Amazing Miskatonic Railroad Layout

A1-NE-arkham_A3_LOne of model railroader John Ott’s prized layouts, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional georgraphy, is the fabulous Miskatonic RR.

Many Lovecraft commentators believe that Arkham [Massachusetts] was old H.P.L.’s stand-in for the real-life burg of Salem— Salem of colonial witch-trial fame. Salem today rates about a seven on the dreary scale— not much to see, despite its touristy cant. But up until about sixty years ago, Salem boasted the most spine-tingling eerie Gothic-Norman stone train station in North America.

A1-AK-arkham_B5_L

Ott is a Southern California resident who lived four years in New England. He loves to research his period layouts as much as he enjoys doing the artwork constructing the layouts. That chemistry of talents results in exquisite tableaus of trains, cityscapes and figures that seem to come alive when viewed with the photographer’s eye. Lots of photos of the buildings, engines and rolling stock on his website.

He’s also posted a photo essay about another of theme layout commemorating the 1908 visit of the Great White Fleet to San Diego. Besides a train of open-sided “picnic cars” bringing San Diegans down to the waterfront for the celebration, the fine details include a lineup of naval officers posing for a photographer, and members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union marching in front of the Seven Buckets of Blood saloon!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

2014 Diehard GameFAN Awards

The Diehard GameFAN website has announced their awards for 2014 Video Games and Tabletop Gaming. These awards are selected by the site’s staff.

Diehard GameFAN Video Game Awards

System Awards

BEST SONY CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE GAME
Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed

BEST SONY PORTABLE EXCLUSIVE GAME
Dangan Ronpa 1&2

BEST MICROSOFT CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE GAME
Sunset Overdrive

BEST PC EXCLUSIVE GAME
Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director’s Cut

BEST NINTENDO CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE GAME
Hyrule Warriors

BEST NINTENDO PORTABLE EXCLUSIVE GAME
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

BEST MULTI-CONSOLE GAME
Valiant Hearts

Genre Awards

BEST SPORTS GAME
Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball

BEST FIGHTING GAME
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

BEST DRIVING GAME
Mario Kart 8

BEST ACTION ROLE-PLAYING GAME
Dark Souls II

BEST TURN BASED ROLE-PLAYING GAME
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

BEST STRATEGY ROLE-PLAYING GAME
Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon

BEST FIRST PERSON GAME
Five Nights at Freddy’s

BEST TRADITIONAL SHOOTER
Procyon

BEST ACTION GAME
Bayonetta 2

BEST ADVENTURE GAME
Dangan Ronpa 1&2

BEST RE-MAKE/RE-RELEASE
The Lost Crown

BEST PLATFORMER
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

BEST HORROR GAME
Five Nights at Freddy’s

BEST ALL-AGES GAME
Detective Grimoire

BEST RHYTHM GAME
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F

BEST DIGITAL/DOWNLOADABLE GAME
Velocity 2X

BEST MULTIPLAYER GAME
Singstar Ultimate Party

BEST PUZZLE GAME
Wayward Manor

BEST DLC
South Park Pinball

Top Awards

WORST GAME GAMING EVENT OF THE YEAR
Everything, Everywhere, is Broken (Especially AAA Games)

CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
Monokuma

BEST STORY
South Park: The Stick of Truth

BEST GRAPHICS
Dreamfall Chapters – Book One: Reborn

BEST AUDIO
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

BEST GAMEPLAY
Neo XYX

SYSTEM OF THE YEAR
PC

GAME OF THE YEAR
Dangan Ronpa 1&2

Diehard GameFAN’s 2014 Tabletop Gaming Awards

BEST BOARD/CARD GAME
The Doom That Came To Atlantic City

BEST GAMING MAGAZINE
White Dwarf

BEST TABLETOP BASED FICTION
The Return of Nagash (Warhammer: The End Times)

BEST ART
Shadows of Esteren: The Monastery of Tuath

BEST OLD SCHOOL RENAISSANCE TITLE
Castles and Crusades: The Book of Familiars

BEST RE-MAKE/RE-RELEASE
Call of Cthulhu: Horror of the Orient Express

BEST NEW GAME
Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game

BEST FREE RELEASE
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules

BEST MINIATURES LINE
Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles

BEST MINIATURES RULEBOOK/SOURCEBOOK
Warhammer: The End Times: Nagash

BEST SUPPLEMENT
The Scerets of Cats (Fate Core System)

BEST SOURCEBOOK
Numenera: The Ninth World Bestiary

BEST ADVENTURE (SOLO)
Scenic Dunnsmouth (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

BEST ADVENTURE (COLLECTION OR CAMPAIGN)
Tales of the Crescent City: Adventures in Jazz-Era New Orleans (Call o0f Cthulhu)

BEST CAMPAIGN SETTING
Warhammer 40,000: Shield of Baal

BEST CORE RULEBOOK
Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook

SYSTEM OF THE YEAR
Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition

Elon Musk Honors Iain M. Banks

SpaceX CEO/CTO Elon Musk has named his company’s drone ship/booster rocket landing pads after two of Iain M. Banks’ Culture starships.

(And you may be entertained by the suggestions for new Culture ship names that a Banks fan has been making on Twitter.)

[Via Tor.com.]

Castles In Spain Crowdfunding Appeal

Sharing the best Spanish genre fiction side by side with English translations is the goal of Castles in Spain/Castillos en el aire, and the entire 10-story anthology can be produced if they raise US$7,200. Most of the funds will go for paying for the translations. The stories have already been selected — details about the authors are on the Indiegogo site.

Mariano Villarreal will edit the anthology. He manages the Literatura Fantástica website and is responsible for the award-winning Terra Nova series. His Ignotus-winning article, “Science Fiction from Spain,” appeared in the October 2014 issue of New York Review of Science Fiction.

Sue Burke leads the translation team. Her translation of the novel Prodigies by Angélica Gorodischer will be published in 2015 by Small Beer Press. She also has been translating the Spanish medieval novel Amadis of Gaul as a blog. (“This book drove Don Quixote mad. What will it do to you?”)

Castles in Spain is projected to appear in December 2015 and, if possible, another two volumes will be published before  the 2016 EuroCon is held in Barcelona.

Alice K. Turner Passes Away

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

By Andrew Porter: I returned from nearly a week away from the computer to find the shocking and horrifying news of Alice Turner’s death. I was stunned by this totally unexpected news — I’d last spoken to Alice earlier — and so, instead of acting immediately, have waited a week after Alice’s death to write about her.

The hardest part of the process of creating each issue of my Science Fiction Chronicle, was doing obituaries for my friends. And here I am, writing about Alice, whom I’d known for more than 40 years. Her many accomplishments over the decades have dimmed in the brilliance of her time as fiction editor at Playboy Magazine in its heyday, when she was able to wield the power of the purse, offering science fiction and fantasy writers a market which paid around a dollar a word, vastly eclipsing all other genre markets. Within the confines of Playboy’s restrictions, she was an absolutely brilliant editor, as the Washington Post obituary describes.

Before her years at Playboy, she was an editor at New York Magazine and at Ballantine Books and then Paperback Editor and later Staff Writer at Publishers Weekly, where I first encountered her while seeking permission to reprint an Arthur C. Clarke interview she’d done. She also contributed material about Cordwainer Smith to my 1975 chapbook Exploring Cordwainer Smith.

I attended parties at her apartment in the West Village, which while on the first floor of a high-rise building also sported a large and airy deck. The decor was dominated by enormous paintings from her childhood in China, while her accent retained a faint Southern drawl which she used to devastating effect. She lived near Gilda’s House, the cancer-support house named for comedienne Gilda Radner, where I was a visitor when we both suffered from — and beat! — cancer.

Below are some of my Alice Turner photos, taken over the decades. They show Alice at her physical peak. She chose to advance in the world using her talent, not her beauty, but in fact she could be breathtakingly lovely, as I was startled to discover in 1966, when she attended a SFWA Banquet on the arm of her old friend Baird Searles, wearing a dress which displayed her cleavage to stunning effect.

I’ll let Michael Dirda, who reviews so brilliantly for the WP, have the last word here. He wrote in an on-line forum —

“Alice K. Turner, the longtime fiction editor for Playboy,  died [January 17th]. She was, I know, a friend to many. I saw her briefly [earlier in January] when I was in New York for the Baker Street Irregulars annual festivities — I usually stay at her apartment when I’m in New York — but she spent most of the time I was there in the hospital with pneumonia. Just before I left, she came home, but a few days later complained again of shortness of breath, and was sent back to the hospital. I’d known her for 35 years, ever since I first encountered her at the American Booksellers Association convention, where she was wearing leather pants and looking incredibly sexy. I soon discovered that Alice had read everything, helped hone the fiction of a lot of young writers, and gave many others their first big paychecks. She herself wrote one splendid book, The History of Hell. I’ll miss her and I’m sure many others will too. She was 75.” — Michael Dirda

Photos copyright © Andrew I. Porter.

Star Wars Figure Auction 1/28

Leia Organa COMPStar Wars fan Craig Stevens has been collecting the action figures from the series since he was a child. He’s noted for posing them in stunning dioramas, including one that arrays hundreds of Storm Trooper figures.

Now he’s decided to auction a selection of his mint-on-card figure collection and hopes the buyers will treasure them as much as he has —

It will be terribly heart wrenching to see my items sold but I am sure that each one will go to a very good home and be protected and cherished by my fellow collectors. With so few mint-on-card figures surviving to the present day in perfect condition, preservation must be a high priority. With Vectis taking care of the auction, I am confident that my collection will be passed to the very best hands.

The two-day auction begins January 28 at 10:30 a.m. (the auction house is in England, so beware of the right time zone.)

A list of available items is here and it all seems a jolly amble down memory lane — figures of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, Lando Kalrissian, Boba Fett (the list goes on) – til you get to the Palitoy Star Wars Death Squad Commander, which sounds like something Draco Malfoy finds in his Christmas stocking.

Joe Franklin, R.I.P.

Joe Franklin and Noel Neill in 2009. Photo courtesy of Bill Dillane.

Joe Franklin and Noel Neill in 2009. Photo courtesy of Bill Dillane.

By James H. Burns: By now, the passing of legendary TV and radio show host, at the age of 88, will have made all the papers. (The New York Times obit is here.)

For over forty years, Joe hosted a television talk show in New York, including becoming a bit of a national series, when WOR-TV became a cable “super station” in the late 1970s. Franklin’s television program came to an end in 1993, but his Saturday overnight radio show on WOR lasted another eleven years, and until recently, he was still contributing show business reports to Bloomberg Radio.

But what should also be noted here is how many science fiction and fantasy writers, and comic book talent, made their talk show debuts on Joe’s program. Because of the simple breadth of the series (there were episodes that could easily feature twenty guests in one hour!), Joe featured a plethora of the noted, and unusual.

And just about any nostalgia and other conventions of the era were welcome to plug themselves on his show.

Long time science fiction fan, and noted historian (and television executive) Chris Steinbrunner had a long involvement with Joe and his program.

In my own personal history, I find it intriguing that on the morning I woke up in the hospital, after being hit by a car in early 1975, one of my new “roommates” found one of my youth’s heroes, Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon, of course), guesting that day, on Franklin’s show.

(A generation of Tri-Staters also got their first glimpses of silent movies, on the original version of the talk show, Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane.)

I guested on the show a bunch of times, and now find it incredibly foolish — in my callow teens! — that I somehow turned down an invitation to co-host the show roughly every few weeks, to be — as Joe liked to call such folk — his “anchorman” for the hour.

But remarkably, we wound up running into each other again on the Broadway scene around 2003, and I discovered one of Joe’s great “secrets”:

Off the air, if he trusted you, Joe was incredibly funny — I mean Carson level funny. For whatever reason, Joe decided to present himself a bit as a “square,” a straight-shooter on TV.

But in “real life,” he was hip, and could be, when the moment was appropriate, just a tiny bit saucy.

More importantly, in all the decades, I’ve never heard a truly bad story about Joe.

And for those gathered here, or at least the bibliophiles:

It’s intriguing to note that Joe was “one of us.” To his last days, Franklin was a collector of show business, and other ephemera. It was not uncommon to see Joe at one of New York’s paper shows, and other festivals, not necessarily as a guest, but as a customer.

(I think, in fact, the last time we actually saw each other, was at the Broadway Flea Market — a fascinating annual street fair, held towards the end of September, in which Manhattan’s 44th Street is entirely closed off between Broadway and 8th Avenue — and we were chatting at a book stall. (And I believe Joe was quite amused, as I was also chatting up an actress!)

I was astonished to realize just a handful of years ago, that Joe could still become excited about meeting an actor. We were talking on the phone about an upcoming “autograph show,” and Joe said, “Jimmy, you’re sure Noel Neill’s going to be there?”

Somehow, Franklin had never met the most famous Lois Lane, and he was thrilled — or so it very much seemed! — at the prospect.

It is amazing the tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands? — of people Joe helped, with appearances on his shows, and elsewise.

And where Joe was especially fortunate:

I believe he always knew how much so many people loved him.

Pournelle Back at LASFS

Jerry Pournelle at January 22 LASFS meeting. Photo by Eylat Poliner.

Jerry Pournelle at January 22 LASFS meeting. Photo by Eylat Poliner.

Jerry Pournelle’s weekly attendance of Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society meetings was interrupted when he suffered a stroke in December. Now he has recovered enough mobility that with the use of a walker he can navigate his way to the clubhouse. Pournelle was back for the first time on January 22.

Karl Lembke, LASFS Chairman of the Board, told readers of the club’s Facebook page, “When he had the stroke he was unable to move his right arm or leg. Last night, he demonstrated he was able to wave both all over the place. He’s getting around with a walker, but wound up not needing help getting from the car into the building.”

San Diego Fan Info Site Revamped

Once you’ve scanned James Hay’s San Diego Fandom Index you’ll believe his hometown must be the center of the science fiction universe.

Since Hay took over editorship of the site he has expanded its coverage, and started posting info about cons, meetings and events occurring farther in the future than before.

And Hay has also revived his California Convention list, plus a separate list Ren Faires and Reenactment Events.

Update 01/25/2015: Corrected California Convention URL per comment.

Cops Bust Fans With Fake Guns
On Their Way To Canadian Anime Convention

Arrest in progress outside G-Anime in Quebec.

Arrest in progress outside G-Anime in Quebec.

I’d worry if people hadn’t called.

Police arrested two men in camo carrying what turned out to be fake guns after citizens reported seeing the suspicious-looking pair – one wearing a mask – outside the Palais des congrès in Gatineau, QC.

One was carrying an air gun and the other a plastic gun when apprehended. They were on their way to G-Anime 2015, a three day anime and manga convention which began today, January 23.

Gatineau police spokesman Pierre Lanthier tutted, “If you want to attend an event like that, don’t walk on the street dressed like that. Even if it’s fake arms, you might be stopped by a police officer and questioned by a police officer.” Or by a police dog — the canine unit assisted with the arrests.

Police released the men after giving them $270 fines.

The G-Anime staff promptly issued this notice:

Due to recent events, we kindly ask all attendees who are wearing military base cosplays and/or carrying firearms replicas or metal weapons to please change into their cosplays on the convention grounds and to wear such items only on the convention grounds (which is the 3rd floor of the Palais des Congrès).

[Thanks to Taral Wayne for the story.]