A few highlights from SIGGRAPH Asia 2017, and an invitation to make the 2018 gathering. If you are into creating your own animations, or you like doing 3D modelling, you really don’t want to miss this event.
Everything you need to know is in the title; the Hillywood Show is a brilliant parody presentation put together by Hilly & Hannah Hindi, some truly twisted sisters who combine music, dance, and video production to create some of the most amazing short films you can find these days. It shouldn’t be a shock that they have been parodying such pop culture icons as Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, Supernatural, and Sherlock. The real shock value comes from the fact that their fan base includes the casts of Supernatural and Doctor Who, actor/artists like Billy Boyd, Lady Gaga, and Sean Astin, writers/directors like Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and production houses including BBC America and MTV. With the key players you are creating your parodies from being in the front row of your cheering squad, you have to know you have gotten it right!
This Variety Artisans special is all about how the visual effects were put together for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the amazing continuation of the series that has taken the franchise to the next level. They produce a new episode of Artisans every week, and every one so far has given excellent insight into the approach creators of the various disciplines take to achieve their results. If you want to create your own stories in a visual media, there is no better place to become inspired than from this series.
If you haven’t checked them out before, the folks at Humble Bundle are worth a look. They come up with various bundles of items and offer them on a pay what you want basis, then split the proceeds between the content creators and one or more charities chosen by that creator (if it is more than one charity, you can direct them to apply your money to just one of them, or give a specific percentage to each of them). If you pay more than a fairly low average payment, that unlocks some additional goodies in the same collection while increasing your total charitable contribution. As each bundle hits various total target amounts contributed, additional swag is added to the bundle, pretty much the same reward system used by Kickstarter, where both your individual contributions and the total group contributions up the ante on the deal.
Most often but not always the stuff Humble Bundle has on offer are games, books, and audio dramas. They have a couple of good ones this week, with their Books choice being Neil Gaiman Rarities. Besides his very first published story, it also has one of his Babylon 5 screenplays and a boatload of other rare tales and collections. As you noticed if you took the first link I posted here, the main package this week is about $200 of Tom Clancy classic games, while the Weekly Bundle and Mobile Bundle each have a selection of games as well. Every few days something gets added, or a selection changes, so you want to check back often. As for me, I am going to grab the Neil Gaiman bundle this week, going high enough over the base amount to both maximize my charitable contribution and make sure I get all the extra stuff as each target is reached. This is my kind of win-win, and they keep doing it, over and over.
After watching the Smashing Pumpkins Steampunk song back in 2009 (the link has been removed or I would have it here), I had to track down the original 1902 French movie that inspired the video segment. Based on the 1865 story From The Earth To The Moon by Jules Verne, the movie was created by Georges Méliès. It was cutting-edge film making, with never-before seen special effects and production values, and was one of a handful that earned Méliès recognition as the inventor of science fiction movies. You can download the book to read on your computer or portable device, or read it online. You can also listen to the story online or download it for your portable media player (or burn it to CD) thanks to the good folks at Librivox. They remade the movie in 1958, but the original is the best. You can download your own copy for your permanent collection or just watch it online at Archive.Org.
By the way, Méliès also invented both the horror movie (in 1896) and the fantasy film (in 1898), as well as another dozen genres I don’t happen to watch. He was a world class pioneer in film making, the central character in the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and was played by Ben Kingsly in the Martin Scorsese film tribute to his genius in Hugo in 2011.
The Babylon 5 article they posted over at Tor Online, which ran under the title All Alone in the Night: When Babylon 5 Invented 21st Century Fandom is excellent, and reminded me yet again what an amazing series it was. J. Michael Straczynski created the entire story arch and wrote the majority of the episodes himself, with maybe 20 episodes written by others and few of them key. He also knew how to work the internet to directly work with the fans, as anyone who lived through those times online knows, and anyone who digs into the JMS Message Archives site will soon learn when they go back far enough. He used a lot of pre-Web tools, such as Usenet and IRC, even though the first episode of Babylon 5 did not air until 1994, by which time the first graphical Web browsers, Mosaic and its successor Netscape were already in widespread use. And he used them as a creator directly reaching out to the fan base, which had never been done before.
I still tend to disagree that he invented modern internet fandom, although he did make some major contributions on how these tools were used, because back all through the 1980s USENET and IRC were being used for fans to talk, and the first file repositories were being assembled for those who knew how to use Telnet and FTP to share text, audio, and images. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database started out being called The Internet Science Fiction Fiction Database, which was a USENET newsgroup with the name structure rec.arts.sf.written which began in 1984. If you want to dig back to the beginning and read your way to the present for a complete understanding of its evolution over the decades, check out The Linköping Science Fiction & Fantasy Archive, and yes, lots of the best early SF sites were out of Finland and Sweden. And that is just a single instance; there were many more in those days, listing them out could take me the next year.
Here is a single earlier example from my own experience. One of the prizes of my personal text file collection is a moderated chat held on Q-Link back in 1985 (Quantum Link, at the time just a Commodore computer online gateway service, later rebranded as something called AOL and opened up to all computer types) with Gene Roddenberry as the guest. It was a long distance call to Vienna Virginia from where I lived at the time, and a state of the art 300 baud telco connection (I had to solder the parts together for the hardware myself from $7 worth of Radio Shack components, you could not buy a Commodore modem) meant it took me 15 minutes to read the first 4 paragraphs of the conversation, showing up on my screen one painful letter at a time. So I typed in my question, uploaded it, waited the several minutes it took to type out the confirmation the service had received the question, and went offline. Three days later I received the information that the full text of the event had been compressed and posted, so I downloaded it. What a treat to discover that the moderator had passed on my question, and he actually gave it a considered answer!
That being said, even if J. Michael Straczynski didn’t invent modern fandom like the article author claimed (I suspect Ryan is just too young to know about the earlier stuff), he did set up a lot of the principles that modern content creators use to connect with their audiences. And he also created some of my favorite content, which besides Babylon 5 includes 1990’s Jeremiah, last years Thor, and next year’s Living Dead: The Musical.