Pixel Scroll 10/3/17 You Are Standing In An Open Field West Of A White House, With A Boarded Front Door. There Is A Small Scroll Here.

(1) HEARTLESS. The day after the worst of recent mass-shootings in American history I don’t want to click on Nerds of a Feather and find “Non-review: Destiny 2 by Bungie (developer)”, a post that begins:

Nameless Midnight is my favorite weapon. It’s a scout rifle with explosive rounds and decreased recoil. It’s good in PVP, but it’s amazing in PVE. Every shot is a bloom of damage numbers. With sixteen rounds, I can empty a room with it. Dump a whole magazine into an elite enemy and I’ve probably killed it. Since it’s a scout rifle, it’s second only to a sniper for range too, so I don’t even have to be close. It’s not even an exotic weapon, so I can still carry my Hard Light as a backup. They’re an amazing pair.

I just despair for fandom.

(2) NEW WAVES. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 has been announced, given to those who contributed to the observation of gravitational waves. Half of the award goes to Rainer Weiss (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and Kip S. Thorne (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”

Gravitational waves finally captured

On 14 September 2015, the universe’s gravitational waves were observed for the very first time. The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the USA.

The signal was extremely weak when it reached Earth, but is already promising a revolution in astrophysics. Gravitational waves are an entirely new way of observing the most violent events in space and testing the limits of our knowledge.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a collaborative project with over one thousand researchers from more than twenty countries. Together, they have realised a vision that is almost fifty years old. The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of LIGO. Pioneers Rainer Weiss and Kip S. Thorne, together with Barry C. Barish, the scientist and leader who brought the project to completion, ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed.

(3) BONESTELL DOCUMENTARY. In production, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future is a feature-length documentary on the life, works, and influence of sff artist Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986). The website is filled with interesting resources.

Long before satellites would journey to planets and deep-space telescopes would photograph distant galaxies, there was an artist whose dazzling visions of planets and stars would capture the imagination of all who beheld them. Before that, he was an architect working on projects like the Chrysler Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. He would later become a matte painter in Hollywood working on films like “Citizen Kane” and “Destination Moon”. Who was this remarkable man? His name was Chesley Bonestell.

 

(4) FREE PICKERSGILL. David Langford keeps rolling in high gear: “With Ansible out of the way for another month, I’ve been overhauling the TAFF free ebooks page.” Here’s a new addition, Can’t Get Off the Island by Greg Pickersgill.

A selection of living legend Greg Pickersgill’s fanwriting edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer, published to mark Greg’s Fan Guest of Honour role at Interaction, the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon. Autobiography, reviews, convention reports, musings on fandom, controversy … with sources ranging from 1970s fanzines to 2005 posts on private email lists. First published 2005; reissued as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site in October 2017. 76,000 words.

(5) PULPFEST. Seven recordings of program items at the most recent Pulpfest are available for listening:

Compliments of the Domino Lady

Long-time journalist and pop culture historian Michelle Nolan takes a look at a female pulp hero in “Compliments of the Domino Lady.”

100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch

Popular culture professor Garyn Roberts, who was received PulpFest’s Munsey Award in 2013, examines “100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch.”

Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner

Anthony Marks, winner of a 2009 Anthony Award, presents “Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner.”

Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine

Matt Moring, publisher at Altus Press, discuses “Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine.”

The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin

Will Murray, pulp historian and author of the new adventures of Doc Savage, Pat Savage, and Tarzan, discusses “The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin.

Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn

David Saunders, pulp art historian and son of pulp artist Norman Saunders, talks with PulpFest 2017 Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn about her career as a pulp artist.

Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young

California State University Sacramento professor Tom Krabacher and long-time pulp collector Walker Martin discuss “Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young.”

(6) DI FATE’S MAGICON SPEECH. Fanac.org has put on YouTube a video recording of 1992 Worldcon GoH Vincent Di Fate taking up the theme another artist addressed at the first Worldcon, “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” (46 minute video):

MagiCon, the 50th worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. As the 50th Worldcon, MagiCon recreated key parts of the first Worldcon program held in 1939. Guest of Honor Vincent Di Fate was asked to speak on the topic “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” as a nod to a talk of the same name by the first Worldcon Guest of Honor, Frank R. Paul. Here, Vincent Di Fate provides an engaging view of Frank R. Paul, and his impact on SF illustration. He also reflects on his own influences, on authors such as Robert Heinlein, and on some of the greats of early SF film. His love for science fiction is clear, and contagious.

 

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel will present James Patrick Kelly and Jennifer Marie Brissett at the next gathering of Fantastic Fiction at KGB on October 18.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. His most recent publications are the novel Mother Go, an audiobook original from Audible and the career retrospective Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly from Centipede Press. Forthcoming in November are the premier of his stage play Grouped, at the Paragon Science Fiction Play Festival in Chicago and in February a new story collection from Prime, The Promise of Space. He writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and is on the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine.

Jennifer Marie Brissett

Jennifer Marie Brissett is the author of Elysium. She has been shortlisted for the Locus Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and has won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation. Her short stories can be found in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Lightspeed, Uncanny, The Future Fire, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, and other publications. And once in her life, a long time ago and for three and a half years, she owned and operated a Brooklyn indie bookstore called Indigo Café & Books. She is currently on the faculty at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop where she teaches Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing.

The readings begin 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York.

(8) DISCOVERY REVIEW. Camestros Felapton, in “Review: Star Trek Discovery Episode 3”, wonders if he has the right address.

Or is this Star Trek: Black Ops? The third episode is full of promise for what could be a really good series. Once again, the broad strokes and characters are good but the plot details still need attention.

It is six months after the events of the first two episodes. Michael Burnham is on a shuttle transport amid some kind of space storm on her way with other prisoners to some space mines etc. Viewer alert: engage disbelief suspension system. Beep, beep, beep. Space opera mode engaged: disbelief suspended.

It’s Star Trek, it wants more fake realism than other SF properties but this is still a rubber headed alien universe with tribbles and space monsters. I resolved to give it some more slack when the hull of the shuttle gets infected with electricity eating bugs.

(9) VEGGIES MR. RICO. In Squashalypse!”, BookViewCafe’s Deborah J. Ross finds a way to avert terrestrial takeover by an aggressive nonsentient species.

Okay, we’ve all heard the warnings. In summer squash season, do not leave the window of your parked car down or you will find a 20 lb zucchini on the passenger seat. And every year we (as do many others) suffer a memory lapse and plant — well, too many squash plants. (This applies only to summer squashes like zucchini, pattypan, and crookneck; winter squashes like butternut, buttercup, and acorn aren’t a problem because they can be stored and enjoyed over the course of months.) However, we have devised several strategies for dealing the the bounty that do not involve breaking and entering our neighbors’ vehicles.

(10) ATTENTION TO ORDERS. Hie thee to Camestros Felapton’s blog where you are instructed to laugh at “McEdifice Returns! Chapter n+1”!

It was week 4 of intensive training for the new recruits of the Intergalactic Space Army. Trainee unit Alpha 57 consisted of Dweeble, Mush, Henumhein, Chuckowitz, Mertlebay, Shumpwinder, Scoot, Pumpwhistle, Pendlebee, Zorb, Feratu, and McEdifice.

“I HAVE NEVER SEEN, a more mangy, misbegotten, NO GOOD, bunch of FLEA INFESTED, scum-bag eating EXCUSES for recruits in all MY DAYS at Bootcamp 67!” Drill Sergeant Ernie (Earnest to his friends of which he had none) was professionally loud, cantankerous and had master degrees in bullying, verbal abuse, and counterproductive unfairness.

McEdifice narrowed his eyes. Sure, he understood the basic principle of psychologically breaking the recruits down so as to rebuild their personalities as a hardened unit of warriors but McEdifice couldn’t ignore his instincts and his instincts told him that the camp had been infiltrated by SPACE VAMPIRES. He didn’t know who the infiltrator was but he knew that he didn’t like Drill Sergeant Ernie.

(11) FOR YOUR NYCC VIEWING PLEASURE. Marvel will be streaming programming from this weekend’s New York Comic Con.

Marvel Entertainment invites you to experience the best of New York Comic Con 2017 LIVE from the heart of Manhattan! Starting Thursday, October 5, tune in to Marvel Entertainment’s live stream coverage of NYCC, starting at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT and get ready to be a part of one of the biggest fan events of the year!

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, viewers will be able to watch booth events and panels from the Javits Center, play games with their favorite Marvel comic and television talent, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings.

Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/NYCC2017Marvel’s YouTube channel or Marvel’s Facebook page. For the first time ever, you can watch Marvel LIVE! from all three platforms!

(12) FANHISTORY FOR SALE. A copy of the 1946 Worldcon program book is up for auction on eBay with some interesting autographs.

SIGNED 1946 WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION

with ORIGINAL UNCUT STICKER SHEET (see last two photos)

SIGNED By: Ray Bradbury, E Everett Evans, Charles A. Lucase, Dale Hart, Myrtle R. Douglas, Gus Willmorth and Russ

The Big Heart Award was originally named in memory of Evans. Myrtle R. Douglas is Morojo, now commemorated for helping originate convention cosplay.

(13) BEER SCIENCE. Tech of a new alcohol trend: “The Taming Of The Brew: How Sour Beer Is Driving A Microbial Gold Rush”.

Trial and error abounds. “We’ve worked with 54 different species from 24 genera,” Bochman says, to find five yeasts capable of souring beers. Nevertheless, each new microbe — whether isolated from the microbiome of the Jamestown historical site, or some guy’s beard — expands sour beers’ flavor palette and allows craft brewers to work with entirely new compounds.

Note especially:

Bochman, for example, uses sour brewing as a “rubber bullet” to train students who’ll transfer their skills to isolating pathogens. “If they drop a sample on the floor, or ruin an experiment, it’s not $2,000 down the drain. You’re not screwing up some cancer cell line. You just spilled a beer.”

(14) UNCANNY DESTROY STRETCH GOAL FUNDS. Not only did the “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine” Kickstarter fund Uncanny’s fourth year and the special SF issue, it also met the stretch goal for an additional Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue.

[Thanks to Dave Langford, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Chesley Awards 2016 Nominees

ASFA-logo1The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA) has announced the Chesley Awards 2016 nominees.

Voting runs through June 26. ASFA members in good standing are eligible to vote. The awards will be given out at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City.

Best Cover Illustration: Hardcover Book

  • Richard Anderson    The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan (Tor, July 2015)
  • Lius Lasahido        Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction by Hannu Rajaniemi (Tachycon, May 2015)
  • Todd Lockwood        Voyage of the Basilisk by Mark Brennan (Tor, March 2015)
  • Cynthia Sheppard    Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (Tor, February 2015)
  • Sam Weber        Dune by Frank Herbert (The Folio Society, April 2015)

Best Cover Illustration: Paperback Book

  • Julie Dillon        The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott (Tachycon, February 2015)
  • Tyler Jacobson        Beyond the Pool of Stars by Howard Andrew Jones (Tor, October 2015)
  • Jeffery Alan Love    Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins (Gollancz, May 2015)
  • David Palumbo        Binti by Nnedi Okorafer (Tor, September 2015)
  • John Picacio        Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney (Simon & Schuster, October 2015)

Best Cover Illustration: Magazine

  • Maurizio Manzieri    Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 2015
  • Reiko Murakami    Lightspeed #63, August 2015
  • Tran Nguyen        Uncanny #4, May/June 2015
  • Greg Ruth        Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #1, Dark Horse Comics, Dec. 2015
  • shichigoro-shingo    Clarkesworld #109, October 2015

Best Interior Illustration

  • Galen Dara        “Tuesdays with Molakesh The Destroyer” by Megan Grey (Fireside Magazine #19)
  • Marcel Mercado        Southlands RPG (Kobold Press, July 2015)
  • Peter Mohrbacher    Angelarium: Book of Emanations by Peter Mohrbacher & Eli Minaya
  • Tran Nguyen        “Transition Management Survey” (Chief Investment Officer, September 2015)
  • Sam Weber        Dune by Frank Herbert (The Folio Society, July 2015)

Best Color Work: Unpublished

  • Joseph Bellofatto    Star Ship, Oil
  • Donato Giancola        Beron and Luthien in the Court of Thingal and Melian, Oil
  • Wayne Haag        Desert Wreck, Oil
  • Jessica TC Lee        Enchanted, Digital
  • Elizabeth Leggett    After Hours, Digital
  • Mark Poole        Memories, Oil
  • Eric Velhagen        Felines, Oi

Best Monochrome Work: Unpublished

  • Rovina Cai        Cold Wind
  • Jeremy Enecio        Progeny, Graphite on Moleskin
  • Travis Lewis        Symbiosis, Graphite
  • Mark Molchan        Return, Graphite
  • Ruth Sanderson        Invoking the Dragon, Ink/Scratchboard
  • Chris Seaman        Family Portraithausen, Acrylic
  • Allen Williams        Bound, Graphite & Gold leaf accent

Best Three-Dimensional Art

  • Devon Dorrity        Flight of the Merrow, Clay & Bronze
  • Thomas Kuebler        Adelpha and Her Sister, Mixed
  • Stelios Mousarris    Inception Coffee Table, Wood
  • Forest Rogers        The Morrigan, Mixed
  • Virginie Ropars        Okunoshima, Mixed
  • Vincent Villafranca    Dark Day for the Metal Heads, Bronze

Best Product Illustration

  • Linda Adair        Adolescence – Promo art for IlluXcon 2016
  • Mitchell Bentley        Mitchell Davidson Bentley 2015 Calendar – Albon Lake & Atomic Fly Studios
  • Rovina Cai        Black Hole – card for Cosmos Tarot & Oracle Deck, The Light Grey Art Lab
  • Jacob Murray        A Game of Thrones: The Card Game – 2nd edition box art, Fantasy Flight Games
  • John Picacio        El Arbol – Loteria card, Lone Boy
  • Magali Villeneuve    George R.R. Martin: Song of Ice and Fire – 2016 calendar, Bantam

Best Gaming – Related Illustration

  • Clint Cearley        Mind Rot – Dragons of Tarkir Magic Card, WotC
  • Vincent Proce        Guardian Automaton – Magic Origins Magic Card, WotC
  • Anna Steinbauer    Blessed Spirits – Magic Origins Magic Card, WotC
  • Ryan Yee        Fruit of the First Tree – Fate Reforged Magic Card, WotC
  •  Min Yum         Sandblast – Fate Reforged Magic Card, WotC

Best Art Director

  • Neil Clarke        Clarkesworld magazine
  • Irene Gallo        Tor Books & Tor.com
  • Jeremy Jarvis        Wizards of the Coast
  • Elizabeth Leggett    Lightspeed magazine
  • Lauren Panepinto    Orbit Books & Muddy Colors contributor
  • Betsy Wolheim & Shelia Gilbert    DAW Books

Lifetime Artistic Achievement

  • Kinuko Y. Craft
  • David A. Hardy
  • Greg Manchess
  • Iain McCaig
  • Wendy Pini
  • Drew Struzan

The Chesley Awards were established in 1985 as ASFA’s peer awards to recognize individual works and achievements not otherwise recognized by the Hugo Awards, during a given year. Initially called the ASFA Awards, they were renamed to honor famed astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell after his death in 1986.

Ron Miller on Bonestell at io9

io9 may not need my signal boost but no fan will want to miss Ron Miller’s fine piece on Chesley Bonestell, The Artist Who Helped Invent Space Travel. Accompanying it are many classic examples of Bonestell’s astronomicals. There also were some biographical insights that were new to me —

 In 1938, Bonestell began a new career in Hollywood as a spe­cial effects matte painter. The first film he worked on was Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane. All the views of turn-of-the-century New York and of Charles Foster Kane’s mansion, Xan­adu, are Bonestell’s artwork. In The Fountainhead, Bonestell in a sense was Howard Roark: all of the buildings created by Ayn Rand’s superheroic architect are by Bonestell. He eventually became Hollywood’s highest-paid matte artist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

Stuart James Byrne (1913-2011)

William Lundigan in Men Into Space.

Stuart James Byrne died September 23, 2011 according to the Social Security Administration, although so far as Andrew Porter can tell this is just now coming to the attention of fandom.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Byrne’s stories were published in Science Stories, Amazing Stories, Imagination, and Other Worlds. In the mid-1950s he wrote a novel called Tarzan on Mars that the Burroughs estate would not authorize to be published, a minor controversy stoked by Ray Palmer, Other Worlds’ editor. In the 1970s, Byrne also worked as a translator on the Perry Rhodan series from German to English.

What especially caught my eye in Byrne’s Wikipedia entry is that he wrote for Men Into Space, which aspired to be a realistic weekly drama about near-future space exploration. It aired in 1959 and 1960 – my 7-year-old self watched it the same season The Flintstones premiered (see Yabba Dabba Doo Time from the other day.)

What would I think of it today? Impossible to guess, though from an effects and design standpoint the show’s producers seem to have invested a lot of effort, using Navy pressure suits in the premiere, taking inspiration from Von Braun’s proposed spacecraft, and hiring Chesley Bonestell to contribute some of the imagery.

Byrne wrote the series’ episode entitled “Quarantine” (1959) and the story for “Contraband” (1960).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Aliens: In Memory Yet Green

Stephen Worth has posted a wealth of classic images from the work of Chesley Bonestell and the Disney production of “Man in Space” at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.

“Theory: Our Dreams of the Future” samples artists’ playful guesses about humanity’s future discoveries of life on other planets, from Nervy’s Nat’s zeppelin trip to Venus by James Montgomery Flagg, to a Coors’ ad where a bartending E.T. advises drunks to phone home.

[Via James Hay.]

All Over But the Shouting

Kevin Standlee of the FOLLE committee points out in a comment that the Ackerman and Ley Hugos were reclassified as Special Awards five years ago, the change first appearing in the Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book. Questions about Ackerman’s estate only surfaced the issue for debate. But Rich Lynch, a fellow member of the FOLLE committee, feared there was decisive resistance to making the correction – which triggered his protest to a fannish listserv.

I really dislike making Kevin the lightning rod for this deal simply because he’s willing to discuss it in public. He’s already corrected the official Hugo Awards site. It’s not even clear he had a hand in the decision: “Honestly, I don’t know who the specific person was who changed it, but the change had stuck and was in the FOLLE records.” Nor do the FOLLE committee reports attached to the minutes of 2004 Worldcon Business Meeting give any details about why changes were made to the Hugos, only those made to Worldcon history are explained.

So I will confine myself to a couple of basic questions. Kevin, you were on the FOLLE committee at the time, didn’t all members know about the changes – how was that work done? Also, it would not have taken five years for this question to come up if FOLLE annotated its work on the Hugo list the way it does the Long List of Worldcons — what would it take to have that done, something which will add transparency and credibility to the work?

The FOLLE committee was created in 2003 at the TorCon 3 business meeting, and its original members (in office when the changes were made) were Mark Olson (Chair), Kevin Standlee, George Flynn, Joe Siclari, Vince Docherty, Rich Lynch and Craig Miller. The committee’s organizers told the TorCon 3 Business Meeting:

[Our] policy is to have the Long List include the version which in our judgment best reflects the facts as understood by the people involved, and to document whatever variations or details we have discovered in the notes. We will respect historical judgments as long as they are not clearly in error, and we will attempt to objectively verify any corrections or notes we add.

I have always admired that vision statement, and the latest revelation concerns me because the result isn’t consistent with the goal.

It’s easy to make an educated guess whose database is perpetuating the change. The FOLLE report in the 2004 WSFS Business Meeting minutes mentions:

We have made huge progress in developing a Long List of Hugos using data supplied by Dave Grubbs and the ISFDB and are now (slowly) working to perfect the entries. (N4 has somewhat diverted the chairman’s attention, but we’ll get back to work…)

The Internet Science Fiction Database still characterizes the Ackerman and Ley Hugos as “Special Awards.” That designation was given to all committee awards on the list published in Noreascon 4’s Souvenir Book (2004), making clear there was a reclassification involved, not just a layout decision.

Can it be that the Long List of Hugo Awards was more accurate before people set out to perfect it?

Before leaving the subject I want to field a couple of questions that hit my e-mail today.

Q: Should I include Slater on the Hugo winners?
I think not. Ackerman was voted the Hugo by the participating membership. Ackerman’s gallant gesture ought not to be confused with an actual legal right to overrule the voters’ choice.

Q: Was Ackerman’s Hugo identical to, say, Alfred Bester’s Hugo?
I can’t say from personal experience. I would expect Ackerman’s Hugo to be identical to the others (or as close as Jack McKnight could produce them) since they made a point of giving his first. But even if it is identical, that wouldn’t by itself decide the conceptual argument of how Ackerman’s award should be classified. For example, Chesley Bonestell’s special committee award was a Hugo rocket — and that’s why the rules were subsequently changed to forbid giving Hugos rockets as committee awards. At the time of the first Hugos there would have been no bar to doing so.

I’ll end by repeating that the most helpful piece of evidence in this debate has been 1953 Worldcon committee member Bob Madle’s confirmation that all the categories were voted on. So there’s no justification for reclassifying Ackerman or Ley.

How Tall Is The Hugo?

Nippon 2007 Ultraman Hugo base

How tall is the Hugo rocket? As a matter of fact, a chrome Hugo rocket is thirteen inches tall. But what I am really asking you to do is put your imagination to work, then tell me: What sized rocket do you think the Hugo is modeled on?

John Hertz and I came up with this question while we were discussing the spate of silly controversies that plagued Nippon 2007’s Hugo Awards. The last one was about the Hugo Award base. From all the griping you’d think the Japanese superhero Ultraman practically dwarfed the Hugo rocket.

A lot of fans thought it was perfectly fine for a Japanese Worldcon to honor an icon from its country’s sf tradition. But for or against, all fans seemed to take for granted that the figure of Ultraman was exaggerated. No one ever asked whether Ultraman and the rocket might, in fact, be in proper proportion to one another, or how to find that answer.

Ultraman is supposed to be 130 feet tall. Just how big do we conceive the Hugo rocket to be?

In the popular imagination the hypothetical, life-sized Hugo rocket has taken on mythic proportions with the passing years.

Trylon and PerisphereTo honor the 50th anniversary of the first Worldcon, the 1989 Hugo Award base took inspiration from the signature buildings of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Trylon and Perisphere. Connected to the Trylon, which stood 700 feet tall, by what was at the time the world’s longest escalator, was the Perisphere, 180 feet in diameter. So in the 1989 base design the Hugo rocket stood in for a 700-foot-tall tower.

Three years later, Phil Tortoricci designed the 1992 Hugos, with special gold-plated rockets on his beautifully-made bases. He hand-painted an astronomical scene on each black stone backdrop. The rockets rested on little squares of orange grating from the original Pad 29 where America’s first satellite was launched. That was the Explorer-1 satellite launched on a multi-stage Jupiter-C rocket in 1958. I’m sure that by 1992 fans were used to seeing historic footage of missions launched with the huge Saturn V rocket, 363 feet tall (shorter than the Trylon, but still mighty big.) In fact, the rocket that launched our first satellite was just 71 feet tall – something Ultraman actually could tower over!

The fairest measure of the relative size of Ultraman and the Hugo rocket can be found by identifying the rocket ship that inspired the Hugo design.

The official Hugo Awards site says, “The earliest Hugo Award trophies used a rocket hood ornament from a 1950s American automobile…” Hopefully that will soon be corrected –accurate information is already posted elsehwere on the same site about Jack McKnight’s role in manufacturing the first Hugos.

Jack McKnight's Hugo rocketMilton Rothman, chair of the 1953 Philadelphia Worldcon that invented the Hugo Awards, said in his article for the Noreascon Program Book that they had a lot of trouble finding someone to make the Hugo rockets. “It was Jack McKnight who came to the rescue. An expert machinist, he turned the little rockets out of stainless steel in his own shop, learning to his dismay that soldering stainless steel fins was a new art. While doing this, poor Jack missed the whole convention, but turned up just in time for the banquet and the presentation.”

The use of hood ornaments wasn’t proposed until the Hugos (which missed a year) were revived in 1955 by the Cleveland Worldcon committee. They hoped Jack McKnight would make their Hugo rockets, too, but their letters brought no replies. Nick Falasca asked, couldn’t they simply use Oldsmobile “Rocket 88” model hood ornaments? They ordered one of the ornaments from the local dealer. Unfortunately, the rocket had a hollow underside; hood ornaments did not prove to be a cheap and easy solution after all. Instead, Ben Jason had the Hoffman Bronze Co. prepare a pattern rocket from his design, and that rocket does bear a resemblance to the 88 logo from the trunk lid of a 1955 Oldsmobile “Rocket 88.” That’s the Hugo rocket shape in use to this day.

Conquest of SpaceMilton Rothman said Jack McKnight’s original stubby-winged 1953 Hugo rocket was inspired by Willy Ley. Presumably he meant the cover of Ley’s 1949 book, The Conquest of Space. The original Hugo rocket looked more or less like the Moon rocket Chesley Bonestell painted for the cover of Ley’s book. The general impression is of a rocket about the same size as used in the 1950 movie Destination Moon, for which Bonestell also did the matte and scene paintings. We know that the Luna, flown in Destination Moon, was 45 meters or 150 feet tall. (Bonestell’s image has never ceased to fascinate Hugo designers: the cinematic Moonscape of the 1996 Hugo base, with Hugo rocket in the foreground, pays homage to Destination Moon.)

In the end, the fairest and most logical answer is that our hypothetical Hugo is the same size as Destination Moon’s Luna, 150 feet tall. That makes the Hugo similar in size to the legendary Ultraman, and allows us to conclude the Nippon 2007 base shows the two images in proper proportion. Case closed.

That gives us about a week to get ready for this year’s Hugo controversies…