Snapshots 149 A New Song

Here are 19 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Quite a few years ago, Lloyd Penney was the first person to show me how easy it is to turn the fellow on Canada’s $5 bill into a likeness of Spock.

(2) J. Neil Schulman crossed paths with Leonard Nimoy several times, the first as a witness to a practical joke played while Nimoy was speaking to an NYU audience in 1974.

One of the advantages of hanging around NYU students and attending an on-campus club, to non-NYU-students like Mike [Moslow] and myself, was easy access to the many celebrities who came to lecture. One of them was 1956 Nobel laureate in Physics, William Shockley, who at the time was much more controversial for his writings outside of his field, on eugenics and comparing the intelligence of racial groups.

There were, not unexpectedly, major campus protests against Shockley speaking on the NYU campus, covered widely by all media. It was big news.

Mike and I did not attend Shockley’s lecture. But speaking in the same NYU auditorium exactly one week after Shockley (and without any protests) was Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock … and I had a sick idea that once I told it to Mike he could not be stopped doing it. Not that I even tried.

Nimoy began his lecture to a packed house, Mike sitting near the back of the hall, me seated somewhere nowhere near Mike, because I wasn’t a complete fool.

About twenty minutes into Nimoy’s talk, Mike jumps up and shouts, “I came to hear Shockley. This isn’t Shockley! Who’s this clown?”

Everyone, including Nimoy, cracked up as Mike marched himself of the auditorium, still shouting.

(3) Richard Lupoff and Richard Wolinsky of radio’s Bookwaves program interviewed Leonard Nimoy in 1995 about his second memoir, I Am Spock. They had him explain the Vulcan mind meld and the Vulcan salute, quizzed him about his relationship with Shatner, and asked about his earliest movie role, Queen For A Day. The 31-minute digital recording is here.

(4) And this is an appropriate spot to list a discovery by Michael J. Walsh which he calls “Nimoy and Heinlein, with a dash of Freas.” It’s a three-part YouTube video containing the tracks from a vinyl recording of Leonard Nimoy reading Heinlein’s “The Green Hills of Earth.” Part I, Part II, Part III.

(5) I lived for years in ignorance of Star Trek dating sites and will return to that blessed state as soon as possible:

A dating site just for “Star Trek” fans called takes an extra-personalized approach to helping you find someone Worf falling for.

“Star Trek” fan dating sites are nothing new — you can choose from a range like Star Trek Dating, Date a Trekkie, Trek Passions and Trekkie Dating. But hopes to set itself apart by encouraging users to post profile photos of themselves dressed as their favorite characters and post videos of themselves talking about what Roddenberry’s universe means to them.

(6) Shifting to the other dominant sf franchise: The official NASA mission portrait of the next International Space Station crew shows them dressed as Jedi holding light sabres.

(7) But Onion science writers say none of this is real, including the universe we live in:

Scientists studying the properties of light from exploding supernovae confirmed their research has conclusively demonstrated that existence as we know it was created solely to provide the framework for a prime-time drama that airs in a parallel universe and is centered around a brash New York City police detective named Rick Case, his partner Michelle Crowley, and the other members of Hard Case‘s fictitious Homicide Division.

(8) Who would know better than the BBC about the “5 Strange Things That Happen To Brits In America”:

  1. Being imitated by complete strangers It’s one thing for friends and co-workers to morph into Dick van Dyke whenever you’re around (although on second thought, knock it off people), but quite another for complete strangers to do so. And yet it happens quite frequently. My last time was in a department store, buying shoes with my mother. Taking the left shoe from me, the (previously American) sales assistant launched into the strangest gender-bending impersonation of Her Majesty as he vanished into the stock room. My mother stared in disbelief, especially when he returned with my size shoe and continued his performance. I would honestly love to know what he thought he was doing.

You may find it hard to believe that Dick van Dyke and Robert A. Heinlein were born in the same state – Missouri.

(9) People who have been in the gaming industry for a long time like to work that into their conversations. It doesn’t surprise me that the namesake of a new superhero game “Stan Lee’s Hero Command” tries to do it too —

Lee has a long history with video games, dating back to his narration of 2000’s “Spider-Man.”

But that means he entirely missed Windows 95 gaming as well as everything that preceded it. Stan is really a 92-year-old a newbie. Here’s the brief description of his game:

The game follows Stan Lee as the Hero Command leader, who assigns players their assignments in order to save the day. Users will encounter playable heroes during gameplay, including new creations like Captain Steamhammer, a Russian strongman with a steam-powered suit, and Seer, a kid genius and powerful psychic. These heroes will face villains similarly created for the game, such as Lord Hibiculus, leader of the Dark Gnome aliens from Gnomulon, and Sand Witch, an ancient mummy awakened by an evil curse.

(10) The Norse Mythology Blog has published a three-part Michael Moorcock interview. Here are some questions Moorcock hasn’t been asked before. From Part One:

After living in the United States for twenty years, how would you imagine a modern America founded by Norse Heathens instead of English Christians? Admittedly, the Viking voyages to Vínland had mixed Heathen and Christian crews, but still…

MM – Maybe it could happen. I think the English language had a lot to do with how America was settled and the political paths she took. The revolutionary slogans were, many of them, identical to those used by the Cromwellian revolutionaries before them. That said, I’m not sure America could have been settled by non-Christians. Christianity supplies the rhetoric justifying total war, total genocide. It also contains the rhetoric to make us confused about our practising those things. Perhaps Scandinavian semi-democracy could have mixed well with native semi-democracy – but empires behave like empires. I’m not sure the dynamics would be much different.

Continues with Part Two and Part Three.

(11) Charles P. Pierce of Grantland uses the murder trial of a sports figure to comment on our surveillance culture in “The All-Seeing Eye Blinks: A Visit to the (Curiously Ignored, Oddly Underattended) Aaron Hernandez Trial”. (Are these long titles an Irish thing? Reminds me of R.A. Lafferty, and Pierce is of Irish descent, too.)

We are always on camera now. We are on camera at the grocery store, at the bank, and in the lobbies of most buildings. We are on camera while we eat and drink and walk and wait for the bus. We are on camera when we approach intersections in our cars. And we are on camera whenever our neighbors are so nervous about their own property that they decide to put us on camera whenever we walk by. We are on camera more than Marilyn Monroe or John Wayne ever were in their entire careers put together.

The generation that was raised as television’s influence on the culture hit high tide — a generation to which I belong, by the way — is in an odd position. For us, the idea of Being On Television was always a life’s goal. But now there are hundreds of ways for us to Be On Television. We can withdraw some money from the ATM, or buy a head of lettuce, or sneak through a red light. We can sing a folk song, or recite the Agincourt speech, or dance a tarantella, or tell a dirty limerick. We can film the performance and upload it, and people in Guam or Reykjavik can watch us Be On Television on their telephones. We can write our own movie in our heads and then act it out for millions of strangers. We can be kings or clowns. In the movies in our minds, which technology has enabled us to live out, we can be gangsters too.

(12) Once everybody in Europe spoke Proto-Indo-European, they just didn’t know it, and people today can only guess what it really sounded like. This post at Archeology outlines scholars’ efforts to imagine what would come out of the mouth of a PIE speaker, and includes a recording of one such educated guess.

By the 19th century, linguists knew that all modern Indo-European languages descended from a single tongue. Called Proto-Indo-European, or PIE, it was spoken by a people who lived from roughly 4500 to 2500 B.C., and left no written texts. The question became, what did PIE sound like? In 1868, German linguist August Schleicher used reconstructed Proto-Indo-European vocabulary to create a fable in order to hear some approximation of PIE. Called “The Sheep and the Horses,” and also known today as Schleicher’s Fable, the short parable tells the story of a shorn sheep who encounters a group of unpleasant horses. As linguists have continued to discover more about PIE (and archaeologists have learned more about the Bronze Age cultures that would have spoken it), this sonic experiment continues and the fable is periodically updated to reflect the most current understanding of how this extinct language would have sounded when it was spoken some six thousand years ago. Since there is considerable disagreement among scholars about PIE, no one version can be considered definitive. Here, University of Kentucky linguist Andrew Byrd recites his version of the fable, as well as a second story, called “The King and the God,” using pronunciation informed by the latest insights into reconstructed PIE.

(13) Pulp dining in Baltimore. What the Argosy Cafe celebrates may not be as old as PIE, though it may feel that way to readers of eBooks…

Argosy Cafe will be distinctly Baltimore.  Located in the first floor of the Munsey Building, named for Frank Munsey, we have named the restaurant for his weekly pulp magazines.  We will provide many Baltimore and Mid-Atlantic classics with a twist.  Not to mention the coffee, which we will be brewing in ways you haven’t seen before.   So come on in and join us on this adventure, if nothing else it will be delicious.

(14) Astronauts are getting hipper, too. A new coffee cup design allows astronauts to drink espresso in space.

In space you don’t sip, you suck, from a bag. That’s a good thing. The typical coffee cup simply doesn’t work in low gravity, unless you want scalding hot liquid floating through the air.

It takes a special vessel to get liquid from an open container into an astronaut’s mouth.

It also takes a helluva lot of science, as seen by the cup designed by Portland State University researchers. For the past year, scientists there have been developing a mug designed specifically to allow astronauts to sip on espresso (or other warm and frothy drinks) in low-gravity environments.

The cup’s shape is odd—a little like a plastic baby boot—and was determined by mathematical models.

The shape reminds me more of Piglet from Winnie-the-Pooh than anything else.

(15) Chris Offutt was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air about his father, popular sf writer andy offutt, who went from running a small insurance agency to writing more than 400 books, most of them porn.

(16) For those who prefer a sprint to a marathon, the SFWA Blog gives “Ten Reasons to Write Short Stories Even Though the Pay Is Peanuts”.

But there are many reasons to write short stories, besides the love of the form (and the relatively small upfront fees), and here are a few reasons why you might want to say yes next time someone invites you to write one:

Publishing Short Stories Creates Intellectual Property (IP)

Published short stories create their own IP, which can then be sold or optioned to filmmakers, video game developers, playwrights, comics publishers, etc. Without this IP, the author has nothing to sell except for a pitch. Simply having it published creates intellectual property that must be optioned or purchased before anyone can create ancillary versions (and it establishes when you had the idea and puts it on the record). Also, naturally, having the work published makes it infinitely more likely that someone will stumble across it and want to buy or option it. (Since it’s extremely unlikely they’ll ever discover it while it’s still only in your head or on your hard drive.)

(17) It’s not alternate history, time travel or steampunk. It’s an Army Special Forces veteran reviving the ancient martial art of swordfighting:

As a former Army Special Forces serviceman (1980-88), Booth has a facility for fighting; as a history major at Yale (Class of 1991, cum laude), he knows the past. He whipped the two together for his first medieval-themed restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C. To avoid the cartoonish swashbuckling often performed at period-piece shows, he researched authentic styles from the Middle Ages, back when knights were like Hell’s Angels on horseback. He locked onto Talhoffer’s texts, which had languished in obscurity for nearly 400 years. The first English translation appeared in 2000.

“We’re not trying to historically re-create Talhoffer,” Booth said. “We’re trying to show the historical importance of taking what was dead for 500 years and bringing it back to life.”

(18) James H. Burns makes sure people don’t lose the early history of Star Trek fandom represented in some of the specialized magazines of the Seventies.

It’s intriguing to note that THE MONSTER TIMES’ special STAR TREK issue, a few years prior, with major contributions from our own Steve Vertlieb and Gary Gerani, was one of the very first, and ONLY sources of TREK history, in the era before 1976.  If you were a TREK fan, you looked for paperback copies of THE MAKING OF STAR TREK, David Gerrold’s THE WORLD OF STAR TREK and his chronicle of the making of his  THE TROUBLE WITH TRIIBLES, and the early TMT edition. They are all still well worth reading.)

(19) A hobby drone user crafted a styrofoam cover that turns his drone into a Tie Interceptor from Star Wars – making what is, in effect, a propeller-driven Tie fighter.

[Thanks for these links goes out to David Klaus, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, James H. Burns, Janice Gelb and Andrew Porter.]

Langford Issues Critical Assembly Reviews as Ebook

The caption for the cover photo is: "Langford revisits his first word processor." Photo by Hazel Langford.

The caption for the cover photo is: “Langford revisits his first word processor.” Photo by Hazel Langford.

One hundred and one sf review columns written by Dave Langford for White Dwarf and other games magazines between 1983 and 1992 are gathered in The Complete Critical Assembly. Issued as an eBook for the first time, the volume contains the full text of earlier collections published in paper a couple of decades ago.

Order here for £5. “Read the whole sequence and learn how to acquire 22 Hugos,” promises the ad copy. (Sheesh, I’ll order two!)

Spectrum 22 Awards Finalists

Spectrum 22 jurors Justin Gerard, Virginie Ropars, Greg Ruth, Annie Stegg Gerard and Dice Tsutsumi.

Spectrum 22 jurors Justin Gerard, Virginie Ropars, Greg Ruth, Annie Stegg Gerard and Dice Tsutsumi.

The Spectrum 22: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art Award Finalists have been announced. All that gorgeous work is available for viewing at the website.

Five finalists for a Silver or a Gold award in each of the eight categories were selected by a jury of Justin Gerard, Virginie Ropars, Greg Ruth, Annie Stegg Gerard and Dice Tsutsumi.

Spectrum: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art was founded in 1993 by Cathy Fenner and Arnie Fenner. Creators from around the globe participate in the competition each year. Last year John Fleskes became director of the competition and editor of the annual, and Flesk Publications the publisher of the book.

The winners will be announced during the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live event in Kansas City on May 23.


  • Johnny Dombrowski — Murder on the Orient Express
  •  Edward Kinsella III — Vernacchio
  •  Victo Ngai — The Cloisters
  •  Yuko Shimizu — Tokyo Night Show
  •  Taylor Wessling — Barbarians: Faust


  • Dan dos Santos — Taking Flight
  • Scott Gustafson — Jack and the Sleeping Giant
  • Jeffrey Alan Love — Radiant State
  •  Petar Meseldzija — The Giants are Coming
  •  Sam Weber — cover for Dune by Frank Herbert


  • Alex Alice  — Castle in the Stars
  •  Audrey Benjaminsen — Bernadette, page 1
  •  David Palumbo – The Beast
  •  James Turner — Rebel Angels
  •  Lisa Wood — Rebels

Concept Art

  • Audrey Benjaminsen — Fairy 3
  •  Sung Choi — The Parade
  •  Te Hu — Wonders: Gate of Luxor
  •  Kellan Jett — Meeting
  •  Allen Williams — The Good Dog


  • Dan Chudzinski — The Mudpuppy
  •  Mark Newman — Gallevarbe: Death’s Siren
  •  Forest Rogers — Venetian Harpy
  •  David Silva — Dragon vs. Raptors
  •  Dug Stanat — A Bird From His Brim Will Guide Your Last Breath


  • Sam Bosma — Critical Education
  •  Jensine Eckwall — This Circle: Walking Into The Wind
  •  Edward Kinsella III – Gland Monster
  •  Victo Ngai — Cocoon
  •  Tran Nguyen — A Distressed Damsel


  • Ed Binkley — Rikshaw Pass
  •  Laurie Brom – Bad Seed
  •  Rovina Cai — Fake It
  •  Jeffrey Alan Love — Skyrim
  •  Jessica Shirley — The Child Sleeps


  • Paul Bonner — Beowulf: Mother
  •  Donato Giancola — Descent from Caradhras
  •  Rebecca Leveille Guay — Time and Chance
  •  Omar Rayyan – A Night at the Races
  •  Cynthia Sheppard — Momentum


2015 Rondo Hatton Award Voting Opens

ronlogo1Online voting has begun for the 13th Annual Rondo Awards — click the link to see the nominees for the best in the horror genre from 2014.

I always enjoy browsing the Rondo website to see what’s been nominated in the Best Toy, Model, or Collectible category. Two of this year’s finalists are items I wrote about for File 770 – the Forry Ackerman model from Dark Horse and Hallmark’s Frankenstein Christmas ornament.

Voting continues through April 19.

Larry Niven Named SFWA Grand Master

Niven with a Puppeteer. Photo by Gordon McGregor from

Niven with a Puppeteer. Photo by Gordon McGregor from

SFWA has honored Larry Niven with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award “for his invaluable contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy.”

“I’ve always wanted one of these,” responded Niven. “It does definitely mean I’ve gotten old. I’ve been publishing fiction for more than fifty years now. I’m convinced I picked the right career.”

Niven won SFWA’s Nebula Award in 1971 for Ringworld (which also won the Hugo). His eight career Nebula nominations include two stories that made the very first Nebula shortlist (1966). His many other honors include five Hugos and five Seiun Awards.

Niven’s fabled ability to transform hard science into cosmic predicaments has enriched his Known Space series. His wild imagination also has given the sf and fantasy fields gems like “Inconstant Moon,” “The Magic Goes Away,” “All The Myriad Ways,” the humorous essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex,” and the teleportation stories from which the word “flash mob” is taken.

He has collaborated with several authors, most notably Jerry Pournelle, who explicitly credits Niven for coming up with great scenes in their books like the surfer riding a tsunami caused by the impact of Lucifer’s Hammer.

Dwight Wins 2015 Service to SFWA Award

Jeffry Dwight is the winner of the 2015 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award for his support and oversight of SFWA’s presence on the web.

SFWA President Steven Gould said, “SFWA’s early days on the web started on GEnie but, when that service shutdown, Jeffry Dwight, more than any other person, was responsible for helping SFWA transition onto the modern internet. We are incredibly lucky to have had access to his help and resources over the years.”

The award will be presented at the 50th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend in Chicago,  June 4-7.

Helsinki in 2017 Crafts

Robot bank advertises Helsinki in 2017 bid.

Robot bank advertises Helsinki in 2017 bid.

The Helsinki in 2017 is promoting itself with a wide variety of crafts using the bid logo, the items given as prizes when people support and friend the bid.

Crystal Huff says, “There are a lot of people who can’t afford to support Helsinki with money, but who want to help. So they’ve found really clever ways of infusing the bid with their enthusiasm by making all sorts of awesome things. One person is even brewing mead made with tar syrup from Finland, to be used for our Sasquan parties!”

Items people have made for Helsinki include:

  • knit polar bear hats
  • tie-dyed t-shirts
  • magnets
  • bubble wands
  • chocolate in the shape of the bid logo
  • Moomin-shaped cookies
  • Xmas ornaments
  • lavender and rosemary sachets
  • wooden keychains
  • necklace pendants
  • a robot bank
  • several different kinds of earrings
  • bracelets
  • a crown (which Mur Lafferty decided she had to own)
  • a superhero-style cape
  • temporary tattoos (purchased, but the three designs were created by the bid)

Several Finns made the earrings and keychains, and all the felted crafts were by Eppu Jensen who is a professional crafter. Cat Valente is working on a dress made of bid t-shirts. The robot bank was produced by a group of fans at a paint-your-own-pottery place in Boston. They also produced a cheese plate and picture frame, but I don’t have photos of those at the moment.

Who Will Judge Kramer’s Lawsuit?

All ten Gwinnett County (Ga.) superior court judges have recused themselves from handling Ed Kramer’s lawsuit challenging his December 2013 guilty plea on child molestation charges. A judge from outside the county will be appointed to the case.

The last two judges recused themselves in January. Their joint filing said that they “find no evidence or implication of any improper relationship existing Superior Court Bench and the District Attorney’s Office” but they were recusing themselves to “avoid any appearance of impropriety.”

Kramer’s current attorney, Stephen Reba, claimed in court documents that the guilty plea was ill-gotten. He alleges District Attorney Danny Porter and Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers colluded to re-open Kramer’s case when it had been effectively closed in 2009 after a hearing on issues surrounding Kramer’s health, and gave Kramer the authority to decide when he was healthy enough to go to trial. Reba also claims Beyers and Porter did not provide medical accommodations that would have allowed Kramer to stand trial, forcing Kramer to enter an Alford plea, a type of guilty plea under which a defendant is allowed to maintain innocence

After pleading guilty in 2013, Dragon*Con co-founder Kramer was sentenced to 34 months under house arrest.

Kramer’s attorney already has succeeded in getting DA Porter disqualified from handling Kramer’s habeas corpus petition because he may be called as a witness in any related hearings.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Orson Scott Card GoH at ORU Conference on SF

Orson Scott Card will be guest of honor at the Oral Roberts University Conference on Science and Science Fiction: Science, Faith, and the Imagination on April 17-18

This two-day interdisciplinary conference – sponsored by the colleges of Arts and Cultural Studies and Science and Engineering at Oral Roberts University – will examine the relationships between science and science fiction, social science and science fiction, and theology and science fiction in all forms of science and science fiction, including science fiction stories, film, television, radio, graphic novels, and theoretical physics.

The conference invited scholars to present papers on —

  • Science Fiction and Theology. Investigating the relationship between science fiction and theology.
  • Science in Science Fiction. Discussing the plausibility of fantastical science fiction concepts such as time travel, warp drives, cloaking devices, and (quantum) teleportation.
  • Hard Science Fiction. Examining scientific rigor in science fiction.
  • Social Sciences in Science Fiction. Investigating psychological, sociological, and cultural issues in science fiction.
  • The Relationship between Science and Science Fiction. Exploring how science drives science fiction and/or how science fiction drives science.
  • Original Science Fiction Short Stories.

How To Win A Fan Fund

Kylie Ding, 2012 Get-Up-and-over-Fan-Fund (GUFF) delegate, has written “The Winners’ Guide to Winning a Fan Fund” (a Facebook link) for fans interested in being voted one of the subsidized travel funds like TAFF, DUFF, GUFF, CUFF, etc.

The first of her seven points is —

Make it easy for people to vote

That’s the really big thing.  You are well enough known in your fandom that at least five people think you are a worthwhile candidate.  You have connections.  Milk them for all they are worth!  Think of all your friends and people you know in fandom, and work out when you will see them.  Make a physical list or a mental list.  When will you see them?  Party?  Convention?  You need to approach each person and ask them if they would like to vote in the fan fund race.  You need to have a voting form for them, a pen and be able to make change if they give you money.  You need to be prepared that they might not want to vote for one reason or another and move on to the next person.

I don’t disagree, although each of the funds has its own customs about how subtly this should be done. Judging by the article, GUFF may do the most direct, up-front canvassing.

In the Seventies, when LASFSians Len and June Moffatt were up for TAFF, the first fan fund race I ever observed from the inside, someone carefully explained to me that people do not campaign for TAFF, they stand for TAFF — in the same way 19th-century American presidential candidates would remain at home aloof from the fray while their backers did the campaigning. In the era of social media TAFF nominees are no longer so constrained.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years, and ought to factor into anyone’s decision to run, is that the winner becomes responsible for continuing the fund by raising money to replenish it, and by co-administering the next couple of races (which sometimes means finding willing candidates).