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Could we start with anyone but Lloyd Penney? Dear Chris: Hey, two more Hugo-winning Drink Tanks to comment on, issues 291 and 292. I am roaring ahead on the few zines I have left...the CPU’s gotta go in the shop shortly, so I need to get all my writing assignments done soon. Well, technically we won for the issues that we put out last year, but have I ever let reality get in teh way of me taking credit for stuff? 291...I need to dig up a photograph. Many years ago at a convention in Ottawa, Yvonne was done up with ape make-up at a demonstration. The photo is around here somewhere, and it needs to be scanned. When you ﬁnd it, I wanna run it! My loc...don’t lose the buzz. Hang on to it as long as you can. There’s already been discussion about what the fan Hugos will be like come Chicon 7. To me, this is a strengthening of the Hugos themselves, an increase in their value. There will always be those who say the Hugos are broken, but their voices are lessened all the time. Folks don’t seem to be letting me lose the buzz! At FenCon this weekend, I had a great time and folks were all congratulating me and I got a lot more hugs! It was a good time! I don’t think they’re completely broken, but they do need some work! Taral’s article says to me that the furry site he’s connected with may be becoming just too important. I’m starting to feel that way about Facebook, actually, and with the recent changes to Facebook, my computer doesn’t seem to like it; that’s why it’s going into the shop.Yet, it’s also a familiar place to be... I saw so many old friends in Reno I hadn’t seen in so long. I guess as fandom turns grey, we are looking for comfortable places to gather. Well, I loves me some Facebook, but I can see it as a place that people might be too reliant. I am glad I got to see so many folks I don’t see often, and then I saw most of the others when I was at FenCon that it felt right! I always liked the original Planet of the Apes, and like many books, the sequels just didn’t do it for me. Some time ago, I got myself the novel the movie is based on, by Pierre Boulle. I wanna read the novel, but I’ve never found it for a good price anywhere I’ve gone to. Might have to resort to the internet...
Letter Graded Mail
292...I am still not all that comfortable with accepting the names ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’, so I kinda ignored Speak Out With Your Geek Out. If I took part in everything I found on Facebook, I wouldn’t have time for anything else. Still...my main fanac is writing for fanzines, like this one. I’ve been a costumer, a Trekfan, a conrunner, and much more. I guess it’s easier for me to accept the term Geek and Nerd because I’ve only been called it in jest, or more frequently, by myself. I guess that helps take away any of the sting. I am old enough to know Kurt Russell as the star of many Disney movies in the 60s.This movie has really dated badly. I doubt that movies like this could be done today. I have TRON: Legacy in mind... Yeah, it’s dated, but it has a charm that still applies.They did try to do a remake of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes about ﬁve years ago, but it was really bad! And at the end, there’s William Schallert. I looked him up on IMDB, and he’s been a supporting actor in so many of the biggest television shows and movies over the past 60 years, I remember him as a young man in the old, old Commando Cody serials. (Bill Mills gave me the CD of all episodes a few years ago. I’m not that old. Honest. Cough, cough...) I am done for now...so much to do, not much time, gotta get moving. See you with the next zine you send my way. He’s still working today, Mr. Schallert, and I believe he’s been the voice of Smucker’s Jelly for more than a couple of decades. Thanks much, Lloyd! And now, Eric Mayer! Chris, So I wanted to comment on the Hugo performance you talked about in your editorial. I admit, I watched it. Hell, I think as many people have watched that as saw the Pamela Anderson sex tapes. And it’s great you were so thrilled. The Hugo voters ought to love that it really and truly means something to you. Me, I am undemonstrative to the point of catatonia but I guess I’d probably cry. But at my age I cry about everything. Well, actually, no, if I ever won an award -- any award -- I would die of a heart attack from the shock. I know, everyone will say, but you don’t go to cons. True. But I wouldn’t be around to worry about it because if I’d been nominated the shock would have already killed me. A fair bit of the reaction was due to terror. It’s scary to get to go up on-stage in front of all those folks! You know what sometimes brings tears to my eyes, when baseball players set amazing records, or when guys who have played in the minors for ten years ﬁnally get to bat in the majors for the ﬁrst time. But for me, I think it’s touching to see someone get to accomplish something that can’t be taken away, to ﬁnish ﬁrst. I’m not competitive.The idea of beating others doesn’t appeal to me, but the idea of just once ﬁnishing ﬁrst, does.A friend of mine runs, and orienteers, and he’s done every kind of race you can think of. Last heard from he was doing a 100 mile run at the age of ﬁfty. He never was in any danger of being competitive but when asked why he did so many different things he joked, “I’m still looking for a race I can win.” Watching Willie Mays’ 80th Birthday celebration at Candlestick was one of those moments for me. Not many people ever get to ﬁnish ﬁrst even once at anything. To feel -- not they beat out others -- but that they really met their potential, did their best, saw their efforts appreciated.You did it. So I love that you enjoyed that, Chris. It was great and you richly deserved it. Enjoy, enjoy! As Manny Gordon used to say. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlBUkbID_Vk Best, Eric Thanks, Eric! I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I deserved it, despite James screaming it at me while we were on stage, I do fell like it was something it’s somethign I will always treasure, and that is pretty great. And that’s a great clip!
There are many cartoon characters that you may remember fondly from the days when you were glued to the family TV every Saturday morning. And there are probably as many cartoon characters that turned your stomach... then, and even more so now that you’re adult enough to fully understand just how rotten they were. Like anyone, I have a list, and there’s a few choice items on it that I’m about to share with you. One cartoon character I could never stand originally appeared in Harvey comic books, and made the transition from third-rate comic books to fourth-rate animation sometimes in the 1950s. “Baby Huey” was quite possibly the worst character Harvey every created, pioneering depths of puerile, smarmy wretchedness not even the likes of “Herman and Katnip” could plumb. Bad as they were, Harvey theatrical cartoons could be had by local television stations for a song, guaranteeing the studio a presence in almost every half-assed kid’s program from Buffalo to Oakland, Spokane to Miami... and possibly even in Havana. These ubiquitous kid’s programs had names like “Uncle Button’s Playhouse,” “Tiny Tot Theater,” or “Long John’s Pirate Cove.” They made lame efforts to pretend to be something other than a cheap cardboard box to contain some randomly screened cartoons, but that fooled no one. Sometimes the sets were literally a cardboard box. The programs came and went like the cold season, each one appearing with a “new” host like “Cowboy Ted,” Capt’n Larry” or “Ringmaster Rick, but it was always the same host as last year. It never made any difference who it was, anyway. They all showed the same cartoons. Harvey published a surprising number of insipid, uninspired characters in their comic books – Stumbo the Giant (a big stupid, kind-hearted man), Little Lotta (a strong, stupid, fat little girl), Little Dot (a small, stupid, cute little girl whose only personality trait was a liking for polka-dots), and that third-rate cat-and-mouse team mentioned above. As a kid, I actually bought some of these, possibly out of morbid curiosity. But I don’t know if I ever bought a “Baby Huey” comic. Ostensibly, Baby Huey is only an infant gosling. He wears diapers and a frilly bonnet. But he’s also old enough to talk and walk around as he pleases. Baby Huey is also about as big as a Mack Truck, can snatch the roof off a house as easily as opening his toy box and is, predictably – stupid. Of course, other kids are mean to him – they don’t want to play baseball with “a great big baby.” Huey walks away, sniveling. Along comes the Wolf, who ties the entire Mulberry Street Sluggers baseball team to a tree, then prepares a ﬁre and kettle to cook them. “Du-uh, hwat yoo doin’, Mr. Woolf?” says Huey, who is slow to catch on. But, eventually a 10 Watt bulb lights up over his head, prompting Huey to give the wolf a darn good thrashing. Now the kids are happy to let Huey play on their team, even if he is dumber than a catcher’s mitt. I put it to you, what boy comic reader is interested in babies? And no matter how many times you tell kids that making fun of stupid, fat kids is mean, they’re going to do it anyway. Did you want stupid fats kids around when you were ten? Twenty? But, of all bad comic books – including “Archie,” “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and even “Millie the Model” – I think the one I’d cast my vote for as least appealing is Richie Rich. Not that he was the lamest character ever animated or printed in a comic, but because of the horribly distorted view of society depicted in the stories. Richie is the son of a banker or ﬁnancier who appears to be the richest man in the world. He lives in a mansion the size of an aircraft carrier, situated on perfectly manicured grounds more extensive than the metropolitan area of Boston. The driveway leisurely winds for about a mile between fountains that spray precious stones, statues of
gold or platinum and ﬂower gardens laid out in the shape of dollar signs, before eventually bringing the Rich family’s 40 foot, V-24-engined, jewel studded limousine to the front door – but then Richie waits for the ever-faithful butler and chauffer, Cadbury, to open the car door. Then Cadbury can open the mansion door. It’s surprising that Richie even walks through it all by himself. Nice life, if you can get it. Richie isn’t a stuck-up kid, though. Unlike his cousin Reggie, he has poor friends, and treats them generously. He buys them ice-cream or candy – while his dad is no doubt buying Microsoft. He takes them with him on trips to Paris or Rio, in his very own personal jet. He buys them new things when their toys are lost or broken, out of his $10,000,000 weekly allowance. Reggie, on the other hand, just laughs at other people’s misfortunes and snarls at ordinary people who get in his way. He thinks Richie is a dope. (He might be right.) But Reggie is hardly believable, either. Rich people always look up to still richer people and fawn on them. So Reggie would almost certainly kiss ass to Richie and his old man, and only be mean to Richie’s friends when Richie wasn’t looking. Even as a kid, my ﬁrst thought on reading Richie Rich was that it was unacceptable that there should be poor people when other people were so rich that their front yard was bigger than Rhode Island and their bathtubs were carved from single gigantic diamonds. But Richie was a kind and generous gazillionaire, so went the story... that apparently made it okay to have unearned wealth coming out his wazoo. Not that Richie for one moment ever considered giving away 99% of his wealth and living on the remaining ﬁfty million bucks – he was a good little rich boy because he shared .0001% of his weekly allowance with his carefully selected three friends, who were always nauseatingly grateful for the crumbs thrown their way. This was the comic book that Ferdinand Marcos or John D. Rockefeller wanted kids to read. This is the political platform of the Republican Party, dumbed down for the very young and naïve. And that’s why it sucked. I remember the ﬁrst incarnation of Scooby-Doo on television, and to my jaded 15-year-old eyes it seemed like a stale rehash of Hanna-Barbera clichés that they had already exhausted in previous shows like “Quickdraw McGraw” and “Huckleberry Hound.” I have a bit of a soft spot for those ﬁrst Hanna-Barbera shows, since they were pioneering TV efforts. But HB turned it into an assembly-line operation, and new characters multiplied like cockroaches under the fridge. Turn on the set and they were everywhere. You could watch ﬁve solid hours of Hanna-Barbera on two different channels every Saturday morning, throughout most of the 1960s. But the programs were all the same. “Magilla Gorilla,” “Peter Potomas” or “The Hair Bears” all relied on the same worn clichés and slapstick tropes as every other Hanna-Barbera product. I can only think of only one exception – Johnny Quest. It only lasted one season. “Scooby-Doo,” for whatever reason, was one of HB’s more successful products, and Hanna-Barbera just would not bury the corpse, even after the least discriminating viewers had ﬁnally tired of it. To avoid having to come up with a fresh approach, HB added to the show a yappy shrimp-sized version of Scooby Doo, “Scrappy Doo.” Then, turning the premise of the show around, they made the fake ghosts real and paid Vincent Price for a
voice-over. They added a Hispanic-looking kid in a bid for Mexican-American viewers. Finally, HB invented other relatives of Scooby, who all looked and talked like him. Gawd only knows what else they might have tried in the struggle to avoid having to create a new idea. Gawd may know... but I was doing my best not to. Though we were still subjected to re-runs, we were, mercifully, spared new episodes for a number of years. Today, unfortunately, there is supposedly revitalized “Scooby Doo” series in which “the gang” has been retired to the sidelines. The art and animation have been modernized. The plot – Shaggy’s rich uncle has left him a fortune and a secret lab sought after by an evil organization – is lifted from “Inspector Gadget.” But the laughs still basically depend on Shaggy’s shopworn “Feet don’t fail me now” routine, along with Scooby’s “Rawl right” comeback. I have to admit that the two live-action feature ﬁlms that were made a few years ago played some interesting variations on the old show. The gang has broken up after Fred had tried to grab all the credit one too many times. Daphne says she is tired of everyone thinking she gets kidnapped all the time. Velma doesn’t like being overlooked. And Shaggy... well, Shaggy is still cool, but dismayed as Mystery Inc. dissolves right in front of his eyes. I was able to watch it with some amusement once, laughing at the gang’s failures to make new lives for themselves. As you might expect, Shaggy is the only one to succeed, although the only new life he aimed for is full-time beach bum. A year ago, I tried to watch “Scooby Doo” and “Scooby Doo 2” again. I was utterly unable to sit through either a second time. I guess some things are only funny once, and being told that something like Scooby Doo is unfunny is one of those things. The best moments of “Scooby-Doo” were always the satires by other writers – I recall two in particular. The one on “Johnny Bravo” revealed to everyone who ever saw the program what they must have suspected was really going on all along. As usual, Fred had a plan. As usual, it was for Shaggy and Scooby to go into the spooky basement by themselves, while Velma investigated the mysterious secret passage behind the swinging bookshelf. Fred and Daphne would go upstairs and check the bedrooms. Fred shoots Daphne a “nudge nudge, wink wink,” Daphne giggles, and up they go. “The Venture Brothers” did another parody that was nearly as funny... though a lot more mean-spirited. Of course, that’s the difference between “Johnny Bravo” – which was just in fun – and “The Venture Brothers,” which is all about cynicism and failure. The parody shows Fred as a sleazy manipulator and bully, who is only out for the main chance. Velma is a haggard lesbian trying to convert Daphne, who is too spaced-out on pills to have a clue. Shaggy is a total burn-out case. The drugs he’s done have left him a paranoid, delusional wreck, who is the only one of the “gang” who can hear Scooby talk, although Scooby is only a vicious, unmanageable mutt. Shaggy is haunted by the belief that he had murdered the Venture Brothers years ago, smashing their heads in with a shovel. In fact, he really had! But... well, watch the ﬁrst two seasons of the show if you must know. The end for the “gang” is messy, to say the lest. Before I saw the ﬁrst live-action ﬁlm, I remember arguing about it with one especially low-browed artist I knew. It didn’t surprise me that he enjoyed the movie, but claiming it as
an example of cinema at its best seemed unusually stupid, even for him. I scoffed at the very idea that “Scooby Doo” might even be worth watching. In defense, he said that the villain was the very last person I’d ever think. I looked him in the eye and said off the top of my head, “It was Scrappy Doo, wasn’t it?” Remember, I hadn’t seen the movie yet. He was the only person I knew who had, so I had heard nothing about the movie from anyone. But did I need to? Wasn’t it obviously going to be a character nobody liked and yet was logically beyond suspicion? It had to be Scrappy Doo. Nobody in his right mind had ever liked the pint-sized, gabbling little shit. The expression on my artist friend’s face was priceless. But he should never have been surprised. When I saw the ﬁlm later, one of the few memorable scenes was a ﬂashback to the excitable Scrappy wetting the Mystery Machine and being thrown out of the gang. A more blatant set-up could hardly be imagined. Of course, that raises the logical paradox that if the last person you suspect is actually the ﬁrst person you ought to suspect, should you suspect him, and doesn’t that make him the logical suspect all over again, and therefore beyond suspicion? How many Scooby fans realize that the mumbling mutt is basically just the Jetson family’s pet dog Astro. Scooby’s addiction to Scooby snacks is similarly borrowed from an earlier Hanna-Barbera show. But few remember Snufﬂes from “Quickdraw McGraw,” the hound that will do anything for a dog biscuit. That’s how the “creative process” at HB worked. Is there anyone who was unaware that “The Flintstones” were only “The Honeymooners” set in 1,000,000 BC? If it wasn’t obvious that Fred was grouchy, overweight Ralph Kramden and that Barney was Ed Norton, the sewer worker upstairs, here are some other examples: “Auggie Doggie and Doggy Daddy” were a father and son domestic comedy. Doggie Daddy spoke with Jimmy Durante’s unmistakable “hotcha-cha-cha” accent. Snagglepuss, from another short-lived series, was Bert Lahr’s voice and stole the line “Ain’t it the truth, ain’t it the truth” from the vaudevillian. In the character of Yogi Bear, we come back to Ed Norton, complete with the familiar chapeau, and the signature “Hey, hey, Ralphie Boy” muted to “Hey, hey, hey!” It always cracked me up when Joe Barbera would deny, with a perfectly straight face, that he’d never even heard of Yogi Berra, the baseball player. Considering when Barbera made this astonishing statement, it would be like denying you’d ever heard of Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan today. Joe Barbera also claimed no connection between “The Honeymooners” and “The Flintstones.” Then too, there is an odd similarity between the opening theme music of The Jetsons and that of an adult detective show called “Surfside Six.” Try this in your head: “Here’s George Jetson... (Cha cha cha), His boy Elroy... (Cha cha cha), Daughter Judy (Cha cha cha)... In Miami Beach!” Joe... you’re a whore. There was also “Top Cat,” a show I liked as a kid, but ﬁnd rather a predictable bore now that I’ve seen it again for the ﬁrst time in 40 years. Hard to believe it was actually aired in prime time, as a followup to the success of “The Flintstones.” “Top Cat’s” premise was the same as the “Phil Silvers Show.” T.C. is the “top kick” – old army slang for sergeant – of a gang of alley cats. The role of Top Cat himself was voiced by Sgt. Bilko soundalike, Arnold Stang, in what appears to have been the zenith of his undistinguished career. In place of Colonel Hall, there is Patrol Ofﬁcer Dibble. In fact, the plots of two complete episodes of “Top Cat” are thinly disguised rewrites of episodes of “The Phil Silvers Show.” Finally, what were the Jetsons if not the Flintstones with a slight twist... Hanna-Barbera copying itself. Eventually, even ripping off famous show-people became too much effort, and HB just recycled its own old shows over and over again. “New” Yogi Bears, Flintstones and Scooby Doos rolled off the animators’ tables and into the hearts and minds of children too young to tell shit from limited animation. But who can? Part 2 Coming Soon!
52 Weeks To Science Fiction Film Literacy Slaughterhouse-5
Kurt Vonnegut. He’s been my favorite author for more than two decades.The man understand humanity and then he chose to try and push humanity to the forefront by introducing his unique brand of cynicism to the world in a way that felt just so. He was the greatest Science Fiction Author of the 20th Century, and probably the ﬁrst to make reading lists in High Schools and Colleges. Earlier than Phillip K. Dick, earlier than Bradbury, Vonnegut was getting taught in public schools. And one of the reasons was that he didn’t want to be thought of as a science ﬁction author. Maybe that’s why he’s been so wronged by so many in fandom. He’s not in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, for example, where other far lesser writers are in and have been for years. I’m sorry, but Robert Silverberg is a legend, but he doesn’t belong in compared to Vonnegut. How many authors owe Vonnegut the debt of having introduced them to SF? George Roy Hill might be the perfect director. Why? Well, that’s a religious question. He managed to direct some absolute classics, like Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, The Sting and The World According to Garp. Hill’s career is one of the best of the 1970s and early 80s, but he got fed up and left Hollywood, for the most part, dying in 2002 at the age of 81. He had the visceral ﬁlm instincts of Peckinpah or Sam Fuller, with the visual subtlety of an Attenborough or Altman. The freeze frames after someone gets shot, or killing people only off-screen is a very smart visual theme, and he works it. Plus, he was really the only choice to adapt the unadaptable. Slaughterhouse-5 is considered Vonnegut’s most signiﬁcant novel. It was fully titled Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death, by Kurt Vonnegut, a Fourth-Generation German-American Now Living in Easy Circumstances on Cape Cod [and Smoking Too Much], Who, as an American Infantry Scout Hors de Combat, as a Prisoner of War,Witnessed the Fire Bombing of Dresden, Germany, ‘The Florence of the Elbe,’ a Long Time Ago, and Survived to Tell the Tale.This Is a Novel Somewhat in the Telegraphic Schizophrenic Manner of Tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, Where the Flying Saucers Come From. Peace. Yea, I know, a mouthful, right? It was a critical success, though there were those who said that it was slight work and too absurdist and focused too much on getting the horror of the Dresden bombings over. It didn’t win the Hugo for 1969, I have one more Hugo than Kurt Vonnegut ever won, but
it was a big winner as time went by. Modern Library listed it as the 18th greatest novel of all-time. Peter Sagel of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me has said that it’s the greatest novel of all-time. I ofﬁcially named it the best book I’ve never read. Yes, it’s true. I’m a huge Vonnegut fan and I’ve never read Slaughterhouse-5. So it goes. The ﬁlm and the novel are both told non-linearly, with several different streams. As you kind of have to do, the individual streams are told in linear fashion, which is the only way to really avoid confusion. Unlike Pulp Fiction, there is much bouncing between the individual stories, so it is much less chunky and they use the pass between the various tales to emphasize points. True, usually the emphasis is on the absurdity of those connections, but it happens. Billy Pilgrim, played by Michael Sachs, writes a series of letters to the Illuim, New York, newpaper about his being unstuck in time.At ﬁrst, we are shown Billy as an Assistant Chaplin in the Army who are in Germany. He’s captured along with two other soldiers by the Germans. One of the others is Paul Lazzaro, a jerk of a GI who holds grudges like a Confederate widow. He is sent to a camp where he meets a father ﬁgure, Edward Derby. He is ﬁrst shown at a camp which is pretty cushy, getting ten times as much as it should be from the Red Cross. They are then moved to Dresden, which is a much rougher bunch of Nazis, but is considered to be safer because Dresden has nothing to do with War Production and has no reason to be bombed. Of course, that means that it’s gonna get the hell bombed out of it by the Allies. That’s the ﬁrst one, and really it’s the emotional center of the ﬁlm. The story about the meaningless of it all, of how the war is an arbitrary battle between sides that are made up of people who may or may not understand what they are really ﬁghting for or who may or may not understand what they are being asked to do. It’s got all the trappings of All Quiet on the Western Front, but it adds a layer of confusion. And maybe that’s the point of the switching back and forth in time. To bring the confusion to war, something that is often forgotten. I’ve spoken to several vets who have said that when you are in war, even with all the regulations, all the drilling and such, that confusion is the ultimate emotion, even more so than fear. It is confusion that Vonnegut brings to the front. The war is not the only story Vonnegut has to tell. There is the story of Pilgrim’s family life, which seems so very normal at times and at other times it seems like it is extraordinary.We see Pilgrim getting an award from the local Elk’s Club. We see him at the birth of his kid, bribing a police ofﬁcer after his son tore up a cemetery, in a party plane which crashes. It is extraordinarily simple storytelling, and there is a great contrast between Billy and his son. We see his son, played by Perry King who would later play one of the boat-living detectives in the CBS series Riptide, who at ﬁrst is a wild child but who is saved, more or less, by entering the Army.Whereas Billy Pilgrim’s only real pain seems to come from the Dresden bombings. It’s a nice contrast. The third and perhaps most important storyline is Billy Pilgrim’s time on Trafalmadore, a planet far away where all the inhabitants live in the fourth dimension. They ‘collect’ Billy and then later Montana Wildhack, a Hollywood top-popper who works in soft core ﬂix. This is obviously an inﬂuence on the writing of The Truman Show. He’s even housed in a giant dome! They bring him Montana so that they will mate, though they don’t seem to understand what mating is as they keep asking ‘Are you mating?’ While we never see the Trafalmadoreans, we hear them and their philosophy. They live in the fourth dimension and experience time very differently, able to look at any point in their history or future.They reveal that one of their people, while testing a new system of space travel, destroys the universe when he presses the wrong button.This concerns Billy who asks ‘Can’t you keep the pilot from pressing the button?’ which leads his keepers to say “He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way.” Which says several things. It says that Trafalmadoreans believe that there is really no Free
Will, which brings them to mention that only us Humans believe that there is Free Will. All is fated, which on one hand makes everything we do pointless if we know that it is what’s going to happen, but then again, if we don’t play our part, how will it all happen? It’s a conundrum. The book uses a phrase, So It Goes, to indicate that someone has died or as a transition or just whenever. It’s in there about 100 times in the novel. It is never said, nor does it show up at all, in the ﬁlm. This would seem to be a weakness, but then if you look at the different methods of storytelling in the forms, you can see that they didn’t have to use it, especially to indicate death, largely because they could show it. The way that Hill and co. show the death of Edward Derby is particularly Hill-like. It was nothing of focus, it was just a guy dying off-screen, more or less. It was impressive. So It Goes may have been a major theme of the novel, but it was extraneous to the ﬁlm. And I should mention that Vonnegut had a few problems with the ﬁlm later in his life, but he often wrote that he thought Hill caught the essence of the novel with the ﬁlm. Many critics said that it would be unﬁlmable, but Hill’s attention made it possible. The ﬁlm is tough and has all that it needed to be a great ﬁlm, and one thing that is slightly over-looked is the role played by Valerie Parine as Montana Wildhack. Yes, she spent almost half of her role topless (and I am not complaining about that at all!, but she was the most Trafalmadorean of all the Humans we see. She is very much a Flower Child, which is an excellent contract with Billy Pilgrim’s straight-laced life, but she is the perfect contrast to him. I love the fact that when she gets brought over for Pilgrim to mate with, she screams and puts him in a perfect Lion Kill chokehold. I mean it looked like UFC perfect! Lazzaro is another character who gives us the best view of an opposite, or maybe exactly the same version of Trafalmador belief. He threatens to wait a couple of years, then to reappear and shoot you. It’s something he actually does, as he shoots and kills Billy Pilgrim (you can’t have a spoiler in a story that works the way Slaughterhouse-5 does!) and it seems that he either 1) believe ultimately in fate, in that he is the agent of fate and will make it happen, or 2) that he believes no matter what the fate of Billy Pilgrim may be, his desire for revenge is greater and he will kill him. This would be either exactly like, or exact opposite to what the people of Trafalmadore would believe. We see an ending that is either completely unsatisfying, or it might actually be completely answering the question of what it is all about. Montana gives birth to Billy’s son, called Billy. Of course, I’m not sure that it’s Billy’s kid, as it seems that she was so interested in having a baby, she mentions it almost as soon as she has ﬁgured that she will be having sex with Billy. I seemed that perhaps she was already pregnant, that she came to Billy pregnant and that it was a good excuse.We’ll never know, will we? It ends suddenly, and that ﬁts with the rest of the story, no doubt. Slaughterhouse-5 is certainly a ﬁlm that needs to be in 52 Weeks. It is a near perfect literary adaptation, being that it has all the emotion of the original, it gives the characters all their richness, it allows the story to be told in the way that Vonnegut told it, but at the same time, it doesn’t concern itself with telling every little bit. Slaughterhouse-5 the ﬁlm is it’s own thing, it’s own ﬁlm and it has no debt owed to the original save for the theme, the characters and the structure. While Hill pulls so many pieces of the story, he also cleans it up and makes it possible to tell a story every bit as impressive as the novel with the tools of his form. That is what makes a great ﬁlmmaker, and it is especially what makes a great ﬁlm.
Unstuck In Time: Slaughterhouse-Five by Frank Wu
Yesterday, this would’ve meant so much to us. Now it doesn’t matter... it doesn’t matter at all. -- Laurel Gray, “In A Lonely Place” Editor Note - I got this a few years ago, about six months before I started The Drink Tank. I knew Frank, but had no idea why he sent me this. Now I get why he sent it. So it goes... Some time in the future, Chris’ “Drink Tank” issue about “Slaughterhouse-Five” is already written, edited, laid out and published. Some time in the future. But my article has become unstuck in time. So you can read it now. When we were in high school, my brother brought home some Kurt Vonnegut Jr. books. He was totally blown away by them, and amused by Kurt’s little drawings of astericks – they were cartoons of his own butthole. I didn’t actually read a Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novel until years later. That was “Slaugherhouse-Five.” I immediately understood what all the fuss was about. It’s a very personal novel, telling of the horriﬁc and largely pointless ﬁrebombing of Dresden near the close of World War II. Dresden wasn’t a major manufacturing center, wasn’t a prime military target. And yet the city was burnt to the ground, tens of thousands of innocent civilians burnt to a cinder, bodies piled up in basements. Vonnegut was there. He was a prisoner of war, holed up in the ironically-named “Slaughterhouse-Five.” This slaughterhouse, being lined with concrete and deep underground, was one of the few places in the city where anyone survived. He was sent out by his Nazi captors to collect dead bodies, and incinerate them with ﬂame throwers, bits of charred ﬂesh and bone meal crunching underfoot. Wow. But it’s the theme of the novel that really gets you. Horrible thing after horrible thing happens. And then the protagonist (I shan’t call him a “hero”) Billy Pilgrim dies. And all the time he knows that horrible things are coming (being unstuck in time, he’s experienced everything in the past and future - including his own death - several times). But there’s not a thing he can do about it. This novel made sense the day I read it. I was getting divorced at the time, and this book described exactly how that felt.
Horrible horrible things happen to your heart and soul and there’s nothing you can do about it. And that’s what high school was like, when my brother read it. Your beloved homeroom teacher is swapped out, without your permission. Rooms and schedules are re-arranged without any logic. Random paperwork blocks you for the AP class you need to impress the college of your choice. Test questions have no connection to what was taught. The genetic lottery determines who’s pretty and who’s not. Who gets a good date to the prom and who stays at home crying all night. And that’s what the novel is about. Aliens come from another planet and put you in a zoo (aw crap) with a porn star as your mate (groovy!). Your plane crashes, and you know it will crash, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You randomly piss off some guy you don’t know, who repeatedly warns you that at the ﬁrst chance he’ll murder you (and he does). Your wife dies in a freak accident. Your son’s a juvenile delinquent. Your daughter treats you like an old imbecile. Shovel after shovel of crap is dumped on your head. Sometimes life is ok, but mostly it sucks. Life is a bitch, and then you die. That’s what Vonnegut is saying to the world. About this novel,Vonnegut remarked: “The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, ﬁnally, that only one person on the entire planet got any beneﬁt from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I’m in.” Yeah, that worldview would have meant a lot to me in high school. After he had written tons of books and not long before he died,Vonnegut said that people kept asking him to write more. But he was done. He felt like he did when he was in the army: “The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people’s discharges and stuff. And my feeling was, ‘Please, I’ve done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?’ ” That’s how I felt in high school. I’ve taken all the tests you gave me. I’ve written all the pointless papers you’ve assigned me. I’ve put up with bullies and football player lunkheads for four years now. Can I go home now? But I’m not in high school, anymore. I’m an adult. Horrible things have happened. Deaths in the family. Divorce. But I’ve come to realize that I am not unstuck in time. I am on a linear progression. With God-given talents and drive, I’ve carved out an art career. Done some good paintings. Won Hugos. I’ve made a pretty-good-but-not-perfect short ﬁlm. I’ve got a good job and a great wife. We’re going to make a videogame and a graphic novel. That’s in the future, and the future is good. I am not a piece of jetsam and ﬂotsam tossed about by greater (and mostly horrifying) events. I am me. God made me me. The hero of the story isn’t the lead character, Billy Pilgrim. It’s the guy he pisses off – Paul Lazarro. Paul is the one character who has a goal, who knows who he is, who achieves his purpose in life. Yes, his purpose is a bit wrong and twisted (he steals cars and says he can kill anyone on the planet – for a thousand bucks and travel expenses), and he eventually shoots Billy Pilgrim in cold blood. He’s wrongheaded, and he’s insane. But he does... something. He’s the hero.
Friday October 14th, 2011, SF in SF presents authors Rudy Rucker, Carter Scholz, and Terry Bisson, in an evening centered around the publication of Kafkaesque<http://www.tachyonpublications.com/book/Kafkaesque. html?Session_ID=new>, a new book just out from Tachyon Publications. Each author will read a selection of their work, followed by Q & A from the audience moderated by Bisson. Books by each author will be available for sale, courtesy of Borderlands Books, and there will be a cash bar open before and during the event, with proceeds going to Variety Children’s Charity. Doors and cash bar open at 6PM, and event begins at 7PM. A suggested $5 donation per person at the door is welcome, and go directly to the charity. This event is part of LITQUAKE <http://www.litquake.org> - San Francisco’s fabulous literary festival. Seating is limited, and ﬁrst come, ﬁrst seated. This event takes place at the Variety Preview Room Theatre at 582 Market St., at 2nd & Montgomery; we advise taking BART/MUNI as we are directly adjacent to the Montgomery St. BART Station. For more information, please visit our website at www.sﬁnsf.org, or email Rina Weisman at sﬁnsfevents@gmail.com.
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