The Handle of a Scythe

Steve Sneyd. [Via Eight Miles Higher.]

Steve Sneyd. [Via Eight Miles Higher.]

By John Hertz: A sneyd (also snead, sned, snathe) is the handle of a scythe.  The Science Fiction Poetry Association named Steve Sneyd a 2015 Grand Master of Fantastic Poetry. Marge Simon too, but Sneyd is a fanziner.

He was poetry editor for Langley Searles’ unsurpassed Fantasy Commentator.  His own Data Dump has been published a quarter-century; I reviewed it in Chunga (“Unfolding Stars”, Chunga 14). It’s mostly about poetry, preferably strange.  For a decade he ran a series of acronyms, printing five dozen of mine, e.g.

Puncture Overlords Escape Madness (DD 74)

Pulling Oars, Entering Moonlight (DD 142)

Poplars Oaks Elms March (DD 166)

On the occasion of the Grand Master award, Andrew Darlington posted a 3,400-word piece “Steve Sneyd from Mars to Marsden” at Darlington’s Weblog Eight Miles Higher,  with photos, images of Sneyd’s various publications including Data Dump, electronic links, and things too fierce to mention; Darlington says “He’s been featured regularly, week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year since the 1960s in more strange, obscure, and esoteric journals than even he can possibly remember.” The piece is framed as an interview, but the poor interviewer found his subject “talks about everything…. everything — in fact, but Steve Sneyd himself.”  Earlier last year there was an interview in Amazing.

Sneyd himself elsewhere tells us

A Call to Mind is a Call to Action

greenypurple as winter bramble
deathbedded he-it-they strive
to call back to aching side
all those offshoots driven
out to farflungs of the spiral arm
lucky for their convenience
now newrooted in another clime
the message system long ago
ceased functioning and so remains
all on its ownieownieo

Running To Save The Rhino

Mowatt peeks outBy Jim Mowatt: “We’ve got a bloody fanzine to get out. Where’s your stuff?” Nic Farey has written a series of messages demanding, quite rightly that I get my finger out and send in my contributions for the fanzine, Beam. Unfortunately I’ve been distracted by a number of five-toed ungulates from the family Rhinocerotidae.

The rhino is having a bit of a tough time you see with all manner of people trying to kill it so that they can chop off the horn and sell it to deluded idiots who think that in powdered form it can do all sorts of wonders for them. There are all sorts of things being done to try to protect them and it all takes money so I figured that I would try to get them some money. Not wanting to make things easy for myself I volunteered for the London Marathon as a charity runner for Save The Rhino International and set up a fundraising page here: .

photo (7) COMP

A little later as I’m musing over how I can raise the profile of the charity and my campaign I have another ridiculous idea. Why don’t I borrow one of their rhino suits and do some shorter runs in that? It sounds easy but the execution of this plan proved to be a little fraught.

I don’t have a car so decided that I would try to get the rhino suit from London to Cambridge on public transport. It’s far too big and unwieldy to carry so I wore it through the London subway from Borough to Kings Cross. Station staff pointed and laughed and when they’d recovered a bit asked if they could take my photograph. Eventually my wife Carrie and I made it back to Cambridge and she wedged me into a taxi so we could be taken home. Phew!

Compared to that, going out to run 5K at my local parkrun was a piece of cake. We got up and toddled around to the park. Carrie carefully guiding me along as I have no peripheral vision in the suit. can’t see where I’m treading and can’t hear very much. The chap from the local paper was waiting for me at parkrun and spent considerable time arranging people around me so he could take several thousand pictures. Inside the suit I had very little idea what was going on. We set off on the run at 0900 and the noise inside the suit grew from loud to cacophonous. The whole thing was bouncing around all swooshing, wooshing, crunching and crackling as I ran along.

It was tough going. It is ridiculously hot in the suit and it seemed to push me forward a little so there was quite an ache in my back even after only a mile. I started to get a feel for how to run in it and so for the second mile I started to pass people. Seeing folks (especially those wearing earphones) jump and shriek as I passed gave me enormous pleasure (evil rhino that I am).

I staggered across the line and was incredibly relieved to remove the rhino head and cool down a little. One child expressed his disappointment that I wasn’t a real rhino. We bought him off with a Save The Rhino sticker and asked him not to tell anyone.

We added some money to my fundraising total and Fannish fans on Facebook have been particularly generous. Thank you everyone for your help so far.

To answer the question that is possibly bubbling up in many minds out there, no I don’t think I’ll be running the London Marathon on 24th April 2016 in the rhino suit. I don’t reckon I’ll have the strength or the stamina to do it. Despite this I hope many of you will watch out for me next year though if you get to watch the marathon. It’s an amazing event and will be my first ever attempt at running 26.2 miles.

Jim Mowatt is a former TAFF winner. Jim’s London Marathon fundraising page


Ready for the next run.

Benford Recalls Sidney Coleman


Grant Canfield’s cover art for eI #36.

Gregory Benford has posted a compelling and entertaining profile of the late Sidney Coleman, physicist, fan and wit.

A reputed Einstein-look-alike, Coleman’s accomplishments included co-founding Advent:Publishers, and devising “wormhole calculus.” As for his wit — here are two examples:

When his physics department suddenly needed someone to fill in for an ill colleague, they asked Sid if he could teach a field theory class that the energetic colleague had scheduled for 8 a.m. Sid was a notorious night owl who often had to rouse his dinner guests to go home at a mere 3 a.m. He relished the pleasures of watching the sun come up while putting on pajamas and others stirred. Still, he considered. He felt that he did have an obligation to his department. “I’m sorry,” he finally said, “I just don’t think I could stay up that late.”

He wrote a great sendup of the space program: “Once I gained access to Pioneer 10, it was the work of a moment to substitute for NASA’s plaque my own, which read, “Make ten exact copies of this plaque with your name at the bottom of the list and send them to ten intelligent races of your acquaintance. At the end of four billion years, your name will reach the top of the list and you will rule the galaxy.”

The tribute first appeared in Trap Door 25 in 2008.

Problem With Gaiman’s “Trigger Warning” Title?

Kameron Hurley thinks Neil Gaiman did not make a good choice in calling his latest story collection Trigger Warning. Commenting at SciFiNow, she first explains the use of the term in its original context, then levels this criticism at Gaiman:

The problem with mainstreaming this kind of use of the term is that instead of saying, “Yes, trigger warnings are useful so let’s not continue to water it down” what you do when you title a rather typical short story collection “Trigger Warning” is that your work becomes part of the problem of breaking it down into meaninglessness and slapping it on any old thing as a marketing gimmick. You co-opt a term used in feminist spaces, and you use it for shock value, to be edgy and subversive, instead of acting like an ally who has empathy and understanding of the term for its intended use.

Gaiman, in his introduction, goes immediately from saying “Yes, I understand its intended use” to “I decided to use it in this work in a way in which it’s not intended.” A little whiplash, there.

I’m not part of the presold audience for the issue, but this post made me willing to think about it more. What I like about Hurley’s approach is that she unapologetically explains what she believes and equips the reader with enough information to understand the issue, while stepping up to challenge a writer who influences a wide audience. She respects the reader, and takes risks.

Of a Feather with Dave Kyle

By John Hertz: In case you, like me, couldn’t be with Dave Kyle in person for his 96th birthday (gosh) last weekend, here’s the verse thing I could think of to send him.

Happy birthday to you!
Hooray for First Fandom too.
We’re behind you in the relay race
Joining the old and the new.

First Fandom is the few, the happy few, active at least as early as the first World Science Fiction Convention, 1939.

I keep saying grab that torch.

While in Japan as a delegate to the Yokohama Worldcon, I kept meeting the proverb on ko chi shin “study the old to appreciate the new”.

First Fandom is fond of calling itself dinosaurs, possibly because dinosaurs were mighty and children seem to love them.  Since dinosaurs are apparently the ancestors of birds I ought to have gotten in something about flocking together.  I did with my Lloyd Penney song.

Verse and Re-Verse

Morris Keesan answered John Hertz’s recent metrical sally Verse and Verse with three haiku of his own. He sent them to John in a postcard, knowing better than to count on John seeing them online. However, the two poets have agreed File 770 readers should not be deprived…

Morris Keesan:

The creatures I meet
Have seven feet in one line,
Five in the others.

Meet them in a line
Exchange seven feet for five.
A net loss of two?

Do they profit, thus?
Is it how many they have,
Or how they use them?

John Hertz:

Seven-foot creatures
With five on each side to help
Exchange beauty, truth.

Verse and Verse

By John Hertz: Among the wonders of Loscon XLI (28-30 Nov 14) I saw a table in Ask Us Alley for next year’s Fandom Verse Expo, Lancaster. At that hour – 1 a.m. if I recall correctly – no one was staffing the table, but there was literature. Feeling I was surely in favor of fandom verse I left this sample, which Paige Willey later politely said the gang found acceptable.

I like fandom ’cos it’s strange.
It helps my mind get broader range.
The creatures I meet
May have seven feet
But there’s nothing I’d take in exchange.

Lovecraft Situation Gets Verse

By Sam Long: Further to your recent File 770 item about the increase in Lovecraftiana….here’s my contribution to that increase, in the form of some verses I wrote a few years ago. I hope you enjoy them.

The Starship Lovecraft’s skipper
Was eldritch as his crew.
He sat upon the bridge and said,
“Warp factor one, Mr Chthulu!”

The chief cook of the Lovecraft
Would not serve corned beef hash.
Instead, to honor Yog Suthoth,
Served Yoghurt Succotash.

The Lovecraft’s skipper’s hobby
Was running model trains;
A suitcase in his cabin
Held a layout like Skylark DuQuesne’s.

The rolling stock was tiny,
And some was of great age.
When asked, “What scale’s your layout?”
He’d tersely say, “N-gauge.”

The Lovecraft’s lounge’s barkeep
Is really quite demonic.
He uses Miska fizz to make
A gin and Miska tonic.

The Lovecraft’s shuttle Arkham
Is piloted by an alien.
It uses long and ornate words
And terms sesquepedalian.

That Arkham pilot’s speech, some find,
Is barely comprehensible,
But to be skillful at its job
Is the Arkham E.T.’s principle.

It moves the Arkham’s flight controls
With movements smooth and subtle.
A better pilot you’ll not find
On any starship’s shuttle.

The Lovecraft‘s plumbing’s haunted:
That’s what crewbeings said.
They call the “Lurker in the Loo”
The “Haunter in the Head.”


“N-gauge” is a model railroad gauge of about 1:144 or 1:156 — very small. An engine that is 70-80 feet long in real life is only about 6 inches long in N-gauge, and will fit in one hand.

Miska or Miska’s Liquors is a chain of liquor stores in the Chicago area.  They also sell mixers like soda water and–of course–tonic water.

Vibrating With Graham

I nodded in agreement when I read Rich Coad say in a letter to Flag that most fanzine fans aren’t interested in awards anymore. (I mean besides you, Aidan, of course). Graham Charnock provides living proof (or maybe 100 proof) in Vibrator 2.0.4 [PDF file].

Frankly I have given up on this competitive stuff. No matter how much brilliant stuff I write for that seminal literary journal CHUNGA people (mostly Andy Hooper, which is strange because he is one of the editors) persist in ignoring me. Okay, once Marty Cantor proposed me for past fwa president at Corflu in Sunnyvale but he was soon shouted down and the anodyne Spike, who can’t even afford a last name and was on the organising committee, was elected in my place. Nowadays it seems Brits are elected every year without actually doing anything or displaying any talent. Even Roy Kettle. Bitter? Not me.

Having said that most of my impetus for writing comes from being drunk, I have to admit the flaw in my own argument. When I’m drunk I frequently just feel tired. I think of lots of stuff I could write, including long novels with vast starships (but also heart-searching poems dealing with death and mortality) but then I reach for another drink and turn on Bones.

The entire issue is filled with lightning wit — except for Graham’s article about death, I mean — and though I treasure the firecracker string of perfectly-placed in-jokes quoted above, most of it is far more accessible to the uninitiated. His readers add to the pandemonium, too. If only Graham charged for copies I would happily testify that Mark Plummer’s letter of comment is worth the price of admission by itself.