Pixel Scroll 9/26/17 I’ve Been To Arrakis On A Sandworm With Two Names Twice

(1) NO, IT AIN’T COOL. Indiewire reports “Harry Knowles Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Austin Woman Two Decades Ago, and Drafthouse Owners Didn’t Take Action”.

An Austin-area woman said Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles sexually assaulted her at an Alamo Drafthouse event — but the reason she’s speaking out now is she believes change is coming.

“Harry Knowles groped me, opportunistically, on more than one occasion,” said Jasmine Baker. “I cannot just stay silent. I am not interested in remaining silent.”

The specifics are described at the link. Knowles denied the accusations.

Alamo Drafthouse has severed ties with Harry Knowles, who had a business relationship with the owners, and had cofounded a convention with them.

As a result of the charges, several Ain’t It Cool News staffers have left — Eric “Quint” Vespe, Steve “Capone” Prokopy, and “Horrorella.”

(2) WRITING ABOUT HEINLEIN. Farah Mendlesohn answers some pointed questions about her forthcoming Heinlein book in “Q&A with Ken MacLeod”.

KMM: Heinlein is a hero to and an influence on the ‘right’ of the SF field. I remember many years ago being surprised to hear you being enthusiastic about Heinlein, and I probably asked you something like this: As a feminist of the left, why do you find Heinlein so intriguing?

FJM: Heinlein has always been a hero to parts of the left as well, particularly to the anarcho-left of which I am, loosely, a part both as a feminist and because I’m a Quaker (Quakers invented anarchist decision practice, and it’s interesting that anti-pacifist Heinlein has a soft spot for them). But to return to the question: at the age of 12-20 it was because he was pretty much the only male sf writer writing women who had jobs, adventures, access to engineering jobs, and who got to be spies and ornery grandmas, and be liked by men who weren’t as smart as they. Believe me, when you are a smart girl in school, that’s pretty reassuring. In my late teens and twenties I started to get annoyed with the requirement to be “sexy” but attracted to the arguments about consent; frustrated with the performativity of the romances, and irritated by everyone wanting babies but attracted to the arguments about the different ways to construct families. This time round I’ve been fascinated by the way it’s clear that Heinlein knows what his women are up against; I’ve ended up with very different readings of Podkayne, Friday and Maureen (To Sail Beyond the Sunset) in which all three of them become resisters of other people’s narrative of them.

The crowdfunding appeal has reached 80% of its goal as of today.

(3) HEINLEIN COLLECTIBLES. Keith Kato, President of The Heinlein Society, announces: “Ensign’s Prize Offer now open to Non-Members!” Keith explains —

The “Ensign’s Prize” are multiple titles of pirated Heinlein works that Ginny Heinlein won in a lawsuit.  She donated them to The Heinlein Society for fund-raising.  Until now we have limited sales only to THS members, but as you can see in the link, purchases are now open to anyone while supplies last.  There are different numbers of remaining copies of the various titles, and being a pirated version, the quality is what it is (though surprisingly not bad).

More info at the Society website:

There are some rare editions here to add to your collection. A prime example is the only known hardcover edition of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long with lettering by D.F. Vassallo.

The numbers of available individual copies varies by book with no individual copies of Methuselah’s Children. Only a handful of individual copies of Stranger in a Strange Land (5) are available. All individual copies will be offered for a suggested donation of $60 each except for The Notebooks of Lazarus Long which is offered for a suggested donation of $75 each with shipping & insurance on single books at $6.00 in the US. Overseas shipping will be determined at time of donation.

These books/sets are used as a fundraiser to support projects and programs of The Heinlein Society, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to paying it forward. Proceeds from these books/sets will be used to support projects and programs of The Heinlein Society such as the scholarship program and Heinlein For Heroes.

This link will take you to a page where you can read a description of the books being offered and then click the “Details” link at the bottom of the page to be directed to the ordering site.

(4) BONES OF THE EARTH. “’Biggest Dinosaur Ever’ Discovered in Argentina”GeologyIn has the story.

New Species of Dinosaur Is the Largest Land Animal to Ever Walk the Earth

One hundred million years ago, a colossal creature the size of a 737 thundered through the forests of South America, picking trees clean with its head extended five stories in the air and sending ferocious T. rex-like therapods scattering like mice below its trunk-sized legs. It’s the largest dinosaur ever found — a titanosaur so huge that its skeleton can’t even fit into a single room in its home at the American Museum of Natural History. Scientists this week unveiled their first study on the ancient beast alongside its new, official name, ­Patagotitan mayorum, or, The Giant from Patagonia. Astoundingly, the Big Apple’s biggest resident wasn’t even fully grown when it died (scientists don’t know if it was male or female) — and an even more whopping cousin could be waiting to be uncovered, experts said Wednesday. “This animal [hadn’t] stopped growing at the time of death,” said Diego Pol, an Argentina paleontologist who helped dig it up.

…The scientists reproduced the skeleton in 3-D models, but the specimen was too large to fit in any local museum, Pol said, so they sent a fiberglass cast to New York last year. It has been welcoming visitors to the museum’s dinosaur floor ever since — literally, because its massive skull extends all the way out into the elevator bay. “[It’s] probably one of the world’s great selfie spots,” said John Flynn, the museum’s curator of fossil mammals.

(5) A VACUUM CLOSER THAN SPACE. “Australia commits to establish space agency with no budget, plan, name, deadline …” says The Register.

Mission plan: retrieve lost votes from deep within black hole of democratic disillusionment…

Cash’s statement says the agency “will be the anchor for our domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement”, but there’s no detail on the agency’s name, budget, start date or anything else that would tell us what it will actually do. The fact that its future existence was first revealed to media in the city of Adelaide suggests one mission: help revive the city’s economy, which has struggled since auto-makers left in recent years (along with many votes for the governing Liberal Party).

(6) MAKE YOURSELF A GIBSON. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I finished Conversations With William Gibson and learned about this story, which was new to me.  This is from an episode of the Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy podcast by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley, who interviewed William Gibson in 2012.  This probably took place in the early 1990s.

GEEK’S GUIDE:  So when I first started going to science fiction conventions, I heard this funny story about you, and I’ve never been sure if it was true or if it happened the way I heard it, and I was wondering if you knew what I was talking about.  It was this story where you go into a hotel to check in, and you say, ‘Hi, I’m Mr. Gibson,’ and everyone acts all shocked at the hotel.”

GIBSON:  It was the Beverly Hills Hotel, and I don’t know, somebody had checked me in.It was when I had started doing some contact screenplay work after the ALIEN 3 script. So I got there, and it was like, you know, I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  The desk people looked gobsmacked and really unhappy.   So the bellman takes me up to this very fancy suite, and in this suite there’s a table lavishly arrayed with very expensive wines and liquors and expensive floral displays, and a bit thing that says, ‘The Beverly Hills Hotel welcomes Mel Gibson.'”

And so I looked at the bellman, and I said, ‘No, no, I’m not him.  Take this stuff away.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, you can keep it.’ And I said, ‘What am I supposed to do with it?”  He said, ‘Call some friends, have a party.'”

(7) NAMING CALLS. While the writer’s mostly interested in Republican shenanigans, “8 Notable Attempts to Hack the New York Times Bestseller List” ends with a shout-out to a science fiction immortal.

…[DJ Jean] Shepherd decided that he wanted to get a book on the bestseller list—an imaginary book. “What do you say tomorrow morning each one of us walk into a bookstore, and ask for a book that we know does not exist?” he asked his listeners. The book they decided to ask for was I, Libertine, its author, Frederick R. Ewing, published by Excelsior Press, an imprint of Cambridge University Press. And ask they did…

…What is true, though, is that this book became real through sheer force of will. After only a few months, the story broke: I, Libertine was a hoax. But then it was un-hoaxed: Theodore Sturgeon, a friend of Shepherd’s, actually wrote the book, and Ballantine Books published it.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Batman Day

The purpose of Batman Day is to celebrate the anniversary of the character’s first ever appearance, which was in Detective Comics #27 way back in May 1939. Since those early comic book appearances, Batman has grown into one of the world’s best-loved and most recognizable fictional characters, and is the focal point of television shows, animated cartoons, video games and Hollywood blockbusters.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 26, 1937 – The first episode of The Shadow was broadcast.
  • September 26, 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian suspects there is something missing after reading The Wizard of Id.

(11) BIT PARTS. After reporting a leak about the forthcoming Star Wars movie, CheatSheet also tells about some of the more interesting appearances in earlier films of the franchise: “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: A Few Major Celebrities Will Make a Surprising Cameo”.

With Star Wars: The Last Jedi still upcoming, John Boyega let confirmation of a few major cameos — specifically, Princes William and Harry — slip out in an interview on BBC Radio (via Screen Rant). As he stated:

I’ve had enough with those secrets. They came on set. They were there. I’m sick of hiding it. I think it was leaked, anyway. There were images. Every time I get asked, I have to dodge it. I’m tired of dodging it. They were there. Tom Hardy was there too.

Hardy is certainly a major cameo. But he’s actually just one of many big names to show up in a film from the Star Wars franchise.

As fans look forward to the surprise appearances that are set to come in The Last Jedi, we take a look back at the history of celebrity cameos in the Star Wars franchise — including some you may not have noticed or heard about.

(12) FAN FEUDS. I was struck by David Gerrold’s observation about fan feuds, from a long post mainly about something else, although I’ve kept the first line for context. What he says about fan feuds is spot on.

Yes, I did ask Jody Wheeler and Carlos Pedraza to back off on the Axanar stuff — not just because of my respect for Alec Peters, but also because of my equal respect for Jody Wheeler and Carlos Pedraza, both of whom I have worked with. Fan-feuding helps no one. It hurts everyone. It destroys possibilities. It destroys opportunities. (I know of two entities who decided not to engage with Jody and Carlos because of their efforts in the anti-Axanar movement.) I speak from a half-century of direct experience on this.

But yeah, my bad. I should know better than to ask fans to disengage from a feud. Especially this one. I should have known better because internecine warfare is always more important than mutual support and partnership in any endeavor. It’s much more fun to have enemies — war is the most profitable human product, because it gives you not only the illusion of power and authority, it creates the opportunity to control how others think and act…

(13) YOUR SECOND-BEST SUIT. Electric Literature thought today is a good time to revisit “The 5 Weirdest Lawsuits About Authors Stealing Ideas”.

Claim: J.K. Rowling stole the word “muggle”

J.K. Rowling has been accused of idea theft, and vice versa, so many times that there’s a whole Wikipedia page for “legal disputes over the Harry Potter series.” The earliest was American writer Nancy Kathleen Stouffer, who sued Rowling for infringement in 1999, when only three of the books had been published (although it was already clear that the series was turning a handsome profit). Stouffer claimed that she’d invented the word “muggle” in her vanity-press book The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, and that another of her works featured a character named Larry Potter. This is thin enough—but the court didn’t just rule that the similarities were too vague to amount to much. It actually found that even Stouffer’s weak evidence may have been fabricated.

Two other cases involve Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and Cassandra Clare’s Darkhunter series.

(14) ON OR OFF THE SHELF? The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Banned Books Week: Why are illustrated books being challenged more than ever?”, notes that the top two books in the American Library Association’s list of banned books for 2017 were graphic novels.  He then looks at graphic novels that censors fund particularly irritating.

Some industry observers say that the spike in challenges to illustrated books can be attributed to the recent rise in the literary form’s popularity and accessibility on bookshelves, as well as the subject matter.

“Graphic novels are more popular and widely read than ever,” said Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an advocacy organization. “Their authors are speaking directly to the real concerns of their audiences in an accessible way.”

Brownstein noted, too, that the illustrated form can attract challenges that other books might not.

“There are many other factors to weigh, including the medium’s reliance on the power of the static image,” he said. “Graphic novels are frequently reduced to a single image or sequence of images that can be removed from the larger context of the work, and used to justify censorship. Comics’ use of images and words give the stories added power that resonates with audiences, and makes works like ‘This One Summer’ and ‘Drama’ even more compelling. These works must be considered as a whole to be fully appreciated. When that happens, the complexity, nuance and sophistication of the stories can be fully appreciated.”

The CBLDF director pointed, as well, to how comics are perceived by many parents and officials. “In many cases, comics are still regarded as lesser reading,” he said. “Some people don’t expect comics to have the kind of complexity or depth that earned ‘This One Summer’ the Caldecott honor and ‘Drama’ a Stonewall honor. We’ve seen cases where comics are challenged because the conversations that they raise were unexpected.”

(15) ALL WRAPPED UP. The Bangor Daily News makes a new novel sound tantalizing: “Kings of fiction: Father and son combine for ‘Sleeping Beauties’”.

In this year of all things King, with nearly two dozen movies, TV shows or miniseries based on Bangor’s own horror-meister in production or on screens, it makes perfect sense to add another Stephen King-thing to what has become a total-immersion experience.

Enter “Sleeping Beauties,” a novel that’s a team effort by Stephen King and his son, Owen. Published by Scribner, it goes on sale on Tuesday, Sept. 25 ($32.50 hardcover).

The duo’s first tandem effort on a novel, “Sleeping Beauties” is an ambitious work that combines some age-old Stephen King themes — the potential end of the world, the battle between good and … well … not so good, if not evil — with a distinctly sci-fi premise.

Simply put: Women around the world are falling asleep, and being covered in wispy cocoons. They may never wake up (and in true Stephen King fashion, those who try to rouse the females from their slumber quickly learn that doing so was a big, bad, bloody mistake).

Is the human race’s demise insured? Will a world with no women become a reality (for a time)? Or is there another option that we just can’t see on this side of the story? Good questions, all

(16) UNDER THE HAMMER. The Daryl Litchfield Collection of Arkham House & H.P. Lovecraft goes on the auction block October 5. So do a great many volumes by Edgar Rice Burroughs and other sff authors.

More than 300 lots of fine literature, from the 18th through the 21st centuries, are included in this exciting auction. Headlining the sale is the Daryl Litchfield collection of Arkham House and H.P. Lovecraft. The collection includes the earliest work by Lovecraft and a near complete collection of Arkham House publications. Many other science fiction and fantasy first editions are also offered, including nearly fifty lots of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, many in the rare original dust jackets. Also featured are more than fifty lots of Black Sparrow press limited editions of the writings of Charles Bukowski, many signed by the author. Other rare literary works from the last 300 years are also offered, including titles by Dickens, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Stowe, Twain, Wilde, and many others.

See the online version of the catalogue at www.pbagalleries.com

Direct link to the online catalogue: http://www.pbagalleries.com/view-auctions/info/id/434/

To view as ebook: http://pbagalleries.com/content/ecat/626/index.html

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In an Entertainment Weekly video “The Walking Dead cast explains 100 episodes in 30 seconds”.

(18) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. In March 1971, General Mills introduced the chocolate-flavored Count Chocula and the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry.

[Thanks to Keith Kato, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Wendy Gale, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories.. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who inquires “Not having read all the Dune books (by Frank Herbert, and then the non-FH prequels), and not remembering all of those I did read… did any of the individual sandworms have names (i.e., not ‘Shai Halud’ (sp?), which was the general name). E.g. ‘Big Fella,’ ‘Spot,’ ‘Masterful Mighty Wriggler of Doom,’ ‘Fluffy’?”]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/17 There’s A Scroll In The Bottom Of The Sea

(1) JACK KIRBY NAMED DISNEY LEGEND. The late Jack Kirby will be honored with the Disney Legend Award at this year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim.

JACK KIRBY first grabbed our attention in the spring of 1941 with Captain America, a character he created with Joe Simon. Kirby then followed this debut with a prolific output of comic books in the Western, Romance, and Monster genres–all a prelude to his defining work helping to create the foundations of the Marvel Universe. For the next decade, Kirby and co-creator Stan Lee would introduce a mind-boggling array of new characters and teams — including the Avengers, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Inhumans. Kirby was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame’s 1987 inaugural class and continued creating comics throughout the ‘90s before passing away in 1994.

Other honorees of this year’s Legends Award are Carrie Fisher, Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi, Manuel Gonzales, Mark Hamill, Stan Lee, Garry Marshall, Julie Taymor, and Oprah Winfrey.

(2) BILL FINGER AWARD WINNERS. Jack Kirby, along with Bill Messner-Loebs, is also a winner of the 2017 Bill Finger Award presented by Comic-Con International.

Bill Messner-Loebs and Jack Kirby have been selected to receive the 2017 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. The selection, made by a blue-ribbon committee chaired by writer-historian Mark Evanier, was unanimous.

“As always, I asked on my blog for suggestions of worthy recipients,” Evanier explains. “Many were nominated and the committee chose Bill as the worthiest of those still alive and working, and Jack because although his artwork has always been justly hailed, his contribution as a writer has been too often minimized or overlooked. In fact, in the years we’ve been doing this award, Jack Kirby has received many more nominations than anyone else, but we held off honoring him until this year because it seemed appropriate to finally do it in the centennial of his birth, and because members of his family will be at Comic-Con to accept on his behalf.”

The Bill Finger Award was created in 2005 at the instigation of comic book legend Jerry Robinson. “The premise of this award is to recognize writers for a body of work that has not received its rightful reward and/or recognition,” Evanier explains. “Even though the late Bill Finger now finally receives credit for his role in the creation of Batman, he’s still the industry poster boy for writers not receiving proper reward or recognition.”

Kirby’s history was covered in the first item. Here’s the citation for the second winner.

Bill Messner-Loebs has been a cartoonist and writer since the 1970s. He has worked for DC, Marvel, Comico, Power Comics, Texas Comics, Vertigo, Boom!, Image, IDW, and the U.S. State Department (for which he produced a comic about the perils of land mines). He has written Superman, Flash, Aquaman, Mr. Monster, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, Jonny Quest, Spider-Man, Thor, and the Batman newspaper strip. He wrote and drew Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire and Bliss Alley, and he co-created The Maxx and Epicurus the Sage. He has also delivered pizzas, done custom framing, been a library clerk, sold art supplies, and taught cartooning.

(3) TROLLS. Recent Facebook experiences led David Gerrold to post a thorough discussion of trolling.

There is no freedom of speech on Facebook — Facebook is a corporation, like a newspaper or a television station. They are not obligated to protect your rights. You waived specific rights when you agreed to the terms of service —

But those terms of service have to be a two-way street. They represent a contract between service provider and consumer. And there must be a responsibility on the part of the service provider to protect the consumers from the abusive behavior of those who violate the social contract of our nation.

The social contract, you say? I’ve heard people argue, “I never agreed to a social contract.”

Actually, you agreed to it when you accepted the responsibility of being a citizen — you agreed to abide not only by the laws of the nation, but by the underlying promise of this land, the promise of liberty and justice for all.

So, I do not regard trolls as simply an internet annoyance — I regard them as human failures — as individuals who have forgotten the promise on which this nation was founded. They are not much better than caged chimpanzees who are good at screeching at the bars and throwing feces at anyone who gets to close.

Because in the great grand scheme of things, every moment of our lives is a moment of choice. We can choose to dream of the stars, or we can choose to wallow in the mud. We can choose to create something of value for ourselves and our families and our friends — or we can choose to destroy the well-being of others.

(4) TOLKIEN BIOGRAPHER AIDS CROWDFUNDING EFFORT. John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, has donated signed copies of his book to the fundraising campaign for Oxford University’s project to document the First World War.

I’ve donated five signed copies of Tolkien and the Great War to help raise money for this appeal. It’s only thanks to the personal letters and photographs preserved by various Great War veterans, by families and by museums that I was able to bring to life the experiences of Tolkien and his friends in the training camps and trenches of the war. If you can donate, please do. Whether you can or can’t, please share this announcement:–

Win over £1,000/$1,000 worth of Tolkien Books… and Help Oxford University Save Items from World War One

Oxford University is currently crowd-funding a project to run a mass-digitization initiative of publicly-held material from the First World War and as is well known the experiences J. R. R. Tolkien underwent in 1916 in the Battle of the Somme had a profound effect on him and his writing. To assist with our major crowd-funding appeal we have been generously supported by Tolkien scholars and publishers, allowing us to present a prize draw opportunity to win three major publications amounting to over £1,000. Our sincerest thanks go to John Garth, Wiley/Blackwells, and Routledge for their help.

To enter the prize draw go to: https://oxreach.hubbub.net/p/lestweforget/

If you sponsor us by pledging £1 or more (or equivalent) you will be entered into a draw to win one of five copies signed by John Garth of his ‘Tolkien and the Great War’ (pbk, HarperCollins, 2011 – RRP: £9.99; $12.00; ‚¬11.99).

If you sponsor us by pledging £5 or more (or equivalent) you will also be entered into a draw to win one of three copies of ‘A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien’ (hbk, Wiley/Blackwells, 2014) signed by the editor (RRP: £125; $140; ‚¬150).

Finally, if you sponsor us by pledging £10 or more (or equivalent) you will also be entered into a draw to a full set set of ‘J. R. R. Tolkien: Critical Assessments of Major Writers’ (4 volumes, hbk, Routledge, 2017) signed by the editor (RRP: £900; $1,180; ‚¬930)

In addition to these chances of winning, you will also be helping to save and preserve important objects from the First World War which are in danger of being lost on a daily basis.

Here’s the home site of the preservation project: ‘Lest we forget’ – a national initiative to save the memories of 1914-1918

We are raising £80,000 to train local communities across the UK to run digital collection days to record and save objects and stories of the generation who lived through World War One. Every item collected will then be published on November 11th 2018 through a free-to-use online database for schools, scholars, and the wider public.

But we cannot achieve this alone so please help by donating to support the training days, outreach activities, and the equipment we need.

saving the past for the future – world war one
2018 will mark the centennial anniversary of the end of World War One. Few families in Britain were unaffected by the conflict, and in thousands of attics across the country there are photographs, diaries, letters, and mementos that tell the story of a generation at war, of the loved ones who fought in the conflict, served on the home front, or lost fathers and mothers. Help us launch this national effort to digitally capture, safeguard, and share these important personal items and reminiscences from the men and women of 1914-1918. Help us support local digitisation events across village halls, community centres, schools, and libraries.

(5) THE FOUNDATION OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Josephine Livingstone reviews The Tale of Beren and Lúthien for New Republic in “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Love Story”.

And The Tale of Beren and Lúthien is more like a scholarly volume than a storybook. There are versions of the tale in verse, and versions in prose. There are versions where the villain is an enormous, evil cat, and versions where the villain is a wolf. Names change frequently. But instead of taking the “best text” route, where the editor chooses a single manuscript to bear witness to the lost story, Christopher Tolkien has offered up what remains and allowed the reader to choose. It’s a generous editorial act, and a fitting tribute in memoriam to his parents’ romance.

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. Fanartist Steve Stiles sent this news about his diagnosis and treatment plans.

I just found out, via the lung specialist I saw the week before last, that I’m *NOT* having lung surgery at Sinai on the 20th, but rather a consultation re my “options” (would that be chemo vs. surgery? ), followed by *another* appointment to have a tube inserted down into my lung, which sounds like a whole bunch of fun. *THEN* I go in for surgery or whatever.

Looks like July is pretty well shot as far as having the two weekend cookouts with friends who we traditionally have over. It’s a drag, but considering the alternative….

(7) DALMAS OBIT. Author John Dalmas (1926-2017) has died reports Steve Fahnestalk:

With great sadness I learn that John Dalmas has died, either last night or early this morning; I understand he was in the hospital with pneumonia. Author of “The Yngling” and many other books, he was a good friend to MosCon and PESFA. You will be missed, Onkel !

Dalmas’ The Yngling, his first published sf, was serialized in Analog in 1969 and made especially memorable by Kelly Freas’ cover art.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Ray Bradbury and Ralph Waldo Emerson are descendents of Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was sentenced to be hanged in 1692 in the Salem Witch trials, but managed to escape before her execution could take place.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 16, 1954 Them! premiere in New York City.
  • June 16, 1978Jaws 2 swims into theaters.

(10) THAT THING YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEEDED. The Golden Snitch Harry Potter Fidget Spinners are selling like hotcakes. Who knows if there will be any left by the time you read this? (I’m kidding — they’re all over the internet.)

(11) AWESOMECON. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Over Awesome Con weekend, D.C. will prove its geek-to-wonk ratio”, previews Awesomecon, the Washington, D.C. comicon taking place this weekend. He talks about the celebrities who are coming, including Chris Hadfield, Edgar Wright, David Tennant, and Stan Lee, still hustling at 94. A sidebar has short items of some of the panels, including “CosLove Presents: #I Can Be A Hero, where cosplayers talk about the good deeds they do, like volunteering at hospitals. Finally, Manor Hill Brewing (which is at manorhillbrewing.com) has the official Awesomecon beer, Atomic Smash, which has a robot and an A-bomb!

So could King, who worked overseas with the agency’s counterterrorism unit after 9/11, ever see the Caped Crusader making it as a CIA agent?

“I can see Batman doing the job,” King says, but it is “harder to see him filling out the paperwork. And without good paperwork skills, you’ll never even make ­GS-12 in this town.”

This town, where sometimes the political wonk and comics geek are the same person.

(12) GIFT CULTURE VS. WAGE CULTURE. At Anime Feminist, Amelia Cook triggers a collision between fandom’s gift culture and those running megacons who expect on skilled people to work for free — “The Big Problem Behind Unpaid Interpreters: Why anime fans should value their skills”. [Hat tip to Petréa Mitchell.]

This week Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention in the English speaking world, put a call out for volunteer interpreters. Anime Expo is far from a new event, and had over 100,000 attendees last year. How did they fail to account for the cost of professional interpreters when budgeting? If they can’t afford to pay interpreters, what hope do any of the smaller cons have?

Let’s be real: they didn’t fail to account for it, and they can afford it. AX is a big enough event in the fandom calendar that they could have bumped ticket prices up by under a dollar each to bring in the necessary funds. If for some reason that wasn’t an option, they’re a big enough name that they could even have crowdfunded it. There’s no good reason not to pay every single interpreter for their work. There are, however, a couple of bad ones.

The most generous reading of their actions is that not a single person on the entire AX staff understands what interpreting involves. More likely is that they considered it an unnecessary cost, knowing they could get enthusiastic amateurs to work for free without putting a value on their time. Ours is a culture of scanlators and fansubbers working for the love of it, right? Why not give these lucky worker bees a chance to meet some cool people and see behind the scenes of a big event?

….When I first saw the tweet from AX, it made me viscerally angry. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to the point that I’ve written this post. What possible justification is there for this decision? What on earth made them think it would be acceptable? Were interpreters even discussed at the budgeting stage (and if not, why not)? Will they get their stable of unpaid amateur interpreters anyway, or will the outcry their tweet sparked make capable people steer clear? If they don’t get enough sufficiently capable volunteers, will they fork out for professionals or settle for people with a lower level of Japanese? What are their priorities in this situation? What were their priorities when they drew up this year’s budget?

(13) BATLIGHT. Here’s what it looked like when they flashed the Bat Signal on LA City Hall.

(14) SHARKES ON DUTY. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest reviews include coverage of two Hugo novel finalists (if you count that the Fifth Season one also covers the Obelisk Gate a bit.)

I wanted to begin this piece by noting that I put The Fifth Season at the top of my ballot for the Hugo last year — although this is somewhat undermined by the fact that I can no longer remember for sure if I actually voted. One time when I did actually vote was at the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon, where all that was required was posting a paper form into a ballot box in the dealers’ room. That year there was an all British shortlist suggesting perhaps that the domestic audience dominated the nomination process but also the then high international standing of British SFF. I voted for Iain M Banks’s The Algebraist, which was only on the ballot paper because Terry Pratchett had withdrawn Going Postal. The Hugo was won by Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I had read, loved, and placed last on my ballot because it was fantasy. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the result because J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman had won recently and, in any case, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was probably the most substantial novel on that ballot. The only virtue I can now see in the decision I made at the time is that it served to reduce the difficulty of making a choice.

While an increasing number of writers have made strenuous and laudable efforts to confront the “boys’ own adventure’ stereotypes of core genre archetypes“ the most famous recent example being Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy — progressive experimentation and stylistic complexity in terms of the text itself is much, much rarer and receives scant notice. When Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit turned up on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist, of the three books I’d not read already it was definitely the one I was most excited about. My encounters with Lee’s short fiction had left me with an impression of complex ideas nestled within a prose that was dense and highly coloured and often abstruse — pluses for me on all three counts. Would Ninefox Gambit prove to be my space opera holy grail: a thrilling adventure in terms of prose as well as high-concept, widescreen FX? I was eager to find out.

It’s space opera, you know?

One of last year’s most famous, most advertised, most-clearly-recognized-as-science-fiction novels, on a shortlist almost entirely of famous, advertised novels–especially in relation to the rest of the 86-title submissions list–the inclusion of Ninefox Gambit on the Clarke shortlist was inevitable. Its reputation as a challenging narrative, its loyalty to standard genre form, and the requisite spaceship on the cover have established its place in the science fiction book award Goldilocks zone. If things go as they did last year and in 2014, it’s also a likely winner.

Although I’ve already made it clear this is not the kind of book I would normally value or enjoy, the placement of Ninefox Gambit on the Clarke shortlist is something I asked for last year, though not in such direct terms:

(15) NUMBER OF THE FOX. Elsewhere, Terence Blake responded to Jonathan McCalmont’s earlier review of Ninefox with some interesting points: “NINEFOX GAMBIT (2): power-fantasy or philo-fiction?”

I agree with everything that McCalmont says about the novel’s structural flaws, and in particular the problematic subordination of Yoon Ha Lee’s speculative inventivity and complexity to the fascistic, bellicose form of military science fiction. However, I don’t fully recognize the novel from McCalmont’s description.

1) The novel reads like both science fiction and fantasy, but there are many ways to blur or to undercut the distinction. In the case of NINEFOX GAMBIT I think that the “fantasy” aspect is only superficial. It is derived from the fact that the “hard” science underlying the story is not physics but mathematics. It has this structural feature in common with Neal Stephenson’s ANATHEM, which nonetheless is a very different sort of novel….

(16) FROM TOP TO, ER, BOTTOM. For your fund of general knowledge — “Every British swear word has been officially ranked in order of offensiveness”.

The UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, interviewed more than 200 people across the UK on how offensive they find a vast array of rude and offensive words and insults.

People were asked their opinion on 150 words in total. These included general swear words, words linked to race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, body parts and health conditions, religious insults and sexual references, as well as certain hand gestures.

(17) MARVEL LEGACY 1. Sounds like Marvel is about to push the “reset” button.

An Asgardian titan. A Wakandan warrior bred to be a king. The very first Sorcerer Supreme.

Since its inception, Marvel has been delivering groundbreaking heroes and explosive stories. Now, prepare to return to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC — when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Star Brand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1!

The acclaimed team of writer Jason Aaron (Mighty Thor) and artist Esad Ribic (Secret Wars) reunite for an all-new 50-page blockbuster one-shot that will take you through time to the current Marvel Universe, showing you how it’s truly “all connected.” A true homage to Marvel’s groundbreaking stories, MARVEL LEGACY brings your favorite characters together for exciting and epic new stories that will culminate in returning to original series numbering for long-running titles.

MARVEL LEGACY #1 isn’t simply a history lesson,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Rather, it’s the starting gun to a bevy of mysteries and secrets and revelations that will reverberate across the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come! No character, no franchise will be untouched by the game-changing events that play out across its pages. Jason and Esad pulled out all the stops to fat-pack this colossal issue with as much intrigue, action, surprise, mystery, shock and adventure as possible!€

MARVEL LEGACY #1 will present all fans — new readers and current readers — the very best jumping on point in the history of comics,” says Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso. “What Jason and Esad have crafted is more grand and more gargantuan than anything we have ever seen before and introduces concepts and characters the Marvel Universe has never encountered. Fans are going to witness an all-new look at the Marvel Universe starting at one of the earliest moments in time carried all the way into present day. Not only will this be the catalyst for Marvel evolving and moving forward, but expect it to be the spark that will ignite the industry as a whole.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Stiles, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories, and a hat tip to Petréa Mitchell. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayne.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/17 No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll

(1) ALIEN HECK. Yahoo! Movies has the latest Alien: Covenant poster: “’Alien: Covenant’: Third Poster Welcomes Moviegoers to Extraterrestrial Hell”.

After decades away from the franchise that he began back in 1979, director Ridley Scott has become unbelievably gung-ho about the Alien series, promising that he’s got perhaps another half-dozen sequels already planned out for the near future. Before he can get to those, however, he’ll first deliver the follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, which by the looks of its recent trailer, is going to be a no-holds-barred descent into extraterrestrial madness. And now, its third theatrical poster (see it below) makes plain that its action won’t just be otherworldly; it’ll be downright hellish.

(2) BRAGGING ON BATMAN. Is this claim big enough for you? Why “Batman: The Animated Series 1992-1995” is far better than any other incarnation before or since.

(3) EVIDENCE OF GENIUS. Up for auction the next six days — “Remarkable Letter Signed by Albert Einstein, Along With His Initialed Drawings”. Minimum bid is $15,000.

Albert Einstein letter signed with his hand drawings, elegantly explaining his electrostatic theory of special relativity to a physics teacher struggling to reconcile it with experiments he was conducting. In addition to the letter, which is new to the market, Einstein generously replies to a series of questions the teacher asks him on a questionnaire, providing additional drawings and calculations, initialed ”A.E.” at the conclusion. Dated 4 September 1953 on Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, Einstein writes to Arthur L. Converse, the teacher from Malcolm, Iowa, in part, ”There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers…[Einstein then draws Earth and the atmosphere, referring to it for clarification] The electric potential p rises linearly with the distance h from the surface of the earth…For all your experiments the following question is relevant: How big is the electric charge produced on a conductor which is situated in a certain height h, this body being connected with the earth…” Also included is Einstein’s original mailing envelope from ”Room 115” of the Institute for Advanced Study, postmarked 7 September 1953 from Princeton. Folds and very light toning to letter, otherwise near fine. Questionnaire has folds, light toning and staple mark, otherwise near fine with bold handwriting by Einstein. With an LOA from the nephew of Arthur Converse and new to the market.

(4) PROFESSIONAL FAKE REVIEW. As announced in comments, Theakers Quarterly have posted their fake review of There Will Be Walrus. They’re doing these as a fundraiser for Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. This is the first of four paragraphs in the review:

Military science fiction is a part of the genre that does not always get the attention it deserves, but thank goodness Cattimothy House is on the case, producing an anthology of stories and essays that ranks with the very best sf being produced in the world. Overrated social justice writerers such as John Scalesy and Jim B. Hinds might knock this kind of stuff and despise the fans who love it, but us real fans know the real deal when we see it, and here we do!

(5) NEW TAFF REPORT. Jacqueline Monahan published her TAFF trip report and earned a $500 bounty for the fund from the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests. More details when I find out how fans can get a copy.

(6) SALLY RIDE. At UC San Diego, where Ride served as a professor, a new graduate fellowship — the Sally Ride Fellowship for Women in Physics – has been established in her name to inspire future generations of boundary-breaking physicists who will contribute to the public good.

The pioneering astronaut Sally Ride was a beloved professor at UC San Diego for years. Brian Keating, professor of physics and Associate Director of the Clarke Center, and his wife, Sarah, recently provided the lead gift to fund the Sally Ride Graduate Fellowship for the Advancement of Women in Physics. “We thought this would be a great way to honor Sally Ride’s accomplishments and at the same time, motivate young scientists,” said Brian. “We hope that UC San Diego students will be inspired by her contributions to science and society.”

(7) STATISTICAL ACCURACY. Lately Cecily Kane has tweeted more than once about File 770 not linking to the Fireside Report

File 770 has linked to the Fireside Report. Before that it was discussed last September in comments. The thing I have never done is written an article about it, as I recently did with the FIYAH Magazine Black SFF Writer Survey.

This latest tweet came after I quoted Lela E. Buis in yesterday’s Scroll. That wasn’t the most popular thing I’ve ever posted and the comments section is open — it’s a shame to think we’ve been stuck reading Vox Day’s ridiculous attacks when we might be hearing something useful from Cecily Kane.

(8) SCRIMSHAW. We Hunted The Mammoth understands what’s happening — “Vox Day publishes book with near-identical cover to John Scalzi’s latest, declares victory”.

Beale’s master plan here, evidently, is to convince enough of his supporters to buy Kindle copies of the ersatz book out of spite so that it outranks Scalzi’s book in Kindle sales, a somewhat meaningless metric given that Beale’s books is priced at $4.99, compared to Scalzi’s $12.99, and that Scalzi is also selling actual paper copies of his book, while Beale’s is only available as an ebook. (Beale’s book has been taken down from Amazon several times already in the brief time it’s been out, apparently because, you know, it looks almost identical to Scalzi’s book, but at the moment it’s up on the site.)….

Beale, for all of his many defects, does seem to understand the art of the publicity stunt.

(9) THE LINE STARTS HERE. Can it be true that Kelly Freas and Pablo Picasso agreed about how nude women look? Go ahead, look at this Freas abstract now up for bid and tell me I’m wrong.

(10) DOUBLE UP. Rich Horton takes a lighthearted look back at “A Forgotten Ace Double: Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike”.

The covers are by probably the two leading SF illustrators of that time: Jack Gaughan (in a more psychedelic than usual mode for him), and Kelly Freas. So, I spent a fair amount of time on the background of these writers. Could it be that the novels themselves are not so interesting? Well — yes, it could.

Rackham, as I have said before, was a pretty reliably producer of competent middle-range SF adventure. And that describes Flower of Doradil fairly well. Claire Harper is an agent of Earth’s Special Service, come to the planet Safari to investigate some mysterious activity on the proscribed continent Adil. Safari is mostly devoted to hunting, but Adil is occupied by the humanoid (completely human, it actually seems) natives. But some plants with tremendous medical properties are being smuggled out, and the agents sent to investigate have disappeared.

(11) POETRY OF PHYSICS. In advance of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s upcoming event, “Entanglements: Rae Armantrout and the Poetry of Physics”, they have produced a bonus episode of their podcast: a conversation between poet Armantrout and Clarke Center cosmologist Brian Keating.

The event takes place April 13 at UC San Diego. Armantrout, Keating, the writer Brandon Som, and the critic Amelia Glaser will discuss how Rae’s poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 24, 1874 – Harry Houdini
  • Born March 24, 1901 – Disney animator Ub Iwerks.

(13) TEN MYTHS. Carl Slaughter, recommending “10 Sci-Fi Movie Myths That Drive Scientists Crazy” from CBR, says “Instead of discussing science movie by movie, this debunk video is organized by topics.  I would add lasers, but more about laser myths another time.”

Outer space is vast and holds a multitude of mysteries that have yet to be solved. But for some reason, the mysteries we have solved are still be represented incorrectly by Hollywood today. We understand these movies are all fiction, but with our growing knowledge of the universe it’s hard to ignore the glaring mistakes made in movies that make them less realistic. Here are 10 space facts movies ALWAYS get wrong.

The video covers: gravity, no helmet, black holes, sound, explosions, speed, time, distance, dogfights, and Mars.

(14) THEY DELIVER. According to the maker of “Futurama:  Authentic Science, Sophisticated Comedy, Cultural Commentary,” their video takes “A look at the show that brought humor and emotion into the sterile world of science and arithmetic.”

(15) FINNISH WEIRD. Europa SF reports that the latest issue of Finnish Weird is available.

This is a fanzine from Finland that features stories on speculative fiction, this time from Magdalena Hai, J.S. Meresmaa and Viivi Hyvönen.

The text includes an English translation. The issue is available as a free download here.

(16) FIVE STAR TREK CAPTAINS AND ONE DOCTOR WHO CAPTAIN. Another Carl Slaughter pick: “There are so many delightful memories and insightful comments during this discussion with 5 Star Trek captains, I can’t even begin to list them.  Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer were all on stage in London in 2012.  To top it off, the discussion is hosted by yet another captain, Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who/Torchwood fame.”

(17) BOMB OR NO BOMB? Digital Antiquarian tries to answer the question “What’s the Matter with Covert Action?”, game designer Sid Meier’s biggest disappointment – mostly to Sid himself.

But there are also other, less scandalous cases of notable failure to which some of us continually return for reasons other than schadenfreude. One such case is that of Covert Action, Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley’s 1990 game of espionage. Covert Action, while not a great or even a terribly good game, wasn’t an awful game either. And, while it wasn’t a big hit, nor was it a major commercial disaster. By all rights it should have passed into history unremarked, like thousands of similarly middling titles before and after it. The fact that it has remained a staple of discussion among game designers for some twenty years now in the context of how not to make a game is due largely to Sid Meier himself, a very un-middling designer who has never quite been able to get Covert Action, one his few disappointing games, out of his craw. Indeed, he dwells on it to such an extent that the game and its real or perceived problems still tends to rear its head every time he delivers a lecture on the art of game design. The question of just what’s the matter with Covert Action — the question of why it’s not more fun — continues to be asked and answered over and over, in the form of Meier’s own design lectures, extrapolations on Meier’s thesis by others, and even the occasional contrarian apology telling us that, no, actually, nothing‘s wrong with Covert Action.

(18) UNEARTHLY VISIONS. In Jaroslav Kalfar’s A Spaceman of Bohemia, “A Czech Astronaut’s Earthly Troubles Come Along for the Ride”: a New York Times review by Hari Kunzru.

The reason the Czech Republic is launching a manned spacecraft is the arrival of a strange comet that has “swept our solar system with a sandstorm of intergalactic cosmic dust.” A cloud, named Chopra by its Indian discoverers, now floats between Earth and Venus, turning the night sky purple. Unmanned probes sent out to take samples have returned mysteriously empty. Likewise a German chimpanzee has returned to Earth with no information save the evidence that survival is possible. The Americans, the Russians and the Chinese show no sign of wishing to risk their citizens, so the Czechs have stepped up, with a rocket named for the Protestant reformer and national hero Jan Hus. At many points in the novel, Kalfar sketches key moments in Czech history, and the very premise of a Czech space mission is clearly a satire on the nationalist pretensions of a small post-Communist nation. Financed by local corporations whose branding is placed on his equipment, Jakub is the epitome of the scrappy underdog, grasping for fame by doing something too crazy or dangerous for the major players.

(19) NO GORILLA. The Verge interviews visual-effects supervisor Jeff White about “How Industrial Light & Magic built a better Kong for Skull Island”.

When you have a featured character like this, how do you determine what techniques you’ll use to realize him? Particularly when it comes to performance — do you go through different approaches as to whether to use pure motion-capture, or pure animation?

We definitely did. We were very fortunate to work with [actor] Terry Notary, who I’d worked with before on Warcraft. He did a lot of body performance work. We had a couple days in mo-cap where Jordan could iterate very quickly with Terry to work through different scenes, then also try different gaits. And try things like, “Give us 10 chest pounds.” So he’d try different cadences. Is it three, is it alternating hands, is it hands together? Just trying to give us a nice library of things to pull from.

Then I would say the same is true of the face. We had a day of capture with Toby Kebbell (A Monster Calls, Warcraft), where he works through some of the scenes — particularly the less action-heavy scenes, where you really have a lot of time to look at Kong’s eyes, and the movement of the face. There are some shots where that facial capture is used directly, but through the production process and the reworking of the scenes, a lot of what Kong needed to do changed so much that the capture was used a lot more as inspiration and moments to pull from. And then ultimately a lot of the animation was key-framed. I think that was actually important to do, especially when trying to sell that Kong was 100 feet tall. Because even weighted down and moving slower, anyone that’s six feet tall is going to be able to change direction and move much faster than Kong would ever be able to.

It’s not even just a matter of saying, “Let’s take that and slow it down by 25 percent.” Once the arm gets moving, it can actually be pretty fast. But then when he needs to change direction, you need to have that appropriate, physically accurate process of getting this massive arm to move a different direction. With the animation in particular, it was a real challenge between making sure Kong felt slow enough where he was huge, but at the same time not letting the shots drag on so long that it no longer became an action movie.

(20) AN ALTERNATE INTERPRETATION. Carl Slaughter explains:

“Chain of Command” is usually included in lists of Star Trek’s best episodes.  This is the one with “There are 4 lights !”  The antagonist in this two-parter is Captain Jellico, who clashes with the Enterprise’s crew and even deliberately endangers Picard’s life. This video essay depicts Jellico as the protagonist who made all the right decisions for all the right reasons.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Michael J. Walsh, Iphinome, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Peggy Ranson (1948-2016)

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson. Photo by Vincent Mariano.

Peggy Ranson, a very popular fanartist in the 1990s, passed away March 16 from cancer. The family’s obituary is here.

She grew up in Memphis, and attended Memphis State University. While living in New Orleans she worked as a commercial artist for D.H. Holmes and the Times Picayune.

Ranson was employed as an ad illustrator when she volunteered to help with the 1988 New Orleans Worldcon. Guy H. Lillian III remembers, “She co-edited the Nolacon II program book with me, did scads of inimitable and exquisite fan art, and graced every moment we spent with her.” Lillian writes that this piece was her first fan art.

23ranson

She was an L. Ron Hubbard Illustrator of the Future contest finalist in 1990, and attended the awards ceremonies (see photo).

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Illustrator of the Future 1990. Peggy Ranson is fourth from right. (Kelly Freas is fourth from left.)

Ranson was a Best Fan Artist Hugo nominee every year from 1991-1998, winning in 1993. Lillian liked to say she was only the second fan from Louisiana (adopted) to win a Hugo (the first was Camille Cazedessus, publisher of ERB-dom.)

Peggy Ranson with HugoShe did countless pieces of art for conventions, bids, and fanzines, and for charitable publications like the Charlie Card Fund’s 1991 Fantasy Art Calendar. Her work won Best in Show at the 1991 Worldcon art show (Chicon V).

There’s a small gallery of her black-and-white art at Fanac.org.

Ranson cover for Challenger

Ranson was a guest of honor at DeepSouthCon 34 in 1996, and Armadillocon 20 in 1998, and other small cons across the South.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 she fled to Memphis. Afterwards she wrote a long account of her escape and what it was like to return to the heavily damaged city in Challenger 23.

maureen_origAlthough she did some cover art for professional publications, she does not seem to have pursued that as a vocation, for many of her assignments were for books by writers or small press publisers she knew well. This includes her covers for The NESFA Index to Short Science Fiction for 1989 (1992), Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordperson: The Complete Stories (1993) a paperback of George Alec Effinger stories from Swan Press, Girls for the Slime God (1997) a collection of stories edited by Mike Resnick, and Birthright: The Book of Man (1997) by Mike Resnick. She also did interiors for magazines, including Algis Budrys’ Tomorrow Speculative Fiction.

Ranson is survived by a sister and two brothers (one of them her twin), and several nieces and nephews.

Worldcon Wayback Machine: Monday at Noreascon 3 (1989)

Kelly Freas

Kelly Freas

Monday, September 4, 1989 at Noreascon Three. Final installment of my reminiscences about the once-in-a-generation convention that took place 25 years ago this week.

This is really only a postscript. My work schedule made it necessary for me to fly home and miss the last day of Noreascon 3. Yet luck was with me. I still picked up a good story while waiting for the plane.

Rainy Days and Mondays: With a cup of coffee in front of me I might have been any commuter, but Laura and Kelly Freas hesitated, decided they knew a Hugo when they saw one, and joined me at my table beside the jetway snack stand. Once Kelly recovered from Laura’s discovery that the stand wasn’t licensed to sell any of the beer visible in a refrigerated display case until 8:00 a.m., and in fact was doing a land office business in muffins, he and I traded pleasantries about the Hugos.

Kelly remembered being offended by the shoddy 1970 Hugo base given at Heidelberg (“looked like scraps from someone’s barn door”), inexplicably bad woodwork from the country famed for Black Forest cuckoo clocks. When Freas got home he chucked the committee’s base and made his own. Bruce Pelz later told me – the 1970 Hugo bases truly were cobbled together from an old barn door by Mario Bosnyak when the real bases failed to arrive.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov’s Speech at Noreascon Three: Over a thousand fans attended the featured event on Monday’s program, a speech by Isaac Asimov. Edward F. Roe sent me an account of what I missed. Here are some choice paragraphs from his report.

By Edward F. Roe: Asimov was asked to write a sequel to his Foundation Trilogy 30 years after its first publication. In the words of one of his critics, “nothing happens” in an Asimov story. “Nothing happens” means that no one gets killed, raped, or blows up the galaxy. When Isaac re-read the Foundation Series he commented, “You know, that guy was right. Nothing happens.” Asimov’s prose employs dialog heavily, and what the people say is interesting. Asimov went to the publisher and said he couldn’t write a sequel. The publisher took the time and explained it very nicely. He said get out of here, go home and write!

Asimov states that only people over 65 years old understand the Great Depression. To him it was the greatest disaster in human history not involving war or plague. It left him with a deep sense of insecurity. His family owned a candy store and he worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, except for school. It was impressed on Asimov that this was a normal work week, a habit he maintains to this day. He feels insecure when he is not working. He said, “Mentally I’m still imprisoned in that candy store.” Even though he has written many hundreds of books he still feels he has many books yet to write. He said that his dying thought will be, “Only six hundred?”

And with that Noreascon Three went into the history books as one of the best Worldcons ever. For most of the 6,837 members it was all over…except for the many volunteers who stayed to take apart the art show hangings, cart away the exhibits, roll up Warp Drive and Alice Way, and do the thousand-and-one other jobs involved in winding down a Worldcon. Even they were soon on their way out the door like everyone else, richer in memories and anticipating the new friendships they’d make next year in Holland.

Skylab’s Rise and Fall

Skylab 1 patch designed by Kelly Freas.

Skylab 1 patch designed by Kelly Freas.

NASA will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of Skylab, America’s first space station, on May 14. 

Skylab hosted a trio of three-man crews — Kelly Freas designed the patch worn by the first, launched in May 1973. Once the third crew was ferried home in 1974, Skylab was abandoned.

Hopes that the forthcoming space shuttle would allow the facility to be reactivated were dashed because in there was no way to boost it into a higher orbit and keep it in space until the shuttle program got going.

Ironically, Skylab’s demise seems better remembered than any work that was ever done aboard.

Broadcast reports about its deteriorating orbit predicted likely places it might crash to Earth, representing another unrealized dream, and one more manmade problem for 1970s America to worry about — and therefore deserving of a certain bitter humor.  

Welcome home skylab

In the state of Washington a “Skylab Self-Defense Society” designated Spokane as the “Official U.S. Government Skylab Target.” The society painted a huge red-and-white bull’s-eye target behind its tiny rented office, and sold bull’s-eye T-shirts.

And a fan started his own “Save My Ass!” campaign, publishing flyers that asked people to donate so he could move out of Canada where the giant junk was predicted to hit.

Skylab ultimately re-entered the atmosphere above the southern Indian Ocean in 1979, with pieces landing inland along the south coast of Western Australia.

Several large pieces of Skylab survived, scattered in the Australian outback. Among the largest pieces were the oxygen tanks. One is featured to this day in a tiny museum along the waterfront in Esperance, a port town 450 miles from Perth. Another of the oxygen tanks was sent to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and is on display there.

 [Thanks to Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.]

He Was the Dean

Promotional copy for the new Murray Leinster biography says he was known as “The Dean of Science Fiction.”

I should not have been surprised: I read this in Sam Moskowitz’ Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction way back in the Seventies. However, I’d managed to forget it since. Or possibly repressed it, because as a young fan my fannish loyalties were to that rival claimant of the title: Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein acquired the title “Dean of Science Fiction” sometime around 1960, says J. Daniel Gifford in Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion.

How? Thomas Clareson suggests in his essay for Voices for the Future (1976) that whoever wrote the jacket copy on his books was responsible:

Today Heinlein is known to many, thanks to paperback advertising techniques at least, as the “Dean” of science fiction writers, not so much because of his length of service as because of his relationship to the corporate body of science fiction.

Certainly a book cover was the first place I saw Heinlein called “Dean.” On the other hand, Leinster was called “Dean” in 1949 by no less an authority than Time Magazine

In the U.S., Will F. Jenkins, a 27-year veteran, who also writes under the pen name of Murray Leinster, is regarded as the dean of writers in the field.

Leinster was rather humble about the whole thing. In his introduction to Great Stories of Science Fiction (1951) he explained that he was sometimes called “’Dean’ of science fiction writers by virtue of my having outlived a number of better men. This wholly accidental distinction is perhaps the reason I was given the opportunity to compile this book.”

And as Leinster makes clear, the term “Dean” was primarily associated with seniority, length of service in the sf field. Lester Del Rey in The World of Science Fiction, a survey of the genre published in 1980, echoed the choice of Leinster:

…Murray Leinster, whose work remained popular in science fiction for more than fifty years and who was rightly named “the Dean of science fiction writers.”

I don’t know whether Heinlein liked being called “Dean” or thought it mattered at all. Maybe Bill Patterson can answer this in a later volume of his Heinlein bio. From a fan’s viewpoint I thought the name suited RAH because so many of his stories involved mentoring, the acquiring of self-discipline, or were delivered in the voice of a respected elder who has things to say about life, like Lazarus Long.

After Leinster died in 1975 some of the writers who acknowledged him as the “Dean” thought the title deserved to be perpetuated, which meant picking a successor. Isaac Asimov made it clear he preferred length of service as the criterion for naming someone the “Dean.” In his 1979 essay for IASFM “The Dean of Science Fiction,” Heinlein was not a finalist. Asimov listed Jack Williamson, Clifford D. Simak, L. Sprague de Camp and Lester Del Rey. And just a few years later – even while all four were still alive – Asimov seemed to have narrowed his list to two, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Both Simak and Heinlein died in 1988. Del Rey died in 1993. De Camp died in 2000.

Williamson seems to have been the writer most people felt comfortable calling the “Dean” in later years. Several of his peers labeled him by some version of the title both before and after Heinlein died. Interestingly, when Algis Budrys dubbed Williamson the “Dean of Science Fiction” in a 1985 essay for The Science Fiction Yearbook the usage even passed muster with the volume’s editor, Jerry Pournelle, a good friend of Heinlein’s. Williamson lived on until 2006, continuing to produce, his last novel The Stonehenge Gate published just the year before he died.

Some others regarded Arthur C. Clarke as the true heir to the title. Gerald K. O’Neill in The High Frontier (1989) called Clarke the dean of science fiction, and so did a contributor to a 1989 volume of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Clarke passed away in 2008.

People outside the field have always bandied the title about – Ray Bradbury was called the Dean on a TV show in the Sixties. Now he practically qualifies, though not quite – I imagine Fred Pohl has the edge in years as a professional writer.

Other specialties in the science fiction field have their “Deans.” Google tells me Frank Kelly Freas was called the “dean of science fiction artists,” though I must say I managed to go my entire time in fandom up to today without ever hearing him called that.

The New York Times once referred to Donald Wollheim as the “Dean” of science fiction editors, according to a 1981 article in The Bloomsbury Review.  Campbell had been so-called at least as early as 1947 — in Samuel Stephenson Smith’s How to Double Your Vocabulary, of all places — but he’d been dead almost ten years before The Bloomsbury Review took up the subject.

And let’s not forget that in Ann Arbor in 1975, Dean McLaughlin, author of “Hawk Among the Sparrows,” was who trufans called “Dean of Science Fiction.”

Of course, many will have become aware that no woman author’s name has been mentioned at any point, even in touching on the most recent decade. Ursula K. LeGuin regularly offers wisdom about topical issues in the field, and until death ended her long career Andre Norton was respected and influential, so there are women who might have been nominated to the role. However, I suspect the whole notion of a “Dean of Science Fiction,” which was never more than of anecdotal significance, is fading from fannish awareness too rapidly for a real sense of injustice to take hold.

[Thanks to John Lorentz, Google Ngram and Steven H Silver’s SF Site for help with this story.]

Lost: My Mind

Kaja and Phil Foglio

Phil Foglio is a Loscon 37 Guest of Honor. Now famed for his Girl Genius online comic, he came to early prominence as the artist who partnered with Robert Asprin in 1976 to create “The Capture”, a very funny graphic story presented at cons in slide show form that became the first faannish production ever nominated for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo.  

Even though it’s Phil’s pro work that Loscon is focusing on, this was the reason I remembered “The Capture” today. Or tried to.

I don’t know if I’ve seen it again since 1976 when I sat in a darkened ballroom at MidAmeriCon while the images flashed by and Robert Asprin narrated. Or so I almost remember.

And that afternoon the hilarity and excitement built as the audience repeatedly and ever more loudly filled in the comic line that drives the story, which is….  Which is…

I thought I was losing my mind. How could I remember sitting in that ballroom and not remember the joke?

I thought — Man, I’m embarrassing myself here. What if fans found out this happened to me?

Just thank goodness that we have the internet. I knew Google would save me because it can always find the answer even when my question is wrong.

Except not today.

You know the joke about trying to look something up in the dictionary that you don’t know how to spell? It’s like that. If you misremember the catchphrase as being “no such thing as ____” there isn’t a search engine in the world that can help you.

Originally I expected Google or Bing to return the answer if I merely searched Foglio and “The Capture”, but that was too general for them to work with. That search returned a lot of websites that know a coloring book was made from the show art, or that Robert Asprin shared credit, but provide very little detail about “The Capture” itself, not even the iconic tagline. Nor is there a Wikipedia article about “The Capture”, only a reference to it on a disambiguation page, and another in the article about Foglio himself, “The Capture” formatted as one of those pathetic red-colored links Wikipedia uses when it wishes somebody would write an article about the thing, except nobody does because they’re annoyed that the last entry they did had 17 warning labels slapped on it by the Wiki guardians for bad formatting, lack of citations and halitosis.     

So I recommend that if you ever find yourself in a situation where Google and Bing have failed – and with the onset of increasing age who won’t? – you should do what I did.

Ask Craig Miller.

He’ll know.

Once Craig reminded me about gremlins I could get any search engine to fill in the rest, just like a bank that’s always ready to lend money to people who don’t need it. “Gremlins do not exist!” is everywhere on the internet. Armed with the correct catchphrase it is no trouble at all to find thousands of references, including the concise description I will use as a closing quote, written by Jerry Pournelle as part of a reminiscence about the late Kelly Freas:  

Kelly was the “star” of a famous science fiction skit called “The Capture”, based on the premise that a World Science Fiction Convention was held on a cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle, and the inevitable happened: all the passengers were taken aboard an alien spaceship. The skit was done as a series of reports by the alien expedition commander. Most of the reports received advice from headquarters that “Gremlins do not exist,” although it was clear from what was going on with the detainees that perhaps there was a gremlin among them. It would be no favor to Robert Asprin and Phil Foglio who created this remarkable presentation to try to summarize it, and I don’t suppose it was recorded, which is all our loss.

Symphony Plays Queen for a Day

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra will be performing music by Queen in Norfolk on May 28, giving a writer for The Virginian-Pilot all the excuse necessary to reminisce about the time a local artist created an album cover for the supergroup. And who was that artist? You know him well:

Queen’s music has long merged disparate elements. Three decades ago, they sought the artwork of a middle-aged Virginia Beach resident who, up until then, had claimed no kinship to rock. He was Frank Kelly Freas, the legendary science fiction artist who was famous for everything from his work in MAD Magazine to NASA uniforms. Freas won an unprecedented 11 Hugo Awards – the science-fiction world’s equivalent to the Oscar.

His collaboration with Queen began in 1977 when Roger Taylor, the band’s drummer, saw Freas’ work on the cover of a 1953 science fiction magazine. Taylor went wild over a drawing of a robot holding battered people in the palm of its hand.

Queen searched the world for the artist and found Freas at his secluded, cluttered ranch house just south of the Pocaty Creek bridge in Virginia Beach, where he lived for 25 years. It had long been the center of the science-fiction art universe.

[Via Laura Brodian Freas.]

Hugos in Jeopardy!

Deb Geisler reports that October 16’s episode of Jeopardy! featured a category called “Complete the Hugo Award Winning Title.” As everyone knows, this quiz show reveals a clue — an answer — and makes contestants supply the appropriate question. Deb says the contestants only got two of the questions right.

Hugo Award winners have occasionally been showing up as Jeopardy! answers for years. A quick Google search returns these examples.

A clue in the show aired October 31, 2006 was: “Isaac Asimov won a 1977 Hugo Award for this novelette about a robot named Andrew who lives to be 200 years old.” The right question was: “The Bicentennial Man.”

In the episode aired October 25, 2005, a clue in the “Classic Television” category was: “This is the first Television show to receive the Hugo Award for Dramatic Presentation.” The appropriate question was: What is the Twilight Zone?

On November 7, 2000 contestants were given this answer: “10-time Hugo Award winner Kelly Freas is famous for illustrating the magazine called ‘Astounding’ in this genre.” The question: “Science fiction.”

The earliest example I found appears in the online bio of Harlan Ellison:

On 22 June 1998, Ellison’s career reached a dizzying summit when he became the answer to a clue in the Double Jeopardy round of that evening’s broadcast of the television game show, Jeopardy.

Don’t ask me why Ellison omits the mandatory exclamation point after Jeopardy!