Monday, April 15, 2013

Surprising Footnotes to the British Invasion: An Occasional Series (Special Sci-Fi Edition)

Okay, so the set-up for the following is going to seem as if it has no connection whatsoever to the mission statement here at PowerPop, but be patient-- there's a kicker at the end in which all will be made clear.

To wit: Those who know me best -- by which I mean a certain Shady Dame plus the occasional attentive long time reader -- are aware that for the last couple of years, I have been involved in an on-going project to re-acquire various beloved pop cultural artifacts of my youth (my youth, in this case, being defined as somewhere between the ages of five and twenty-five).

Amongst these have been an impressive set of View Master 3-D slides that have, since back in the day, become the subject of one of my all-time favorite crackpot conspiracy theories... early mixed-media set based on Disney's 1953 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea...

and the Charlie the Tuna wristwatch I am currently wearing.

But for the most part, this obsession has centered on rather more sensible stuff, like music (often on vinyl) and books.

So the other day, I was passing a charming antique store in the neighborhood [Cobble Hill: Where All Your Shit's in Walking Distance©] of the aforementioned Shady Dame, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a copy of one of my all time favorite sci-fi novels -- WASP, by Brit writer Eric Frank Russell (1905-1978).

First published in 1958, but which I first read, in the edition pictured above, in 1962.

Actually, devoured would be a better word than read in this case; it's essentially a fabulous spy novel about a wartime saboteur that just happens to be set in outer space a few centuries hence. Anyway, I remembered it as an absolutely smashing read, and after re-acquiring it, I was delighted to discover that it more than held up.

As is my wont, I then passed it along to an old chum who I thought might enjoy it, and when she returned it to me she allowed as how she had. We then both agreed that it was a shame the book had never been filmed; imagine what somebody like, say, the young Stephen Spielberg could have done with it.

And so -- and here we get to that kicker I promised you earlier -- as you can imagine, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather when (a few minutes later) my friend directed me to Russell's Wiki entry, where I found the following graf tucked away at the very end.

In 1970, Russell was paid £4689 by The Beatles's company Apple Corps for the motion picture rights to his novel WASP, the contract being signed on behalf of Apple by Ringo Starr. The film was never made, but it remained one of the most lucrative deals Russell ever made.

We can only assume that Ringo, who was an aspiring filmmaker at the time (post Beatles, he directed the T-Rex tour documentary Born to Boogie), planned to helm the WASP adaptation himself. Which might have changed history in all sorts of unfathomable ways, if true.

In any case, I should add two things here in closing.

Number one: £4689 was a very tidy sum back in 1970, and it's nice to know that Russell got that sort of a pay-off near the end of his life.

Number two: After all these years, it still amazes me that there could be bits of Beatles lore like this one that I'm unaware of.

[h/t Kerrin L. Griffith]


FD13NYC said...

I've been trying to gather some pop cultural artifacts from my youth for some years now, ages 5 to 25, same as you. My wife thinks I'm nuts, oh well. I'm searching anyway.

Anonymous said...

Thx, SS! -- Nora C

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Breaking news of interest to some folks here:

Shoes are doing some dates:

Not on the list (yet) is Shank Hall here in Milwaukee.

Anonymous said...

i read your copy of WASP! It was really good.