Pixel Scroll 4/19/17 I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Pixel Scroller

(1) VALENTINELLI CONSIDERS ANTIHARASSMENT PROJECTS. Monica Valentinelli has issued a “Tentative Plan for Con Safety Discussion and Call for Feedback”.

…I want to stress, however, that I am no expert on the subject of con safety. There are several people (4) who are already doing the work to make cons/events safer, and I feel that any forthcoming materials needs to emphasis those efforts and individuals. As I mentioned in the previous post, the discussion about con safety is far bigger than what happened at one con, and there can definitely be more than one solution (5) and multiple books.

What I Can Offer

Besides offering support, words of encouragement, or signal boosting where I can (6), I’ve had a few volunteers saying they’d be willing to help put together a book (7) on con safety. Doing so is complex, because a) it collates invaluable knowledge from existing volunteers b) people need to be paid fairly for their time c) it needs to be inclusive to address “what’s missing” from underrepresented groups d) it requires a publisher and ample distribution and e) possibly a Kickstarter….

(2) NERD CON SAYS GOODBYE. Nerd Con, an Escondido, CA event, sent its fans into mourning when they announced on March 31 that the con is kaput.

Nerd Con Announcement:

These past years have been so much fun and we’ve had such a blast meeting so many awesome people. Its been really exiting bringing people together through our events (Nerd Con, Nerdy New Year) and creating memories that will surely last a lifetime.

We would like to thank the multitude of really great people who spent countless hours of time and dedicated their energy into making Nerd Con and Nerdy New Year special events for everyone.

At this time we no longer have the necessary resources to continue producing these events. We realize that this may come as a shock to many of you and we would like to thank you in advance for your patience and understanding….

It may have been a touch overdramatic to say “These past years have been so much fun…” The con’s only been around for two years — the first was in 2015.

But that’s been long enough to energize a few critics. Some wag put up a webpage with the message “Nerd-Con 2017 in Escondido IS CANCELLED for non-payment for services” and filled it with complaints about his experiences at last year’s con.

(3) BACK TO KRYPTON. Might as well start covering this now, I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about the series as time goes on — “Syfy’s Krypton: In Leaked Pilot Trailer, Grandpa Has a Message for Superman”.

The story of your family isn’t how we died, but how we lived.”

That’s the message being left by Kal-El’s grandfather in a leaked (and since-deleted, sorry!) trailer for Syfy’s upcoming Superman prequel pilot, Krypton.

Penned by David S. Goyer (Man of Steel) and Ian Goldberg (Once Upon a Time), Krypton is set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s home planet and follows the future Man of Steel’s forefather — Seg-El (played by The Halcyon‘s Cameron Cuffe), whose House of El was ostracized and shamed — as he fights to redeem his family’s honor and save his beloved world from chaos.

The cast also includes Georgina Campbell (Broadchurch) as Lyta Zod, a military cadet and Seg-El’s romantic interest; Ian McElhinney (Game of Thrones) as Seg-El’s own grandpa, a genius fascinated by space exploration; Rasmus Hardiker (Black Mirror) as Seg-El’s best friend; Elliot Cowen (Da Vinci’s Demons) as chief magistrate Daron Vex; and Wallis Day (The Royals) as Daron’s daughter Nyssa.

(4) MAJOR BLABBAGE. DenofGeek brings “Doctor Who: huge Christmas special rumors” – coverage that comes with a big fat warning sign —

Huge rumours could become huge spoilers, so only read this article about the Doctor Who Christmas special if you’re okay with that…

The Mirror is reporting that David Bradley will portray William Hartnell’s first Doctor in the 2017 Christmas special, (sort of) reprising his role from the 2013 making-of drama, An Adventure In Space And Time.

“In the plot, the 1st Doctor has to help the 12th [Peter Capaldi] play out his last mission in the TARDIS. The pair must work together to save [their] home planet Gallifrey by moving it to another dimension”, The Mirror claims.

The tabloid’s report continues: “Fans will discover the close-up shot of Capaldi’s eyes from the 50th [anniversary] special The Day Of The Doctor, was actually the start of his own regeneration.”

(5) VERSATILE AUTHOR LAUNCHES PATREON. Since we last heard from Malcolm Cross (“Malcolm Cross, MilSF, and Piracy”), the author of Dog Country, Dangerous Jade, and Extinction Biome:  Invasion, Dog Country has been nominated for the Ursa Major and Coyotl Awards, which are the equivalent of a Hugo and Nebula for furry writers.  Cross has started a Patreon to reignite his career.

(6) HAPPY NEW YEAR! Standback’s Short Story Squee & Snark online short story club is starting on stories from 2017.

With a whole Internet constantly supplying us with excellent short fiction, SSS&S is devoted to reading short stories often, and widely. Every week we read a story – hopping between magazines, authors, styles and subgenres. Then, we meet up back here and discuss – love it or loathe it, being able to talk stories over is often half the fun!

We’re kicking off discussing Sarah Pinsker’s “And Then There Were (N-One)” – the story of SarahCon, the exciting new convention for Sarah Pinskers from across the multiverse.

And, entering a new year of short fiction, we’re very eager for story recommendations – tell us what stories from 2017 you’d love to see discussed, because we’d love to discuss ’em!

(7) 70TH EASTERCON. Last weekend the bid for Ytterbium was chosen to host the 2019 British Eastercon over the Easter weekend, April 19-22 at the Park Inn, Heathrow.

The Guests of Honour will be Frances Hardinge, Sydney Padua, John Scalzi, and DC.

Follow them here on Facebook.

And if someone is willing to alleviate my ignorance of who DC is, please do!

(8) KAYMAR. Congratulations to long-time fan John Thiel on winning the N3F’s Kaymar Award for 2017.

The Kaymar Award is given in April every year, supposedly because the [National Fantasy Fan Federation] was organized in the month of April. The award, unlike other awards in fandom, can only be awarded once to a single person. It is not given for talent or for popularity, but for work — work for the benefit of the club and its members. The award is a memorial to K. Martin Carlson [1904-1986], who originated, maintained, and financed it for 25 years. Carlson was a long-time N3F member who held many positions in the club, including club historian. He went by the fan name of Kaymar

(9) LOST LOSS LEADER. For a mere $29,000 you can own a Lost In Space B-9 Robot 3rd Season Ultimate Prop Replica. (Though wouldn’t you think you could get the original for that much money?)

This B9 Robot was given the privilege to appear at the “50th Anniversary of Lost in Space” at the Hollywood show in Los Angeles. It also held a private exclusive photo shoot with the cast along with their signatures. Photo’s and video will be made available as part of this sale.

3rd season version (paint & finish as seen in the final season)

Functioning Components:

– Lots of Sound FX and Dialogue from the series!
– This Robot has a 6 channel remote control that works 5 motors.
– The Robot will come to life at your control and you can impress family and friends.
– It has dual arm & claw extensions that will open and close, move forward and back.
– The Robot has a rotating torso, entire functions may be used at same time to bring the Robot to life.

(10) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Some say they were creeped out by the commercial for ”Pandora: The World of Avatar”, which opens May 27 at Walt Disney World in Florida.

To others, Avatar feels like a distant memory now, but according to Polygon

It may seem strange for an Avatar-themed park to be opening in 2017, but the Avatar franchise is far from over. Last April, Fox confirmed Cameron would direct Avatar 2, Avatar 3, Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 over the course of the next six years, with the final movie expected to be released around Christmas 2023. Avatar 2, the sequel to Cameron’s box office-breaking 2009 film, will be released around Christmas 2018.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

The object in the water was not a form of marine life. It was a toy submarine outfitted with a sea-serpent head. This was revealed in 1994 when Christian Spurling, before his death at the age of 90, confessed to his involvement in a plot to create the famous Surgeon’s Photo, a plot that involved both Marmaduke Wetherell and Colonel Wilson.

  • April 19, 1987 — The first television appearance of The Simpsons — Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie — aired during the third episode of The Tracey Ullman Show.

(12) RESONANCE IMAGERY. Justira at Lady Business undertakes a deep. politically-based critique of two works in “Flawed Protagonists, Reader Discomfort, and the Semiotics of the Self: ‘Borderline’ & ‘White Tears’”.

…So let’s return to Millie before we move on to Seth and White Tears. One of Millie’s defining traits as a protagonist, when it comes to my reading experience, is that she made me uncomfortable, brought me discomfort. Sometimes this was the simple discomfort of a protagonist doing an obviously bad thing. That’s relatively was easy to deal with. But sometimes it was the book making a point. Let’s take Millie’s self-consciousness about her racism — that made me uncomfortable, too. Millie will form some negative impression of a character and then wonder, it’s not because he’s a POC, is it? Or, conversely, Millie will desire a POC in a pretty… shall we say, colour-coded way. This, she was less self-conscious about, but juxtaposed with the flip side of her racism, it seemed obvious to me. To me, Millie’s experience of this in her own head — am I thinking this because of X-ism? — ran perfectly parallel to my experience as a reader in regards to Millie: am I finding her unlikable in this moment because I’m ableist? This book uses reader discomfort as a tool to achieve a sociopolitical goal, to achieve a certain kind of consciousness, self-consciousness….

(13) SUBMISSION. Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s analysis and opinion, in “Drupal Developer Larry Garfield Ostracized Over Involvement in Sci-Fi Based Kink Community” on Reason’s “Hit and Run” blog, turns out to be about the consequences to an industry leader of being part of a community of “Goreans,” who are devotees of the novels of John Norman. (Amazing to find Gor novels in the news 40 years later.) A lot of the arguments about the interplay of personal rights and membership in communities are familiar from comments on various topics here.

Inc points out that “the deeper question about how much tolerance should be afforded to controversial views is one that has popped up multiple times in open-source communities” in recent years, from Brendan Eich’s removal as CEO of Mozilla over his opinion on same-sex marriage to the drama surrounding LambdaConf’s inclusion of programmer Curtis Yarvin (who runs a neoreactionary blog in his non-professional life).

Buytaert was at first quite explicit on his answer to this question. In a section of his blog post that’s now been deleted, the Drupal head opined that “someone’s belief system inherently influences their actions, in both explicit and subtle ways,” and wrote that he is “unwilling to take this risk going forward” with regard to Garfield’s potential beliefs about sex and gender potentially spilling over into his professional life. And here’s the real rub of it:

Larry’s continued representation of the Drupal project could harm the reputation of the project and cause harm to the Drupal ecosystem. Any further participation in a leadership role implies our community is complicit with and/or endorses these views, which we do not.

Whether Buytaert himself believes that Garfield is a sexist pervert is irrelevant—he’s clearly worried that other people will perceive Garfield as a sexist pervert, and afraid that this will create bad public-relations for Drupal. Rather than practice what he preaches about tolerance, respect, and creating “a culture of open-mindedness toward difference,” Buytaert offered up Garfield for social-justice sacrifice in order to appease prudes and busybodies. Here’s hoping the tech community continues to reject this sort of phony promise of diversity and attempts at inclusiveness through exclusion.

(14) FIRST NATIONS. Take Us to Your Chief and Other Stories: Classic Science Fiction with a Contemporary First Nations Outlook, edited by Drew Hayden Taylor, was released April 11.

A forgotten Haudenosaunee social song beams into the cosmos like a homing beacon for interstellar visitors. A computer learns to feel sadness and grief from the history of atrocities committed against First Nations. A young Native man discovers the secret to time travel in ancient petroglyphs.

Drawing inspiration from science fiction legends like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, Drew Hayden Taylor frames classic science-fiction tropes in an Aboriginal perspective.

The nine stories in this collection span all traditional topics of science fiction–from peaceful aliens to hostile invaders; from space travel to time travel; from government conspiracies to connections across generations. Yet Taylor’s First Nations perspective draws fresh parallels, likening the cultural implications of alien contact to those of the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, or highlighting the impossibility of remaining a “good Native” in such an unnatural situation as a space mission.

Infused with Native stories and variously mysterious, magical and humorous, Take Us to Your Chief is the perfect mesh of nostalgically 1950s-esque science fiction with modern First Nations discourse.

(15) SENSE OF WONDER. John Joseph Adams’ Cosmic Powers anthology was released April 18 – cover by Chris Foss.

“Inspired by movies like The Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars, this anthology features brand-new epic stories from some of science fiction’s best authors.  For fans who want a little less science and a lot more action.”

Table of Contents

A Temporary Embarrassment in Spacetime  —  Charlie Jane Anders
Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance  —  Tobias S. Buckell
The Deckhand, the Nova Blade, and the Thrice-Sung Texts  —  Becky Chambers
The Sighted Watchmaker  —  Vylar Kaftan
Infinite Love Engine  —  Joseph Allen Hill
Unfamiliar Gods  —  Adam-Troy Castro, with Judi B. Castro
Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World  —  Caroline M. Yoachim
Our Specialty is Xenogeology  —  Alan Dean Foster
Golden Ring  —  Karl Schroeder
Tomorrow When We See the Sun  —  A. Merc Rustad
Bring the Kids and Revisit the Past at the Traveling Retro Funfair  !—  Seanan McGuire
The Dragon that Flew Out of the Sun  —  Aliette De Bodard
Diamond and the World Breaker  —  Linda Nagata
The Chameleon’s Gloves  —  Yoon Ha Lee
The Universe, Sung in Stars  —  Kat Howard
Wakening Ouroboros  —  Jack Campbell
Warped Passages  —  Kameron Hurley
The Frost Giant’s Data  —  Dan Abnett

(16) VERNE DISCOVERY. Mysterious Universe says a Jules Verne time capsule has been found after researchers analyzed hints about its location on his tomb.

So far, the box has only been examined with X-rays and, unfortunately, it and the materials inside show deterioration from being buried since the late 1800s – Verne died on March 24, 1905. According to Paris Descartes University Field Archaeologist Elouan Beauséjour, the papers appear damp and crumbling and the engravings on the inside of the box are nearly illegible. Other things that can be identified include books and metal objects. Beauséjour says the examination has moved to a more detailed phase that may involve opening the box in a sterile and preservative environment. He plans to issue a statement as this progresses.

(17) CAPITAL INFUSION. Not quite another The Leaky Establishment reference, but some unexpected people are getting into nuclear power: “British reality star building a fusion reactor”.

Although it would be easy to dismiss Dinan as a dreamer, his startup Applied Fusion Systems is one of a growing number of firms investing in the promise of fusion. In the UK alone, there are at least two other companies trying to produce commercial nuclear fusion power stations. And as BBC Future reported last year, in the US, several projects have received the backing of wealthy technology billionaires including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel and former Google vice president Mike Cassidy.

(18) COOL BEANS. And a lab demo of “negative mass”.

Prof Peter Engels, from Washington State University (WSU), and colleagues cooled rubidium atoms to just above the temperature of absolute zero (close to -273C), creating what’s known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

In this state, particles move extremely slowly, and following behaviour predicted by quantum mechanics, acting like waves.

They also synchronise and move together in what’s known as a superfluid, which flows without losing energy.

To create the conditions for negative mass, the researchers used lasers to trap the rubidium atoms and to kick them back and forth, changing the way they spin.

When the atoms were released from the laser trap, they expanded, with some displaying negative mass.

“With negative mass, if you push something, it accelerates toward you,” said co-author Michael Forbes, assistant professor of physics at WSU.

He added: “It looks like the rubidium hits an invisible wall.”

(19) SHIRLEY YOU JEST. When John Hertz cast his eye on the new Shirley Jackson bio Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (a Stoker nominee) this is what he discovered –

I turned to the index and found no entry for “One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts”. Various other works of hers were listed.

I haven’t read the book so can’t say if the story is included in the text and merely omitted from the index, or left out entirely.

Opinions differ as to whether it’s a horror story. I don’t think it is, but I do think it wonderful.

(20) FIRST PAST THE POST. Camestros Felapton rates “Hugo 2017: Best Dramatic Presentation Short”. Did that nominee we have already read Camestros raving about come in number one on his ballot? Well, yes!

(21) FURTHER DELIBERATIONS. More reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury – the hardest-working critics on the planet! Superb writers, too.

Empire V is about vampires, which is probably guaranteed to turn away many readers who could happily go the rest of their lives without seeing another vampire. The figure of the vampire has by this point been made to stand in for so many disparate things—the sexual predator, the romantic outsider, the lonely immortal, the feral beast, whatever—that the image feels quite emptied of meaning in itself. Merely knowing that there are vampires in a story no longer tells us anything useful about it. At best, one might make two safe guesses: one, that the story is not going to be about vampirism as such; two, that the vampires will be in some way a fringe element to society.

The first three books on my Sharke shortlist were an unabashed joy to me. Valente, Tidhar and Jemisin all delivered to my personal tastes in terms of prose, character and moral tone. I picked those books because I thought they would push my buttons and they did. I felt minimal friction while reading them or writing about them. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee was and is a different animal altogether; a book that I found challenging, elusive, tantalising and frustratingly obtuse by turns. This is unsurprising. I’m a historian and a medievalist by training, so military SF predicated on advanced mathematics is always going to test my limits. After 30 pages of immersion in Lee’s world I found myself entirely at a loss for what the hell was going on. My paradigmatic understanding of how things work smacked into the world of the novel at high speed. Stuff exploded, characters were killed, geocide was committed and I was left feebly grasping at threads as they whipped past me. I might have given up on the book in discombobulated despair if not for the muscular grip of the writing:

Hunters & Collectors is a book about celebrity and the way that online celebrity interacts with social class. Tomahawk presents himself as this hedonistic and transgressive figure but as his destruction suggests, his ability to transgress the rules of polite society is constrained by a particular social contract: As a critic, he can express himself as honestly as he wants as long as that self-expression does not extend beyond the realms of consumer advice to a critique of existing power structures and social systems. Be as rude as you like about restaurant owners, but don’t you dare talk about the government. The social contract also has an – unwritten but understood – rule that your celebrity and popularity are entirely dependent upon your ability to face the right direction at all times. Be as rude as you like about the out-group, but don’t you dare talk about people we aspire to be lest we turn against you. There is also an understanding that making any statement in public (even anonymously) positions you in a world where everyone spends their time tearing each other to pieces. Face the wrong direction and your support will evaporate and once your support evaporates, you can be utterly destroyed even if you have not done or said anything wrong. This is a dog-eat-dog world but only for those without any real power.

What I know as the Ashmolean Museum is, in Kavenna’s Oxford, the Tradescantian Ark, reflecting the fact that the collection Elias Ashmole gave to Oxford University was in part composed of John Tradescant the Younger’s collection of artefacts, known as the Ark, which he gave to Ashmole (or, depending on who you listen to, which Ashmole swindled him out of). So, perhaps we are in an Oxford which is less a ‘home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties’, as Matthew Arnold memorably described it, and instead a place where potential wrongs have been righted even before they were committed, and Jeremiah Tradescant’s ownership of his family’s remarkable collection is justly celebrated. Perhaps, but rather as light is both particle and wave, so wrongs can be righted even as the lost causes and forsaken beliefs persist.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Et in Arcadia Ego

By John Hertz: Speaking of Nero Wolfe, which I think is worth doing provided it’s one of Rex Stout’s stories, while happening to re-read ”Murder Is Corny” (1964) I found this – who knows how many times I’d seen it before it struck a spark (1980 Bantam printing of the collection Trio for Blunt Instruments, p. 134):

There it is, your one major flaw: a distorted conception of the impossible.

Stout never says Wolfe gave s-f a thought.  But what more could you ask?

The Latin above may come from the poet Virgil.  Literally it’s “And [even] in Arcadia, I am”.

In a painting by Guercino of about 1620 (the cautious say “1618-1622”; computer lovers will recognize my choice) idyllic shepherds find it on a tomb.  If you read E. Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945), which I think is worth doing, you’ll find it’s the first part.

You can look up “Arcadia”.  And you can decide for yourself about the rest.

An Earlier Forerunner Saga

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1242)

Queenly women of forests unmanned,
How may we go to reach Herland?
Feat and feat and other feat.
May any helpful easement be?
Smooth each road that ye can see.

Every month from November 1909 through December 1916, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) wrote all thirty pages of The Forerunnner, including advertisements.  She serialized Herland there (1915), and its sequel With Her in Ourland (1916; completed in F’s final issue).

By 1909 she was already famous for Women and Economics (1898), with four printings (nine by 1920), translated into Danish, Dutch, German, Italian, and Russian.  She had speaking engagements across the United States and in Britain.  Jane Addams praised her, and she worked at Hull House; William Dean Howells said she had the best brains of any woman in America.  She played whist and chess.  She was a contributing editor to The American Fabian.

I have not found she read Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888) – that may be in her archive, Schlesinger Library, 3 James St., Cambridge, MA 02138 – but she appeared in the Nationalist, journal of the Bellamy movement, and was an officer in the Nationalist Club of Oakland, California.

Herland was neglected until Ann J. Lane (1931-2013) got Pantheon to republish it in 1979.  On the back Joanna Russ says “It’s a lovely, funny book.  There is a wonderful flavor of Golden Age science fiction, which adds to the fun and doesn’t in the least spoil the argument, which is still fresh and very much of today.”

Ourland was republished by Praeger in 1997.  Mary Jo Deegan (1946-  ) in a 57-page introduction calls it “no less witty, no less sage” (p. 1), “less pessimistic about human relations”, “more courageous” (p. 3), and regrets Lane’s moan, in a 24-page introduction to Herland, that “where Herland skips and sprints, Ourland trudges” (H p. xvi, O p. 5); on the contrary, there is (O id.) “hilarious satire….  Ourland is intellectually more difficult”.

In Herland three men hear of and then find a remote country, somewhere in South America, populated only by women for two thousand years.  No other male visitors; no men hidden, nor born and expelled or worse; a woman bore a daughter parthenogenetically, it bred true, and their descendants thrive.  “We had expected a dull submissive monotony, and found a daring…. a social consciousness…. a broad sisterly affection, a fair-minded intelligence…. health and vigor … calmness of temper” (ch. 7).  The men each fall in love; marriages are invented; one man offends and must go, one couple stays, one man returns with his wife to the wide wide world as told in Ourland.

These might be science fiction; anyway, they are speculative fiction.  We might deem them thought-experiments.  With due respect to Russ and nil nisi bonum, my view is not that the fun doesn’t spoil the argument: I think the shoe is on the other foot.

Herland is neat, imaginative, warm-hearted; I’m not sorry I read Ourland, but.  Eventually the emigrant asks her husband “What is your prejudice against socialism?” to which he – narrator of both books – replies “I was obliged to exhibit my limitations…. without waiting to be careful … I produced a jumble of popular emotions…. [she] laughed merrily, both at this nondescript mass of current misconception, and at my guilty yet belligerent air….  She … looked far past me – through me” (O ch. 9); alas, so must we with the author.  Nero Wolfe in Prisoner’s Base (ch. 12; R. Stout, 1952) said “You also know when to stop.”

Care to Run a Westercon?

By John Hertz: Westercon is the annual West Coast Science Fantasy Conference. It’s almost as old as the Worldcon – July 1-4, 2017, in Tempe, Arizona, will be Westercon LXX.

In our happy world we have local cons, regional cons, national cons, international cons, and a Worldcon; special-interest and general-interest cons. Westercon is a regional general-interest con.

“West Coast” means the west coast of North America, but not strictly: the con can be as far east as 104° West Longitude, and as far off the coast the other way as Hawaii. It’s been in El Paso (Westercon XLIX, farthest east to date); Honolulu (Westercon LIII, farthest south and west); and Calgary (Westercon LVIII, farthest north).

You can learn more at this official Website, which has, among other things, the By-Laws.

Or there are lots of folks with whom you can confer outside Electronicland; me, for instance, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

As with many of our cons, Westercon sites are chosen by vote, currently two years in advance. Last year we voted on the 2017 Westercon; this year we’ll vote on 2019.

We invite would-be Westercon hosts to file a bid (Section 3.5 of the By-Laws).

But what if, as a famous flying squirrel put it, that trick doesn’t work?

Not so long ago a bid was campaigning unopposed – usually a compliment, in effect the community saying “We can’t do better than you, go ahead” – but by voting-time had unfortunately lost our confidence, and didn’t get enough votes. So site-selection went to the Business Meeting, Another bid which had previously been a joke decided to get real, made a fine presentation, answered questions well, and was voted in.

This year we have another adventure. Normally, Westercon alternates among three regions, North, Central, and South. If any bid from outside the current region files by a stated deadline, the current region can’t. But if that doesn’t happen, alternation is set aside; the gates are thrown open; it’s anybody’s game. That’s where we are as I write.

So now’s your chance. File by April 15th (the official Website tells you how, and explains our few requirements; or you can learn in other ways) and it could be you.

You’ll still have to get votes. You don’t have to have experience working on Westercons, but it sure helps. You do have to persuade the rest of us that you can do it.

What if no one files by the 15th? Well, that’s in the By-Laws too. But don’t make us go there.

Submitted for Your Consideration

Margot Lee Shetterly

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1237)  Perhaps the book many of us were reading for Black History Month [February in the U.S.] was Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures (2016).  More accurately, if less poetic, the figures weren’t so much hidden as unrecognized: vital mathematics, and black women mathematicians, in the work of the United States National Aeronautics & Space Administration, and its predecessor the Nat’l Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, from World War II aircraft production through the Space program.

Since much of the work was at Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, it was done in the teeth of race and sex prejudice.  If you were black, or a woman, or both, mathematics was not for you.  You were discouraged from starting it; regardless of interest and ability, discouraged from pursuing it; regardless of achievement, thwarted from a career in it.  Employers who needed mathematicians turned away from you.  You might be hired as a schoolteacher.

Shetterly focusses on four black women who did it anyway, Christine Darden, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan.  There were dozens more, maybe a hundred.  Johnson inter alia verifying the calculations for John Glenn’s orbit of the Earth in 1962 eventually received the Medal of Freedom; Darden got a doctorate in mechanical engineering; Jackson became manager of the Federal Women’s Program at Langley; Vaughan was appointed to head Langley’s West Area Computers, which then meant people, later machines, that computed.  Shetterly in 2013 founded the Human Computer Project to archive the work of all such women during the early days of NACA and NASA.

Hidden Figures took six years.  In the NASA technical-reports database she could see the progression of aeronautical research and development from the 1920s.  At the National Archive she might find some cardboard box that had obviously gotten wet and nobody had looked at since 1946.  Her 265 pages are followed by five pages of acknowledgments, forty-five of notes; her bibliography starts with ten archives and thirty-three personal interviews.  Her father was a Langley research scientist, her mother was an English professor at historically black Hampton University.  Jackson worked three years for Shetterly’s father.  “As a child,” says Shetterly, “I knew so many African Americans working in science, math, and engineering that I thought that’s just what black folks did” (p. xiii).  By 1984, only 2% of all U.S. engineers were black — but 8% of all NASA engineers.

“This is not science fiction” opens Chapter 17.  Shetterly is quoting President Eisen­hower’s preface to a 1958 Introduction to Outer Space by his Advisory Committee on Science.  Six chapters later she is with Star Trek.  At the end of its first television season in 1967 Nichelle Nichols, who played communications officer Lt. Uhura, turned in her resignation so she could go back to acting on Broadway.  That weekend during a civil-rights fund­raiser she was asked to meet her greatest fan — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  “It was the only show that he and his wife, Coretta, allowed their children to watch, and he never missed an episode….  ‘You can’t leave the show,’ King said to Nichols.  ‘We are there because you are there….  This is a unique role that brings to life what we are marching for: equality’” (p. 243).  Nichols stayed.

I can hardly rejoice at either of these views, that “the reverie of space travel” is “the purview of novelists and eccentrics” (p. 175 — what a conjunction!), or that social significance is our merit.  We have, I’ve argued, been poisoned as much by one as the other.  A more pervasive sor­row of this book is that it’s full of clinkers.  The next sentence after the eccentrics is “The only thing that rivaled Americans’ fear of the Soviet Union’s incipient prowess in the heavens was their wounded pride,” with its off-key incipient prowess, erring reference of their to heavens, false metaphor of wounded pride rivaling fear.  Two pages later, with alas much in between, is a “three-dimensional Cartesian plane”.  But as Eugene McDaniels sang in 1967, “Try to make it real — compared to what?”  In the circumstances these are minor.  The author is an archeologist, and a good one.

That Riverside Whelan Exhibit

By John Hertz:  We’ve long known Michael Whelan was among our best.

He was first a Hugo Award finalist in 1979, for Best Pro Artist.  Next year he won that, and since then twelve times more, plus Nonfiction Book for his Works of Wonder (1988) and Original Artwork for The Summer Queen (1992), an unequaled 15 Hugos; 31 times a finalist.

He was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at the 56th World Science Fiction Convention and (with Amano Yoshitaka) at the 65th.

He’s been voted Best Artist in 31 Locus Polls, most recently in 2016; 44 times a finalist.

He has 13 Chesleys (Ass’n of S-F Artists); 53 times a finalist.  More honors too.

Now the Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, California, is holding an exhibit of his work, as announced (with links) here.  It opened on February 11th and runs through May 25th.

That’s news.  In the wide wide world our graphic art is not well-known.  People familiar with Chen Ju-Yuan or Salvador Dalí or Tamara de Lempicka or Paula Rego or Andrew Wyeth aren’t acquainted with Michael Whelan.  He is not in the New York Museum of Modern Art, or the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Vincent Di Fate’s superb and still indispensable survey Infinite Worlds is not on curators’ shelves.

The Riverside Art Museum is a pioneer in staging an exhibit of a leading S-F artist.

I went to the opening-night reception.  Here’s the banner outside the front door.  You’ll recognize the striking 1984 cover illustration for Asimov’s Robots of Dawn.

Whelan seems to have adopted the term alternative realism; see it on the banner.  It suits him.  It may be a good name for the mode of which he is such a master.  The greater the reality, the better the fantasy is elemental to S-F.

I found him surrounded by admirers – which was as it should be – wearing a Revolver necktie and answering questions.  When I remarked on the tie, a man said “Oh yes, old Beatles.”  I said “Old-fashioned is old-fashioned.”

The Museum has done well by him.  A gallery of 1,560 square feet (146 square meters) displays 54 pieces, some time-honored, some new.

The exhibit, and a Kickstarter commemorative book, are called Beyond Science Fiction.  This may be wise.

Before I went, I winced.  Did we need another apology?  Another variation on Robert Conquest’s theme “‘S-F’s no good,’ they bellow till we’re deaf.  ‘But this is good.’  ‘Well, then, it’s not S-F”?

Looking at the pictures I saw a different perspective.

Most of them were book covers (I’ll get to “palette gremlins” in a moment).  They were, they had to be, indeed they were proudly illustrations.  Whelan is an illustrator.

Kelly Freas would never let himself be named anything else; he declined artist (over my protest, among others), and viewed with suspicion what he more or less privately called “easel painters”.

Of course an illustration has to illustrate – which means shed light on.  It had better be good art – but what’s that? not that it means nothing: we’d not keep using it if we thought it meant nothing: but it’s fiendishly difficult to get a grip on.  Kelly Freas (that was his surname, folks) used to say an illustration has to make you want to read the story.

Superficial?  Maybe so, in a way.  If you think it’s only superficial, think again.

The best illustration (1) satisfies the illustrator (2) satisfies the author (3) sheds light on the story (4) makes people want to read the story – and, if you will, (5) makes the publisher think it will make people want to read the story.

Down that road is the possibility that the very best illustration, in addition to and without in the least failing (1-4) or (1-5), may also reach people who run into it apart from the story, have never heard of the story, don’t know there is a story, don’t know the picture they’re looking at is an illustration.

Does that necessarily follow?  I don’t know.  Ask again later.  But it came to me from pictures at an exhibition.

Of course read and story needn’t be literal.  A Kelly Freas picture was used by the band Queen.  Whelan pictures have been used by the Jacksons and by Meat Loaf.

In that sense I applaud the title Beyond Science Fiction.  Yes, maybe it’s a lure, maybe a needed lure to draw people who might not otherwise – I’ll say it – dare to come here and look.  Also I think it says These images are science fiction; certainly they are; we don’t hesitate [I hope] to say so; in addition to which and not failing it in the least they reach farther and are worthy for themselves.

That’s why they’re in the Riverside Art Museum.

I said I’d get to “palette gremlins”.  They are – I’ll quote Whelan,

small creations found in random shapes … errant fingerprints and paint smears … usually on a palette or the mat board I use to protect my drawing table….  I added a touch here and a brush stroke there until the abstract elements began to resolve….  Passage: The Red Step was suggested by shapes in the over-spray left from a complex airbrushing session….  when they spark an idea that leads to a larger work, it feels like a gift from my Muse!…  The point of it all, however, is to play with some paint – and see what happens.

One wall has a dozen.  One of them, Amethyst Fantasy, I saw was lent by Shaun Tan.

You know some of the pictures.  You have books they cover, or prints, or Infinite Worlds or one of Whelan’s own books – which I recommend – or you can summon them from Electronicland.  See the originals.  See them often and long.  Each medium is different.

Study originals.  Go to this exhibit if you can.  Bring what you have with you and compare.  Bring a sketchbook and copy them, or an easel (in a good cause, Kelly) and a paintbox; get permission.  Beethoven wrote out a Mozart string quartet; he was perfectly able to read the score, and he intended to write his own music, but he wanted to get into his fingers what Mozart had done.

And if you ask “What has Whelan done for us lately?” cast a Cottleston on this, “In a World of Her Own” from 2016.

Cottleston pie, that’s your eye – no, wrong slang – wait, I’ll have it in a minute – wait –

What’s Five Thousand Miles?

By John Hertz: My antennae tingled. It turned out Inoue Hiroaki was in town. He was Guest of Honor at Animé L.A. XIII, 27-29 Jan 17 at the Ontario Convention Center. Over 9,000 attended.

Chaz Baden started ALA, chaired it for years, and is now Chair Emeritus. With help from him and a host of others, a few hours’ driving time, and a few dollars at Registration, I arranged to meet Inoue-san on Sunday afternoon at 3.

To animé folk he’s the producer of Tenchi Muyou! (which I suppose we may call a franchise, an ongoing stream of animé, novels, manga, video games, soundtrack records – isn’t a Compact Disc a record? – radio, role-playing-game books, and whatnot).

Tenchi Muyo! means “Right side up with care” or “No need for Tenchi” – if you think you’re a punster, you ain’t seen nothin’ – and has been running over 25 years.

Also he teaches animé in Japanese university courses. He addressed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fifteen years ago. I might say something about a list of achievements as long as your arm, but we’re talking about animé, who knows how long that might be?

To me he’d been the chair of Nippon 2007, the 65th World Science Fiction Convention, the first in Asia, the first in Japan. Fame, like obviousness, is relative – obviously.

I’d had a fair lot to do with that bid and that con, and was sent there (and brought back) by a one-time traveling-fan fund HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance; hana in Japanese is “flower” or “blossom”, a word much used in poetry) started by Murray Moore; you can see my report here (first half) and here (second half).

In earlier days of ALA I had myself been a feature on Sunday afternoons. But that’s another story.

“Where,” I’d asked Chaz, “is this meeting?” He said “I’ll work on that.” When I arrived, a Chaz-gram awaited me. A staffer said “You’re John Hertz! This is for you” and another said “I’ll take you there.”

Inoue-san and I rejoiced. I bowed, so he shook my hand.

The Nippon 2007 bid had formally begun in 2000. But you could say it began in 1957 – or 1927, the year Shibano Takumi was born.

I told Inoue-san on Sunday, “Nippon 2007 was only possible because of three giants: Shibano-sensei [“teacher”], Peggy Rae Sapienza, and you.” None was available for the Shizuoka bid. For 2017 my Helsinki friends beat my District of Columbia, Montréal, and Shizuoka friends. But another Japanese Worldcon may come.

Mason Beninger interpreted for us. We may have overloaded him. This had happened before.

At the 8th NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas) Inoue-san, who was Animé GoH, joined Marie Cooley and me judging the Masquerade. He was very perceptive, but only because of the extraordinary interpreter Karahashi Takayuki could we manage any speed.

I’ll spare you other stories, like the time an interpreter from the Yokohama Tourist Bureau – oops.

Inoue-san asked how Peggy Rae’s widower John was doing. I said “Well; but his heart hurts.” Of course that’s true for all of us.

All around were animé folk, many in costume; signs, dealers’ tables; lines and clumps. It was the Exhibit Hall.

We marveled at this flourishing of one part of the Imagi-Nation while, in the United States anyway, there wasn’t much cross-fertilizing. I’d been one of the Masquerade judges who gave Best in Show to an entry based on Trinity Blood at the 64th Worldcon. But mostly They don’t come to our village and we don’t go to theirs.

Diversity takes a lot of work.

Still,

What’s five thousand miles
And two languages between
Fans who seek the stars?

On Another Tentacle

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1230; italics, parentheses after this, in original)  My exhorting my companions on the Left (Mike Glyer once said I have the gift of exhortation; I warned him I was taking that as a compliment) not to be so smug, self-righteous, arrogant about our opinions (see Van 1228) shouldn’t be taken to imply I think you folks on the Right ought to be smug, self-righteous, arrogant about yours.  Indeed you have trumped us (8 Nov 16).  But triumphalism isn’t good argument.  It isn’t good politics.  It isn’t neighborly.  And since you are fond of saying you, not we, are the true guardians of liberty, I believe I may add It violates your own principles.  Now is the time for you to be better preachers, teachers, reachers.  I’ve insisted “Democracy is not Give me what I wish no matter what but I can be outvoted” (Van 1224); however, as Samuel Johnson said, people “may be convinced, but they cannot be pleased, against their will” (Lives of the English Poets, 1781; Congreve); and lest you fall into the pit beside the road of victory, I remind you of a remark by Isak Dinesen (who called it the saying of the hero of a book read as a child, Out of Africa ch. IV pt. 5 “The Iguana”, 1937): “I have conquered them all, but I am standing amongst graves.”

To Pull No Strings and Buffalo None

By John Hertz: Say fans, what time is it? Nomination time!

It’s nomination time,
It’s nomination time.
Let’s have a balmy clime,
Send in what’s really prime.
Ignore what looks like slime,
Abet nobody’s crime.
We’ll make the Finns’ bells chime,
And sing out “That kind I’m!”
Let’s give a rousing cheer
’Cause nomination’s here.
It’s time to start the show,
So fans, let’s go!

Summer fall winter spring, may every thunder thud.

A Nonconformist Among Nonconformists

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1228)  May I, who voted for Trump’s opponent in the Presidential election, speak against the notion Trump’s supporters were “people … scared silly by the progress we’ve been making for the non-Christians, the blacks…. [who thus] don’t know their place anymore”?  I hear that often.  In an objection we on the Left are quick to raise in our defense, it’s dismissive.  It waves away any possibility that Trump’s supporters have any creditable basis for their opinions – which unsurprisingly those folk maintain we lack.  I think we on the Left have long been smug, self-righteous, arrogant about our opinions.  That isn’t good argument.  It isn’t good politics.  It isn’t neighborly.  It violates our own principles.  Trump cried Aren’t you tired of all those left-wing people’s telling you what to think?  Had we been better preachers, teachers, reachers, that would have been laughed down.  A well-known man in November 1963 was wrong, I believe, to say “The chickens are coming home to roost”, but perhaps that’s a lesson for us now.