Pixel Scroll 11/25 Have Space Suit, Can’t Get Through Babylon 5 TSA

In response to a suggestion I am adding subtitles to go with the item numbers. Some feel that will make cross-references to Scroll topics less confusing when they are talking about, say, item 8 from two days earlier.

(1) Royal Treatment. File 770 doesn’t get a lot of press releases, just the quality. Today I received the announcement of a second round of tickets for sale to those wanting to attend the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday in May 2016.

(2) Radio SFWA. Henry Lien’s instructional video, demonstrating the choreography for his anthem “Radio SFWA”, is rockin’ and ready for you to witness in this public Facebook post.

(3) Read The Comments. The New York Times published a feature about some of its most valued regular commenters. One of them is 95-year-old sf writer Larry Eisenberg.

Larry Eisenberg. Photo by Chad Batka.

Larry Eisenberg. Photo by Chad Batka.

Mr. Eisenberg has made a name for himself by commenting in poetry.

“Today the kind of poetry you see is primarily a prose form of poetry, you rarely see anything of a rhyming nature that’s published,” Mr. Eisenberg said, citing hip-hop music as an exception. “My own feeling is that people like rhymes. There’s something attractive about them.”

He said his poems were inspired by the fight against racism and inequality. “That’s something that really disturbs me,” he said. “The killings that are taking place, that are primarily racially directed.”

“I do get people who say they love what I wrote,” Mr. Eisenberg, who served as a radar operator in World War II, added. “They found it very enjoyable, or they got a laugh out of it. That’s of course very pleasant for me to read.”

Intelligence failure my eye!
A Cheney-Bush-Condi baked Pie!
Media abetted,
The lies weren’t vetted,
And boy, did this mess go awry!

Larry Eisenberg

Larry Eisenberg was an active sf writer in the 1960s-1970s who had a story picked by Harlan Ellison for Dangerous Visions (“What Happened to Auguste Clarot?”), 20 published stories in his “Emmett Duckworth” series, and had his story “The Time of His Life” (1968) included in The Arbor House Treasury of Modern Science Fiction edited by Silverberg and Greenberg.

(4) Loscon 42 is this weekend in LA. The full program is now online.

(5) Once More With Joshi. S.T. Joshi restates his arguments at greater length in “November 24, 2015 – Once More with Feeling”.

It appears that my recent blogs have been somewhat misunderstood: I suppose in this humourless age, where everyone feels at liberty to be offended at anything and everything, satire and reductio ad absurdum are dangerous tools to employ. (How I wish more of us could adopt Lovecraft’s sensible attitude: “I am as offence-proof as the average cynic.”)

Here are three of his 11 points – I suspect many sympathize with #7, if none of the rest:

7) It would help if the World Fantasy Convention committee had presented some—or any—explanation as to why the award was changed. The secrecy with which this matter was handled has done a disservice to the field.

8) No fair-minded reader could say that my discussion of Ellen Datlow in any way constituted “vitriol.” I was raising a legitimate query as to why she has turned against Lovecraft after profiting from anthologies that could only have been assembled because of Lovecraft’s ascending reputation. Similarly, my comment directed at Jeff VanderMeer was in no way insulting to him. It is simply the plain truth that his offhand comment does not begin to address the multifarious complexities of this issue.

9) I do not question the sincerity of those individuals (whether they be persons of colour who have been the victims of race prejudice—as I have been on a few occasions—or others who are concerned about the continuing prevalence of prejudice in our society today, as I certainly am) who genuinely believe that changing the WFA bust might have some positive results in terms of inclusiveness in our genre. I happen to think they are mistaken on that particular issue, but that is a disagreement that I trust we can have without rancour or accusations of bad faith. (I am, however, not convinced that Mr. Older is one of these people.)

(6) Carrie Fisher. CinemaBlend knows “The Blunt Reason Carrie Fisher Returned To Star Wars”.

Leia, who we now know has traded out the Princess tag for General, is one of those roles that is difficult for an actor to escape—much like Luke Skywalker, it casts a long shadow—and this played a part in Fishers decision. But her choice also had a lot to do with a bigger issue in Hollywood, the lack of quality roles for aging actresses. When Time caught up with the 59-year-old actress and asked if her decision making process was difficult, she said:

No, I’m a female and in Hollywood it’s difficult to get work after 30—maybe it’s getting to be 40 now. I long ago accepted that I am Princess Leia. I have that as a large part of the association with my identity. There wasn’t a lot of hesitation.

(7) Attack of the Clones. Michael J. Martinez continues his Star Wars rewatch reviews in Star Wars wayback machine: Attack of the Clones”.

…No, my issue is Padme, as in…what the hell are you thinking?

Anakin is utterly unstable. It’s apparently widely known that Jedi aren’t supposed to get romantic or emotional. So there’s your first tip-off. The stalkerish leering and horrid attempts at flirtation aren’t helping, either. But then, right in front of Padme, he confesses to slaughtering an entire tribe of sentient beings — women and children, too! Sure, the Sand People killed Anakin’s mom, but do you really just sit there and say, “Hey, Anakin, you’re human. We make mistakes. It’s OK. Hugs?”

Hell, no, Padme. You call the Jedi Council on Coruscant and let them know they got themselves a massive problem….

(8) We Missed A Less Menacing Phantom. Meanwhile, we learn “Ron Howard could have saved us from The Phantom Menace, but chose not to” at A.V. Club.

Way back in the mid-’90s, George Lucas apparently exerted some mental energy trying to decide whether he’d rather create a trilogy of bloodless films in order to experiment with his new computer-imaging software, or hire some real filmmakers and make some decent Star Wars movies. He ultimately went with the former option, but—at least according to Ron Howard—it could have easily gone the other way.

“[Lucas] didn’t necessarily want to direct them,” Howard explains in a recent interview on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “He told me he had talked to Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and me. I was the third one he spoke to. They all said the same thing: ‘George, you should do it!’ I don’t think anybody wanted to follow up that act at the time. It was an honor, but it would’ve been too daunting.”

If this story is true, that is some criminally negligent counseling from some of Lucas’ supposed friends.

(9) Theme v. Message. Sarah A. Hoyt works on a practical distinction between theme and blunt message in storytelling, in “Threading The Needle” at According To Hoyt.

Theme, plot and meaning in your work.

Yes, I know, I know.  You’re out there going “but aren’t we all about the story and not the message.”

Yeah, of course we are.  If by message you mean the clumsy, stupid, predictable message you find in message fiction….


1- Figure out the theme and thread it through WHERE APPROPRIATE.

2- Figure out the sense of your novel and thread it through WHERE APPROPRIATE and not in people’s faces.

3 – If your sense of the novel fits in a bumpersticker, you iz doing it wrong.

4- most of 1 and 2 come down to building believable characters that fit the story you want to tell, and then not violating their individuality.

5- if you end in a line saying “the moral of this story is” it’s likely you’re over the top and turning off readers.  Also it’s possible Sarah A. Hoyt will come to your house and hold your cats/dogs/dragons hostage till you stop being a wise*ss.

(10) Today In History.

  • November 25, 1915 — Albert Einstein formulated his general theory of relativity

(11) Supergirl, Spoiler Warning.  Polygon reports “Superman to finally be introduced on Supergirl”

Audiences have gotten quick glimpses of the superhero, but there’s never been an official first look at the man of steel.

Now, however, Superman is set to make his official first appearance on the show, according to a new report from TV Line. Casting has already begun for the character, although some may be surprised to find out that CBS isn’t looking for a handsome, leading man to fill the role, but a 13-year-old boy.

(12) Game of Thrones Spoiler Warning. The Street asks, “Did HBO Just Tease That Jon Snow Is Alive in This Awesome ‘Game of Thrones’ Promotion?”

GoT left off in the Season 5 finale that Snow had been killed by his brothers of the Night’s Watch who rebelled against him as the commander of the group. Avid fans across the world cried and took to social media in outrage.

But since the season finale last June, fans have tossed around lots of theories on whether Jon Snow is actually dead. A prominent theory — at least in the TV series – is that Snow’s eyes change color just before the camera cuts off in the episode’s last scene. Could it mean that while Jon Snow may be dead, he will emerge as a new person, ahem, Jon Targaryen? Or was the eye color change just a trick of the camera?

As well, Game of Thrones blogs and various media articles have noted that Kit Harington, the actor who plays Snow, was seen on the show’s set while filming earlier this year for Season 6.

Still HBO hasn’t confirmed that the character will be returning. And following the season finale in June, HBO insists that Jon Snow is indeed — dead.

(13) Rex Reason Passes Away. Actor Rex Reason died November 19.

Rex Reason, the tall, handsome actor with a lush voice who portrayed the heroic scientist Dr. Cal Meacham in the 1955 science-fiction cult classic This Island Earth, has died. He was 86.

Reason died November 19th of bladder cancer at his home in Walnut, California, his wife of 47 years, Shirley, told The Hollywood Reporter….

In This Island Earth, distributed by Universal-International and directed by Joseph M. Newman, Reason’s Dr. Meacham is one of the scientists recruited by a denizen of the planet Metaluna to help in a war against another alien race. Russell Johnson, the future Professor on Gilligan’s Island, also played a scientist in the Technicolor movie, which at the time was hailed for its effects….

After a few years at MGM and Columbia, Reason landed at Universal and worked alongside Rita Hayworth in William Dieterle’s Salome (1953). He later starred as another scientist in The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), appeared with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier in Band of Angels (1957) and toplined Badlands of Montana (1957) and Thundering Jets (1958).

(14) Blue Origin. Yesterday’s Scroll ran a quote about the Blue Origin rocket test, but omitted the link to the referenced Washington Post story.

(15) Hines Review. Jim C. Hines reviews “Jupiter Ascending”.

I’d seen a bit of buzz about Jupiter Ascending, both positive and negative. I didn’t get around to watching it until this week.

The science is absurd, the plot is completely over the top, and about 3/4 of the way through, I figured out why it was working for me.

Spoilers Beyond This Point

(16) Cubesats. “United Launch Alliance Reveals Transformational CubeSat Launch Program” reports Space Daily.

As the most experienced launch company in the nation, United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced it is taking CubeSat rideshares to the next level by launching a new, innovative program offering universities the chance to compete for free CubeSat rides on future launches.

“ULA will offer universities the chance to compete for at least six CubeSat launch slots on two Atlas V missions, with a goal to eventually add university CubeSat slots to nearly every Atlas and Vulcan launch,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO.

“There is a growing need for universities to have access and availability to launch their CubeSats and this program will transform the way these universities get to space by making space more affordable and accessible.”

(17) Nazi Subway Ads. The New York Post article “Amazon Pulls Nazi-Inspired Ads from Subways” has more photos of the subway cars, inside and out.

Andrew Porter’s somewhat Joshi-esque comment is: “The concept of a USA under German and Japanese occupation is apparently beyond the comprehension of most subway riders, and politicians. Note that no actual swastikas appeared anywhere! Next: toy stores will be forced to remove World War II German model airplanes….”

(18) Testing for Feminism: The dramatic title of Steven Harper Piziks’ post “The Impending Death of Feminism” at Book View Café obscures his finely-grained account of a classroom discussion. The comments are also good.

Every year my seniors read Moliere’s Tartuffe. In that play is a scene in which Orgon orders his daughter to break off her engagement with the man she loves and marry the evil Tartuffe.  She begs him not to force this and asks his permission to marry the man she wants.

“Haw haw haw!” I chuckle at this point.  “Tartuffe was written in the 1600s.  Nothing like this happens today!”

Or . . . ?

I bring up a web site on my SmartBoard that asks questions and lets the students text their responses so we can see how the class as a whole answered.  The answers are always a little shocking

(19) Mockingjay 2. Tom Knighton reviews Mockingjay Part 2:

…Now, let’s talk about performances.  Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal, like she always is.  Personally, I like her better as Katniss than Mystique, but mostly because I prefer rooting for her characters and I just can’t with Mystique.

This is the last film we’ll ever see Phillip Seymour Hoffman in, and that is truly a tragedy.  So much talent, but he had a demon he couldn’t tame and it cost him his life.  To get political for a moment, this is something we should be discussing how to prevent.  Frankly, the threat of prison didn’t stop him, so maybe we should figure something else out for a bleeding change.  </politics>

Liam Hemsworth is great as well.  He’s a young actor I can’t wait to see do more.  My hope is that someday we’ll get a great action movie with Liam and his big brother Chris.  Gail and Thor on the big screen…yeah, I can see it….

(20) Bottled In Bond. James H. Burns recommends, “As folks are celebrating Thanksgiving, they could have a drink, like that other JB….!“ He means, of course, James Bond. For ideas, consult Burn’s article “007’s Potent Potables”.

The virtual explosion of surprise over James Bond drinking a beer in Skyfall was a bit absurd, and played almost like some practical joke from one of the spy’s arch enemies seeking to display just how gullible the media can be. (“Is that a SPECTRE I see over your shoulder?”) Call it a vast victory for product placement: The kind that not only gets the brand a major slot in a movie, but gets folks–including “The NBC Nightly News”–buzzing to the tune of MILLIONS OF DOLLARS of free publicity, for both the film, and the endorsement. But Ian Fleming’s secret agent 007 has been having the occasional brew almost since his very beginnings in the author’s bestselling series of espionage novels, which commenced in the early 1950s!

(21) Trivia. J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, was one of the seven people that Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott wrote to in the final hours of his life during his ill-fated return journey from the South Pole. Scott asked Barrie to take care of his wife and son. Barrie was so touched by the request that he carried the letter with him the rest of his life.

(22) Gratitude. “The SF/F We’re Thankful for in 2015” at B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog.

Andrew: Space opera seems to be coming back in a big way. Books such as Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, The End of All Things by John Scalzi, and The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers have been earning acclaim from all corners of the internet. I’ve always been a big fan of stories about expansive galactic empires, ragtag starship crews, and adventure far out into the cosmos, and the genre’s recent resurgence is both exciting and terrifying: there’s not nearly enough time to read all of them!

(23) Scalzi’s Thanksgiving Prayer. John Scalzi has recorded an audio of his science fictional thanksgiving prayertext first published on AMC in 2010.

… Additionally, let us extend our gratitude that this was not the year that you allowed the alien armadas to attack, to rapaciously steal our natural resources, and to feed on us, obliging us to make a last-ditch effort to infect their computers with a virus, rely on microbes to give them a nasty cold, or moisten them vigorously in the hope that they are water-soluble. I think I speak for all of us when I say that moistening aliens was not on the agenda for any of us at this table. Thank you, Lord, for sparing us that duty….

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Jim Meadows, rcade, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Credit for this holiday travel-themed title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/1 Rank Election

(1) If you are fan who drinks, the newly reopened Clifton’s Cafeteria would like to tempt you with these two science fictional libations –

drinks at Cliftons

(2) “Another Word: Chinese Science Fiction and Chinese Reality” by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu, in Clarkesworld, talks about the themes of other Chinese writers after these introductory comments about the domestic reception for his own work.

China is a society undergoing rapid development and transformation, where crises are present along with hopes, and opportunities coexist with challenges. This is a reality reflected in the science fiction produced there.

Chinese readers often interpret science fiction in unexpected ways. Take my Three Body series as an example. The alien-invasion story takes as its premise a “worst-case” scenario for relationships among members of the cosmic society of civilizations, which is called the “Dark Forest” state. In this state, different starfaring civilizations have no choice but to attempt to annihilate each other at the first opportunity.

After publication, the novels became surprisingly popular among those working in China’s Internet industry. They saw the “Dark Forest” state portrayed in the novels as an accurate reflection of the state of brutal competition among China’s Internet companies….

Authors (myself included) are often befuddled by such interpretations.

(3) From “’Star Wars’: Their First Time” in the New York Times.

Ridley Scott: I had done a film called “The Duellists” and was in Los Angeles to shoot at Paramount, and I honestly think Paramount had forgotten. I remember saying, I’m Ridley Scott, and they said who? So David Puttnam, one of the greatest producers I’ve ever worked with and the most fun, said, “Screw them, let’s go see [“Star Wars”] at the Chinese [theater].” It was the first week. I’ve never known audience participation like it, absolutely rocking. I felt my “Duellist” was this big [holds thumb and forefinger an inch apart], and George had done that [stretches arms out wide]. I was so inspired I wanted to shoot myself. My biggest compliment can be [to get] green with envy and really bad-tempered. That damn George, son of a bitch. I’m very competitive.

(4) Andrew Porter was interviewed, complete with photo, for “Longtime Brooklynites Reflect on a Changing Brooklyn” on Brownstoner.com:

Now you can put a face to me and my non SFnal opinions about recent changes in Brooklyn Heights, where I’ve lived for 47 years.

I’m sure you’ll also appreciate the comments, one of which accuses me of hating Brits!

(Daveinbedstuy accuses – “Andrew Porter sounds cranky; as he usually does on BHB. I wonder what he has against ‘Brits.’ And bringing up ‘granite countertops’ Really????????”)

(5) Jim C. Hines on Facebook:


The NaNo word counter says at this rate, I’ll finish by January 20, 2022.

I suppose I should probably keep writing, eh?

(6) “Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910” is on exhibit through February 26, 2017 in the newly renovated Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery of the National Museum of American History.

Travel with us to the surface of the moon, the center of the earth, and the depths of the ocean – to the fantastic worlds of fiction inspired by 19th century discovery and invention.

New frontiers of science were emerging. We took to the air, charted remote corners of the earth, and harnessed the power of steam and electricity. We began unlocking the secrets of the natural world. The growing literate middle class gave science a new and avid public audience. Writers explored the farther reaches of the new scientific landscape to craft hoaxes, satires and fictional tales.

Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910 is accompanied by an online exhibit.

(7) Francis Hamit, a novelist and film producer who is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, has published A Perfect Spy, a memoir about his first two years at the University of Iowa when he was a dual major in Drama and Business. While he narrates the ongoing dramatic social changes that were transforming society and the university in 1965 and 1966, he also covers the impact of the sexual revolution, the sudden rise of a drug culture, and the beginnings of the anti-war movement at the University of Iowa, from a first-person perspective.

“I saw the first draft card burnt,” Hamit says; “And I would see the last anti-war riot there several years later. I was also very disturbed by the rise of all kinds of drug use in and around Iowa City. Unlike almost everyone else I knew, I did not think this ‘cool’. I saw people ruining thier lives by refusing to tell the police who’d sold them the drugs: facing years in prison. I offered to help them find the dealers if they would leave my friends alone. How I did this is narrated in A Perfect Spy, which is a 118-page excerpt from my forthcoming book Out of Step: A Memoir of the Vietnam War Years.

“I was already in place,” Hamit added; “A perfect spy who made no pretenses of approving of recreational drugs. I didn’t do anything with them, but simply watched and listened so I could collect some useful intelligence for the police. At the same time, I became involved with some very interesting women who were part of the Sexual Revolution. That was part of a larger social revolt. None of what happened then can be viewed in isolation, so I’ve just tried to be as truthful as possible while changing a lot of the names of the people to prevent embarrassment.”

A Perfect Spy will be available exclusively at first from November 12, 2015 on Amazon Kindle for $5.00 and can be pre-ordered now. A print edition will be available in March, 2016 with a suggested retail price of $12.00 from most bookstores.

(8) “The artist who visited ‘Dune’ and ‘the most important science fiction art ever created’” – a gallery of Schoenherr at Dangerous Minds.

Frank Herbert said John Schoenherr was “the only man who has ever visited Dune.” Schoenherr (1935-2010) was the artist responsible for visualising and illustrating Herbert’s Dune—firstly in the pages of Analog magazine, then in the fully illustrated edition of the classic science fiction tale. But Herbert didn’t stop there, he later added:

I can envision no more perfect visual representation of my Dune world than John Schoenherr’s careful and accurate illustrations.

High praise indeed, but truly deserved, for as Jeff Love pointed out in Omni Reboot, Schoenherr’s illustrations are “the most important science fiction art ever created.”

(9) Jason Sanford posted a collection of tweets under the heading “The fossilization of science fiction and fantasy literature”. Here are some excerpts.

Although I have friends that do exactly what Sanford complains about, he doesn’t hang with them, read their fanzines, or (I’d wager) even know their names, so I’m kind of curious whose comments sparked off this rant.

Personally, I’m prone to recommend Connie Willis or Lois McMaster Bujold if I’m trying to interest someone in sf – though both have been around over 25 years and aren’t spring chickens anymore either.

People recommend what they know and esteem. It’s perfectly fine to argue whether recommendations will win fans to the genre, but it seems petty to act as if pushing “classic” choices is a war crime.

(10) John Scalzi was more or less content with Sanford’s line of thought, and responded with “No, the Kids Aren’t Reading the Classics and Why Would They”.

Writer Jason Sanford kicked a small hornet’s nest earlier today when he discussed “the fossilization of science fiction,” as he called it, and noted that today’s kids who are getting into science fiction are doing it without “Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Tolkien.” This is apparently causing a moderate bit of angina in some quarters.

I think Sanford is almost entirely correct (the small quibble being that I suspect Tolkien is still common currency, thanks to recent films and video games), nor does this personally come as any particular shock. I wrote last year about the fact my daughter was notably resistant to Heinlein’s charms, not to mention the charms of other writers who I enjoyed when I was her age… thirty years ago. She has her own set of writers she loves and follows, as she should. As do all the kids her age who read.

The surprise to me is not that today’s kids have their own set of favorite authors, in genre and out of it; the surprise to me is honestly that anyone else is surprised by this.

(11) “The kids” who don’t read the classics are one case, would-be sf writers are another, explains Fynbospress in “Slogging forward, looking back” at Mad Genius Club.

Kris Rusch has also noted how many young writers she’s run into who are completely ignorant of the many, many female authors who’ve been in science fiction and fantasy since the start. Among other reasons, many of their works have gone out of print, and the new writers coming in may not have read the old magazines, or picked up the older, dated-artwork books at the used bookstores. So they really, truly, may not know that their groundbreaking new take has been done to death thirty years before they came on the scene, or that they’re trying to reinvent a wheel that has not only been invented, it’s evolved to all-wheel drive with traction control.

(12) I can’t say that Vivienne Raper is going where no one has gone before in responding to the latest Wired article about the Hugos — “Five reasons why the ‘Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul’ isn’t about ‘white men’”.

[First three of five points.]

There are many reasons why I might be “angered” by previous Hugo winners.  And none of them are anything to do with ‘the increasingly multicultural makeup’ of the awards:


Science fiction’s most prestigious award‘ for Best Novel was decided in 2014 by fewer than 4,000 voters.


The Best Short Story for 2014 got onto the ballot with fewer than 43 nominations.


Popular blogger John Scalzi has won more Hugo Awards (inc. best fan writer) than Isaac Asimov – author of I, Robot – or Arthur C. Clarke. He also has 90K+ Twitter followers.

(13) Jeb Kinnison at Substrate Wars is more analytical and lands more punches in “The Death of ‘Wired’: Hugo Awards Edition”. Here are his closing paragraphs.

The various flavors of Puppies differ, but one thing they’re not is anti-diverse — there are women, people of various colors, gays (like me), religious, atheists, and on and on. The one thing they have in common is that they oppose elevating political correctness above quality of writing, originality, and story in science fiction. Many of the award winners in recent years have been lesser works elevated only because they satisfied a group of progressives who want their science fiction to reflect their desired future of group identity and victim-based politics. For them, it is part of their battle to tear down bad old patriarchy, to bury the old and bring themselves to the forefront of culture (and incidentally make a living being activists in fiction.) These people are often called “Social Justice Warriors” – they shore up their own fragile identities by thinking of themselves as noble warriors for social justice. Amy Wallace places herself with them by portraying the issues as a battle between racist, sexist white men and everyone else.

She then goes on to give some space to Larry Correia, Brad Torgerson, and Vox Day (Ted Beale). While her reporting about them is reasonably truthful, they report that she promised to interview Sarah Hoyt (who ruins the narrative as a female Puppy) but did not do so, and left out material from other interviews that did not support her slant. Tsk!

The piece is very long, but written from a position of assumed moral superiority and elite groupthink, a long fall from classic Wired‘s iconoclastic reporting. It’s sad when a quality brand goes downhill — as a longtime subscriber, I’ve noticed the magazine has grown thinner in the last year as ad revenues declined and competition from upstarts like Fast Company ate into their market. Now they are me-tooing major controversies for clicks. Once you see this dishonesty in reporting, you should never view such sources as reliable again.

(14) Sometimes I suspect AI stands for “artificial ignorance.”

If the programmer of this tweet-generating robot was literate, they could easily discover that the words Portugal and Portuguese are not even mentioned in this U.S. Census definition of “Hispanic or Latino.”

(15) “The Original Star Wars Trilogy Gets An Awesome Force Awakens-Style Trailer” via Geek Tyrant.

I’d warn that there are too many spoilers, except you’ve already seen the original trilogy how many times?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mark-kitteh, Will R., JJ, Trey Palmer, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15 Trial by Filers

(1) Martin Morse Wooster opened my eyes to a previously unrealized fact — Wil Wheaton is a celebrity homebrewer.

On November 7, 2015, the American Homebrewers Association hosts Learn to Homebrew Day across the country. This year, celebrity homebrewers Wil Wheaton and Kyle Hollingsworth have teamed up with the AHA to promote the celebration! Kyle and the AHA created a video together, which can be viewed here.

Wheaton even has a dedicated blog for his homebrew activities – Devils Gate Brewing. He’s also appeared on Brewing TV.

(2) While researching the homebrew story, I observed Wheaton deliver this absolute home truth —

(3) Crowdfunding conventions doesn’t always work. The fans who’d like to hold Phoenix Sci-Fi Con 2016 have only managed to raise $50 of the $12,500 goal in 13 days. The last donation was almost a week ago.

(4) “Neiman” has launched a new science-fiction and fantasy news aggregator, Madab, which is the word for “sci-fi” in Hebrew. (Says Neiman: “It fits, since I’m an Israeli in origin.”) The website focuses on books and written stuff, and follows more than a hundred sources.

(5) Zoë Heller, in “How Does an Author’s Reputation Shape Your Response to a Book?” for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, said about her experience as a slush pile reader:

The important thing was to send back manuscripts at a steady rate and to keep the slush pile low. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Under my supervision, the slush pile grew and grew until it became several tottering ziggurats of slush. I’d like to say that it was the thought of dashing writers’ hopes that paralyzed me. But I was quite heartless about that. What stopped me in my tracks was the dread of having to make independent literary judgments. I had never before been asked to evaluate writing that was utterly ­reputation-less and imprimatur-less. In college I had read I.A. Richards’s famous study, ‘Practical Criticism,’ in which Richards asked Cambridge undergraduates to assess poems without telling the students who had written them. The point of the experiment was to show how, when deprived of contextual clues, students ended up making embarrassingly ‘wrong’ judgments about what was good and bad. I was convinced that the slush pile was my own ‘Practical Criticism’ challenge and that I was going to be revealed as a fraud, with no real powers of literary discrimination.

Andrew Porter made a comment about his own experiences, which the Times published:

I read the slush pile at “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction” for 8 years, from 1966 to 1974, going in once a week to sort through anywhere from 100 to 140 unsolicited manuscripts. The ultra-short stories of under 500 words were usually rejected—none of the writers measured up to Fredric Brown, master of the short-short—while poetry, seldom published, also got the boot. Holiday stories sent in during the holidays were also rejected; most authors have no idea what sort of lead time magazines require. Then there were so many stories with punchline endings: “We’ll go to the third planet: the natives call it ‘Earth'” or “Eve? Gosh, my name’s Adam!” Some of those were 25,000 words, and most ended badly.

Occasionally there was a gem among the dross; I pulled Suzette Haden Elgin’s first published story from the piles, and it went on to be published and anthologized many times.

I was paid a pittance, yes ($25 a week), but did my best by the magazine and the authors. We sent them rejection forms, with sometimes a note encouraging more submissions—which was usually a mistake; they sent in their vast files of unpublishable stories. But sometimes…

All life is a is a judgement call, whether of unpublished stories, where to live, who to marry, or what to have for dinner. Heller failed the writers and her employers. I hope her subsequent life judgements have been wiser.

(6) Aaron Pound’s well-written CapClave report on Dreaming About Other Worlds ends with this insight:

After the convention, I spoke with my mother on the phone. She had traveled to New York to visit my sister for the weekend, and she was somewhat perplexed that the redhead and I had gone to CapClave rather than New York ComicCon. While the redhead and I enjoy big conventions with tens of thousands of attendees every now and then – we have been to DragonCon once, and we go to GenCon every year – there is simply no substitute for the congenial and friendly atmosphere of the smaller fan run conventions like CapClave, Balticon, Chessiecon, and the hundreds of other small conventions that take place every year. The blunt truth is that the large professionally run media conventions like New York ComicCon are simply exhausting. New York ComicCon had about 170,000 attendees this year. CapClave had about 400. To attend almost any panel at New York ComicCon, you have to wait in line, often for hours. You might be able to see stars like Chris Evans, George Takei, or Carrie Fischer, but you’ll likely see them from the back of an auditorium as they speak to a couple of thousand people. Or if you want a personal interaction you’ll pay for the privilege, and you will likely only be able to interact with them for a minute or two. At CapClave, on the other hand, the panels are small and interactive. I have never had to spend any appreciable time waiting in line for anything. Most of the authors who attend are more than happy to sit down and talk with you, whether after a panel, sitting in the con suite, or simply while hanging out at the hotel bar. An event like New York ComicCon is a spectacle, while CapClave, by contrast, is a conversation. There is room for both in the genre fiction world, but as for myself, I prefer the conversation.

(7) A Brian K. Vaughn comic may be made into a TV series.

After years of trying, Hollywood finally threw in the towel last year and stopped trying to make a movie version of Y: The Last Man. Brian K. Vaughan’s epic 60-issue series recounts the adventures of Yorick Brown, his pet monkey Ampersand, and all the ladies on Earth who want a piece of him because he is—spoiler alert—the last man, after a mysterious plague kills everything with a Y chromosome except for him. After the rights were returned to Vaughan following New Line dropping the ball on the films, it was unclear if anything would ever happen with it, given the creator had left television and was concentrating on comics once more.

But much like astronauts returning to Earth from the International Space Station, Y: The Last Man has returned to the world of filmed adaptations. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sci-fi comic is being developed into a series for cable channel FX. Along with producers Nina Jacobsen and Brad Simpson, the network is looking for a writer to develop the show with Vaughan.

(8) Ross Andersen reports on “The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy” for The Atlantic.

Between these constellations sits an unusual star, invisible to the naked eye, but visible to the Kepler Space Telescope, which stared at it for more than four years, beginning in 2009…..

The light pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation. That would be expected if the star were young. When our solar system first formed, four and a half billion years ago, a messy disk of dust and debris surrounded the sun, before gravity organized it into planets, and rings of rock and ice.

But this unusual star isn’t young. If it were young, it would be surrounded by dust that would give off extra infrared light. There doesn’t seem to be an excess of infrared light around this star.

It appears to be mature….

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.

“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

Boyajian is now working with Wright and Andrew Siemion, the Director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The three of them are writing up a proposal. They want to point a massive radio dish at the unusual star, to see if it emits radio waves at frequencies associated with technological activity.

If they see a sizable amount of radio waves, they’ll follow up with the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, which may be able to say whether the radio waves were emitted by a technological source, like those that waft out into the universe from Earth’s network of radio stations.

(9) George R.R. Martin announces that Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive…

…is Emilia Clarke, our own Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea.

The Esquire magazine article is here..

(10) Tom Knighton reviews the novel The Martian:

I’d heard all about the science, how it was supposed to be so accurate.  I’d heard that Weir wrote a pretty compelling story.  While I’m not sure about the former, I do agree with the latter, they left out one key piece of commentary on The Martian.  It’s actually funny!

Mark Watney, the main character, is a natural smart ass and an independent spirit…in addition to a mechanical engineer and botanist.  Honest, if you’re going to strand a guy on Mars, it might have been the perfect choice, which some may perceive as a chink in Watney’s armor on this story, but I disagree.

(11) SFFWorld interviews Seanan McGuire:

SFFWorld: With so many interesting universes that you create, you have fans who like them all. But do you ever have fans getting mad at you because you are working on one series and they want a new book in their favorite series?

McGuire: Fans are people, and people sometimes get mad at air.  I know I do.  So I have people huff at me because I’m not doing what they want, but I also have people get mad because I use profanity, or because I exist in material space, or because I was at Disneyland when they thought I should be writing.  I just keep swimming.  I need to switch between projects to keep from burning myself out, and I like to think that my true fans would rather have me writing for a long time than get exactly what they want the second that they want it.  Unless what they want is a puppy.

(12) “Most of the story team for the next Star Wars film is female” reports Fortune.

Today, Kennedy is president of Lucasfilm, producer of the next installment in the Star Wars series, The Force Awakens. Still, she believes the challenges for women have remained much the same since the late 1970s. “I don’t think things have changed much for women for jobs in the entertainment industry, especially in technical roles,” she said. Kennedy added that at a recent Saturday Night Live taping she attended, she saw no women operating the cameras….

“People in powerful positions are not trying hard enough [to bring women into the industry] and there are an alarming number of women who are not able to get those jobs,” she explained.

And — “Kathleen Kennedy Promises She’ll Hire A Female Director For A Star Wars Movie” reports GeekTyrant

“I feel it is going to happen — we are going to hire a woman who’s going to direct a Star Wars movie. I have no doubt. On the other hand, I want to make sure we put somebody in that position who’s set up for success. It’s not just a token job to look out and try to find a woman that we can put into a position of directing Star Wars.”

(13) No matter what William Shatner told the Australians, Justin Lin is directing Star Trek Beyond — and people are leaking photos of the aliens from Lin’s movie.

(14) “One step closer to Star Trek: New 3-D printer builds with 10 materials at once” from Christian Science Monitor.

It’s built from off-the-shelf parts that cost about $7,000 in total, and is capable of printing in full color with up to 10 materials at a time, including fabrics, fiber-optics, and lenses.

Traditional multi-material printers use a mechanical system to sweep each layer of the printed object after it’s laid down to ensure that it’s flat and correctly aligned. The extreme precision of such a system is a big part of the reason that printers are so expensive. But the MultiFab uses a machine-vision system instead of a mechanical one, which allows for precise scanning – down to 40 microns – without the need for so many pricey components, project engineer Javier Ramos told Wired.

(15) All six Bonds together, that is, at Madame Tussaud’s!

(16) Frock Flicks: The Costume Movie Review Podcast, does a serious, in-depth study of historical costuming in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – which gets high marks despite having been done cheap, cheap, cheap!

The Historical Setting of Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The movie is supposedly set in 932 A.D., and, of course, the story is King Arthur, which is quasi-fictitious anyway. The person who might be the historical basis for the Arthurian legends could have lived in the 5th to 7th century, and 932 is right around the reign of Æthelstan, who was a king of the Anglo-Saxons and the first to proclaim himself King of the English in 927. But hey, whatever this is a comedy, who pays attention to the title cards, right? Other than all those moose and llamas…

In a way, it doesn’t matter because medieval clothing, at least for men, is somewhat vaguely defined from the 5th though 12th centuries, being mostly belted tunics and such. But for reference, here are a few examples of how ruling men were depicted in documents of the period in England. The garment shapes are simple, and the higher up in status a man was, the more decorative trims and jewelry he got. It’s also interesting to note the hair and beard styles.

(17) John Hertz offers a piece he entitles, “Do you, Mister Jones?” —

All this throwing round of the word “geek” recalls a handy little acronym I had published a while ago in The MT Void 1279 (or you may have seen it later in Vanamonde 956, where I added “Among reasons to form one’s own opinions, people can be vigorous in accusing one of one’s virtues”; not to burden the File 770 Reference Director, I allude to Aesop, H. Andersen, B. Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man”, and “The Marching Morons”).

Grapes are sour.
Emperor has no clothes.
Each put-down of you means I win.
Kornbluth didn’t tell the half of it.

[Thanks to James H. Burns, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

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.