Baltimore Club Issues Statement About Balticon 50

Dale S. Arnold, Chair of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors, says the club is sending out this notice to people about last weekend’s convention.

Thank you for being a member of Balticon 50. We are the Board of Directors of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, the 501(c)(3) which operates Balticon and provides oversight of the event.

We are an all volunteer organization and we strive to provide everyone with a great experience at Balticon every year, and this year we did not always live up to that mission. We understand that we failed at some basic organizational tasks for Balticon 50 and we wanted to contact you to apologize for our deficit in these areas. We are aware of the shortcomings in this year’s planning, and want to give you our pledge that we are taking steps to fix the problems.

We also are aware of the issues that some fans experienced with the improper actions of the hotel security staff. We are working with the hotel to make improvements for next year. We hope you will continue to attend Balticon and to help us make it the outstanding fan-run Science Fiction convention that we all know it can be.

Thank you
The Board of Directors of
The Baltimore Science Fiction Society

(Dale S. Arnold, Chair BSFS BOD)

Finnish SF Club Turns 40

Turku Science Fiction Society (TSFS), founded in 1976, turned 40 on January 27 reports Partial Recall.

TSFS is the oldest sf club in Finland. Its activities are held in Terrakoti

Terrakoti is the office and geek living room of six societies located in Turku. It is a safe haven for everyone interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror, Japanese popular culture, roleplaying or console games in Turku.

The other five societies TSFS shares the office with are:

TSFS also has close ties to the Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (FSFWA).

TSFS gives the annual Atorox Award for the best Finnish science fiction or fantasy short story published in the previous year.

Crusader Clifford Clinton and His Cafeteria, Clifton’s


By John Hertz: On Wednesday, February 3rd, between Groundhog Day (doesn’t that sound like someone who pitched a tent too wide?) and Chinese (and others’) New Year, the Casa Verdugo branch of the Glendale Public Library hosted a talk by Edmond J. Clinton III, eldest grandson of the founder of Clifton’s Cafeteria.

Edmond J. Clinton III

Edmond J. Clinton III

My local s-f club met at Clifton’s in the 1930s. It was the early days of each. We go back to 1934. Clifford Clinton opened a Los Angeles cafeteria in 1931, with 2,500 recipe cards and $2,000.

If you know about names and numbers, you’ll have already figured out that EJC III’s father was EJC II, i.e. not named for EJC II’s father (so not EJC Jr.) but for another EJC in the family (which was, in the Clintons’ case, EJC III’s great-grandfather).

Another restaurant in the family was called Clinton’s. So the Los Angeles ones took half of Clifford and half of Clinton.

At one time there were eight Clifton’s Cafeterias in town. They all ran for years.

Their history was glorious, by which I include the physical glory of neon lights – some of which were palm trees – and the moral glory of feeding thousands in the Depression days.

Clifton’s was the Restaurant of the Golden Rule, which was, in the Clifton’s case, if you didn’t have any gold that didn’t rule. A sign – neon – at the door said “Pay what you wish.” It wasn’t even qualified, as the Art Institute of Chicago sign was, “– but you must pay something.”

In the Depression days some s-f fans couldn’t pay anything. Some could. It’s no secret that Forry Ackerman staked Ray Bradbury to a New York trip for the first World Science Fiction convention in 1939. Far more people had then heard of Ackerman than of Bradbury.

Clifton’s at its peak had 15,000 diners a day. Everyone went there. Walt Disney. Mayor Hahn. Bradbury had his corner when his pockets were empty and when they were full.

Eventually all the Clifton’s Cafeterias closed but one, Clifton’s Brookdale at 648 S. Broadway down town, named for Brookdale Lodge 350 miles north in redwood country, near where its founder grew up. It was decorated accordingly, with wood and rocks and taxidermy. “Stuffed animal” did not then mean what it did when Chocolate Moose was the chair of Loscon XX in 1993 (okay, Elayne Pelz helped).

Clifton's Cafeteria with original facade.

Clifton’s Cafeteria with original facade.

In 2010 the Brookdale was sold to restaurateur Andrew Meieran. He spent $10 million on a lot of restoration and a little renovation. He stayed open a few days a week as long as he could, then closed awhile. Before he was quite ready he powered up the lights for “A Night on Broadway” as noted here. Re-opening Day was October 1, 2015.


The original terrazo sidewalk is still in front of the door. The original tiles are still on the ground floor. There’s a stuffed bison and a stuffed mountain lion and a waterfall and a giant redwood fabulous two ways: it’s faux (it took a year to build), and it’s wonderful, bringing you into the forest – or the Forrest.

Clifton's Cafeteria after the remodel.

Clifton’s Cafeteria after the remodel.

The two bars are new, Mr. Clinton never served alcohol; the one on the third floor has a 250-lb. meteorite. Not that old, but old enough, is a neon lamp in the basement which was uncovered during renovation, still lit as it had been for almost eighty years and as it still is. The food too is old and new: hand-carved turkey every day, prime beef (in a cafeteria!), and pizza.

Also on the third floor you can recognize the Ray Bradbury corner. The handrail caps at the other three are animals; at his, an s-f widget which could be part of a time machine.

You may have known all that, particularly since Re-Opening Day. I didn’t know the crusader part of Clifford Clinton.

I don’t mean his parents’ being Salvation Army captains and taking him with them to China. I don’t even mean Clifton’s Golden Rule.

I mean he exposed waste in the food service at County General Hospital, and spearheaded a mayoral-recall election. I mean he founded Meals for Millions researching then transporting a cheap nutritious soy food round the world, in which eventually the United Nations got involved so as to teach local folks about better feeding themselves.

That’s in Edmond J. Clinton III’s new book Clifton’s and Clifford Clinton.

The Casa Verdugo Library kindly served refreshment, including Jell-O – lime Jell-O – savory lime Jell-O made with cucumber and sour cream and horseradish. Old and new.

At the end of the talk a man asked “Isn’t it true that the guys who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a bunch of science fiction buffs, were regulars at Clifton’s?” EJC III said yes. Then he called on me and I said “Since you mention it, I’m here from the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the oldest science fiction club on Earth. We met at Clifton’s for years, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and just plain fans like me and maybe you.”

So I made sure to dine at Clifton’s on Thursday.

MacDermott Fanhistorical Essay Posted

Who started the first science fiction club? Aubrey MacDermott said he did in his 1987 article Recollections on the Origins of Science Fiction Fandom 1917 to 1948 now posted at Bill Burns’ eFanzines. A PDF of the manuscript (in Andrew Porter’s keeping) is also available for download.

Here’s an excerpt of MacDermott’s narrative:

Raymond A. Palmer, later editor of AMAZING, told me some years later that after I had organized the Eastbay Club in April 1928 Aubrey Clements in Georgia and Walter Dennis, Paul McDermott and Sid Gerson in Chicago had also formed fan clubs, and Richard Leary formed one in Boston. Ray was the eighth member of Clements’ club.

The Christmas of 1928 I received a Christmas card from Peter Schuyler Miller and a letter about the trouble he was having with a story about Mars, “The Titan”. I also received a Christmas card and autographed photo from Edgar Rice Burroughs which I proudly showed to the club members, an enlargement of which is now on my library wall.

In the spring of 1929 Ray Palmer organized the Science Correspondence Club, based on Clements’ and Dennis’ clubs. Later Richard Leary’s Bay State Science Club of Boston joined. But our own club voted not to merge. Clifton, Lester and myself joined immediately. Eventually most of the other club members joined.

At last some signs of life from New York. Allen Glasser formed the “Scienceers Club” on December 11, 1929. He proclaimed that it was “the first real club”, ”real” meaning that it took place in New York City. It soon fell apart. However, Sam Moskowitz in his “Immortal Storm” accepts Allen’s statement at face value Others in their histories of fandom copied Sam’s mistake without checking.

Early club history has been the topic of a couple File 770 posts, with some great discussion in the comments — see “Early Science Fiction Clubs: Your Mileage May Vary” and “The Planet: One Last Landing”.

MacDermott’s essay also has been uploaded to Fancyclopedia 3, which includes many links to names, places and events mentioned in the text.

[Thanks to Bill Burns, Mark Olson and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Lunacon Chair Resigns

Mark Richards has resigned as chair of Lunacon 2016. He made this public announcement on Facebook:

It’s with a considerable measure of sadness that I take this step. My position as Chair has become politically and organizationally untenable. While I can go into detail as to the whys and wherefores that have made it impossible for me to continue, I would prefer to leave that discussion for another time and place.

I do not feel that the circumstances under which Lunacon and Lunarians are currently operating will allow me to continue with the lead in presenting the type of convention I envisioned when I took on this task. I feel I am no longer in a position where I can contribute positively to Lunacon.

As I do not anticipate those circumstances changing in the immediate future (or at least soon enough to matter), I feel I must step aside. I am proud of what I have accomplished, such as the choices I made for guests of honor. I hope that what input I have made contributes to the success of the convention….

The convention is scheduled to take place March 18-20 at the Hilton Westchester in Rye Brook, New York.

Stuart C. Hellinger, President, New York Science Fiction Society – the Lunarians (2), Inc. wrote that the organization will soon make an official response.

Richards was named chair of Lunacon 2016 last January. The Lunarians skipped the 2015 edition of the con in order to reorganize and address financial issues.

Please Help Save Marcia’s House

Marcia Minsky

Marcia Minsky

Fans are rallying around Marcia Minsky, past president of LASFS and co-chair of this year’s Loscon, who is in danger of losing her house.

Following years of setbacks and unexpected expenses, she has gone into arrears on her Homeowners Association dues.  She has been served with papers giving her ten days to settle or her house will be sold from under her.

A GoFundMe appeal has been launched with a goal of raising $14,000.

[Thanks to Karl Lembke for the story.]

Recalling the First World Science Fiction Convention

[First Fandom President John L. Coker III filled me in about a surviving member of the 1939 Worldcon I overlooked in a recent post.]

John L. Coker III: I appreciated very much the article (04/20) about Art Widner.  There is one update that I’d like to provide…in addition to Madle, Korshak and Kyle, another member of First Fandom attended the first Worldcon (July 2-4, 1939).  That true fan is none other than Jack Robins, who is alive and well today!  In October 1936, Jack was also part of the New York group of fans that took the train to meet with their counterpart fans in Philadelphia.  Robins, Kyle and Madle are now the only survivors of what Sam Moskowitz has acknowledged as the First Eastern Science Fiction Convention.

I have attached an excerpt of an interview that I recently conducted with Jack Robins, in which he discusses attending the first World Science Fiction Convention —

Jack Robins

Jack Robins

By Jack Robins: A group of us, Wollheim, Michel, Pohl and I headed out to the first World Science Fiction Convention.  When we arrived at Caravan Hall, we approached the admission desk together, ready to pay the entrance fee.  Sam Moskowitz came over and told Wollheim, Michel and Pohl that they couldn’t go in.  Then he looked at me as I stood there dumbfounded, hesitated a moment and then said, “You can go in.”  I paid my admission and went in.  Later on Asimov appeared and was admitted.  He was supposed to say something about the people being barred but Campbell got hold of him and praised him to the audience.  He was so flattered and in awe that he forgot he was supposed to say something about the barred fans.

Across the street from the Convention there was a cafeteria.  Whenever I could I would join them and tell them what went on.  Occasionally other fans would meet with them.  Of course they were deeply angry to have been unfairly barred from the convention.  All they had wanted to do was enjoy the first World Science Fiction Convention but somehow the organizers must have felt that Wollheim, Michel and Pohl would miraculously take over and ruin the meeting.  The funny thing is that months before, Wollheim was broaching the subject of having a Convention at the same time as the World’s Fair because fans from all over the country and from other countries might attend.  So the idea had been bandied about in Fandom but was taken over by Moskowitz, Taurasi and Sykora, with John Campbell’s support.  The organizers made a very successful first convention, doing a superb job of putting it together.

(Excerpted from an interview with John L. Coker III – © 2015)

There’s an App for Dan Alderson

Dan Alderson at the LASFS clubhouse in the early 1970s. Photo by Bill Warren.

Dan Alderson at the LASFS clubhouse in the early 1970s. Photo by Bill Warren.

How interesting to discover that the Scientists of America app, which “explains about the famous American Scientists and their inventions,” includes Dan Alderson. His name and photo appear on the demonstration page along with others whose last names start with an A.

The late Alderson was a LASFS member and CalTech grad who worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he wrote the software used to navigate Voyagers 1 and 2.

Alderson devised a Fortran program (called TRAM for Trajectory Monitor) for navigation in the solar system, still used by low-thrust craft in 2008.

Dan Alderson was often consulted by his fellow LASFS members Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. His contributions were acknowledged in the naming of the fictional Alderson drive and Alderson disk. He inspired the “Dan Forrester” character in Lucifer’s Hammer.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Still in Wonderland

By John Hertz:  The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, my local club, has been meeting every Thursday over eighty years.  Most of us rhyme “LASFS” with joss fuss although Len Moffatt always rhymed it with sass mass.

People often come for the business meeting and leave before the program.  That’s because our business is monkey business.  We have strange motions – I mean, in the parliamentary sense; File 770 is a public forum – and auctions.  Maybe your club does also.

Last night the program was Harlan Ellison.  Of course the room was crammed.

We didn’t call it “An Evening with Harlan Ellison”.  We didn’t call it anything.  He told us he’d like to come by, didn’t mind if we let people know, and would gladly take questions and give autographs if we didn’t make a performing elephant of him.  I paraphrase.

Of course he’s a LASFS member.  While he’s become a tremendous celebrity as a pro he’s also a fan.  Among many other things he brought about the faithful contributions of Nalrah Nosille to Science Fiction Five-Yearly – published on time for sixty years – until the very last issue.

Of course he’s good at telling stories – he says Whoopi Goldberg, a friend of his, is too –  and so many of us wanted to hear him we ended up seating him at a table on a platform with most everyone just listening.  It was all right.

Our current clubhouse (our third; we outgrew two others) also has a social hall, a computer-game room, and our library.  We even have a Null Space; one very able member was Bob Null.  Fans also hung around these spaces from time to time, including John DeChancie, me, and Harlan’s wife Susan who is herself a wonder.  He couldn’t; he was busy.  But it was all right.  In fact it was a gas.

I don’t know if Harlan was born in a cross-fire hurricane.  He was however reading by two – maybe you were also – and like many of the quick and the young he perceived and might answer more than he yet grasped.  Once someone told him “Don’t hock me a chainik” (a Yiddishism, literally don’t bang me a teapot = make such a fuss) and he said “Okay, I’ll pawn you in Poughkeepsie.”

Dennis the Menace, he said, to him was Goldilocks.

Later he served in the Army.  Just conceiving of this roused our imagination.  He was court-martialed fifteen times.  Acquitting him, which always happened, didn’t seem to make things much better.  At the end of his active duty he found nothing in his folder about where he was to go for reserve duty.  Everyone else had an assignment.  He asked.  They said “Just go away.”

Some of the legends about him never happened.  He is not always the calmest man in the world and he has found their recurrence troubling.  He told of a fellow who during another question time asked “Why did you drop that chandelier on those people?”  To that man, and to us, he explained what he’d have had to do to get at a chandelier, to detach it, and to drop it.  And what would those people have been doing in the meantime?  And what place would he have had to stand on to wield that lever and move that world?  I paraphrase.

Finally Susan, in her role as Mary Poppins, said it was time to go home.  Of course there were new books and we wanted to buy them.  Of course he preferred to sell some but was almost apologetic.  Finally Jerry Pournelle managed it by asking “Harlan, if they buy your books will you tell us why you dropped that chandelier?”  We all cracked up and it was all right.