Heinlein Bio Preview Online

William H. Patterson Jr. launches the next installment of his biography in 1948 with a quote from the Dean on the occasion of his wedding –

“I cried at the altar, and Ginny cried when we got outside, and all in all, it was quite kosher,” begins Robert A. Heinlein, Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better.

A generous preview of Patterson’s opus is now available at Google Books and Amazon.com, among other places. The book is due out June 3.

Heinlein Bio Draws Closer

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better by William Patterson, Jr. is scheduled for publication June 2014.

Advance copies are already in the hands of people it’s hoped will write a nice blurb. You lucky dogs!

It’s available for preorder from Amazon now. (I’d link Tor or Macmillan, too, if their sites were taking preorders.)

Heinlein Bio Another Step Closer

The second volume of William H. Patterson Jr.’s biography of Robert Heinlein has been sent to typesetting, the author told his blog readers today, November 11.

The publishing experience has not proven to be as collegial as he’d like –

I didn’t have a chance to post here about receiving the copyedit — it was quite sudden (I do not understand why, since this biography has been 13 years so far in production, and they’ve had the complete ms. since 2006, the publishers still feel they have to conduct the production process by ambush), and I had to work at it very concentratedly.

Patterson also covers some of the editing decisions in detail, a topic I find interesting and if you do too, click through.

Sign White House Petition
for SF Author Stamps

Heinlein forever StampA petition urging the Obama administration to proceed with a set of commemorative postage stamps honoring sf writers – and to make the group much larger and more diverse – has been launched by Chris Barkley on the 106th anniversary of Robert A. Heinlein’s birth.

A five-stamp set had been announced by the USPS Commemorative Panel program in February with a July 2013 release date but Linn’s Stamp News reported in April the issue is indefinitely postponed. The report also named the writers who had been selected to be on the stamps: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

The petition contains 60 names and requests that  they appear on a series of stamps over the next several years, “in groups of six, ten or twelve individuals.”

You can sign Barkley’s petition at Change.org. His goal is to get 100,000 signatures by August 6.

The supporting statement says:

1) The USPS was going to honor just five authors until this past April of 2013, all of them male. This would be a gross misrepresentation of the effect women have had in this field of literature.

2) The general public needs to be made aware of the wide range of people who have affected American AND world culture over the past three generations. Without these creative artists, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have been influenced to create Star Trek, Star Wars, medical techniques, modern computers and software, communication satellites or the world wide web.

The writers and artists recommended in the petition for this honor are:

Robert E. Howard (1906 – 1936)
H.P. Lovecraft (1890 –1937)
Henry Kuttner (1915 – 1958)
Cyril.M. Kornbluth (1923 – 1958)
Frank R. Paul (1884 – 1963)
E.E. “Doc” Smith, (1890 – 1965)
Paul A. Linebarger (Cordwainer Smith) (1913 – 1966)
Hugo Gernsback (1884 – 1967)
Virgil Finlay 1914 – 1971)
John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910 – 1971)
Will F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster) (1896 – 1975)
James Blish (1921 – 1975)
Edmond Hamilton (1904 – 1977)
Leigh Brackett (1915 – 1978)
Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982)
Theodore Sturgeon (1918 – 1985)
Jack Gaughan, (1930 – 1985)
Frank Herbert (1920 -1986)
Judy-Lynn Del Rey (1943 –1986)
Chesley Bonestell (1888 – 1986)
Catherine L. Moore (1911 – 1987)
Terry Carr (1937 – 1987)
Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.) (1915 – 1987)
Alfred Bester (1913 – 1987)
Clifford D. Simak (1904 – 1988)
Robert A. Heinlein (1907 – 1988)
Ed Emshwiller (1925 – 1990)
Donald Wollheim (1914 – 1990)
Isaac Asimov (1920- 1992)
Fritz Leiber (1910 – 1992)
Lester del Rey (1915 – 1993)
Robert Bloch (1917 – 1994)
Ian Ballantine (1916 –1995)
Roger Zelazny (1937 – 1995)
H.L. Gold (1914 –1996)
Richard M. Powers (1921 – 1996)
Judith Merril (1923 – 1997)
Marion Zimmer Bradley (1930 – 1999)
L. Sprague De Camp (1907 – 2000)
Gordon R. Dickson (1923 – 2001)
Poul Anderson (1926 – 2 001)
Damon Knight (1922 – 2002)
Harry Clement Stubbs (Hal Clement) 1922 – 2003)
Frank Kelly Freas (1922 – 2005)
Alice (Andre) Norton (1912 – 2005)
Octavia Butler (1947 – 2006)
James Baen, (1943- 2006)
Jack Williamson (1908 – 2006)
John Berkey 1932 – 2008)
Dean Ellis, 1920-2009
John Schoenherr (1935 – 2010)
Frank Frazetta (1928 – 2010)
Gene Szafran (1941 – 2011)
Joanna Russ (1937 – 2011)
Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011)
Leo Dillon (1933 – 2012)
Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012)
Harry Harrison (1925 – 2012)
Jack Vance (1916 – 2013)
Richard Matheson (1926 – 2013)

[Thanks to Chris Barkley for the story.]

Update 07/08/2013: Corrected two misspellings noted in comments. 

Ellison’s Trademarks

Harlan Ellison registered his name as a trademark in 2001. I learned this yesterday and it made me wonder if that was a regular thing among science fiction writers. My search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website shows it is not.

Heinlein and Asimov, the two Americans in science fiction’s Big Three, were trademarked posthumously, Heinlein by the trustees of the Heinlein Prize in 2011, and Asimov by his estate in 2000. Asimov’s marks, registered for use in connection with science products, science toys, and educational materials and services have since been abandoned.

Beyond them, I found nothing. I tested several other writers’ names, picked for their marketing savvy (if this was a good idea, surely they’d have done it) or commercial success or historical significance. There is no record of a trademark application for the names of John Scalzi, George R. R. Martin, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Connie Willis, Orson Scott Card, John W. Campbell, Gardner Dozois, or even Philip K. Dick. So this is not something everybody does.

But during the past decade or so Ellison, through his Kilimanjaro Corporation, trademarked his name and several other properties (some now lapsed) — Working Without A Net (2000, cancelled), Edgeworks Abbey (2001, live), Edgeworks (2002, cancelled), and Dangerous Visions (2006, live).

Working Without a Net by Harlan Ellison first appeared as a book Ivanova was reading in an episode of Babylon 5. Ellison later gave the title to a weekly series of commentaries he did for Galaxy Online in 2000. Finally, in 2008, Ellison told a radio audience he has signed with a “major publisher” to write his memoirs, tentatively called Working Without a Net.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Moon-Based Supercomputer Proposed

The old chums would have titled this paper: “Let’s Put a Dinkum Thinkum on Luna.”

Earth’s Deep Space Network of giant antennas used to gather data and talk to spacecraft is already overloaded, and the demand for bandwidth will only go up. Ouliang Chang, a grad student from my alma mater, USC, recently presented his solution at a space conference (Wired.com, “Why We Need a Supercomputer on the Moon.”) –

The plan is to bury a massive machine in a deep dark crater, on the side of the moon that’s facing away from Earth and all of its electromagnetic chatter. Nuclear-powered, it would process data for space missions and slingshot Earth’s Deep Space Network into a brand new moon-centric era.

Factoring in the cost of launching components into space, he estimates the project would cost between $10-$20 billion.

That’s before we start hiring the specialists. Keep an eye open for this classified ad:

Wanted: one-armed computer tech to spend his time explaining which jokes are funny…

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Read Like a Pirate Week

No sooner have we finished celebrating “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” that beloved, fake internet holiday, than we’re commanded to turn our enthusiasm to the observance of Banned Books Week.

“Aarggh!” being what most students groan when assigned to read any 19th-century novel, there’s a certain logic in the timing.

Yet in all honesty the week is less a demonstration of freedom than another excuse for people to engage in the kind of smug self-congratulation the Internet thrives on.

So many posts about Banned Books Week are written with the insouciant naughtiness appropriate to 60-year-olds who are now invited to pretend they got away with something by reading Huckleberry Finn in the fourth grade.

Then there are the inevitable lists of books that have been banned someplace, sometime. Because we’re talking about censorship they must all be honored for the stripes they wear no matter what we might say about them in any other context.

Consider Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein’s novel prized by 1960s youth for much the same reason they read The Harrad Experiment. When challenged for its adult themes in Mercedes, TX in 2003, the book was actually retained. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class.

When’s the last time you reread Stranger? I did, not too long ago. Reading Stranger is a punishment in its own right, the passage of 50 years having rendered the novel unreadable in a way that has not touched Starship Troopers.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Best President in Case of Alien Attack?

Take a presidential election year, stir it together with the debut of National Geographic Channel’s Chasing UFOs series and – voilá! — you get a press release declaring that more people think Obama is better suited to handle an alien invasion than Romney.

I’m used to hearing that elections will be swung by the undecided. Now it seems the unidentified will play a role too.

Two-thirds (65%) of Americans prefer Barack Obama over fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney when it comes to handling an alien invasion. Obama has a commanding lead no matter how you slice it – among women, men, the elderly and citizens aged 18 to 64.

Surprisingly, however, most Americans evidently don’t expect this hypothetical alien invasion to look like a scene out of War of the Worlds, Independence Day or Falling Skies:

According to a new U.S. extraterrestrial survey from National Geographic Channel (NGC), more than 80 million Americans are certain that UFOs exist. In fact, many believe in tangible proof that aliens have landed on Earth and think that government officials are involved in covering up paranormal activities. Moreover, most citizens would not mind a minor alien invasion, because they expect these space-age visitors to be friendly—like the lovable character depicted in Steven Spielberg’s popular film “E.T.”

So do these responses, taken together, mean that most people believe an alien invasion will be a social occasion calling for a terrific speech?

Romney shouldn’t feel too bad about being named by less than 35% of the 1,114 Americans who took NatGeo’s “Aliens Among Us” survey. That’s still a better number than some very well-known superheroes pulled –

Furthermore, if aliens attacked our planet, more than one in five (21%) would most likely call on the Hulk to deal with the havoc. Far fewer would most trust Batman (12%) or Spiderman (8%) to step in.

It makes sense to me that so many would choose the Hulk. Remember what the irascible Admiral King supposedly said when Roosevelt made him Commander-in-Chief of the Navy after Pearl Harbor — “When they get in trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches” — a quality Admiral King and Bruce Banner (the Hulk’s secret identity) have in common. As Banner says in The Avengers movie, “That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry.” And one of Admiral King’s daughters (perhaps the one Ensign Heinlein dated?) joked about her father, “He is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Historic SF Art at Renovation

Renovation has announced two more notable art exhibits fans can see at the 2011 Worldcon.

Fifty works from the collection of Khen Moore will be shown. Moore, a long-time Nashville fan and devoted art-lover, died in 2009. There will be art by Chesley Bonestell, Richard Powers, Ed Emshwiller, Paul Lehr, John Schoenherr, Vincent Di Fate, Ed Valigursky and Ron Miller. Few of these pieces have been seen in the decades since Moore acquired them.

Another special exhibit, loaned by the Heinlein Society, will be three paintings once owned by Robert and Virginia Heinlein and displayed in their home. They are a portrait of Nichelle Nichols as Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, by Kelly Freas; “The Green Hills of Earth” by Fred Ludekens, which accompanied the publication of that famous “Future History” story by Heinlein in The Saturday Evening Post in 1947; and a Chesley Bonestell moonscape, published by LIFE Magazine in 1946 as part of an article titled “A Trip to the Moon by Rocket.”

The full press release follows the jump.

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He Was the Dean

Promotional copy for the new Murray Leinster biography says he was known as “The Dean of Science Fiction.”

I should not have been surprised: I read this in Sam Moskowitz’ Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction way back in the Seventies. However, I’d managed to forget it since. Or possibly repressed it, because as a young fan my fannish loyalties were to that rival claimant of the title: Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein acquired the title “Dean of Science Fiction” sometime around 1960, says J. Daniel Gifford in Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion.

How? Thomas Clareson suggests in his essay for Voices for the Future (1976) that whoever wrote the jacket copy on his books was responsible:

Today Heinlein is known to many, thanks to paperback advertising techniques at least, as the “Dean” of science fiction writers, not so much because of his length of service as because of his relationship to the corporate body of science fiction.

Certainly a book cover was the first place I saw Heinlein called “Dean.” On the other hand, Leinster was called “Dean” in 1949 by no less an authority than Time Magazine

In the U.S., Will F. Jenkins, a 27-year veteran, who also writes under the pen name of Murray Leinster, is regarded as the dean of writers in the field.

Leinster was rather humble about the whole thing. In his introduction to Great Stories of Science Fiction (1951) he explained that he was sometimes called “’Dean’ of science fiction writers by virtue of my having outlived a number of better men. This wholly accidental distinction is perhaps the reason I was given the opportunity to compile this book.”

And as Leinster makes clear, the term “Dean” was primarily associated with seniority, length of service in the sf field. Lester Del Rey in The World of Science Fiction, a survey of the genre published in 1980, echoed the choice of Leinster:

…Murray Leinster, whose work remained popular in science fiction for more than fifty years and who was rightly named “the Dean of science fiction writers.”

I don’t know whether Heinlein liked being called “Dean” or thought it mattered at all. Maybe Bill Patterson can answer this in a later volume of his Heinlein bio. From a fan’s viewpoint I thought the name suited RAH because so many of his stories involved mentoring, the acquiring of self-discipline, or were delivered in the voice of a respected elder who has things to say about life, like Lazarus Long.

After Leinster died in 1975 some of the writers who acknowledged him as the “Dean” thought the title deserved to be perpetuated, which meant picking a successor. Isaac Asimov made it clear he preferred length of service as the criterion for naming someone the “Dean.” In his 1979 essay for IASFM “The Dean of Science Fiction,” Heinlein was not a finalist. Asimov listed Jack Williamson, Clifford D. Simak, L. Sprague de Camp and Lester Del Rey. And just a few years later – even while all four were still alive – Asimov seemed to have narrowed his list to two, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Both Simak and Heinlein died in 1988. Del Rey died in 1993. De Camp died in 2000.

Williamson seems to have been the writer most people felt comfortable calling the “Dean” in later years. Several of his peers labeled him by some version of the title both before and after Heinlein died. Interestingly, when Algis Budrys dubbed Williamson the “Dean of Science Fiction” in a 1985 essay for The Science Fiction Yearbook the usage even passed muster with the volume’s editor, Jerry Pournelle, a good friend of Heinlein’s. Williamson lived on until 2006, continuing to produce, his last novel The Stonehenge Gate published just the year before he died.

Some others regarded Arthur C. Clarke as the true heir to the title. Gerald K. O’Neill in The High Frontier (1989) called Clarke the dean of science fiction, and so did a contributor to a 1989 volume of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Clarke passed away in 2008.

People outside the field have always bandied the title about – Ray Bradbury was called the Dean on a TV show in the Sixties. Now he practically qualifies, though not quite – I imagine Fred Pohl has the edge in years as a professional writer.

Other specialties in the science fiction field have their “Deans.” Google tells me Frank Kelly Freas was called the “dean of science fiction artists,” though I must say I managed to go my entire time in fandom up to today without ever hearing him called that.

The New York Times once referred to Donald Wollheim as the “Dean” of science fiction editors, according to a 1981 article in The Bloomsbury Review.  Campbell had been so-called at least as early as 1947 — in Samuel Stephenson Smith’s How to Double Your Vocabulary, of all places — but he’d been dead almost ten years before The Bloomsbury Review took up the subject.

And let’s not forget that in Ann Arbor in 1975, Dean McLaughlin, author of “Hawk Among the Sparrows,” was who trufans called “Dean of Science Fiction.”

Of course, many will have become aware that no woman author’s name has been mentioned at any point, even in touching on the most recent decade. Ursula K. LeGuin regularly offers wisdom about topical issues in the field, and until death ended her long career Andre Norton was respected and influential, so there are women who might have been nominated to the role. However, I suspect the whole notion of a “Dean of Science Fiction,” which was never more than of anecdotal significance, is fading from fannish awareness too rapidly for a real sense of injustice to take hold.

[Thanks to John Lorentz, Google Ngram and Steven H Silver’s SF Site for help with this story.]