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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.