Mohanraj Wins Seat As Library Trustee

Mary Anne Mohanraj has been elected a Library Trustee for The Village of Oak Park, IL. When voters went to the polls on April 4th four seats were open, and she received the second-highest number of votes out of the 10 candidates for the board.

Author, academic, journal editor, and founder and director of the Speculative Literature Foundation, Mohanraj responded to Trump’s election by becoming more active in local politics. She attended an Oak Park Progressive Women meeting and was approached about running for office, eventually deciding to enter the Library Trustee race.

Here is video of a candidates’ forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on March 14. Mohanraj first speaks at 6:15.

Eric Lindsay Reported Safe After Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Longtime fanzine fan Eric Lindsay lives in one of the buildings most damaged by Tropical Cyclone Debbie when it struck Airlie Beach in Queensland, Australia last week. The Category 4 storm reached peak gusts of 163 mph just offshore.

After Eric regained internet access, he sent an update to let his friends know he’s still in one piece.

Please pass this along to any fans you can.

The reason no one has heard from me is that I was in Airlie Beach when Tropical Cyclone Debbie struck. Went through the whole eye of the cyclone event in my apartment at the Whitsunday Terraces. Luckily Jean [Weber] was 270 kilometres further north.

Optus Mobile was lost on Monday, the evening before the cyclone. Electricity went out at 10:18 p.m. the evening before the cyclone. That took out landline internet via WiFi. Water went out on Wednesday, the day after the cyclone, because there was no electric pumping available for the water feed system.

Ergon Energy are saying today they hope to have electricity back by 13 April. Meanwhile a lot of big portable generators have appeared around town. For example, at sewerage pumping sub-sites.

The road up North from Townsville down to here is open again, but basically only for emergency vehicles and supplies. The road to the South of the state is cut multiple places.

Woolworths at Airlie Beach had at least 5 big truck loads in the day before the cyclone. On Thursday two trucks (out of an original convoy of four) made it through town with supplies for Hamilton Island. Friday at least five trucks brought supplies to Woolworths, which had installed a big generator. They opened on Friday, only place in town to open. The larger Coles and Woolworths at Cannonvale both had roof damage that took out their electrical systems. They both had generators, but could not use them.

As well as slabs of bottled water, I had about 50 litres of water in buckets. Refilled one bucket overnight in the rain the Wednesday after TC Debbie.

Luckily the sewerage system survived. Just had to walk down seven flights of stairs to get a bucket of water from the swimming pool to refill the cisterns for flushing. That got real tiring real quick. While I could, I used water I mopped up in my apartment (about 2 cm of water on the floor) for the cisterns.

Despite water pipes being badly exposed in the rainstorm on Wednesday, the pipes feeding here did not break. Wednesday Airlie Beach basically flooded to about 1 metre in the low areas on the Main Street. That flood probably did as much damage to some places, like the Chemist shop, as the cyclone. We got water back technically Friday evening, and with more than a dribble by Saturday evening. I plan to start a decent inside cleanup today, Sunday, now I have water.

The Whitsunday Terraces on-site rental managers Katie and Tony have been running a BBQ morning, noon and evening, for guests and residents. Lots of shop staff rent apartments here, so we had frozen food donations from the Anchor Bar and Restaurant on site, Subway, Whitey at the Master Butchers, and many other places. I have never eaten so much BBQ meat. Tony managed to buy a small generator on Friday, so the big fridge in Reception is working.

Hamilton Island airport got back into operation around Friday. Empty flights have been coming it to evacuate the 3000 guests. Ferries are shuttling people there from other islands as evacuations continue.

Lots of military helicopters have been dropping in, and there is now a large Navy vessel offshore. Military have been supplying water to people who bring containers.

Whitsunday Terraces Resort where I live is said to be the worst hit building, by the roofing specialist I helped show around late yesterday. He is returning today with tarps, if he can buy some locally. Otherwise his supplies arrive Monday.

As for me, I am pretty comfortable here in the tropics. I have folding solar panels and power banks for charging my mobile phone and iPads. When it is sunny I get plenty for that. I also have USB desk lamps that run off power banks. I have a couple of large battery camping fans that recharge from 12 volts. I have some big folding solar panels that will charge them.

On Saturday I managed to get a large folding solar panel, GEL battery and inverter all together. Had half an afternoon of traditional internet connection via WiFi, until the sun was gone. I will bring that system up again today.

I am in 63. Here is a photograph of next door at 64:

Here is a photo of 60, at the parking level:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter and Rich Lynch for the story.]

Ruined, Ruined by Mike Resnick’s Columns

By Carl Slaughter: Every issue of Asimov’s, I try to read Sheila Williams’ or Robert Silverberg’s column.  Every issue of Galaxy’s Edge, I try to read Barry Malzberg’s column.  I can’t do it.  Same for any other columnist, no matter what the topic.  Not since discovering Mike Resnick’s columns.

Mike doesn’t ponder and wonder, he doesn’t extrapolate and pontificate, he regales with tales.  His columns are as insightful as they are delightful.  And since he’s a walking encyclopedia of speculative fiction, he never runs out of material.  Having sampled enough of Mike’s columns, I can’t get past 4 paragraphs of anyone else’s column without my eyes glazing over.  I am ruined, ruined.

I have warned Mike more than once that if he ever tries to give up writing columns, he might as well give up the convention circuit too. Because at every convention, his fans would chain him to a computer until he wrote at least one more column. Those of you who have not indulged, you need to go ahead and get yourself addicted.

Ackerman, Bradbury & Harryhausen at Bookfellows in 2008

Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury and Forry Ackerman at the Three Legends event in 2008.

Those were the days, my friends. Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury and Forrest J Ackerman made a joint appearance at Bookfellows in Glendale in 2008. Not only are they all gone now, but so is the bookstore. Fortunately, the video lingers on!

Oh Captain, My Captain – Jim Kirk, Flash Gordon, Buzz Corey

By Steve Vertlieb: William Shatner, the iconic actor who first sailed the Star Ship Enterprise through three intergalactic seasons on NBC Television beginning September 8th, 1966, and starred in six Star Trek feature-length motion pictures, turned eighty-six years young recently. He was the valiant inspiration for millions of young boys and men for decades of thrilling cinematic heroism. I conducted, perhaps, the very first “fan” interview with William Shatner ever published during July, 1969, whilst the series was still being aired over NBC in its final re-runs, for the British magazine, L’Incroyable Cinema. He was both delightfully witty, and warm, sharing a memorable hour of his valuable time with us. Here are Erwin and I together with Captain James Tiberius Kirk outside his dressing room at The Playhouse In The Park where he was starring in a local Philadelphia Summer Stock production of “There’s A Girl In My Soup,” with Exodus star Jill Hayworth.

Together with boyhood hero and cherished friend, Buster Crabbe, here in Philadelphia in 1979. On this particular occasion, Buster and I had dinner together in “Chinatown.” Although Jack Nicholson was nowhere to be found, Buster playfully emptied the remains of some his dinner into my plate, insisting that I “Eat, Eat, Eat.” My Jewish mother would have been proud. Buster, along with Ed Kemmer and William Boyd, was among my earliest childhood heroes. Buster and I were good friends over the last two decades of his life, and I remain honored to think of myself as one of Flash Gordon’s pals. Knowing him personally was a thrill beyond imagining. My affectionate remembrance of Larry “Buster” Crabbe, and “Fantastic” children’s television during the 1950’s, has been nominated as “Best Blog of the Year” under the heading of Better Days, Benner Nights in the annual Rondo Awards.

Steve Vertlieb and Buster Crabbe.

Together with one of my earliest boyhood heroes and role models, Ed Kemmer, who starred as Commander Buzz Corey of the “Space Patrol”, broadcast every Saturday morning on ABC Television in the mid 1950’s. He also co-starred with William Shatner in “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet,” the original classic episode of The Twilight Zone written by Richard Matheson. Shatner’s own Star Trek series was heavily influenced by Ed’s Space Patrol, as well as MGM’s Forbidden Planet. After this initial meeting, Ed and I remained friends through correspondence until his passing. He loved Sinatra, and so I’d periodically record tapes of Francis Albert for him, and send them to his apartment in New York. Ed remained conspicuously among the few stars refusing to accept compensation for posing for pictures or signing autographs. He felt that charging money for his image would be a betrayal of the millions of children who made him so popular during the nineteen fifties. He was not only a tv hero, but a real hero, as well. During the second world war, Ed was a pilot who had been shot down behind enemy lines and imprisoned as a POW. He was quite a remarkable human being, both on screen and off.

Steve Vertlieb with Ed Kemmer, who played Cmdr. Buzz Corey in Space Patrol.

New Stage Play Focuses on Murderer Gerhartsreiter

Christian Gerhartsreiter, who used many assumed names – the most notorious being “Clark Rockefeller” — is the subject of the new play “True Crimes” that will be performed in Toronto at Crow’s Theatre from April. 4-15.

Rockefeller was a self-aggrandizing liar who ended up being prosecuted for kidnapping his own daughter. But before that Gerhartsreiter was living in LA County under the name of Chichester and just a few years ago, after a long investigation, he was convicted of the 1985 murder of sf fan and LASFS member John Sohus. He also is suspected in the disappearance of Sohus’ wife, Linda, another LASFSian.

When someone is a successful criminal, the “successful” part inevitably outweighs the “criminal” part. There’s a long tradition of romanticizing criminals – think of all those shows about the Mafia. Woven between the crimes is a thread of populism and approval for getting over on The Man.

I never expected to have the experience of seeing this fictional polish applied to somebody who killed people I’d met. It makes me sick. When people write that something makes them feel sick, I always believe them, whether or not I have the same visceral reaction. I’ll understand if you don’t feel the same, but I assure you when I say it here, I mean it literally.

There were so many absurd pretensions and highly embroidered lies involved in the “Clark Rockefeller” part of the story they can upstage the darker part of his story. Even journalist Frank Girardot, who followed Gerhartsreiter’s LA prosecution for years and wrote a book about him, said on File 770 in 2013 right after the murder conviction was announced, “It’s a tragic story that would be a comedy if it wasn’t for the deaths of John and Linda.”

The trailer emphasizes that he was a con man – which he was, but fictionalized con men are usually thieves or impostors pretending to a title or expertise they don’t really have, not kidnappers and violent murderers. Think of movies like The Great Impostor with Tony Curtis, or Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo Di Caprio – two of Hollywood’s most attractive actors. I feel doubtful about the direction this play will be taking.

True Crime trailer:

[Thanks to Murray Moore for the story.]

Anonymous Group Challenges Statistical Validity of Fireside Report

In a report dropped just after the close of the Hugo nomination deadline last night, the timing chosen purposefully (I’m told by a source) though the reasons are not obvious, “a group of writers and editors” has challenged the statistical basis of the Fireside Report which said last July,” We don’t need the numbers to know that racism is a problem in our field. But we have them.”

Published at Medium under the pseudonym “Lev Bronstein” (Leon Trotsky’s real name), “Bias in Speculative Fiction” counters the Fireside Report by applying additional statistical study methods to the data, or enlarging the field from which relevant data can be drawn.

Fireside Fiction’s July 2016 report “Antiblack Racism in Speculative Fiction” [FR] purports to have found pervasive racism in speculative fiction publishing. With 38 out of 2,039 (1.9%) published works authored by black-identifying authors, there is unquestionable underrepresentation. FR ascribes this disparity to widespread anti-black editorial bias. We share Fireside’s concerns about underrepresentation and commend its authors for raising awareness. At the same time we find the report to be fraught with error.

The article’s many examples include:

The misuse of the binomial distribution in FR is a significant cause for concern. Under the binomial distribution, we treat each publication as an independent random event with some fixed probability of occurrence. FR assumes that each submitted submission should have a 13.2% chance of black authorship. The probability of observing their data subject to this assumption is 3.207×10^–76. They provide no rationale for using population rather than occupational rates. Suppose instead that science fiction slush is submitted from a pool of professional writers uniformly at random. Under these assumptions we assume that there’s a a 4% probability that a story is written by a black author. The data becomes 68 orders of magnitude more likely. Still unlikely, yes, but this demonstrate the impact of our assumptions.

The article can be presumed to serve as a defense of editors in the speculative fiction field. It argues there is bias, but that it is exerted in the culture in ways not directly related to the fate of slushpile manuscripts, such as in the educational system where PoC may or may not take degrees in literature, and other things that discourage black people from becoming authors at all.

The authors of the article defended their choice to remain anonymous in these terms —

Who are you?

We’re a group of writers and editors. We have chosen to publish under a collective pseudonym. Our identities would only serve as a distraction.

It’s puzzling why a group that agrees in their preamble that “There is a race problem in speculative fiction and we need to make an effort to understand its causes” is unwilling to engage under their own names, essentially reducing this to a drive-by correction of somebody else’s homework.

Justina Ireland, an executive editor at FIYAH magazine, has responded at length on Twitter. Here are several of her tweets:

Another comment:

Brandon O’Brien, a poet and writer in Trinidad and Tobago, also has made some observations:

O’Brien has many other comments, though one in particular about “nebulous maths” begs the question:

Bear in mind this quote from the Fireside Report —

To adjust for the methodological flaws, as well as the fact that we don’t have access to submission-rate data concerning race and ethnicity either overall or by individual magazine, we used binomial distributions. The purpose of this was to find the probability that such numbers could be random?—?the chances that numbers like that could exist without biases in play (which could extend to biases that are literary in nature, such as story structure), systemic problems, and/or structural gaps. In the first binomial distribution we ran the data assuming that submission rates of black authors are equal to the proportion of the black population in the United States, which was 13.2% in 2015 (according to Census projections).

The Fireside Report picked U.S. population statistics as the battleground, treated them as a valid tool for analyzing racism, and made arguments based on their own analysis of them. It’s not fair in that context to say the Fireside Report is above criticism because there are PoC writing SFF throughout the world, or that we all know racism is a problem in the publishing industry (as it is elsewhere).

Troy L. Wiggins, the other FIYAH executive editor, questioned the motive behind the new article:

Update: Hours later the authors of the article took it down and left in place the statement, “We’ve been receiving threats. Forget we were ever here.”  

For as long as it lasts, the original post can be read in the Google cache file.

March Is Ray Bradbury Month

The South Pasadena Public Library and the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library remind everyone that throughout the month of March they are presenting a “One Book, One City” Project focusing on Ray Bradbury’s enduring masterpiece Fahrenheit 451.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was born in Waukegan, Illinois to a family that moved to LA in 1934 in a jalopy. In 1947 Ray started publishing his stories and his second book The Martian Chronicles gained a following among Science Fiction readers. In the early 50s, he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in UCLA”S Lawrence Clark Powell Library, named after the South Pasadena native. The book came out to rapturous reviews, became a classic, and still sells more than 50,000 copies per year. Bradbury went on to write more than 50 acclaimed books and 200 short stories. In Ray’s later years he visited South Pasadena many times for events at both the Fremont Centre Theatre and South Pasadena Public Library.

Community-wide Reading Programs create opportunities for readers to enjoyably explore a great work of literature together.

  • Presentation of  Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” Play, March 16 at 7 pm in the Library Community Room* with the  Pandemonium Theatre Company.
  • Reading and Discussion of “Fahrenheit 451” Book, March 20 at 7 pm in the Library Ray Bradbury Conference Room** with renowned Actor and Author Duffy Hudson.
  • Performance by acclaimed Actor Bill Oberst, March 24  at 7 pm  in Library Community Room* of Ray Bradbury’s “Pillar of Fire”, a precursor to “Fahrenheit 451”.
  • Screening of  classic  1966 “Fahrenheit 451” motion picture, March 30 at 7 p.m. in Library Community Room*. Directed by  Francois Truffaut and starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner.

Many copies of the “Fahrenheit 451” book, as well as many other books and other materials by and about Ray Bradbury, are available for checkout at the South Pasadena Public Library.

(*) Library Community Room– 1115 El Centro Street
(**) South Pasadena Public Library (including Ray Bradbury Conference Room — 1100 Oxley Street

Come to the South Pasadena Fire Station for the Fahrenheit 451 Reading Project on March 2

The “One Book-One City” Reading Project of the South Pasadena Public Library and the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library will focus on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

On Thursday, March 2 at  5:00 p.m., the Kickoff for the Reading Project will take place at the South Pasadena Fire Station. It will present Micah the Magician from the World Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. Special guests will also offer some Ray Bradbury reminiscences.

Micah will be performing a magic show for all ages in honor of Bradbury who wanted to be a magician while growing up – before he decided on a writing career. It will be presented at the Fire Station because firemen play central roles in the Fahrenheit 451 plot.

Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rental typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s Lawrence Clark Powell Library, where he had taken refuge from a small house filled with the distractions of two young children. Ballantine editor Stanley Kauffman, later the longtime film critic for The New Republic magazine, flew out to Los Angeles to go over the manuscript with Bradbury, plying the sweet-toothed perfectionist author with copious doses of ice cream. The book came out to glorious reviews. To this day it sells at least 50,000 copies a year and has become a touchstone around the world for readers and writers living under repressive regimes.

Lissa Reynolds of the Fremont Center Theater helps Ray Bradbury read his 90th birthday card.

Ray Bradbury’s plays were performed at South Pasadena’s Fremont Centre Theatre for many years by his own Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theatre Company. He also appeared for two Author Nights for the South Pasadena Public Library, including for his 90th Birthday Celebration which attracted hundreds to the Library Community Room and Library Park. At that event, he exhorted his fans to “Do what you love and love what you do!” Ray had done just that, until his death at age 91.

The South Pasadena Fire Station is located at 817 Mound Avenue. Doors will open at 4:30 p.m.

A Chance To Help Ted White

Ted White at the 2004 Corflu

Ted White needs help to stay in his Falls Church home and keep the tax man off his back. He has started a GoFundMe to “Save My House”.

Ted, now 79, has a deep resume in the sf field. He is a writer with a dozen books published, former editor of Amazing and Fantastic, a past Worldcon chairman, winner of the Best Fan Writer Hugo, and the 1985 Worldcon fan guest of honor.

Since 1970 I’ve lived in the house in Falls Church, Virginia, in which I grew up.  It was built by my parents in 1935 and expanded in 1946.  I did extensive remodeling in the ’70s.

The problem is property taxes.  They keep going up, and are currently around $12,000 a year (with the threat of a 3% increase).  I have paid them out of my dwindling savings, and my savings are now gone.  I cannot pay the current (half-annual) bill of $6,048.89, which was due last December.

At my age, opportunities for employment are limited.  Currently I work one day a week as the copyeditor of my local weekly newspaper.

I fear becoming homeless.  Losing my house is a certainty unless I can keep the property taxes paid, and do the necessary upkeep on the house (it needs painting and a new roof, at a minimum).  With the exception of 12 years in New York City, I’ve lived in this house all my life.  All my memories (and all my possessions) are here.  Losing my house would be devastating.

 [Thanks to JJ, Cathy, Glenn Glazer, and Danny Sichel for the story.]