Brianna Wu Running for Congress

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Brianna Wu has gone public on Facebook with her hope of running for Congress in 2018.

Along with Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn, Wu is frequently cited by the media as one of the targets of GamerGate supporters’ harassment of women in the gaming industry.

She told an interviewer from Venture Beat:

“The reason I decided to run is simple: [President-elect Donald] Trump is terrifyingly now in the White House. I can’t sit by making pleasant video game distractions for the next four years while the constitution is under assault. Hillary [Clinton] ran a brave marathon, and now it’s time for women of my generation to pick up that baton and commit to public service.”

“The other reason I’m running is because I’m ready for a bolder Democratic Party. I didn’t personally support Sanders in the primary, but he tapped into a very powerful disconnect between our party’s leadership and our base. We want leaders that will fight for us, and all too often the Democrats don’t stand up to the fringe extreme of the Republican Party. I’ve been called a lot of names over my career, but I’ve never been told I’m scared of a fight. You know just how passionate I am about women in tech. But I believe we’ve hit an asymptote with what activism in tech can accomplish. People are aware of the problem, but all that’s getting done is window dressing. We don’t need more catered women in tech lunches, we don’t need speeches – we need structural bias against us to stop. And I think women in tech serving in the legislative branch is the next step forward.”

Wu says she has her eye on the 8th Massachusetts Congressional district, currently served by Democratic incumbent Stephen Lynch, just re-elected to his ninth term with 74% of the vote. He’s regarded as a moderate Democrat, but says to those trying to categorize him, “Calling me the least liberal member from Massachusetts is like calling me the slowest Kenyan in the Boston Marathon. It’s all relative.”

Less than 5% of the district’s eligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 Democratic primary (29,352). Wu says she feels she is capable of getting the necessary 10,000-15,000 votes needed to knock out the incumbent.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #3

nobel_prizeAn Incredibly Modest Set of Proposals to the Royal Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize for Literature

By Chris M. Barkley:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a_Changin’, January 1964.

On October 13, Bob Dylan was announced as the 113th recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Mount Everest of literary achievement. Surprised? Dylan’s accomplishment, in the official announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy was “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

The announcement itself was an anomaly for another reason; it was made a week after all of the other Nobel laureates were announced. I’m just causally speculating here, but it could have taken that long for the members of the Royal Academy to convince Dylan that this wasn’t an elaborate prank set up by his ex-Traveling Wilbury band mate, Jeff Lynne. And I admit that while I was mildly surprised but not overly shocked by his selection. Dylan had been rumored to be a nominee in some circles for several years now.

Although there has been some harsh criticism of Dylan’s selection by literary elites in America, I think that there can be no doubt that he deserves the recognition as one of America’s greatest and most influential songwriters. And as poetry, his songs have few equals in this modern era.

This year, it is also notable because Dylan is the first American to win the honor since Toni Morrison in 1993. Like a lot of other readers and writers around the world, we feel badly for those of us who are big fans of the works American mainstream authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Louise Erdrich and Don DiLillo.

The Swedish Academy, which administers the Literature Prize honors, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. And I must congratulate the current secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, for leading the committing to make a bold, innovative choice of Bob Dylan for this year’s Literature Prize. But I am hoping for much, much, more with the Academy’s future recipients.

Consider this; some of the finest writers of mainstream fiction who have ever walked this planet, Virginia Woolf, Jorge Luis Borges, Anton Chekov, Willa Cather, Leo Tolstoy, Zora Neale Hurston, Vladimir Nabokov, Isak Dinesen, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., C.S. Lewis and Graham Greene among others, have never won the honor. It is well-known that previous Nobel Committees have not only been notoriously political and divisive over the decades, they, just as literary critics around the world, have been scornful and dismissive of anything outside of mainstream literature.

The question must be asked: would it be better for the Royal Academy, and as a consequence, for the world of literature as well, to vastly broaden the scope of nominees with the inclusion of other so-called “genre authors” as well?

The very definition of the noun literature is, “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” Surely writers of humor, children’s, mystery and thrillers, feminist, romance, fantasy, sf and horror, have produced such works over the past century.  But, as anyone who has done any research in this area, the selection process shows that there has been a deliberate shunning of other forms of literature.

Voting for the Nobel Prizes has been opaque since the very beginnings of the awards. All of the deliberations are done only by the members of the Nobel branches. Past nominees cannot be named until 50 years after the awards were given.

Of all of the recipients of the Literature Prize, only one, Doris Lessing in 2007, could be considered as someone who wrote works other than mainstream fiction. Her most and acclaimed works was the Canopus in Argos: Archives, an astonishing quintet of novels which used science fiction as a template to explore various interactions between aliens and humans.  In a 2011 Locus review of Lessing works, Graham Sleight wrote, “If nothing else, they display a full knowledge with the possibilities of the genre, including very visible influences from people like (Arthur C.) Clarke, (Olaf) Stapledon, and (Ursula K.) Le Guin. “

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Doris Lessing

Incidentally, Lessing was one of the professional guests of honor at Conspiracy, the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK, a fact that the Nobel committee must have been aware of during the period she was under consideration.

Limiting myself just to fantasy and sf, I believe that there are a number of critically acclaimed writers who, when they were alive, deserved a Nobel nomination during their lifetimes. The late Octavia Butler, J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, Ray Bradbury, J.G. Ballard, Madeleine L’Engle, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Vance, Stanislaw Lem and Philip K. Dick easily come to mind.

Among the contemporary world-class authors; the aforementioned Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Brian Aldiss, Tamora Pierce, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Gene Wolfe, Jo Walton, Guy Gavriel Kay, Christopher Priest, Karen Joy Fowler, China Mieville, Kij Johnson, Tim Powers, Nalo Hopkinson and Michael Moorcock have all produced intensely personal works of high quality that I feel the Nobel Committee should give them all some serious of consideration.

Are the members of the Swedish Academy trying to tell us these people don’t write well? Or that their contributions to literature and world culture don’t amount to much? Because that’s exactly what the majority of mainstream book critics, academics and literary scholars still think.

I do have a few modest ideas that I freely offer to the members of Royal Academy:

First, announce long and short lists of nominees for the Nobel Prize; as it has been demonstrated in the past, when nominees for a major award is announced, the interest (and sales) of the nominee’s works rise exponentially. The Booker Prize, The Book Critics Circle, the National Book Awards, the Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, Australia’s  Ditmar and the John W. Campbell, Nebula and the Hugo Awards, all widely publicize their nominees each year, to great effect.

Secondly, extend an invitation to a varied, rotating slate of writers, reviewers and critics from other countries to become voting members on the Literature Committee. Surely adding them can widen the net of nominees from just the usual set of suspects each year. (Of course, it would be just as helpful if some of those invited in would be our own John Clute or the New York Times’ crime and mystery reviewer Marilyn Stasio.)

Lastly, offer multiple winners each year. Such a thing is not unprecedented; in fact, it has occurred three times in the past; in 1917 (Karl Adolph Gjellerup and Henrik Pontoppidan of Denmark), 1966 (Schmuel Yosef Agnon of Israel and Nelly Sachs of Germany) and 1974 (Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson of Sweden). I personally feel that offering two or more winners each year will not dilute the honor and insure that more worthy living recipients are honored while they’re alive, as the Kennedy Center Honors or the Presidential Medal of Freedom do each year.

In a world that has seen a rise in the number of people who either have no interest in reading (“aliteracy”) or a diminished interest, it’s important to keep people engaged and energized, whether it is for pleasure or their own edification. A Nobel Prize, one of the most publicized and widely known of all awards, gives it recipients the possibility that their works will not fall into obscurity.

As for Mr. Dylan, he did not make the ceremony last Saturday due to “prior engagements”, but prepared some remarks that were read in Stockholm by the US ambassador to Sweden.  And legendary songstress Patti Smith was enlisted to sing one of Dylan’s most famous songs, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the ceremony that evening.

I have no doubt that Fiona Apple, the boys from U2, Pink, Jewel, Bruce Springsteen (and the E Street Band) and a lot of other musician-poets will be paying more attention to the news coming out of Stockholm in future Octobers. We can only hope that fans of all sorts of literature can look forward to a more diverse set of nominees and winners in the future as well.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #2

When the Blinders Are On, The Knives Come Out

By Chris M. Barkley:

Belief – Understanding = Ignorance

We, collectively, live on a very large, complex, noisy, crowded and messy planet.  And on this planet, at this particular time, communicating your ideas clearly and concisely is not only important, it’s essential.

If only it were that easy.

Mind you, if you wanted to communicate your feelings to a broad audience, you can do it as easily as ordering a latte from Starbucks. Which can be a big problem when you have a lot of people with conflicting ideas and ideologies competing for you money, attention and time.

But consider this; what if your fervent belief in your own values could be hindering your ability to engage your empathy for those who you disagree with, politically or socially?

On the afternoon of September 15, on Hoffman Avenue in the Olde Towne East neighborhood of Columbus Ohio, a thirteen year old black teenager, Tyre King, was shot left temple, the upper left chest and upper left side of the abdomen by Bryan Mason, a white Columbus Police officer. It was alleged by police that King, along with several other teenagers, had robbed a man of ten dollars with a gun. When police responded and confronted two of the teens, King allegedly pulled a gun from his waistband, which is when Officer Mason fired.

On September 16, knowing just these few scant details, I came across a post on Facebook page of a prominent fan from the United Kingdom, lamenting about this latest police involved shooting.

(Note: I am not naming this fan or any of those who support this point of view, because as much as I disagree with what happened next; no one should not be subject to recriminations or harassment by anyone reading this.)

I wrote that the situation was terrible but, under the circumstances, we should withhold any final judgment about what happened until the investigation had been completed. The reaction, from this person and other friends from around the UK and Europe was swift, harsh and unrelenting.

What the hell was I talking about? A cop shot a child. America’s police forces were out of control. America is full of corrupt cops. America is like the Wild West. When will the police stop killing? End of story, pal.

I found myself being quite startled and bewildered by these reactions. I have to explain that I have always been a bit of an optimist and that I have always considered myself to be a human being first, then an American and black, in that order. But being an African-American, I have always had to walk a tightrope of emotions when it comes to living here. I have experienced the worst sorts of discrimination, violence, insults and racism just based on my appearance as a black man. I feel and experience it every day, whether I like it not. But one of the safe spaces I have enjoyed over the past forty years, until very recently was being in the company of fans, writers, artists and editors in sf and fantasy fandom.

When I was in my formative years, I briefly entertained thoughts of being a police officer myself. And that period, the late 60’s through the early 70’s, the United States was rife with more violent crime and domestic terrorism than we do today. But as a teenager, I was more attracted to the gritty movies and tv shows of the day, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, The Seven Ups, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O and Adam-12.

All of this came to a grinding halt at the tender age of fifteen, thanks to Detective Sergeant Joseph Wambaugh of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Wambaugh, a former marine, served with the LAPD for fourteen years before retiring to write full-time.

I first stumbled across his first novel, The New Centurions (1971), at the public library in 1973. That, plus his other early novels, The Blue Knight, The Choirboys and his stunning non-fiction best seller, The Onion Field, pulled back the glamorous veneer of police work and showed me what it truly was, dark, dangerous and only occasionally fulfilling. He was also an executive story consultant for NBC’s Police Story (1973-1979), an anthology series whose episodes, more often than not, dared to show the dark underbelly of policing.

Reading Joseph Wambaugh’s works probably saved my life. I could not imagine that I would have survived the emotional and physical toll the job would have taken on me over any lengthy period of time.

On top of all this, my brother-in-law, who married my sister straight out of high school, went straight to the police academy and served in the Cincinnati Police department for thirty years, on patrol duty, undercover, an elite street robbery unit and internal affairs. I find it remarkable that he appears to be whole and sane after seeing, hearing and experiencing what he did over his career in police work.

So, when I graduated from high school, I opted for a slightly safer occupation; journalism courses and a degree in English.

Throughout my life of sixty years, I have stayed alive because of my knowledge of the police and how they operate, along with a good dose of common sense. I also have a great deal of empathy for the police, because I know what it is doing to them on emotional level.

Which brings me back to the Facebook discussion; I explained, several times to the posters on the thread that police work, no matter where or who is practicing it, is not only physically dangerous, it is, more importantly, emotionally dangerous, which is what Joseph Wambaugh taught me. No one wants to see a cop unless someone is shooting or robbing them. Otherwise, some people feel, your speeding, broken car parts, expired license, decrepit vehicle, driving with your headlights off, public drunkenness or impaired driving, is no one else’s business.

And of course, this is dead wrong. Public safety, which incorporates all of the activities above and countless other infractions, comes under their purview.

The police, I explained, are human beings, too. And like all human beings, they miscalculate, misunderstand and, through their own experiences, come with a set of values and judgments that come from dealing with the public on a daily basis. Most cops deal with this precarious balance of sense and sensibility. Others, unfortunately, do not.

Over the decades, the police departments in many cities, most notably in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and yes, even Cincinnati, have been placed under investigation or scrutiny by the Department of Justice for unwarranted shootings or violence, against unarmed civilians, most of them being minorities.

I tried to explain to the thread that In this day and age of cell phone cameras, dashcams, the internet and the vigilance of an informed public, police shootings, justified or not, will not go unnoticed. I told them that as flawed as it was, I believe in our system of due process and trial by evidence, not public opinion.

Will justice be served in the case of every shooting? No. But the record for posterity and the memories of those left behind will never be erased from history.

As far as I could tell, all of the correspondents condemned me.  One poster wrote, “Well, obviously you must be white”, an astonishing and surreal accusation that could have been easily avoided had she bothered to check my Facebook profile. A child was dead and a cop shot him, case closed. I, in turn, asked if you were a police officer in that situation, and a gun was present, such as a 2014 case in Cleveland, Ohio, when twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in a public park while holding a realistic looking air rifle, could you tell the difference between a real gun and air gun? A police officer, who is already under duress, has to make a choice in seconds whether or not that gun is real. No one wanted to deal with the reality they face EVERY SINGLE DAY that they might end up being on the receiving end of a fatal gunshot.

But this argument came to a head the very next day. Some of my posts featured words in caps, when I tried to emphasize a point when everyone was ignoring my arguments, the owner of the wall declared that I was “shouting” and I summarily blocked.

Now mind you, I have known this person for a few years and had some pleasant conversations at Worldcons in the past. Being summarily dismissed over a difference of opinion shocked and angered me.

And as for the shooting in Columbus that started this argument? Upon examination, the weapon in fact, turned out to be an air gun fitted with a laser sight. An autopsy released by the coroner on November 10th revealed that King had no drugs or alcohol in his system and that the left side wound indicates that King was turning to run or was running when he was shot. An independent autopsy done at the behest of the King family matched the official autopsy. Sean Walton, an attorney for the family, planned to call for an independent investigation and send their report to other forensic experts for further analysis.

On November 22, Demetrius E. Braxton, 19, who was also arrested at the scene, was sentenced to three years in prison for one count of robbery as part of a plea agreement.

As of this date, Officer Mason is still on desk duty and Columbus Police are still investigating the shooting. I wonder if any of the people who denigrated me actually followed up on what happened in Columbus?

Indeed, I wonder if any of these righteous people had heard of or care about the five valiant police officers who died protecting Black Lives Matter protesters when the officers were brutally ambushed by a sniper this past July.

How about Detective Benjamin Marconi of San Antonio, Texas, who was fatally shot on November 20th while writing a traffic ticket. And Deputy Sherriff Eric James Oliver of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Florida, who was struck by a vehicle while pursuing a suspect on November 22nd.? And what about Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez of Tacoma, Washington, who was killed by gunfire when he responded to a domestic disturbance call on November 30th? NOTE: The total of police killed in the line of duty in 2016 as of November 30th stood at 133, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Of those, 60 deaths were from gunfire.

So yeah, I get it; there are some police officers who kill or maim unarmed civilians with malice. Some of them are caught and punished, others are not. But do you care, do you give a damn or a thought to the police officers who are hurt or killed performing their sworn duty to protect the public?

Why do some people vehemently turn on other people they know over some minor disagreement?  Especially people, neighbors or friends who have similar views and outlooks?

Actually, as a progressive leaning person, this is not something I had really not given much thought to until, strangely enough, Black Friday morning. I had planned on getting up at 5 a.m. to attend a sale at a local bookstore but, in deference to my rather sleepy partner, I opted to listen to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition instead.

The very first story that morning featured host Steve Inskeep interviewing Columbia University professor Mark Lilla, who had published a controversial essay in the New York Times on what he called identity liberalism and how that was one of the main causes of the startling election of Donald Trump. The interview can be heard here and the essay is here.

In brief, Professor Lilla thinks that enlightened self-interest is at times overcome by myopic concerns on a few or even one issue. As I lay in bed listening, I found myself flashing back to that incident on Facebook. And what Lilla theorized made perfect sense in retrospect; when the blinders go on, the knives come out.

Now, before we all start feeling all smug and condescending about liberals or sf fandom, these same of standards could be equally applied to the conservative forces that have been obstructing President Obama’s agenda during his two terms or any of the more strident supporters of President-Elect Trump.

We all carry some inherently bias in one way or another, either through our political or social or intimate interactions.

A few days after the NPR interview, I encountered a few Trump supporters on my open and public page. Instead of blasting them and summarily blocking them, as I had done in the past, I tried a different approach. I told them while I was not pleased at all with President-Elect Trump and his cabinet appointees; there were serious concerns about his conflicts of interests with his businesses. I also pointed out that the people peacefully protesting were not the enemy, they were citizens and had a right to do so. Furthermore, since we’re all in this boat together, we should concentrate on finding common areas to work on together instead of attacking each other on everything we disagree on.

And the responses in return were remarkable. One man explained why he voted for Trump and said that for one, he enjoyed engaging with someone who wasn’t calling him an “alt-right nazi” at the drop of a hat. The other said that he did not like fighting all the time online and wished that more people like me would just try talking instead of shouting at each other all of the time.

Buddhists have a phrase, “the middle path”, in which they describe a philosophy where extremism is avoided and wisdom is gained through understanding. Western political thought has other comparable terms, compromise and empathy.

Over the past few years, fandom has faced a problem with dissidents; the Sad and Rabid Puppies. The us and them, push and pull and political gamesmanship over the very nature of the fandom has stressed it to the point of being permanently fractured, much like the United States is presently.

The only way any of us are going to survive the Trump Administration, or each other, is to stop shouting at each other and start listening more. I say this not as an excuse to accommodate the racism, sexism, homophobia or religious persecution. We are going to be fighting these battles for some time to come and we, collectively, should spare no effort to combating it.

But we need to start somewhere. We need to understand in order to overcome the conflict, animosity and anger we all carry with us each day.

We start by listening.

Knowledge + Empathy = Enlightenment

Barkley — Since You (Didn’t) Ask — Trumplandia, Weeks One and Two          

1122161657-minBy Chris M. Barkley:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” — Winston S. Churchill

Britain: “Brexit was the worst idea we ever came up with…”

America: “Here, hold my drink…”

A premonition: In the late afternoon of Election Day, I urgently needed to an errand. As I got into my car, a large, hulking white man hailed me from the street. He looked lost and disoriented. He approached me and asked, “Do you know where the polling station is? Some kids told me it was this way,” pointing off in the distance, “but I think I’m lost.”

I wasn’t getting a bad vibe from him and he was trying to vote, so my altruistic instincts kicked in. I tried to direct him to the rental office where the polls were being staged but he looked even more confused so I said, “Look, it would be easier if I just drove you over. Come on, get in.”

“Thanks”, he said as he squeezed into my Honda Accord and began to put on a seat belt. “My name is Michael. I’m sorry if I’m taking you out of your way.”

“That’s ok. Where do you live?”

“I live over on Lakehurst Court.”

“Well, you were going in the wrong direction. Kinda. And you’re trying to vote, so I’m glad to help no matter who you’re voting for.”

Michael gave me a toothy grin and then said, “Well, I was a supporter of Ben Carson until he dropped out.”

My heart sank a bit. I began to pull out onto the street when I stole a glance at a book Michael was carrying; the black leather spine read The Bible KJV.

As I drove around the winding road to the rental office, a great many things crossed my mind; why was he voting for Trump? Did he know what he stood for? Was he aware of his indiscretions and how he treated the women in his life? Was he aware of the various lawsuits and the horrible business deals?

But I said nothing. He’s an adult. This was his decision, not mine.

A minute later I dropped at the polling station. “Thank you,” said Michael.

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day.”

As I looked into the rearview mirror, Michael ambled inside, his Bible in hand. Democracy in action, I say to myself. But I felt a chill that I was unable the shake for the rest of the day…

In the evening, my partner Juli, her daughter, son-in-law and I watched the returns on CNN and MSNBC for the better part of three hours. The race remained tight throughout the night. All during the evening, I spent a great deal of time trying to allay the fears of my friends posting their growing hysteria on Facebook. Since I had to be at the bookstore at 8am, I reluctantly opted to go to bed at a quarter to midnight.

I awoke with a start at 3:54am.

Juli lay asleep next to me. My phone was turned off. The alarm clock, set to the local NPR station, would go off in two and a half hours. I was in a Schrodinger’s Cat situation; in the quiet and the dark, I had no idea who had won the election. I lay there, hoping for the best and fearing the worst.

Finally, a few minutes before the radio came on and removed all doubt; Juli awoke and turned on her phone. I saw its glow out of the corner of my eye. I raised my head. “The fucker won,” she said in a flat tone of voice. Her head went into the pillow.

Then the radio came on and National Public Radio confirmed the worst possible news; Donald J. Trump, racist, sexist, xenophobe, and the alleged perpetrator of numerous sexual assaults, was the President-Elect of the United States of America. Donald Trump, a man with no experience in governance, lawmaking, diplomatic or foreign policy skills and apparently no filter on his volatile emotions.

Frankly, just hearing the honorific “President-Elect Donald Trump” from that morning on has given me an eerie, disorienting, very disturbing sort of chill that I usually overcomes me when reading Stephen King stories, Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle or specific episodes of Fringe, the original Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Except this time, it was quite REAL.

Work at the bookstore that day was a rather somber affair. A good majority of my bookselling colleagues, including myself, were dressed entire in black shirts, blouses, pants or dresses, in light of the election results.

Several older white men showed up early for copies of the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Cincinnati Enquirer, were quite jovial and boasting about Trump’s surprise victory. Needless to say, they were rude when they paid for their newspapers. I was filled with disgust and loathing.

Late in the afternoon, I was manning the cash register alone when a middle-aged woman came up to the counter clutching the latest issue of Ms. Magazine, whose bright cover was exhorting readers to VOTE! Her eyes were red and puffy and it was quite evident she had been crying all day. When I am working, I try refrain for any sort of political or editorial comments with customers in order to remain impartial and avoid appearing partisan in any way.

But she appeared to be in quite a bit of distress. I abandoned protocol.

I took the magazine from her and scanned it. “Will that be all today?”

“Yes.”

“Hey, it’s going to be ok.”

“How can you say that? My daughters are upset. My son is upset. I don’t know if I can…”

“Listen to me. There is something we can do. Tell your kids, tell your friends that we can fight. Resist. Protest. Whatever it takes.”

She began to cry. “I don’t know if we can.”

“Of course you can. We all can. We all will. “

She wiped her face with her sleeve. “Thank you. I can’t tell you how much this means to me.” I rang the sale and handed her the magazine.

She took my hand. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Just remember, you’re not alone. It makes all the difference in the world.”

The woman nodded and left smiling. I felt better myself. Still, the phrase, “Have a nice day”, did not pass my lips on November 9th.

In the days that followed, the theories on how Clinton and the Democratic Party lost the election abounded. Disaffected, white working class voters. The arrogance of the ‘liberal elites”. Hillary Clinton was the right choice of the Democratic Party at the wrong time (or vice versa). Low minority turnout. The disenfranchised minorities and voter suppression. The under estimation of the rural vote. FBI Director James Comey’s errant letter to congress. Bad polling by the “experts”. Russian hacking. Take your pick or combine; I think they were all significant factors. This maelstrom of political and social forces has given us Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

What I found even more alarming is that in the wake of the election, racists, fascists, white supremacists and demagogues of all stripes have been emboldened to come out of the woodwork, openly commenting or aggressively acting out their feelings in public, to the detriment of people of color, immigrants, the LBGT community and just about any they judge is not quite American enough for them.

Swastikas haven painted on cars and doors. Men and women by the hundreds have been harassed or assaulted. Workplaces have been disrupted.

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The late Robert Heinlein once wrote that he had not the slightest doubt that, on the whole, the human race would survive safely for at least several millennia. But he very worried about America surviving that long, in any shape or form. Heinlein, who lived from the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt to the waning days of the Ronald Reagan era, probably sat up in his grave at the news of the election of Donald Trump.

So, what is the sf community to make of this rather surprising, real world development? Besides shock and despair from a good number of fans and other professionals who opposed Trump, there is also a sizeable number in fandom who actually either directly supported Trump or voted for him or third-party candidates, because the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming President to objectionable to contemplate.

Hillary Clinton, (as of this posting) had a lead of more than 1.7 million popular votes over Donald Trump. After you factor in the number of votes actually cast, a little over forty-three percent (43.1%) of Americans who were eligible to vote did not cast a ballot for president. The combined margin of victory for Trump in the key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania alone, which gave him the Electoral College victory, was approximately 113,000 votes.

Here’s the rub; fans across the country may be faced with a very real life scenario where they may be compelled to actively oppose a democratically elected government in a narrowly divided country.

As a member of sf fandom for the past forty years, I felt the urge, the need, to express my fears and desires here, as these dire circumstances swirl around us furiously.

We’ve all seen this movie and/or read this book before. Many, many times.

1984. The Foundation trilogy. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. A Boy and His Dog. The Empire Strikes Back. The Handmaid’s Tale. The Matrix. The Hunger Games. Divergent. Red Rising.

There is no doubt in my mind that the next several years will be very hard on fans, writers, artists and editors. And make no mistake about it, I am very afraid; for myself, my family and friends. When I woke up on November 9th and since then, nothing seems more important in my life than opposing Donald Trump, his political agenda and the designs of his alt-fascist associates.

Everything progressive minded people have supported, abortion rights, women’s rights, marriage equality, relief for immigrants, clean air and water, fighting climate change, public school, education and children’s issues, conservation of public lands and parks and political campaign reform are all on the line.

What do we do?

What can we do?

I can offer only one word: RESIST.

Resist giving into the hateful rhetoric.

Resist turning a blind eye to prejudice and discrimination.

Resist the urge not to speak up when you see or hear anything outrageous.

And, most importantly, resist giving into hopelessness and despair.

As Americans, we should do our best to uphold the best values our country has to offer; decency, respect, fairness, equal opportunities, to help the down trodden and those who are suffering in their daily struggles.  We can do this one person and one day at a time.

And when the time comes, we must preserve our hard-fought freedoms and fight tyranny, whenever and wherever we are needed.

See you in the streets.

4e = C

Forrest J Ackerman receiving Big Heart Award in 2006.

Forrest J Ackerman receiving Big Heart Award in 2006.

By John Hertz: With the hundredth birthday of Forrest J Ackerman real soon now (24 Nov 16; do you think we’ll manage to celebrate at Loscon XLIII? if you’re in town, come and find out), Karl Lembke suggested we might mark it with the expression 4e = C.

I said (Vanamonde 1221), “Someone proposing 4e (1916-2008) may now be traveling at the speed of light (which may seem paltry to those of us who believe human identity is essentially beyond space and time; he himself was an atheist) would more properly write 4e = c, to which I only answer he was a capital fan (avoiding digression into the work of Leonhard Euler 1707-1783).”

Lee Gold said, “4e = C would be asserting that he had reached 100 … or that he was a fannish Constant (and thus forever worthy of consideration), both perhaps at least as important in our calculations as the speed of light.”

For his 92nd birthday, which proved to be the last he lived to see, I wrote (Vanamonde 809)

Anything’s possible with 4e,
From monsters he loves ’cos they’re horri-
Ble, to distant suns,
And fandom and puns,
To writing the world’s shortest story.

There have been and I hope will continue to be many appreciations of him. Here’s mine (Vanamonde 853):

He seems to have been first inspired by a Frank Paul cover illustrating Hyatt Verrill’s “Beyond the Pole” on the October 1926 Amazing.

He rang Bob Olsen’s Beverly Hills doorbell and got an autograph, and cookies. In the fall of 1929 his first published letter was in Science Wonder Quarterly; from San Francisco, where he then lived, he wrote, “Although I am only twelve years old, I have taken a delight in reading the magazines you have published for almost the last four years. Let’s give Science Wonder Stories a big yell. Hip, hip, hip, hurrayyyyy.”

Years later Olsen said, “In all my experiences with science fiction, I have never read, seen, or known anything that was so amazing as 4e himself.”

Forrest J Ackerman (1916-2008; no period after the J) went on writing to prozines, partly because his parents were more willing to buy issues that had a letter from him, a method which, like Michelangelo’s “I just get a chisel and cut away anything that doesn’t look like a Madonna and Child,” rests on a presupposition.

Linus Hogenmiller of Missouri saw Ackerman’s name in a prozine and struck up a correspondence, the first of thousands Ackerman maintained. By 1930 the two teenagers had started a Boys’ Scientifiction Club, which involved Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, and resulted in The Time Traveller.

Soon came the Science Fiction League. Ackerman was a charter member. It tested members’ knowledge with a questionnaire. Asked who were the nation’s two most active fans, Ackerman replied “Remember our modesty.” This was listed as a correct answer.

A straight-A student in high school, he quit the University of California after a year and got work as a typist. He was a flame for Esperanto and, in English, for endless wordplay: he wrote under the pseudonyms Weaver Wright, Jack Erman, and Claire Voyant, and his own name took many forms, like his spelling and paragraphing, in what became known as Ackermanese.

He was part of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society when it began, and its fanzine Imagination and successor Voice of the Imagi-Nation. The LASFS adopted his colors, green and brown. His 1941 business Assorted Services, doing anything for anyone, is said to have been adapted by Heinlein for “We Also Walk Dogs” (1941).

Came the war; inducted in 1942, he moaned he would be inept at Army life, but made sergeant — adding the pseudonym Sgt. Ack-Ack (anti-aircraft guns were “A.A.”, under some phonetic alphabets “ack-ack”) — and editor of his base’s newspaper, which finished second in a contest of 2,000.

He attended the first World Science Fiction Convention (New York, 1939), where he began our costuming tradition by dressing as a Man of the Future based on the 1936 film Things to Come. He was guest of honor at the first international s-f con in London (1951), and was given the first fan Hugo Award (1953).

He coined the nicknames Chicon, Nycon, Pacificon, and the expression sci-fi — which he meant as a compliment, since at the time sound-reproduction technology had just improved to the point of being called high fidelity, or hi-fi. By 2002 his weekly open house, at his home the Ackermansion, had hosted 50,000 visitors.

He was a formidable collector: 300,000 books, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula ring, a meticulous replica of Walter Schultze-Mittendorf’s robot for the 1927 film Metropolis, a hallway of Paul artwork he called the Paulway. In 2001 a 75th-anniversary edition of the Metropolis novelization had an introduction by him. He saw the film a hundred times.

His first pro writing was “Earth’s Lucky Day” (1936) with Francis Flagg. In ten years as a literary agent his clients included Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ron Hubbard, Curt Siodmak, and A.E. van Vogt. Fifty of his own stories were published, including the world’s shortest (1973). His wife Wendayne’s knowing German led to an adventure of translating and publishing a hundred forty Perry Rhodan novels.

He had cameo appearances in two hundred movies. He more or less fell into Famous Monsters of Filmland, where for twenty years he was editor, writer, chief cook and bottle-washer, and blithe spirit, leading to more pseudonyms, Dr. Acula, the Ackermonster, and probably his widest fame.

Although he was an atheist, he was an angel. He got Bradbury to the first Worldcon, long before professional success, and backed his fanzine, among many others.

He met Walt Willis in Ireland and drove him across America, a punsters’ synergy we fortunately lack a full record of. He hosted Tetsu Yano for six months, visited Japan twice, and was one of only two foreigners to receive the Japanese Fandom Award; Takumi Shibano called him the greatest benefactor linking Japanese and United States fandom.

He and Walt Daugherty founded our highest service award, the Big Heart, Ackerman administering it until the millennium; in 2006 we could finally give it to him. He was at the 3,507th LASFS meeting, as was I but he had been at the first; it was our 70th anniversary; he took the gavel and brought us to order, a hyperbole which may be allowed.

For decades he was the first person any of us met at a science fiction convention. If he was wrong, that may now be true in Heaven. Ave atque vale.

This Was the Forrest Primeval

Ackerman Square sign installation. Photo by Michael Locke.

Ackerman Square sign installation on November 17. Photo by Michael Locke.

By John Hertz: When I passed a storefront bearing a sign “Esperanto Inc.”, I knew it would be a good day for remembering Forrest J Ackerman (1916-2008).

If he were reading over my shoulder he might say “But Esperan-Test was Roy Test [1921-2009].”  Maybe he is.  They were among the happy few who in 1934 founded the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, oldest SF club on Earth.  Roy’s mother Wanda was the secretary; Forry called her minutes Thrilling Wanda Stories.  In an inspired pun he called SF fandom the Imagi-Nation.

Eventually we recognized as First Fandom all those who had been active at least as early as the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939.  Forry’s first published letter was in Science Wonder Quarterly ten years earlier.

On November 17, 2016, the City of Los Angeles, as advertised, declared the four corners of Franklin & Vermont Aves. to be Forrest J Ackerman Square.  This was in District 4; Councilman David Ryu was there.  The ceremony was on the southeast corner, in front of Forry’s beloved House of Pies restaurant.  When he had to give up the Ackermansion on Glendower Ave. his real-estate agent was told “Get me something within a half-mile radius of the House of Pies”, and did.  Another Ackermiracle.

The Acker Mini-mansion. Photo by Michael Locke.

The Acker Mini-mansion. Photo by Michael Locke.

The City’s placards acknowledged 4e as “Mr. Sci-Fi”; he had coined sci-fi when high-fidelity audio recording was new and people talked of hi-fi.  He knew but was unconvinced by the sorrow some of us came to feel at the scornful use of his expression in the mass media.  His attitude might have been Don’t fight them, embrace them.  I never discussed it with him.  He wasn’t a fighter, he was a lover.

I also never discussed what he knew of Owen Glendower.

I was merely the first, by no means the only, person to remind Ryu’s staff there was no period after the J.  Forry had gone to court making that his legal name.  Replacement placards were promptly promised.  A deputy showed me the Council resolution had written it right.

Ackerman Square dedication placard (with erroneous period after the initial "J").

Ackerman Square dedication placard (with erroneous period after the initial “J”).

Most of the sixty standing on the corner, and all the speakers, knew Uncle Forry as the Ackermonster, for twenty years editor, writer, chief cook and bottle-washer, and blithe spirit of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  They spoke of his generosity — which he certainly had — and his turning focus from the stars to people behind the camera, make-up artists, technicians.  They thanked him for inspiring them to become professionals and to achieve recognition.

Some of the Ackerman devotees on hand for the dedication. Photo by Michael Locke.

Some of the Ackerman devotees on hand for the dedication. Photo by Michael Locke.

Half a dozen from LASFS were there too, including two on the board of directors and a former president.  No one had invited us to speak, nor indeed to attend; we came because we were willing and able (must be both) and it seemed the fannish thing to do.

LASFS delegation. Standing (L-R) Michelle Pincus, Gavin Claypool, Beverly Warren, Matthew Tepper. Kneeling (L-R) John Hertz, Debra Levin, Shawn Crosby.

LASFS delegation. Standing (L-R) Michelle Pincus, Gavin Claypool, Beverly Warren, Matthew Tepper. Kneeling (L-R) John Hertz, Debra Levin, Shawn Crosby.

It’s a proud and lonely thing to be a fan.  I’m not surprised that commercial science-fiction conventions run to six-figure numbers while our local Loscon draws a thousand.  The difference is in the participation.  Not much mental voltage is needed to imagine people must be either buyers or sellers.

Some fans do turn pro; if willing and able, why not?  Some pros develop careers as fans.  Some people are active as both.  Forry was.  But as Patrick Nielsen Hayden says, and he should know, in our community fandom is not a junior varsity for prodom.

And there was cake. Photo by Michael Locke.

And there was cake. Photo by Michael Locke.

Forry’s hundredth birthday will be in a few days, November 24th.  Buy a book — or write one.  See a movie — or take part in one.  Send a letter of comment to a prozine — or a fanzine (since you’re here in Electronicland you might as well know, and you may already, that you can find some fanzines electronically.)

Visit fans in another country, in person or by phone or mail.  Forry did all those.  To him it was all good.

Photo by MIchael Locke.

Photo by MIchael Locke.

NaNoWriMo 2016

By Gregory N. Hullender: What Is NaNoWriMo?

Every November since 1999, hundreds of thousands of people have spent the month of November attempting to write a complete 50,000-word novel in just thirty days. Participation may reach half a million this year. It’s free, there are no judges, and there are no prizes other than what you learn in the process and your own satisfaction at finishing. That’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). You can sign up now http://nanowrimo.org/ and start writing on November 1.

National Novel Writing Month logo“No judges” means the whole thing is on the honor system. You’re supposed to start from scratch—not merely wrap up something that already has 40,000 words—and you’re supposed to submit your own work—not feed random garbage into the word-counting app. It’s best thought of as a motivational aide, not a contest.

As you write, you copy/paste your text so far onto a web page that counts the words for you and updates your total. (It discards the text, so there’s no worry about anyone stealing your work.) You should do this at least once a day. It then updates your totals and reports whether you’re on track or not.

The NaNoWriMo site encourages you to share your experience with friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives. There are a number of widgets you can post on Facebook or Twitter to share your word-count info and progress estimates. The idea is that you’ll make yourself work harder rather than be humiliated in front of all those people.

A lot of the fun comes from interacting with other authors. The NaNoWriMo site has forums covering every imaginable topic around novel writing, and it’s very easy to spend hours just asking questions, reading answers, and writing your own answers. (But this doesn’t count toward your 50,000 words, of course.)

Forum participation is a good way to find a few “writing buddies.” Your friends and family will get bored with you talking about NaNoWriMo pretty fast, but your writing buddies will be happy to cheer you on every day for the whole month. Some may even become friends for real.

NaNoWriMo FAQ

I “won” NaNoWriMo in 2012. Here are some things that worked for me:

I devoted an hour or two every evening to writing, and I didn’t let anything preempt that time.

I started with a really rough outline of what would happen. I never prepared a proper outline, but I started off knowing how it would end. That doesn’t mean that’s how it actually did end, but at every point, I thought I knew how it would end.

Every few days, I’d spend 15 minutes or so making a rough outline of the next few chapters or scenes. The rest of my writing time was spent filling those in.

I (almost) never went back to revise. The story had to move forward. The one exception cost almost a whole day’s work, but I’d written myself into a corner, so I didn’t have much choice. Obviously you can’t afford to do that more than once or twice.

I didn’t allow myself to browse the forums until after I’d already made that day’s quota of words. It’s very easy to spend hours in the forums if you’re not careful. For example, partly in response to numerous relativity questions, I wrote a whole relativity calculator. http://gregsspacecalculations.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html That probably used up as much time as a week of writing, but using it as a reward for meeting the day’s writing quota meant it didn’t hurt me.

I never attended any of the in-person events that NaNoWriMo schedules in major cities, but some people find it works for them to spend an hour or two writing in a room with other people followed by socializing afterwards.

I think most people have fun and learn a lot about writing, even if they don’t get a publishable work out of it. It’s very cool to be able to tell people “I’ve written an SF novel. I never published it, but I did write one from beginning to end.”

The big payoff is when you hit that 50,000-word number and your stats page shows you as a winner. Almost as good as when you write “The End” a day or two later.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Press Release http://d1lj9l30x2igqs.cloudfront.net/nano-2013/files/2016/10/PressRelease2016v5.pdf

Heinlein Society News

rah-bust-crop

By Keith Kato, President: The Heinlein Exhibit for the Hall of Famous Missourians was unveiled at the MidAmeriCon II Art Show.

After the Worldcon, about 30 (!!) Heinlein fans travelled to the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City for the Induction Ceremony.  We had a group dinner at the Capitol Plaza Hotel on August 22, which was attended not only by the aforementioned Heinlein fans but by state Representatives T. J. Berry and Patricia Pike, who co-sponsored the Induction Resolution for Heinlein, plus Rich Beckwith of the Speaker of the House’s office, who helped moved things along behind the scenes.

Afterwards, most of the group gathered to view videos of Ginny Heinlein’s acceptance speech for Robert’s NASA Distinguished Service Medal (a reading of Heinlein’s “This I Believe” article for Edward R. Murrow, first shown at the 2007 Heinlein Centennial, which transforms seamlessly from Ginny’s voice to Robert’s), a tribute of Heinlein by Arthur C. Clarke, also shown at the Centennial, and general discussion.  Eric Picholle and Anouk Arnal, Heinleiners from Nice, France, could come only for the dinner, but were given a private night tour of the Capitol Building by Representative Berry and Rich Beckwith.

On August 23, 10:30 a.m., the Robert Heinlein’s Induction Ceremony was held in the House Chambers.  Representatives Berry and Pike spoke briefly, as did Society President Keith Kato and sculptor E. Spencer Schubert.

Spencer’s comments were especially enthusiastic, since he had sculpted several busts for the Hall, some of them “just jobs,” but he was a long-time Heinlein reader and fan, so the Heinlein bust was especially meaningful to him.

Making impromptu comments were Buckner Hightower, Trustee of the Heinlein Prize Trust, the Heinlein’s “adopted granddaughter” Dr. Amy Baxter, and SF author and Heinlein online Archivist Deb Houdek Rule.

unveiling

Rep. Patricia Pike, Keith G. Kato, Ph. D and Rep. T. J. Berry unveil the bust of Robert Heinlein in the chamber of the Missouri House of Representatives.

After the Ceremony, cake and punch was served in the House ante-room, where a quick Heinlein exhibit had been set up with the 46-volume Virginia Edition, the Lady Vivamus sword from Glory Road, Heinlein’s Hugos for Double Star and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress along with the newly-won Retro-Hugos from MidAmeriCon II for Novella “If This Goes On—“ and Novelette “The Roads Must Roll,” and select photos and quotations.

The official House Photographer has posted for our use, the Facebook link with photos from the Induction Ceremony in Jefferson City, and the Associated Press filed a story, too.  There are some Facebook links from the Society, including photos and video, as well here.

I can’t thank you and File 770’s readers enough for your help in the Hall of Famous Missourians endeavor. You provided the pathway to Jeb Kinnison to put us financially over the top to make it happen.

In other Society news, it was announced at our September 11, 2016 phone-in Annual Meeting that two incumbents for the Board of Directors, SFFWA Grandmaster Joe Haldeman and Minnesota fan Geo Rule had won re-election for another three-year term.  SFFWA Grandmaster Connie Willis had chosen not to stand for re-election, so the third elected Board member is Dr. Beatrice Kondo, Baltimore fan and daughter of SF author and astrophysicist Dr. Yoji Kondo.  Yoji served on The Heinlein Society’s Board in the early years, so Beatrice is now the first second-generation Board Member.  What made this election noteworthy was that six candidates ran for the three available Board seats, and 63% of eligible electors filed ballots.

And finally, at the first Board meeting after the Annual Meeting on September 19, the new Board met and voted to retain the incumbent officers, President Keith Kato, Vice President-Secretary Geo Rule, and Treasurer John Tilden, for another year.  The present Board, in order of seniority, is Joe Haldeman, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Vice President-Secretary Geo Rule of Minnesota, President Dr. Keith Kato of California, Treasurer John Tilden of Maryland, John Seltzer of Washington, Betsey Wilcox of Texas, Dr. C. Herbert Gilliland of Maryland, and Dr. Beatrice Kondo of Maryland.

A Day of Thanks 9/2

I was overwhelmingly touched to receive the new laptop you Filers chipped in to get me. And impressed with the behind-the-scenes coordination between JJ, Diana, and John King Tarpinian to have it delivered and brought to me here in the hospital. It’s an amazing gift. I am so happy to get it.

Yesterday, John showed me how to use the new laptop. To acclimate myself I started on some background tasks — there were about 6000 comments in  the queue, and nearly all — but not all — are spam. I got that down to 4800 and freed a few real comments. More of your trapped-in-amber remarks will be released as I continue.

I am able to do a bit more each day, and I feel that typing words again is speeding my recovery, some combination of verbal thought together with physical action, which multiplies the benefits of the generous community here. I’m grateful to have your help and support.