Thursday, September 29, 2016

SF BSer: The Wrong Hugo

During my last year of college I belonged to a science fiction fan club.  The group was small but the members knew the basics about SF.  There was no need to explain that the Hugo Awards were named after Hugo Gernsback who popularized science fiction through his Amazing Stories pulp magazine.

One time I was hanging around a bar and another student asked me if I was into science fiction.  I said yes.  He brought over a friend who was supposedly a SF authority.

This expert with his nose up in the air started bloviating, mentioning the Hugo Awards.  I asked him where the name Hugo came from.

The self-proclaimed authority cooly replied: "The awards are named after Victor Hugo who wrote the science fiction novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame."

Hugo Gernback wearing his TV glasses
Early VR

(From Ray X X-Rayer #125)

Tunnel Vision

Can you name all 49 states of the United States of America?

You know that there are 50 states?  Apparently you missed the 240 time storm.

Back in 2002 someone envisioned a new take on the 1960s TV series Time Tunnel.  The original series followed the adventures of two scientists lost in time.  In the original pilot film the viewer is taken inside Project Tic-Toc, a Department of Defense base hidden below an Arizonan desert.

Producer Irwin Allen wanted to impress viewers with the size of Tic-Toc.  It's 800 stories deep with 36,000 personnel.  During the following episodes we only saw the control console used by scientists tracking the lost travelers through time; no mention of the 36,000 other personnel.

With the population of a small city I wonder what all those people did.  How did the US government supply the hidden base with food, water and other necessities?  How was garbage and waste disposed?  I would hate to see what happened if everyone flushed the toilets at the same time, 800 stories of discharge.

The 2002 remake did away with the impressive but useless scale of the original.  The time travel operation is smaller, operated by the Department of Energy.  In the original pilot Tic-Toc was set up to discover a way to time travel.  In the remake the discovery is by accident.   DOE is screwing around with nuclear fusion and it creates a time storm.  For 240 minutes history is changed outside the DOE facility.  Only the people near the fusion tunnel remember a world with 50 US states.

I've complained the theatrical version of the 1960s TV series The Man From UNCLE changed the set-up so much it had nothing to do with the original.  With the 2002 Time Tunnel pilot the same thing happens but unlike the UNCLE movie most of the changes were for the better.

In contrast to the original TT the new version allows for changes in history.  The main character, Doug Philips, has a wife and two children.  Lurking in the background is the possibility he might badly influence history and his family would no longer exist when he returns to his own time.

In the first adventure former Marine Doug Philips is recruited, joining a team traveling back to World War II to the scene of a key battle.  Apparently the time storm has screwed things up by transporting someone forward from 1520 to 1944.  The team has to find the displaced person and fix the changes his presence causes.

To blend in the team are disguised as US soldiers -- including two attractive women.  They arrive during the daytime and no one notices how feminine these two pseudo-soldiers appear.  Hard to buy that detail.  It would be like if the team had to return to WW II disguised as WACs.  A real drag for the guys.

Despite this flaw the pilot did merit a series but the Fox TV network gave it a pass, never airing it.  But Fox did air godawful pilots for Doctor Who, Generation X, and even Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD with David Hasselhoff as the lead. (The best way to watch Hassellhoff‘s portrayal of Fury is with two eyepatches, one for each eye.)

The 2002 Time Tunnel can be viewed courtesy of YouTube.  It's worth a look.  Better than watching a Boston Yankees game.

(From Ray XX-Rayer #125.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

And Nothing To Watch But Flying Shark Movies

For years I’ve been tolerating the same problems with my apartment.  Now someone else would move out but my options are limited with a fixed income, no big bank account, no car.  Also this location is convenient, a short walk to downtown and also on the bus route if I need to travel some distance.

Recently I had to spend a few days outside the city at a motel in a semi-civilized area.  There was more for me to do downtown, places I could go and hang out like the library, but to get to downtown that was a one hour – two mile walk usually in the energy-sapping heat.  And the motel location wasn’t a good spot to catch a bus.  My landlord didn't mention he would reimburse me for travel (taxi cab) and meal expenses outside those I could make at home (apartment kitchen was unusable).  (Yes, I kept all my receipts for my out of pocket expenses.)  I made sure that he was paying for the motel room.

The motel was OK, standard.  At home I don't have cable TV, just OTA (off the air) channels, but that selection is better than the motel cable channels.  I'm not into seeing someone on the hunting channel shooting a pheasant with an arrow.  The wounded animal is flipped up on its back, legs twitching in the air, while the Great Nimrod smiles.

The motel cable selection did include the Syfy channel.  This channel was once called Sci Fi but they had to get cool and artsy and call it Syfy even thought it still shows the same low budget crap.  I don't pronounce Syfy as sci-fi but as sif-ee like in syphilis.

Of course I'm stuck with the one weekend when Syfy was foisting a Sharknado movie marathon.  For those of you not blessed with such knowledge sharknado – shark tornado – is a sci fi concept with freak storms picking up hungry sharks and dropping them on land where they attack and eat people.  The other variation is flying sharks ripping off body parts while zipping by.

There are four movies based on this premise.  Such potential for variety.  How did just four movies cover all the possibilities?

Usually I enjoy bad movies, amused by their outrageousness, but with my situation I wasn't in the mood.

To take a break from such entertainment abnormality I made sure each morning to go downstairs for the complimentary breakfast.  I would sit at one table by myself, alone.  Around me were summer vacationers, couples and families.  People with traditional lives.


(From Ray X X-Rayer #123.)

Fight Or Flight

Over at his fanzine, Fadeaway, Robert Jennings has mentioned the problem of Too Much Stuff.  TMS occurs when  various items pile up but these items have some value, it's not easy to just toss them out.

In Richard's case he is not only a SF/fantasy/OTR fan but also a dealer.  I'm just a fan and while I haven't accumulated the mass Richard has I still have a surfeit of stuff.

This is one reason why I haven't moved away from this apartment after suffering through the same problems for decades.  The problems would be fixed – or so it appeared – and I avoided another Big Move.

Other people have commented Plattsburgh, NY apartments compared to those in other places are overpriced.  Someone who moved here – and is now leaving – told me that he was upset that he was paying $500 a month for a place that included fleas.  He had to spend more even though he didn't need a lot of space and lived alone.

But it looks like I'm going to have to move albeit while staying in the city.  No notice yet from the landlord but I expect my marching orders when he hears that I filed a complaint with the building inspector's office.  Of course I'm in the right – I can document the details – but being in the right and having facts on your side means nothing when you're dealing with a  system built upon he Golden Rule:  He with the gold makes the rules.

For decades I've been stuck in the classic fight-or-flight situation with this apartment.  After getting crapped on once too often I've decide to fight.  

So I'm faced with another apartment search in Plattsburgh, NY.  The last time it was so enjoyable.

I called phone numbers listed in the classifieds.  One woman refused to rent to me because she only rented to females.  Another man refused to rent to me because I was single.  His “justification” was that single couples didn't stay long but married couples did.

Discrimination?  Of course.  But do you fight it and have a good chance of winning?

Don't forget the Golden Rule.

(From Ray X X-Rayer #123.)

False Flag

Besides uploading this zine to I also send it out via email to subscribers through the TinyLetter newsletter service.

As usual with other XR editions #122 was re-formatted for TinyLetter and I thought it was ready to go.  I hit SEND and – nothing.  The newsletter is frozen in the queue.  I get the following message:

So I investigated and learned about TL's Omnivore program:

“If you are notified that your account was flagged by our abuse prevention system, it doesn’t mean we think you're a spammer. It means that Omnivore has detected something that flagged the account for review. (Omnivore was created to maintain MailChimp’s sending reputation by analyzing vital data to protect the email ecosystem, and now it does the same for TinyLetter.)”

I emailed TL about the matter.  I heard back my newsletter/zine was OK and I could send my latest edition.  Curious about the problem I asked what was flagged as being so bad.  But I never got a response from TL.

I suspect it might have been the image I used to illustrate my piece, Attack Of The Blood Bay Lamprey Zombies.  The image depicted surface garbage in the notoriously polluted bay in Rio, Brazil where the Olympics are being held.  In the foreground there was a plastic baby doll floating in the water, broken.  Maybe Omnivore jumped to a conclusion, thinking I was using the image of actual baby parts floating in the bay.

Omnivore should be put on a diet.  It should stick to veggies and skip the meat.

(From Ray X X-Rayer #123.)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Plottastic! Attack of the Blood Bay Lamprey Zombies

By Ray X

Sometimes my creative genius surprises me.

I'm all set to work on a screenplay for the ultimate SF horror movie.

Plot:  An international athletic competition is being held in a major South American city.  (For legal reasons this competition isn't the 2016 Summer Olympics and the city isn't Rio, Brazil.)  The city abuts a large body of water that some call Blood Bay.  This bay has been used for countless years as a sewer, the locals dumping in all sort of environmental nasties – garbage, chemicals, sewage, etc.

The South American host city assures the international athletic committee that the bay will be cleaned up before the games begin, especially those occurring in the water.

So what if some human body parts wash up on the beach area set aside for the volleyball games.  Just a fluke.  Anyway the bay will be in good shape.  Trust us.

But when the games start the pollution reduction is only partially completed. The international athletic organization doesn't mind, the games must go on, too much money will be lost.  Anyway the aquatic athletes are tough, especially the swimmers.

The host city thinks that everything should be OK, nothing to worry, even if the whole world is watching.

The swimmers, blinded by the glory of gold and silver prizes, decide to compete.

So during one competition a group of swimmers encounter green glowing glop floating on the surface.  (I forgot to mention that radioactive waste also gets dumped, a fictional detail needed for the SF angle.)  The swimmers enter the mutagen spot and are paralyzed, sinking to the bottom.

A search is launched but the bay is so polluted the bodies can't be found.

Then a couple of nights later strange creatures rise up from the water, walk onto the beach.  They look human but their faces are replaced by a large circular sucker mouths ringed with fangs.  They enter the city, attack people people, turning them into lamprey zombies.  The contagion quickly spreads –

OK, this won't fly.  Why?  Suspension of disbelief.  Too unbelievable.

No one will believe that an international athletic organization would allow swimmers to be exposed to such pollution.  And the swimmers would never enter the water knowing they risks they would be taking.

And what major city would allow the world to focus on its polluted bay, especially with a multitude of critical articles in the media about its insalubrious state.

All of that – no one will buy it.

Scratch this screenplay.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

XR #121

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When Smoke And Scales Get In Your Eyes

There's a plethora of videos over at YouTube purportedly exposing the reptilian shape-shifter conspiracy.

They live among us.  Cruel treacherous alien humanoids who appear to be one of us until their disguise slips, their true reptilian form briefly revealed.

Of course a few of these must be put-ons, hoaxes.  But after researching conspiracy theorists of the wacko kind one is amazed what others actually believe despite the illogic and blind faith.

For eXample a video entitled “Reptilian Hybrid Gets Mad On Dating Show & Shapeshifts - ALIEN SHAPESHIFTING” (see image above.)  The woman has an unusual quirk: she can close each of her eyelids independently like a lizard.  Weird but probably a rare genetic trait, not proof of monsters hiding among us.

In another video a CNN reporter in slow motion shrugs her shoulders, briefly expands her neck, and sticks her tongue out.  More frog-like (amphibian) than reptile to this viewer.

And racism plays a factor with a Euronews video about anti-nukes activists in Japan.  A scene is frozen to have a red mark point to a protester’s eye.  It’s called an epicanthic fold, moron. 

This same video – entitled “Reptilian disguised as a Human Right [sic] Woman on Euronews” – trots out the usual Illuminati conspiracy tripe, Free Mason symbols and the eye within the pyramid on the dollar bill.  All part of the mega-conspiracy.  But what appears to be a ultra-right-wing Xtian diatribe – warning about God’s Wrath-Satan-Evil etc. ends up in the end quoting the Quran.  Someone out there spoofing?

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Originally published in Ray X X-Rayer #119  

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Fandom As A Global Village

Bill Burns: Who's he?

Here I am getting my zine published on his site and I know very little about the guy.  I've never been deep into SF fandom but through his site,, I'm meeting new people outside of my usual readership of ufologists, conspiracy theorists, and supernatural investigators.

In the old days I would have to conduct an interview via telephone.  ThanX to  email I learned about Bill and the history of eFanzines, getting the story in his own words without the labor of writing transcripts.  (I try to be a stickler about direct quotes.)

The impetus for eFanzines dates back to November 2000,  the early days of the internet.  The time when dinosaurs and dial-up roamed across the earth.  Downloads would lumber, taking seemingly forever to complete.  Email size restrictions forced a sender to divide a large file into separate emails.  

Most fanzine publishers didn't have their own personal web space.  Cloud storage like Dropbox?  Didn't exist. 

One of Bill's fellow fans, Marty Cantor, was stuck with the inefficiency of email in those days.  All Marty wanted to do was send the PDF version of his paperzine, No Award, to other SF fans online.

Marty bemoaned to Bill about the inefficiency. 

As Bill explains: "As I already had a webserver and the time and ability to run the project, it made sense to start a central site to host fanzines for editors who didn't have their own on-line space."

After Marty signed up others soon followed. Initially growth was slow but the word got around and today eFanzines hosts 300 titles with almost 5,000 issues.

Bill: "Initially I saw the site as just a service which would relieve fanzine producers of having to worry about the mechanics of hosting PDF editions of their primarily paper fanzines.  But almost immediately I was asked to host electronic-only fanzines, and I realized that eFanzines could also be a venue for editors who didn't want to deal with the ever-increasing costs of producing and mailing paper fanzines."

With his lifelong interest in science fiction it was natural for Bill to become a publisher/webmaster helping other fans.

 Bill recalls: "I grew up in England in the 1950s, and like most proto-fans at the time (and quite possibly still today) I was an early and voracious reader, with the SF books in the children's section of the local library being my favourites."

At age eleven he found new authors -- Heinlen, Asimov, and many others -- thanks to a library card giving him access to the adult section.  Around sixteen years old he joined the  BSFA (the British Science Fiction Association) after seeing ads for the organization in back issues of the British magazines News Worlds and Science Fantasy

Bill continues: "Soon after, in the summer of 1964, the stallholder at Salford market put me in touch with 'a couple of lads who do their own magazine', which was the Salford-based fanzine ALIEN. I joined the local group, was persuaded to go to the Eastercon in Birmingham in 1965, and have been attending cons and involved in fandom ever since."

Bill left England in 1971; he now resides in the New York City area.  And how did he end up here?  Fandom, of course.

In 1970 he was working for the BBC.  In the summer of that year American fans on their way to the Worldcon in Heidelberg had a London stop.  Since the 1950s London fans hold a monthly pub meeting and sometimes an additional meeting is scheduled for special events.

Bill explains: "With a hundred or more Americans in town the pub was crowded, but I made the acquaintance of two New York fans of about the same age as me, saw them again in Heidelberg -- and ended up marrying one of them a year later."  

Bill and his wife Mary still attend SF cons in various countries, their first meeting an example of fandom as a global village. And it all began many years ago and miles away with the SF books in the children's section drawing the interest of a young library patron.

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Originally published in Ray X X-Rayer #120.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Paperless Zine

Back in October 2015 I wrote a post, Paper Cut,  announcing the end of the Ray X X-Rayer paperzine.  No more dead tree format sent via snail mail.

I lied.

Actually I didn't lie, I decided to not to give up.  I managed to get my computer printer back to more-or-less normal operation.  But the same problems remained beyond the printer.  For over 20 years with my paperzine I've printed, collated, stapled, and folded  copies followed by addressing envelopes, stuffing envelopes, sealing envelopes, stamping envelopes and then dealing with the US Postal Service by dropping my zines off at the main post office since home service on my street sucks.

With my infernal printer I sometimes waste five sheets of paper to get one good copy.  I don't have auto-duplexing and I'm tired of doing double-sided copies manually.  The printer is still shit: it likes to jam or suddenly decide to print out 100 copies I never requested.

With the last mailing I spent over an hour getting it out, time I could have spent researching and writing.  That doesn't include the time spent formatting my zine to fit a paper format and also handling details like adjusting the images so they didn't look like grayscale crap.

I don't make one cent from my writing.  I lose money.  I can't afford to also lose time.

Enough.  With the last paper editions of RX XR I mailed yesterday I included a note saying no more paper.

My zine is still available online at two different sites: - PDF format  -  You can subscribe via email or read archived issues.

Sorry to all the paper-loving Luddites out there in meat space.  The stress isn't worth it.  I have enough crap with my online versions.

Comments?  Click on the time stamp/permanent link below or email me: raypalmxAT gmailDOTcom.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Magic Bullet Holes Affair

Somewhat noticeable damage.

I think it's a goof, at least a distracting detail.

I noticed it when rewatching The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV episode The Four-Steps Affair.  One night a wounded U.N.C.L.E. agent (one of the good guys for those not aware) seeks help at a secluded home in the countryside owned by the seductive Angela who is really a Thrush agent (one of the bad girls.)

Angela has a portrait studio on the second floor with a large sliding window.  Angela lures the U.N.C.L.E. agent in front of the window, urging him to sneak away on the roof. As soon as he slides open the window bright studio lights snap on, silhouetting him, the perfect target.  

A Thrush agent waiting outside opens fire with his automatic weapon, bullets drilling into the doomed U.N.C.L.E. agent and everything behind him.  An array of large holes erupts in the wall.  Shelf splinters.  Cups shatter.  Water sprays.  Palette suffers a few flesh wounds.

Top U.N.C.L.E. agent Napoleon Solo drives out from New York City into the Hamptons looking for the missing agent. I don't know how long it takes before he appears on the scene.  According to Google travel time from the Big Apple to the Hamptons is about two hours.  I'm assuming that along the way Napoleon stepped on the gas to get there sooner.  Traffic would be lighter late at night.  But let's say it takes him two and a half hours before he meets Angela.

She tries the same window trick with Napoleon, this time pointing to a shadowy figure outside that she claims is the missing agent.  Of course the second time ain't a charm and she ends up being swiss-cheesed.

I have a problem after Napoleon enters the room.  What happened to all of the bullet holes from the previous scene?  He doesn't notice anything out of place?

OK, maybe there was enough time to fix the intense damage.  The Thrush Clean-Up and Repair Rapid Response Team did the job in record time.  Including scrubbing the floor to erase any evidence of major U.N.C.L.E. agent bleeding

But didn't Napoleon notice the shiny new plaster, the smell of fresh paint, the immaculate condition of the floor?  Sherlock Holmes would and he ain't any superspy.

It's impossible to suspend disbelief when it tries to suspend you like a noose around your neck.

I still enjoy the first season of U.N.C.L.E., owning a DVD set.  But that doesn't stop me from saying "Oh, c'mon!"

For example in the first episode Thrush knows that a tailor shop serves as a secret entrance into U.N.C.L.E. HQ.  Thrushies penetrate the HQ in an attempt to kill the director.

So if that front is no longer a secret why do U.N.C.L.E agents still go through the routine of entering through a hidden door in the tailor shop's dressing room?  Trying to dodge bill collectors?