Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #57

Cover by Luigi-is-number-one at www.deviantart.com

We NEED To Talk About Worldcon (and the Hugo Awards, too)…

By Chris M. Barkley: This coming June, I will be celebrating my forty-fifth anniversary in science fiction fandom.

I have attended over two hundred conventions since 1976, including twenty-nine World Science Fiction conventions. I not only went to those Worldcons, I also had the pleasure of serving at a majority of them in some capacity, as a volunteer, staff member, office head or, in one instance at Chicon 2000, as a hotel liaison and a member of the Chair’s Staff.

Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well.

Having been privy to what goes into producing a Worldcon, I have looked on in despair at the recent developments regarding this year’s Worldcon convention, DisCon III. The squabbling and outrage over the costs of the Hugo Award Pre-Ceremony Reception and the listing of nominees on the award might have gone as just business as usual if it hadn’t directly lead to the resignation of Co-Chair Colette Fozard and the designated Division Head, Jared Dashoff, who was to administer the 2021 Hugo Awards and site selection for the 2023 Worldcon. Ms. Fozard left over the vehement backlash and vicious personal attacks made against her and Mr. Dashoff (and the Hugo Administrator he was working with) resigned over the Convention Committee’s handling of the nomination controversy.   . 

And when you add the ongoing pandemic, the uncertainty over the prospects of holding an in-person convention by August AND recently announced bankruptcy of one of DisCon III main hotels, the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, it seems like a recipe for an epic disaster.

Yet, despite these setbacks and obstacles, my intuition tells me that these difficulties will be overcome and there will be a Worldcon in Washington D.C. Because any fannish historian will tell you that committees and veteran fan volunteers are determined and are not easily deterred.

But there is a deeper concern over the future of non-profit, fan run conventions.

The internet, the various new ways and forms of nearly instantaneous communications and the advent of social media have been a double edged sword for fandom and pose a vital question for fandom: Do the benefits of technology outweigh the darker, toxic effects of human interaction? And how long will it be before these complex volunteer endeavors become financially unviable.  

After decades of observation, it seems to me that the problems the World Science Fiction Society face are dogmatically systemic. 

To wit, all of those who either hold positions of authority in fandom for an inordinate amount of time have become so enamored with the way things have been done, over and over again, that they are unable, or unwilling, to evolve with the times.

We have built an elaborate web of fail-safes over time; the Fannish Inquisition, The annual WSFS Business Meeting, SMOFCon and its companion the email listserv, Connrunner.org and other various websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

And yet, Worldcons keep on making the same planning faux pas and blunders, and have subsequently been the victim of trolls, disruptors, outliers and racists. 

Clearly and obviously, some swift and decisive action needs to be taken.

And make no mistake about it; when fandom WANTS to be swift and decisive, they can. We only have to go back and see what happened during the Puppygate Crisis of the previous decade, in which divisive slate nominations and voting was effectively squashed.

THAT sort of dynamic action is needed, right now.

I offer the following recommendations:

  1. The next several Worldcons and bidding committees need to either hire or seek pro-bono help from professional convention consultants about our con-running standards, organizational planning and practices. I say this as an insider who has been volunteering at cons and Worldcons over since 1983. We NEED someone from the outside looking in because despite all of our efforts to run better conventions, we need someone to take a hard, objective look at what we do. Trying to reinvent the same wheel all over again with each new Worldcon committee isn’t very productive.
  2. There is  an overall and ongoing concern is the perpetuation of gatekeeping in  fandom. I know this, I’ve seen it in action and have had numerous, personal experiences myself. The fact is, those of us who have been in the vanguard of conrunning this past generation are all getting old. If we want our conventions and traditions to continue much past the current decade, we need to get more people involved in fandom who will be imbued with the enthusiasm to continue on. While self examination is certainly called for here, the need to be less dismissive of new ideas and people (and the perceived gatekeeping that goes along with it) is more important.
  3. We should amend the WSFS Constitution to allow the Business Meeting to occur outside of the realm of the main convention several times a year, either at SMOFCons, regional conventions, neutral sites not involved in a bid for a Worldcon or via Skype, Zoom or other meeting apps. These meetings should be widely publicized and open to the general public to attend in person or remotely. If anyone wanted to present business, raise objections or vote on motions, they would either have to be a current member of a Worldcon or be given the opportunity to buy a current supporting or attending membership. Of course, the main objections to this proposal would be that either it might be too complicated to accomplish OR bad actors may want to disrupt the process. I think that it is worth that risk to present what the Business meeting does transparently to the public and drum up support from those who may be unaware or curious about the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards. And who knows, perhaps some of those people will end up attending or helping current or future conventions. 
  4. I have either sponsored or instigated many changes in the Hugo Awards over the past twenty years. My goal was to help raise its profile to the world, to honor those who were not being given enough attention by fandom and to keep them viable in an increasingly crowded media landscape. It seemed obvious to me that as recently as five years ago, several categories, including the Best Dramatic Presentation, Editor, Artist and Related Work categories were badly in need of an overhaul due to the changing scope and presentations of the categories involved. Whether this would involve an expansion or retraction of the number of awards we give out is a serious issue that has been repeatedly postponed or regulated by committees by the Business Meeting for quite a while now. The needless quibbling over what should happen must come to an end and some definitive decisions need to be made. For the record, I agree that as many essential nominees should be listed on the nominating and final ballot. 
  5. As for the Hugo Award itself and the expenses they incur, I offer several options to consider: We can consider amending the WSFS Constitution to hold Worldcon on a biannual basis and consider a blanket two year period for nominations. If that idea is too radical, how about splitting all the categories up and awarding a set every other year? Or, if we choose, we can keep the current system but establish a copyrighted, affordable and standard base (using the Academy Awards Oscar base as an example) for future use. 

Now, I can imagine that some of the fannish pundits reading this have rejected nearly every suggestion I have outlined above out of hand. I will refer them back to the comment I made earlier about being more self critical and listening more.

My objective here is twofold; first, to get your attention and secondly, to tell as many people as possible that fandom has some big problems looming on the horizon. 

I have tried, at the WSFS Business Meetings, at conventions and throughout the columns I have written over the past few years in these columns, have either tried to present my experiences, offer solutions or, in this case, sound the alarm to a set of growing concerns.

After twenty years of either attending or offering legislation at the WSFS Business Meeting, I declared in 2019 that I would no longer attend, for reasons that I have outlined here in previous columns. I have taken up a new role.  

If fandom is a proverbial glass house, I’m the fellow chucking the rocks at the windows.

To get your attention. For our own good.

Most Remote SF Bookstore
in the World?

By Dave Doering: Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean:

Despite its remoteness, it boasts a classy bookstore highlighting its Science Fiction specialty:

Reunion Island is a province of France and so has regular flights spanning the almost 6000 miles from Paris to Saint Denis. (11,500 miles from LA, fyi.) Once there, you can make your way to 39 Rue Felix Guyon and relish their offerings for the cultured bibliophile.

If you taste runs more to movies and comics, try the “Lair of the Moray Eel” (found online at https://www.canalbd.net/le-repaire-de-la-murene):

The storefront is at 76 Rue Juliette Dodu in Saint Denis. Looks who’s visiting this remote part of the Galaxy:

It is also home to a publisher (!!) called “Bubbles in the Ocean” which specializes in works by Indian Ocean writers and artists. (If you read French, check them out here: https://www.bullesocean.re/.)

Finally, if you are way into movies, manga, and collectibles, head on into the interior of the island to the town of Saint Joseph and find VKomix:

I love the tagline “A Universe So Far Away”. It’s definitely a store very far away. (Dang. Couldn’t this just be in like Burbank or something??) Look at their selection:

I wish I could find this kind of stock here in Utah…

I can’t help but love a place that features Ghost Rider in all his glory:

When the World reopens, let’s plan a trip to do Reunion Island then…reunite as fans…maybe call it ReuniCon?  

NYRSF Reading Series Opens 2021 with Sam J. Miller

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, January 5, 2021, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series opened 2021 and the second half of its 30th season with a virtual reading by writer Sam J. Miller (“to make sure we stay on our toes,” said the Series’ executive curator, Jim Freund). The event was guest hosted by Amy Goldschlager (who was described by Freund as “the general series dogsbody” – a word I’ve only otherwise encountered in Shakesperean comedies and Blackadder).

Sam J. Miller (website samjmiller.com) is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving and Blackfish City. His short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award, and other stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. Miller’s offering was an excerpt from his latest novel, Between the Blades.

A living machine, Tyrannosaurus Hex, is rampaging through AR (Augmented Reality – a Monster from the Vid?) and, it seems, crossing over to reality.

After the reading, Goldschlager conducted a revealing interview with Miller. He agreed that the story is “very Ray-Bradburian, ’The Veldt’ in AR.” He went on to confess that he puts “a lot of me” in his fiction, but, even though “I’m a mess,” they do “dumb things that I hope I wouldn’t do.” (Besides that, his protagonist in Between the Blades has a Hungarian name.) She noted that whales appeared in both Between the Blades and Blackfish City. “I love whales; they’re amazing” (a whale appears on the city seal of Hudson, NY, where he’s from), and like us “engage in revenge.”  James Baldwin, one of his favorite authors, also uses his and our history.

Goldschlager was in Downtown Brooklyn, which somehow led to a discussion of the issue of gentrification and the balance between “having nice things” and retaining neighborhood mix. He wants to take us to “a place where solutions can be found;” Between the Blades was “evenhanded” on the issue, she felt. A community activist and organizer, he was concerned that most people are struggling in a hard place right now, and encouraged us to understand what we can do about whatever issue we care about, health care, housing, racial and social justice. One of his is Health Care for the People – his husband is a nurse-practitioner and had Covid-19 last year – whose GoFundMe he shared: Healthcare for the People.

He misses having people to “geek out” with about Avatar: The Last Airbender (his favorite character is Prince Zuko) and the “disappointment” of Game of Thrones.

With Barbara Krasnoff as virtual “Audience Wrangler,” he took virtual questions from the virtual audience. Is “City Without a Map” a podcast or a radio show? (Freund, naturally, stuck up for radio.) Well, it’s in the future, so the words we use are not really applicable, but podcast is a good enough analogy. What genre programs (sf/fantasy) is he into currently? One obsession is Harley Quinn (HBO Max); “it has an edge.” (When Batman tells her that supervillains are ruining Gotham City, she responds no, lack of affordable housing is ruining Gotham City.) In terms of books, he praised Leo Mondello’s forthcoming Summer Suns, and said that Alaya Dawn Johnson is another favorite.

Miller has, of course, been asked the usual mainstream question “Where do you get your ideas?” (from his head), but the oddest one was whether his father reacted more to his coming out as gay or as a vegetarian. (Miller is the son of a butcher, and “the last in a long line of butchers.” That puts The Art of Starving in a whole new light.) He took them both with good humor and was quite amused by the latter. What is he working on now? Short stories, the very early draft of another novel, and a graphic novel pitch. It’s difficult to write in a visual medium like comics, and, as he can’t draw at a professional level, has to surrender some control to the artist. How has the pandemic affected his productivity? He moves between high levels and low.

Goldschlager concluded by announcing upcoming readers:

  • Tues., Feb. 2nd (Groundhog Day): Charles Yu
  • Tues., March 2nd: Karen Russell

She added that, even though the readings are virtual, there are still expenses involved and asked us to help keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf. (And listen to Hour of the Wolf, his radio show on WBAI-FM.) Miller concluded by, as a writer, thanking Goldschlager and Locus for running audiobook reviews.

Speaking of Alexander

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1424)

The man to whom one half … credited everything good in the country and to whom the other half attributed all the bad.

Alexandre Dumas, Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine ch. 31 (1870,
unfinished at the author’s death 1870; C. Schopp ed. 2005;
p. 219 in L. Yoder tr. The Last Cavalier 2007; of Napoleon in 1801)

The history of this book is itself like a Dumas novel.

Dumas (1802-1870), after its predecessors The Companions of Jehu (1857) and The Whites and the Blues (1867), seems to have rushed Le Chevalier into newspaper serialization; a short section at the end never appeared, presumably because the author had died.  After that the book seemed lost.

The great Dumas scholar Claude Schopp (1943-  ) recovered it hunting through archives a hundred thirty years later, as he tells in a seventy-page preface of which every word gladdens the hearts of researchers.

To say Dumas was huge in his lifetime is both figuratively and literally true – see his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (posth. 1873).

Today some of us know The Three Musketeers (1844) – I joke it’s so entitled because there are four of them, who fight with swords – maybe also The Count of Monte Cristo (1845).

But Musketeers has sequels Twenty Years After (1845) and The Viscount of Bragelonne (1847).  And Dumas published 100,000 pages, including history and historical fiction; fantasy; essays; plays, which made him famous; travel; and the still excellent cookbook-encyclopedia.

His father was a great general (T. Dumas, 1762-1806; T. Reiss, The Black Count, 2012; Van 1413).

A son (1824-1895) was also a leading man of letters (author of e.g. The Lady of the Camellias 1848, adapted into Verdi’s opera La Traviata 1853) and thus known as Dumas fils (“the son”).

Dumas père (“the father”) is – literary present tense – a master of romance, both affaires du coeur (“of the heart”) and d’honneur; of story; of suspense; of characterization; of the telling detail.

We can learn from him – and we have; Monte Cristo inspired one of our finest novels, The Stars My Destination (A. Bester, 1956).


In Van 1422, I quoted Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander (130; Sélincourt tr. 1958, Hamilton rev. 1971; of Alexander the Great 500 years earlier).

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #56

Exiting Trumplandia, November-December 2020

By Chris M. Barkley:

Scott Heins/Getty Images

FOUR YEARS AGO, 22 November 2016: “Barkley — Since You (Didn’t) Ask — Trumplandia, Weeks One and Two”.

On October 28th, 1937, astronomer Karl Reinmuth of Heidelberg University made a momentous discovery, a fast-moving asteroid with a diameter of 2700 feet, which he dubbed Hermes. Reinmuth lost track of Hermes after a few days but it was estimated to have come within 300,000 miles of the Earth’s orbit. 

Students of astronomy would be happy to point out to you that in terms of magnitude, the Earth just barely escaped being hit by a devastating, possibly even an extinction level event.

On November 7th, at 11:38 AM EST, America dodged its own version of Hermes, when the Associated Press called the state of Pennsylvania for Joseph R. Biden, Jr., projecting a total of 279 Electoral Votes and the right to be called President-Elect.

All across America, celebrations sprang up spontaneously in several major cities. As the news broke that afternoon, church bells across Europe rang continuously for hours.

And Monday, December 14, 2020, will go down as one of the momentous days in American History,

-At 2:28 PM Pacific Time, Electoral College delegates at the state capitol of California cast 55 votes for Joseph R. Biden for President of the United States and Kamala Harris as Vice President, officially and legally confirming both to serve a four-year term starting next month.

– In the early morning hours of the same day, thousands of frontline health care workers and elderly patients all over North America began receiving a COVID-19 vaccine developed (at “warp speed”, as it were) by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.

– And, on the other side of the coin, the United States officially recorded its 300,000th death of the pandemic (although that total may be significantly higher once other unrecorded deaths are factored in at a later date. 

But it hasn’t been all sweetness and light In the six weeks since Associated Press called the state of Pennsylvania Biden, unofficially sealing the election for Biden and Harris.

I remember the moment very well; Juli, having been driven stir crazy by our county’s Covid status (RED, verging on PURPLE) and the drawn out election results, had opted to go to Trader Joe’s to do some safely distanced shopping. I, on the other hand, decided to stay home and putter around the house to keep tabs on statistician/reporter/cult nerd obsession Steve Kornacki on MSNBC. (NOTE: He became so popular, NBC Sports ‘promoted” him to their NFL telecasts to provide football playoff forecasts and predictions.)

At around 11:30 AM Eastern time, I was busy vacuuming the living room the AP call was announced. I YELLED out my delight and sent Juli a text IN ALL CAPS! When she got hope, we popped open a bottle of champagne, toasted and got slightly drunk. Similarly, when California cast its Electoral votes last Monday, some celebratory day drinking was called for…

The current occupant of the White, whom I described in a 2016 column as a “racist, sexist, xenophobe, and the alleged perpetrator of numerous sexual assaults,” has not gone quietly into that good, political night. In fact, in the weeks that have passed since November 7th, he has claimed, falsely, that he actually “won” the election because of voter fraud, faulty voting machines and a myriad of other untrue musings, unproven conspiracy theories and outright lies. 

Additionally, he has shown VERY little interest in actually governing since the election, even as the number of infected people is rising perilously, both branches of Congress have been deadlocked over a pandemic relief package, virus vaccines are in short supply due to lack of government intervention and most of the country’s systems have seemingly been penetrated by Russian backed hackers who were just detected this past week after several months of activity.  

And while the Biden-Harris ticket garnered more than 81.2 million votes, the opposition ticket racked up 74.2 million votes. I used to believe that there were more of us than there were of the odious “them”, who have no qualms supporting a man and administration who are seeming hell bent on undermining the foundations of democracy itself. 

But, on the bright side, we’re within sight of the end of this political and health crisis and I am cautiously optimistic.

I say cautiously because we are possibly eight or nine months away from having a majority of the country vaccinated, which would mean that DisCon III might be able to hold the Worldcon in Washington D.C. safely, with the country under better management.

I, along with thousands of other con-going fans, writers, editors, artists and publishers will rejoice when the all-clear is given and will happily resume flooding hotels and convention centers around the world. 

Looking back over the past four years, I can also point to the things that kept us all inspired (and somewhat sane) during this tumultuous period. The podcasts and fanzines. The novels and collections. The fan and professional magazines and artists. The comics, manga and graphic novels. 

And, of course, the television and films; Star Trek Discovery and The Mandalorian (both of which I’ll be reviewing by the end of the year), The Expanse, Wonder Woman and The Midnight Sky (BOTH opening Christmas Day!), The Good Place, Good Omens, Doctor Who, the films of Marvel Studios and much, too much more to list here. 

And when we do reconvene, we should all pause, give thanks for surviving and reflect on what happened during this pandemic. We should also mourn our dead, from natural causes, accidents, or the virus, who were some of our best and brightest souls. 

Ad Astra to the departed and Happy Holidays to us all. The BEST is yet to come. (Fingers Crossed!)

To Space From the Netherlands

By John Hertz:  Cat Eldridge wrote a birthday notice for C.S. Lewis recently.  Some of us talked about Lewis’ trilogy of Earth-Mars-Venus travel books, Out of the Silent PlanetPerelandraThat Hideous Strength.

You may have seen last year that Perelandra was one of two books on which I led SF Classics discussions at Loscon 46.  My note on them before the con is here, and my con report of that day, including the discussion of Perelandra, is here.

Throughout all three Space books Lewis refers to various things he thought his readers at the time would know, but we sometimes don’t.

A Dutch scholar, Dr. Arend Smilde (“Smill-deh”) of Utrecht, has a Lewis Website (in English), including a page of notes for Silent Planet, one for Perelandra, one for Strength.  He even added some for Perelandra I suggested.

I recommend all three.

Geeks Bearing Gifts

By John Hertz:  Yesterday being Don Fitch’s 92nd birthday, I wanted to bring him something; as the saying goes, a token but not a measure of my esteem.

I consulted Geri Sullivan in Wales – Wales, Massachusetts.  She confirmed DF was still living assistedly where I’d thought him.  Health precautions were strict just now, but I could relay through an attendant at the front door.  This dissuaded me from gift-wrapping.

GS had arranged with local fan Chris Marble to get DF a flower and some sushi from her and him.  Luckily I’d asked before redounding (note that redundant still keeps the old sense of “swollen, overflowing”).  GS asked “How about books?” pleasing me that my reputation there was still good.  “He’s been reading mysteries,” she said.

A first-rate used-book shop was on my way.  Traffic on the roads would be swollen soon, disincentive from an afternoon’s browsing.  I got the Nero Wolfe books Some Buried Caesar and Might As Well Be Dead, Georgette Heyer’s historical romance mystery The Masqueraders, and the SF mystery Saturn Run which I brought to your attention here (p. 17; PDF).

CM told me he’d got an Orange Gemstone orchid, and albacore and yellowtail sushi.

I arrived in good time, rang the doorbell, and handed gifts to a greeter.  As I was leaving, another attendant called “Would you like to see him?”  She didn’t have to ask twice.  She set a chair for me outside a mesh-screened window and brought a pad of paper.  DF’s deaf; not expecting to see him I hadn’t brought one.

In a moment there he was on the other side.  He walked up smoothly, so I supposed easily, with a bamboo staff (i.e. a walking stick as tall as he was).  His beard was full and well-kempt.  We had a happy 1/3 hour, the duration that house rules allowed.  He spoke, I wrote.

He hadn’t brought more than a few feet of books when relocating there a couple of years ago.  He was glad of Caesar and Might and the Heyer, had until then only heard of Saturn.

We talked of re-reading.  Since SF was thought a literature of ideas, he said, some was hardly worth a second go once its ideas were known.  It’s too bad, I said; I feared some authors didn’t trouble to write well.

We talked of re-thinking young and old.  I recounted how, at a museum in Japan, a guide had said of calligraphy by Soseki Mûso (14th Century) “The vigorous and self-confident brush strokes suggest that this was written in the later years of his life.”

We told a few jokes.  Since I was wearing a nose-and-mouth mask I drew a smiley face.

And, as Mary Poppins had said, it was time for me to go.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #55

Remain In Light 

By Chris M. Barkley:

(Author’s Note: I had originally wanted to write a three part retrospective history on the past four years, with the first two parts cleverly titled “Stop Making Sense” and “Life During Wartime”. But, as we all hurtle towards the MOST important federal election in the history of America, I thought a change of tone and focus was sorely needed. NOT that I’m going to ignore that completely, though. Thank You for your time and attention…Chris B.)

Photo by Charlie Moorman
Photo by Laura Moorman

We live in a very fractious and troubled age. And that’s putting it mildly. 

I have been suffering through many sleepless nights over the past nine months; very often I have awakened for no reason at all at three or four in the morning with tears in my eyes. 

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and its ever growing death count, the subsequent economic turmoil it caused, the social unrest that followed in the wake of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many other African Americans and the lack of coherent leadership from the current administration is enough to keep any sane person up all night.

And for me, it begs several questions; was America EVER great, or were we collectively just fooling ourselves all along? Do we have a future? And most importantly, where is America headed next after the end of the election season on Tuesday, November 3rd?

With all of this going on, the moments of joy or hope were few and far between. But they were there, and I was lucky enough to have a life-affirming miracle come to me.

On April 1st, my daughter, Laura Moorman (nee Barkley) and her husband, Charlie Moorman, announced that they were expecting a child. This was met with widespread skepticism by myself and my partner, Juli, since Laura has professed on many occasions over the years to her mother, myself, her siblings and friends that she was perfectly happy being childless. 

This belief was reinforced because of the image of an alien baby accompanying the “announcement”on her Facebook page. 

So, you can imagine my shock and surprise when Laura posted an image of a very REAL photo of a pregnancy test with a positive result later that same day. Welcoming a pandemic baby was definitely not on my 2020 bingo card, but it was a welcome and heartening one, to be sure.

(Also: This is proof positive that my daughter inherited my sense of humor. Because I LOVE a good prank and I totally would have done something like this if I were in her situation. So, Yay!)

A sign recently posted near a synagogue around the corner from my home. Photo by Chris Barkley

But what sort of world has little Navia been born into? Well, I feel as though that collectively, we have failed her in many respects.

Currently, our planet is undergoing climate change. More heat, more severe storms and other sorts of inclement weather. We have a BIG pollution problem, especially with plastic. Southwest Ohio has a plentiful supply of water at the moment, but that could change in the next decade or so. If she or her parents decide to move, they will have to take droughts, susceptibility to forest fires, mudslides and flooding. I hate to even mention the long overdue earthquake from the New Madrid Fault along the Arkansas-Tennessee-Missouri border or the faint possibility of a major volcano erupting somewhere in the United States in her lifetime.

We are still a long way from solving widespread poverty, affordable housing and income inequality. The running culture wars between the two main political parties will probably continue for some time.

And even if there is a change of administrations in the next two and a half months, there are other obstacles for Navia to face. Being bi-racial, there will still be people out there who will hate her on sight because of her parentage. 

As she grows up, she will still face racism and sexism. There will be people who will try to regulate or restrict her reproductive rights. And if she finds that she is gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary or just queer, there will still be side glances, unwanted attention and anger over her decisions.     

Then, there’s the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this, in November of 2020, we still have a significant number of the populace unwilling to socially distance AND wear a mask, lack a simplified and effective treatment for the disease or, most importantly, a vaccine to prevent the further spread and future outbreaks.

That’s MOST of the bad news. But, there is some good news.

First of all, Navia has two loving parents, Laura and Charlie. And backing them up are several sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives. Whatever she decides to do, she has an army of love backing her up.

And in that army, Navia will have the benefit of several hundred years of wisdom and advice. And in addition, she will have access to the most modern technology and information retrieval. She’ll also have the opportunity to get the best education and advice on what she might want to pursue in her lifetime.

But, there’s more. Much more.

Navia’s name came from her father, Charlie. He told me that it came to him in a dream, shortly after Laura found out she was pregnant and they began discussing what to name their baby. 

Her name, derived from the Sanskrit language, means “Rose that has blossomed”. The Urban Dictionary weighs in with this definition:

Navia is a kind, fun, nice loving, beautiful girl. She’s also a badass, if you piss her off, you’re screwed. She’s the best girl you’ll meet, and everyone will be after her. Navia also means success. She will achieve her goals no matter what gets in her way.”

So, future suitors should beware.

Navia Moorman was born on October 7th, 2020. My partner Juli and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person two and a half weeks later. 

As my daughter placed her into my arms, I felt an enormous amount of pride and love for Navia and her parents. It rather boggles my mind that in the years after I have passed on, one quarter of my genome will still be wandering around, having adventures as Navia discovers herself and her purpose in life. In turn, I am humbled and honored to be alive to bear witness to a new light being kindled in this universe. 

It is the light she brings into this world that gives me hope. A hope that cannot be extinguished by all of the horror, madness and suffering that preceded her birth a few weeks ago. 

A hope that Navia, and the newly born members of this generation can and will heal the Earth and bring people closer together. 

Photo by Juli Marr

Several days later, I awoke again in the middle of the night. But this time, instead of tears and fear, I came to realize that I had more to offer than my wisdom and knowledge.

The very next morning, I began planning to make a Time Capsule for Navia.

Over the four decades that I have been in fandom, I have collected a lot of stuff.

And now, like grandparents throughout history, I have someone to pass these precious heirlooms along to.

There is (or rather, was) a common belief in fandom that the ideal age for a child to be formally introduced to the concepts of fantasy and science fiction is when they reached ten years old.

I’m almost sure that probably isn’t exactly true for most 21st century children nowadays because they are exposed to many more sources of media that I could have imagined when I was ten.

I will leave the timing to her parents, but essentially, I am planning to stock the time capsule with a cornucopia of cultural items I would imagine might appeal to a ten year old.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: NEVER MIND her recent transphobic comments, the value of her creation far outweighs and supersedes any her personal problems. The adventures of Harry, Hermione and Ron have been proven to be universal and timeless. And I have no doubt that they will remain so for some time to come.

Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine by Jay Williams and William Abrashkin: The third book in the Danny Dunn series finds the would-be boy inventor and his friends “borrowing” the computer of his scientist mentor to DO THEIR HOMEWORK! I loved this book as a kid because of the audacity of the story and the consequences they faced when their plot was discovered by their very wise teacher. 

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov: If you’re going to be formally introduced to robots, why not read the classic that codified how robots were perceived in the mid-20th century. The stories may be a bit creaky to some but I think a young person could still be entertained by them.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (YA novel and 2018 film): The Oprah Winfrey produced film was panned and underrated at the time of its release. But Storm Reid, a biracial actor who plays the lead, Meg Murray, is brilliant in the role and is the beating heart of this movie. I think Navia will be thrilled to see someone just like her in the middle of a fantasy movie. I can only hope that she will also be enchanted by the novel as well. I know that some people find the christian subtext and allegory a bit troubling but I didn’t have a problem with it when I re-read it. We’ll see, I suppose.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (novel and the classic 1988 film): I really don’t have to explain this, do I? Enough said.

What movies could possibly scare a ten-year-old a decade from now? I’m betting that Ghostbusters (1984 and 2016 versions), Poltergeist (1984), ET (1982), Labyrinth (1985) and, of course, Beetlejuice (1988), can still get the job done

In addition to all of this, there will be comics and graphic novels, buttons, DVDs of Star Trek (Season One of the Original Series), Star Wars (Episode One: The Phantom Menace), Doctor Who (Eccelston and Tennant’s episodes), some fannish clothing, hats and a few other surprises.

I’m also going to put a note in the time capsule as well. It will say:

Dear Navia,

We know you may not like every single thing in this little package from your grandfather’s past. These are the things that he knew and loved from the time we were your age upwards to when we both became adults.

If you have any siblings by the time you read this, we hope that your parents have taught you that it is always better to share your things with them than hoarding them all for yourself.

Always remember, it is better to give than receive and that the love you make for others should always be equal (or more) than the love you take.

Be Well, Live Long and Prosper,

Your Grandfather and Grandmother

Chris B. & Juli

PS: We also included a 500 Lumen (that’s REALLY BRIGHT, trust us on this) so that you may enjoy some of your books under your bedcovers after mom and dad go to to sleep.

If you’re into that sort of thing. Which you just might be.

PPS: Batteries Not Included.

C &J

Bradbury Windows Unveiled in South Pasadena

The South Pasadena Public Library illuminated its new fused glass Ray Bradbury Windows for the first time on Thursday night.

The public was invited to come – masked and maintaining social distancing – to watch from the West side of Library Park near the cherished Moreton Bay Fig “Library Tree.”

Artist Tim Carey, who made the work at Judson Studios in South Pasadena, was on hand and answered people’s questions.

John King Tarpinian attended and took these photos. “It was a nice little dedication. The head librarian, mayor and artist all said a few words.”

When the project was announced and fundraising done this summer, South Pasadena’s library director Cathy Billings told an interviewer:

“To honor him at the South Pasadena Public Library with an artwork of this caliber would be remarkable… I love to imagine all the kids playing on the Library Tree looking up at the beautiful work shining from the conference room windows, and being inspired to learn, imagine and read.”

Artist Tim Carey drew inspiration to take on the fused glass project after meeting former South Pasadena Librarian Steve Fjeldsted:

“During a tour of the library, he showed me the Ray Bradbury Conference Room. I was immediately drawn to the windows, and the idea was born. Because I knew it was a long shot, I offered to do the design as a donation to the library back in 2018. Steve championed the idea through many meetings and we were able to create some momentum… My kids gather every year outside the Ray Bradbury Conference room on Halloween night to meet up with fellow trick-or-treaters. My hope is that with these windows lit up, it will add light and beauty to what is otherwise a dark area under the big fig tree at night. And the kids might ask who the guy in the window is, and a little piece of Ray Bradbury will live on in South Pasadena’s future generations.”

Diana Glyer Talks Inklings with Babylon Bee

In a new episode of The Babylon Bee Podcast, hosts Kyle Mann and Ethan Nicolle talk to Diana Glyer, author of Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings

The Babylon Bee calls itself “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire” and going by posts I’ve seen linked on Facebook, they’re pretty good at teasing the foibles of the church. I had no idea they did anything as serious as an interview podcast prior hearing about this episode, and be warned in advance that the set decorations suggest the hosts would not be shocked to meet someone who voted for Trump, although contemporary politics are not under discussion this time.

Dr. Glyer is on the show because —

She has spent 40 years combing through archives, studying old manuscripts, and is considered a leading expert on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her scholarship, her teaching, and her work as an artist all circle back to one common theme: creativity thrives in community. Kyle and Ethan talk to Dr. Glyer about Tolkien, Lewis, and the creativity that can happen in a community like The Inklings.

Diana plays it straight, giving good information about the writers while the hosts nibble around the edges for punchlines. Indeed, one host remarks, “Such deep answers to my stupid questions. That’s what makes a good guest.”

A free excerpt is on YouTube, and the rest of the conversation is available to subscribers.