Where Were You?

foucaultBy Mike Glyer: My fifth grade class was on a field trip to Griffith Park Observatory that day in 1963. We’d watched the Foucault Pendulum swing in answer to the earth’s rotation. Stared in awe at the Zeiss Projector’s recreation of our night sky on the observatory’s central dome. Eaten bag lunches and reboarded the school bus where the radio news was droning in the background. The driver said he had a very important announcement to make. President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas and taken to the hospital.

I think the kids who were immediately upset had the right response. But it was not yet known that the President had died, and my best friend and I had a more detached reaction. We’d lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis just a year earlier so we wondered how Cold War adversaries might try to exploit this tragic development. And had grandiose ideas about lowering the flag to half-mast when the bus arrived back at school. Yet I’d actually been quite a Kennedy fan as a boy – I’d even gotten relatives to take me to his Senate office on a summer trip to Washington D.C. in 1960 (he was away on campaign).

My parents’ generation remembered where they were when they heard the news about Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, or V-E Day and V-J Day in 1945. Of course I hadn’t been born yet. The JFK assassination was the first “where were you?” event in my generation. Doubtless for many of you that epochal moment is as remote as WW2 was for me. Perhaps the Challenger explosion or 9/11 was your first cultural snapshot moment. Or some other event altogether?

It’s Only Rock-n-Roll

Nothing rouses the ire like somebody else’s list of the greatest rock-n-roll songs. “What’s that doing on there?” “He left off WHAT?”

In John Sandford’s mystery Broken Prey a character’s effort to pick the 100 best songs of the rock era for his iPod is a recurring motif. His complete list appears at the end of the book.

Lucas Davenport spends a scene explaining his some of his choices, like the deliberate decision to leave out anything by the Beatles. But he never notices there’s also not a single Michael Jackson song. And he idiocyncratically lists two versions of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – a good place to get started with my red pencil, neither being anywhere near favorites of mine.

Most of the songs on his list are well-known – I can remember how they start or the chorus. I was sorry a few titles are unfamiliar — music I’ve missed that became popular after my hearing loss forced me to abandon in-car radio listening.

A long time has passed since I came up with my own ordered list of favorites – something people do in amateur press associations to keep the conversation rolling. On that old list I had Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” in first place, with its magical sax solo and haunting portrait of a rootless musician. That clear-eyed understanding about a career that’s already gone as far as it can is a component of another favorite, Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” – neither makes Davenport’s list, but surprisingly, a third song of that type, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” does. (I never visualized Davenport as a fan of piano lounges or Billy Joel in general — Sandford must, and he would know…)

I haven’t seen my old list lately. There were some songs on it that would be gone today. Did I really like “96 Tears” that much, or was I mainly amused that it was performed by a band named Question Mark and the Mysterions? The Jackson 5’s “Tears of a Clown” had a type of arrangement that hit the same spot as Left Bank’s “Pretty Ballerina” – now Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” does a lot more for me. Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” still impresses but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas” touted as one of the greats and I don’t think it would make my list anymore.

Anyway, it was intriguing to me to realize I responded to this fictional list as if I had a dog in the fight…

Top 10 Posts for October 2013

People came to pay their respects to Elliot K. Shorter, who’d been a legend in more than one fandom, and other friends who passed away in October.

They also came to look at the future of fandom – a new Worldcon bid for Finland.

And an unusual number of readers – for File 770 – discovered viral videos here promoting Godzilla 2014 and Carrie.

Here are the Top 10 Posts for October according to Google Analytics.

1. Elliot K. Shorter (1939-2013)
2. Godzilla 2014 Trailer
3. Larry Tucker (1948-2013)
4. Dot Lumley Passes Away
5. Terror at the Coffee Shop
6. Finland Bids for Worldcon in 2017
7. Future Worldcon Bids
8. Leland Sapiro (1924-2013)
9. Philip Nutman (1963-2013)
10. Helsinki in 2017 Bid

Top 10 Posts for September 2013

As long as I’ve been compiling these lists, the first month after Worldcon has been dominated by announcements and analysis about the Hugo Awards. Unfortunately, in September the major stories involved the deaths of a newly-elected Worldcon chair, a grandmaster of the field and a Hugo-winning fan artist. Plus a late announcement of a 2007 death and the dedication of a memorial to a grandmaster lost in 2012.

I also called out some bloggers who seemed to look forward to even more of us fading away.

Was there nothing worth a smile? Actually, the resurgence of interest in the Hevelin obituary was driven by an author who had Tuckerized him a few times and wanted people to see a picture of the fellow when his hair was its original red color. Happy to oblige!

Here are the Top 10 Posts for September according to Google Analytics.

1. Bobbie DuFault Dies
2. Frederik Pohl (1919-2013)
3. Ray Bradbury Library Dedicated
4. It’s Spokane in 2015
5. 2013 Hugo Award Winners
6. Rusty Hevelin (1922-2011)
7. Delphyne Joan Hanke-Woods (1945-2013)
8. Don’t Forget To Drop Dead
9. Cornell Apologizes for Smof Routine
10. Mary Kornbluth Death Revealed

Top 10 Posts For August 2013

Links from higher trafficked sites pointing with alarm to news about a motion to repeal the fan Hugos and the aborted plan to show Song of the South at LSC3 drove those posts to the top of the list – rocketing past every bookmaker’s pick for story of the month, Vox Day’s (Theodore Beale) expulsion from SFWA .

Here are the Top 10 Posts for August according to Google Analytics.

1. Give ‘em the Axe!
2. LSC3 Programming Kerfuffle
3. Winter Worldcon Is Coming
4. Marty Gear (1939-2013)
5. Day Out of SFWA
6. Zakem: Whither Midwestcon
7. UK Fan Pamela Boal Passes Away
8. SFWA Discipline
9. Taral: Touch Down!
10. Stamp Petition Gets Big Publicity, Little Response

Top 10 Posts for July 2013

Chris Barkley comes to sf praise authors — by putting them on stamps – while others want to bury one, via a motion to expel Theodore Beale (Vox Day) from SFWA.

The month was shadowed by the loss of a legendary costuming fan, Marty Gear.

And Dragon*Con unexpectedly reorganized, terminating Ed Kramer’s interest in the parent corporation – something its leaders had consistently denied to be possible.

In short, it was a busy news month.

Here are the top 10 posts for July according to Google Analytics.

1. Sign White House Petition for SF Author Stamps
2. Marty Gear (1939-2013)
3. SFWA Discipline
4. Dragon*Con Reorganizes, Cashes Out Kramer
5. Beale Serializing SFWA Report
6. Is Your Club Dead Yet?
7. No Holiday For SFWA
8. Roger Dean Sues James Cameron
9. Yolen Boycotts Texas, Florida
10. Harlan’s Signing and Haircut Party


George Carlin had a routine about the seven words you’re not allowed to say on television. The other night I confessed to some people having noticed I’m much more likely to use that language in public than any of my friends. I became conscious of this tendency a few years ago when I was at lunch with two coworkers, enthusiastically holding forth on I can’t remember what, and realized they looked a bit thunderstruck. Replaying in memory the last thing that came out of my mouth I understood why. If we’d been on the air, a couple of items would have been bleeped.

Where did I pick up that habit? Although I grew up in the Sixties contemporary with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the comedy of Lenny Bruce, neither was an influence – I read about the controversies in the paper, but I was too young to be exposed to any of their verbiage directly. No, I’m pretty sure I learned those lyrics from other students in gym classes during junior and senior high school. We seemed to believe that sprinkling our sentences with sexual and scatological innuendo proved we were rebellious, powerful and authentic.

I am musing about this today because I’ve been seeing the F-word a lot recently. Of course, that’s because I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about SFWA controversies.

It’s not just my imagination. Taking the list on Jim Hines’ blog as my test population, I found the 18 out of 74 writers, roughly one-quarter, used the F-word at least once — Seanan McGuire, S. L. Huang, Foz Meadows, Heidi Cullinan, Betsy Dornbusch, Natalie L., Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kameron Hurley, Samantha Henderson, Rachel Acks, Ann Aguirre, Tracy Cembor, Amy McLane, Matt Yaeger, Karina Cooper, Lauren Roy, Alan Baxter, Thomas Pluck.

(The number would be even higher if I counted instances where a blogger quoted another author’s use of the word.)

I thought it was just me.

I’m curious how they made that choice. It isn’t that they grew up in the Sixties, that’s for sure.

A Tip From The Editor

I know that today a lot of you are wondering how I get the kind of results I do from my news reports. The simplest way of explaining is with this genuine footage of me posting the latest Readercon update: