Pixel Scroll 8/15 “Ward, I’m Worried About the Marmot”

The editor fails to hide how ornery all this Puppy news makes him, in today’s Scroll.

(1) D23 is this weekend and attendees received this Drew Struzan poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s a souvenir edition — Struzan will create another primary poster for the film.

star_wars_poster_full_0_0 COMP

(2) Just in time for WorldCon, “Tragedy of the Goats”, Francis Hamit’s epic story about, sex, security,and science fiction Fandom. Download it to your Kindle today and read it on the plane. (No puppies were harmed in this production.)

tragedy of the goats

(3) Spokane Public Radio devoted about three minutes to “Worldcon Brings Science Fiction and Hugo Awards to Spokane”

Tom Whitmore, head of publicity, spoke to me over Skype and explained the twist in this year’s awards. Normally their 10,000 members nominate freely, but this year two writers groups formed a coalition to lobby for certain scifi works.

Whitmore: “And they were very successful in getting the nominations out there. This was not against any of the rules, it’s just not what’s been done in the past, it was against social norms.”

Hugo Awards recognize science fiction works, as voted on by Worldcon members.

And, he says, it has upset a lot of other members. Critics say these writer groups want to make the nominees more homogenous like the genre used to be, ie: winners would be less diverse.

That doesn’t sit well with one very-well known, award winning female writer. Vonda McIntyre will be a guest author at the convention.

McIntyre: “The most amazing writer going when I first started was Samuel R. Delaney…”

A science fiction writer who’s black, and gay.

And who’s named Delany.

(4) If Tom Knighton hadn’t titled his post “Why I no longer care” it would be easier to focus on his actual point:

I read for fun.  If I want to challenge myself, I read non-fiction.  I’m a damn political writer.  I challenge myself daily.  I read fiction for fun, and it’s not your place to suggest I challenge myself in what I do for pleasure.  It’s not anyone’s place.

The truth is that those books I’m told I should challenge myself over are books I don’t want to read.  I don’t care how it handles homosexuality.  I care whether it tells a good story and whether I’ll like the protagonists.  Now, if those protagonists are homophobic, I’m 99 percent sure I won’t like them.  I don’t need to be told that the protagonists are gay, straight, trans, or whatever.  That’s not pertinent to my interests.  Whether the story is fun, is.

Somewhere along the line, folks got hung up on sex and sexuality.  It’s pretty annoying.

However, it’s become clear that for some people, a book’s “message” is vital.  Even books from bygone eras aren’t safe from being dissected for their social message rather than their story.

I’ve been one of those trying to argue that message fiction was a bad idea.  I still think it is.  But now, I just don’t care what those folks do.

(5) George R.R. Martin pre-interprets how any of several possible Campbell Awards winners will be an early sign of how the wind is blowing on Hugo night.

If Wesley Chu takes the Campbell, as he should, I think we will be in for a fairly reasonable night in Spokane. There will be some winners from the slates, and some categories will go the No Award, but most of the rockets will actually go to deserving work. If Chu wins, I think the vast majority of the fans in the auditorium will be more happy than not by night’s end.

If No Award wins, however… if No Award takes the Campbell, it will represent a huge and ominous victory for the “nuclear option,” for the faction of fandom that wants to destroy the village in order to save it. A victory by No Award in this category will signify that the voters decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and will likely betoken a long ugly night ahead, with category after category going to No Award. Myself, I think this unlikely. I think the hardcore “vote No Award on everything” voters are a small (if noisy) minority. But I could be wrong. It could happen.

And what if one of the four Puppy finalists takes the tiara?

That would represent a victory for the Puppies, certainly. But even there, certain distinctions should be made. Rolf Nelson was a candidate of the Rabids, but not the Sads. A victory by Nelson would be a singular triumph for Teddy Beale and the most extreme elements of Puppydom… and could suggest even worse results ahead, up to and including VD actually winning one or both of the Editing Hugos for which he is nominated.

Kary English, on the other hand, represents a much more moderate side of Puppydom. Though initially put forward by both the Sad and Rabid slates, VD later dropped her and removed her from his suggested ballot entirely when English put up a couple of blog posts that distanced herself from the Puppy party line.

(6) Miles Schneiderman of YES! Magazine joins the ranks of finger-waggers who haven’t bothered to learn how to spell “Torgersen” in his widely-linked critique “Sad Puppies, Rabid Chauvinists: Will Raging White Guys Succeed in Hijacking Sci-Fi’s Biggest Awards?”

In other words, Torgerson seems to think there are merely a handful of science fiction and fantasy stories worth anyone’s time: the ones that are just plain fun. People don’t want uncomfortable ideas or unorthodox characters; they just want “a rip-roaring good story” full of “broad-chested heroes” with “pioneering derring-do” who, of course, “run off with beautiful women.” Anything else is false advertising, tricking the unsuspecting reader into a story with complicated messages and cultural commentary, when all they wanted was escapist adventure. Torgerson’s version of “old school” speculative fiction seems to be primarily for and about men. Get out of our treehouse, girls! We’re playing space pirates. Didn’t you see the sign?

Not only does this view denigrate women, it denigrates fans of speculative fiction. In fact, it disrespects the entire genre by negating the value of any story element that doesn’t contribute to the reader’s entertainment high. As the Canadian journalist Jeet Heer points out, “the faux-populism of the Puppy brigade is actually insulting to the right, since it assumes that conservatives can’t be interested in high culture.” The Puppy movement is anti-intellectual at its core, and thus anathema to the genre it seeks to redefine.

(7) Jugger Grimrod (would I kid you?) says the butcher’s bill at the Hugos won’t be as bad as you’ve heard, on Silence Is A Weapon.

Everyone says the Hugos will survive, and I tend to agree. I think the Puppy voters will get tired of throwing away their money in the name of making whatever statement they’re trying to make. They will also have a harder time maintaining the charade that their campaign is about anything other than self-promotion, because after this year there will be fewer neutral parties willing to appear on any slate. The nomination rules will probably be changed to make slates less effective, although I’m afraid that will make the whole process more confusing and could scare some potential nominators away. In the long run this will mostly be forgotten, but in the short term it probably means that at least two WorldCons are going to have their Hugos basically invalidated, and I don’t like that they have to make that sacrifice. In my opinion the harassment policy should be invoked against the Puppy organizers and they should be banned from the convention and disqualified from the awards on that basis. I get that the Hugo organizers won’t do this, they would argue that the integrity of the awards depends on strict adherence to the bylaws, not arbitrary decisions by administrators. I could make some counter arguments but I don’t want to go down that road right now. I will just say that when a group has a stated goal of disrupting the awards, it wouldn’t bother me at all if they were barred from participating.

(8) Brianne Reeves breaks down the Antonelli story from a politicial perspective in “Let’s Talk about the Hugo Awards (Now with more libertarianism!)”.

Most recently, a false police report was filed by a Hugo nominee against another, leading to a full WorldCon investigation and the nominee’s work being rejected from a magazine. In the fall out, death threats and harassment ensued. We’ll be talking a little bit about this. For the full background on the story, you can see some of the posts I’ll link below.

While the “victim” of the false police report has accepted Lou Antonelli’s apologies, the actions of Antonelli haven’t ceased to have consequences. Antonelli’s actions in particular aren’t really what I want to talk about. I’m going to be addressing the actions we have seen in our community more broadly. It feels a bit ridiculous that I should even have to do this; these behaviors are far from common. Unfortunately, they’ve insinuated themselves into our world.

I’m approaching much of this from a more libertarian perspective. This is for a few reasons (1) I think that a libertarian discourse about rights and the role of the state is fitting for the behaviors we have seen in this community; and (2) I think that a discourse about positive and negative rights is a broadly applicable approach for the rhetoric that accompanies the behaviors we have seen recently.

I believe Lou Antonelli acted on impulse, not in furtherance of either well- or poorly-considered libertarian principles, though Reeves’ post was interesting to me just the same.

(9) Marcus Bales’ poetic comment appears on Blog, Jvstin Style:

Ballade of Sad Puppies

[first of four verses]

Who knows within what hidden garret
Vox Day scribes his sexist rant,
or why Correia tries to parrot
his vicious views with careless cant,
or Torgerson begins to prate
of how their work has been ignored
providing cover for their slate
behind his merited award;
they’re powered by their privileged fear.
Oh, where are the pros of yesteryear?

(10) I often search Twitter for File 770 references but rarely for Glyer. It seems I have missed a few gems as a result.

[Thanks to redheadedfemme and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist .]

Stu Shiffman (1954-2014)

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman (middle) in 1981.

Stu Shiffman died November 26, almost two-and-a-half years after suffering a stroke; he was 60. The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.

Stu was a native New Yorker but moved to Seattle about 20 years ago with his partner Andi Shechter.

Stu always was fascinated by the traditions and in-references of science fiction fandom and loved to incorporate them in unexpected settings that might involve anything from cartoons of talking animals to intricately rendered Egyptian tomb art and hieroglyphs.

When he got into fandom in the 1970s mimeographed fanzines were still quite common. Taral Wayne admired that Stu “was as much a master of pen and ink as he was of stylus and stencil.”

Stu also had a special interest in drawing literary characters like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Burrough’s John Carter (interests which sometimes merged, as in his ERBzine contribution Adventure of the Martian Hegira: fragments from the Barsoomian Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes.)

In fact, one of his earliest contributions to a fanzine appeared in the sword-and-sorcery oriented Amra (October 1975) — “Goric & Other Limericks” co-authored with NY fan John Boardman.

Stu’s own publications, such as Raffles, co-edited with Larry Carmody, began appearing around 1977.

He became a leader in New York’s faannish fandom when he hosted Fanoclasts. He also chaired the Flushing in ’80 hoax Worldcon bid committee composed of Moshe Feder, Joe Siclari, Gary Farber, Hank Davis, Elliot Shorter, and Jon Singer.

Stu’s soaring popularity led to him being voted the 1981 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. The following year he began his TAFF report, A Raffles Lad Abroad or The Road to Yorcon. (See Chapters 1 and 2 here.)

Stu ordinarily enjoyed his fannish accolades as much as anyone, but he did become frustrated that during the 1980s he established a record for the most fan Hugo nominations without winning. Everyone was gratified when he broke through at last in 1990.

All this productivity happened despite a medical condition Stu was coping with at the time. The symptoms became apparent when he was invited by fellow artists Schirmeister and Taral to join them hiking on Mt. Wilson in 1984 and he had difficulty keeping up. Taral explained in The Slan of Baker Street, “Stu will have to forgive me if I relate this imperfectly, but he had an abnormal connection between the blood vessels of his brain that allowed venous blood to mingle with arterial blood. The intermixing robbed his bloodstream of oxygen, and he tired easily.” Doctors corrected this by performing brain surgery in 1985 – an operation lasting 12 hours according to Ansible.

Stu’s interest in mysteries was strong enough to fuel three fandoms with art and articles. He was a Sherlockian (Sound of the Baskervilles, Hounds of the Internet) who contributed to publications like Baker Street Journal, and a Wodehouse enthusiast who sent material to such journals as Plum Lines and Wooster Sauce. And Stu was just as likely to write something about them for an sf fanzine. For example, a 1999 issue of Mainstream featured his “Adventures of the Danzig Mien,” the script of a Sherlockian parody: Stu had a great time festoon­ing a Conan Doyle-esque plot with ridiculous references and in-jokes.

He also produced some similarly-inspired short stories for an anthology series. In “The Milkman Cometh” (Tales of the Shadowmen 5: Vampires of Paris) Tevye meets Sherlock Holmes and confronts Boris Badenov. In “Grim Days” (Tales of the Shadowmen 7) Lord Peter Wimsey and Colonel Haki meet in Istanbul.

He drew a backup feature for Captain Confederacy, the black-and-white comic produced by Will Shetterly and Vince Stone (published by Steeldragon Press), involving two steampunkish characters named Saks & Violet.

So it is not surprising that Stu was attracted to alternate history and for many years was a member of the judging panel for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.

His convention guest of honor stints included Hexacon (1980), Minicon XX, Wiscon XII, Corflu 6 (1989) and Lunacon 2000.

At Corflu 5 (1988) he was named a Past President of Fan Writers of America (fwa).

He had a recipe in the Tiptree fundraiser The Bakery Men Don’t See (1991) – “Grandma Ethel Katz’s Noodle Kugel.” Stu co-edited the 1986 issue of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly with the Nielsen Haydens and Lee Hoffman. He illustrated the 1991 edition of Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator…To the Enchanted Convention by Walt Willis and James White.

On June 14, 2012 Stu suffered a stroke. Two brain surgeries followed. For several months he went back and forth between ICU and acute care, depending on his breathing and heartbeat. Eventually he was reported to be on a gradual upswing and thereafter, though he periodically had serious setbacks, Stu enjoyed sustained improvement.

Andi Shecter visited constantly. Tom Whitmore maintained a CaringBridge online journal that let Stu’s friends keep abreast of important changes in his status.

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

Andi Shechter and Stu Shiffman on their wedding day, June 18, 2014,

In 2013 Andi and Stu, who had been together for 25 years, announced their engagement. On June 18, 2014 they married in a ceremony at University of Washington’s Burke Museum with nearly 100 in attendance.

By October, Stu had recovered to the point that he’d been able to use a powered wheelchair for the first time since his stroke. However, only a week later, he had a fall and required surgery from which he did not regain consciousness.

Then, this afternoon, he died after his heart stopped. Tom Whitmore explained: “Aides found him when they went to prepare him for a shower. He was given CPR and 911 was called. The EMTs were able to get a heartbeat and pulse back and he was being readied to go to Harborview Emergency Department when he heart stopped again. They were unable to get him back. They tried for about 40 minutes.”

I am so sad that Stu wasn’t able to make the recovery we all hoped he would have, and am very sorry for Andi’s loss.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Stu Shiffman and Mike Glyer in 2004. Photo by Rich Coad.

Stu Shiffman Update 11/21

Stu Shiffman has been unresponsive since a fall suffered in October caused a recurrence of swelling in his brain. Tom Whitmore told followers of Stu’s Caringbridge page on November 19: “Unfortunately, this kind of swelling is hard to control. So Stu has an open place in his skull, which means he’s wearing a protective helmet. And it means that he’s likely to be unresponsive for a while. The standard estimate, to be safe, is 90 days.”

The fanartist suffered a stroke in 2012 and had made gradual but good progress til his recent setback.

Doctors plan to close his skull again in February. “This has been known to result in a return to responsiveness of unresponsive patients,” adds Whitmore. “It’s very possible that Stu will regain a lot of the function he had regained before, and possibly more. It’s also possible some good things will happen during that 90 days — we don’t know.” All Stu’s friends look forward to his taking that next step in recovery soon.

1964 Hugo Voting Stats Unearthed

Let us take you back to those thrilling days of yesteryear…when the Hugos were presented at Pacificon 2, the 1964 Worldcon. A memo containing that year’s Hugo voting statistics has been discovered by Tom Whitmore in the records of the late Alva Rogers.

Kevin Standlee has posted a copy [PDF file] on the official Hugo Award website.

Standlee notes that the 1964 awards were decided by a plurality of votersWay Station won Best Novel with just 24% of the vote. Later the rules were changed to require ranked voting and an elimination runoff, insuring winners would have the support of a majority.

No wonder voter support was splintered all to hell that year – look at the nominees in the Best Novel category, listed in order of finish.

  • Here Gather the Stars (alt: Way Station) by Clifford D. Simak
  • Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Dune World by Frank Herbert
  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The winner, Way Station, has long been one of my favorite sf novels.

Herbert’s Dune World, defeated in 1964, was the version serialized in Analog; a longer fix-up novel incorporating this material would win the author a Hugo in 1966 and go on to be recognized as a classic in the field.

Despite the plethora of good work, 7 people voted No Award! Good grief, what were they waiting for?

Andi and Stu Engaged

Congratulations to Andi Shecter and Stu Shiffman who became engaged on July 18 in a ceremony at the rehab facility where Stu’s been staying. Tom Whitmore reported on CaringBridge:

Stu was fetching in a panama hat, and Andi was her usual dapper self. Rabbi Jessica K Marshall officiated, and a very pleasant time was had by all. This was Stu’s first trip outside in a very long time (aside from being transported from one facility to another). The weather was completely cooperative, warm with a slight breeze and very clear.

As Andi and Stu explained last month:

We have been together for 25 years. On June 13, 2012, Stu suffered a serious stroke from which he has recovered to a major extent, although he still has more healing to do. In March of 2013, Andi turned 60 years old, while Stu will have his 60th birthday in February of 2014. We feel that we have good reason to talk about love and commitment.

They will be married next June.

Stu Shiffman Update 6/3

Nearly a year has passed since fanartist Stu Shiffman suffered his stroke and his accelerating improvement is encouraging. Tom Whitmore wrote in a new post for Stu’s Caring Bridge page:

Stu’s been on the speaking valve pretty much every day, which means he’s getting more chances to talk. He’s been talking to his family on the phone, including his sister; and people are having no trouble understanding him. He sounds a lot like himself at this point — a bit quacky, perhaps, but the phrasing and pauses are classic Shiffman. He’s eating pureed foods regularly, and getting lots of visits from therapists. They’re always glad to work with him because he’s doing so well. For now, there’s no big news, but lots of positive small news.


Stu Shiffman Update 4/22

Ten months after suffering a stroke Stu Shiffman is regaining his speaking ability reports Tom Whitmore on Stu’s Caringbridge page

Stu is now doing almost all his communication by speech (rather than spelling things out). He’s still a little croaky, but only a little difficult to understand. He’s also continuing to work out a couple of times a week at the gym upstairs. He still can’t stand or walk, but they’re working on keeping his muscles in shape.

This is very fine news!

Stu Shiffman Update 4/4

Fanartist Stu Shiffman’s recovery from last June’s stroke has entered a new phase. Tom Whitmore reported on Stu’s CaringBridge page that he’s managing to talk for several minutes at a time (despite still having a trache in place) –

 A bit over a week ago when I was visiting, he managed clearly to say the number 6 while counting to 10 — according to Andi, he can now manage a lot of words in a row. We’re all very excited about this. His speech and respiratory therapists are continuing to spend more time with him just because he’s so responsive.

Stu Shiffman Update 2/12

On Stu Shiffman’s birthday — February 12 — friends celebrated both the date and his continuing, gradual recovery from last June’s stroke. As Tom Whitmore told followers of Stu’s CaringBridge journal —

Stu is continuing to be off the ventilator for a part of each day — it varies a lot depending on how much therapy he’s had, and he’s the one who has to decide when he’s going to be on or off it. Which is pretty cool. He’s forming words well now with his mouth, and he’s starting to be able to write again — the words are sprawled and a bit difficult to recognize, but he’s using a normal pen and I could read a couple of the words Andi showed me from Sunday.

Shiffman Update 8/12/12

Stu Shiffman is almost ready to move onto the next stage of his recovery, says Tom Whitmore on the Caring Bridge journal – this time it’s a literal move, to a skilled nursing facility.

Within a day or two Stu’s expected to be transferred to Health and Rehabilitation of North Seattle. See their FAQ for visiting hours and parking information (it’s free). Andi Shecter and Astrid Bear visited and met some staff and residents already. Stu’s stay will be covered by Medicaid.

Tom cautions, Stu’s still not speaking well, so no phone calls. When they know his room number it will be posted on Caring Bridge so that it can be included when addressing letter.

Update 08/13/2012: Stu’s room number is 110.