Today’s Birthday Boy 9/24

Born September 24, 1936: Jim Henson

Jim Henson was the beloved creator of the Muppets. However, an entirely different universe and collection of characters led him to attend his first World Science Fiction Convention.

The Dark Crystal, which Henson co-directed with Frank Oz and co-wrote, was released in 1982. The movie’s creatures and characters were based on the conceptual artwork of Brian Froud.

Jim Henson and producer Gary Kurtz promoted the film at Chicon IV, the Worldcon held in Chicago in September 1982.

Curiously, what is misidentified on The Dark Crystal “Making of” page as a photo from the 1982 Worldcon (below), actually is from a 1983 ceremony in France. Craig Miller, who worked on the film’s convention PR, verified that Froud did not attend Chicon IV. The correct identification (repeated below) comes from an entry at Jim Henson’s Red Book.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Also released in 1982 was The Dark Crystal computer game by Sierra Online — a re-creation is available for free play here.

(And Taral will appreciate it if I mention that his beloved Fraggle Rock, another Henson project, started shooting that same year in Toronto.)

Henson came to the Worldcon again in 1983, when it was held in Baltimore. Henson made a presentation about The Muppets Take Manhattan, then fielded questions about the Muppets and the world of The Dark Crystal. Henson spent some time wandering around the convention afterwards.

Although Henson did not come to the 1984 Worldcon, his presence was still felt. Two entries in the L.A.Con II masquerade re-created characters from The Dark Crystal. The following year, a participant had the chance to show him a folio documenting the presentations, and got back a nice letter about them.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

Just like those costumers, many creative people were and continue to be inspired by Henson’s artistic vision.

Photos of 1981 NYC Party for James White

Peter de Jong recently found a set of 27 photos taken at a 1981 party for LunaCon GoH James White, the Irish sf writer, and has posted them here.

The party, organized by Moshe Feder, was held at de Jong’s apartment in midtown Manhattan. Feder says he does not know who took the pictures.

James White wears his famous Saint Fantony blazer in photo #1.

Fans identified in the photographs are: Norma Auer Adams, Larry Carmody, Ross Chamberlain, Alina Chu, Eli Cohen, Genny Dazzo, Peter de Jong, Moshe Feder, Chip Hitchcock, Lenny Kaye, Hope Leibowitz, Craig Miller, Andrew Porter, Stu Shiffman, James White, Jonathan White, Peggy White, and Ben Yalow.

(There is also an unnamed fan in photo #4 I recognize. She occasionally looks at this blog and I will happily add her name to this article if she grants permission.)

[Thanks to Moshe Feder and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Jane Yolen on YA Hugo Possibility

Fans are divided over the proposal to add a Hugo category for YA books. No matter your opinion, it’s worth hearing what a leading YA author thinks about the idea.

Jane Yolen has enjoyed success in many literary categories and is renowned among YA audiences. Craig Miller had an opportunity to ask for her views. Here’s what she said about adding a YA book category to the Hugos:

All the YA and children’s book writers I know who do sf and fantasy WANT a Hugo within a designated category and don’t feel it would ghettoize the award at all. It will also make it much easier to “sell” sf/fantasy books to the teachers and librarians. They LOVE to see award stickers and lists of award winners and buy from those lists. It would make a huge difference.

[Thanks to Craig Miller for the story.]

Conrunners React to Cornell Initiative

Paul Cornell and Si Spurrier have called for a 50/50 male/female balance on all convention programs.

I am terribly prone to complacency, therefore, regardless of my initial skeptical reaction to the implied criticism, I think anybody who puts himself out there trying to raise the bar for con runners is doing me a service just by making me think about why I do things the way I do.

Although I don’t believe in being ruled by a canned number, I do believe in getting more women on programming. I was willing to ask — how well am I really doing? (See “Program Participation as Civil Disobedience”.)

Next, I wanted to know how other convention program organizers feel about Cornell’s initiative. Will it make any difference? Should it? How practical is it? I reached out to a dozen experienced conrunners (plus fandom’s best-known program reporter) with these questions:

  • What is your approach is to gender parity on panel programs?
  • Do you think Cornell’s initiative will change or has already changed your approach?
  • Do you have any comments on Paul Cornell’s and Si Spurrier’s actions?

Responses came back from Emily Coombs, Janice Gelb, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Mann, Craig Miller, Priscilla Olson, Arlene Satin and two fans preferring to remain unnamed. Most of their comments were so deeply thoughtful I decided to run them in full. That makes for a long post, of course, so I have placed their views after the jump.

Continue reading

All Bradbury All the Time

Moto Hagio with Ray Bradbury at Comic-Con 2010.

Time to refresh Taral’s screen with these links (courtesy of John King Tarpinian)….

(1) Artist Moto Hagio, who did a manga adaptation of R Is for Rocket, got to meet Ray for the first time at Comic-Con:

For me, and even more so for Hagio, the most moving moment was a very private one, in which Hagio was introduced to the great Ray Bradbury in a quiet room in the convention center. Mr. Bradbury has difficulty hearing and speaking, but the two of them were able to communicate quite well without words. (No interpreter required.) Ms. Hagio had tears in her eyes at the end of the meeting. For her it was a dream come true.

(2) Ray Bradbury’s play 2116, previewed in South Pasadena last December, gets its world premiere at the Fringe in Edinburgh on August 22. Claire Prentice interviewed Ray for the Scotsman:  

Relaxing in the study of his Los Angeles home, sandwiched between a Tiffany lamp and a large plastic dinosaur, Bradbury says: “To have it performed is a gift. When I saw it here in LA, I wept with joy.” While 2116 is on in Edinburgh on 22 August, Bradbury will be celebrating his 90th birthday with his four daughters and his grandchildren.

The man charged with resurrecting the piece was Steve Josephson, the multi-award winning artistic director of Gallimaufry Performing Arts. By the time Bradbury dug out the original script of 2116 to show Josephson, the musical was missing numerous pages, the original score and an entire second act. “All I got was pages and pages of lyrics with character names and no music,” recalls Josephson, sitting next to Bradbury in his study….

(3) FX Feeney’s Comic-Con report “Young Hearts Versus the Undead” offered a long quote from Ray Bradbury’s talk:

“The man you see here is in reality a twelve-year-old boy,” iconic sci-fi author Ray Bradbury thundered before a capacity crowd of a thousand or so who’d gathered to hear him speak. Bradbury’s hearing and eyesight may be at full fathom-five these days, but his mind is as sharp as Captain Nemo’s at the console of his submarine. “How do I do it, you ask? By exploding, every day! If you are dynamic, you remain a child. I’ve remained a boy because I’ve never looked back. That’s me—The Running Boy.”

As a bonus, several photos of Comic-Con panels accompany the article, and LASFSian Craig Miller appears in one of them.

(4) CNN ran a story on Ray’s approaching 90th birthday:

Ray Bradbury lives in a rambling Los Angeles home full of stuffed dinosaurs, a tin robot pushing an ice cream cart, and a life-sized Bullwinkle the Moose doll lounging in a cushioned chair.

The 89-year-old science fiction author watches Fox News Channel by day, Turner Classic Movies by night. He spends the rest of his time summoning “the monsters and angels” of his imagination for his enchanting tales.

(5) John King Tarpinian promises this is a link to a Classical Birthday Card for Ray on YouTube.

Help Rebuild Len Wein’s Comic Collection

Rebuild Len Wein's Comic Collection

When Len Wein and Christine Valada’s home burned on April 6, as Craig Miller explained, “The master bedroom and bath were burned out. The walls still stand but everything inside, including the ceiling, is gone. Nearby rooms had extreme heat and smoke damage and smoke damage runs throughout. DVDs, artwork, awards, etc. are gone forever.”

Wein’s friend Mark Evanier realized that even though insurance should provide the money to restore the house, many things, including Wein’s comics, were not covered.  Evanier thought it was a particular shame that Wein had lost the collection of comics he himself had worked on – and Evanier knew that, at least, could be fixed:

Some of us thought it would be grand if his friends and fans pitched in to help him recreate those shelves of the comic books he’s worked on.

So the crusade as been launched. At the “Let’s Rebuild Len Wein’s Comic Book Collection Project” site there is a frequently-updated PDF list of what they want, with lineouts of what’s been received. It looks as if half of the needed titles have already been secured, but dozens more are still being sought.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Self-Publishing Not Necessarily a Bowl of Cherries

After seeing stories here like “Self Publishing Success Story”, Craig Miller sent me a link to author Lee Goldberg’s skeptical warning about self-publishing titled “More Vanity Press Kool-Aid”. Craig explained:

Lee is a mostly-former TV writer and now writes a lot of tie-in mysteries (Monk books, for example) and original mysteries.  His blog is, like most people’s, about what he’s doing but he occasionally talks about self-publishing – because self-publishing authors who he’s never heard of contact him for reviews of their books.

Lee’s article particularly warns about the expense of self-publishing an inventory of books:

These articles never mention the tens of thousands of dollars that these “successful” self-published authors had to spend…and how extraordinarily rare it is for vanity press authors jump to a real publisher, which despite their hoo-hawing for vanity presses is what they all want.

He points to SFWA’s full discussion of the business on the Science Fiction Writers of America site, which says in part:

The average book from a POD service sells fewer than 200 copies–mostly to “pocket” markets surrounding the author–friends, family, local retailers who can be persuaded to place an order–and to the author him/herself. According to the chief executive of POD service iUniverse, quoted in the New York Times in 2004, 40% of iUniverse’s books are sold directly to authors.

Why Johnny Can’t Count Worldcon Bids

Craig Miller perceptively noticed that I posted the wrong stat for defeated LA Worldcon bids in my article about Reno and Seattle in 2011. Somehow I had LA hosting a measly two Worldcons instead of a robust four during the past 50 years.

Upon reflection, there were LA bids that went to a final vote for 1964, 1968, 1972, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2006. LA hosted Worldcons in 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2006. The right number is six losses out of ten.

I was trying to highlight the lost bids and wanted to reach back to Mordor in ’64 without being required to count the successful bid for the “South Gate in ’58” Worldcon. This being 2009, I could get away with using the nice round number of 50 years. What I could not get away with was counting less than four LA Worldcons.

To the outside world it seemed like one darned LA bid after another. Fans said as much. I remember Milt Stevens in the Seventies blandly answering this complaint saying, “Well, we always field a team.”

The Bay Area beat LA in 1964 and again in 1968 – the second time despite LA bidders simultaneously running a fan fund to bring Takumi Shibano to the Worldcon. Only the fan fund succeeded, consequently Shibano-san attended the BayCon.

By winning the rights to L.A.Con in 1972 Chuck Crayne and Bruce Pelz changed the town’s luck. However, that was the last of their teamwork. There followed the bizarre spectacle of Chuck Crayne running an LA bid against Australia for 1975, while Bruce Pelz chaired an LA bid solely for the 1975 NASFiC. My earliest hornbook in practical fanpolitics was witnessing Crayne capitalize on his lost Worldcon bid to defeat Pelz’ bid for the NASFiC. (And after I carried all those cases of beer to Bruce’s party!)

Bruce and company lost their next Worldcon bid for 1978 to Phoenix with some unintended help from young LA fans (myself included) who successfully bid for the 1978 Westercon.

The Crayne and Pelz rivalry surfaced one last time in the 1981 race, in a manner of speaking. Chuck led a Worldcon bid for LA. Lois Newman, a LASFSian who had moved to Colorado, initiated a Denver bid which enjoyed the distant support of active LASFS members including Bruce. Lois was no longer involved by the time the site selection vote took place and Denver fandom secured the win over Crayne’s bid.

LA fans absorbed a lot of lessons from the school of hard knocks and successfully campaigned for the right to hold L.A.con II in 1984. Yet a lesson or two must have been immediately forgotten: some napkins appeared at L.A.con II’s dead dog party printed with an apparent announcement of an immediate new bid for 1990 (under the rules, LA’s earliest opportunity to host another Worldcon). That bid lurched along to its inevitable defeat three years later. Sometimes LA can be accused of displaying a Kzin-like eagerness to start the battle long before we’re ready to win.

And it being us, within two years we had removed the two-by-four planted between our mulish eyes and started running for another LA Worldcon – though showing some slight wisdom by aiming for 1996 despite 1993 being the next Western Zone year. (It would be contested by San Francisco, Phoenix and Hawaii, eliminating the winner and exhausting the losers). So in due course there was an L.A.con III in 1996, and with patience, an L.A.con IV in 2006.

Thus the scoreboard reads four wins and six losses over a 50 year span.

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.