Pixel Scroll 12/7/20 When All You Have Is A Scroll, Everything Looks Like A Pixel

(1) WHERE THE BLOOD STILL PULSES – SO TO SPEAK. R.S. Benedict’s article for Blood Knife “How Horror Makes Itself Ungovernable” says that horror alone resists the corporatization of geek culture.

…Geek culture—comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy—is mainstream now, squeezing out mysteries, dramas, and period pieces at the box office.

…This is nothing to be celebrated. This is not victory. The mainstreaming of geek culture is artistic gentrification, a way for moneyed interests to wrest control of culture from the creatives who built it and crowd out any voice with something new or subversive to say. Sci-fi, which once gave us visions of the future, and fantasy, which once nurtured our imaginations, have been hijacked to sell imperialism and soda pop. The invaders have won; our loved ones have been replaced by pod people.

Only one speculative genre has managed to escape the Disneyfication process and retain something resembling a soul: horror….

(2) THE TRUTH, OR SOMETHING, IS OUT THERE. The news got George Takei’s attention.

“Former Israeli space security chief says aliens exist, humanity not ready” reports The Jerusalem Post.

Has the State of Israel made contact with aliens?

According to retired Israeli general and current professor Haim Eshed, the answer is yes, but this has been kept a secret because “humanity isn’t ready.”

Speaking in an interview to Yediot Aharonot, Eshed – who served as the head of Israel’s space security program for nearly 30 years and is a three-time recipient of the Israel Security Award – explained that Israel and the US have both been dealing with aliens for years.

And this by no means refers to immigrants, with Eshed clarifying the existence of a “Galactic Federation.”

The 87-year-old former space security chief gave further descriptions about exactly what sort of agreements have been made between the aliens and the US, which ostensibly have been made because they wish to research and understand “the fabric of the universe.” This cooperation includes a secret underground base on Mars, where there are American and alien representatives.

If true, this would coincide with US President Donald Trump’s creation of the Space Force as the fifth branch of the US armed forces, though it is unclear how long this sort of relationship, if any, has been going on between the US and its reported extraterrestrial allies.

But Eshed insists that Trump is aware of them, and that he was “on the verge” of disclosing their existence. However, the Galactic Federation reportedly stopped him from doing so, saying they wished to prevent mass hysteria since they felt humanity needed to “evolve and reach a stage where we will… understand what space and spaceships are,” Yediot Aharonot reported.

As for why he’s chosen to reveal this information now, Eshed explained that the timing was simply due to how much the academic landscape has changed, and how respected he is in academia.

“If I had come up with what I’m saying today five years ago, I would have been hospitalized,” he explained to Yediot.

Of course, the timing may also have something to do with the release of Eshed’s newest book, The Universe Beyond the Horizon – conversations with Professor Haim Eshed. And considering all the year’s travails, I liked this reaction —

(3) FELLOWSHIP OF THE PREQUEL. In the “Silmarillion Seminar”, hosted at The Tolkien Professor, a bunch of academics sit down and talk about the Silmarillion chapter by chapter:

Despite its challenging learning curve, The Silmarillion is an amazing set of stories. Some of these stories may be even more profound and more moving than The Lord of the Rings. What’s more, once you know The Silmarillion, you will begin to understand The Lord of the Rings in a whole new way.

In the Silmarillion Seminar, listeners will be reading through the book slowly and carefully, at the pace of about a chapter a week, and gathering together to have an online audio discussion with the Tolkien Professor about each chapter. Each session will be recorded and posted here on this page. Hopefully, you will pick up your copy of the book and give this truly incredible book another chance.

(4) IN A BEGINNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] OK, now here’s a book I want to read (and have just library-reserved)…

A year or two or three ago, I went to an interesting lecture at Harvard on the origins of alphabets. It was interesting… but it didn’t address my question, and, when either in the Q&A session at the end or while we were milling afterwards, I asked about the origin of alphabetic order, to which I was told, more or less, IIRC, that was a different question. Fair ’nuff.

So, I just saw this review in our paper edition of the December 6 New York Times’ Book Review section (tho, per the URL, I see it ran online back in late October): A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders.

A few paragraphs into reading the review, I made a note (snapped a pic using my phone) and have reserved-requested it through/from my local library.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. Young People Read Old SFF reaches the second-to-last story in the Rediscovery collection from Journey Press, “Cornie on the Walls” Sydney van Scyoc. What does James Davis Nicoll’s panel think about this 1963 entry?

Sydney J. van Scyoc was mainly active in the 1960s through the 1980s. Although new short pieces appear as late as 2005, her most recent novel was 1991’s Deepwater Dreams. I haven’t read Deepwater because van Scyoc occupied a blindspot in my collecting. Having read this example of her work, I’ve taken to picking up her novels when I see them. Finding time to read them has thus far eluded me.

But were my Young People as enthusiastic? Let’s find out…. 

(6) MURDER IN SPACE. James Davis Nicoll also found time to write about “Five Space-Based Murder Mysteries” for Tor.com. One of them is —

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre (2017)

230,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Ciudad de Cielo is filled with almost every vice and foible known to humanity. This is a paradise for bent private cop Nicola “Nikki Fixx” Freeman, because it offers many ways for a high-ranking Seguridad officer to siphon off some extra wealth for herself. The system works, as long as nobody gets too greedy and everyone remembers that there are limits to the crimes to which the authorities can turn a blind eye….

(7) GHOSTS IN THE BIG APPLE. The NY Ghost Story Festival can be viewed free on YouTube.

Night One: Thursday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests are Gwendolyn Kiste, Hysop Mulero and Rudi Dornemann

Night Two: Saturday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests Sarah Langan, Lee Thomas, and Douglas Wynne

Here is the event page for Night Two on Facebook.

When the year grows old and December’s daylight departs too soon it is time to fill the dark nights with stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

Welcome to The New York Ghost Story Festival. An annual event of ghost story readings and discussion hosted by Daniel Braum. Featuring authors of the uncanny, strange and fantastic from New York and around the globe.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1995 — “Two Tales of Korval,” the very first stories in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Adventures in the Liaden Universe series was published by SR in a very limited sixty copies. There was two stories here, “To Cut an Edge” and “A Day at The Races”, plus “A Partial Liaden Glossary”.  More printings would follow. Both stories are in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 7, 1873 – Willa Cather.  A dozen stories for us, besides the work of her fame like O Pioneers!My ÁntoniaOne of Ours.  Pulitzer Prize.  Fellow, Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Nat’l Inst. Arts & Letters gold medal for fiction.  Nat’l Women’s Hall of Fame.  New York Writers Hall of Fame.  (Died 1947) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1886 – Heywood Broun.  Sportswriter, drama critic, columnist, editor; co-founded the Newspaper Guild.  One of the Algonquin Round Table.  Often wrote against racism, censorship, persecution of people for their beliefs. A novel and three shorter stories for us, much other work.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Let’s us praise her first for her Retro Hugo this year for Shadow Over Mars, originally published in the Fall 1944 issue of Startling Stories. Now surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she competed The Empire Strikes Back script just before she died.  Is that the actual shooting script? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1947 – Anne Fine, O.B.E., age 73. Three novels, four shorter stories for us; seventy children’s books, eight adults’.  Two Carnegie Medals, two Whitbread Awards, The GuardianAward.  Children’s Laureate (U.K., awarded every two years).  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 71. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli. (CE)
  • Born December 7, 1953 Madeleine E Robins, 67. I’m very fond of her Sarah Tolerance series which starts often Point of Honour, it features a female PI in an alternate version of Georgian London. The Stone War set in a post-apocalyptic NYC is quite interesting as well, and she has quite a bit short fiction, though only three have been collected so far in Luckstones: Three Tales of Meviel. Much of her fiction is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1957 – Terri Blackstock, age 63.  Six novels for us; forty others.  Carol Award.  Two NY Times best-sellers.  “I still print things out and mark all over the hard copies after each draft.  Under glass, I have pictures of my characters, with important stats about them, such as their ages, so I can refer to them often.”  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1973 Kelly Barnhill, 47. Her The Girl Who Drank the Moon novel was awarded the Newbery Medal and she was a McKnight Writing Fellow in Children’s Literature. Four years ago, her “Unlicensed Magician” novella received the World Fantasy Award for Long Fiction. Iron Hearted Violet was nominated as Andre Norton Award.  (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1980 – Satô Yûya, age 40.  (Surname first, Japanese style.)  Mishima Yukio Prize.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  “Same as Always” closes the just-released Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1984 – Walter Dinjos.  This just-emerging Nigerian had a dozen stories in e.g. Abyss & ApexBeneath Ceaseless SkiesGalaxy’s Edge.  (Died 2018) [JH]

(10) ROLLING ON THE RIVERS. You Rivers of London fans might want to know about Ben Aaronovitch’s Titan Comics series, the latest title being Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious. (Writers: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel. Artist: Lee Sullivan.)

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park. Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

They’ve also diagrammed where the comics fit into the overall series. (Click for slightly larger version.)

(11) PANDEMIC HEROES. “Real Nurses, Real Stories” describes The Vitals, a comic Marvel produced in collaboration with the Allegheny Health Network based on true stories of nurses fighting the pandemic. Read the comic here —  The Vitals: True Nurse Stories (2020). (I’ll start typing again in a moment, right now I have something in my eye…)

(12) ALIEN COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel Comics earlier announced plans for all-new comics set in the iconic world of the Alien franchise. The first of these will arrive March 2021 with ALIEN #1, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, art by Salvador Larroca, and cover by InHyuk Lee.

ALIEN #1 will be a thrilling addition to the incredible legacy that began with the groundbreaking 1979 film. Featuring both new and classic characters from Earth and beyond, this bold take on the Alien mythology will entertain both longtime fans and newcomers to the legendary horror/science-fiction saga.

The new story will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph with the survival of his child hanging in the balance.

(13) THE PLAY’S THE THING. File 770 contributor Francis Hamit’s stage play Memorial Day is now available for community and other theatre groups. See Stageplays.com. To read the opening scenes, click here.

Francis Hamit is the last guy you would expect to write an anti-war play.  He is an Army brat who served four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War and had a tour there himself.

“I mostly write about two things,” he says, “Soldiers and spies.  My background is in Military Intelligence and I try to stay current with how the American military has changed in the decades since the Vietnam War ended.  For many of those who were it there, it never did, because American society turned on us and blamed us for losing the war and every bad thing that happened there.  We were all accused of being drug addicts and war criminals, and that legacy has passed to subsequent generations of American soldiers.  Most Americans no longer know us, nor do they want to.  We are there on the front lines, but everyone else is at the Mall.”

MEMORIAL DAY is a two act, one set, seven character play set in a small town or city neighborhood someplace in the USA.  Anywhere between Alabama and Alaska.  One of the men was an Army Ranger on D-Day in World War Two.  Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”.  The others came later.  The bar is owned by a Vietnam veteran, a draftee who one day got into a situation that earned him the Medal of Honor.  He doesn’t know what to do with the fame that comes with that award, and resists efforts by other to exploit it.  He will not even march in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade.  Anyone who ever lived in a small town will find these folks relatable.

(14) A NIP HERE, A TUCK THERE. Peter Jackson didn’t pull a Lucas on Lord of the Rings, but here’s what did change: “Peter Jackson talks 4K remasters for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies” at SYFY Wire.

Peter Jackson recently revisited Middle-Earth to remaster his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies in 4K Ultra HD. The undertaking allowed the celebrated director to go back to the original films (for example, The Fellowship of the Ring turns 20?! next December) and update their visual effects with modern tools. But don’t worry, this isn’t a Star Wars Special Editions-type situation of a director going back in and adding a bunch of stuff that wasn’t there originally.

“Visual effects technology has advanced a lot in 20 years and when they became ultra-crisp and sharp with the 4K process, we realized that some of the shots were not holding up too well. So, we got the opportunity to go back and remove and paint out any imperfections,” Jackson explains in a new video posted by Warner Bros. “I should make it clear: we didn’t upgrade or enhance any of the effects shots. They’re exactly the same as you’re used to seeing them, except they do look as if they were done today rather than 20 years ago.”

In doing so, he was also able to make both trilogies feel like one seamless unit, despite the fact that The Hobbit adaptations were shot years later and at a much higher frame rate. “They now feel like it’s one big, long film, telling the same story and looking and sounding the same,” Jackson added.

(15) CELEBRITY TSUNDOKU. “Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas” according to the New York Times Book Review. Some of what she reads is sff!

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? 

Not enough folks know what a great book “Kindred,” by Octavia E. Butler, is. It’s kind of tricky to describe but somehow it all works — it’s about race relations and there’s time travel and romance. It’s powerful.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? 

I love historical fiction with a touch of romance — writers like Lee Smith or Diana Gabaldon. I avoid horror.

(16) WERE YOU INVITED TO THE FUNERAL? Colin Broadmoor claims “The Future Died in 1999” at Blood Knife.

The future died in 1999. Ever since, we’ve been trapped in the eternal present—waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For two decades, we’ve fought the same wars, watched the police murder the same people, voted for the same duopoly, and paid for the same IPs in books, movies, and video games. I’m typing this at the close of A.D. 2020—the year I waited for all my life, the way some Christians wait for the Second Coming.

2020, the year forever associated with media like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd ed., 1992). Each day I wake in 2020 and look around to see myself surrounded by the ash and shadows of the spent neon future of my youth.

For those of you who were not there or don’t remember, it’s difficult to explain the ways in which the 1990s were different from today. There are two key aspects of that final decade of the 20th century that you must keep in mind:

  1. It was the last decade in the West in which the analog took precedence over the digital in all fields.
  2. People felt as if we were witnessing the first rays of a 21st-century dawn, one that promised humanity better living through technology.

(17) A REASON FOR THIS SEASON. Several versions of this holiday tree decoration are for sale — no wonder! The 2020 LED Flickering Dumpster Fire.

[Thanks to Cliff, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, R.S. Benedict, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

40 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/7/20 When All You Have Is A Scroll, Everything Looks Like A Pixel

  1. (5) I read a few of Sidney J. van Scyoc’s works from the very early 1980s (in the early days of Asimov’s magazine) and didn’t realize for ages that her career had started much earlier than that.

  2. (1) I largely agree with Benedict re movies (even though I’m no horror fan), but books are another matter. For one thing, most of SF&F’s long heritage in and out of print can’t be turned into media mush. All a good novel has to do to avoid Disneyfication is to stay away from movie contracts. Hollywood has ruined far too many good books as it is.

    Producers of new works can avoid the problem of Big Media (which is allegedly running tentacles into Big Publishing) by using such modern outlets as small press, indie press, and self-publishing.

    In other words, if SF&F have become mainstream, stand aside from the mainstream and go your own way.

    I have a little nostalgia for what Disney was when I was a child, but nothing but contempt for Disney now–and even the original Walt Disney was capable of major moral foul-ups. It was he, more than anyone else, who whitewashed a certain SS bigshot named von Braun into being an American hero (see “The Rocket and the Reich” by Michael Neufeld). We already had a German rocket scientist in the U.S., but didn’t use him–Willy Ley, who fled Hitler’s Germany in 1934. It was Ley who taught von Braun what there was of rocket science prior to that date. Pardon me, but this is a topic I’ve been sore about for years, since I was brainwashed by the media whitewash about von Braun when I was a kid, around 1960.

  3. (8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY. The Liaden Universe series was nominated for a Hugo this year.

    It was on the longlist, not the shortlist.

  4. JJ says MEDIA ANNIVERSARY. The Liaden Universe series was nominated for a Hugo this year.

    It was on the longlist, not the shortlist.

    It doesn’t say it’s was on the shortlist. It was nominated by at least one individual this year.

  5. – Willa Cather. A dozen stories for us

    Wait, what? One of Nebraska’s most celebrated writers wrote sf? Tell me more!

    Err, tell me more, please.

  6. (2) My feeling is that they’re not “galactic aliens” we want to deal with – if they were, they’d have talked to Norway or Iceland. I suspect they’re more like the Klingons or the Romulans, hoping for us to kill ourselves off so they get a nice planet with a minimum of technologically-advanced natives.

  7. Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson says Just as there is no such place as Sidney, Australia.

    Over forty years ago when I was working for Uncle Sam in Sri Lanka, I got invited to the Australian High Commission there. One of the staff proudly showed off their booze supply for a month — a wine, beer and spirits allotment that was ten thousand dollars then or forty five thousand dollars now. It was of course all Aussie in origin. Lots of Fossie’s

  8. re: von Braun. Not everybody forgot who he’d been–Tom Lerher, for one:

    Don’t say that he’s hypocritical,
    Say rather that he’s apolitical.
    “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
    That’s not my department,” say Wernher von Braun.

  9. 4) Daniel, I really enjoyed Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders, so I’m adding this to my list as well.

    15) I love Dolly Parton. Certainly I’m not on her wavelength all of the time, but I always respect her and her work. (I was concerned about the title of this article, and the Fire in Her Pajamas.)

  10. (1) Oh ghu, the old “it’s popular, therefore it sucks!” nonsense! I get so tired of that!

    The fact is that we’re seeing SF movies and TV of a quality I absolutely couldn’t have imagined when I was young. Not to mention all the great books! Yes, there’s a lot more money involved–but does this guy think that “golden age” authors wrote just for fun? The creative types he claims are being harmed by this influx of rewards and adulation are, in fact, experiencing quite the opposite of harm, as far as I can tell. Is there more crap than ever being made? Yes, of course–Sturgeon’s Law still applies, and 90% of a lot is bigger than 90% of a little. But the converse is true–the 10% that’s good is larger than it’s ever been before!

    SF is mainstream. People like SF. That means more people want to make good SF! Some of them will fail, but enough will succeed to keep me quite happy!

    I’m reminded of the famous restaurant: “no one goes there any more–it’s too crowded!” 😀

  11. @Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson

    We already had a German rocket scientist in the U.S., but didn’t use him–Willy Ley,

    Ley was an important science writer and popularizer, and not so much of an engineer. An American space program built on his up-to-1934 experience would have been far inferior to the one that was built on von Braun’s up-to-1945 experience. What happened in Kummersdorf and Peenemünde was critical, and Ley missed it all.

    Credit to Ley for seeing National Socialism for what it was and bailing, but in terms of rocket engineering, there was no comparison between him and von Braun.

  12. Xtifr: (1) Oh ghu, the old “it’s popular, therefore it sucks!” nonsense! I get so tired of that! The fact is that we’re seeing SF movies and TV of a quality I absolutely couldn’t have imagined when I was young. Not to mention all the great books! Yes, there’s a lot more money involved – but does this guy think that “golden age” authors wrote just for fun? The creative types he claims are being harmed by this influx of rewards and adulation are, in fact, experiencing quite the opposite of harm, as far as I can tell. Is there more crap than ever being made? Yes, of course – Sturgeon’s Law still applies, and 90% of a lot is bigger than 90% of a little. But the converse is true – the 10% that’s good is larger than it’s ever been before! SF is mainstream. People like SF. That means more people want to make good SF! Some of them will fail, but enough will succeed to keep me quite happy!

    Just an FYI, R.S. Benedict is a woman (who happens to have a Master’s degree in Linguistics).

    While I agree with her that a significant amount of the the SF and fantasy coming out of the latest bandwagon is tripe, I also agree with you that it’s not all tripe (and a lot of the original “Golden Age” works were not actually golden). I’m not into horror at all. So I, too, am thankful for this “New Golden Age” of SF and fantasy.

  13. (9) One of Tom Waits’s odder genre movie roles is in the unfortunately titled Wristcutters, a low-budget adaptation of the Etgar Keret novella “Kneller’s Happy Campers”, where he plays a dubious commune leader in an absurdist afterlife. I preferred Asaf Hanuka’s comics adaptation Pizzeria Kamikaze over the movie, but Waits was well cast.

  14. @ Russell Letson – to be fair, there’s just as much hypocrisy on the part of the US government.

    Just the other day I heard something like ‘he aimed for the stars, he mostly hit London.’

    The awesome Gravity’s Rainbow has quite a lot to say about all of this. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

  15. (10) Peter Grant made Detective Inspector? Really? I know I’m behind on the novels, and massively behind on graphic novels, but I thought the last book I read he was still a constable. And from the diagram that appears to be only one novel back.

  16. @Russell Letson: In Poul Anderson’s “Operation Luna” (about an alternate universe Apollo program with an alternate universe von Braun) there’s a weird crack about Lehrer and that song (in the Anderson novel the von Braun character is an admirable visionary, and references to his past are uncouth, apparently).

    @Cliff: There was a movie about von Braun called “I Aim at the Stars” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Aim_at_the_Stars) – the bit about London was a natural subtitle for folks to propose.

  17. @1, Xtifr and JJ said it better than I could. Spare me from hipsters. Sure, there’s a lot of commercial dreck out there. There was commercial dreck in the Golden Age, too.

    There’s ALSO so much really fine, mind-bending, trope-subverting SF coming out right now that it’s a good thing my TBR stack is on a Kobo because if it were real, I’d be living like the protagonist’s grandmother in Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones (to bring it back around to horror).

  18. Pingback: 25th Anniversary of Two Tales of Korval

  19. @Bill:
    I agree that Ley alone could not have done it. HOWEVER, we also had, in Pasadena, Theodore von Karman, Frank Malina, Jack Parsons, and Tsien Hsue-Shen. Especially Tsien, who could have taken the place of von Braun as lead engineer and organizer. Instead, Tsien was hounded out of the country by the McCarthy gang. When he finally reached China, Chairman Mao welcomed him with open arms, putting him in charge of first, their atomic bomb program, and then, their space program. He would have remained ours, but for the goddamn red-baiters (who should have been awarded the Red Chinese equivalent of Hero of the Soviet Union for their services to Chairman Mao).

    What went on at Kummersdorf and Peenemunde could also have gone on at White Sands and Canaveral–indeed, a lot of it did. Much of our early success in space was based on Thor, Atlas, and Viking (the sounding rocket, not the Mars probe), none of which had anything to do with von Braun. Rocket companies like Aerojet General and Rocketdyne were outgrowths of von Karman’s operations in Pasadena, not von Braun’s.

  20. Meredith moment:

    The entire Inheritance trilogy by Jemisin is available at Amazon in omnibus form for a mere $2.99 today. Listed as, logically enough, “The Inheritance Trilogy”.

  21. @1: I only got through about half of Benedict’s piece so maybe I’m missing some great insight, but what I saw was pretty much the equivalent of saying in 1979: 1. I find disco and stadium rock boring, and they make a lot of money. 2. Punk rock is less boring to me, and makes less money. 3. This magic difference must be inherent to the style of music– it’s practically a law of nature! 4. So there will never be such a thing as punk-flavored music that’s derivative and popular and makes a lot of money.

    In hindsight it’s easy to see why that kind of logic doesn’t work; it’s mistaking contingent facts about a cultural moment for timeless artistic truths (conveniently in a direction that flatters the writer’s tastes).

    But you don’t even need hindsight in this case, because it’s demonstrably untrue right now that horror is a scrappy genre unfettered by the evils of the market. Studios are willing to take a chance on something like Hereditary not because they’ve got nothing to lose, but because a few horror properties have become lucrative hits which can be rehashed ad nauseam – The Conjuring, Saw, Final Destination, etc. – and also because there’s now a proven market for the more arthouse type of horror fare, and a little more willingness on the part of critics to give it a chance. Which is similarly a fact about current cultural and economic conditions, not a timeless proof of the worthiness of the genre. In earlier decades it would’ve been much harder for Aster or Eggers to find funding and a wide audience, but that doesn’t mean horror was a less worthy genre then. Nor will horror be any less of a worthy genre if the bottom drops out of this area of the film industry again in the future, as it could easily do.

  22. 2) I think the Europeans and the Indians have Mars orbiters now, so it’d be hard to hide a secret base there.

  23. Contrarius: The entire Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin is available at Amazon in omnibus form for a mere $2.99 today. Listed as, logically enough, “The Inheritance Trilogy”.

    I still absolutely rave about that trilogy. I highly recommend it. And this omnibus version includes the novella The Awakened Kingdom, which I have not yet gotten to read, and which itself costs $2.99 on Kindle, so it’s a great deal and I’m going to pick it up.

  24. Bill,
    The fact remains that, due to our leaders’ lack of moral fiber, our Moon program was ultimately built on the dead bodies of thousands of Jews and others in the Nordhausen/Mittelwerk concentration camp, where they were worked to death building V-2s. von Braun may not have been directly responsible, but it was his program. He at least should have spent a few years cooling his heels in Spandau Prison for it. He had feet of purest clay, and he fooled everyone, including me, when I was young. I hate his memory for the con job he pulled on all of us. I admire the Apollo Program in spite of him and the other Germans, not because of them.

  25. @Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson

    @Bill:
    I agree that Ley alone could not have done it. HOWEVER, we also had, in Pasadena, Theodore von Karman, Frank Malina, Jack Parsons, and Tsien Hsue-Shen. Especially Tsien, who could have taken the place of von Braun as lead engineer and organizer.

    Oh, please. The Galcit/JPL Californians didn’t have the technical expertise or experience to replace von Braun. They built JATO rockets, and had a design for 20-lb payload unguided subspace (40 miles up) sounding rocket at the end of the war; the Germans had fielded a SRBM that had gone into space (Karman line) and carried a full ton. They had solved aerodynamic, propulsion, and guidance problems that the Californians hadn’t. And personally, they weren’t up to the task either. Parsons was a nut who blew himself up. von Karman was a great theoretician, but there’s no reason to think he had the engineering skill set or management acumen of von Braun. Malina and Tsien were, if not full-blown communists, at least fellow travelers — but you think Tsien could have managed a major weapons program during the Cold War?

    In addition to technical/management skills, von Braun was a charming SOB who could schmooze Eisenhower and Kennedy and Congress for money and programmatic support — “No Bucks, No Buck Rogers.” Yes, Disney made him a TV star, but those young engineers you see in “Apollo 13” were kids watching those Disney TV shows a decade earlier — who do you think inspired them? VB developed two things in the 1950s that lead to Apollo 11: developed rockets, and developed public support. The latter may have been as important as the former.

    What went on at Kummersdorf and Peenemunde could also have gone on at White Sands and Canaveral–indeed, a lot of it did.

    It didn’t happen at White Sands until they were launching von Braun’s V2s, and it didn’t happen at Canaveral until vB’s man Kurt Debus was running the place, in 1952.

    Much of our early success in space was based on Thor, Atlas, and Viking (the sounding rocket, not the Mars probe),

    . . . the result of a political decision to hold back the rockets developed by the Army and vB’s crew in Huntsville, in favor of AF/Navy and civilian contractors. But when Vanguards kept blowing up on the pad, it was vB’s Jupiter that was pressed into service to launch Explorer 1, and it could have done so much earlier, beating Sputnik into space by years.

    none of which had anything to do with von Braun.

    ???
    Thor: Design studies by Adolf Thiel, formerly of Peenemuende
    Atlas: In 1951, Hans Friedrich Rudolf left vB’s group and joined Convair as head of control and dynamic analysis for the MX-1593 / Atlas missile.
    Viking: per wikipedia, “Milton Rosen, head of the Viking project, credits . . . the V-2 for the “profound influence” [it] had on the design of the rocket.”
    By the late 1950s, every U.S. missile and rocket program was shot through with German expertise and technology, and most of the major contractors had cherry picked vB’s senior staff for key roles. Rocketdyne, Lockheed, TRW, Raytheon, Pratt and Whitney, Aerojet, Curtis Wright, GE, Bell Aircraft — all hired former Peenemuenders.

  26. Re: your later post. Von Braun’s moral failings are a completely different subject. I was addressing only your comments that some of the rocket scientists who were active in the US during WW2 could have done the same thing for the U.S. space program that he did. That is simply not consistent with the historical record. VB was a unique individual.

    (And the regime that Tsien ended up embracing was just as bad as the Nazis. I don’t see how you can replace vB for his moral failings with Tsien without taking that into account.)

  27. @ Bill,
    Tsien was hounded out of the U.S. by Red-baiters. He’d already been of sterling service to us on the Manhattan Project, and hadn’t leaked any secrets of that–until after we expelled him to China. Had we kept him, he and his colleagues could have gotten us to the Moon. I see no reason why known Nazis (and in von Braun’s case, an SS bigshot at that) were preferable to Communist sympathizers.

    Wernher von Braun was a con artist, pure and simple. My contention is that we should have built our Moon program on a clean foundation, and that we had the ability to do it. The Soviets built their program entirely on home-grown talent; they made very little use of their few German rocket men, and sent them back to East Germany as quickly as possible. We could have done the same.

    For a long time, I drank the German rocket scientist Kool-Aid. It’s a wonder I didn’t die of it. No longer. I am tired of placing expediency before morals. To do so is to drive on the fast lane of the road to Hell.

  28. @Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson

    Tsien was hounded out of the U.S. by Red-baiters.

    Read the contemporary accounts. Tsien tried to ship nearly a ton of technical documents, some marked “Secret”, to China without the required State Dept reviews in violation of the Espionage Act. Another of the charges against him was that he was part of Communist Party meetings in the 1930s and had not disclosed that. Supporting this is the fact that Sidney Weinbaum hosted meetings at his house often in Pasadena in the late 1930s, that Tsien attended them regularly (Weinbaum was on of Tsien’s few friends). In 1950, at the same time Tsien had his deportation hearing, Weinbaum was convicted of perjury and fraud for hiding his party membership.

    Read Iris Chang’s biography of him. When he was formally accepted into the Chinese Communist Party in 1958, he said “I was so excited at becoming a party member that I could not fall asleep that night.” Chang said that “Tsien himself considered it the high point of his life.”

    Tsien was a fellow traveler during the 1930s, he tried to smuggle documents to China, and when he eventually did move there, he embraced Chinese Communism wholeheartedly. McCarthyism wrongly smeared a number of people, but it’s not obvious Tsien was one of them.

    He’d already been of sterling service to us on the Manhattan Project,

    Tsien did not participate in the Manhattan Project (don’t depend on wikipedia). He spent the war at JPL, and spent a little time in late 1944 and 1945 doing long range defense planning and exploiting captured German technology (including doing one of the first Allied interviews with our buddy von Braun). Nothing supporting the atomic bomb program. After the war, he applied for a clearance to support Manhattan District projects from MIT, but no one knows what came of that.

    Had we kept him, he and his colleagues could have gotten us to the Moon.

    Again, the record doesn’t support that. The JPL/Galcit team was in no way deep or broad enough to duplicate what vB and his group did. And when Tsien headed the Chinese program, there’s nothing in their minimal successes (based in a large part on technology passed on from the Soviets, and stolen from the U.S.) that suggests a Tsien-led program could have duplicated the U.S. effort. Yes, without vB and company, we could have had a space program, and it could have put a man on the moon. But it would have taken a decade or more longer to do so.

    in von Braun’s case, an SS bigshot

    Von Braun did join the SS, because he was told to by his management. He was “invited” by Himmler himself, an invitation he could not turn down. His boss Dornberger told him that he had to accept. He was not an “SS bigshot”, he participated in it at the minimum possible level, and there is nothing in the historical record to suggest otherwise. You mentioned Neufeld above. He is by far the most critical of vB’s biographers. In a speech in Huntsville in 1998, he said “I believe he did it reluctantly,” for the sake of “convenience” (this is documented in Bob Ward’s bio of vB; I was at the speech where Neufeld said this).

    I see no reason why known Nazis . . . were preferable to Communist sympathizers.

    They were preferable for purely practical reasons. If we did not accept them and use them, the Soviets would have, and we would have been facing Russian ICBMs in the late 1950s with nothing to oppose them. The first flag on the moon would have been a hammer and sickle. And the Cold War may well have had a different ending.

    The Soviets built their program entirely on home-grown talent;

    . . . and never got beyond LEO

    they made very little use of their few German rocket men,

    because their Germans were the B-list. Von Braun took all the real talent with him.

    One last thing about Tsien. In 1958, he wrote an article about agriculture (a subject in which he had no expertise at all) that had wildly optimistic statements about how much food could be produced on minimal land. Mao saw it and embraced it, and it was a significant influence in his Great Leap Forward policies — policies which lead to famines that killed 30 to 70 million people. Chang interviewed several people who, 40 years later, still blamed Tsien personally for these deaths. Tsien had far more blood on his hands than von Braun. So let’s not continue to suggest that he was in any way preferable to vB in a moral sense.

  29. @Bill

    OK, I concede re Tsien. But I’ll never concede on von Braun. I understand he had an SS civilian rank roughly equivalent to “colonel” or “lt.-colonel.” To me, that’s a bigshot. Had we simply grabbed up the V-2 parts and all the R&D docs from the German rocket program, left the vB team in West Germany, where the new local authorities could sort out their guilt or innocence, and done everything ourselves, we probably could have done the job anyway.

    According to Ley, the V-2 was a so-so sounding rocket. To begin with, it was unreliable as hell, at least as I read the tables at the end of Ley’s “Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel.” It also required a ton of payload in the nose to fly correctly–even back then, most experiments were a lot smaller than that. Unlike such rockets as Aerobee (developed in California by Aerojet General, a company that grew out of the GALCIT team), the V-2’s reliability suffered if launched later than around 72 hours after final assembly. V-2 airframes also often had a somewhat dinged-up appearance, mostly due to having been whacked out in a hurry by slave labor.

    I note that, when it looked like we would run out of captured V-2s, no one seriously considered tooling up an American factory to build new ones. Instead, we got the more useful (but no more reliable, alas) Viking, and the inexpensive Aerobee (whose uprated versions could match the V-2s altitude). Aerobee was much more reliable, too. Rocket designs based on Viking and Aerobee were used as the first two stages of Vanguard.

    I just do not see what was so magical about German rocket engineers, assuming we had their R&D and test docs to work from.

    I’ll reiterate that I am ashamed that I was taken in by von Braun’s media hype when I was a child.

  30. I’ll reiterate that I am ashamed that I was taken in by von Braun’s media hype when I was a child.

    That was obvious a number of posts ago.

  31. @Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson

    I understand he had an SS civilian rank roughly equivalent to “colonel” or “lt.-colonel.”

    At the end of the war, he was a Sturmbannführer, equivalent in rank to a Major. The only time anyone knows of him attempting to use his rank or his status in the SS was when he was bluffing his (and his group’s) way to the American forces at the end of the war, to surrender to them.

    left the vB team in West Germany, where the new local authorities could sort out their guilt or innocence,

    Are you not aware that Peenemuende was in East Germany, and that if we had left them, they would have been under Soviet control?

    The rocket scientists, and all the other several hundred German scientists and engineers brought over under Project Paperclip, were brought to America for two reasons: to get as much science and technology into Allied hands as possible, and to keep it and the scientists out of Soviet hands.

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