I Dreamed I Saw Grace Slick Last Night

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1154)  In fact I’ve met Grace Slick, alive as you or me.  She was born in the Year of the Rabbit, she’s been painting, and her birth surname was Wing.

I’ve met Joan Baez, who sang “Joe Hill” at Woodstock and whose Antioch degree is different from mine.  But I don’t want to get too far from the Lewis Carroll masterpiece Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, establishing him as a master, published to the wonder of us all, the enrichment of the Imagi-Nation, and the benefit of humankind 150 years ago this month.

Through the Looking-Glass (1871) came later, although I’ve seen one of Ms. Slick’s paintings with both, likewise “White Rabbit” and Walt Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”, and although my mother says I learned to read at about age 3 (you also may’ve been reading then) by making her read Looking-Glass aloud until I was reading it with her.  And, she sometimes says, correcting her.  Humph (not to be confused with Humpty-Dumpty).  I don’t remember that part.  But it’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.

This month’s Alice has never been out of print.  It’s in almost two hundred languages, e.g. Basque, Chinese, Esperanto, Finnish (4 translations), Hebrew, Hungarian (3 translations), Japanese, Latin, Polish (8 translations), Russian (7 translations, one by Vladimir Nabokov), Serbian, and Swedish (11 translations) which holds the Celerity Honor (wups! there goes half my readership – hey, you! wake up! get a dictionary! don’t be a vegetable!) having started in 1870; there’s a Shaw Alphabet text too.

It’s full of reference jokes, most following the best practice, fun if recognized but undaunting if not; e.g. Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision in Chapter 9, or digging for apples in Chapter 4 (“apple” in French is pomme, and pommes de terre are potatoes).  Some things well-known in its day may call for help now – e.g. bathing machines in Chapter 2, which aren’t like Chapter 4 of Between Planets.

Hosts have illustrated one or both of the Alice books.  I remain partial to Sir John Tenniel.

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What besides wit and satire (sarcasm is in anger, satire is with love)?  The story line is punctilious, from tears to a thimble, from a caterpillar to a cat, from a duchess to a dormouse to a dance to a decision; the verisimilitude is careful, from the best butter to the head-downwards lizard; the characters – don’t say they’re cardboard – look at the rabbit with his servants and his King, look at Alice as she grows – never mind her body size, or compare Chapters 2 and 12.  There’s beauty and vanity.  The pack-of-cards moment is worthy of Bleak House or The City and the Stars.  Both those protagonists, it must be said, were rebuilders.  But that is not the canvas on which our author chose to paint Alice.

Might Wonderland in the strict sense – if those words apply – be no fantasy, since it’s only a dream?  Might it be science fiction?  Here again is Sturgeon’s Apothegm (hey, you!) Science fiction is knowledge fiction.  Or perhaps the science is mathematics – especially if that includes logic – or is it the other way round?

Alias Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (in Latin, Carolus Ludovicus; reversed, Lewis Carroll) – born at Daresbury – which is in Cheshire – the author was indeed a mathematician.  He denied the story of Queen Victoria’s so enjoying Wonderland she suggested his next book be dedicated to her, thereupon receiving An Elementary Treatise on Determinants (1867).  Although his Alice was far more famous than his algebra, he always answered comminglers “Mr. Dodgson neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with books not published under his name.”

Alice earns and has a place with us.  Not so long ago a Boston committee bidding for the 47th Worldcon realized it if they won would be Noreascon III and a Mad Three Party, produced a suitable (I keep warning you about these puns) Masquerade entry at the 42nd Worldcon, and over 4½ years published 26 issues of The Mad 3 Party fanzine

alice25a– more than half being edited by Leslie Turek, who chaired Noreascon II and any minute now will be Fan Guest of Honor at Sasquan – to which we gave a Hugo.

Is this a book for children?  The author himself said it was.  Unlike the Hatter, although I may be mercurial, I don’t deny it.  But we don’t relegate to children the sense of wonder.  On the contrary, we pursue it.  There’s glory for you.

SFWA Bulletin Now Available on Amazon

SFWA BulletinThe Spring 2015 issue of the SFWA Bulletin published by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is now available in a Kindle edition from Amazon for $2.99.

The features in the current issue are:

  • Editorial – John Klima
  • Ask N&E: Answers You Want To Know – Nancy Holder & Erin Underwood
  • Conquering Your Inbox: Strategies for Winning the E-mail War (Gmail Edition) – John Joseph Adams
  • Respectful Journalist: Rule of 3 – John Stuart
  • Building for Discovery – Blair MacGregor
  • Running a Writing Workshop, Part II – Cat Rambo
  • Premature Submission Syndrome (PSS) – Bud Sparhawk
  • Market Report – Cynthia Ward
  • Cover art – Lindsey Look

SFWA Cookbook COMPAlso now available from Amazon is Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde.  From Alien Scones to At the Fruitcake of Madness, DOOM Cookies, Falling Cloud Cake, and Miss Murder’s Black Forest Trifle, there are 157 dishes and how-tos from 134 writers, editors and agents. The Kindle edition is $9.99, the spiral-bound paper edition is $19.95.

Genisys or Lysis?

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*** Spoiler Alert ***

By Brandon Engel: When Schwarzenegger said, “I’ll be back,” he meant it – again, and now again.  Beginning with the first Terminator film in 1984, the franchise has steadily delivered sequels for over three decades.  The first follow up, T2: Judgement Day grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide, produced a hit soundtrack, and was nominated for six Academy Awards (winning four of them).  James Cameron, who directed the first two Terminator films, declined to participate in the next two installments: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Terminator: Salvation.  He is now adamant that the latest film in the series, Terminator: Genysis is actually the third film in the narrative of the series, even though he was not involved as director.

There’s little arguing that Terminator: Genisys lacks the thematic depth and conceptual intelligence that launched this glorious franchise. You can’t quite say that an effort wasn’t made on Terminator: Genisys, but with a hefty budget of $170,000,000, four other movies, video games, TV series (listings here), and a major theme-park ride, this singular franchise is beginning to feel a bit spent. The producers were wise to exploit the franchise’s best feature, the Terminator, Arnold himself, in all of his pre-gubernatorial glory. This alone provides satisfying entertainment.

Schwarzenegger worked hard to get back to his muscular, Terminator form, but fell just a bit too short for one of the scenes in the movie where he fights a younger version of himself. Body builder Brett Azar was brought on board, and with the help of an excellent effects company, the illusion proved successful. Schwarzenegger returned to the film because he is “very passionate” about the character.

Overall, this genesis really needed to marinate a little longer in the workroom of its creator before going live. What is different about Genysis? Producer Megan Ellison and director Alan Taylor decided to play with the timeline and completely wipe out the events of the third and fourth films, essentially giving this one a reboot, taking it back to the days of Cameron when John Connor, his mother Sarah, and Schwarzenegger’s sometimes bad, sometimes good time-traveling cyborg all play on our deepest fears: what happens if machines take over the world?

Gensyis opens with the defeat of Skynet in the post-apocalyptic future, the discovery of the cyborg’s desperate last attempt to rewrite history and humanity’s hero, John Connor, sending his second-in-command and proud father-to-be Kyle Reese back in time to save his mother, Sarah Connor. Sound familiar? Just wait. A highly unanticipated left turn lands Kyle in an alternate timeline, where multiple Terminators have been sent throughout Sarah’s timeline. One such terminator is an old-school T-800 model, Arnold of course, who has been reprogrammed by an unknown source and also sent to protect her. Things get a little crazy when another twist happens and John Connor becomes the bad guy.

The notion of “alternate timelines” and whether or not set events can be altered is fascinating, but it traps the story in a self-perpetuating time warp. Instead of reinvigorating a workable plotline, Genisys recycles past events and familiar dialogue and uses only so-so action sequences to try to draw our attention away from any unanswered questions and lapses in logic.

Terminator: Genisys is the first of a planned trilogy. Hopefully, they will look for ways in the following two to take some cues from some other successful sequel epics such as the Fast and Furious, which somehow (miraculously) keep us enthralled. Terminator geniuses, please stick with a more logical and thoughtful plotline, keep our beloved characters the way we love them and don’t leave us hanging on loose ends. If it is a good movie, we will be sure to return and see the next one.

Banking on the success of Jurassic World and Genisys, as well as other examples of “re-envisioned” classics, studios will undoubtedly continue to rehash more of our favorite 80’s films. With rumors of a Goonies sequel with all the original cast members and even a reboot of The Breakfast Club, it might be time to give the Hollywood remake machine a rest.

Wolf’s Empire Is On The Way

By David Klaus: I was looking at SDCC videos on YouTube, including the first of three parts of the Babylon 5 cast panel, during which Claudia Christian mentioned that by the time of next year’s SDCC her novel Wolf’s Empire will be published by Tor.

It’s part of a saga/series, the first of four books.

Puppies will partially like it as she described it as, and I quote: “military sci-fi in a Rome which never fell.”  You don’t get more Manly Man than in a Roman Army story — if Rome had had firearms, they’d be beating their brains to peanut butter trying to invent a time machine to go to Puppy Heaven.

However they’re going have the problems that the protagonist is a “female gladiator and discus throwing bad-ass”) and the publisher is Tor, “one of [her] favorite publishers.”

She also said it was “more violent than Homer and more sexy than Game of Thrones.”

2015 Best American SF/F Contributors Named

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Writers whose stories have been selected by Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams for the 2015 volume of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy have been named.

Adams screened hundreds thousands of notable works published in 2014 by magazines, journals, and websites, then special guest editor Joe Hill chose the best pieces to publish in a blind reading so that the prestige of the venues or bylines were not a factor.

The writers with stories in the volume are:

  • Nathan Ballingrud
  • T.C. Boyle
  • Adam-Troy Castro
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Theodora Goss
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • Kelly Link
  • Carmen Maria Machado
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Sam J. Miller
  • Susan Palwick
  • Cat Rambo
  • Jess Row
  • Karen Russell
  • A. Merc Rustad
  • Sofia Samatar (two stories by the author)
  • Kelly Sandoval
  • Jo Walton
  • Daniel H. Wilson

Adam-Troy Castro explained on Facebook that the authors are permitted to say they have work in the collection but are not allowed to announce the title. However, advance reading copies of the book are now circulating and a photo of the first page of the table of contents is on Twitter.

Joe Hill’s publicity strategy includes smacking the Hugo voters:

When I squint at the table of contents I see the introduction is titled “Launching Rockets.” Another Hugo reference? Or would Freud say, “Sometimes a rocket is only a rocket”?

Inventive Ford and Edison Read Fantastic Fiction at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, July 15, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Jeffrey Ford and David Edison in the Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.  (It was probably coincidental that both authors share surnames with famous inventors — and capitalists, ironic in view of the Bar’s Soviet era-themed décor.)  So it was up the steep and very narrow stairway to the 2nd floor (a bit daunting to me just a month after open-heart surgery).

The Series (http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/), co-hosted by Mathew Kressel and award-winning editor Ellen Datlow, has, for over a decade on the third Wednesday of the month, presented readings (always free) both by veteran speculative fiction writers and rising stars.

Customarily, as the audience settled in (readings are commonly SRO), Datlow whirled around photographing the crowd (the photos are posted on the website).  The event opened with Kressel welcoming the audience, thanking the Bar (urging the crowd to buy drinks, even soft drinks – “Hydrate!”) and announcing upcoming readers:  On August 19 the readers will be N.K. Jemisin and A.C. Wise (the theme must be initials); on September 16, Lawrence Connolly and Tom Monteleone; on October 21, Nathan Ballingrud and Fran Wilde; on November 18, Kathe Koja and Robert Levy; on December 16, C.S.E. Cooney and Elizabeth Hand; and looking ahead to 2016, on January 20, Ilana C. Myer and Delia Sherman. He then introduced the first reader of the evening.

David Edison

David Edison

David Edison’s first novel, The Waking Engine, was published by Tor in 2014, and earned Debut of the Month from the Library Journal.  His next novel, The Noonday Plague, will be published in 2016, and it is from the middle of that work that he read.  (It is apparently inspired – very, very loosely – by an old Scottish ballad, Tam Lin. The Waking Engine was the first book in a planned quartet – “I was tired of trilogies,” he’s said elsewhere – and, whereas it was “thematically-aligned with the morning,” this book is “aligned with the day.”)  In the first selection, Tam Lin (aka Tamlin aka Tamlane) is in the Seelie Court, in the clutches of the faerie queen, Lallowe, even for a villainess, a nasty piece of work.   He jumped ahead to a scene of Tam Lin and his lover, Cooper (“a queer dude from Earth”), outside a burning city. (Two bits jumped out: “[She was] murdered for her own protection” and “[a] magic crack pipe”.) Edison has a fine reading voice and held the audience rapt.

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford

After an intermission, Datlow introduced the second and final reader.  Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The Beyond, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Shadow Year and The Cosmology of the Wider World, and the story collections The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, The Empire of Ice Cream, The Drowned Life and Crackpot Palace.  (He has a new story collection coming out in 2016, A Natural History of Autumn.)  His fiction has won the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Nebula, the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award and Gran Prix de l’Imaginaire.  He likes to sit.  His chosen story, “The Thousand Eyes,” was set in South Jersey in the 1960s and centered on the titular lounge’s singer, Ronnie Dunn, “the Voice of Death.”  (Decrepit and barnacle-covered, he was “well-Dunn.”  Ford’s descriptive turns of phrase, a couple alluding to the vicinity’s stench, had the audience chuckling through much of the piece.)  No one dies there, it’s said, but people do seem to vanish forever, called by Dunn’s vocal summons.  When Merle, a local artist, smuggles in a camera (a Polaroid Swinger – I still remember its jingle) and uses a photo of Ronnie as the basis of a painting, one may guess what happens.  (Credulity is strained by Merle having two brilliant ideas.)

Edison’s The Waking Engine and several books by Ford were for sale at the back of the room by the Word bookstore in Brooklyn.  (Datlow exhorted the audience to buy books so that there wouldn’t be any leftovers for them to have to carry back.)  Much of the audience hung around for a while afterward, then an expedition headed out for dinner.

Win Star Trek Role in Charity Contest

star trek actors ad COMPStar Trek: To Boldly Go, a fundraiser for nine kid-oriented charities, is offering donors a chance to win a walk on role in a Star Trek movie as well as receive other premiums.

The Grand Prize Walk-On Role Winner will be selected from all the donors from launch to the close of the campaign on September 1.

The winner and a friend will be flown to Vancouver, be taken behind the scenes, hang with the cast, and witness the filming of Star Trek Beyond.

Six additional winners will be randomly selected each week to form the Star Trek: To Boldly Go crew, who will also visit the set, meet the cast, and witness scenes from the latest voyage of the USS Enterprise.

This is touted as the first time a fan will have a walk-on role in a Star Trek movie.

However, fans have been in a Star Trek movie before — File 770 contributor Leigh Strother-Vien is one of them. She was an extra in the crowd scene of the first Star Trek movie made in 1979. Ian McLean’s post “Faces in the crowd” lists the names of many participants in the scene, and the photos taken on the set that day include this b&w group shot; Bjo Trimble is front and center, Leigh is in the second row (just behind Paula Crist, in alien makeup) with LASFSian Dennis Fischer (the very tall man). David Gerrold is in the third row, on Fischer’s right and behind Grace Lee Whitney.

TMP fan extras with Bjo Trimble and Grace Lee Whitney

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus for the story.]

Physics of Free Will at Clarke Center 8/6

ACC Physics of Free Will COMP

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination invites you to “The Physics of Free Will” panel discussion on Thursday, August 6 in UC San Diego’s Atkinson Auditorium.

Leading sf writer David Brin, Brian Keating (Physics, UC San Diego), and Andrew Friedman (Astronomy, MIT), will be discussing what modern physics has to say about the concept of free will, including perspectives from the foundations of quantum mechanics, cosmology, and speculations about the role of of conscious observers in the cosmos.

The event is free and open to the public. Discussion begins at 6:00PM. Please RSVP here: https://freewillphysics.eventbrite.com . Buy a parking permit at Hopkins Parking Structure.