Museum Moves Towards Bradbury Centennial

By Steven H Silver: On August 22, 1920, Esther and Leonard Bradbury became parents to a son they named Ray Douglas Bradbury in Waukegan, Illinois. A century later, the city of Waukegan is preparing to remember this child who grew up to write the novels Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Farewell Summer, all of which take their inspiration from his childhood in Waukegan, which he called Green Town in many of his writings, by opening a museum, The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM).

On January 9, 2020, I attended an event thrown by the committee behind the museum. Held in a storefront at 13 N. Genessee Street, a block east of the Lake County courthouse and a block south from the Genesee Theatre, this storefront is in the process of being transformed into the museum, with the intention of phase one being ready for the public in time for the centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth.

Bradbury’s childhood home at 11 S. James St.

At the moment, the building isn’t much to look at. Signs in the window announce the imminence of the museum, along with a poster that outlines the way Bradbury has been honored throughout the solar system. The interior of the building is currently even less impressive than the exterior: a mostly empty warren of halls and rooms that are undergoing construction, awaiting the installation of exhibits.

The front room was filled with rows of chairs, a large monitor, a podium, and a variety of displays related to Bradbury’s career and his life in Waukegan. One wall included framed magazines that included Bradbury’s work including the original serialization of Fahrenheit 451, another wall had posters describing his ties to Waukegan, including a picture of his childhood home at 11 S. James Street, about half a mile from the museum.

I was greeted at the door by Sandy Petroshius, the Chair of RBEM. She asked about me and the next thing I knew I was being introduced to Michael Stoltz, a member of the Mars Society who had joined the RBEM board to help run their publicity. We chatted for a while and I made my way around the room, looking at the displays.

We were asked to sit down and Petroshius took to the podium and welcomed us all. She pointed out that Waukegan has already embraced Bradbury and that last year Ray Bradbury Park was named a national literary landmark and a sculpture showing Bradbury riding a rocket was installed outside the Waukegan Public Library. Finally, she introduced Sam Cunningham, the mayor of Waukegan.

Cunningham pointed out that Waukegan was also represented by several of their alderman, the city clerk, and other dignitaries. He spoke about what Bradbury’s pride in Waukegan and what the author means to the city, and spoke of how the RBEM would assist in making the community of Waukegan into a destination. Cunningham also announced that although the plans weren’t finalized yet, Waukegan was planning a massive celebration in August to coincide with the centennial.

Other members of the RBEM committee also spoke. Vance D. Wyatt discussed the importance of showcasing Bradbury’s books and his tie to Waukegan to help inspire local students. Living in a city in which a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment has fluctuated in the last year between 4.2% and 9.5%, it is important for them to see that people from Waukegan can, and have succeeded.

Wyatt was followed by Pat O’Keefe who has traveled around the world and spoken to people about Ray Bradbury’s influence on their lives and their reading. O’Keefe talked about the awards Bradbury has won, and those named in his honor, the adaptations of his work for film, television, and radio, and showed some artifacts of Bradbury’s career. When I was speaking to him after the presentations, I learned he had never seen the Ray Bradbury Award he had mentioned. Since I had some pictures of it on my phone from the last Nebula Conference, I showed them to him.

Pat O’Keefe

Michael Edgar, the President of the Greater Waukegan Development Coalition, took the podium next. As noted above, Waukegan suffers from unemployment and poverty. The RBEM is part of a multi-year renovation project the city is undergoing. Edgar discussed the ways Waukegan is working to support and attract businesses to Waukegan and spoke about RBEM’s role in boosting Waukegan’s downtown.

The next speaker was Mikayla Khramov, who is a film documentarian who did her Master’s thesis on Bradbury’s Green Town and is currently working on a documentary entitled Dear Ray Bradbury. She previewed the opening of the film, which she expects to finish in time for the centennial and which will be a feature length film. She also showed a short film that she’s working on called “I Met Ray,” which has short interviews with people who have come into contact with Bradbury, either directly or through his works. In addition to featuring several citizens of Waukegan, the film also featured actor Joe Mantegna, who starred in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and who co-produced the 2013 documentary Live Forever: The Ray Bradbury Odyssey.

Mikayla Khramov

While the event so far had been entertaining and informative, the real purpose of the evening was about to happen, although it was also the part that was least connected directly to Bradbury. Local H&R Block franchisees Feroze and Samia Hanif had been selected as an H&R Block Franchisee of the Year. They were lauded by Karen Orosco, a Senior Vice President of the firm who had flown in from their Kansas City headquarters to recognize the Hanifs and present them with a check for $10,000. The Hanifs, in turn presented a check for $10,000 to RBEM to help with their efforts to complete the first phase of the museum.

The museum’s exhibits are being designed by Chicago Exhibit Productions, with a team headed by Keith Michalek. Michalek stepped in front of the audience with the meatiest part of the evening. He explained the difference between an experiential museum and a display museum. The goal of the RBEM would be to take whatever image a visitor had of Bradbury and his work when they entered the museum and to transform it before they left through hands-on, interactive exhibits that would not remain static, but would change.

Keith Michalek

The museum would have seven rooms, with each room having a different focus. The room we were all sitting in, the Martian Chronicle room, would focus on space exploration. Other rooms would include a biographical exhibit about Bradbury, the Fahrenheit 451 room which would aim to explore freedom of expression, censorship, and creativity. The Something Wicked room wood look at horror, fantasy, and circuses. The Dandelion Wine room would be devoted to libraries, books, and the tie between Bradbury and Waukegan. The remaining rooms would focus on tributes to Bradbury by other creatives and a viewing room where films and television shows based on Bradbury’s works and documentaries about Bradbury could be screened.

The organization clearly has detailed plans for the museum and the images Michalek showed of the concepts for their exhibits appear well thought out. In addition to the interactive exhibits, the museum plans on holding a variety of events to inform and interact with the public.

And I did find my visit transformative, even if the displays are not installed yet. I walked into the event to learn about what the museum was going to have to offer and perhaps get a sneak preview of their exhibits. By the time I left, I had made plans to talk to various members of the board to find out what I could do to help bring the museum and their vision to fruition.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #26

A regular exploration of public domain genre work available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon:

I took a hiatus for the holiday season but I’m back and ready to dig into some more of the public domain treasures out there for fans of old-time science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Since the new Robert Downey Jr. version of Dolittle is coming out this week, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at Hugh Lofting, the originator of the Dr. Dolittle character and stories.

Hugh Lofting (1886-1947) didn’t set out to be a writer. Born in Berkshire, England, he studied civil engineering at MIT and London Polytechnic and spent several years traveling the world doing engineering work. When World War I began, he enlisted and served in France for several years before being wounded and invalided out.

The character of Doctor Dolittle, a Victorian physician who can talk to animals and ministers to them instead of humans, originated in the trenches during the war. Lofting later explained that his actual experiences were either too horrible or too dull to include in letters home to his children, so he began writing stories about Dolittle and illustrating them with pen-and-ink line drawings instead.

He collected those stories into his first book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, which was published in 1920 to immediate acclaim. He wrote seven more Dolittle books between 1920 and 1928, when he tried to end the series by sending Doctor Dolittle off planet in Doctor Dolittle in the Moon

Popular demand led him to write four more Dolittle books in the 1930s and 1940s, and two additional collections were published posthumously in the 1950s. He also wrote several works for children that were not in the Dolittle series, and a book-length anti-war poem called Victory for the Slain, published in 1942.

The first few Doctor Dolittle books are in the public domain now and are available at Project Gutenberg:

Doctor Dolittle’s Circus was published in 1924 and thus entered the public domain in the United States on January 1 of this year. It will likely be released by Project Gutenberg in the next few months.

A non-Dolittle picture book, The Story of Mrs. Tubbs, was also published in 1923 and is on Internet Archive.

Librivox has multiple versions of The Story of Doctor Dolittle and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, including dramatic readings (where different volunteers voice the various characters) of both. Two versions of Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office are in progress, a solo version and a dramatic reading, and will be released in the next few months.

Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) came up in the birthday lists this week. He’s best remembered now as a fiction writer — one of the “Big Three” of the early years of Weird Tales (the other two being H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard), but he began his writing career as a poet.

Project Gutenberg has two volumes of poetry by Clark Ashton Smith:

Ebony and Crystal contains a long blank-verse poem called “The Hashish Eater, or the Apocalypse of Evil”. This poem caught Lovecraft’s attention and his fan letter to Smith initiated years of correspondence and collaboration. 

This poem and nineteen other works are included in a recent Librivox release, Lovecraft’s Influences and Favorites. The compilation was inspired by Lovecraft’s 1927 essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, and collects the stories and poems Lovecraft mentions, from Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” to “Seaton’s Aunt” by Walter de la Mare.

Ron Goulart (1933- ) shares his birthday with Clark Ashton Smith, and is represented at Project Gutenberg by three short stories:

None of these have been recorded for Librivox yet.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle (1890-1942)

    In the future, people will be fitted with clockwork devices in their heads which, among other things, allows them to travel through time. Well, it seems one of these devices has frizzed-out, and a Clockwork man appears in the middle of a cricket match in 1923. The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle is believed to be the first instance of a human-machine cyborg appearing in literature.

  • The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany (1878-1957)

    This is a 1924 fantasy novel by Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany, which became public domain in January 2020. It is widely recognized as one of the most acclaimed works in all of fantasy literature. Highly influential upon the fantasy genre as a whole, the novel was particularly formative in the subgenres of “fairytale fantasy” and “high fantasy”. And yet, it deals always with the truth: the power of love, the allure of nature, the yearning for contentment, the desire for fame, the quest for immortality, and the lure and the fear of magic. Arthur C. Clarke said this novel helped cement Dunsany as “one of the greatest writers of this century”.

  • Crossings: A Fairy Play by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

    Under the terms of a will, the Wildersham children have to relocate from the family house in the city to “Crossings” in the country, and to spend the first fortnight alone fending for themselves in the house. The children encounter interesting country neighbors, including ghosts and fairies. Or are they dreaming? Walter De La Mare was a poet, and we have a number of his poems available at Librivox. This is his only play.

  • The Phantom Death and Other Stories by William Clark Russell (1844-1911)

    This is a book of remarkable nautical ghost and horror stories written by William Clark Russell in 1893. The stories are for the most part set on ships and bring the reader on board for ghostly nights, wonderful sights, and strange occurrences.

Media Birthday Party – January 5

Compiled by Cat Eldridge:

January 5, 1950 The Flying Saucer premiered. It was written by Howard Irving Young, from a story by Mikel Conrad who also produced, directed, and stars with Pat Garrison and Hantz von Teuffen. It as half of a double-feature with Atomic Monster, the retitled-reissue of Man Made Monster originally released in 1941. Critics mostly ignored it, and currently it has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. All rights to the film have been owned worldwide and in perpetuity since 1977 by Wade Williams. Yes, he’s got sff film credits. 

January 5, 1951 Two Lost Worlds premiered. It was directed by Norman Dawn and stars James Arness and Laura Elliott. It was produced by Boris Petroff from the story he wrote. No dinosaurs were harmed in the making of this early Fifties film as all footage here comes from footage recycled from the earlier film One Million B.C. Like many early Fifties films, there’s little or no critical commentary on it, nor does it show up at Rotten Tomatoes. Should you be inclined, you can watch it here.

January 5, 1968 Star Trek’s “The Gamesters of Triskelion” episode premiered, written by Margaret Armen. She would also write the “The Paradise Syndrome” and “The Cloud Minders” episodes for the series. She would be a regular writer in Sixties and later sff television series offering up scripts for The Six Million Dollar Man, Land of the Lost, The Bionic Woman,  Jason of Star Command and Fantasy Island. The popular Star Trek catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty” is a common misquotation of a line here she wrote in which Kirk says “ Scotty, beam us up.”

January 5, 1995 Twelve Monkeys premiered. It was directed by Terry Gilliam as inspired by Chris Marker’s La Jetée film, with Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt leading up the cast. (David and Janet Peoples greatly expanded the story from that of the short film in their script.) It was a financial success at the Box Office many times over, critics loved it and it currently has a 90% rating among the very large number of reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

January 5, 2007 Children of Men premiered. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and produced by Hilary Shor and others, it’s based off the P. D. James novel of that name. Its cast was led by Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam.  It was not a box office hit though both critics and reviewers love it — the film currently has a 92% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It would place second in voting for that Hugo Award at Nippon 2007 to Pan’s Labyrinth.

Thoreau Said It Wasn’t Indispensable

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 44, dated 24 Dec 19)

Caring what befalls,
Ardently helping, leading,
Reaching what can be,
Oh what fun it is to ride
Love and laughter currently.

It’s the International Year of the Periodic Table, so declared by the United Nations to honor the Table’s being substantially invented in its modern form 150 years ago by Dmitri Mendeleyev (1834-1907).

We had learned there were elements. Other organizations of them had been proposed. His predicted the existence and properties of new elements, which when discovered proved to be so. At the time elements were characterized by their atomic weight; some known elements did not behave according to his theory; he said their atomic weights must have been measured incorrectly; this too proved so.

He is said to have reported, “In a dream I saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down.” Luckily he escaped the Higamus Effect.

* * *

In the 23 Nov 39 Cleveland Plain Dealer, p. 20, the column “Good Morning from Claire MacMurray”, headed “Thanksgiving Nightmare”, recounted:

Mrs. Amos Pinchot…. dreamed one night that she had written a poem so beautiful, so wise, so close to the ultimate truth of life that she was immediately acclaimed by all the peoples on the earth as the greatest poet and philosopher of all the ages. Still half asleep as the dream ended, she stumbled out of bed and scribbled the poem down, realizing that she must take no risk of forgetting such deathless lines. She awoke in the morning with the feeling that something wonderful was about to happen – oh, yes! Her poem.

She clutched the precious paper and, tense with excitement, read the words she had written. Here they are.

Hogamus Higamus
Men are Polygamous
Higamus Hogamus
Women Monogamous

* * *

I sometimes think we may have run into a new element. The most recently recognized is Element 118, oganesson, symbol Og, synthesized in 2002 at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, near Moscow, by a joint team of Russian and American scientists, and formally named (28 Nov 16) for the physicist Yuri Oganessian (1933- ), who has played a leading role in discovering the heaviest elements in the Periodic Table.

This new element, if it proves to be Element 119, should be an alkali metal, which seems right. It may be essential; certainly characteristic, widespread, and highly radioactive.

We could call it mnisikakía, after the Greek; its symbol could be M (Mn is taken, manganese). I thought of calling it iracundia, after the Latin, but the symbol I is taken (iodine) and so is Ir (iridium). Or we could keep the symbol M and call it by its common name, resentment.

What did Thoreau know?

                                              

“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” H. Thoreau, Walden ch. 1 (1854)

My Life at Loscon, Part 3

By John Hertz:  (mostly reprinted from No Direction Home 43)  Saturday 11:30 a.m. at Loscon XLVI, a panel discussion “The Asimov Centenary”.

We were starting early, or maybe right; without birth records, he celebrated 3 Jan 1920 but it could have been in 1919.  Moderator, pro author and interviewer Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, with Fan Guest of Honor Edie Stern, Joe Siclari of FANAC (Florida Association for Nucleation And Conventions, sponsor of the 50th World Science Fiction Convention [which Siclari chaired] at Orlando, Florida, and currently a fanhistory Website <fanac.org>, fanac our long-time slang for fan activity), Matthew Tepper the con chair and Asimov scholar, and me.

The panel was billed as discussing “his growth as a writer, and the impact that his writings have had on real life culture and science”; I thought, as Johnson said, those people have gone to milk the bull.

The work of Asimov the SF author was imagination; of Asimov the science writer – his four hundred science columns for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, his six dozen popular-science books – was explanation.  He said he strove for clarity; at both this was his talent, his skill, perhaps we may say his genius.  Let us not turn away to having an impact (that wretched cant) on real life culture and science.  His growth as a writer – alas, I thought he shrank.  I could not think The Gods Themselves (1972) his best SF; on the contrary.  Nevertheless he was a wonder.

Tepper said Asimov brought sweeping stories up close and personal.  That also applied to his non-fiction.  Stern said, he worked out a premiss (yes, that’s how the logic kind is spelled, plural “premisses”; “premises” is the land kind).  He showed how social forces shaped.  Siclari said he could present complex science simply.  He had a spirit of play; not only in his writing, he was active in Gilbert & Sullivan fandom.  I said he was one of our best what if writers.

Zinos-Amaro asked, accusations of his mistreating women have emerged: does that complicate what we think of him?  Stern reminded us these things were no news; everyone with a skirt, she said, knew he was grabby.  She told of a woman in a shirt printed with six-finger outlines who retorted “Isaac, if your hands fit these, you can, otherwise no”; he stopped.  Tepper said, we’re faced with even greater creative personalities who were flawed – like Wagner.  We can’t minimize either side.  A woman in the audience said “I ran a convention; he was very professional.”

On yet another side, Stern told of a Boston collating session in the mimeograph days; just as a man declined to pitch in, saying “I’m a published author”, Asimov stuck his head out of the collating room calling “Hey, Tony, we need more of Page 2.” 

Zinos-Amaro asked us each what one book we’d recommend.  Stern said, Pebble in the Sky (1950).  Siclari said, Foundation (1951).  Tepper said, The Caves of Steel (1953).  I said, The End of Eternity (1955).  Look too for the collections of his short stories and of his science essays. With fiction and non-fiction he had published five hundred books – plus anthologies – plus founding Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.

In the Art Show the best for me was Elizabeth Berrien. This extraordinary wire-worker was famous among us for years.  Her animals and other creations are in many of our homes.  At Lonestarcon II, the 55th Worldcon, she won Best in Art Show.  As her career grew, she found herself making things for airports, hotels, museums, offices, restaurants, television advertising, zoos.

Chris Marble said “It’s been 21 years since she exhibited at Loscon.”  In 2019 she was in the Art Show at Spikecon, the combined Westercon (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference) and NASFiC (North America SF Con, held when the Worldcon is overseas), fifty miles from where the Final Spike completed the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier; Marble had carried her work to and from the 77th Worldcon in Ireland.

When she’s present, at a party or a panel discussion, you’ll see her listening or contributing to the conversation, all the while twisting wire.  She must carry the whole in her mind, like Michelangelo saying “I just get a block of marble and chip away anything that isn’t a Madonna and Child.”  If you look at wire sculpture around the world, you’ll see hers is distinctive.  It may be unique.

We have fan tables.  We don’t know any better name for them.  Along the traffic flow are people and displays on behalf of scheduled cons, bids to hold cons, contests, SF clubs, to answer questions and as may seem suitable.

At Loscon, the Orange County SF Club usually has a table.  Their logograph is a Space ship taking off from an orange.  To be friendly there’s usually an orange-colored bowl with orange-flavored candy.  I keep meaning to ask whether OCSFC is in touch with the Netherlands national football team.

Drawing by Tim Kirk.

If you can’t remember whether you have a membership in something or other there may well be someone at a table with a list paper or electronic who might, in case you don’t and want one, offer you a do-it-now discount.  Non-profit organizations have to get along somehow.

I had to go off-site three times for errands that took hours.  Half of one later proved needless.  Another could have been avoided, but Life is a continuing series of adventures in which you learn you’d have done better to think of something else in advance.

I saw I’d be late for the Saturday night Paul Turner memorial panel (1936-2019).  High-tech folk helped me tell Operations.  I arrived after 8:30, but I arrived.  Neola Caveny moderated Greg Benford, Paul’s son now known as the Wizard, Suzanne Vegas, and eventually me.

Paul was given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS in 1964.  He was Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon XX.  In our audience Bill Ellern said that while Paul is with some justice credited for inventing the LASFS Building Fund (Jerry Pournelle, “You’re out of your mind”; Paul, “Sure I am”), by which LASFS indeed bought a clubhouse, Betty Knight as Treasurer in the 1950s kept saying we should start one but nobody listened.  Paul held salons with SF authors, Jet Propulsion Lab scientists, and like that, for conversation and nourishment.  His mind ranged wide.

Sunday 2:30 p.m., the second Classics of SF book talk, C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra (1943; reached the Retro-Hugo ballot).  I’ll stay with “audience” although I invite and perhaps some would say drag in participation.  Is it a classic? why?  From the audience: the people – and the other characters – are genuine; I asked, how could we know; a woman said, “If we met them they’d be like that.”  She had hit on what Johnson said of Shakespeare (two geometric figures of the same shape are similar, regardless of differences in size):

He approximates the remote, and familiarizes the wonderful; the event which he represents will not happen, but if it were possible, its effects would probably be such as he has assigned; and it may be said, that he has not only shown human nature as it acts in real exigencies, but as it would be found in trials, to which it cannot be exposed. 

Another said the descriptions of landscape were almost as interesting as the plot.  Another: the portrayal of Ransom’s internal reactions.  Another: Ransom isn’t too perfect.  Sean Smith said he wrestles with his moral dilemma.  He asks “Why me?” and painfully answers.  Father John Blaker said, Lewis takes these questions seriously – but not, ran our consensus, at the expense of his fiction.

Unfortunately sermonizing, which might ideally mean inspiring, has too often proved to mean oppressing; we thought Lewis avoided falling into that pit.  Another said a truly loving person discusses.

If Perelandra had anything in common with our Friday book, Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953) – gosh – it might be the centrality of dialogue.  Look at the nearly impossible task of characterizing Ransom’s adversary – and I don’t mean Weston.

I bought Craig Miller’s “Star Wars” Memories (2019) from his own self.  Later, helping take down the Dealers’ Room; dinner; I got to the Dead Dog Party (until the last dog is –) round about midnight.  As it happens I’d helped to supply it – and the Staff Den; at length I’d been made Chief Hall-Costume Judge (the costumes some people build or assemble for strolling the halls; Marjii Ellers called them daily wear for alternative worlds) after all.

Some of us were still alive.  Karl Lembke, chairman (the suffix -man is not masculine) of the LASFS Board and a refreshments wizard, was still on duty.  A good thing, too.

Frank Capra, The Man Who Saved Christmas

By Steve Vertlieb: Spending a quiet afternoon with one of cinema’s greatest, most distinguished motion picture directors, the brilliant Frank Capra. A memorable afternoon in which Frank and I sat together at the home of a mutual friend…just the two of us…watching a 16 mm print of his Oscar-winning classic. “It Happened One Night.” This cherished afternoon with the acclaimed director of It’s A Wonderful Life, Lost Horizon, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Meet John Doe, and A Hole In The Head, among so many other classic motion pictures, was absolutely sublime, and a wondrous remnant from a lifetime of cinematic memories and unforgettable experiences.

Steven J. Vertlieb and Frank Capra.

During a particularly sad and lonely Christmas for my friend and hero, I wrote Frank Capra a few ineffectual words of hope and inspiration. His nearly heart breaking response remains one of my most treasured letters. This poignant note from the man who offered hope to so many year after year with his Christmas masterpiece, It’s A Wonderful Life, is a cherished remnant of true humility, and all too common human frailty… a tender personal document for this holiday season.

Together with “The Man Who Saved Christmas,” the great Frank Capra … one of Cinema’s most influential pioneers, and the director of the quintessential Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.

“Star Wars…Nothing
But Star Wars”

By Steve Vertlieb: The moment that I’d dreamt of and imagined for decades had at last arrived. Nicchi Rozsa, Miklos Rozsa’s lovely granddaughter, said that she’d never seen me look so happy. Here was the moment that I’d longed for … to meet my last living, life-long hero at last. When he smiled at me, and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, I thought that I’d died and gone to Heaven. It was so unforgettably sweet.

John Williams, at the tender age of 87 years, remains the most important motion picture composer on the planet. This weekend marks the release of his final score for Star Wars, and it is truly a momentous event.

Simply one of the greatest moments of my life… Meeting John Williams for the very first time in his dressing room at The Hollywood Bowl in late August, 2010.

Among the many highlights of my pilgrimage to Hollywood in 2017 was an entirely unexpected, nearly miraculous, accidental “close encounter” with the current star of one of the most lucrative and beloved movie franchises in motion picture history. I’m still amazed, two years after this most astonishing occurrence, that our meeting actually occurred, as this remarkable photograph will happily attest to.

While waiting backstage to speak with composer John Williams at the venerable Hollywood Bowl, I noticed that Daisy Ridley’s name was posted on one of the dressing room doors. She hadn’t appeared on stage with Maestro Williams during the Star Wars concert selections, and so I wondered why. I turned to my brother to mention the strangeness of the occurrence when I inwardly gasped at the realization that the young star of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and, currently, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was standing just inches in front of me.

Listening to her British accent in conversation with the director of The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, I nudged my brother Erwin, and whispered “I think that Daisy Ridley is standing right in front of me.” Hearing my admittedly excited observation to my little brother, she turned toward me with a big smile and said “Hello.”

She was as delightfully adorable in person as she is as “Rey” on the big screen in the spectacular continuation of the cherished science fiction franchise. I couldn’t help but recall John Williams’ own wonderfully charming admission, upon receiving his A.F.I. Life Achievement Award in 2016, that he didn’t want any other composer but himself writing music for this lovely young actress. I completely understood his feelings upon meeting Miss Ridley.

My Life at Loscon, Part 2

By John Hertz: (mostly reprinted from No Direction Home 42)  On Friday night at Loscon XLVI (local SF convention, sponsored by the L.A. Science Fantasy Society; see here) after Regency dancing (see Mimosa 29; or read Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances – or both) I changed back to my conventional attire and went to wander the world of parties.

I’ve long felt an in it but not of it quality is elemental to fandom.  More usually interest-groups seem tighter focused on, or entangled with, their topic.  It makes us harder to explain.  People ask me “Are you a writer?” and I have to answer with something like my father’s scrupulous reply when we played Guess What Daddy Had for Lunch, “Not within the normal meaning of that term.”  My best formulation so far is A love of SF is the thread on which the beads of fan activity are strung.  Anyway, it shows in our social life.

At our cons we have open (everybody welcome) and closed (invitation-only) parties.  Some of them have a particular reason for existence.  Some of them.  See what I mean?

Drawing by Tim Kirk

I dropped by the Baycon party.  This is the San Francisco Bay area local con, held over the United States Memorial Day weekend; Baycon XXXVIII will be in 2020 (we’re not always careful terminologists: Westercon XIV – the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference on or near U.S. Independence Day, though not necessarily within the U.S.; Westercon LXXIII will be in 2020 – was “Baycon”, apparently the first SF con [in two senses of “SF”] so called: later the 26th World Science Fiction Convention, combined with Westercon XXI, and famous in song and story, was also “Baycon”).

A calendar conflict keeps me from Baycon, although I have friends there, and am an honorary officer of the Bay Area SF Association (Club motto, also Rule 0, “We do these things not because they are hard, but because we are weird”), which was convenient when the 66th Worldcon was at Yokohama Bay – in a Bay Area, and BASFA wanted a quorum.  So I seek out Baycon parties.

To some extent a Baycon party is an attempt to sell Baycon memberships.  (Among our better acts of terminology we insist we sell not tickets, but memberships: not admittance to a thing others have made, but participation in making it.) Why not?  See, we can host a party: we can host a convention.  But also it’s a contribution to the conviviality (good word to look up) of the time and place where it’s held.  I’m in favor of that.  Also similar parties thrown by other cons, and by bids to hold cons.

Some cons have themes.  I’m not particularly in favor of that; I’d rather they had theremins (seems unfair to ask for the Island of Kalymnos dance Thymariotikos, although I’m fond of it).

The Baycon XXXVIII theme is “The future is now!”, elaborated as “This year’s theme celebrates science fiction’s influence on our present day”.  I found that particularly regrettable.  It seemed to draw in the notion that SF is in the business of predicting the future, one of the nastier poisons to afflict us.  Also the current cant of influence too often operates as a nasty distraction from actually looking, substituting instead what other people think.  So I had the nourishingly demanding task of managing conviviality with my friends, making new friends, and conferring about the health of our field.

Down the hall was Keith Kato’s, combined as happens at Loscon with Carol & Elst Weinstein’s, and Kenn Bates’.

At cons Kato has for years been hosting chili parties, some open, some closed.  He cooks up a vat of hot (“To Everyone Except Bob Silverberg”) and a vat of mild (“To Everyone Except Marion Zimmer Bradley”), recently also a vat of vegetarian and, at Loscon, one of bison.  He has not been hindered by his career as a physicist, his achieving a Black Belt in shõtõkan karate, nor his term as President of the Heinlein Society.  In File 770 159 (PDF) p. 35, his own story to that date, I was in his Gang of Four.  If he’s on the night of Regency dancing he knows I can’t show up soon; nor can I fairly ask him to save me a bowl of mild, I have to take my chances.

The Weinsteins at Loscon have hosted Herbangelist wine and cheese parties (on Herbie Popnecker, see Forbidden Worlds 73; he had his own title 1964-67; zeal lasts); Bates has hosted dessert parties, usually with a chocolate-fondue fountain; that they would co-host was inevitable, and they have.

Brad Lyau had been given the Moskowitz Archive Award at the 77th Worldcon (Dublin, 15-19 Aug 19).  I congratulated him.  The Award, named for Sam Moskowitz, is from First Fandom, for excellence in SF collecting; First Fandom is both a historical fact – those happy few active since at least the first Worldcon, 1939 – and an organization devoted to fanhistory.

Lyau had revealed in Scientifiction 61 (N.S., i.e. New Series) that he has Julie Schwartz’ copy of SaM’s 1954 Immortal Storm, inscribed to Julie by SaM – then when Lyau told them he’d gotten it, inscribed by each of them to him!  Gosh!  Forry Ackerman had helped with Lyau’s Ph.D. dissertation on 1950s French SF.  Lyau has been at it a while. 

I was fascinated to learn he’d studied with Hans Küng (1928-  ).  We spoke of epistemology (good word to look up); I repeated my jest that I’d long been an amateur epistemologist – I was a Philosophy major – and now I’m also a professional epistemologist, although we lawyers don’t like to think of ourselves as philosophers.  We’re engineers, too.

Lyau talked of the “scholastic stranglehold” in the days of the Schoolmen, say 1100-1700.  I said that wasn’t really fair to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for one.  Lyau said it wasn’t Aristotle’s fault (lived fifteen centuries earlier) that Aristotle’s work became ossified.  I said the poor Buddha (a century before Aristotle), if that expression could be used, told people not to make statues of him. Lyau said the Buddha was a messenger of universal truth.  I had been with a Japanese Buddhist priest during the Bon Festival (rhymes with “hone”; short for a Sanskrit word referring to suffering by the dead in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which the Festival hopes to relieve) who said “We don’t worship our ancestors, we just venerate them.”

Saturday 11:30 a.m., “The Asimov Centenary”, Joe Siclari, Fan Guest of Honor Edie Stern, Matthew Tepper, and me, moderated by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.  Isaac Asimov didn’t know his birthday, no records.  He celebrated January 2, 1920, but it could have been a day in 1919. Anyway, why not start now?

Siclari had chaired the 50th Worldcon (Orlando), has long been a student of SF particularly graphic art, also fanhistory; was the 2005 Down Under Fan Fund delegate; with Stern his wife received the 2016 Big Heart Award; heads (although he and Stern moved back to New York) the Florida Association for Nucleation And Conventions (yes, that spells FANAC, since at least the 1940s short for “fan activity”), sponsor of the 50th Worldcon and these days a fanhistorical Website.

Tepper, the con chair and in fact an Asimov scholar, had been the “Let’s kill him now” boy of Asimov’s anecdote in The Hugo Winners; to be fair, Asimov himself didn’t say that.

Zinos-Amaro has on his Website, along with Lao Tzû and Emily Dickinson, Asimov’s line from I. Asimov “The interplay of thought and imagination is far superior to that of muscle and sinew.”

To be continued.

My Year at Goodreads

The elves at Goodreads put together a graphic from my Kindle reading for the year.

I thought it would be fun to post it for two reasons.

It documents that I really did read Somtow Sucharitkul’s autobiographical account of his summer as a monk —

And I thought Craig Miller would get a kick out of seeing this cover collage and the august (or at least bestselling) company his book is keeping.

Media Birthday Party
– December 18

This is one of the best dates to be a sff movie and tv fan.

Compiled by Cat Eldridge.

December 18, 2013 Forbidden Planet (premiered in 1956) was selected by the Library of Congress for induction in the National Film Registry. It was just one of twenty-five such films to be added to the growing archive of American motion pictures earmarked for preservation because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic significance. 

December 18, 1947 Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. It’s based off was the SF strip created by writer William Ritt and artist Clarence Gray. The strip was first distributed in 1933, it ran for over fifty years. Kane Richmond was the hero of the serial. You can watch the first episode here.

December 18, 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang premiered. Directed by Ken Hughes and written by Roald Dahl and Hughes, based very, very loosely on Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car. (Well they sort of used the title.) The cast is amazing and includes Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Heather Ripley, Lionel Jeffries, Helpmann and Gert Fröbe to name but a few. Critics, with the exception of the one at Time when it came out, loved it, and reviewers agree — it has a 67% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

December 18, 2009 Avatar premiered. It was directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron, and stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver. It made more money than bears thinking about, had generally strong critical reviews and rates 85% at Rotten Tomatoes.  It would place fifth of the final five nominees in the Hugo voting at Aussiecon 4 with the winner of Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form being Moon

December 18, 1987 — Stephen Spielberg’s Batteries Not Included premiered. Directed by Matthew Robbins, it was the feature film screenwriting debut of Brad Bird. It starred real life couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. Need I say that it was a box office success, and that critics and reviewers alike enthusiastically embraced it? Well it wasn’t and it didn’t. It did OK, it  got a mixed review and it currently has a decent 60% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

December 18, 1985 Brazil premiered. It was directed by Terry Gilliam and written by him as well, with contributions by Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard, too. The film stars Jonathan Pryce along with Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins and Ian Holm. It finished fourth in the voting at ConFederation, the year Back to the Future won its Hugo. Critics were decidedly mixed on it, but Rotten Tomatoes has it at 98% among reviewers currently. 

December 18, 1976 — The Wonder Woman series premiered on ABC. It would be on ABC  a single season before airing on CBS for another two seasons. Based on the comic-book series of Charles Moulton in the Forties, it stars Lynda Carter as Yeoman Diana Prince who is Wonder Woman along with Lyle Waggoner as Major Steve Trevor. The fanboys are dumping on it at Rotten Tomatoes so it has an abysmal rating of 10% over there.