Stan Lee Takes a Bath

stan-lee-new-superhero-movieMarvel’s Stan Lee has sold his Hollywood Hills West home for $2.8 million, which is $799,000 less than he bought it for in 2006.

And it’s a huge markdown from the original $3.75 million asking price reported in the media just a month ago.

However, the property was being marketed as a “build/develop opportunity” — it wasn’t really expected a buyer would acquire the house to live in, but to tear down and replace with something else.

Lee, 92, paid $3.599 million for the house in 2006, the same year he celebrated 65 years working for Marvel and made his trademark cameo in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Stan-Lees-home-3883a4-900x350-1413998398

Pool area of Stan Lee’s Hollywood Hills West home.

Chicagoans Get First Look at Lucas Museum

lucas-museum-1_600xx2833-1895-1662-0The proposed design for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art looks more like the architect was told to plan the Gort Klaatu Art Museum. All it needs is an exit ramp and a giant statue of Michael Rennie.

The initial reaction in Chicago is far from enthusiastic. Says a report in the Chicago Business Journal:

Crain’s Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz, who normally doesn’t identify as an architecture critic, promptly let it be known he didn’t care for the initial design, which resembles a giant snow-covered undulating mound with a glass spaceship perched above it.

But it appeared the main reason for Hinz’s chiming in was to reveal that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his minions in City Hall also found [architect Ma] Yansong’s first effort at a building design to be lacking….

Hinz aside, even the Chicago Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture writer Blair Kamin seemed to be, at best, lukewarm about what he saw in the first renderings….

Kamin merely called the design “unexpected” and “ambitious.” Which, I suppose, might be described as damning with faint praise.

Whether this or any other design can ever be built at the projected Lakefront location has been called into doubt by the Chicago group Friends of the Parks which has said it will do anything necessary to stop the development, including a possible lawsuit.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Alamagordo Garbage Turns to Gold on eBay

atariDespite all doubt the legend proved true: in the 1980s Atari dumped a bunch of its unsold game cartridges in the Alamagordo, NM landfill, including copies of E.T. the Extraterrestrial, reputed to be the worst video game ever made.

The city authorized a dig earlier this year and recovered hundreds of cartridges, including 100 copies of E.T., and has started selling them online. The first 20 grubby, dirt-smudged copies, worthless when they were new, went for as much as $1,537.

Also on the block were copies of Asteroids, Missile Command, Warlords, Defender, Star Raiders, Swordquest, Phoenix and Centipede. The initial auction yielded $37,000 for the city.

The publicity surrounding the dig prompted a museum in Rome to open the very first Atari dig exhibit. On display are games unearthed from the landfill, a certificate of authenticity and even dirt from the New Mexico dumping ground.

Another 700 of the Atari dig games are being auctioned on eBay, with the money going to the city and the Tularosa Basin Historical Society.

In addition, Atari Game Over, a documentary about the dig, has been released through the X-box.

It’s easy to rag on the dig itself. “Why bother digging up trash? Who even cares if the games are buried there?” But trust me, watch the film and watch Howard Scott Warshaw. This isn’t a story about a trash heap, really. This is a story about a guy whose career was ruined by one stupid mistake of a game, and watching him come to grips with it three decades later.

 

Madhvi Ramani Receives SLF Grants

The Speculative Literature Foundation announced on Facebook that Madhvi Ramani is the winner of the inaugural Diverse Writers Grant and Diverse Worlds Grant. Her successful application included her short story “Zafir, the Saudi Superhero.”

Evidently, both grants were made to the same person.

The Diverse Writer Grant is intended to support new and emerging writers from underrepresented and underprivileged groups, including writers of color, women, queer writers, disabled writers, working-class writers, and those whose marginalized identities may present additional obstacles in the writing and/or publishing process.

The Diverse Worlds Grant is intended for work that best presents a diverse world, regardless of the writer’s background.

Each grant is worth $500.

The application period for the 2015 grant will open May 1.

A Couple of Technologies Ago

Last week’s New York Times obit Carl Schlesinger, 88, Dies; Helped Usher Our Hot Type told about the passing of a former Times typesetter who helped make an award-winning film about the night in 1978 when the paper was produced with hot-metal type for the last time. Reading it prompted Andrew Porter to muse about the rapid technological advances he experienced in his own career:

When I started in publishing, everything was done in hot type. Eventually, the switch was made to cold type. How ironic that when I was working at Cahners Publishing in the late 1960s, we used a cold-type company that workers told me had “strange paintings” on the walls. They were working in the former office of Galaxy Magazine, whose owner had become a printing broker. Everything I learned about printing — quoins, Linotype, Monotype, sheet-fed printing presses, color separations, press impositions, so much more — gradually became obsolete. When I started, it took a tractor-trailer to hold the type and printing plates used in a magazine issue. By the end of the 20th century, an armful of negatives would do the job. And now, even negatives are obsolete.

Trial By Jury

Orange Mike Lowrey and James Nicoll have been selected as jurors for the 2015 Speculative Literature Foundation’s Working Class/Impoverished Writers Grant.

This year’s SLF Working Class grant jury had six members, so expect additional names to be announced.

SLF chooses jurors who are writers/editors /teachers /etc. and capable of judging literary quality in a work. Their duties include reading roughly 75-100 applications (a few pages each, including application writing sample) in about a month’s time prior to awarding the grant.

[Thanks to Mike Lowrey for the story.]

A Century of Tucker

Bob Tucker in 1949.

Bob Tucker in 1949.

On November 23, 1914 newspapers filled their pages with coverage of World War I, neglecting the day’s real headline-maker, the birth of Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker – Arthur? – one of science fiction’s most influential personalities.

“Hugo Gernsback has often been called the Father of Science Fiction,” Robert Bloch wrote In the 1976 Worldcon Program Book, “but I wouldn’t count Tucker out until I see a paternity test.”

Tucker sold 20 novels in his career, writing as Wilson Tucker, while Bob Tucker published a million words of fanwriting, coined famous fannish phrases and pulled some legendary shenanigans.

Bob founded the Society for the Prevention of Wire Staples in Scientifiction Magazines, which started fandom’s staple war, and a led to a hoax that he had died. (There were more of those; Art Rapp in Spacewarp published a calendar with September 8-15 as Tucker Death Hoax Week.) He proposed the Tucker Hotel, designed to move from one con to the next. “Save your roller skates,” he wrote. People started mailing him bricks.

His first fanzine was The Planetoid (1932); the most celebrated, Le Zombie; first appearance of his pseudonym Hoy Ping Pong, The Fantasy Fan (1933). Quite a few of Tucker’s fanzines can be accessed online. For example, 46 of the 67 paper issues of Le Zombie, and the five issues of e-Zombie are at the Midamericon site.

At the same time he was publishing those fanzines, he was writing stories – and collecting rejection slips. He finally broke through with “Interstellar Way-Station,” purchased by Frederik Pohl for Super Science Stories and published in May 1941.

However, his first published novel was a mystery, The Chinese Doll (1946). He later said “Tony Boucher paid me the highest compliment of my writing career; he wished he had written it.”

His first science fiction novel was City in the Sea. He published over 60 short stories and novels. The Lincoln Hunters was the first Tucker novel I read and remains my favorite. The Hugo-nominated Year of the Quiet Sun (1970) is his best-known work. (It lost to Ringworld.) He also sold one story that has yet to be published — “Dick and Jane go to Mars” – to Last Dangerous Visions.

Among Tucker’s legion of friends, two were constantly linked to his antics. Robert Bloch and Tucker regularly played off each other in humorous fanzine pieces. And Tucker and Rusty Hevelin were great friends who did their act at conventions. Tucker enjoyed introducing Rusty as his “Dad”, winking at the fact he’d been born in 1914 and Hevelin in 1922. Tucker would also say, “Some people wonder out loud why dad’s surname is not the same as mine. It’s a simple answer. He didn’t marry my mother.”

And the night Tucker was a victim of the events which produced the catchphrase “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here,” missing Al Capp’s speech in the process, Hevelin was the one who kept Tucker from stalking out of the 1956 Worldcon.

Lee Hoffman, Bob Tucker, with Lee Jacobs at rear, at NYCon 3, the 1967 Worldcon. Photo by and © Andrew Porter

Lee Hoffman, Bob Tucker, with Lee Jacobs at rear, at NYCon 3, the 1967 Worldcon. Photo by and © Andrew Porter

Tucker’s father was a circus man, with Ringling Bros. and with Barnum & Bailey. However, Bob lived in an orphanage from the age of 11 to 16, then ran away and rode boxcars for a few weeks til police picked him up and sent him back to his father in Bloomington, Illinois.

Bob made his living as a motion-picture projectionist and a stage electrician. Visiting Los Angeles for the 1946 World Science Fiction Convention, he dropped by the union hall to ask if there was work, and spent six months at 20th Century Fox.

He served as President of Local 193 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE), and retired as a projectionist in 1972.

Bob met Fern Brooks while working at the Castle Theater. She was 19 and worked for State Farm during the day and cashiered at the Castle in the evening. He filled in two weeks for each of the four projectionists, so he worked eight weeks at the Castle that summer. They were married in 1953. Both passed away in 2006, Bob a few months after Fern.

Tucker is responsible for two additions to the science fiction lexicon. He coined the term “space opera” in a 1941 issue of Le Zombie:

Westerns are called ‘horse operas,’ the morning house wife tear-jerkers are called ‘soap operas.’ For the hacky, grinding, outworn space-ship yarn, or world-saving for that  matter, we offer ‘space opera.’

Then, his sly habit of sneaking friends’ names into his sf stories gave rise to the term “Tuckerization,” the practice of giving a real person’s name to a character, place or artifact in a story.

He was also synonymous with a room party drinking tradition. The comedian Red Skelton, in a mock television advertisement, promoted a fictitious brand of gin. He said it was smooth. Tucker drank Jim Beam bourbon. That was smooth. He got rooms full of fans passing the Beam and paying it homage. On his way to Melbourne for the 1975 Worldcon he got a whole airplane going “Smooooth.”

Mike Glicksohn claimed to have goosed Tucker when Bob hesitated to get on the plane to Australia. Later, the reluctant passenger learned to love flying.

“Those of us that had known Bob for any length of time knew the story of how Bob had to be ‘convinced’ to board the airliner to travel to Australia for the World Science Fiction Convention,” recalls Roger Tener. “After that experience Bob took to the air like a natural.  My very first passenger after getting my pilot’s license was Bob Tucker. We went flying one December night over the Wichita. My only problem was that Bob kept trying to roll the window down so he could bang his hand on the side of the airplane and whistle at the girls. This was a little tough because the window didn’t roll down and we were several thousand feet off the ground.”

Tucker, a presenter at the 1982 Hugos, also was goosed by emcee Marta Randall when he left the stage, perhaps the funniest moment of the night. They would return for the 1991 Hugos: when Tucker finished presenting and started to leave the stage he covered his butt with both hands. Marta came over, gave him a big hug, and winked to the audience, “Now I know why he was kicked out of the Garden of Eden.”

Jack Speer and Bob Tucker at Ditto 14 in 2001. Photo by Keith Stokes.

Jack Speer and Bob Tucker at Ditto 14 in 2001. Photo by Keith Stokes.

Fans loved Tucker’s bawdy wit and friendliness and made him the toastmaster of countless local and regional conventions. His writing, both fan and pro, won him many awards and accolades.

He won the Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1970, and won two Retro Hugos, in 2004 as Best Fan Writer of 1953, and in 2001 as editor of the Best Fanzine of 1951, Science Fiction Newsletter. He was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1948 and 1967 Worldcons. He was given the Big Heart Award in 1962.

In 1996, Wilson Tucker was the second person honored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as Author Emeritus. In 2003 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

So today we mark the hundredth anniversary of Tucker’s arrival on Earth, a place so many sf stories dream of leaving for high adventures. More than most, he made it fun to share that dream.

[Acknowledgment and thanks to John Hertz and Keith Stokes whose articles about Tucker for File 770 provided information and insight for this post.]

When Secret Masters Blab, Everybody Listens

In preparation for this year’s Smofcon32, happening in Manhattan Beach, CA the first weekend of December, convention bid committees have been invited to participate in the Fannish Inquisition.

The first stage is answering a survey of commonly-asked questions — about dates, facilities, policies, etc. These committees have submitted responses, which are posted on the Smofcon 32 website.

Seated Worldcons

2015
Sasquan 2015 FAQ
Sasquan 2015 the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention August 19-23, 2015 Spokane, Washington, USA\

2016
MidAmeriCon II FAQ
MidAmeriCon II the 74th World Science Fiction Convention August 17-21, 2016 Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Worldcon Bids

2017

Nippon in 2017 Bid FAQ
Montreal in 2017 Bid FAQ
Helsinki in 2017 Bid FAQ
Washington DC in 2017 Bid FAQ

2018
New Orleans in 2018 is still in pre-bid status
San Jose in 2018 FAQ

2019
Dublin in 2019 FAQ

2020
New Zealand in 2020 FAQ
Boston in 2020 Christmas Worldcon Bid FAQ

2021
Dallas/Fort Worth in 2021 FAQ

2022
Chicago in 2022 FAQ

NASFiC Bids

2017 or 2020
San Diego NASFiC Bid FAQ

Smofcon Bids

2015
Colorado Springs 2015 Smofcon Bid FAQ
Fort Worth 2015 Smofcon Bid FAQ

2016
Chicago 2016 Smofcon Bid FAQ

Update 11/24/2014: Added link to Montreal worldcon bid FAQ, which came in later.

Terraform Online SF Magazine Launches

Terraform, Vice Media Group’s standalone literary platform dedicated to original science fiction, launched November 2014 with contributions from Cory Doctorow and Bruce Sterling.

Terraform will operate as a part of Motherboard, Vice’s online science and technology magazine and video channel. Motherboard editor Brian Merchant, and musician and Motherboard futures editor Claire L. Evans will head up the publication.

The first stories to be released are Doctorow’s “Huxleyed Into the Full Orwell”, Sterling’s “The Brain Dump”, Claire Evans’ “The Overview Effect” and Adam Rothstein’s “Targeted Strike 2: Judgment Database.”

[Thanks to Paul Di Filippo for the story.]