What a Coincidence

By John Hertz:  I’m a known Jane Austen fan, so you’ll expect me to point out it’s her birthday.  I gladly call her one of the greatest writers in the world — yes, along with Shakespeare and Lady Murasaki.

Thanks to an honorary member of the Epsilon Iota chapter at Florida State U. of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity (oldest and largest music fraternity in the world), you may know it’s Beethoven’s birthday too.

Right there is a coincidence.  Indeed they were contemporaries.  What a lesson for us in the range of human creativity.  They’re not wholly disparate – I’d not say that even of Shakespeare and Lady Murasaki – and being a fan I can’t take refuge in “I am human; nothing human is alien to me” – except to the extent we say (altering the sense of one word) “Science fiction is about people; some of the people are aliens” – but compassing them both calls for a reach. To people who know only that one was born on this day, I may mention the other.

I’ve said 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.  I’ve led, I hope – inspired, perhaps – goaded, maybe – discussion on this topic; indeed with some of you.

Today happens to be another historic birthday.  It’s Sir Arthur Clarke’s 100th.

If we triangulate, as I try to, and as Buckminster Fuller taught, we might get an even better span.

So far my favorite Austen novel is Mansfield Park, upon which I can’t do better than recommend Nabokov in his Lectures on Literature. What’s my favorite Beethoven?  There I’m still like – well, somewhat like – Nero Wolfe over the cheese course in “Omit Flowers”.  Yehudi Menuhin playing the Violin Concerto with Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Philharmonia Orchestra?  Solomon playing Piano Sonata No. 29, the “Hammerklavier”? Oh dear.

I can tell you my favorite Clarke is The City and the Stars. That’s no surprise for some of you. I think it’s his masterpiece.  I wrote a note about it for Challenger 25.  There’s a link on the sidebar.  I certainly recommend it to you – the book, I mean, although I’d hardly mind if you read my note.

Some say there’d be no fanwriting without disagreement.  Ted White, I believe, said disagreement is the blood of fanzines (sorry if I misquote you, Ted).  I’ve disagreed with Charles N. Brown over his opinion that Against the Fall of Night is better (literary present tense) than The City and the Stars, into which Clarke made it.  I’ve disagreed with many who’ve held Childhood’s End better.  If you suppose I only put in this paragraph to get your attention, I disagree.

I think today, and the three shining points of this triangle, deserve applause.

An observing eye,
Boundless probing of the heart,
Cerebrating verve.

They aren’t all acrostic (I told you, Greg Benford), but this one is.

How to Write Criticism

By John Hertz:   Actually it’s a lesson from Hilaire Belloc.  He (1870-1953) wrote 150 books; his comic poems Cautionary Tales for Children (1907) include “Rebecca, who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably”; two of his essay collections are On Everything (1909) and On Nothing (1910); his polemical biographies of Wolsey (1930) and Cranmer (1931) are masterly; by the first decade of the 20th Century people who did not agree with him – I often don’t (literary present tense) – were among those who called him the greatest living prose writer.

Here he is, writing in those days and in the style of his time, about what had just been.

In one epoch lubricity, in another fanaticism, in a third dulness and a dead-alive copying of the past, are the faults which criticism finds to attack.  None of these affected the Victorian era.  It was pure — though tainted with a profound hypocrisy; it was singularly free from violence in its judgments; it was certainly alive and new; but it had this grievous defect (a defect under which we still labour heavily), that thought was restrained upon every side.  Never in the history of European letters was it so difficult for a man to say what he thought and to be heard.  A sort of cohesive public spirit (which was but one aspect of the admirable homogeneity of the nation) glued and immobilized all individual expression….

It is to be carefully discerned how many apparent exceptions to this truth are, if they be closely examined, no exceptions at all.  A whole series of national defects were exposed and ridiculed in the literature as in the oratory of the day; but they were defects which the mass of men secretly delighted to hear denounced and of which each believed himself to be free.

Preface to Froude’s Essays in Literature and History (1906)

in J. De Chantigny ed., Hilaire Belloc’s Prefaces, p. 86 (1971;
B goes on to say “In such a time Froude maintained an opposing force”, p. 87)

It Could Happen to You

By John Hertz: One-third through Henry Hardy’s monumental four-volume Letters of the monumental Isaiah Berlin (IB 1909-1997; Flourishing 1928-1946, Enlightening 1946-1960, Building 1960-1975, Affirming 1975-1997, some 3.000 pages, completed 2015), I came across this innocently-presented footnote (Enlightening p. 197 n. 3).

The Siena Musical Week was founded in 1939 to introduce to wider audiences undervalued composers of the past, starting with the then little-known Vivaldi.

_____________________________________________________

One cannot accept Dr. Hardy’s modesty about these notes, they’re wonderful.

About the subject, on the next page is a 1950 letter to Bernard Berenson, in which IB says, helplessly (if you will allow me to say so) self-referential, “my head in a great whirl with all the ideas, images, glimpses of persons & relationships, forms of life which, if you will allow me to say so, you scatter with so prodigal & unreckoning a hand.”

Pixel Scroll 12/8/17 Is There A Hologram On My Shuttlecraft That Says ‘Dead Klingon Storage’?

(1) CHECK-IN. The 1954 Worldcon chair Les Cole and Esther Cole, who live in the vicinity of the Ventura, CA fires answered Rich Lynch’s query about how they are doing —

Thanks for asking. Les and I and doggies are OK. Fire went passed us. The air is heavy, so we stay indoors. Much of southern California is rough.

(2) HERBERT MAY BE HONORED BY HOMETOWN. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Manager Michael Thompson says a recommendation to name a local peninsula “Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park” and its loop trail “Frank Herbert Trail” probably will go to the Park Board for a vote in January. The proposal has been working its way through the system for some time. The News Tribune has an update: “‘Dune’ author Frank Herbert finally set to get his due in his hometown of Tacoma”:

While the Metro Parks Board will have the final say on the matter — and it’s the elected body’s prerogative to deviate or tweak — it’s clear that the public has spoken, and Metro Parks’ staff has attempted to listen. During a public outreach effort earlier this year, more than 500 possible names were submitted via an online survey. The majority of responses referenced Herbert or “Dune.”

“This name provides a simple, evocative identifier that highlights the uniqueness of the peninsula remediation and new park features,” according to the staff recommendation. “On a literary level, it honors the name of the book series by Frank Herbert, a famous Tacoma author, which was inspired by the environmental history of Tacoma’s Asarco copper smelter site, directly adjacent to the peninsula.”

Last month, Thompson helped a local radio reporter tour the peninsula with park commissioner Erik Hanberg. “‘Dune’ And The City Of Destiny: How Tacoma Inspired One Of The World’s Most Acclaimed Sci-Fi Authors”.

If you go to the base of Point Defiance in Tacoma and look east, you’ll see a finger of earth jutting into Puget Sound.

It formed as toxic slag spilled from a copper smelter during the city’s industrial heyday.

For years, it was a foreboding sliver of black, glassy material. Today, workers and machines roam the peninsula as they transform it into a grassy park with Puget Sound views.

Tacoma Metro Parks Commissioner Erik Hanberg has a space-age term for what’s going on there. He calls it “terraforming.”

(3) BACK TO THE STACK. Doris V. Sutherland does a good job framing the issues in “Rocket Stack Rumpus: Critics, Authors, and Non-Binary Science Fiction” accompanied by light analysis. Sutherland concludes:

Greg Hullender responded by writing an apology-cum-rebuttal in collaboration with Eric Wong and altering the offensive reviews. Despite this, he has paid a high price for his faux pas. Locus decided that he was unfit to recommend stories to readers and removed him from its reading list jury, making the following announcement on Twitter.

Thank you to those who brought their concerns about RSR to our attention. Greg Hullender will not be involved in the Locus Recommended Reading List. We support our wonderfully complex and diverse SF community, and hope for continued positive dialogue on these issues.

The reference to positive dialogue seems out-of-place. The Rocket Stack Rumpus marks a breakdown in communications all around, from a reviewer missing the point of the stories he was covering, to authors misreading his reviews in turn. Meanwhile, the issue of Rocket Stack Rank’s provincial approach to stories set against non-Western cultural backdrops–as flagged up by Rose Lemberg in this Twitter thread–ended up being lost alongside Hullender’s misunderstanding of non-binary SF, which is perhaps a secondary issue.

There may well be positive dialogue to come out of the controversy, but at the present moment, there is little of it to be seen.

(4) MEAT AND PROPER. Autocorrect is being blamed rather than legislators falling down on the job: ” Typo in Bill C-45 legalizes cannibalism instead of cannabis”.

Canada is one step closer to the accidental legalization of cannibalism after the House of Commons passed a typo-ridden Bill C-45, formerly known as The Cannabis Act.

“I think no one wanted to be the one to point out the error,” MP Sara Anderson said. “We all thought someone else would do it, and then they called the vote, and here we are, all voting to legalize cannibalism.”

(5) RADICAL CHANGE. If this catches on, Twitter will get awfully quiet.

(6) ANDERS STORY COLLECTION. At Locus Online, “Rachel Swirsky reviews Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders”.

Anders’s unique humor provides a uniting theme. Only some of the stories are explicitly comic, but all benefit from her linguistic wit and her quirky but generous characterization. Her stories seem to say with affection, “People. We’re weird. What can you do?” She’s particu­larly good at tailoring prose to her characters, revealing their lives through their diction. Char­acters go to “one of those mom-and-pop Portu­guese places” and “the kinda-sorta gay bar.”

(7) MCDUFFIE AWARD OPEN. The 4th Annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics is taking entries until December 31.

Please attach a link or a 15mb .PDF file of the work to be considered. When submitting work, we strongly suggest sending the first issue of a series. If submitting anything other than the first issue, a one-page synopsis of what came before must accompany the submission. Also, we suggest sending the first 25-30 pages or first chapter of a graphic novel. We cannot guarantee anything more will be considered. If one is available, please also attach a .JPG photo of the entrant to the email. Please do not include any further attachments.

The award’s three new selection committee members are Jennifer de Guzman, Jamal Igle and Mikki Kendall, who join Mark D. Bright, Joan Hilty, Heidi MacDonald, Kevin Rubio, Gail Simone, and Will J. Watkins.

(8) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo is doing her annual award eligibility post round-up, this year including editors, publishers, and magazines: “2017 Award-Eligible Work Blog Posts & Roundups for F&SF”. Right now there are about 20 entries on the list. She will be doing daily updates.

(9) CLASS TOMORROW. Cat Rambo says there is still space, including a couple of free slots, in the December 9 class “Speculative Poetry with Rachel Swirsky”.

Next classes are Saturday, December 9 – 9:30-11:30 AM or Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 4-6 PM. (Each class is a separate session.)

Poetry requires intense linguistic control. Every word matters. Whether you’re a poet who wants to create fantastical verses, or a prose writer who wants to learn the finely tuned narrative power that poetry can teach, you’ll find something in this class.

(10) WRITER’S LIFE. A short interview with Ursula K. Le Guin at Shelf Awareness:

Who do you write your blog for? Do you ever read the comments, and if so, what do you learn from them, if anything?

I write them for anybody who wants to read them. (Writers live in hope.)

Yes, sure, I read all the comments. They’re mostly good-natured, and some are thoughtful and enlightening.

You say that dystopian literature is yang-driven, and its opposite–utopian literature–is also yang-driven. Is there a literature that presents a realistically complex vision of a world in balance? Or is that just fantasy?

Of course it’s just fantasy. That’s why I write fantasy…

(11) NOBODY LIKES BEING SLAPPED. Cat Rambo, talking about writers and audiences: “Nattering Social Justice Cook: This Is Not A Review”.

So why did this book hit me so hard in an unhappy place? Because it was so smart and funny and beautifully written and involved connected stories about a favorite city and magic, which are three of my favorite things. And because it had a chapter that was one of the best short stories about addiction that I’ve read, and that left me thinking about it in a way that will probably shape at least one future story.

And yet. And yet. And yet. Women were either powerful and unfuckable for one reason or another or else fell into the category marked “women the protagonist sleeps with”, who usually didn’t even get a name. Moments of homophobic rape humor, marked by a repeated insistence on the sanctity of the hero’s anus, and a scene in which he embraces being thought gay in order to save himself from a terrible fate, ha ha, isn’t that amusing. And I’m like…jesus, there is so much to love about this book but it’s like the author reaches out and slaps me away once a chapter or so.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 8, 1991 Hook premieres in Hollywood.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 8, 1950 – Rick Baker, the Monster Maker

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw that First Contact isn’t going too well in Close To Home.

(15) END OF THE MAZE. Maze Runner: The Death Cure comes to theaters January 26.

In the epic finale to the Maze Runner saga, Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze.

 

(16) CONTRARIAN. Go figure. While Patreon was in flames yesterday, Jon Del Arroz climbed aboard — “Jon Del Arroz Patreon Launch!”.

(17) EWW. It’s admittedly a mixed message when I say “Don’t look!” then put in a link anyway — “Here’s What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse”.

“We were very surprised at how precisely concordant the imaged damage was with the crescent shape of the eclipse itself,” noted Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, a retina surgeon at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York, in an email to NPR.

He says this was the most severely injured patient they saw after the eclipse. All in all, 22 people came to their urgent care clinic with concerns about possible eclipse-related damage, and most of them complained of blurred vision. Of those, only three showed some degree of abnormality in the retina. Two of them had only mild changes, however, and their symptoms have gone away.

The young woman described in this case report, at last check, still has not recovered normal vision.

(18) SUPPORTING SPACE EXPLORATION. Bill Nye says The Planetary Society’s latest collaboration with the Chop Shop store is mission posters for kids, like this one:

(19) TENTACLE TIME. In the garden: “‘Underwater city’ reveals mysterious octopus world”.

Once thought of as solitary creatures, scientists discover ‘underwater city’ full of octopuses living side by side

A couple of assumptions are often made about octopuses. First, that they are smart. There is truth in that: octopus behaviour such as tool use, predation techniques and puzzle-solving suggest a higher level of intelligence than other invertebrates. Everyone has watched an octopus unscrewing a jar.

Second, they have a reputation for being solitary. So solitary in fact that an official collective noun for octopuses doesn’t even exist (though ‘tangle’ has been suggested).

This may have to change, however. Over the last decade, scientists have discovered that octopuses aren’t always lone beasts. In fact, octopuses engage in rich, fascinating and unusual behaviours when they interact with each other.

(20) PATREON SURVIVOR, IF POSSIBLE. Cat Rambo is weathering the storm by asking readers how to add more value to her Patreon campaign (and also whether or not to bail from it): https://www.patreon.com/catrambo

Cat She says, “I’ve lost about 15% of my income from there so far, but I’m a very minor player. however if there is something the F&SF is not seeing from me but desperately yearns for, now’s the time to weigh in: “Patreon Changes”.

(21) FRONT PAGE NEWS. I have added to the File 770 sidebar a link to John Hertz’ review of The Glass Bead Game (Hesse), which has found a permanent online home.

(22) KRYPTON. SyFy has put out a teaser trailer for its series about Superman’s homeworld. ScienceFiction.com sums it up:

The series is set two generations before the destruction of the Man of Steel’s home planet. ‘Krypton’ follows Superman’s grandfather (Cameron Cuffe), whose House of El was ostracized and shamed, as he fights to redeem his family’s honor and save his world from chaos. The Seg-El name is both a nod to Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and a reference to John Byrne’s 1980s miniseries, ‘The World of Krypton.’ Cameron Cuffe is set to play Seg-El alongside with Georgina Campbell as Lyta Zod.

 

(23) THE DARK SIDE. Charles Payseur turns his attention to dark fantasy and horror in “Quick Sips – The Dark #31”.

December brings a pair of stories to The Dark Magazine that focus sharply on observation and theater. In both, women drawn into roles where they are closely watched by men, and in both these experiences are further framed in terms of a sort of voyeurism. In one, a woman is filed, in the other, a woman is part of a play. Both feature stages and bring the reader in as spectators and in some ways as participants. We are the eyes that act as camera and as audience.

(24) BLOW BY BLOW. Sci-Fi Design has a gallery of “Comic Book Covers Recreated Using Balloons”.

Comic book cover art is awesome. They use a variety of styles, but have you ever seen comic book covers that are made from balloons? These awesome balloon sculptures as comic book covers were created by Phileas Flash. They take days to make and the pieces themselves fit into a 10 foot by 10-foot space. Then photoshop is used to add the letters which are also balloons. I love all of the detail that he gets with this unusual medium.

(25) POP CULTURE SUMMIT. Rolling Stone took notes: “Alice Cooper on His Dinner With David Bowie and Ray Bradbury”.

After Cooper’s initial meeting with Bowie in the late Sixties, they later forged a friendship. Once, they even had dinner together with Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury. “It was really interesting, because these guys were in outer space somewhere,” he says. “They were talking about quantum physics, and I’m going, ‘So … what kind of car are you driving?'” Cooper laughs.

(26) CAMERON PROJECT. Alita: Battle Angel Official Trailer.

From filmmakers James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez. Alita Battle Angel is in theaters July 20, 2018. Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Greg Hullender, David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darren Garrison.]

Speaking of Seeger

By John Hertz:  Having happened to enlighten Our Gracious Host about Pete Seeger’s “Wimoweh” (1957) and the Tokens’ hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)” (1961), “wimoweh” a mis-hearing of Zulu “uyimbube” (“you’re a lion”), I thought further about how Paul Weimer heard it.

Weimer was this year’s Down Under Fan Fund delegate, and having been there and back again is now the North America Administrator for DUFF.

I was ecstatic to learn in August he’d promptly published his trip report.

After some commotion I got a copy from him, not by “downloading” but a realio trulio paper copy which I without citizenship in Electronicland could read.  It was 300 pages, printed on one side only, to a great extent photographs (very beautiful, some of them) without labels, through which I searched agonizingly. So much for Michelangelo.

However the fact remains that I still haven’t published my own report from 2010, though I did send a note here.

Thus by way of applause we might sing:

Going down under, the Fan Fund Down Under,
Paul Weimer went tonight.

A Weimer went, a Weimer went,
A Weimer went, a Weimer went.

’Cross the ocean, the peaceful ocean,
Paul Weimer went tonight.
’Cross the ocean, the quiet ocean,
Paul Weimer went tonight.

A Weimer went, a Weimer went,
A Weimer went, a Weimer went.

“Three hundred pages!” the no-’Net man rages;
Paul Weimer’s back tonight.

A Weimer went, a Weimer went,
A Weimer went, a Weimer went.

Who’s from down under, who’s next from down under?
Paul Weimer went last time.
Who’ll go to Worldcon, the San Jose Worldcon?
Paul Weimer went last time.

                                            

Alas, though none of us three knew it, Mitch Margo (1947-2017), who was 14 when as one of the Tokens he recorded “The Lion”, had died on November 24th, age 70.  R.I.P.

One for All

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1276)

“Turn!” he sang, with words
Of a king, and of his own,
“Do it now,” he meant,
“All things change,” so go change them,
“You can,” and from him, “you should.”

Randy Byers (1960-2017) was 57 when he died on November 20, 2017.

I knew he’d been in hospice care and why.  Luckily I’d been able to get addresses for his parents and a sister.  I sent a note hoping to expound the love he’d won among us.  Geri Sullivan told me the sister had read some of my message to him who though barely conscious seemed to understand.

Luckily he’d had some recognition.  The 12th and as it proved final issue of Science Fiction Five-Yearly, Lee Hoffman’s fanzine published on time for sixty years, was co-edited by him and Sullivan (2007); it won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.  Chunga by Byers, Andy Hooper, and carl juarez won four Fan Activity Achievement Awards (Best Fanzine 2003, 2005-2006, 2013) and was twice a Hugo finalist (Best Fanzine 2005-2006); Byers himself won three more FAAns (Best Fanwriter and Number One Fan Face [highest sum of points in all categories], 2003; Best Single Fanzine Issue, Alternative Pants, 2012).

Chunga 1 (2002) explained its title was a Frank Zappa allusion (Chunga’s Revenge, Bizarre Records 1970), which Byers predicted (p. 1) would dominate Chunga 23, as indeed it did, with superb covers by Ulrika O’Brien and multi-page graphics by Brad Foster, Teddy Harvia, Marc Schirmeister, España Sheriff, Stu Shiffman, Dan Steffan, Steve Stiles, D. West (2015).

By 2002 Byers had been with us a couple of decades.  In his part of the Chunga 1 edi­torial page he said he’d not helped with cons, raised money for fan funds, laughed at awful puns.  Like Hilaire Belloc breaking vows on The Path to Rome (1902) Byers falsified those statements along the road.

He was elected Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 2003; chaired Corflu XXVI (fanziners’ convention; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, readily dispensable and long indispensable; “Corflu Zed” for the Commonwealth-English name of the 26th letter in the alphabet United States and Commonwealth folk have in common), 2009; ran WOOF (Worldcon Order of Faneditors, an amateur publishing ass’n with collation at Worldcons), 69th World Science Fiction Convention, 2011; ran the Fanzine Lounge at the 73rd Worldcon, 2015.  For TAFF he beat inter alios Orange Mike who’d been nominated by inter alios Hooper, Byers afterward serving as North America Administrator until succeeded in 2005 by Suzle.  Puns – well, he solicited and published an article by me in Corflu XXVI’s Progress Report 1.

I had four poems in SF5Y he and Sullivan splendidly got Jae Leslie Adams to calligraph; one was on the back cover with a trillion trillion suns; to another he’d given fine editorial help.  I’ve fairly often been in Chunga.

Among other adventures Byers interviewed me for Tardum Flumen 7 (Westercon LXVI newsletter; West Coast S-F Conference, 4-7 Jul 13).  He seemed to find me a hopeful man.

From time to time he called me ambassadorial.  I told him I was taking it as a compliment.

Near the end he revisited Yap where he’d lived four years, and attended Corflu XXXIV.  As Mike Glyer said, “A small mercy is that many people who cared for or loved Randy had a final opportunity to share those feelings with him.”  R.I.P.

                                            

My title alludes to the fine Dave Hicks cover for Chunga 18, about which, when I saw it, I asked Byers “How do you contrive to draw left-handed from a scabbard at your left?” Pete Seeger’s “Turn!  Turn!  Turn!” (1959) quotes Ecclesiastes (attr. King Solomon; 3:1-8).

Pixel Scroll 11/27/17 And All I Ask Is A Tall Scroll And A Pixel To Godstalk Her By

(1) MORE GIFT POSSIBILITIES. C.F. Payne, who has produced covers for Time and Reader’s Digest among others, has been doing portraits of various creatives (writers, artists, musicians, et al) as demos for his art students and selling them on his Etsy page. These three examples are Lucas, Méliès, and Bradbury.

(2) OFF THE GROUND. George R.R. Martin’s 10-episode Season 1 of Nightflyers has been greenlit by SyFy.

NIGHTFLYERS will be shot in the Republic of Ireland, I’m told, on sound stages in Limerick… which will give them access to the same great pool of Irish and British actors that GAME OF THRONES has tapped in Belfast (and considering how many characters we’ve killed, a lot of them should be available). … If all goes according to schedule, the series should debut this summer, in late July. It will be broadcast on SyFy in the USA, and on Netflix around the world.

(3) ROOM DISRUPTION. Arisia 2018 takes place January 12-15 in Boston, but they just learned they’ll have to get by with almost 200 fewer rooms in their main hotel.

Q: What happened?

A: In early November the Westin informed us that its parent company has scheduled guest-room renovations. These renovations will be happening all winter and overlap the convention. During Arisia, three floors of guest rooms will be unavailable.

“Innkeeper” Holly Nelson is appealing to members to volunteer to move their reservations to a secondary hotel:

…One month into my role, Arisia received the news from the Westin about the renovations scheduled this winter. We were told 196 rooms would be unavailable and those reservations would need to transfer to the Aloft across the street. I was shocked and worried about how we would address the situation. Arisia staff members worked with the Westin to negotiate a better deal for those who would be required to move, as well as increasing how much of the Westin is reserved for our attendees to use.

If we don’t get enough volunteers, we’ll need to make involuntary transfers. If that happens we will be considering what is best for everyone who is concerned about moving. We’re working to meet the needs of as many people as possible – with the help of Arisia staff, including our Con Chair – in the most fair, impartial way we can. I would love to avoid this unpleasant duty, but that’s only possible if you volunteer by Thursday….

There are incentives for volunteering – see the FAQ.

(4) ABOUT HUGO AWARDS SITE LINKS TO THIRD PARTIES. The official Hugo Awards website’s response to criticism of Rocket Stack Rank, one of the “Third Party Recommendation Sites” linked there, has been to add a disclaimer:

I asked Kevin Standlee, who is part of the committee that runs the website, to address the broader question of why the Hugo Awards site links to other sites and how they are chosen:

The sites we’ve added have been as they came to our attention or when people asked us to add them. But a key thing is that they had to have a fixed address. People who set up a list for one year, then a new address for another year, then another new address, and so forth, we won’t add, because it’s too difficult to maintain. That has been apparently too high a bar for most people, who want to do things like set up Google Sheets for 2017, 2018, 2019, etc, with a new one every year. I’ve turned down the people whose request amounted to, “Add my site, and constantly monitor it so that when I change it to a different address, you’ll also change yours.” I have enough trouble keeping up with routine maintenance as it is.

Renay of Lady Business, this year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner, will recognize Kevin’s example.

(5) BLOCKED. In “Star Trek Fight:  Shatner Blasts Isaacs on Twitter”, James Hibbard of Entertainment Weekly notes that William Shatner has blocked Jason Isaacs on Twitter, because he says that Isaacs is preventing him from a guest role on Star Trek: Discovery.  Isaacs responds that since Star Trek:Discovery takes place just before Star Trek TOS, James T. Kirk would be about 16 on the show which leaves no room for Shatner.

William Shatner has set his Twitter shields to maximum.

The actor who played the most iconic Star Trek captain has blocked the newest actor to play a Star Trek captain —  Jason Isaacs on Star Trek: Discovery — on the social network following the latter’s comments in an interview.

Shatner hasn’t publicly stated a reason for the blocking. But it follows a UK tabloid story posted a couple of weeks ago headlined, “Jason Isaacs hopes William Shatner won’t appear in Star Trek: Discovery.” Which admittedly does sound pretty bad. But Isaacs didn’t say that — or at least didn’t seem to mean that — but rather was making a point about how it wouldn’t make sense to have Shatner in the series since his character would only be about 16 years old during the Discovery time period.

(6) THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT. John Hertz could tell from the way I spelled the lyric “A-WEEMA-WEH” that I was missing cultural nuances – beginning with the correct spelling – readily available from the Wikipedia’s entry about “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

Apparently I’m first in directing your attention to the Zulu mbube (“lion”) and uyimbube (“you’re a lion”), the spelling “Wimoweh” by Pete Seeger, and a cross-language cross-cultural trail of creativity and intellectual property (some Filers would add “appropriation”) worthy of B. Pelz’ coinage Berlitzkrieg.

The Wikipedia says this about the song’s origin:

“Mbube” (Zulu for “lion”) was written in the 1920s, by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin, who later worked for the Gallo Record Company in Johannesburg as a cleaner and record packer. He spent his weekends performing with the Evening Birds, a musical ensemble, and it was at Gallo Records, under the direction of producer Griffiths Motsieloa, that Linda and his fellow musicians recorded several songs including “Mbube,” which incorporated a call-response pattern common among many Sub-Saharan African ethnic groups, including the Zulu.

(7) 2017’S TOP HORROR. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog brings us the editors’ picks for “The Best Horror Books of 2017”. The list begins with –

Chalk, by Paul Cornell
Chalk tells the story of Andrew Waggoner, who suffers a horrifying act of violence at the hands of his school’s bullies. In his grief and anger, the boy makes contact with an old and ancient presence, which offers to help make him whole and exact terrible revenge—if he allows it. The occult horror masks a genuine exploration of how trauma can affect a person, cutting them out of the world, instilling violent fantasies of revenge, and leaving psychological wounds that linger long after the physical trauma had healed. It’s heartfelt, surreally terrifying, and utterly wrenching in ways I can only struggle to describe, and worth all the attention you can give it. Read our review.

(8) MYTHS FOR OUR TIME. Let The Guardian tell you why this is a good idea: “Mythos review – the Greek myths get the Stephen Fry treatment”.

Ever since William Godwin persuaded Charles Lamb to retell The Odyssey as a novel for younger readers in The Adventures of Ulysses (1808), the myths of ancient Greece have been retold in contemporary prose by every generation. Most of these retellings were originally poetry – the epics of Hesiod, Homer and the philhellene Latin poet Ovid, the Athenian tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides – in Mythos, Stephen Fry has narrated a selection of them in engaging and fluent prose. But do we need another version of the Greek myths in an already crowded market? Such treasured collections as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales (1853), Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (1942) and Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths (1955) are still in print. Countless family car journeys are enlivened by Simon Russell Beale’s audiobook of Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths. So should a reader looking for an initiation into the thrilling world of the ancient Greek imagination choose Fry’s book?

…Yet Fry’s ear is finely tuned to the quaint tonality of some of his ancient sources. This is best revealed in his retelling of two Homeric Hymns, to Demeter and Hermes. They deal respectively with the abduction of teenage Persephone and the theft by the newborn Hermes of his big brother Apollo’s cattle. Fry’s distinctive voice undoubtedly adds something lively, humorous and intimate to myth’s psychological dimension. People who enjoy his media personality and particular style of post?Wodehouse English drollery are in for a treat. He tells us that he imagines Hera, queen of the gods, “hurling china ornaments at feckless minions”. Ares, god of war, “was unintelligent of course, monumentally dense”. Baby Hermes tells Maia: “Get on with your spinning or knitting or whatever it is, there’s a good mother.” Epaphus, child of Zeus and Io, “was always so maddeningly blasé about his pedigree”.

(9) MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE TO END — WELL, NOT REALLY. “Secrets of the Marvel Universe” by Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair is a lengthy interview with MCU supremo Kevin Feige, including the revelation that the MCU will officially end with the release of Avengers 4 in 2019, although there will still be plenty of Marvel superhero movies after the MCU ends.

On a sweltering October weekend, the largest-ever group of Marvel superheroes and friends gathered just outside of Atlanta for a top-secret assignment. Eighty-three of the famous faces who have brought Marvel’s comic-book characters to life over the past decade mixed and mingled—Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk, bonded with Vin Diesel, the voice of Groot, the monosyllabic sapling from Guardians of the Galaxy. Angela Bassett, mother to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, flew through hurricane-like conditions to report for duty alongside Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Laurence Fishburne, and Stan Lee, the celebrated comic-book writer and co-creator of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men.

Their mission: to strike a heroic pose to commemorate 10 years of unprecedented moviemaking success. Marvel Studios, which kicked things off with Iron Man in 2008, has released 17 films that collectively have grossed more than $13 billion at the global box office; 5 more movies are due out in the next two years. The sprawling franchise has resuscitated careers (Downey), has minted new stars (Tom Hiddleston), and increasingly attracts an impressive range of A-list talent, from art-house favorites (Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange) to Hollywood icons (Anthony Hopkins and Robert Redford) to at least three handsome guys named Chris (Hemsworth, Evans, and Pratt). The wattage at the photo shoot was so high that Ant-Man star Michael Douglas—Michael Douglas!—was collecting autographs.

(10) BIZARRE HOLLYWOOD. Life and times: Escapes is a Winningly Off-Kilter Doc About the Screenwriter of Sci-Fi Classic Blade Runner” at The Stranger.

If the name Hampton Fancher rings a bell, you probably have strong opinions on the best version of Blade Runner. The screenwriter of that sci-fi classic, Fancher sports one of the damndest backstories in Hollywood, including acting appearances on Bonanza, literal ditch digging, and occasional bouts of flamenco dancing. The documentary Escapes tells the thoroughly odd, strangely endearing saga of a genial bullshitter who somehow keeps stumbling, if not always upwards, at least sideways through show business. Think Robert Evans with a smidge of self-consciousness, and prepare for a wild ride.

Beginning with a long, shaggy story involving Teri Garr, director Michael Almereyda (Experimenter) gives his subject ample room to spin his yarn, wittily utilizing a slew of media clips as Fancher wanders hither and yon between topics such as his relationship with Lolita’s Sue Lyon, Philip K. Dick’s hilariously unsmooth attempt to hit on Fancher’s then-girlfriend, and the sexual exploits of the (human) star of Flipper. As for Blade Runner, that seemingly career-defining experience receives the same breezy pass-through as the rest of his stories, further painting the picture of a man who’s proud of his achievements, but doesn’t always seem entirely certain of how all the dots came to connect….

(11) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE BURRITO. Perhaps you’ve already seen this culinary steampunk extravaganza — it’s dated 2007: “The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel” at Idle Words.

Who can imagine New York City without the Mission burrito? Like the Yankees, the Brooklyn Bridge or the bagel, the oversize burritos have become a New York institution. And yet it wasn’t long ago that it was impossible to find a good burrito of any kind in the city. As the 30th anniversary of the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel approaches, it’s worth taking a look at the remarkable sequence of events that takes place between the time we click “deliver” on the burrito.nyc.us.gov website and the moment that our hot El Farolito burrito arrives in the lunchroom with its satisfying pneumatic hiss.

The story begins in any of the three dozen taquerias supplying the Bay Area Feeder Network, an expansive spiderweb of tubes running through San Francisco’s Mission district as far south as the “Burrito Bordeaux” region of Palo Alto and Mountain View. Electronic displays in each taqueria light up in real time with orders placed on the East Coast, and within minutes a fresh burrito has been assembled, rolled in foil, marked and dropped down one of the small vertical tubes that rise like organ pipes in restaurant kitchens throughout the city.

Once in the tubes, it’s a quick dash for the burritos across San Francisco Bay. Propelled by powerful bursts of compressed air, the burritos speed along the same tunnel as the BART commuter train, whose passengers remain oblivious to the hundreds of delicious cylinders whizzing along overhead. Within twelve minutes, even the remotest burrito has arrived at its final destination, the Alameda Transfer Station, where it will be prepared for its transcontinental journey….

(12) SIX BOOKS. From Nerds of a Feather comes “6 Books with Mira Grant”:

  1. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about over time–either positively or negatively?

The Dead Zone, by Stephen King. I originally read it when I was way too young, and thought it was incredibly boring. Revisiting it as an adult was a revelation.

(13) VINTAGE DARKNESS. It used to be all you had to do was look up. Night is getting harder to find: “Idaho Dims The Lights For One Of The Best Night Skies Anywhere”.

In a high mountain valley in central Idaho over 6,000 feet in elevation, the last hint of a glow from sun fades in the western sky. The conditions are perfect as Steve Botti, an astronomy enthusiast and city councilman for the tiny town of Stanley, holds his sky quality meter to the heavens. There are no clouds, and the moon has dipped behind the craggy Sawtooth Mountains as he assesses the darkness of the sky with the little device that looks like a pager.

His arm extended and his head snugly wrapped in a beanie, Botti says, “A reading of 21.75 or higher is considered by the dark sky association to be exceptionally dark.”

On a clear night here you can see the purple cloud of the Milky Way stretched across the sky. The rare sight is possible because people are making an effort to keep the night sky dark. Dark enough, they hope, to earn a seal of approval from the International Dark-Sky Association…

(14) CARTLOADS OF CARATS. An asteroid’s leavings: “The German town encrusted with diamonds”.

During construction of the town, which was first mentioned in records in the 9th Century AD, the settlers didn’t realise the stone they were using was embedded with millions of tiny diamonds, in a concentration seen nowhere else in the world.

As I looked down on the sleepy Bavarian town from the top of the tower, it was hard to picture the area as being anything other than tranquil. It was, in fact, a violent and otherworldly event – an asteroid strike that hit 15 million years ago – that led to the strange reality of Nördlingen becoming Germany’s diamond-clad town.

… Not long after Shoemaker and Chao first visited Nördlingen, it was estimated by local geologists that the town walls and buildings contained approximately 72,000 tons of diamonds. Although suevite can be found in other parts of the world from similar impacts, nowhere is the gemstone concentration as high as it is in Nördlingen.

(15) NEW VOICE. Editor Elizabeth Fitzgerald has joined the Skiffy and Fanty Show.

I’ll be working as their YA reviewer and my first post will go up in December. In the meantime, you can hear my first outing as co-host of one of their podcasts. Paul Weimer and I chatted with C.B. Lee, Cat Rambo and Nicky Drayden about participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Last year Fitzgerald was a co-winner of the Ditmar Award for Best Fan Publication with the team of interviewers who created the Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot.

(16) 70 MM. How long will people be able to see 2001 in its original format? “Dying arts can be saved — but is it worth it?” (From the Boston Globe: may be paywalled in the near future, but isn’t yet.)

When cinema buffs celebrate the 50th anniversary of “2001: A Space Odyssey” next year, an uncomfortable question will loom larger than a malicious monolith. Does the epic sci-fi movie — the one that to its most ardent fans delivers a near-religious experience — have any future?

To true believers, the 1968 Stanley Kubrick cult classic must be viewed in its original wide-screen 70-millimeter format, an immersive visual experience augmented by the classical music score. Lauded for its crisper colors, deeper blacks, and higher-resolution images, fans see 70-millimeter as the highest expression of Hollywood artistry. The format was popularized in the 1950s to showcase movies’ technical superiority over television, and reserved for major productions like “Ben-Hur” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” But today, with Hollywood’s near-total shift to digital projection, the format faces an uncertain future — and is only held together, as a labor of love, by the efforts of a passionate community of movie fans.

…The worst case scenario is that, in a generation or two, the movie theaters may still exist, but the practical skills to build, fix, and use the specialized projectors will have vanished.

(17) GRATITUDE. Joe Stech of Compelling SF found plenty to be thankful for in his Thanksgiving post “10 issues of Compelling Science Fiction: a retrospective”.

I get asked every couple months why I spend so much time on this magazine. Most of the time I give a brief canned answer, something along the lines of “everyone needs a hobby, this is one of mine.” While that’s true, it’s a bit of a non-answer. Let me try and give a real answer here, in a few parts:

  1. Science fiction is fascinating. Like many art forms, good science fiction requires a base layer of technical skill. That’s the starting line. However, there’s a secondary layer of subject matter expertise, and a third layer that involves actually saying something meaningful about the universe we live in.
  2. Evaluating that third layer is deeply subjective, which means that no two readers will necessarily see eye to eye when reading a story. This also means that every publisher has its own set of biases when selecting stories to publish, which means that many stories that I’d enjoy never get out into the world. I want to help change that.
  3. There are extremely talented people out there producing wonderful content who never get paid for their work — I want to help support them, which is why I’ve always paid professional rates, even at the beginning when nobody was supporting the magazine. I’ve always been a proponent of putting my money where my mouth is, and I’m extremely grateful to have found magazine supporters who feel the same way.

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

The Pump Don’t Work, ’Cause the Vandals Took the Handles

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1269)  Urged by the inspiration of A.J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature ch. 13 (1958; I recommend it), I must note Shams al-Dîn Muhammad of Shîrâz (1315-1390), known by his literary name Hâfez (Arabic, “preserver”, inter alia a title of one who has committed the Koran to memory).  He left five hundred poems in the ghazal form (“spun yarn”; sounds like guzzle):

usually of between seven and twenty lines…. divided into two half-lines….  the first two half-lines rhyme, and after this the same rhyme comes at the end of each complete line, but not within the line

explains Dick Davis in his tr. Faces of Love p. lxviii (2012), who groans (p. 273; he sets pairs of half-lines in couplets; in a ghazal the poet’s name customarily appears at the end),

Translating Hafez, or Trying To

How long you’ve teased me with your tropes, Hafez,
And led me on and dashed my hopes, Hafez,

And left me like a foolish fog-bound man
Who pats and peers, and grasps and gropes, Hafez,

And thinks he’s getting somewhere till he takes
A tumble down delusion’s slopes, Hafez,

And nursing angry broken bones declares
“God damn the guide, God damn the ropes, Hafez.”

Your imperturbability is like
A really irritating pope’s, Hafez —

But there, no matter how much Dick complains
Or goes off in a sulk, or mopes, Hafez,

Tomorrow finds him shaking (just once more)
Your glittering kaleidoscopes, Hafez.

                               

Pump, vandals, handles: Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965)

Thumbs Up for Mr. Sardonicus

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1270)  Marching to a different drummer can be particularly awkward on the road with a stream of dissenters all keeping step.  Milt Stevens didn’t bother to complain (1942-2017).

He was honored, selected, and unrecognized.  He co-chaired L.A.con II (42nd World Science Fiction Convention, 1984), the largest ever and one of the best – not the same thing.  He chaired Westercon XXXIII (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference, 1980) and was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon LXI.  He chaired Loscon I (our local con, 1975) and was Fan GoH at Loscon IX.  He ran the Fanzine Lounge at Westercon LV and L.A.con IV (64th Worldcon).  He ran programming at Corflu XXXIV (fanziners’ con, 2017; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).

He was one of the finest fanwriters in the world, in his own zine The Passing Parade and elsewhere.  We never put him on the Hugo ballot.

His sense of humor was often called dry.  I might call it sandy.  It could polish you.

For a while he used the handle “Mr. Sardonicus” (and his zine for SAPS, the Spectator Amateur Press Ass’n, was Sardonicus).  The title character in William Castle’s 1961 movie Mr. Sardonicus got his face frozen in a horrifying grin.  Glow-in-the-dark cards with Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down had been distributed to the audience.  Near the end the director appeared on-screen asking for votes in a Punishment Poll.  No instance is known in which the thumbs-up ending was shown.  Some say it was never filmed.

Properly the sardonic aims at self-relief when one can do nothing else against adversity.  His blade was better pointed than that.  Presumably the name appealed to his fannish self-deprecation.  In leaving the unobservant to suppose his remarks were moved by pessimism perhaps he was sardonic.

Like many people who can write, he could read.  “We need men round us who can think and who can talk” (G. de Maupassant, “The Horla”, 1887); he was there too.

This lit up his letters of comment.  Comments are the blood of an apa, and more generally letters of comment are the blood of a fanzine.  Best are those whose authors show they have in fact read (and not, say, merely jerked a knee at) what they are commenting on.  He was there too.

I’ll tell one book story.  At cons I’ve been leading Classics of S-F talks; often I pick the classics; at Loscon XLI in 2014 one was The Stars My Destination (A. Bester, 1957).  Regency dancing (see e.g. Mimosa 29) was scheduled on Friday at 4 p.m., Stars at 2:30, so I had to conduct it in costume; couldn’t get my neckcloth right – “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840), with all the time in the world and a valet, would cheerfully discard a dozen – and arrived late.  Milt Stevens had cheerfully started discussion.  As I walked in he was just pointing out Bester’s careful structure: starting in the dark, climaxing in the cathedral, ending in the light (Van 1125).

He was generous to his club – L.A. S-F Society, oldest in the world – with effort, money, as might be needed and he had at hand.  At the first LASFS clubhouse, he did so much cleaning up he called himself the Lord High Janitor.  He’d been attending since 1960.  He was President in 1970.  He was given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award, in 1971.  He served long on the Board of Directors, sometimes in its chair.  At the third clubhouse, parking restrictions were problematic.  He arranged to meet with police and transit authorities, brought the club’s lawyer, who was also a fan, and found a solution.

Other generosities have emerged, regarding fans, fanzines, conventions.  Among other service, he was on the Board of the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (yes, that spells SCIFI; pronounced “skiffy”; sponsor of three Worldcons, a NASFiC, three Westercons, the Rotsler Award, and an edition of Harry Warner’s history of 1950s fandom A Wealth of Fable).

If you looked for him at a con you might find him in the bar, wearing a sports jacket, drinking Bud Light.  If you gave much weight to such things, or his mild manner, you might write him off as respectable.  He was – but in fact by our standards.  Ave atque vale.

Down One at the Dep’t of Terminology

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1256)  While in Chicago for law school I lived on the Near North Side.  This was not meant as a defection from Hyde Park my childhood home, just closer to school.  Going to Antioch instead of the University of Chicago for a baccalaureate had already made me a Black Sheep, and then Northwestern U. law school instead of U. Chicago compounded the – but that’s another story.

Anyhow, nearby was a multi-level something, with an open core, turned into shops.  One was Fong’s Bakery, run by a Chinese woman named Fong Chu (Fong being the surname, placed first Chinese style).  She sold perhaps two dozen Chinese bakery goods, helpfully labeled in Chinese and English.  I brought friends there.

Among the goodies – or baddies– were po-luo pao, pineapple buns (another way of writing spells that word bao, like Peking and Beijing for the Chinese capital).

The buns had no pineapple in them.  This perplexed my friends.  “Where,” my friends asked poor Ms. Fong, “is the pineapple?”

Just as perplexed she answered, more politely than I paraphrase here, “Pineapple?  What pineapple?  Why should there be pineapple?”  This could go on awhile.

Eventually it emerged that they were called pineapple buns – indeed how they’re known to Chinese – not because they contained pineapple, because they looked like pineapples.  The tops are brown and cross-hatched.

Long an amateur terminologist, I was training to be a professional terminologist.  The Pineapple Bun adventure stayed in mind.

In Whittier the other day I was admiring the Lou Henry Hoover fountain at Beverly and Norwalk Boulevards.  She (1929-1933) was the wife of President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964; in office 1929-1933), whom she met in their undergraduate days at Stanford; she went with him to China in 1899 and became fluent in Mandarin; she had many ties to this California town.  Across the street was a Starbucks shop.  A sign there said “Try our new octopus cookies.”

I asked “Are they made with real octopus?”

“No, they’re just shaped like an octopus.”

Clang!