Pixel Scroll 11/17/17 No, I’m Never Gonna Tick  A Box, Guilty Scrolls Have Got No Pixels

(1) MARVEL CHOPS TOP. Newsweek reports “Marvel’s New Global-Minded Chief C.B. Cebulski Replaces Controversial Axel Alonso”.

Marvel Entertainment announced Friday that it has a new Editor in Chief. C.B. Cebulski is a comic book editor who has worked in Marvel’s global division for more than 15 years. The move comes as Marvel shows greater commitment to diversity in its superheroes, and as it eyes readership that reaches all over the globe.

The shakeup comes amid lagging sales for many of Marvel’s titles, which outgoing EIC Axel Alonso implied was due to the company’s push for ethnically diverse superheroes.

… At a retail summit last year, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales David Gabriel told attendees that the sales slump was due to updated versions of classic characters: a mixed-race Spider-Man, an Asian Hulk, a female Thor. Alonso was part of the discussion and seemingly agreed, saying Marvel had gotten too political. “We’ve gone through a period where in pop culture as a whole (and you guys notice that as much as we do), there’s been this massive discussion about inclusion and diversity,” he said. “But Marvel is not about politics.”

Cebulski, on the other hand, has always been entrenched in Marvel’s attempts to include heroes of diverse backgrounds. He began his career in manga, and worked on the Marvel Mangaverse in the early 2000s. He also worked on the Runaways spin-off Loners, overseeing Nico Minoru’s storyline in the series Mystic Arcana.

(2) CURSED. Camestros Felapton feels there’s a paranormal explanation behind these cinematic disappointments: “Review: Justice League The Curse of Zak Snyder”.

I was apprehensive walking into the cinema – I was out of town, with nothing to do but either stare at my feet in a soulless hotel room or visit the near by shopping mall with its requisite and equally soulless multiplex.

Not many people know that the witch character from the Suicide Squad movie cursed the DC movies with a hex so powerful that it ripples back in time and ruined the Green Lantern movie. Only Wonder Woman and Lego Batman have been strong enough to escape the curse.

So I knew I was paying money to see a film that unnatural powers had already undermined. Of the Zak Snyder films I have seen I only have affection for Legends of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’hoole, I think it also be the only one of his films that feels like a complete narrative.

Yet Justice League is NOT terrible – don’t get me wrong it isn’t actually good but it’s not Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad….

(3) LEAGUE LUKEWARM. NPR’s Chris Klimek says: “‘Justice League’ Is Just OK”:

But the stuff that works in Justice League, if only just, bears [Whedon’s] stamp. It also sticks out from the material that Snyder started shooting 19 months ago like strapping Clark Kent in a newsroom full of pasty, soft-bellied bloggers.

(4) SOMETHING ROTTEN. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Rotten Tomatoes under fire for timing of ‘Justice League’ review”, discusses the fire directed at Rotten Tomatoes after they delayed the rating (which was 43 percent) for Justice League for 24 hours, allegedly because Time Warner owns 30 percent of the site and Comcast owns 70 which would lead to Rotten Tomatoes giving Warner and Universal releases better treatment.

More than just a kerfuffle over one superhero movie, however, the incident raises larger questions about the relationship between reviewers and the public, the editorial objectivity of aggregators and how much studios should be empowered to control the pre-release messaging of their films.

“I think we need more transparency and equality on Rotten Tomatoes,” said Guy Lodge, a critic who writes for Variety. “An aggregation site should practice absolute objectivity. You mix Time Warner into it,” he added, “and it becomes very confusing.” A WB spokeswoman declined to provide a comment for this article.

(5) A RED S. Here’s a link to the catalog for Profiles in History’s Superman auction, which happens December 19.

An alien named Kal-El from the destroyed planet Krypton was sent to Earth and raised as Clark Kent by human foster parents. As an adult, he became the protector of Earth while Clark Kent worked as a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis.  After several failed attempts to find a viable publisher for their story, artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel’s creation hit the big time when it was chosen as the cover feature for Action Comics #1 in June 1938 by National Allied Publications (the precursor of DC Comics).  Thus marked the genesis of Superman and the superhero genre, forever changing popular culture. We are now on the cusp of the 80th anniversary of his colossal debut.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Nibble frozen cranberries with Amal El-Mohtar” in Episode 52 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Amal El-Mohtar

It’s time to say farewell to Helsinki—and hello to award-winning writer Amal El-Mohtar—in the final episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded during Worldcon 75. Our meal took place a mere 36 hours after she’d won this year’s Best Short Story Hugo Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” for which she’d also won a Nebula Award earlier in the year.

We chose one of the city’s oldest seafood restaurants for our lunch—Sea Horse, which has been in operation since 1934. And it’s lasted that long for a good reason! We enjoyed the food and the ambiance so much I returned a few days later for dinner with my wife during our post-Worldcon stay.

Amal’s stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, and Apex. Her stories “The Green Book” and “Madeleine” were finalists for the Nebula Award in 2011 and 2015 respectively, and “The Truth About Owls” won the Locus Award in 2015. She won the Rhysling award for Best Short Poem in 2009, 2011 and 2014, and in 2012 received the Richard Jefferies Poetry Prize.

We discussed the importance of female friendship, the first poem she wrote at age 6 1/2 (which you’ll hear her recite), how Charles de Lint helped her get her first bookstore job, the importance of welcoming newcomers into the tent of science fiction and fantasy, what she learned about empathy from Nalo Hopkinson, the only time she ever cosplayed, which book made her a writer, why Storm is her favorite member of the X-Men, the delicious magic of honey, the difficulties of reviewing books in a field where everybody knows everybody, and much more.

(7) AUDIO TORTURE. It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast, everywhere we go.

(8) A PLEASURE. Elsewhere in the world Cheryl Morgan found easy listening: “M. John Harrison in Bath”.

Last night I took myself into Bath where M. John Harrison was reading from his latest collection, the wonderfully titled You Should Come With Me Now. The book is a mixture of short stories and flash fiction, and shows that Mike has lost none of his sentence-crafting skill, nor his biting wit.

The centerpiece of the reading was the magnificent “Psychoarchaeology”, inspired by the discovery of the (alleged) burial of Richard III under a car park. The story is a meditation on the heritage industry, and is both cutting and hilarious.

There’s always a rights issue. Where does the latest Tudor belong? Does he belong where he was found? Or whence he came? Who gets the brown sign? One wrong decision and York won’t talk to Leicester, the knives are out again after hundreds of years of peace. Contracts torn up, the industry at war with itself, we all know where that can lead: diminished footfall in the visitor centres. No one wants to see that.

(9) CHECKING OUT. Open Culture tells how “’Library Extension’ Helps You Find Books At Your Local Library While You Shop for Books Online”.

The concept beyond “Library Extension” is simple. As you browse books and e-books websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads, the Library Extension will check the online catalog of your local library and see whether the book you’re interested in happens to be available at your local library. The browser extension currently works on Chrome. Firefox is coming soon. And the browser extension currently has access to data from 4000 local libraries and library systems.

 

(10) SDI. Thrillist revisits “How 2 Sci-Fi Writers Fueled a U.S. President’s Wild Quest to Weaponize Space”.

Larry Niven had the mind for space. An award-winning and best-selling author, his first installment of the Ringworld series — a futuristic and sometimes tongue-in-cheek saga about a massive space station that orbits a distant star as an artificial planet — was considered an instant classic. The book still remains one of the most popular of the several dozen he’s published, and he continues to flesh out the series.

But in 1980, Niven took a career detour. Soon after the election, the author hosted a group of colleagues for a meeting at his home to discuss President-elect Reagan’s stance on space. The “Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy” included mostly right-leaning military figures, ex-astronauts, scientists, plus a number of Niven’s science-fiction writer contemporaries. The group had the backing of the American Astronautical Society and the L-5 Society, both of which hoped to chart the course of the United States’ space interests over the next two decades, with the more immediate goal of building its recommendations into Reagan’s official policies.

In attendance was Jerry Pournelle, Niven’s co-author on both the 1974 book The Mote in God’s Eye — about a worst-case-scenario alien invasion — and 1977’s Lucifer’s Hammer — about a comet impact that creates widespread anarchy. A self-described centrist — but only in terms of his own elaborate political mapping system, the Pournelle Axes — Pournelle believed in a robust, technocratic military state wedged between the New Left and conservative factions of government.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 17, 1979 Salem’s Lot premiered on TV.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian learned about interior design Batman-style on Brevity.

(13) MANY DOLLARS. The BBC says San Diego Comic-Con has a big handle: “Comic book success: The rise of the Comic-Con festival”.

From a gathering of less than 300 people in 1970, the event has morphed into an annual, multi-day media bonanza that draws major corporate sponsors, movie studios and more than 150,000 people.

The event made more than $17m in revenue in 2015, according to the most recent tax filing available online, and it has spawned similar festivals in cities around the world.

“San Diego’s growth has been mind-boggling,” says author John Jackson Miller, who also owns Comichron, which tracks sales of comic books.

Mr Miller went to San Diego for the first time in the early 1990s, when it still drew less than 40,000 people.

(14) FOR WHICH TWITTER WAS MADE. Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig are at it again. The thread starts here.

(15) MOSKOWITZ. Hal W. Hall’s Sam Moskowitz: A Bibliography and Guide is available as a free download online from Texas A&M University. The sketch of Sam Moskowitz on the cover is by Frank R. Paul.

A comprehensive bibliography of the writings of Sam Moskowitz. Sam Moskowitz was a fixture in science fiction, from near the beginning to the present day. He was a fan, editor, author, historian, critic, WorldCon organizer, and cheerleader for the science fiction field. He was a prolific author of books, articles and letters. His books are readily available in libraries or for sale. The same cannot be said of many of his articles, and certainly not of his letters. Many of the articles and letters appeared in science fiction pulps and in fanzines. Some of the fanzines were quite professional in appearance, content and editing, and served a valuable service to science fiction scholarship in preserving much of the early history of science fiction. The writings of Sam Moskowitz are an important part of that historical archive. Eric Davin notes that “Sam Moskowitz saw himself as the science fiction historian of record.” It is a good description. He researched and recorded much about the beginnings of science fiction.  Some items remain the only resource available on a particular person or topic. An accurate scholarly judgment of the historical and critical output of Moskowitz remains to be done.

(16) QUACKS ME UP.

(17) UNACQUIRED TASTE. Glenn Garvin of Reason.com reviews the Hulu series “Future Man,” in “Future Man is Gleefully Sophomoric, And That’s Part of Its Charm,” where he notes that the series, written and produced by the people who brought you the immortal masterpiece Sausage Party, which means it’s full of the sophomoric jokes teenage boys like, with many jabs at video gamers in general and The Last Starfighter in particular.

The two warriors who escape from the game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe, Quantico) and Wolf (Derek Wilson, Preacher), come from a future where the veneer of civilization has been pretty much worn away from everything, and their sanguinary work habits—Wolf’s favorite plan is “Rip his fucking dick off!”—supply much of Future Man‘s staple humor. (Bodily effluents, emitted in always surprising but ever disgusting ways, are pretty much the rest.)

But it’s hard to resist a show a show that so relentlessly mocks its own origins. Future Man is a tapestry of withering allusions to everything from The Terminator movies to the Mortal Kombat video games (can you guess which organ gets ripped out of losing contestants?) to Animal House.

(18) SAY CHEESE. “The Largest Digital Camera In The World Takes Shape”NPR has the story. “It will go on a giant telescope taking shape in Chile called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.”

LSST is different from most large telescopes. Instead of staring at a tiny patch of the sky and taking essentially one snapshot in time, LSST will take a panorama of every part of the sky…and it will do so over and over and over. The idea is to see what’s moving or changing in the heavens.

“That could be everything from asteroids, to variable stars, to supernova, to maybe new phenomenon that we don’t know about yet,” says Aaron Roodman, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Roodman is the scientist in charge of the integration and testing of the camera.

(19) SILENT MOVIE THEATER. The future of a LA landmark is in doubt, as Variety says “Cinefamily to Permanently Shut Down Following Sexual Harassment Scandal”.

Los Angeles independent film venue Cinefamily will permanently shut down and dissolve the board following allegations of sexual misconduct made against some of Cinefamily’s executives in August that led to two resignations from the company.

Silent Movie Theater, Cinefamily’s longtime home, will be closed and renovated by the landlord, while the board will establish a transition team to handle the organization’s financial and legal affairs, according to a statement from the board of directors.

“The damage caused to the organization by the conduct of some and the crippling debt now facing the Cinefamily are, in the Board’s view, irreparable,” the board of directors wrote in a statement.

As previously reported by Variety, Cinefamily temporarily suspended all activities in August amid the scandal where anonymous emails accused Cinefamily leaders of sexual harassment. Executive director and co-founder Hadrian Belove and board member Shadie Elnashai resigned on Aug. 22.

(20) DON’T TREAD ON THESE. Peer treated us to a new Elvis lyric in comments.

Pixelled my blue suede shoes
And I clickboxed a plane
Scrolled down in the land of mounttsundokus
In the middle of the pournelle rain
JRR Tolien won’t you look down on me
Yeah, I got a fifth class ticket
But I’m as blue as a Filer can be
Then I’m scrolling in Comments
Keeping at least ten feet off of the Beale
Scrolling in Comments
But do I really file the way I file?

Read the ghost in the shell
Or Atomic Avenue
Followed up with the water knife
Then I waded right through Borne
Now Mord, they did not see him
And he just hovered ’round his town
But there’s a pretty little shell
Waiting for the hell
Down in the Broken Earth
When I was Scrolling the comments
I was clicking with The box right of the left
Scrolling the comments
But do I really file the way I file?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “What’s New, Atlas?” on YouTube you can see a Boston Dynamics robot do a somersault.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hal W. Hall, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories,. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/16 Pixels Gather And Now My Scroll Begins

(1) WHAT A SAVINGS. Get your Grabthar’s hammer t-shirt from TeeChip. These babies are going for $22.99, while they last!

Grabthars hammer t fruit-of-the-loom-cotton-t-131313

(2) WOODEN IT BE LUVERLY. It took over a year to carve, and “This Beautiful Millennium Falcon Was Made With Over 3,000 Pieces of Wood”.

(3) HISTORY OF A MYSTERY. Memorabilia of the 1955 Cleveland and 1956 NYC World Science Fiction Conventions  is up for auction on eBay. There are publications, etc., but the most interesting part to fanhistorians would be the Cleveland committee’s file copies of correspondence, like the letter sent in advance of the con to its “mystery guest of honor” Sam Moskowitz (lower right). The seller is looking for a starting bid of $499.99, and the auction has six days to run.

clevention correspondence

(4) CORNELL’S SHERLOCK. Paul Cornell’s episode of Elementary will be broadcast in the US this week. You can view the trailer on his blog.

On this coming Sunday, the 20th March, at 10pm, my episode of Elementary, ‘You’ve Got Me, Who’s Got You?’ will be broadcast on CBS.  Those in the Central and East Coast time zones should note that the NCAA March Madness second round (I assume that’s something to do with sport) will be taking place that day, so there’s a chance the episode might be delayed.  At any rate, I’ll be up at 3am my time to live tweet along with the show.  So that’ll be fun.  And possibly quite weird.  If you haven’t already found me on Twitter, I’m @paul_cornell.

As the official synopsis says: ‘when a man who secretly fought crime dressed as a popular comic book superhero is murdered, Holmes and Watson must discover his real identity before they can find his killer.  Also, Morland makes a surprise donation to Watson’s favorite charity, in order to compel her to do him a business-related favor.’

Which is spot on, really!

(5) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LOOKING-GLASS. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter tries to ease fantasy fans into the idea of reading sf – “Trying Out Science Fiction: A Guide For Fantasy Purists”. I’ve always had to listen to sf fans who talk about their dislike of fantasy (and, oh, the howls of rage when a Harry Potter book won the Hugo), but it never occurred to me there might be fantasy fans who had to be convinced to read sf. Now I know.

I picked up a trashy sci-fi novel in my teens and immediately encountered a confusing story full of alien languages and weird words, with unappealing characters and an empty, lacklustre world. I couldn’t make any sense of it and it made me vaguely depressed, so I put it down. I decided science fiction wasn’t for me.

Over a decade later, I finally gave it another go. I had often heard science fiction works mentioned by fellow fantasy fans and seen the genres placed side-by-side at conventions, in bookstores, and online. I thought: I really ought to explore this “other side of the coin” and see what all the fuss is about.

So, I started reading sci-fi. And found books I loved – even books I adored. I added several science fiction works to my all-time favourites list. In the process, I learned a few things that might be helpful to any fantasy lovers wanting to embark on a similar exploration of this sister genre:

Don’t Start With The Classics

There are many online forums where people ask, “I’ve never read any science fiction but I want to try it out, what should I read first?” and get a stream of comments recommending classic works like Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land and Foundation. These are indeed important works that have been enjoyed by many, but they’re probably not the best ones to start with. It’s like telling someone who’s never read fantasy to begin with Lord of the Rings or Elric of Melniboné. Yes, these are important stories and forerunners of the genre but they’re not exactly accessible or easy reads for a newcomer. (The exception here would be Ender’s Game, as it’s very accessible and easy to read despite its “classic” status).

You’re better off tackling the classics later, after you’ve cut your teeth on a modern, accessible read and worked up a taste for more….

(6) THEY PEEKED. Spy pics show off Star Wars’ new cool aliens and vehicles in “Meet Your New Favorite Alien From Star Wars Episode VIII” at Birth. Movies. Death.

Star Wars Episode VIII has committed the cardinal sin of filming outside, which means people with cameras have had a chance to snap pictures of the set. Most of the pics that have turned up have been kinda dull, but a whole slew appeared recently that have me beyond excited.

 

(7) DON’T DRINK AND TIME TRAVEL. That’s the lesson of this review of Version Control at Mashable.

Now comes Version Control, the trippy second novel by Dexter Palmer and the first pick for our new series — science fiction novel of the week. It’s easily one of the smartest, most unusual time-travel stories you’ll ever read — and one you don’t need a PhD. to understand, because it’s focused entirely on some very fascinating and flawed characters.

If time travel ever happened in the real world, it would probably look something like this: a bunch of obsessive scientists blandly insisting that what they’ve built is a serious-sounding “causality-violation device” (CVD), rather than a super-cliched “time machine.” And like many of our greatest technological advances, it would come with a whole bundle of unintended consequences

(8) KEN ADAM OBIT. Production designer Ken Adam, whose work included the war room in Dr. Strangelove and some of the sets in Dr. No, died March 10 reports the New York Times.

With “You Only Live Twice,” the fifth Bond film, Mr. Adam had more than half the total budget at his disposal. He spent $1 million of it building a volcano that contained a secret military base operated by the international terrorist organization Spectre.

“He was a brilliant visualizer of worlds we will never be able to visit ourselves,” Christopher Frayling, the author of two books on Mr. Adam, told the BBC in an article posted on Friday . “The war room under the Pentagon in ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ the interior of Fort Knox in ‘Goldfinger’ — all sorts of interiors which, as members of the public, we are never going to get to see, but he created an image of them that was more real than real itself.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 14, 1879 – Albert Einstein

Mental Floss has “10 Inventive Myths About Einstein Debunked”:

10. THE MYTH: HE WAS ONE OF ONLY 10 OR 12 WHO COULD UNDERSTAND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY.

Tired of being questioned about this idea, Einstein told the Chicago Daily Tribune in May 1921, “It is absurd. Anyone who has had sufficient training in science can readily understand the theory. There is nothing amazing or mysterious about it. It is very simple to minds trained along that line, and there are many such in the United States.” Today, a number of experts have taken on the challenge of decoding the complex theory and succeeded.

 

  • Born March 14, 1957 – Tad Williams

(11) THE SEMI-COMPLEAT RABID PUPPY. Vox Day reaches the finale of his slate: Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novel.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novel category.

  • Seveneves: A Novel, Neal Stephenson
  • Golden Son, Pierce Brown 
  • Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright
  • The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher
  • Agent of the Imperium, Marc Miller

(12) FOR THE RECORD. In a comment on the above post, John C. Wright summarized his experience at Sasquan last year.

Instead of criticizing me for bring unenthused and indifferent to World Con, which was the case and would have been a legitimate criticism, the Morlock here invents the idea out of nothing that I expected a warm welcome from the hags and termagants who have been sedulously ruining science fiction for twenty years, and that I was foolish for having such foolish expectations. Actually, I was treated quite warmly by the people I met there, the fans and other professionals. It was only David Gerrold and Patrick Hayden who were rude.

(13) AXANAR SUIT AMENDED. Trek Today presents as a list of bullet points all the newly specified copyright infringements performed by Axanar.

The Hollywood Reporter headlined a particular one: “Paramount Claims Crowdfunded ‘Star Trek’ Film Infringes Copyright To Klingon Language”.

After the Star Trek rights-holders sued producers, led by Alec Peters, who put out a short film and solicited donations with the aim of making a studio-quality feature set in the year 2245 — before Captain James T. Kirk took command, when the war with the Klingon Empire almost tore the Federation apart — the defendants brought a dismissal motion that faulted Paramount and CBS with not providing enough specificity about which of the “thousands” of copyrights relating to Star Trek episodes and films are being infringed — and how.

Ask and ye shall receive.

On Friday, Paramount and CBS filed an amended complaint that responded in a few ways.

To the argument that because the crowdfunded film hasn’t actually been made yet, the lawsuit is “premature, unripe and would constitute an impermissible prior restraint on speech,” the plaintiffs point to defendant’s Facebook post that mentioned a “locked script.” They also note a press interview that Peters gave on Feb. 1 where he said, “We violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film,” as an admission he indeed is violating copyright.

Click to read the amended lawsuit in full.

(13) WESTERCON 70 PR. Dee Astell, Chair of Westercon 70 (a.k.a. ConAlope 2017/LepreCo43) announced the con’s Progress Report #0 and #1 are available for download.

(14) LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER. Vanity Fair Hollywood says “Xena Reboot Series to Turn Implied Homoerotic Undertones into Glorious Homoerotic Overtones”.

NBC has ordered a new Xena pilot from writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, architect behind the CW’s cult hit The 100, and he plans to be a little more forthcoming about the undeniable chemistry between Xena and Gabrielle with this updated iteration. During a Q&A session on Tumblr, Grillo-Marxuach confirmed that the two women would be lovers, no bones about it:

i am a very different person with a very different world view than my employer on the 100 – and my work on the 100 was to use my skills to bring that vision to life. xena will be a very different show made for very different reasons. there is no reason to bring back xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s. it will also express my view of the world – which is only further informed by what is happening right now – and is not too difficult to know what that is if you do some digging.

His passing reference to differing worldviews alludes to a minor kerfuffle among devotees of The 100 following the death of fan-favorite character Lexa, who was in a relationship with the also-female Clarke prior to her untimely demise. Fans cried foul and the choice to extinguish one of the small lights of hope for LGBTQ viewers on television, and Grillo-Marxuach has evidently heard their pleas loud and clear. This new series—the fate of which is still something of question mark, considering that NBC is still far from ordering it to series—will right past wrongs and placate the fans in one fell swoop. And best of all, it’ll provide young viewers with a hero with whom they can identify.

(15) DESPERATELY SEEKING MARVIN. Yahoo! News has the story: “Europe-Russia mission blasts off on hunt for life on Mars”.

One key goal of the Trace Gas Orbiter is to analyse methane, a gas which on Earth is created in large part by living microbes, and traces of which were observed by previous Mars missions.

“TGO will be like a big nose in space,” said Jorge Vago, ExoMars project scientist.

Methane, the ESA said, is normally destroyed by ultraviolet radiation within a few hundred years, which implied that in Mars’ case “it must still be produced today”.

TGO will analyse Mars’ methane in more detail than any previous mission, said ESA, in order to try to determine its likely origin.

(16) MARS ATTACKS GAME. Here’s a video demonstration of how to play Mars Attacks: The Dice Game by Steve Jackson Games. (If this really turns you on, there are four more videos about the game at the SJG site.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Tom Galloway, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Other Awards Presented at the Hugo Ceremony

At Sasquan’s Hugo Ceremony on August 22, the winners of several other significant awards were announced.

Ben Yalow in 2013. Photo by Lawrence Person.

Big Heart Award: Sue Francis presented the Big Heart Award for 2015 to Ben Yalow. (David A. Kyle, in charge of the award, did not attend.) Ben has since expanded his acceptance remarks and posted them on Facebook:

I’m thrilled and overwhelmed by the honor shown me with this Big Heart. I join an extraordinary list of people, and I feel amazed to be included with that group. And I’m even more amazed by the outpouring of support from all the people who made it clear this weekend that they think the honor was deserved. But it’s not really just me receiving this. It’s all the people who welcomed me into fandom 45 years ago, and continued to do so. And the wonderful people who I’ve worked with through all these years, who have taught me so much, and given me the honor of their wisdom and support through all these years. This Big Heart isn’t just to me — it’s to all of you who helped me to give back to the community, and to the community from which I’ve received so much. My fellow staff of fannish activities have shaped me, and rewarded me with their support and guidance throughout the years — and I owe them far more than the mere thanks I can give in a post like this. And, to all of you, I hope to continue to be able to give back what I can in the future, knowing that I’ve received far more than I can ever return.

First Fandom Awards for 2015: Steve Francis was emcee, presiding over the First Fandom Awards segment at the outset of the Hugo ceremony.

Julian May.

Julian May.

First Fandom Hall of Fame Award: John Hertz kindly accepted the award on behalf of Julian May. May chaired the Tenth World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 1952, and went on to a career writing sf, fantasy, horror and children’s fiction.

First Fandom Posthumous Hall of Fame

  • Margaret Brundage
  • Bruce Pelz
  • F. Orlin Tremaine

Sam Moskowitz Archive Award

  • David Aronovitz, “for excellence in collecting.”

Special Committee Award: The Sasquan committee presented a posthumous Special Committee Award to Jay Lake, which was accepted by his sister, Mary Elizabeth. She was accompanied onstage by Lake’s daughter, Bronwyn.

[Thanks to John L. Coker III for the story.]

Update: Added Special Committee Award.

Early Science Fiction Clubs: Your Mileage May Vary

Several fanwriters celebrated yesterday, December 11, as the anniversary of the first science fiction club meeting. Was it? Probably not.

Eofan Allen Glasser made the claim that his New York club, the Scienceers, was “the first of all science fiction clubs” in an article for First Fandom Magazine #4 (1961):

The exact date on which The Scienceers came into being was Dec. 11, 1929. The founding members, as I recall, were Warren Fitzgerald, Nathan Greenfeld, Philip Rosenblatt, Herbert Smith, Julius Unger, Louis Wentzler, and myself, Allen Glasser. With the exception of Fitzgerald, who was then about thirty, all the members were in their middle teens.

Glasser also reported the intriguing fact that the host and president of this pioneer club was an Afro-American living in Harlem:

During the early months of the Scienceers’ existence — from its start in December 1929 through the spring of 1930 — our president was Warren Fitzgerald. As previously mentioned, Warren was about fifteen years older than the other members. He was a light-skinned Negro — amiable, cultured, and a fine gentleman in every sense of that word. With his gracious, darker-hued wife, Warren made our young members welcome to use his Harlem home for our meetings — an offer we gratefully accepted.

(See Bill Higgins’ writeup about his efforts to track down the location of the meetings and more information about president Fitzgerald.)

When I read that the Scienceers club was founded in 1929 I gave a sardonic little laugh, because I remembered any number of Westercons where I heard another eofan, Aubrey MacDermott, harp about the Oakland club he’d co-founded in 1928. At the time I had the young fan’s tendency to scoff whenever some geezer fussed about fine points of ancient fanhistory. Now I’m no longer a young fan and I have to laugh because Aubrey managed to etch that 1928 date on my memory anyway.

MacDemott also did some of his fussing in a 1980 issue of Asimov’s when he thought Darrell Schweitzer had slighted his contributions to history:

I see by reading Darrell Schweitzer’s article in the December 79 issue of lASFM that I founded an “impure” Science Fiction club in Oakland in June 1928.

We had over twelve “impure” members to start. Among them were Clifton Amsbury, Lester Anderson, A. S. Bernal, Louis C. Smith, Ray and Margaret St. Clair, Fred Anger, Vincent Brown, and later Forrest J Ackerman. We had the imposing name of East Bay Scientific Association until Forrie joined. Then we changed the name to Golden Gate because Forrie lived in San Francisco. Since he was only twelve years old, his mother would not let him take the long trek across the Bay to East Oakland, by street car, ferry, red train and then again a street car. So we on occasion all went over to Forrie’s Staple Street home.

We read, discussed, traded magazines, wrote letters to magazines and authors. We even put out a hectograph sheet each month for the members.

I know only too well that at that time East Coast fans considered any activity more than 100 miles from New York to be non-existent. But surely not today. As a matter of fact Sam Moskowitz in his Immortal Storm mentions Clifton Ansbury, Lester Anderson, and myself.

Moskowitz’ Immortal Storm testifies to both MacDermott and Glasser’s Scienceers“Aubrey McDemott” is mentioned in connection with the Science Correspondence Club – which was in general, as its title states, a club that did all its activity by mail, begging the question of in-person meetings.

Ordinarily I rely on Harry Warner Jr. to referee these disputes. Unfortunately, his book All Our Yesterdays mentions neither Glasser, MacDermott, the Scienceers nor the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club, despite all he has to say about scores of other eofans and their controversies. He only discusses the international Science Correspondence Club. Jack Speer’s early fanhistory Up To Now also is silent about Glasser and MacDermott, though his original Fancyclopedia has a short entry on the Scienceers.

Fortunately, another historian has reconciled the international correspondence club and the in-person meetings of the Oakland chapter. John Cheng’s Astounding Wonder: Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America says:

In 1928 Aubrey Clements of Montgomery, Alabama formed what he called the “Science Correspondence Cloub,” announcing the club in the pages of Amazing and gathering members as responses came in.  In the same year, while corresponding among themselves, Walter Dennis and Sydney Gerson, c/o 4653 Addison, Chicago, Illinois, also set upon the idea of a correspondence club, which they also called the “Science Correspondence Club,” to disseminate “science and scientific thought among the laymen of the world.” They announced their idea in the pages of Amazing Stories Quarterly and by the next year their group claimed two dozen members while Clements’s had twenty-five members. Membership was not mutually exclusive and indeed overlapped. Although he was the founder of one SCC, Dennis was also the sixth person to join the other, where he served as chairman under Clements’s presidency.

…In 1928, Aubrey MacDemott, Clifton Amsbury, Lester Anderson and Louis C. Smith on the Berkeley-Oakland side of San Francisco Bay began meeting monthly as the Eastbay Science Correspondence Club (ESCC). Raymond Palmer, originally a Chicago SCC member, suggested a national merger between the various organizations. By late 1929 the two original SCCs and willing members of the ESCC, which had reorganized as the Eastbay Scientific Association, merged into one club under a constitution drafted by Dennis, Clements, and A.B Maloire of Chealis, Washington.

Both the Scienceers and Eastbay Science Correspondence Club may have leaned more towards science than sf (some of the Scienceers would be drawn away to join an amateur rocket group) but their members were part of the social network of earnest teenaged readers of Gernsbackian magazines, many of whom became inextricably linked to 1930s sf fandom. Glasser and MacDermott each claimed the club they helped found was the first sf club to meet regularly in-person — one in December 1929, the other in June 1928 – and it seems, of the two, MacDermott’s group has the best claim.

Hertz: Moskowitz to Eaton, $250 to DUFF

home_eaton-collection-hours_columnBy John Hertz: An anonymous donor has given DUFF $250 to send a rare copy of Sam Moskowitz’ Immortal Storm to the Eaton Collection.

SaM chaired the first World Science Fiction Convention. Besides his fan activity he edited a Gernsback magazine, wrote s-f, anthologized, and was generally a force of nature.

The Immortal Storm is his history of s-f fandom from the 1920s to World War II. Its title indicates its impassioned style. It remains indispensable.

This copy is from the limited mimeograph edition of 1951, after the Storm burst in Langley Searles’ Fantasy Commentator, before the 1954 hardback. A knowledgeable collector has estimated it is in Very Good condition.

DUFF the Down Under Fan Fund, like TAFF the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, sends fans on long-distance visits. TAFF began in 1953, DUFF in 1972, others followed, all sustained by donations. DUFF goes between North America and Australia – New Zealand.

Eaton, the world’s largest publicly accessible holding of science fiction, fantasy, and like that, is located at the Riverside campus of the University of California.

Last year Chicon VII the 70th Worldcon, at Chicago, had as is customary an auction to benefit the fan-travel funds. It was held in the exhibit hall, next to the Fanzine Lounge.

Some items came too late to be auctioned and will have to be used for raising money otherwise. One was this copy of Storm from Bob Passovoy (with his wife Anne, Fan Guests of Honor at Chicon VI) who could not get to the con that day but wanted to support DUFF.

Speaking as DUFF’s North America Administrator, I do not consider DUFF or its sister funds sell things.

As an Englishman once said, the exchanges which take place are measures of mutual assistance rendered by friends, in a spirit of confidence, sympathy, and good will.

A copy of this edition of Storm shows how physical production can be informative. It illustrates the art of mimeography.

The texture of the paper, the color of paper and ink, the appearance of typewriting, done by hand, teach what amateur publishing was sixty years ago, even to someone who may never have practiced slipsheeting or worked at a collating party.

Dr. Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections & Archives at U.C. Riverside and thus of Eaton, says the Storm has arrived.

Artifact as well as thought is elemental to history.

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.]