We regret to announce the passing of George Scithers, who died Monday after suffering a heart attack on Saturday at the age of 80. He was an award winning editor, winning the Hugo award four times, and a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2002.
Scithers’ first published fiction, the story “Faithful Messenger,” appeared in If magazine in 1969. His involvement in the field, however, dates back to 1957, when he began submitting to the fanzine Yandro. Two years later, he began publishing the Hugo Award-winning fanzine Amra. The term “swords and sorcery” first appeared there, and Amra became a leading proponent of the genre. Several of the articles originally published in Amra were later re-printed as part of two volumes about Conan the Barbarian which Scithers co-edited with L. Sprague de Camp.
In 1963, Scithers chaired Discon I, the 21st Worldcon, held in Washington, D.C.. He was a regular parliamentarian for business meetings of the World Science Fiction Society (the people behind WorldCon) and authored an invaluable guide to running science fiction conventions, The Con-Committee Chairman’s Guide.
In 1973, Scithers founded Owlswick Press, a small independent publishing company.
In 1977, he was named the first editor for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, staying in that position until 1982 and winning two more Hugo Awards for his work there. After leaving IASFM, Scithers took the helm at Amazing Stories, and edited that magazine until 1986.
In 1988, he worked with John Gregory Betancourt and Darrell Schweitzer to re-establish Weird Tales, the magazine that had introduced one of his earliest interests, Conan the Barbarian, to the world, which won him a World Fantasy Award in 1992.
He was the first publisher of many SF and fantasy talents, including Esther Friesner.
For a good look at the man, here’s an essay about George Scithers written when he was Fan Guest of Honor at the Millenium Philcon in 2001.
Last night, the annual Hugo awards, given for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy and voted on by the fans, were presented at Anticipation in Montreal, Canada. I could bore you with the history of the awards, notable past winners (and losers), famous acceptance speeches, and so on and so forth. But you know all that (And if you don’t, their website is pretty informative).
What you’re waiting for are the winners, and here they are, straight from the horse’s mouth:
More awards after the jump. A very hearty congratulations to all the winners! (more…)
After expressing interest in directing everything from the an adaptation of Valiant’s Harbinger to a feature film based on Guitar Hero, director Brett Ratner has finally chosen his next projects.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rater is about to sign a deal to direct a new Conan the Barbarian film. The film will be co-produced by Nu Image/Millennium and Lionsgate Films. Conan was the subject of two films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980s and has been a frequent candidate for additional features ever since but the rights went from studio to studio with no traction. John Milius, who cowrote the first film with Oliver Stone, has had a much admired King Conan script in development for years now.
Fans of Axel Foley can rest assured that the fourth film in the Beverly Hills Cop series is still likely to hit the cameras first for Paramount Pictures. Screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (Wanted) have been working on a script as the studio tries to get everything lined up to meet the next hole in Eddie Murphy’s schedule.
Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Dean Donnelly (Sahara) have written a screenplay that was intriguing enough to get Ratner to commit but now the duo is working on a polish based on Ratner’s notes. The story is inspired by the original Weird Tales stories of Robert E. Howard and none of the pastiches and interpretations that have followed in prose and comic books. It’s said to be a tale that introduces audiences to who Conan is and sets the stage for the inevitable sequels.
Lionsgate intends to release the $85 million film in 2010 the same year Paramount hopes to release BHC 4.
In time for Halloween, the editors of Weird Tales debuted a newly enhanced version of their website, WeirdTalesMagazine.com.
According to a press release, the following elements have been added:
1. Downlaod a complete issue, free. For readers who’ve heard of Weird Tales but want a closer look before they plunk down their hard-earned cash, they’re offering — for a limited time only — a free, full PDF download of the July/August issue, chock full of strange sorcery, angelic gangster wars, and mecha-telepathic orphans. Featuring original fiction from Norman Spinrad, Nick Mamatas, and Karen Heuler; an in-depth interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola; a journey into H.P. Lovecraft’s dreamlands; an exclusive excerpt from Stephen Hunt’s steampunk epic The Court of the Air; and lots more!
2. ONE-MINUTE WEIRD TALES. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, they’re launching a new series of embeddable micro-flash stories that unfold in 60 seconds or less! The debut piece, currently live, is by J.M. McDermott, author of the novel Last Dragon.
3. Sculptor Callie Badorrek of Monster Hollow Studios is offering six original, one-of-a-kind ceramic gargoyles and goblins for purchase at WeirdTalesMagazine.com.
4. INTERNATIONAL FICTION SPOTLIGHT. The current issue of Weird Tales is devoted to weird stories from authors living all around the world. Tune into WeirdTalesMagazine.com over the next several weeks to read web-exclusive posts from this new global generation of authors.
Continued from last week …
We had left Robert Bloch hanging in mid-conversation last week, speaking of Irvin S. Cobb as a forerunner of the “bizarre pulp” movement in popular fiction.
Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb (1876–1944) was a crony and occasional collaborator of Will Rogers, and a key influence upon Rogers’ droll sense of humor. He can be seen as an actor in such Rogers-starring films as Judge Priest (1934; deriving from Cobb’s folksier tales) and Steamboat Round the Bend (1935), both directed by John Ford. It was for other works entirely that Robert Bloch remembered Cobb.
“Have you ever read Irvin Cobb’s ‘Fishhead’?” Bloch asked me around 1979-1980. “Well, if it was good enough for Howard Lovecraft to single out as a nightmare-on-paper [in the 1927 essay Supernatural Horror in Fiction], then I was ready and willing to tear into it. Which I did. Changed my entire direction, that one story did.”
I can relate, all right. In 1995, independent publisher Lawrence Adam Shell and I set about to adapt as a graphic novel Cobb’s 1911 tale of righteous vengeance, “Fishhead,” in which a swamp-dwelling hermit of grotesque aspect runs afoul of malicious neighbors. If Irvin Cobb had drawn upon regional folklore to lend his title character a gift of supernatural communion with the wildlife, then our crew reckoned we must treat Cobb’s story itself as folklore – subject to sympathetic re-interpretation and elaboration as a condition of respect.
And otherwise, why adapt at all? Cobb would have done a greater service to scholarship than to popular literature if he had contented himself merely with compiling the various old-time rumors about reclusive souls presumed to possess spiritual bonds with the wastelands. The audacious job that Cobb called “Fishhead” backfired at first, accumulating rejections from one magazine after another on account of its unabashed gruesomeness and its sharp contrast with his gathering reputation as a sure-fire humorist. One editor, Bob Davis, of an adventurous magazine called The Cavalier, wrote to Cobb in 1911: “It is inconceivable how one so saturated with the humors of life can present so appalling a picture.”
But after Davis had relented and published the yarn in 1913, “Fishhead” proved a watershed, helping to trigger the so-called “bizarre pulp” explosion that would gerrymander the boundaries of mass-market fiction during the two-and-a-half decades to follow. By mid-century, when Cobb’s lighthearted and bucolic tales had become by-and-large forgotten, “Fishhead” was still reappearing as a magazine-and-anthology favorite.
Recycling-in-action: Herewith, an encore of a presentation I delivered earlier this month at Tarleton State University’s Langdon Weekend arts-and-farces festival at Granbury, Texas.
If it was good enough for Aesop and Shakespeare and Mark Twain, then it should suit the rest of us – as tradition-bound storytellers with roots in the Old World and in early-day Americana, that is – just fine and dandy.
I am speaking of folklore – the oral-tradition narrative medium that encloses and defines any and all cultures and stands poised as a chronic muse (often ill-heeded or, if heeded, ill-acknowledged) for anyone who attempts to relate a tale for popular consumption. This is a self-evident truth so obvious as to go overlooked.
Yes, and the barrier between folklore and commercial fiction is as slender as the upper E-string on a guitar, and just as sensitive. Pluck that string and watch it vibrate, and the blurred image suggests a vivid metaphor. The inspiration, at any rate, is as close within reach as air and water, and often less subject to pollution.
“So! Where do you-all get your ideas, anyhow?” The question, vaguely indignant, crops up every time a published author goes out communing with the readership. Stephen King has long since perfected a suitably snarky reply: “I get mine from an idea-subscription service in Utica.”
King is joking, of course, and even the most cursory reading of the humongous body of work that he represents will find King tapped into a deep lode of rustic folklore. Witness, for example, The Shining, a 1977 novel-become-movie in which a key supporting character takes prompt notice of a precocious child’s thought-projecting abilities: “My grandmother and I could hold conversations … without ever opening our mouths. She called it ‘shining.’”
I grew up in close quarters with two grandmothers like that – not in Stephen King’s sense of “shining,” as such, although with each I felt a communicative bond that ran deeper than articulated speech. Each, that is, seemed to sense what might be burdening my thoughts at any given moment, whether or not I might care to put any such thoughts into words. And each grandmother, too, was a prolific and spontaneous storyteller, dispensing colorful family-history tales, fables in the Aesopic tradition, and hair-raising horrors divided more-or-less equally between waking-life ordeals and dreamlike supernatural hauntings. With such living-history resources at hand, who needed Little Golden Books?
My maternal-side grandmother, Lillian Beatrice Ralston Wilson Lomen (1895–1982), characterized her ghostlier yarns as “haint stories” – haint being a back-country variant of haunt. She knew by heart James Whitcomb Riley’s famous moral-lesson poem of 1885, “Little Orphant Annie, (sic)” with its recurring admonition that “the Gobble: ’Uns’ll git you ef [if] you don’t watch out!” And she could concoct – or recollect, or fabricate from combined experience and imagination – stories and verses every bit as horrific, and as absurd and uproarious.