Ray Bradbury Versus the Idiots

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By Carl Slaughter: I put in a lot of mouse time, a lot of chair time, and a lot of headphone time going through YouTube watching talks with Bradbury. His oral storytelling skills are almost as good as his print storytelling skills. Some of these stories I found already transcribed on the Internet, some I had to transcribe myself. Most of these stories were told at writers conferences.

He kept telling the writers not to listen to the idiots who try to shut you down and shut you out. So this theme of Bradbury versus the idiots developed in his talks. I selected the three best stories on this theme. And of course, Bradbury’s point in the end of all these stories is that if don’t listen to the idiots, you’ll eventually be vindicated. He used his personal experiences with naysayers, and his overwhelming vindication, to convince people, in this case writers, to believe in themselves

Ray Bradbury Versus the Smithsonian Observatory:

The Smithsonian Observatory hired Bradbury to revamp their presentation.

They were not happy with the way he jazzed up presentation. His defense: “You’ve got people falling asleep during your presentation!”

They were also not happy with his text and contended with him on several points, especially on scientific accuracy. He submitted a 32-page script. They sent back 28 pages of corrections.

He said the Earth was 12 billion years old. They said, “It’s much older.” He said, “How old?” They said, “14 billion.” He said, “Prove it.”

After going around with them for a couple of months, he said, “How much do you owe me?” They said, “15,000.” He said, “Just give me 7,000 and let me go. This is a bad marriage. You promised to take me into the woods and you didn’t.”

He sold the same presentation to the Air and Space Museum in Los Angeles. It’s entitled, The Great Shout of the Universe: The Creation of Mankind in the World.

Ray Bradbury Versus David Frost:

As Ray Bradbury told it:

My enthusiasm for space travel is so immense, that when I had a chance to be on the David Frost Show – when we landed on the moon, back in July, 31, 32 years ago – I went over to be on the David Frost Show. And we landed on the moon at 8:30 at night, London time.

So I got over there, and David Frost said, “I am now going to introduce an American genius.” I said, “That’s got to be me.” And he immediately introduced the next guest, Engelbert Humperdinck. Well, I was very upset. And then he said, “And the next guest after this is Sammy Davis, Jr.” And so they both got up and sang their stupid songs.

I walked off the show. Smoke was coming out of my ears. And the producer came running after me

He said, “What are you doing out here?” And I said, “I’m leaving the show.” I said, “That man in there is an idiot. He doesn’t realize the most important moment in the history of mankind – our landing on the moon. And he’s ruined this special night. Get me out of here.”

So they put me in a cab, and I went across London. I did a show with Walter Cronkite. I stayed up all night – I cried all night. I was on four or five different TV shows, on Telstar around the world.

And at 9 o’clock in the morning, I walked back across London, very happy and full of cheer, but totally exhausted. And I got out in front of my hotel, and I saw a little, tiny newspaper there. This wonderful, wonderful headline:

“The astronauts walk at 6 a.m.- Bradbury walks at midnight.”

Ray Bradbury Versus Critics:

In Bradbury’s words –

I had a thing happen to me when I was 9 years old, which is a great lesson.

That was in 1929. A single comic strip in the newspaper sent me into the future. The first comic strip of Buck Rogers.

In October 1929 I looked at that one comic strip, with its view of the future, and I thought, “That’s where I belong.”

I started to collect Buck Rogers comic strips. And everybody in the fifth grade made fun of me. I continued to collect them for about a month, and then I listened to the critics. And I tore up my comic strips. That’s the worst thing I ever did.

Two or three day later, I broke down. I was crying, and I said to myself, “Why am I crying? Whose funeral am I going to? Who died?” And the answer was, “Me.” I’d torn up the future.

And then I sat down with myself, and I was crying, and I said, “What can I do to correct this?” And I said, “Well, hell, go back and collect Buck Rogers comic strips! For the next four or five years, move into the future. And don’t listen to any more damn fools after this.”

And that’s what I did. I started collecting Buck Rogers again. And I began to write when I was 12 years old, about going to the moon, about going to Mars, about moving out into the universe.

Thank God I made that decision. Against all the people who said don’t do that.

Because science fiction in those days didn’t exist. We had maybe two or three books a year. You had to wait for six months, or eight months, for a new book to come out.

So I made my decision – I began to write.

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Carrie Fisher Hosptalized After Heart Attack

Carrie Fisher suffered a massive heart attack aboard an airplane about 15 minutes before it was due to land in Los Angeles this afternoon.

According to TMZ:

Our sources say Carrie was on a flight from London to LAX when she went into cardiac arrest. People on board were administering CPR.

We’re told the emergency occurred 15 minutes before the plane landed in L.A. A flight attendant asked if there were any medical personnel on board and an EMT who was sitting in the back of the plane came up to first class and administered life-saving measures.

The plane landed just after noon in L.A. and paramedics rushed her to a nearby hospital.

The LA Times latest Twitter update says she’s in critical condition –


Update: The Associated Press is now reporting

Carrie Fisher is in stable condition after suffering a medical emergency aboard a flight Friday.

Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press that she was “out of emergency” and stabilized at a Los Angeles hospital Friday afternoon. He said he could not discuss any other details about what happened.

Update: According to Variety, her brother Todd Fisher has contradicted the Associated Press report quoted earlier

“She’s in the ICU and everybody’s praying for her,” he told Variety in a phone interview. “There’s nothing new from the doctors. There’s nothing new at all. … There’s no good news or bad news.”

Todd Fisher said media outlets are “writing between the lines” in reporting that she’s now in stable condition. The Associated Press reported earlier today that Todd Fisher said Carrie Fisher was in stable condition and “out of emergency.”

Tristina Wright’s Fans Show Holiday Love, and SFWA Apologizes for Mistake

Tristina Wright has written a series of tweets about her request for aid from the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund. Several months after applying, she got an email saying she’d been granted $4,000, then received a follow-up email saying that the notification was a mistake, the message had been intended for another applicant. A friend of Wright’s reached out to SFWA Director At Large Justina Ireland. Wright says Ireland went to bat for her unsuccessfully, and Ireland has now resigned her SFWA directorship.

Several Twitter users have pilloried SFWA for the mistake. Others have decided to help Wright by making direct contributions to Wright through Patreon, and a crowdsourced fund appeal has been set up.

SFWA, meantime, has effusively apologized for the mistake. The full text of “SFWA Apology to Tristina Wright” is at the SFWA Blog.

President Cat Rambo’s statement says in part —

I have been in correspondence with Tristina Wright and I am deeply apologetic about what happened, as I have told Ms. Wright in e-mail. This should not have happened. I and the rest of the SFWA Board apologize again to Ms. Wright again for this egregious blunder. Normally, correspondence as it pertains to the Emergency Medical Fund is held in the strictest confidence to protect the privacy of those involved, but because Ms. Wright has made the details public and people are asking for future elaboration, here is what I know of how this occurred….

I wrote earlier to Ms. Wright to apologize for the lack of response and erroneous letter sent in December. As expressed in the e-mail, I would like to have the committee re-examine her application when they have the non-SFWA member guidelines in place, but I wanted to acknowledge the fact that, given how much we’d bungled things at that point, she might not want that.  I hope she will be willing to give us another shot.

In the meantime, I’m still trying to find out how and where the process failed. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time we’ve had such an incident. My plan is to make it the last as well

-Cat Rambo President, SFWA

Ninety-four people contributed nearly half the target amount ($4,500) of Wright’s GoFundMe in the first two hours of fundraising.

Update 12/07/2016: It took only nine hours for the GoFundMe to be fully funded.

VanderMeer Creative Sponsors the Octavia Project for 2016-2017

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The Octavia Project, a free summer program that uses science fiction and fantasy to teach 21st century skills to underserved Brooklyn teenage girls, announced today that they will be funded by VanderMeer Creative for one year. VanderMeer Creative is run by editor Ann VanderMeer and author Jeff VanderMeer. Along with the announcement of their fiscal support of the Octavia Project for 2016-2017, VanderMeer Creative is offering an all-expense paid scholarship (including air travel) to one 2017 Octavia Project participant to attend their summer writing intensive Shared Worlds at Wofford College in South Carolina in 2018.

Named after science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, the Octavia Project is delighted with the support of the VanderMeers, who have been champions of the program since its inception. “Now in our third year, this sponsorship means we will have more time to create dynamic summer programming and get the word out to even more girls. It’s a dream come true at this stage in our development.” said co-founder and director Meghan McNamara.

McNamara also spoke of expanding their paid teaching staff and their commitment to hiring women of color as teachers and guest artists. “From the very beginning, our greatest champions have come from the science fiction community,” said co-founder and author Chana Porter. “N.K. Jemisin, Malka Older, Ibi Zoboi, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, the staff of Tor.com— these members of the science fiction community helped make the Octavia Project possible.” Porter and McNamara went on to say that the Octavia Project was created to honor, support, and celebrate the imaginations of black and brown girls in Brooklyn, immigrant girls, and LGBTQ youth.

The Octavia Project uses girls’ passion in science fiction, fantasy, fan-fiction, and gaming to teach them skills in science, technology, art, and writing, equipping them with skills to dream and build new futures for themselves and their communities. Their inspiration and namesake is Octavia E. Butler, who broke barriers in writing and science fiction to become an award-winning and internationally recognized author (Kindred, Lilith’s Brood). The Octavia Project is inspired by her visions of possible futures and commitment to social justice.

Jeff VanderMeer commented, “Most of the things we fund or donate money to, we don’t make public, but the point of it being public is to up the profile of this important program and also to bring more major sponsors to them.”

VanderMeer interviewed one of the founders, Chana Porter, about the work of the Octavia Project for Electric Literature — “We Need the Alternate Realities Living Inside Girls of Color from Brooklyn”.

VanderMeer: How do you use science fiction as part of the Octavia Project?

Porter: Meghan McNamara, a science teacher and dear friend, saw the opportunity to teach science and tech skills through SF/F writing workshops I was leading with teen girls. Over the course of the month at the Octavia Project, teen girls from Brooklyn write SF/F stories that are enriched by interdisciplinary projects. A SF story is transformed into a text-based computer game. The girls learn simple coding while building the game based around their story. The computer game is a branching narrative, and this changes the way the author has been thinking about her story. So she keeps writing, incorporating the new ideas she gleaned from the computer game project.

The next day, a professional woman architect comes to teach the basics of 3-D modeling. The girl builds a cityscape from her imaginary world. Then we take it back to the page. Building her city has changed the way she thinks about her story. Every project is connected back to storytelling at the Octavia Project. The girl designs clothes and tools from her world, then uses basic circuitry and principles of electrical engineering to create wearable electronics based on her design. This causes her to think about how tools function in her story. She takes it back to the page.

This summer our theme at the Octavia Project is “200 Years in the Future”?—?we chose this theme for a few reasons. First, it pushes our participants to think about what they want their futures and the futures of their communities to look like. We’re asking them a question “What do you want the future to be like?” and then we’re helping them build the skills to create the answer. While most people agree that scientific discoveries can make the world a better place to live in, we created the Octavia Project to help address the imbalance around who gets to benefit from current and future technologies.

While most people agree that scientific discoveries can make the world a better place to live in, we created the Octavia Project to help address the imbalance around who gets to benefit from current and future technologies.

Along with our theme, this summer we’re learning about the evolution of life on Earth. We are looking at how plants and animals have evolved to where they are today, and then we’re imagining what these plants and animals might be like hundreds of years from now. We’re asking how has life on Earth changed and what conditions or events have made it change.

Octavia Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit arts service organization, and donations are tax deductible.

Northern California Fans Find 56 Flags, Pro-Trump Slogans on Lawn

Concord police are investigating vandalism done to the Bay Area home of horror writer Jay Hartlove and past editor of the International Costumers Guild newsletter Denisen Hartlove. The Hartloves suspect it is the work of a neighbor.

NBC News reported:

A Northern California family is shocked and unsettled after someone cut electricity to their home and planted 56 American flags, seven of which were defaced with handwritten pro-Donald Trump messages, on their East Bay front lawn early Saturday morning.

Concord police are investigating the incident, reported by Jay and Denisen Hartlove, who live on Montana Drive in Concord.

….Some of the flags had “Build The Damn Wall” and “I Luv The Donald” written on them in black ink. The Hartloves say they are one of the more liberal families on the block, and believe they may have been targeted because of it.

“Why would someone do that?” Jay wondered. “I mean, (the vandal) must have spent 20 minutes out there putting the flags in. This is not some drive-by prank….I mean, where do you get 56 flags in November?”

Upon finding the flags, the couple was irked but not worried.

“We tried to brush it off – Trump flags aren’t going to hurt anyone,” Denisen said. “We sort of made light of the situation, like ha ha ha.” The couple confronted the neighbor who they think is responsible, but neither Jay nor Denisen got a response.

A short time later, at about 1:30 a.m., the situation became more serious. The Hartloves heard a huge bang and were plunged into complete darkness.

At first, they thought the abrupt loss of electricity could be related to the fireworks going off in the street hours earlier, but they soon discovered that the metering box connecting power to their property had been ripped off. It was then that they became worried and frightened for their safety, and the safety of their two daughters, who were asleep in bed.

“At that point, I thought we were under attack,” Denisen said.

The couple called the Concord Police Department and filed a police report with two officers, both of whom the Hartloves describe as being “very unhelpful.”

…Throughout the Bay Area and the nation, politically-motivated instances of harassment are being reported at an alarming rate, according to hate-tracking groups. As of Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center had noted 701 reports of harassment since election day.

Tingle in the Times

“Chuck Tingle’s Internet Magic”, Anna North’s op-ed for the New York Times, explains how the author was roped into last year’s Hugo controversy and what’s happened since then.

Mr. Tingle didn’t attend the Hugo ceremony. The author, who says he lives in Billings, Mont., with his son, Jon, does not make public appearances or give in-person interviews. Last December, Jon said in a Reddit A.M.A. (“Ask Me Anything”) that his father has autism and schizophrenia.

Since his Hugo nomination (he didn’t win), Mr. Tingle has used Twitter to promote acceptance of diversity, and to lob offbeat but impassioned criticisms at Donald Trump. He’s been the subject of profiles in The Guardian, Vox and elsewhere. And he’s continued to write the bizarre e-books he calls “Tinglers,” in which men have sex with trains, dinosaurs, mythical creatures and more (“Seduced by Doctor Bigfoot: Attorney at Large” is one of his tamer titles)….

North also tries to figure out if Tingle really exists, and finds the author as helpful in answering that question as he always is:

In an email interview, Mr. Tingle said he was proud to have fans who are autistic. He made a distinction between the persona of “Chuck Tingle” and his real self: “i have CHARACTER name of chuck and also ME name of chuck,” he explained. He described his persona as an adaptation to difficulties in his youth: “when i was a young buck it was difficult for me to UNDERSTAND FEELINGS so now i have my own way of being myself that is like a mask but it is a mask of my own face.”

[Thanks to Darrah Chavey and Daniel Dern for the story.]

Vox Day Launches Infogalactic, Rival to Wikipedia

Infogalactic, Vox Day’s new online encyclopedia, begins life today as a copy of the Wikipedia that, with the aid of volunteer editors, will be developed into multiple versions of the material which will let users select their preferred perspective and automatically see the version of the subject page that is closest to it based on a series of algorithms utilizing three variables, Relativity, Reliability, and Notability.

Day explains, “This means a supporter of Hillary Clinton will see a different version of the current Donald Trump page than a Donald Trump supporter will, as both users will see the version of the page that was most recently edited by editors with perspective ratings similar to his own.”

Day gave these reasons for doing the project:

Conceived as a next-generation replacement for Wikipedia, the troubled online encyclopedia, Infogalactic is a dynamic fork of Wikipedia that is designed to supplant its predecessor by addressing the problems of bias, vandalism, harassment, abuse, and inaccuracy that have plagued the Wikimedia Foundation’s flagship project for years.

“Every notable public figure who has a page devoted to them knows very well what an inaccurate nightmare Wikipedia is,” said Vox Day, Lead Designer of Infogalactic, a computer game designer and bestselling philosopher. “The page about me there has had everything from my place of birth to the number of times I’ve been married wrong. And that’s not even counting the outright abuse, such as when Wikipedians replaced the entire page with a definition of a sexually-transmitted disease or with a string of obscenities.”…

He asserts, “This isn’t Conservapedia 2.0 and we aren’t replacing Wikipedia’s admins with their conservative equivalent, we are making the function of thought police irrelevant through technology. Our design philosophy is based on the idea that only the user has the right to define what his reality is.”

When the project was announced at Vox Popoli, readers demanded immediate changes to distinguish Infogalactic’s article about the Gamergate controversy from the version in the Wikipedia, which Day provided.

Compare the two approaches. Wikipedia’s article about the Gamergate controversy begins:

The Gamergate controversy concerns issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture, stemming from a harassment campaign conducted primarily through the use of the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate. Gamergate is used as a blanket term for the controversy, the harassment campaign and actions of those participating in it, and the loosely organized movement that emerged from the hashtag.

Beginning in August 2014, Gamergate targeted several women in the video game industry, including game developers Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, as well as feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian. After a former boyfriend of Quinn wrote a lengthy disparaging blog post about her, other people falsely accused her of entering a relationship with a journalist in exchange for positive coverage and threatened her with assault and murder. Those endorsing the blog post and spreading such accusations against Quinn organized themselves under the Twitter hashtag #Gamergate, as well as on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels and websites such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan. Harassment campaigns against Quinn and others were coordinated through these forums and included doxing, threats of rape, and death threats. Many of those organizing under the Gamergate hashtag argue that they are campaigning against political correctness and poor journalistic ethics in the video game industry. Many commentators dismissed Gamergate’s purported concerns with ethics and condemned its misogynistic behavior.

Infogalactic’s revision now says this about the Gamergate controversy:

GamerGate is the name given to an ongoing consumer movement in the video game industry that began in August 2014 with concerns about the corruption of video game journalism after a series of coordinated attacks on the gaming community by game journalists. In a period of two weeks,4chan purged the majority of its 45 moderators for being sympathetic to gamers, a dozen simultaneous “Gamers are Dead” articles were published on the same day by Ars Technica, Gamasutra, The Guardian, The Financial Post, Jezebel, and other sites. The #gamergate hash tag was popularized by actor Adam Baldwin and was adopted as a title for the loosely affiliated group by adherents as well as opponents.

Beginning in August 2014, Gamergate targeted several women in the video game industry, including game developers Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, and cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian. After a former boyfriend of Quinn wrote a lengthy blog post describing their relationship and her involvement with other men, she was accused of entering a sexual relationship with a journalist in exchange for positive coverage.. Those endorsing the blog post and spreading such accusations against Quinn organized themselves under the Twitter hashtag #Gamergate, as well as on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels and websites such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan. Many of those organizing under the Gamergate hashtag argue that they are campaigning against political correctness and poor journalistic ethics in the video game industry. Most commentators dismissed Gamergate’s purported concerns with ethics and condemned what they claimed to be its misogynistic behavior.

Also of interest, Infogalactic has replaced the well-known Five Pillars of Wikipedia with its own Seven Canons™:

  1. Infogalactic does not define reality.
  2. Infogalactic is written from an objective point of view.
  3. Infogalactic is free content.
  4. No griefing.
  5. Play nice and play fair.
  6. Rules are guidelines for users, not chew toys for lawyers.
  7. Facts are facts.

 

 

A Bradbury Link Omnibus

(1) IN LETTERS OF FIRE. Book Riot’s Nikki Vanry presents “19 of My Favorite Fahrenheit 451 Quotes”.

“‘Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.’”

(2) INCREASED SPACE. The Indianapolis Monthly records “A New Chapter for IUPUI’s Center for Ray Bradbury Studies”.

Following Bradbury’s 2012 death, the collection grew to include his personal library, writing desk, and 40 years of correspondence with presidents, filmmakers, and other writers. Much of the archive temporarily languished in storage: 20,000 pounds of boxes and furniture stacked floor to ceiling.

This month, the Center celebrates its move to a space three times larger in Cavanaugh Hall with a show at IUPUI’s Cultural Arts Gallery, Ray Bradbury’s Magical Mansions, which draws from the Center’s extensive collection. It’s an unusual repository for this or any university campus. Aside from smaller science fiction collections at a few college libraries, and occasional class offerings, academic acceptance of Bradbury’s genre has been scarce. Archives like the one at IUPUI could change that. Bradbury’s chance meeting with Eller all those years ago gave the professor his life’s work. In return, Eller is giving Bradbury what science fiction writers never had: a place of honor in academia.

…[Jonathan] Eller, with now-retired IUPUI Professor William Touponce, co-wrote the first university press book on Bradbury. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction (Kent State University Press, 2004) laid the groundwork for founding the Center and archive in 2007. Though the 510-square-foot basement location wasn’t set up for tours, Eller would often drop what he was doing to show curious visitors around. This summer, Eller began the laborious task of moving the archive to an impressive new 1,460-square-foot location in Cavanaugh Hall. It includes a room for Bradbury’s recreated office: a blue metal desk and work table, a globe of Mars given to him by NASA, and a Viking 76 paperweight made with material from the lander. Bookshelves and file cabinets line every wall. Eller and his wife, Debi, spent months readying the space: hanging pictures, cleaning shelves, and cataloging the large book collection. “At this point in most academics’ lives, they’re getting ready to retire,” Debi says. “But Jon is trying to preserve the effects of a man he respected so much.”

The Center’s new outpost offers room to shelve the 20,000 pounds of materials previously stacked floor to ceiling, and perhaps more importantly, a much more public face. Eller sees the Center as a resource for teachers, librarians, and scholars who want to pass on Bradbury’s importance to future generations, and it gives Bradbury and science fiction academic credibility. And it might be just be the beginning: In addition to finishing the third volume of his biography, the professor eventually hopes to acquire even more space and funding to expand the Center into a full-fledged museum.

(3) BRADBURY BIO REVIEWED. “Bradbury: between dystopia and hope”, at Spiked.

Ray Bradbury, by David Seed, is published by the University of Illinois Press.

As David Seed observes in this meticulously researched and affection tribute to the author, ‘Bradbury conceived his early science fiction as a cumulative early warning system against unforeseen consequences’. As the author himself said: ‘technological science fiction, as put in motion by human beings, can either shackle us with the greatest totalitarian dictatorship of all time, or free us to the greatest freedom in history. I mean to work for the latter in my science-fiction stories.’

Like the best writers who imagine the worlds of tomorrow, Ray Bradbury talks to contemporary society. The Martian Chronicles features a tale of America’s ‘niggers’ parting en mass by rocket to the Red Planet to escape racism and servitude in the United States, in their own kind of ironic Mayflower. This story speaks to readers now as much as it would have 70 years ago. While the recurrent themes in The Martian Chronicles of environmental catastrophe and the perils of colonisation will resonate with concerned minds today, they spoke foremost to 1950s readers for whom the Dust Bowl was in living memory. It’s no coincidence that Bradbury gives his colonies on Mars mid-Western names such as Ohio or Illinois.

(4) RAY ANTICIPATED LIFE ONLINE. You may have thought that Ray Bradbury had nothing to say about the rise of social media and the way the virtual world often obliterates the real one. Financial Times columnist Nilanjana Roy, in “Back To Virtual Reality”, would disagree:

Perhaps an internet historian could better pinpoint when the digital world became the real world, but the truth is that our “real”, physical-world selves are so intimately, inescapably layered with virtual experiences that it may no longer be possible to split the two. The price you pay for digitally detoxing is to step outside the mainstream, and that has profound consequences. An obvious example might be that I feel less connected to old friends who are not on Facebook, for example, because I don’t see them, or see pictures of their kids. More subtly, if you unplug from the running streams of news, you also disconnect yourself from dinner-party, workplace, or even friendly conversation.

In Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian” (1951), a man arouses police suspicion because he is the only person to take walks while his neighbours stay at home, the flickering blue light of televisions playing on their walls. If he’d been writing today, Bradbury might have made more of the disconnect between the walker and his neighbours, the widening gap between the few who turn away from news-streams and social media immersion, and the many who are shaped by these.

(5) A SPIRITUAL MAP OF BRADBURY. J. W. Ocker just completed a week of superb blog posts inspired by and about Ray Bradbury.

1) Ray Bradbury’s Ravine

September 26, 2016 — It was night, and the thunderstorm that followed me from the hotel had calmed into light rain and thunderous sky flashes. My hair was sodden, my shirt and jeans were sticking uncomfortably to me, and I was at the slippery edge of a black ravine, ready to disappear into its depths. All for Ray Bradbury.

2) Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan

September 27, 2016 — This was a big one for me: Waukegan, Illinois—the hometown of Ray Bradbury. But it was more than just his hometown, more than the mere place where he was born. It was the very geography of his imagination. The place where so many of his stories were set. So many of his characters lived. On his pages, he rechristened the city Green Town. And I was going to see it all, both the real Waukegan and the fictional Green Town. We’ve got a lot to pack into this one, so let’s get going.

3) Thoughts on Ray Bradbury’s Statue

…But the one thing I didn’t find was a statue of him. I mean, there was one of comedian Jack Benny, another Waukeganite, but not one of Ray Bradbury. And that’s because I was in town too early. The city’s been working on a statue project for him for about a year and half and, by the time of my visit, had narrowed the 40-odd submissions it had received to three. In fact, mere days after I returned from my trip to Waukegan and other points along the shores of the Great Lakes, the city announced the winning design.

4) Ray, Halloween, the Witch and Salem

September 29, 2016 — I don’t know if Ray Bradbury ever visited Salem, Massachusetts. But I can tell you that a piece of his life did. Because I took one there myself. I brought it with me during my Salem October last year. And good thing too, as that piece, of its own power almost, provided an anecdote that allowed me to write the name “Ray Bradbury” a few times in my account of that Salem October, A Season with the Witch. Below is the relevant excerpt from the book:

5) Strange Stuff fromo my Study: The Halloween Tree Sketch

September 30, 2016 — In this episode of Strange Stuff from My Study, I dig into my Ray Bradbury collection to show you an original 50-year-old sketch by an artist named Joseph Mugnaini, a sketch that he did as a test layout for one of the fantastic interior illustrations for Bradbury’s 1972 book, The Halloween Tree.

(6) MARTIAN PENSEES. Tyler Miller undertakes to prove “How Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Martian Chronicles’ Changed Science Fiction (And Literature)”.

Unlike his peers, Bradbury didn’t care much for the future either. Though The Martian Chronicles deals ostensibly with a future inhabitation of Mars, Bradbury’s tales are clearly a lens through which to study the past. He is not interested in the mechanics of space flight or the geographic terrain of the Red Planet. Technology is laced through the book, but it is the technology of a Flash Gordon comic strip, not based in actual mathematics and engineering. These stories are not realistic in the least. They are metaphors.

“Do you know why teachers use me?” Bradbury once said, in an interview for the Paris Review. “Because I speak in tongues. I write metaphors. Every one of my stories is a metaphor you can remember.”

However, I have to say Miller is thoroughly wrong when he says, “Sherwood Anderson, Shakespeare, St. John Parse, Ernest Hemingway. These were hardly the writers inspiring usual 1950s science-fiction.” Plenty of them tried to tap into Shakespeare and Hemingway — Papa’s economical prose was regarded by many as the ideal 50 years ago.

(7) TRUFFAUT. Released this month: The New Ray Bradbury Review, No. 5, edited by Phil Nichols and Jonathan Eller.

Fahrenheit 451—American science fiction meets French New Wave cinema

As a highly visual writer, Ray Bradbury’s works have frequently been adapted for film and television. One of the most stylized and haunting dramatizations is François Truffaut’s 1966 film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. For this fifth volume of The New Ray Bradbury Review, guest editor Phil Nichols brings together essays and articles that reflect upon Bradbury’s classic novel and Truffaut’s enduring low-tech science fiction film, fifty years after its release.

French film director and writer François Truffaut was a major force in world cinema. Beginning with his first days as a firebrand film critic and early years as a highly original director, Truffaut sustained a career that brought him numerous accolades, including an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. Yet Fahrenheit 451—his only film in English and his only foray into science fiction—is often overshadowed by the considerable triumphs of his other works, like The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, and Day for Night. Similarly, while science fiction scholars often present the film as a significant work, they sometimes see it as a flawed adaptation, somehow less than its source, Ray Bradbury’s classic 1953 novel of book-burning firemen.

The articles in this volume represent the first scholarly investigation of Truffaut’s film and Bradbury’s novel together. They lay out the key critical issues in comparing book and film and novelist and filmmaker, discuss various aspects of Bradbury’s and Truffaut’s nar­rative strategies in creating a world where books are systematically burned, consider the film’s screenplay and Bradbury’s own creative reactions to Truffaut, and examine the reception of the film among various audiences and critics.

(7) CARTOON TIME. Melville House recommends two cartoons a Soviet director made based on Bradbury’s short stories “There Will Come Soft Rains” and “The Veldt.”

Ray Bradbury: science fiction author, namesake of a patch of Mars, and Last Interview series participant. In 1950, a twenty-nine-year-old Bradbury published There Will Come Soft Rains, which would become one of his signature short stories. It depicts a California morning in the year 2026, as a robotic house wakes itself up and begins preparing its residents for a busy day: making them breakfast, laying their clothes out, and so forth.

There is, naturally, a twist, and one fun way of learning what it is (besides reading the story), is to watch this Soviet cartoon adaptation, Budet Laskovyj Dozhd’, made by the Uzbekfilm studio in 1984, and directed by Nazim Tulyakhodzhayev. It’s a beaut — austere, creepy, and oddly warm. Do yourself a favor:

At the post are links to both videos on YouTube.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, J. W. Ocker, and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]

Furry Murder

Frank Felix, 25, Sun Valley and Josh Acosta, 21, Fort Irwin, have been arrested in connection with the three murders that occurred September 25 in Fullerton.

Frank Felix, 25, Sun Valley and Josh Acosta, 21, Fort Irwin, have been arrested in connection with the three murders that occurred September 24 in Fullerton.

Four people associated with a triple homicide in Fullerton (CA) on September 24 were involved in the Southern California furry community reports the Orange County Register — one of the victims, two men charged with the murder, and an unnamed teenager who may also be charged.

Christopher Yost, 34; his wife, Jennifer Yost, 39; and their friend Arthur Boucher, 28, were found dead in the Yost home in Fullerton on Saturday morning. Two of the couple’s daughters, ages 6 and 9, were home when police arrived. The younger girl alerted police by calling 911, saying their parents had died.

On Sunday morning, police arrested Frank Felix, 25, of Sun Valley; Joshua Acosta, a 21-year-old U.S. Army mechanic based at Fort Irwin; and a 17-year-old female on suspicion of murder.

The trio were arrested after police had asked for the public’s help in finding Jennifer Yost’s missing daughter, Katlynn, who is 17.

Katlynn Yost was located, but police said state law prevents them from saying whether she was the arrested teenager.

According to reports from KTLA, the teenager is expected to face murder charges as well.

Katlynn, known on the OC Furry Facebook Fan Page as Daydreamer, was reported to the group as missing on Sunday.

The Register interviewed the SoCal Furs videographer Christopher Parque-Johnson.

“A lot of people in our community were devastated,” said Christopher Parque-Johnson, 23, of Garden Grove, an artist, performer and videographer for the SoCal Furs, which has members from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. “I’ve been hearing from a lot of people. It bothered everybody.

“It makes no sense.”

Parque-Johnson led a group of furries, as they call themselves, to the site of the homicides Sunday night. They laid roses, left cards and lit candles to honor victim Jennifer Yost, Parque-Johnson said, because she was a mother figure to the SoCal Furs. The two men accused in the killings are also furries, as is Yost’s daughter Katlynn Goodwin Yost, Parque-Johnson said.

“All of them were always nice to everybody,” said Parque-Johnson, known in the furry community as Bandit, a raccoon inspired by the film “Over the Hedge.”

The Los Angeles Times carried details of the charges against the two men arrested in the murders.

A soldier in the U.S. Army and another man were charged with murder Tuesday in connection with the slaying of a Fullerton couple and their friend over the weekend, according to authorities.

Pfc. Joshua Acosta, 21, of Ft. Irwin in San Bernardino County, and Frank Sato Felix, 25, of Sun Valley, each face three felony counts of murder, with special circumstance allegations of multiple murder, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors also charged Acosta with a sentencing enhancement because he used a firearm, according to the district attorney’s office. Both men have been ordered held without bail. If convicted, the men face a sentence of at least life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Parque-Johnson also told the Orange County Register quite a bit of background about furries which was published in the article.

Parque-Johnson said he knew the two men and Katlynn Yost, who identifies herself as a furry on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, but did not associate them with one another.

“We’ve never seen them huddled together,” Parque-Johnson said. “We didn’t know them as friends of each other.”

Parque-Johnson said he was closest with Jennifer Yost.

“People looked up to her,” he said. “A lot of people cared about her.”

Joshua Acosta and Frank Felix were helpful in setting up and breaking down weekend events, Parque-Johnson said.

“They were trying to be outstanding citizens,” Parque-Johnson said.

Furries have been around since the 1980s. They admire anthropomorphic animals – characters that walk on two feet and speak like humans. Most of them are “non-suiters,” meaning they don’t spend $1,000 to $5,000 or more on full-body animal costumes. Instead, they create characters and wear badges with their characters displayed.

Parque-Johnson said furries have been unfairly characterized in the media as a group of sexual deviants. Sexual activity involving some people in furry costumes has happened in the three-decade history of the furries, according to media accounts.

“If we see it, we don’t allow those people back,” Parque-Johnson said. “We feel that behavior would be very inappropriate in our group. We think that is very weird.”

The furry community comprises mostly adults under 30, although there are some older furries who were fans of Disney movies involving animals with human characteristics such as in “Robin Hood.”

Furries watch movies, play video games, draw pictures and trade cards, Parque-Johnson said.

“People come to us to get away from the negative stuff in life,” he said.

Wil Wheaton Addresses 2016 Mensa Annual Gathering

Wil Wheaton just before his speech to Mensa.

Wil Wheaton just before his speech to Mensa.

By JJ: Wil Wheaton gave the keynote address at the 2016 Mensa Annual Gathering in San Diego on July 1.

There are lots of “money quotes” in this, but here are my favorites:

I was a nerdy, shy, awkward kid who was scared of everything, and the library intimidated me; I never knew where to start, I was afraid I’d pick a book that the Cool Kids would tease me about reading, and I always felt lost in the stacks. This librarian, though, reached out to me. She asked me what sort of things I liked on TV and in the movies, and recommended a few different books based on my answers, including the first real SciFi book I can recall reading… I loved it so much, when I went back the next month, she taught me how to use the card catalog to find other books like it, entirely on my own. On that day, the library was transformed from a confusing and intimidating collection of books into a thousand different portals through time and space to fantastic worlds for me to explore.

I don’t remember her name, but I do remember that she was in her fifties, wore epic 1970s polyester pantsuits, huge glasses that hung from a long gold chain around her neck, and had a hairdo that was ten miles high. She was friendly and helpful, and when she reached out to that nerdy little kid, she changed his life. If you’re a librarian today, you probably don’t hear this very often, but thank you. Thank you for making a difference in people’s lives.

***

And I can go on and on about how those of us who are elder geeks probably feel like it’s just so damn easy to be a geek right now, the damn kids today don’t know how good they have it!  And if everything is geeky, maybe nothing is geeky, and that means that gatekeeping in geek and nerd culture is a pointless waste of time. So when someone tells you that they love X-Men, or Game of Thrones, or Star Wars, or learning to program in Python, the best way to respond is with a high five (or sci-five), not a pop quiz and a summary judgement. Because every single one of us, when we were protonerds, we met someone who said, Oh, you like this thing that I like? Cool! Let’s like it together, and meet some other people who will like it with us. And, BOOM: the first Star Trek convention happened. And it was awesome, and then there were conventions everywhere for everything nerds loved, and it gave us a place where we could be who we were without being afraid of the cool kids making fun of us.

So, if I may: it isn’t enough to be kind and welcoming to the people who want to join us in celebrating all the amazing things that we love. When we see someone being a gatekeeper, we have to walk right up to them, say “don’t be a dick,” and bring that person they were trying to keep out right into our clubhouse. Because the next Joss Whedon or Elon Musk or Kelly Sue Deconnick is just discovering nerd culture for the first time, and I promise you that we want them to be part of it.

***

And there’s a really, really wonderful section at the end about self-doubt and anxiety and depression, and the way that really smart people seem to experience this at a much higher level than the general population, and why we all need to beat that insidious self-doubting, condemning voice down, because we the geeks are the superheroes that the world will need in the future — but I don’t want to excerpt it, because it really just needs to be read and taken onboard in its entirety.

I found a video on YouTube, but it unfortunately cuts off WAY before the end. Maybe the full speech will be uploaded in a few days. Meantime, the full text is here.