P. D. James (1920-2014)

Mystery novelist P.D. James died November 27 at the age of 94. She was best known for her series of novels about policeman Adam Dalgliesh.

She also wrote a well-known dystopian novel, The Children of Men, set in England of 2021 where mass infertility threatens the future of the population. The novel was published in 1992 and adapted as a film in 2006. The film was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who also made Gravity. It was nominated for the Hugo and the Oscar.

James was working as a health service administrator in the 1950s when she made a decision to start writing seriously — “I realized that there was never going to be a convenient time to start that first novel,” she told an interviewer in 1997. “If I didn’t make time, find the motivation, I would be a failed writer and that would be absolutely appalling for me.”

The Traditional Thanksgiving Ape

kong2Thanksgiving Day is a good time to revisit James H. Burns’ essay for The Thunderchild on WOR-TV’s odd tradition of showing King Kong on this holiday. Also, to note these words Jim recently shared with the Classic Horror Film Board:

I didn’t realize Kong was on just now, and as I was changing channels, there it was, coincidentally, my favorite sequence in the movie, when Denham and company land on the island… I’ve recently moved, and this was my first time seeing the movie in the new place… And just a few minutes ago, it got me to wondering: How many different locales have I watched King Kong in, and from? There was the chair in my parents’ bedroom, in 1967, or thereabouts… And sometimes, in later years, I’d scoot down to the floor, laying akimbo… A trip to a giant movie palace on West 14th Street in Manhattan, to see a revival screening (along with a chapter of Flash Gordon–and far more importantly, my Dad!) around 1970… A double-feature at the Malverne, in Long Island, with Animal Crackers, also in the early ’70s. I’m sure at least one convention ballroom… And the bedroom of my boyhood home, and many bedrooms and living rooms thereafter… I just had a pretty rough week, and when I discovered Denham, and Ann, and Jack and Englehorn by chance, I was happy; for the first time in a while. We may forget our dreams as the years and age go by. But our cinematic notions can endure, light through strips of celluloid, and now bits and bytes in a digital wonderland.

Stu Shiffman (1954-2014)

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman died November 26, almost two-and-a-half years after suffering a stroke; he was 60. The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.

Stu was a native New Yorker but moved to Seattle about 20 years ago with his partner Andi Shechter.

Stu always was fascinated by the traditions and in-references of science fiction fandom and loved to incorporate them in unexpected settings that might involve anything from cartoons of talking animals to intricately rendered Egyptian tomb art and hieroglyphs.

When he got into fandom in the 1970s mimeographed fanzines were still quite common. Taral Wayne admired that Stu “was as much a master of pen and ink as he was of stylus and stencil.”

Stu also had a special interest in drawing literary characters like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Burrough’s John Carter (interests which sometimes merged, as in his ERBzine contribution Adventure of the Martian Hegira: fragments from the Barsoomian Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes.)

In fact, one of his earliest contributions to a fanzine appeared in the sword-and-sorcery oriented Amra (October 1975) — “Goric & Other Limericks” co-authored with NY fan John Boardman.

Stu’s own publications, such as Raffles, co-edited with Larry Carmody, began appearing around 1977.

He became a leader in New York’s faannish fandom when he hosted Fanoclasts. He also chaired the Flushing in ’80 hoax Worldcon bid committee composed of Moshe Feder, Joe Siclari, Gary Farber, Hank Davis, Elliot Shorter, and Jon Singer.

Stu’s soaring popularity led to him being voted the 1981 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. The following year he began his TAFF report, A Raffles Lad Abroad or The Road to Yorcon. (See Chapters 1 and 2 here.)

Stu ordinarily enjoyed his fannish accolades as much as anyone, but he did become frustrated that during the 1980s he established a record for the most fan Hugo nominations without winning. Everyone was gratified when he broke through at last in 1990.

All this productivity happened despite a medical condition Stu was coping with at the time. The symptoms became apparent when he was invited by fellow artists Schirmeister and Taral to join them hiking on Mt. Wilson in 1984 and he had difficulty keeping up. Taral explained in The Slan of Baker Street, “Stu will have to forgive me if I relate this imperfectly, but he had an abnormal connection between the blood vessels of his brain that allowed venous blood to mingle with arterial blood. The intermixing robbed his bloodstream of oxygen, and he tired easily.” Doctors corrected this by performing brain surgery in 1985 – an operation lasting 12 hours according to Ansible.

Stu’s interest in mysteries was strong enough to fuel three fandoms with art and articles. He was a Sherlockian (Sound of the Baskervilles, Hounds of the Internet) who contributed to publications like Baker Street Journal, and a Wodehouse enthusiast who sent material to such journals as Plum Lines and Wooster Sauce. And Stu was just as likely to write something about them for an sf fanzine. For example, a 1999 issue of Mainstream featured his “Adventures of the Danzig Mien,” the script of a Sherlockian parody: Stu had a great time festoon­ing a Conan Doyle-esque plot with ridiculous references and in-jokes.

He also produced some similarly-inspired short stories for an anthology series. In “The Milkman Cometh” (Tales of the Shadowmen 5: Vampires of Paris) Tevye meets Sherlock Holmes and confronts Boris Badenov. In “Grim Days” (Tales of the Shadowmen 7) Lord Peter Wimsey and Colonel Haki meet in Istanbul.

He drew a backup feature for Captain Confederacy, the black-and-white comic produced by Will Shetterly and Vince Stone (published by Steeldragon Press), involving two steampunkish characters named Saks & Violet.

So it is not surprising that Stu was attracted to alternate history and for many years was a member of the judging panel for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.

His convention guest of honor stints included Hexacon (1980), Minicon XX, Wiscon XII, Corflu 6 (1989) and Lunacon 2000.

At Corflu 5 (1988) he was named a Past President of Fan Writers of America (fwa).

He had a recipe in the Tiptree fundraiser The Bakery Men Don’t See (1991) – “Grandma Ethel Katz’s Noodle Kugel.” Stu co-edited the 1986 issue of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly with the Nielsen Haydens and Lee Hoffman. He illustrated the 1991 edition of Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator…To the Enchanted Convention by Walt Willis and James White.

On June 14, 2012 Stu suffered a stroke. Two brain surgeries followed. For several months he went back and forth between ICU and acute care, depending on his breathing and heartbeat. Eventually he was reported to be on a gradual upswing and thereafter, though he periodically had serious setbacks, Stu enjoyed sustained improvement.

Andi Shecter visited constantly. Tom Whitmore maintained a CaringBridge online journal that let Stu’s friends keep abreast of important changes in his status.

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

In 2013 Andi and Stu, who had been together for 25 years, announced their engagement. On June 18, 2014 they married in a ceremony at University of Washington’s Burke Museum with nearly 100 in attendance.

By October, Stu had recovered to the point that he’d been able to use a powered wheelchair for the first time since his stroke. However, only a week later, he had a fall and required surgery from which he did not regain consciousness.

Then, this afternoon, he died after his heart stopped. Tom Whitmore explained: “Aides found him when they went to prepare him for a shower. He was given CPR and 911 was called. The EMTs were able to get a heartbeat and pulse back and he was being readied to go to Harborview Emergency Department when he heart stopped again. They were unable to get him back. They tried for about 40 minutes.”

I am so sad that Stu wasn’t able to make the recovery we all hoped he would have, and am very sorry for Andi’s loss.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Allan Kornblum Passes Away

Allan Kornblum, founding publisher of Coffee House Press, died November 23 at his St. Paul, MN home, of leukemia.

Andrew Porter recalls, “He was on the edges of the Minneapolis SF crowd.”

Kornblum’s death just about closes the book on a generation of small press pioneers. Porter explains —

I knew Kornblum, mostly from seeing him at the annual ABA (now BEA) conventions. He may have been active in Midwest small press, but there were many others, especially Len Fulton of Dustbooks, Noel Young of Santa Monica’s Capra Press (who, for instance, published Le Guin’s Wild Angels chapbook in 1975), and especially Harry Smith here in NYC. I worked with Harry — who lived a few blocks away, on Joralemon Street, and though I’d see him in Brooklyn Heights, more often saw him at the ABA conventions — and other people such as Jackie Eubanks, a library at Brooklyn College, on organizing and running various NY small press book fairs. Back then David Hartwell was doing small press, too (which is how I got to meet Margaret Atwood…).

Then there was COSMEP, originally the Committee of Small Press Editors and Publishers, the nationwide org for small press publishers run out of the SF Bay Area. Run into the ground in a few months by its last president. And the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, CCLM, which decided, after I applied for a grant, that SF wasn’t literature…

Many gone, now, except for … me? How did that happen?

The Publishers Weekly obituary elaborates on Kornblum’s place in history:

Kornblum was one of the leaders of the small press movement that emerged out of the 1960s-era passions for social change. Kornblum, 65, founded Toothpaste Press in Iowa City in 1973 to publish poetry pamphlets and letterpress books. After moving to Minneapolis in 1984, Kornblum relaunched his press as a literary nonprofit and named it Coffee House Press. It was one of the original eight literary small presses distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. The press, which specializes in literary fiction and poetry, but also publishes nonfiction, became renowned for publishing writers of color under Kornblum’s leadership, particularly Asian-American authors.

Kornblum was known for his erudition, on display in a 2013 Soapbox column for PW that advocated Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox be named the patron saint of independent booksellers. Knox ran a bookstore before enlisting to fight, and rose to the rank of general. His most visible monument is Fort Knox. Kornblum appreciated the irony that a military base known as a gold bullion depository would be named for someone who once was a struggling bookseller.

[Via Paul Di Filippo and Andrew Porter.]

Walt Lee (1931-2014)

Cover Walt Lee Reference Guide To Fantastic Films“I’m very sad to report that my father, Walter W. Lee, Jr. — physicist, writer, historian, consultant, and friend to the science fiction and fantasy community — passed away on the evening of Sunday, November 23, 2014, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s,” writes Steve Lee.

Walt Lee was born in Eugene, Oregon on August 16, 1931.He is best known for compiling the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films. The three-volume work published between 1972 and 1974 was the first major compilation of film scholarship for science fiction, fantasy and horror films.

Bill Warren shared Steve Lee’s call to send birthday cards to his father with File 770 readers this past summer. Says Steve —

My mother, sister and I all thank you for your warm wishes and support during this difficult time. I would also like to thank all of those who took the time to send birthday cards to my father on this last August. He enjoyed and cherished them all.

He also invited me to publish his e-mail address – hwdslee (at) gmail (dot) com – for anyone who wishes to forward messages to the family.

Film critic Warren paid tribute to the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films and its author:

It was the first truly major work of film scholarship in the area of science fiction, fantasy and horror. It wasn’t easy to do; while being a father and holding down a job, he researched that exhaustive book.

This was long, long before the iMDB, long before most books on movie research. He spent hours upon hours in the files of the Motion Picture Academy, UCLA, USC, Forry Ackerman (a lifelong friend) and elsewhere. He corresponded with people all over the world — he was determined to make the book as inclusive as possible, and he did. It was the first citation in print (other than industry books and magazines) for hundreds upon hundreds of movies. He was one of the first researchers to routinely include many of the great Hollywood cartoon shorts.  Walt was there first, before anyone.

Kushner Sherman at NYRSF Reading 12/2

The New York Review of SF Readings continues its annual tradition of Family Night with Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner on December 2.

Delia Sherman

Delia Sherman

Delia Sherman’s most recent short stories have appeared in the young adult anthology Steampunk! and in Ellen Datlow’s Naked City. She’s written three novels for adults: Through a Brazen Mirror, The Porcelain Dove, and The Fall of the Kings (with Ellen Kushner).She’s now turned her hand to novels for younger readers. Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen are both set in the magical world of New York Between.  The Freedom Maze is a time-travel historical about antebellum Louisiana which won the 2012 Prometheus Award and the Andre Norton Award. Her recent collection of short fiction, Young Woman in a Garden, has appeared on PW’s list of Best SF of 2014.

She has worked as a contributing editor for Tor Books and has co-edited the fantasy anthology The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Donald G. Keller, as well as The Essential Bordertown with Terri Windling, as well as two anthologies of interstitial fiction, Interfictions 1, with Theodora Goss and Interfictions 2, with Christopher Barzak. When she’s not writing, Sherman is teaching, editing, knitting, and cooking. Although she’s frequently on the road, she actually lives in a rambling apartment in New York City with partner Ellen Kushner and far too many pieces of paper.

Ellen Kushner

Ellen Kushner

Ellen Kushner’s cult classic novel Swordspoint introduced readers to the setting to which she has since returned in The Privilege of the Sword (Locus Award, Nebula nominee), The Fall of the Kings (written with Delia Sherman), and a growing handful of related short stories.  She recently recorded all three novels in audiobook form for Neil Gaiman Presents/Audible.com, and Swordspoint won both a 2012 Audie and Audiofile Earphones Award.  With Holly Black, she co-edited Welcome to Bordertown, a revival of the original urban fantasy shared world series created by Terri Windling, and oversaw the 2013 Brilliance Audio audiobook production with original music by Drew Miller of Boiled in Lead.

A co-founder of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, Ellen Kushner was also the longtime host of the national public radio show Sound & Spirit, and created several one-woman shows for it, including The Klezmer Nutcracker, which she then adapted for New York’s Vital Theater. She is currently working on a new novel in the Swordspoint?series. She recently served as guest host for Fantasy Magazine’s Women Destroy Fantasy podcasts. She lives in New York City with Delia Sherman. They have no cats, and she does not like to write in cafes. She loves to read aloud.

The NYRSF Readings will take place Tuesday, December 2 at The Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue. Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7

The full press release follows the jump.

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Voting Open for 2015 FFANZ Delegate

The choice is clear-cut: Melbourne’s David McDonald is the only candidate in the race for the 2015 Fan Fund of New Zealand and Australia. Just the same, he needs your vote and your donation to make the trip to New Zealand for Reconnaissance, Easter 2015.

David McDonald is a Melbourne based writer who edits a magazine for an international welfare organisation. When not on a computer or reading a book, he divides his time between helping run a local cricket club and working on his novel. In 2013 he won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent, and in 2014 won the William J. Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review and was shortlisted for the WSFA Small Press Award. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies such as The Lone Ranger Chronicles from Moonstone Books and Epilogue from Fablecroft Publishing. David is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and of the Melbourne based writers group, SuperNOVA.

David has been in fandom for a number of years, and has been nominated for a number of awards for his fan writing on Doctor Who and for his participation in the Aussie Snapshot – a comprehensive overview of the Aussie spec fic scene.

McDonald’s nominators are Norman Cates of New Zealand and Cat Sparks of Australia.

The voting deadline is December 15. Click the link for the FFANZ 2015 Voting Form (.pdf)