Fit the Eighth – A First Time Listener’s Blog

by Elaine Silver

This fit begins with Zaphod and Roosta traveling in a flying building toward the evil Frogstar. Zaphod comments that he’s hungry and Roosta explains that the stripes on his towel are actually protein, vitamins, and anti-depressants.…adding even more proof of the usefulness of towels. In fact, there are books written about towels. The important information to carry away is that anyone who travels the galaxy and still knows where his towel is – is a man to be reckoned with. I’m starting to think I should toss a towel or two into my car as a tool, just like carrying an ice scraper in case of snow.

Anyway, Zaphod learns that the Frogstar is an evil planet and they plan to feed him into the Total Perspective Vortex. Although we don’t know what it is at this point, we know it’s terrible torture to go into it.

The Frogstar Prisoner Relations Officer (FPRO) shows up and sounds very polite, but is saying really mean things. He offers to give Zaphod whatever he wants…but instead of a delicious meal, he is sprayed with firehoses.

While we wait with anticipation to learn what the Total Perspective Vortex is – and what it will do to Zaphod, we switch planets and visit with Arthur and Ford who were left on pre-historic Earth. When we left them in the last fit they were seeing the potential ship in the sky that they wanted to rescue them.

They decide to use their towel and start waving it at the spaceship. All of a sudden the ship starts coming down albeit with a rough landing that causes an earthquake and traps Arthur and Ford under a large boulder that turns out to be the spaceship.

Shockingly we learn it is Zaphod that was flying the spaceship who had come to rescue them after he received their towel, mailed by meteorite. Turns out their towel was fossilized and hurled off into space and picked up by the improbability drive. Zaphod had been drunk for a week after surviving the Total Perspective Vortex.

Zaphod and Roosta did try to escape landing on the Frogstar by going to a discotheque that you arrive at through body debit…kind of like Wonkavision – where your body leaves one area and shows up in another area, except no chocolate.

They make it to the disco, but it’s full of strange robots. FPRO meets them there and surprises them with the news that they never actually left the flying building…it was just “in-flight entertainment.”

We finally learn what the Total Perspective Vortex is…it’s a room that “in one end is the whole of reality as extrapolated from a fairy cake, and in the other end” is a person. When turned on you see how insignificant you are in the universe.

Zaphod is the only being to have emerged from the Vortex without going crazy from what he saw – in fact he confirmed what he already knew – that he is “a really great guy.”

The story so far is ridiculous, but in a good, fun way. The writers seem to have a great time writing themselves into impossible situations and then breaking the rules of plot to get themselves out.

Fit the Ninth May 26, 1979

by Robert L. Rede

The episode opens with a game-changing bit of information. Way back in the first fit, Arthur Dent’s home was going to be demolished to make way for a bypass. Just as that was happening, the Earth was also destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass. Out of the blue, Ford suddenly informs Arthur that there was no reason for the Vogons to destroy the Earth because nobody builds bypasses anymore. They are obsolete. This allows Adams to take what had started out as a humorous parallel and instead turn it into a conspiracy theory. He also insists that Arthur Dent consistently refers to the Vogons as Bogons, perhaps because Adams was aware that some listeners to the BBC misheard the name of the aliens’ race and also mispronounced it.

Even as Arthur fails to fully understand the Vogons or their name, Adams fleshes out the background of the Vogons. No longer just the bureaucratic, officious, and callous race originally described at the start of the series, the Vogon race now has a history and planet behind them. It is important to reintroduce the Vogons, not just for the revelation about bypasses and the joke about Arthur not knowing their name, but also because Prosthetnic Vogon Jeltz, the same Vogon who was in charge of destroying Earth, is now attempting to finish the job by destroying Arthur, and guaranteeing that the Ultimate Question will remain hidden. In this reintroduction, a complete lack of rational thinking is also introduced the to Vogons, or at least Jeltz.

The other reintroduction is of the minor character Gag Halfrunt, previously described as Zaphod Beeblebrox’s private brain care specialist. In earlier fits, Halfrunt appeared on the sub-ether radio talking about Zaphod (which usually comes down to the statement, “While Zaphod’s just this guy, you know?”) It turns out that Halfrunt is also Jeltz’s psychiatrist. More than just Jeltz’s psychiatrist, Halfrunt is also connected to the original mission to destroy the Earth and all its survivors. Before Jeltz can destroy the ship, though, Halfrunt wants to make one last attempt to collect his fees from Zaphod.

In order to stop the Heart of Gold and the Infinite Improbability Drive from acting as a deus ex machina to help Arthur, Ford, and Zaphod escape, Adams must occupy all of the computer’s circuits, and he does so with the invention of the Nutrimatic Drink Dispenser, which analyzes Arthur’s tastebuds, determines what type of tea he would like, and then synthesizes someone almost, but not quite, entirely unlike what Arthur desires. Arthur has a had enough and, showing backbone for one of the few times in the series, forces the machine to figure out how to make him the tea he so desperately wants, and now may get, potentially at the cost of his life. Just as Zaphod hated the disco, which was “designed” for his enjoyment, in the previous fit, now Arthur is finding himself at the mercy of machines which were designed to make his life easier, but only add to the stress.

The seemingly random idea of holding a séance to talk to Zaphod’s Grandfather, Zaphod Beeblebrox IV, results not only in their salvation from the Vogons, but also helps further their exploration of the conspiracy Zaphod is trying to discover. The séance set s up the potential plot for the rest of the series, although it is never quite as linear as the word “plot” would suggest.

Fit the Eighth: May 19, 1979

by Robert L. Rede

Nearly five month passed after the seventh episode aired. During that time, Zaphod’s fate was left unresolved, Ford and Arthur were tantalizingly left stranded on prehistoric Earth, new characters introduced with no follow up. Fortunately, the second full series aired, although it wasn’t as smooth as the first series.

Eight episodes in and Adams has begun to recycle jokes, whether it is the play on “feeding Zaphod” which is similar to the “unpleasantly like being drunk” joke from the first fit or the stress and anxiety joke that was repeated from the third fit. However, he expands on the concepts of towels, discussing their many uses and even demonstrating them with Roosta offering to let Zaphod suck on his towel (not a euphemism) and creating the Total Perspective Vortex. It is interesting to note that when the Total perspective Vortex made its way into the novels, Bbeblebrox’s visit takes place before they arrive at the Restaurant at the end of the universe.

While The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has never been known for its consistency or logic, the plotting of this episode takes things to extremes. Adams works in a highly unlikely reunion between Ford, Arthur, and Zaphod, specifying how Zaphod arrived, and suddenly, the Heart of Gold also appears without real explanation (even the “infinite improbability” explanation is weak.

There is also more of a focus on Zaphod Beeblebrox, reasonably since this episode is about him being placed in the Total Perspective Vortex. The most intriguing part of it is that in order to escape his capture, he decides to go to a Discotheque. Once there, he absolutely abhors it, even though the entire point of going is the have fun. The segment doesn’t ring true. For seven episodes, Zaphod Beeblebrox has been presented as the epitome of cool, in Adams’ parlance, a “hoopy frood,” who lives for the party scene. In this instance, the first time we really see him going to a party, he seems to not understand what is happening or what to expect and is instantly turned off by his surroundings.

Part of the problem with this episode may be that Adams isn’t telling his story as linearly as previously. Not only are his characters jumping around through time, but so does the narrative, told with what amount to flashbacks in addition to the more typical asides to the voice of the Hitchhiker’s Guide. This episode almost feels like a placeholder, Adams is trying to reunited his characters, but doesn’t really have a lot for Arthur or Ford to do. The focus, instead is almost entirely on Zaphod.

The biggest innovation is the Frogstar (why Frogstar? It is never really explained), the most evil place in the universe and the home of the Total Perspective Vortex. For such an evil place, Adams spends most of the episode building up how evil it is, giving its history (through a sidebar from the book), playing the sounds of people who have gone through the Vortex, having Roosta and the Frogstar Public Relations Officer warn Zaphod about its horrors. The concept of the Vortex is wonderful, but once shown, it can’t really live up to its reputation.

Fit the Seventh – A First Time Listener’s Blog

by Elaine Silver

I listened to this fit on a drive to Missouri, where we opted to go off the interstate. So while I listened, I was also navigating my way through small 1-stop sign towns – not even a street light…just a stop sign. There were some towns that didn’t even have a stop sign, just speed limit signs to slow down to 35 as you drove through “downtown.” I forget that most of the country is like this, but basically living in the suburbs my whole life has given me such a different perspective.

Anyway, since I was a little distracted, I didn’t entirely follow the whole story this time. Ford and Arthur are still stuck on pre-historic Earth. I say still stuck, since I’m hoping that eventually they will return to their correct time – and even meet up with their companions again. I don’t know that this will happen, but I will be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. We don’t spend a lot of time with Ford and Arthur in this fit, but they do determine that although they think they see a ship that can rescue them, every time they reach for a bottle to drink away the fact that they don’t know how to signal the ship, the ship disappears. At this point Ford mentions that he has a friend, Roosta, who would know what to do, since he is a guy that “really knows where his towel is.” I’m so excited to finally hear about the towel! We’ve been carrying around a towel all year getting authors to take their picture with it (the pictures can be found on the Windycon Facebook group). So, why is a towel so key to travelling through the universe? A towel is “about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitch-Hiker can carry.” It’s good for keeping you warm, like a blanket, using it as a sail, when wet can be a weapon, can hide your head to protect you from dangerous beings, and can dry you off.

Most of the fit is spent with Zaphod. He escaped from the Haggunenon because after it ate him, it turned into an escape pod. He has found himself in the offices of the Hitch-Hiker’s guide to the Galaxy trying to meet with Zwarniwoop, someone he has never met, but told himself in a dream that he needed to meet. Things are a little chaotic as the news has been reported that Zaphod had died…and then he showed up, not dead. After a long ride on the talking lift (elevator) with Marvin, Zaphod gets off and realizes that the building is being bombed.

A friend, Roosta, is there to help Zaphod and explains that his government is out to get him by sending a squadron of Frogstar fighters. They leave Marvin behind with only his wits and his dreary personality to try to stop the Frogstar Robots, which works for a while, to at least slow them down while Zaphod and Roosta get a chance to escape. The Frogstar Robot does catch up to them and blasts holes in the wall and the floor, which rips the building in half, which somehow takes them on a journey to The Frogstar.

This fit, a little more than most, feels like it’s ending in the middle…I’m very curious to hear the next fit…and good news/bad news…I’m running out of time before Windycon (that’s the bad news), so I’ve written up this blog post much faster so that I can get on with the rest of the story (I’m looking forward to listening to the next fit so soon after listening to the last one).

Fit the Sixth

by Elaine Silver

This fit begins with our gang just having realized that they stole the admiral to the fleet’s flag-ship. They discover that the ship is on auto-pilot back to its original time and space from where it had come before dining at the restaurant at the end of the universe.

All of a sudden the visiscreen on the ship flickers to life, in order to pretend they belong, Zaphod sits in the admiral’s chair. The voice through the screen seems to recognize Zaphod as the admiral and even compliments him on his outfit. Zaphod tells the group that the alien on the screen looks like a leopard. The gang finds this pretty improbable, however, as Trillion tries to take a closer look at the screen, it comes back to life again, so she hops into the admiral’s chair. Instead of a leopard, she sees a shoe box. And the alien’s don’t seem to mind that she looked different than the last admiral they had seen. They even tell her that they really like her outfit.

At this point, Ford remembers that they have the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that they can use in order to look up information on the Haggunenons. They learn that this is a life form that evolves very quickly (even several times over lunch, if necessary). The entry in the guide ends with: “…the most effective way of dealing with any Haggunenon you may meet is to run away terrible fast. “

They determine that quick evolving explains why they weren’t caught impersonating the admiral…it was, in fact, because Zaphod and Trillion looked different that they were believed to have been the admiral.

As they look around and realize that the aliens could be as simple as furniture. At this point the chairs and everything around them is coming to life. Our gang decides to follow the advice of the Guide at this point and RUN. Ford and Arthur run into an escape capsule…they tell Zaphod and the others to take the other capsule. Arthur realizes that the other escape capsule had already been used, so Zaphod, Trillion, and Marvin weren’t able to make it off the ship. The Haggunenon which had evolved into the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal that was chasing them down the hall swallows them whole.

Meanwhile after pushing a button in their escape capsule, Ford and Arthur end up inside another space craft. They exit their capsule to discover they are in some type of mausoleum full of sarcophagi. Each person is labeled with name, location, job and a serial number. The strange combination of jobs include a telephone sanitizer, a hairdresser, and an advertising account executive. Angrily Number Two comes in and finds Arthur and Ford…Arthur says my favorite line of the episode: “Why isn’t anyone ever pleased to see us?”

During the interrogation, over drinks, Arthur and Ford learn that they aren’t sarcophagi, but they are frozen bodies…the intention was to go to a new planet and unfreeze everyone in order to populate the planet. The group on this ship was the B ship in the Ark Fleet. The A ship included the brilliant leaders, the C ship included all the workers. The powers that be decided that the B ship should arrive to the new planet first in order to make it comfortable for those on the way. There wasn’t any agreement about what happened to their original planet (some theories included the planet crashing into the sun, or being invaded, or in danger of being eaten by a mutant star-goat). I love this logic and that the ship B passengers totally fell for it! The Captain of Arc B slowly begins to realize that maybe he was sent a mission that didn’t need to happen. Although at this point they realize that they’ve almost reached their destination, where they plan to crash, instead of land (there had been a good reason, the Captain just can’t remember.

We hear the ship crashing and the Narrator explains the strange history of the planet Golgafrincham, where a descendant of an eccentric poet started telling tales of impending doom, in order to rid themselves of the useless 1/3 of their population. The 2/3 of the population that stayed is living very happy lives until wiped out by a disease which would have been avoided if they hadn’t gotten rid of that 1/3 of the population..

About a year or so after they crash landed, they convene a meeting to determine next steps on the prehistoric planet they landed on. After a ridiculous meeting where nothing is accomplished, Ford and Arthur discuss how this prehistoric planet is actually Earth from 2 million years ago – and they can’t do anything to change what happened to the Earth – since it has already happened for them.

Ford and Arthur use a scrabble bag to pull out letters to get to the bottom of the question to the answer of life, the universe, and everything. It spells out: What do you get if you multiply six by nine. This is such a disappointing answer to such a deep question. So they go join the budding civilization, knowing that 2 in million years it will be destroyed by the Vogons.

It’s interesting to think about where the series will go from here. This is actually the end of the original radio series, although there are now 6 additional fits to continue the story.

I’ve been enjoying listening to the radio show – and I think I would enjoy it even more if I weren’t stopping to blog about each fit before listening to the next one. In a world where binge watching/listening is the norm…it’s hard to take breaks like this between stories. But where it only takes about 30 minutes to listen to each fit…it takes me much longer to find time to sit and write about it. I’ve got a road trip scheduled for this afternoon – so I’m looking forward to hearing the next fit very soon!

Fit the Seventh: December 24, 1978

by Robert L. Rede

In many ways, the ending of the first series of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was perfect. Making it up as he went along, Adams completed a story arc for his protagonist, leaving Arthur Dent on Earth where the story began, well, several million years before the story began, and not exactly living in his home in Cottington. In fact, several of the concepts introduced in the second series never actually made it into the books/records/television series/movies, although this seventh fit does introduce one of the most enduring symbols of The Hitch Hiker ‘s Guide to the Galaxy.

Originally meant to be a Christmas episode in which Marvin fell to Earth as a meteor, causing three Magi to follow him to the manager, where he would be cured of his depression by a newborn. I think we can all be grateful that everyone involved rethought the concept in order to come up with the radio series as it eventually appeared.

Instead we get an opening which focuses more on the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and less on any of the characters we’ve known from previous episodes, at least at first. Adams describes their offices on Ursa Minor Beta and the way the offices are viewed. Described as the third and second hippest places on Ursa Minor Beta, unfortunately, the depiction feels dated. We’re also introduced to the idea of Zarniwoop, the President of Megadodo Publishing, who is on an intergalactic cruise while in his office.

Once the scene has been set, Adams presents Zaphod Beeblebrox on a freighter approaching the planet. A radio announcement reminds the listeners that Beeblebrox has been killed by the Haggunenons. Beeblebrox is traveling to Ursa Minor Beta to learn what is happening with his life, since he has learned that he is the subject of a conspiracy which he was involved in, but which he has no recollection of. He also explains that he was able to escape from the Haggunenon because it evolved into escape capsule. It is when Zaphod is trying to get into the office to see Zarniwoop that he has a wonderful exchange with the receptionist, who asks if he is The Zaphod Beeblebrox and he replies that he now comes in six-packs.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Ford are stuck on prehistoric Earth, spending their time getting drunk. They find themselves in a temporal anomaly, where a spectral spaceship appears every time they decide to stop drinking, only to disappear when they start to drink again. In this segment, Ford also says a line which defined the work since it first aired…”He really knows where his towel is.” Adams included it as a throwaway and was amazed at its popularity and longevity, and the fact that a towel would one day be released with the text of the novel written on it.

Trillian also survived to be captured and married off to the President of the Algolian chapter of the Rotary club, and therefore removed from the rest of the radio series, despite her importance throughout the entire series of novels.

Marvin has also arrived in the lobby of the Megadodo offices with the implication that Marvin’s adventures may be better and more interesting than all of the adventures Adams actually has related about the rest of his characters. Only a support character throughout the first series, Adams had found more for him to do, helping to cement him as a major feature of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

There are a few points in this episode the fully show signs of Adams’s previous work with the Monty Python team. The freighter captain’s dialogue could easily have been performed by the late Graham Chapman (whose autobiography Adams co-wrote), and the conversation between Zaphod and the Megadodo lift (elevator) also has a Pythonesque quality, perhaps with the lift’s role played by Eric Idle as a lift operator.

The episode ends with Arthur and Ford still on Earth and the Megadodo offices being stolen and taken, with Zaphod and Marvin on board, as well as a new character, Roosta, who really knows where his towel is, on board, to Frogstar because just as Zaphod wants to talk to Zarniwoop, somebody unknown and presumably evil, wants to see Zaphod. From a plotting point of view, the fit is unsatisfactory, but this episodes does have quite a few excellent one liners.

Fit the Fifth

by Elaine Silver

Although I had high hopes to listen to this fit of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and turn the blog post around quickly…life got in the way. Since I originally listened to this fit, my children came home from their summer programs, my husband had back surgery, and the kids went back to school – crazy how much time it takes to get ready for school!!

This fit begins with a recap to remind us why the earth was created. The gigantic supercomputer, Deep Thought, calculated the answer to the Ultimate Questions of Life, the Universe, and Everything, as 42. In order to determine what the question was, another supercomputer was developed, Earth. Just before the moment of the readout, the Earth was accidentally demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

Our heroes, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Trillian begin where the last episode ended, behind a computer bank, in order to not get shot, which was about to blow up. As it’s about to blow, Ford and Arthur have a quick discussion about the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and how it’s too bad, they never were able to finish their work on the book.

After a huge explosion, the gang is greeted by Garkbit, the host at the restaurant at the end of the universe, otherwise known as Milliways.* Turns out that the computer that blew up was a time machine that carried them forward in time in the same place.

Milliways, although quite impossible (this is what the radio show calls it – not my word…however, it is impossible, and it is just humorous that the narrator is the one sharing this word…keeping the listener in the story even though the plot twists are a bit ridiculous), is a time bubble projected into the future that allows guests to watch the end of the universe. Max Quordlepleen is our host for the visit. He adds entertainment as he describes the sights that the guests are seeing outside of Millways.

At the end of their dinner, Zaphod gets a phone call. It turns out that Marvin, the paranoid Android was there waiting for them. Because they traveled in time, but not space, Marvin stayed put on the planet and was waiting for them. Since Marvin was in the garage parking cars/ships/etc., the group goes to meet him there. They are amazed by the beautiful space ships they see and decide to break into one using Marvin’s help.

On their flight, we are reminded that Arthur and Trillian are supposed to be coming up with the question to the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything…of which they have no idea how to do. We just know that the answer is 42. Marvin hints that he can read Arthur’s mind so we assume he could determine what the question is, but at that moment they notice the fleet of black battle cruisers behind them. Marvin inserts at this point that they should have expected that when they stole the flagship of an admiral of the space fleet (even though they didn’t ask him at the time)…which, of course, he knows since he parked the ship.

This fit ends with the team wondering how to get out of the middle of the war they just unknowingly started.

At this point in the series, the music is familiar and helps to tell the story…the ending music helps you know that you’ve reached the end of this fit…and they always seem to end on a big cliffhanger, making me want to jump ahead to the next fit…but I can’t until I type up my blog post. I’ve got 5 down and 7 more to go. I’m running out of time before Windycon, so I’ll be listening and turning them around much more quickly over the next 2 months.

*At Windycon this year, the Con Suite will be known as Milliway’s, the Con Suite at the End of the Corridor.

An Interview with Maurine Starkey

AN INTERVIEW WITH WINDYCON 42 FAN GUEST OF HONOR:

MAURINE STARKEY

Conducted by Chuck Serface

Q: How did you get started with science-fiction and fantasy art?

With my family, all of whom read heavily. Although my mother didn’t care for science fiction, my father enjoyed Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially the Tarzan novels, and the adventure stories featured in Argosy. From both my parents I gained a love for reading. From my father I gained specifically a love for science fiction and adventure. Always I’ve loved comic books — Strange Adventures, for example — and later my interest expanded into other media as I began watching Star Trek and the promising first season of Lost in Space. I raced home from school to watch Johnny Quest, which I loved because it was an actual adventure cartoon – animation! I even wrote stories that were god-awful. The ridicule I received for my terrible spelling has resonated, continuing to affect how I view myself as a writer.

Art, however, was a different story. I was the girl who could draw ponies. My ponies looked like a cross between ponies and Chihuahuas, much like My Little Ponies. One day, a friend of my father’s, an artist, showed me lines coming off the edges of a flat surface, disappearing into the distance. He was teaching me perspective, my first lesson in technique. I may have lacked confidence in my writing, but not in my art. I received positive strokes for art, and so I went in that direction.

In 1972, I attended my first science-fiction convention, the name of which I can’t remember, but Gary Groth organized it. There I met Frank Frazetta, as well as several comic-book artists. At the time I seriously wanted to become a comic-book artist. I’ve always loved the great magazine illustrators of the 1930s and 1940s, but television put the kibosh on such art. Today, Steve Rude and Alex Ross have produced works that mirror the style of mid-twentieth century magazine artists. Otherwise, we don’t see it much anymore.

Then I caught the fine artist bug. Gustave Caillebotte, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Diego Velázquez, artists who dealt in immediacy, using color planes to add a sense of photorealism. I adore John Singer Sargent and René Magritte too. Magritte’s imagery tells stories. These aspects of immediacy and storytelling always have attracted me. I’m a big fan of Mark Rothko. Many don’t understand color-field painting. Color impacts us emotionally, and Rothko presented it in such a way that hits our vision peripherally. Not only do we see Rothko’s colors, but we feel them, smell them, and hear them. They inspire synesthesia.

This appreciation for fine art stems from my college days. Art departments in community colleges throughout Virginia frowned upon commercial art or magazine art. Later at the University of Florida, I witnessed a similar attitude. Hence my change toward art history for a while, but our instructors wouldn’t teach artistic techniques that interested some of us. I couldn’t learn from professors who wanted us to have a level of competency not possible in beginning artists. My own work was considered too “cartoony.” The head of the art department was strongly against commercial art and comics, so on the weekends a group of us traveled to Lanier Densmore’s studio. From him I learned more in six weeks than in two semesters of painting at the university. He taught us breakdowns, techniques, the practicality of commercial art. But, you know, genre artists and magazine artists employ skills common among fine artists. In science-fiction and fantasy art, Kelly Freas and Frank Frazetta have exploited the storytelling aspects much as did Magritte and Singer Sargent. Richard Powers’ colors remind me of Rothko’s, even if his work is very linear. We experience his art with all the senses as we do with Rothko’s.

So, it was my meeting with Frank Frazetta that made me realize that I must discipline myself and learn the fundamentals. I was fresh out of high school. That’s why I focused on fine art aspects. Again, there was no industrial art instruction at the local community colleges in Virginia. They looked down upon it. I went to the University of Florida, and in my fine art classes I went to a commercial artist to learn painting. Then Densmore taught us how to pull images out of our imaginations so that we could apply photorealism to our art. This wasn’t possible at the university because they wouldn’t allow painting from photographic models. No photographs! Thank God for Lanier Densmore!

Professionally, I continued to sway from my comic-book dreams and veered toward the computer gaming industry. I began with Computer Curriculum, a firm that produced software for children. They needed box art. However, when I witnessed what they were developing with computers I wanted to become involved with that angle. There I met Brett Sperry, Louis Castle, and Barry Green. We formed what would eventually evolve into Westwood Studios. Designing games is like solving puzzles for me. It opened up a whole new world of art. I’ve been at the gaming industry since 1982.

wolf

 

Q: Which genre artists have influenced your work the most?

As a child, I frequented a local comic shop in Virginia that had a cubby hole filled with science-fiction magazines. Usually I passed right by this section, until one day I stumbled upon a jewel, a magazine cover featuring a strange birdman holding a walkie-talkie. There were prisoners behind him. It was so colorful and vibrant. “Who is this artist,” I wondered, and “What is he communicating both inside and outside of this picture?” I had in my hand an old Analog, and the artist was Kelly Freas. Freas not only expressed himself through vibrant colors, but his illustrations told stories as well. A cover by Freas let you know he read the story upon which his art was based. He gave you a window into what was written. In 1993, I joined Freas at Gen-Con as he traveled through the art show. He critiqued every piece there, but he never said, “This is bad.” Instead, he offered only constructive comments. He not only wanted artists to grow. He wanted to elevate the entire genre. Always he remained positive, even when pointing out where artists could improve. All the TSR/Dungeons and Dragons artists were there, for instance, and all benefited from Freas’ expertise. What a privilege for me to walk with him and to hear his input. Always stay positive.

Unlike Freas, Richard Powers exercised a spidery technique. Powers generated far more chaotic images than Freas, but order still emerges. In this regard, Powers is similar to Thomas J. Wright, the artist who rendered the paintings from Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. And, again, here we have an artist who’s about colors.

The first woman illustrator to enter my awareness was Alicia Austin. She’s a Hugo winner whose illustrations evolve into an open line similar to the Russian artist Ivan Bilibin combined with the patterning and decorating of Kaye Thompson. Her art inspires me, sure, but it also inspires me that she’s a Hugo winner who was the first female genre artist I encountered, although there were others before her.

Let’s talk more about Frank Frazetta . At that convention, I was so impressed by his beautiful paintings, done on masonite and board, not traditional canvas board. The gallery organizers had them propped up. A few were framed, but for the most part his works were just “stacked.” I couldn’t get over how he could paint shapes. A simple shape would make a muscle pop. The imagery was so full of energy. I remember him speaking about tight deadlines were, and how in spite of them we must make sure each piece we do has a piece of us in it. Once upon a time, he held a piece of tile up to the light, and he thought, “I’d like to put this into a painting.” This became the highlight on the pillar in “The Egyptian Princess.” Put something for yourself into your creations. There are deadlines, sure, and people will tell you what they need or should be in the final product, but make some aspect of it your own.

skeleton

Q: We know you’ve amassed much experience with game design. Which games have you helped develop? With which companies have you been affiliated?

As mentioned earlier, I was a founding member of Westwood Studios. Early on, we were a conversion house, adapting artwork for Amiga and Atari ST. What a great learning experience for me. I learned animation from trailblazers. We were flying by the seat of our paints at that time, but I performed really well. There were so many barriers, because computer memory was so limited, and color palettes were so odd palettes and limited. This became part of the puzzle-solving that I loved and that got me enthused about projects.

Next, I moved to Strategic Simulations (SSI). Later, we did our own originals. I worked on Eye of the Beholder 1 and 3. They used my art in 2, though I wasn’t credited. I was lead artist on the SSI/TSR Gold Box Games including Death Knights of Crynn, Pools of Darkness, Dark Sun, and Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday.

Then for Electronic Arts I helped develop sports games. These include Football, Basketball, Golf, and Michael Jordan’s Chaos in the Windy City, beloved by some but generally considered a bad game, a shame because out of this group came me and Amy Hennig, who later won an Emmy. She was the designer on the Jordan game. Cool people have come out of this work!

Overall, I was lead artist on at least forty games, and I’ve contributed to twenty more. This doesn’t take into account pitching concept designs, managing portfolios, and producing.

hyde

Q: What about your experiences with the comic books?

I illustrated a back-up feature for Steve Englehart Coyote series called Slash, starring a character similar to Scorpio Rose. It was my first comic-book attempt. I’m grateful to Steve for letting me illustrate his story. Shame on me for not pursuing additional comic-book projects, because with experience I would have improved. Instead, I put all my focus into computer gaming.

Q: What does the term “fan art” mean to you personally? Why is it such an important category for the Hugo Awards?

As categories, Best Fan Artist and Best Fanzine are linked. Fanzines possess a rich history. Many of our professional writers started with fanzines, are still involved with fanzines, and the same goes for the artists. Good examples include Tim Clark and Brad Foster. A fan artist needs to understand the rich history of literature in fanzines, because they serve as incubators for new directions. Fan categories are not low-hanging fruit. Awards go to fan artists who have captured fan imaginations for that year. Even though you’re still learning or trying to break into the field, you still have to “show your stuff.” Although I’m a professional, I’m still willing to work for gratis as long as it’s something I really love or want to do. Usually, I’m against artists working without compensation, but it’s also about love for the genre.

winkie

Q: What has winning a Hugo meant for you?

I’ve garnered four nominations now, and I’m enormously honored, because each time I’ve been grouped with other winners, my fellow nominees, and we are winners just for having been nominated. When I won the award, however, fans were telling me that I’d captured their imaginations for that year, and that’s hugely wonderful. I’ve enjoyed my nominee status at those conventions, but that’s icing. Anything else is just elaboration. I want to get it through to all how grateful I am.

Q: What advice would you offer to female artists starting with any type of science fiction and fantasy art?

I advise beginning professionals, regardless of gender, to stick with the foundation courses: Color, composition, and design. Also, know your history. Know the artists who came before you. Appreciate their work, but never look at them as resources. See them instead as inspirations.

An editor once told me “You draw like a girl.” Then an animator once told me, “You draw like a guy.” Don’t let anyone pigeonhole you. Improve your work. Don’t let others define you. Remember what Frank Frazetta said: “Make it your own.” Masculine or feminine styles are subjective. Some try to define specific terminologies or techniques as feminine or masculine, but you can’t attach these concepts to gender. The “feminine flag” is an excuse to exclude women in the workplace, because men might feel uncomfortable around them. It’s not any professional woman’s duty to make men feel comfortable in the workplace.

To get your foot in the door, always get advice for someone better than you, a professional you respect. Have a strong portfolio. This means that if you’re a student with 100 drawings, pick your five strongest. It’s better to have a few good, strong pieces as opposed to the kitchen sink. Figure out how you want to grow. Do you want to be a game developer or a cover artist?

For game developers, you can participate with groups like the International Game Developers’ Association (IGBA). Find them at www.igba.com. They charge membership fees, but general attendance at meetings is free unless otherwise specified. Chapters exist in many cities and meet to discuss games and projects, and to network. Student must make these connections. Good teams are invaluable. They see professionals through their careers.

Artists, of course, want to publish and gain exposure, but never work for free. Many small publishers have widened the field. Get acquainted with art directors. It’s always hard work. You must do your research. Which venues will be open to your particular style? For example, Analog probably wouldn’t accept ponies and elves.

I’m terrible with deadlines. All artists are pots calling the kettles black in this regard, but it’s only because we realize that deadlines matter. Not only will art directors consider the type of art you’re submitting, but they’ll consider how and when you submit it as well. I’m somewhat hypocritical, I know, but I’ve been dinged justifiably for my bad habits. Do as I say, not as I do!

Q: What else would you like to add about your experiences in fandom or in the professional world?

Fandom’s like a family with both good and bad aspects. Love what you do. I’m grateful that people who love science-fiction and fantasy gather to honor those they feel deserve it. I’m amazed at people’s energy, talent, and output. There’s much to be respected. You get out of it what you put into it.

Professionally, I’d repeat the above while adding that you must keep researching and never expect anyone to take care of you.

Q: How can people view your artwork or engage your talents, by which I mean hire you?

Interested individuals may visit my DeviantArt page: http://mystarkey.deviantart.com/ . Certain prints there may be available for purchase. An unfriendly and unknown entity hacked my personal web site years ago, and I haven’t been able to build a new one. Contact me through Deviant Art, or you can email me directly at colmahouse@yahoo.com. If you friend me on Facebook, you can reach me there too. Additionally I have a Café Press account where I sell mugs, T-shirts, blankets, and other items: http://www.cafepress.com/mostarkeysstore . Finally I hang my artwork at conventions. I’ll have illustrations in the art show at Windycon.

I deeply thank Windycon for inviting me to act as Fan Guest of Honor! I’m looking forward to the event, and to meeting the other guests and attendees!

poe

Fit the Sixth: April 12, 1978

by Robert L. Rede

And so we come to the final episode of the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio series. The episode opens on the black battle cruiser the gang stole in the previous episode, now having come to life. The acceptance of the underfleet commander on the viso-screen confuses them since the creature clearly accepts their presence and they learn that they are on-board a Haggunenon space ship, the Haggunenons being a race of unstable shape shifters. A quick look at the book provides the characters and listeners with the information about this race that they need. Essentially, they can evolve into whatever they want, whenever they want.

In the previous fit, there was the annoying dinging sound during the description of the universe. The audio issue in the sixth fit is the electronicization of the Haggunenon voices as the underfleet commander speaks to Zaphod and Trillian. It is difficult to understand, although not ear-piercingly loud.

It takes the characters a while to figure out what is happening, and when they do they make the very wise decision to flee, just as, in a throwback to the first fit, one of the Haggunenons elects to evolve into a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. Eventually, Arthur and Ford escape in an escape pod, leaving Zaphod, Trillian, and Marvin to their fates, and clearing the deck for the end of the first series to start, essentially, with the same characters as it began with.

There are a lot of funny throw-away lines in the background or muttered when Zaphod, Trillian, and Marvin are being eaten by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, but one of the most confusing lines is when Arthur comments, “We might as well lower haystacks off the boatdeck of the Lusitania?” Nobody seems to know what the specific joke here is supposed to be and even Adams has stated that he wasn’t sure what he was trying to get at.

Throughout the series, and in popular culture, Marvin is referred to as the “Paranoid Android,” which has always struck me as a misnomer on Adams’s part. Marvin definitely shows signs of depression (although not manic depression despite at least one reference as a manically depressed robot), but never shows signs of paranoia. In fact, the only real signs any character shows of paranoia comes in one of the later fits and is mechanically induced (but we’ll get to that in Fit the Eleventh).

One of Arthur’s weaknesses dating back to the first episodes is his inability to leave any button unpushed, and when he pushes a button in the escape pod, the two suddenly find themselves inside another ship, and bring about a section that finds itself repeated in book and television series going forward as they materialize on the Golgafrincham B Ark amongst the useless third of Golgafrincham society.

Adams ends the first series where it began, on Earth, although it is the Earth of two million years ago, a pastoral world in which the cavemen are dying out due to the influx of Golgafrincham middle managers, account executives, and other useless people. Although Ford realizes that the computer program is bollixed up and the question Marvin saw in Arthur’s head is most likely wrong, he still tries to get it out by introducing a random element. Despite the obvious wrongness of the question (unless you count in base 13), Arthur and Ford except it as evidence there is something wrong with the universe rather than just the Golgafrinchams screwing up the program.

The first series ends on a perfect note, with Arthur and Ford’s voices fading out and the first notes of Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World” being played. Despite the destruction that we know is coming (in just two million years), Satchmo’s voice leaves us with the feeling of new beginnings, that anything is possible. Even a second series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Blog for Windycon 42