How To Contribute to the Worldcon’s Annual APA

A message from John Purcell:

SUBJECT: Contributing to WOOF #42 – the Worldcon Order of Faneds, the APA (Amateur Press Association) collated annually at the World Science Fiction Convention – at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.

Here is an UPDATE on what You Need To Know:

There is a European Official Editor of WOOF #42! Simo Suntila, a fanzine fan for many years, has “volunteered” (at the end of Jukka Halme’s volunteer-prodding stick) to be an OE as well. Since he is a local Finland Fanzine Fan (a Scandinavian N3F, there), that means contributions can be emailed ahead to him at khuure@gmail.com in PDF (preferred) or Word Document attachments and he will then print contributions locally well before the collation occurs. The due date for these WOOFzines is Saturday, 5 August 2017; that gives Simo a week to print them before the collation. A proper Table of Contents will thus be created ahead of time, as well. Gee, this sounds so shudder organized!

Speaking of the WOOF #42 collation, it is tentatively set for Saturday, 12 August 2017, from 1300 to 1500 hours (as it will be listed in the program guide: all times are done in military or international time; otherwise that translates to 1 to 3 PM for those folks who don’t do math) in the Fanzine Lounge at WorldCon 75. España Sheriff is the Fanzine Lounge Coordinator, and I have contacted her to see if we can arrange for refreshments (soft drinks and munchables) to be available for the collating masses.

Copy count of contributions is still set at a limit of 50 copies. [NOTE: If that is not enough, we will try to get the word out as quickly as possible to people who are bringing their WOOFzine to the collation.) I guess North American fans who wish to contribute and will not be attending WorldCon 75 can send their pre-printed WOOFzines to me ahead of time (ask me for my mailing address), but please include a 9″x12″ SASE. Your final collated copy of WOOF #42 will be mailed to non-attending North American contributors upon my return home to keep postage costs down. Naturally, if contributors are attending the convention, they should bring their pre-printed contributions to the collation, and are encouraged to participate in said collation. Not only does the collation go faster, it is much more fun, too. We want to treat this like the RUNE and MINNEAPA collation parties I remember from the late 1970s and early 1980s. If historic trends continue, the total page count of WOOF #42 will be 80-100 pages in length. We might need a bigger stapler.

I am still – silly me – willing to create an e-apa version of this year’s WOOF, and send it off to Bill Burns for eFanzines, another to Fanac.org for archiving, and any other interested parties. Therefore, please send your emailed contributions (as either PDF or Word Document attachments) to Simo Suntila at khuure@gmail.com or me at askance73@gmail.com by 5 August 2017. We will make sure that all submitted contributions get into the APA in one way, shape, or format.

For additional information, here is the link to the article WOOF is the Answer” written by John Hertz for the File 770 website: There is more information there for your edification and entertainment.

As additional information develops, it will be shared on many group pages on Facebook, the FILE 770 website, and also in my fanzines ASKANCE and ASKEW.

I Used to Think My Life Was Strange

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1253)  I met Poldek Pfefferberg (1913-2001) as Thomas Keneally had.

In Polish “Poldek” is the familiar form — like our “Bob” for Robert — of Leopold, Pfefferberg’s given name.  In 1980 he had a leather-goods shop in Beverly Hills.  Keneally was looking for a briefcase.  Thus Keneally wrote Schindler’s List (1982), which won the Booker Prize, and Steven Spielberg directed the 1993 movie, which won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Pfefferberg, born in Cracow, had a master’s degree in philosophy and physical education from Jagiellonian University (founded 1364; among its graduates, Copernicus and Pope John Paul II; motto Plus ratio quam vis [Latin] “Let reason prevail over force”), was a physical-education professor, joined the Polish Army in 1939, made lieutenant, fought against the Nazi invasion that set off World War II, survived, married in 1941 during the thick of this, and eventually came here.  Sometimes he used the surname “Page” given him at Ellis Island.

Oskar Schindler (1908-1974) saved him and 1,300 other Polish Jews by telling Nazi authority he needed them to work in his factories.  On Schindler’s list Pfefferberg was No. 173; his wife Misia (1920-2008) was No. 195.  Schindler was a hero.  He was also a black-marketeer, a carouser, a womanizer, and an Abwehr (“ahp-vare”, military intelligence) agent.  In 1947 Pfefferberg promised Schindler, over a game of cards at Munich, that Pfefferberg would make Schindler’s name a household word.  In 1980 Keneally was fascinated by how complicated Schindler was.  Keneally had written twenty books.  Pfefferberg had spent four decades telling the story.

In 1985 I was in Beverly Hills looking for a briefcase.  I soon learned who the shopowner was.  He had newspaper and magazine clippings about the book.  The movie took longer.  Pfefferberg never doubted a moment.  “An Oscar for Oskar.”

In 2007 Keneally wrote Searching for Schindler about Keneally’s part, meeting Pfefferberg, interviewing Schindler Jews and showing them drafts of Schindler’s List, visiting Schindler’s grave in Israel, working with Spielberg.  Photographs show historical people and places and their movie reënactment (dieresis mark for Phil Castora).  Nan Talese was the Simon & Schuster editor who commissioned Schindler’s List; she left while it was in progress; the U.S. edition of Searching — Keneally is Australian — appeared under her imprint at Doubleday.  Keneally ate at Spielberg’s mother’s kosher restaurant The Milky Way.  I did too.  She died (Leah Adler, 1920-2017) in February.

Alexander grieved he had no Homer to sing his deeds.  Schindler, who slew no thousands, nor ten thousands, but overcame some of the evil around him and, remarkably, in himself, had two.

The Origin Story of Vurguzz

By Waldemar Kumming: [reprinted from Vanamonde 483 — John Hertz’ fanzine — August 12, 2002]

It all started 40 years ago. In the fanzine Munich Round-Up 8 was a whole page of “advertisements” for “The Bar to the Three and a Half Planets”, for Urm, the Newsmagazine for Retrotemporarians, for “Kraahkarm in Jelly, in 20-ton Containers”, and similar things, and finally for “Vurguzz, with 250% alcohol content.” Of course the alcohol over 100% was in hyperspace; this would allegedly lead to seeing not only double but 3 times after only one small glass of the drink.

The idea of vurguzz [pronounced “foor-goots” — jh] left Franz Ettle (who unfortunately died many years ago) no peace of mind until he had after various trials perfected a booze which had some of the effects. It had about 80% alcohol, and among other ingredients something that made it work very fast and strong but lasted only a short time. This vurguzz was poured at several German conventions, including an admission ceremony of the international and still existing Saint Fantony group. Later a liqueur factory took over but the vurguzz then had only 65% alcohol in it, that being the maximum allowed under German law. Lately the Pabel Verlag has been supplying a liqueur called vurguzz with only 17% alcohol content, apparently without knowing the story of the original vurguzz.

The present occasional supplier of the original vurguzz is Hermann Wolter, Am Hebewerk 57, D-45731 Waltrop, Germany. I have no idea whether it is possible to send bottles of the stuff without paying exorbitant taxes, or whether he is willing to do so, or has any of the stuff on hand at the moment.

Hands Across the Water

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1252) “I only knew him for forty years,” said Wolf von Witting, “but in fact Waldemar began publishing Munich Round-Up before I was born.” It started in 1958, passing to Waldemar Kumming and Walter Reinecke in 1959, then continued under K after R died in 1981, for a total of 179 issues through 2014.

Von Witting first met Kumming in 1977. My first correspondence with K that I can find is from January 2001, after he asked me to help put names on photographs he’d taken for MRU at Chicon VI, the 58th World Science Fiction Convention, particularly costume photos; I’d judged the Masquerade, our on-stage costume competition.

He and I continued to correspond, and meet in person at Worldcons. I continued contributing to MRU, and gave it two hundred words in a review of fanzines for Chunga (“Unfolding Stars”, C 14, which I daren’t consider mostly harmless, prompted or not by that number). He knew the secret of the fearsome drink vurguzz (MRU 8, Van 483), whose relation to the world of Perry Rhodan is beyond my and perhaps your mortal powers. I tasted a bottle he offered me, also at Chicon VI, but by the time I recovered consciousness he had left that party and I missed my chance to inquire.

He joined the Science Fiction Club Deutschland — deliberately named with the first three words in English and the third in German, just as English-speakers at different times adopted Latin expressions like inter alia or French ones like à point, and in fact as Munich Round-Up, written in both German and English, was named in English — in 1956 as Member No. 481, and was its second chairman 1962-1968.

In 1967 he was brought into the Order of St. Fantony (there’s vurguzz again), Walter Ernsting giving the accolade. From the 1970s he was the German agent for Andy Porter’s Algol and S-F Chronicle. He was a Guest of Honor at Seacon ‘84, the combined Eastercon XXXV (United Kingdom) and Eurocon VIII. In 1993 he was given a Kurd Laßwitz Prize for MRU and his life work. In 2005 he was given the Big Heart, highest service award of the s-f community. He left us in April (1924-2017).

From 1959 he maintained the Phonothek (German; first h joins the p for the sound of f in derivations from Greek phi as with English, second h silent), sound recordings of German and international s-f gatherings, originally on magnetic tape which in those days was no small undertaking when you consider that the two Revox B77 recorders he used, excellent in their performance, each measured 18 x 16 x 8” (0.4 x 0.4 x 0.2 m) and weighed 37 lbs (17 kg).

With the new millennium Thomas Recktenwald, another great German fan, chair of SFCD, friend of K’s and mine, took on converting this wealth to digital media; see TR’s progress report, and fine appreciation of Kumming, in CounterClock 15 (Aug 2013).

He was humble yet unshrinking, generous, a good listener, as we all aspire. Few ever heard him raise his voice. There was one celebrated incident. The early days of SFCD were stormy. During one of its fierce verbal battles he suddenly cried “Stop!” All fell silent. He changed the tape in his machine and signaled the combatants to resume. R.I.P.

Denis Scheck, left, interviews Marion Zimmer Bradley, center, at STUCON 1980, while Waldemar Kumming captures it all on his tape recorder.

A World-Building Hugo

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1249) The best notes I know for Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables (1862) are James Madden’s in the 2008 Modern Library edition, tr. Julie Rose. My own copy is the 1987 Lee Fahnestock & Norman MacAfee rev’n of Charles Wilbour’s tr. 1862, whose notes appear at the feet of pages (where notes belong! grr!) but not nearly enough.

Modern Library apparently first published the Wilbour in 1931; the ML ed’n with Stephen Alcorn’s woodcut on the jacket is not dated; ML reïssuing the Wilbour in 1992 [dieresis mark for Phil Castora] still offers both it and the Rose.

Yes, it’s a masterwork. Yes, it’s long; 1,194 pages by Rose (who after expatiating how faithful she was, which I can’t judge, says Alexander Pope 1688-1744 reïnterpreted Shakespeare 1564-1616 primly [p. xxiv] — aiee!) + 136 pp. of notes, 1,222 by Wilbour (and how he managed to get his tr. published in the year of the original is a story in itself).

No, there aren’t any digressions. Every side-path and detail is of the essence, from giving Cambronne’s answer at Waterloo as Merde! (the journalist Rougement reported La garde meurt et ne se rend pas! “The Guard dies and does not surrender!”, which was put on the base of a statue of C after his death; C denied he’d said either) to the sewers of Paris.

Hugo said he was writing a polemic: “So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilisation, artificially creates hells on earth … books like this cannot be useless” (beginning and end of his preface, tr. Wilbour). But that last word is strange.

For years the coal of my desire to read this book was cold. I hearkened too much to how Hugo was a social critic — ipse dixit — and how Les Misérables was about relentless Inspector Javert’s pursuing Jean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread.

Although “a loaf of bread” is an oafish misstatement, the criticism is there; the pursuit is there — oh, the pursuit! O Javert, what an end for you! — but we’d not call Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642) a painting about men’s hats.

I’ve said the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817) are to us like writing by a Martian for fellow Martians; of Georgette Heyer (1902-1974), set in that period, like a science fiction author’s writing about Martians: Austen assumes we understand. Hugo is a Martian from across a canal.

What do these Martians tell one another to evoke the world they all share? We, who are in the business of verisimilitude, evoking fictional worlds, can watch.

I mention the notes first here because Les Misérables is so studded with allusion and reference that we need the help.

A Skiff Hails a Bark

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1246, 26 Apr 17) Cherry-blossom viewing (hanami) season had largely ended last week at Kyôto, Nara, and Tôkyô; at Sapporo, in the north, blossoms should begin to open about May 1st and be at their peak for the following few days. Cherry blossoms are so beloved in Japan they not only have a name of their own (sakura), but also are understood from the word for blossom (hana) if no more is specified. Here there were e.g. a Cherry Blossom Festival 4-5 & 11-12 Mar 17, Descanso Gardens, La Cañada – Flintridge; a Nat’l Festival 16 Mar – 12 Apr at Washington, where a Japanese friendship gift of 3,000 trees had been accepted by First Lady Helen Taft.

Cherry blossoms are beautiful and fall soon. As long ago as the Man’yôshû (“Collection of Ten Thousand [not literally] Leaves [or maybe ‘to last ten thousand ages’]”, about the year 800), “the first and, in the opinion of most who have written about Japanese literature, the finest collection of Japanese poetry…. the falling of cherry blossoms could stir an awareness of transcience…. Some poems on cherry blossoms … convey so poignant a sense of the passing of time as to bring tears to the reader’s eyes,” D. Keene, Seeds in the Heart pp. 85, 91 (rev. 1999; J literature through the late 16th Century).

I was at Oakland, 350 miles (550 km) from home, 5,300 miles (8,600 km) from Kyôto, for a memorial to an uncle who died in February. He was 92, swimming a mile a day, working, and playing saxophone and clarinet in a jazz band. There were a few hundred people and a good hand­ful of speakers. On a printed program I saw Michael Dalby. Perhaps not an unusual name, I thought, but “Liza and I” in his speech told me he must be the husband of Liza Dalby, whose book Geisha (1983; 25th-anniversary ed’n and 17th printing with new preface, 2008) had so impressed me (Van 368). Afterward I found him; he said “she’s right over there”, and I thanked her.

She is the only American ever accepted as an apprentice geisha; for her Stanford Univer­sity Ph.D. she went to Kyôto, heart of Japanese culture, and served 14 months in one of the old­est geisha-houses; Geisha (actually Kyôto calls them geiko) is based on her dissertation. We foreigners have supposed them members of the world’s oldest profession, which they are not. Their primary arts (gei) are the shamisen (three strings played with a plectrum, long neck, no frets) with its song repertory, which she brought with her surprising her new companions, and dance; also superb dress, deportment, and wit.

When I met her she wore in her ears, and at her neck, the Japanese character mu (“nothingness”) in the distinctive calligraphy of the Zen Buddhist master Hakuin (1686-1768; famous inter alia for “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” which he thought led beginners to the Great Doubt — “At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening. If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully” — better than the answer of Jôshu [778-897] to “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?”: “Mu!“).

I thought she might like to hear, and with only a few minutes I tried to tell her, that when I was sent to Japan for the 65th World Science Fiction Convention (2007), the first held in Asia, by the one-time traveling-fan fund Murray Moore invented, HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance, for which we used the character hana in the calligraphy of Seiichi Shirato’s uncle Seihou Mikado), her book had been a great help to me.

I left out the Haiku Contest and other adventures of bidding for that Worldcon, adventures of holding that Worldcon, and the careers of Takumi Shibano and Peggy Rae Sapienza. I did say I’d gone to the Bashô (1644-1694) Museum and stood where he stood at the Sumida River; at the Kiyosumi Garden, had asked to see the iris beds; she remembered the acrostic poem about irises by Narihira (825-880) and said “I hope you were there in May” — irises are a May flower — so I explained “No, September; I wanted to see where the irises had been,” but (just as befell me and several friends at the Garden, only there we were rescued by the pocket computer of Etsuko Kodama, who’d been At-Con Registration) neither she nor I could recall the name of Kenkô (1284-1350), who’d written that chrysanthemums are most beautiful when their edges start to brown.

Since Geisha, Ms. Dalby has written Kimono (1993), a novel The Tale of Murasaki (2000) being a fictional biography of the author of The Tale of Genji (1012), a memoir East Wind Melts the Ice (2007), and another novel Hidden Buddhas (2009). When I got home I re-read Geisha, Mineko Iwasaki’s memoir Geisha of Gion (2002; the United Kingdom title, United States title Geisha, a Life), The Diary of Lady Murasaki (covers only 1008-1010; R. Bowring tr., rev. 1996), and read E. Underwood’s Life of a Geisha (1999, foreword by LD) and N. Ogino’s photograph book A Geisha’s Journey (2008, text by the Kyôto geiko Komomo), then East Wind and Tale of Murasaki, all which I recommend.

WOOF is the Answer

By John Hertz: The torch of WOOF has passed to John Purcell of Texas.  He will be Official Editor of WOOF this year, his second time around; he previously served in 2013.

He is also this year’s TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Although he campaigned using images of Henry Purcell, which Gerard Manley Hopkins taught us to rhyme with reversal, Brother John is from a branch of the family whose name is pronounced “purr-SELL”.

WOOF, the World Order Of Faneditors, is an amateur publishing association (or “amateur press association”) whose contributions are collected, and whose distributions are issued, at and from (but not by or for) the World Science Fiction Convention.

The 2017 Worldcon will be August 9-13 at Helsinki, Finland.  Some Worldcons have nicknames, but this one, the 75th, is just called Worldcon 75.

An apa is an assemblage of amateurs’ publications.  You send copies of yours and get back a distribution containing yours and everybody else’s.

We borrowed the notion of apas from another hobby, amateur journalism.  What seems the first apa was theirs, founded 1876 (NAPA the National Amateur Press Ass’n), still ongoing.  The first in the SF community was FAPA the Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n, founded 1937, also still ongoing.

Apas come and go on various continents, each apa with its own rules, customs, and jokes.  Most apas have been quarterly or monthly.  I’m in one that’s weekly.  WOOF is yearly.

The central receiver-sender of WOOF is the Official Editor.  The 2017 WOOF distribution will be WOOF 42.

This year’s copy count is 50, i.e. 50 copies required of each contribution.

WOOF is another invention of the late great Bruce Pelz.  As Suford Lewis said, he had a fruitful imagination.  Some say his epitaph, among us anyhow, should be Si monumentum requiris circumspice (Latin, “If you seek his monument, look around you.”

This year the OE must have your contribution by noon (local time) on Saturday, August 12th.  A Table of Contents will be made and collation will follow.

The Fanzine Lounge at this year’s Worldcon will be hosted by España Sheriff.  The OE plans to collate WOOF there.  He hopes to get a WOOF drop-off box placed there after the con opens on Wednesday.

If you do not expect to be present, please make your own arrangements.  Some long-time WOOFers have seldom been able to attend the con at all, instead sending contributions via friends, providing for return envelopes and postage as needed.

Usually WOOF distributions consist of contributions stapled together, and at least some copies of the distribution are sent by real-mail.  Please consider accordingly the media by which and onto which you publish your contribution.

Various apas have tales of fans’ sending strange paper or even slices of bologna.  Some practices are more honored in the breach than in the observance.

What to write about?  Well, cabbages, kings, why the sea is boiling hot (I think it’s the influence of the sun, myself), whether pigs have wings; rum-pots, crack-pots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?

The OE this year may be able to print some contributions sent him by E-mail; ask him, askance73 [at] gmail [dot] com.  You’ll recognize the title of his fanzine Askance.  You may also write to him at 3744 Marielene Cir., College Station, TX 77845, U.S.A.  Despite the street where he lives, he is not very near Abilene, 260 miles away.  That may seem close if you are Jukka Halme.

College Station is so named on account of a railroad.  The Houston & Texas Central began building there in 1860.  The Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas opened in 1876 (there’s that year again), first public institution of higher education in the State, since 1963 Texas A&M University.

You may also write to or call me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A., (213)384-6622 (Pacific Daylight Time).

We might sing (with apologies to Betty Comden, Adolph Green & Jule Stein, 1960) WOOF is the answer; some OE for WOOF is the answer: once you’ve found him, build your zine around him; make our OE happy, make just one OE happy, and you will be happy too.

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Classics of S-F at Westercon 70

By John Hertz:  Westercon LXX has confirmed we’ll discuss three Classics of Science Fiction, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

I’m still with “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Each of our three may be more interesting now than when first published.

Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Leigh Brackett

The Sword of Rhiannon (1949)

It’s been called her best early work; concise, eloquent, fresh, poetic.  Why a sword? is answered, also Is this science fiction?  Perhaps unanswerable by human beings, but addressed, are questions of identity, motive, recognition, and will, during an adventure in our great romantic tradition.

Fredric Brown

The Lights in the Sky Are Stars (1953)

Some say this belonged on the Retrospective Hugo ballot at Noreascon IV (62nd World Science Fiction Convention) – and argue over which it should have replaced, The Caves of Steel, Childhood’s End, Fahrenheit 451, Mission of Gravity, or More Than Human.  A straightforward s-f novel by Brown – and what a wallop!

H.G. Wells

The Time Machine (1895)

 

Far better known in the wide wide world than our other two – why?  Never mind marketing; Hesse’s Glass Bead Game won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  In fact we see only two distant times: the more gripping is narrated in a way which, upon reflection, is quite suspect.  And the Time Traveller never returns for lunch.

A Thousand Years

By John Hertz: Traditional Chinese and Japanese often have a thousand years for “long”.  Raising a drink one may say A thousand years! meaning roughly “Live long and prosper!”

The book which many think the first novel in the world really was written a thousand years ago, The Tale of Genji, completed about the year 1012.  Its author was a court lady, which is remarkable, but that’s another story.  In English it now has four translations, by Arthur Waley (1933), Edward Seidensticker (1976), Royall Tyler (2001), Dennis Washburn (2015), each with fans.

We call the author Lady Murasaki.  She may have been Fujiwara no Takako (i.e. Takako of the clan Fujiwara), who served the Empress Shôshi.  Murasaki is a nickname, after the main female character in her book, called Murasaki (“wisteria”).

We know little about the author personally.  She left a diary, also a work of art, but what has come down to us only covers two years.  The immense Genji scholarship includes labor over the diary.

In re-reading Richard Bowring’s 1996 translation The Diary of Lady Murasaki just now I came across these passages good for a thousand years (pp. 53, 56).

It is very easy to criticize others but far more difficult to put one’s own principles into practice, and it is when one forgets this truth, lauds oneself to the skies, treats everyone else as worthless, and generally despises others, that one’s own character is clearly revealed.

It is so rare to find someone of true understanding; for the most part they judge purely by their own standards and ignore everyone else.