Pixel Scroll 5/13/17 Pixels Scrolled Separately

(1) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. James Davis Nicoll decided, “Just because an organization never got around to the logical step of commissioning an anthology does not mean I won’t review it anyway.”

So in “All I Have To Do Is Dream” he assembles his own edition of Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winners.

Starmaker (excerpt) by Olaf Stapledon, 2001 winner

Accompanied by like-minded companions, a star-farer explores a diverse array of inhabited worlds. He observes some common themes.

Comments

Like the novel from which it is drawn, this excerpt is less concerned with plot and much more concerned with drawing a vast yet detailed picture of the universe.

(2) KNOW YOUR GRANDMASTERS. SFWA President Cat Rambo reports “We (SFWA, not royal we) have added a bunch of playlists devoted to the various SFWA Grandmasters to the SFWA Youtube channel here. They are courtesy of SFWA volunteers K.T. Bryski, who put them together, and Juliette Wade, who got them put up.”

These are curated playlists consisting in large part of videos discussing the authors’ works. Over three dozen have been created so far. Here’s one of the videos included in the Alfred Bester playlist:

(3) THE GETAWAY. James Somers of The Atlantic will have you feeling sorry for Google by the time you finish “Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria”. “And I didn’t know that was possible,” as Ben Bradlee said about H.R. Haldeman. The biggest intellectual property grab in history, or a boon to humanity? You decide!

“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”

…On March 22 of that year, however, the legal agreement that would have unlocked a century’s worth of books and peppered the country with access terminals to a universal library was rejected under Rule 23(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

When the library at Alexandria burned it was said to be an “international catastrophe.” When the most significant humanities project of our time was dismantled in court, the scholars, archivists, and librarians who’d had a hand in its undoing breathed a sigh of relief, for they believed, at the time, that they had narrowly averted disaster….

… In August 2010, Google put out a blog post announcing that there were 129,864,880 books in the world. The company said they were going to scan them all.

Of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way. This particular moonshot fell about a hundred-million books short of the moon. What happened was complicated but how it started was simple: Google did that thing where you ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and forgiveness was not forthcoming. Upon hearing that Google was taking millions of books out of libraries, scanning them, and returning them as if nothing had happened, authors and publishers filed suit against the company, alleging, as the authors put it simply in their initial complaint, “massive copyright infringement.”….

(4) MISTAKES WERE MADE. John Scalzi, in “Diversity, Appropriation, Canada (and Me)”, gives a convincing analysis of what Hal Niedzviecki set out to do, despite starting a Canadian kerfuffle:

As I’ve been reading this, I think I have a reasonably good idea of what was going on in the mind of Niedzviecki. I suspect it was something along the line of, “Hey, in this special edition of this magazine featuring voices my magazine’s reading audience of mostly white writers doesn’t see enough of, I want to encourage the writing of a diversity of characters even among my readership of mostly white writers, and I want to say it in a clever, punchy way that will really drive the message home.”

Which seems laudable enough! And indeed, in and of itself, encouraging white, middle-class writers out of their comfort zones in terms of writing characters different from them and their lived experience is a perfectly fine goal. I encourage it. Other people I know encourage it. There’s more to life than middle-class white people, and writing can and should reflect that.

But it wasn’t “in and of itself,” and here’s where Niedviecki screwed up, as far as I can see…

Then he talks about his own experiences —

Now, related but slightly set apart (which is why I’ve separated this part off with asterisks), let me address this issue of diversity of characters in writing, using myself as an example, and moving on from there….

(5) GET YOUR BETS DOWN. Two more entries in the Doctor Who replacement sweepstakes:

Radio Times is reporting that Luke Treadaway (Fortitude) and Sacha Dhawan (Iron Fist) are now in consideration for the role. Treadaway has been a mainstay of British TV, so fits the Who modus operandi. Dhawan, meanwhile, would become the first actor of color to secure the role, an exciting prospect for many. He’s also quite eager for the gig. When asked about playing the character, he had this to say:

“Oh my God, I’d absolutely love to. I SO would love to.”

(6) STAPLEDON WARS. There’s no agreement in the science fiction community on the best science fiction novel, but Mike Resnick claims there’s no debate on the most influential science fiction novel.

A few days ago, someone on Facebook asked the question: what was the greatest science fiction novel ever written? There wasn’t much agreement (nor should there have been). I think the first hundred respondents named perhaps eighty-five titles.

When it came my turn, I answered that I didn’t know who did the best novel, but there was no question that Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker was the most important, since ninety percent of all science fiction since it appeared stole knowingly—or far more often, unknowingly—from it.

So of course I got over one hundred e-mails in the next few days asking who Olaf Stapleton was, and why would I make such a claim about a book no one seems to have heard about.

It occurs to me that some of our readers may share that curiosity, so let me tell you about this remarkable thinker.

The wild part is that not only don’t most fans know his name, but most pros who have used his notions as a springboard for their own stories and novels haven’t even read him. His ideas have been so thoroughly poached and borrowed and extrapolated from and built upon that writers are now borrowing five and six times removed from the source.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 13, 1955 The aquatic monster is back – in Revenge of the Creature.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian discovered Dick Tracy has been busy stopping crime at a Comic Con.

(9) AS YOU KNOW BOB. A Robert A. Heinlein letter archive is being offered on eBay for $17,500:

Here is a vintage archive of letters from May 1941 to January 1942, during Heinlein’s early days as a pulp writer before beginning his World War II engineering work for the Navy.  It was during this period that he was Guest of Honor at the Denver Worldcon & hosted informal gatherings of science fiction authors at his home on Lookout Mountain Avenue in the Hollywood Hills under the name of The Manana Literary Society.  Basic listing is: five TLS, one ALS, one TLS from Leslyn, two ALS from Leslyn, many with some crossouts & corrections, plus a later catching-up TLS from 1956.  Shown are a few samples.  Further details available for serious enquiries.

(10) A CONCRETE HOBBIT HOLE. Here’s a material I don’t usually associate with Hobbits, used by a couple to build “A Gorgeous Real World Hobbit House In Scotland”.

Reddit user KahlumG shared photos of this amazing hobbit-style home located outside of Tomach village in Scotland – this incredible residence is the result of tireless effort by a husband and wife team who salvage, craft, sew, and carve to create their own magical mind-bending wonderland from the objects they can find in the wilderness around them. While the verdant exterior of the home is certainly breathtaking on its own, the rustic interior is filled to the rafters with even more one-of-a-kind delights to explore and enjoy. Would you ever adopt a magical retreat like this one to be your full-time residence?

The exterior of the main building is constructed almost entirely of concrete, allowing a variety of gorgeous vines and mosses to take root all over. Concrete’s ability to weather quickly will lend the home even more character and charisma as the years go by.

Wouldn’t Bilbo find this a little too much like a cell on Alcatraz?

(11) DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SAYING? Cnet traces “How 138 years of sci-fi video phones led to the Echo Show”.

The latest Alexa device from Bezos and friends will finally give us video calling the way decades of movies predicted it would look. What took so long? Here’s a timeline.

… By the time actual moving pictures became easier to record and play back for an audience (real-time transmission was still a long way off, of course), early sci-fi films quickly got to work solidifying the video phone of the future as a recurring trope.

The 1927 classic “Metropolis” features a videophone, as does Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and 1935’s “Transatlantic Tunnel.”

(12) GORDO COOPER AND THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. James Oberg tells about the Discovery series “Cooper’s Treasure in “The magic MacGuffin of Mercury 9” at The Space Review.

As any film buff can tell you, a “MacGuffin” is a plot device that is the focus of the drama and action of the story. It’s often a physical object, such as a codebook, or treasure map, that the protagonists are seeking.

For the Discovery Channel and its latest series, “Cooper’s Treasure,” there is indeed a treasure map, already in possession of a veteran “treasure hunter.” What makes this map unique, according to the program promos, is that it came from outer space.

Supposedly, Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper made the map based on observations he made during his MA-9 orbital flight in May 1963. Near the end of his life, he shared the map and the research he’s been doing with a friend, Darrell Miklos, who vowed to complete Cooper’s search for shipwrecks full of gold.

Specifically, reports Miklos, Cooper told him he found the potential treasure spots using a secret military sensor that had been installed on the spacecraft originally to hunt for Soviet nuclear missile bases hidden in the area of Cuba—where a major international crisis involving such missiles had occurred only a few months before the flight….

(13) STATE OF THE ART 1989. Leslie Turek, editor of classic fanzine Mad 3 Party, thanked Tim Szczesuil and Mark Olson for completing their project to put the entire run of the fanzine online at Fanac.org.

Writes Mark Olson:

You really want to take a look at these! The first ten issues were Boston in ’89 bid zines edited by Laurie and then by Pat Vandenberg, and they’re worth reading, but it’s the issues 11-38 edited by Leslie Turek which provide an amazing view into the nuts and bolts of building a Worldcon, especially starting with #14.

If you have never been involved at a senior level in a Worldcon and think you might want to be one day, read these! (And it’s good reading even if you don’t l/u/s/t/ f/o/r/ p/o/w/e/r/ hope to run one. Leslie’s work won a Hugo! And you can easily see why.)

(And I’ll add that reading through them reminded me of many things — mostly good — that I’d forgotten. And reminded me what an energetic, competent group who really works together can accomplish.)

(14) IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU REVIEW. At Galactic Journey, John Boston relives the things that make fans scream — “[May 15, 1962] RUMBLING (the June 1962 Amazing)”.

Oh groan.  The lead story in the June 1962 Amazing is Thunder in Space by Lester del Rey.  He’s been at this for 25 years and well knows that in space, no one can hear—oh, never mind.  I know, it’s a metaphor—but’s it’s dumb in context and cliched regardless of context.  Quickly turning the page, I’m slightly mollified, seeing that the story is about Cold War politics.  My favorite!

(15) PUSHES ALL MY BUTTONS. “‘Unearthed’: Read the first chapter of Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s upcoming novel” at Yahoo! News.

Love Indiana Jones but wish it were set in space? Well, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s Unearthed has you covered.

Their latest Y.A. novel sees scholar Jules Addison team up with scavenger Amelia Radcliffe, when Earth intercepts a message from the Undying, a long-extinct alien race whose technology might be the key to undoing all the environmental damage the planet has sustained over the years….

Free excerpt at the link. But if you get hooked, you still have to wait til the book comes out next year.

(16) SUMMER OF FANLOVE. The over the air nostalgia channel MeTV is adding ALF, Outer Limits and the classic Battlestar Galactica to its summer schedule.

Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night and Red Eye Sci-Fi have added two science fiction classics to The Summer of Me. The last vestige of humanity fights for survival on Battlestar Galactica, Saturdays at 7PM | 6C. Stay up late for fantastic tales from The Outer Limits, Saturdays at 1AM | 12C.

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

Best Series Hugo Committee Report Online

The motion to add a Best Series Hugo, discussed on File 770 last year by its former title in “New Draft of Best Saga Proposal”, and the follow-up “Final Revision of Best Series Hugo Proposal Now Online”, was sent to committee by the 2015 Sasquan Business Meeting at the drafters’ request.

That committee has returned its report, which is available in the Agenda for the MidAmeriCon II Business Meeting.

Warren Buff, the committee chair, commented:

The report features a substantially revised motion from last year, although the numbers have remained the same.

We put this through the wringer, and believe that this is the best proposal we can assemble in terms of defining a series in a way that’s easily understood and balancing the issues inherent in a work that might never be completed, but is nonetheless meant to be enjoyed as a coherent whole. I won’t hold forth by copying the entire report, but will include the concluding paragraph:

“In our discussions, we have approached the topic from the perspectives of writers, editors, academics, Hugo Administrators, and fans who read series with varying degrees of enjoyment. This proposal does not represent everyone’s ideal take on how to recognize series, but instead the most viable compromise position we could reach, and we recommend its passage.”

The members of the committee are Warren Buff (chair), Jared Dashoff, Todd Dashoff, Eric Flint, Chris Gerrib, Tim Illingworth, Joshua Kronengold, Bill Lawhorn, Michael Lee, Simon Litten, Farah Mendlesohn, Mark Olson, Steve Saffel, Pablo Vazquez, Peter de Weerdt, Clark Wierda.

The full text of the report is here. Included are minority reports from Chris Gerrib and Joshua Kronengold containing their own recommended motions, and from Mark Olson, who thinks the category should not be added at all.

TAFF Platforms Released

Brad and Cindy Foster, Curt Phillips and Randy Smith are your official Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund candidates in the 2014 race to pick a delegate to Loncon 3. Here are their platforms and nominators —

Brad and Cindy Foster

Why Brad and Cindy? Because they are one mind in two bodies. (They wish they had two minds, but that’s asking too much.) Because between them they have covered almost all the fannish bases. And, because this is probably the only way they will ever get to see London. He draws pictures – lots of them, and has lived the life fannish through zines and locs. (A paper-person.) She has been social (a people-person) through conventions and conversations. He’ll have to look you up in his files to remember which zine you pub, but she’ll remember your name, face, and family history.

Nominators: Mike Glyer (US), Andy Hooper (US), Steven Silver (US), David Langford (UK), Yvonne Rowse (UK).

Curt Phillips

I am a fan. I guess I always have been; I think I always will be. I’ve collected more science fiction than I’ll ever have time to read, but I keep on collecting more. I’ve written for and published fanzines; I’m the OE of FAPA. Have done many other fannish things in my time, both usual and unusual. But I’ve never traveled outside America. I’d very much to meet some of the wonderful fans in the UK and from across Europe as your TAFF delegate, and then come home to write about my adventures for you. Please support TAFF! Vote!

Nominators: Randy Byers (US), Ulrika O’Brien (US), John Purcell (US), Claire Brialey (UK), Pat Charnock (UK).

Randy Smith

Fandom is a conversation that began in the letter columns of the 1920s pulps and now extends around the world. As active participants in that conversation, we can look for new ways to expand, strengthen, and create new and divergent paths of exchange. We truly never know where it will take us. The TAFF delegate to LonCon 3 will be able to contribute in some small and unforeseen ways to that creative conversation. I would be honored if that person were me. I also promise a speedy appearance of my trip report.

Nominators: Christopher J. Garcia (US), Mark Olson (US), Kevin Standlee (US), Colin Harris (UK), Patrick McMurray (UK).

[Thanks to Jim Mowatt for the story.]

Another TAFF Candidate Announces

Randy Smith has entered the 2014 TAFF race. On his Facebook page he posted “I am informed by the TAFF administrators that my name will appear on the ballot for 2014. Many thanks to my nominators: Christoper J Garcia, Kevin Standlee, Mark Olson, Colin Harris, and Pat McMurray!”

This makes a three-way race, Curt Phillips and Brad and Cindy Foster having announced a few weeks ago. The nominating deadline is December 31, leaving open the possibility one or two more fans may decide to vie for the trip to the 2014 Worldcon in London.

[Thanks to Chris Garcia for the story.]

Rosalyn Yalow (1921-2011)

Nobel laureate Dr. Rosalyn Yalow passed away May 30, the New York Times reported today. I want to offer my condolences to Ben Yalow, her son, who I’ve worked with on many convention committees over the years.

Dr. Yalow shared the  Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 1977 with Roger Guillemin and Andrew V. Schally for development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique, described in the Times obituary as

an extremely sensitive way to measure insulin and other hormones in the blood. The technique invigorated the field of endrocrinology, making possible major advances in diabetes research and in diagnosing and treating hormonal problems related to growth, thyroid function and fertility.

This discovery was one of many she made with Dr. Solomon Berson, her colleague who passed away in 1972:

With Dr. Berson, Dr. Yalow made other discoveries. Using radioimmunoassay, she determined that people with Type 2 diabetes produced more insulin than non-diabetics, providing early evidence that an inability to use insulin caused diabetes. Researchers in her lab at the Bronx veterans hospital modified radioimmunoassay to detect other hormones, vitamin B12 and the hepatitis B virus. The latter adaptation allowed blood banks to screen donated blood for the virus.

The UK Telegraph, in its lengthy obituary, made this significant observation:

The commercial possibilities for RIA were enormous, but while Rosalyn Yalow and Berson recognised this, they refused to patent their method. Instead they made every effort to get RIA into common use, putting its scientific value ahead of their own financial interests.

Dr. Yalow had some limited contact with fandom, such as participating in the 1989 Worldcon program (Noreascon III). Either there or at another con, Isaac Asimov engaged her in debate about a question to do with radiation and later claimed victory in his memoir I, Asimov. However, Mark Olson, in his review of that book, denies that Asimov triumphed:

He grumps that he wasn’t able to convince her and comments that while they were both equally stubborn, he was right, and she was wrong! (And the really amusing part is that, as he describes the point at issue in his essay, he was almost certainly wrong, and in a fairly elementary way!)

Dr. Yalow was the subject of a biography by Eugene Straus, M.D., published in 1998, available in searchable form on Amazon.com and as a paperback.

Her autobiographical article on the Nobel Prize website is here.

Where Secret Masters Lurk

Conrunners with ties to the World Science Fiction Convention, and smaller cons also entirely run by volunteers, will rendezvous at SMOFcon 27 from December 4-6, 2009 in Austin, TX.

The theme of this year’s SMOFcon is Time Management. The hospitality suite opens Thursday night. During the day on Friday Vincent Docherty, Deb Geisler and Mark Olson will be running a Budget Boot Camp. (“Where did you put that decimal point, plebe? Drop and give me twenty!”)

Their first progress report has just been posted as a PDF.

All Over But the Shouting

Kevin Standlee of the FOLLE committee points out in a comment that the Ackerman and Ley Hugos were reclassified as Special Awards five years ago, the change first appearing in the Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book. Questions about Ackerman’s estate only surfaced the issue for debate. But Rich Lynch, a fellow member of the FOLLE committee, feared there was decisive resistance to making the correction – which triggered his protest to a fannish listserv.

I really dislike making Kevin the lightning rod for this deal simply because he’s willing to discuss it in public. He’s already corrected the official Hugo Awards site. It’s not even clear he had a hand in the decision: “Honestly, I don’t know who the specific person was who changed it, but the change had stuck and was in the FOLLE records.” Nor do the FOLLE committee reports attached to the minutes of 2004 Worldcon Business Meeting give any details about why changes were made to the Hugos, only those made to Worldcon history are explained.

So I will confine myself to a couple of basic questions. Kevin, you were on the FOLLE committee at the time, didn’t all members know about the changes – how was that work done? Also, it would not have taken five years for this question to come up if FOLLE annotated its work on the Hugo list the way it does the Long List of Worldcons — what would it take to have that done, something which will add transparency and credibility to the work?

The FOLLE committee was created in 2003 at the TorCon 3 business meeting, and its original members (in office when the changes were made) were Mark Olson (Chair), Kevin Standlee, George Flynn, Joe Siclari, Vince Docherty, Rich Lynch and Craig Miller. The committee’s organizers told the TorCon 3 Business Meeting:

[Our] policy is to have the Long List include the version which in our judgment best reflects the facts as understood by the people involved, and to document whatever variations or details we have discovered in the notes. We will respect historical judgments as long as they are not clearly in error, and we will attempt to objectively verify any corrections or notes we add.

I have always admired that vision statement, and the latest revelation concerns me because the result isn’t consistent with the goal.

It’s easy to make an educated guess whose database is perpetuating the change. The FOLLE report in the 2004 WSFS Business Meeting minutes mentions:

We have made huge progress in developing a Long List of Hugos using data supplied by Dave Grubbs and the ISFDB and are now (slowly) working to perfect the entries. (N4 has somewhat diverted the chairman’s attention, but we’ll get back to work…)

The Internet Science Fiction Database still characterizes the Ackerman and Ley Hugos as “Special Awards.” That designation was given to all committee awards on the list published in Noreascon 4’s Souvenir Book (2004), making clear there was a reclassification involved, not just a layout decision.

Can it be that the Long List of Hugo Awards was more accurate before people set out to perfect it?

Before leaving the subject I want to field a couple of questions that hit my e-mail today.

Q: Should I include Slater on the Hugo winners?
I think not. Ackerman was voted the Hugo by the participating membership. Ackerman’s gallant gesture ought not to be confused with an actual legal right to overrule the voters’ choice.

Q: Was Ackerman’s Hugo identical to, say, Alfred Bester’s Hugo?
I can’t say from personal experience. I would expect Ackerman’s Hugo to be identical to the others (or as close as Jack McKnight could produce them) since they made a point of giving his first. But even if it is identical, that wouldn’t by itself decide the conceptual argument of how Ackerman’s award should be classified. For example, Chesley Bonestell’s special committee award was a Hugo rocket — and that’s why the rules were subsequently changed to forbid giving Hugos rockets as committee awards. At the time of the first Hugos there would have been no bar to doing so.

I’ll end by repeating that the most helpful piece of evidence in this debate has been 1953 Worldcon committee member Bob Madle’s confirmation that all the categories were voted on. So there’s no justification for reclassifying Ackerman or Ley.

Need to Cut Back on Chocolate?

As I roamed around Denvention on Saturday afternoon, looking into program rooms for something interesting to watch, I saw Mark Olson raining green-foiled Andes Mints on a small audience of fans playing “Trivia for Chocolate.”  Steven Silver and Jim Mann were the other quiz masters. I stepped inside.

It didn’t take long for me to decide that “Trivia for Chocolate” ought to be renamed “Mike’s New Diet Plan.” I managed to win only two pieces.

At first I sat behind David Goldfarb. The scouting report on David Goldfarb expressed in baseball terms would be: great bat, bad glove. He knows, by a conservative estimate, well, everything. David’s only weakness is fielding. If he actually had to catch the chocolate the competition might be closer.

I spent some time watching David’s winnings bounce past me, til they asked a question that I should have gotten – seeing that I was the answer. We all realized how little of the proceedings I was hearing and I moved to the front row, to the seat nearest Tom Galloway that was not already occupied by his own hoard of chocolate. After that my main handicap was ignorance, but that’s when I scored my two pieces. Knowing Mack Reynolds wrote “Adventure of the Extraterrestrial” was worth one Tim-Tam, a chocolate-dipped biscuit imported from Australia.

Marty Massoglia arrived halfway through the program and from then on scored heavily. Ah, the golden memories of once upon a time when Marty, Bruce Pelz and I entered a team trivia competition as the “LA Smog” and did so well. What decade was that? Hm, another piece of trivia I’m forgetting.

Note: David Goldfarb has posted a LiveJournal entry about “Trivia for Chocolate” that also tells how he pillaged Tom Whitmore’s book collection as the winner of another trivia game at Denvention.)