By Daniel Dern: I’m committed to watching at least the full first season of Foundation on Apple+ because, if nothing else, enough friends — some old-skiffy-savvy, others not — will, I know, want to chat about it, either to share their opinions and thoughts or who knows, ask for mine.
Whether I would otherwise, too soon (two episodes) to tell — my eval may have to wait until at least the full season has run. Is it well done? Visually? You bet. Does it have action? You bet. Does it include a fair amount of Asimov’s original framework? Yup — certainly (based on memory) far more than, psigh, I, Robot (which felt like a good-nuff version of a different Asimov book). Will it be satisfying, or will I want my time back? We’ll see…
(Other people are already chiming in, including Rob Bricken’s review Gizmodo review.)
Meanwhile, it’s none too early to start snarking. (Hey, I did it for Amazon’s LotR plans!) I don’t have as much for this, so let comments carouse.
The (Expanse’s) protomolecule shows up in Episode 4
Terminus has (Arrakisian) sandworms, which initially manifest as sudden humongous desert sinkholes
Salvor Hardin has midi-chlorians, or at least nano-chlorians
Arkady Darell inherits the One Ring from her grandparents
It will turn out that Amazon is funding the Encyclopedia Galactica project.
By Victoria Strauss: This past April, I wrote about writers’ struggles to get Disney and Disney-owned publishers to provide unpaid royalties and missing royalty statements–in some cases, going back years–and the formation of the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force in response.
The problem: Disney has acquired many publishers and imprints over the years, along with their properties and contracts. In many cases, however, Disney is taking the position that while they’ve purchased the rights to those properties, they haven’t acquired the corresponding obligations stipulated in the contracts…such as payment and reporting. From the Task Force website:
Creators may be missing royalty statements or checks across a wide range of properties in prose, comics, or graphic novels. This list is incomplete and based on properties for which we have verified reports of missing statements and royalties.
LucasFilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.)
Boom! Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
Dark Horse Comics (Licensed comics including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.)
20th Century Fox (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, etc.)
Marvel WorldWide (SpiderMan, Predator, etc.)
Disney Worldwide Publishing (Buffy, Angel)
Drawn from multiple professional writers’ groups, the Task Force’s mission is to identify and advocate for writers who are owed money and accounting. There has been movement since April: several writers — including Alan Dean Foster, who was the first to go public — have successfully negotiated with Disney and have been paid. BOOM! Studios, which holds licenses for multiple Disney-owned comic book and graphic novel franchises, has offered to work with the Task Force to resolve royalty issues for comics writers and other creators (though to date little progress has been made). And two additional important writers’ organizations, WGA East and WGA West, have joined the Task Force.
This is just the start, though. Disney has not been pro-active in seeking out affected writers, and it has refused to post a FAQ on its website or provide procedures for resolution, leaving writers and their agents on their own to try and figure out what’s going on and whom to contact. In many cases–especially for books published years ago–writers may not even be aware that their publisher was acquired or that their books have been published in new formats or editions.
Also, while a few higher-profile novelists have been paid, several lesser-known writers and their agents are still in negotiations with Disney. And although there has been movement on the novel front, for comic book creators there have been almost no resolutions.
Accordingly, the Task Force is reaching out to all comic book and graphic novel creators who are missing royalty payments and statements from their work on Disney-owned properties. From the recent press release:
“Writers, artists, illustrators, letterers, and other artists are valued members of the creative teams that produce art and literature that is enjoyed by millions,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Task Force Chair. “We are inviting these talented artists to share their stories and we will fight for them to receive the money that is owed to them.”
The Task Force’s goals are to ensure that all writers and creators who are owed royalties and/or statements for their media-tie in work are identified and that Disney and other companies honor their contractual obligations to those writers and creators after acquiring the companies that originally hired them.
How can you be part of the fight?
If you’re an affected creator, or suspect you are, SFWA is hosting this form that you can fill out to let the Task Force know. The purpose of the form is to provide the Task Force with information so it can review your case and then follow up (not every case is something the Task Force can help with, unfortunately). All information submitted is confidential; nothing will be shared outside the Task Force without your permission.
Additionally, the Task Force strongly recommends that, regardless of whether or not you’re affected, you continue to seek timely royalty statements (when appropriate).
If you’re a fan, use the hashtag #DisneyMustPay (the Task Force suggests some sample social media messages). Blog about it. Write about it. Post the press release on your website. The Task Force asks that you not boycott, as this would disproportionately affect creators who are being paid. But getting the word out, shining a light on the issue, is hugely important. Public pressure works: Disney is taking notice, as the resolutions reached by Alan Dean Foster and others show.
In closing: this is personal for me. The late Ann Crispin–bestselling author, Writer Beware co-founder, and my dear friend and fellow scam hunter–wrote for two Disney-owned media properties, including her bestselling Han Solo Trilogy and the novelization of Alien: Resurrection. As with other affected writers, Ann’s estate has not received royalty statements and/or payments for some editions of those works.
I’ll be following developments closely. Watch this space.
The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force makes sure writers’ and other creators’ contracts are honored, but individual negotiations are rightly between them, their agents, and the rights holder. The Disney Task Force is working to address structural and systemic concerns. Additional updates and information are available at www.writersmustbepaid.org.
Victoria Strauss, co-founder of Writer Beware®, is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone fantasy duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) and Passion Blue, a historical novel for teens, one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2012. She has written hundreds of book reviews for publications such as SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.
She received the 2009 SFWA® Service Award for her work with Writer Beware®, and in 2012 was honored with an Independent Book Blogger Award for the Writer Beware® blog. She’s webmistress of the Writer Beware® website, which she also created, and maintains the Writer Beware® database, blog, and Facebook page.
Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades, appearing in November, is the latest one-shot in the groundbreaking Marvel’s Voices series, continuing the tradition of highlighting the cultural richness of Marvel Comics and uplifting new voices in the comic book industry. Following the success of Marvel’s Voices: Legacy and Marvel’s Voices: Pride, Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades will turn the spotlight to Latino and Latinx heroes and creators from all corners of the Marvel Universe. These all-new stories will feature adventures of some of Marvel’s most popular heroes while celebrating the range of their cultural heritage as told by fan-favorite writers and artists and those making their Marvel Comics debut.
Marvel’s first Latino super hero, White Tiger, was created by writer Bill Mantlo and artist George Pérez in 1974’s Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu #19. Since then, Marvel has introduced many new Latino-descent heroes from a multitude of different backgrounds including current stars such as Miles Morales, America Chavez, and Reptil.
Six Marvel’s Voices: Community #1 covers are revealed following the jump, featuring artwork by Joe Quesada, George Pérez, Mateus Manhanini, Maria Wolf, Natacha Bustos, Nabetse Zitro, and Humberto Ramos.
… Original series creator J. Michael Straczynski is onboard to write the project. He will also executive producer under his Studio JMS banner. Warner Bros. Television, which produced the original series, will produce the reboot.
The new iteration of the sci-fi series is described as a “from-the-ground-up reboot.” In the series, John Sheridan, an Earthforce officer with a mysterious background, is assigned to Babylon 5, a five-mile-long space station in neutral space, a port of call for travelers, smugglers, corporate explorers and alien diplomats at a time of uneasy peace and the constant threat of war. His arrival triggers a destiny beyond anything he could have imagined, as an exploratory Earth company accidentally triggers a conflict with a civilization a million years ahead of us, putting Sheridan and the rest of the B5 crew in the line of fire as the last, best hope for the survival of the human race.
Which all makes sense of Straczynski’s cryptic tweet of two weeks ago.
(2) LDV NEWS. Today Straczynski also tweeted a brief update about the status of Last Dangerous Visions.
The writing of prose is often depicted as a solitary activity, an occupation suited to hermits sealed into poorly lit garrets, sliding their manuscripts out under their front door, receiving flat food under the same door. Now this can be a perfectly functional approach to writing…but it is not the only one…..
There will be no Readercon in 2022. But don’t panic! We’re not going anywhere! We just need some time to recharge and get our house in order.
The last two years have been a doozy for everyone. We all need some rest. And Readercon as an organization needs an opportunity to revamp back-end processes, update and streamline old systems, and recruit new volunteers to fill key positions. Just as you can’t fix your car’s brakes while you’re driving, we can’t make all those changes at the same time as putting on a convention. So after much behind-the-scenes discussion, we’re officially taking 2022 as a Renovation Year!…
(5) CORFLU. The convention for fanzine fans, Corflu 39 Pangloss, still aspires to run on its March 18-20, 2022 date – and toward that end has published Progress Report #1 with all the info about venue, membership, and who’s on the committee.
We live in parlous times. There is great confusion under heaven, and the conditions are excellent. Which is to say, thanks to border closures, travel restrictions, economic wobbles, and ongoing pandemic uncertainty, much of what we can tell you about Corflu 39 is aspirational, provisional, or pending better data with the unfolding of future events. But we step out in hope, and choose to be optimistic that all our Corflu wishes will come true. Thus, Corflu Pangloss….
One City One Story is the South Pasadena Public Library’s Citywide Reading Program. Community voting took place for a title from September 1-10. The winning book, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, was announced on September 27. We encourage South Pasadenans to read it to engage with this year’s theme, “Navigating Nature”. Dive even deeper with community discussions and themed programs.
…The Business follows Kate Telman, a working-class Glaswegian who has risen through the ranks to become a senior executive in a secretive super-corporation, known only as The Business. Telman discovers that The Business is planning to buy a small country in order to secure a seat on the UN and that, despite the benevolent image and democratic structure it presents to the world, the company will stop at nothing to increase its influence. So begins a dangerous personal reckoning as Telman travels the globe from Scotland to the Swiss Alps, the American Midwest, Pakistan and the Himalayas, determined to uncover the conspiracy at the heart of the shady company she works for.
…Mullens and Wilkinson said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to adapt Iain Banks’ wickedly satirical The Business for television. As relevant today as when it was first published, we look forward to honouring Iain’s work with a powerful, entertaining thriller.”
Join Visual Effects Supervisor, Richard Bluff, as he shares a peek behind the curtain of the effects of The Mandalorian: Season 2, winner of 7 Emmy® Awards including Special Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Prosthetic Makeup, Stunt Coordination, Stunt Performance, and Music Composition. For its sophomore outing, Lucasfilm’s hit Disney+ series built upon the groundbreaking technical and artistic achievements accomplished during season one, combining traditional methodologies, with ever-advancing new technologies. The team also increased the physical size of the ILM StageCraft LED Volume which would again be used for over half of all scenes. This season also marked the debut of ILM’s state-of-the-art real-time cinema render engine called, Helios. The high-resolution, high-fidelity engine was used for all final pixel rendering displayed on the LED screens and offers unmatched performance for the types of complex scenes prevalent in today’s episodic and feature film production. Practical creature effects have been a vital part of the aesthetic and charm of the Star Wars universe since 1977, and for season two, the effects team realized over 100 puppeteered creatures, droids, and animatronic masks, which included the beloved Tatooine Bantha, realized as a ten foot-high puppeteered rideable creature. Practical miniatures and motion control photography were used once again for scale model ships, as well as miniature set extensions built for use in ILM’s StageCraft LED volume. Stop motion animation was also utilized for the Scrap Walker at the Karthon Chop Fields. The greater krayt dragon on Tatooine was realized as a six-hundred-foot computer-generated creature that would swim shark-like through the sand environment by way of a liquefaction effect, wherein the sand would behave like water.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1964 – Fifty-seven years ago this evening on CBS, My Living Doll, a SF comedy, first aired. Another production of the Desilu Studios, My Living Doll was rather unusual in that it was purchased by the network without any pilot at the request of CBS’s president, due to the success of Chertok’s previous series, My Favorite Martian. The series starred Bob Cummings as Dr. Bob McDonald, a psychiatrist who is given care of Rhoda Miller, an android who was played by Julie Newmar who would later be Catwoman on Batman. Unlike My Favorite Martian which ran three seasons and over a hundred episodes, it would last a single season of twenty six episodes. It is available on DVD but not on streaming services.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 27, 1927 — Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one for the Buck Rogers franchise as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels. The Six Million Dollar Man film was nominated for a Hugo at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won, and Marooned was nominated at Heicon ’70 when TV Coverage of Apollo XI was chosen for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. (Died 1997.)
Born September 27, 1932 — Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion.” I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd too. He also had one-offs on I-Spy, Munsters, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but cannot be confirmed that he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
Born September 27, 1934 — Wilford Brimley. His first genre role was as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cocoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. (Died 2020.)
Born September 27, 1947 — Meat Loaf, 74. He has a rather tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the Crypt, The Outer Limits, Monsters, Masters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars. I think one of his songs, particularly the video version, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” qualifies as genre.
Born September 27, 1956 — Sheila Williams, 65. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction, the past fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor at Renovation and Chicon 7. (She’s nominated this year again.) With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s Robots, Isaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing.
Born September 27, 1966 — David Bishop, 55. In Nineties, he edited the UK Judge Dredd Megazine (1991–2002) and 2000 AD (1995–2000). He wrote a number of Dredd, Warhammer and Who novels including the Who novel Who Killed Kennedy which is a popular Third Doctor story. He’s written Big Finish stories in the Dredd, Sarah Jane and Who lines. Dredd audio drams. Huh.
Born September 27, 1970 — Tamara Taylor, 51. Best remembered I’d say as Camille Saroyan in Bones which is at least genre adjacent being connect to Sleepy Hollow. Genre wise, she was in season seven of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the primary antagonist, Sibyl. She also appeared in Lost, as the former girlfriend of Michael and mother of Walt, Susan Lloyd. And she has a brief appearance in the Serenity film just listed as Teacher.
(12) DUCK! There’s four days left to bid on the original “Duck with a Pearl Earring” by Omar Rayyan, offered by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver with all proceeds going to benefit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bidding was up to $16,351 last I looked.
This is an original oil on paper painting, commissioned by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
The painting was entered in the 2021 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest, in which the winning entry is turned into a duck stamp and sold to raise funds for conserving the nation’s wetlands and other wildlife habitats. It is a take on a classic painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. But there is one significant difference between the two works of art: ours is good, because it is a duck.
Shockingly this masterpiece did not win, but you can still help conserve habitats for birds and other wildlife in our National Wildlife Refuge System by bidding on the painting here.
China’s video game industry is booming. But it sure doesn’t feel that way to Stone Shi, a game designer in China.
Mr. Shi, 27, got his first job in 2018, when Beijing temporarily suspended approval of new games. The next year, the government placed new limits on minors’ playing time. A few weeks ago, the rules got stricter still. People under 18 can now play just three hours a week, during prescribed times on weekends.
“We never hear any good news about the gaming industry,” Mr. Shi said. “We have this joke, ‘Each time this happens, people say it’s doomsday for the video game industry.’ So we say, ‘Every day is doomsday.’”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Mr. Shi remains employed and hundreds of millions of Chinese continue to play games each day. Minors still find ways around government blocks. Chinese tech companies, like Tencent, are cornerstones of the global gaming industry. The country has also been quick to embrace competitive gaming, building e-sports stadiums and enabling college students to major in the topic.
…Remy is, of course, an animated talking rat, and this is a movie that presumes, among other things, that a human body is an elaborate marionette operated by hair. I know the lightning cheese mushroom is not realistic. But it looked so enticing, like a crunchy balloon, or like if Eleven Madison Park made a Cheeto. I would very much like to taste an exploded mushroom. So to that end, I nearly set my house on fire.
…There aren’t many recipes for applying lightning to mushrooms, but some people have tried to approximate what this might taste like. My first attempt at distilling the flavor of a storm came from Disney itself, which published a recipe for “Lightning-y Mushrooms” adapted from Fiction-Food Café. Already I saw a problem, though: This recipe calls for fresh, spreadable chevre, which is whipped with herbs and honey and stuffed into mushroom caps. But in the film, Remy is enthralled to find not fresh chevre, but Tomme de Chevre, a semisoft cheese with a grey rind that’s been aged for at least seven weeks. I opted to follow in Remy’s footsteps, and ad-lib where I could.
…I decided I needed to employ some actual electricity. But short of sticking a mushroomed fork in a socket and hoping I didn’t die, I had no idea what to do. So I called Chris Young, co-author of Modernist Cuisine, hoping he had come across something like this in his experiments.
Young explained what I was trying to do is called ohmic cooking, which is actually quite common, especially in the dairy industry. Picture how a power cord plugged into a wall tends to heat up. That’s because it’s a conductor for the electricity, and because a wire is not a perfect conductor, the resistance begins to generate heat. The same thing can happen with food when you essentially make the food the wire….
Sub Millimeter InfraRed Fiber-feed System (or something)
Spitzer Mapping of the Outer Galaxy
Systematic Multiwavelength Unbiased catalog of Dwarf Galaxies and Evolution of Structure
(16) TRAILER TIME. Netflix dropped a trailer for its animated series Arcane.
From the creators of League of Legends comes a new animated series, Arcane. Set in the utopian region of Piltover and the oppressed underground of Zaun, the story follows the origins of two iconic League champions-and the power that will tear them apart.
And while I’m not that wowed by the trailer for Muppets Haunted Mansion people keep sending me the link, so what do I know?
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Marc Criley, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Jerry Kaufman, Bill Burns, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
Twenty years before Margaret Atwood won the first Arthur C Clarke award, she published a small but important collection of poetry called The Animals in That Country, a title I borrowed for my book. That this book could become one of the Clarke award winners alongside Atwood – as well as other writers I adore like Miéville and Whitehead – is a momentous honour. I wrote The Animals in That Country to look closely at the relationship between humans and other animals. In these strange times, I find that (more than ever) reading and writing connects us humans as well.
Chair of Judges, Dr Andrew M. Butler, commented on the fact that all six shortlisted books this year were by debut authors:
Our six shortlisted debut novelists have found ways to rework tools that sf has used for over two centuries. This should give us all hope for the future of our genre.
And Award Director Tom Hunter added:
For 35 years the Clarke Award has promoted not only the best of science fiction but also new ways of defining and exploring it. Laura’s win re-positions the boundaries of science fiction once again, and we’re delighted to welcome her to the genre.
Laura Jean McKay receives a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend and prize money to the value of £2021.00; a tradition that sees the annual prize money rise incrementally by year from the year 2001 in memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke.
The judging panel for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2021 were: Stewart Hotston, British Science Fiction Association; Alasdair Stuart, British Science Fiction Association; Phoenix Alexander, Science Fiction Foundation; Nicole Devarenne, Science Fiction Foundation; Nick Hubble, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival; Dr Andrew M. Butler, non-voting Chair of the Judges, Serendip Foundation.
[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]
BRINGING BACK THE UN-SILENT ‘K’
Helloooo. Melanie here. Things have gotten even more interesting. Writer X has given us unexpected access to The Society. Read on to find out more. (Warning: Whatever you do, don’t look it in the eyes!)
I’m also going to leave this here without further explanation.
Subject: Werewolves, Vampires, and Malls
I’m going to cut to the chase. I have tried and failed to write my book starting from the end. Whomever came up with that idea should be shot. How am I supposed to write a meaningful ending for NINE WHOLE BOOKS with lots of little quaint references to special moments and how it feels to have fulfilled the prophecy when I don’t have any idea what happened that made it meaningful?? The people who write these how-to-books on writing have no idea what they’re talking about. Chekov’s gun, my eye!!
And my return ke y keeps jamming.
Anyway, I have temporarily put a pin in my page count requirements so that I can work on doing some light worldbuilding. After this, I will need to write 198.66 pages a day to catch up, but if I can write 149 pages a day then theoretically another 49.66 is a small stretch.
I spent some time developing the ChaalChaal mall because, as of now, I only have known about the Arktel Slavers All You Can Eat Buffet. By the way, one thing I didn’t share with you was that I was having some trouble coming up with how to commute the Arktel Slavers to a Modern City Fantasy setting. I had to ask myself Where would they be in a modern city? In my previous setting I had them at the edge of the Knutt Tukr forest (pronounced kuh-nutt. I’m bringing back the non-silent ‘K’) but I think if I had a bunch of Arktel Slavers at a forest they might be arrested or something by park rangers so the only other place I could think of them congregating is at a mall. Maybe in the food court. That’s when it hit me that they have a hot food buffet there!!!
I think I’m going to give Fenchin a peanut allergy. That way she has a reason for not knowing that the Arktel Slavers are at the mall.
The mall is important because this is where Fenchin is going to go to buy her emerald gown and silken faery wings for the special ball that she and Musradi (BUT NOT PUHJYNA) go to and when Musradi realizes that Fenchin is the child of the prophecy. I’ve even looked up some music for the ballroom scene that readers can listen to so they can know exactly how it sounds when it inevitably heads for the silver screen.
Meanwhile, I also have decided that my modern city fantasy is going to be very different. Instead of elves and dwarves and orcs, I’m going to add some magical creatures like Vampires and Werewolves. Won’t that be amazing??? Anyway, the way I have it worked out is that the Vampires live on one half of the city and the Werewolves live on the wrong side of the tracks or something. Every month at the full moon, the Vampires and the Werewolves all stalk down in the silence of night to the town green to
get together and do clog-dancing. But here’s the clincher. One night, someone comes along and steals all the Vampires and Werewolves clogs and they need Fenchin to help them and this is why they come to realize that she is the child of the prophecy. It’s very important for them to recognize this, Gladys!! The Vampires and Werewolves are the only ones who can really hold off the Arktel Slavers!!! (I think it’s her uncle that steals the clogs, but I haven’t ironed this out yet.) It’ll be very clever. The only problem is that I can’t have my main character fulfilling an important part of her quest just running around looking for missing shoes!!! What kind of writer would be so uncreative as to stoop to something like that???
Anyway, my other major concern this week has been with getting back my right croc that I hurled at that trespasser in the backyard two weeks ago. C___ had those made for me. I have come across an unexpected lead. First, you know how I have a problem with left
turns? Anyway, I got all turned around in the Seventh Hill neighborhood since they have all those one ways with left turns only. I took a couple right turns and ended up driving by the Cradensburg Appliance Center. I usually NEVER go around there because that where that jerk BRIAN from The Society works! Anyway, as I passed by, I noticed Brian sitting there among the refrigerators at a desk and I noticed something funny. He didn’t have a hat!!! Brian ALWAYS has a hat!!! He likes to draw attention to himself.
The only thing was, I couldn’t remember what kind of hat Brian likes to wear. So I looked him up online and found The Society’s website. I clicked “investigators” and https://www.thesocietyofnh.com/investigators. LOOK AT THE HAT GLADYS!!!! I FOUND MY TRESPASSER!!! And it looks like Brian isn’t even a real warrior. He’s the secretary. Here he was warning me about all hell breaking loose. Things are just fine. Grrr stealing my shoe!
I immediately called the appliance center and Brian picked up. I knew it was him because his voice is so low. I said: “Give me back my custom croc, now!”
And he said, “Hello Xxxxssss—Unidentified Customer. Um, what—what could you mean? We don’t sell footwear here at Cradensburg Appliance Center.”
And I said, “I know it’s you Brian, I know you were in my backyard. Give me back my croc or the bowler hat gets it. I’ve got a gun and I’m not afraid to use it.” (He doesn’t know that the only gun I have is Chekov’s but I’m playing this to my advantage.)
And he said, “No need to do anything rash!…Could you perhaps describe your croc to me?”
“You know which one it is!!”
Then he said, “I don’t know what you’re—I can’t give you a deal. That coupon doesn’t apply. We only sell appliances. Pleasure to serve. You should thank me now that C___’s not looking after you. I just saved your skin. It’s a small sacrifice on your part. Thank you for calling Cradensburg Appliance Center on Ambling Road. Hanging up now.” And then he wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called him back 42 times.
I know he has my croc, Gladys. Just wait until he sees what I’m going to do. I’ve had it with him and The Society.
But there’s no way I can take them on alone. Gladys do you still have that black belt in anbo-jyutsu?
Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado gets one question a lot about his Sept. 15 wedding to Marlon Reis. “People say, ‘You know, it took you a while to get married,’” Mr. Polis, a Democrat, said. “But what’s important to remember is that Obergefell v. Hodges wasn’t until 2015. So we really only waited six years.”
Obergefell v. Hodges is the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. Mr. Polis, 46, and Mr. Reis, 40, met 18 years ago. Back then, neither imagined he would one day be able to have a legal union. Finding others who identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in Boulder was hard enough.
“It was a relatively small community here,” Mr. Polis said. “There was no Tinder.” There were chat sites and forums that helped connect the community, though. Which is how Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis ended up meeting at Boulder Book Store in September 2003. First came a browse through the sci-fi section, then came dinner.
Mr. Reis, a writer whose focus is animal welfare and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, was in his last year of college at the University of Colorado. Mr. Polis was an entrepreneur with political aspirations; before he became governor in 2019, he served for a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the bookstore, “we just really hit it off,” Mr. Polis said.
By the time they attended MileHiCon, a gathering for science fiction and fantasy fans, a month later, they were falling in love. The weekend-long convention in Denver was, for Mr. Polis, a yardstick for compatibility. “I remember Jared being slightly nervous about it, saying, ‘This is the test to see if we can be around each other a few days,’” Mr. Reis said. “I had never seriously dated anybody. To my way of thinking, it was, Of course we’re going to be fine.”…
Boston, the blog’s resident Amazing reviewer, comments on Amazing and Fantastic in general:
…Goldsmith’s most often recognized achievement is the significant number of excellent writers whom she discovered and who went on to considerable success. The list speaks for itself: Keith Laumer, Neal Barrett, Jr., Roger Zelazny, Sonya Dorman, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Phyllis Gotlieb, Piers Anthony. She also provided a home for David R. Bunch, who had been publishing in semi-professional and local markets throughout the ‘50s, but who became a regular in Amazing and Fantastic, albeit to decidedly mixed reception. Similarly, she was the first American editor to publish J.G. Ballard, who had made a substantial reputation in the British SF magazines but had not previously cracked the US magazines. Lalli’s lack of background in SF before she came to Ziff-Davis may have served her well by leaving her more open than other editors to departures from genre business as usual….
Cora Buhlert sets her focus on Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s role in ushering in the sword and sorcery revival of the 1960s:
…Cele Goldsmith had only just been born during sword and sorcery’s first heyday in the 1930s and certainly did not read Weird Tales in the crib, but she knew a rising genre when she saw one. So she began publishing more sword and sorcery stories by other authors.
Roger Zelazny is one of Cele Goldsmith’s great discoveries. His first professional story “Horseman!”, which appeared in the August 1962 issue of Fantastic, was a sword and sorcery story. It wasn’t even the only sword and sorcery story in that issue. The title story “Sword of Flowers” by Larry M. Harris a.k.a. Laurence M. Janifer as well as “The Titan,” a reprint of a 1934 story by P. Schuyler Miller, were sword and sorcery as well….
… But Foundation? Yes, my 16-year-old self would have killed for a Foundation TV show and indeed she is the reason I watched and reviewed it, because she would not forgive me. But my 48-year-old self says, “Ahem, better leave that one alone and film something that’s easier to adapt and also more suited to modern sensibilities.” Because Foundation is less a novel or several, but a series of interconnected short stories from the 1940s, which span a period of 500 years and have no continuing characters except for Hari Seldon’s wisdom dispensing hologram (and Daneel, if you want to include him). Worse, the characters that make up the cast of the individual stories are rather underdeveloped and not particularly memorable. Also, the first five stories, which make up the first book, are a little dull, heavy on the talking and low on action. All the really exciting stuff, which will leave you at the edge of your seat with your jaw dropping open, happens in books 2 and 3. So in short, Foundation is extremely difficult to adapt, probably impossible, if you take Hollywood’s insistence that their audiences are stupid into account.
But no one wants my opinion and so, after decades of trying, Apple has finally adapted Foundation series for its streaming service. …
… Gaal Dornick isn’t the only one to have been changed significantly. Salvor Hardin has been gender-swapped as well, played by industry newcomer Leah Harvey, and she’s been reinvented as the Warden of Terminus rather than its mayor. This fundamentally alters the dynamics on Trantor, because Salvor’s role is a military one rather than an administrative one. In the books, Hardin was well-known for his many sayings, with the most famous being that “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” But Foundation‘s Salvor Hardin feels like a much more action-oriented character, suggesting her role going forward will be very different….
…In the meantime, here’s a partial summary of some of the things I examined while in Houston:
The correspondence between Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer, the co-creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Amongst many revelations in the letters, I discovered Fischer had plans for another F&GM story he discussed with Leiber but never penned. The story, as Fischer envisioned it, “all ends in a single handed combat with the Mouser unarmed (or so it seems) dressed as a He-whore of Lankhmar against a peculiar foe (axman deluxe).” Am I the only one who wishes I could read a story featuring the Gray Mouser dressed as a gigolo fighting a maniacal axe-wielding warrior empty-handed?…
The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocatesexplicitlyallude to.
Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.
As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely.Below, we outline five reasons why.
The first reason advanced is —
The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, the Skywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.
This caution about JEDI can be generalized: We must be intentional about how we name our work and mindful of the associations any name may bring up—perhaps particularly when such names double as existing words with complex histories….
…So, this article was rated on Twitter and mentioned in a couple of news feeds. It did not fare well. The obvious problem is that they’re dissing the Jedi, so Star Wars fans are derisive. The films are built on important archetypes and have entered the cultural consciousness of our society, which means they’re pretty sacred. The other problem hasn’t been pointed out very clearly, which is that this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. Enforced conformity to an ideal? Who’s the absolute worst for that?
When J. R. R. Tolkien (b. 1892) passed away in 1973, he left an immense amount of unpublished writings — much of which consisted of his own personal Middle-earth mythology, known as the legendarium, begun just prior to World War I. After his father’s death, Tolkien’s youngest son, Christopher (1924–2020), became his literary heir, publishing his father’s The Silmarillion in 1977, Unfinished Tales in 1980, the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth (1983–1996), the three great tales of the First Age, as well as several books on various non-Middle-earth mythologies, such as on the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and King Arthur.
Amazingly, however, even with Tolkien’s writings taking two adult professional lives to publish, the corpus of Tolkien’s work is still not completely available to the public in book form. Just this month, a full year and a half after Christopher Tolkien’s death, Houghton Mifflin has released yet another volume of Tolkien’s mythological writings. Titled The Nature of Middle-earth, it is beautifully and expertly compiled and edited by one of our greatest living Tolkien scholars, Carl F. Hostetter….
(8) DOUG BARBOUR (1940-2021). Canadian fan, poet and academic Doug Barbour died of cancer September 25 at the age of 81. His “Patterns of Meaning in the SF Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany, 1962-1972,” in 1976 was the first Canadian doctoral dissertation in the field of science fiction.
He also co-edited with Phyllis Gotlieb Tesseracts 2 (1987), one of the Tesseracts series of anthologies containing original Canadian stories.
As a fanwriter he contributed to Ash-Wing and Riverside Quarterly. Also, notes Bruce Gillespie, “He has been a tireless writers of letters of comment and articles for my magazines. We shared many enthusiasms, especially music (classical, jazz, and what is now called Americana), some SF writers, and poetry. Doug was a well-known Canadian poet and writer about poetry. …He did several poetry-reading tours of Australia, during which he met and made friends with far more Australian poets than most Australian poets ever meet.”
1987 – Thirty-four years in syndication, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint” opening episode premiered. It was written by D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. The series would run for seven years. It was premiered eighteen years after the original series was cancelled. I’m not going to list the cast as y’all well know who they are. The series would win two Hugos, first at ConFrancisco for the “Inner Light” episode, and then for “All Good Things…” at Intersection. The “Encounter at Farpoint” premier episode was nominated at Nolacon II but lost out to The Princess Bride. It currently holds a ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 26, 1888 — T. S. Eliot. He’s written at least three short poems that are decidedly genre, “Circe’s Palace” “Growltiger’s Last Stand” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat”. Then there’s his major work, “The Waste Land” which is genre as well. It’s worth noting that Lovecraft intensely hated the latter and wrote a parody of it called “Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance”. (Died 1965.)
Born September 26, 1941 — Martine Beswick, 80. Though she auditioned for Dr. No, she was instead cast in From Russia with Love as Zora. She also appeared as Paula Caplan in Thunderball. She would appear in One Million Years B.C. opposite Raquel Welch. She made several Hammer Studio films including Prehistoric Women and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. She showed up on Fantasy Island once.
Born September 26, 1942 — Kent McCord, 79. Several genre roles with his first being an uncredited role as a Presidential aide in Seven Days in May. His next is in Predator 2 as Captain Pilgrim, then he had a recurring role as Commander Scott Keller on Seaquest DSV, and finally being Jack Crichton on Farscape. Oh, and if you look very carefully in “The Quadripartite Affair” episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., you’ll spot him as the Man in Hallway.
Born September 26, 1946 — Louise Simonson, 75. Comic editor and writer. She started as editor on the Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella titles at Warren Publishing. Working for DC and Marvel, she created a number of characters such as Cable and Doomsday, and written quite a few titles ranging from Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Conan the Barbarian and X-Terminators. She’s written a Star Wars title for Dark Horse.
Born September 26, 1956 — Linda Hamilton, 65. Best known for being Sarah Connor in The Terminator film franchise and Catherine Chandler in the Beauty and the Beast series. (I wonder what the Suck Fairy would do to the latter series. It’s on Paramount+ which I subscribe to.) She is also Vicky Baxter in Children of the Corn, and Doctor Amy Franklin in King Kong Lives. She would be Acacia, a Valkyrie in “Delinquents” of the Lost Girl series, a role she would reprise in two more episodes, “End of a Line” and “Sweet Valkyrie High”. She’s currently playing General Macalliaster in the Resident Alien, the Syfy series based on the comic book series of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse.
Born September 26, 1957 — Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me. And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend.
Born September 26, 1959 — Ian Whates, 62. The Noise duology, The Noise Within and The Noise Revealed, are space opera at its finest. As an editor, he’s put together some forty anthologies of which I’ll note only the most recent, London Centric: Tales of Future London, as it’s a quite amazing collection.
Born September 26, 1968 — Jim Caviezel, 53. John Reese on Person of Interest which CBS describes as a “crime drama”. Huh. He was also Detective John Sullivan in Frequency, and Kainan in Outlander. And yes, he played Number Six in the rather unfortunate reboot of The Prisoner.
First of all: why does Ticonderoga have this incredible replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise? I suppose the answer is “why not?”, but I’d expect to see something like this in Hollywood. Well, here’s the thing. It’s 13,000 square feet, so it’s massive. And as we all know, real estate in Manhattan and Los Angeles is extremely expensive, and this is a permanent attraction — it doesn’t move from place to place. So you’re literally walking into a one-to-one recreation of the Desilu soundstage from 55 years ago. So you have to plan it out and build it appropriately so that it stays in one place. And Ticonderoga is part of the greater Lake George region. We have a very beautiful tourist area up here in the Adirondacks so it’s a great place for it. A lot of people come through here annually and we expect that just to continue to grow.
There’s also the transporter room. Why was this something that you felt like you had to do? It’s more than the bridge and the transporter room. It’s every set that the actors worked on every day, laid out and recreated exactly the way they were when the actors worked on them. So you’re talking about the transporter room, the sick bay, the lab, Dr. McCoy’s office, Captain Kirk’s quarters, the briefing room, engineering, the entire corridor layout. It’s literally like being an actor on a time trip and going back to work on the show. I grew up with Star Trek. I was just enamored with it and never lost the passion for it. So here we are today still celebrating it.
How accurate is the set? Deadly. We worked from the original blueprints. They were given to me by the original costume designer who had them in his possession. We kept thousands of stills from the original series in high definition. We’ve sourced and located hundreds of antiques and antique furniture. We’ve rebuilt every jelly bean button. Everything is laid out, every color, proportionally. Every surviving actor from the main cast has been here, and many of the guest stars. Bill Shatner loves it so much he’s here twice a year.
…NASA recently reported that its InSight lander — sent to observe geologic activity beneath the Martian surface — recorded one of its biggest quakes yet on Sept. 18. The 4.2 temblor, a quake that would have been big enough for people to feel had it happened on Earth, lasted an hour-and-a-half….
…The Gingerbread Kit Kat takes your favorite breakable candy bar and jollies it up for the holidays. Instead of the classic chocolate coating, you’ll instead find yourself biting into a blanket of gingerbread-flavored creme. Ooh, yes please!
…So here’s some news Oreo probably saw coming: Earlier this month, the world’s best known cookie brand launched a collaboration with the game Pokémon, and in true “catch ’em all” fashion, each specially-branded pack was filled at random in what Oreo billed as its “first-ever cookie rarity scheme.”
In total, 16 different Pokémon characters were embossed onto the cookies, with some being harder to find than others. Oreo even stressed that “the hardest to find (Mew) is featured on an extremely limited amount of the total cookies produced!”
As a result, each pack “does not necessarily contain cookies with all 16 embossment designs.” So what’s someone who’s landed a bag full of worthless Pikachus and Bulbasaurs supposed to do? Turn to eBay, of course.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Bruce Gillespie, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jerry Kaufman.]
DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office
By Chris M. Barkley:
For many, many years, I have wanted to write a manual specifically to pass along my knowledge, feeling and opinions about working in and operating the Worldcon Press office.
For most people who attend any convention, they only see a fraction of what is going on behind the scenes, much like the tip of an iceberg. If those who complain about the things they see going wrong had any idea of the complex goings on that happens behind the scenes, it would certainly turn more than a few of their hairs white from shock.
And believe me, I’ve earned my share over the years but fortunately, I shave every other day so I’m not reminded of how I earned them.
From the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore (ConStellation) to Kansas City in 2016 (MidAmericon II), I worked in the Press/Media Relation offices for the World Science Fiction convention a total of nineteen times; fourteen as a staff member, five as the head of the office — three of those times I was asked on a last minute, emergency basis.
After MidAmericon II in 2016, I loudly announced (and not for the first time, mind you) that I was permanently retiring from the position.
I might as well have been shouting into the winds of Arrakis because I seriously considered taking the Press Office position this year at DisCon III at the request of a senior concom member.
After discussions with the members of my MidAmericon II (whom, I might add, was the BEST team of con-workers I had ever assembled), I quickly found that none of them could attend the convention during the alternate date in December.
I declined the offer and felt some considerable remorse, since it would leave the convention without anyone to handle media relations. Conversely, seeing that there was still an enormous amount of time until the start of the convention, I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to impart and pass along a considerable amount of my knowledge and wisdom and still help the convention. (In addition, I also offered my services as a consultant to whomever took the Press Office position.)
So, for the past five months I have been hard at work, remembering, compiling, writing and editing a concise manual that could be utilized for practically any convention, regardless of the genre or fan base.
In doing so, I also chronicled several incidents, humorous anecdotes and near apocalyptic stories that happened along the way. I have NEVER shared many of these stories publicly before due to the privacy issues and the delicate nature of some of these encounters. But, I feel as though enough time has passed that discussing them now will not cause too much embarrassment or shock to anyone in particular. Even so, in some cases, I have omitted the names of the participants for the sake of privacy.
The entire Press Relations manual, sans some of these stories, will be made available by Our Gracious Host on a separate link at the end of the column, and at the conrunner.net website in the very near future.
1) The One Where I Nearly Caused An INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT With the Soviet Union (ConStellation,1983)
My career in the Press Office began at the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore, ConStellation. YES, the very last Worldcon to hold a full dinner banquet with the Hugo Awards Ceremony. Here’s the late Steve Stiles take on the dinner: Beautiful Steamers at Fanac.org.
And somewhere, I STILL have my crab mallet from that evening. But, I digress…
It was my fifth Worldcon and I was bored. Up until then, I had been content with going to panels, shopping in hucksters room, perusing the Art Show and partying with my friends. The only other time I had volunteered at a Worldcon was a brief stint working a shift for a friend at the IguanaCon II Art Show in 1978.
So, midway through the first day of the convention, I made my way to the ConStellation Gopher Hole, filled out the appropriate paperwork and presented it to a woman at the desk.
I was rather perplexed when she asked where I would like to be stationed because I hadn’t really given it any thought. Then, she wisely asked what sort of background I had. I replied that I had been an English major in college, a reporter and film reviewer for my college newspaper and, until recently, had been a sf radio talk show host at a public access station.
“Well,” she said, “I’m going to send you down to the Press Office. They could use some help there.”
So, I reported to the Press Office, which was nearby. I have no recollection of who was in charge. But I do remember that one of my first assignments as a staff member was to escort several reporters to a special reception taking place later that day.
The future Academy Award winning film (and future Hugo nominee as well) The Right Stuff was premiering later that year. Fan writer Evelyn C. Leeper’s convention report noted:
Chuck Yeager (who flew the X-1) and Gordon Cooper (one of the original Mercury astronauts) were there to help Warner Brothers promote the film The Right Stuff (about the early space program), and they were both very interesting. (By the way, I recommend the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.) There were also several other noted scientists and even a congressman to talk about the space program, etc.
I decided to hang out for a few minutes to watch the spectacle unfold before going back to the office. I was just about to leave when I noticed a tall, thin gentleman speaking with a distinctive accent I thought might have been Russian.
When I inquired who the man was, I was told by one of the hosts that he was one an envoy from the Russian Embassy who had driven up from D.C. to take in the convention for the day. He was standing about six feet away, laughing with another participant about something.
For a moment, my blood ran a little cold. Then I began to get angry.
Just two days before, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a 747 aircraft headed to Seoul, South Korea with 246 passengers and a flight crew of 23, had been shot out of the sky by a Soviet interceptor. The crew committed a navigational error which resulted in the plane drifting too far off course to an area inside a restricted Soviet airspace, resulting in the destruction of the plane. There were no survivors. Among the dead was Lawrence P. McDonald, a conservative member of the US House of Representatives from Georgia.
At the time, very little information was available on exactly how and why this had happened. With the denials,suspicions, recriminations and military mobilizations occurring on an hourly basis between the Soviet and NATO forces, it was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War.
So, there I was, in the same room with a citizen of the Soviet Union.
Three feet away from me was a metal folding chair.
It would be a simple thing to grasp it in my hands, smoothly fold it together and smash it into the diplomat’s head.
And if I did what I was thinking, I would probably have served a lengthy prison sentence and brought infamy and shame to my family, my newborn daughter, Laura, my friends and fandom.
So I turned my back to the Soviet diplomat and left the room.
In my heart of hearts, I hope someone expressed their displeasure with that fellow’s government and what happened just off the northern coast of Japan.
But that day, I knew it could not be me.
2) The One Where I Found Out Who Won The Hugo Awards For the First Time (LACon II,1984)
I was VERY uneasy the very first time when I found out who was going to win the Hugo Awards in advance of the Ceremony. Usually, the Hugo Awards Ceremony Staff handles both the Hugo Awards results, nomination and voting statistics and the short press release that comes with them.
Needless to say, when I was working for the L.A.con II Press office in 1984, seeing the results of the Hugo Awards was not on my bingo card.
The convention was held at the incredibly impressive venue; the Anaheim Hilton and Convention Center, which were located right across street from Disneyland. My second tour of duty in the Press Office coincided with the largest attendance ever recorded at a Worldcon up until then, with almost 6400 members pre-registered in advance. With a strong marketing campaign by the convention committee, another 2000+ fans were walk ups.
Among the highlights (and by far biggest draw) was the first official showing of all three Star Wars films in an all-night marathon. (I was there and stayed awake through the middle of Empire Strikes Back and woke up in the middle of Return of the Jedi. I also remember staggering back to my hotel room as the sun peeked over the horizon to catch a few hours of sleep before I reported back at the Press Office.)
The biggest brouhaha I had to deal with came a few hours before; someone came in and said that a commercial LA radio station had announced that the Trilogy showing that evening was FREE to the public! I quickly got on the phone with the station and DEMANDED that whomever made that announcement should rescind immediately before the convention was overrun with people.
To this day I don’t know whether they did it or not. I do know that the showing was not mobbed, so there’s that.
Fast forward to the Hugo Awards Ceremony; that afternoon, manila envelopes the voting and nomination results were delivered to the Press Office. They were to be embargoed and kept in the office until after the Ceremony, when they would be distributed to the fannish and other news media outlets.
My boss, Fred Harris, looked in the envelope and noticed that the packet was missing a one-sheet press release with a summation of the winners. I remember that there were only three people on the team; Fred, myself and a woman I will call Linda for reasons of privacy (and I because I can’t remember her actual name).
Because Fred had to go to the auditorium and see to the seating of the press, Linda and I were charged with typing up a brief summation of the winners, xeroxing multiple copies and stuffing the envelopes.
Linda and I locked the door behind Fred and got to work. We looked, incredulously, at the winners in all of the categories and wrote up the summary in short order. Linda then went out, made the copies and returned to the office in short order.
When Linda and I finished, we sat down and just sat down and stared at each other. Beyond the Hugo Award administrators, we were the only people on the planet who knew who was going to win a Hugo that night. We were full of nervous energy and literally nowhere to go. Although Fred didn’t explicitly say so, we both felt as though we were going to be in the office until the end of the Ceremony.
After a while, I suggested we open the door for a little while so we wouldn’t feel so confined and Linda agreed.
The Press Office was located on one of the main hallways to the auditorium where the Hugo Ceremony. When I opened the door, there was a steady stream of people headed in that direction.
And then, something very improbable happened. As I was watching the crowd streaming by, I saw a very familiar face.
During the course of the convention, I made a lot of new friends, including one Glen David Brin, electrical engineer, astronomer and one of the emerging acclaimed authors of hard science fiction. His second novel in the Uplift series, Startide Rising, had already won the Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novel and was heavily favored to win the Hugo as well.
Check that; it was GOING TO WIN THE HUGO AWARD that evening.
Once he saw Linda and I standing in the doorway, he made a beeline straight to us. Linda had never met him before and once he got close enough to read his con badge, her eyes got a bit wider and she looked as though she was going to go into shock.
“Hey Chris, good to see you! I’m on my way in right now. Are you guys coming too?”
I quickly explained that we had to watch the Press Office and that we might catch up with him later.
“That’s fantastic! Boy, I can’t tell you how excited I am about tonight. Wish me luck, huh?”
Both Linda and I sagely nodded and wished him well. With that, David Brin fairly bounded down the hall to his destiny.
When he was out of sight, both Linda and I looked at each other, went into the office and locked the door. We laughed hysterically for a minute just to throw off our nervousness. We stayed there until Fred came knocking on the door later.
So, your office may be asked to take custody of copies of the results before the Hugo Ceremony, to be embargoed and distributed to the press afterwards. Needless to say, it is vital that you, as the head of the Press Office, take full responsibility to keep the results safely under wraps.
They should be held strictly on a need-to-know basis: and you, personally, don’t need to know. As someone who has been privy to those results (on several RARE occasions) I cannot tell you how nerve-racking it is to walk around with that knowledge rattling around your noggin.
If you are offered the opportunity to know in advance, my advice to you is to try and avoid that situation or turn it down altogether.
DON’T DO IT! Enough Said…
3) The One Where I Took Over the Worldcon Press Office on Six Days Notice AND The Infamous Neil Gaiman and Rebecca Eckler Incidents (Torcon 3, 2003)
Another important thing to remember is that you cannot do this job alone. If you are lucky, as I have been over the many years, to have a number of trusted associates working closely with you at your convention, your chances of succeeding are quite good.
In 2003, the Toronto Worldcon (Torcon 3) faced a big crisis; it turned out that the person they had appointed to run their Press Relations office had done absolutely nothing regarding press contacts or registration in advance of the convention. Once I found out about the situation, I and my wife at the time, Naomi, volunteered to take over. I had headed up the Press Office previously at LoneStarCon II in 1997 on very short notice and I had a pretty good idea of how to set up an office in a hurry.
I immediately started calling and emailing all of the local media outlets to let them know that there would be a Press Office to help them with any of their inquiries. I also put a call out for volunteers on the Torcon 3 website and asked a few people in fandom I knew who could handle the job.
By the time we arrived in Toronto, I had done as much preparation as I could and hoped for the best.
One of the best examples of having the right person at exactly the right time came on the very first morning of the convention.
Anne Pinzow was a walk-on to the Press Office. She was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge) a writer and editor for a local New England newspaper and volunteered to help out at the convention as a change of pace. Needless to say, her skills and experience were put to the test almost immediately…
On the morning of the second day of Torcon III, our morning staff meeting was rocked by a headline in the Arts Section of the Toronto Star. Hugo Award Winning Fan Writer and Fan Editor Cheryl Morgan (who also served on the Press Room staff) chronicled what happened next and published her account in her fanzine, Emerald City (http://www.emcit.com/emcit097.shtml#Wheels):
The first major embarrassment that we suffered was on Thursday morning when an article appeared in The Star, a local newspaper, announcing that Neil Gaiman had won a Hugo for “Coraline”. This sounded terribly like a leak from the convention, but although we often give out the results under an embargo just before the ceremony, there was no way that the paper could have gotten word of the results that early. So we phoned them.
Here I must give credit to my colleague, Anne Pinzow, who handled the call, firstly for her patience in working through The Star’s automated call handling system, and secondly for the magnificent way in which she laid the law down. A Hugo, she explained, can make or break an author’s career. Winning it can be worth millions of dollars. And by suggesting that the results were known beforehand The Star was casting doubt on the validity and integrity of the voting process, and therefore on the awards themselves. It was a wonderful performance.
As it turned out, however, the editor in question was already duly contrite. Murray Whyte, the journalist who had interviewed Neil and written the piece in question had already phoned up and complained bitterly about his article being butchered. It turned out that what had happened was that an enthusiastic sub-editor had not understood the difference between being nominated and winning, and had “sexed-up” the article to make it sound better. There were red faces all round at The Star. They printed an apology on page 2 on Friday, and on Sunday they devoted half of page 2 to a report of the Hugos.
So, an utter disaster was averted, but just barely. And thankfully, Neil Gaiman, being a prince among writers, was a good sport about the imbroglio and did not hold up the scurrilous headline above his head as Harry Truman had infamously done back in 1948 (“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”) after winning the Hugo award for Coraline.
On the day of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies, I received a phone call from a reporter named Rebecca Eckler, a “lifestyle” writer from the National Post. She wanted a press pass plus one to attend the Hugo Awards. When I asked for the name of the other person she replied “Gollum” (which should have set off an alarm bell right then and there).
I told her that I would be in the press office with the badges and gave her instructions on how to find me. I had decided to skip going to the Hugo Awards and stay in the office to distribute the results of the Hugo Awards (with the stipulation that they were to be embargoed until the end of the ceremony) via individual email to newspapers and other media outlets. I released the staff to attend without any instructions other than seeing that any journalists were properly seated in a designated area.
In hindsight, those were not the best decisions. Here’s why:
Rebecca Eckler never showed up at the Press Office as she had promised. She and her companion turned up at the Hugo Awards pre-ceremony reception unannounced and were refused entry. Ms. Eckler, who was well along in her pregnancy at the time, decided to make a fuss at the entrance of reception, citing that she was a journalist and entitled to be admitted. None of my staff were there to ameliorate the situation or to alert me to Ms. Eckler’s presence.
When it came time for the nominees and their guests to be escorted into the hall at the beginning of the Hugo Ceremony, Ms. Eckler and her companion joined the line and were seated with the nominees! According to reports I heard afterwards (and her account that was eventually published in the National Post the next day), she eventually became bored and the two of them left before the end of the ceremonies.
The bottom line is that I, or someone on my staff, should have been present at the reception and at the Hugo Awards ceremony to mitigate what happened. While there was a high likelihood that a negative story about Torcon III could have been prevented, some prompt action could have stopped her disruptive behavior.
As a reminder of what happened, I kept Ms. Eckler’s press pass after all this time, pictured below:
There are several things that you, as the head of the press relations for your convention, should remember:
You are responsible for what happens on your watch, whether it’s your fault or not.
Someone with authority must be present at ALL of the important public events and functions of the convention.
4) The One Where I Won a Kentucky Derby Bet, ROYALLY PISSED OFF J. K. Rowling, Her Publisher and Solicitors, But Lived To Tell About It. Barely. (Interaction, 2005)
When I was attending Noreascon IV in Boston, I was asked by Vincent Docherty, one of the organizers of Interaction (the 63rd Worldcon) whether I would be interested in helping run the Interaction Press Office. Vincent, and apparently others on the convention committee, were very impressed with how I handled the office at Torcon III.
(Also, although my memory may be a bit fuzzy on the details; back in 1995, I had heard secondhand that that year’s Scottish Worldcon, Intersection, had no Press Office. And foolishly (if it’s true), had not allowed any reporters to cover the convention at all. Naturally, at the time, I assumed that they did not want a repeat of that situation. I tried to find any mention of this online but I was unable to confirm whether this actually happened or not. In any event, I am quite sure that someone reading this will either acknowledge as a fact or take great pleasure in correcting me at length that this is some sort of fever dream fairy tale. And so it goes.)
In any event, I accepted the position of being a deputy to a very nice fellow named David Stewart. Little did he know what sort of trouble I was going to cause for him…
One of the first things I did after accepting was to send in my paperwork for my first passport ever, which was issued out of the State Department’s New Orleans processing facility. (It holds a special place in my heart because I received it before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in late August of that year. It has since expired but I still carry it with me as an alternate photo ID.)
But here’s how the 2005 Kentucky Derby factored into what happened:
That spring, I started making plans in earnest to make the trip to Scotland, which would have been my very first trip outside of North America. I was working a steady job back then but I wasn’t able to save up enough for airfare and expenses. But as March melded into April, I was still far short of what I needed to go.
When the first of May rolled around, I had a crazy idea; I could get enough cash for the trip by achieving a big win at the Kentucky Derby. It was a family affair; my then wife, my daughter, Laura and I ambled over the Lebanon Raceway just east of where we were living to enjoy the day.
About a half an hour before the race, we started making our selections. Naomi and Laura made several relatively small bets on the three of the favorites, Alex Afleet, Wilko and Bellamy Road. I had allocated fifty dollars for myself and spread out most of it on other horses. When I was down to my last ten dollars, my gaze fell upon a 50-1 shot, a horse named Giacamo. (And, unbeknownst to me at the time, had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in his previous start.) I sighed, went with my gut and placed the bet.
You can imagine dead reader, my utter astonishment when Giacamo, in 18th place after three-quarters of a mile, made a jaw dropping move to make up ground while moving six wide around the backstretch turn. He then turned up the jets, closed on and muscled past the leaders and WON by half a length!
I was speechless! I now had at least enough for my airfare and all I had to worry about was saving up for food, transport and lodging. Things were finally looking up. What could possibly go wrong now?
Until, that is, things went terribly wrong.
About a week or so before the Derby, I was feeling a little perturbed towards J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was due to be published in July of that year. At that point in time, Ms. Rowling, who won a 2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had NEVER publicly acknowledged winning it. I couldn’t even find it even mentioned on any US copy of the paperback edition.
So, being the volatile, hotheaded type fan that I was back then, I was determined to do something about it.
Since this was before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I wrote an actual, physical letter to Ms. Rowling, lamenting the fact that there was no mention of the Hugo Award on The Goblet of Fire. I also pointed out that the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in Glasgow, just a stone throw away (relatively speaking) from Edinburgh and it would be awfully nice if she were to send the convention some sort of greeting.
Somewhere, there is a copy of that letter sitting in the files of Scholastic Books.
And at Bloomsbury’s headquarters in the United Kingdom.
And her solicitors in London.
And her literary agent in London.
Because I wanted to be SURE that my letter would make it past her gatekeepers, mind you.
Well, kids, my message got through all right. And the gatekeepers were not pleased.
So a week or so after my triumph at Lebanon Raceway, I received several anxious emails from David Stewart and members of the convention committee, demanding an explanation of my actions.
You see, dear reader, I sent those letters signed with my name along with my official designation as the Deputy Head of the Intersection Press Office, a HUGE faux pas that tied my perceived diatribe with the convention itself!
Needless to say the letter made everyone angry (especially the solicitors, I was told) that some cheeky Yank was telling them what they ought to do.
Once I gauged the gravity of what was going on, I felt I had no choice whatsoever but to offer my resignation from the Press Office. My would-be boss David had a different and slightly sardonic reaction. He still wanted me to work in the office. Because, as I remember him writing in an email, “You mean he doesn’t have to work but I still have to deal with this? That’s not very fair, is it?” (I am sorry to report that David Stewart and I never had a chance to meet in person; he died after a short illness in 2006. I definitely owed him a pint or two. Ad Astra, David…)
Alas, things also unraveled at home as well; I was laid off from my job, my wife moved out to go the graduate school at the University of Dayton and the five hundred dollars was quickly consumed by bills. So I had to stay home that summer, much to my chagrin.
During all of this turmoil, I never heard (either directly or indirectly) about any reaction from Ms. Rowling herself. And yes, In hindsight, I think everyone would have been better off if I had just signed my name but I doubt that it would have had the same impact if I had not.
Because two things happened in the wake of this international incident; in July, J.K. Rowling did issue a brief statement welcoming the World Science Fiction convention to Glasgow and the next year, the designation “Hugo Award Winning Novel” started appearing on the paperback edition of The Goblet of Fire.
So, for what it’s worth, I am quite satisfied with that…
5) The One With Michael Chabon (Denvention 3, 2008)
In 2008, I was back in the Captain’s chair of the Press Office and I was hoping for a nice, quiet convention with very few annoyances or controversies.
And for a majority of the Denvention, my wish was granted.
On the day before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I received a call from a producer from National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered (whose name is lost to history). He wanted to know if I could arrange an interview with the winner of the Best Novel category with their then current host, Andrea Seabrook.
Checking the programming schedule, I told the producer that four of the five nominees for Best Novel, John Scalzi (The Last Colony), Ian MacDonald (Brasyl), Charles Stross (Halting State) and Robert J. Sawyer (Rollback) were there. The ONLY author who was absent was Michael Chabon, whose World War II alternate history epic, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, was a heavy favorite to win. (Historical note: by the time of Denvention 3, it had already won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Sidewise Award and the California Book Award Gold Medal AND had been shortlisted for the Edgar (from the Mystery Writers of America) and the British Science Fiction Association award.
I told the producer that I would contact all of the nominees, including Michael Chabon, and have them contact NPR directly after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.
Consulting the sprocket program, I spent some time out of the office Friday afternoon tracking down Scalzi, Sawyer and MacDonald and they all readily agreed to be on the air if (or when) they won.
Charlie Stross was the only one I couldn’t find that day. I looked up any contact information I could scrounge up on Chabon’s whereabouts online but I came up empty. I left several messages with HarperCollins in New York and sent an email to his agent and hoped someone would get the message by the next day.
I was feeling quite chuffed that NPR, a network that I had been an ardent fanboy of since 1973 was taking some serious interest in the Worldcon. I told any friend or acquaintance who wandered by the office that I was setting up this fabulous interview with NPR that day.
That evening, I was at a bid party, minding my own business and enjoying myself when a very good friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become very obvious) came in, spotted me, grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me into a nearby vacant bathroom and closed and locked the door.
When I asked them what that was all about, they explained in a very excited tone that they had heard about the impending NPR interview and wanted to help. And before I could ask what sort of help, they blurted out that Michael Chabon was going to win Best Novel!
Now at that point in time I was a little crestfallen because I fervently try NOT to know who will win any of the Hugo Awards in advance but it seems as though every time I have tried to evade knowing, I’m cursed to find out. (I am truly grateful that they didn’t spill the beans about the rest of the rest of the categories, though.)
I thanked my “confidential source” and we returned to the party before anyone ( I had hoped) noticed that the two of us were conferring in a locked bathroom.
So now, even though I knew who was going to win Best Novel, I still had to contact Charlie Stross and Michael Chabon, just in case any of the nominees caught up with each other and compared notes at some later date.
I finally caught up with Mr. Stross Saturday morning and imparted NPR’s request, feeling very badly about playing my part in this elaborate charade. That afternoon I finally heard back from Michael Chabon’s publicist, who informed me that he and his family were vacationing in Maine that weekend. I gave him the NPR producer’s contact information and told him to expect an announcement on who won later that evening.
After the ceremony, I sent the publicist an email with an official list of the Hugo Award results and hoped for the best.
Here is the most pertinent slice of this interview:
SEABROOK: Can I ask you, what do you think of other work that’s going on in science fiction right now? Do you read science fiction?
Mr. CHABON: Yes I do. I still read science fiction, and I see all kinds of diversity. I think – I find a very intense ongoing kind of intellectual and aesthetic debate in the world of science fiction. The people who are reading it and the people who are writing it seem to me to be engaged in an ongoing conversation about the fiction that they love on a level that I think is enviable, that would be a credit to the world of mainstream fiction.
6) The One About George R.R. Martin (Chicon 7, 2012)
Chicon 7 was decidedly challenging for Juli and I on many fronts. For one, the Press Office was nowhere near the Information Desk or Registration; it was located near one of the main auditorium stages and a cluster of meeting rooms being used for panels. I had requested a meeting room for office space but was really disappointed when I found out that the “office” was actually a coat check booth. Fortunately, there was a small furnished room adjacent to the booth that was more than adequate to serve as the main interview room.
My partner Juli and I arrived without anyone else set to staff the office so we were trusting that we were going to attract some good volunteers out of the Gopher Hole. We were rewarded twice over when local Chicago fans Belma Torres and Dan Berger reported for duty. They were fantastic in the office and handled themselves very well during the convention. (Belma eventually moved to Australia a few years ago and subsequently got married there, Dan, his wife Terry and his two sons Alec and Ryan remain good friends with us to this day.)
We made do with the coat room as a base of operations and the Information Desk sent us a steady stream of registered and walk up journalists to cover Chicon 7.
Our one big hiccup occurred on the first day when several people from Logistics came by with several hand carts and requested that we surrender all the furniture in our interview room so it could be used on stage for several bits that had been planned for Opening Ceremonies.
Since the stage was not very far away from the office, I readily agreed. But I made them swear on a stack of fanzines that they would return the large couch and the three easy chairs as soon as the event was over because we needed it for several big interviews, among them a sit down with George R.R. Martin that was scheduled for the next day.
As the day progressed and Opening Ceremonies started, I began to feel a little uneasy about the arrangement. At one point I strolled over to the hall where it was under way and saw people lounging and having a good time with the audience. That was the last time I would see our furniture for the next 20 hours.
Because two hours after the Opening Ceremonies, our furniture had not been returned to us. I sent Dan Berger out to the Logistics to find out what happened. He returned a short while later and reported that no one in Logistics had any idea of what he was talking about.
Livid, I went to Logistics and demanded, in an usually loud voice, that we REALLY needed to find our goddamn furniture, immediately! The poor woman manning the desk promised to look into it and I fumed all the way back to the Press Room.
By the end of the day, the furniture had not been returned.
When we opened the office the next morning, there was STILL no furniture.
That’s when I decided we were going full vigilante on this situation.
Leaving Dan in charge of the office, Juli, I and another volunteer went to Logistics, borrowed several handcarts and started canvassing the convention hall rooms and hallways to find our furniture. We didn’t have to search long.
After checking the hallways and the Exhibits display, Juli spotted our couch in the Fan Lounge. Very quickly afterwards, we found the other lounge chairs nearby. We quickly loaded everything up and trucked it all back to the Press Office, just an hour before the start of George R.R. Martin’s interview.
The moral of the story is quite clear; if you loan out ANYTHING at a Worldcon, get it in writing and keep close track of it until it’s returned.
By the way, the Press Office staff returned the hand carts promptly to Logistics, because that’s how we roll…
7) The One With The VERY SAD Puppy (Sasquan, 2015)
Sasquan was a very strange, tense and ultimately uplifting affair from start to finish.
The original co-Chair of the convention, Bobbie DuFault, died suddenly on the morning of September 14, 2013. Sally Woehrle, the other co-chair, took over in her stead. In hindsight, it was a portent of the terrible events that followed in the wake of this terrible news…
An arch conservative author, Lou Antonelli, made a scurrilous and false police report to the Spokane Police Department, claiming that Author Guest of Honor and Hugo Award Ceremony co-host David Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.
On August 11th, 2015, the following message was posted on the Sasquan Facebook Page:
“The Executive Committee of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, would like to address the matter of actions taken by Mr. Lou Antonelli with regards to one of our Guests of Honor, Mr. David Gerrold. On August 1st, Mr. Antonelli participated in a podcast in which he stated that he had written a letter to the Spokane Police Department, in which he stated to them that Mr. Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.
Normally, online communications between members is not something in Sasquan’s purview to referee. However, Mr. Antonelli’s letter, which requested police action against Mr. Gerrold during the time of the convention, is within our purview. As such, we found that there was a strong possibility this act was a violation of our posted harassment policy, particularly if the letter had, in fact, been sent.’
Well, a long story shortened…
‘However, after the recommendation was made, Mr. Gerrold, as the aggrieved party, specifically requested that the Executive Committee set aside this recommendation on the grounds that Mr. Antonelli did apologize, is sending a retraction to the Spokane Police Department and because, as a Hugo Nominee, he deserves to attend the ceremony.
The Executive Committee has chosen to accept Mr. Gerrold’s request, and considers the matter closed as of this time. Ms. Bourget has spoken and corresponded with the Spokane Police Department, and they also consider the matter closed. We would like to thank Ms. Bourget for the calm professionalism she lent to the proceedings, and Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Gerrold for coming to a settlement that benefits not just them, but the Worldcon and its members.”
There were lots of right wing, racist and sexist authors who had themselves slated onto the nomination ballot and a majority of fans who regularly vote on and or attend the Worldcon were in no mood for such shenanigans. In response to the Puppies chicanery, an incredible number of people joined the convention; an astounding 5,748 fans bought Supporting memberships (ostensibly to outvote the Puppy coalition), bringing the total number to a whopping 10,350 total members.
But now, small, brief, editorial aside:
Here’s the thing, as far as I’m concerned; the Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy affair accomplished nothing for the usurpers who wanted to disrupt and/or destroy the Hugo Awards. Looking back over the past eight years it is quite evident that they utterly failed in style, substance and in an overall way, had very little significant societal impact. There has always been some generational tension between fans, editors, writers and artists in fandom. But in the days before social media, it played out more like a slow motion riot with the participants trading shots through frequently published fanzines or in person at conventions (with and without fisticuffs in some cases).
These reactionaries wanted to stop something that has always been inevitable in literature, change. When these elements of the so-called conservative end of sf fandom thought that their brand of warping spaceships, alien wars and far flung empires were being ignored by the Hugo Awards electorate, they decided to cheat by nominating slates with their own nominees. But by doing so, they just mobilized and galvanized what was already happening, that women, people of color, indigeonous peoples from all of the world and the LGBTAQ community and other marginalized folks were becoming the emerging voices of this generation. The Puppies were driven by the fear of being replaced or, even worse, erased from our collective history. Their fears were expressed in some very unflattering ways; racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia and a decided lack of empathy for people who pushed back against their narrative.
Those of us who were actively opposing them, were portrayed as being out of control radicals, unpatriotic, socialists and traitors. It became so turbulent that even the mere mention or promotion of a disenfranchised person was labeled as racist by them. And while they promoted themselves with a great amount of hubris as the tree and roots of modern sf fandom and literature, in fact they are just merely a branch of a much larger tree. To this day, they remain so dogmatic about their own importance, their false sense of privilege and so devoted to their own myopic point of view that they still don’t realize that they have done themselves and fandom as a whole, a great disservice by acting like an unruly mob without any sense decency or of cognitive dissonance. And yes, they did manage to make a big fuss and draw some attention to themselves but in the long run, their actions will be judged by history to be abhorrent.
If anyone wants to read a fairly comprehensive history of what went down may do so here: The Puppy Kerfuffle Timeline at Camestros Felapton.
And, if that weren’t enough, a series of forest fires completely surrounded the city, enshrouding the entire region in a haze of smoke and ash and casting the convention into something akin to a hellish, eco-disaster film.
Juli and I were called in to head up the Press Office in emergency mode (again) because the convention’s original choice had to drop out for personal reasons. Although this time, unlike many of the other times, we had a full six weeks notice to get the office up and operational.
In addition to all of this, I got personally involved. I stepped up and volunteered to be a Hugo Award acceptor for Analog author Rajnar Vajra whose slyly aware John W. Campbell-ish pastiche, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” (published in Analog, 07/08-2014), had been slated onto the Hugo ballot by both the Sad and Rabid Puppy groups..
I made Mr. Vajar’s acquaintance in April 2015, right after the nominations were announced. He had posted on sf/horror writer Adam-Troy Castro’s Facebook page, vehemently condemning both camps and I quoted him (with his permission) in a File 770 column. I also offhandedly offered to pick up his Hugo and deliver his acceptance speech, too.
You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when Mr. Vajra emailed me in July asking if I would do exactly that. In a File 770 post soon after, I wrote:
Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story. Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.
I half jokingly told Rajnar that I would be happy to accept the Hugo Award on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend. I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.
I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color to represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.
When Juli and I arrived at the Press Office, we were ably assisted by a well known Seattle fan, Margaret Organ-Kean, who agreed to serve as the Deputy Press Officer. I cannot begin to tell you how gracious and helpful she was in the office, especially during my prolonged absences because of my obligations to attend the Business Meeting and the Hugo Award Ceremonies.
On that Saturday afternoon, a very peculiar thing happened.
I was standing near the entrance of the Press Office when a middle aged man entered the office. He was white, middle-aged and looked as though he might need some help.
“Hello, how can I help you?”, I said in a pleasant voice.
He just stared at me.
I waited. He kept staring.
After about 20 seconds, I gave up, went back to my desk and sat down to keep an eye on him.
My partner Juli, who is white, witnessed this and decided to make a run at him while I watched warily from a distance.
He immediately perked up and said that he was looking for a reporter to give an interview. When Juli inquired why, he said that he was a John W. Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer. (I am not identifying the writer because I don’t want to give this person any more publicity than he deserves. His fifteen minutes in the limelight has expired.)
Since this fellow was definitely NOT Wesley Chu, it verified my gut feeling that this guy was part of the Puppy delegation.
In overhearing some of his remarks to Juli, it was fairly evident that while he knew the Campbell Award was somewhat prestigious, he had no fucking idea who he was, his place his in the history of sf literature or, most importantly, what he stood for politically or on social issues.
The most amusing part of the conversation happened when Juli asked him about “The Tiara”.
His eyes blinked with confusion. “Tiara? What about a Tiara? I don’t know anything about that.”
“Well,” Juli said with some enthusiasm, “if you win, you get to wear the Ceremonial Tiara that comes with the Campbell Award.”
(For those of you who may have forgotten, The Ceremonial JWC Tiara was created in 2005 by the late sf writer Jay Lake and author Elizabeth Bear and, until recently, was handed down from winner to winner. Among the distinguished alumni who have proudly worn it have been DisCon III Chair Mary Robinette Kowal, Caribbean-American fantasy author David Anthony Durham and one John Scalzi, a frequent target and perceived arch-enemy of the Puppy crowd.)
“Uh, are you kidding?”
“Oh no,it’s a real thing. And you have to wear it if you win.”
I swear, his face actually blanched when he heard that he might actually be required to wear such an item on his precious, masculine head.
“No, no, no, I can’t do THAT!” he insisted. Juli turned her head slightly and could see the look of approval on my face. I winked.
But, no matter what his own political views, I had no objection to helping him. Our role in the Press Office is to provide journalists the opportunity to talk to and write about what was happening at Sasquan and that included any Puppy who wanted to talk to the media.
He left soon afterwards after Juli took his name and cell phone number and had promised to call if any reporter wanted to talk to him. Eventually, we arranged for him to talk to someone. I think it was Wired magazine, but I could be misremembering exactly who did. In any event, it’s lost to the mists of history as far as I’m concerned.
At the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Puppies slate of nominees went unrewarded (including, unfortunately, Mr. Vajra, who finished third behind No Award). The only tangential thing they could claim as a victory was the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form win for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a HUGE consensus winner among all of the voters.
There was some good news that evening; for the first time ever, translated fiction won Hugos: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu) in the novel category and the novelette “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Lia Belt). Marvel Comics’s first volume of Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt), the feminist minded sf thriller Orphan Black (“By Means Which Have Never Been Tried” by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett) and the aforementioned Wesley Chu won the Campbell Award (which was recently re-christened the Astounding Award for Best New Writer).
The Hugo Award results were delivered to the office AFTER the Ceremony for distribution to the press at my expressed request.
The cherry on top of all of these proceedings came at Closing Ceremonies, where I was presented with a Hero of Sasquan medal for taking over the Press Office on short notice.
When I accepted before a standing room only crowd, I told them that I was not the only person in the Press Office; I was only as good as the team of people I was working with. I profusely thanked them for all of their hard work and dedication.
Then I praised the person I called the TRUE MVP of the Press Office, my partner Juli. I held up a black stainless steel ring she had given me for my birthday. The interior of the ring has an inscription that is a quote from Amy Pond (a Doctor Who companion) to her husband, Rory; “I Love Your Stupid Face”.
I told the crowd what the inscription said and they laughed and cheered. And then I shouted, “I LOVE YOU, JULI MARR!!!!!” and the crowd went crazy!
When I returned to my seat, I asked Juli whether or not she had gotten any pictures of my speech.
“I’m sorry’, she said, “I was too stunned to take any.” I smiled and gave her a kiss.
I STILL LOVE YOU JULI MARR!!!!!
Download Chris Barkley’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Media Relations – Press Room Guide here:
(1) Q&A WITH POLISH SFF WRITER. Bence Pintér’s interview with Polish sci-fi author Jacek Dukaj is available in English at Spekulatív Zóna: “Q&A with Jacek Dukaj”.
The most recently translated work from you is The Old Axolotl. This book is unique in a lot of ways. What inspired you to write it, and why did you released it only in e-book form initially?
Lately I find I need some additional push to complete a story – to write for publication, not just for my own satisfaction. In this case it was the literary project and PR campaign of Allegro (sort of Polish eBay). You could say they had commissioned „The Old Axolotl”. They didn’t set any limits for a theme or style (I wouldn’t have agreed to such a deal). But it was an opportunity to explore new features of electronic books (as they appeared to us back then).
I’m always up for pioneer projects. If something looks very risky or impossibly hard, my first reaction is to try and do it.
The book was adapted by Netflix, but the series Into the Night only used the premise of the story. How do you feel about this adaptation?
I wonder if “adaptation” is the right word. It would be more fair to say that Into the Night was based on the same idea as the one which gave birth to The Old Axolotl. The story, the characters – they are all different. Jason George, the showrunner of Into the Night, is the sole author of the screenplay.
I’m happy people seem to like it. It’s rather small budget production, yet it became much more popular globally than other non-English series of similar budget. Into the Night punches above its weight, so to speak.
…The opening credits are so iconic that, rather than release a trailer to promote its upcoming live-action adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop,” Netflix elected to debut the full opening credits for the show during its Tudum global fan event on Saturday….
(3) STEELY FAN. Tablet Magazine’s Paul Grimstad holds “A Conversation With Donald Fagen”, which has a section on the musician’s love of sf, of which this excerpt is about half —
A tune like “Pretzel Logic” has a pretty elliptical story going on, and speaking of science fiction!
Well, yeah, that was kind of a time-travel thing.
It’s funny when the person who greets the narrator in the future, says, “Where did you get those shoes?” like the fashion between the two times is completely out of whack.
That actually fills in the link between black humor and science fiction, because the science fiction novels I liked the most were funny in that way. I think my favorites included that kind of humor. Like Frederick Pohl and his partner Cyril Kornbluth, who wrote these really satirical novels.
The Space Merchants was recently reissued in the Library of America Series …
Oh really? I remember reading that one when I was a kid.
Another guy from that era who I think of as funny is Alfred Bester.
Another one of my favorites. He was an ad man, so it’s got this very New York, Madison Avenue feel, the Mad Men type of thing, but making fun of it.
(4) NASA’S FIRST WOMAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has released issue 1 of First Woman—a downloadable, interactive (augmented reality), graphic novel telling the (to date) fictional story of the first woman (and first person of color) to walk on the Moon. It’s also available as an audio story. A Spanish-language version of (at least) the first issue of the comic is also planned. The comic is available for iOS & Android platforms. “NASA Releases Interactive Graphic Novel ‘First Woman’”.
NASA released its first digital, interactive graphic novel on Saturday in celebration of National Comic Book Day. “First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity” imagines the story of Callie Rodriguez, the first woman to explore the Moon.
While Callie’s story is fictional, the first woman and the first person of color will walk on the Moon, achieving these historic milestones as part of NASA’s Artemis missions. Through this graphic novel, NASA aims to inspire the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation.
…The 40-page comic book highlights NASA technologies for traveling to, landing on, and exploring the Moon. The digital format comes to life, letting readers engage and interact through augmented reality elements using the First Woman website or their mobile devices.
To learn more about the graphic novel and interactive experiences, visit: Calliefirst
The reclamation attempts stem from a provision of copyright law that, under certain conditions, allows authors or their heirs to regain ownership of a product after a given number of years. Such efforts turn on whether authors worked as hired hands or produced the material on their own and then sold it to publishers. The Copyright Revision Act of 1976, which opened the door to termination attempts, bans termination for people who delivered work at the “instance and expense” of an employer.
“Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect,” Mr. Petrocelli said by phone. (Mr. Petrocelli is also representing Disney in its legal fight with Scarlett Johansson, who sued the company in July over pay connected to ticket sales for “Black Widow.”)
For instance, Disney’s complaint against Mr. Lieber contends that “Marvel assigned Lieber stories to write, had the right to exercise control over Lieber’s contributions and paid Lieber a per-page rate for his contributions.” Those conditions render his contributions “work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s provisions do not apply,” according to the complaint.
Mr. Toberoff sharply disagrees. “At the time all these characters were created, their material was definitely not ‘work made for hire’ under the law,” he said in an email in response to Disney’s filings. “These guys were all freelancers or independent contractors, working piecemeal for car fare out of their basements.” Hence, not “traditional, full-time employees,” he said.
“At the core of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of ‘work-made-for-hire,’” Mr. Toberoff said in a separate email, adding that the interpretation “needs to be rectified.”
(6) FINAL TALLY. Robert Kroese declared the first BasedCon “a tremendous success. We had nearly 70 attendees and a phenomenal group of authors and presenters. People came from as far away as Oregon, California, Texas, and New Hampshire.” He wants to run another in 2022.
(7) JUST LIKE THE 770 COMMENTS SECTION! [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] This is a very funny online-only thing Seth Meyers does at the end of every week, reading letters from the viewers at home (the jackals) about the various errors from the week before. This week, he addresses his former nemesis, the jackal/knitter Patti Lyons. It’s cued up to that:
Seth Meyers takes a moment to address some of the errors from this week of Late Night, like accidentally saying “on accident” instead of “by accident” and pronouncing “turnpike” as “turnbike.”
This closing speech is not genre in content (other than the knitting), but is so genre in form that it just isn’t funny. Except it is. Very.
(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1987 – Thirty-four years ago, The Princess Bride premiered. It was directed by Rob Reiner who co-produced it along with Andrew Scheinman. It was adapted by William Goldman from his novel of the same name. It had amazing cast of Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Fred Savage and Billy Crystal. It would win a Hugo at Nolacon II. Reception for it was great with every major critic loving it and many praising its sweetness. It currently holds a ninety-four rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Mind you it was a modest box office success just earning back what it cost to produce.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 25, 1919 — Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Who here done so? (Died 2019.)
Born September 25, 1930 — Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such for his Every Thing On It collection and a handful of a apt named poems, and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and will also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. So what do you think is genre? (Died 1999.)
Born September 25, 1946 — Felicity Kendal, 75. She plays Lady Clemency Eddison in the the Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”, one of my favorite Who tales. She recently played Baroness Ortsey in the new Pennyworth series. And though it’s definitely really not genre, I’m noting her role in Shakespeare-Wallah, story of a family troupe of English actors in India, just because it’s a fascinating story.
Born September 25, 1951 — Mark Hamill, 70. OK, I’ll confess that my favourite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy.
Born September 25, 1952 — Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displayed those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
Born September 25, 1961 — Heather Locklear, 60. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the Unexpected, Fantasy Island, Muppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clarkson in the “Prophecy of Doom” episode on Batman: The Animated Series.
Born September 25, 1964 — Maria Doyle Kennedy, 57. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in now being filmed The Wheel of Time series.
Born September 25, 1968 — Will Smith, 53, Despite the stinker that were Wild Wild West and later Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin.
(11) THE SIGN OF THE Z. Screen Rant says you can trace the influence on Batman’s creators to a 1920s Zorro movie, and it didn’t stop there. The connection plays an major role in a current DC Comics’ crossover event, “Joker War.” — “Batman: How Zorro Created The Dark Knight”.
…It wasn’t until the legendary Frank Miller decided to give a nod to Kane and Finger in The Dark Knight Returns #1 that The Mark of Zorro is established. Miller cites the 1940 Tyrone Power adaptation, which was actually released after Batman’s creation, but the precedent was set. In Todd Phillips’ Joker film, 1981’s Zorro, the Gay Blade is the movie referenced. Whichever adaptation a creator chooses, Zorro and Batman’s histories are inextricably intertwined, which explains why Bruce’s archenemy decides to use the film against him….
(12) CASSANDRA PETERSON (ELVIRA) INTERVIEWED ABOUT COMING OUT AS GAY. Cassandra Peterson gave her first interview since she came out about her 19 year relationship to The Tamron Hall Show.
The woman behind the iconic character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Cassandra Peterson exclusively sits down for the first interview since revealing a 19-year relationship with a woman. The undisputed Queen of Halloween reveals her full story in a new book titled, “Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark,” and joins our show to talk about it. From her roots in Kansas to coming out, Elvira gets real about her journey to become the world’s sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.
Indianapolis joined the ranks with clear views of White River, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis International Airport. If you zoom into the center, you can see Lucas Oil Stadium, too.
(14) JEOPARDY! A contestant on last night’s episode of Jeopardy! went astray. Andrew Porter took notes.
Answer: “I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel.”
The twin suns set over the Senate chambers, and the leadership sighed. The legislative nights were long and cold on this desert planet where no compromise had flourished for a long time, just banthas and the partisan Rancor.
“We have important legislation containing lots of policy priorities we have got to get through,” Grief Schuuma, leader of the Narrow Majority, said. “But there is just no way we can do it using regular order.”
“Well, we could,” a voice murmured from the corner, cloaked in shadow, “if we were willing to sacrifice the filibuster.”…
(16) ZINE SCENE. Mlex sent a link to the Autumn Equinox issue of his zine Zapf Punkt. Read the synopsis and you’ll know why!
In this issue, we investigate the radical art collective Zero Dimension, the electric guitar boom in Japan, and the dropout culture that threatened to overrun traditional society with folk music, glue-sniffers, surrealism, violence, pornography, pills, gender-confusion, interplanetary war, and the worst of all possible dooms: disorder.
By the late 1960s, this agitated social crisis briefly intersected with a manufactured music scene called Group Sounds. We listened to many hours of cheesy pop music to find the cherry bombs and make our own favorite freakbeat selection. Here’s our group sounds playlist, the official soundtrack of ZP 11.
This issue also features an edited transcript of our interview with Daniel Joseph, which originally appeared on Diamond Bay Radio in May. Daniel provides the biographical background for Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom, and we discuss her writing style, the modes and themes that appeared in her work, and how revolutionary it was at the time.
Join us for the meta-textual knock-out that Suzuki delivered to Japanese science fiction literature, before her decline into depression and suicide in 1986.
A pictorial glimpse of popular science fiction culture from around 1970 in Japan wraps up the issue.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bence Pintér, Jeff Warner, Darrah Chavey, Mlex, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]