Pixel Scroll 11/17/17 No, I’m Never Gonna Tick  A Box, Guilty Scrolls Have Got No Pixels

(1) MARVEL CHOPS TOP. Newsweek reports “Marvel’s New Global-Minded Chief C.B. Cebulski Replaces Controversial Axel Alonso”.

Marvel Entertainment announced Friday that it has a new Editor in Chief. C.B. Cebulski is a comic book editor who has worked in Marvel’s global division for more than 15 years. The move comes as Marvel shows greater commitment to diversity in its superheroes, and as it eyes readership that reaches all over the globe.

The shakeup comes amid lagging sales for many of Marvel’s titles, which outgoing EIC Axel Alonso implied was due to the company’s push for ethnically diverse superheroes.

… At a retail summit last year, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales David Gabriel told attendees that the sales slump was due to updated versions of classic characters: a mixed-race Spider-Man, an Asian Hulk, a female Thor. Alonso was part of the discussion and seemingly agreed, saying Marvel had gotten too political. “We’ve gone through a period where in pop culture as a whole (and you guys notice that as much as we do), there’s been this massive discussion about inclusion and diversity,” he said. “But Marvel is not about politics.”

Cebulski, on the other hand, has always been entrenched in Marvel’s attempts to include heroes of diverse backgrounds. He began his career in manga, and worked on the Marvel Mangaverse in the early 2000s. He also worked on the Runaways spin-off Loners, overseeing Nico Minoru’s storyline in the series Mystic Arcana.

(2) CURSED. Camestros Felapton feels there’s a paranormal explanation behind these cinematic disappointments: “Review: Justice League The Curse of Zak Snyder”.

I was apprehensive walking into the cinema – I was out of town, with nothing to do but either stare at my feet in a soulless hotel room or visit the near by shopping mall with its requisite and equally soulless multiplex.

Not many people know that the witch character from the Suicide Squad movie cursed the DC movies with a hex so powerful that it ripples back in time and ruined the Green Lantern movie. Only Wonder Woman and Lego Batman have been strong enough to escape the curse.

So I knew I was paying money to see a film that unnatural powers had already undermined. Of the Zak Snyder films I have seen I only have affection for Legends of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’hoole, I think it also be the only one of his films that feels like a complete narrative.

Yet Justice League is NOT terrible – don’t get me wrong it isn’t actually good but it’s not Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad….

(3) LEAGUE LUKEWARM. NPR’s Chris Klimek says: “‘Justice League’ Is Just OK”:

But the stuff that works in Justice League, if only just, bears [Whedon’s] stamp. It also sticks out from the material that Snyder started shooting 19 months ago like strapping Clark Kent in a newsroom full of pasty, soft-bellied bloggers.

(4) SOMETHING ROTTEN. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Rotten Tomatoes under fire for timing of ‘Justice League’ review”, discusses the fire directed at Rotten Tomatoes after they delayed the rating (which was 43 percent) for Justice League for 24 hours, allegedly because Time Warner owns 30 percent of the site and Comcast owns 70 which would lead to Rotten Tomatoes giving Warner and Universal releases better treatment.

More than just a kerfuffle over one superhero movie, however, the incident raises larger questions about the relationship between reviewers and the public, the editorial objectivity of aggregators and how much studios should be empowered to control the pre-release messaging of their films.

“I think we need more transparency and equality on Rotten Tomatoes,” said Guy Lodge, a critic who writes for Variety. “An aggregation site should practice absolute objectivity. You mix Time Warner into it,” he added, “and it becomes very confusing.” A WB spokeswoman declined to provide a comment for this article.

(5) A RED S. Here’s a link to the catalog for Profiles in History’s Superman auction, which happens December 19.

An alien named Kal-El from the destroyed planet Krypton was sent to Earth and raised as Clark Kent by human foster parents. As an adult, he became the protector of Earth while Clark Kent worked as a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis.  After several failed attempts to find a viable publisher for their story, artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel’s creation hit the big time when it was chosen as the cover feature for Action Comics #1 in June 1938 by National Allied Publications (the precursor of DC Comics).  Thus marked the genesis of Superman and the superhero genre, forever changing popular culture. We are now on the cusp of the 80th anniversary of his colossal debut.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Nibble frozen cranberries with Amal El-Mohtar” in Episode 52 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Amal El-Mohtar

It’s time to say farewell to Helsinki—and hello to award-winning writer Amal El-Mohtar—in the final episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded during Worldcon 75. Our meal took place a mere 36 hours after she’d won this year’s Best Short Story Hugo Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” for which she’d also won a Nebula Award earlier in the year.

We chose one of the city’s oldest seafood restaurants for our lunch—Sea Horse, which has been in operation since 1934. And it’s lasted that long for a good reason! We enjoyed the food and the ambiance so much I returned a few days later for dinner with my wife during our post-Worldcon stay.

Amal’s stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, and Apex. Her stories “The Green Book” and “Madeleine” were finalists for the Nebula Award in 2011 and 2015 respectively, and “The Truth About Owls” won the Locus Award in 2015. She won the Rhysling award for Best Short Poem in 2009, 2011 and 2014, and in 2012 received the Richard Jefferies Poetry Prize.

We discussed the importance of female friendship, the first poem she wrote at age 6 1/2 (which you’ll hear her recite), how Charles de Lint helped her get her first bookstore job, the importance of welcoming newcomers into the tent of science fiction and fantasy, what she learned about empathy from Nalo Hopkinson, the only time she ever cosplayed, which book made her a writer, why Storm is her favorite member of the X-Men, the delicious magic of honey, the difficulties of reviewing books in a field where everybody knows everybody, and much more.

(7) AUDIO TORTURE. It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast, everywhere we go.

(8) A PLEASURE. Elsewhere in the world Cheryl Morgan found easy listening: “M. John Harrison in Bath”.

Last night I took myself into Bath where M. John Harrison was reading from his latest collection, the wonderfully titled You Should Come With Me Now. The book is a mixture of short stories and flash fiction, and shows that Mike has lost none of his sentence-crafting skill, nor his biting wit.

The centerpiece of the reading was the magnificent “Psychoarchaeology”, inspired by the discovery of the (alleged) burial of Richard III under a car park. The story is a meditation on the heritage industry, and is both cutting and hilarious.

There’s always a rights issue. Where does the latest Tudor belong? Does he belong where he was found? Or whence he came? Who gets the brown sign? One wrong decision and York won’t talk to Leicester, the knives are out again after hundreds of years of peace. Contracts torn up, the industry at war with itself, we all know where that can lead: diminished footfall in the visitor centres. No one wants to see that.

(9) CHECKING OUT. Open Culture tells how “’Library Extension’ Helps You Find Books At Your Local Library While You Shop for Books Online”.

The concept beyond “Library Extension” is simple. As you browse books and e-books websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads, the Library Extension will check the online catalog of your local library and see whether the book you’re interested in happens to be available at your local library. The browser extension currently works on Chrome. Firefox is coming soon. And the browser extension currently has access to data from 4000 local libraries and library systems.

 

(10) SDI. Thrillist revisits “How 2 Sci-Fi Writers Fueled a U.S. President’s Wild Quest to Weaponize Space”.

Larry Niven had the mind for space. An award-winning and best-selling author, his first installment of the Ringworld series — a futuristic and sometimes tongue-in-cheek saga about a massive space station that orbits a distant star as an artificial planet — was considered an instant classic. The book still remains one of the most popular of the several dozen he’s published, and he continues to flesh out the series.

But in 1980, Niven took a career detour. Soon after the election, the author hosted a group of colleagues for a meeting at his home to discuss President-elect Reagan’s stance on space. The “Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy” included mostly right-leaning military figures, ex-astronauts, scientists, plus a number of Niven’s science-fiction writer contemporaries. The group had the backing of the American Astronautical Society and the L-5 Society, both of which hoped to chart the course of the United States’ space interests over the next two decades, with the more immediate goal of building its recommendations into Reagan’s official policies.

In attendance was Jerry Pournelle, Niven’s co-author on both the 1974 book The Mote in God’s Eye — about a worst-case-scenario alien invasion — and 1977’s Lucifer’s Hammer — about a comet impact that creates widespread anarchy. A self-described centrist — but only in terms of his own elaborate political mapping system, the Pournelle Axes — Pournelle believed in a robust, technocratic military state wedged between the New Left and conservative factions of government.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 17, 1979 Salem’s Lot premiered on TV.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian learned about interior design Batman-style on Brevity.

(13) MANY DOLLARS. The BBC says San Diego Comic-Con has a big handle: “Comic book success: The rise of the Comic-Con festival”.

From a gathering of less than 300 people in 1970, the event has morphed into an annual, multi-day media bonanza that draws major corporate sponsors, movie studios and more than 150,000 people.

The event made more than $17m in revenue in 2015, according to the most recent tax filing available online, and it has spawned similar festivals in cities around the world.

“San Diego’s growth has been mind-boggling,” says author John Jackson Miller, who also owns Comichron, which tracks sales of comic books.

Mr Miller went to San Diego for the first time in the early 1990s, when it still drew less than 40,000 people.

(14) FOR WHICH TWITTER WAS MADE. Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig are at it again. The thread starts here.

(15) MOSKOWITZ. Hal W. Hall’s Sam Moskowitz: A Bibliography and Guide is available as a free download online from Texas A&M University. The sketch of Sam Moskowitz on the cover is by Frank R. Paul.

A comprehensive bibliography of the writings of Sam Moskowitz. Sam Moskowitz was a fixture in science fiction, from near the beginning to the present day. He was a fan, editor, author, historian, critic, WorldCon organizer, and cheerleader for the science fiction field. He was a prolific author of books, articles and letters. His books are readily available in libraries or for sale. The same cannot be said of many of his articles, and certainly not of his letters. Many of the articles and letters appeared in science fiction pulps and in fanzines. Some of the fanzines were quite professional in appearance, content and editing, and served a valuable service to science fiction scholarship in preserving much of the early history of science fiction. The writings of Sam Moskowitz are an important part of that historical archive. Eric Davin notes that “Sam Moskowitz saw himself as the science fiction historian of record.” It is a good description. He researched and recorded much about the beginnings of science fiction.  Some items remain the only resource available on a particular person or topic. An accurate scholarly judgment of the historical and critical output of Moskowitz remains to be done.

(16) QUACKS ME UP.

(17) UNACQUIRED TASTE. Glenn Garvin of Reason.com reviews the Hulu series “Future Man,” in “Future Man is Gleefully Sophomoric, And That’s Part of Its Charm,” where he notes that the series, written and produced by the people who brought you the immortal masterpiece Sausage Party, which means it’s full of the sophomoric jokes teenage boys like, with many jabs at video gamers in general and The Last Starfighter in particular.

The two warriors who escape from the game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe, Quantico) and Wolf (Derek Wilson, Preacher), come from a future where the veneer of civilization has been pretty much worn away from everything, and their sanguinary work habits—Wolf’s favorite plan is “Rip his fucking dick off!”—supply much of Future Man‘s staple humor. (Bodily effluents, emitted in always surprising but ever disgusting ways, are pretty much the rest.)

But it’s hard to resist a show a show that so relentlessly mocks its own origins. Future Man is a tapestry of withering allusions to everything from The Terminator movies to the Mortal Kombat video games (can you guess which organ gets ripped out of losing contestants?) to Animal House.

(18) SAY CHEESE. “The Largest Digital Camera In The World Takes Shape”NPR has the story. “It will go on a giant telescope taking shape in Chile called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.”

LSST is different from most large telescopes. Instead of staring at a tiny patch of the sky and taking essentially one snapshot in time, LSST will take a panorama of every part of the sky…and it will do so over and over and over. The idea is to see what’s moving or changing in the heavens.

“That could be everything from asteroids, to variable stars, to supernova, to maybe new phenomenon that we don’t know about yet,” says Aaron Roodman, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Roodman is the scientist in charge of the integration and testing of the camera.

(19) SILENT MOVIE THEATER. The future of a LA landmark is in doubt, as Variety says “Cinefamily to Permanently Shut Down Following Sexual Harassment Scandal”.

Los Angeles independent film venue Cinefamily will permanently shut down and dissolve the board following allegations of sexual misconduct made against some of Cinefamily’s executives in August that led to two resignations from the company.

Silent Movie Theater, Cinefamily’s longtime home, will be closed and renovated by the landlord, while the board will establish a transition team to handle the organization’s financial and legal affairs, according to a statement from the board of directors.

“The damage caused to the organization by the conduct of some and the crippling debt now facing the Cinefamily are, in the Board’s view, irreparable,” the board of directors wrote in a statement.

As previously reported by Variety, Cinefamily temporarily suspended all activities in August amid the scandal where anonymous emails accused Cinefamily leaders of sexual harassment. Executive director and co-founder Hadrian Belove and board member Shadie Elnashai resigned on Aug. 22.

(20) DON’T TREAD ON THESE. Peer treated us to a new Elvis lyric in comments.

Pixelled my blue suede shoes
And I clickboxed a plane
Scrolled down in the land of mounttsundokus
In the middle of the pournelle rain
JRR Tolien won’t you look down on me
Yeah, I got a fifth class ticket
But I’m as blue as a Filer can be
Then I’m scrolling in Comments
Keeping at least ten feet off of the Beale
Scrolling in Comments
But do I really file the way I file?

Read the ghost in the shell
Or Atomic Avenue
Followed up with the water knife
Then I waded right through Borne
Now Mord, they did not see him
And he just hovered ’round his town
But there’s a pretty little shell
Waiting for the hell
Down in the Broken Earth
When I was Scrolling the comments
I was clicking with The box right of the left
Scrolling the comments
But do I really file the way I file?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “What’s New, Atlas?” on YouTube you can see a Boston Dynamics robot do a somersault.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hal W. Hall, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories,. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

We met for lunch and disagreed

By John Hertz:  We met for lunch and disagreed.  Sometimes we drank tea instead; he sometimes brewed it himself.  We each kept saying we should meet more often.

From a letter I wrote on September 12th to Tom Sadler, of The Reluctant Famulus:

I’m still stunned by the loss in two days of Jerry Pournelle and Len Wein, the Cosmic Joker striking a right and a left.  Both men were giants.  How different.  They had in common rising above a substantial time of physical suffering.  Neither was daunted.  Both went on with their work of creation, and indeed their joy in fellowship, not despite but regardless of what befell them.

Dum vivimus, vivamus.

You’ve seen the Latin tag (“while we live, let us live”) before; it’s in Heinlein’s Glory Road, that scathing satire of male folly.  I don’t mean it satirically, it’s true enough.  If you took Glory Road at face value, let’s talk about that another time.  Wein too.  I’ll talk about Pournelle here.

I didn’t know until his death that his church was St. Francis de Sales (Catholic), two miles from his house.  I knew that his wife, now widow, sang in the choir.  He must have known that St. Francis de Sales was the patron saint of writers and journalists.

Of course there was a bagpiper at the interment.  He proved to be Eric Rigler, who had played at Ronald Reagan’s funeral.  Rigler gave us “Going Home”, “Loch Lomond”, and “Amazing Grace”.  Jennifer Pournelle and Phillip Pournelle took the flag from the coffin – an inter-Service courtesy; Jennifer and their father had been in the Army, Phillip in the Navy.  A bugler gave us “Taps”.  Phil paid the piper, and – I wondered if he would – said so.

Here’s a photo Alex Pournelle took of Phil, coat off, helping with a floral display.

At the house were fine white flowers from Cat Rambo the 30th President of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America on behalf of SFWA, acknowledging its 7th president, his leadership and his contribution.

The public memorial next day was a funeral Mass at St. Francis de Sales.  Most of us were from the s-f community, fans or pros or both.  I was particularly glad Toni Weisskopf could come.  I sat in the back, behind Serena & Tim Powers, next to Keith Kato.  The organ was a Rodgers pipe-digital hybrid.  Here’s a photo Alex took from the front.

Jenny, the eldest child, gave the eulogy.  She cited his generosity.  When you achieved, she said, his respect was spontaneous.  He was happiest if you went and lived your own dream.

She gave examples of his open hand and – I’ll say it – his big heart.  I happen to be acquainted with cases where he helped people he could only have disapproved of.  I don’t mean with crumbs, either.  One thing can override another.

Afterward were at least three gatherings.  For a few bad moments I thought I’d have to miss them all.  I managed to reach two.  Here’s another Alex photo.  We’re at the Four and Twenty restaurant (no blackbird pies; I should have ordered rye bread) in Van Nuys.  The man standing is Henry Vanderbilt, founder of the Space Access Society.

Jerry had four or five careers, some simultaneous.  He did a lot in aerospace.  He isn’t named in John Glenn’s 1999 memoir.  The mind tends to submerge pain.  When you heard the story of how Jerry tried to distract John who nevertheless kept a point of light centered in its target circle, I hope you thought of Matt Dodson’s tests in Space Cadet.  The prize fool in that book too is a man.

If I said there were eight million stories in the great and terrible world of computers, I might be off several orders of magnitude.  Jerry was big there.  He must have written six thousand words a week for his column in Byte.  That was just a summary of results; “We do this stuff so you won’t have to.”  He continued from what may have been the first blog – in the sense of the World-Wide Web and Weblog; in another career, blog was a drink – and his house had become Chaos Manor.  No computers, however, in the front room.

File 770 is in the world of a third career.  Jerry was the first winner of the Campbell Award for best new writer; nine times a Hugo finalist.  His work with Larry Niven didn’t start Niven collaborating – Niven had already done The Flying Sorcerers with David Gerrold – but it generated stories about stories.  Not every pro must be active among fans, nor vice versa; but Jerry’s fannish history was long.  He could silp a Nuclear Fizz in the Insurgent fashion.  His vices were very fannish vices.

There are a lot of leftists in s-f, including me.  Why?  Let’s talk about that another time.  We fans boast of tolerance.  More accurately, I’ve groaned, we march behind a banner that says Tolerance.  I’ve complained of Diversity for you but not for me – “you have to accommodate me, but I don’t have to accommodate you.”  The death of Nat Hentoff in January reminded me Hentoff was there first, warning against Freedom of speech for me but not for thee.

Politically Jerry was a conservative.  We did not give him an easy time of it.  At his death some of us burst into flame.  The suggestion there might be reason behind De mortuis nil nisi bonum (another Latin tag, “nothing but good of the dead”) was attacked as white-washing.  To our credit Tom Whitmore said “May we remember him for the good he did.”  Likewise among pros Spinrad, Silverberg, Rambo, Martin, to name just four who were plenty divergent from him.

Long-active Los Angeles fan Lee Gold – she edited Tom Digby’s Fan Guest of Honor book for the 51st World Science Fiction Convention – wrote this.

Back in the days of the second LASFS clubhouse [1977-2011; the L.A. Science Fantasy Society sold its third in April 2017], I was standing on the front porch chatting with friends, and Jerry came up to tell me that he’d been talking with the guys off at the side of the clubhouse and they’d decided that no writer had ever voluntarily retired from writing, they’d only stopped when editors or publishers had stopped buying their stuff.  (I think I later read this in Campbell’s or Heinlein’s memoirs, but that’s another story [LG’s parenthesis]).

Anyway as a good would-be Arisian, I ran this generalization quickly down my Visualization of the Cosmic All [E.E. Smith allusions] – and said, “John Campbell.”

“You’re right!” cried Jerry Pournelle and strode back to tell the guys.

I turned back to my conversation.

Five or ten minutes later, Pournelle came back.

“I told the guys what you said,” he told us, “and we all agreed that you were right.”

I’ve been telling that story in Jerry’s honor for decades.

Not just that he was willing to admit that he’d been wrong – something that a lot of people find difficult.

But that he was willing to tell others that he and they had been wrong, and who had said so.

A woman.  A younger woman.

I hope I always have that much intellectual integrity.

I’m content to leave it there.  R.I.P.

Pixel Scroll 9/25/17 What Do A Pixel And A Scroll Have In Common? They Both Can’t Climb Trees

(1) STAR TREK DISCOVERING. Camestros Felapton takes you from photon soup to Klingon nuts: “Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Episodes 1 & 2”. Although not especially spoilery, good form still demands a SPOILER WARNING!

However, Russell T Davies made a smart move from which Discovery could have learnt. Set a new series in a time that follows a catastrophe that creates both a bridge to the previous series, and allows the viewers to re-encounter familiar protagonists in a new way. That doesn’t imply a new Star Trek would need to have a post-apocalyptic vibe, rather some sort of event that disrupted galactic civilisations sufficiently that the Federation is needing to rebuild (a gamma-ray burst, a contagion that spreads via transporter beams, a big-bad alien did more damage than usual).

Discovery hasn’t taken that option but the setting kind of looks like it did. The technology is both old and new, the spaceships look both updated and more grungy, some aliens are now more familiar and closer to humans (e.g. the Vulcans) while others have become even more alien and Star Fleet understands them less (the Klingons). The whole feel of the show implies a setting where change has occurred but which claims that it is about changes that will occur and I find that somewhat annoying.

(2) ALLEGRO CON TROPE. The Independent is more enthusiastic — “Star Trek: Discovery season 1 episode 1 & 2 review: Tropes and unprecedented surprises balance out for an intriguing new Trek iteration”. But who are you going to believe?

The team behind Star Trek: Discovery could be forgiven for feeling under pressure. They had to deliver a show that satisfies one of the most rabidly pedantic fan bases out there, while still catering to normies only not really au fait with Trek beyond a few action movies about good-looking people having fights in space.

But, despite a reportedly troubled gestation, they’ve somehow managed to deliver, audaciously using their first two episodes to set up several seemingly key characters before wiping the slate clean in the closing moments. In truth, the first two episodes that arrive on Netflix today – ‘The Vulcan Hello’ and ‘Battle at the Binary Stars’ – function more as a standalone TV movie, setting up the tone and feel of the show while leaving about as much wiggle room for the future as conceivably possible.

(3) ROCKET SCIENCE. Video highlights of last Saturday’s Atlas V launch of NROL-42 from Vandenberg. Via United Launch Alliance.

(4) FUSION. The Register says it’s happening — “Hotter than the Sun: JET – Earth’s biggest fusion reactor, in Culham”.

Geek’s Guide to Britain I’m in a room that, in normal circumstances, is not fit for human habitation. It features a number of big red buttons surrounded by illuminated yellow rings – just in case. “Push button to switch off Jet. Press only in case of extreme emergency,” the signs read, informatively.

This is the Torus Hall, a 40,000m3 space the size of an aircraft hangar with two massive fly-towers that house 1,100-tonne doors to seal the room off from an adjacent assembly hall. The walls and ceiling are two metres thick. The atmospheric pressure inside the hall is kept lower than pressure outside so that in the event of a breach, air would be sucked in rather than vented.

The hall houses possibly the closest thing on Earth to the centre of a star: the Joint European Torus, the world’s biggest fusion reactor at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, UK. Jet is a tokamak, a circular structure shaped like a doughnut that employs powerful magnets to control that stuff of science fact and fiction: plasma.

…Jet is a European project involving 40 laboratories and 350 scientists. In 1997 it set a record, producing 16MW of fusion power from a total input power of 24MW.

Iter, however, is a scaled-up version of Jet currently under construction in the south of France planned to open in 2025 – a fusion reactor that aims to use 50MW to generate 500MW for 500 seconds. Iter, in turn, will pave the way for Demo, one or more proof of concept fusion power stations, with South Korea aiming to put a Demo live in 2037.

For now, however, Jet is the world’s biggest fusion device and proves that nuclear fusion can generate power – it’s just not big enough to create more power than it uses….

(5) HOW ONE AUTHOR GETS PAID. A post at Metafilter attempting to use Amazon stats to estimate writers’ sales provoked John Scalzi to explain why that is a futile effort: “Can You Tell My Earnings From My Amazon Sales? Spoiler: Nope, Not at All”.

…So what does this all mean? Well, it means that for a non-self-pubbed author, often none of their annual earnings from a book are directly related to how many of those books sell in a year (or any other specified time frame). In fact, depending on how the advance is paid out, three-quarters or more (even all!) of the author’s earnings from a book are disbursed before the book has sold a single unit.

Like so:

Book is contracted: 40% of the advance (“signing installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0.

Book is turned in and accepted: 20% of the advance (“delivery and acceptance installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0

Book is published in hardcover: 20% of the advance (“hardcover installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0 (there may be pre-orders, but the sales don’t usually start being counted until this time).

Book is published in paperback: Final 20% of the advance goes to author. Books sold to date: Hopefully some! But even if the number is zero, the final installment gets paid out (if so few books are sold that the publisher foregoes the paperback release, there’s still usually the contractual obligation to pay out)….

(6) CROWDFUNDING THREE ANTHOLOGIES. Joshua Palmatier’s “Guilds & Glaives, Insurgency, and Ur-Bar Anthologies!” Kickstarter has less than three days to run and is still looking to raise about $3,000 of its $20,000 goal.

THE RAZOR’S EDGE, GUILDS & GLAIVES, and SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE URBAR anthology kickstarter is nearing its goal! If we can reach $20K by Noon, September 28th, EST, then there will be an open call for submissions for the remaining slots in the anthologies. If you have a story idea that fits one of the anthology themes, write it up, revise it, polish it, and send it in for consideration. I’ve posted the guidelines below. Note that the kickstarter still has a few days left and there are still some pretty awesome reward levels left…

(7) AS YOU WISH. “‘The Princess Bride’ Turns 30: Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal Dish About Making the Cult Classic” is a Variety piece full of interviews about the beloved 1987 fantasy film.

“It was an impossible sell,” said Reiner. “The funny thing about it was that before I made ‘Stand by Me’ — I had made ‘Spinal Tap’ and ‘The Sure Thing’ — I had a meeting with this executive at Paramount. She said, ‘We love your films. What do you want to do next? I said, ‘Well, you don’t want to do what I want to do.’ She said, ‘No, that’s not true. I want to do what you want to do. I said, ‘No, no. You want me to do what you want to do.’  She said, ‘No, no. I want to do what you want to do. What is it?’ I said ‘The Princess Bride.’ She said, ‘Well, anything but that.’”

(8) PALS FOR ETERNITY. SyFy Wire contributes to the nostalgia in “The Princess Bride at 30: Why Fezzik and Inigo have one of the best friendships in film”. Reason number one is —

Helping each other deal with a difficult boss, Vizzini

Vizzini is clearly not an easy man to work for, and he doesn’t treat Fezzik or Inigo very well as his employees. After they kidnap Buttercup, Fezzik expresses his opinion that it’s not right to kill an innocent girl, but Vizzini isn’t interested in his hired help doing anything beyond what they are hired to do. He immediately insults Fezzik, and when Inigo voices his agreement with Fezzik, insults him as well before turning on Fezzik again. Once Vizzini walks away though, Inigo goes to Fezzik and the two rhyme together happily, much to Vizzini’s annoyance.

The scene captures how the two friends have each other’s back in this perhaps less than ideal work environment. Inigo didn’t have to voice his agreement with Fezzik after seeing Vizzini’s reaction, but he did. Then he tries to turn the mood around by doing something Fezzik enjoys and excels at: rhyming. It reminds Fezzik that he’s more than the dumb brute Vizzini wants him to be, and that Inigo recognizes his gifts, even if Vizzini does not.

(9) DONATIONS NEEDED. The father of Pierre Pettinger died recently due to a house fire, and Pierre has set up a Gofundme campaign to help cover the funeral expenses — Pierre Pettinger [Sr.] Funeral Fund. Their target is $13,000.

While it appears that insurance will cover the costs of repairing and restoring the home, the expenses for Dad’s funeral were significant and have put some strain on all the members of our family. Pierre will be administering the funds and will see to it that they go directly to the funeral home. The goal we have set represents the total cost, but any help you would care to offer would be received with gratitude.

Pierre the younger and his wife Sandy are Fan GoH for Worldcon 76. They’ve done wonders in Masquerades for years, winning many awards, and Pierre is Archivist for the International Costumers Guild.

(10) REED OBIT. SF Site News reports author Kit Reed (1932-2017) died on September 24 from an inoperable brain tumor.

Reed  was a Best New Author Hugo nominee in 1959. Reed was up for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, had a novel, Where, on the John W. Campbell Memorial Award shortlist, and received the ALA Alex Award for Thinner Than Thou. Reed’s most recent novel, Mormama, was published earlier this year.

(11) JACOBS OBIT. Harvey Jacobs (1930-2017), a 1998 World Fantasy Award nominee for his novel American Goliath, died September 24 from an infection brought on by brain cancer treatment. An author sometimes compared with Vonnegut and Roth, he published his first story in 1951, contributed regularly to New Worlds and F&SF in the Sixties, and continued to produce a modest number of sff stories thereafter.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 25, 1989 — Fox TV’s Alien Nation premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 25, 1930 — Shel Silverstein (author, humorist)
  • Born September 25, 1951 – Actor Mark Hamill
  • Born September 25, 1952 – Actor Christopher Reeve

(14) POURNELLE MEMORIAL. Jennifer Pournelle’s eulogy of Jerry Pournelle, delivered at the memorial service held September 16, has been posted at Chaos Manor.

He was generous as a husband. He adored his wife. He loved deeply, and passionately, and never anyone more than her. The parable of the widow’s alms teaches us the truest measure of generosity: when that of which you have the least, you give most freely. So by “generous,” here I do not mean with obvious things like, like gifts and jewelry and public events (though with those too). I mean that, although always awkward as a schoolboy in showing his feelings for her, he did his utmost with what he knew how to do: jokes, and puns, and praise, and respect, and walks, and stalwart support of her career, and four sons.

And especially—and this is most telling—by listening to her, and to her alone. Certainly not always. Probably not often enough. But I do not believe that any other human being on the planet had the capacity to tell him “no” and make it stick. Because of his generous love for her, he listened, and learned how to be a better father, and an outwardly more affectionate one. To say the words out loud. She taught him that the great light of a generous heart need not be hidden beneath a bushel. He listened, and let his generous light shine on her, and everyone around them.

It certainly shined on us, his children. He was generous as a father. OK, let’s start with the obvious. There was never a check he would not roll his eyes, groan, and write. School fees? Of course. Wrecked car? Harrumph. No problem. College expenses? Well, it’s your job to get the best deal you can. It’s my job to pick up the rest. Airplane tickets, tailored mess uniforms, personal sidearms? Here you go. Need a tool, a meal, a book, a computer, a printer, a place to sleep, a bottle of white-out? There’s one here somewhere in the house. Go find it. Help yourself.

But his real generosity was with imagination. He believed in space. He believed in adventure. He believed in deep truths in myth, and deep lessons in legend. He believed in science. He believed in nature. He believed in fun. And he combined them all. Road trips, hiking trips, shooting trips; flights of imagination; cooking (badly), reading (well), brainstorming plot lines, standing up to bluster, figuring out what you need to know, then figuring out who could tell you. He’d pick up a phone in a heartbeat if he thought he could marshal support or make a contact. He’d invite you to dinners across thresholds you’d never otherwise cross—and then always pick up the tab.

And when you finished what you started, or achieved what you’d aimed, or found success in your field, his outpouring of respect was spontaneous and generous—and never seeking to curry your favor….

(15) KEITH KATO. Keith Kato posted his own extensive memories of Jerry Pournelle and account of the memorial service at The Heinlein Society website.

Of course he knew not only all the Mercury astronauts, but also knew the candidates who did not make the cut. Jerry once told a funny story about turning John Glenn upside down and shaking him over a smoky fire, while fake-arguing with the staff, and dropping manhole covers on the floor. Glenn kept a dot in a circle, and his heartbeat remained rock steady (except for one momentary blip when the manhole covers landed), after which Glenn glaringly said “You son of a [redacted for the delicacy of our readers’ um…eyes?]!”

(16) MASTERCHEF. On the making of videogames: Jason Sheehan reviews Walt Williams’s Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games: “Leveling Up In The Video Game Industry, Without Checkpoints: ‘Significant Zero'”.

I learned this recipe from Walt Williams, whose debut book, Significant Zero, is all about the making of videogames. And also about the making of Walt Williams who, for years, has been involved (both seriously, tangentially, and in every way in between) with the production of some of the best videogames ever created: Bioshock, Star Wars Battlefront, Mafia II, Spec Ops: The Line. Mostly Spec Ops, which is one of the darkest, most haunting, and most narratively daring games I’ve ever played. Spec Ops was Williams’s masterpiece and Significant Zero is the story of everything it took to make it and everything it cost him — beginning years before, ending years after. Sure, it’s a workplace memoir (more or less): A writer writing about writing, which can be the most annoying thing in the world. Except for one thing.

Walt Williams is basically a ghost.

(17) OVERWHELMING SUCCESS. The BBC writes the biography of a product in “How plastic became a victim of its own success”.

He became so famous that Time magazine put his face on the cover without needing to mention his name, just the words, “It will not burn. It will not melt.”

What Leo Baekeland invented that July was the first fully synthetic plastic.

He called it Bakelite.

(18) EXTENDED MAINTENANCE. How would you like this job? “Airlander 10: ‘How we fix the world’s longest aircraft'” (short video)

Two technicians have told how they had to learn how to rope climb to fix the world’s longest aircraft.

The Airlander 10 – a combination of plane and airship – has been at Cardington Airfield, Bedfordshire, for the last four years.

Technicians Ivor Pope and Darren Gurney have overseen the aircraft since early 2016.

“Being up on the hull is a fantastic experience,” said Ivor Pope, the maintenance, modification and ground operations manager.

(19) BIKE RECYCLERS. Leave no trace? “Abandoned at Burning Man, bicycles now head for Houston and the Caribbean”.

After nine days of parties, music and larger-than-life art installations, the 2017 season of Burning Man came to a close on 4 September. In theory, all evidence of “Black Rock City” – which attracted 70,000 attendees to the dusty desert – was supposed to vanish. One of the festival’s core tenets is “leave no trace”.

However, clean-up crews found thousands of perfectly useable bicycles abandoned by attendees. Bikes are the most common form of transportation around Black Rock City, and the way they are tossed aside at the end has long been a problem.

Burning Man partners with local charities to take, refurbish and sometimes donate the bikes to needy families, but this year, the sheer number of bikes overwhelmed even these partners. An estimated 5,000 bicycles were left behind.

(20) I SWEAR THAT IT’S ALL TRUE. Past Daedalus: Whale tails and the human-powered watercraft speed record: “Water speed record that’s surprisingly hard to break”.

However, an Oxford University spinout called Animal Dynamics, co-founded by zoologist Adrian Thomas, is spending £200,000 ($260,000) to do just that. Their craft, the Malolo, is a hydrofoil-like Decavitator. Unlike its rival, the Malolo’s design is inspired by the way whales swim through water – instead of a propeller, it has the kind of large, arched tail that you sometimes spot above the water when a whale dives.

Now two years after starting work on the project, the team have begun testing their third prototype off the south coast of England. According to Thomas, they have already reached speeds of about 12 knots (13.8mph/22km/h).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Nancy Sauer, Cat Eldridge, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/17 We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun, ‘Til Her Daddy Scrolls The Pixel Away.

(1) PROOF AND REPROOF. David Brin, after congratulating N.K. Jemisin for her latest Hugo win, asks readers to predict what’s coming next in the sff genre, in “Perspectives from Science Fiction: Hugos and other marvels”.

Oh and also, let’s celebrate that science fiction has always – and yes always, ever since it was founded by our revered grandmother of SF, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) – been the genre of literature most welcoming to bold ideas about human and non-human diversity, and brashly exploratory authors. Yes, SF was always “better than its times” when it came to such things, though every decade deserved the reproof of later decades, for its own myopic misdeeds. Leaving our self-critical movement always looking for the next cause for self-improvement!

So what are we doing now, that will cause later generations of brave questioners and boundary-pushers to reprove? What terrible habit will reformers tell us to break next, when we get the upper hand on racism, sexism and cultural conformity? I think I know what it will be! (Hint: what is the most harmful and nasty thing that even good people now routinely do to each other, with barely a thought to fairness or consequences? And I include people as good as you envision yourself to be. Discuss in comments, below.)

(2) THE SHAPE OF YEARS TO COME. And at Examined Worlds, Ethan Mills wants to know “Where did all the far-future science fiction go?”

This is a question I’ve thought about a lot lately.  I recently re-read the last book in the Dune series and am working my way through the delightfully/impossibly difficult Book of the New Sun, which my Goodreads review describes as “like taking an acid trip through a thesaurus.”

These days far-future stuff is harder to find.  There’s even a popular genre of science fiction that takes place in the past: steampunk.  Contemporary readers will call a book “far future” if it takes place a mere few hundred years or even sooner. See this list of allegedly “far future” science fiction that puts Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 on the list, and even more weirdly, Charles Stross’s Accelerando.  One of the main complaints about Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves was that people didn’t care for the the part that takes place in thousands of years (which for the record was my favorite part — see my review for more).

(3) THE RONDO OF A LIFETIME. Steven J. Vertlieb recently found buried digital treasure:

Discovered these wonderful photographs for the first time recently on my brother’s cell phone while vacationing in Los Angeles just a couple of weeks ago. This marvelous shot was taken in Louisville, Kentucky during the prestigious annual Rondo Award ceremony in early June, 2016, after which actor, director, artist, writer, and old pal Mark Redfield and I were awarded these coveted Rondo “Hall of Fame” plaques in joyous recognition of a lifetime of creative productivity, and dedication to the arts.

(4) PUPPIES AND RACE.  In “Words Matter, Actions Matter and Race Definitely Matters” at Amazing Stories, Chris M. Barkley rebuts author Christopher Nuttall’s editorial, “A Character Who Happens To Be Black”.

When a writer, of any ethnicity, admits using characters of different ethnicities without even the slightest hint of any sort of context for doing so, it is the worst sort of cultural appropriation and is an insult to his readers as well. Using the “I don’t see color” explanation to pander his own world view about race may be satisfying to his bubble of readers ordering online, but I am quite willing to bet it would not pass muster at most publishing houses or with discerning and critical readers as well.

By erasing ethnicity, class or race as a factor in his characters, Mr. Nuttal is stating those centuries of history and culture, on which his future or fantasy worlds are built upon, don’t matter or worse, never happened. By homogenizing his black characters with his white male viewpoint, he is giving them the “gift” of being white and being as good as anyone else and calling for their heritage and culture is a bad thing and should essentially be swept under the rug. His attempt to do so does not make them equal, it diminishes them. It’s disingenuous at the very least and a patronizing example of white privilege at worse.

No person who is consciously aware of their ethnicity, culture and history would tolerate such a cleansing. By taking away their joy, you also take away their sorrow and their history. We are all human and that is the factor that should unites us, not divide us. By erasing our differences to make everyone the same, no one is special or an individual.

(5) APOLOGIZING. At Fast Company, Mike Su proffers “7 Lessons White People Can Learn From Bodega’s Apology”.

… Setting aside the idea of rebranding a mini-bar and putting it in apartment buildings and street corners and calling it disruption, there are some important lessons that can be learned from their poor apology that can be particularly important for well-meaning white people to understand when they unintentionally offend. Here are my key takeaways:

1. “I Didn’t Mean To” Doesn’t Matter

“Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas…”

Most of the post was focused on helping people understand what they were really trying to do. Why they weren’t super evil, and all the steps that they took, and basically, “I know we seemed like assholes, but we’re not! Or, at least, we didn’t mean to be!”

But here’s the thing?—?just cause you didn’t mean to hurt someone doesn’t mean you didn’t actually hurt them.

But if you spend all your time explaining what you meant to do?—?you’re spending all your effort on trying to make yourself look less bad, and make yourself feel less bad. That may do it for you, but then your apology is not about actually making the person you offended feel any better. Which leads me to…

(6) IN THE NEWS. Brookline, MA Town Meeting member (and noted sf writer) Michael A. Burstein isn’t kidding: “Town Leaders Seek to Make ‘Selectwoman’ the Official Title”.

“There’s been some recent interest in Massachusetts to change the name of board of selectmen to something that would be a bit more gender-neutral,” said Michael Burstein, a town meeting member.

Two warrants have been submitted to the Board of Selectmen and take aim at changing the governing body’s title and title of its members.

“One of them is kind of a straight forward and just wants to create gender-neutral language,” said Hamilton.

The other warrant filed by Burstein is very specific.

“I deliberately and specifically filed a warrant to change the name of Board of Selectmen to Board of Selectwomen,” he said.

The Boston NBC affiliate interviewed him for its September 14 news broadcast.

(7) ROMM OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of Minneapolis fan Baron Dave Romm.

Fan Dave E Romm (b.1955) died on September 14. Dave was active in Minneapolis fandom and was an avid photographer, taking pictures of various Minicons and other conventions he was able to get to. He traveled to Antarctic in 2005 and wrote about his experience in Argentus. He also hosted Shockwave Radio Theatre on KFAI-AM and archived the podcasts on his website. Romm became a baron of the micro-country of Ladonia in 2001.

(8) GOGOS OBIT. Bloody Disgusting bids farewell to “Legendary Monster Artist Basil Gogos” (1939-2017)  who died September 14.

Some of the most iconic pieces of classic monster art were found on the front covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine throughout the ’60s and ’70s, that art no doubt responsible for countless monster kids being bitten by the proverbial bug. Vibrant and eye-catching, the magazine’s cover art made horror stylish, beautiful and cool.

Those paintings were the work of illustrator Basil Gogos, who we’re sad to report is the latest in a long line of true horror legends who have recently left us….

Gogos also provided cover art for several other Warren magazines including Creepy, Eerie, Spaceman, Wildest Westerns and The Spirit.

(9) HANGDOG CHARACTER ACTOR. Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017) died September 15 says The Hollywood Reporter.

Stanton, who also was memorable in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981) and John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink (1986) — in fact, what wasn’t he memorable in? — died Friday afternoon of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent, John Kelly, told The Hollywood Reporter.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Play-Doh Day

Play-Doh Day is an opportunity for everyone, whether a child or simply young at heart, to celebrate this iconic modeling clay. Play-Doh was originally developed in the 1930’s, not as a toy but as a product for cleaning wallpaper! It was not until the 1950’s that it was marketed as a toy, in the trademark vibrant colors of red, blue, yellow and white.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1926 — Many people reported seeing lake monster Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan, British Columbia.
  • September 16, 1963 The Outer Limits premiered on television.
  • September 16, 1977 — Returned television audiences to the world of Logan’s Run.
  • September 16, 1983 – The aptly-titled Strange Invaders was first screened.

(12) TODAY’S FORBIDDEN PLANET BIRTHDAYS

  • Born September 16, 1927 — Jack Kelly
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 16, 1917 – Art Widner

(14) JAY KAY KLEIN PHOTOS. Crowdsourced identification of Jay Kay Klein’s digitized fanhistorical photos is proceeding apace.

J.J. Jacobson, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian at the UC Riverside Library, says —

The first re-index of the Klein photos on Calisphere has loaded. We’ve harvested amazing amounts of amazing information, thanks to the generosity of the fan community.

She has been keeping an eye on the info form and as of September 11 there had been 448 entries, many of them containing multiple identifications.

(15) QUARRELING CURATORS. New Statesman says “Two museums are having a fight on Twitter and it’s gloriously informative”. They’ve collected the tweets.

2017 is undoubtedly the year of the feud. As celebrities and corporations alike take to Twitter to hash things out, two of the UK’s most respected scientific institutions, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum have got in on the action.

It all started with this rather innocous tweet, during The Natural History Museum’s Ask a Curator event on Twitter, where users could tweet in questions to The Natural History Museum’s twitter account. The resulting back and forth is both amusing and educational….

(16) THE TRUE MEASURE OF A MAN’S INTELLIGENCE… JC Carlton’s goodbye to Jerry Pournelle at The Arts Mechanical begins with a memory of the author’s opposition to the lowered expectations policy of the Seventies. That was one of the first things that came to my own mind when I heard he had died. And while Carlton was looking at another collection of his science essays, I was taking down That Crazy Buck Rogers Stuff from my own shelf.

At a time when technical optimists were as scarce as hen’s teeth, at least in the public eye, Jerry was unabashedly that technical optimist.  I did a post about  A Step Farther Out when I started this blog and how relevant it still remains today.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/stepping-farther-out/

At a time when the language of the day all across the media was how we were all DOOMED, DOOMED by the monsters of our own creation and that there was nothing that could be done to save us.  Even the best stuff in media, like the classic series Connections was mildly pessimistic. Contrast that with any column in A Step Farther Out. 

… He thought though that, that people wouldn’t just collapse into a series of unending ghettos and endless tyranny.  he thought that people would use the skill and minds, the technologies that humans had created to overcome the problems we had.  He never accepted that we would just surrender and mostly die. he was also optimistic that with a little more oomph people would reach for the stars and create wealth for all.

(17) THE BREWS THAT MADE SPEC FIC FAMOUS. Charles Payseur is back with another installment of his review column where he pairs short stories with the appropriate beer: “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 08/2017”.

Welcome! Pull up a stool—let me tell you what’s on tap today. August represents the height of summer for some, and for others the first step toward Autumn. For my SFF reading, the month seems full of heat, decay, distance, and ghosts. Which makes a certain amount of sense, what with 2017 on its downward slope, having cleared the peak of June and July and entered into the fast descent toward the end of the year. And what a year…

The flavors are mostly heavy, alluding to the coming harvest with the sweet tones of apple and barley. Looming behind that, though, is the specter of winter, and scarcity, and cold. The bite of IPA stands as a resistance to going gentle in that good night, a fire to guide lonely travelers through the chilling dark. The stories are pulled from across SFF, with a lean toward fantasy, from contemporary to historical to second world, but there’s a hint of science fiction as well, a glimpse of the void and a voice calling out into the distance of space….

Tasting Flight – August 2017

“Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb (Book Smugglers)

Notes: Singing with notes of sweet romance complicated by the spices of trust, betrayal, and perception, its cloudy pour slowly resolves into a golden hue that shines with warmth.

Pairs with: Chai Spiced Ale…

 

(18) FAVORITE SON. Are you ready? In “Holy Adam West Day, Walla Walla!” the Union-Tribune tells everyone what’s laid on for the celebration happening Tuesday, September 19.

From before noon and into the evening, businesses around town will display Bat signal stickers and posters of West and offer special promotions. The city will also install a new sign commemorating West near his childhood home at the intersection of Clinton Street and Alvarado Terrace.

Other memorials to West can be found at the post office at 128 N. 2nd Ave and at the Marcus Whitman, both based around photos from the collection of Joe Drazan.

West will also be the focus of a series of events throughout the day. Here’s the itinerary, as listed by Grant:

11 a.m. — Opening ceremonies at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. Mayor Alan Pomraning will present a key to the city to members of West’s family, and attendees will have the opportunity to meet Batman and pose for photos with an exact replica of the Batmobile that West drove as the Caped Crusader….

(19) ESTATE SALE. The LA Times reports “Debbie Reynolds’ family ranch and dance studio to hit the auction block in October”.

The ranch-estate in Creston, Calif., had been offered for sale before Reynolds’ death last year for $4.8 million but was taken off the market in June. The studio on Lankershim Boulevard is for sale, with an asking price of $6.15 million.

Both will hit the auction block Oct. 7-8 in Los Angeles as part of the Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds personal property collection, according to auction house Profiles in History.

Owned by Reynolds for more than two decades, the 44-acre ranch comprises a main house, a guesthouse, a caretaker’s cottage, an art studio and a barn. A 10,000-square-foot support building with metal and stage workshops and a 6,000-square-foot film and television production studio are among other structures on the estate.

(20) HOBBITS INHALE. Matt Wallace’s tweetstorm shows that where there’s smoke….there’s even more smoke.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Andrew Porter, JJ Jacobson, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/17 Old Pixel’s Scroll Of Practical SJW Credentials

(1) SUPERSJW? The forthcoming issue of Action Comics is in the news — “Superman Protects Undocumented Workers From Armed White Supremacist in Latest Comic”. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The moment in the book released Wednesday comes a week after President Trump ended DACA.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but perhaps not.

In the recent issue of Action Comics #987, “The Oz Effect,” released Wednesday, Superman arrives in the nick of time to protect a group of undocumented immigrants from a white man sporting an American flag bandanna, wielding a machine gun, who is going to shoot them for taking his job.

Breitbart, picking up the story from The Hollywood Reporter, gave it a predictable spin:

…In an act of Super socialism, once police arrive, our Social Justice Supes orders them to protect the illegal aliens to make sure they are “safe and cared for.”

This latest episode should not surprise anyone.

DC Comics long ago declared that Superman is no longer American. Where once the hero touted the ideals of “truth, justice, and the American way,” like a good leftist, Superman is now a “citizen of the world.”

(2) DISCOVERY NOVEL SERIES BEGINS. I was interested to see the first Star Trek: Discovery tie-in novel is already out, though the timing couldn’t be better — Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack.

An all-original novel based upon the explosive new series on CBS All Access Aboard the Starship Shenzhou, Lieutenant Michael Burnham, a human woman raised and educated among Vulcans, is promoted to acting first officer. But if she wants to keep the job, she must prove to Captain Philippa Georgiou that she deserves to have it. She gets her chance when the Shenzhou must protect a Federation colony that is under attack by an ancient alien vessel that has surfaced from the deepest fathoms of the planet’s dark, uncharted sea. As the menace from this mysterious vessel grows stronger, Starfleet declares the colony expendable in the name of halting the threat. To save thousands of innocent lives, Burnham must infiltrate the alien ship. But to do so, she needs to face the truth of her troubled past, and seek the aid of a man she has tried to avoid her entire life—until now.

(3) OUT OF HIS SHELL. Scott Edelman invites fans to join John Kessel for a seafood feast in Episode 47 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Kessel

Kessel’s latest novel, The Moon and The Other, was released in April from Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. He’s a two-time Nebula Award winner, first in 1982 for his novella “Another Orphan,” then in 2008 for the novelette “Pride and Prometheus.” He set a new record with that second award, in that the 26 years between the two was (at the time) the longest gap for a winner in Nebula history. His short story “Buffalo”—one of my all-time favorites in or out of genre, and one which I reread often—won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1992.

We discussed why he suddenly has two novels coming out within a year two decades after his last one, how attending the 1969 St. Louis Worldcon changed his life, the ways in which his objections to “The Cold Equations” and Ender’s Game are at their heart the same, his early days attempting to emulate Thomas M. Disch, the time-travel short story he couldn’t whip into shape for Damon Knight, which author broke his 26-year Nebula Awards record for the longest gap between wins, the secret behind the success of his many collaborations with James Patrick Kelly, and more.

(4) WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS. Hampus Eckerman is living the sci-fi life while visiting France.

Most hotels have got the bible to read, but my hotel in Paris has got The Island of Dr. Moreau! On the other hand, my TV-set scares me.

(5) MORE SHORT FICTION REVIEWS, In “A New SFF Review Site Looks Interesting”, Camestros Felapton aims our attention at the inaugural work of SFF Reviews, Sara L. Uckelman’s review of “The Salt Debt” by J. B. Rockwell. In Uckelman’s explanatory post about the site she says:

Our aim is provide short reviews of short SFF stories that reflect a diversity of voices and opinions from both the authors and the reviewers. Other than a few formatting requirements to ensure the reviews are presented and tagged in a uniform fashion, and one content requirement — don’t be mean! — reviewers are free to write their reviews as they please. Some people will focus on the story; some on the narration; some on the language. Some of the reviews will be more slanted to the factual and the objective; some will be the reviewer’s own personal response to a piece. Some reviews will be longer than others, but don’t be surprised if most come in around 200 words — after all, one doesn’t want a review to be longer to read than the story itself!

(6) OKORAFOR VISION. On Twitter she winces at the “Afrocentric” and wishes they had at least said Afrofuturist – the A.V. Club’s news item, “HBO orders new sci-fi series from author Nnedi Okorafor and producer George R.R. Martin”.

HBO has officially closed a deal to grab a new TV show from George R.R. Martin, with Deadline reporting that the network has finalized plans to develop a Martin-produced adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s 2010 novel Who Fears Death. Set in a post-apocalyptic Africa, the book tells the story of a young girl who seeks to discover the meaning behind her own magical powers, as well as the nature of the powerful forces trying to end her life.

(7) POURNELLE OBIT IN NYT. It’s rather remarkable that in “Jerry Pournelle, Science Fiction Novelist and Computer Guide, Dies at 84” the New York Times obituary writer makes only the most minimal reference to Pournelle’s voluminous political writings, which have been deeply controversial within the sf community.

Dr. Pournelle was also known to many through lively columns for Byte magazine in which, beginning early in the home-computing age, he talked about personal computers and the software for them. Much of any given column was about his own experiences at “Chaos Manor” — his name for his home, and for the column — trying out new software products and wrestling with bugs, glitches and viruses.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 15, 1965 — Beach-horror hybrid The Beach Girls and the Monster opens in theaters.
  • September 15, 1965 — Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires premieres in its native Italy.
  • September 15, 2015 Rocket Stack Rank went live.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born September 15, 1940 – Norman Spinrad
  • Born September 15, 1942 – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

(10) PLANS FOR X-MEN. Marvel will be producing a six-issue arc revisiting the complete history of the X-Men universe.

Marvel Comics and Eisner Award-winning indie cartoonist indie Ed Piskor are teaming up for an unexpected, unprecedented, and uncanny undertaking. Best known for documenting the history of hip hop with the award winning HIP HOP FAMILY TREE graphic novels, Ed Piskor will sample and distill more than 8,000 pages of superheroic storytelling to create a definitive remix of the first 280 original issues of X-Men comic books and 30 years of complicated continuity into one seamless masterpiece of superheroic storytelling. Piskor will write, draw, ink, color and letter all six 40 page issues of X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, which Marvel will publish over three years as three separate but interconnected mini-series X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-SECOND GENESIS and  X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-X-TINCTION.

“X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN is a tribute to everything comic book fans love about the X-Men from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run and Chris Claremont’s, epic 16-year stint as the series’ writer,” said Piskor. “It’s a compelling and complete story with a beginning, middle and an end, featuring everything from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Cerebro and the Danger Room to the Mutant Massacre, the Reavers, Gambit, and Genosha.”

(11) ACTRESS TO REPRISE HALLOWEEN ROLE. Horror Freak news reports “Jamie Lee Curtis Returning as Laurie Strode in “HALLOWEEN” 2018!”

If fans of John Carpenter’s seminal horror classic Halloween (released in 1978) weren’t happy about the planned reboot in the works at Blumhouse, they will be now. The indie powerhouse just announced that iconic Scream Queen and original Final Girl Jamie Lee Curtis has joined the cast and will be reprising the role of Laurie Strode, Michael Myers’ sister. The news came down via Twitter.

(12) TARANTINO TREK. Dirk Lilley, in “What Kind of Star Trek Movie Quentin Tarantino Would Like to Make”  on CinemaBlend, summarizes some intelligent comments Tarantino made to the Nerdist Podcast. including why he would like to remake “City On the Edge of Forever.”

The director specifically mentions “City on the Edge of Forever” as an episode that would make a great movie. It’s one of the great Trek classics, but as Quentin Tarantino pointed out, the episode really only focuses on our main three of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and the rest of the crew would be virtually non-existent. That wouldn’t really work for a modern film adaptation. You’ve got to find something for Zoe Saldana and John Cho to do.

(13) FORNAX 20. Charles Rector has just posted the 20th issue of his fanzine Fornax to eFanzines.

Included in its contents are Bill Burns’s comments on the sad state of the Hugo Awards for Best Fanzines with blogs increasingly being counted as fanzines and winning the awards. Also, an essay about what in Rector’s view is the increasing problem of such pro authors such Sarah A. Hoyt, Larry Correia, Vox Day, and others’ trashing both fans and fandom. Fornax the 20th also has articles about road rage, how to do TV advertisements relating to hiring handicapped people as well as articles and stories by Robin Bright and Gerd Maximovic.

(14) SPLIT PERSONALITIES. The Verge’s Angela Chen explains how “These robots mind meld when they need to work together”.

Shapeshifting robots already exist; they either have a centralized “nervous system” that controls where each unit is, or each of the units works by itself and they sometimes link up. But centralized systems are weak and can’t scale, while self-organizing robots are hard to control and clumsy. Researchers created a new robot that has the strengths of both: the individual units can control themselves — but they can also connect to each other and become a single, precise robot. The study was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

In the new system, the robot is made of different units controlled by one “brain,” sort of like the nervous system in our bodies. This brain is the leader of the pack and, using Wi-Fi, gathers data from the other robots and controls them if they come into contact. “The robots in our multi-robot system are autonomous individual robots that, when they attach to each other, become a new single robot with a single control system,” study co-author Marco Dorigo, wrote in an email to The Verge. Then, if they detach, they go back to being autonomous system with their own control systems. Dorigo calls this new method “mergeable nervous system,” and says it is a more precise way to control all the units.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Launching Flowers Into Outer Space” is a piece from Great Big Story about a Japanese artist who launches high-altitude balloons from Nevada with flower displays to see what happens to the flowers in space.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Moshe Feder, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Lis Carey, Gregory Hullender, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Heinlein Society Elections Affected by Unexpected Death of Jerry Pournelle

Results of The Heinlein Society’s board of directors elections were announced at its Annual Meeting, a phone-in teleconference held September 10. On the line were the 2017-2020 class of three seats on its nine-seat Board of Directors. An impressive 66.5% of eligible voters participated in an online election via the SimplyVoting.com website.  The three incumbent Directors standing for re-election, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, John Seltzer, and John Tilden, all won re-election, which was certified by Simply Voting on 28 August 2017.

The passing of Dr. Jerry Pournelle on September 8, after the election and certification of results, has led to the Society’s remaining Board to invoke Article II, Section 5D of its Bylaws to fill this vacancy.  At the Society’s September 11 Board Meeting, Walter Boyes, an Illinois SF writer, technologist, futurist, and fan, was selected to fill the open seat.  As a Board appointment, Walt is required to stand for a ratification vote in the 2018 Society elections.

At the same September 11 Board Meeting, Society officers Dr. Keith Kato of California, Geo Rule of Minnesota, and John Tilden of Maryland, were retained as President, Vice President-Secretary, and Treasurer respectively.  Keith Kato stated this would be his last year in office.  The remainder of the new Board, by seniority, is Joe Haldeman, John Seltzer, Elizabeth Wilcox, Dr. C. Herbert Gilliland, Dr. Beatrice Kondo, and Walter Boyes.

[Thanks to Keith Kato for the story.]

Pournelle Memorial Scheduled for 9/16

Jerry Pournelle’s public memorial service will be September 16.

Four of the Pournelle children made a joint announcement on Facebook.

Alex Pournelle also sent this statement to Chaos Manor subscribers:

As you have probably heard, my father, Jerry, passed away on Friday, September 8, 2017. He had attended DragonCon as a guest, was lauded by thousands, and had a tremendously good time. As an author, it would be difficult to think of a better way to be sent off.

Our family also appreciates the outpouring of memorials and reminiscences, both public and private, which have followed.

The public service will be Saturday, September 16, beginning at Noon, at St. Francis de Sales Church, 13368 Valleyheart Drive, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.

They are working to livestream the service as well.

Pixel Scroll 9/10/17 Send Werewolves, Puns And Honey

(1) GO WET YOUNG MAN. “Venice Film Festival: Del Toro wins Golden Lion for The Shape of Water”: the BBC has the story.

Guillermo del Toro’s critically-acclaimed romantic fantasy The Shape of Water has won the Golden Lion at the 74th Venice Film Festival.

The Mexican director, known for his Gothic horrors, said the coveted award was a testament to staying “with what you believe in – in my case, monsters”.

(2) PKD TV. Financial Times’ Gabriel Tate gives an overview of Philip K. Dick’s work as a way of promoting the anthology series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams”, which will be shown on Channel 4 in the UK and Amazon in the US.

Dick’s influence on wider popular culture is extensive. Gary Numan’s Dick-inspired 1979 song “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and Vangelis’s Blade Runner soundtrack shaped the electronic soundtrack of the 1980s, and the maverick talents of Mark E Smith and Sonic Youth are long-time fans. (Dick, ever the contrarian, preferred Wagner and Beethoven.) It is on screen, however, that his mark is indelible, from the dystopias of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and 12 Monkeys to David Cronenberg’s melding of narcotics, body horror and technology in Videodrome and Existenz. The weird internal logic of Inception and The Matrix also owe much to Dick’s fictional explorations of the subconscious.While these debts have largely been implicit, Dick and his stories continue to inspire TV and cinema adapt­ations. A third series of Amazon’s series The Man in the High Castle (one of the early alternate histories) is on the way. The long-awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049 is due out in October. But first comes Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, an anthology series co-produced by Channel 4 and Amazon, that re-imagines 10 of his short stories.

(This could be behind a paywall, although I got Google to show it to me. Your mileage blah blah.)

(3) CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT. At Medium, news about “Into the Black: A Short Fiction Contest With a Big Prize”.

The future of work has never seemed so uncertain. Automation is knocking on the door and already too many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to meet their monthly expenses and unable to envision a different fate for themselves. The Economic Security Project is looking for new, bold ways to bring all Americans into a place of economic stability; out of the red and into the black.

To do this, we are launching a short story contest like no other?—?one that uses speculative fiction as a tool to imagine a future of economic security and rewards the winner with financial stability of their own.

What might a world look like where all of our most basic needs are met? In 5,000 words or less, we want you to explore the impacts of a basic income on individual lives and on society at large. To be clear, we are not expecting you to draft economic policy, but hope to ignite debate around new economies with stories that offer nuanced critique and evidence of impact. Writers may want to address how this economic policy could shift relationships of power, or if economic liberation is even possible without first addressing racial and gender justice. Writers may consider universality (i.e., whether this benefit applies to everyone), investigate the community impact, and even give this economic idea a new name.

The most compelling story will change hearts and minds, and ultimately the life of the author; the grand prize winner will receive a basic income of $12,000 over the next year.

(4) UNLIKELY TEAM. Norman Spinrad’s eulogy to Jerry Pournelle on Facebook focuses on when the pair held the top offices of SFWA.

When I was Vice President of the Science Fiction Writers of America way back in the Culture War days of the 1960s I was front and center of the New Wave speculative fiction with the then-notorious BUG JACK BARRON and Jerry Pournelle then not very well known but known to be on the other side of the divide was elected President, the general consensus was that we would be at each other’s throats….

But as it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth. We really didn’t know each other beforehand, but “left versus right,” “New Wave versus Old Guard,” “liberal versus conservative,” whatever, we bonded almost immediately, became a tight team, and were close friends ever since.

Alas we, or at least I, will now never hear Jerry’s take on how and why. But my take on it was that we both understood and cherished the difference between ideological and even deep philosophical or religious differences and personal conflict, between public personas or avatars and true friendship. And indeed rather enjoyed the Socratic game because we both understood that was what it was.

(5) MONEY QUOTE. George R.R. Martin says professional experiences overshadowed his political differences with Pournelle, in “A Sadness”.

The Hugo voters knew what they were doing when they gave Pournelle that first Campbell; he went on to have an amazing career, both on his own and in collaboration with other writers, particularly Larry Niven. With INFERNO, LUCIFER’S HAMMER, FOOTFALL, and (especially) MOTE IN GOD’S EYE, the two of them helped transform the field in the 70s. They were among the very first SF writers ever to hit the big bestseller lists, and among the first to get six-figure advances at the time when most writers were still getting four figure advances… something that Jerry was never shy about mentioning. Though he was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards in the years that followed, he never won one… but if that bothered him, he did not show it. “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money,” he said famously.

Pournelle was fond of talking about all the help Robert A. Heinlein (whom he always called “Mr. Heinlein,” at least in my hearing) gave him when he was starting out, and he was a passionate advocate of RAH’s “pay it forward” philosophy, and did much to help the generations of writers who came after him. He served a term in the thankless job of SFWA President, and remained an active part of SFWA ever after, as part of the advisory board of Past Presidents and (even more crucially) on GriefCom, the Grievance Committee. Jerry could be loud and acrimonious, yes, and when you were on the opposite side of a fight from him that was not pleasant… ahh, but when you were on the SAME side, there was no one better to have in your foxhole. I had need of SFWA’s Griefcom only once in my career, in the early 80s, and when we met at worldcon with the publisher I had Jerry with me representing Griefcom. He went through the publisher’s people like a buzzsaw, and got me everything I wanted, resolving my grievance satisfactorily (and confidentially, so no, no more details).

His politics were not my politics. He was a rock-ribbed conservative/ libertarian, and I’m your classic bleeding-heart liberal… but we were both fans, and professional writers, and ardent members of SFWA, and we loved SF and fantasy and fandom, and that was enough. You don’t need to agree with someone on everything to be able to respect them.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 10, 1935 Popeye was heard for the first time on NBC radio.
  • September 10, 1993 The X-Files premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • September 10, 1923 — Cliff Robertson. Two TZs (A Hundred Yards over the Rim & The Dummy) plus the Flowers for Algernon story to screen, Charly.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian finds a pun with a monstrous payoff in Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock sends this along for those who remember Labyrinth: Rhymes With Orange.

(9) ALDISS RETROSPECTIVE. In the Indian Express: “The humour and astonishing inventiveness of Brian Aldiss’s fiction”.

Later, thanks to a sale at the British Council library in Madras, I was able to amass an Aldiss collection of my own. The book that blew my mind was Aldiss’s experimental Report on Probability A. Describing the plot is pointless, it is set over the course of a single day in an English bungalow and features its occupant, a Mr Mary and his wife. Mr Mary is under surveillance from a trio of observers, each of whom, is himself under observation from the others. For a book written in 1962, it retains its astonishingly inventive verve even today.

Aldiss was also capable of a peculiar humour. His short story ‘Confluence’ features an 11-million-year old language on the planet Myrrin. Words can start with a direct meaning, for example, ‘AB WE TEL MIN’ means “the sensation that one neither agrees nor disagrees with what is being said to one, but that one simply wishes to depart from the presence of the speaker”. Aldiss then introduces the wrinkle; the language is a combination of words and the posture taken up by the aliens. Meanings are altered by the way an alien sits or stands, so JILY JIP TUP could either indicate “a thinking machine that develops a stammer” or “the action of pulling up the trousers while running uphill”.

(10) IMPROVING THE DRAGON AWARDS. An anonymous critic in the Red Panda Fraction shares their “Dragon Con 2017 Survey and Feedback”. Their advice for making the Dragon Awards better is — make them as similar as possible to the Hugos….

We’re still moving into this space and I’m still learning how to format the blog, but I am about to finally fill out my Dragon Con 2017 Survey and Feedback, and I want to post my feedback about the Dragon Awards 2017 publicly.

  1. First and most important, the process should be completely transparent. The terms and conditions should be switched from the boilerplate sweepstakes terms and conditions that have been used for the first two years. The voting numbers for both the nominations and the awards should be made public. It’s difficult to trust if there is no way to verify.
  2. Voting should be limited to actual Dragon Con members so that the Awards are  truly representative of Dragon Con.

(11) BEFORE AND AFTER GAMERGATE. NPR’s Latoya Peterson reviews Zoe Quinn’s autobiographical account: “In ‘Crash Override,’ Zoe Quinn Shares Her Boss Battle Against Online Harassment”.

Quinn describes herself as Patient Zero of GamerGate, which is true in the sense that the movement represents the formalization of a phenomenon that’s been happening in gaming for far longer. (Given the nature of online interactions, many of the stories of women at the core of the dustups that occurred before the rise of GamerGate have been lost; out of concern for their own safety, they deleted their histories and stopped speaking about the incidents, in hopes that it would stop the constant stream of vitriol.)

Before I ever heard Zoe Quinn’s name, I had already watched in horror as many women who were involved with, or commented on, games saw themselves attacked for speaking up. Developer Jade Raymond was a proto-Patient Zero, targeted by online mobs for the crime of including herself in a photo of the game she produced. Sokari Erkine of the blog BlackLooks.org posted a quick reaction to the trailer of the game Resident Evil 5, calling out racist tropes, and was met with a wave of GamerGate-like action so severe she stopped blogging for months. And then there was “D**kwolves,” a controversy sparked by a rape joke in the online comic Penny Arcade, which spanned years, spawned merchandise, pitted anti-feminist and feminist gamers against each other and became such a cultural touchstone that the first rule at Kotaku-in-Action, a subreddit dedicated to GamerGate, is “don’t be a d**kwolf.”

(12) SHOCKING REVELATIONS. Can you tell the AC from the DC? “Benedict Cumberbatch is Thomas Edison in the first trailer for The Current War”.

The first trailer for Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s historical drama The Current War has arrived, and it shows off the first look at a really intriguing story. The story dives into an intense rivalry over the future of electrical power in the United States in the late 1800s.

The trailer opens with a Prestige-like shot of Cumberbatch standing in the middle of a field surrounded by light bulbs. We’re introduced to Thomas Edison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (played by Michael Shannon) as they talk up the coming electrical revolution, how it will change the world, and how they’re each looking to outdo their rival. Nikola Tesla (played by Nicholas Hoult) also makes an appearance.

The film is about the so-called “War of Currents,” an electrical arms race that played out in the late 1880s between inventor Thomas Edison who waged a corporate war against a rival electrical company run by George Westinghouse. This period of American history was an important one, because it helped set the baseline for how electrical power (alternating current vs. direct current) was implemented across the country.

(13) DISCOVERY PREVIEW. Are we sure this isn’t footage from Dune? Star Trek: Discovery – the U.S.S. Shenzou arrives.

(14) CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE. Less dirt, more dirty dancing in this loan company ad featuring a dance between He-Man and Skeletor.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster, for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Lifetime Positive

First meeting at the original LASFS clubhouse (1973). Jack Harness stands at left, Harlan Ellison in the doorway. Elst Weinstein is seated. Photo by Stan Burns.

[First published in 2002.]

By Mike Glyer: Early in Ian Fleming’s novel Moonraker James Bond is driving at night and spots an ominous neon sign flashing the message HELL IS HERE over and over. He rounds a hillock and once the sign is in full view sees it’s only an advertisement that SUMMER SHELL IS HERE. But I’m sure the Friday night card players would have loved adorning the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society clubhouse with the neon sign James Bond thought he saw in the days when we were obsessed by a game called “Hell’s Bridge.”

Two regulars at the game were Jack Harness and Bruce Pelz, legendary fans who both passed away within the last year, Jack on July 13, 2001 and Bruce on May 9, 2002. Mourning the loss of two of the best-known fans of their generation is appropriate, yet so is joyfully remembering their great humor and colorful personalities. I spent many hours together with them in LASFS activities, often at the card tables. The best moments sounded like this:

FRANK GASPERIK: I bid five.
MIKE FRANK: A man with a long suit.
JACK HARNESS: With a trap in the back.
BRUCE PELZ: I know what kind of opening to give you.
JACK HARNESS: But…but…but…
BRUCE PELZ: You assed for it.
MIKE GLYER: (scribbling furiously) Pun slower!

Hell’s Bridge, never actually called by anything but its first name, preoccupied about a dozen players every Friday evening. The game bears a faint resemblance to bridge in that there is a trick-taking and a trump suit (determined by a cut of the cards.) But every player makes a contract for the number of tricks he expects to take, and the total tricks bid may not equal the number of tricks available (it can be under or over.) Since the onus of that rule generally falls on the last person to bid, the dealer, people constantly refer to the “DDA” – dealer’s disadvantage.

Hell is a comparatively inexpensive game to lose: a bad night would set me back the equivalent of a burger and Coke. Yet playing Hell still inflicted all the intensity and madness of more prestigious games like poker. (At least, I never envisioned Bret Maverick saying, “My daddy always told me ‘Never gamble, stick to Hell’s Bridge.’”)

The legendary LASFS poker games went away in the mid-70s when the hosts of the old Thursday night gatherings gave up in exhaustion and the games weren’t allowed to move into the new clubhouse. Members believed even penny-ante gambling would surely lead to a police raid, whereas poker without betting is even duller than a bar without booze. On the other hand members did allow Hell to be played there because it was tracked with a scoresheet, not played with chips or cash, and not hostage to the potential nightmare of the club’s five-and-dime riverboat gamblers wallowing in their loose change when the LAPD kicked the door and charged in with the vice squad.

As Hell grew in popularity those of us who had an early start in the game profited greatly from the neos who came along and received an expensive education. But time was not on our side. In the good old days, Jack Harness finished cleaning out one table full of players (while the LASFS Board of Directors met in the front room), threw open the door, hollered, “Fresh fish!” and they came running to fill up the next game. All too soon, all the new players became competitive. It got very rugged for all but the best. Even Bruce Pelz and Jack Harness had runs of ill luck that were mercilessly exploited. That produced some mythic bursts of temper. Long has the story been told of the night Pelz, hosting a game at his apartment and doing badly, ripped the leg off his card table and chased the players into the night. Doubt it if you like. I can only testify that I never saw him rip a leg off a card table…

Other legends of the game included Marty Massoglia. He gained fame as “Captain Suicide” during a phase when he started jumping to conclusions about whether he would make his bid on a hand, and when it looked bad to him, he abandoned all pretense of making his bid in order to prevent others from making theirs. Conversely, Mike Shupp’s brief career at the Hell table earned him the nickname of “Robin Hood,” because he would junk his chances to make his own hand in order to sabotage a player he felt had bid too ambitiously.

JACK HARNESS: I don’t want to sit on the right hand of Captain Suicide.
BRUCE PELZ: Then sit on his other hand and we’ll both be out of trouble.

Those of us who frequented LASFS card games in the early 70’s saw that Bruce tracked his wins and losses in a pocket diary. While his memory was famous — thus his nickname, the Elephant – he was also a prolific list-maker and recordkeeper. With the advent of personal computers Bruce was soon keeping track of everyone’s wins and losses. Once accounts were settled for the night, Bruce would take the scoresheets home and enter the data. He assigned everyone a “handle” — real names were not used on the printouts. Years passed and we still expected the place to be raided by the vice squad at any moment.

The players with the cumulative best records were dubbed “The Hell-5 Society.” The top five scorers of the year got first crack at playing in the game held at the Nivens’ New Year’s Eve Party.

Players who were cumulatively in the black were referred to as “lifetime positive.” I think I was about $20 to the good when I stopped playing regularly after 15 years, so what was that, an average winning of slightly more than a buck a year? But as more newcomers came along and joined the minus column, a mystique grew up around anyone who had managed not to give all his money to Pelz and the other sharks.

If (in the parlance of comic collectors) Hell’s Bridge represented the Silver Age of LASFS cardplaying, its Golden Age had been the weekly poker sessions at the Nivens’ house in Brentwood. There was an endless parade of great fannish names through the game (I would like to have played poker against Dick Geis). Those poker games were, in fact, the reason I joined LASFS. Joe Minne lived upstairs in our dorm at USC and said he often went to club meetings and then went over to Larry Niven’s house to play poker.

The first time Joe took a couple of us with him, he turned his ancient Ford T-Bird off Sunset onto a dark side street whose mist-shrouded lamps must have inspired “Of A Foggy Night.” When we got into the house Larry Niven said hello and asked Minne, “Can you vouch for these two?” Insuring the integrity of the poker game was probably the least reason Niven asked for assurance: what mattered was the art collection. His home was like a year-round Worldcon art show, walls covered with huge framed Tim Kirk drawings and Wendy Pini original pastel paintings. The burglar alarm system would be no protection against light-fingered fans pretending to be poker players.

I kept going back and the welcome became warmer. After all, I had the one utterly endearing trait of losing quietly, though I could only afford to lose about $3 and then I was done for the evening. Once I accidentally left with a poker chip in my pocket and endured the embarrassment of calling Larry to confess because I needed to be able to get my dollar back next week. Joe Minne, on the other hand, answered each setback by opening his checkbook and saying, “Ahhhh!” I played at the cheap table, hosted by Fuzzy Pink Niven, and there was also a “blood” table where Larry presided over sharks like Jerry Pournelle, whose skill kept him from ever having to fill out the worn personal check he tossed in when he drew his poker chips to start the night.

A certain machismo compelled a few to play at the “blood” game who weren’t equal to it and they made losing their rent a routine, prompting Larry to conclude that “Some people win by winning, and some people win by losing.” There was a high level of pseudo-psychiatric analysis: if you screwed up at poker, your whole lifestyle was bound to be called into question. And for someone losing $200 within a few weeks, this was not unreasonable.

The Nivens set a generous sideboard for these games, which some visitors managed to abuse by melting cheese all over the toaster oven or helping themselves uninvited to the good brandy. The Nivens resorted to posting a dittoed “Rules of the House” which I regret not having kept. At last they moved out of Brentwood and the club relocated to the San Fernando Valley. The era of poker games breaking up at dawn came to an end – and descended into Hell.

Jerry Pournelle (1933-2017)

Jerry Pournelle at MagiCon (1992). Photo by Lenny Provenzano

Jerry Pournelle died September 8 at the age of 84, his son Alex announced.

I’m afraid that Jerry passed away
We had a great time at Dragon Con
He did not suffer.

Pournelle had just spent the weekend at Dragon Con, and wrote yesterday on his Chaos Manor blog that he came home with both a cold and the flu.

Jerry was active in LASFS, where I knew him for over 40 years. We had a long talk this year at the Vintage Paperback Show. I’ll post an appreciation here tomorrow.

Larry Niven, Mike Glyer, Jerry Pournelle at the LA Vintage Paperback Show in 2017. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver and James Davis Nicoll for the story.]