CompuServe SF Forums To Be Deleted

CompuServe (CIS) was the first major commercial online service provider in the United States, the dominant brand of the 1980s. It was known for its online chat system and message forums covering a variety of topics, including the CIS SF Literature Forum.

You may not have realized any of these Forums were still around – and they soon won’t be. Users have been served notice —

Dear Forum friends and family,

We regret to inform you that the Forums will be removed from the CompuServe service effective December 15, 2017. For more than two decades, the CompuServe Forums paved the way for online discussions on a wide variety of topics and we appreciate all of the participation and comments you have provided over the years.

CompuServe was taken over by AOL in 2003, and in 2009 all CompuServe Classic services, including OurWorld Web pages (File 770 used to have one) went away. Now the Forums are being shuttered,

Danny Sichel says they’ll be wiping the archives clean. “A lot of the stuff has been backed up on archive.org, but who knows if it’s all the stuff.”

George Brickner

While he was following a trail of links to information about the story, Danny came across the residual web presence of the late George Brickner, one of the most active SF Forum members (under the handle Dupa T. Parrot) who died in 2010. His YouTube channel remains, where he uploaded videos of SF Forum meetups at NASFiC in 1987, and Chicon V in 1991.

Danny says, “It’d be fascinating to know who any of the people in the videos are; perhaps File 770’s readership might have some answers?”

  • 1987 NASFiC CIS SF Literature Forum Party

This is the CompuServe Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum Party at the 1987 NASFiC in Phoenix, AZ. I’m the guy near the computer who waves at the camera. Video recorded by Jim Schneider.

 

  • 1991 CIS SF Forum Party at Chicon V

This is less than five minutes from the CompuServe Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum party at Chicon V, the 1991 World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago (Aug 29 thru Sep 2). My hand-held technique is pretty bad as I got more chests than heads.

 

{Thanks to Danny SIchel for the story.]

Tolkien: An Unexpected Sainthood

Interest in pursuing Catholic sainthood for J.R.R. Tolkien has lately been re-energized by a special Mass and a new social media campaign.

On September 2, the first mass for the canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien was held. Matt Showering described the service in “A Slightly Unexpected Gathering”, quoted by Reddit’s  r/Catholicism section:

On Saturday 2 September, a Traditional Low Mass was held at the Oxford Oratory to mark the anniversary of the death of world-renowned Catholic writer & philologist JRR Tolkien (+ 1973). The Mass was offered, however, not for the repose of Tolkien’s soul – but rather praying for his Cause for Beatification to be opened.

… The Mass itself was fittingly celebrated in Tolkien’s old parish church (dedicated to St Aloysius) with his granddaughter among the congregation. The Provost of the Oratory, Fr Daniel Seward, spoke in his short homily of Tolkien’s devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, describing it as “the great romance of his life – though I’m not sure what Mrs Tolkien would’ve made of this!”

And in the weeks that followed the closed Facebook group Cause for the Canonization of JRR Tolkien, administered by Tolkien fan Daniele Pietro Ercoli, and the original Cause for Tolkien Facebook group, have been augmented with a new public Facebook group with the same name as the latter:

This is all very early in the long journey towards sainthood, and we’re still learning the canon law process, but from what we can tell the first step in petitioning for the opening of a Cause for Beatification and Canonization is to form a group, called an Actor Causae, which will submit a formal request for an investigation to the bishop of the diocese where John RR Tolkien died.

Also, a website:

The official website of the Actor Causae for John RR Tolkien’s Cause for Sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Catholic Tolkien fans in Brazil have been actively following the campaign – the Tolkien Brasil site has covered it in a number of articles (in Portuguese). A post dated October 20 tells how several years ago Daniele Pietro Ercoli contacted the Archbishop who would start the canonization process for Tolkien and got back this answer in 2015:

According to the Wikipedia (which is not necessarily infallible in matters of faith…) there are four stages in elevating someone to Catholic sainthood:

  • Servant of God” (“Servus Dei“): A bishop with jurisdiction, usually the bishop of the place where the candidate died or is buried gives permission to open an investigation into the virtues of the individual in response to a petition of members of the faithful. …Normally, an association to promote the cause of the candidate is instituted, an exhaustive search of the candidate’s writings, speeches, and sermons is undertaken, a detailed biography is written, and eyewitness accounts are collected. When sufficient evidence has been collected, the local bishop presents the investigation of the candidate, who is titled “Servant of God” (Latin: “Servus Dei“), to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints of the Roman Curia, where the cause is assigned a postulator, whose office is to collect further evidence of the life of the Servant of God.
  • Venerable” (“Venerabilis“; abbreviated “Ven.”) or “Heroic in Virtue“: When sufficient evidence has been collected, the Congregation recommends to the Pope that he proclaim the heroic virtue of the Servant of God; that is, that the Servant of God exercised to a heroic degree the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance). From this time the one said to be “heroic in virtue” is entitled
  • “Blessed” (“Beatus” or “Beata“; abbreviated “Bl.”): Beatification is a statement of the Church that it is “worthy of belief” that the Venerable is in Heaven and saved. …For a non-martyr, all of them being denominated “confessors” because they “confessed”, i. e., bore witness to the Faith by how they lived, proof is required of the occurrence of a miracle through the intercession of the Venerable; that is, that God granted a sign that the person is enjoying the Beatific Vision by performing a miracle for which the Venerable interceded. Presently, these miracles are almost always miraculous cures of infirmity, because these are the easiest to judge given the Church’s evidentiary requirements for miracles; …
  • “Saint” (“Sanctus” or “Sancta“; abbreviated “St.” or “S.”): To be canonized as a saint, ordinarily at least two miracles must have been performed through the intercession of the Blessed after his death…

Here is the text of the Beatification Prayer used at the Mass on September 2.

O Blessed Trinity, we thank You for having graced the Church with John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and for allowing the poetry of Your Creation, the mystery of the Passion of Your Son, and the symphony of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him and his sub-creative imagination. Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Wisdom of God Incarnate, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with You. Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will, the graces we implore…,hoping that he will soon be numbered among Your saints. Amen.

Full of Quotations

By John Hertz:  I’m not sure if it’s a classic of science fiction.  But it reminds me of the fellow (in 1875?) who said Shakespeare was full of quotations.

By the time I got to Stephen Vincent Benét’s “By the Waters of Babylon” (1937) I’d read a lot of post-apocalypse stories.  The title recalls one I think is among the best, Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959).

“By the Waters” has Dead Places which are forbidden and a religion of caretakers.  Its boy narrator coming of age finds on a journey a lost place of great riches.  The god who lived there must have been a powerful god.

There was a shattered image of white stone, a man or a god who wore his hair tied back and whose name, on the cracked half of a stone, was ASHING.  You can supply W and TON and so could I.

The boy wants to tell everyone but his father, a priest, says “Truth is a hard deer to hunt.  If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth.”  Perhaps, thinks his son, in the old days people ate knowledge too fast.

Look at the date.  Benét’s story came two years before the Einstein-Szilárd letter, a year before the Hahn-Strassman-Meitner-Frisch discovery of nuclear fission; four years before Heinlein’s “Solution Unsatisfactory”, seven before Cartmill’s “Deadline”.

Scholarship says, as I understand, that Benét was probably moved by the bombing of Guernica, 26 Apr 37.  Picasso finished his painting in June.

“I like the Carpenter best,” said Alice, “if he didn’t eat so many oysters as the Walrus.”  “But he ate as many as he could get,” said Tweedledum.

We’ve anthologized “By the Waters” repeatedly over the years, starting with Wollheim’s pioneering Pocket Book of Science Fiction (1943).

Benét was a fine and maybe a great poet.  During his life he was better known than T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens.

Some prose is poetry.

Help Identify People in Jay Kay Klein Photos with New Online Form

Jay Kay Klein at Bucconeer (1998).

Everyone interested in helping identify the writers and fans in Jay Kay Klein’s photos taken at Worldcons in the Sixties should use the new online form activated this weekend.

Two weeks ago, the California Digital Library and the UC Riverside Library made available for viewing nearly 6,000 digitized photos, with more to come. Many of the photos had incorrect identifications, or none, and there was a surge of interest in getting them corrected. Last week, as a stopgap measure, information was being taken via Facebook.

Now J.J. Jacobson, the UCR Library’s Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, has announced they’re ready for people to start using their form, which is here: https://library.ucr.edu/klein-info-form

In order to assure that information is properly associated, they ask that everyone submit a separate form for each photo being annotated.

Jacobson also says:

Although the form doesn’t allow the kind of commenting back-and-forth that we’ve seen on the Eaton Facebook page, it will help us a great deal by organizing the info in a way that’s very helpful for applying and managing metadata at this scale. We’re already thinking beyond this pilot to how we’ll collect information and manage the metadata for the remaining ~55,000 Klein photos.  We’re also working on putting robust crowdsourcing and commenting functions in place,  looking forward to the time when all the photos and digitized and available – not the work of a moment – because we know this conversation will be going on for a long time.

Here is a screenshot of the form:

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars Review

I was determined to see Fathom Events one-night showing of Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, for reasons that were not fully clear before I went, and are practically, um, unfathomable now. Maybe it was to compensate for having viewed the eclipse in isolation earlier in the day, something that proved to be a much more important social event than I expected. However, I wouldn’t say that being part of the audience of five people at the late-night showing I attended made up for failing to connect with eclipse watchers in the morning….

This is the 20th anniversary of the original. As I recall, Willard Stone and I lit out of work to see the first Starship Troopers movie on opening day in 1997. Although I objected to it as an adaptation of Heinlein’s novel, the years have softened the memory to let me appreciate the film’s delicious cultic awfulness (which many of you argue is a satirical master stroke.) Troops standing shoulder to shoulder like Napoleonic infantry armed with assault rifles, blasting away at huge bugs that seem to take about a thousand bullets apiece to kill, was just the beginning of the list of tactical absurdities that characterized the film.

And over the last 20 years the makers of the sequels – Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars is the fifth of its ilk – have carefully distilled those elements of the original. There’s the tactical nonsense, of course, as incredible spaceborne marines with ginormous guns are deposited by vulnerable landing craft amid myriads of ferocious, giant arachnids, whom they spray with automatic rifle fire until things get desperate enough for them to unleash more powerful weapons that could easily have been delivered from orbit. But there’s also traditional storytelling about the camaraderie of a small infantry platoon, the important relationships of close friends, and war-doomed romances.

For this one-night event, Fathom preceded the film with an introduction by writer Ed Neumeier and star Casper Van Dien (who with Dina Meyer reprised – as voice actors – their 1997 roles). Van Dien’s energy was enjoyable – the volatile actor knows just when to drop in his signature line, “Come on, you apes. Do you want to live forever?” There was also behind-the-scenes footage of the director, motion capture specialists, and CGI animators to explain why the finished product is so lifelike, and how technological progress since the last movie made it possible for them to add action scenes they realized should have been there all along, like mobile infantry moving “on the bounce.”

Then the main feature rolled.

In “STARSHIP TROOPERS: TRAITOR OF MARS,” Johnny Rico has just been demoted and sent to a small satellite station on Mars whilst the Federation attacks the bugs’ home planet. While trying to train his new recruits on this remote quiet station, the bugs show up in a surprise attack but the Federation’s Fleet is too far away to help. It’s up to Rico and his Troopers to save the planet and uncover how the bugs made it so close to home.

While the opening sequence of the film made me feel like I was trapped inside a video game – and for good reason – most of the time I was impressed with the convincing dimensional depth of this 2-D animated format.

I also appreciated how the screenwriter found a plausible way to put Johnny Rico (Van Dien) and Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer) back together again in an extended sequence, and that it was skillfully edited to avoid the feeling that rapid-fire action had ground to a halt.

And while Johnny has a lot of mileage on him by now – scarred, and wearing an ostentatious eyepatch – it’s still his connection with high school chums Carl (in intelligence) and Carmen (a spaceship captain) that makes all the difference in the outcome of the story.

Despite the Heinlein questions in the quiz screened before the show began, these movies have only the most evanescent connection to the namesake novel. They are their own thing now, a vividly colorful gun show knit together with mild media satire and nostalgic romance. I can’t deny all the artistic talent that has been invested in bringing these elements to the right audience – except those fans seem to have been somewhere other than at the AMC theater in Arcadia last night.

We Are Not Alone

By John Hertz: The 2017 Worldcon has concluded, and we return to our regular program – or programme, which reminds me: thanks, Jukka! thanks, everyone!  When I happened on this passage in Chapter 51, the antepenultimate of Trollope’s Barchester Towers (1857), I could have thought the song was about us.

What novelist … can impart an interest to the last chapter of his fictitious history?…  And who can apportion out and dovetail his incidents, dialogues, characters, and descriptive morsels, so as to fit them all exactly in … without either compressing them unnaturally, or extending them artificially at the end of his labour?  Do I not myself know that I am at this moment in want of a dozen pages, and that I am sick with cudgelling my brains to find them?  And then when everything is done, the kindest-hearted critic of them all invariably twits us with the incompetency and lameness of our conclusion.  We have either become idle and neglected it, or tedious and overlaboured it.  It is insipid or unnatural, overstrained or imbecile.  It means nothing, or attempts too much….  Guided by my own lights only, I confess that I despair of success.

The Origin Story of Vurguzz

By Waldemar Kumming: [reprinted from Vanamonde 483 — John Hertz’ fanzine — August 12, 2002]

It all started 40 years ago. In the fanzine Munich Round-Up 8 was a whole page of “advertisements” for “The Bar to the Three and a Half Planets”, for Urm, the Newsmagazine for Retrotemporarians, for “Kraahkarm in Jelly, in 20-ton Containers”, and similar things, and finally for “Vurguzz, with 250% alcohol content.” Of course the alcohol over 100% was in hyperspace; this would allegedly lead to seeing not only double but 3 times after only one small glass of the drink.

The idea of vurguzz [pronounced “foor-goots” — jh] left Franz Ettle (who unfortunately died many years ago) no peace of mind until he had after various trials perfected a booze which had some of the effects. It had about 80% alcohol, and among other ingredients something that made it work very fast and strong but lasted only a short time. This vurguzz was poured at several German conventions, including an admission ceremony of the international and still existing Saint Fantony group. Later a liqueur factory took over but the vurguzz then had only 65% alcohol in it, that being the maximum allowed under German law. Lately the Pabel Verlag has been supplying a liqueur called vurguzz with only 17% alcohol content, apparently without knowing the story of the original vurguzz.

The present occasional supplier of the original vurguzz is Hermann Wolter, Am Hebewerk 57, D-45731 Waltrop, Germany. I have no idea whether it is possible to send bottles of the stuff without paying exorbitant taxes, or whether he is willing to do so, or has any of the stuff on hand at the moment.

A World-Building Hugo

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1249) The best notes I know for Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables (1862) are James Madden’s in the 2008 Modern Library edition, tr. Julie Rose. My own copy is the 1987 Lee Fahnestock & Norman MacAfee rev’n of Charles Wilbour’s tr. 1862, whose notes appear at the feet of pages (where notes belong! grr!) but not nearly enough.

Modern Library apparently first published the Wilbour in 1931; the ML ed’n with Stephen Alcorn’s woodcut on the jacket is not dated; ML reïssuing the Wilbour in 1992 [dieresis mark for Phil Castora] still offers both it and the Rose.

Yes, it’s a masterwork. Yes, it’s long; 1,194 pages by Rose (who after expatiating how faithful she was, which I can’t judge, says Alexander Pope 1688-1744 reïnterpreted Shakespeare 1564-1616 primly [p. xxiv] — aiee!) + 136 pp. of notes, 1,222 by Wilbour (and how he managed to get his tr. published in the year of the original is a story in itself).

No, there aren’t any digressions. Every side-path and detail is of the essence, from giving Cambronne’s answer at Waterloo as Merde! (the journalist Rougement reported La garde meurt et ne se rend pas! “The Guard dies and does not surrender!”, which was put on the base of a statue of C after his death; C denied he’d said either) to the sewers of Paris.

Hugo said he was writing a polemic: “So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilisation, artificially creates hells on earth … books like this cannot be useless” (beginning and end of his preface, tr. Wilbour). But that last word is strange.

For years the coal of my desire to read this book was cold. I hearkened too much to how Hugo was a social critic — ipse dixit — and how Les Misérables was about relentless Inspector Javert’s pursuing Jean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread.

Although “a loaf of bread” is an oafish misstatement, the criticism is there; the pursuit is there — oh, the pursuit! O Javert, what an end for you! — but we’d not call Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642) a painting about men’s hats.

I’ve said the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817) are to us like writing by a Martian for fellow Martians; of Georgette Heyer (1902-1974), set in that period, like a science fiction author’s writing about Martians: Austen assumes we understand. Hugo is a Martian from across a canal.

What do these Martians tell one another to evoke the world they all share? We, who are in the business of verisimilitude, evoking fictional worlds, can watch.

I mention the notes first here because Les Misérables is so studded with allusion and reference that we need the help.

A Skiff Hails a Bark

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1246, 26 Apr 17) Cherry-blossom viewing (hanami) season had largely ended last week at Kyôto, Nara, and Tôkyô; at Sapporo, in the north, blossoms should begin to open about May 1st and be at their peak for the following few days. Cherry blossoms are so beloved in Japan they not only have a name of their own (sakura), but also are understood from the word for blossom (hana) if no more is specified. Here there were e.g. a Cherry Blossom Festival 4-5 & 11-12 Mar 17, Descanso Gardens, La Cañada – Flintridge; a Nat’l Festival 16 Mar – 12 Apr at Washington, where a Japanese friendship gift of 3,000 trees had been accepted by First Lady Helen Taft.

Cherry blossoms are beautiful and fall soon. As long ago as the Man’yôshû (“Collection of Ten Thousand [not literally] Leaves [or maybe ‘to last ten thousand ages’]”, about the year 800), “the first and, in the opinion of most who have written about Japanese literature, the finest collection of Japanese poetry…. the falling of cherry blossoms could stir an awareness of transcience…. Some poems on cherry blossoms … convey so poignant a sense of the passing of time as to bring tears to the reader’s eyes,” D. Keene, Seeds in the Heart pp. 85, 91 (rev. 1999; J literature through the late 16th Century).

I was at Oakland, 350 miles (550 km) from home, 5,300 miles (8,600 km) from Kyôto, for a memorial to an uncle who died in February. He was 92, swimming a mile a day, working, and playing saxophone and clarinet in a jazz band. There were a few hundred people and a good hand­ful of speakers. On a printed program I saw Michael Dalby. Perhaps not an unusual name, I thought, but “Liza and I” in his speech told me he must be the husband of Liza Dalby, whose book Geisha (1983; 25th-anniversary ed’n and 17th printing with new preface, 2008) had so impressed me (Van 368). Afterward I found him; he said “she’s right over there”, and I thanked her.

She is the only American ever accepted as an apprentice geisha; for her Stanford Univer­sity Ph.D. she went to Kyôto, heart of Japanese culture, and served 14 months in one of the old­est geisha-houses; Geisha (actually Kyôto calls them geiko) is based on her dissertation. We foreigners have supposed them members of the world’s oldest profession, which they are not. Their primary arts (gei) are the shamisen (three strings played with a plectrum, long neck, no frets) with its song repertory, which she brought with her surprising her new companions, and dance; also superb dress, deportment, and wit.

When I met her she wore in her ears, and at her neck, the Japanese character mu (“nothingness”) in the distinctive calligraphy of the Zen Buddhist master Hakuin (1686-1768; famous inter alia for “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” which he thought led beginners to the Great Doubt — “At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening. If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully” — better than the answer of Jôshu [778-897] to “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?”: “Mu!“).

I thought she might like to hear, and with only a few minutes I tried to tell her, that when I was sent to Japan for the 65th World Science Fiction Convention (2007), the first held in Asia, by the one-time traveling-fan fund Murray Moore invented, HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance, for which we used the character hana in the calligraphy of Seiichi Shirato’s uncle Seihou Mikado), her book had been a great help to me.

I left out the Haiku Contest and other adventures of bidding for that Worldcon, adventures of holding that Worldcon, and the careers of Takumi Shibano and Peggy Rae Sapienza. I did say I’d gone to the Bashô (1644-1694) Museum and stood where he stood at the Sumida River; at the Kiyosumi Garden, had asked to see the iris beds; she remembered the acrostic poem about irises by Narihira (825-880) and said “I hope you were there in May” — irises are a May flower — so I explained “No, September; I wanted to see where the irises had been,” but (just as befell me and several friends at the Garden, only there we were rescued by the pocket computer of Etsuko Kodama, who’d been At-Con Registration) neither she nor I could recall the name of Kenkô (1284-1350), who’d written that chrysanthemums are most beautiful when their edges start to brown.

Since Geisha, Ms. Dalby has written Kimono (1993), a novel The Tale of Murasaki (2000) being a fictional biography of the author of The Tale of Genji (1012), a memoir East Wind Melts the Ice (2007), and another novel Hidden Buddhas (2009). When I got home I re-read Geisha, Mineko Iwasaki’s memoir Geisha of Gion (2002; the United Kingdom title, United States title Geisha, a Life), The Diary of Lady Murasaki (covers only 1008-1010; R. Bowring tr., rev. 1996), and read E. Underwood’s Life of a Geisha (1999, foreword by LD) and N. Ogino’s photograph book A Geisha’s Journey (2008, text by the Kyôto geiko Komomo), then East Wind and Tale of Murasaki, all which I recommend.