Classics of SF at Loscon 44

By John Hertz: We’ll take up three Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLIV, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

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

Each of our three is famous in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when first published.  Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)

Three men who discover a country peopled only by women find “daring….  broad sisterly affection … fair-minded intelligence…. health and vigor … calmness of temper” (ch. 7).  Of course it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted.  How does she do it?

Robert A. Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy (1957)

Fans know the Heinlein Double Surprise: something strange happens, then something really strange happens.  Here’s a quadruple, each so carefully portrayed we’re ready to believe it’s the story.  What’s this for?  And we could sing “all the lonely people”.

Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Hard to Be a God (1964)

Centuries after Communism has inevitably prevailed on Earth, students follow other planets – but if they interfere, they’ll ruin the progress of historical materialism and bring about catastrophe.  How’s that for a Prime Directive?

2017 LA Vintage Paperback Show

2016 Vintage Paperback Show, panoramic view. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Over 400 people came out to the 38th Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show on March 19 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

John King Tarpinian and the rest of the event staff did a really fine job, always aware of what was going on and nice to everyone. John spoiled me with a reserved parking space that helped make everything more accessible.

As I went around the tables, many collectible items caught my eye – none more so than a Duke Snider action figure (he was a big Dodgers star when I was a kid). I find at this point in life I don’t need to personally own things like that, I’m just happy they still exist.

I wasn’t even expecting to buy any books, which must sound blasphemous considering where I was, until I visited Marty and Alice Massoglia’s table. On top of a pile was a Christopher Anvil novel The Steel, The Mist, and the Blazing Sun. I didn’t remember seeing that title before, although I read literally dozens of the guy’s stories in Analog. It was an Ace book edited by Ben Bova. The description on the jacket didn’t ring a bell either, so I paid the $2 and started reading – indeed, despite being published in 1980 it’s new to me.

I had volunteered to help at the Loscon fan table. After Michelle Pincus set up, I had a chance to talk to Marc Schirmeister and hear the latest about Taral’s health and recovery. Craig Miller, co-chair of this year’s Loscon, arrived and we table-sat for awhile, discussing his guests and publicity plans. Michael Toman came by and introduced himself, saying he reads File 770 often.

The Civic Auditorium has a stage at one end, and that’s where the Loscon and Horror Writers Association had tables. With an elevated view of the whole event, during the 11 a.m. hour I could see throngs of collectors carrying small piles of books for Jason Brock, William F. Nolan, Mel Gilden, Barbara Hambly, Joe Lansdale, Tim Powers, John Shirley and others to sign. At noon the sf/f writers included Dick Lupoff, Michael Kurland, and David J. Schow.

Larry Niven, Mike Glyer, and Jerry Pournelle. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

After lunch I got to have a long talk with Jerry Pournelle about his recollections of working in defense and on the space program in the early Sixties. He and I also compared notes about getting around on walkers. Larry Niven joined us, and when Steven Barnes came to say hello they had an impromptu 30-second story conference about the book the three are writing. I also had a chance to greet Harry Turtledove and Gregory Benford.

The Paperback Show is a terrific one-day event with a great spirit that reminds everyone why they’re glad they found the sf/f community. If you’re local, be sure to come out when it’s held again next year.

Classics of SF at Loscon 43

By John Hertz: We’ll take up three Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLIII, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

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

Each of our three is famous in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when first published.  Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Since they’re from fifty-seven years ago, I’m calling this

The Lanthanide Series

Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

hertz-starship-troopers

His second Hugo-winning novel; Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) his third.  When asked how he wrote such contradictory books, he said “I’m a science-fiction author.  I make things up.”  Troopers may get praise from those who feel drawn to its world, blame from those who feel repelled.  Is that all there is?

Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

hertz-sierns-of-titan

Inventive, check.  Novel about the meaninglessness of it all, check.  The Times Literary Supplement said “He is doing something unique to science fiction.”  This may be true.  No one else seems to have done anything like this to us.  Extra credit: more, or less, didactic than Troopers?  Than Andromeda?  Why?

Ivan Yefremov, Andromeda Nebula

 

hertz-andromeda-yefremov-cover

Poetic, lyrical.  Sold 20 million copies.  Changed Soviet science fiction.  A thousand years in the future when Earth is a Communist paradise, starships at 5/6 the speed of light meet alien challenges and we struggle against Time.  Published in Russian 1957, G. Hanna tr. (as Andromeda) 1959, M. Kuroshchepova tr. 2014.

Pixel Scroll 12/2 Have Rocket, Will Unravel

(1) SECOND OPINION. The President of Turkey is not a forgiving audience for social satire. So we learn from “Turkish Court to Determine if Gollum-Erdogan Comparison is Insult” at Voice of America.

The fate of a Turkish doctor is in the hands of experts who are tasked with determining whether he insulted the Turkish president by comparing him with the Gollum character from the “Lord of the Rings.”

Bilgin Ciftci could face two years in jail for sharing images on Facebook that seemed to compare President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the creepy character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels and film adaptations….

Turkish law states that anyone who insults the president can face a prison sentence of up to four years. Even stiffer sentences could befall a journalist.

Between August 2014, when Erdogan was elected, to March of this year, 236 people have been investigated for “insulting the head of state,” according to the BBC. Just over 100 were indicted.

 

Erdogan Gollum

(2) DIANA’S BOOK ON KINDLE. Now you can pre-order a Kindle edition of Bandersnatch, Diana Pavlac Glyer’s book about the Inklings. The release date is December 8.

You can also request a download of the first chapter at the Bandersnatch website.

(3) THESE THINGS COST MONEY! Destroying Death Stars is bad for galactic business. Or so claims a Midwestern academic. “Professor calculates economic impact of destroying ‘Death Stars’”.

Assistant professor of engineering at Washington University Zachary Feinstein recently published a study entitled “It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill” which posits that there would be a “catastrophic” economic crisis in the Star Wars universe brought on by the destruction of the Death Stars.

Feinstein’s research indicates that the two Death Stars constructed in the films cost approximately $193 quintillion and $419 quintillion respectively to complete. He calculated the cost of the planet-destroying space weapons by comparing them to the real life USS Gerald Ford.

According to Feinstein, the economic impact of both Death Stars being destroyed within a four-year period would cause an economic collapse comparable to the Great Depression.

Feinstein says the size of the Galactic economy would drop by 30 percent without a government bailout, which he doesn’t believe the Rebel Alliance would provide.

Well, there’s your problem. Rebel governments are notoriously reluctant to bail out recently overthrown tyrants.

(4) MONDYBOY TAKES STOCK. Ian Mond is “Moving Forward” at The Hysterical Hamster.

For the last three months I’ve had the nagging suspicion that I was a dead man walking when it came to writing reviews.  As much as I’ve enjoyed the process of reading novels on shortlists and then sharing my thoughts, the time it was taking to write a half decent review meant I wasn’t keeping pace with my reading.  And as the gap between reviews and books read widened that nagging suspicion became a cold hard reality.

I simply don’t have the time to produce reviews of a quality high enough that I’m happy to see them published.  Yes, I could try to write shorter pieces, limit myself to 500 words, but every time I’ve attempted this my inner editor has taken a nap and before you know it I’ve spent five days writing a 1,500 word ramble.  And, yeah, I could Patreon the shit out of this blog in the vain hope that asking for cash will compel me (more likely guilt me) into writing a review every couple of days.  But fuck that.  I’d rather enjoy the books I’m reading then feel weighed down by the responsibility of having to review them.

So I’ve made the mature decision to quit while I’m ahead….

Will it last?  Will I be back in eight months with a similar post talking about how I no longer have the time to turn on my computer let alone snark about the Hugo Awards?  Very likely.  (I mean, it’s taken me three days to write this blog post).

(5) ROOTS. SF Signal’s latest “MIND MELD: The Influential roots of Science Fiction”, curated by Shana DuBois, asks:

What genre roots have you found to be most influential and inspiring for you and your own writing?”

Providing the answers this time are Usman T. Malik, SL Huang, Nicole Kornher-Stace, Ferrett Steinmetz, Wendy N. Wagner, Kat Howard, Daryl Gregory, Amal El-Mohtar, Lesley Conner, and Jennifer Marie Brissett

(6) AH, THE CLASSICS. Cat Rambo says yes, the “classics” are worth reading, in “Another Word: On Reading, Writing, and the Classics” at Clarkesworld.

The point I want to make about my perspective on the “classics” is that I’ve read a substantial portion, both of the F&SF variety and the larger set, and made some of them the focus of study in grad school. (Again from both sets, since that focus was an uneasy combination of late 19th/early 20th American lit and cultural studies with a stress on comics/animation. You can see me here pontificating on The Virtual Sublime or here on Tank Girl. I’m not sure I could manage that depth of theory-speak again, at least without some sort of crash course to bring me back up to speed. But I digress.)

So here’s the question that brought me here: should fantasy and science fiction readers read the F&SF classics? And the answer is a resounding, unqualified yes, because they are missing out on some great reading in two ways if they don’t. How so?

  1. They miss some good books. So many many good books. At some point I want to put together an annotated reading list but that’s a project for tinkering with in one’s retirement, I think. But, for example, I’m reading The Rediscovery of Man: The Collected Stories of Cordwainer Smith right now (in tiny chunks, savoring the hell out of it) and they are such good stories, even with the occasional dated bit.
  2. They miss some of the context of contemporary reading, some of the replies those authors are making to what has come before. The Forever War, for example, is in part a reply to Bill the Galactic Hero; read together, both texts gain more complexity and interest.

(7) This Day In History

  • December 2, 1939 – Laurel & Hardy’s The Flying Deuces is released, a movie without any science fictional content of its own (unless you count Oliver Hardy’s reincarnation as a horse in the final scenes), but figures strangely into an episode of Doctor Who. During “The Impossible Astronaut” (Doctor Who, S.6 ,Ep.10),Amy Pond, the Doctor’s companion, and Rory Williams watch the movie on DVD. Per the Wikipedia: “Rory sees The Doctor (Matt Smith) appear in the film running towards the camera wearing his fez and waving, before returning to dance with Stan and Ollie. This was achieved with Matt Smith dancing in front of a green screen.”

(8) BAXTER MARS SEQUEL. Gollancz has announced plans to publish Stephen Baxter’s sequel to Wells’ War of the Worlds.

The Massacre of Mankind is set in 1920s London when the Martians from the original novel return and the war begins again. However, this time they have learnt from their mistakes, making their attempts to massacre mankind even more frightening.

Baxter, who also co-wrote the Long Earth novels with Terry Pratchett, said it was an “honour” to write the sequel. “H G Wells is the daddy of modern science fiction. He drew on deep traditions, for instance of scientific horror dating back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and fantastic voyages such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. And he had important near-contemporaries such as Jules Verne. But Wells did more than any other writer to shape the form and themes of modern science fiction, and indeed through his wider work exerted a profound influence on the history of the twentieth century.”

It’s due to be published in January, 2017. This time, we’re told, the Martians have learned the lessons of their failed invasion: they’ll no longer fall prey to microbial infection.

(9) FASTER. Gregory Benford has posted John Cramer’s contribution to The 100 Year Starship Symposium, “Exotic Paths To The Stars.”

I was Chairman of the Exotic Technologies Session held on October 1, 2011, at the 100 year Starship Symposium in Orlando Florida.  This chapter draws on the talks given in that session, but it does not represent a summary of the presentations.  Rather, I want focus on three lines of development in the area of exotic technologies that were featured at the Symposium, developments that might allow us to reach the stars on a time scale of a human lifetime: (1) propellantless space drives, (2) warp drives, and (3) wormholes.  With reference to the latter two topics, I will also discuss some cautions from the theoretical physics community about the application of general relativity to “metric engineered” devices like wormholes and warp drives that require exotic matter…

(10) HINES DECOMPRESSES. Jim C. Hines has “Post-Convention Insecurities” after his stint as Loscon 42 GoH.

I understand the phenomenon a bit better these days, but it still sucks. Partly, it’s exhaustion. You’re wiped out after the convention, and being tired magnifies all those insecurities. And the fact is, I know I stick my foot in it from time to time. We all do. It’s part of being human.

But I spend conventions trying to be “on.” Trying to be friendly and entertaining and hopefully sound like I know what the heck I’m talking about. Basically, trying to be clever. And I trust most of you are familiar with the failure state of clever?

Sometimes a joke falls flat. Sometimes I say something I thought was smart and insightful, realizing only after the words have left my mouth that it was neither. Sometimes an interaction feels off, like I’ve failed at Human Socializing 101. Or I get argumentative about something. Or I fail to confront something I should have gotten argumentative about. I could go on and on about the possibilities. That’s part of the problem.

The majority of the conversations and panels and interactions were unquestionably positive. But there’s a span when my brain insists on wallowing through the questionable ones, and I keep peeking at Twitter to double-check if anyone has posted that Jim C. Hines was the WORST guest of honor EVER, and should be fired from SF/F immediately.

Whether or not Jim had any influence on the result, I think it’s appropriate that in a year when he was GoH Loscon put together its most diverse range of program participants, probably ever – substantive speakers from all kinds of backgrounds.

(11) HOW GOOD WAS GOODREADS CHOICE? Rachel Neumeier browses the genre winners of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards.

If it’s a massive popularity contest you aim for, then the Goodreads Choice Awards is ideal. I dunno, I think in general I am most interested in the results of awards like the World Fantasy Award, which has a panel of judges; or the Nebula, which requires nominations to come from professional writers. In other words, not wide-open popularity contests. On the other hand, there’s a place for pure popularity too, obviously, and it was really quite interesting seeing what got nominated in all the Goodreads categories.

Of course I read mainly books that have been recommended by bloggers I follow and Goodreads reviewers I follow and so on, so these awards don’t much matter to me — no awards matter to me in that sense — but still, interesting to see what’s shuffled up to the top of the heap for 2015…

(12) SEE TWILIGHT ZONE WITH HARLAN. Cinefamily’s December events at the Silent Movie Theater in LA includes a celebration of the 30th anniversary of CBS’ 1985 version of The Twilight Zone, with Harlan Ellison, Rockne S. O Bannon, Bradford May, Michael Cassutt, Alan Brennert, Paul Lynch, William Atherton, J.D. Feigelson, Martin Pasko, Rebecca (Parr) Beck & Steven Railsback in person. December 5, starts at 5:30 p.m., tickets cost $14 (free for members).

Twilight zine new

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension-a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas-you just crossed over into the Twilight Zone…

Rod Serling opened his beloved, suspenseful, witty, and social commentary-filled drama with the same intonation every time, before presenting each delightfully formulaic science fiction fantasy, from 1959 to 1964. Those episodes will never cease to be replayed, but in 1985 CBS gave fans some new material to latch onto… an 80s revival of the series, created with the participation of writers, filmmakers, and actors for whom the original was a beloved memory. Join Cinefamily and the cast & crew of the 80s Twilight Zone at this 30th anniversary marathon and celebration, showcasing our absolute favorite 80s style sci-fi!!!

 

(13) KUNKEL FOLLOW-UP. After last week’s post “Kunkel Awards Created”, I was able to ask some follow-up questions of the organizers. James Fudge, managing editor of Games Politics and Unwinnable, filled in some more background.

Most of the heavy lifting on this award needs to be credited to Michael Koretzky and the SPJ. Prior to AirPlay, Michael had talked to me about creating some kind of award to incentivize good games journalism. I thought this was a great idea. I also have a lot of respect for Bill Kunkel, and seeing how he is considered to be the very first “games journalist”  (and helped created the first publication dedicated to video games) it seemed right and fair that he should be honored by having an award named after him. I didn’t know Bill personally but we talked a lot about journalism, the industry, and wrestling on a mailing list dedicated to games journalists called “GameJournoPros.”

After the criteria for the awards was sorted out I reached out to the widow of Bill Kunkel to ask for permission, She kindly gave us her approval.

(14) THE YEAR IN AFROSFF. Wole Talabi lists “My Favorite African Science Fiction and Fantasy (AfroSFF) Short Fiction of 2015”.

2015 has been a good year for African Science Fiction and Fantasy (or AfroSFF, as seems to be the consensus abbreviation). The year saw the release of Jalada’s Afrofutures anthology, Issues 2, 3, 4 and X of the new and excellent Omenana and  Short Story Day Africa’s Terra Incognita. Still to come are AfroSFv2 (edited by Ivor Hartmann), African Monsters (edited by Margret Helgadottir and Jo Thomas) and Imagine Africa 500 (edited by Billy Kahora and Trine Andersen). So much good stuff to read and more to come….

So in the interest of fueling discussion and analysis of AfroSFF stories in general, here are my favorite AfroSFF stories of 2015 in no particular order.

(15) Filer Von Dimpleheimer has done some light housekeeping in the first two volumes of his Short Fiction Eligible for the 1941 Retro-Hugos series.

I uploaded version 1.1 of Volume Two. I fixed some minor errors, but the main thing is that I put in the disclaimer page that was in Volume Three. I’ll do the same for Volume One as well.

The links should all be the same and still work. They worked for me after I had signed out of that account, but if you or any Filers have any problems, just let me know and I’ll try to sort it out.

(16) Harrison Ford was hilarious on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

First, he tried explaining how he dislocated his ankle on the Star Wars: The Force Awakens set, using a Han Solo action figure.

Then, Ford and Jimmy downed Greedo shots and debuted a colorful drink created in honor of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

(16) IT’S ONLY ROCK’N ROLL BUT I LIKE IT. Bill Roper says an ancient filk mystery has been solved.

Over 40 years ago, at the Toronto Worldcon in 1973, a young man joined the filk circle, sang a song, and vanished without a trace. The song was a lovely piece based on Arthur C. Clarke’s story, “The Sentinel”. Anne Passovoy was there and ended up reconstructing the song as best she could and adding it to her repertoire, noting that the song wasn’t hers, but presumably was something written by the anonymous young man.

And that was where things rested until last weekend at Chambanacon, when Bill Rintz and Bill Furry pulled out a song at their concert.

It was almost, but not quite the song that Anne had reconstructed. It was clearly the song that Anne had heard. All of the bones matched.

And so, as it turned out, did the feathers. Because this song was on The Byrds 1968 album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and titled “Space Odyssey”.

You can hear the original here. The lyrics are here.

(17) CARDS AGAINST WHOMANITY. io9 will let you “Print out the Doctor Who version of Cards Against Humanity right now”

Cards Against Humanity is the hilarious party game for horrible people, and now you can mix the game’s political incorrectness with your knowledge of Doctor Who thanks to a fan-made edition called Cards Against Gallifrey.

Because Cards Against Humanity is published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, anyone can make their own cards for the game, provided they publish them under the same license and don’t sell them. The comedy group Conventional Improv performs a game show based on Cards Against Humanity at different conventions, and this fall, in honor of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, they played Cards Against Gallifrey and have made their version of the game available to the public. Naturally, it’s crude, offensive, and imagines most of the cast naked.

(18) GREEN ACRES. Kind of like living in a Chia Pet. “This kit lets you assemble your own green-roofed Hobbit home in just 3 days”  at The Open Mind.

Magic Green Homes fabricates such structures using prefabricated vaulted panels and covers them with soil, creating flexible green-roofed living spaces with a Tolkienesque charm. And the kicker? They’re so easy to construct, just about anyone can build one.

(19) ZICREE. Sci-fi writer-director-producer Marc Zicree gives you a tour of his Space Command studio while shooting Space Command 2: Forgiveness — and shows clips

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, von Dimpleheimer, Alan Dorey, John King Tarpinian, and Steven H Silver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25 Have Space Suit, Can’t Get Through Babylon 5 TSA

In response to a suggestion I am adding subtitles to go with the item numbers. Some feel that will make cross-references to Scroll topics less confusing when they are talking about, say, item 8 from two days earlier.

(1) Royal Treatment. File 770 doesn’t get a lot of press releases, just the quality. Today I received the announcement of a second round of tickets for sale to those wanting to attend the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday in May 2016.

(2) Radio SFWA. Henry Lien’s instructional video, demonstrating the choreography for his anthem “Radio SFWA”, is rockin’ and ready for you to witness in this public Facebook post.

(3) Read The Comments. The New York Times published a feature about some of its most valued regular commenters. One of them is 95-year-old sf writer Larry Eisenberg.

Larry Eisenberg. Photo by Chad Batka.

Larry Eisenberg. Photo by Chad Batka.

Mr. Eisenberg has made a name for himself by commenting in poetry.

“Today the kind of poetry you see is primarily a prose form of poetry, you rarely see anything of a rhyming nature that’s published,” Mr. Eisenberg said, citing hip-hop music as an exception. “My own feeling is that people like rhymes. There’s something attractive about them.”

He said his poems were inspired by the fight against racism and inequality. “That’s something that really disturbs me,” he said. “The killings that are taking place, that are primarily racially directed.”

“I do get people who say they love what I wrote,” Mr. Eisenberg, who served as a radar operator in World War II, added. “They found it very enjoyable, or they got a laugh out of it. That’s of course very pleasant for me to read.”

Intelligence failure my eye!
A Cheney-Bush-Condi baked Pie!
Media abetted,
The lies weren’t vetted,
And boy, did this mess go awry!

Larry Eisenberg

Larry Eisenberg was an active sf writer in the 1960s-1970s who had a story picked by Harlan Ellison for Dangerous Visions (“What Happened to Auguste Clarot?”), 20 published stories in his “Emmett Duckworth” series, and had his story “The Time of His Life” (1968) included in The Arbor House Treasury of Modern Science Fiction edited by Silverberg and Greenberg.

(4) Loscon 42 is this weekend in LA. The full program is now online.

(5) Once More With Joshi. S.T. Joshi restates his arguments at greater length in “November 24, 2015 – Once More with Feeling”.

It appears that my recent blogs have been somewhat misunderstood: I suppose in this humourless age, where everyone feels at liberty to be offended at anything and everything, satire and reductio ad absurdum are dangerous tools to employ. (How I wish more of us could adopt Lovecraft’s sensible attitude: “I am as offence-proof as the average cynic.”)

Here are three of his 11 points – I suspect many sympathize with #7, if none of the rest:

7) It would help if the World Fantasy Convention committee had presented some—or any—explanation as to why the award was changed. The secrecy with which this matter was handled has done a disservice to the field.

8) No fair-minded reader could say that my discussion of Ellen Datlow in any way constituted “vitriol.” I was raising a legitimate query as to why she has turned against Lovecraft after profiting from anthologies that could only have been assembled because of Lovecraft’s ascending reputation. Similarly, my comment directed at Jeff VanderMeer was in no way insulting to him. It is simply the plain truth that his offhand comment does not begin to address the multifarious complexities of this issue.

9) I do not question the sincerity of those individuals (whether they be persons of colour who have been the victims of race prejudice—as I have been on a few occasions—or others who are concerned about the continuing prevalence of prejudice in our society today, as I certainly am) who genuinely believe that changing the WFA bust might have some positive results in terms of inclusiveness in our genre. I happen to think they are mistaken on that particular issue, but that is a disagreement that I trust we can have without rancour or accusations of bad faith. (I am, however, not convinced that Mr. Older is one of these people.)

(6) Carrie Fisher. CinemaBlend knows “The Blunt Reason Carrie Fisher Returned To Star Wars”.

Leia, who we now know has traded out the Princess tag for General, is one of those roles that is difficult for an actor to escape—much like Luke Skywalker, it casts a long shadow—and this played a part in Fishers decision. But her choice also had a lot to do with a bigger issue in Hollywood, the lack of quality roles for aging actresses. When Time caught up with the 59-year-old actress and asked if her decision making process was difficult, she said:

No, I’m a female and in Hollywood it’s difficult to get work after 30—maybe it’s getting to be 40 now. I long ago accepted that I am Princess Leia. I have that as a large part of the association with my identity. There wasn’t a lot of hesitation.

(7) Attack of the Clones. Michael J. Martinez continues his Star Wars rewatch reviews in Star Wars wayback machine: Attack of the Clones”.

…No, my issue is Padme, as in…what the hell are you thinking?

Anakin is utterly unstable. It’s apparently widely known that Jedi aren’t supposed to get romantic or emotional. So there’s your first tip-off. The stalkerish leering and horrid attempts at flirtation aren’t helping, either. But then, right in front of Padme, he confesses to slaughtering an entire tribe of sentient beings — women and children, too! Sure, the Sand People killed Anakin’s mom, but do you really just sit there and say, “Hey, Anakin, you’re human. We make mistakes. It’s OK. Hugs?”

Hell, no, Padme. You call the Jedi Council on Coruscant and let them know they got themselves a massive problem….

(8) We Missed A Less Menacing Phantom. Meanwhile, we learn “Ron Howard could have saved us from The Phantom Menace, but chose not to” at A.V. Club.

Way back in the mid-’90s, George Lucas apparently exerted some mental energy trying to decide whether he’d rather create a trilogy of bloodless films in order to experiment with his new computer-imaging software, or hire some real filmmakers and make some decent Star Wars movies. He ultimately went with the former option, but—at least according to Ron Howard—it could have easily gone the other way.

“[Lucas] didn’t necessarily want to direct them,” Howard explains in a recent interview on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “He told me he had talked to Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and me. I was the third one he spoke to. They all said the same thing: ‘George, you should do it!’ I don’t think anybody wanted to follow up that act at the time. It was an honor, but it would’ve been too daunting.”

If this story is true, that is some criminally negligent counseling from some of Lucas’ supposed friends.

(9) Theme v. Message. Sarah A. Hoyt works on a practical distinction between theme and blunt message in storytelling, in “Threading The Needle” at According To Hoyt.

Theme, plot and meaning in your work.

Yes, I know, I know.  You’re out there going “but aren’t we all about the story and not the message.”

Yeah, of course we are.  If by message you mean the clumsy, stupid, predictable message you find in message fiction….

So:

1- Figure out the theme and thread it through WHERE APPROPRIATE.

2- Figure out the sense of your novel and thread it through WHERE APPROPRIATE and not in people’s faces.

3 – If your sense of the novel fits in a bumpersticker, you iz doing it wrong.

4- most of 1 and 2 come down to building believable characters that fit the story you want to tell, and then not violating their individuality.

5- if you end in a line saying “the moral of this story is” it’s likely you’re over the top and turning off readers.  Also it’s possible Sarah A. Hoyt will come to your house and hold your cats/dogs/dragons hostage till you stop being a wise*ss.

(10) Today In History.

  • November 25, 1915 — Albert Einstein formulated his general theory of relativity

(11) Supergirl, Spoiler Warning.  Polygon reports “Superman to finally be introduced on Supergirl”

Audiences have gotten quick glimpses of the superhero, but there’s never been an official first look at the man of steel.

Now, however, Superman is set to make his official first appearance on the show, according to a new report from TV Line. Casting has already begun for the character, although some may be surprised to find out that CBS isn’t looking for a handsome, leading man to fill the role, but a 13-year-old boy.

(12) Game of Thrones Spoiler Warning. The Street asks, “Did HBO Just Tease That Jon Snow Is Alive in This Awesome ‘Game of Thrones’ Promotion?”

GoT left off in the Season 5 finale that Snow had been killed by his brothers of the Night’s Watch who rebelled against him as the commander of the group. Avid fans across the world cried and took to social media in outrage.

But since the season finale last June, fans have tossed around lots of theories on whether Jon Snow is actually dead. A prominent theory — at least in the TV series – is that Snow’s eyes change color just before the camera cuts off in the episode’s last scene. Could it mean that while Jon Snow may be dead, he will emerge as a new person, ahem, Jon Targaryen? Or was the eye color change just a trick of the camera?

As well, Game of Thrones blogs and various media articles have noted that Kit Harington, the actor who plays Snow, was seen on the show’s set while filming earlier this year for Season 6.

Still HBO hasn’t confirmed that the character will be returning. And following the season finale in June, HBO insists that Jon Snow is indeed — dead.

(13) Rex Reason Passes Away. Actor Rex Reason died November 19.

Rex Reason, the tall, handsome actor with a lush voice who portrayed the heroic scientist Dr. Cal Meacham in the 1955 science-fiction cult classic This Island Earth, has died. He was 86.

Reason died November 19th of bladder cancer at his home in Walnut, California, his wife of 47 years, Shirley, told The Hollywood Reporter….

In This Island Earth, distributed by Universal-International and directed by Joseph M. Newman, Reason’s Dr. Meacham is one of the scientists recruited by a denizen of the planet Metaluna to help in a war against another alien race. Russell Johnson, the future Professor on Gilligan’s Island, also played a scientist in the Technicolor movie, which at the time was hailed for its effects….

After a few years at MGM and Columbia, Reason landed at Universal and worked alongside Rita Hayworth in William Dieterle’s Salome (1953). He later starred as another scientist in The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), appeared with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier in Band of Angels (1957) and toplined Badlands of Montana (1957) and Thundering Jets (1958).

(14) Blue Origin. Yesterday’s Scroll ran a quote about the Blue Origin rocket test, but omitted the link to the referenced Washington Post story.

(15) Hines Review. Jim C. Hines reviews “Jupiter Ascending”.

I’d seen a bit of buzz about Jupiter Ascending, both positive and negative. I didn’t get around to watching it until this week.

The science is absurd, the plot is completely over the top, and about 3/4 of the way through, I figured out why it was working for me.

Spoilers Beyond This Point

(16) Cubesats. “United Launch Alliance Reveals Transformational CubeSat Launch Program” reports Space Daily.

As the most experienced launch company in the nation, United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced it is taking CubeSat rideshares to the next level by launching a new, innovative program offering universities the chance to compete for free CubeSat rides on future launches.

“ULA will offer universities the chance to compete for at least six CubeSat launch slots on two Atlas V missions, with a goal to eventually add university CubeSat slots to nearly every Atlas and Vulcan launch,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO.

“There is a growing need for universities to have access and availability to launch their CubeSats and this program will transform the way these universities get to space by making space more affordable and accessible.”

(17) Nazi Subway Ads. The New York Post article “Amazon Pulls Nazi-Inspired Ads from Subways” has more photos of the subway cars, inside and out.

Andrew Porter’s somewhat Joshi-esque comment is: “The concept of a USA under German and Japanese occupation is apparently beyond the comprehension of most subway riders, and politicians. Note that no actual swastikas appeared anywhere! Next: toy stores will be forced to remove World War II German model airplanes….”

(18) Testing for Feminism: The dramatic title of Steven Harper Piziks’ post “The Impending Death of Feminism” at Book View Café obscures his finely-grained account of a classroom discussion. The comments are also good.

Every year my seniors read Moliere’s Tartuffe. In that play is a scene in which Orgon orders his daughter to break off her engagement with the man she loves and marry the evil Tartuffe.  She begs him not to force this and asks his permission to marry the man she wants.

“Haw haw haw!” I chuckle at this point.  “Tartuffe was written in the 1600s.  Nothing like this happens today!”

Or . . . ?

I bring up a web site on my SmartBoard that asks questions and lets the students text their responses so we can see how the class as a whole answered.  The answers are always a little shocking

(19) Mockingjay 2. Tom Knighton reviews Mockingjay Part 2:

…Now, let’s talk about performances.  Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal, like she always is.  Personally, I like her better as Katniss than Mystique, but mostly because I prefer rooting for her characters and I just can’t with Mystique.

This is the last film we’ll ever see Phillip Seymour Hoffman in, and that is truly a tragedy.  So much talent, but he had a demon he couldn’t tame and it cost him his life.  To get political for a moment, this is something we should be discussing how to prevent.  Frankly, the threat of prison didn’t stop him, so maybe we should figure something else out for a bleeding change.  </politics>

Liam Hemsworth is great as well.  He’s a young actor I can’t wait to see do more.  My hope is that someday we’ll get a great action movie with Liam and his big brother Chris.  Gail and Thor on the big screen…yeah, I can see it….

(20) Bottled In Bond. James H. Burns recommends, “As folks are celebrating Thanksgiving, they could have a drink, like that other JB….!“ He means, of course, James Bond. For ideas, consult Burn’s article “007’s Potent Potables”.

The virtual explosion of surprise over James Bond drinking a beer in Skyfall was a bit absurd, and played almost like some practical joke from one of the spy’s arch enemies seeking to display just how gullible the media can be. (“Is that a SPECTRE I see over your shoulder?”) Call it a vast victory for product placement: The kind that not only gets the brand a major slot in a movie, but gets folks–including “The NBC Nightly News”–buzzing to the tune of MILLIONS OF DOLLARS of free publicity, for both the film, and the endorsement. But Ian Fleming’s secret agent 007 has been having the occasional brew almost since his very beginnings in the author’s bestselling series of espionage novels, which commenced in the early 1950s!

(21) Trivia. J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, was one of the seven people that Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott wrote to in the final hours of his life during his ill-fated return journey from the South Pole. Scott asked Barrie to take care of his wife and son. Barrie was so touched by the request that he carried the letter with him the rest of his life.

(22) Gratitude. “The SF/F We’re Thankful for in 2015” at B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog.

Andrew: Space opera seems to be coming back in a big way. Books such as Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, The End of All Things by John Scalzi, and The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers have been earning acclaim from all corners of the internet. I’ve always been a big fan of stories about expansive galactic empires, ragtag starship crews, and adventure far out into the cosmos, and the genre’s recent resurgence is both exciting and terrifying: there’s not nearly enough time to read all of them!

(23) Scalzi’s Thanksgiving Prayer. John Scalzi has recorded an audio of his science fictional thanksgiving prayertext first published on AMC in 2010.

… Additionally, let us extend our gratitude that this was not the year that you allowed the alien armadas to attack, to rapaciously steal our natural resources, and to feed on us, obliging us to make a last-ditch effort to infect their computers with a virus, rely on microbes to give them a nasty cold, or moisten them vigorously in the hope that they are water-soluble. I think I speak for all of us when I say that moistening aliens was not on the agenda for any of us at this table. Thank you, Lord, for sparing us that duty….

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Jim Meadows, rcade, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Credit for this holiday travel-themed title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21 The Incredible Linking Fan

(1) For lovers and others of giant movie monsters, “Doc Kaiju” — well known at the Classic Horror Film Board — has put together a rather remarkable compendium of such creatures: Kaijumatic: House of 1,000 Giant Monsters

Or, as he likes to put it:

Now with 1003 pages stuffed with 1670 big stars from 749 movies!

And, he updates it, constantly.

(2) Barney Evans has uploaded 50 photos taken at the 1988 Loscon, including many from the masquerade.

(3) “David Tennant Answers Our Burning Questions… Sort Of” in a Yahoo! video and profile.

As any David Tennant fan knows after years of watching him promote Doctor Who and Broadchurch, no one evades questions more delightfully. Hoping some of the mind control capabilities of his latest character, the villainous Kilgrave in Marvel’s Jessica Jones (now streaming on Netflix), had rubbed off on us, we invited him in to Yahoo Studios, handed him a card filled with questions, and asked him to answer them.

One example:

Name a book, TV show, or movie you’ve pretended to have read or seen, but you totally haven’t.

That’s a very good question. Probably in audition I’ve done that several times with some worthy director, who asked me what I thought of their latest opus.

(4) Entertainment Weekly looks on as “Stephen Colbert mocks scientists for making wrong Lord of the Rings reference”:

This week, a new species of spider was identified and given the name Iandumoema smeagol, a reference to Smeagol, the hobbit who would become Gollum after getting ahold of the One Ring. The cave-dwelling spider was given the name Smeagol because it shared a similar lifestyle with the character, who lived in a cave and stayed out of the sun until he morphed into the monstrous Gollum.

Colbert, however, wasn’t having any of it on Friday’s show. “Smeagol wasn’t a scary creature who lived in a cave,” Colbert said before recounting Smeagol’s biography, and how he killed his cousin after finding the One Ring.

Explained Colbert: “Smeagol hid from his guilt and the yellow face of the sun, by retreating into a cave, where his shame and his fear turned him into an unrecognizable creature. That creature wasn’t Smeagol anymore; that creature was Gollum. You should have named the spider Gollum. You don’t discover a venomous snake and name it Anakin. You name it Darth Vader.”

 

(5) Brandon Kempner strikes gold in “SFWA 2015 Nebula Recommended Reading List: Analysis and Prediction” at Chaos Horizon.

Table 1: Correlation Between Top 6 (and Ties) of the 2014 Nebula Suggested Reading List and the Eventual 2014 Nebula Nominees

Novel: 4 out of 6, 67.7%
Novella: 6 out of 6, 100%
Novelette: 5 out of 6, 83.3%
Short Story: 6 out of 7, 85.7%

(6) Netflix will remake Lost in Space.

The original comedy, which ran from 1965 to 1968, centered on the Robinson family as they attempted to colonize another planet in deep space — a mission that was sabotaged by a foreign secret agent and caused their ship to get knocked off course.

According to our sister site Deadline, the updated version is an epic (but grounded!) sci-fi saga about “a young explorer family from Earth, lost in an alien universe, and the challenges they face in staying together against seemingly insurmountable odds.”

(7) Laughing Squid presents the entire history of Doctor Who illustrated as a medieval tapestry.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, Bill Mudron has created a “slightly ridiculous” tribute to the Bayeux Tapestry that shows the entire history of the show. It begins when the Doctor runs away from his home planet of Gallifrey and ends with “The Day of the Doctor,” the 75-minute 50 anniversary special set to air on BBC One on November 23rd, 2013. A larger version of the illustration can be found on Mudron’s Flickr, and prints are available to pre-order online.

 

Doctor Who tapestry COMP

(8) The sparks fly when Galactic Journey’s time traveler to the sf genre of 55 years ago rubs together the contemporary and historical notions of political correctness in “I aim at the Stars (but sometimes I hit London)” .

If the United States is doing well in the Space Race, it is in no small thanks to a group of German expatriates who made their living causing terror and mayhem in the early half of the 1940s.  I, of course, refer to Wehrner von Braun and his team of rocket scientists, half of whom were rounded up by the Allies after the War, the other half of whom apparently gave similar service to the Soviets.

The traveler comments on a hagiographic von Braun biopic released at the time, and provides a scan of the souvenir Dell comic book based on the film.

(9) Michael J. Martinez prepping to see the new Star Wars movie by watching the two original trilogies in their canonical order. He begins — Star Wars wayback machine: The Phantom Menace.

This is basically a movie that’s supposed to remind us of the first trilogy, but does very little to actually create an origin story for those older movies. Instead, we have attempts at nostalgia. Look, Jedi! Lightsabers! The Force! Spaceships and space battles! But even there, we have problems. Such as:

There’s no smart-ass. All the prequels were missing the Han Solo archetype — the scrappy outsider and audience surrogate who can stand toe-to-toe with these gods and monsters.

There’s George Lucas’ efforts at being cute, with the Gungans. I think George felt that he needed to appeal to the cute younger audiences, starting with Return of the Jedi, and thus we had Ewoks. Now we have Gungans, complete with silly mannerisms and catchphrases. Adults always underestimate kids’ ability to grasp nuanced entertainment, and this is no exception. We didn’t need Gungans.

The stereotypical accents and mannerisms of the Gungans and the Trade Federation folk have been covered elsewhere. But still…WTF were you thinking, man? Just no.

Wooden dialogue and stiff acting. I think I know what George was going for here — a shout-out to the sci-fi serials and movies of the 1940s and 1950s. Fine, I get it. But it didn’t work. At all.

(10) “Don’t nominate me for any awards” posts Lela E. Buis.

I don’t want to be left out of the trending commentary….

(11) “4 Beautiful Ray Bradbury Quotes That Celebrate Autumn”  selected by Jake Offenhartz at History Buff.

Though mid-afternoon sunsets and leafless trees may give the impression that winter is fast approaching, we’re still technically just halfway through fall. Which strikes us as good enough reason to look back at the work of Ray Bradbury—master of science fiction, adversary of censorship, and chronicler of all things fall. The author wrote extensively about the season, penning autumnal wisdom in various projects throughout his career, most notably in a short story collection called The October Season and a novel titled The Halloween Tree. We’ve collected some of our favorite fall-related quotes below, so cozy up and have a read:

1. The October Country (1955)

“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

(12) Merlin is in Disney’s future says CinemaBlend.

If you were going to create a checklist for how to make a current Hollywood blockbuster there are a few things you want to be sure were on it. First, you want to base it on an already existing piece of fiction, preferably a book. It would be even better if it were a series of books, about a character people were already familiar with. It would need to be able to have big fantasy action set pieces too. Then you want to bring in a production team that was involved in one of the previous fantasy action franchises based on a series of books, because that stuff looks great on a trailer. It looks like Disney just checked off all their boxes as they just brought in an Academy Award winning screenwriter from The Lord of the Rings to pen the screenplay based on a 12 book series about Merlin the magician.

Philippa Boyens is known, almost exclusively, as one of the writers behind the incredibly successful films based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

(13) Guy Gavriel Kay, Member of the Order of Canada.

(14) Caitlin Kiernan, two-time WFA winner, regrets the Lovecraft bust is being retired, in her post “I have seen what the darkness does.”

You may or may not have heard that the World Fantasy Committee has voted to change the design of the World Fantasy Award from Gahan Wilson’s bust of Lovecraft, which has served as the award since it was first given out in 1975. No, I don’t approve. I don’t believe this was the appropriate course of action. I’m saddened by this lamentable turn of events, and I’m glad that I received my two World Fantasy awards in advance of this change. How long, now, before the Mystery Writers of America are pressured to abandon the Edgar Award? When we set this sort of thing in motion, where does it end?

(15) A limited TV series based on a Vonnegut book – it could happen, reports A.V. Club.

Back in April, we reported that Kurt Vonnegut’s fourth novel, Cat’s Cradle, had been optioned for TV by IM Global Television. At that point almost nothing was known about the project other than the fact that it would indeed use Cat’s Cradle as its source material, which is implicit in a TV show labeled as Cat’s Cradle adaptation. Now though, according to Deadline, a precious few details have emerged: the show will live on FX as a limited series, and be written and executive produced by Fargo creator Noah Hawley.

Vonnegut’s original work was published in 1963 and takes on science, technology, and religion with equal satirical fire. After the novel’s narrator, John, becomes involved in the lives of the adult children of Felix Hoenikker, a fictional co-creator of the atomic bomb, he travels to the fake Caribbean island of San Lorenzo and encounters a strange outlawed religion called Bokononism that many of the area’s inhabitants practice anyway. Through Hoenikker’s children he also learns about ice-nine, a way to freeze water at room temperature that could be devastating if used improperly. Needless to say, destruction and dark humor ensue.

(16) On its February cover, Mad Magazine slipped Alfred E. Newman into a crowd of storm troopers.

MAD-Magazine_555x717_532_54d52a91bb51c7_86515890

(17) IGN will be ranking the top 100 movie trailers of all time in a feature that will be unveiled November 23-25.

(18) Comic Book Resources retells a bit of lore about the making of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in “Movie Legends Revealed: The Accidental ‘Star Trek’ Actress?”

It is a funny scene, but it was also ad-libbed. Notice how everyone else ignores them? The woman who answered them was also supposed to ignore them. The comedy was supposed to derive from the fact that they couldn’t get an answer (and, yes, from the way Chekov says “vessels”).

The woman in question was San Francisco resident Layla Sarakalo, who woke up one day to discover her car had been towed. She had missed the notices that “Star Trek” was filming on her street, and her car was in the way. She decided that one way to get the money to pay for the towing was to get a job as an extra on the set.

 

[Thanks to Shambles, James H. Burns, Will R., John King Tarpinian, and Lynn Maudlin for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon 42

By John Hertz: We’ll take up three Classics of SF at Loscon XLII, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

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

Each of our three is famous in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when first published.

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

Arthur C. Clarke
A Fall of Moondust (1961)

Fall of Moondust ClarkeA Hugo finalist, a kind of drama, a kind of locked-room mystery, tense, urgent, an interweaving of science and fiction where each sustains the other, this masterwork of story and verisimilitude shows what the author could do almost in monochrome.  His poetry and characterization are subtle and striking.

Robert A. Heinlein
“All You Zombies….” (1959)

All You Zombies HeinleinIs this the best time-travel story ever?  The author’s best?  It’s short; as for sweet, well —  It could certainly be compared with the author’s own “By His Bootstraps” (1941) and Door Into Summer (1957); with Asimov’s End of Eternity (1955) and Leiber’s Big Time (1958).  We’ll discuss it instead.

Franz Kafka
Amerika (1927)

Amerika KafkaHis three great novels — Amerika, The Castle, The Trial — were published only after his death.  Here we find the Statue of Liberty bearing a sword, and before long, that desk, those glass walls.  Some have called Amerika lighter, more cheerful than the other two.  Ha ha.

extra ** extra
Bobbi Armbruster Special

Walter Farley
The Island Stallion Races (1955)

Island Stallion Races FarleyThe man whose books made the Black Stallion “the most famous fictional horse of the century” (New York Times) wrote one with aliens, space travel, shape-shifting.  It was the first SF novel our Fan Guest of Honor read.  We’ll celebrate with an extra discussion.  How is Races unlike and like the SF we’re used to?

Loscon 42 Writing Contest Under Way

Loscon 42 co-chairs Robbie Bourget and Marcia Minsky have announced that the con is holding a Writing Contest for aspiring writers. Entries are being taken now.

There are three categories:

  • Youth (6-12)
  • Young adult (13-20)
  • Adult (21 plus)

Prizes are still being decided.

Bourget and Minsky say:

We are looking for your best fantasy or science fiction between 500 and 1000 words; the youth and young adults may supplement their word count with illustrations (each one worth 50 words). We will be having a professional writer (to be named later) judge this competition.

All submissions must be received by October 31, 2015. Submit your entry to chairman@loscon.org.

Loscon 42 takes place November 27-29 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. Guests of honor are Jim C. Hines, Bobbi Armbruster, David B. Mattingly, and Theresa MacWillie.

Loscon Was Nearly the Answer

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1125)  Loscon XLI (Los Angeles local con; November 28-20, 2014); Writer Guest of Honor was J. Michael Straczynski, Graphic Artist Richard Hescox, Fans Colleen & Shawn Crosby; attendance 1,040.

Bobbi Armbruster and Bruce Farr helped me build a Rotsler Award exhibit: with two panels available I put on the left hand one image by each previous winner, on the right a selection from this year’s Sue Mason; plus one by Rotsler, plus notes about him, the award, fanzines.  Kenn Bates took photos.

Regency Dancing was on Friday at 4 p.m. Discussion of The Stars My Destination (A. Bester, 1957) at 2:30, so I conducted it in costume. Loud singing next door.

Milt Stevens pointed out Bester’s careful structure: starting in the dark, climaxing in the cathedral, ending in the light. Jaunting, the book’s teleportation, with no machinery, is done by Will and Idea. Of course Bester knew that was Schopenhauer. From the audience: the story makes no apologies. I said, not with words. Why does Gully fall for Olivia? Another: she’s unattainable. I said she, driven, attracts the driven man. He horrifyingly learns she’s bad; he gets a conscience — in a world where religion is outlawed.  Is the book despondent — after all that coruscation, a retreat? See the penultimate sentence of the Prologue.

Tim Powers kindly said winning the Forry Award (from the L.A. S-F Soc., host of Loscon; since 1966, for lifetime service to s-f, named after Forrest J Ackerman, to whom we gave it in ’02; placing Powers in the company of Leigh Brackett, Mike Glyer — the 4e can go to a fan or a pro, some folks are both — Kelly Freas, C.L. Moore, Jack Vance) was better than a Nebula. Ron Oakes groaned his Westercon LXVIII in San Diego would be just before Comic-Con.

At 1 a.m., feeling contributive, I left on the Fandomverse table  (September 4-6, 2015, Lancaster, California) “I like fandom ’cos it’s strange. It helps my mind get broader range.The creatures I meet may have seven feet but there’s nothing I’d take in exchange.” [A sally that inspired two more rounds of verse, here and here.] At 2:30 the MidAmericon II (’16 Worldcon) party was plenty alive but I had to lead a book talk at 10.

Skylark Three (E. Smith, rev. 1948).  Coruscation in a different style; and wonders never cease.  David Levine (not the Portland one) said it had depth of imagination; it’s vivid.  I said, note via editing slips the 1930 version, e.g. “the stuff we’ve been getting lately” a Prohibition joke.  Three assumes the reader saw the strength of Dorothy and Margaret in its previous book.  Again as Theodore Sturgeon said Science fiction is knowledge fiction.  Correctly infer where knowledge must be and there it is.

In the Art Show were fine Rick Sternbach images, including Neutron Star (L. Niven, 1968) with a transparent needle ship driving past a blazing sun, and his ’84 cover for the Ballantine collection Nightfall with the city afire and thirty-six thousand stars (I. Asimov, ’41).  Hescox showed sketches next to finished works.  Of his Bride of the Castle (J. DeChancie, ’94) DeChancie said “That really is my book.”

Moonraker (I. Fleming, 1955) Sunday morning at 10.  Michael Weasner in the audience said the James Bond character is a classic.  Several noted how Moon fit the ideas and the mood of its time.  I praised the ’60 Signet cover art — I had the 12th printing, someone else had the 21st — but it’s hardly Gala Brand or the story.  How differently Bester, Fleming, and Smith handle the adventure of knowledge.  What a master Fleming is of corroborative detail.  And not only does the card game set up the climax, we end with “the man who was only a silhouette”.

During take-down Marty Massoglia showed me this, which his daughter Mariel McKinley said she didn’t make, only found: (12 + 144 + 20 + 3 v~ 4) ÷ 7 + 5 x 11 = 9² + 0 “A dozen, a gross, and a score, plus three times the square root of four, divided by seven, plus five times eleven, is nine squared, and not a bit more.”  Afterward I saw it credited to the author of “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama”, Word Ways v. 13 n. 1 p. 36 (Feb 80), and a biography of him — Leigh Mercer 1893-1977, who seems to’ve held 85 jobs during his life — v. 24 n. 3 pp. 131-38 (Aug 91).  Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era (p. 137)?