Saturday Morning at Loscon

“How to Write for the Internet,” with David Gerrold, Phil Osborn, Buzz Dixon and me, may have be the first 10 a.m. panel in the history of Loscon to play to a standing room only crowd.

Of course, there was a reason for that. Thanks to a miscommunication about a room change, the participants in a karate demo got there ahead of us and stacked all the chairs out of the way so they’d have space to maneuver. Once they were shown to the right room the first thing we panelists got to do was put the chairs back where they belonged…

Fiat Video

The Harlan Ellison Channel on YouTube briefly vanished from the internet the other day, only to blink back into existence after Harlan appealed for help. Let him tell you about it. But please don’t ask me to explain why his anecdote ends with an editorial about Angelina Jolie’s lips.

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

Happy Birthday, Twelvefeet

Mark TwainBorn November 30, 1835: Samuel Langhorne Clemens. (Robert Heinlein’s neighbor at the Missouri Hall of Fame.)

They’re celebrating the famed writer’s birthday at the Old Farmer’s Almanac with 10 fascinating bits of biographical trivia. Here’s my favorite.


Sam Clemens tried out several pseudonyms, including Rambler, W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab, and Josh, before settling on Mark Twain (the phrase used by Mississippi River steamboat crews when measuring water depth).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

Pomerantz Back In News

The Washington Post needed a comment about the IRS’ new rules governing 501(c)(4) exempt organizations for its November 28 article “New IRS rules add both clarity and confusion about the role of advocacy groups in politics” and DC-area fan John Pomeranz filled the bill —

“It’s the IRS scandal that pushed them to do it, but it’s terrific that they’re having a full regulatory process,” said lawyer John Pomeranz, who serves on a committee of tax law experts advising the Bright Lines Project, which developed model rules to govern the political activity of social welfare groups. “It has to get fixed, and they recognize it.”

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

Disney’s “Mars and Beyond” (1957)

By Andrew Porter: Excellent 53-minute long speculation, cobbled together from weekly segments of Disneyland. You just have to get past the wacky-yuck-yuck Disney background to the serious extrapolation, which happens about 16 minutes in. Then it gets very SFnal starting at 24 minutes, with lots of art based on Chesley Bonestell’s designs. Narration by the guy who did numerous other SF films of the 1950s; great gravelly “this is serious stuff” voice.

Tolkien Biopic Coming

It may be C. S. Lewis’s birthday today, but it’s fellow Inkling J.R.R. Tolkien who’s getting all the headlines in Hollywood. There are plans afoot to film his life story.

The Los Angeles Times reports —

“Tolkien,” as the project is tentatively called, will examine the author’s life, particularly his formative years at Pembroke College and as a soldier in World War I, and how it influenced him and his work, according to a person familiar with the project who was not authorized to talk about it publicly.

David Gleeson, a Tolkien superfan and scholar of sorts about the Middle-earth creator, is currently working on the script. The movie will be produced by Peter Chernin ‘s Chernin Entertainment (“The Heat,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and set up at Fox Searchlight.

The Times says it’s unknown how much cooperation the project is receiving from the Tolkien estate, which threw obstacles in the way of another stalled-in-development film titled Mirkwood, “a fantastical look at [Tolkien’s] work as a codebreaker during WWII.”

Burns: Dystopia Without Portfolio

By James H. Burns: Can an environmental disaster occur, with no one aware of it?

I grew up in the era of “ecological SF,” but I didn’t read much of it, I must confess. Were there ever any stories where local governments, and the media, and others, just turned their backs to peril?


Two years ago, summer, a few days after our first recent major hurricane in the Northeast, IRENE…

I went body surfing towards the end of the day at one of the beautiful Lido Boulevard beaches in Long Island, New York; only miles away from the more famous Jones Beach.

Just after 6 p.m., when swimming officially ends for the day, and the lifeguards leave their posts, the beach was relatively empty.

I stood at the land’s edge, enjoying what’s always one of our joyous views, the magnificence of the ocean–

When a giant oil drum washed up in the surf.

Minutes earlier, children had been playing in those waves.

Every lifeguard and beach policeman I spoke with later that week told me the same thing, that a grotesque assemblage of debris–the remnants of someone else’s summer, really– began washing up on shore, two days after the storm.

Jones Beach and other parks run by the state, it turned out, had it right, staying closed for almost a full week. while local municipalities were not nearly as careful.

I could only imagine what damage was done in the waters during Sandy. last autumn…

That October, the Bay Park Waste Treatment Plant in East Rockaway was severely damaged, pumping thousands of gallons of waste into the local bay waters for months.

How could there not have been some harm to the beaches, groundwaters and towns, particularly when you learn that waste was surfacing in people’s homes over two towns away?

In Long Beach, about halfway between Lido Beach and East Rockaway, mountains of sand that had blown blocks away from the shore were “treated,” cleaned, before bulldozers returned the dunes to their home.

Were the beaches safe this past summer? I promised myself I stayed mainly away this summer, but by the end of August, I couldn’t stay away. I wound up with a pretty major eye irritation, but that could mean I simply have to start swimming with goggles…  (After all, if no one else was affected…?)

The majority of local newspapers refused to run Op-Eds about the possible residual effects of Sandy, even when it was pointed out that flotsam from the Japanese tsunami was still washing  up on the United States’ west coast, two years later…

I’ve never been an alarmist. But with that Bay Park reclamation center calamity, I was confused:

When waste is being turned out into normal, suburban neighborhoods:

How does the President just not sign an emergency order to send our great Army Corp of Engineers, or someone, to the site, and get it fixed? Only now, has the county government allotted the funds to make major repairs, and even more money might be needed to fully fix the infrastructure.

It’s almost a dystopia without portfolio, or app, disasters with virtually no major news coverage.

All of which pales, really, to another major revelation, courtesy of Scientific American, that water treatment centers around the country have not been filtering out all of the prescription and other drugs that get dumped down the drain.

While one can always switch to bottled drinking water, can it really be safe to be showering in Prozac?

Al Plastino (1921-2013)

Al Plastino in 2007

Al Plastino in 2007

Al Plastino passed away November 25 at the age of 91, one of the last of the classic comics artists. He worked on Superman in the 1950s, and with writer Otto Binder co-created DC Comics characters Supergirl and Brainiac, and the teenage team the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Plastino’s death coincidentally came a week after Newsday reported his discovery that artwork he’d done for a Kennedy-themed Superman story and believed had been donated to the Kennedy Library decades ago had actually been given or sold to a collector, had already passed through several hands and was being offered for auction this month.

“I cried, I actually cried,” said Plastino, now 91 and living in Shirley, who was one of the most prolific artists drawing Superman from 1948 to 1968.

He learned the truth at a recent comic book convention, when representatives of a Dallas-based auction house told him his artwork was actually in private hands and scheduled to be auctioned later this month, with an estimated value of more than $50,000.

The owner who consigned the work to the auction house, who hasn’t been named, had bought it for $5,000 in a 1993 Sotheby’s auction. It was on a catalog page with comic art listed as coming from the collection of rock and roll star Graham Nash.

The auction house, Heritage Auctions, now says it won’t auction the work until questions about ownership are resolved.

A lawyer who had been representing Plastino pro bono was told by the Kennedy Library the artwork was never in its possession.

[Thanks to James H. Burns for the story.]

Giving Thanks

Out of all the things I have to be thankful for, when it comes to this blog the two I appreciate most are my friends who send interesting items to write about, and the readers who do their best to save me from my frequent copyediting blunders.  I am grateful for the help!