Some Thoughts on Who Was Really #1

By Rich Lynch: It was 80 years ago that an extraordinary event took place.

It happened on January 3, 1937, in the English city of Leeds.  It was there that a group of science fiction fans gathered for what has been described as the first-ever science fiction convention.

Walter Gillings, Arthur Clarke, and Ted Carnell
at the 1937 Leeds convention.

What records remain of the event indicate there were fourteen people in attendance, several of whom would go on to become luminaries of the science fiction literary genre: Ted Carnell, Walter Gillings, Eric Frank Russell, and Arthur C. Clarke.  It was a single-day conference, hosted by the Leeds branch of the newly-formed world-wide Science Fiction League of fan organizations.  The day featured speeches and testimonials on various topics related to science fiction and after that, group discussions on “ways and means of improving British science fiction” according to a one-off fanzine published soon afterwards which reported on the proceedings.  What resulted was the formation of the Science Fiction Association, a proto-British fan organization centered around the “four Hells” fan clubs in Leeds, Liverpool, London, and Leicester.  It only lasted about two years, due to the onset of the Second World War, but it did set the stage for a permanent organization, the British Science Fiction Association, which eventually came into existence in the 1950s.

That 1937 convention was truly a seminal event, and it helped pave the way toward the promulgation of science fiction fandom throughout the United Kingdom.  But was it really the first science fiction convention?

Maybe not.

Donald Wollheim, Milton Rothman, Fred Pohl, John Michel, and Will Sykora at the
1936 Philadelphia convention.

On October, 22, 1936, about half a dozen fans from New York City traveled by train to Philadelphia, where they convened for several hours at the home of one of the fans there.  In all, there were a similar number of fans brought together as for the Leeds convention.  What made it a convention, in the minds of its attendees, was that a business meeting was held with the host, Milton Rothman, being elected Chairman.  Fred Pohl, who had been designated the Secretary, took the minutes and then subsequently lost them.  But Pohl later stated that no recordable business had been brought up because the event had only been informal in nature, with fans talking to fans about things like which books they had recently read, which authors they liked, and what they hoped these authors would write next.  The most significant outcome was that everyone had such a good time that a follow-up event was held in New York in February 1937 with about 40 fans attending.  This created the momentum for an even bigger event, a bit more than two years later which was held in New York on July 4, 1939 – the first World Science Fiction Convention.

Those first two fan gatherings have been a source of continuing controversy ever since then.  Which one was really #1?  The Leeds convention was the better planned of the two, with groundwork laid for the event several months earlier – the Philadelphia convention was, according to accounts from several fans attended it, mostly spur-of-the-moment with little advance preparation.  There has been speculation that the only reason that the Philadelphia event occurred at all was because of one-upsmanship.  The idea for that gathering was originally put forth by New York fan Don Wollheim, who back then had gained the reputation for being quarrelsome, antagonistic, and more than a bit provocative.  It’s very possible, even likely, that he knew of the upcoming Leeds event, which had been talked up not only throughout Britain but also in some U.S. prozines.  So, supposing the underlying reason for the Philadelphia meet-up was really only to sabotage any Leeds stake to being the first science fiction convention, should that disqualify Philadelphia’s claim for that distinction?

No, that’s insufficient.  There have been other conventions that have been organized on little more than a moment’s notice and in any event, overall intent is irrelevant – you can hold a convention for any purpose you want.  A much better reason for possibly honoring Leeds as #1 is that the Philadelphia event was an invitational gathering not open to the general public, with only the New York and Philadelphia fan clubs involved.  But this, too, does not hold very much water as there have subsequently been other, in effect, invitation-only conventions, including the very first DeepSouthCon.  And one other criticism of the Philadelphia event’s claim for being #1 is that there was “no recordable business”, very little reportage after the fact, and indeed, not even a program.  But this is the weakest argument of all, and one only has to point toward the annual Midwestcon conventions, which also have none of these, as a refutation.

And so the controversy has lingered for all this time.  The 1936 Philadelphia event was first chronologically, but was it a convention or just a meeting?  In the end there probably will never be a consensus – after eight decades this is still perhaps the most polarizing topic in all of science fiction fandom, at least from a historical perspective, and people will believe what they want to believe.  But there have at least been attempts at finding some middle ground.  Noted fan historian Mark Olson, in Fancyclopedia 3, has suggested that: “Perhaps it would be fairest to say that the first thing that could be called a convention was held in Philadelphia in 1936, while the first thing that must be called a convention was held in Leeds in 1937.”  And he’s right.

But as for me, I think we are asking the wrong question.  What we instead should be inquiring is: “Who first came up with the idea for staging a science fiction convention?”  That’s really the more important aspect, and the Leeds group was first.  There’s serendipity that they held their event at the Leeds Theosophical Society – the word ‘theosophy’ parses to ‘divine wisdom’, which is an apt description of the concept for the science fiction convention.  And of that, at least, we can be absolutely certain!

Pixel Scroll 3/19/16 The Fog Scrolled in on Pixilated Feet

(1) KEN LIU ON THE SCROLL. Ken Liu notes that we’re back to scrolling, in “The Grand Evolution of Books” at the Powell’s Books blog.

A similar shift may be happening today as we go from reading on paper codices back to endless (electronic) scrolls in the form of Web pages. Hyperlinks and sophisticated search functions have allowed scrolls to catch up to and even surpass the advantages of codices in random access and ease of reference, and electronic texts offer many more advantages: user-controlled text formatting and flow, instant access to encyclopedias and dictionaries, ease of note-taking and quote-sharing, community-based discussions, and so on.

Yet, we persist in pretending that the scroll is not authoritative.

Shocking.

(2) SCIENCE FICTION LEAGUE IN CHICAGO. Doug Ellis chronicles “Jack Binder and the Early Chicago SF Fan Club” at Black Gate.

Back in the mid-1930’s, one of the most active science fiction fan clubs was the Chicago Science Fiction Club, which had among its members such fans as Jack Darrow (among fandom’s most prolific writers of letters of comment to the SF pulps), Earl and Otto Binder (the Eando Binder writing team), Jack Binder (their brother, an artist), Walter Dennis and Paul McDermott (both of who had started the Science Correspondence Club in 1929 and later published The Comet, edited by Ray Palmer and arguably the first SF fanzine), William Dellenback, Allen Kline (brother of author Otis Adelbert Kline) and Howard Funk. The Chicago Club had formed as the Chicago Chapter of the Science Fiction League, the nationwide fan organization created and promoted by Wonder Stories. The Chicago Chapter’s activities were prominent in the pages of Wonder Stories, and in Sam Moskowitz’ words, it was “the outstanding chapter of the time.”

(3) DINING WITH DOYLE. Episode 4 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic with Tom Doyle is now live —

Writer Tom Doyle and I recorded Episode 4 of Eating the Fantastic at Ethiopic Ethiopian restaurant nearby the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and Union Station in Washington D.C.—which unless I’m mistaken has the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia after so many resettled here during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Tom’s the author of a contemporary fantasy series from Tor which began in 2014 with American Craftsmen, returned in 2015 with The Left Hand Way, and continues in the third installment War and Craft—the manuscript of which he handed in to his editor mere days before we met.

Edelman’s next guest will be Carolyn Ives Gilman.

(4) HAMILTON PHONES ADAMS. “The Legacy of 1776: A Conversation with William Daniels and Lin-Manuel Miranda” on New York City Center.

CITY CENTER: Before we get too deeply into ticketing, I want to talk a bit about 1776. Today we think of it as being in the pantheon of great musicals, but in the 1960s, the show was so unconventional that Sherman Edwards had a hard time getting it produced. “Some of the biggest [names] in the theater,” he recalled, “looked at me and said, ‘What, a costume musical? A costume, historical musical?’” Mr. Daniels, do you remember your initial reaction to the idea?

WD: I read the script with a bunch of people at somebody’s apartment. Sherman Edwards was a former schoolteacher from New Jersey, and he had written not just the songs, but the script. It was a little stiff; I remember thinking, We’re in the middle of Vietnam, for Christ’s sake, and they’re waving the flag? I really had to be talked into doing it. At any rate, when the script came back to me, Peter Stone had taken ahold of it, and he’d gone back to the actual conversations in the Second Continental Congress. He had written them out on little cards and injected them into the script, and it made all the difference in the world. It added humor and conciseness and truth.

LM: I love that anecdote, because it gets at something that I discovered in writing Hamilton: the truth is invariably more interesting than anything a writer could make up. That Peter Stone went back to the texts written by these guys, who were petty, brilliant, compromised—that’s more interesting than any marble saints or plaster heroes you can create. And the picture you all painted together of John Adams was so powerful; in the opening scene, he calls himself “obnoxious and disliked,” which is a real quote. We don’t have a John Adams in our show, but we can just refer to him, and everyone just pictures you, Mr. Daniels.

(5) SOVIET MOON LANDER. “Giant steps are what you take, walking on the Moon”, from The Space Review.

If there is an infinite number of universes, then certainly in one of them Alexei Leonov climbed down the ladder of the Soviet Lunniy Korabl (“lunar ship”) and put his bootprint on the surface of the Moon. But Leonov did not take such a step in our universe and, as a result, the Soviet effort to beat the Americans to the Moon is largely forgotten. Had the Soviets ever gotten that far, had they ever sent Leonov to the Moon, he would have died rather than eventually become a genial geriatric cosmonaut, ambassador of the Soviet space program, and living legend. That was my thought when looking at the ungainly and rickety LK-3 test article on display at London’s Science Museum a few weeks ago. It is the second time that a lunar landing craft has ever ventured outside of Russia (one was displayed at EuroDisney in Paris in the 1990s), and will probably be the last time for many, many years to come.

Soviet moon lander.

Soviet moon lander.

(6) ENTER STAGE LEFT. M. J. Herbert has a long, intensively researched piece about the earliest days of Doctor Who in “Doctor Who and the Communist: The art and politics of Malcolm Hulke” at Fantasies of Possibility.

The origins of Doctor Who Sydney Newman’s  success on ITV led him to being poached by the BBC, who offered a job as Head of Drama: he  started work in January 1963. Looking back 20 years later, when interviewed for a BBC oral history project, he described what he found at the BBC.

The material didn’t really cater to what I assumed to be the mass British audience. It was still the attitude that BBC drama was still catering to the highly educated, cultured class rather than the mass audience which was not aware of culture as such . But above all I felt that the dramas really weren’t speaking about common everyday things…” 

They needed to come up with a new series for was the late afternoon slot at 5:15 between the end of the afternoon sports programme Grandstand and the start of  Juke Box Jury. At a number of meetings in the spring of 1963 Newman and his staff evolved the notion of a mysterious Doctor who could travel in time and space. The aim of the series were educational, similar to Pathfinders in Space,  with the remit  of teaching its young audience in an enjoyable way  about space and history. In its first years the serials alternated between a science fiction adventure and an adventure set during a dramatic historical event such as the travels of Marco Polo, the Crusades, and the St Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre of 1572  (an extraordinary subject for a tea-time children’s serial, although no actual killings were shown).

Newman brought in as producer a young woman he had worked with at ABC, Verity Lambert, which caused a stir as the BBC was then a very male world. Verity persuaded the veteran actor William Hartnell to take on the role of the Doctor. Hartnell had been working as an actor since the 1930s,  but was frustrated by the limited roles he was being offered, often as an army sergeant. Verity had been impressed by his part in a recent British film This Sporting Life.

(7) TREK IN CONCERT. STAR TREK: The Ultimate Voyage visits the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on April 1-2.

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage brings five decades of Star Trek to concert halls for the first time in this galaxy or any other.

This lavish production includes an impressive live symphony orchestra and international solo instruments. People of all ages and backgrounds will experience the franchise’s groundbreaking and wildly popular musical achievements while the most iconic Star Trek film and TV footage is simultaneously beamed in high definition to a 40-foot wide screen.

The concert will feature some of the greatest music written for the franchise including music from Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Starfleet Academy and much more. This never-before-seen concert event is perfect for music lovers, filmgoers, science-fiction fans and anyone looking for an exciting and unique concert experience.

(8) SUPPLEMENTAL CHAOS. Brandon Kempner returns with an alternative set of rankings, “Final Best of 2015 SFF Critics Meta-List” at Chaos Horizon.

To supplement the mainstream’s view of SFF, I also collate 10 different lists by SFF critics. Rules are the same: appear on a list, get 1 point.

For this list, I’ve been looking for SFF critics who are likely to reflect the tastes of the Hugo award voters. That way, my list will be as predictive as possible. I’m currently using some of the biggest SFF review websites, under the theory that they’re so widely read they’ll reflect broad voting tastes. These were Tor.com, the Barnes and Noble SF Blog, and io9.com.

For the other 7 sources on my list, I included semiprozines, fanzines, and podcasts that have recently been nominated for the Hugo award. The theory here is that if these websites/magazines were well enough liked to get Hugo noms, they likely reflect the tastes of the Hugo audience. Ergo, collating them will be predictive. This year, I used the magazines Locus Magazine and Strange Horizons, the fan websites Book Smugglers, Elitist Book Reviews, and Nerds of a Feather (to replace the closing Dribble of Ink; Nerds didn’t get a Hugo nom last year, but was close, and I need another website), and fancasts Coode Street Podcast and SF Signal Podcast.

(9) LOCAL APES MEETUP. The Damn Dirty Geeks’ second annual Planet of the Apes Day gathering to celebrate the classic 1968 film Planet of the Apes and “all its sequels, remakes and re-imaginings”takes place April 2 at the Idle Hour Cafe in North Hollywood, CA (map below) beginning at 5 p.m.

The organizers ask those planning to attend to RSVP on the Facebook event page and note that you plan to be there in person. Space is limited.

(10) IRISH ORIGINS DEBATED. According to the Washington Post, “A man’s discovery of bones under his pub could forever change what we know about the Irish”. (Tolkien is quoted in the article.)

From as far back as the 16th century, historians taught that the Irish are the descendants of the Celts, an Iron Age people who originated in the middle of Europe and invaded Ireland somewhere between 1000 B.C. and 500 B.C.

That story has inspired innumerable references linking the Irish with Celtic culture. The Nobel-winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats titled a book “Celtic Twilight.” Irish songs are deemed “Celtic” music. Some nationalists embraced the Celtic distinction. And in Boston, arguably the most Irish city in the United States, the owners of the NBA franchise dress their players in green and call them the Celtics.

Yet the bones discovered behind McCuaig’s tell a different story of Irish origins, and it does not include the Celts.

“The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,” said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford who has written books on the origins of the people of Ireland.

(11) A DIFFERENT PUPPY DISCUSSION. Sarah Hollowell has a dialogue with Chester the Corgi, in “Put Fat Girls in Your SFF YA” at Fantasy Literature.

Yeah, you’re right. Okay. Okay. Let’s go.

You’re a fat teenage girl, and you love YA. You especially love scifi and fantasy. Space? Hell yeah. Magic schools? Hell yeah. Magic schools in space? Sign you up. And everyone says dystopias are out of style, but you still can’t get enough. Got it?

Got it.

So you read all these books, as many as you can, and it becomes difficult not to notice a pattern. You realize all the girls in all the books are just different kinds of skinny. You can’t for the life of you find a girl that looks like you. Books are supposed to help us dream and dream big but you’re starting to feel like you’re just too big to dream. You’ve read a couple books where fat girls get to be loved in the real world, and that’s wonderful, but fat girls don’t get whisked away into alternate worlds and told they’re a long lost princess. Fat girls don’t get to see the magical underside of New York City. Fat girls don’t save planets.

(12) DIED ON THIS DATE IN HISTORY

  • March 19, 1950 — Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • March 19, 2008 — Arthur C. Clarke

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 19, 1928 – Patrick McGoohan

(14) STARZ PRODUCTION OF GAIMAN NOVEL. In “’American Gods’ Casts Its Laura Moon”, The Hollywood Reporter says A Series of Unfortunate Events alum Emily Browning will take on the role in the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel.

(15) A METAPHOR FOR AN ANALOGY. “It’s Over Gandalf. We Need to Unite Behind Saruman to Save Middle Earth from Sauron!” at Daily Kos.

Gandalf had the crazy idea that some little hobbits could stand up to and defy the power of the billionaire class Dark Lord Sauron. But I guess that was a pipe dream after all.

Gandalf failed. He got his ass locked up atop Saruman’s tower when he foolishly defied the head of the Democratic Party council of wizards. And now that he’s locked up it’s not like some eagle is going to magically appear and rescue him. It’s over. And now Saruman is our only hope against Sauron.

We need to stop saying nasty things about Saruman or it will be difficult to rally the people of Middle Earth to his side. Here are some things we should no longer mention, or if we do, we should put a positive spin on them so people will still see Saruman is our only hope.

  • Saruman’s Environmental Record: While it is true that Saruman has supported clear cutting huge ancient forests, and while an old hippie tree hugger like Treebeard might tell you lots of those trees were his friends, we ARE talking about trees here. And sure, Gandalf has a much better record on the environment but he’s done now. It’s time to focus on how much worse Sauron’s environmental record is. I mean, have you seen Mordor?

(16) A TREE FALLS IN THE WOODS. Alastair Reynolds, in “’Slow Bullets’ and Sad Puppies”, says his request to be removed from the SP4 List has not yet been posted in comments at Mad Genius Club.

I was away for a few days without internet access and discovered when I returned that my novella “Slow Bullets” has been included on the “SP4” Sad Puppies list for Hugo nominators. At this point it’s of no concern to me whether this is a slate or a set of recommendations. Given the taint left by last year’s antics, I don’t care for any work of mine to be associated with any list curated by the Sad Puppies. The list was announced at Kate Paulk’s website Madgeniusclub.com. Late last night I left a comment asking – politely, I hope – for the story to be removed, but after I checked the site in the morning I couldn’t find my comment and the story was still listed. I’ve tried to leave another comment to the same effect.

(17) ANTIQUE PREHENSILE. In the event someone wants to run out and buy a fanzine I published in 1973, with a 1973-appropriate Grant Canfield nude on the cover, Prehensile 10 is for sale on eBay. Since the seller doesn’t say what the contents I wondered if I remembered correctly. Checked my file copy — yes, that’s the issue with Jerry Pournelle’s article about how to reform the Worldcon, written the year he was President of SFWA. Lots of good stuff by Richard Wadholm, Bill Warren, Jerry Pournelle, Marc Schirmeister and others.

(18) INSIDE JOKES. A mash-up of references to Bewitched and Star Wars in this Brevity cartoon.

(19) ALL LIT UP. Darth Maul: Apprentice, a Star Wars fan film, is basically 20 minutes of lightsaber fights.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Gregory N. Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/16 We’re Off To See The Pixel, The Wonderful Pixel Of Scroll

(1) DAYLIGHT STEALING TIME. Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass trailer investigates a time crime.

(2) TAKING INVENTORY. Bill Roper had some insights about being a convention dealer while doing “That Taxes Thing”.

One of the distressing things about doing the taxes for Dodeka is seeing:

– How many different titles we carry.

– And how many of them appear to have sold one or fewer copies in 2015.

Some of these are the result of having bought out Juanita’s inventory when she retired and having acquired various CDs that had been sitting in her inventory for too long. A few of them are the result of my own ordering errors.

The problem is that the boxes are large and heavy and the table is very full. But if you don’t take the CDs out to the cons with you, you can’t sell them…

Filk is an extremely regional business. And given that we’re in the eighth-or-so year of a sucky economy, I certainly understand people’s reluctance to take a flyer on something that they aren’t familiar with.

(3) BATMOBILE REPLICA MAKER LOSES. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit decision in favor of DC Comics, which had sued Mark Towle over his unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles, sold for about $90,000 each. So DC wins.

According to Robot 6:

Towle argued that the U.S. Copyright Act doesn’t protect “useful articles,” defined as objects that have “an intrinsic utilitarian function” (for example, clothing, household appliances or, in this case, automobile functions); in short, that the Batmobile’s design is merely functional.

However, a federal judge didn’t buy that argument… Towle appealed that decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t any more sympathetic, finding in September that, “the Batmobile is almost always bat-like in appearance, with a bat-themed front end, bat wings extending from the top or back of the car, exaggerated fenders, a curved windshield, and bat emblems on the vehicle. This bat-like appearance has been a consistent theme throughout the comic books, television series, and motion picture, even though the precise nature of the bat-like characteristics have changed from time to time.”

In his petition to the high court, Towle insisted that the U.S. Copyright Office states outright that automobiles aren’t copyrightable, and that the Ninth Circuit simply created an arbitrary exception. He also argued that there have been “dozens” of Batmobiles in DC comic books over the decades that “vary dramatically in appearance and style” — so much so that the vehicle doesn’t have the “consistent, widely-identifiable, physical attributes” required to be considered a “character.”

(4) SFL SURVIVOR. Andrew Liptak retells “The Adventures of the LA Science Fantasy Society” at Kirkus Reviews.

When he [Forry Ackerman] set off on his own, he founded the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. While every other Science Fiction League chapter closed—as well as many of the other fan groups—the LASFS survives to the present day, the longest running science fiction club in the world.

In the coming decades, the club became an important focal point for the growing science-fiction community. It counted some of the genre’s biggest writers as its members: when Ray Bradbury’s family moved from Arizona to Los Angles, the young storyteller quickly found the group. “A turning point in his life came in early September 1937,” Sam Moskowitz recounted in his early history Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction, “when poring through the books and magazines in Shep’s Shop, a Los Angeles book store that catered to science-fiction readers, he received an invitation from a member to visit the Los Angeles Chapter of the Science Fiction League.” Through the league, Bradbury quickly got his start as a writer, publishing “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” in the club’s fanzine, Imagination!

LASFS is not quite the lone survivor of the Science Fiction League – there is also the Philadelphia Science Fiction SocietyFancyclopedia 3 has more SFL history.

(5) ON WINGS OF STONE. You must keep an eye on these winged predators. BBC tells “How to survive a Weeping Angels attack!”

The Weeping Angels are scary. Really scary. They possess a natural and unique defence mechanism: they’re quantum locked. This means that they can only move when no other living creature is looking at them. These lonely assassins also have the ability to send other beings into the past, feeding on the potential time energy of what would have been the rest of their victims’ lives.

But how do you survive a Weeping Angel attack? Well, here’s our guaranteed, foolproof 4-step guide…

(6) TOP DRAWER. Peter Capaldi proves to have a flair for sketching his predecessors as Doctor Who.

(7) COINAGE. A horrible, fannish pun in March 12’s Brevity cartoon.

(8) MARIE WILLIAMS OBIT. New Zealand fan Marie Williams died of cancer February 27. She was a member of the board of Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ), and their announcement said, “She was a valued member and we will miss her thoughtful insights and interesting comments.”

(9) TOMLINSON OBIT. E-mail pioneer Ray Tomlinson died March 5 at the age of 74. The New York Times report gave a brief history of his development.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Tomlinson was working at the research and development company Bolt, Beranek & Newman on projects for ARPANET, a forerunner of the Internet created for the Defense Department. At the time, the company had developed a messaging program, called SNDMSG, that allowed multiple users of a time-share computer to send messages to one another.

But it was a closed messaging system, limited to users of a single computer.

Mr. Tomlinson, filching codes from a file-transfer program he had created called CYPNET, modified SNDMSG so that messages could be sent from one host computer to another throughout the ARPANET system.

To do this, he needed a symbol to separate a user name from a destination address. And so the plump little @ sign came into use, chosen because it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program used on time-sharing computers.

The BBC’s Dave Lee wrote “Ray Tomlinson’s e-mail is flawed, but never bettered”.

He is widely regarded as the inventor of email, and is credited with putting the now iconic “@” sign in the addresses of the revolutionary system.

He could never have imagined the multitude of ways email would come to be used, abused and confused.

Just think – right now, someone, somewhere is writing an email she should probably reconsider. Count to 10, my friend. Sleep on it.

Another is sending an email containing brutal, heartbreaking words that, really, should be said in person… if only he had the nerve.

And of course, a Nigerian prince is considering how best to ask for my help in spending his fortune.

Chip Hitchcock says, “AFAICT, nobody saw person-to-person email coming; computers were for talking to central data, as in ‘A Logic Named Joe’ or even The Shockwave Rider. The closest I can think of to discussing the effects of mass cheap point-to-point communication is the side comment on cell-phone etiquette in the opening scene of Tunnel in the Sky. Can anyone provide another example?”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1981 – Joe Dante’s The Howling premieres in North America.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(12) HUGO NOMINATORS: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens reappears after a five-month hiatus, because it’s “Hugo Season!”

The annual SFF self-loathing theme weeks are here again — I feel (as I feel every year) like a total loser for not having read enough new science fiction and fantasy to make informed nominations for the Hugo award. I haven’t read Seveneves, haven’t seen Ant-Man, haven’t had the time for Jessica Jones, haven’t waded through a lot of short fiction.

Damn damn damn.

Then again, you’re always going to feel that way, no matter what. And it’s not football (which means “soccer”, in case you’re American), so whining doesn’t help.

(13) BINARY BEAUTY. “Google’s AI Is Now Reigning Go Champion of the World”. Motherboard has the story.

On Saturday afternoon in Seoul, AlphaGo, the Go-playing artificial intelligence created by Google’s DeepMind, beat 18-time Go world champion Lee Sedol for its third straight win in a five game series.

The win was a historic one for artificial intelligence research, a field where AI’s mastery of this 2,500 year old game was long considered a holy grail of sorts for AI researchers. This win was particularly notable because the match included situations called ko fights which hadn’t arisen in the previous two games. Prior to AlphaGo’s win, other Go experts had speculated that ko situations could prove to be stumbling blocks for the DeepMind program as they had been in the past for other Go computer programs.

“When you watch really great Go players play, it is like a thing of beauty,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, himself a self-proclaimed adamant Go player in grad school, after the match. “So I’m very excited that we’ve been able to instill that level of beauty inside a computer. I’m really honored to be here in the company of Lee Sedol, such an incredible player, as well as the DeepMind team who’ve been working so hard on the beauty of a computer.”

(14) PC OR BS? Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds asks “Has Political Correctness Run Amok? Does It Even Exist?”

… I’m tempted to call this “A Prolegomena to Any Future Discourse about Political Correctness.”….

  1. Is political correctness a cut-and-dried free speech issue?  Why is it that many examples of the “political correctness has run amok” narrative involve cases where one group exercises its freedom to speak against ideas or to decide what speech they want to support in their space?  Is this really a threat to free speech in general if it’s limited to a particular space?  Is there a right to tell people what speech to support in their space? Does political correctness threaten free speech in a more fundamental way by making people feel uncomfortable to say certain things at all?  How do we decide what counts as a threat to free speech in general?  Are there some things that just shouldn’t be said in certain contexts?  Should all speech be allowed in all contexts?  If not, how do we decide when it’s permissible to limit speech?  Is there a difference between limiting speech and simply asking people not to say certain things?
  2. What is the difference between political correctness and politeness or basic respect?  Is there a difference?  What happens if what one person calls political correctness another person calls being polite, civil, or respecting the humanity of others?  How do we settle these disputes?  Is it possible that this whole issue is really just based on the feeling that people don’t like being told what to say?  Is it possible or desirable to change that feeling and thus shift the whole narrative on this issue?

(15) PI TIME. Are you getting into MIT? Then expect notification from BB-8. “MIT parodies ‘Star Wars’ for ‘decision day’ announcement”.

The video ultimately reveals that “decision day” for the class of 2020 will take place on March 14, which is also known as “Pi Day”, as 3.14 represents the first 3 digits of pi.

Hopeful applicants will be able to learn whether or not they’ve been accepted to MIT by logging onto the admissions website starting at 6:28 p.m. on Pi Day. This time represents another reference to pi as 6.28 is known as “Tau” or two times pi.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]