This Day, But Not In History 9/19

On September 19, 1961 while heading home from Canada through the mountains of New Hampshire, Betty and Barney Hill claimed they were abducted by a UFO.

Did it really happen? Well, remember how a lawyer got Kris Kringle out of the loony bin with the connivance of postal employees in Miracle on 34th Street? You could make a similar case here. The Hills are the only alien abductees with an official state road sign marking the spot where the UFO picked them up.

Yes, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources erected marker number 224 on the site in 2011.

“To tell you the truth, we were very excited about the prospect,” Elizabeth Muzzey, director of the agency, informed a HuffPost writer.

“We thought about the 1950s and ’60s in our country when there was such widespread interest in things such as space travel and space exploration. And in all the years since, there have been a great number of people who have asked whether other forms of life may exist out there in the solar system and beyond,” she said.

“Certainly, the experience of the Hills falls right at the center of that cultural and scientific experience,” Muzzey added. “So that’s what we are presenting in the marker — that this was the first widely reported UFO abduction report in the U.S., and a ton have since followed.”

The text on the marker reads:


Betty and Barney Hill Incident

On the night of September 19-20, 1961, Portsmouth, NH couple Betty and Barney Hill experienced a close encounter with an unidentified flying object and two hours of “lost” time while driving north on Rte 1 near Lincoln. They filed an official Air Force Project Blue Book report of a brightly-lit cigar-shaped craft the next day, but were not public with their story until it was leaked in the Boston Traveler in 1965. This was the first widely-reported UFO abduction report in the United States.

This happened in the psychedelic Sixties, which may explain why the Hills had no trouble remaining politically active after their alleged abduction. Betty and Barney — who once was appointed by the governor of New Hampshire to serve on the state advisory committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission – campaigned for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. President Johnson won by a landslide and the couple was invited to his 1965 inauguration.

Cameron KO’s Roger Dean in Avatar Suit

A U.S. District Court in New York has dismissed Roger Dean’s lawsuit against James Cameron: Dean had claimed aspects of the Avatar planet Pandora were stolen from his artwork.

dean-asia-cover__130629021944Dean’s art has appeared on top-selling record albums by many bands, among them Yes and Asia, been displayed in museums and published in books. And when Dean’s suit was announced last year, Harlan Ellison, who won a settlement from Cameron over Terminator in in the 1980s, said he was eager to testify in Dean’s behalf. (He wasn’t called upon.)

Judge Jesse M. Furman wrote in his decision that some of the similarities between Dean’s work and elements of Avatar are due to both drawing on images in nature, which is in the public domain, while other elements in Dean’s works that are protectible are overwhelmed by the differences between them and the scenes in the movie.

For example, the “Hallelujah Mountains” [in Avatar] are depicted, in photorealistic detail, as massive floating islands of different shapes and sizes densely blanketed with plants, trees, and other vegetation. By contrast, Plaintiff’s works are more stylized and fantastical, featuring smaller, egg-shaped islands —more akin to large boulders than mountains —with little or no vegetation other than a prominent, solitary tree almost as large as the island itself.

Dean’s loss is just the latest in an uninterrupted series of rulings against plaintiffs who claimed they were owed money or ought to receive damages for the use of their work in Avatar.

Kelly Van sued Cameron in 2010 saying Avatar was based on his 2003 book Sheila the Warrior: the Damned. His case was thrown out of court by a judge who said the “plot similarities are abstract ideas that are not protected by copyright.”

In 2013, courts dismissed claims by Eric Ryder, who alleged the movie ripped off his story K.R.Z. 2068, described as an “environmentally-themed 3-D epic about a corporation’s colonization and plundering of a distant moon’s lush and wondrous natural setting,” and by Gerald Morawski, who had sued for breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation because he had pitched a project to Cameron’s people titled Guardians of Eden and that he signed a nondisclosure agreement which expressly provided that he would retain his original ideas.

Cameron has also won cases brought by Emil Malak, claiming the film infringed his 1998 screenplay Terra Incognita, and Bryant Moore, arguing his screenplays and drawings had been used to create Avatar.

Reportedly the statute of limitations for filing copyright infringement claims expired in December 2012. However, there may be different limits for other causes of action that might leave the door open for more suits.

Avatar has been a litigation magnet since earning nearly $2.8 billion in box-office receipts. It’s reputed to be the top earning movie of all time, although an interesting footnote in the Dean decision, quoting the scholarly book Principles of Macroeconomics, questions the #1 ranking:

“Movie popularity is usually gauged by box office receipts. By that measure, Avatar is the number 1 movie of all time with domestic receipts of $761 million . . . . But this ranking ignores an obvious but important fact: Prices, including those of movie tickets, have been rising over time. Inflation gives an advantage to newer films. When we correct box office receipts for the effects of inflation . . . [t]he number 1 movie is now Gone With the Wind ($1,604 million) . . . . Avatar falls to number 14.”

Sizemore Takes Editor’s Seat at Apex

Owner/publisher Jason Sizemore is succeeding Sigrid Ellis as editor of Apex Magazine. He made the announcement today on its blog:

Within a few months, I will be making an occupational transition that will allow me to focus more on Apex Books and Apex Magazine. This is a huge opportunity, one I’ve been working toward for quite awhile. As part of this transition, I will be stepping in as Apex Magazine‘s editor-in-chief. Sigrid Ellis, by any measure, has done a fantastic job during her tenure as editor-in-chief. She’s a joy to work with, and I have no doubt she will have many great opportunities ahead of her.

Apex will publish the issues as planned and purchased through December 2014. Beginning now, I will be selecting our 2015 magazine content. I will be looking for the same kind of diverse, groundbreaking content that Apex Magazine has become known for publishing.

Sizemore said plans for publishing the short stories Sigrid Ellis picked for 2015 will be announced soon, which may mean they will appear somewhere other than regular issues of Apex Magazine.

He also announced that a new poetry editor, Bianca Spriggs, will be taking over for Elise Matthesen.

Looking for Angel to Save Bradbury’s Hugo

Ray Bradbury's 2004 Retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451.

Ray Bradbury’s 2004 Retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451.

Phil Nichols of Bradburymedia would like to see Ray Bradbury’s Retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451 reunited with the collection at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI. That Hugo is on the auction block until September 25. The current bid is $5,000.

Unfortunately, this is beyond what the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which holds (in original or digitised form) many manuscripts related to Fahrenheit 451, could afford to spend. So I would like to make a simple proposition to put the Hugo back with the manuscripts:


Is there someone out there who could bid for the Retro-Hugo, and donate it to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University?

Bradbury’s Hugo Award is lot number 293 in the auction catalog – here’s a direct link.

That Was The Week That Was In SF

Did you remember these sci-fi anniversaries? (Of course not. That’s why we’re here to remind you!)

September 18, 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still premiered in New York.

September 17, 1928 Actor Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) was born.

September 15, 1965 Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space premiered on television.

And even though That Was The Week That Was went off the air in 1963 its snappy theme song still echoes on YouTube. (The best snippet of the song runs from about 1:30-2:00.)

Today’s Birthday Girl 9/17

Cassandra Peterson in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Cassandra Peterson in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Cassandra Peterson born September 17, 1951. A.k.a. Elvira, Misstress of the Dark.

In 1981 she got the break that set her on the road to fame, when she began hosting LA’s channel 9 Movie Macabre wearing a memorable black gothic gown.

Mixing horror and comedy worked so well for her that over a four-decade career she has evolved from camp vamp to capitalist.

In 2012 Peterson became an investor in Comikaze Entertainment Inc., which runs Comikaze Expo, one of the biggest pop culture conventions. Another investor is Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee.

Hertz Reviews Now Hosted By Lasfs

John Hertz’ reviews that used to be at have returned to the web on the LASFS website.

Here is the overview. And the individual reviews can be accessed with the links below.

The Best of Xero (Lupoffs)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Twain)
The End of Eternity (Asimov)
Three Days To Never (Powers)
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (Cameron)
Infinite Worlds (Di Fate)
The Best From “Fantasy & Science Fiction” 13th Series (ed. Davidson)
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Verne)
The Draco Tavern (Niven)
A Treasury of Science Fiction (ed. Conklin)
Past Master (Lafferty)

[Thanks to Lee Gold for the story.]

Sasquan Housing Opens

Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, started taking hotel bookings today and a friend of mine trying to get into the Doubletree, closest to the convention center, found it is already unavailable. Anecdotal evidence is that the Doubletree filled almost immediately.

Update 09/16/2014: See Kevin Standlee’s comment. It is possible to reserve the Doubletree August 20-22. He suggests doing so, then requesting the Housing Bureau to add the earlier and later nights you want. I have gotten as far as successfully reserving the middle nights online.

More Evidence That SF Is Mainstream

Lots of bad news last week in pro football, so today on Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback is accompanied by this Sportsnation poll –

Looking on the bright side, in the past week the NFL:

  • Was not hit by an asteroid
  • Didn’t awaken a prehistoric monster
  • Did not start a zombie plague

Why, of course every sports fan will get these science fiction references. Not surprising at all.

The boundary between sf and the mundane is harder to see all the time.

(By the way, 50% of those responding picked “Did not start a zombie plague.”)

Letter To A Higher Critic

All I care about is whether I enjoy a writer’s work. Don’t be shocked when I say this: How much money a writer makes has nothing to do with how much I like his or her stories.

But one writer thinks I should care. This year’s Hugo Awards were fraught with drama because Larry Correia filled his customers with resentment by arguing that his inability to win the award proved they’d been treated unjustly. Because bestseller. And no Hugo.

I’m all in favor of sf writers being financially successful. It makes me happy to see people who work hard rewarded. Larry Correia is no exception.

How would anyone know what a writer makes anyway? We have very few tools — mainly bestseller lists.

While we never see actual sales figures, we assume the books that appear on the New York Times bestseller list are doing much better than those that don’t.

However, even that relative information may be unreliable. Last year I ran a post about Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s Wall Street Journal article on ResultSource, a firm that orchestrates bestseller status for clients.

Then yesterday, Vox Day’s latest in a relentless series of negative posts about John Scalzi suggested that even ordinary publishers manipulate bestsellers as a marketing strategy:

That’s great and all, but recall what I pointed out before Lock In reached the NYT bestseller list: “[Scalzi] is getting annoyed that people keep pointing out that Larry Correia sells more than he does, even though his publisher keeps buying him a one-week spot on the NYT bestseller list each time he writes a book.”  And also “Just keep an eye on the NYT list. If LOCK IN is only on it for one week, it’s a paid marketing stunt. If it stays on it for several weeks, it’s probably legitimate.”

I’m a science fiction fan, yet I’m constantly being surprised to discover how that shapes my thinking. Although I know bestseller lists are artificial constructs, I also know they are constructs dominated by mainstream fiction and literary biases. Consequently, when a science fiction writer appears on the New York Times bestseller list I don’t ask how, I just shout “Hooray!” But now a Higher Critic has explained why I should be dissatisfied and suspicious about how they got there.

And now I am.

Vox Day unfavorably compared John Scalzi to Larry Correia based on alleged manipulation of the bestseller list. But isn’t Correia’s status as a bestselling author the same reason people believe Correia is the gold standard?

Twice Correia has blogged about his bestselling books. He wrote, “You may now officially refer to me as New York Times Bestselling Author Larry Friggin’ Correia” in October 2010 after learning that Monster Hunter Vendetta ranked number 27 on the New York Times Bestseller list:

This is awesome. This is actually a really big deal in the publishing business.

The guy sounded happy. I was happy for him.

A year later he was ecstatic when Monster Hunter Alpha appeared on the list at #23.  

I am the champion. My friends! Dum duh duh duh! And I’ll keep on fighting ’till the end! Dum duh duh duh! I am the CHAMPION! I AM THE CHAMPION!! NO TIME FOR LOSERS BECAUSE I AM THE CHAMPION!!!!!! and #23 on the New York Times Bestseller list coming out August 14th OF THE WORLD!!!!

Even here, all Larry Correia ever did was point out two times when his books made the New York Times best seller list. Which they did.

But both times the books disappeared from the list the following week. One and done.

So what do we learn from this? Can it be that Larry Correia is not the Garth Brooks of science fiction after all?