The Full-Length Banner

By Bill Higgins: This item is five years old, or in another sense, twenty-six, but I’ve just learned of it.

Isaac Asimov loved “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  Fandom’s music maven Matthew B. Tepper writes: “In March, 1991, Isaac Asimov published an essay in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction entitled ‘All Four Stanzas.’ In it, he gave the background of Francis Scott Key’s ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ (as it has come to be called), and perhaps just as remarkably, speaks of his own love of the anthem, and his habit of singing it with all four stanzas, not just the first one which is generally heard.”

In 2012, Mr. Tepper contributed to YouTube a 1991 audio recording of Asimov, aged 71, singing all four stanzas. Though Asimov’s wit was renowned, he performs here in perfect seriousness.

Asimov’s memorable essay on the song has been rewritten, and appears in garbled form on many sites around the Internet.  Tepper also points out that in 2010,  Eric Scheie made an effort to rescue “All Four Stanzas” from mutilation.  Scheie tracked down the original essay, posted scans of the F&SF pages on which it appeared, and presented an HTML version:

In this moment, while Americans are focusing new attention on “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the meanings with which we invest it, it may be interesting to hear it sung by one who, while granting that his nation had its flaws, greatly loved its anthem– all four stanzas of it.

Pixel Scroll 7/29/17 So What’s It Gonna Be, Kid? Calendrical Rot Or Diachronic Shear?

(1) TWEETS OF GENIUS. The winner of the internet today begins here –

(2) NEXT CHIANG ADAPTATION. A Ted Chiang story will be the basis for this new AMC show: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show from the writers behind Arrival”.

During the Television Critics Association press tour, AMC announced a slate of eight new shows that it’s putting into development, according to Deadline, which includes a project based on a story by Ted Chiang, whose novella Story of Your Life was the basis for Denis Villeneuve’s movie Arrival.

Liking What You See is being developed by Arrival’s screenwriter, Eric Heisserer, with Chiang as a consultant. It’ll be based on Liking What You See: A Documentary, which Chiang published in his collection, Stories of Your Life and Others in 2002. The story is set in the near future where members of a community called Saybrook undergo a procedure called calliagnosia, which prevents them from perceiving beauty. The story plays out like a documentary, and its characters discuss the pros and cons of this procedure in a media-saturated world.

(3) ALTSPACEVR CROAKS. A social media pioneer ran out of money, as they do – The Verge has the story: “The most famous VR social network is abruptly shutting down”.

AltspaceVR, the virtual reality social network that has hosted everything from stand-up comedy to presidential debate-watching parties, is shutting down next week. The community announced “with heavy hearts” last night that AltspaceVR would be closing August 3rd at 10pm ET, after “unforeseen financial difficulty.”

Spokesperson Gerard Gottheil provided more detail in an email to The Verge and other outlets. “We had a supportive group of investors that last gave us money in 2015. It looked like we had a deal for our next round of funding, and it fell through,” he said. “Some combination of this deal falling through and the general slowness of VR market growth made most of our investors reluctant to fund us further. We’ve been out fundraising but have run out of time and money.”

Currently, AltSpaceVR has around 35,000 active monthly users, who spend an average of around 35 minutes a day on the free platform.

(4) FUTURE FORESEEN. UploadVR says “Here’s A Look Back at How Sci-Fi Literature Predicted the Rise of Modern Virtual Reality”. Sure, but did sci-fi predict it would go broke?

With the introduction of top-end devices such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive as well as the simple ones such as Google Cardboard, Virtual Reality is the next digital frontier. While it’s a world that can now be practically realized, it’s not a new idea: Science Fiction has long been imagining virtual worlds within imagined ones.

From the early 1950s, authors had begun to experiment with stories involving simulated worlds. Ray Bradbury’s 1951 story The Veldt dealt with a pair of children and a virtual nursery, while Fredric Pohl’s 1955 short story The Tunnel Under the World told the story of a man who relived the same day over and over, only to discover that he was trapped in a cruel marketing simulation…..

(5) FAMOUS SF SERIES CONTINUES. C.J. Cherryh  announced in a public Facebook post that she and Jane Fancher are currently completing a new Alliance-Union book (titled Alliance Rising). It is set early in the universe’s timeline. At the moment, the book is being edited by Fancher and Cherryh has finished her edit.

It takes two people of similar style (check) and egos both strong enough and pliable enough (check) to see something you thought brilliant as fluid and changeable. In a profession as solitary as writing can be, it’s downright fun to sit down for a brainstorming session on the shared story. We’re already thinking about ‘next…’

(6) PRESTO. Camestros Felapton’s latest hilarious invention is the “Genre Shifter”.

Turns a single paragraph into different genres via the miracle of science!

(7) MORE MEMORIES OF JORDIN KARE. Bill Higgins of Fermilab recalls the science panels he did with Jordin Kare in their personas Fizz and Fuse.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 29, 1988 – George A. Romero’s Monkey Shines opens.
  • July 29, 1970 — The 1965-produced Invasion of the Astro-Monster finally found its way to a theatrical release in the United States.
  • July 29, 2002 Signs premieres in theaters.
  • July 29, 2011 — Director Jon Favreau spawned Cowboys & Aliens on this day in 2011.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 29, 1972 – Wil Wheaton

(10) COMIC SECTION R.I.P. The July 24 Financial Times has an article on D C Thomson, the Scottish publisher of “The Beano,” Briitain’s oldest comic (founded 1938), as they try to invent apps and short animations for tablets to keep kids interested an avoid the fate of another DC Thomson comic, “The Dandy” which died in 2012 after its circulation fell from 2 million in the 1950s to 7,500.  (“The Dandy” was supposed to move online, but hasn’t.)

(11) TIME TRAVEL. If you weren’t present in 1962 when Galactic Journey held its second tele-conference, thank goodness you have the means to go back in time whenever you want to watch Gideon Marcus and company present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.

(12) CONFEDERATE. The Hollywood Reporter’s Lesley Goldberg, in “HBO’s Casey Bloys Defends Slave Drama From ‘Game of Thrones’ Creators: ‘It’s a Risk Worth Taking'”, says that Bloys spoke at the Television Critics Association press tour and said Confederate was “weapons-grade material” but “If you can get it right, there is real opportunity to advance the racial discussion in America.”

If you can draw a line between what we’re seeing in the country today with voter suppression, mass incarceration, lack of access to public education and healthcare and draw the line to our past and shared history, that’s an important line to draw and a conversation worth having. [The producers] acknowledge this has a high degree of difficulty. It’s a risk worth taking.

(13) LATE SHOW. JJ admires these reviews by James Reid and wishes they’d been posted earlier so they could have been included in our roundup here. “I thought that the Campbell was the best eval (possibly the only one) for that category I’ve seen.”

Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, writen by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze

Wakanda is beset by internal strife, and it’s king is overwhelmed.

How does a good king rule when they’ve failed their kingdom, and how do they fight a rebellion that philosophically might be right?  Wakanda has been devastated by war, their elite warriors have become vigilantes and rebels, and a woman flames fear in the populous and drives them to rebellion using mystical powers.  What is most interesting in this book is the sympathy that Coates shows those rising up, rather than assume that because Black Panther tries to be a good ruler he should rule, it looks at the consequences of his actions, and the role of kings.  As a book, Black Panther lacks in neither action nor thought, but unfortunately, as merely the first volume in a longer arc never has a chance to answer the questions it poses.  This is a series that demands further reading, but as a volume is all set up.

As art, the landscapes and cities are evocative, creating a technocratic eden in the jungle.  In contrast the characters are highly stylised and angular, better in motion than standing still.

A good introduction to what promises to be a well thought out look at leadership and governance combined with superhero action.

(14) COVER STORY. Shorpy is back with another old newsstand photo from around November 1938. For this one you don’t even need to squint to see the science fictional goodies. Bill says he sees these stories:

The Astounding has stories by Hubbard and Simak, and a letter from Asimov. The Amazing Stories has “I Robot” by Eando Binder. The Weird Tales has a Kull poem by REH, and stories by August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch and Henry Kuttner. The Startling Stories has a novel (“The Black Flame”) by Stanley Weinbaum. The Argosy has a reprinted installment of “The Ship of Ishtar” by Merritt. The issue of Adventure Comics contains stories and art by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Siegel and Shuster, and Sheldon Moldoff.

Although I think for some of these identifications, Bill must be using x-ray vision.

(15) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. We all scream… No, this isn’t a horror story, it’s a lyric: “Scoop! This Woman Tastes Ice Cream For A Living”.

Fast Company: How did you land that job, really?

Molly Hammel: It was a competitive process with dozens of applicants, but I’m not sure exactly how many people applied for this job.

One thing that really helped me stand out during the interview process was that I was on the dairy judging team in college. To participate in the team, I went through extensive training on how to judge dairy products (ice cream included). I came in second overall in the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest in 2014 so that definitely helped as well. During my interviews, I also mentioned that I made up silly songs and walked around the office singing to get panelists to attend panels at my last internship. A couple of associates mentioned my songs to me after I was hired, so I think that helped me stand out.

(16) TIPPING THE SCALES. Only one can win! “Finalists to gather for Miss Mermaid United Kingdom pageant”.

The top mermaids in Great Britain will gather this weekend to determine who will earn the title of Miss Mermaid U.K.

Women from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were invited to compete in regional pageants and the finalists will gather at Billing Aquadrome in Northampton on Saturday.

The winner will be adorned with a special crown and receive the opportunity to compete in the Miss Mermaid International final in Egypt in November.

Participants in the pageant are required to be females between 18 and 32-years-old who live in the U.K. and have strong swimming skills.

(17) SHAKE IT FAR, FAR AWAY. Eclectic Method has created Star Wars video you can dance to, using only sounds from the 8 Star Wars Movies, no added sugars or samples.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bill, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, and Cat Rambo for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

SF in Broadway History

By Bill Higgins: Karel Capek’s play R.U.R. — which gave the English language the word “robot”– was a hit in Prague in 1921, and came to the U.S. soon afterward, with a Broadway production in 1922.

Among the New York Public Library Digital Collections I found photos of a later traveling production of R.U.R. by the Theatre Guild Tour Company. They’re dated 1928 to 1929. They’re part of the collection “Vandamm Theatrical Photographs, 1900-1957”.

One actor whose name I recognized in a small part: Sydney Greenstreet, whose later Hollywood career included appearances in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. (He turns up at the right-hand edge of this image.

If you’re curious what sets, costumes, and actors looked like in a 1920s version of Capek’s famous play, take a look.

There’s probably all kinds of SF-related stuff in the NYPL’s collection of public-domain images.

Sasquan Hugo Ceremony Video Posted

By Bill Higgins: Sasquan now has the 2015 Hugo Ceremony video online — http://livestream.com/worldcon.

It is divided into four parts.

Parts 1 and 2 cover the “pre-game show” talk show chatter.

The ceremony proper starts about 1:37 into Part 2.

Part 3 is all ceremony.

In Part 4, the ceremony ends at about 37:50. After that comes the post-ceremony talk show.

The Planet: One Last Landing

The delightfully inconclusive debate here on the topic of whether the Scienceers or the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club was the first sf club led to a discovery I am happy to share with you.

From Guy H. Lillian’s The Zine Dump I learned Ned Brooks had scanned a photocopy of first issue of The Planet, published by the Scienceers in July 1930. Ned kindly sent the images to me and I have uploaded them here.

A squib on page 3 says the Scienceers published meeting notices every Friday in the New York Evening World, confirming Allan Glasser’s memory about the weekly meeting schedule. Unfortunately, I was denied the minor pleasure of locating one of those ads because the paper has only been digitized through 1922.

As for Aubrey MacDermott and the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club, Fred Patten wrote in comments about his conversation with Cliff Amsbury, one of the other members: “He said that, yeah, MacDermott and other S.F.-area teenage s-f fans often got together in 1928, so they were first. But those were all one-shot social meetings. They did not hold club meetings.”

MacDermott only claimed they met, not that they met on a regular schedule. Bill Higgins’ jibe, “Which is more fannish?” hits the nail on the head.

The Scienceers had more traits of the prototype sf club. Yet the Eastbay group identified itself as a club and met socially in 1928 more than once. Depending on your preferred criteria, either club could claim to be first. And since 99% of you are already picking the Scienceers, there is your official wisdom-of-crowds answer…

P.S. Read The Planet’s science fiction quiz on page 2. I used to consider myself a trivia master but I scored zero out of 10…

Planet1p1Planet1p2Planet1p3

Arthur C. Clarke, Salesman

By Bill Higgins: I know perfectly well that he doesn’t belong to fandom — he belongs to the entire world. Still, it was a bit startling to hear my favorite author’s voice come out of my TV tonight. In tiny letters at the lower right of the screen was ARTHUR C. CLARKE 1964. Sir Arthur was talking about what the future would be like.

“The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic.”

Eventually it became clear that this was a commercial for BMW automobiles. These days, advertisers frequently park a copy of their commercial on Youtube:

It was uploaded last February, so I guess it took me a long time to notice the campaign.

This may be the first of Sir Arthur’s posthumous ads I have seen, but even before his death he lent his image to commercials. Here’s a spot for *Omni* magazine from 1980, with speechifying about the future very similar to the 1964 sound clip featured in the 2014 BMW ad above:

“One thing is certain: It will be wider and more wonderful than ever dreamed of by any poet or dramatist of the past.”

No doubt other examples of Clarkean pitchmanship could be turned up. Magazine ads, perhaps?

Stanley C. Skirvin (1927-2014)

Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, Deedee and Roy Lavender, and Stan Skirvin on a New York rooftop

Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, Deedee and Roy Lavender, and Stan Skirvin on a New York rooftop. From the Fanac.org site.

By Bill Higgins: Stanley C. Skirvin, one-time Cincinnati fan, passed away March 28 in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 86.

Returning from Navy service in World War II, he found Cincy fandom. He claimed responsibility for persuading hometown fans to name themselves the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG). Skirvin edited the 56-page program book for the Cinvention, the 1949 Worldcon (online here), and edited a Memory Book afterward. His account of the Worldcon, “Wha’ Happened?” is online here. He also attended Philcon in 1953 and Detention in 1959.

As an engineer for General Electric in the 1960s, Skirvin helped develop nuclear-powered aircraft engines, writing software that calculated airflow though hot reactors. Moving to Schenectady, NY, and finally settling in Scottsdale, he apparently gafiated, but CFG and other fans report some 21st-century e-mail contacts.

He was an avid fossil hunter and mountain climber.  “A Tribute to Stanley C. Skrivin,” by his mountaineering buddy Don McIver, is available in the Arizona Sierra Club’s Summer 2014 issue of Canyon Echo [PDF file].

While a member of the Arizona Mountaineering Club Skirvin participated in a number of rescues. He was also a member of the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society with his own cactus collection.

Skirvin is survived by his wife for more than 61 years, Joan, and his three children.

Twin Pair o’ Docs

By Bill Higgins: Spotted something unusual: In the April 2014 issue of Physics Today, two letters were published from two physicists, who are brothers, both commenting on the same article.

I doubt that has happened before.

James Benford and Gregory Benford were responding to an article on Cold War history by Frank von Hippel in the September 2013 issue. (Physics Today has always had a rather leisurely turnaround time in publishing letters.)

Astounding and the Atomic Bomb

In 1944 Cleve Cartmill’s atomic bomb story “Deadline” famously inspired an investigator from the War Department to visit Astounding’s editor. What few remember is that Cartmill’s story was actually the culmination of John W. Campbell’s long flirtation with atomic weapons in the pages of his magazine.

Alex Wellerstein’s Restricted Data, the Nuclear Secrecy Blog recently discussed Campbell’s nonfiction article “Death Dust”, published in a 1941 issue of Pic, and readers chimed in with numerous juicy details about its fictional corollary, Heinlein’s “Solution Unsatisfactory,” as well as the creative relationship between the editor and his leading author, and the sources of what they knew about reactors and U-238.

Bill Higgins supplied an outline of Campbell’s correspondence with Heinlein in 1940 and 1941 when “Blowups Happen” and “Solution Unsatisfactory” were in the works.

Heinlein biographer Bill Patterson also chimed in with several interesting comments, for example —

Estelle Karst [in “Solution Unsatisfactory”] is, indeed, an homage to Lise Meitner, who worked out the necessary mathematical support for the idea of fission in 1939 on a train fleeing Nazi Germany. In January 1940 Campbell wanted Heinlein to write a story about “uncertainty in the sub-etheric field” (he probably got that story in 1942 as “Waldo”), In the meantime, Heinlein had been talking with his friend physicist Robert Cornog about subjects related to a reactor, and Heinlein combined Cornog and Campbell and the result was “Blowups Happen.” At the time there was no reactor in existence — and not as much as a gram of purified U238 in existence, so most of the physics here was speculative.

Even Campbell’s granddaughter had something to say.

[Thanks to Gene Dannen for the story.]

You’re So Vain I’ll Bet You Think This Post Is About You

Fifty years ago when it was fashionable to photograph big high school classes with a panoramic camera – which traversed the student body in one long exposure and yielded a very long print – it also was fashionable for class clowns to pose at one extreme of the line then sprint to the other end in order to appear in the picture twice.

That prank is literally kid stuff compared to Bill Higgins’ Olympian feat of inserting himself into Google Earth’s Street View multiple times.

Last April, when Higgins discovered a Google Street View mapping car was in the vicinity he pulled out his own camera and began stalking it through his neighborhood. He also lurked about in his red sedan along the route the Google car was taking.

Beamjockey shoots back.

Beamjockey shoots back.

Bill and/or his car showed up in Street View shots at 16 different addresses. He even appeared standing on the corner by his house —

It’s been pointed out that, since I have a camera in front of my face, Google’s “recognize a face and blur it” software may have left me alone. Not that I mind, being vain and all.

You can still see screen captures of Bill in Street View at his blog (click link above). However, Google obviously felt its digital leg being pulled because they’ve now rephotographed all the streets. Same houses. Same trees. No more Bill.

As they say, all glory is fleeting.