Joanna Russ (1937-2011)

Joanna Russ died April 29 at the age of 74 in the aftermath of a series of strokes.

Her novella “Souls” won a Hugo in 1983 and her short story “When It Changed” won a Nebula in 1973, despite which her best-known work is her novel The Female Man (1975). Also a nominee for both of the field’s top awards (though it did not win), The Female Man now is one of the standards of the field and appears on many recommended works lists, including the Guardian’s 2009 list of “1000 Novels Everyone Must Read” and Gardner Dozois’ recommended reading list, formerly posted at

An example of the kind of pioneering SF for which Russ is known, “When It Changed” was described in the following way by Nancy Kress in her speech at ConFuse 93:

 ”When it Changed” takes place on a planet, Whileaway, in which several generations before the story start all the men have been killed by a plague. The women reproduce by parthenogenesis and by a cloning process. And they mate, all relationships are of necessity lesbian. They have a stable and successful society. Then, generations later, a spaceship lands which contains mostly men. And immediately there is misunderstanding on both side. The men view themselves as saviours of this particular abandoned castaway group of women and the women have no idea what they are talking about. This story made a lot of people very mad.

Russ also was a 1996 Hugo nominee for To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Update 04/30/2011: Made corrections following comments by Steve Davidson and Jerry Kaufman.

Doug Chaffee Passes Away

Artist Doug Chaffee died April 26 at the age of 75. Chaffee did the 1982 World’s Fair poster, the official program painting for the Trident submarine and his work has been featured in Air Force, Think, Newsweek, and US News plus several military and science magazines. Within fandom, Chaffee did the cover for the 1986 Worldcon (Confederation) program book and was Artist Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon in 1983. 

Randall Bills praised the work Chafee did for games, and the artist’s versatility:

Doug Chaffee worked for a myriad companies in our industry. What’s more, his work went far beyond our shores: from Navy commissions, to concept art work with NASA before there was a space shuttle, to a giant painting of Marine One currently hanging in the White House. That such a caliber artist loved to work with us on our imaginary universes has always been wonderful and humbling.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story; via Guy H. Lillilan III.]

"Marine One at White House" by Doug Chaffee

Home on the Hugo Nomination Range

Hugo Administrator Vincent Docherty, as is customary, has published statistics about the total 2011 Hugo nominating ballots received, with summary figures for each category such as the high/low vote ranges of nominees. They appear as an inclusion with the final ballot [PDF file] at the Renovation website.

In 2011 the minimum number of votes to make the ballot in the Best Fanzine category was 43, in Best Fan Writer, 30, and in Best Fan Artist, 23. All this despite the record number of nominating ballots, 1006.

Judged by the minimum number of votes needed to get on the final ballot, it was actually tougher for a fanzine or fan writer to get nominated than in four professional categories where stories or editors made the cut with less than 30 votes – Best Novelette, Best Short Story (which was truncated to four nominees because all others failed the 5% rule), Best Graphic Story and Best Editor, Long Form (where a tie for the fifth spot resulted in a total of seven nominees).

[Via SMOFS.]

Massacre at the TAFF Corral

John Coxon is the 2011 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund winner because he was the only fan still standing when the parliamentary dust cleared.

TAFF candidate Liam Proven received the most votes, more than twice as many as the next leading candidate, but failed to win because he was disqualified by TAFF’s 20% rule.

The rule requires a candidate to receive 20% of the first-place votes cast on each side of the Atlantic (excluding No Preference.) This year, that meant a minimum of 27 European and 10 North American votes. Proven received only 9 votes from North America.

After Proven the next leading vote-getter was Graham Charnock – but he was also knocked in the head by the rule. In his case, he lacked sufficient European votes.

Paul Treadway failed to poll the minimum on both sides of the Pond.

Only John Coxon – with exactly 27 European votes – survived application of the 20% rule.

It’s breathtaking to realize that despite attracting the largest field of nominees in years, TAFF would have sent no one to Renovation if Coxon had received one less vote in Europe.

How genius is that?

Unless you have a beard as gray as mine you may not remember why the rule even exists – it is rooted in the controversy about Martha Beck’s TAFF candidacy back in the 1980s. The initial idea was that it would be, one might say, a courtesy to prevent the selection of a TAFF delegate who was not wanted by some minimum of fans in the receiving country.

 As explained in Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Taffluvia #2:

Alleviating host-country fears, no one will be able to win TAFF without making at least some effort to get some host-country support. Alleviating other possible fears, correspondingly, no one will be able to win TAFF on a campaign pitched exclusively to the host country, either

The sending-country requirement was somebody’s rider on the original rule, one that must have seemed too unimportant to object to because at the time they were able to say, “[If] TAFF had had it as a rule since day one, it wouldn’t have affected the outcome of a single election.”

Well, now it has. Fandom has finally stepped on that mine. I realize that the rule was ratified by the vast majority of living TAFF delegates at the time — it was a considered decision. But the sending-country side of the rule was not the core idea and ill-serves present day fandom where TAFF candidates are often hard to drum up.

Vote tally:

Voting Europe NA Other Total
Graham Charnock *20 20 ? 40
John Coxon 27 11 ? 38
Liam Proven 75 *9 ? 84
Paul Treadaway *10 *9 ? 19
Hold Over Funds 1 1 0 2
No Preference 1 5 0 6
Total** 134 **55 **1 189

[Via Ansible Links.]

Space Age Architect

Eldon Davis, whose 1950s, Space Age coffee shop designs undoubtedly inspired the artists behind The Jetsons — well, at least as much as Frank R. Paul, Frank Lloyd Wright, Disneyland and the Capitol Record building — has died at the age of 94.

The Los Angeles Times obituary tells about a prototypical example of his work:

Built on La Cienega Boulevard in 1957, Norms had many features that came to typify the whimsical style of architecture known as Googie — a vaulted roof that resembles a flying wing, a room-length dining counter and an attention-grabbing vertical neon sign with roots in Las Vegas kitsch.

The Times added. “With their soaring and exaggerated roof lines, [these] buildings appeared to defy gravity, a structural innovation for which Davis was largely responsible.”

Athough he didn’t invent the style his work made it ubiquitous.

LASFSians were intimately familiar with this whole genre of California coffee shops. In the 1970s when the club met at Palms Park on Overland Ave., members went to Ship’s and a progression of other places for after-meetings. They’d eventually be asked not to return due to their eccentric, demanding and low-tipping ways — that’s how they became familiar with so many different ones.

Davis displayed a delightfully iconoclastic attitude when asked about saving examples of his architecture for the future:

“I can’t see why they’d try to preserve any of them,” he told The Times in 1986. “We would have liked to have made them more aesthetic, but we were just designing them to sell hamburgers.”

The Times photogallery about Davis’ and his designs is here.

Ship’s in Westwood

Update 04/27/2011: Corrected name of Park where LASFS met.

Rogers: Adventures in Speerology
— The Storage Dimension

By Patricia Rogers: Thought y’all would get a smile from this story.

Last evening (Sunday April 24, 2011) I got a call from Jack Speer’s daughter, Margaret Ann. My first thought on seeing her name on my caller ID was that something might be wrong with Ruth. Ruth is doing fine and on a trip visiting relatives. The reason for the call made me laugh-out-loud!

Things are moving along to sell Jack and Ruth’s home. Everything has been cleaned out and fixed up. Margaret Ann got a call from their realtor saying, “Everything looks good but you need to get the stuff out of the attic.” A puzzled Margaret Ann answered, “But, I cleaned the attic out.”

I can tell you that must have been a gargantuan task for them. That attic was packed and dangerous. Only a 4-foot clearance in the center and just joists to maneuver around upon. There is no lighting up there except for what we took with us. But mostly, there is the ever-present threat of falling through the ceiling boards. We constantly marveled about how Jack got stuff up there at all — he obviously had some magic levitation skills to move heavy things around. Jack had to carry items, by himself, up a tiny and precarious ladder. We found everything from books, bicycles, file cabinets, to lawn mowers stashed in the rafters. By the way, Jack did not like anyone going up into the attic expect for himself. Ruth has never been up there and the kids rarely went up. It was Jack’s secret domain.

The realtor answered Marget Ann, “Well, there are at least 20 boxes of books behind the air duct.” My reaction and hers:  What??? You are kidding!!!

Having helped other SF friends clean out their homes I have a theory about this:  The Storage Dimension.

When my friend Arlene Johnston passed away I helped her son clean out Arlene’s home. It was truly packed floor to ceiling with pretty cool stuff. Arlene was a teacher, a very active SF fan (she was a founding member of one of the SF Clubs here in Albuquerque), book collector, rock hound, crafter, Space program aficionado, and a lover of stuff.

One evening I cleaned out a cabinet in the front bedroom. It was done, empty; finished. No one was staying in the house; Arlene’s son lived out of town. The next day I arrived and went to wipe the cabinet down. There was stuff inside it again! What the heck?! Where did this box come from? Now on the dark shelf sat a box holding six Dr. Who cocktail glasses. Wow – I sure would have remembered these: I gave them to her! We had found these unusual glasses at an auction; I’d never seen any like them anywhere else, they have a platinum K-9 embossed on the side and platinum rims, nicely done. I called Arlene’s son Randy and he was not at all surprised by this phenomenon. He expanded, “Oh, Mom use to talk about this, those are from the Storage Dimension.” “The What?” I answered. Seems Arlene had explained this to Randy years ago. When you have a collector’s amount of stuff and keep shoving in more and more in, it pushes things into The Storage Dimension. Once you start to clean stuff out, the pressure is relieved and articles pop back in from the Storage Dimension. Strangely this made sense to me. How many times had I cleaned out a room in my own home, taken bag after bag away, and then gone back in and the room still seemed full. Like I had never removed anything. Hmmm… Now I understood: The Storage Dimension!

So, looks like Jack had books in his Storage Dimension. I asked Margaret Ann what they were? She said she had no idea and had not been up there yet. We arranged to meet at the Speer home today and venture forth in the Storage Dimension. I’ll let you know what we find.

On a side note, Jack’s papers have not been unpacked yet in Portales at ENMU. They are in the process of getting the filing systems up and working and will sort Jack’s papers into them. One of the librarians said she had been asked to look up some specific fanzines but had not found them yet. I said, “Well, you know Jack had an unusual filing system. He filed Fanzines by where the person lived. So you have to know where the person who wrote/collated the publication resided.” “Wow”, she replied.

I love Jack. He did everything his own unique way.

OK, I’m off to the attic. Wish me luck.

One Stfnal Figure to Attend Royal Wedding

We can all breathe a sigh of relief — though I feared the sf community would go unrepresented at the royal wedding, when the invitation list came out I learned that actor Rowan Atkinson, Edmund Blackadder himself, will be there. He’s said to be a close friend of the Prince of Wales.

And while Somtow never answered my question whether any Thai royalty would be going, it turns out that Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand is attending.

So I’ve been working out my degrees of separation from this event. If Somtow knows the Princess, I’m only two away. If not, I’m probably three away — I know an Episcopal priest who has met the USA’s Presiding Bishop, who in turn (I hope) has met the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bill Blackbeard (1926-2011)

Bill Blackbeard died March 10 at the age of 84, reports The Comics Journal. He was a well-known figure in Bay Area fandom – I first heard about his work at a 1970s Westercon. His San Francisco Academy of Comic Art (SFACA), in the garage and basement of the house at 2850 Ulloa Street, was a Library of Alexandria for comics fans.  

Blackbeard and his wife Barbara and a haphazard cadre of comic strip enthusiasts who volunteered at the Academy, spent years meticulously clipping comic strips from the old newspapers, arranging them in chronological runs of each strip title, and storing them in filing cabinets (which were often fruit crates turned sideways to make shelving). By the 1990s, Blackbeard estimated that they had clipped and organized 350,000 Sunday strips and 2.5 million dailies.

One of the collection’s cornerstones was the discards of the Library of Congress. When Blackbeard learned the LoC was microfilming and then getting rid of bound volumes of big city newspapers going back into the nineteenth century, he saved all he could get.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]