U.S. Border Guards Refuse Entry To Canadian Comics Artist Headed for C2E2

Gisele Lagace, a Canadian webcomic artist who also has worked on Archie, Betty Boop and Jem and the Holograms comics, told Facebook readers she was turned back from the U.S. border on her way to appear in Artists Alley at C2E2, a ReedPOP show being held at McCormick Place in Chicago this weekend.

They kept pressing about the comics I had and the sketches, and well, I had to be honest and said that I did get paid for commissions but before hand, but since they weren’t complete, it was considered work in the us. Comics wise, I had maybe $700 in value if I had sold everything. Honestly, it’s not a lot.

Was asked if I was the only one doing this as I looked surprised to be refused entry. I said no, many artists from around the world attend these to promote themselves. I don’t think they cared.

Lagace’s person and car were searched:

My car was searched and is a mess. And to top it off, I was body searched and finger printed too (they do that when you get refused entry apparently.) It was an awful experience.

Things then went worse when they searched me throughout and found 2 white pills in my wallet. There was no identification on them and I wasn’t sure what they were. Once I calmed down after being touched all over, I remembered they were generic acetaminophen from the dollar store that I carry around in case Marc gets a headache as it sometimes happen. I forgot they were even in there.

Anyway, I wasn’t turned around for the 2 acetaminophen, as they found those after I was refused entry for the comics in my car and the unfinished sketches but they kept us longer there until they were convinced they weren’t narcotics. I never took drugs in my life!

Lagace, whose Twitter page says she’s from New Brunswick, wrote that she and another person has driven two days to reach the Windsor border crossing.

And she’s concerned that she now has a record of being refused entry to the U.S.

Don’t expect to see me at a US con until I can figure out a way to get in and being absolutely certain this won’t happen.

People are outraged on her behalf — 20 hours after being posted on Facebook her story has 561 shares.

On the other hand, work visa laws have been in effect for a very long time, in the U.S. and many other countries. Lagace’s truthfulness that she was likely going to work despite attempting to enter as a visitor is admirable but unless a person is prepared to tell a lie in that situation the guards will enforce the law.

This news story has reminded people of Peter Watts’ far worse experience at the US/Canadian border in 2009 when he ended up being arrested after a physical altercation during a search of his car.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

The Replacements: Odyssey Con’s New Guests of Honor

Three days after Odyssey Con lost the last of its GoHs over its mishandling of Monica Valentinelli’s safety concerns, the con has recruited two replacements — filmmaker Michael Butts and artist Brent Chumley.

Michael Butts aggressively defended his decision in a statement posted as his Guest of Honor bio.

Michael Butts

I thought long and hard about joining Odyssey Con. I learned that one of the Members had made choices that upset people in the past, and how it was handled was not the best. I believe that the damage that was done has been contained and separated from the convention. I understand many people are still upset by this, and some would like to see Odyssey Con fail. I do not believe that is right. Because of the actions of a few, is all of the labor and love so many fans have put into this event to be discarded? Should the whole barrel of apples be discarded because some were bad? I say no. What happened is horrible but it is not beyond repair. And I want to see this convention raised up to become a shining beacon of decency. I am giving them a second chance, will you? And remember, before you judge all on the actions of a few, I would like to remind you that ‘Only a Sith Deals in Absolutes’ (Obi Wan Kenobi).

Butts commands instant forgiveness for things that happened just last week, even though the Odyssey Con committee hasn’t finished shooting itself in the foot yet – witness the posting of his GoH bio – let alone done anything to show a change in the culture that led to the problems.

The early reaction on Twitter has been decidedly unfavorable. D Franklin lit into the guest announcement with a series of incisive tweets that included these two –

[Thanks to imnotandrei and James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Mind-Blowing Music Sensation at Eastercon: Recital by Pauline Haas and Thomas Bloch 

By James Bacon: As the beautifully haunting sound of the Harp, expertly plucked by virtuoso Pauline Haas, majestically filled the room with Laura Palmer’s Theme, I felt incredible sensations and tingling throughout my whole being and was astounded that here at the National British Science Fiction convention, Innominate, I could experience such an incredible musical delight.

This was the recital by Pauline Haas and Thomas Bloch, produced by Adam Robinson, and introduced and indeed expertly hosted by Vincent Docherty.

On the stage were Bloch’s instruments next to an ornate classical harp. These instruments were definitely new to me and to most people in the audience — instruments that looked truly science fictional, and in many senses sounded it. Throughout the evening, in between pieces of music, Vince Docherty would talk about each piece and engage Bloch who would go through the history, use and his appreciation of the given instruments.

Vince also asked Haas about her harp, and Bloch translated her French into English for the audience. The performers were so comfortable on the stage, consummate musicians who were relaxed and obviously pleased to be among a group so willing and keen to hear their music and words.

Adam Robinson, Pauline Haas, Thomas Bloch, and Vincent Docherty. The Ondes Martenot is on the right.

Thomas Bloch is an expert and maestro at several instruments.  Tonight he had the Ondes Martenot, an electrical device with a keyboard, string operation and three different speakers; a glassharmonica, which gives the same sound as glasses filled with water, but made in the 18th century to allow multiple playing, in ordered keys, with the fingers or percussion sticks; and the Cristal Baschet.  This I initially thought had its name as it was something that one bashed, but no, it is in fact named after its inventor, a wonderful device that has multiple methods of playing, from bowing the large metal angled sheet, to striking it, to it taking the vibration from the cristal rods that he played. It felt both alien and fantastic, a special selection of new to us, yet older instruments, that were here tonight for our delight.

Thomas Bloch at the Cristal Baschet.

With some fifteen pieces making up the recital, it was an eclectic selection, securely grounded in its connectivity to genre.

Without doubt, after Laura’s Theme, Samual Barber’s Adagio for Strings, opus 11 was astounding. With Haas on harp and Bloch on the Cristal Baschet, known from Gattacca and The Elephant Man. I know it from Platoon and it was unbelievably brilliant, haunting as ever, but with these instruments, phenomenal.  One looks at the Cristal Bashett and wonders how no power is connected to it, it exceeded my expectations.

The range of music was impressive. Haas has composed her own pieces and her piece, La lyre d’Ys (the Lyre of Ys), felt like a harp expert pushing the capabilities of the instrument to its musical limits. As she violently struck the strings with her hands, I pondered if this was a new element. Haas was unbelievable in range and sounds, as she plucked from ferocity to delicacy, and this song was again a stunning performance. Bloch likewise could call upon his own written work, and we were treated to Formule from the TV series Monk. Using the Ondes Martenot, there was a change to the sounds and it was indeed a very computerized-sounding feel to the piece. I was amazed that such an older instrument, there was less of the timbrel effect and it was sharp and modern, amazing given that the instrument is from 1928.

Quelques songes sur pont suspendu (Some Dreams on a suspension bridge) by Michel Redolfi and from the film Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was accompanied by a French reading of some of the book, and utilized both the Cristal Baschet and the glassharmonica, again the skills were demonstrated as the musicians enthralled the audience.

As the last piece came Fantasy on themes of Lucia do Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti, which was originally an opera and featured in the film The Fifth Element, a song by the Diva.  I thought that this piece was a lovely rendition, and so easy on the ear.

The level of engagement with the musicians was special indeed, indicative of how amazing this evening was. Haas and Bloch treated the appreciative audience to an encore, where Haas sung in Spanish while playing the harp, accompanied by Bloch on the glassharmonica.

Afterwards, both musicians were happy to sign sheet music and CD’s and a line formed for some time, as fans offered thanks in a personal manner.

This was an incredible achievement, and an enjoyable evening. It exceeded my expectations and demonstrated the potential that conventions can bring to their members. Chair Steve Cooper and Head of programme Emma England received considerable applause for their faith and belief in bringing this unique experience to the membership. The tech set up was world class. As I watched the close-ups, two cameras were filming with big screens behind the stage, the lighting was unbelievable. The tech team outdid themselves, Keith Smith and his team made the stage and the performance a focus.

Adam Robinson of Pulcinella Music Productions, who arranged the Orchestra at the 2009 Eastercon and the Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra, really brought a new and fresh experience to fans. Vincent Docherty hosted the event with charm, panache, knowledge and skill, and kept the tone lighthearted, whilst being informative and fascinating.  This made the performance itself by Pauline Haas and Thomas Bloch something that I will treasure as an experience.

Adam Robinson, Pauline Haas, Thomas Bloch, and Vincent Docherty beside the glassharmonica.

Social Media

Pauline Haas — www.paulinehaas.com

Thomas Bloch — www.thomasbloch.net

Pulcinella Music Productions — www.pulcinellamusicproductions.com

Utah Launches 2019 Westercon and Prospective NASFiC Bid

A bid to bring Westercon back to Utah in 2019 has gone live. A placeholder Tempe bid, created when no one else filed, has stepped aside to give them a clear field.

The new bid proposes to hold Westercon 72 from July 3-7, 2019 at the Davis Conference Center and adjacent hotels in Layton, Utah. (Reportedly a barber shop quartet convention has locked up the rooms in Salt Lake City on the required dates, which is the reason for not going back there.)

Bid chair Ben Hatcher is supported by experienced leaders from the 2014 Salt Lake City Westercon committee, including Vice-Chair Kate Hatcher, and Bid Advisor/Treasurer Dave Doering.

The group has also declared that if a 2019 NASFiC becomes available (which seems likely, given Dublin’s unopposed Worldcon bid) they will bid for that as well, with the intention of holding a combined Westercon/NASFiC. (Note: Under the rules, a North American Science Fiction Convention — NASFiC — is held when the Worldcon is hosted outside the continent.)

As they explain on their website:

Side Note: The question of bidding for a NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention) came down to the fact if a Worldcon is voted overseas, then there would be two conventions, Westercon and the NASFiC, with similar goals, competing for space and members in the same year while dodging the dates of the overseas Worldcon.

The options are sexy for Worldcon 2019. This is an opportunity to solidify membership, expand awareness of all three conventions, and teach what has made these honored conventions great for so many years.

Utah for 2019 does not push for any particular bid, Worldcon will vote what is best for their convention. We only wish to be up front, and declare if a NASFiC becomes open due to an overseas bid, that we will bid for that as well, and run/combine both for a unique experience.

Odyssey Con Loses Last GoH

Filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm today became the last of Odyssey Con’s three guests of honor to walk away from the con. He wrote on Facebook:

After extensive research gathering opinions and facts and in light of all the craziness surrounding Odyssey Con, I’ve decided it’s simply best to pull out as a guest. Sadly, this will be a bit of a financial hit against my family (which includes several wonderful, well-behaved children who deserve so much more than I can ever provide) but, I’ll make it work like I always do…somehow. If you feel particularly generous and my attempt at cynically pulling your heartstrings worked, allow me to take advantage of the situation and remind you fine folks that you can pick up my films or contribute to my latest film, “Demon with the Atomic Brain,” at my website (cough cough sainteuphoria ahem dot cough com).

Mihm and Tad Williams followed Monica Valentinelli’s initiative, who quit as GoH due to the presence on the committee of someone she knew as a harasser, and how several other members of the committee continued to support him after she raised the issue.

Valentinelli responded to Mihm’s departure with a tweet —

Odyssey Con has updated its statement and, having lost all of its GoHs, is offering membership refunds if requested before April 21.

Odyssey Con regrets to announce that Christopher Mihm, Tad Williams, and Monica Valentinelli have decided that they are unable to attend Odyssey Con 17. We respect their decisions, and wish them all the best.

James Frenkel will not be attending Odyssey Con 2017. Mr. Frenkel is no longer associated with Odyssey Con in any way.

At this time, it is planned that Odyssey Con 2017 will go on as scheduled. We will continue to offer the stimulating discussions, anime and movie programs, karaoke and live music, LAN and face-to-face gaming, poetry, cash-prize writing contests, masquerade, our famous real-food Con Suite, the notorious (and often humorous) Opening Ceremonies, and the camaraderie and good fellowship for which OddCon has become well known.

We realize some may be disappointed in this change, and those wishing a refund for pre-registrations may do so before 4/21/17

[Via Soon Lee and James Davis Nicoll.]

Monica Valentinelli Withdraws as GoH of Odyssey Con

Author Monica Valentinelli announced today she is withdrawing as Odyssey Con’s Literary/Game Designer GoH, just two weeks before the con takes place, due to a specific individual’s continued presence on the concom and her concern for her safety.

I was invited to be a guest of honor in 2016. At the time, a known harasser was working at the con. I, personally, had several uncomfortable interactions with this individual and I did not feel safe around him. At first, this individual was my guest liaison, and I had considered pulling out of the convention as a result. Thankfully, my point of contact was changed and I never had to speak with this individual again. I assumed that he was no longer working at the convention following this act.

Although the person was not named in her blog post, he was subsequently identified as Odyssey Con’s guest liaison Jim Frenkel, a former Tor editor banned from WisCon (permanently).

Yesterday, I found out that I was scheduled to be on programming with him and he was still part of the concom. I also learned that peers and friends were uncomfortable with his role at the show, and they had decided to avoid the convention altogether. His involvement with the con meant that I would have to interact with him, especially as a guest of honor, and I do not feel safe around him nor would I want to put any of my friends, peers, or fans in that situation either.

Yesterday, Valentinelli wrote to the concom.

To resolve this, I sent the concom an e-mail. I told them that I, personally, had several problematic experiences with him, and that if he was still working the convention that I would have to withdraw. The response I received was incredibly dismissive of not only me, but of past reports as well. The e-mail went on to say how this individual was a long-time close friend of the concom, and I should judge his behavior for myself.

I have judged his behavior for myself, and I do not feel safe being in the same room with him let alone the same hotel. This blatant disregard of my concerns also worries me that should any new harassment complaints arise, that they would not be dealt with appropriately. I am extremely disappointed that a member of the concom would be more valued that an invited guest, and though I recognize the invitation is an honor I cannot and do not find this resolution acceptable.

Program participant Patrick S. Tomlinson followed her out the door.

Tomlinson added, “If they change their mind, I’ve offered to attend. But not with him participating in any capacity”.

And Catherine Lundoff said:

On Twitter, dozens of writers have lined up to support Valentinelli’s decision.

Odyssey Con is an annual Madison, WI event founded in 2001. Frenkel, who also lives in Madison, has a number of friends among its organizers and works on the concom. The President of the convention’s executive board (OCSI) is Richard S. Russell. Russell, after having worked every WisCon since its founding, was ousted from the WisCon committee in 2014, in part for his continuing expression of his views in committee channels about WisCon’s People of Color Safe Space and the Jim Frenkel harassment complaint.

Odyssey Con’s program organizer, Greg Rihn, is another longtime Frenkel acquaintance. His answer to Valentinelli’s email was the first from someone on the concommittee and said in part —

I have known Jim personally for more than thirty years. Although there have been unfortunate events in the past, I do not now believe, nor have I ever, that Jim is dangerous to any one, in any way. I believe that the lamentably widely disseminated idea that he is, is exaggerated and grows from a lack of knowledge of the facts in his case. His reputation since the WisCon incident has been spotless.

I will, if you wish, take Jim off any panel that presently features both of you, which I hope you would find a reasonable compromise. Banning Jim entirely would be unfair to him, and, in refusing to attend if he is working the con at all, you are being unfair to yourself. Why let other people make your decisions for you? Come and see the man for yourself. You will see that he is a decent man, and not a monster.

Subsequently, Rihn regretted his answer and he has written on Facebook:

I take complete and personal responsibility for my stupid response to Monica’s e-mail. I believed the matter urgent and wrote with too much haste and too little thought. Hospitality is a sacred obligation. I would defend a guest against my brother, let alone a supposed friend (who would cease to be a friend the moment he offered harm to a guest).

Co-chair Janet Lewis posted the entire email correspondence between Valentinelli and the committee on the con’s Facebook page but those posts have since been deleted. Gone with them is OSCI President Richard S. Russell’s public response to Valentinelli:

There has been much discussion regarding Monica Valentinelli’s announcement that she has withdrawn from the Gaming Guest of Honor position at our convention. Much is being said in social media, so we would like to take a moment to make the following statement.

Yesterday, April 10th, Monica contacted our convention through various email addresses expressing her concern and problems with our convention with Jim Frenkel as a part of the event. Last night one of the members of our committee contacted her to try to address her concerns. Unfortunately the position and words were his own, but did appear to be an official statement from the convention. It wasn’t, and he sent a further communication to Ms. Valentinelli to help clarify that.

Up until yesterday we had no knowledge of any problems Ms. Valentinelli had with Mr. Frenkel at Odyssey Con – both had been at Odyssey Conn previously, and both had been on panels together during that time. So we were surprised to hear there had been a problem. Here are the facts as we know them to be:

1) No claims of harassment against Jim Frenkel have ever been made at Odyssey Con that current ConCom members are aware of. We have a firm anti-harassment policy and all charges are treated seriously.

2) We have never made a secret of the fact that Jim works at the con. The assumption that Ms. Valentinelli made to the contrary was an unfortunate failure of communication.

3) Jim Frenkel has volunteered to step down from any official capacity with Odyssey Con to help the organization involved to move forward with a successful event.

Before making any updates and changes on the website and social media, we have been working to verify everyone’s position before making the appropriate changes. These changes do take a little time. Please keep in mind these issues were brought to us less than 24 hours ago.

The official statement from the president of Odyssey Con Society, Inc.:

Odyssey Con has immense appreciation for Monica Valentinelli and her work. We admire, respect, and honor them both, and were fully prepared to do so publicly at our upcoming convention, before Ms. Valentinelli withdrew as one of our three guests of honor.

But Odyssey Con is now, always has been, and always will be, open and welcoming to all. We do not allow anyone, not even a guest of honor, to dictate that someone else must be excluded from it.

Odyssey Con is also a safe environment. We have policies in place ( http://odysseycon.org/policies.html ) strictly forbidding harassment and a designated ombudsperson to whom any such complaints may be directed. Anything beyond harassment, of course, is a police matter and would be promptly dealt with as such. No such allegations have been made with regard to anyone expected to attend this year’s convention, and therefore Odyssey Con has no basis for excluding anybody.

We sincerely regret that we will not be able to provide our members with the full experience we had advertised and will, of course, refund the membership fee of those who feel that they must now cancel their attendance.

Richard S. Russell, President, OCSI

Other people are weighing in outside of Twitter:

Jim C. Hines – “Odyssey Con, Frenkel, and Harassment”

As is the nature of these things, there’s a lot more that isn’t written about publicly. I’ve spoken with other people harassed by Frenkel who chose not to post about it online, or to file complaints. Given the way we tend to treat victims of harassment and assault — demanding details and proof, blaming them, excusing the harassment, telling them why they’re wrong or overreacting, and so on — I can’t and won’t blame anyone for making that choice.

Even so, knowledge of Frenkel’s history is widespread in the SF/F field. He lost his job with Tor Books shortly after the 2013 incident. He was banned for life from Wiscon. Hell, some of this stuff is on his freaking Wikipedia page.

In other words, there’s no way Odyssey Con was unaware of this history. But they still chose to allow Frenkel to serve as their Guest Liaison.

That’s their right. It’s their convention, and if they want to put a known repeat harasser on staff, they can do so. But that choice has consequences. Consequences like their Guest of Honor withdrawing from the convention. Or having other guests withdraw because the con prioritized a harasser over the safety of their guests.

Kelly McCullough – “On The Matter of Jim Frenkel”.

I don’t remember ever seeing Jim make unwelcome advances or any of the other reported behaviors that have given him his reputation as a serial harasser, but I don’t have to witness a behavior myself to condemn it. All I have to do is believe the accounts of the women who were affected, and I do. It’s that simple. So, though it gives me no pleasure to say this about a man who advanced my career and who I thought of as a friend, I will repeat myself.

Jim has no business being a guest liaison for any convention.

K. Tempest Bradford – OdysseyCon and Why Serial Harassers Are Safe In Our Community.

I’ve seen a bunch of people commenting on this wondering how it is that Jim Frenkel is in any way involved with any convention at this point in time given everything that’s happened. Well. This. This is why. It’s multiple people (see how many folks are listed on this concom who know Jim and are real sure he didn’t ever do anything wrong, despite those third hard reports from the Internet (who trusts that?? Pish) continuing to allow him to be in official roles because we wouldn’t want to lose all his knowledge and experience.

This is how fandom has worked for decades.

And the potential for today’s developments has existed for some time. Sigrid Ellis wrote an open letter to Odyssey Con a year ago criticizing the use of Frenkel and Russell on program.

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, ULTRAGOTHA, and Cat Rambo for the story.]

A Diamond Chip: NYRSF Readings Celebrate Delany’s 75th (No April Fool’s Joke)

Samuel R. Delany

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Saturday, April 1, 2017 (yes, Saturday, and not an April Fool’s joke), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series commemorated the 75th birthday – the diamond jubilee – of one of speculative fiction’s most important writers and significant figures, Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, with a celebration at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn. The extravaganza featured an essay by Terence Taylor on Dhalgren and an interview with Delany by Jim Freund; and culminated with Delany reading a new nonfiction piece. Plus, it being a party, there was cake!

Over the course of his career, which began in the 1960s, Delany has won four Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, the Stonewall Book Award, and the J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, been named Grand Master by SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and invited to be Guest of Honor at innumerable science fiction conventions. Outside of sf and fantasy, his work includes fiction, memoir, criticism, radio drama, and essays on sexuality and society, and, moreover, he has been a mentor and role model to a generation of writers, particularly those who are people of color.

The evening opened with a welcome from Freund, the Series’ Executive Curator, who confessed that he had been planning this event for a long time, ever since he realized that Delany’s next birthday would be his 75th, and proclaimed this as one of the Series’ largest gatherings. He then announced upcoming events in the Series: May 2 will feature an evening with the Serial Box podcasters, including Matthew Cody, Max Gladstone, Joel Derfner, Lindsay Smith and Michael Swanwick, with Amy Goldschlager as guest-host. On June 6, the readers will be Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly.

Terence Taylor

Introducing Taylor (the Series’ Technical Director and the author of the Vampire Testament series), Freund related that Terence had been recruited onto a panel at Readercon about the 40th anniversary of Dhalgren. Taylor, it turned out, had never read the iconic novel; he began reading it on the train up, read it straight through (all 879 pages), and finished it (supplied Taylor) about an hour before the panel. His impressions grew to a 1,500-word analytical essay, “Doing Dhalgren,” which he shared. Taylor prefaced his reading by reminiscing about moving to Chip’s neighborhood, but, having not yet read Dhalgren (which was, by the way, and to our surprise, a bestseller), mercifully not “pestering” him. Delany’s literary legacy was, beyond his work, his inspiration to writers of color. (Terence treasures, and is trying to restore, a photo of himself with Delany and the late Octavia Butler.)

Taylor examined the novel’s protagonist, the “Candide-like naïf” Kid, who enters and ultimately leaves “the autumnal city,” Bellona (the name of the Roman war goddess), which seems real and is believable. Dhalgren, said Taylor, “takes root, blossoms and plants ideas in the minds of readers.” It is “an epic tale of the rite of passage that every writer takes” – Kid can only leave Bellona after he records stories, becomes a writer – so is “essential reading for every writer.” It displays “the infinite power of the written word.” Taylor concluded that Delany was a personal inspiration and encouraged him that he could do it too. Thanking Terence, Freund confessed that his first reading of Dhalgren was hard-going, but breezed through his third, and urged everyone to read the classic.

Promoting the event, Freund had written, “It is no small honor for us that we can host a jubilee for one of speculative fiction’s most important writers – one with whom we have had a long, happy association, both personal and professional. Chip Delany was one of the very first readers at this reading series some 25+ years ago. He has been a correspondent to NYRSF — the magazine whose name this series bears – throughout its existence. Samuel R. Delany’s contributions to science fiction — nay, to literature and culture — are incalculable. He has been a role model to a great many people; a highly-esteemed critic and teacher; a writer whose fiction will be studied long after we’re all forgotten; and simply a wonderful, loving human being.”

At the microphone, though, Jim’s introduction was extemporaneous. “Nova, Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, The Star-Pit, Dhalgren, the Nevèrÿon series – books in my pocket like grains of sand.” His body of work would be an achievement for any writer, but that he did it beginning in the 1960s as a gay black man is awe-inspiring. He’s inspired millions, and particularly many of today’s foremost sf writers. Jim reminisced about the radio play of The Star-Pit, 50 years ago on WBAI (he noted that May 1 marks his own 50th anniversary on WBAI, whose studio is now two flights up from the Café) – and whose 40th anniversary was celebrated at a NYRSF reading (I reported on it at the time for SFScope), then brought up Delany for a chat.

Delany interviewed by Jim Freund

Samuel Ray Delany, Jr. was born in Harlem on April 1, 1942, the son of a funeral director, the nephew of the Delany sisters (civil rights pioneers Sadie and Bessie), and the grandson of a slave who had been taught to read and write (which was illegal) by a bored master, and who later became the head of a black Episcopal school in Raleigh, NC. Freund asked him about the first books that he read. Probably, he said, like all kids, Mother Goose, some stories in which were “problematic,” notably “Little Black Sambo.” Because his name was Sam, his cousins teased him as Sambo. Then, at a summer camp, a counselor asked him what name everyone called him. “I lied through my teeth,” and came up with “Chip.” “To this day, I prefer Chip to Samuel or Sam” (though Jeff Greenfield once called him Sammy). To the audience he said that it was “warming and humbling that so many have come out for” him.

He then did his own introduction, noting that he has been called a “sexual radical,” an Afro-Futurist” and a “Grand Master of Science Fiction.” He opined that Katherine MacLean, now in her 90s, should be named a Grand Master, and spoke up for the auxiliary literary genre of letters and journals.

A Q-&-A session opened with a question about masturbation. Unfazed, he answered and said that he doesn’t lose any dignity by telling people that he has a sex life. A former student concurred, adding that, as a professor, he talked openly about safer sex during the AIDS epidemic. The next questioner said that he thought of “the autumnal city” as New York, but what city had Delany had in mind? He responded that the exteriors were based on New York (the park is Central Park and there’s some of the Lower East Side) and the interiors on San Francisco because he started the book in New York, then moved to San Francisco. Jim Ryan asked how he felt that those two cities that he had written about had changed so much, in effect, were no longer there. “Things change,” he shrugged. Ellen Kushner said that Babel-17 and Nova were “enormous” influences, and asked why he had started writing sf. He replied because he read it and liked it. “You enter the writing world where you can,” and his then-wife (“my only wife”), Marilyn Hacker, was a slushpile reader at Ace. His first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, was submitted pseudonymously, till Don Wollheim bought it.

During the intermission, a raffle for donors was held for two copies of the audiobook of Dhalgren from Skyboat Media, read by Stefan Rudnicki. (Freund thought it “amazing” how they turned Dhalgren into an audiobook.)

Freund briefly plugged Lunacon (April 7-9 at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, NY), for which he had curated a program of readings, “a damned good reading program. You should go if you can.”

Delany then read “Ash Wednesday,” after the day that he had conceived writing it (in it he alludes, at one point, to T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets), a memoir about coming up to New York from Philadelphia for a sex party for older gay men (the “Prime-Timers”) at a Doubletree, and continuing from there upstate to the mobile home of two friends in a town near Brewster, NY. The essay ranges wide, from backstories of the other men to the events (in detail) of the respective visits, and to observations about how he has changed from a monogamous heterosexual to a white-bearded “daddy” having sex with strange men, and how society-at-large has changed – same-sex marriage, protecting abortion rights (barely), and one “phallic” tower replacing “the Tuning Fork in the Sky.” Citing his introductory description, he said that there were others more sexually radical, more socially aware and into things far more marginal than science fiction. He received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Terence returned to the microphone to toast Delany and, as Freund brought out a cake (apple), the gathering sang “Happy birthday, dear Chip.” Some in the audience got a slice (I had one; it was very tasty), though the birthday boy, being diabetic, passed on it, and for the rest, as Jim said, “we’re in a lovely café.”

The (over)capacity crowd of some 130 (people were turned away from the door, and there was no space for the Jenna Felice Freebie Table) included Melissa C. Beckman, EXO Books, Moshe Feder, Amy Goldschlager, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door and newly a Nebula Award finalist), Ellen Kushner, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Kevin Maroney, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Delia Sherman, Henry Wessels, plus the Kestenbaums (Delany’s hosts) and his partner Dennis. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and, if they hadn’t already, grabbed a bite (food, coffee, tea, beer, wine) at the Café.

Astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren Named Nebula Conference Toastmaster

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced that Dr. Kjell Lindgren will serve as the Toastmaster for the 52nd Nebula Award Ceremony.

Dr. Lindgren flew to the International Space Station on Soyuz TMA-17M in 2015 to serve as part of ISS Expedition 44 and 45. His missions lasted from July 22 to December 11, 2015. For Expedition 45, Dr. Lindgren and the other five astronauts famously posed as Jedi for their mission poster with the tag line “The Science Continues.” While aboard the International Space Station, Dr. Lindgren was a Guest of Honor for the 2015 Worldcon, Sasquan, participating remotely from Low Earth Orbit.

The Nebula Awards will be presented during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh, which will run from May 18-21 and feature seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing, SFWA’s annual business meeting, and receptions. On May 19, a mass autograph session will take place at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center and is open to the public.

Registration rates are currently $180, and will increase on April 8 to $200. Additionally, banquet tickets are still available.

Lindgren is the Jedi on the front left.

2017 LA Vintage Paperback Show

2016 Vintage Paperback Show, panoramic view. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Over 400 people came out to the 38th Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show on March 19 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

John King Tarpinian and the rest of the event staff did a really fine job, always aware of what was going on and nice to everyone. John spoiled me with a reserved parking space that helped make everything more accessible.

As I went around the tables, many collectible items caught my eye – none more so than a Duke Snider action figure (he was a big Dodgers star when I was a kid). I find at this point in life I don’t need to personally own things like that, I’m just happy they still exist.

I wasn’t even expecting to buy any books, which must sound blasphemous considering where I was, until I visited Marty and Alice Massoglia’s table. On top of a pile was a Christopher Anvil novel The Steel, The Mist, and the Blazing Sun. I didn’t remember seeing that title before, although I read literally dozens of the guy’s stories in Analog. It was an Ace book edited by Ben Bova. The description on the jacket didn’t ring a bell either, so I paid the $2 and started reading – indeed, despite being published in 1980 it’s new to me.

I had volunteered to help at the Loscon fan table. After Michelle Pincus set up, I had a chance to talk to Marc Schirmeister and hear the latest about Taral’s health and recovery. Craig Miller, co-chair of this year’s Loscon, arrived and we table-sat for awhile, discussing his guests and publicity plans. Michael Toman came by and introduced himself, saying he reads File 770 often.

The Civic Auditorium has a stage at one end, and that’s where the Loscon and Horror Writers Association had tables. With an elevated view of the whole event, during the 11 a.m. hour I could see throngs of collectors carrying small piles of books for Jason Brock, William F. Nolan, Mel Gilden, Barbara Hambly, Joe Lansdale, Tim Powers, John Shirley and others to sign. At noon the sf/f writers included Dick Lupoff, Michael Kurland, and David J. Schow.

Larry Niven, Mike Glyer, and Jerry Pournelle. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

After lunch I got to have a long talk with Jerry Pournelle about his recollections of working in defense and on the space program in the early Sixties. He and I also compared notes about getting around on walkers. Larry Niven joined us, and when Steven Barnes came to say hello they had an impromptu 30-second story conference about the book the three are writing. I also had a chance to greet Harry Turtledove and Gregory Benford.

The Paperback Show is a terrific one-day event with a great spirit that reminds everyone why they’re glad they found the sf/f community. If you’re local, be sure to come out when it’s held again next year.

Care to Run a Westercon?

By John Hertz: Westercon is the annual West Coast Science Fantasy Conference. It’s almost as old as the Worldcon – July 1-4, 2017, in Tempe, Arizona, will be Westercon LXX.

In our happy world we have local cons, regional cons, national cons, international cons, and a Worldcon; special-interest and general-interest cons. Westercon is a regional general-interest con.

“West Coast” means the west coast of North America, but not strictly: the con can be as far east as 104° West Longitude, and as far off the coast the other way as Hawaii. It’s been in El Paso (Westercon XLIX, farthest east to date); Honolulu (Westercon LIII, farthest south and west); and Calgary (Westercon LVIII, farthest north).

You can learn more at this official Website, which has, among other things, the By-Laws.

Or there are lots of folks with whom you can confer outside Electronicland; me, for instance, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

As with many of our cons, Westercon sites are chosen by vote, currently two years in advance. Last year we voted on the 2017 Westercon; this year we’ll vote on 2019.

We invite would-be Westercon hosts to file a bid (Section 3.5 of the By-Laws).

But what if, as a famous flying squirrel put it, that trick doesn’t work?

Not so long ago a bid was campaigning unopposed – usually a compliment, in effect the community saying “We can’t do better than you, go ahead” – but by voting-time had unfortunately lost our confidence, and didn’t get enough votes. So site-selection went to the Business Meeting, Another bid which had previously been a joke decided to get real, made a fine presentation, answered questions well, and was voted in.

This year we have another adventure. Normally, Westercon alternates among three regions, North, Central, and South. If any bid from outside the current region files by a stated deadline, the current region can’t. But if that doesn’t happen, alternation is set aside; the gates are thrown open; it’s anybody’s game. That’s where we are as I write.

So now’s your chance. File by April 15th (the official Website tells you how, and explains our few requirements; or you can learn in other ways) and it could be you.

You’ll still have to get votes. You don’t have to have experience working on Westercons, but it sure helps. You do have to persuade the rest of us that you can do it.

What if no one files by the 15th? Well, that’s in the By-Laws too. But don’t make us go there.