Tuesday Tidbits: Straight Pride sets new low attendance record and more…

DALLAS: Straight Pride Rally Draws Two Attendees. ““I knew that attendance would be low, but I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw that it was just them,” activist Soraya Colli told the Advocate. But according to Colli, only two people showed up for much of the event. Both men were from Boston, the Dallas Voice reported; the local PONG member who organized the march was not present. “Much later, they were joined by a member of the Dallas Proud Boys and a woman named Princess Vanna,” Colli tweeted.”

Chick-fil-a is getting a lot of positive coverage by yet again claiming they will stop donating the anti-gay groups. The problem is, they’ve said it before, and then were proven to be lying afterward, so… GLAAD On New Chick-Fil-A Donations Policy: We’ll See. Since I highly doubt that is is a change in policy, I’m going to keep away from the restaurant. Although I have to admit that one thing about this makes me happy: Mike Huckebee Flips Out Over Chick-Fil-A Policy: They “Surrendered To Militant Anti-Christian Hate Groups”. Anything that pisses off bigots like Huckabee can’t be all bad.

Speaking of hateful people who also claim to be religious:

Please Don’t Support the Salvation Army – It’s an anti-LGBTQ Church.

Most Americans Want Religion Out of Politics; Democrats Should Run With That. For many of us, this is not a surprise…

Weekend Update 11/16/2019: Guess who is going to be a jailbird?

“Another Trump minion takes the fall for him. Roger Stone found guilty of seven counts including lying to Congress and Witness Tampering, related to the Trump 2016 campaign.”

Roger Stone found guilty of all seven counts.

It is time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, this time with a cartoon-worthy villain who has featured in previous posts.

Roger Stone Found Guilty on All Count – Longtime Trump adviser convicted of lying to Congress under oath about WikiLeaks. Who would have guessed that the man who got Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, and has for years lied about being a member of Nixon’s Presidential Campaign (last year the Nixon Foundation issues an offical refutation of the claim because all of the headlines that were referring to him as a campaign aide or a Nixon aide).

In case you don’t recall this criminal, Stone is a longtime Trump associate who, during the 2016 campaign, communicated (through intermediaries) with Wikileaks people to find out what was in those hacked Clinton campaign emails and similar bits of information. When we was subpoenaed by Congress a couple years ago, he denied all of it. He also communicated (often by text and email, the idiot) to others who had been subpoened and told them to lie, threatening them if they didn’t. This week, prosecutors laid that all out to a jury. Stone’s lawyers countered mostly by saying that laying under oath isn’t really a crime (which it is), and even if is it, so what? Fortunately, Assistant US Attorney Michael Marando had an answer:

“So what? So what?” Marando asked, with what seemed like real indignation. “If that’s the state of affairs that we’re in, I’m pretty shocked. Truth matters. Truth still matters, okay.” “…in our institutions of self governance, courts of law or committee hearings, where people have to testify under oath, truth still matters.”

“Mr. Stone came in and he lied to Congress,” Marando thundered at jurors. “He obstructed their investigation and he tampered with a witness, and that matters. And you don’t look at that and you don’t say: ‘So what?’ For those reasons we ask you to find him guilty of the charged offenses.”
—as quoted by Dan Friedman writing for Mother Jones, Prosecutors Just Rested Their Case Over Roger Stone’s Lies: “Truth Matters”.

Of course, this isn’t completely over:

Roger Stone was found guilty. Now all eyes turn to Trump – The president will face pressure to pardon Stone after the GOP operative was found guilty of charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. Donald took a few minutes out of his unhinged rage tweet-storm yesterday smearing and threatening the former Ambassador to Ukraine while she was testifying in the impeachment hearing, to tweet out typical what-about-ism nonsense. Basically, if Stone has to go to jail for lying, why aren’t other people who Trump claims have lied going to jail.

Stone got his pal, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to broadcast a plea to President Trump to pardon him. That fact came up in court on Friday, as prosecutors argued that it was a violation of the judge’s gag order on Stone about talking to the media. In a twist that I can’t say I complete disapprove of, the judge decided that Jones isn’t a journalist, merely a media figure. I’m glad that someone is starting to realize that just because someone posts video lies and distortions doesn’t mean they’re a journalist.

Because, you know, the truth matters.

I know that we’re soon going to be flooded with stories trying to generate sympathy for Stone. After all, earlier this year Stone and his wife were forced to move out of the 9-bedroom mansion they had been renting for nearly $10,000 a month into a one bedroom apartment! Not only that, they had to do the move themselves! His poor wife had to actually rent a U-Haul truck!? On the indignity!

I mention that specifically because one of the claims Trump and his allies have made is that Stone wasn’t even working for Trump when he was talking with Wikileaks and asking for dirt on the Clinton campaign and giving that dirt to members of the Trump campaign. That’s a pretty hard notion to swallow just on it’s own. But Stone’s careers has consisted mostly of getting hired as a consultant or advisor by wealthy men with little or no political experience who are considering running for office, or at least like to threaten to run for office. He’s always made his money by working as a so-called political consultant, and it is well known that he never does anything that he isn’t getting paid for.

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Seriously, none of these photos are fake. This is how he dresses!

Someone was paying him enough to continue to afford to rent that big mansion in Florida, to keep buying his ostentatious wardrobe, to keep wining and dining people and jetsetting around while he was spending all that time finding information that would benefit the Trump campaign. If it wasn’t some part of the Trump organization, who was it?

Of course, even if he wasn’t being paid by Trump to do it, it was still illegal. Just as lying under oath to a government entity investigating a possible crime later was illegal. And it doesn’t become legal just because you think some people who disagree with have said things you disagree with and have decided to label as “lies.”

I don’t know if Trump is going to pardon Roger. Roger is, afterall, the sixth person so far to get convicted for crimes on the Trump campaign’s behalf, and he hasn’t pardoned any of the previous five. In Trump’s mind, loyalty only goes one way. You must be loyal to him. He will never to loyal to you. So I don’t think he will.

And, hey, Stone doesn’t get sentenced until February. By then, maybe Trump won’t be the person holding the power of pardoning.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

Friday Five (preventable deaths edition)

We’ve reached the third Friday of November and the news has been quite interesting.

I’m plugging away at NaNoWriMo, so not getting much blogging done. While I’m really happy that the impeachment hearings are proceeding, I’m going to try focus most of my linking to news stories on things that you are likely to have missed with all the other coverage.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about sciece & sci fi, five stories deplorable people, and five videos (plus a thing I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Jimmy Carter’s humanity and Donald Trump’s vulgarity | Editorial.

3 Cows Swept Out to Sea by Hurricane Dorian Are Found Alive.

Millions in U.S. Lost Someone Who Couldn’t Afford Treatment.

What ‘English style’ owes to Asia’s gardens.

5 Ways You Can Support Bullied LGBTQ+ Youth Like Jordan Steffy.

Science and Science Fiction:

NASA’s Curiosity rover makes a baffling oxygen discovery on Mars – Seasonal variations in Martian oxygen levels are puzzling NASA’s planetary scientists.

Silver-Backed Chevrotain, With Fangs And Hooves, Photographed In Wild For First Time.

Disney+ Version of Star Wars: A New Hope Alters Greedo Scene Yet Again.

Are we living in a Blade Runner world?

Secrets of the largest ape that ever lived.

This Week in Deplorable People:

Principal who banned gay books charged with child pornography – “As I said to some friends last night when I got the news, ‘You can’t make this sh– up,'” one of the authors whose books were banned said.. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! [/sarcasm]

Of the incidents involving sexual-orientation bias, 60 percent targeted gay men- Of the incidents involving sexual-orientation bias, 60 percent targeted gay men.

SURVEY: 40% Of Evangelicals Say They Are Pro-Choice.

Judge Napolitano: Trump ‘Pretty Clearly’ Violated Criminal Bribery Laws.

VP Mike Pence proud of effort to steal LGBTQ tax dollars.

In Memoriam:

Virginia Leith, Star of ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die,’ Dies at 94 – She also played the female lead in Kubrick’s first feature and a woman threatened by fiance Robert Wagner in ‘A Kiss Before Dying’.

Things I wrote:

The 11th day of the 11th month….

Videos!

SLAPP Suits: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO):

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Billionaires Freak Out About Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders: A Closer Look:

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Bill Taylor’s Testimony Closely Ties Trump To Ukraine Quid Pro Quo:

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Greyson Chance – Boots (Official Video):

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Jakk Fynn – Fire:

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The 11th day of the 11th month…

We’ve called it Veteran’s Day since 1954 — a day to honor those who have served in the military. Our allies still refer to this holiday by its original name: Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. We American’s barely study World War I in public school history classes, and when we do, it seldom includes the whole story: How did the first world war actually end?

November 11, 1918 was the day that the peace accord ending what was then called The Great War. And so each year after we set aside a day to honor those who served, to remember their sacrifices, and pledge to work to prevent wars from happening. At least that’s what we used to say. Since the U.S. came into the Great War later than the other countries, and it wasn’t fought on our country, and the number of our troops killed was a small fraction of the casualty totals of the war, we have never looked at Armistice Day quite the way our allies did. WWII was what loomed large for us, culturally.

In the U.S. this holiday is described as a day to honor and thank veterans for their military service. To me, one of the ways we ought to thank them for their service is to find ways to end wars and bring them home. Unfortunately I get the feeling from certain politicians and pundits that trying to find ways to start even more wars is what they are interested in doing.

I’ve written before about the way we tend to blend our patriotic holidays together. Specifically the misguided practice of everyone thanking people for their service on Independence Day, Memorial Day, and so on. Those holidays aren’t when we should do that. This is the day to do that.

Regardless, if you want to show support for those who served, may I humbly suggest donating to National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. There are, of course, many other fine charities that serve veterans and their families. You can find more of them here: Charity Navigator: Support Our Troops

Friday Five (ok boomer edition)

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We’ve reached the second Friday of November and there was a lot of good election news this week.

Before I get into anything else, I want to point out that I am a Baby Boomer, and please put my name at the top of the list of people who say that neither ‘boomer’ nor ‘ok boomer’ are slurs. Furthermore, Boomers are the ones who started the generational conflict by wrecking the housing market, not standing up for workers’ rights, starting wars we don’t intend to pay for, and all those stupid “Millenials kill…” headlines.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about reading & writing & sci fi, five stories about the blue & rainbow wave, five stories about the impeachable one & another deplorables, and five videos (plus a thing I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Hundreds of mammoth bones found in 15,000-year-old traps in Mexico.

Charles Addams: The Long Island Macabre Master Who Created The Addams Family.

Chicago book returns surge 240% after city eliminates fines.

For the first time ever, a US cheese is named best in the world.

Feds Sue Gilead Over Patents On HIV-Prevention Drugs.

Writing, Reading, and Science Fiction:

Ready. Set. Write a Book.

Terminator: Dark Fate Review. I really enjoyed the movie, myself.

Is Publishing Too Top-Heavy? – As megabestsellers command more of publishers’ marketing budgets and retailers’ shelf space, breaking out the next crop of hit makers has become a challenge.

[NOVEMBER 5, 1964] THE STATE OF THE SOLAR EMPIRE: PERRY RHODAN IN 1964. Galactic Journey is a web site that covers important development is science and sf/f—55 years ago. It’s almost like time traveling back once a week.

Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2019.

This Week in the Blue & Rainbow Wave:

Massive, Major Victories for Democrats in Virginia and Kentucky as Trump Fails to Deliver Wins for His GOP Candidates.

The Blue Wave Hasn’t Crested – Virginia has been a bellwether in the Trump era, and Democrats hope their historic victory last night points to another national win in 2020.

Anti-LGBTQ Fairfax school board member loses re-election bid.

At Least 100 LGBTQ Candidates Win Elections as Rainbow Wave Continues.

Let’s Celebrate All The Good Shit That Happened On Election Night.

This Week in the Impeachable One and Other Deplorable People:

‘Lawless’ Trump Foundation Must Pay $2M Settlement.

Don Jr’s ‘Book’ Sales Boosted By Republican National Committee – Don Jr’s “book” is climbing the charts due to a huge purchase by the Republican National Committee, who is giving the book away for free to donors.

Hate Crime Verdict In Burning Of Church Rainbow Flag.

Milo Posts Racist Rant By Extremist Richard Spencer – Leaked audio purportedly shows the far-right leader screaming anti-Semitic slurs and threatening further violence in Charlottesville.

Impeachment transcripts reveal a consistent, damaging narrative for Trump – The witness testimonies released so far are all aligned, offering Democrats a powerful political weapon in public hearings next week.

In Memoriam:

Bernard Slade, 89, Dies; ‘Partridge Family’ Creator and Playwright .

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 11/2/2019: Seamy underbellies everywhere.

Old authors yell at clouds again—or, I thought sf/f was supposed to be about progress.

Videos!

Stephen Colbert – Meanwhile… Is It OK To Say “OK, Boomer”?:

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Seth Meyers’ monologue – Roger Stone’s Trial Begins and Other Topics:

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New Zealand lawmaker shuts down heckler: ‘OK, boomer’:

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Stephen Colbert – “Read The Transcript” Is Trump’s Latest Rallying Cry:

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Sam Smith – I Feel Love (Visualiser):

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Old authors yell at clouds again—or, I thought sf/f was supposed to be about progress

Old man yells are cloud, "I will not succumb to the cultural devolution you call progress!"

Since I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month, I don’t have a lot of time for blogging. But a particular kerfuffle has resurfaced in sf/f fandom and I had a lot of thoughts. I don’t want to go into all the details, other than it involves one older author writing both in a published column and then on his blog about how certain people (and oddly enough most examples he gives is sf/f written by women of color) are ruining things because they’re getting awards for writing stuff that isn’t good, proper, serious, hard science-filled science fiction.

Fortunately, other people have written things that are a bit more organized that I would likely be in a quick blog post.

First up, the following essay was actually written and sold to Uncanny Magazine some time before the old guy’s recent angry rant, but it just so happens to be a great take on the underlying topic: The Science, Fiction, and Fantasy of Genre. Just this metaphor alone is worth the read:

“It’s been said that whoever writes in the field of science fiction stands on the shoulders of giants, the towering titans of yesteryear. Their hard work built the playground; we just play in it.

“At the risk of thoroughly mixing those two metaphors, it occurs to me that even if we allow for the existence of giants, a playground in which we have to stand on top of each other can’t be very large, can it? And even the best playground could use some new equipment from time to time.”

But my favorite parts are in the middle—and too big to excerpt and still give justice—where she looks at famous works by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, and Isaac Asimov and points out that none of them were about hard proper science, but actually about history, psychology, and sociology. It’s a really good read! You should check it out.

And then there is this incredibly wonderful bit of sarcastic artistry: Science Fiction vs. Fantasy: The Choice Is Clear.

“Science fiction provides its readers with iron-hard, fact-based possibility…

“Where but science fiction could we find stories like Pohl and Williamson’s Reefs of Space series, which explores the possibility that the Oort Cloud could be filled by an ecosystem powered by biological fusion and that a few lucky humans might someday enjoy mind-melds with intelligent stars? And where but in science fiction could we entertain the quite reasonable possibility that someday a young woman with whichever psionic powers the plot of the week requires might have to contend with invisible cats? Who but science fiction writers will remind us of the very real possibility that one day starships might be propelled at superluminal velocities by the power of women’s orgasms?”

That last sentence is particularly relevant. Because the old author yelling about how modern science fiction has been ruined by all this fantasy? He’s the one who wrote about starships powered by women’s orgasms. And it wasn’t a parody—he insisted that it was serious sci fi at the time. Also, that is unfortunately not the creepiest sexual non sequitur he ever shoehorned into a supposed science fiction tale.

So, yeah, the angry man who wrote that stuff? He doesn’t get to lecture other people on not being serious enough in their science fiction and fantasy.

Weekend Update 11/2/2019: Seamy underbellies everywhere

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Normally, this would be another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t come to my attention until afterward, or that didn’t quite make the cut, or about a previously linked story which has new developments.

This week I’m starting with something else. A story I very emphatically did not bookmark last week after reading it, because I knew no matter how sparse my list of possible stories were by the end of the week, I didn’t want to link to it. It was yet another “Millenials Kill…” story, this one about so-called “power lunches” at swanky Manhattan eateries. I admit I only clicked on the headline when I saw because I thought that surely this was from the Onion, so I was expecting to read something funny.

No, it was dead serious. While the article did admit that part of the “problem” for these famous restaurants in downtown New York City aren’t raking in the weekday cash like they used to is because many corporations have moved large portions of their workforce to cheaper locations outside the city. But otherwise it was all about how office workers eat lunch at their desks instead of going out.

Now, to be clear, I classified as a Baby Boomer under the currently most prevalent definition of the generation. And this Baby Boomer eats lunch at his desk, it isn’t a Millenial thing. And the reason I do it is the same reason that hundreds of thousands of other office workers out there do it: our employers keep demanding more and more productivity from a smaller work force. That’s it. If I take the time to leave the office, walk to a nearby restaurant, order food, wait for my meal and eat it there before sauntering back to the office, that means I have to stay even later that I already do to meet my deadlines.

Also, like most Americans in the workforce for the past three decades, while I do occasionally get a raise, the raises don’t ever seem to get ahead of the increase in the cost of living. And because the length of time between raises keeps getting longer, well, I can make my own lunch a whole lot cheaper than it will cost me to got out at lunch.

The other issue is that these “traditional power lunches” were never attended by rank and file office workers. Older white male executives and younger ambitious white men who wanted to become executives were the vast majority of people at those three-martini lunches.

I’m just going to start ranting angrily if I keep going, so instead here are two stories (one from nearly a year ago that I’m pretty sure I included in one of the Friday Five posts then) which cover things quite well:

Millennials Didn’t Kill the Economy. The Economy Killed Millennials – The American system has thrown them into debt, depressed their wages, kept them from buying homes—and then blamed them for everything.

12 Industries Experts Say Millennials Are Killing — And Why They’re Wrong.


Usually I have a lot to say about the other stories I include in a Weekend Update, but I’m doing NaNoWriMo at the moment, so here are a few quickies:

Beto O’Rourke Packing Up His Air-Drumsticks And Your Diner’s Countertops And Going Home. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Beto as a Senate candidate. And clearly, after the mass shooting in his home district when he found his voice and demonstrated a lot of spine in the gun control topic, I became more fond of him in the Democratic debates. But I think the three-term Congressman could serve the country better as, say, a Senator from Texas (the climate is going to be more favorable to Blue candidates this next time against John Cornyn that it was last time against Ted Cruz). He’d probably make a decent cabinet secretary, and he’d look lovely standing beside President Warren or President Harris as veep. I’m just sayin’.

Conservative Supreme Court Justices Are Showing Their Biases On Twitter Now – If only the Supreme Court had ANY ETHICS RULES AT ALL. Since we can now prove that one of these guys committed purjury during his confirmation hearings, I really hope we can do something about him in the not too distant future.

Smugglers Easily Cut Through Trump’s New Border Wall. All you need is a $100 reciprocating saw. Like we said!

Inside The Seamy Underbelly Of Trump’s Twitter Feed – The New York Times has done a deep dive into Trump’s Twitter feed, examining how extremists and lunatics use his audience – and more importantly – his attention, to springboard their agendas of hate. I’m linking to this excerpt because the main story is behind a paywall.

Friday Five (convenient hypocrisy edition)

And now we reach the first Friday of November!

It continues to be winter-cold, without any rain. Which means the spore counts keep climbing. Having hay fever when it’s cold is never fun.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories about deplorable people, five stories about the impeachable one, and five videos (plus a thing I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Who Gave You the Right to Tell That Story? Ten authors on the most divisive question in fiction, and the times they wrote outside their own identities.

Looking at Cute Animals Online Is Literally Good for Your Brain.

Are 90% of giraffes gay – or have their loving looks been misunderstood?

Blast from Waukee gender reveal felt over 2 miles away.

‘He’s a patriot’: Republicans defend key impeachment witness from attacks.

This Week in Deplorable People:

Senate blocks effort to roll back Trump administration’s ObamaCare rule. Excluding pre-existing conditions will kill thousands of Americans… which is what Trump and his billionaire buddies want.

Right-Wing Lobby Divorces Itself? In Lawsuit, NRA Says NRA-TV Is Racist. Which is true… but the NRA is also racist.

Missouri’s state health director says he tracked Planned Parenthood patients’ periods.

Evangelical conservatives are determined to go down in disgrace with Trump. Let them do it.

When One Good Day Is One Too Many.

This Week in Impeach the Mo-Fo Already:

Trump lures GOP senators on impeachment with cold cash.

Why it’s such a big deal that Donald Trump is suddenly selling his Washington DC hotel.

Trump Takes Swipe at Obama for Not Capturing al-Baghdadi Then Admits to War Crime at Police Chiefs Conference.

‘Music to Putin’s ears’: Ambassador McFaul blasts Trump’s pattern of furthering Russian interests.

Security Official Testifies Ukraine Transcript Was Edited.

In Memoriam:

Robin Brett, NASA scientist who studied ‘moon rocks,’ dies at 84.

Tributes pour in for John Witherspoon after actor dies at 77.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 10/26/2019: Cold hearts and webs of sin.

Yelling at clouds, pointless nostalgia, and blind spots.

Time to fire up those word processors! #NaNoWriMo.

…and then what happened? And then? And then? — getting the story started and keeping it going.

Evasive geniuses, invisible monsters, and helpful (sassy gay) robots—more of why I love sf/f.

Videos!

Stephen Colbert and the gang go after Hallmark and Lifetime Movies – Just In Time For Halloween, It’s The Late Show Christmas Movies!:

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Lunar Module Costume: Big Sis Lunar Lander, Little Sis Astronaut (with flag):

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Trump & Syria: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO):

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TESS Catches its First Star-destroying Black Hole:

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Galantis & Dolly Parton – Faith feat. Mr. Probz [Official Music Video]:

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Evasive geniuses, invisible monsters, and helpful (sassy gay) robots—more of why I love sf/f

Forbidden Planet!

I have written many times about my problematic relationship with scary movies. They give me nightmares, and I’m the kind of person who, while having a nightmare, climbs out of bed, running around waking up everyone I can find, frantically trying to explain the horrific danger we’re facing and how we have to come up with a plan to deal with the threat now. The very first movie that caused that reaction in me is a movie that many people don’t think of as a scary movie: the 1956 science fiction film, Forbidden Planet. Many people think of Forbidden Planet as the ultimate science fiction movie. Nearly every sci fi movie and series since its release has, whether consciously or not, copied its template. Which isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. And most people don’t think of Forbidden Planet as a horror film, but…

So, in 1971 Forbidden Planet was shown on U.S. network television for the first time. I’ve mentioned many times before that my mom was a sci fi fan from way back. My dad was more of a spy and western fan, but he also liked some science fiction, so he didn’t object when Mom wanted to watch this show. The broadcast was a few months before my 11th birthday. The whole family watched the show together, though I think than my sister, who was 6 years old at the time, fell asleep before it was over.

I really liked the show while we were watching it.

But several hours later, I was standing in the hallway, very confused, because my mom had thrown a glass of water in my face because I had gone to sleep, and then got out of bed and found my parents and started jabbering about the monster that was trying to kill us. This was, as far as my family and I know, the first time I sleepwalked.

So, let’s get back to the movie…

The movie starts on the bridge of a spaceship where Commander John J. Adams is in charge. The movie is careful never to mention any nationality for the military organization in which the crew serves, though at a later point in the film they send a report back to Earth and await further instructions. They’ve been sent to a planet called Altair IV where a scientific expedition was sent many years before, but lost contact.

As Adam’s ship approached the planet, the make radio contact with one of the scientists from the expedition, Dr. Morbius. Morbius warns them not to land, saying he is the only survivor, that the planet is very dangerous, and he can’t guarantee their safety. Adams has his orders, and lands anyway.

They learn that there are two humans on the planet: Morbius and his daughter (named Altaira) who was born after the original expedition landed. Morbius explains that after the discovered the remains of an advanced civilization of aliens called the Krell, members of the original expedition had been killed off mysteriously by some planetary force, until the a small group tried to flee the planet to return to Earth, but the ship was vaporized. Morbius and his daughter have been living alone with their very helpful robot, Robbie, peacefully ever since.

As far as I have been able to tell, Robbie was the first robot in any film to be portrayed with an actual personality, rather than being a walking tin can that mindlessly followed his instructions. One of my favorite scenes with Robbie is when, later, Altaira wants Robbie to make her a dress covered with star sapphires, and Robbie explains that all of those sapphires will take many weeks to synthesize, whereas he could make her a dress covered with diamonds in a few hours.

Back to the main plot: Dr. Morbius is very evasive with the Commander and his crew. He does show them some of the remains of the Krell civilization, including thousands of underground nuclear reactors that are still generating unimaginable amounts of energy for no known purpose, an education machine, and other devices that Morbius still doesn’t understand. But because Morbius’s translation of the Krell records reveal that every last member of the race was destroyed by a mysterious force they couldn’t understand, and Morbius’s shipmates were destroyed by a similarly mysterious force, he keeps urging the commander and his crew to leave. And the first night the ship is on the planet, and invisible monster sneaks into the ship, kills a crewman, and disables the hyperspace communicator, making it impossible for the next several days for the ship to contact Earth.

And let me tell you, the way the showed impact of the invisible monster, who was so heavy his feet bent the metal of the stairway into the ship, was very, very creepy!

The plot continues, with one crewman flirting with (and clearly hoping to take advantage of) the very naive Altaira. The commander intervenes and sends the crewman back to the ship, but he also scolds Altaira for wearing revealing clothing around men. Which confuses her.

When Morbius is no help with explaining the monster, the commander orders his crew to take additional precautions. Each night the ship remains on the planet, the invisible monster attacks again, and each day the ship erects more elaborate defenses, including building a huge blaster. When the monster is trying to get through the force fields and being fired on my many weapons, we get a sort of aura-like outline of the creature, the only time it isn’t invisible. But all of the tech of the starship is unable to defeat the creature.

Eventually, the commander and his closest friend on the crew (who everyone calls “Doc” though it is never clear whether he is the medical officer or if the nickname is because of some other scientific expertise) have become convinced that the monster isn’t some ineffable planetary force. They decide that one of them needs to use the alien “education machine” which Morbius has warned them away from. Morbius has explained that several members of the original expedition has tried to use the machine, and all who had tried died, except Morbius. The commander winds up distracting Morbius while Doc get to the machine.

The machine does kill Doc, but as he is dying, he is able to tell the commander enough to solve the mystery.

There is a dramatic final confrontation, in which it appears that the mysterious force no longer thinks of Altaira, Robbie, or Morbius as beings to protect rather than destroy. And again, the way supposedly impenetrable Krell metal walls were being battered in by the monster was intensely scary! Commander Adams forces Morbius to face the truth. Which results in Morbius’ death. The ship is able to leave the planet, carrying Altaira and Robbie back to Earth, and the entire planet self-destructs after they leave.

Most modern analyses of the movie, if they acknowledge any problematic content at all will note the one and only woman in the cast is less than a full-fledged adult and the only agency she is granted in the plot is whether to remain loyal to her father or switch allegiance to her new romantic interest, Commander Adams. And this is problematic enough. However… all of the men in the story view Altaira as little more than an object that one of them will possess. It is precisely because Morbius perceives that he is “losing” his daughter to the commander that sets the final battle in motion. All of the other characters in the story are vying for the attention of the one and only woman.

I should say, all of the other characters except Robbie the Robot.

I’ve never seen any critic acknowledge that, in some ways, Robbie the Robot is Altaira’s Sassy Gay Friend. He’s clever, he is devoted to Altaira but not interested in her in a romantic way. He cleans the house, prepares meals, and takes care of all the domestic tasks in the Morbius household that would traditionally be fulfilled by a woman in a non-science fiction film of the era, right? One of the roles of the asexual or effeminate man who was the witty friend of the heroine in movies of the 40s and 50s was to have insight into the motives and character of other people that the protagonists did not. So it should be no surprise that in the climactic battle, Cammander Adams uses Robbie’ perceptions of the situation to convince Altaira and Morbius of the true nature of the invisible monster.

It was many, many years later before this queer geeky nerdy child realized that at least part of the reason my favorite character out of this classic sci-fi movie was Robbie the Robot was precisely because he was the only character who wasn’t vying for the attention of a woman. And while many other aspects of the story resonated with me, none of the other characters rose to the level of identification as the robot. So this queer child, who had nightmares because of the main plot, still found models for my possible futures among the supporting cast of this movie.

…and then what happened? And then? And then? — getting the story started and keeping it going

Just start writing.

Several years ago I was on a writing panel at a convention. I don’t remember the exact title of the panel, but it was about what happens when you’re stuck or otherwise can’t seem to get a story moving. I was supposed to have a co-panelist, but they had to cancel at the last minute. The crowd in the room wasn’t really big, so I suggested we do something a bit more interactive. I briefly explained who I was and that most of my writing advice came from (at the time) about 12 years of reading the slush pile for a semi-prozine I was involved with. Then, rather than throw it open for any question, I asked for examples of times they had been stuck, and gave every in the room an opportunity to respond to it if they wanted.

This got a nice back and forth going.

One guy described how he’d had this story he’d been working on for a long time where he kept writing a few sentences or paragraphs about his main character getting the news of a death in the family, which was supposed to kick the plot off where the character would meet another character and they would both get involved in looking into what had happened. His problem he said, was he never knew how to get the main character from getting the news to meeting the other character.

I (rather flippantly) ask, “Why not just hit return and then type, ‘Later that day…’ or ‘A week later…’?”

And he looked stunned. “But don’t I have to explain how he got there?”

“You only have to show the reader things that move the plot forward. You can skip the boring stuff. You can jump past interesting things that happen to the character but aren’t important to the plot. Just jump ahead. Particularly in a first draft. During the second draft if you realize there is something important that you skipped you can add it then. But don’t do stuff like that until you get to the end of your first draft.”

Someone else in the room asked a question about the plot which made it clear that they thought plot was merely a list of everything that happens to the character. So I explained that plot is a problem, mystery, or challenge which confronts the protagonist at the beginning of the story, is resolved at the climax by the protagonist’s own actions, and is the thread the ties everything that you write about between those events together. It isn’t that every single thing the character does is part of the story, right? How many action movies show the characters going to the bathroom, for instance?

What a lot of people call writers’ block is a combination of indecision born out of the fear that what you write isn’t going to be perfect. So the first thing you need to do when you find yourself stuck is to realize that nothing anyone writes is ever perfect. Especially in the first draft. Your favorite book in the whole world was almost certainly a terrible mess in the first draft. It isn’t a great book because the author wrote exactly the perfect opening line, and then wrote every single sentence and scene that followed perfectly.

It’s great because the writer blundered along through the first draft until they had the skeleton of the story laid out before them—but not with all of the bones in exactly the right place. Then, during rewrite, the author got the bones arranged properly, added flesh to the bones, and eventually they had a living, breathing story that was ready to grab some readers and say, “Come one! Let’s have an adventure!”

Don’t let that fear of the imperfect prevent you from plunging in. Just start writing. And then keep writing until you reach the end.

Shakira – Try Everything (From “Zootopia”) [Official Music Video]:

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