The Man Who Fact-Checked Ray Bradbury

There are things most of us instinctively understand do not belong in appreciations written about people who have recently passed away, assuming we are remembering them as a positive influence in the world. So will somebody please smack Stephen Andrew Hiltner who wrote Fact Checking Ray Bradbury for The Paris Review Daily?

Then came my first real assignment: We were running an interview with Ray Bradbury, and it needed fact-checking. I volunteered.

Ray Bradbury was, by then, eighty-nine years old. He’d had a stroke in 1999, and it showed in the interview manuscript: he misremembered dates, names, years; he attributed books to the wrong authors; the quotes he offered from memory—I remember one in particular from Moby-Dick—were nine-tenths invention. It made for a lot of work.

In the first place, if The Paris Review required precision it should not have been interviewing an 89-year-old stroke victim. Shouldn’t the whole point of the encounter have been to hear from one of our great fantasists? Might as well fact-check Buffalo Bill, Cool Papa Bell or Parson Weems. As the newspaper editor in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance says, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

In the second place, Mr. Hiltner, so what if you fact-checked that forgetful old man? We do not need to hear from you. Did you cash your check? Then shut up about it. Don’t gravy-train that pathetic assignment into another paycheck from The Paris Review for God’s sake.

Weist Art Collection Auction Results

The balance of Jerry Weist’s collection plus other original magazine art went under the hammer at Heritage Auction’s “Illustration Art Signature Auction” on June 27-28 in Beverly Hills. Wally Wood’s original black-and-white art for “Mars Is Heaven,” an 8-page Bradbury story published in Weird Science #18, fetched $54,687.50, the top price for a piece from the Weist collection.

This was the second auction of Weist collectibles.

Other high-ticket items were Michael Whelan’s “Descent,” The Martian Chronicles cover (1990) sold for $37,500.00. Al Feldstein’s black-and-white cover for Weird Fantasy #13 went for $22,500.00.

Four issues of the Shuster and Siegel fanzine Science Fiction with the earliest appearance of Superman sold for $4,062.50.

Harry Warner’s 1972 Hugo went for $2,000.00, part of a lot that included a printed bound working draft proof of All Our Yesterdays, a dust jacket mockup for Wealth of Fable, and copies of both books.

Robert Bloch’s green and yellow horror painting sold for $1,000 and Ray Bradbury’s pink alien for $812.50.

Lou Goldstone’s cover for a 1940s issue of the fanzine Voice of the Imagi-Nation attracted a bid of $212.50, and an interior pulp illustration by well-known fan Alva Rogers, $162.50.

Three more artists with multiple works bringing stratospheric bids were Alex Schomburg, J. Allen St. John and Frank R. Paul.

Alex Schomburg’s Rockets to Nowhere book cover sold for $15,000.00; Trouble on Titan book cover, $12,500.00; and Science Fiction Plus, March 1953 cover, $11,875.00.

J. Allen St. John’s Swords of Mars preliminary book cover in color went for $15,000.00 and another version in charcoal on paper for $9,375.00.

Several vintage Frank R. Paul works went for good prices: Wonder Stories, August 1930 cover, $14,375.00; Science Fiction Plus December 1953 digest cover, $10,000.00; Stories of the Stars: Aldebaran, Fantastic Adventures back cover, $7,500.00; Rockets and Men interior illustration, $4,687.50.

Many artists had more than one piece in the auction. In addition to the artists already discussed, here is a representative list of the top-selling work by each sf/fantasy artist. (Not all came from the Weist collection):

  • Laurence Herndon, A Fighting Man of Mars, Blue Book Magazine, June 1930 pulp cover, $10,625.00;
  • Chesley Bonestell, mural study (a moonscape), $10,000.00;
  • Hannes Bok. unpublished sf painting, $10,000.00;
  • Robert Fuqua, Amazing Stories, January 1939 cover for Eando Binder’s “I, Robot,” $10,000.00;
  • Henry Richard Van Dongen, Super-Science September 1950 pulp cover, $8,125.00;
  • Edmund “Emsh” Emshwiller, A Little Girl’s Xmas in Modernia, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, $7,187.50;
  • Hajime Sorayama, Star Girl, $5,312.50;
  • Maurice Sendak, Max and the Wild Thing preliminary sketch, $5312.50;
  • Charles Samuel Addams, The Honeys, Playbill illustration, $5,000.00;
  • Richard M. Powers, Futuristic Cityscape, $4,687.50;
  • John Conrad Berkey, Jules Verne, 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea [sic] book cover, $4,218.75;
  • Mel Hunter, Space Tug book cover, $4,062.50;
  • Willy Pogany, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland page 110 story illustration, $4,062.50;
  • Virgil Finlay, The Golden Helix, Thrilling Wonder Stories interior illustration, $3,750.00;
  • Leo & Diane Dillon, Past Master paperback cover (1968), $3,750.00;
  • Hans Waldemar Wesso, Galactic Patrol, Astounding Stories, interior illustration, $3,000.00;
  • Rick Berry, Science fiction illustration, $3,000.00;
  • Robert Braun, Satellite, Science Fiction digest cover, June 1958, $2,500.00;
  • Ian Miller, The Martian Chronicles trade paperback cover (1979), $2,375.00;
  • Fortunino Matania, Carson of Venus, The Passing Show story illustration (1933), $2,250.00;
  • Edd Cartier, interior pulp illustration, $1,625.00;
  • Frank Kelly Freas, Starlight, Analog June 1970 cover, $1,500.00;
  • Chris Moore, Man Plus, paperback cover (2004), $1,437.50;
  • Bob Ritter, Flight by Deep-Freeze, Galaxy Magazine February 1961 cover, $1,375.00;
  • Leo Morey, science fiction pulp interior illustration, $1,187.50;
  • John Rheaume, Clive Barker’s Book of the Damned II – A Hellraiser Companion cover, $1,000.00;
  • Vincent DiFate, The Eternal Genius, IASFM digest cover, $1,000.00;
  • Clay Ferguson, Fantasy Magazine cover (1934), $812.50;
  • Howard Koslow, Space Exploration – Jupiter with Pioneer 11, United States First Day Cover Society, $687.50;
  • Josh Kirby, Escape from Venus paperback cover (1966), $625.00;
  • Gahan Wilson, Human Sacrifice cartoon illustration, $325.00;
  • Ray Roch, two science fiction illustrations, $187.50;

Also of interest — Theodore Seuss Geisel’s editorial cartoon of Hitler brought in $15,000.00.

Stu Shiffman Report 6/29

Stu Shiffman continues to make progress since his stroke in mid-June and the surgeries that followed.

Earlier this week doctors did an MRI and ran a 24-hour EEG to check for seizures, finding no signs of any.

On June 28, he was given a tracheotomy and the breathing tube removed. (There is still a nose-tube for feeding purposes.) Having been sedated through that, he was not expected to be responsive ‘til sometime today.

Tom Whitmore, who writes Stu’s journal at CaringBridge, anticipates Stu will be able to try talking soon.

There’s also an appeal for funds to help Andi Shecter’s transportation expenses back and forth to the hospital – for details, see the CaringBridge journal entry for June 27 at 6:12 p.m.

Gross Pleads Guilty

Science fiction novelist Mitchell Gross, who pleaded guilty in February to scamming victims for nearly $6 million, has been sentenced to serve more than 12 years in prison. Gross wrote sf as “Mitchell Graham.”

Earlier this year A.C. Crispin told readers of the SFWA blog about the time Gross tried to buy the silence of Writers Beware after they uncovered a scam writing contest he’d created.

But that was small potatoes compared to the activities that have now led to his imprisonment. When a federal grand jury indicted Gross in 2011 for wire fraud and money laundering, the U.S. Attorney’s press release provided details about one of his schemes that netted almost $3 million:

GROSS met women by corresponding with them on an internet dating service that caters to individuals of the Jewish faith.  In June 2006, GROSS began a romantic relationship with “R.J.,” a woman he met through the dating service. GROSS has written and published novels under the name “Mitchell Graham,” and told R.J. that he was independently wealthy and financially secure. GROSS actually has written and published books. But GROSS also told R.J. that his wealth dramatically increased as a result of the successful investment of his funds by “Michael Johnson,” supposedly a licensed stock broker employed by a subsidiary of Merrill Lynch known as “The Merrill Company.”  In fact, “Michael Johnson” was an alias used by GROSS himself, and “The Merrill Company” did not exist.  R.J. called a phone number provided by GROSS and spoke to “Michael Johnson.” In fact, she was speaking to GROSS, who disguised his voice to conceal the scheme.  R.J. ultimately wired approximately $2.99 million to an account she believed belonged to “The Merrill Company,” which was actually controlled by GROSS. 

Gross, a disbarred attorney, also pleaded guilty of defrauding a couple of $2 million for representing them in a lawsuit that was never filed. 

He will serve 12 years and seven months, then another three years on supervised release, and has been ordered to pay $5.8 million in restitution to his victims, according to a ruling Thursday from U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes in Atlanta. 

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

Carl Sagan, From Soup To Nuts

The Library of Congress will soon begin processing 798 boxes of Carl Sagan’s personal papers reports the Washington Post. A donation by Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane enabled the Library to purchase them from his widow, who has preserved Sagan’s papers since his death in 1996.

They include the files he labeled F/C for “fissured ceramics,” a code meaning letters from crackpots. Here are a couple of examples quoted in the Post

“I have discovered a planet between Venus and the earth… I am in Attica Correctional Facility and am unable to check out this discovery further without your assistance.”


“Behind Jupiter hidden from earth, is a small planet and for the wanbt of a name, let us call it, JUPITENOUS. It is on this planet that these UFO’s come from…”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Best President in Case of Alien Attack?

Take a presidential election year, stir it together with the debut of National Geographic Channel’s Chasing UFOs series and — voilá! — you get a press release declaring that more people think Obama is better suited to handle an alien invasion than Romney.

I’m used to hearing that elections will be swung by the undecided. Now it seems the unidentified will play a role too.

Two-thirds (65%) of Americans prefer Barack Obama over fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney when it comes to handling an alien invasion. Obama has a commanding lead no matter how you slice it – among women, men, the elderly and citizens aged 18 to 64.

Surprisingly, however, most Americans evidently don’t expect this hypothetical alien invasion to look like a scene out of War of the Worlds, Independence Day or Falling Skies:

According to a new U.S. extraterrestrial survey from National Geographic Channel (NGC), more than 80 million Americans are certain that UFOs exist. In fact, many believe in tangible proof that aliens have landed on Earth and think that government officials are involved in covering up paranormal activities. Moreover, most citizens would not mind a minor alien invasion, because they expect these space-age visitors to be friendly—like the lovable character depicted in Steven Spielberg’s popular film “E.T.”

So do these responses, taken together, mean that most people believe an alien invasion will be a social occasion calling for a terrific speech?

Romney shouldn’t feel too bad about being named by less than 35% of the 1,114 Americans who took NatGeo’s “Aliens Among Us” survey. That’s still a better number than some very well-known superheroes pulled —

Furthermore, if aliens attacked our planet, more than one in five (21%) would most likely call on the Hulk to deal with the havoc. Far fewer would most trust Batman (12%) or Spiderman (8%) to step in.

It makes sense to me that so many would choose the Hulk. Remember what the irascible Admiral King supposedly said when Roosevelt made him Commander-in-Chief of the Navy after Pearl Harbor — “When they get in trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches” — a quality Admiral King and Bruce Banner (the Hulk’s secret identity) have in common. As Banner says in The Avengers movie, “That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry.” And one of Admiral King’s daughters (perhaps the one Ensign Heinlein dated?) joked about her father, “He is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

2012 Monica Hughes Shortlist

Being presented for the first time this year is the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Sponsored by HarperCollins Canada, the $5,000 prize is awarded annually to a Canadian author of an outstanding work of speculative fiction for young people. The 2012 nominees are:

  • Dreamline by Nicole Luiken
  • Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
  • Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston
  • What Happened to Serenity? by P.J. Sarah Collins

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

Steamy Outfits

Gary Oldman and Jamie Bell pose in Prada menswear.

Not long ago the Devil wore Prada – now it’s Captain Nemo’s turn. The influence of Steampunk is overwhelming in the Prada Menswear Fall 2012 Ad Campaign, where actors Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Bell and Garrett Hedlund glower at the camera as they model Victorian vests and knee-length coats.  

Here are stills and a 10-minute video from the runway show (in the latter, Dafoe appears at 7:59 and Oldman at 8:26).

And Prada offers its own Behind the Scenes video of the print ad photo shoot.

Shiffman Has Knee Surgery

Stu Shiffman underwent surgery to repair his broken kneecap on June 25. He is now breathing well enough and his other vital signs have stabilized to a degree that doctors felt confident in giving him the general anesthetic required for the operation.

Stu suffered the knee injury on June 15 when he managed to get out of bed the second night after being hospitalized for a stroke. (See additional details at CaringBridge and Facebook.)