Randy Byers (1960-2017)

Seattle fan Randy Byers, known even more for his hospitality and friendliness than for his many fannish achievements, died November 20 of cancer.

Randy had shared publicly about having glioblastoma in December 2015, and about the surgery and treatments he’d been through. He was placed in hospice care earlier this month and had not been conscious for some time.

Randy won the 2007 Best Fanzine Hugo with co-editors with Lee Hoffman and Geri Sullivan for Science Fiction Five-Yearly.

He co-edited Chunga with Andy Hooper and Carl Juarez, a fanzine that won four FAAn Awards and garnered two Hugo nominations. He also won a FAAn Award in 2012 for his fanzine Alternative Pants.

He discovered fandom in 1979. His ever-growing circle of appreciative friends eventually raised him to a level of popularity he’d been reluctant to pursue on his own, electing him the 2003 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. He attended Seacon ’03, the 2003 British Eastercon in Hinckley, and wrote portions of a TAFF report with a working title of The King of TAFFland’s Bent Sprog. (Links to those chapters can found at the unofficial TAFF website.)

Randy was also a conrunner, part of the Corflu Zed leadership in 2009, and ran the Worldcon apa WOOF in 2011.

In his last year he traveled and spent time with friends as his energy allowed. Randy revisited Micronesia, where his family had lived for four years from 1966 to 1970 (ages 5 to 9 for Randy.) He also attended the Corflu in Los Angeles, where I got to speak with him . A small mercy is that many people who cared for or loved Randy had a final opportunity to share those feelings with him.

Randy Byers in 2007 holding a copy of Science Fiction Five-Yearly

Pixel Scroll 11/16/17 Pixel My Blue Suede Scrolls!

(1) SERFS ERRANT. Gizmodo covers “Amazon’s Last Mile”, about the people who actually bring you the stuff.

Near the very bottom of Amazon’s complicated machinery is a nearly invisible workforce over two years in the making tasked with getting those orders to your doorstep. It’s a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws. That program is called Amazon Flex, and it accomplishes Amazon’s “last-mile” deliveries—the final journey from a local facility to the customer.

While investigating the nature of the program, we spoke to 15 current or former independent drivers across nine states and two countries whose enrollment spanned between a few weeks and two years, as well as three individuals attached to local courier companies delivering for Amazon. Their identities have all been obscured for fear of retribution.

(2) PERITEXTUAL. Peter Watts, in “After Party”, tells about his experience at the “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” symposium about his fiction.

I knew it was bound to fail— but when people are flying in from Michigan and Chicago and fucking Australia to attend, what kind of a dick would I be if I said Nah, I can’t be bothered to take a twenty-minute subway ride…? So I gritted my teeth, and made the journey. Scheduled a haircut just an hour before, so at least I’d look a little less like Rick Sanchez.

And the lady cutting my hair told me about her parents, left homeless when Hurricane Maria crawled overtop Dominica and just sat there, sandblasting that island down to the bedrock, for four days. Told me that at least now she knew her family wasn’t dead (she’d had a month to wonder about that) but that cell and internet were still out so she still hadn’t had a chance to talk to them directly.

Coming out of that haircut, the number of people who might or might not show up in Room 100 of the Jackman Building suddenly seemed a lot less important than it had been. I showed up at “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” reality-checked, and significantly less self-absorbed. And you know what?

It was a pretty great time.

(3) MORE BOOK RECS. And in the wake of Andrew Weir releasing his list of six SF books, Elon Musk has listed eight books that he says made him who he is.  They include Lord of the Flies and the Foundation series: “Billionaire Elon Musk says he was ‘raised by books’ and credits his success to these 8”.

Up until Musk was 8, he lived with both of his parents Maye and Errol Musk in South Africa, Strauss reported. But he did not see them much and mostly lived under the watch of a housekeeper, who Musk said was mainly there to make sure he didn’t break anything.

“She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed,” Musk told the magazine. “I’m shocked that I have all my fingers.”

(4) WHAT GOES UP. CNN profiles the symbolic first step as “Asgardia, the world’s first ‘space nation’, takes flight”.

On November 12, Asgardia cemented its presence in outer space by launching the Asgardia-1 satellite.

The “nanosat” — it is roughly the size of a loaf of bread — undertook a two-day journey from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the United States, to the International Space Station (ISS).

It contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.

… The nanosat will then be detached from the NASA vehicle and begin its own orbital journey around the earth. Citizens’ data will remain in orbit for between five and 18 months, the typical lifespan of this type of satellite. It will then burn out and disappear.

For Ashurbeyli, the launch fulfills a pledge he made when establishing the “space nation” to take its citizens to space via their data.

“I promised there would be a launch,” he says. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner … because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.”

Getting it off the ground

Within 40 hours of the project being announced in 2016, over 100,000 people had applied for citizenship on Asgardia’s website. After three weeks, Asgardia had 500,000 applicants.

Anyone over 18 years old, with an email address, regardless of gender, nationality, race, religion, and financial standing can apply for citizenship — including ex-convicts, provided they are clear of charges at the time of application.

… Going forward, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in low-earth orbits — the first one located 100 to 200 miles (161 to 321 kilometers) from space, which is also where the ISS is located.

The first human flight to this location is projected to take place in eight years’ time.

(5) IT COMES IN THE MAIL, TOO. Craig Engler from Z Nation (currently in its 4th season on Syfy) has launched a crowdfunding appeal on the new Drip platform for The Last Days of Earth, a new kind of serialized SF novel that “blurs the line between fiction and reality.” It’s a story about the end of the world where readers receive mysterious objects and clues in the mail timed to coincide with the release of new story installments.

The Last Days of Earth is one of the hand-picked projects chosen by Kickstarter to launch its new Drip platform, which debuted yesterday. While Kickstarter is designed for one-time funding, Drip was created as a venue for ongoing funding such as recurring subscriptions. Kickstarter members can use their existing logins to seamlessly access Drip.

The Last Days of Earth started out as a TV pilot, but I realized the themes and concepts I wanted to explore would work better as a novel,” Engler said. “But not just any novel. To tell the story right, it needed to be a serialized online book that unfolded in ‘seasons’ like a TV show and included real-world objects that would show up in readers’ mailboxes.

“The mystery objects stem from a concept in narrative theory called paratext. The idea of paratext is that things outside the text of a book — the cover art, reviews, blurbs, etc. — influence how readers experience the book. I wanted to take that idea further and create a story where physical objects were integral to the experience.”

The Last Days of Earth starts when everyone on the planet learns the world will end in six months. It follows the lives of six characters, each uniquely impacted by the news, who will find their lives intertwined in unexpected ways. The main protagonist is Anna, a pregnant women who learns her due date is the day the world will end and is determined to find a way to save her unborn child.

(6) REALITY SHOW. Michael Damian Thomas had this response to the Dragon Awards category realignments:

(7) SECOND NATURE. Has this ever been seen in the wild?

(8) WHITEOUT. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rates the start of a new Richard Baker series: “The Troublesome Universe Of ‘Valiant Dust'”.

I’m giving Baker some credit here. The man has written a bunch of books. He’s a solid voice in the military sci-fi genre and served as a United States naval officer himself, giving an earned weight to his voice when it comes to describing the minutiae of naval matters. Valiant Dust is the foundation of a new series (called Breaker of Empires) which, presumably, will follow the characters introduced here through the universe he has built.

But that universe? It’s troublesome. Set centuries in the future (following the discovery of faster-than-light technology, a diaspora from earth as it falls to a barely mentioned global Caliphate, and the always convenient misplacing of several entire planets full of mono-ethnic peoples who then slip into a kind of futuristic techno-feudalism before being miraculously re-discovered hundreds of years later), Valiant Dust drops in at a point where the major “cosmopolitan” powers — the Euro-centric Aquilans, the Germanic Dremark Empire, and the Canadians, for some reason — have become a sort of First World commonwealth. In a peaceful state of détente, they are either nobly aiding the backwards human colonies recover from their isolation, or ruthlessly divvying up this galactic Third World as nouvelle colonial masters.

(9) CHATTING WITH CHATTERLY. A modern Eliza: “Tinder bot quotes Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Lady Chatterley’s presence on Tinder has come courtesy of Libby Heaney, who has created a profile for the character and programmed a bot to chat with real men, using only lines from the book.

She also created profiles for Clifford and Mellors.

After around 800 conversations with real romance-seekers, the exchanges are part of an artwork called Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, which will be exhibited for the first time in the UK at the Lowry arts centre in Salford from Saturday.

(10) UP IN THE AIR. Weather geekery: “The Hurricane Season, As Shown By Salt, Smoke And Dust” (text and video)

Hurricane Harvey as a ball of swirling sea salt. Hurricane Irma scooping up the sands of the Sahara. Hurricane Ophelia, bizarrely, taking smoke from Portugal and pulling it up to the coast of Ireland.

A new visualization from NASA shows the hurricanes from 2017 season from a new perspective — that is, their impact on particles carried in the wind.

The video pulls from satellite imagery and computer models to track how aerosols are affected by hurricanes.

(11) THROWING THE FIRST STONE. Action teaching: “Castle Gardens Primary School ‘hit by meteorite'”.

A tarmac company provided and transported the “meteorite” and altered the school playground.

The PSNI also went to the school to respond to the “emergency”.

Mr Gray said that staging the strike would have a number of benefits for the pupils.

“It gives the children the chance to experience and imagine an event they’d otherwise only see on video clips or photographs,” he said.

“We deliberately timed it to be the first Monday after the first AQE transfer paper so that pupils could take their minds off the test for a few hours.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “This is a step up from the why-witnesses-are-unreliable demo (a staple of journalism schools) that I got in junior high.”

(12) SLICE OF LIFE. The BBC reports: “First gene-editing in human body attempt”.

Gene-editing has been attempted on cells inside a patient, in a world first by doctors in California.

Brian Madeux, 44 from Arizona, was given the experimental treatment to try to correct a defect in his DNA that causes Hunter’s syndrome.

Mr Madeux says he was prepared to take part in the trial as he is “in pain every second of the day”.

It is too soon to know whether or not the gene-editing has worked in Mr Madeux’s case.

(13) RAMPAGE. There’s a new trailer out for a giant animal movie with Dwayne Johnson that’s coming out in April.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Lou Donato (1940-2017)

Myrna and Lou Donato, co-owners of the Amber Unicorn bookstore in Las Vegas. Photo by Benjamin Hager.

By Woody Bernardi: Lou Donato, longtime Las Vegas resident, sf con huckster, and co-founder, with his wife Myrna Donato, of Amber Unicorn Books, passed away November 8, 2017.

I first met Lou and Myrna some 30 years ago when Amber Unicorn was in its original location on W Charleston. Lou and Myrna have been staples in the Las Vegas science fiction community for four decades. They were among the original dealers for Vegascon 1991 which was held at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino over Nov 1-3, 1991.

Lou was a huckster at fan-run cons for years even before I encountered Fandom. Lou and Myrna ran dealers tables at cons for decades. They did cons in LV, Loscons, Coppercons (in Phoenix, AZ), Westercons, and Worldcons, including Renovation (the 1st Nevada Worldcon, in Reno).

Lou and Myrna also ran several Antiquarian Book Fairs in Las Vegas, at both the Sahara and Stardust Hotel & Casinos and in Southern California. I believe that it was Lou and Myrna who first put me in touch with the Beast Connection, a local fan club for the 1980s Beauty and the Beast TV show. Beast Connection ran three TunnelCons in LV, in the early 90s. They did TCon I at the Sahara Hotel & Casino and TCons II & III at the Stardust Hotel & Casino.

I recently came across a PM which Myrna sent me in 2013, when we were working on a new Fan-run SF con in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we had to cancel that event. But Lou and Myrna were always willing to help where they could to further any Fan Event.

From a PM sent to Woody Bernardi by Myrna Donato in 2013:

Woody, Between 1984 and 1997 Lou and I exhibited at various Science Fiction cons, that includes quite a few WorldCons, Westercons and other [local cons] throughout the Southwest.

In the early 90’s we put on 6-10 Antiquarian Book Fairs not only here in Las Vegas, but also in Southern California. These Fairs all had a minimum of 125 dealers exhibiting their books and they came from all over the states, England and Europe.

It is difficult for me to imagine a world which Lou no longer inhabits. I’ve been reeling from all the celebrity deaths over the past year or so. The idea that many of the icons of my youth are no longer with us, well I thought those were devastating losses. This, however, hits me far harder since I knew Lou personally. Another longtime friend of mine, in Fandom, passed away just over a year ago. Joyce Worley-Katz and her husband, Arnie Katz relocated to Las Vegas in 1989. It’s my understanding that they went into Amber Unicorn on W Charleston, just over a year later, and it was Lou and Myrna who introduced them to Local Fandom by giving them a flyer for Vegascon 1991.

Lou and Myrna have been stalwarts in Las Vegas Fandom and SW Fandom at large for decades and he will be sorely missed by scores, if not hundreds of Fans.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter John Przybys wrote an article about Donato’s passing in “Amber Unicorn Books co-founder dies at age 77” on November 9.

Ray Lovelock (1950-2017)

By Steve Green: Ray Lovelock (1950-2017): British-Italian actor; died November 10, aged 67. Best known for his role in The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and Don’t Open the Window, 1974), his other genre roles include Queens of Evil (1970), Autopsy (1975), House of Shadows (2013).

Karin Dor (1938-2017)

Karin Dor

By Steve Green: German actress Karin Dor died November 6, aged 79. She starred in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice and the Alfred Hitchcock movie Topaz.  Genre roles include The Invisible Dr Mabuse (1962), The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle (1963), The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), Die Nibelungen (two-part movie, 1966/67), The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism (1967), The Monsters of Terror (1970).

Dudley Simpson (1922-2017)

By Steve Green: Dudley Simpson (1922-2017): Australian composer / conductor, died November 4, aged 95. Spent many years in the UK, where his work appeared in such productions as Out of the Unknown (two episodes, 1965-66), The Tomorrow People (68 episodes, 1973-79), Blake’s 7 (Simpson provided the incidental music for 50 of the 52 episodes that were broadcast from 1978 to 1981, including the theme music), The Legend of King Arthur (eight episodes, 1979), Doctor Who (205 episodes, 1964-80). Simpson had a cameo in the Doctor Who serial ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ (1977), appropriately conducting a theatre orchestra.

Memories of D Potter

D Potter at “New York is Book Country,” mid-1980s. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

People are sharing memories of the late D Potter, a long-time fanzine fan who passed away October 25 in Oakland.

She lived in New York in the early 1980s, when these photos by Andrew Porter were taken.

That also was the period when she was Fan GoH at Balticon 16. It occurred to me they must have run a bio of her in the program book, and BSFS’ Dale Arnold very kindly connected me with this wonderful 1982 tribute by Avedon Carol.

D Potter (right). Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Thumbs Up for Mr. Sardonicus

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1270)  Marching to a different drummer can be particularly awkward on the road with a stream of dissenters all keeping step.  Milt Stevens didn’t bother to complain (1942-2017).

He was honored, selected, and unrecognized.  He co-chaired L.A.con II (42nd World Science Fiction Convention, 1984), the largest ever and one of the best – not the same thing.  He chaired Westercon XXXIII (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference, 1980) and was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon LXI.  He chaired Loscon I (our local con, 1975) and was Fan GoH at Loscon IX.  He ran the Fanzine Lounge at Westercon LV and L.A.con IV (64th Worldcon).  He ran programming at Corflu XXXIV (fanziners’ con, 2017; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).

He was one of the finest fanwriters in the world, in his own zine The Passing Parade and elsewhere.  We never put him on the Hugo ballot.

His sense of humor was often called dry.  I might call it sandy.  It could polish you.

For a while he used the handle “Mr. Sardonicus” (and his zine for SAPS, the Spectator Amateur Press Ass’n, was Sardonicus).  The title character in William Castle’s 1961 movie Mr. Sardonicus got his face frozen in a horrifying grin.  Glow-in-the-dark cards with Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down had been distributed to the audience.  Near the end the director appeared on-screen asking for votes in a Punishment Poll.  No instance is known in which the thumbs-up ending was shown.  Some say it was never filmed.

Properly the sardonic aims at self-relief when one can do nothing else against adversity.  His blade was better pointed than that.  Presumably the name appealed to his fannish self-deprecation.  In leaving the unobservant to suppose his remarks were moved by pessimism perhaps he was sardonic.

Like many people who can write, he could read.  “We need men round us who can think and who can talk” (G. de Maupassant, “The Horla”, 1887); he was there too.

This lit up his letters of comment.  Comments are the blood of an apa, and more generally letters of comment are the blood of a fanzine.  Best are those whose authors show they have in fact read (and not, say, merely jerked a knee at) what they are commenting on.  He was there too.

I’ll tell one book story.  At cons I’ve been leading Classics of S-F talks; often I pick the classics; at Loscon XLI in 2014 one was The Stars My Destination (A. Bester, 1957).  Regency dancing (see e.g. Mimosa 29) was scheduled on Friday at 4 p.m., Stars at 2:30, so I had to conduct it in costume; couldn’t get my neckcloth right – “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840), with all the time in the world and a valet, would cheerfully discard a dozen – and arrived late.  Milt Stevens had cheerfully started discussion.  As I walked in he was just pointing out Bester’s careful structure: starting in the dark, climaxing in the cathedral, ending in the light (Van 1125).

He was generous to his club – L.A. S-F Society, oldest in the world – with effort, money, as might be needed and he had at hand.  At the first LASFS clubhouse, he did so much cleaning up he called himself the Lord High Janitor.  He’d been attending since 1960.  He was President in 1970.  He was given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award, in 1971.  He served long on the Board of Directors, sometimes in its chair.  At the third clubhouse, parking restrictions were problematic.  He arranged to meet with police and transit authorities, brought the club’s lawyer, who was also a fan, and found a solution.

Other generosities have emerged, regarding fans, fanzines, conventions.  Among other service, he was on the Board of the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (yes, that spells SCIFI; pronounced “skiffy”; sponsor of three Worldcons, a NASFiC, three Westercons, the Rotsler Award, and an edition of Harry Warner’s history of 1950s fandom A Wealth of Fable).

If you looked for him at a con you might find him in the bar, wearing a sports jacket, drinking Bud Light.  If you gave much weight to such things, or his mild manner, you might write him off as respectable.  He was – but in fact by our standards.  Ave atque vale.

Robert Guillaume (1927–2017)

By Steve Green: Robert Guillaume, US actor and director, died October 24, aged 89. Best-known for the sitcom Soap (50 episodes, 1977-80) and its spin-off Benson (159 episodes, 1979-86), his genre appearances include The Kid with the Broken Halo (1982), John Grin’s Christmas (1986), Fish Police (six episodes, 1992), The Meteor Man (1993), The Addams Family (one episode, 1993), Captain Planet and the Planeteers (one episode, 1994), Cosmic Slop (1994), Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (36 episodes, 1995-2000), Crystal Cave, Alchemy (both 1996), Touched by an Angel (one episode, 1997), Merry Christmas George Bailey (1997), The Outer Limits (one episode, 1998), 13th Child (2002), Century City (one episode, 2004), as well as a number of fantasy-themed video games.

Steven M. Frischer (1955-2014)

[An appreciation for someone whose passing went unnoted by the fan press at the time,]

By David K.M. Klaus: Steven M. Frischer, just Steve Frischer to his friends (1955-2014), St. Louis, Mo.  Heart attack.  Attended his first convention, St. Louiscon, in 1969.  He once said he could be remembered as the 13-year-old in a red baseball cap who bothered Harlan Ellison by following him around the convention and continually asking Star Trek questions.  He hitchhiked to L.A.Con in Los Angeles in 1972, then from there hitchhiked north to Guerneville, California to meet Robert Anton Wilson, who was very down on his luck in that part of his life.  Steve bought groceries for Wilson’s family contributing to their survival in a small part until Illuminatus! finally sold, launching Wilson’s career as a novelist.  Hitchhiked to TorCon in Toronto in 1973, said the Royal York was the nicest, friendliest hotel he’d ever seen.  When people with no rooms slept on the chairs in the hotel lobby, they were gently awakened around ten a.m. and offered tea at no cost, courtesy of the hotel.  Actually rode in a friend’s car to and from MidAmeriCon in Kansas City in 1976, no hitchhiking needed.  Member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association (OSFA), the Graphic Fantasy and Science Fiction Society of St. Louis (GRAFAN), the St. Louis Science Fiction Society.  Regular attendee at Archon, St. Louis’ local convention for many, many years as well as one day mini-cons hosted by GRAFAN in the mid-’70s.  Active member of the Church of All Worlds.

Open, friendly, found and welcomed new members for each of the groups he was in.  Son of two Buchenwald survivors, what they survived darkened his life.  He eventually married and had a daughter, Gidget Frischer, to whom he was devoted and close both before and after he and her mother Jodie divorced.  Steve was intelligent, both school- and self- educated, learned enough kenpo karate to stop a mugging attack by three men on him, then ran before they could recover from the shock of the short, skinny Jewish guy kicking one of them to the ground.  Enormously well-read in all forms of sf, loved reading Heinlein over and over, as well as del Rey, de Camp, Blish, Tolkien, Dickson, Anderson, Niven, and so many beyond counting.  Original Star Trek too, of course.

Gidget had to break down the door to his apartment, too late to save him, but he now has a grandchild even though they will never meet.  His ashes were scattered at the base of trees planted in his honor in the same cemetery where his parents were laid to rest.