Salt Lake Comic Con Tries To Make Its Mark

Salt Lake Comic Con logo

Salt Lake Comic Con opens September 24. Held for the first time in 2013, the rapidly growing event drew 120,000 in 2014 and this year will fill the entire Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake Comic Con is not only distinguished by its explosive success. Among all the Comic Cons in America, the event run by Dan Farr Productions is the only one being sued by the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) for trademark infringement.

SDCC alleges that the name of Salt Lake City’s event is too similar. In court papers filed in August 2014, SDCC claimed that SLCC had piggybacked on its “creativity, ingenuity, and hard work,” and by using the Comic Con name “intended to suggest, mislead and confuse consumers into believing that the Salt Lake Comic Con convention is associated with, authorized by, endorsed by or sponsored by SDCC.”

Comic-Con International, the organizers of San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, own the trademarks on San Diego Comic-Con, Anaheim Comic-Con, San Francisco Comic-Con and Los Angeles Comic-Con.

Although the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) registered the Salt Lake Comic Con trademark in July, the ultimate fate of the trademark depends on a settlement of the suit or a court decision.

In August, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan Alder gave both conventions until August 18, 2016 to settle, and set a timeline for discovery and other actions that could lead to a trial in late 2016 or early 2017.

One head-scratching oddity about the suit is that SDCC did not originate the “comic con” nomenclature. It was first used by the New York ComiCon in 1965.

Andrew Porter recalls, “In 1965, I ran off the program for a New York ComiCon — note abbreviation, not what’s used now — on my spirit duplicator, all 125 copies. And I worked on several ComiCons, including one with Ted White, John Benson, Mike McInerney and others, in the mid-1960s. And now someone wants to [trademark] the name?”

Salt Lake Comic Con management is well aware of the history, and displays online a huge array of documents supporting their position. They emphasize that more than 90 other events have been called “Comic Cons.” Several are megacons. Denver’s drew a reported 101,500 attendees in May. A Seattle convention had 80,000 in March. The New York Comic Con says it attracted 151,000 last year.

And it actually was not until 2007 that the nonprofit behind SDCC trademarked the Comic-Con name which it has been using since 1970.

Peter Hahn, a lawyer who represents the nonprofit on trademark issues, pointed out that registration is not required to protect a mark. Mr. Hahn said the nonprofit’s tools in dealing with more than a dozen conventions that have used some form of the Comic-Con name have included warning letters and licensing arrangements. Litigation has been used for “the most egregious” cases, he said.

Last August, the San Diego group filed an infringement suit against the operators of Salt Lake Comic Con, who, according to the complaint, had gone so far as to wrap an Audi with advertisements for their convention and drive it around San Diego. The Salt Lake operators countersued, asking the United States District Court for the Southern District of California to declare the San Diego nonprofit’s trademark claims invalid.

Encouraged by the USPTO’s initial decision granting registration to the Salt Lake group, a large number of other local comic cons have now launched trademark bids .

Pixel Scroll 8/6 Even Robots Get the Blues

The A-Train, EPH, and AI make up the alphabet soup that is today’s Scroll.

(1) An effort to get sf writers on postage stamps fizzled a couple of years ago. A new effort to might wind up putting a fanzine editor on a stamp – albeit for reasons entirely unrelated to fandom. See NPR’s report “Willis Conover, The Voice Of Jazz Behind The Iron Curtain”

Willis Conover at a 1970s Lunacon. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Willis Conover at a 1970s Lunacon. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Willis Conover, who died in 1996, could pack concert halls for jazz shows behind the Iron Curtain. But he wasn’t a household name in his own country because by law, the Voice of America cannot broadcast to the United States. This week, Doug Ramsey, who writes about jazz for The Wall Street Journal, reported that a campaign to persuade the Postal Services Stamp Advisory Committee to put Willis Conover on a U.S. postage stamp now has thousands of signatures. It would send the face of the voice who brought the light of hot jazz into the darkest places of the Cold War around the world again.

Andrew Porter explains the fannish connection:

Before Willis Conover was the voice of American jazz to the world behind the Iron Curtain, he was a science fiction fan and reader. Although he left the field for wider seas, he came back to SF in the 1970s, reviving his earlier fanzine Science-Fantasy Correspondent in 1975, and resumed attending science fiction conventions. He should be honored for his work with the VoA. Like Rog Ebert, who honed his writing skills in the fanzines he wrote for before he started college and eventually became a film reviewer, Conover’s heart belonged to science fiction and fantasy first.


And Bill Burns said,

When I worked at BBC Overseas Services (1968-71) we relayed the VoA signal, picked up on shortwave at Caversham, sent by landline to Bush  House in London, then to the BBC’s shortwave transmitters.  Music programmes such as Jazz Hour didn’t really sound very good after this  treatment, so the VoA would ship us tapes of each show which we would  insert into the outgoing stream instead of the received signal. I didn’t know it when I was at the BBC, but I saw Conover a few years  later at a Philcon and discovered that he had published a fanzine in the 1930s and was a correspondent of HP Lovecraft.

Jim Freund, whose program “Hour of the Wolf” is heard on WBAI-FM, met some of these folks through Conover.

I worked with Mr. Conover quite a few times in the early 70s. I was introduced to him by Hans Stefan Santesson, who was a frequent guest on ‘Hour of the Wolf.’ Mr. Conover would give me a call at the station and ask if I’d be free and could book a studio for a given time, and would then show up with surviving members of the Lovecraft Circle. I clearly recall his bringing along Manly Wade Wellman, and most dramatically, Sonia Greene, who was married to Lovecraft (if not living with him most of their years.) This was not long before her death in 1971.

In my wisdom, I tried to make Mr. Conover take the lead in these interviews — he was a true radio professional with a fabulous voice, and knew far more about American and early horror than I ever could. I got the impression he didn’t want to make too much of a public thing of his name on WBAI — I think the political views of the VoA and Pacifica Radio were not very compatible. So I took the lead, but usually with a briefing by him and/or Hans beforehand.

He gave me a recorded reading he’d made of ‘The Willows’ by Algernon Blackwood, recorded for an airline for passengers to listen to in-flight.  We were never sure of the rights to broadcast this, but we did so anyhow. (Safe in those days — especially at 5:00 AM.)

Nice man.

(2) If you’re not the kind of collector who insists on pristine copies of your trading cards, you might end up with a very entertaining autograph someday —

If you ever plan to approach Mark Hamill for an autograph, make sure you have a Star Wars baseball card handy. As it turns out, the man otherwise known as Luke Skywalker has made an artform out of prefacing his John Hancock with hilarious captions on vintage collectible cards.

hamill autograph

(3) Patrick May has done another set of calculations in “E Pluribus Hugo vs Slates” using historic vote data from the 1984 Hugos to show the impact of the proposed rules change.

E Pluribus Hugo vs Slates

With the EPH algorithm, the results in the Novel category in 1984 would have been:

  • Startide Rising: 105 ¼ points, 136 ballots
  • The Robots of Dawn: 52 ¾ points, 75 ballots
  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern: 41 ¾ points, 54 ballots
  • Tea with the Black Dragon: 40 1/6 points, 55 ballots
  • Millennium: 33 5/6 points, 52 ballots

This is the same result as under the existing rules.

With 43 slate ballots (10% of the number cast) added, the result would have been identical to the actual 1984 result.

With 85 slate ballots (20% of the number cast) added, one slate work would make the list, bumping off “Millennium”. This is quite different from the current rules where only “Startide Rising” would remain out of non-slate works.

With 128 slate ballots (30% of the number cast) added, two slate works would make the list, bumping off “Millennium” and “Tea with the Black Dragon”. Again this is quite different from the current rules where the only non-slate work remaining would be “Startide Rising”.

Even with 170 slate ballots (40% of the number cast) added, both “Startide Rising” and “The Robots of Dawn” would remain on the nomination list under the EPH rules. Under the current rules, slate works would sweep the category.

(4) NASA Totally Found an Alien Crab on Mars and Didn’t Tell Anybody – debunker Robbie Gonzalez has the story and close-up photos at io9!

UFO Sightings Daily reports it also spotted in this photo “another animal close to this crab, as well as a broken stone building.”

(5)The Daily Dot asked seven scholars what might happen when superintelligence bumps into religion. There are also questions like whether AI counts as being alive —

The singularity is a hypothesized time in the future, approximately 2045, when the capabilities of non-living electronic machines will supersede human capabilities. Undismissable contemporary thinkers like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Ray Kurzweil warn us that it will change everything. Hawking likens it to receiving a message from aliens announcing their arrival in “a few decades,” saying this is “more or less” what’s happening with artificial intelligence software….

How “alive” would a superintelligence be?

Mike McHargue, host of the Ask Science Mike podcast: We think nothing of wiping out bacteria by the millions when we wash our hands, and most people don’t hesitate to slap the fly buzzing around their heads. But dogs? Dolphins? Apes? We see some reflection of awareness in their eyes, and mark them as greater peers among life. What’s fascinating about machine intelligence is we are presented with some level of consciousness that is not associated with biological life. We’ve already built robots with similar intelligence and conscious awareness as an earthworm, and we’ve modeled neural network as complex as insects and possibly reptiles.

As computer technology advances, there’s a real possibility of something that is highly intelligent but not “alive” in any traditional sense.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mark, Patrick May and John King Tarpinian for some of the stories. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R .]

Don D’Ammassa Launches Managansett Press

Don D'Ammassa late last century. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Don D’Ammassa late last century. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

By Andrew Porter: Don D’Ammassa, who reviewed thousands of titles for Science Fiction Chronicle and still reviews books on his Critical Mass website, has launched Managansett Press, to release his own titles. He writes:

The first three titles, available thru Amazon, are The sinking Island, a lost world novel; The Kaleidoscope, a dark fantasy; and That Way Madness Lies, a collection of horror stories. In the near future I will be adding Caverns of Chaos, a Lovecraftian horror novel, two more collections of short horror, Little Evils and Passing Death, a collection of fantasy shorts, Elaborate Lies, and a nonfiction book about John Dickson Carr. I also plan to reprint three of my SF novels and two mystery novels, previously published by Five Star Books.

For more information, see: Managansett Press or Don’s author page on Amazon.

Alice K. Turner Passes Away

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

George R. R. Martin, Lewis Shiner and Alice K. Turner at the 1982 Worldcon. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

By Andrew Porter: I returned from nearly a week away from the computer to find the shocking and horrifying news of Alice Turner’s death. I was stunned by this totally unexpected news — I’d last spoken to Alice earlier — and so, instead of acting immediately, have waited a week after Alice’s death to write about her.

The hardest part of the process of creating each issue of my Science Fiction Chronicle, was doing obituaries for my friends. And here I am, writing about Alice, whom I’d known for more than 40 years. Her many accomplishments over the decades have dimmed in the brilliance of her time as fiction editor at Playboy Magazine in its heyday, when she was able to wield the power of the purse, offering science fiction and fantasy writers a market which paid around a dollar a word, vastly eclipsing all other genre markets. Within the confines of Playboy’s restrictions, she was an absolutely brilliant editor, as the Washington Post obituary describes.

Before her years at Playboy, she was an editor at New York Magazine and at Ballantine Books and then Paperback Editor and later Staff Writer at Publishers Weekly, where I first encountered her while seeking permission to reprint an Arthur C. Clarke interview she’d done. She also contributed material about Cordwainer Smith to my 1975 chapbook Exploring Cordwainer Smith.

I attended parties at her apartment in the West Village, which while on the first floor of a high-rise building also sported a large and airy deck. The decor was dominated by enormous paintings from her childhood in China, while her accent retained a faint Southern drawl which she used to devastating effect. She lived near Gilda’s House, the cancer-support house named for comedienne Gilda Radner, where I was a visitor when we both suffered from — and beat! — cancer.

Below are some of my Alice Turner photos, taken over the decades. They show Alice at her physical peak. She chose to advance in the world using her talent, not her beauty, but in fact she could be breathtakingly lovely, as I was startled to discover in 1966, when she attended a SFWA Banquet on the arm of her old friend Baird Searles, wearing a dress which displayed her cleavage to stunning effect.

I’ll let Michael Dirda, who reviews so brilliantly for the WP, have the last word here. He wrote in an on-line forum —

“Alice K. Turner, the longtime fiction editor for Playboy,  died [January 17th]. She was, I know, a friend to many. I saw her briefly [earlier in January] when I was in New York for the Baker Street Irregulars annual festivities — I usually stay at her apartment when I’m in New York — but she spent most of the time I was there in the hospital with pneumonia. Just before I left, she came home, but a few days later complained again of shortness of breath, and was sent back to the hospital. I’d known her for 35 years, ever since I first encountered her at the American Booksellers Association convention, where she was wearing leather pants and looking incredibly sexy. I soon discovered that Alice had read everything, helped hone the fiction of a lot of young writers, and gave many others their first big paychecks. She herself wrote one splendid book, The History of Hell. I’ll miss her and I’m sure many others will too. She was 75.” — Michael Dirda

Photos copyright © Andrew I. Porter.

Allan Kornblum Passes Away

Allan Kornblum, founding publisher of Coffee House Press, died November 23 at his St. Paul, MN home, of leukemia.

Andrew Porter recalls, “He was on the edges of the Minneapolis SF crowd.”

Kornblum’s death just about closes the book on a generation of small press pioneers. Porter explains —

I knew Kornblum, mostly from seeing him at the annual ABA (now BEA) conventions. He may have been active in Midwest small press, but there were many others, especially Len Fulton of Dustbooks, Noel Young of Santa Monica’s Capra Press (who, for instance, published Le Guin’s Wild Angels chapbook in 1975), and especially Harry Smith here in NYC. I worked with Harry — who lived a few blocks away, on Joralemon Street, and though I’d see him in Brooklyn Heights, more often saw him at the ABA conventions — and other people such as Jackie Eubanks, a library at Brooklyn College, on organizing and running various NY small press book fairs. Back then David Hartwell was doing small press, too (which is how I got to meet Margaret Atwood…).

Then there was COSMEP, originally the Committee of Small Press Editors and Publishers, the nationwide org for small press publishers run out of the SF Bay Area. Run into the ground in a few months by its last president. And the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, CCLM, which decided, after I applied for a grant, that SF wasn’t literature…

Many gone, now, except for … me? How did that happen?

The Publishers Weekly obituary elaborates on Kornblum’s place in history:

Kornblum was one of the leaders of the small press movement that emerged out of the 1960s-era passions for social change. Kornblum, 65, founded Toothpaste Press in Iowa City in 1973 to publish poetry pamphlets and letterpress books. After moving to Minneapolis in 1984, Kornblum relaunched his press as a literary nonprofit and named it Coffee House Press. It was one of the original eight literary small presses distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. The press, which specializes in literary fiction and poetry, but also publishes nonfiction, became renowned for publishing writers of color under Kornblum’s leadership, particularly Asian-American authors.

Kornblum was known for his erudition, on display in a 2013 Soapbox column for PW that advocated Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox be named the patron saint of independent booksellers. Knox ran a bookstore before enlisting to fight, and rose to the rank of general. His most visible monument is Fort Knox. Kornblum appreciated the irony that a military base known as a gold bullion depository would be named for someone who once was a struggling bookseller.

[Via Paul Di Filippo and Andrew Porter.]

A Couple of Technologies Ago

Last week’s New York Times obit Carl Schlesinger, 88, Dies; Helped Usher Our Hot Type told about the passing of a former Times typesetter who helped make an award-winning film about the night in 1978 when the paper was produced with hot-metal type for the last time. Reading it prompted Andrew Porter to muse about the rapid technological advances he experienced in his own career:

When I started in publishing, everything was done in hot type. Eventually, the switch was made to cold type. How ironic that when I was working at Cahners Publishing in the late 1960s, we used a cold-type company that workers told me had “strange paintings” on the walls. They were working in the former office of Galaxy Magazine, whose owner had become a printing broker. Everything I learned about printing — quoins, Linotype, Monotype, sheet-fed printing presses, color separations, press impositions, so much more — gradually became obsolete. When I started, it took a tractor-trailer to hold the type and printing plates used in a magazine issue. By the end of the 20th century, an armful of negatives would do the job. And now, even negatives are obsolete.

Leigh Chapman Passes Away

By Andrew Porter: Leigh Chapman, 75, 1960s actress-turned-screenwriter, died November 4 at her West Hollywood home, after an 8-month battle with cancer. Chapman was familiar to TV viewers as Sarah, Napoleon Solo’s efficient secretary in several 1965 episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But she found her calling as a scriptwriter … in TV with My Favorite Martian. She penned six scripts for The Wild Wild West, one of which earned Agnes Moorehead her only acting Emmy.

Tuckerization Inflation

Tuckerization — using a person’s real name in a science fiction story as an in-joke – is derived from Wilson Tucker, the author who made the practice famous among fans.

While he originally did it without charge – indeed, usually without the advance knowledge of the victim — in recent years quite a few sf/fantasy authors have been raising money for charities by auctioning off the privilege of being Tuckerized in a story.

And Andrew Porter says the cost of getting Tuckerized is going through the roof. “I paid about $100 to get my name into Robert Sawyer’s novel Mindscan  in a fan fund auction in 2002 or so; someone paid $800, I think, for the right in a Neil Gaiman auction at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon; and  now, $20,000 gets you into a George R.R. Martin book.” Two people have donated that amount to give their names to characters who will be killed horribly in Winds of Winter.

Time Magazine thought that so newsworthy it tracked down and interviewed one of the donors. David Goldblatt, who works for Facebook, says he has chosen to appear in the book as a Valryian, a race known for its purple eyes and platinum white hair.

The second winning bidder, a woman, has elected to remain anonymous. Or at least as anonymous as you can be once you’re a character in what undoubtedly will be a #1 bestseller.

Baen Authors at Book Expo America

Eric Flint (left) and Charles E. Gannon (right), authors of the new novel in the best-selling "1632" alternate world series. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Eric Flint (left) and Charles E. Gannon (right), authors of the new novel in the best-selling “1632” alternate world series. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Andrew Porter used time travel to attend Book Expo America —

I got in using a Borders lanyard and a 1980 ABA Convention badge, apparently slipping past unobservant security people, and got a lot of comments from ex-Borders people!

Once in, Porter took photos of the writers and editors at the Baen party.

Above is his photograph of Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon. See more on Baen’s Facebook page.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Roseanne Di Fate (1945-2014)

Ro and Vincent Di Fate at Lunacon in New York City in the 1970s. Photo by and  copyright © Andrew Porter.

Ro and Vincent Di Fate at Lunacon in New York City in the 1970s. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter.

Roseanne Di Fate died March 30 at the age of 68. She is survived by her husband, sf artist Vincent Di Fate, and her two sons, Christopher and Victor.

Roseanne and Vincent married in 1968. Roseanne, who held a degree in Childhood Education from Lehman College, taught in the Mount Vernon (NY) School District until her first child was born. When her sons were grown, she became head teacher for Community Nursery School of Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church. She finished her career teaching at Wimpfheimer Nursery School at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie retiring due to illness in 2010.

The family suggests memorial donations in Roseanne’s name may be made to the American Heart Association, 301 Manchester Rd, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603, or American Cancer Society, 2678 South Rd # 103, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601,