By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 32) In the present season – in 2019 the New Year
on the Jewish religious calendar began at sundown on 29 Sep, followed by Ten
Days of Repentance, and Atonement Day beginning at sundown on 8 Oct (it’s a
lunar-solar calendar adjusted by a leap month, so the dates shift back and
forth on the secular i.e. Gregorian calendar) – I sometimes see this poem,
attributed to Judy Chicago (1939- ) and
said to be from 1979.
A Poem Praying for Us Then and Them Right Now
And then all of what has divided us will merge.
And then compassion will be wedded to power.
And then softness will come to a world that is often harsh and unkind.
And then both women and men will be gentle.
And then both men and women will be strong.
And then no other person will be subject to another’s will.
And then all will be rich and varied.
And then all will share equally in the earth’s abundance.
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old.
And then all will nourish the young.
And then all will cherish life’s creatures.
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the earth.
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.
appears elsewhen too. Maybe I should add
elsefaith; I’ve seen it among Christians.
At the moment I have three
scholarly questions to pursue. The title
does not always appear. The word “often”
does not always appear. When it is
omitted – so maybe these are just two questions – a further line appears after
“And then all will be rich and free and varied”:
“And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many.” I’m not sure about the title; I think often, greed and need, matter.
By Colleen McMahon: This was a slow week. No new Librivox audiobooks that fit into the
genre categories, however broadly drawn. So this might be a good time to
mention that Librivox does have a lot of older short science fiction available.
They have been doing a series of short science fiction collections for
way it works is that a volume is started, and anyone can contribute a short
science fiction story that is known to be in the public domain. Once there are
15-20 stories, the volume is closed and released and a new one opened. They are
up to 64 volumes at this point. If you are curious and would like to sample
some of them, the whole Short Science Fiction series is here.
have a bit of a backlog of random authors who were mentioned in the birthday
lists over the last few months, and this is a good time to do a little catching
up with some of these.
(1896-1982) had a birthday back in August. He is represented in Project Gutenberg
by two short stories:
Cosmic Deflector” has not been recorded yet for Librivox, but “Flight Through
Tomorrow” has been recorded three different times for Short Science
W. Fairman (1909-1977)
was active as an author from the late 1940s through the early 1970s, publishing
several novels and many short stories under his own name as well as the
pseudonym Ivar Jorgensen. He is also the founding editor of If science
fiction magazine, and later became editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic
is best remembered now as a television script writer (Captain Video and His
Video Rangers, Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and a pulp mystery author,
but he was quite prolific in science fiction too.
Gutenberg has 16 of his stories. He published most often in If: Worlds of
Science Fiction and, interestingly, in two cases he had two stories in one
issue, one published under his own name and one under the pseudonym “Kenneth
mentioned at the top of this installment, I could not find anything
genre-related in the list of recent releases, which is very unusual. However,
there is one book that might be of mild interest here: an all-but-forgotten
1923 mystery novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs!
The countryside outside of Los Angeles is a paradise on Earth: nature
gives bounty on the land, the animals are majestic, the oaks breathe and
the natural pools and ponds are all you would want on a summer’s day. And
if you are a Pennington or an Evans, life is simple and complete. However,
every paradise has a serpent. For Rancho Ganado, that comes in the shape
of Bootlegging, Drugs and Murder. All the vice of nearby Hollywood
manifest themselves in the picturesque landscape, throwing the lives of
these families into turmoil.
By John Hertz: (reprinted, mostly, from No Direction Home 31; written September 25th) Five centuries ago Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1475-1519) was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean (25 Sep 1513). Two centuries ago John Keats (1795-1821), not historically, but poetically, right:
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
“On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer” (1816)
It wasn’t Cortez (Don Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano 1485-1547). Charles Cowden Clarke (1787-1877), who showed Chapman’s 16th Century translation of Homer (The Iliad and The Odyssey, Greek poems of twenty-seven centuries ago) to Keats, stayed up all night with him reading it, “Keats shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck his imagination”, and found this sonnet on the breakfast table at 10 a.m., told Keats the eagle had been Balboa, but Keats wouldn’t change. You’ll have noticed the sonnet is in the Italian form sometimes named after Petrarch (1304-1374) i.e. rhyming abba abba cd cd cd, with a shift of thought after the eighth line; the new planet is Uranus, discovered 1781 by Herschel (1738-1822). The celebrated translation then was by Pope (1688-1744), a shining river if you put yourself in the Classical mind (“equals the original in its ceaseless pour of verbal music…. Pope worked miracles in highlighting the play of vowels through his lines”, Wills, “On Reading Pope’s Homer”, New York Times 1 Jun 97 sec. 7 p. 22), but Romanticism had come between Pope and Keats, to whom Pope was only a versifier.
For the quincentennial, Juan Carlos Navarro (mayor of Panama City 1999-2004) told Smithsonian Balboa was “the only one willing to immerse himself in the native culture…. In Panama, we recognize the profound significance of Balboa’s achievement and tend to forgive his grievous sins” as a conquistador (Lidz, “Tracking Balboa”, Sep 2013 p. 32).
Three and three-quarters centuries ago Stephen Daye (1594-1688) established the first printing press in North America at Cambridge, Massachusetts (25 Sep 1639). There was a United States 3¢ postage stamp for the tricentennial in 1939 (1st-Class Mail first ounce 1933-1958; 54¢ in 2019 money).
Three and a third centuries ago was born Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), whose Treatise on Harmony (1722) showed him a great theorist, and whose Hippolyte et Aricie (1733) was acknowledged the most significant opera since the death of Lully (1632-1687), but those who thought that good and those who thought it bad engaged in a pamphlet war for the rest of the decade; many more operas and other stage works. Rameau and Couperin (1668-1733) are the masters (literary present tense) of 18th Century French harpsichord music.
Two centuries ago François Arago (1786-1853), elaborating on the work of Oersted (1777-1851), announced finding that the passage of an electric current through a cylindrical spiral of copper wire caused it to attract iron filings as if it were a magnet and that the filings fell off when the current ceased (25 Sep 1820), one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. His is one of the 72 names on the Eiffel Tower (S.E. side, between Thénard [1777-1857] and Poisson [1781-1840]).
A century and a quarter ago was born William Faulkner (1897-1962; Nobel Prize in Literature 1949, which he hated). I’m glad I read The Reivers (1962, his last; Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) before Absalom, Absalom! (1936) or the rest.
Nine-tenths of a century ago was born Glenn Gould (1932-1982), of whom George Szell (1897-1970) muttered “That nut is a genius” and Jim Svejda said (“The Record Shelf” Guide to the Classical Repertoire p. 12, 2nd ed. 1990; “The Record Shelf” JS’ weekly program on Radio Station KUSC since 1983, syndicated nationally; I’ve later editions but I could find this one; S in Svejda like sh in shake, ej like ai in paid),
Willful, unpredictable, eccentric, reclusive, and maddeningly brilliant … easily the most provocative pianist of his generation and one of the great musical originals of modern times…. the 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations [J.S. Bach, 1741] introduced Gould to an unsuspecting world and began an entirely new chapter in the history of Bach interpretation…. driving tempos, a bracing rhythmic vitality, and an ability to clarify and untangle the dense contrapuntal lines…. re-recorded in 1981 … every bit as controversial…. sacrificing none of the razor clarity … more profound and reflective.
A third of a century ago (25 Sep 1981) Sandra Day O’Connor (1931- ) became the first woman judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, nominated by President Reagan (1911-2004; Pres. 1981-1989). He was a Republican (U.S. conservative party; the Democratic Party is progressive; the names are terminologically unsatisfying, and the parties exchanged places around the beginning of the 20th Century), as was she; service on the Court (to 2006) moved her toward the center, as it has so many from either side.
A decade ago died Catalan pianist Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009). Spanish music became her calling card; she recorded Albéniz’ formidably difficult Iberia (1909) four times. Here’s Svejda (KUSC Members’ Guide, Jul 2016 p. 3).
[Her] Mozart is a well-known (and extremely valuable) commodity, her Beethoven has hardly been a glut on the market…. splendidly straightforward version of the C major concerto  … came with an even finer version of the composer’s “Pastoral” Sonata …. her reading of the darkest of the Beethoven concertos is poised and meticulously executed, with little left to chance…. far from seeming calculated, the playing has a hushed intensity and brooding power, heard to particular advantage in the turbulent central plateau of the opening movement and in the grinding struggle of the finale…. through it all, there’s an elegance that keeps reminding us that this is a composer with one foot firmly planted in Mozart’s century, with the heaven-storming … still several years away. [Her] poise, wit, and probing insight recall the work of the great Mozart pianist of the last century, Clara Haskil [1895-1960]…. live De Larrocha recordings are far from commonplace, this one [CD: RCA 09076-6176-2] mustn’t be missed.
By Colleen McMahon: I wanted to start out this week with two offbeat suggestions that
are not strictly fantasy or science fiction literature, but that might be of
interest to some Filers. Both are recent audiobook releases from Librivox.
first is The Lost Art of
Gerald Stanley Lee (1862-1944). Lee was an American author and
Congregationalist minister, and he wrote The Lost Art of Reading in
1902. Long before the age of Netflix and screentime, even before radio and
widespread movie attendance, passionate defenders of the written word were
lamenting a decline in reading. In this case, Lee blames cities, trains, and
industrialization for speeding up life too much.
listening to an audiobook about how no one reads anymore is too meta, the text edition is available through Project
Gutenberg. (While searching around for information on this book, I discovered
that a book of the
same title was
published 108 years later, this one by Paul Ulin!)
other is one of Librivox’s quirkier collections: Insomnia
Collection Vol. 004, in
which volunteers found the most soporific reading material possible with the
idea of boring the listener to sleep. I can vouch for previous volumes, with
their excerpts from early 20th century telephone directories and copyright
renewal lists, as they have sent me off to dreamland on many mornings after
overnight shifts, when it was otherwise hard to settle down to sleep.
new volume is promising for more of the same, with selections like “W. Kent and
Co’s Annual Catalogue, April 1859,” and “Disinfection and Disinfectants.” I
contributed an excerpt from the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology’s detailed listing of
items collected in field expeditions in 1881, and it nearly put me to sleep while
I was trying to edit it, so it should work for anyone else who is battling
(1928-1992) was on the August birthday lists, and it turns out that he was a
very prolific author. In addition to his science fiction writing, he was a physician
and wrote plenty of nonfiction books as well, with titles like So You Want
to Be a Doctor (1957) and The Backyard Astronomer (1973). Late in
life, he seems to have turned toward sex education, with books on sexually
transmitted diseases, herpes, AIDs and a 1990 Teen Guide to Safe Sex.
public domain works on Project Gutenberg include lots of short stories and
novelettes, 25 titles in all. That’s too many to include here, so I’ll just
mention a few below and include a link to his complete works at PG.
(1913-2002) is probably best remembered now as a scriptwriter for television,
including shows like The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Star
Trek. (He wrote or co-wrote the episodes “The Corbomite Maneuver,” “This
Side of Paradise,” and “Whom Gods Destroy”.) However, he was also a novelist
with over twenty titles to his credit, as well as nonfiction books on chess and
bridge, and numerous short stories.
“Man’s Rights; or, How Would You Like It?: Comprising Dreams” is the first known feminist utopian novel written by a woman. The text features nine dreams experienced by a first-person female narrator. In the first seven dreams, she visits the planet Mars, finding a society where traditional sex roles and stereotypes are reversed. The narrator witnesses the oppression of the men on Mars and their struggle for equality. In the last two dreams, the narrator visits a future United States ruled by a woman president.
Sabotage accidentally takes Earth’s first manned interplanetary expedition to the Moon, where a sublunar adventure ensues, involving two intelligent species and a good deal of fighting as well as romance. The perceptive reader will perceive the author’s peculiar notions concerning the behavior of volcanos, an offense against scientific fact that is hard to pardon in a writer of science fiction, but if it can be overlooked, the variety of incident and the fast pace of the action, full of surprises, amply repay the reader’s generous indulgence.
Librivox volunteer Kirk Ziegler assembled his own anthology of 30 ghost stories (including multiple selections from a book of ghost stories from India) to record as a solo project. The collection includes intriguing titles like “The Phantom Toe,” “The Fight With a Ghost,” and “What the Professor Saw”.
is, perhaps, the most exciting moment of my recent pilgrimage to Los Angeles
and Hollywood, California. I’ve been a huge fan of character actor Nehemiah
Persoff for some sixty years. We’d begun a degree of correspondence in May
2019. I was watching an episode of tv’s The Untouchables during a
televised weekend retrospective in the late Spring and there, of course, was
the great Nehemiah appearing as a guest in three separate episodes of the
classic television series.
began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring
for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my
computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty
letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment,
he responded within five minutes.
told him that I was coming West in a few months, and wondered if there was even
the most remote possibility that I could personally pay my respects. Born in
Palestine (now Jerusalem) on August 2nd, 1919, this gifted actor was about to
turn one hundred years old.
Persoff generously consented to a visit and so, on Wednesday, August 28, 2019,
my brother Erwin and I commenced our long drive to his home. We spent two hours
at the feet of this remarkable human being, and shared a virtual Master Class
on the art and history of screen acting. He spoke reverently of working with
Marlon Brando at The Actor’s Studio, and in On The Waterfront, as well
as studying with Elia Kazan in the late nineteen forties.
Billy Wilder was casting Some Like It Hot, he’d chosen Edward G.
Robinson to play Little Bonaparte, opposite George Raft and Pat O’Brien. When
the two had a falling out, however, someone suggested Nehemiah Persoff for the
part. The rest, as they, is history. When Barbra Streisand sang the moving
“Papa, Can You Hear Me” in Yentl, she was singing to Nehemiah
Persoff in a performance that, I’d like to believe, most effortlessly captured
this remarkable actor’s gentle soul.
shall remain forever grateful to have spent such joyous hours with this blessed
soul … and for the gift of your friendship, dearest Nehemiah, I can only
express my heartfelt gratitude. God Bless and Keep You.
By John Hertz: In the United States a date is often written as Our Gracious Host
does. For example, September 17, 2019 is often written 9/17/19.
If you allow adjustments to
punctuation “9/17/19” backwards is “9/17/19” – the same as forwards: a
English is an alphabetical
language. We can have palindromes like “Able was I ere I saw Elba”
which Napoleon 1769-1821 could have said (it seems to have appeared in
1848), or “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!” for Theodore Roosevelt 1858-1919 (coined
by Leigh Mercer 1893-1977).
Incidentally, 2019 is the centenary
of TR’s death.
If English were an ideographic
language, where a character is a word (we do that with Arabic
numerals: “2” is “two”), we could read “You ain’t seen nothing yet”
backwards as “So far nothing ever seen matches you.”
Opinions vary over whether a palindrome
must have the same meaning read backward and forward, or may have different –
perhaps comically different – meanings.
Chinese is an ideographic
language. Its grammar is flexible, or powerful, or something: for
example, there are no nouns or verbs, which we sometimes manage with “He
laid a knife on the table” and “I’ll knife you.” It’s
great for poetry.
Su Hui, a Chinese woman of seventeen hundred years ago (I give her name in Chinese style, “Su” the family name, “Hui” the personal name), made a poem of 112 characters, or some say 841. One story says she embroidered them in a circle.
A thousand years later her poem was
known as a grid of 29 x 29 characters that could be read forward, backward,
horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or in sub-grids, three thousand ways – some say eight thousand. This note includes translation by David Hinton
And here’s a note on Hsiung Yin-tso and his Chinese Palindrome Poems of
Four Seasons (1978).
By Colleen McMahon: I swear this happens almost every time I start to write one of
these entries. I open up the blank document with no idea what I’m going to
write about, and decide to do just a quick roundup of some links without going
into any detail about any of the authors, etc.
as I’m poking around looking for what I want to link to this week, something
catches my eye and sends me in a completely unexpected direction.
week it was Captain Midnight.
were a couple of mentions of the Captain Midnight TV show in recent Pixel
Scrolls. September 4 saw the anniversary of the first broadcast, and
September 9 was the birthday of Richard Webb, who played the title character.
I went to Internet Archive, to see if there were any Captain Midnight
episodes available (since a lot of lower-tier 1950s TV appears to have fallen
into public domain). I found two full episodes (at least one includes the
Ovaltine commercials) but I’m not linking them because they aren’t tagged as
public domain. There are some Captain Midnight comic issues and old-time
radio shows as well, but again, not clearly labeled as public domain.
at this point I would normally drop the idea and do something else. But then I
saw another video item intriguingly labeled “Captain
Midnight HBO Broadcast Intrusion”…and the rabbit hole opened up and down I went.
out that in April of 1986, in the middle of an HBO showing of The Falcon and
the Snowman, the movie was interrupted for several minutes, first by a
flickering screen, and then a “rainbow bar” screen overlaid with text reading
“GOODEVENING HBO FROM CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT $12.95/MONTH? NO WAY! (SHOWTIME/MOVIE
was a now largely-forgotten protest by one John R. MacDougall, a satellite dish
seller/installer in Florida who was angry about HBO’s rates for satellite
subscribers. He figured out how to take over of the HBO satellite to put out
was a small gesture by a guy angry that HBO and other paid cable services had
begun scrambling their satellite signals so that dish owners could no longer
watch for free. The $12.99 HBO subscription price for dish users was
significantly higher than the cable price. (That’s over $30/month in today’s
dollars; for comparison, you can currently subscribe to HBO NOW for $14.99.)
And the subscription cost was on top of the several hundred dollars you would
have to pay for descrambling equipment.
the protest was fleeting and mostly unnoticed, the response was major.
MacDougall was ultimately charged and pleaded out for probation and a $5,000
fine. But new laws were passed that made satellite hijacking a federal felony,
and the ATIS signal identification system was developed.
about the incident
has a lot more interesting detail about MacDougall, the event, and the
aftermath. John R. MacDougall is still around and still has his Florida
business; the biography page on his business website proudly
claims his Captain Midnight identity.
how about some actual public domain material before I call it a week?
Jack Williamson (1908-2006) is another recent Pixel Scroll
mention. I enjoyed the 1992 interview in the September 9 Scroll.
Williamson works are on Project Gutenberg:
Lady Truman received word fourteen months ago that her husband, Sir George Truman, has died in battle. Now a very eligible widow with a large estate, she has more suitors than she knows what to do with. As if that wasn’t enough, her house is now being haunted at night by the horrible and ghostly sound of a drum, apparently caused by the restless spirit of her husband. When an old man arrives who claims to be able to lay the spirit to rest, she is so desperate for relief that she determines to give him a chance. Written with wit and good humor, this play will have you laughing out loud!
Three classic SF stories by Jack Williamson: The Cosmic Express, The Pygmy Planet and Salvage in Space. All were published in Astounding Stories in the very early 1930’s. and all are fine examples of the far ranging imagination of science fiction writers of the day.
When Earth loses contact with the colony planet Eden, an expedition is sent to find out why. Even though the planet has been determined to have no hostile properties, the second expedition is astonished to find no evidence of the colony. The colonists are spread out, naked, wandering dazed among the bushes, with no sign of any of the technology they brought from Earth.
An anthology of short, chilling stories from Algernon Blackwood. They will make you start at noises in the night and wonder about your neighbors. These stories likely stem from Blackwood’s investigations into haunted houses for the Psychical Research Society and reflect his fascination with the weird, occult and supernatural.
By Chris M. Barkley: If I had told you a month ago that legacies of three of the
biggest names in the fantasy and sf community would come under scrutiny and
that one in particular would have his name removed from two prestigious awards,
you probably would have looked at me oddly and thought I was crazy.
Well now, welcome to Crazy Town.
I, on the other hand, would not have been surprised as
much because of what had happened a year ago.
Tuesday, November 27 2018, was the BEST day of Linda
Fairstein’s life. Well, you could say it was the LAST best day of her life
because forty-eight hours later, it began to unravel.
Fairstein, an acclaimed and best-selling crime writer of many
years, awoke that day to find out that her peers in the Mystery Writers of
America had named her as a Grand Master, the highest award of their
organization could bestow. She was being honored for her series of 20 novels
featuring Alexandra Cooper, a sex crimes prosecutor.
When she found out, she took to Twitter, writing,“How is THIS
news for a thrilling surprise. I am Mystery Writers of America 2019
GRANDMASTER…..I’m pinching myself.”
But, almost immediately, prominent crime writers, with
novelist Attica Locke in the lead, were protesting the announcement. Locke
explained vociferously that Fairstein was directly responsible for the false
imprisonment of five innocent men.
Linda Fairstein’s previous occupation was a district attorney
for New York City. For nearly a quarter of a century she was the lead
prosecutor of the Sex Crimes Unit in Manhattan. In that capacity she became a
feminist icon for her tough stances on crime and advocacy for victims’ rights
Unfortunately, she was also responsible for personally
supervising the prosecution of the Central Park Five, a 1989 case in which a
jogger was brutally beaten and raped. The five Latino and black male teenagers
were arrested, questioned, tried and eventually convicted for the heinous
crime. They all claimed that the confessions they signed were coerced and that
they were innocent. In 2002, all of them were exonerated by DNA evidence, freed
and were given a substantial financial settlement from the city.
So, when the MWA reversed themselves, they released the
“After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA
cannot move forward with an award that lacks support of such a large percentage
of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the
Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be
unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this
situation has caused.”
By this past June, Dutton, her current publisher, had dropped
her and activists on social media outlets called on the public to boycott her
books and anyone selling them.
Fairstein exacerbated her situation by not apologizing for
what happened or at least admitting that our judicial system failed these young
men miserably. But no; instead she doubled down and she stood by their original
convictions despite the evidence to the contrary, and hinted that if they were
not guilty of that offense, they were probably guilty of something else and absolutely
deserved exactly what they got. When HBO’s drama about the Central Park Five,
“When They See Us” was aired this past spring, it featured a less than
flattering portrayal of Fairstein.
When I heard about Linda Fairstein’s problems with the Mystery
Writers of America, I got into an semi-argument with a bookselling friend about
what should happen to her. He stated, unequivocally, that her actions in her
life should have nothing to do with her work as a writer.
And, In a fair and a just world, that would happen. But, as
we have seen repeatedly over the advent of the internet and social media
outlets, there are people out there who would vehemently oppose the most
harmless and innocuous you could come up with, including kittens. knitting and
I told my friend back then that while it was more than likely
that Linda Fairstein probably did deserve the MWA honor, people, her peers,
critics, and the public at large and the tidal forces of social interaction she
helped foment were going to deny her because of her past actions and her
adamant defense of them.
And the very same scenario has played out again, in high
definition no less, in these past few weeks.
When Jeannette Ng made her speech denouncing John W.
Campbell, Jr. at the Hugo Award Ceremony three weeks ago, it set off a tsunami
of arguments, retrospectives and reassessments of Campbell, the late Alice
Sheldon (best known under her pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr), Amazing Stories
founder Hugo Gernsback and other various literary luminaries of the past and
By sheer coincidence, I discovered Campbell the editor in
high school, several months after he died. My neighbor, Michaele, had a
subscription and loaned me her copies of Analog, which were among the
last he had edited. The stories were ok but what really caught my eye were the
strangely cranky editorials, which made me curious enough to want to meet him.
It was well enough that he had departed; had I gone back a few years and read
of his 1968 endorsement of George Wallace for President, that would have been
From 1937, for their first fifteen years or so, Campbell’s Astounding
Science Fiction magazine (and for the few years it existed, its fantasy
counterpart, Unknown) were the biggest influences in sf literature and
fandom at large.
But, along came Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas. And
Horace Gold. Cele Goldsmith. Frederik Pohl. Ian and Betty Ballantine. Joseph
and Edward Ferman. And Harlan Ellison. And many other editors and
publishers who followed in their footsteps. Like all good literary movements,
sf diversified, became more inclusive and expanded.
And Campbell himself? Not so much.
To be sure, he still was respected by authors and artists who
produced for him. And don’t forget that he was the first to serialize Frank
Herbert’s magnum opus, Dune, and, ironically, the very FIRST story by
one James Tiptree, Jr (who is waiting on deck, so to speak).
But Campbell was estranged from a number of major authors
such as Robert A. Heinlein, whom he had clashed with over ideological and
When the two awards were established in his name two years
after his death, John W. Campbell, Jr. was so well thought of and revered that
there was no virtually opposition from any of the sponsors; Conde Nast
Magazines (which later morphed into Dell Magazines) and the World Science
Fiction Society (as the administrator) for the Best New Writer and the Memorial
Award for Best Novel by late authors Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss. (The Gunn
Center Conference of the University of Kansas formally took over the
administration of the Campbell Memorial Award in 1978).
Harrison wrote this of the awards in 1977:
When John died it was a blow to all of us. After the memorial service a number of his writers were talking, and out of the talk came the Astounding anthology, what has been called the last issue of the Campbell magazine. It was a good tribute to a good editor. There is another tribute I think of just as highly, the award for the best SF novel of the year presented in his name and memory. An award I am sure he would have loved because it instantly became involved in controversy when the first prizes was presented. How John enjoyed a good argument and a good fight! That this fight sprawled through the letter columns of Analog for some months would have cheered him even more.
(For those among you who are intensely curious about that
first recipient, the very first winner of the Memorial Award for Best Novel
award was Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg, a book whose plot and themes
probably would have turned his brain inside out. Don’t believe me? Check it out
In the wake of the events of the past three weeks, Campbell’s
grandson, John Campbell Hammond, has expressed some distress and disappointment
over the removal of his name from the two awards. Others have been more pointed
in their criticism, calling it a reactionary response of “political
correctness” or “erasure”.
Mr. Hammond may be saddened but at least he can be consoled
by the voters of the 1944 Retro-Hugos, which held his grandfather in some high
esteem because they awarded him in the Best Editor, Short Form category.
Here’s the thing; while he was a brilliant innovator in our
branch of literature, there is also no doubt that his views on women and race
were abominable. We can only speculate how much better things might have been
if he hadn’t been such a person. Looking back, it is quite evident that the
only thing holding up his reputation up for all these decades was white
privilege, willful or unknowing ignorance and racism.
And what’s happened to Campbell is not “erasure” but, as John
Scalzi elegantly put it on his blog, a “reassessment”. And part of that process
is a condemnation of your past actions.
Almost immediately in the wake of all of this, The Tiptree
Motherboard, the administrators of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, were inundated
by requests that they change the name of their award, citing that Alice Sheldon
(the alias behind the Tiptree pseudonym) had committed the murder of her
spouse, the ailing and terminally ill Huntington Sheldon, and then committed
Where I had no doubt that removing Campbell name was correct
thing to do, I was equally adamant that Tiptree’s name should remain in place.
I am proud to state that I voted for Sheldon’s Hugo winning
novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read,” on my very first Hugo Awards ballot
back in 1977. At that time, no one knew “James Tiptree, Jr.” was other than a
as a damn good writer. Upon first reading, I found her short fiction to be
entertaining, intensely personal and incredibly enlightening. And I still do.
The bubble burst the very next year when, in her guise as
Tiptree, slipped up and revealed to several of her correspondents that her
mother had recently died. That led a few clever people to a Chicago newspaper
obituary and directly her real identity.
Sheldon continued to write, as Tiptree and “Raccoona Sheldon”
until her and her husband’s deaths in 1987. It was long rumored among her
friends and family that she and “Ting” had made a long-standing murder/suicide
pact if either became too ill for the other to care for. In her 2006 Hugo Award
winning biography, The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, author Julie
Phillips did not state conclusively that this was the case. Recently, Phillips
wrote on Twitter:
“The question has come up whether Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr) and her husband Ting died by suicide or murder-suicide. I regret not saying clearly in the bio that those closest to the Sheldons all told me that they had a pact and that Ting’s health was failing.
Ting’s son Peter Sheldon also said there was a pact, and that Ting was declining. Alli probably wanted to die more than Ting did. But the pact didn’t have to do with his blindness or disability. He was going, and they chose to go out together.”
Recently on the Tiptree Motherboard, Phillips elaborated
“Ting didn’t leave a statement, but all Ting’s friends that I talked to plus his son Peter were unanimous that it was a pact, and that Ting’s health was failing when it happened. The only one who cast doubt on that was the lawyer who talked to her on the last night, James Boylan. He didn’t know either Ting or Alli very well, and I have doubts about how well he understood what was happening. I’m planning to write up what I know, because I left too much room for doubt when I wrote the book.”
I got into a very brief argument on the Tiptree Motherboard
Twitter feed with a troll (with no previous history of posting) who stated
unequivocally that Sheldon was nothing more than a common murderer. I
countered that while John W. Campbell was a serial offender in life, Alice Sheldon
should not be condemned forever for one desperate and tragic choice.
Even moreso, the name “James Tiptree, Jr.” and the meaningful
and influential fiction that was presented under that name has transcended the
life of the author. I believe that the award cannot be what it is, a
celebration of the exploration of sex and gender roles in fantastic fiction
without that name attached to it.
On 2 September, the Tiptree Motherboard issued a lengthy
statement covering the controversy and stated that a name change was not in the
offing. Two days later they, issued the following clarification:
We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at email@example.com.
So, at least for the foreseeable future, The James Tiptree Award will remain as it is.
Our last person of interest is Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant
from Luxembourg who founded the 1926 magazine Amazing Stories, the very
first publication completely devoted to publishing science fiction (which he
originally dubbed “scientifiction”). Through it, he also created the “Science
Fiction League”, a club whose members published letters in the magazine and
corresponded with each other eventually met in person, thus creating the first
wave of sf fandom and conventions.
But before Amazing Stories, Gernsback was better known
as a publisher of all sorts of other publications. He was notorious for not
paying his contributors very much (or in some cases, not at all) and his
business practices were seen by many at the time as very shady or outright
As author Barry Malzberg once wrote:
Gernsback’s venality and corruption, his sleaziness and his utter disregard for the financial rights of authors, have been well documented and discussed in critical and fan literature. That the founder of genre science fiction who gave his name to the field’s most prestigious award and who was the Guest of Honor at the1952 Worldcon was pretty much a crook (and a contemptuous crook who stiffed his writers but paid himself $100K a year as President of Gernsback Publications) has been clearly established.
The very next year, the Science Fiction Achievement Awards
were first given out at the11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. And despite his
scurrilous reputation, people began to nickname this new award, “The Hugo”,
after him! And I have no doubt that this just tickled his fancy up to his death
at the age of 83 in 1967. The name became so universally used that by1992, it
was officially codified into the Constitution of World Science Fiction Society.
I am amused that some people are showing some genuine outrage
that the most prestigious award in sf is named after such a scoundrel. And not
because I think it’s a bad idea. Oh no, on the contrary, this might be a GREAT
idea whose time has come.
All these pundits have to do is come up with a name to
replace “Hugo Award”. Something that has a consensus of fandom behind it. A
name that can be protected legally by the World Science Fiction Society. And…
A name that will have to endure at the very least, four or
five years of committee studies and formal Business Meeting debates,
amendments, substitutions and serpentine votes.
To those who wish to embark on this fool’s errand, I wish you
all the luck on this Earth and all of its known (and unknown) alternate
versions as well.
In any event, fame and legacies are all fleeting and a fool’s
deepest desire. All that really matters in life in the long run are your
family, friends, memories and knowing that you tried to do the right thing and
the best you can under the circumstances.
My advocacy of new categories for the Hugo Award will
probably be my legacy. And I’m hoping for more. But It is my hope that my work
will not stand and that others will study, deconstruct, demolish and build on
the ashes of my efforts.
I hope a new Best Dramatic Presentation category is even more
expansive and inclusive. The Editing category should formally include
anthologies and author collections. Manga should definitely be included in the
description of the Comics and Graphic Story category. And a Best Translated
Novel award (or, at least a test of such a category) should be inevitable and
welcomed, not feared.
If I had to single out one of the greatest moments in my life
in fandom, I could tell you exactly when it happened, the night before the 2012
Hugo Awards Ceremony at Chicon 7.
My partner Juli and I were hanging out in the Hyatt Regency
bar overlooking Michigan Avenue when we were approached by a woman and her
partner. She said she sought me out to to thank me personally for working so
hard to establish the Best Graphic Story category in which she was a nominee
that year. I, in turn, congratulated her on the nomination and wished her the
best of luck.
And the next day, Ursula Vernon won her first Hugo Award for her graphic omnibus, Digger. She did not thank me on stage. She didn’t have to because she already had.
It is always better to give than to receive. And I have
always strived to create the possibility to give the highest award we have to
the most deserving creators. And that is all I have ever wanted.
By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 3, 2019, the New York Review
of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 29th Season with the
stellar line-up of Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in, of all
The event opened, as ever, with producer and executive curator Jim
Freund (and host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf) welcoming the audience
back after the summer hiatus. For a while now, the Readings have streamed on
Livestream, however, due to a difficulty, tonight’s wouldn’t be – we were on
Facebook Live! (Livestream will be back in October.) He reminded those who can to donate to the
Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away), and
reported that the home audience (to coin a phrase) may donate on its Patreon
page. He concluded by announcing future readers: on Monday, October 14th, guest
host Michael J. DeLuca will present
readers from Reckoning, including Emily Houk, Krista Hoeppner
Leahy, Marissa Lingen and Brian Francis Slattery. On Tuesday, November 5th
(Election Day and Guy Fawkes Day), the readers will be Gay Partington Terry and Robert V.S. Redick. December 3rd
will be “party time,” an evening of Glitter Spec Fic, featuring A.C. Wise and others
“reading stories and performing music to do with glitter.” (On the Series
webpage, this notice was displayed in multiple colors.)
Gregory Feeley, the
evening’s first reader, describes himself as a writer of and
about science fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the
Philip K. Dick award and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the
Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine and Kentauros, “a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth.” He recently
completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician. (In addition, he is
Thomas M. Disch’s literary executor for prose, and was part of the Series’
tribute to Disch last year.) He read the first half of “Cloudborn,” which also
draws from Greek myth. (Despite my childhood reading of Greek mythology, not to
mention watching Mighty Hercules
cartoons – his sidekick, recall, was a centaur – I was unaware that “cloudborn”
was an epithet for centaurs; as their genesis involved two separate instances by
Itzion of cross-species copulation, this omission is understandable.) The story
centers on children aboard a spaceship very slowly heading toward Neptune to
terraform and settle it; there are, of course, secrets being kept from them.
The girl Asia, it should be noted, is very into Greek mythology.
the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes
being copies of
Kentauros and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter.
I was asked to draw the tickets; no surprise, and despite the small number of
raffle tickets, the winning numbers were one immediately before and one immediately
Michael Swanwick, the evening’s final reader, is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum Flowers, Stations of the Tide, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Jack Faust, Bones of the Earth, The Dragons of Babel, Dancing With Bears, Chasing the Phoenix and the recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories, many of which have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. Since his first story was published in 1980, Swanwick has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy Awards, and received a Hugo Award for fiction in an unprecedented five out of six years. (He also has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer.”) The Iron Dragon’s Mother, from which he read, completes “a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.”
Caitlin, of House Sans Merci,
a dragon pilot, after a hard landing, is immediately arrested when she returns
to her base, and charged with corruption, a wide-ranging crime. It’s quickly
evident that the trial is rigged (her virginity is denied), so she escapes on a
Kawasaki and attempts to get answers from a dragon committing perjury against
her. As Swanwick’s reading selection breaks off, she discovers that she has the
mind of a dying old woman in her head.
The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a
small assortment of books. The audience of about 20 – we were mystified by the
size of the turnout (but what there was, “was cherce”) – included Alan Beck,
Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Marianne Porter,
Hildy Silverman and Henry Wessels. The Café closed early.
By Hampus Eckerman: On the second day of the Dublin 2019 Worldcon, I went to a panel
with the promising name of “With fans like these, who needs enemies?” I hadn’t
really read the description, instead going by the idea that it might have
something to do with fans sucking the energy out of convention organizers,
whether caused by anger, entitlement or a sincere wish to help. Instead it was
about how fans made life miserable for creators with George Lucas and Star
Wars fandom as the prime example. Most of the panel was about the big media
phenomena in SFF, Star Wars, Star Trek and GoT, but there was
also an interesting discussion on why Doctor Who fandom hadn’t reached
the same levels of toxicity.
And it made me think. Think of my own reactions to
changes. To the anger. Resentment. And how I both could understand and be
aghast over reactions from fans.
My first understanding of my own potential for toxicity was with the infamous Spider-Man storyline “One More Day”. For you that have never heard of it, the basic plot is as follows: Spider-Man married Mary Jane in 1987. This changed the dynamics of the comic. There was no longer the possibility to add soap elements of romance to the story, Spider-Man being too much of Goody Two-Shoes to be unfaithful. Killing Mary Jane would have caused an outrage, a divorce would still have left the dynamic. And that was not the only problem. Spider-Man had given up his secret identity in the Civil War-storyline, thus even more limiting the possibilities for writing a traditional story. So the decision was made in 2007, some 20 years later, to make a drastic change: Mephisto would for some flimsy reason magic Spider-Man so he wasn’t married, his identity had never been revealed, and a lot of stuff was retconned for no apparent reason, such as Harry Osbourne being alive again.
I remember the enormous *anger* I felt at the
time. It felt like they were spitting in my face. And that is where I
understood how much of my love for Spider-Man was connected to the accumulation
of knowledge. The true nerdhood, to spend an enormous amount of time and money
to build up expertise in an obscure subject that most people would most likely
have a more casual relationship to. I had read all the Spider-Man that had been
published in Sweden. Many American comics too. I had bought all the old comics
that were published before I was born. I knew my Spider-Man. Storylines.
Villains. I didn’t only have favourite comics, I had favourite panels.
And suddenly, this knowledge and time investment was
rendered obsolete. It no longer mattered. Things I had painstakingly learned
over time no longer had happened. People suddenly lived again with no
explanation and there would never be an explanation. I had no longer any idea
of how much of my knowledge that was useless or how much was still in play. It
was *worse* than any reboot in DC, because then I knew everything
started from the beginning (except for Batman, because he was too popular). Now
I just had no idea.
This was when Twitter was still in its early
childhood, before artists and creators had become accessible. I think I would
have been one of those sending angry and outraged tweets at Marvel or artists
otherwise. Because I felt disrespected. Slapped in the face. I tried to read
Spider-Man afterwards, but the joy was out of it. Some 3-4 issues later I quit
entirely. And with quitting Spider-Man, I also started to quit other Marvel
comics. And DC. In a way, it changed my whole relationship to comics.
* * *
Afterwards, I can see that most of it was a healthy
reaction. I quit reading. I didn’t continue, becoming more and more discontent,
feeling more sidelined or out of step with the Marvel universe. Instead I found
other things to read. Other books. Graphic Novels. Took a step away from
superheroes. Thank god I had never been one of those comic book readers that
was totally focused on Marvel or DC. My main interest had always been in the
broader comic world.
But still remembering that feeling of righteous anger,
I have an understanding of what other comic fans feel when they feel slighted
or disrespected. And while I think most peoples’ reactions will be somewhat
like mine, a quick anger that then passes to something else, there will of
course always be the small minority with less control of their feelings and
frustrations that will take everything a step further.
But that was of course not my only insight in toxicity
with regards to myself. I remember a flatmate inviting her friend to a visit.
The flatmate was also a comic nerd, so I remember starting to talk about
comics, trying to see what we had in common, what likes we both shared, on what
level we could discuss. Until she asked if I was interrogating her. And that
was a clear wake-up call. What I was doing was in practice seen as if I was
trying to find out if she was a “fake geek girl”, that toxic concept where only
women are questioned about their statuses as geeks or nerds. I stopped at once.
I can’t remember if I apologized or grumbled something, but I didn’t dare to
talk more about comics then. We did talk about other nerdy things afterwards,
but then I was much more careful to not spout out questions, instead trying to
A third insight was only this year while watching
first Captain Marvel and then Avengers: End Game. The sudden
understanding that I didn’t really get any pleasure out of these movies. I was
never that much of a fan of action movies and that is much of what the Marvel
movies are. I wasn’t watching them as much out of enjoyment as I was out of
addiction. I was watching them as a completionist, wanting to learn all the
details, again building up an expertise. But building up that expertise also
forced me to spend time on things that I didn’t really like. Often sitting
there bored while Captain Marvel was having another uninteresting fight,
waiting for it to stop to at least get a bit of plot or dialogue.
Reading articles about fans making petitions, starting
online campaigns, attacking and harassing creators, making demands on how
comics should be made, I think I’ve started to understand where these fans are
coming from. And I think it is something that is not only connected to fandom,
to the works we love, but to a whole slew of other things. Thinking of nerds as
addicts puts things in a different perspective. Not only as addicts but as
persons who come to identify themselves as, let’s use a grandiose expression,
Keepers of Knowledge. People who have for 10-20 years built up a knowledge
about a subject, are addicted to add to this knowledge, but suddenly recognize
that they don’t enjoy it anymore. And the frustration of needing to do things *they
don’t like* just to feed the addiction. Not only that. People fearing
change because it is possible that they will not like this new thing and what
is their patiently learned knowledge worth then?
* * *
Myself, I walked away from Spider-Man and Marvel. They
didn’t fit my needs anymore and I moved on. Toxicity, I feel, is for those that
can’t move on. But I feel it is good to admit that I myself have these
feelings, because that makes it possible for me to recognize them before I grow
angry enough. Recognize the pattern in myself and thus being able to also see
the flaws it is built on. So when I get my *get of my lawn!*-moments, I
can hopefully moderate my reactions a bit.
Perhaps that is my best advice to myself. When I and
my friends aren’t the youngest in the park anymore and the lousy kids haven’t
got the simple decency to play Motörhead, Slayer or AC/DC on their boom boxes
anymore, instead listening to K-pop and talking about their last posting on
Booktube – then I do not really have to complain about them not getting off my
lawn. Because it is a public park. And Motörhead still plays louder than