Westercon 70 Was Hot

By John Hertz:

Let’s see, if we can,
Xanadu on other worlds,
Xenogamously.

I wasn’t sure I could manage a 5-7-5-syllable acrostic about Westercon LXX.  You may think I didn’t.

Anyway I meant Coleridge’s wonderful poem (not particularly how he may have come to imagine it, nor the Raymond F. Jones story “Person from Porlock”, about the fellow who interrupted him, nor the strange Sturgeon story – “strange Sturgeon story” may be redundant).  “Xenogamy” – cross-fertilization – is from a conversation I had with Kevin Standlee a few years ago about what general-interest cons, like Westercon, are good for.

There are lots of special-interest cons these days.  At a general-interest con you meet people you didn’t know you wanted to meet.

When the chair of next year’s Westercon took the gavel during Closing Ceremonies she quoted that, gosh.

But we trespass upon chronology.

Westercon LXX “Conalope” was 1-4 July 2017 at the Mission Palms Hotel, Tempe, Arizona, combined with local Leprecon XLIII.  Attendance about 600; Art Show sales $5,100 by 31 artists.  The Hospitality Suite had a stuffed-toy jackalope; the newsletter was The Jackalopian.  It being the 70th-anniversary month of something or other in Roswell, New Mexico, just 400 miles away, slant-eyed oval heads were all over.

Author Guest of Honor, Connie Willis; Graphic Artist, Julie Dillon; Fans, Val & Ron Ontell; also Science, Henry Vanderbilt; Special Guests in honor of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Bjo & John Trimble; Filker (our home-made music, from a 1950s typo of “folk” that stuck), Tim Griffin; Local Author, Gini Koch; Local Artist, Tom Deadstuff; Special Artist, Larry Elmore; Toastmaster, Weston Ochse.

On the cover of the Program Book was my favorite Dillon piece in the Art Show, Skyward Bound, a muscular black man in a knee-length tunic, golden wings strapped to his arms, poised to fly from a cornice in the clouds.

When I say the con was hot I mean it was lively, engaging, fun.  You probably know it was also 110F.  Even in the noonday sun I saw folks basking happily outdoors.  I asked.  They liked it.  There’s diversity for you.

Sarah Clemens leading her Art Show tour said “I couldn’t think of anything more incongruous for dragons to do than pressing flowers.  They’re terrible at it.”  That’s how she painted them.  Also “I like art’s having some ambiguity.  It gives people room to play.”

Regency Dancing had its usual salad bowl (so these must be my salad days) of people in modern clothes, period costume, fantasy and science fiction.  The last four words also describe my adventures teaching folks all over the spectrum from knowing nothing to lots.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

The Utah for 2019 Westercon party had Italian sodas.  Also mead from Hive Winery in Layton, where they’ll hold the con (they won).

At the WesternSFA party Craig Dyer gave a cordial reception.  He’d started distilling the best from life in 1988; he was well along by Westercon LVII when I was his Fan Guest of Honor (and where I saw Clemens’ superb “Stigmata”).

Hal Astell the Vice-Chair of LXX told me how well the multitudinous local groups were co-operating.

First Classics of S-F discussion, The Sword of Rhiannon (Leigh Brackett, 1949).  Rich McAllister said, a planetary romance head and shoulders above the rest.  Lin McAllister said it was like The Sea Hawk (M. Curtiz dir. 1940).  I said, look how naturally everything that has to happen, does happen.  Also we see not only “I’ll give them the technology, punish me for it” but why it might have been forbidden.

Enter, Led by a Bear

Art Show chief Annette Sexton-Ruiz taught me about mono silkscreens.  She said half the Show came from mail-ins.  I think it’s vital people can participate from a distance.  Kuma Bear’s tour had, as Lisa Hayes admitted, a simple but limited perspective.  Bears don’t like dogs; dogs fight bears.  Cats steal fish.  Kuma liked Tabitha Ladin’s “Blackberry Bounce” and the Steampunk (with railroad trains!) of an artist identified only as Voit.

Tabitha Ladin’s “Blackberry Bounce”

Leviathan – Voit

I was Chief Hall-Costume Judge; hall costumes, the term we evolved years ago, are the fantasy and science fiction clothes some people wear for strolling the halls.  Marjii Ellers used to call them daily wear from alternative worlds.  Helping me were Elaine Mami, Sandy Manning, Bjo Trimble.  Jim Manning brought me a cookie from Alaska.

On Sunday afternoon I went to “Accurate Science in Science Fiction”.  As usual, the part after the colon was the real title.  Before the colon was “It Doesn’t Work That Way”, which might have been – I’ll let you do it.  Ron Ontell offered the best remark, “I’m only annoyed when after setting out to do science they get it wrong.”

Mami was the Masquerade Director; judges, Bridget Landry, Ochse, Bruce Rowan, Bjo Trimble; workmanship judge, Jocelyn Winters.  Julie Padegimas won Best Novice and the Southwest Costumers’ Guild workmanship award for “Dr. Arson” in red, and boots, and swell make-up; her name meant arson in Lithuanian.

Julie Padegimas as “Dr. Arson.”  Photo credit: Steven Goldstein – Keyhole Productions Photography

Steven Goldstein / Keyhole Productions Photography on Facebook

Sandy Manning won Best Presentation (Novice) for “A Touch of Color”, of course mostly black; expert at running Masquerades, she’s competed little herself.  Randall Whitlock won Best Workmanship (Master) and Best in Show as part of the Cady Family Strange Fabric We-Can-Do-It Challenge, each element judged separately.  He had fine stage presence.

Monday, The Lights In the Sky Are Stars (Fredric Brown, 1953).  Ben Yalow had stopped me in the hotel lobby to say kind things about this set of three.  Stars may be Brown’s only straightforward SF.  And what a wallop!  Bill Green said the protagonist, Max Andrews, was a villain.  Or was he a tragic figure?

At the Star Trek 50th-anniversary party I was neither first nor last to tell the Trimbles “You’re responsible for this.”  John said it was the greatest case of Who knew?  At the Westercon LXXI party (Denver, Colorado) – I think – Rick Moen tried to explain the Norwegian languages Bokmål (in case your software doesn’t show it, that’s a volle, an a with a tiny ring over it) and Nynorsk.

In the Hospitality Suite, talk of Justinian II led me into conversation with Paul Honsinger, whom I hadn’t known I wanted to meet.  Filking; I heard “Water’s been found on the Moon” and the Monster’s Lullaby.

Tuesday, The Time Machine (H.G. Wells, 1895).  R-Laurraine Tutihasi said it’s widely read a hundred years later.  Laura Freas Beraha asked “Who is its intended audience?”  Rich McAllister said it argues that struggle makes intellect.  Linda Deneroff asked “What kind of struggle?”  I asked if the end meant the world of the middle had failed.

For “How Do We Get to the Stars?” Steve Howe brought a chart of energy against distance.  He dared to mention the Orion pulsed-fission model.  A drive using antimatter is conceivable; he’s written about it. Unless I was asleep – always possible – we didn’t get to ramscoops.  You don’t carry much fuel, but what if you arrive somewhere thin of interstellar dust?

The Dead Dog Party (until the last dog is – ) was fine for fireworks.  I recited a poem to Leslie Fish.  Sandra Childress, currently of Tucson – as Woody Bernardi said he was – had been coaching archery.  The hotel lobby had a ten-foot color-photo display from the Arizona State University School of Earth & Space Exploration (gosh) with Ceres, Vesta, Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons, and the Cassini, Dawn, Galileo, and New Horizons missions.  And so to bed.

We Are Not Alone

By John Hertz: The 2017 Worldcon has concluded, and we return to our regular program – or programme, which reminds me: thanks, Jukka! thanks, everyone!  When I happened on this passage in Chapter 51, the antepenultimate of Trollope’s Barchester Towers (1857), I could have thought the song was about us.

What novelist … can impart an interest to the last chapter of his fictitious history?…  And who can apportion out and dovetail his incidents, dialogues, characters, and descriptive morsels, so as to fit them all exactly in … without either compressing them unnaturally, or extending them artificially at the end of his labour?  Do I not myself know that I am at this moment in want of a dozen pages, and that I am sick with cudgelling my brains to find them?  And then when everything is done, the kindest-hearted critic of them all invariably twits us with the incompetency and lameness of our conclusion.  We have either become idle and neglected it, or tedious and overlaboured it.  It is insipid or unnatural, overstrained or imbecile.  It means nothing, or attempts too much….  Guided by my own lights only, I confess that I despair of success.

Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”

 

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

Rotsler Award Exhibit at Worldcon 75

Photographer Eric Wong granted John Hertz’ wish to see how his Rotsler Award exhibit was displayed at Worldcon 75.

The exhibit took a circuitous route to Helsinki, the banners rolled in a mailing tube and delivered by Hertz at Westercon to Seth Breidbart for relay at NASFiC to Worldcon Vice-Chair Colette Frozard; she to give to W75 Exhibits Deputy Div. Head Terry Neill.

John adds, “Rick Kovalcik of Boston helped arrange by E-mail.  He and I co-wrote an explanation of putting up the banners, and a request they not be confined to the Fanzine Lounge but placed where everyone could see them, as was done at MAC 2.”

The last leg of the exhibit’s journey will be when Chris Marble brings the banners home.

Where Are We?

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1234 – which is, he notes, “the last sequentially numbered issue until the year 2038”)

Troubling me about fandom these days is not so much young folks’ failing to heed old folks and old folks’ failing to heed young folks but more generally our failing to Look out!  By which I don’t mean Something will hurt you any second now but, as I sometimes put it, Be bigger than your immediate adventure.  This is of course an element of human nature evident across cultures and eras.  Diversity magnifies it.  It’s related to What haven’t I thought of?– a question which can’t be answered but is nevertheless vital so had better be managed – here diversity helps – and Why wait to be taught?  Also to the limitations of “role models”, and why neither theory nor practice alone is safe to rely on.

Once He Said Thirty-Two Words

By John Hertz: Happening to think about Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933; U.S. President 1923-1929), I noticed this passage in Ch. 3 of his Autobiography (1929, shortly after he left office; 1931 printing, p. 91).

He is commenting on a 1904 campaign he managed while Chair of the Republican City Committee, Northampton, Massachusetts.

He ran for office nineteen times, winning seventeen.

We made the mistake of talking too much about the deficiencies of our opponents and not enough about the merits of our own candidates.  I have never again fallen into that error.

How To Contribute to the Worldcon’s Annual APA

A message from John Purcell:

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

Here is an UPDATE on what You Need To Know:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Used to Think My Life Was Strange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Origin Story of Vurguzz

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

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

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

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