Call For Papers
-Mystery Science Theatre 3000
Book collection of Academic writings
In the fall of 1988, on a small public access channel, KTMA, in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area of Minnesota, a bizarre show appeared. It featured two hand-made, robot appearing puppets and a man who was watching a movie and making comments to the screen. Little did its creator, Joel Hodgson, know that he had created a world-wide, popular culture phenomenon known as Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST). The show lasted ten seasons, and spawned a theatrical feature film. Twenty years later, the show still has fans the world over. The show has received a coveted Peabody Award for excellence, and was nominated for an Emmy Watching episodes of the show today, one still has to scratch his/her head and wonder how such a show could ever last one season, much least ten. However, when one delves deeper into the show, one discovers that it is one of the funniest, cleverest programs this side of Monty Python. Comedy scripts are arguably the hardest type of material to write and be consistently good. But the team that wrote MST, along with head writer Mike Nelson, created something that has lasted and is even more popular ten years after its cancellation. I am putting together a book that looks at MST and its cultural implication, the Internet, and the creation of similar shows (Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic) which were created and are written by former MST people, who have kept the spirit of MST alive.
Some topics that could be discussed and some questions that might be answered include:
The MST Hour and Mike Nelson?s portrayal (mimicking) of Peter Graves
MST, Comedy Central and the special Thanksgiving marathons
Fan Culture and MST: The Misties (who are they and why)?
The original Sci Fi MST Game
Roger Corman and MST: A Match made in Heaven or Hell?
Gender roles, Women and MST
Frank Zappa and MST
Comics and MST including Trace Beauliu?s stab at creating his comic Here Come the Big People
MST precursors (Fractured Flickers and What?s Up Tiger Lilly)
Best Brains (the company which owns MST) and its relationship with the fans (e.g.,sanctioning the fan made episode, MST3K-The Home Game,?the
Sci-Fi Channel aired this movie during which on-line MSTies could make funny comments)
The rise of ?forgotten movies? which were used as MST episodes (e.g., Manos the Hands of Fate which is now more popular than ever, and has now been made into a musical?there is a documentary about the film which would never have happened were it not for its rediscovery via MST)
The rise of B-Movie popularity as a result appearing on MST
Christmas Movies and MST
World Without End and MST LIVE
Cinematic Titanic-Live Gigs which are more popular than ever?now selling out all over the country
The cultural world of Riffing and the influence of MST The cast of MST today Cinematic Titanic compared with Rifftrax
The recently made flash web cartoons of MST robots, and how these cartoons fit into the mythology of MST in 2009/2010
Jim Mallon and Kevin Murphy before MST working the film Blood Hook (an analysis of this film and whether one can find any direct connections between what would come later in MST)
A Guide to Fan Made MST films (I would write this one)
Mike Nelson as head writer or why was a head writer needed for MST?
The pre-MST comedy careers of Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, Mary Jo Pehl, and Trace Beaulieu
The KTMA years compared to the Comedy Central Years compared to the Sc Fi Chanel years.
Zombies and MST (a good topic in light of the popularity of Zombie studies)
Movies that deserve the MST treatment but never received it.
How Rifftrax can actually take good movies (e.g., Star Wars, The Dark Knight, and Halloween) and make them seem as though they deserved riffing all along Mental Hygiene films and MST
The legal battle between Best Brains and Mr. Sinus Theatre (the roots and causes of this battle)
The post-MST career of Joel Hodgson
The Wheel and other failed experiments
Why did MST become so popular ten years after its demise?
Why did Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic become so popular after the demise of MST?
What were/are the cultural implications of the original invention exchanges in those early episodes of show?
What are the differences in the styles of Mike Nelson and Joel Hodgson as hosts for the show?
Why did Joel leave the show in 1993? Why weren?t he and Jim Mallon not seeing eye-to-eye?
The theatrical feature film attempt, MST 3000 The Movie (trials and tribulations of getting director Jim Mallon?s big budget version of MST to the screen)
Jim Mallon?s genius as producer/director/character
The culture of MST and riffing in general
Modern companies, such as Laugh Tracks, and MST?s influence on them
Mike Nelson as musical composer
The differences of Tom Servo and Crow (difference in style and tone)
Actor Joe Don Baker and MST a perfect marriage
Spy Movies and MST
Monsters and MST
Attempts at creating continuity within the ?host segments??what worked what didn?t (the difference in continuity between Comedy Central episodes and Sc Fi channel shows)
Cast Characters (e.g., Mad Scientists, Evil Mothers, and weird aliens)
Which were the most consistently funny seasons?
The hardcore statistical analysis found on websites by crazed fans (e.g., riffs per show and other weird statistical data?reasons for these weird
MST and the Web?how did the Internet help create such a rabid following?
Popular music and MST
Mary Jo Pehl, Bridgett Nelson, and the influence of women writers on MST
MST fan culture and university culture
The MST influence on the show Freaks and Geeks
TV?s Frank and MST and Frank Coniff?s role in America?s Funniest Home Videos
The ?more? adult humor of Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax compared to MST
Compare and contrast the cancellation of MST from Comedy Central to that of Sc Fi Channel. Why were both attempts to save the show unsuccessful?
Mike Nelson?novelist, writer of essays and children?s books, and general Pop Culture Guru
Kevin Murphy At the movies??? Why did he do it?
Bill Corbett as a playwright and performer
MST and Tape Trading Culture (Keep circulating the tapes some of the MST episodes admonished the fans; compare this with Grateful Dead tape trading or other official sanctioned bootlegging. Why did this type of sanctioned bootlegging endear the fans but infuriate the ?suits??)
The Shorts: Why are they some of the best?
The rarest episode of all: The MST CD-ROM video game.
Good Idea or not? (MST, Rifftrax, sitcom, television, episode and cartoon riffing)
The lost episodes of MST: The Green Slime, Thunderbirds etc., Where are they? What were they like? Will we ever see them??
Crow, Tom Servo and the bots in Popular Culture: Non-MST appearances (which continue to this day)
MST and the First Amendment to the Constitution: Why did the show always thank the authors of the First Amendment? How did the show use it? Did it push boundaries constitutionally???
KTMA and MST: Just how could a show like this get on cable access television in the first place? How did it become a movement? Were they are glimpses of the greater things to come in those earlier episodes or not? Torgo and Ortega: Cult Figures and MST why so popular with fans? The worse a movie is, the funnier and better an episode of MST: Why is that?
During the early years of MST, it was watched by many families who gathered around the television to see each new episode. Why did it particularly resonate with children? Did the show project a sense of wonder that appealed to children? Given that many of the jokes were very sophisticated, how is it that children related to the show?
Monty Python and MST?compare and contrast writing styles and ideas
Paul Chaplin unsung writer on MST
The MST writers were, and continue to be, masters of Popular Culture in all its forms (film, music, politics, etc.)
Movie references and MST?cultural and historical implications
MST terms and the vernacular (e.g., ?Movie Sign?, ?Poopie?, ?Huzzah?) and their adaptation into everyday language)
What was Josh Weinstein?s role in those early MST episodes and his post MST career as producer?
Cataloging and Metadata related to MST3K and libraries
These are just a few ideas, off the top of my head, about topics that one could write about. I?m sure there are plenty of others. Please note this will be a scholarly collection. Essays should be 5,000-9,000 words in length (including endnotes and bibliography). The editor will send out a style manual to potential writers at a later date, which must be followed exactly. Please keep in mind that these essays will be Peer Reviewed, and any essay that is not up to standard may not see final publication.
Please email me if you have any questions.
Date for Abstracts is October 2009, but can start taking them now
Final Articles due January 2010
Robert Weiner Humanities Librarian, Texas Tech University