Eileen Gunn in Smithsonian Magazine

Eileen Gunn, past Nebula winner and Hugo nominee, and author of the short story collection Questionable Practices, appears in the May issue of Smithsonian Magazine. Her article “How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future” explains that science fiction isn’t meant to predict the future — although sf ideas that fire inventors’ imaginations often have become reality.

The piece quotes Cory Doctorow, William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ted Chiang, Neal Stephenson. Samuel R. Delany, Sophia Brueckner and Jordin Kare.

Jordin Kare, an astrophysicist at the Seattle-based tech company LaserMotive, who has done important practical and theoretical work on lasers, space elevators and light-sail propulsion, cheerfully acknowledges the effect science fiction has had on his life and career. “I went into astrophysics because I was interested in the large-scale functions of the universe,” he says, “but I went to MIT because the hero of Robert Heinlein’s novel Have Spacesuit, Will Travel went to MIT.” Kare himself is very active in science fiction fandom. “Some of the people who are doing the most exploratory thinking in science have a connection to the science-fiction world.”

[Via Ansible Links.]

2014 Compton Crook Winner

Charles Gannon’s Fire With Fire (Baen) has been named the winner of the 2014 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award.

At Balticon 48, May 23-26, Gannon will receive a $1,000 check and an award plaque.

The Compton Crook Award is given by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society to the best first novel by an individual (no collaborations) published each year in the field of Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror. Selection is made by vote of the BSFS membership.

The Award is named for science fiction author Compton Crook (d. 1981), who wrote under the nom de plume Stephen Tall. The award has been given since 1983. For more information check the BSFS website.

New Apex Magazine Submission Guidelines

Apex Magazine has modified its submission guidelines, hiking the word limit for short fiction, increasing the pay rate, and setting new rules for poetry submissions.

The limit on short fiction submissions, formerly 5,000 words, is now 7,500 words. The press release explains this will “[give] our authors more room to tell their tales and bring our readers some longer pieces of fiction.”

Apex Magazine will begin paying 6 cents a word for all original short fiction on July 1, complying with SFWA’s latest rate requirements to continue being considered a professional market.

Finally, the magazine has set a 200 line limit on all poetry submissions. All poetry must be original and unpublished.

The Apex Magazine submission guidelines may be read in their entirety here.

The Quiet Man

After two days of cannons to the left and cannons to the right volleying and thundering about the presence of Larry Correia and Vox Day on the Hugo ballot, if you were asked to list the writers who have not taken sides how likely is it that you’d write down the name of the left’s most contentious paladin, Harlan Ellison?

Of course you wouldn’t – Harlan once devoted a Sci-Fi Buzz commentary to roasting Gardner Dozois for allegedly using the internet to ask Hugo voters to nominate Asimov’s stories. Why would he hold back against these two guys?

But he has. Harlan has become a bit more strategic, declining to let his friends and colleagues rope him into a fight with people whose names he didn’t even know til now.

Instead, Ellison said on his forum

I dunno. I report what is conveyed to me. It ain’t my fight, and if wannabes and the entrenched desire to unfurl banners and lob chain-link cannonballs at one another…heh heh heh…I’m a SFWA Grand Master with 4 Writers Guild Best awards, 102 books, 81/2 Hugos, 5 Nebulas, 2 Edgars and more junk metal and Lucite awards than you could cram into ten cells of a psycho ward…(have you noticed, even at age buttin’up’to 80, I don’t do humility very well)…if there’s a fight, and Big Writers think “Vox Day” is not playing fair, this is a reasoned, smart, informed and rational podium, this site, and I urge strongarm demand cozen and inveigle one and all, including the eye of the storm him/or/herself (hashtag-pseudonyms are such bullshit) to avail themselves of this forum.

While I don’t know what Vox Day has to gain by posting comments there, Harlan has distinguished himself from the pack by extending the invitation.

Update 04/22/2014: Day has written to Ellison about the controvery – http://www.harlanellison.com/heboard/unca.php (see April 22 — Ellison’s forum keeps scrolling, and does not provide links to specific comments.)

Johnny Skyrocket, The Golden Vampire and The Jet Craft Mystery Jet

By James H. Burns: There were all kinds of pioneers of public interest in the space program, once upon a time. If one turned out not to be quite all he seemed to be, it’s still fascinating to think how many young minds he might have influenced, or gotten interested in our future among the planets.

The other day, I was looking through a short book by the late Hank Stohl, on the history of children’s TV shows in Pittsburgh, When We Were Kids.

Stohl was a local television host in the area, in the 1950s and 1960s. I encountered him later in the ’60s, when Stohl’s daily kids show was brought to New York for a while, on WPIX. (I am fairly certain he was accompanied by his sidekicks Knish, Rodney Nugent Buster Hackenflash III, and Connie–puppets, of course!)

The book is barely a brief photo album, but one picture particularly caught my eye: Stohl standing in front of a large rocket ship, situated sidewise, aloft on supports on a trailer bed, emblazoned with, “Hank Stohl and Johnny Skyrocket…  National History of Flight… Pittsburgh Airbase…  July 4, 5, 6…”

Kids-TV history, particularly from my era, is an interest of mine. When I Googled “Johnny Skyrocket,” it was intriguing to discover, thanks to an harticle by Dave O’Malley at the Vintage Wings of Canada website that “Johnny” was something of a regular for years at certain air shows in MANY states, making countless appearances on local television.

“He would wear a cape and a golden flying helmet with dazzle dust, and he had a big golden J on the chest of a blue uniform. And he had a mask.”

(At other times, apparently, “He wore a blue satin flight suit and silver helmet and boots.”)

Ultimately, this linked article is more about a small element of the mid-way point of aviation history (including Skyrocket’s evident fascination with the de Havilland jet), but there’s no telling now, half-a-century later, how many people saw this “man of the future” act, and, possibly, were stirred…

De Havilland DH-100 Vampire jet.

De Havilland DH-100 Vampire jet.