Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Spikecon Spoonfuls

By John Hertz:  Spikecon combined Westercon LXXII (regional) and the 13th NASFiC (North America S-F Con, since 1976 held when the Worldcon is off-continent – this year’s Worldcon was in Dublin, Republic of Ireland), plus a 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flynt’s 1632 series) and Manticon 2019 (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran Navy, i.e. Space navy).  This was a first.

Chair, Kate Hatcher; attendance, about 800; in the Art Show, sales about $20,000 by about 60 artists.

The Westercon and NASFiC each had Guests of Honor.  The Utah Fandom Organization (yes, that spells –) brought two more; eight other sponsors brought nine more.

It all happened at Layton, Utah, 4-7 July 2019, fifty miles from where the Final Spike was driven completing the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier.

Layton (population about 70,000) is twenty-five miles from Salt Lake City, where Westercon LXVII had been – the first in Utah.

We used the Davis County Conference Center and five hotels.

Studying available space I hadn’t seen anywhere to put a Fanzine Lounge.  Hatcher said “How about a fanzine party in the Hospitality Suite?”  With Hospitality Suite chief Dorothy Domitz’ agreement we settled – if that word may be used in fandom – on Friday night, 7-10 p.m.

Craig Glassner, who had hosted the Fanzine Lounge at the 76th Worldcon in 2018, was my co-host for the fanzine party.  We were both on-site by Wednesday and went shopping with Chris Olds the Party Maven.  I made a flier.

Also I was Chief Hall-Costume Judge.  Decades ago hall costume was settled for the costumes some people wear strolling the halls.  Marjii Ellers called them “daily wear from alternative worlds”.

Stage costumes are meant to be seen at a distance; hall costumes are meant to be met.  To acknowledge them a gang of judges prowls the con and, spotting a good one, awards a rosette on the spot.

The con had made disks with Spikecon – Hall Costume Award; while shopping I looked for lace, or like that, to go round them.  JoAnn Fabric & Crafts didn’t have spools enough in any appealing style, but on the way out I saw some red-white-and-blue-striped cake cups (for cupcakes, right?): it was the Independence Day weekend.  We got those.

Selina Phanara hadn’t anything ready to exhibit in the Art Show, but luckily I was able to borrow the Selina Phanara Sampler from fellow Phanara fans Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink & Jerome Scott, a vertically (“portrait”?) laid out banner with color reproductions and her name and E-mail address.  Art Show chief Bruce Miller proved to have space for it.

By Selina Phanara

Friday.  The first of three Classics of SF  discussions 

I led, on “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (which just won the Retrospective Hugo for Best Novelette of 1943), was at 12:45 p.m.  Regency dancing had to be at 3:15 – another time and space problem.  The Chesley Awards (by the Ass’n of SF Artists) and Art Show Reception were at 7.  So after “Mimsy” I hustled back to my room, changed, sauntered to the Conference Center for dancing – can’t hustle in Regency clothes – then met my fellow Art Show judges to decide and turn in the Art Show Awards before the Reception, then back to my room for conventional garments, and hustled to the Hospitality Suite where Glassner had started the fanzine party.

But we trespass upon chronology.

About “Mimsy”.  A.J. Budrys, one of our best authors and critics both, taught “Always ask, Why are they telling us this?”  Why do Kuttner & Moore tell us Jane Paradine, the children’s mother, is very pretty?  Remember a woman is co-writing; K&M always said that everything they published, under any name (they used many; “Mimsy” appeared as by Lewis Padgett), was by the two of them together.

Discussion considered Sexism? – or Mere sexism? (whatever that may mean, about which there was also talk) – or Sexism unconsciously or otherwise adopted by a 1943 woman?

Beyond or beneath or beside this we human beings are drawn to beauty; think not only of an attractive man or woman, but also “I saw young Harry … gallantly armed, / Rise from the ground … and vault … with such ease into his seat / As if an angel dropped down from the clouds, / To witch the world with noble horsemanship” (Henry IV Part 1, Act 4 scene 1).

At different points in “Mimsy” K&M invite us to feel for the parents – for the children.

Note also the sneaky ironic foreshadowing of “The only people who can understand philosophy are mature adults or kids like Emma and Scotty.”

Does Rex Holloway, the psychologist, help or  hurt?  Does Paradine suggest paradigm; does Holloway suggest hollow way?

Is “Mimsy” tragic – in the classical sense, grievous and revealed to result from a fault of the recipient even if – or because – that fault had been thought insignificant?  Why?

Why does the story end with the telephone ringing?  Who did K&M tell us is calling?  Why?

Since Unthahorsten is “a good many million years in the future”, what happens to Emma and Scotty?

About Regency dancing.  Maybe you already knew my article in Mimosa, or maybe you followed the link to it above.  I hold Jane Austen one of the greatest authors in the world, and yes, that means I rank her with Aeschylus, and Shakespeare, and Lady Murasaki.  But she – since I’m talking to SF fans here – is, like them, a Martian writing for other Martians.  She doesn’t explain.  Georgette Heyer, writing two centuries later, like an SF author introduces us to the world she portrays.  So it’s she I recommend, to start with anyhow; luckily she’s a superb author herself.

I’ve said Cross-cultural contact is homework for SF.  Mike Ford said history is our secret ingredient.  Theodore Sturgeon said science fiction is knowledge fiction.  Not all knowledge is data.  Some of it is doing.  I learn a lot from this hobby that grew out of a hobby.

The Hospitality Suite was in the Garden Inn, attached to the Conference Center, not in the Homes2 Suites across a driveway, which had been planned as the Party Hotel.  As it turned out, the Hospitality Suite could stay open until 2 a.m.; the Homes2 shut down parties at midnight.  Could that have been discovered in advance, maybe even worked around?  For ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain, our hotel negotiations are peculiar.

Glassner and I had each brought a handful of fanzines, some recent, some from years past.  People looked and talked.  I’d also printed the opening page of Bill Burns’ efanzines.com.  That gratified some, and was news to others.  Obviousness is relative.  After our three hours we donated what remained of our food and drink, also two little tables I’d bought to spread fanzines on.

The Hospitality Suite may be the best part of an SF convention.  You’re welcome whether you’re a fan or a pro or both; whether or not you’re in with some in-crowd.  Conversations happen.  You meet people you didn’t know you wanted to meet.

Sometimes it’s called the Con Suite because the con itself hosts it, unlike say a SFWA Suite (SF Writers of America).

In the Homes2 lobby later, half past midnight or maybe one, I found a surprisingly large crowd, and a spread of refreshments along a center table.  Thus I learned parties were being shut down.  People had gravitated, and brought leftovers.  It was Lobbycon.

Here I heard Match Game SF had been fun, as usual.  Of course it had to happen.  Kevin Standlee, his wife Lisa Hayes, and their friend Kuma Bear, were Westercon’s Fan Guests of Honor.  For a dozen years they’ve been mounting this adaptation of the oft-revived television panel-game.  At the Worldcon they’d be nose-deep in the Business Meeting, and like that; Spikecon was the moment.  Until they started this, who knew Standlee had a game-show host in him?  Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma are fen of many talents.  Hayes does the tech.  I think Kuma is the producer.

Rocket Ship “Galileo” at the crack of dawn, i.e. 10:15 a.m.  I was not alone in wanting to celebrate the Glorious 20th; the U.S. Postal Service had issued a stamp.

Two decades before humankind actually did it, Heinlein wrote this speculation.  It’s the first of his “juveniles” – they have young-adult protagonists – books which some of us think his best: they’re gems.

“Galileo” is reasonable science for 1947.  Heinlein said he’d only compressed the time and the number of people.  Note that it isn’t a rocket ship built in a back yard.

Look how he manages the characterization – sparely but tellingly.  The books on the shelf in the clubhouse – Ross Jenkins’ parents (the one-word utterance “Albert.” in Chapter 4!) – “Going to put her down on manual?” and what follows.  Look how characterization also advances the plot – like setting up Art’s speaking German.

The very points we might hang fire on are things Heinlein needs for what I’ve called the C.S. Lewis One-Strange rule: an extraordinary person in ordinary circumstances, or an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances.  Boys taking apart almost anything mechanical from alarm clocks to souped-up jalopies.  “Cigarette, Doctor?  Cigar?” These are verisimilitude at the time of writing.

Were you looking for the Heinlein Double Surprise – something strange happens, then something really strange happens?  There it is!

The Art Show tour I led was at 11:30.  I didn’t invent these tours, but I often arrange them, and usually lead one myself.  Why me?  When Kelly Freas first told a con to get me for one, I went to him.  He said, “You seem to be able to say what you see.”

I’ve never forgotten that.  When I’m arranging the tours it’s what I ask tour leaders to do.

I used to say “docent tours”.  Docent is the right word, but I found people didn’t know what it meant, and didn’t look it up, so it put them to sleep.

The Art Show was one of the strengths of Spikecon.

Here was Mark Roland, one of few who does etching; his “Persistence of Memory” won 1st Place Monochrome (if you follow the link, scroll down, 3rd image; you’ll see he says these are limited-edition fine art prints, hand-wiped and printed on rag paper in his studio).  

Here was Elizabeth Berrien, whose “Cloud Unicorn” in aluminum wire won Best 3-D; she has not exhibited with us for a while, being distracted with airports and hotel lobbies.  Her Website is worth a look. At a party, or a panel discussion, you’ll see her listening or contributing to the conversation, all the while twisting wire.  She must carry the whole in her mind, like Michelangelo saying “I just get a block of marble and chip away anything that doesn’t look like a Madonna and Child.”

Jessica Douglas’ “Ghost Leviathan”, worked up from the page into bas-relief with layers of color, and found objects, won 1st Place Color.  She has recently been at Orycons.

“Always” by Elizabeth Fellows won 2nd Place Monochrome.  Looking straight at it you saw vertical strands of dark yarn on a field of white.  Fellows didn’t, so the Art Show did, mount a sign Look at it sideways.  You then saw a face – which I think was Alan Rickman as Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies – but wasn’t his word “Forever”?  Where are my notes?

I was particularly glad Bjo Trimble, her husband John, and their daughter Kat, were at the con; as it turned out they were sponsored by Ctein (pronounced “k-TINE”; yes, that’s his full name; while we’re at it, there should be a circumflex over the in Bjo, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”).

John, Bjo, and Kat Trimble in the Art Show – Bjo’s panel at left, Kat’s at right.

In the photo you can see Bjo’s “Aslan” (from The Chronicles of Narnia), which won 3rd Place Monochrome, over her head. Kat’s “Mariposa” (which you can’t quite see in the photo) was a Judges’ Choice.

Ctein is one of few photographers in our Art Shows.  Photos are necessarily of things actually existent; what’s the SF element?  We get some neighbors, like astronomicals, or the spacecraft so far built; and indeed Ctein shoots them.  But his other pictures too have a quality of marvel.  The art of photography includes the mind of the artist.  Ctein being one of the judges, and also exhibiting, he insisted that nothing by a judge should get an award.

No picture-taking is our Art Show rule, but Jan Gephardt was allowed to shoot this panel of her own (you can just make out some of her paper sculptures at upper left).

Saturday night, the Masquerade.  Decades ago this was a dress-up party; it’s now a costume competition – with a stage, lights, and sound, if we can manage.  The Masquerade Director was Tanglwyst de Holloway; Master of Ceremonies, Orbit Brown; judges, Dragon Dronet, Theresa Halbert, Kitty Krell.

Entering as a Novice, and winning Best in Show – which is quite possible, I’ve been a judge at Worldcon Masquerades where we did that – was Hanna Swedin, “Snaptrap” (Re-Creation, from Five Nights at Freddy’s 3; Re-Creation entries are based on known images, Original entries are not; the Novice, Journeyman, and Master classes allow entrants to compete against others with their own level of experience if they wish, but anyone can “challenge up”, and experience isn’t everything).

Here’s Swedin with a stage helper so you can see the size of her entry, and here she is with the Snaptrap headpiece and her Best of Show rosette.

Sunday brought the Site-Selection results.  Columbus, Ohio, won unopposed for the 14th NASFiC in 2020 (the 78th Worldcon will be at Wellington, New Zealand, in 2020).  Tonopah, Nevada, beat Phoenix, Arizona, 82-51, for Westercon LXXIV in 2021 (Westercon LXXIII will be at Seattle, Washington, in 2020).  

This is a noteworthy outcome.  In contrast with Phoenix, Tonopah is an unincorporated town of population 2,600; no air, rail, intercity-bus service; it’s halfway between Reno and Las Vegas (each about 200 miles, 250 km, away).  Probably not even the best crystal-gazer would venture to say what lurks in the minds of fen, but “Why Tonopah?” from the bid committee to its parent organization, all explained again at Spikecon in conversation, bid parties, and the exercise we call the Fannish Inquisition, may be instructive.

A quarter to one p.m., October the First Is Too Late.  As always I asked who’d read it recently or had it fresh in mind, who even if having read it didn’t have it fresh in mind, who hadn’t read it, who hadn’t heard of it; most always there are some of each (hadn’t heard of it may prove to be but I hear these discussions are fun, which I’ll take).

By way of reminding people to look things up I pointed out that “bacon” for an Englishman is nearer to what United States people call “Canadian bacon” than to what U.S. people call “bacon”.  If this is what you’re living on while camping, it makes a difference.

What’s all the music for?  Is it mere window-dressing?  Well, it shows the mind of the narrator.  It sets up the exploration of art and technology, human and mechanical possibilities, with the future (though we must beware of that word with this book) keyboard instrument in Chapter 13.

And music, at least as we understand it, is about time, and time is the theme, the endoskeleton, of the book: one of the more brilliant observations I heard all weekend.

What about the framing story?  What about “someone, or something, was using the Sun as a giant signaling device”?  Does it tell us anything about the fourth-millennium people?  The narrative doesn’t take us to it again – or does it, in the last chapter, with “a higher level of perception than our own”?

Are we to be uncertain about the certain uncertainty of the people we meet at the end, like Sir Arthur Clarke’s “It is well to be skeptical [or as he spelled it, sceptical] even of skepticism”?

At Closing Ceremonies the joined Westercon and NASFiC had to disjoin.  When Kate Hatcher ended Spikecon, the Westercon gavel went to Sally Woehrle for Westercon LXXIII; but the NASFiC is an entity of the World Science Fiction Society, so the WSFS gavel went to a courier for the 77th Worldcon which would need it before the 14th NASFiC.

Luckily Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma were present, being Fan Guests of Honor for Westercon LXXII, and Linda Deneroff was present, being Fan Guest of Honor for the 13th NASFiC, all experienced in Business Meeting fandom, so we managed.

Afterward in the course of helping take down and clean up I found my roommate Kevin Rice carrying a box of leftover plastic train-whistles.  He’d made them by 3-dimensional printing, gosh: six inches long with two pipes, the top one marked “Spikecon 2019” and the bottom one “Layton, UT”.  They were in various colors.

I knew there would be a Dead Dog party (until the last dog is –), and separately a Dead Dog Filk, so that’s where I went with them.  More of the filkers being of the musical-instrument type, they took more.

And so home.

A Word to the Wise

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 12)  Indeed there was rejoicing on Friday 10 May at Promontory, Utah.

That’s 40 miles from Layton, site of this year’s combined Westercon LXII [West Coast Science Fantasy Conference – oh, all right, it’s been in Colorado and Texas, and Alberta] and 13th NASFiC [North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas] (also, for good measure, combined with the 1632 Minicon – Eric Flint’s 1632 shared-universe stories – and the Manticon – David Weber’s Honor Harrington stories with their Royal Manticoran Navy), to be held 4-7 July.

A hundred fifty years ago at Promontory, on May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven into the final rail-tie completing six and a half years’ work to create the Transcontinental Railroad.  Travel – of passengers or freight – from New York to San Francisco was shortened, not in space but in time, from six months to ten days.

So our convention will be Spikecon.

We s-f fans are to some extent students of technology.  Here was some.

Thousands attended the 150th-anniversary celebration, from 49 of the 50 States and from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Switzerland.

The Central Pacific railroad had built from the west, the Union Pacific from the east.  In a famous photograph – more technology – the Central’s steam engine No. 60 and the Union’s No. 119 met, cowcatcher to cowcatcher, two 60-ton machines great in their day, the Union’s burning coal, the Central’s burning wood.  They were represented on this anniversary by restorations.

Who first sang “Who built the Ark?”  I’ve traced it to 1892 and it was well known then (The Dental Register v. 46, p. 603).  Thousands of Chinese helped build the Transcontinental in the west, thousands of Irish in the east.

Daniel Mulhall, ambassador from the Republic of Ireland, was present for this 150th, and raised a toast.  The ambassador from the People’s Republic of China, whose name in courtesy to him I had better spell Cui Tiankai and not Ts‘ui T‘ian-k‘ai, said in a recorded message the Transcontinental was a “telling example of how the Chinese and American people can come together to get things done and make the impossible possible.” 

Elaine Chao, United States Secretary of Transportation and the first Chinese-American of Cabinet rank, said “The Central Pacific needed industrious, tireless workers, and Chinese answered the call with great skill and dedication.”  A multiracial theater troupe performed a musical retelling in the wrong kind of Chinese peasant hats.  Lance Fritz, head of the Union Pacific, which now hauls far more freight than passengers, said the railroad laborers, in 12-hour days and sometimes brutal conditions, changed America forever.

Herman Wouk (rhymes with “oak”; May 27, 1915 – May 17, 2019) died ten days short of his 104th birthday.  He became famous several times.

His first novel Aurora Dawn (1947) was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.  His third, The “Caine” Mutiny (1951), won the Pulitzer Prize, was adapted into a Broadway play The “Caine” Mutiny Court-Martial (1953) and a motion picture with Humphrey Bogart (E. Dmytryk dir. 1954).

His next, Marjorie Morningstar (1955), put him on the cover of Time magazine and was made into a movie with Gene Kelly (I. Rapp dir. 1958).  His sixth, Youngblood Hawke (1962), which he denied basing on Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), was serialized in McCall’s and made into a movie (D. Daves dir. 1964) with James Franciscus.

His eighth and ninth, The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978), were made into television mini-series (D. Curtis dir. 1983, Winds; 1988-89, Remembrance) with Robert Mitchum.

A Hole in Texas (2004) is science fiction; what if, years after U.S. President Clinton canceled the Superconducting Supercollider, the Chinese announced finding the Higgs boson?  In fact no one found it until 2012.

The inside jacket of Hole says Wouk “exercises his deep insight and considerable comic powers to give us a witty and keen satire – about Washington, the media, and science, and what happens when these three forces of American culture clash.”  That’s true.

Like a good satirist he is fundamentally concerned with human nature, our foibles and – Sarcasm is in anger, satire is with love – our fortes.  Like a good s-f writer he illuminates by means of possible, fictional, science.  He realizes, as Sturgeon said, that Science fiction is knowledge fiction.

Winds and Remembrance together are 1,800 pages.  Hole is 280.

A word to the wise is sufficient.  This is problematic for satirists.  What if people in the audience – including, perhaps, the satirized – aren’t very wise?

Lafferty made Thomas More (1478-1538) the eponym of his marvelous Past Master (1968).  Poor Sir Thomas, if one may use that expression, pulled five hundred years into the future, keeps crying “Utopia [1516] is a satire!”

We haven’t yet reached the setting of Past Master – and I certainly hope we shan’t – but fifty years after Past Master was published we still don’t see that about Utopia.

You may jib at Hole’s explanation, chapter 5, thinking “It would have been better if Wouk had read more s-f.”  You may dislike, as the book goes on, what seems to be increasingly fundamental masculine sexism.

Should those befall, you will be lucky if you remember the superb management of what characters and readers must know in Marjorie Morningstar, and the devastating treatment of masculine and feminine romantic sex fantasies there and in Youngblood Hawke.

Maybe you won’t.  Maybe you won’t have read them.  In that case, and if nothing else helps you first, wait till the end of Hole, when the bubble bursts, the man is crashingly shown not so smart, and – satire is with love – everything nevertheless comes right.

Marjorie Morningstar may be Wouk’s best.  It may be great.  I have yet to meet anyone who was awake to it – what’s the author’s name?? – but time may tell.

The National Book Foundation making it a finalist said Marjorie was “released from the social constraints of her traditional Jewish family, and thrown into the glorious, colorful world of theater….  [a] paean to youthful love and the bittersweet sorrow of a first heartbreak.”  O Sir Thomas!

Classics of Science Fiction at Spikecon

By John Hertz:  Spikecon, 4-7 July 2019, will combine two general-interest s-f conventions, Westercon LXXII (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference – oh, all right, it’s been in Colorado and Texas) and the 13th NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the World Science Fiction Convention is overseas), and two special-interest ones, 1632 Minicon and Manticon 2019.  There’s a big tent for us!  Or maybe a geodesic dome. Or a Dyson sphere.

The con is named in honor of the Golden Spike, the last spike driven to join the Central Pacific and Union Pacific creating the Transcontinental Railroad on 10 May 1869, just forty miles from the con site.

We’ll do three Classics of SF discussions, one story each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

I’m still with A classic is an artwork that survives its time; after the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen as worthwhile in itself.  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Here are our three.  I think each is interesting in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when originally published.

Kuttner & Moore, “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (1943)

The authors each said, after they married, anything under their names or their various pseudonyms was by both.  Decades later, Tim Powers is known for explaining the real – i.e. SF – reason for something in history; here’s the real – i.e. SF – reason for something in fantasy; yet even that’s hardly the greatest element.  The title alludes to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871), as we – maybe – eventually understand.

Heinlein, Rocket Ship “Galileo” (1947)

We’ve also come to the golden anniversary of the Glorious 20th, when humankind first set foot on the Moon.  Decades earlier came this speculation.  It isn’t, incidentally, a rocket ship built in a back yard; and as A.J. Budrys used to demand, it answers “Why are they telling us this?”  Nor are these pioneers the first – nor yet the second.

Hoyle, October the First Is Too Late (1966)

This first-rate astronomer – he was knighted six years later – also wrote SF.  In both fields he was famously willing to propose speculations far from others’.  In science one may someday be proved right or wrong; fiction doesn’t work that way.  We might say of this story It’s about time.  Only maybe it isn’t.  Maybe time isn’t.

Flint Won’t Make It To Balticon 51; Brust Added As Special Guest

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society announced that Balticon 51 Guest of Honor, Eric Flint, will not be able to travel to the con due to health constraints; he will, however, be attending some sessions via video teleconference.

Flint has been battling cancer, and opportunistic diseases such as pneumonia, which he discussed on Facebook.

Author and musician Steven Brust, the author of the Draegara fantasy novels, the Incrementalists secret-history series, To Reign In Hell, and Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grill will be coming to Balticon 51 as a Special Guest. A lot to look forward to — Brust’s resume reads: “I’m the author of twenty-six novels and one solo record. I’m an enthusiastic amateur drummer, guitarist, banjo player, and poker player.”

The 1632 MiniCon is still a go. While series creator Flint will be missing, all of the other contributors to the 1632 universe are still coming to Balticon 51, so the 1632 programming will carry on.

[Thanks to Dale Arnold for the story.]