RIP Alan Harris

#RIP: actor & miscellaneous crew member Alan Harris died on Jan. 31, 2020 at the age of 81. He played Leia’s Rebel Escort in “#StarWars IV: #ANewHope”, Bossk / Bespin Security Guard / stand-in for C-3PO for Anthony Daniels in “Star Wars V: #TheEmpireStrikesBack”, Stormtrooper / stand-in for C-3PO for Anthony Daniels in “Star Wars VI: #ReturnOfTheJedi”, double for actor Terrence stamp as Chancellor Finis Valorum in “Star Wars I: #ThePhantomMenace”; Vervoid / Sevateem Council Member in #DoctorWho; Main Mission Operative / Alphan / Entran Prisoner / Patient in #Space1999; Skydiver Engineer / Interceptor Pilot in #GerryAnderson’s #UFO; man in street in #Scrooge; prison guard in #AClockworkOrange; photographer in #JourneyToTheFarSideOfTheSun; Doctor / Hotel Porter / Journalist / Man at Party in #TheAvengers (TV series); an uncredited stand-in for Peter Hinwood in #RockyHorrorPictureShow; stand-in in #TheDarkCrystal; stand-in for Christopher Reeve & Gene Hackman in #Superman (1978), stand-in for Gene Hackman in “Superman II”; & more.

Our condolences to his family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace and may the Force be with him always.

Alan Harris

Alan Harris (1938-2020)


RIP Marj Dusay

#RIP: actress Marj Dusay died on Jan. 28, 2020, at the age 83. She played Kara in “#StarTrek: #TOS”, Dr. Brandes in #TheBionicWoman, Mildred in #Galactica1980, Rachel in #TheFantasticJourney (TV series), Dr. Brandes in #TheBionicWoman, Dolores Hammond / Crystal Fair in #TheWildWildWest, KAOS girl in #GetSmart, & much more.

Our condolences to her family, friends and fans. May she rest in peace. #LLAP

Marj Dusay

Marj Dusay (1936-2020)




RIP Robert Leroy Sampson

#RIP: we are saddened to report that actor Robert Leroy Sampson died on Jan. 18, 2020 at the age of 86. (His death was reported yesterday.) He played Sar 6 in #StarTrek #TOS, Chris Miller in #TheTwilightZone, Lt. Peter Chandler in #TheOuterLimits, Capt. Williams in #VoyageToTheBottomOfTheSea, Chuck Hutchins in #TheImmortal, Dr. Akers / Bo Taggart in #WonderWoman (TV series), Dixon in #KnightRider, Ron Elliott in #ThePowersOfMatthewStar, Henry Innis in #Automan, Commissioner Jameson in #RobotJox, & more.

Our condolences to his family, friend and fans. May he rest in peace. #LLAP

Robert Leroy Sampson

Robert Leroy Sampson (1933-2020)


RIP Terry Jones

#RIP: we are saddened to report that actor actor, writer & director Terry Jones has died at the age of 77. He played Dennis’s Mother / Sir Bedevere / Left Head / Prince Herbert / Voice of Cartoon Scribe in #MontyPythonAndTheHolyGrail, which he also co-wrote and co-directed. He played King Arnulf in #EricTheViking, which he also wrote & directed. He played Toad in #MrToadsWildRide, which he directed and co-wrote. He played Scientist Alien (voice) / Van Driver in #AbsolutelyAnything, which he directed and co-wrote. He played poacher in #Jabberwocky, Prof. Mac Krill (English voice) in #AFishTail (“Hjælp! Jeg er en fisk”), Messenger Bird (voice) in #Dinotopia (2002 miniseries), Mr. Kreosote in #StrangerThanFiction, & more, including playing a variety of characters in the British sketch comedy series #MontyPythonsFlyingCircus, for which he also wrote a number of the sketches.

Our condolences to his family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace.

Terry Jones

Terry Jones (1942 – 2020)


“Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” Did Finally Reach $1 Billion, But Has Fallen Behind “Rogue One” Domestically

On Jan 15, 2020, “#StarWars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker” did finally reach $1 billion in gross box office revenue worldwide. This occurred 26 days after the film opened in theaters, which was 9 days longer than it took “Star Wars VIII: #TheLastJedi” and 14 days longer than “Star Wars VII: #TheForceAwakens”.

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But, on that exact same day “The Rise of Skywalker” reached $1 billion worldwide, the film’s domestic cumulative gross box office revenue also slid below the cumulative domestic gross box office earnings that “#RogueOne: A Star Wars Story” had earned in 2016 after the same number of days in theaters. And, since then, “The Rise of Skywalker” has remained below “Rogue One” in terms of cumulative domestic gross box office.

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Thus, the earnings for “The Rise of Skywalker” continue to drop at a rate faster than what “Rogue One” experienced in 2016, and we suspected that the film may not earn as much as “Rogue One” after viewing last week’s box office numbers when “The Rise of Skywalker” was barely doing better than “Rogue One”.


RIP Christopher Tolkien

#RIP: author & illustrator Christopher John Reuel Tolkien has passed away at the age 95. Born on Nov. 21, 1924, he was the third & youngest son of the author J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), as well as the editor of much of his father’s posthumously published work. He drew the original maps for his father’s #TheLordOfTheRings books, which he signed as C.J.R.T.

From a child, Christopher Tolkien had long been part of the critical audience for his father’s fiction, such as listening to his father’s tales of Bilbo Baggins, which were published as #TheHobbit. As a teenager and young adult, he offered a lot of feedback on “The Lord of the Rings” during its 15-year development. He also had the task of interpreting his father’s sometimes self-contradictory maps of Middle-earth in order to produce the versions that were used in the books. He re-drew the main map in the late 1970’s to clarify the lettering and correct some errors and omissions.

J.R.R. Tolkien had written a large amount of material connected to the Middle-earth legendarium that was not published during his lifetime. He had originally intended to publish #TheSilmarillion along with “The Lord of the Rings”, and parts of it were in a finished state when he died in 1973; but the project was incomplete.

Once referring to his son Christopher as his “chief critic and collaborator”, J.R.R. Tolkien had named Christopher his literary executor in his will. With this authority, Christopher organized the masses of his father’s unpublished writings, some of which had been written on odd scraps of paper a half-century earlier. Much of the material was handwritten. Complicating matters, his father would sometimes write a newer draft over a half-erased first draft. Also, it was not uncommon for the names of characters routinely changing between the beginning and ending of the same draft.

Christopher worked on the manuscripts and was able to produce an edition of “The Silmarillion” for publication in 1977. His assistant for part of the work was Guy Gavriel Kay, who became a noted fantasy author himself.

“The Silmarillion” was followed by “Unfinished Tales” in 1980 and “The History of Middle-earth” in 12 volumes between 1983 and 1996. Most of the original source-texts have been made public from which “The Silmarillion” was constructed.

In April 2007, Christopher Tolkien published “The Children of Húrin”, whose story his father had brought to a relatively complete stage between 1951 and 1957 before abandoning it. This was one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s earliest stories. Its first version dated back to 1918, and several versions were published in “The Silmarillion”, “Unfinished Tales”, and “The History of Middle-earth”.

“The Children of Húrin” is a synthesis of these and other sources. “Beren and Lúthien” is an editorial work and was published as a stand-alone book in 2017. The next year, “The Fall of Gondolin” was published also as an editorial work. “The Children of Húrin”, “Beren and Lúthien”, and “The Fall of Gondolin” make up the three “Great Tales” of the Elder Days, which J.R.R. Tolkien considered to be the biggest stories of the First Age.

Christopher served as chairman of the Tolkien Estate, Ltd., which was the entity formed to handle the business side of his father’s literary legacy. He also served as a trustee of the Tolkien Charitable Trust until his retirement in 2018.

In 2001, Christopher expressed doubts over “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy that was directed by Peter Jackson. He questioned the viability of a film interpretation that retained the essence of the work, but stressed that this was just his opinion. In 2008, he commenced legal proceedings against New Line Cinema, which he claimed owed his family £80 million in unpaid royalties. In September, 2009, he and New Line reached an undisclosed settlement. He also withdrew his legal objection to “The Hobbit” films. But, in a 2012 interview with “Le Monde”, he criticised the films saying, “They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds.”

Our condolences to Christopher’s family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace.

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (1924 – 2020)


“Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” Box Office Plummets over 90%, Worst Drop of the Disney Sequels

While the box office for “#StarWars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker” was the highest during first 3 weekends, that is no longer the case with the opening of the war drama #1917 in wide release.  The film’s 4th weekend earnings were only $15.1 million domestic, which, when compared with the film’s opening weekend, is a 91.5% drop in box office earnings. This is the biggest 4th weekend drop of all of the #Disney “Star Wars” sequel trilogy films, and the film also had the largest 3rd weekend drop of the three.

In terms of overall box office performance, “The Rise of Skywalker” has broken the long-standing tradition of the 3rd film in a trilogy outperforming the 2nd film in the trilogy. (The 3rd films in the original and prequel trilogies that were produced by George Lucas both outperformed their respective 2nd trilogy films.)

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Comparing the gross box office receipts for each of the Disney “Star Wars” sequel films, the following patterns emerge.

  • The opening weekends for each film were progressively worse, which is not consistent with how well the 3rd films performed during the original or prequel trilogies.
  • With the exception of the 2nd weekend, “The Rise of Skywalker” earned less than its sequel trilogy predecessors for each subsequent weekend.
  • “The Rise of Skywalker” has seen more than a 50% drop in gross weekend box office receipts between all subsequent weekends. “Star Wars VII: #TheForceAwakens” did not experience a weekend-to-weekend drop in box office of more than 50% until its 4th weekend.
  • With the exception of the 2nd weekend, “The Rise of Skywalker” has experienced the largest percentage drops in box office receipts when compared with opening weekend.
  • “The Rise of Skywalker” is the first of the three films to reach a more than 90% drop in overall box office receipts when compared with opening weekend. It was also the first to experience a more than 80% drop during its 3rd weekend. In comparison, “The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars VIII: #TheLastJedi” didn’t experience an 80% drop in overall box office receipts until their 4th weekends.

When looking at worldwide gross box office earnings, “The Rise of Skywalker” still hasn’t reached the $1 billion dollar mark:

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If we compare the current earnings of “The Rise of Skywalker” with those of the Disney sequel trilogy and “#RogueOne: A Star Wars Story”, we’ll see that the current earnings of “The Rise of Skywalker” are almost the same for what they were for “Rogue One”, so it’s entirely possible that (from the graph below) “The Rise of Skywalker” may not earn as much as “Rogue One” or it may only earn slightly over the overall earnings of “Rogue One”. With more films being released in theaters in the coming weeks, “The Rise of Skywalker” will have more competition, which will take more earnings away from it.

"Star Wars" Earnings Graph

Earnings of “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens”, “Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi”, “Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker” & “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”.


“Willing Suspension of Disbelief”: When it Works, When it Fails

An immutable requirement that impacts the success of any work of #ScienceFiction or #Fantasy is the audience’s ability to be able to willingly suspend their disbelief, which can be defined as follows:

The willing suspension of disbelief refers to an individual willingly suspending their critical faculties, logic and realism in order to believe something surreal for the sake of enjoyment.

It can also be defined as “a literary term of art referring to one of Aristotle’s principles of theater in which the audience accepts fiction as reality so as to experience a catharsis, or a releasing of tensions to purify the soul.”

Before sci-fi or fantasy were recognized literary genres, poetry and fiction involving the supernatural had gone out of fashion to a large extent in the 18th century, in part due to the declining belief in witches and other supernatural agents among the educated classes in favor of science. However, the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge sought to revive the use of fantastic elements in poetry and developed a concept to support how a modern, enlightened audience might continue to enjoy such types of literature.

In 1817, Coleridge introduced the term “suspension of disbelief” in Biographia Literaria and suggested that if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. The term resulted from a philosophical experiment, which Coleridge conducted with William Wordsworth within the context of the creation and reading of poetry. It involved an attempt to explain the supernatural persons or characters so that these creatures of imagination constitute some semblance of truth.

Who’s Responsible?

The individual(s) most responsible for enabling and maintaining an audience’s ability to willingly suspend their disbelief is the author(s) or creator of the work. It’s not the responsibility of the audience and any author or creator who fails to understand that isn’t going to have a successful work.

What Allows it Work?

Any creative endeavor is only successful to the extent that the audience offers their willing suspension of disbelief as they read, listen, or watch. It’s part of an unspoken contract: the author or creator provides the audience with a good story; and in return, the audience accepts the reality of the story as presented, as well as the characters in the fictional universe as they seemingly act on their own accord.

But the author or creator has the important responsibility of enabling and maintaining the audience’s ability to willingly suspend their disbelief, and they key to doing this successfully is internal consistency.

Internal consistency means being consistent with itself.

Any rules, events, settings, or characters that have been established within a fictional work (as well as sequel or prequel works) are expected by an audience to continue to exist and function as they did previously, unless otherwise indicated.

What Causes it to Fail?

Suspension of disbelief can be broken when a work breaks its own established laws or asks the audience to put up with too many things that come off as contrived.

A common way of putting this is as follows:

“You can ask an audience to believe the impossible, but not the improbable.”

For example, people will accept that the Grand Mage can use a magic spell to teleport across the world, or that the spaceship has technology that makes it completely invisible without rendering its own sensors blind; but the audience won’t accept that the ferocious carnivore just happened to have a heart attack and die right before it would have killed the main character, or that the hacker guessed his enemy’s password on the first try just by typing random letters.

A respondent to a question posed on the website “stackexchange” wrote an excellent response to the question, “What breaks suspension of disbelief?” in 2011:

“Basically, anything that the reader considers implausible when he’s already suspending disbelief, can spoil the illusion and break that suspension. The key issue to understand is that up to a certain point, your story is exposing the world of the story, and explaining what’s allowed and what isn’t. Anything you establish clearly, the reader will be willing to accept, and suspend disbelief over. Anything implausible that you don’t explain, or suggest can be explained (perhaps later), is not ‘protected’, and can prompt readers to feel that the story is nonsensical or contrived – not in the agreed-upon, ‘protected’ premise, but in the reasonable flow of events and consequences from that premise.”

The respondent then provided some specific cases. We’ll share two of them:

Setting rules are inconsistent or unclear: An SF/F reader will generally be willing to accept bizarre and impossible world constructions, as long as they are internally consistent. But if your stardates don’t match up with each other, or if something impossible turns out to be possible with no real justification, then the reader senses that your rules are arbitrary and that the author does not feel bound by his own rules. The same thing happens if he can’t figure out what your rules are meant to be to begin with. It’s like playing a game somebody invented where he gets to change the rules all the time, and then declare himself the winner if he’s losing anyway.”

Coincidence as a plot development: If anything immensely unlikely happens, it’s best for it to happen at the beginning – as part of the premise. Using coincidence as a plot development can feel contrived – since it’s not really a coincidence, but fiat on the author’s side, the reader can sense that the author is deliberately manipulating the story in implausible, artificial directions, and he loses faith in the plot as being plausible, natural, and thus significant.”

Additional Causes of Failure

Here are some additional causes that can cause an audience to lose their ability to suspend their disbelief.

  • Character derailment. When an established character becomes largely different, exhibiting behavior contrary to what has been previously shown that is not a matter of organic growth. Rather than gradually changing in response to events and experiences, a derailed character will exhibit shockingly unusual behavior that implies malfeasance or incompetence on the part of the writers.
  • Dues ex Machina. A Deus ex Machina is when some new event, character, ability, or object solves a seemingly unsolvable problem in a sudden, unexpected way. It’s often used as the solution to what is called “writing yourself into a corner,” where the problem is so extreme that nothing in the established setting suggests that there is a logical way for the characters to escape. If a bomb is about to go off, someone finds a convenient bomb-proof bunker in easy reach.
  • Fridge Logic. This refers to some illogical or implausible plot point that the audience doesn’t realize during the show, but only long afterwards. This naming is highly subjective, since not every person follows the same train of thought. Some people will never even realize there was a problem, while others will call it a plot hole, since they already noticed the problem during the show. The phrase was technically coined by Alfred Hitchcock. When asked about the scene in “Vertigo” when Madeleine mysteriously, and impossibly, disappears from the hotel that Scottie saw her in, he responded by calling it an “icebox” scene, that is, a scene that “hits you after you’ve gone home and start pulling cold chicken out of the icebox.”
  • Plot Hole. Plot Holes are those gaps in a story where things happen without a logical reason. When a Plot Hole involves something essential to a story’s outcome, it can hurt the believability, for those who are bothered by such things.
  • Retcon. Short for Retroactive Continuity, this is the reframing of past events to serve a current plot need, meaning that the new plot need was not intended from the beginning. A retcon is considered by many to occur when current events contradict the past continuity of the series, and is often evidence of authorial intrusion.