My previous post concluded with mention of the grand finale at this year’s Milford Readers and Writers Festival and the promise of a follow up post. Here, then, are some of the talking points from our three-hour program at the Milford Theatre, a conversation that considered how science fiction came of age in Milford during the middle of the 20th century.

The story begins with the Futurians, a group of Brooklyn writers interested in moving science fiction beyond its pulp origins. Among them were James Blish, Virginia Kidd, Damon Knight, and Kate Wilhelm, who moved to Milford in the 1950s and whose homes became gathering places for fellow writers. The Blish-Kidd home (left) became known as Arrowhead, and it remains a central part of the sf world today.

The other Milford retreat, the home of Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, was known as The Anchorage (right), a place that James Blish described as “a looming, dark and slightly crumbling mansion.” It burned down decades ago but holds an important place in sf history as the the site of the original Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference. It is also the place where sf artist and filmmaker Ed Emshwiller shot The Thing from the Back Issues — a science-fiction short featuring Algis Budrys, Judith Merril, Harry Harrison, Ted Cogswell, Damon Knight, and other sf luminaries.

Last week, as part of the panel discussion at the Milford Theatre, I got the chance to screen that film and discuss it with fellow writers Gordon Van Gelder, Paul Witcover, John Grant, and Robert Levy (who, alas, is not shown in the photo below). The film is a wonderful time capsule, a window back to the early days of science fiction. You can watch it in its entirety by clicking the embedded video at the top of this post. Enjoy … and I’ll be back soon with news about another film — the Mick Garris anthology Nightmare Cinema that is currently making its way to a theater near you. Until then, scop on!

Gordon Van Gelder, Paul Witcover, Lawrence C. Connolly, and John Grant at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival

Images

  • Arrowhead Today. Photo by The 21st-Century Scop.
  • The Anchorage, circa 1955.
  • Four-fifths of the SF-Roots panel at the Milford Theatre. Photo by Christine Cohen.

Bi-Coastal Weekend: Stories & Nightmares

September 23rd, 2017

Writers do most their traveling at home. It’s inward travel, exploring memory and imagination in the creation of stories that might one day enter the real world as published stuff.

But sometimes the draw of outside events cuts through the reverie, and that’s the way it was last weekend when I had writing-related gigs popping on both coasts: a guest of honor appearance at the Milford Festival on the east … and Son of Monsterpalooza on the west.

Held in the Marriott Burbank Convention Center, Son of Monsterpalooze is an offshoot of Monsterpalooza, an annual event for fans of film, makeup, special effects, collectible toys, art, and (of course) monsters! 

One of the major events at this year’s SoP was the much-anticipated preview of the new horror anthology film Nightmare Cinema. Conceived by Mick Garris and featuring some of the biggest names in horror, the film centers on an aberrant projectionist (played by Micky Rourke) who screens films for the lost souls who come to his theatre.

Nightmare Cinema tells five tales of terror in very distinct, individual styles. Cuban director Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead) writes and directs “The Thing in the Woods”; Japanese auteur Ryuhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train) directs “Mashit,” written by Mexican author and filmmaker Sandra Becerril; Joe Dante (Gremlins and The Howling) directs “Mirari,” written by Richard Christian Matheson; Mick Garris (Masters of Horror and The Stand) writes and directs “Dead”;  and Brit David Slade (Hannibal and 30 Days of Night) directs “This Way to Egress,” which is based on my short story “Traumatic Descent” and filmed from a script co-written by David and me. What a team!

The photo above was taken last year at an L.A. reception for the film’s writers and directors. Look closely and you’ll see that Richard Christian Matheson is hiding behind Alejandro Brugués. He’s there but not there, which is sort of the way I attended last weekend’s Nightmare Cinema preview, there in spirit while the rest of me took part in the science-fiction track of the Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

Milford’s main events centered on live performances, including a Saturday night readings hosted by Christine Cohen and Will Reeve of the Virginia Kidd Agency.

Held on the second floor of the Dimmick Inn, the sf readings featured Shirley Jackson Award finalist Robert Levy (The Glittering World), Nebula-Award finalist Paul Witcover (Tumbling After), two-time Hugo Award Winner John Grant (The Encyclopedia of Fantasy), and the 21st-Century Scop himself. The event was well attended, which you can see in the photo of Robert Levy. (That framed picture beside him is actually a mirror reflecting the event’s SRO audience.)

After the reading, I joined Will Reeve on the balcony for an impromptu jam session. After that, all that remained was the grand finale — a science fiction panel at The Milford Theatre (see photo at the top of this post).

A heartfelt thanks to all who came out to make the event memorable, and especially to Lillian Longendorfer, who put the science-fiction-and-fantasy track together. I’m ready to do it again.

So that’s the broad strokes. In the days ahead, I try posting more on the forthcoming film and the Milford Festival events. Until then … scop on!

Images:

  • Gordon Van Gelder, Paul Witcover, the 21st-Century Scop, John Grant, and Robert Levy on stage at the Milford Theatre.
  • Joe Dante, Mick Garris, and Alejandro Brugués on stage at Son of Monsterpalooza.
  • Mick Garris, Joe Dante, Sandra Becerril, The 21st-Century Scop, Richard Christian Matheson (hiding), Alejandro Brugués, and Ryuhei Kitamura gather in L.A. to celebrate the green-lighting of Nightmare Cinema, December 2016. 
  • Christine Cohen and Will Reeve hold signs for the Science Fiction and Fantasy readings at the historic Dimmick Inn.
  • Robert Levy reading at the Dimmick.
  • The 21st-Century Scop and Will Reeve jam on the Dimmick balcony.
  • Title image from the Nightmare Cinema teaser.

Big Things Cooking in September:
Milford Writers & Son of Monsterpalooza

September 8th, 2017

Big things are brewing this month, with the Milford Readers and Writers Festival on the east coast and Son of Monsterpalooze on the west – both on the same weekend (September 15-17) and 3,000 miles apart.

Makes me wish I had a teleporter.

Nevertheless, despite the distance and the impossibility of two places at once, I’m eagerly looking forward to both.

As science-fiction guest of honor at the Milford Festival, I’ll be taking part a program that will include a marathon screening of the original five seasons of The Twilight Zone, fiction readings at the historic Dimmick Inn on September 16, and a panel discussion at the Milford Theater on September 17. Among the other writers featured at these events will be Paul Witchover, Robert Levy, John Grant, and Gordon Van Gelder. Good company, indeed.

Paul Witcover is the author of five novels, most recently The Watchman of Eternity and a collection of short stories. He has been a finalist for the Nebula, World Fantasy, Shirley Jackson and Locus Awards.

Robert Levy’s  novel The Glittering World was a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.  His shorter work has recently appeared in Black Static, Shadows & Tall Trees, Wild Stories:  The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction and The Best Horror of the Year.

John Grant is the author of about seventy books, including twenty fiction novels and non-fiction books that include the highly successful Discarded Science, Corrupted Science and others. He has won the Hugo Award twice, the World Fantasy Award and various other international literary awards.

Gordon Van Gelder is the publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the long-running publication that first brought us such sf classics as Stephen King’s Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon, Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Robert H. Heinlein’s serial “Starship Soldier” (which later became the novel Starship Troopers). It is the magazine that first introduced me to the genre when I was in my early teens, and it remains the one publication that I read cover to cover the moment it arrives. Gordon also served for many years as the editor of F&SF, and during that time I had the pleasure of working with him on a number of stories that appeared there between 2001 and 2013.

The Milford Festival’s science-fiction track is being organized by Lillian Longendorfer, whose first novel The Quad Consortium and the Sword of Bale was published in 2015.

And while those sf writers are gathering on on the East Coast, Mick Garris and friends will be holding a special preview event at Son of Monsterpalooza at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center in California. The weekend event will feature dozens of celebrity guests from the worlds of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, with a featured event taking place on September 17, when a panel presentation will be lifting the veil of secrecy on Nightmare Cinema, our new anthology horror film that will be coming to theaters next year!

Joining Mick at the event will be directors  Joe Dante (Gremlins), Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead), and David Slade (30 Days of Night). I hear that Ryuhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train), who is also involved in the project, has another commitment for the weekend and will not be attending. Nevertheless, he’ll be there in spirit, as will I.

So mark your calendar for a bicoastal weekend of science fiction, fantasy, and horror … and be sure to stop back here for more updates in the days ahead. It’s going to be an exciting month.

 

Celebrating the Roots of the Genre:
Pennsylvania’s Place in SF History

August 15th, 2017

Next month, I’ll be helping celebrate the roots of modern science fiction by heading east to Milford, Pennsylvania, where some of the genre’s biggest names helped establish sf as we know it today. It’s an exciting history that will be commemorated on September 15-17 at The Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

I’ll be attending as this year’s science-fiction guest of honor. Needless to say, I’m jazzed.

In the days ahead, I’ll be posting more information about the event. For now, here’s the official press release:

Milford, PA – The Milford Readers and Writers Festival is thrilled to announce that Science Fiction will be back in Milford, providing three separate Science Fiction/Fantasy Events. Milford, though people may not remember, was a bastion of science fiction/fantasy from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and the original home of the famous Milford Writers Conference for writers of science fiction. The Conference was founded by such notables as Damon Knight, Kate Williams, Virginia Kidd and Judith Merrill and held at the Anchorage, Damon Knight’s home in Milford.

Among the many famous writers who attended these Conferences are Harlan Ellison, James Sallis, Thomas M. Desch, Ann McCaffery and Algis Budrys. It is only fitting that today the Milford Readers and Writers Festival includes events that celebrate this great history.

The main offering will be held at the Milford Theater on Sunday, September 17 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and will include a slide show, a panel discussion and a Q & A session. The panel moderator will be Gordon Van Gelder, the editor and publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The panelists will include Lawrence C. Connolly, as guest of honor, the science fiction writers Paul Witcover and Robert Levy and John Grant, encyclopedist and past guest of honor.

Two additional free events will take place on Saturday, September 16. The Twilight Zone Marathon will be held at the Milford Library from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The marathon will consist of a continuous showing of the original episodes of The Twilight Zone. The second event, Beer Tasting and Readings, will be at the Dimmick Inn from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The science fiction writers featured on Sunday’s Science Fiction Panel will be reading from their novels and you can enjoy a beer while listening to the readings. There will also be drawings for SF/F books provided by the Kidd Agency and for tours of Arrowhead, Virginia Kidd’s home in Milford.

In addition to the Science Fiction Panel the Festival also includes the following, all part of the Festival Pass on sale now:

· Love Letters, a two-person award winning Broadway play performed by actors Len Cariou, and Heather Cariou, at the Historic Milford Theatre;

· Lee Child, whose Jack Reacher series has sold more than 100 million copies world wide, in conversation with Stephen Rubin, publisher and President of Henry Holt and Co.;

· Robin Morgan, award winning author, activist and feminist in conversation with journalist Farai Chideya, whose most recent book is The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption;

· Patricia Bosworth, one of the country’s preeminent biographers (Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus, Marlon Brandon, Jane Fonda) and author of a recent memoir, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan in conversation with the director of the Woodstock Bookfest, Martha Frankel, author of a memoir (Hats & Eyeglasses) and other books;

· A Plenary Panel with all the above writers in conversation with each other and the audience; and

· A Private Author’s Reception and a chance to meet and talk with all the authors from the main stage panels at the Hotel Fauchere.

Individual tickets for the Science Fiction Panel only on Sunday, September 17, are on sale now for $25 per person.

A limited number of Festival Passes valid for entry to all Festival events as well as a private Authors Reception open only to Pass holders are now available for sale at the special early bird discounted price of $125 per person.

Tickets can be purchased at the EVENTBRITE LINK and more information about the festival can be found here. (Prices for the Pass and the Science Fiction panel will increase on August 15).

In addition to the ticketed events, the festival also offers a host of free programming and events around Milford and open to the public, including “Women Writing About Their Lives,” “Restaurants that Changed America,” storytelling and children’s and young adults events at the Pike County Public Library, “Artists Writing about Art”, “Recovery from Trauma”, poetry, travel writing, conservation at Grey Towers, an open-mic event: “RAW After Dark” at Bar Louis, a “pop-up” bookstore, conversations and book-signings with local writers and more. The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

So that’s the official release. I’ll have more to share in the days ahead, but for now, I hope you’ll consider saving the date for what looks to be a terrific celebration of reading, writing, and the history of science fiction. More details coming soon. For now … scop on!

Images

Damon Knight, Anthony Boucher, and Judith Merril at the Milford Science Fiction Conference in 1956. From Aloud Magazine, October 1992.

Harlan Ellison circa 1970 from popmatters.com.

Gordon Van Gelder from orbooks.com

The Twilight Zone circa 1959

“The Wizard and the Dragon” by John Longendorfer, from milfordreadersandwriters.com