Snapshots 81

Here are 8 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Daniel Pinkwater became infamous among New York eighth graders for a statewide test question based on his story “The Hare and the Pineapple” –

I received this email from an eighth-grader: “Listen, I love your work, but seriously? Selling out to the state test?

“Also, before my class goes crazy, which was the wisest animal in ‘The Hare and the Pineapple’?”

You bet I sold out, I replied. Not to the Department of Education, but to the publisher of tests, useless programmed reading materials, and similar junk. All authors who are not Stephen King will sell permission to allow excerpts from their books to have all the pleasure edited out of them and used this way. You’d do the same thing if you were a writer, and didn’t know where your next pineapple was coming from.

(2) Sometimes it seems as if no amount of pineapples can reconcile a writer to people tinkering with his prose. Letters of Note shares Raymond Chandler’s poem mocking a copyeditor who dared make changes to his article for The Atlantic Monthly. An excerpt —

There ain’t no grammar that equals a hammer
To nail down a cut-rate wit.

And the verb ‘to be’ as employed by me
Is often and lightly split.

A lot of my style (so-called) is vile
For I learned to write in a bar.

(3) I see Nerdistnews (April 9 issue) has bestowed credit on an Anime conrunner for a rule actually originated by Bob Passovoy —

First and foremost, remember Anime Boston co-founder Patrick Delahanty‘s  5-2-1 Rule. Write it down, tattoo it backwards on your forehead, have it laser-engraved on your iPad – whatever it takes to make this one stick. Essentially, the rule breaks down to 5 hours of sleep per night, 2 solid meals per day and 1 shower per day minimum.

(4) Once upon a time Dan Curtis hyped his floundering soap opera by introducing a ghost. That worked so well he added a vampire.

In the context of late-’60s daytime drama these choices were, to put it mildly, counterintuitive. A few years later we would learn to call such desperate moves “jumping the shark,” but what “Dark Shadows” proved at the moment Barnabas’s cold, pale hand reached out of his coffin was that soap-opera narrative is in its essence an act of desperation, like the telling of bedtime stories by weary parents to wakeful kids: the stories just seem to go on and on and on, and the longer your audience stays with you, the more sharks, inevitably, will have to be jumped.

The critic doesn’t ask, but in the name of Campbellian logic I have to wonder – if they’d paired Fonzie with a vampiric girlfriend instead of sending him to Hawaii to jump that shark, would Happy Days still be on the air today?

Gernsback's Electricity monument

(5) Hugo Gernsback inspired a Smithsonian.com blogger with an idea he floated long ago in Science and Invention magazine:

In 1922, eccentric magazine publisher Hugo Gernsback decided that the world needed a 1,000-foot tall concrete monument to electricity. Gernsback imagined that this monument might last for thousands of years, and rather than some static behemoth stuck in time, the interior of his monument would be constantly changed to reflect the technological advances of each new generation.

If nothing else, the artwork for this giant alternator helped me visualize the power plants E. E. “Doc” Smith must have imagined were creating those coruscating beams of energy he wrote about in Skylark of Space and the Lensman Series.

(6) From now on science fiction fans need to speak about “rubber chicken” with greater respect. Until the U.S. resumes sending people into space it’s a rubber chicken named Camilla who’s patrolling the Final Frontier –

Last month, in the midst of the most intense solar radiation storm since 2003, a rubber chicken named Camilla reached heights unknown to her breed after high school students from Bishop, California, launched her to an altitude of 120,000 feet. Members of Bishop Union High School’s Earth to Sky student group had equipped Camilla with sensors to measure radiation as part of an astrobiology project. The March “reconaissance mission” will be followed by one in which the students launch a species of microbes to learn whether they can live “at the edge of space.”

(7) In the May issue of WIRED, says Martin Morse Wooster, Clive Thompson defends fan fiction writers as creating “paracosms — an activity that, research is showing, builds creative skills that pay off in real life.” He cites research by psychologists Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein where they surveyed MacArthur Fellows and found they were twice as likely to spend time building fantasy worlds as people who didn’t win “genius grants.”

Why would worldplay make you more creative in your career? Probably because, as the Root-Bernsteins point out, it requires practical creativity.  Fleshing out a universe demands not just imagination but an attention to detail, consistency, rule sets, and logic. You have to grapple with constraints — just as when you’re problem solving at work.

(8) Not long ago Andrew Porter joined the stfnal crowd at Katz’s Deli, just a few tables from “Where Harry Met Sally.” Joe Siclari, using David Hartwell’s camera, took their picture now posted on Kathryn Cramer’s Flickr site. Porter writes:

L to R: Andrew Porter, Moshe Feder, David Hartwell, Sweden’s John-Henri Holmberg… J-H was in town for the Mystery Writers of America awards (he lost, alas), and we’d had a few drinks earlier at a pub on First Avenue. I had the [lean] brisket, shared the fries with the others…

[Thanks for these links goes out to Willard Stone, Stu Hellinger, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter and Janice Gelb.]

Update 05/08/2012: Corrected attribution of sleep-meal-shower rule to Bob Passovoy per comment. While I heard the rule from Ross Pavlac, who was certainly one of its popularizers, it was the invention of another midwestern fan.

7 thoughts on “Snapshots 81

  1. Happy Days might not be on the air still, but perhaps Tim Burton would have made a multi-million dollar film starring Johnny Depp as The Fonz.

  2. Mike: Where did you get the idea my name has a hyphen in it? It doesn’t. Martin

  3. @Martin: Guess I had an extra rattling around in my job box that I wasn’t able to include in a previuous post about “Nielsen Hayden”. (Sorry about that!)

  4. Sorry about the first two efforts; I keep making typos and there ain’t no corflu for WordPress.

    I remember Dr. Bob enforcing that rule on the Dorsai Irregulars with military precision back at IguanaCon, as they were working with convention operations in some way — maybe guarding the art show? He had divided his crew into regular shifts, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.

    Also, evidently the Kathryn Cramer photo at the Katz deli contains Top Secret, For Your Eyes Only information, as when I tried to click your link I got a screen message beginning with the word “Blocked” and then on top of that it froze my computer and I had to reboot.

  5. “Also, evidently the Kathryn Cramer photo at the Katz deli contains Top Secret, For Your Eyes Only information, as when I tried to click your link I got a screen message beginning with the word “Blocked” and then on top of that it froze my computer and I had to reboot.”

    No problem here …. maybe your computer is trying to protect your eyes from seeing [REDACTED].

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