Moorcock Pleads Guilty — To Science Fiction

After so many obituaries minimized or denied J. G. Ballard’s roots in SF, Moshe Feder was glad to hear from Michael Moorcock, the godfather of the New Wave, that he still unashamedly identifies himself with the field — and that there is video of the late Ballard doing the same:

Mike Moorcock was kind enough to bring this BBC program to my attention. The first 8 minutes of this episode are devoted to Ballard. An interview with his daughter Bea frames clips from David Cronenberg,  Brian Aldiss and Ballard himself. He states unequivocally that he IS a science fiction writer and proud of it. (Take that, Robert Weil!) If you don’t have it, you’ll need to download Real Player to hear this.

Update 05/08/2009: Old dog tries new trick.

Aliens: In Memory Yet Green

Stephen Worth has posted a wealth of classic images from the work of Chesley Bonestell and the Disney production of “Man in Space” at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.

“Theory: Our Dreams of the Future” samples artists’ playful guesses about humanity’s future discoveries of life on other planets, from Nervy’s Nat’s zeppelin trip to Venus by James Montgomery Flagg, to a Coors’ ad where a bartending E.T. advises drunks to phone home.

[Via James Hay.]

Snapshots 23

Here are a dozen developments of interest to fans:

(1) You don’t expect this from Locus, let alone a mundane paper, so how surprising is it that Ottawa Citizen editorialist Kate Heartfield devoted a recent column to the importance of Worldcon members voting for the Hugos?

[If] history is any guide, only a few hundred WorldCon participants will actually vote for the Hugos.

I don’t get that. So many literary awards are chosen by inscrutable juries and panels. The Hugos are — or at least have the potential to be — truly democratic. Not only do WorldCon members get to choose among the nominees; we also got to nominate them in the first place.

(2) Fred Pohl posted some very interesting observations about his late collaborator Cyril Kornbluth on The Way the Future Blogs:

Unfortunately Cyril’s health was deteriorating. Partly this was due to the quantities of coffee, cigarettes, hot pastrami sandwiches and alcohol he had been ingesting since his teens, but mostly it was due to the war.

(3) Want to see what the Hugo logo contest is inspiring? Fasten your seat-belt and click on this link to see California blogger Wendell Wittler’s suggestion:

When the lovely and/or talented John Scalzi mentioned that the Hugo Awards are staging a competition for a logo design, I was inspired to jump in head first. Now, I do not claim to be a good visual artist (which is why I own the domain name PhotoSlop.com which I will be putting to some use soon). But a few moments pondering about the prestigious awards for a class of massively imaginative writers and looking at the design of the award trophy (a shiny metal retro-style rocket with relatively little phallic resemblance) and I had an extremely cool idea.

(4) Francis Hamit was interviewed on Elise Cooper’s new program “The Book Stops Here” on April 19 about The Shenandoah Spy, of course, and also a little bit about self-publishing.  Programs are archived, so you can easily listen in anytime.

(5) Diana and Sierra recently visited Virginia. While on the road, Diana visited with a group of C. S. Lewis fans:

On April 9th, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Harrisonburg C. S. Lewis Society at their local Barnes & Noble. The group, founded by Will Vaus, was attentive and lively- we had a terrific evening.

This is from Diana’s new blog now, and the post includes photos.

(6) Lex Berman thinks fandom’s Secret Masters might glean something useful out of  the stats for DrupalCon, the recent “unconference” for Drupal users and developers held in Washington, D.C. 

(7) TMZ.com reported that the late Majel Roddenberry made sure her dogs would  “live long and prosper after her death” by willing them the right to live in one of her mansions and setting up a $4 million residential trust to maintain the place in style.

And no, her son Eugene Roddenberry Jr. was not neglected in favor of the dogs. He got a mansion plus many more millions of his own.

(8) Reporters calling this archeological find a “hobbit” haven’t fooled Andrew Porter. He observes that the “article doesn’t mention hairy feet or proclivity to drink a lot (nor ring-wearing)”:

A “hobbit” will be making its public debut on Tuesday [April 21] at Stony Brook University on Long Island. A cast of the skull and bones of the hominid Homo floresiensis, its diminutive size inspiring the hobbit nickname, will be displayed for the first time at a public symposium on human evolution, titled “Hobbits in the Haystack.”

(9) You think your fanac is expensive? Try building a working model of the Saturn V:

On April 25, 2009, history will be made. At Higgs Farm in Price, Maryland, Steve Eves will enter the history books as the person who flew the largest model rocket in history. The rocket will weigh over 1,600 pounds, it will stand over 36 feet tall and it will be powered by a massive array of nine motors: eight 13,000ns N-Class motors and a 77,000ns P-Class motor. The estimated altitude of this single stage effort will be between 3,000 and 4,000 feet and the project will be recovered at apogee.

The fuel price alone, including the motor cases, will exceed $13,000.

(10) Garth Spencer’s Royal Swiss Navy Gazette #17 has been posted at eFanzines. It’s a very ambitious issue:

In this issue…the RSN presents a solution for violence in the Near East, the Elder Ghods submit a suit against Microsoft, I reveal what I learned from cop shows (and police news), and Taral Wayne tells us all about furry fandom.

(11) There’s lots to know about the Iron Man movie sequel:

Now, with director Jon Favreau in the grip of a full-fledged Twitter addiction, we may end up knowing more than we really want to…. According to Favreau’s tweets, American comedian Garry Shandling is in the film, although no-one seems to know who he’s playing. Not even Shandling.

David Klaus says the real comedy gold comes after the end of the article. “Be sure to read all the ‘Douglas Urbanski’-related comments,” he advises.

(12) John Crace has contributed an insightful post about J. G. Ballard to the Guardian‘s “Book Blog”:

Critics often used to comment on the contrast between the prim suburban order of Shepperton, where Jim Ballard lived for the past 50 years or so, and the dark, dystopian worlds of his writing. Which rather missed the point. For Ballard was one of those increasingly rare writers who actually had a life before writing.

[Thanks to Geri Sullivan, Andrew Porter, David Klaus, Francis Hamit, Chaos Manor, Garth Spencer and Lex Berman for the links included in this post.]

Kramer Trial Delays Now into 9th Year

DragonCon founder Ed Kramer, charged with child molestation in August 2000, has yet to stand trial. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that judges have repeatedly continued the proceedings due to his health:

[Kramer] will have to show he’s fit to stand trial in order to get the day in court he says he wants.

An April 29 trial date was postponed Wednesday after Edward Kramer told Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers he was uncertain he could stay awake and alert enough to assist in his own defense. A spinal injury makes it difficult to sit, stand or breathe, and he is chronic pain, he said.

Kramer’s health has not been the only source of delays. The trial previously was postponed from July 2008 until April 2009 because Bob Barr, one of Kramer’s attorneys, was nominated as the Libertarian Party candidate for President and he secured a continuance to spend the fall campaigning.

[Via Petrea Mitchell.]

Leviathan 99

California Artists Radio Theatre (CART) will present a live performance of Ray Bradbury’s space tale Leviathan 99 on May 3 in tribute to Ray Bradbury and Norman Corwin. The occasion is Corwin’s 99th birthday, and both Bradbury and Corwin will attend.

Scheduled to appear are: William Shatner, Sean Astin, Norman Lloyd, Samantha Eggar, Richard Herd, Walter Koenig and H.M. Wynant.  Also John Harlan, Robert Legionaire and Sky McDougall.

This brings back memories. Leviathan 99 is the spacefaring version of Moby Dick. When I saw it performed in the 1970s the lead was played by William Marshall of Blacula fame.

Reservations are required. The event will take place Sunday, May 3 at 2:30 p.m. at the Writers Guild of America Theater, 135 South Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase through the CART site.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Vanishing Point for Hotels

Conrunners ought to find the New York Times article “More Hotels Facing an Uncertain Future” sobering, perhaps even frightening. There’s been a spike in foreclosures and bankruptcies among these properties:

Jim Butler, a hotel industry lawyer, said those who manage distressed hotel loans have told him that their workloads have jumped tenfold in recent months.

“Things seem to be accelerating,” Mr. Butler said, and predicted that before the recession is over, the number of hotels in bankruptcy or foreclosure could rise above the 2,000 or so reached in the industry’s last big downturn in the 1990s.

“Of course, hotels have disappeared out from under sf cons even during good economic times,” reminds David Klaus, thinking of Archon, St. Louis Mayor Schoemehl, and the Miss Universe pageant. “At least with modern communications the word about emergency-changed locations or outright con cancellations can be gotten directly to most fans a lot more quickly than in past days — nothing like the ancient Larry Niven/Ozarkon incident could happen again. Right?”

Never again, assuming Niven keeps his cell phone charged. David recalls that in 1971 Niven had been invited as guest of honor at Ozarkon VI. He was already on the road to St. Louis when the event was cancelled. He couldn’t be reached, although the organizers say they called his home and gave the information to his wife. Now it’s not unknown for a GoH to no-show for a convention (example, Philip K. Dick for the 1974 Westercon), whereas Niven’s experience with Ozarkon is the only instance I’ve ever heard of the guest of honor showing up but not the convention.

Death Will Not Release You — From SF

Moshe Feder sends along the link to the New York Times obituary of J.G. Ballard. Ballard was a leading figure in science fiction’s New Wave of the 1960s and a breakout literary writer whose mainstream novels were made into movies. He died April 19 of cancer. Ballard’s early fame was founded on his Vermilion Sands stories, including “The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D,” the first story by him that I ever read.

Fans have expressed disgust over the too-familiar attempt by the media to deny a critically-acclaimed author’s roots in sf. It’s evident from the tone of the piece how reluctant the Times was to sully the author’s reputation by associating him with anything base or popular, excusing his early work by saying he “defied the genre of science fiction.”

Moshe particularly wanted to draw attention to the article’s closing:

The prescience of Mr. Ballard’s work and its harsh conflation of the present and the future often resulted in comparisons to writers like Huxley and Orwell. “His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction,” said Robert Weil, Mr. Ballard’s American editor at Norton. “But that’s like calling ‘Brave New World’ science fiction, or ‘1984.’ “

“Oh gee, Mr. Weil, yuh think?” comments Moshe, who sighs, “Some things never change.”

And Andrew Porter has pointed out that USA Today went the Times one better, managing to run a lengthy Ballard obituary without ever mentioning SF at all.

Carol Buchanan Interview

Carol Buchanan, the author of the self-published novel God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana, winner of the 2009 Spur Award for Best First Novel, is interviewed by Francis Hamit at Self-Publishing Review:

I met Carol Buchanan online, when we were both posting to the boards of the Amazon Shorts program. Both of us were frustrated by the barriers currently erected by the mainstream publishing industry to new fiction, and both of us decided to do it ourselves.