All Somtow All the Time

Somtow Sucharitkul has been lighting up the newswires…

(1) FREE BOOKS. For a brief time you can download free two memoirs by Somtow Sucharitukul, praised by the Washington Post’s Michael Dirda in a year-end roundup:

One, Nirvana Express, is a journal of his life as a Buddhist monk in 2001; the other, Sounding Brass, is an extraordinary memoir from the 1970s, the true story of how he ghost-wrote the entire musical oeuvre of American diplomat, politician and banker J. William Middendorf, II. Read together, they paint an amazing picture of the man called by the International Herald Tribune “the most well-known expatriate Thai in the world.”

I read the two books and recommend them. Somtow’s storytelling gifts really shine through — bringing the reader inside unique musical and cultural experiences.

Both books are FREE until April 19 PST on Kindle.

They’re normally $8.99 each

Somtow says, “i’m thinking of doing a total of 5 of them – including the one about my adventures in SF LOL. It’s a lot of fun and less plotting involved.”

 (2) PATREON CALLING. Last Friday Somtow appealed to readers to support his Patreon in an account of his recent arts career alarmingly titled “A Pauper’s Grave”.

…For the last two years, we lived from hand to mouth, constantly being bailed out at the eleventh hour by friends, and with the Opera holding my salary as a “payable” now for 14 months. For the past year, I’ve been subsidizing the salaries of the staff from my own savings but by the end of 2018 there wasn’t anything left to do that with. However, there was at least the annual grant from our government, small but which we’ve received every year in December for a very long time.

As our karma would have it, after putting it off, we were told in January that virtually all funding for artistic coproductions had been cut this year. Our annual kickstarter had suddenly evaporated.

So, we are in the crisis to end all crises now. The demise of the opera has been announced many times, but there is probably a limit to how many times you can be snatched from the jaws of Moloch. At some point, you have to fall into the flames.

I find myself thinking seriously about personal survival. The “pauper’s grave” cliché is looming. If in the past I didn’t notice how much of my existence is spent subsidising the opera and its staff, it’s because in the past there weren’t any gruelling choices to make on a daily basis like “Do I pay for one more month of the opera’s Dropbox or do I buy dinner?” I recently noticed I haven’t been to a movie in a theater for over a year, or even strolled in a mall to buy a tchotchke. I’m not actually starving to death, but these days I rarely eat out unless someone else is paying.

It’s clear — has been for almost a year — that I can’t let this go on. What I have been doing in Thailand may well have been good for the country, but it’s killing me. I need to step away. Someone else should be running the foundation anyway. Artists are notoriously bad at these things. I need time to finish the works in my to-do list and even come up with more.

…I’m setting 2020 as my “retirement” date from the now-volunteer position of artistic director because I hope by then everything will be in place for the foundation to run on its own steam. I am going to resurrect what I can of my writing career — I know that there are loyal readers out there, and there are probably potentially more if I can find new ways of reaching out to them. But in my 20 year absence publishing has changed a lot.

How can my friends help me? I need to vastly expand my support among readers and friends, so becoming a member of patreon.com/spsomtow is a real help — and you’ll get to read my writings before anyone else. I have about 26 loyal supporters, but if I had 200, I could stop panicking about the basics of existence….

Fortunately, people are responding, says Somtow: “This note in which I explained the bizarre circumstances that are causing me to start writing again caused a 30% increase in my Patreon patronage in a day. Clearly there are a few people who still miss me, somewhere out there…. Anyway, this caused me to hit a threshold in number of supporters where I said I’d write a new ‘Mallworld’ story. So yes, after almost 40 years, I will do so. And I’m going to print it as a very very limited chapbook and give it only to those supporters …”

Join my Patreon soon to read the fifth Inquestor novel as it comes straight from my computer….

If you join by June 15 at the Archangel ($10/mo) level or higher, you will get a special gift — a signed limited chapbook of a brand new Mallworld Story! [Mailed in August]

To access his Patreon site click here — https://www.patreon.com/spsomtow

(3) STAR WARS. Somtow conducted another Star Wars theme concert in Thailand in March. Here’s the poster:

(4) SFF IN TRANSLATION. Lastly, Somtow is running a competition to see if anyone can translate his science fiction into Thai – “Somtow Translation Competition”.

S.P. Somtow has now published 72 books, and a number of them have outstanding Thai translations. Thaithow Sucharitkul’s translation of Jasmine Nights is justly considered a classic in its own right. Jane Vejjajiva wrote a fine translation of The Stone Buddha’s Tears. She said to Somtow, “It made me cry while I was translating it.”

But Somtow’s reputation was first made on science fiction: his John Campbell Award, his two Hugo nominations, his frequent cover stories in Isaac Asimov’s Magazine in the early 1980s. And none of his science fiction has ever been translated into Thai even though this is one of the most popular genres of fiction here.

The purpose of this competition is find someone with a very special mindset: very good at comprehending English, very good at writing in Thai, and very imaginative in the ability to find Thai language equivalents for words and concepts that are unique to Somtow’s science fiction universes: things like mallworld, tachyon bubble, overcosm, doppling kit, varigrav, pteratyger, shimmercloak … you get the idea. It requires being able to retrofit the language to fit the concept and to evoke the flavor of these words.

Somtow’s science fiction novels have been translated into German, French, Polish, Czech, Japanese, Italian and other languages. His non-science fiction stories have had some excellent Thai translations. And yet .…

So here is the competition: there are three short paragraphs from different science fiction novels by Somtow.

Okay so the above are three typical excerpts from Somtow’s science fiction stories. At a glance, they might appear more or less untranslateable. And yet, Hamlet was translated into Klingon.

Perfection is not required for this competition. What we’re looking for is someone who gets the flavor. If you win the competition, you’ll have plenty of help and ability to consult — you will not be working in a vacuum — when you come to work on translating a whole novel.

This is what you should do:

Do the best you can with the three excerpts and then send a copy to somtow@gmail.com with the subject line TRANSLATION COMPETITION (if you don’t use this subject line, your entry may get lost). The deadline for this competition will be June 1, 2019. At that time, Somtow and his advisors will open and read all the entries.

If you are among the top two contestants, you’ll be invited to a discussion about being hired to translate one of Somtow’s science fiction novels either individually or in collaboration with each other. If there is no clear winner, the date will either be extended or another competition announced.

For your efforts in competing, the author will give an autographed copy of one of his books to the contestants (assuming there are enough books to go around.) Those who get to do the actual translation will receive a fee for the translation and credit in the book.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #11

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

By Colleen McMahon: Andrew Lang (1844-1912) showed up on the birthday list for March 31, reminding me that I wanted to write about him here. Lang was a Scottish author and professor and had an astonishingly voluminous and broad output of work over his career. His academic areas of interest were in folklore and classics, but his writings ranged far beyond those, and aimed for different audiences, from fellow academics, to the general public, to children. Many of his works are completely outside or only tangential to the fantasy and science fiction field, so I will focus on Lang’s books that are of most potential interest to us here.

He is probably best known for having his name on a series of fairy tale books for children that collected stories from all over the world and had different colors in their titles — The Red Fairy Book, The Grey Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book, etc. for a total of 12 in all. Chances are good that you have seen an edition of one or more of these books on your own childhood bookshelves or those of a relative, and they are still frequently republished today.

In addition to appealing to childhood nostalgia, it’s good as readers to know about these books because they have been a wellspring of inspiration for other authors. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.R.R. Tolkien both praised Lang’s books. They have been a youthful formative influence and a source of tales to retell or transform for many authors since, including Aimee Bender and Margaret Atwood.

I made two new-to-me discoveries as I began reading up on these books by Andrew Lang. First, there were a LOT more books in the series than the 12 best-known fairy tale books, and encompassed poetry, history and biography, and mythology as well. There were 25 books all together, published between 1889 through 1913 and were usually published to coincide with the Christmas gift-giving season. Wikipedia has a good run-down of the titles in the complete series.

Second, while Lang worked with his wife Leonora “Nora” Blanche Alleyne Lang (1851-1933) closely on the first book, The Blue Fairy Book, the other volumes were almost entirely the work of Nora Lang and several other uncredited female authors. Nora Lang and her other collaborators sourced, translated, and rewrote the tales to be appropriate for Victorian/Edwardian children.  Most of the books in the series were published under Andrew Lang’s name alone, although he credits her in the introduction to one of the books as having done the majority of the writing, and later books in the series listed “Mrs. Lang” as the author.

Author, editor, and children’s literature critic Anita Silvey wrote of the Langs in her 1995 book, Children’s Books and Their Creators:

The irony of [Andrew] Lang’s life and work is that although he wrote for a profession — literary criticism; fiction; poems; books and articles on anthropology, mythology, history, and travel […] he is best recognized for the works he did not write.

There are over 150 works listed under Andrew Lang’s name on Project Gutenberg, including translations of Greek classics like the Iliad and the Odyssey, collaborations with other authors, and books by other authors where he wrote an introduction. PG also has four books attributed to Mrs. Lang. Librivox has 28 books by Andrew Lang so far (with one in progress) as well as numerous versions of short stories and poems in various compilations, and two books and several essays by Leonora Blanche Lang.

This brief overview doesn’t come close to doing justice to the output of Andrew Lang, Nora Lang, and their various collaborators, and as I continue to explore their works myself, I am sure I will be back with more suggestions in the future!

If you haven’t heard of the Langs before and are interested in exploring some of their work, Project Gutenberg’s The Fairy Books of Andrew Lang is a great place to start. It’s an index work compiled by PG volunteers that has a linked index to all of the tales included in the twelve “color” fairy books.

Two more interesting recent finds:

  • “Mars is Heaven”  by Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was adapted for the radio show X Minus One in 1955 and is a fun listen. There are a lot of old-time radio shows on Internet Archive and I’ve begun exploring them a bit, so watch for more radio recommendations to come in the future.
  • R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel ?apek (1890-1938)has been in the public domain in the original Czech for years, but an English translation came out in 1923, so it has just turned up on Project Gutenberg in the last month. There is also a version of the play on Librivox that was created in 2014, so I’m not sure if this relies on the same translation (it says 1922).

Recent Librivox releases:

  • City of Endless Night by Milo Hastings (1884-1957)

    An example of early dystopian science fiction written shortly after World War I, “City of Endless Night” imagines a future with a very different ending to the Great War. Set in 2151 and in an underground Berlin, our protagonist is Lyman De Forrest, an American chemist who enters the city to discover the hidden truths of a forbidden metropolis. The subterranean world hosts a highly-regimented society of 300,000,000 sun-starved humans. As the first outsider to enter, he’s horrified by what he finds, but will he accomplish his mission and escape the living tomb?
  • Coffee Break Collection 18 – Pirates by Various

    This is the eighteenth Coffee Break Collection, in which Librivox readers select English language public domain works of about 15 minutes or less in duration — perfect to listen to during commutes, workouts or coffee breaks. The topic for this collection is pirates… a rich source of material. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, essays… the romance of a life on the ocean waves and the danger posed by the ‘bad boys (and girls)’; but sometimes the law catches up with them.

  • Finnish Legends by R. Eivand (??-??)

    One dark winter’s day in the north of Finland, Father Mikko seeks shelter in an isolated cabin till a storm abates. After dinner the family sit around the fire, and the daughter asks him to tell them “all the stories he had ever heard from the very beginning of the world all the way down”, and so the book begins. In the words of the author “If this little volume may in any degree awake some interest in the Finnish people its author will be amply satisfied, and its end will have been attained.”

Two Remarkable Books We Hardly Know

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 5) Fred Waitzkin’s Mortal Games (1993) is about Garry Kasparov (1963- ), particularly his 1990 World Championship match with Anatoly Karpov (1951- ) – their fifth and last – which Kasparov won by one point, 12 1/2 – 11 1/2. Writing about chess is hard. The topic is abstract. I’ve recommended The Kings of New York (M. Weinreb, 2007), a year with a Brooklyn high-school chess team, by a sports writer. Nabokov’s novel The Defense (1930) is by one of the greatest authors in Russian or English, a translator, a poet. There’s The Master of Go (Kawabata Y., 1951; i.e. the game known in Japan as go), which its author thought his finest work. Anyway, Kasparov called for a time-out after Game 20; Karpov called for a time-out after Game 21; and (Mortal, p. 231)

On Saturday, December 22, I came to Kasparov’s house…. Garry had spent the day reading Master and Margarita [1940] by Mikhail Bulgakov. It was his favorite novel and he had read it five or six times. He read passages of it aloud to Masha [Maria Arapova, his first wife], while Beethoven played from the stereo.

I took this as a cue from the Cosmic Joker to read The Master and Margarita. I got the Pevear & Volkhonsky tr. 1997 (rev. 2016). Pevear’s Introduction says (pp. xv-xvi, xxii),

Mikhail Bulgakov worked on this luminous book throughout one of the darkest decades of the century. His last revisions were dictated to his wife a few weeks before his death in 1940 at the age of forty-nine…. Another twenty-six years had to pass before…. The monthly magazine Moskva, otherwise a rather cautious and quiet publication, carried the first part … November 1966…. The 150,000 copies sold out within hours…. second part appeared … January 1967…. Bulgakov was known…. But, outside a very small group, the existence of The Master … was completely unexpected…. a major novel, the author’s crowning work.

Ellena Proffer’s 1984 biography Bulgakov says (pp. 525, 531, 557),

Bulgakov’s last novel is … ambitious…. [he] felt free to create fantastic characters and place them in familiar surroundings, to risk his talent in retelling a sacred story, and to describe … the devil. Ignoring the danger of writing about a writer, Bulgakov superbly demonstrates that … the Master is indeed a great writer, by showing us his novel about Pilate…. satire, realism, and fantasy … [The Master is] an elaborate network in which virtually all characters and events are interdependent…. Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the devil…. in this seemingly Faustian work there are no true Faust figures…. all the Faustian references [are] set decoration.

A cue for getting around to another book came while I was looking up something else in A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction (B. Searles, M. Last, B. Meacham & M. Franklin, 1979).

William Hope Hodgson [1877-1918] wrote one extraordinary novel which assures him a special place in science fiction…. The Night Land [1912] … hair-raising … vision of the future … a stranger one has never been conceived. The land is dark. The sun is dead. [From] an eight-mile-high pyramid…. One man sets out to rescue whom he can. The entire novel, of 200,000 words [the Guide’s emphasis], is a minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow account of that journey.

Not the least merit of this indeed very strange book is the author’s achievement in maintaining his focus and our attention over, under, around, and through detail other stories omit, so that they leave us to wonder, however engaged with their artistic success, “How did he get there?” And too this author, though filling his tale with event, eschews coruscation; even the drama, and there is much, is shown to us minutely — as indeed a protagonist meets it. This is an almost molecular story – writing which, borrowing from Gelett Burgess (1866-1951), is hard as the deuce, that’s what!

Poetry, No Fooling

By John Hertz:  It’s National Poetry Month in the United States.

I didn’t dare submit this for posting on April 1 (if Our Gracious Host so wished).  You might have thought I was fooling.

As I sometimes am.

Since Edgar Allan Poe wrote fantasy and science fiction, was poetic in prose and verse, and remains worth trying 170 years after his death, you could argue for calling this National Poe-try Month.

Go right ahead.

I’ve brought your attention to Chinese poetry – sometimes thought, with reason, to be the greatest in the world.  Just now I’m going to write about Japanese.

For centuries many of the great Japanese poets also wrote Chinese poetry.  Chinese was part of a good Japanese education, like Latin in a good European education.  One of the finest Japanese anthologies, the Kokinshû (920; short for Kokin Waka Shû, “Old-and-New Poetry Book”), has a Japanese and a Chinese preface.  Having a Japanese preface was the unusual gesture.

Japanese poetry is on my mind with the recent death (February 24th) of Donald Keene, one of the great translators of Japanese literature.  Yes, that means I rank him with Arthur Waley, which is saying a lot.

“What about Uncle A.J.?” you ask.  Quite rightly.  A.J. Budrys used to say “Always ask, Why are they telling us this?”  So here’s something else to try.  Consider whether s-f is poetry.

Heinlein liked the term “speculative fiction”.  In a sense science fiction can be thought to include fantasy.  Or it could be the other way round.  Sturgeon said “Science fiction is knowledge fiction”: one of his better puns; science, in its Latin root, means knowledge.

Vladimir Nabokov said (“Good Readers and Good Writers”, in Lectures on Literature, posth. 1980; you can look here):

The work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know.  When this new world has been closely studied, then and only then let us examine its links with other worlds, other branches of knowledge….

Bleak House [C. Dickens, 1853], that fantastic romance within a fantastic London, can we call it a study of London a hundred years ago?  Certainly not….  The truth is that great novels are great fairy tales.

…. minor readers like to recognize their own ideas in a pleasing disguise.  But the real writer, the fellow who sends planets spinning … has no given values at his disposal: he must create them himself.

I’ve said “Cross-cultural contact is homework for s-f.”

So let’s go to Japan.

I recommend two of Keene’s books, World Within Walls (1976) and Seeds in the Heart (rev. 1999).  Walls surveys Japanese literature during the years the country was closed to foreigners; Seeds from earliest times to the beginning of Walls.

About s-f, Niven and Campbell have each said it’s Minds as good as you but different.

Happy National Poetry Month.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #10

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

By Colleen McMahon: I have two things to share today that are a bit afield from my usual areas, but both will lead you to internet rabbit holes that are a lot of fun to explore.

The first is involves gaming, and I was led to it by an email from Jason Corley, forwarded to me by OGH:

While participating in the #1923GameJam at itch.io to celebrate the expansion of the public domain, I discovered an unproduced science fiction silent film screenplay by Nobel laureate Romaine Rolland, Man, Lord of Machinery, published in Vanity Fair in 1923.  I adapted it into an interactive fiction game for the jam and people can play it for free in a browser here:

https://jdcorley.itch.io/man-lord-of-machinery

They can also download a PDF version of the original publication there too.

Man, Lord of Machinery has a lot of the same themes as Metropolis, but predates it!

“Gaming Like It’s 1923” was a contest/challenge that ran in January, 2019. The challenge was to design a game in some way inspired by a 1923 work that had just entered the public domain. You can find the site for the completed game jam, with all 34 games and a list of the winners, here.

I haven’t had a chance to really explore the games, but I was particularly taken with the transformation of a Robert Frost poem into a typical game scenario in Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening To Steal Treasure!

The second is a treasure trove of images at the Magazine Art Collection at the Internet Archive. This collection was started pretty recently, in December 2018, and it’s unclear if it has been uploaded in its entirety or if there is more to come. It currently contains over 15,000 images, mostly magazine covers but also including some advertising and interior illustrations from magazines.

Only some of it is SFF related, and it’s likely that not all of it is in the public domain, as it contains pieces from well beyond 1923, but it’s a feast of eye candy and fun to explore.

If you have spent any time exploring fannish things, especially pre-internet, you have probably heard of APAs, self-published small magazines that circulated among fans. APA stands for Amateur Press Association, and it turns out that SF-related APAs are a subset of a wider phenomenon that began in the latter 19th-century and embraced “amateur journalism” around a wide variety of topics.

The United Amateur Press Association was founded in 1895, and H.P. Lovecraft became heavily involved with the organization beginning in the 1910s. He published nonfiction essays and critical pieces as well as early short stories in the United Amateur, the organization’s official magazine.

Writings in the United Amateur, 1915-1922 collects these early Lovecraft pieces. Lovecraft continued writing and publishing with the UAPA well past 1922, but the later pieces are not in the public domain. There are commercially published books that collect all of the pieces, but this collection provides a good sampling of his developing fiction style as well as his eccentric (and sometimes offensive) opinions.

While the United Amateur writings have not been recorded for Librivox, virtually all of his other public domain works have been, most multiple times. You can find them here.

Among the recent birthday notices was Joe L. Hensley (1926-2007), who is represented at Project Gutenberg by one story, “Now We Are Three”, which has been recorded at Librivox as part of Short Science Fiction Collection 22.

April 1 marked the birthday of Samuel R. Delany (b. 1942), who has two novels at Project Gutenberg:

Both are also available as audiobooks at Librivox.

Periodically, the volunteers at Librivox declare a month to focus on finishing off languishing projects, and March was one of those months. The “March Toward the Finish Line” ended with an impressive 122 books added to the catalog, including some that may be of interest to folks here:

  • Dracula (Version 4) by Bram Stoker (1847-1912)

    Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced Count Dracula, and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.


  • Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873)

    Laura grew up on a castle in the Austrian mountains with her father, slightly lonely as there are no potential companions around. Her loneliness is at an end when a carriage accindent close by their castle brings a mysterious visitor: Carmilla was injured in the accident, and remains at the castle to heal. But there is something dark about Carmilla. Is Laura in danger?


  • The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed by Cenydd Morus (1879-1937)

    Cenydd Morus’s (Kenneth Morris) imaginative retelling of tales from the Mabinogion, the great work of Welsh literature first recorded in the 12th-13th century. Written while he was working for the Theosophical Society in California, Morris’s version restores the Gods that he believed had disappeared from the written record but must have been present in the oral tradition of the Druid bards.


  • Pursuit by Lester Del Rey (1915-1993)

    Wilbur Hawkes wakes with no memory of the last seven months. He knows he’s in danger, but he doesn’t know why. No sooner does he leave his apartment than it explodes in flames, and, to escape, he must run through New York, not knowing where to run, or who he is running from. With heat rays, disintegrating men, and exploding cats, how can this not involve aliens? What other explanation can there be?

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #39

A Speculative Future of the Sport of Baseball

By Chris M. Barkley: As I write these musings on the day before the opening of the 2019 Baseball Season, there seems to be a great deal of concern about whether or not the venerable sport has any future at all.

Attendance at games have seen a significant decline in the past five years and the games seem to be just as long as ever. In this fast-paced world of short attention spans and increasing competition from all sorts media and other activities, team owners and baseball executives are certainly right to be worried that baseball may be on the verge of a real decline of interest from fans.

Their solution? Speed up the sport to make it more interesting and the games more compelling. The most recent proposals include, introducing the designated hitter to the National League enforcing a 20 second count between pitches and placing a runner on second base at the beginning of extra innings to help settle games faster.

BUT, what if more radical changes were introduced to make the games faster, but MORE compelling for all of the teams playing? And in doing so, make EVERY SINGLE GAME COUNT in the standings not matter which team was playing?

Applying what I have learned over a lifetime as an avid baseball, over forty years in fandom and the past twenty years of WSFS Business Meetings, incessant tweeting, fannish flame wars and Facebook postings, I have come up with a series of provocative, yet thoughtful insights on what Major League Baseball should do to thrive in the Twenty-First Century…

Proposal One: Make the game shorter by two innings, seven, with a maximum of two extra innings. If the game is still tied after the end of the ninth, the game ends in a tie. What, a tie? What the hell, you might ask? I’ll explain this further along down the line…

Proposal Two: Another problem baseball has had is the extended at bat for any player who is skilled enough to foul off pitches. More often than not, this tires out the pitcher and bores whomever is viewing the game. Having played in slow pitch softball leagues with a limited number of fields and the time to play on them, the most recent league I played with had a rule variation where the second foul after a two strikes count was an out on the batter. This forces both the batter and the pitcher to either put the ball in play or force a walk. And the game moves along nicely as well.

Proposal Three: No Designated Hitter: I realize that the game could be still played with a DH but, as a purist at heart, I have hated it with a passion since the American League instituted it in 1973. Pitchers should be FULLY involved in the game at every level. That includes going up to the plate and contributing. If pitchers can’t hit, they should LEARN how to hit, or to least bunt efficiently. Slackers…

Proposal Four: Abolish all regional divisions in favor of a two league table. Until 1969, each league was divided up this way and the top two teams meeting in the World Series. Divisions have fostered some fierce rivalries over the decades but the effect has been, in my humble opinion, diluted by the number of weak teams playing stronger teams in house AND the number inter-league games played each season. While my preference would be to not have ANY games between the two leagues until the World Series, they have been very popular with fans (and team owners) since 1997. So, if we are going to have inter-league games, why not make it more interesting; mandate that all of the teams, on an alternating basis each year, play a three game home and away series with half of the teams (15 at the moment) from each league every year. Each team should be no more than 45 inter-league games each season.

Proposal Five: Drop the number of regular season games to 145 (100 within the league, 45 inter-league games). Why? So glad you asked…

Proposal Six: The League Playoffs should consist of the top eight teams of each division. What would make a compelling pennant race in each league? A change in how the standings are scored.

Proposal Seven: Currently, besides wins and losses, the standing of a team is determined by its winning percentage. I propose that baseball adopt international football league standings; each win will be worth three points, a tie (remember, from Proposal One?) will be worth a point and a loss could be either nothing or, more interestingly, wait for it…minus THREE POINTS! So, suddenly, losing a game in August and September becomes a big freaking deal and some of the so called ‘weaker teams” have more incentive to throw a monkey wrench into the chances of “stronger teams”. In fact, this incentivizes all of the teams in the league to make each team better as the season progresses, possibly enough claw their way into an 8th place in the standings and into the playoffs. If there are any ties for the eighth place, a one game playoff will will determine who advances.

The playoffs would be structured as such: Top seeds play the low seeded number 8, number 2 plays number 7, number 3 plays number 6, and number 4 plays number 5.

The first round: the best 2 out of three games. Second Round: best 3 out of five games. World Series: the traditional best of seven games. A reduced number of regular season games from 162 to 145 can accommodate such a playoff schedule.

Proposal Eight: The All Star Game should be played AFTER the the conclusion of the World Series. Instead of a mid-season break, the game should be played as a celebration of the season that has just past and we have conclusive answers as to who are the BEST players are in each league. All of the season’s awards should surround the event as well, which will give baseball a nice, bright spotlight in the midst of the American football season.  

I am so lucky to call Cincinnati, Ohio my home. It is home of the very first openly all professional baseball team, the Red Stockings, who went 57-0 in their inaugural season of 1869. This upcoming season will mark the 150th season of the Cincinnati Reds. Our Opening Day Parade is world renown and the whole city celebrates as though it was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years’ Eve all rolled into one day.

Over the past five years, if the Reds happen to be playing in town during our fan club’s annual convention, Midwestcon, in June, I try to organize a group of fans to catch a game at Great American Ballpark, which is right on the banks of the Ohio River.

Baseball is great game with a historic and revered past. If a few of the somewhat crazy ideas (or someone else’s crazy ideas) I’ve presented are implemented, I hope Baseball will somehow survive well into our future.

Marty Brennaman

(This column is dedicated to Marty Brennaman,  the Hall of Fame announcer of the Cincinnati Reds, who is retiring after this season after 46 years in the broadcast booth on radio and television. The fans across the country know and respect him but we, in the Cincinnati area, hold him in the highest regard. It is astounding to think that he has been involved nearly a third of all the games the Reds have played in their entire history. And we are so very lucky to have such an acerbic, thoughtful, knowledgeable and witty guide all those seasons. Thank You Marty and no matter what happens, THIS SEASON BELONGS TO YOU…)

People’s Vote March Features SFF Iconography

Left: James Bacon. Center: Emma King.

By James Bacon: I attended the People’s Vote March today in central London, which seeks to have a referendum about Brexit and whatever deal the country ends up with. A political matter not normally of interest here to Filers.  

I was expecting to see some interesting placards and posters but was quite astonished to see so many that were literary, media or genre related, and so Emma King and I, took photos to share due to this fascinating connection.  

[This BBC link will take you to an explanation of the march – and itself features some anti-Brexit cosplay.]

Many more photos follow the jump.

Continue reading

Women Hold Up Half the Sky

By John Hertz:  (reprinted from No Direction Home 2)  It’s Women’s History Month in the United States.  Here are some people and events worth thinking about.

Ruth and Esther are the only two women with books named for them in the Bible (i.e. the protocanonical Bible; Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians also include Judith).

Atusa, wife of Darius the Great (522-486 B.C.E.), is credited with inventing the Persian script.

Aspasia of Miletus (470-410 B.C.E.), the partner of Pericles, made her home an intellectual center, and extraordinarily established a girls’ school.

Mary (i.e. the mother of Jesus) is the only woman named in the Koran.

Hypatia of Alexandria (350-415) was the first known woman mathematician.

The first Muslim after the Prophet was a woman, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (555-619).  The person to whom the first compiled copy of the Koran was given to keep and preserve was a woman, Hafsah bint Umar (605-665).

Murasaki Shikibu (973-1014) wrote the first novel in the world, The Tale of Genji (1012).  Kawabata Yasunari (1888-1972) in his Nobel Prize lecture (Literature, 1968) called it “the highest pinnacle of Japanese literature….  down to our day there has not been a piece of fiction to compare with it….  wide and deep … nourishment for poetry … fine arts … handicrafts … landscape gardening.”  Nine centuries after it was written, the great Arthur Waley (1889-1966) put it into English (1933), earning from Jorge Borges (1899-1986; “The Total Library”, 1939) “Genji, as translated by … Waley, is written with an almost miraculous naturalness….  I dare to recommend this book to those who read me.”  For a guide I recommend The World of the Shining Prince (I. Morris, 1964; the Shining Prince is Genji).

Li Ch’ing-chao (1084-1185) has been called the greatest Chinese woman poet.

We were the guests of those on swaying lotus seats.
They spoke in splendid language
Full of subtle meanings;
They argued with sharp words over paradoxes.
We drank tea brewed on living fire.

Although this might not help the Emperor to govern,
It is endless happiness.

Two of the greatest rulers in history were women, Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) of England and Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of the United Kingdom.  Sir John Neale’s Queen Elizabeth (1934; after 6 Feb 52, Queen Elizabeth I) remains unsurpassed.  These two women, not only strong and powerful, but wise, have naturally been splashed by some, but as Elizabeth said (speech to joint delegation of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, 1566), “How have I governed since my reign?  I will be tried by envy itself.  I need not to use many words, for my deeds do try me.”

Jane Austen (1775-1817) has a claim to Greatest Author in History, her six novels against Lady Murasaki and Shakespeare (1564-1616).

“Pride,” observed Mary [Bennet], who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe.  By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary.  Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously.  A person may be proud with-out being vain.  Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us [Pride and Prejudice ch. 5 (1813)].”

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852).  As senior class vice-president at a high school over 95% black, I thought an Uncle Tom was a toad — then I read the book.

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman physician in the U.S. (M.D. 1849).

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), born into slavery, escaped and then on the Underground Railroad in thirteen missions rescued seventy people: William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) called her “Moses”; she never lost a passenger: later, with the Union Army, she was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the Civil War, guiding the Combahee Ferry raid (1863) which freed seven hundred.  Afterward she was active for women’s suffrage.  She was the first black woman on a U.S. Postage stamp.

Edith Wharton (1862-1967) was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize (Fiction; for The Age of Innocence, 1920).

Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (Physics, 1903), and is the only woman so far to win more than one (Chemistry, 1911).

Frances Perkins (1882-1965) was the first woman U.S. Cabinet member (Secretary of Labor 1933-1945, i.e. throughout F.D. Roosevelt’s presidency; The Roosevelt I Knew, 1946).

St. Teresa of Calcutta (“Mother Teresa”; 1910-1997; “Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier”) was the first India woman to win a Nobel Prize (Peace, 1979). In 1931 Jane Addams (1860-1935) won the same Prize.  My grandfather worked with her at Hull House.

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) became a U.S. film star with Algiers (J. Cromwell dir. 1938); she made two dozen films; typecast as a glamorous seductress, she employed that fame to sell war bonds; Howard Hughes (1905-1976) discovered her aptitude in science and used her suggestions of streamlining in aircraft design; in 1942 she and George Antheil (1900-1959) developed spread-spectrum technology, eventually used on Navy ships (1962), then in Wi-Fi® (wireless local area networking), GPS (the Global Positioning System), and Bluetooth (short-link radio), winning the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award (1997) and placement in the National Inventors Hall of Fame (posth. 2014).

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (1937-  ) was the first woman in Space.


B.C.E. = “before the Common Era”, used by many who do not care for dates according to divinity in Jesus.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #9

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

By Colleen McMahon: I’ve had some upheaval in my personal life in the last month, and I haven’t been keeping up with this column or with some of the older comments. So I’ll start by taking an opportunity to clarify a couple of things which may have been misunderstood, based on some of the comments on older entries.

First, when I mention a work here, it’s generally because it’s either one that I have come across in my own “wanderings”, or because it has some tie to something recently discussed, such as when an author’s birthday comes up in the daily listing, and it turns out that they have some public domain books or stories available.

It’s not meant to imply that a book is just now entering the public domain (unless otherwise stated, as in the recent discussion of the 1923 copyright expirations) or that it is in any way a new discovery to anyone but me. So, for example, Flatland by Abbott has indeed been in the public domain for many years, and only came up here because a new audiobook recording of it was recently released.

Second, someone apparently took offense at my passing observation that John W. Campbell is better known nowadays for his role as an editor as a writer. That is no judgement on Campbell as a writer, or any of the other forgotten or less-remembered names that come up. It’s just a general impression of the overall collective memory or focus of 2019 fandom and who tends to be well-known and who does not. If I’m off base on my estimation of how well-known any particular writer is at this point, I welcome correction.

Most stories and novels pass out of popular notice in a few decades, no matter how worthwhile they are. There’s no point in hand-wringing about this or decrying the crappiness of modern fandom for not being sufficiently aware of certain writers. I prefer to look at it as a vast realm of potential buried treasures, and poke about looking for some forgotten books that are worth unearthing. I started writing this series merely to share some of these finds.

On that note, let’s turn to some of the recent diggings:

In Cat Rambo’s introduction to this month’s StoryBundle featuring contemporary female speculative fiction authors, she mentions four names as examples of women authors who have largely faded away. This, as usual, sent me off to see if anything by those authors is available on my favorite sites.

Miriam DeFord was already covered in a previous installment. I could not find any public domain works by Zenna Henderson, alas. However, the other two authors that Rambo mentioned, Judith Merril and Katherine MacLean, are each represented by several short stories on Project Gutenberg.

Judith Merril (1923-1997):

To date, neither story has been recorded for Librivox.

Katherine MacLean (1925- )

All of these stories have been recorded at least once for Librivox.

Speaking of women authors, Andre Norton (1912-2005) had a February birthday. She has short stories as well as several full-length novels available on Project Gutenberg:

In addition to her science fiction, Norton has a YA adventure novel (Ralestone Luck) and two Westerns (Ride Proud, Rebel! and Rebel Spurs) on PG. All of her works have been recorded, most in multiple versions, for Librivox.

Staying on the topic of women authors, Leigh Brackett’s (1915-1978) name is probably most recognizable as one of the credited screenwriters of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. She was well-known enough as a screenwriter in the 1940s that Howard Hawks is said to have once demanded, “Get me that guy, Brackett” to help William Faulkner finish the script for The Big Sleep. Brackett is also notable as the first woman author to receive a Hugo nomination, for her 1956 post-nuclear-war novel The Long Tomorrow.

The Long Tomorrow does not appear to be in the public domain, but two stories by Brackett are available on Project Gutenberg:

Both stories have been recorded for Librivox.

Recent Librivox releases:

  • The Mermaid’s Message and Other Stories by Various

    This is a collection of fairy tales and fables compiled in 1919. The stories contain original but old-fashioned tales which modern children and grown-ups will enjoy.
  • Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg (1935- )

    When Roy Walton becomes the new director of the UN division of population control, after the director is assassinated, he becomes the most hated man in the world. Being Director involved him in not only population control, but a terra-forming project on Venus, and negotiations with aliens. Not only that, but some people were trying to kill him. To stay alive, he had to become The Master of Life and Death.

Peut-être qu’ils restent les mêmes et peut-être qu’ils ne le font pas

By John Hertz:  Maybe they stay the same and maybe they don’t.

Filling up the corners, as hobbits say, of Hugo and Retro-Hugo nominating ballots, you might have looked at Le Zombie 48 (Brother Tucker’s fanzine, 1943) and noticed Page 4.

If not, I invite you.  See here.

They’re answers to a set of questions he mailed.

Compare with fandom today.  Never mind, for the moment, whether this was a representative sample.  And there was, of course, a war on.

The answers he tabulated and printed were age and occupation.

Sixty-seven including him (27; movie projectionist).  Age range, 14 – 48; mean, 28; mode, 21.

Okay, look at the occupations.  Never mind the Army (four), the Navy (three), and “offense worker” (one; obviously Tucker couldn’t resist letting it stand).  Never mind that eleven of sixteen age 18 or younger were student.  In 1943 there was no one to say software engineer; look at the rest.

Tucker’s comment at the end was “What a motley crew!”  Then he explained he wanted to know because he was building a space-ship.

I’ll not copy the list.  See for yourself.