Pixel Scroll 2/27/21 If Sharon Carter Became A Zombie, Would She Be Agent Rot-13?

(1) SIDEBAR. Cat Rambo has some of the most insightful comments yet offered about the harassment spawned by Jason Sanford’s report on Baen’s Bar, as well as Mercedes Lackey’s response to others’ claims made about her history with the Bar, in “Opinion: When Writers Punch – Up, Down, or Sideways” at The World Remains Mysterious.

… When a writer publicly calls someone out, they need to be aware of all of the implications, including the fact that the more popular the writer, the more devastating the results can be, not due to any intrinsic quality of the writer, but the number of fans. The more fans, the more likely it is that the group will contain people who, emboldened by the idea of pleasing a favorite writer, can — and will — go to lengths that go far beyond the norms of civil, and sometimes legal, behavior.

This played out recently with reactions to Jason Sanford’s piece on a specific forum within the Baen’s Bar discussion boards administered by Baen Publishing, which have included web posts doxxing Sanford and calling for complaints to be made to a lengthy list of people at Sanford’s placement of employment about the post he made on his free time on a platform that has nothing to do with his employment.

As I’ve said earlier, I have a great deal of respect for Baen and hope it emerges from this watershed moment in a way that suits the bigheartedness of its founder. But in the fray, a lot of writers have been egging their followers on to do shitty things in general, and what has emerged include the above specifics.

It’s not okay to point your readers at someone and basically say “make this person miserable.” It is okay to vote with one’s pocketbook. To not buy the books of people you don’t support. That is called a boycott, and it is an established tactic. (One of my consistent practices throughout the years, though, is to read a book by each one before I make that decision, so I know what I might be missing out on. So far, no regrets.) Going beyond that is, in my opinion, is the act of someone who’s gotten carried away and is no longer seeing their target as a fellow human being, and who needs to stop and think what they are doing….

(2) COMMENTING ON THE UNSTOPPABLE. Harper Campbell reviews Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead in “An Indigenous sci-fi moment” at The Ormsby Review.

…It really matters that so much space is being created by Native writers to tell Native sci-fi stories. Science fiction has seeped into the cultural subconscious of the world, providing our basic frame of reference for each successive wave of technological change. We understand that we have entered an age of technological modernity, and it isn’t enough to see the future as simply an extension of the past. Science fiction is what helps people all over the world make sense of a “normal” that is in perpetual change.

It is a serious shortcoming of science fiction, then, that it tends to gloss over colonialism and imperialism. The implicit view of most science fiction, after all, is one in which colonizers are the true vehicle of world-historical change. Science fiction is always saying — look how far we’ve come, look how much we’ve accomplished, see how unstoppable we’ve been. And what they mean is, look how unstoppable colonialism has been.

And like colonizers, the implicit perspective of science fiction tends to see the cosmos as a field of pure resource. The tendency is to insist that the earth, our beloved green and blue earth, is after all just one planet, theoretically interchangeable with any other that could support life. And why stick to just one planet? Like Cecil Rhodes, the arch-imperialist, sci-fi aspires to annex the stars.

So when an Indigenous writer starts to put down the first words of a science fiction story, they must already be grappling with nothing less than the significance of the history of the world and what it will mean for the future. They must wrestle with the cosmic dimension of colonialism from the other side, from a perspective that could never say “Look how unstoppable we’ve been.”

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released today, the latest in a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives (and the second presented by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, as part of its work on Learning Futures and Principled Innovation.) Leigh Alexander’s short story “The Void” at Slate begins –

Five things you can touch, whispers Rose, and I touch: duvet, her hand, my own hair, the rough plaster of the wall, and my device. It wakes up, a rectangle of soft light in our dark bedroom.

Four things you can hear, she says, and I listen for the tap-tap of water from somewhere in the kitchen, the rhythm of a neighbor’s music through the floor, the rustling of bedsheets and my pounding heart.

Then Andrea Thomer, an expert on information science, provides a response essay: “Leigh Alexander’s “The Void” and information overload”.

In grad school, I remember reading about—or at least, I think I remember reading about—a new browser plug-in designed to capture your internet click trails for later re-searching. The promo materials visualized this as a beautiful network of interconnected websites, making it possible to refind any page, article, recipe, meme etc. I am easily distracted and spend approximately 18 hours a day on the internet, so this sounded like a dream come true: Never again would I waste time retracing my digital steps to find something vaguely remembered reading but neglected to bookmark! I signed up to beta test this tool immediately. Or at least I think I did. I never heard anything about this widget again, and my attempts to remember its name have all been in vain. I’ve searched through my email, browser history, Twitter likes: nothing. I may have imagined this thing. Looking for it made me feel like a character in a Borges story: wandering the library stacks in search for the one book that will tell me what stacks I’ve already been in….

On Thursday, March 4, at noon Eastern, author Leigh Alexander and Andrea K. Thomer, information scientist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, will discuss this story in an hourlong online discussion moderated by Punya Mishra, professor and associate dean of scholarship and innovation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. RSVP here.

(4) THE NEXT GRANTVILLE GAZETTE. On March 1, 2021, 1632 Inc. will release Issue 94, March 2021 of The Grantville Gazette at www.grantvillegazette.com.

The Gazette is a SFWA-approved venue for professional writers, and pays professional rates. The Gazette is published every other month, and has been published since 2007. It is available in several different electronic editions, including Kindle, ePub, PDF, and more. It can be downloaded directly from the Gazette website, or from our distributor, Baen.com.

This issue features works by best-selling authors Virginia DeMarce, Iver P. Cooper, and Edward M. Lerner, as well as columns by Kristine Katherine Rusch and Walt Boyes.

Edited by Walt Boyes, with Bjorn Hasseler as managing editor, and Garrett Vance as Art Director, the Gazette offers fiction and fact, both from the 1632Universe and from the UniverseAnnex, which is designed to provide a venue for general SFF.

More than 160 authors have had their first professional sale to The Grantville Gazette, through the medium of critique and workshops, both for 1632 fiction and general SF. Some of these authors have gone on to successful careers as writing professionals.

(5) LAPL FUNDRAISER. Charles Yu will be one of the Honorary Chairs for “The Stay Home and Read a Book Ball” on March 7, hosted by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

WHEN:
Anytime, and for as long as you choose to celebrate on Sunday, March 7, 2021.

WHERE:
Stay safe and read in the comfort of your home, bed, or even in the bathtub! Or mask up and go for a walk with an audiobook from the Library!

HOW:
Choose a book (or many!) and let the pages transport you! Have a ball while reading at home, and show your support for the Los Angeles Public Library by donating what you would have spent at an annual gala or a night out.

Share photos of your literary festivities on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tell us what you’ll be reading – tag #StayHomeandRead to let others know how you are celebrating!

ATTIRE:
Choose formal or warm and fuzzy – anything goes when you’re having a ball at home.

FOOD & DRINK:
Feast on lobster and champagne, milk and cookies, or wine and cheese.

Kindly RSVP by visiting LFLA.org/StayHome, or text the word LIBRARY to 41444.

(6) SMALL TOWN, GREAT RESOURCE. The Middletown Public Library, a small town library outside of Harrisburg PA, is associated with the Science Fiction Book Club on Facebook. In 2017 the library’s Director, John Grayshaw, started reaching out to sci-fi authors and doing Q&As with them. There are now over 60 Science Fiction Author Interviews in the archives with many well-known writers including Lois McMaster Bujold, Samuel R. Delany, and Robert J. Sawyer.

The latest addition is the interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky:  

Bryan Stewart: I’m curious what’s your favorite answer to the Fermi Paradox? Do you think we’ll make first contact in our lifetimes?

[AT] I have become more pessimistic about this as I’ve got older (and the personal element of that ‘in our lifetimes’ necessarily becomes shorter). I do believe life is common in the universe, but the universe is very big so that can still produce colossal, uncrossable vistas between any two species that might appreciate each other’s’ existence. On a bad day I feel that a sufficiently advanced civilization is likely to destroy itself rather like we’re in the process of doing ourselves. On a good day I suspect that our attempts to find life are predicated far too much on that life being like us, and that we may simply not be sifting unusual alien signals from the background hiss, or may be looking in the wrong place.

(7) YOU’VE READ HER. Jonathan Lethem tells Literary Hub “Why Shirley Jackson is a Reader’s Writer”.

Ten and twenty years ago I used to play a minor parlor trick; I wonder if it would still work. When asked my favorite writer, I’d say “Shirley Jackson,” counting on most questioners to say they’d never heard of her. At that I’d reply, with as much smugness as I could muster: “You’ve read her.” When my interlocutor expressed skepticism, I’d describe “The Lottery”—still the most widely anthologized American short story of all time, I’d bet, and certainly the most controversial, and censored, story ever to debut in The New Yorker—counting seconds to the inevitable widening of my victim’s eyes: they’d not only read it, they could never forget it. I’d then happily take credit as a mind reader, though the trick was too easy by far. I don’t think it ever failed.

Jackson is one of American ?ction’s impossible presences, too material to be called a phantom in literature’s house, too in-print to be “rediscovered,” yet hidden in plain sight….

(8) FANCASTS TO CONSIDER. Cora Buhlert has expanded her Fanzine Spotlight project to fancasts, of which these are the latest entries. She says, “I’m really enjoying this project, though it has upset my Hugo ballot, because there are so many great podcasts out there I never knew about.”

Tell us about your broadcast.

The Journey Show is an outgrowth of Galactic Journey, our time machine to 55 years ago in fact and fiction. That site has been around since 1958…er…2013, and the conceit is that we are all fans living in the past, day by day, reviewing all the works of the time in the context of their time.

Tell us about your podcast or YouTube channel.

On our podcast we like to explore how narrative helps people to envision and achieve a better future. In turn, we like to talk to writers, editors, activists, gamers, and anyone else who helps us imagine those worlds. We consider our podcast to be linked thematically with HopePunk. Our interpretation of HopePunk takes a stance of hope through resistance to the current norms. Emphasis on the PUNK. Any given podcast discussion can range from a specific novel or story, to a guest’s career, politics, religion, music, writing tips, and ttrpgs. Guests often include editors, traditionally published writers, and Indie writers.

Some other previous guests have included folks like Bill Campbell, Tobias Buckell, Malka Older, P. Djeli Clark, and James Morrow, Janet Forbes (founder of the world building platform World Anvil), and Graeme Barber (writer and ttrpg critic).

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

[Alasdair Stuart] I had it gently and affectionately pointed out to me that there was no reason not to. I’d had a lot of frustrations with freelance projects at that point (multiple projects paid years late, another company going insolvent, etc). So one day I made a joke about what my newsletter would be and 50 ‘I’d read that’ emails later I realised I had an audience if I wanted to do it. And I did. I took Matt Wallace’s words about building your own platform to heart and started building mine.

Sisters Alice Baker and Ann Spangler have set themselves the goal of reading and discussing all Hugo and Nebula winning novels.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Alice: For me, it was because I was looking for a way to connect with my sister who I do not often get to see in person. We both have a love of the genre (although Ann likes Fantasy more), and since we were going to be discussing it anyway, I thought we should record them. I have some previous experience on the Educating Geeks podcast. Also, I find it difficult to read for hours like I used so I am trying to retrain myself.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Way back in 2014, Andi was live-tweeting her first time through Star Trek, Grace was podcasting on All Things Trek, Jarrah was blogging at Trekkie Feminist, and Sue was podcasting and blogging at Anomaly Podcast. At different points in time, Andi, Jarrah, and Sue had all been guests with Grace on All Things Trek on TrekRadio – sometimes with each other, sometimes individually. Having been connected through podcasting, and with that show coming to a close, Andi proposed that we start our own. After much planning, Women at Warp launched as an independent podcast in 2015.

(9) PREPARING FOR THE APOCALYPSE. RS Benedict theorizes about the state of genre film in “Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny” at Blood Knife.

When Paul Verhoeven adapted Starship Troopers in the late 1990s, did he know he was predicting the future? The endless desert war, the ubiquity of military propaganda, a cheerful face shouting victory as more and more bodies pile up?

But the scene that left perhaps the greatest impact on the minds of Nineties kids—and the scene that anticipated our current cinematic age the best—does not feature bugs or guns. It is, of course, the shower scene, in which our heroic servicemen and -women enjoy a communal grooming ritual.

On the surface, it is idyllic: racial harmony, gender equality, unity behind a common goal—and firm, perky asses and tits.

And then the characters speak. The topic of conversation? Military service, of course. One joined for the sake of her political career. Another joined in the hopes of receiving her breeding license. Another talks about how badly he wants to kill the enemy. No one looks at each other. No one flirts.

A room full of beautiful, bare bodies, and everyone is only horny for war.

… This cinematic trend reflects the culture around it. Even before the pandemic hit, Millennials and Zoomers were less sexually active than the generation before them. Maybe we’re too anxious about the Apocalypse; maybe we’re too broke to go out; maybe having to live with roommates or our parents makes it a little awkward to bring a partner home; maybe there are chemicals in the environment screwing up our hormones; maybe we don’t know how to navigate human sexuality outside of rape culture; maybe being raised on the message that our bodies are a nation-ending menace has dampened our enthusiasm for physical pleasure. 

Eating disorders have steadily increased, though. We are still getting our bodies ready to fight The Enemy, and since we are at war with an abstract concept, the enemy is invisible and ethereal. To defeat it, our bodies must lose solidity as well….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 27, 1994 — On this date in 1994, the TekWar episode TekLab first aired. Though created by William Shatner, it was actually ghost-written by writer Ron Goulart. This extended episode was directed by Timothy Bondoff the the story by Westbrook Claridge which was developed into a teleplay by? Chris Haddock. As always the lead character was Jake Cardigan played by Greg Evigan, and yes, Shatner was in the series as Walter Bascom. Torri Higginson, of later Stargate fame, got her start on this series. The series doesn’t far well with the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes where it currently has a dismal thirty six percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 27, 1807 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Taught at Bowdoin and Harvard.  First American translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy; better known to many for “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Hiawatha, whose accessibility had better not blind the thoughtful.  Book-length poems, novels, plays, anthologies, a dozen volumes of poetry.  “What a writer asks of readers is not so much to like as to listen.”  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1850 – Laura Richards.  Ninety books addressed to children; fifty stories ours, at least (what should count can be unclear with “children’s”).  LR’s mother Julia Ward Howe wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; 1917 Pulitzer Prize for biography of JWH by LR & sister Maud Howe Elliott “assisted by [sister] Florence Howe Hall”.  LR also wrote biographies of Abigail Adams, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc; 5 others.  Maybe best known for “Eletelephony”.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not at all familiar with. So what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 61. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. He’s won a very impressive eleven Harvey Awards and ten Eisner Awards! (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1945 – Hank Davis, age 76.  Nine short stories in e.g. AnalogF&SF, not counting one for The Last Dangerous Visions.  A dozen anthologies.  Correspondent of SF CommentarySF Review.  Served in the Army in Vietnam.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1951 – Mark Harrison, age 70.  Two hundred sixty covers, fifty interiors.  British SF Ass’n Award.  Here is The Story of the Stone.  Here is Valentine Pontifex.  Here is the Mar 93 Asimov’s.  Here is the Mar 95 Analog.  Here is Mercury.  Artbook, Dreamlands.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 57. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser which turns only such role. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series with over two dozen appearances, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon as he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex  Nolan. (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1970 – Michael A. Burstein, age 51.  Twoscore short stories.  Served a term as SFWA Secretary (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America), simultaneously Vice-President of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n).  Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  President, Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet.  Fanzine (with wife Nomi Burstein), Burstzine.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 45. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5). (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1993 – Ellen Curtis, age 28.  Three novels (with Matthew LeDrew), three shorter stories; four anthologies (with Erin Vance).  Has read The Essential Calvin and HobbesThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Castle of OtrantoThe Name of the Rose, a Complete Stories & Poems of Lewis CarrollGrimms’ Fairy TalesHans Andersen’s Fairy Tales.  [JH]

(12) REDISCOVERING ‘UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY’. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looking back on the final voyage of the original Star Trek crew, Escapist scribe Darren Mooney makes a compelling argument for the subtext of the movie. He reads the movie as a rejection of nostalgia, and the need to hear new voices within genre fiction. It’s an article that’s relevant to several of fandom’s ongoing internecine struggles: “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Rejected Franchise Nostalgia in a Way Impossible Today” at Escapist Magazine.

…Three decades later, it’s impossible to imagine a major franchise demonstrating this level of introspection without provoking a fandom civil war. The Undiscovered Country provides a contrast with films like The Rise of Skywalker, in that The Undiscovered Country is about an older generation learning that they need to step aside and make room for those that will follow, while The Rise of Skywalker is about how the older generation is never too old for a joyride in the Millennium Falcon….

(13) SLIPPED DISC. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Talking of mysterious bronze age artefacts, here is an article about the archeological dispute involving the famous Nebra sky disc:  “Archaeologists Are Caught Up in an Intense Fight Over Just How Important the Mysterious Nebra Sky Disk Really Is” at Artnet News. Even if the sky disc is not as old as previously assumed, it is still an intensely cool artefact. I was lucky enough to see it in person a few years ago, since I have family in Halle/Saale, the town where it’s kept.

  … In September, Rupert Gebhard, director of the Munich’s Bavarian State Archaeological Collection, and Rüdiger Krause, an early European history professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt, published a paper in the German journal Archäologische Informationen arguing that the artifact—which features images of the sun, the moon, and the Pleiades star cluster—is not the remarkable earliest-known depiction of astronomical phenomena that it had been heralded as.

“It’s a very emotional object,” Gebhard told the New York Times. He believes that the looters who discovered the disk before it was recovered in 2002 moved it from its original site and reburied it with real Bronze Age artifacts to make it appear older and more valuable.

Now, a competing paper put forth by experts including Harald Meller, director of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany, which owns the disk, has fired back….

(14) ALL THAT ROT. Here’s an interesting article about cryptography for everyday use in the 17th century: “Beyond Espionage: Cryptography for Everyday Use in 17th Century England” at Criminal Element.

 Cryptography in seventeenth-century England was not just the stuff of spies and traitors, a fact that became a major plot point in The Sign of the Gallows, my fifth Lucy Campion historical mystery. While ciphers had grown more complex between the 16th and 17th centuries with the development of new mathematics, the actual practice of secret and hidden writing occurred in different domains of everyday life. Merchants might send messages about when and where shipments might occur out of fear of theft. Leaders of non-conformist religious sects like the Quakers might communicate with their followers in code, informing them of their next meeting. Friends and merry-makers might write riddles and jests using ciphers to entertain one another, in a type of pre-parlor game. Lovers, especially those unacknowledged couples, might write amorous messages that could not be read if discovered by jealous husbands or angry parents….

(15) WRITERS’ BLOCK. Mental Floss knows fans will enjoy these “8 Facts About ‘Attack the Block’”.

5. PLACES IN THE ATTACK THE BLOCK ARE NAMED AFTER FAMOUS BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS.

The movie takes place in a fictional neighborhood. The main council block in the film is called Wyndham Tower in honor of John Wyndham, the English science fiction writer famous for novels such as The Day of the Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). Other locations include Huxley Court (Aldous Huxley), Wells Court (H.G. Wells), Moore Court (Alan Moore), Ballard Street (J.G. Ballard), and Adams Street (Douglas Adams). Just after the movie title appears, the camera pans across a map of the area, showing the various names.

(16) WORSE THAN THE DIET OF WORMS. Antonio Ferme, in “George A. Romero’s Lost Movie ‘The Amusement Park’ Comes to Shudder” at Variety, says that Shudder will show Romero’s 1973 film The Amusement Park which was believed lost until it was found and restored in 2018.  The film was commissioned by the Lutheran Society to showcase problems of elder abuse but suppressed because the Lutherans thought it was too gory.

… “Amusement Park” stars Lincoln Maazel as an elderly man who finds himself increasingly disoriented and isolated during a visit to the amusement park. What he initially assumed would be an ordinary day quickly turned into a hellish nightmare filled with roller coasters and chaotic crowds….

(17) NOTHING SECEDES LIKE SUCCESS. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri interviews residents of Potatopia about their threat to secede if Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head became gender-neutral. “Opinion | An oral history of the Mr. Potato Head secession”.

… Helen Helenson, first applicant for asylum in Potatopia: The minutes when I thought I would have to look at a brownish plastic oval and not clearly know what gender it was were some of the most frightening of my life. I started to sob. I thought, what will they come for next? Soon I won’t know what gender any of the plastics are around my home….

(18) STREAMLINED FELINE. Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski sounds quite revolted by the whole idea: “Meet Flatcat, the Creepiest Robot We’ve Ever Seen”. Question: is the writer aware of that term’s sf roots? He doesn’t acknowledge them in the article.

…To make Flatcat more endearing so people will actually want to touch and interact with it, its creators at a Berlin-based robotics startup called Jetpack Cognition Lab have wrapped it in soft, fluffy fur so that it looks more like a cat—or at least a cat that somehow survived repeated run-ins with a semi-truck. In reality, Flatcat is more like like a ThiccFurrySnake, or maybe a FlattenedCaterpillar. Calling it a cat is certainly a stretch….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “That Mitchell and Webb Look–Holmes And Watson” on YouTube, British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb play two actors who keep fighting over who gets to play Holmes and who gets to play Watson.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Kurt Schiller, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Walt Boyes, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Walt Boyes on the Consequences of Taking Down Baen’s Bar

[Editor’s Introduction: Walt Boyes, Editor, the Grantville Gazette and Editor in Chief, Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press, emailed this letter of comment on February 17. I did not realize it was intended for publication until I saw his comment on Eric Flint’s Facebook page. Here it is:]   


Walt Boyes: I regret that Jason Sanford says he is being harassed. Nobody should do that, under any provocation.

However, one thing I believe that Jason Sanford did wrong is to lump all the conferences on Baen’s Bar together.

As Eric Flint noted, the conferences he oversees (oversaw) are heavily moderated (I am one of them, though not a Bar Moderator) and we do not allow the kinds of behavior that Mr. Sanford reports. I don’t go to Politics or Blazes because I know what’s there. Do not want to do that.

But since Mr. Sanford decided to throw the baby out with the bath water, Science Fiction has (at least temporarily,I hope) lost a very important resource. The1632Tech and 1632Slush conferences and the UniverseSlush conferences have provided a great resource to beginning (or otherwise) writers. We have been doing this for over 20 years. We critique and workshop beginning writers’ work, and at the end of the process, often buy the stories for the Grantville Gazette (www.Grantvillegazette.com). These stories can be in the 1632Universe, or just really good science fiction or fantasy, because we kept the Baen’s Universe crit group going, and we publish one or two stories from there every issue.

These conferences have produced millions of published words, paid at SFWA professional rates (currently $0.08/word) and at least one Nebula nominated author (Kari English). Over 150 authors have made their first professional sale through those conferences. Several have become NYT and Amazon Best Sellers.

There is no politics in these conferences. There is no violence or discussion of violence other than as it relates to the 1632 series.

So, because Mr Sanford didn’t do all the research that an investigative reporter should (I too am a member of SPJ and have done investigative reporting for decades), our writers who were working on their stories, as they have done for 20 years, are now out in the cold.  We have even, at least temporarily, lost the archives of the conferences, which are irreplaceable. Instead of editing the 94th issue of the Gazette, I am now trying to save the conferences we have used to create it.

I am not saying that Mr. Sanford did the right thing, or the wrong thing. But actions have consequences, and what he has done has challenged the careers of many beginning writers, because he didn’t ask anybody who knew anything what was going on.

Best regards,

Walt Boyes, Editor, the Grantville Gazette; Editor in Chief, Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press


Pixel Scroll 12/26/20 Wenn Ist Das Pixel Git Und Slotermayer? Nein! Beiherhund Die Oder Das Flipperwald Gescrollt!

(1) THE DEAD BODY PROBLEM. Lin Qi, producer of the upcoming Three-Body Problem adaptation, has died following an alleged poisoning by a colleague:  “Lin Qi, Yoozoo CEO and Producer on Netflix’s ‘Three-Body Problem,’ Dies at 39” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Lin Qi, the chairman and CEO of Yoozoo Group who was hospitalized after having been poisoned on Dec. 16, has died. The Chinese company confirmed that Lin died on Christmas Day. He was 39.

On Wednesday evening in China, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau had announced that Lin was receiving treatment after being poisoned and that a Yoozoo coworker of Lin’s, surnamed Xu, had been apprehended amid an investigation.

The statement read: “At 5 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2020, the police received a call from a hospital regarding a patient surnamed Lin. During the patient’s treatment, the hospital said it had determined that the patient had been poisoned. Following the call, the police began an investigation. According to investigations on site and further interviews, the police found that a suspect surnamed Xu, who is a coworker of the victim Lin, was the most likely the perpetrator. The suspect Xu has been arrested and investigations continue.”

The Hollywood Reporter reported that local media have said a dispute among the Chinese entertainment company’s executive ranks preceded the assault on Lin, which was allegedly carried out via a cup of poisoned pu-erh tea.

(2) A PIXAR FIRST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Kemp Powers, a Black co-writer of Soul, who explains how his experiences helped ensure that the African-American experiences portrayed in the film were authentic. “Kemp Powers of ‘Soul’: His long journey to becoming Pixar’s first Black writer-director”.

The geniuses at Pixar had a problem, and this time, they would need to look beyond the walls of their esteemed studio for help.

The movie in question was “Soul,” a tuneful jazz tale that somehow didn’t quite swing. Rather ironically, the movie’s main character was lacking in texture and truth and, well, any depth of soul. What to do about a lead role that, in the words of Pixar chief and “Soul” director Pete Docter, “was kind of an empty shell”?The call went out to Kemp Powers, a rising playwright and “Star Trek: Discovery” TV writer who headed to Pixar’s Bay Area headquarters with much more than notes. He had a lifetime of relevant insights.

The character in question was Joe Gardner, Pixar’s first leading Black character and the heart of “Soul,” which will be released on Disney Plus on Christmas Day after bypassing domestic theaters because of the pandemic. Powers will compete against himself that day when the film adaptation of his play “One Night in Miami,” directed by Regina King, will land in theaters (ahead of its Jan. 15 release on Amazon Prime)….… And Daveed Diggs, who voices Joe’s trash-talking rival Paul, says Powers brought a humanity and a fearlessness to the tale. “There’s a strength and level of conviction in the storytelling,” says Diggs, no easy task because with its supernatural spaces and existential themes, “Soul” is “a weird movie.”

(3) CONTINUE CELEBRATING. Filer Cora Buhlert has assembled “A Holiday Story Bonanza” in her newly-released book A Christmas Collection. Full details and options to purchase in various formats at the link.

Romance, cozy fantasy, murder mysteries, pulp thrillers, science fiction, horror and humor – we have all that and more.

  • Watch young people find love in the pre-holiday shopping rush at Hickory Ridge Mall, at a Christmas tree lot, on the parking lot of a shuttered outlet mall and at the one bar in town that’s open on Christmas Eve.
  • Experience Christmas in Hallowind Cove, the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town, where strange things keep happening.
  • Watch as Santa’s various helpers unite to depose him.
  • Follow Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team as they investigate the death of a robber dressed as Santa Claus as well as a wave of thefts at a Christmas market.
  • Meet Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp author by day and the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer by night, as he fights to save an orphanage from demolition in Depression era New York City.
  • Watch Alfred and Bertha, an ordinary married couple, as they decorate the Christmas tree and live their marvellous twenty-first century life.
  • Experience Christmas on the space colony of Iago Prime as well as after the end of the world.

Enjoy thirteen novellas, novelettes and short stories in six genres. This is a collection of 118000 words or approx. 390 print pages.

(4) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. [Item by Francis Hamit.] The CASE Act, the legislation creating a Copyright Small Claims Court, is becoming law as a part of that massive stimulus bill passed by Congress.  I am taking a victory lap on this one.  You may recall I was quite active in the early part of this century on Copyright matters, including prosecuting two lawsuits for infringements of magazine articles by database firms.  I spent thousands of dollars for filing and legal fees over four years and came out ahead, but dropped four other suits because they would cost more than the maximum possible cash reward.  There had to be a better way, I thought, and came up with the idea of a Copyright Small Claims Court, which was published in the September/October 2006 issue of The Columbia Journalism Review. [File 770 previously mentioned Hamit’s advocacy of the idea in 2011: “A Future for Small Copyright Claims?”] So it is done, and small individual creators have a path to legal recourse that wasn’t there before.  Very gratifying.  Those who would like to thank me can buy one of my books or stories on Amazon,com  (Reviews are appreciated too).  I have a stage play at Stageplays,com which I’m trying to get produced.  I may add others soon.  Donations are accepted on Paypal at francishamit@earthlink.net.  I’m not a crusader, just a businessman.  Support allows me to create new work.

(5) EYES ON THE PRIZE. At the risk of turning into a platform that mainly steers its audience to Camestros Felapton (oops, too late!), there are some good things there this weekend:

…Yet not unlike DC’s Shazam! film , WW84 form offers charm and its apparent naivety at least avoids the dourness of the Snyder films or broader cynicism…

(6) WWDC. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins, who explains the reason the film is set in Washington in the 1980s is because it reflects Jenkins’s experiences.  For example, there are sequences at the Hirshhorn Museum because Jenkins was an art student there in 1987. “How Patty Jenkins turned ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ into a personal Washington story”.

“First of all, where would Diana go?” Jenkins says of the Amazonian warrior from the isle paradise of Themyscira, who headed to World War I’s European theater in “Wonder Woman.” “She would go to the heart and center of where power is.”

Once Jenkins and co-writer Geoff Johns were settled on setting, the director plunged deep into her own memories of Washington, where she often visited before moving to the area as a teenager in 1987, staying for a bit over a year.

“The style of D.C. is so wonderful” for Wonder Woman, says Jenkins, who shot numerous scenes on the Mall, in Georgetown and in Northern Virginia. “Having her live at the Watergate, the modernity of it, cut against the Reflecting Pool and the Hirshhorn — it just felt elegant and beautiful and intellectual and pop at the same time.”

(7) NPR’S BOOKS OF THE YEAR. [Item by Contrarius.] NPR’s Best Books Of 2020  is out. The sff included on the list are mostly the usual suspects for this year. Sadly, The Vanished Birds isn’t on it. Interestingly, the new translation of Beowulf is.

Click this link to go direct to the list’s Sci Fi, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction section.

(8) EVANS OBIT. 1632universe author Kevin H. Evans died on December 23 announced Eric Flint on Facebook. Evans often wrote in collaboration with his wife, Karen, who survives him.

Evans also was known as Sir Thorgeirr in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • December 26, 1954 — On this day in 1954, the very last episode of The Shadow radio serial aired.  This was the program’s 665th installment and its twenty-first season. The serial first appeared on the air on Sept 26, 1937 with Orson Welles as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow and Agnes Moorehead as Margo Lane. It would end its run with Bret Morrison, who took over the lead roles from season twelve onward, and Gertrude Warner, who was Margo Lane from season thirteen onward. The final episode was “Murder by the Sea” which unfortunately is lost to us as the tape was not kept. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 26, 1842 – Laura Gonzenbach.  German-Swiss of Sicily.  Collected Sicilian fairy tales; her two volumes among few major collections by a woman. Beautiful Angiola (2004) has the title story and sixty more in English.  (Died 1878) [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1903 Elisha Cook Jr. On the Trek side, he shows up as playing lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the “Court Martial” episode. Elsewhere he had long association with the genre starting with Voodoo Island and including House on a Haunted HillRosemary’s BabyWild Wild West, The Night Stalker and Twilight Zone. (Died 1995.) (CE) 

  • Born December 26, 1938 – John Kahionhes Fadden, age 82.  (Kahionhes “Long River” is his Mohawk name; he’s Turtle, his mother’s clan.)  Maintains the Six Nations Indian Museum (i.e. the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy; see e.g. the 2010 U.S. dollar coin; Haudenosaunee on it is “People of the Long House”, the Iroquois) started by his parents.  Four covers for us; here is Native American Animal Stories.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1942 – Catherine Coulter, age 78.  Six novels, four shorter stories for us; ninety books all told, many NY Times Best-Sellers.  Historical romances (“I love in particular Georgette Heyer, a British author who actually invented the Regency Romance – an extraordinary talent”), suspense thrillers (“at least six times as many loose ends that I have to keep searching out and tying up, and they always seem to multiply”).  Advice, “READ TO YOUR CHILDREN.”  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1951 – Priscilla Olson, F.N., age 69.  Chaired Boskone 29, 38, 42, 48; introduced Featured Filker.  Ran Programming at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Introductions & essays in NESFA Press books An Ornament to His ProfessionCybele, Rings (Charles Harness); Ingathering (Zenna Henderson); Far From This EarthFrom Other Shores (Chad Oliver); Once More With Footnotes (Sir Terry Pratchett); also “…And What We Think It Means”, ConJose Souvenir Book (60th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 34, Windycon 33.  [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1953 T. Jefferson Parker, 67. Author of the rather excellent Charlie Hood mystery series which ISFDB claims is paranormal. Huh. He’s one of the very few writers to win three Edgars. (CE) 
  • Born December 26, 1953 Clayton Emery, 67. Somewhere there’s a bookstore that consists of nothing but the franchise novel and collections that exist within a given franchise. No original fiction what-so-ever. This author has novels in the Forgotten Realms, Shadow WorldThe Burning GoddessCity of Assassins, The Secret World of Alex MackMagic: The Gathering and Runesworld franchises, plus several genre works including surprisingly Tales of Robin Hood on Baen Books. Must not be your granddaddy’s Hood. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1960 Temuera Morrison, 60. Ahhhh clones.  In Attack of the Clones, he plays Jango Fett and a whole bunch of his clone troopers, and in Revenge of the Sith, he came back in the guise of Commander Cody. He goes on to play him in the second season of The Mandalorian.  Crossing over, he plays Arthur Curry’s father Thomas in Aquaman. (CE) 
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 59. Yes, the daughter of that actress. She’s in both Cocoon films as well in Sleeping BeautyBlack Light and Johnny 2.0 which she’s in might qualify as genre in the way some horror does. She stopped acting twenty years ago. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1968 – Julia Elliott, Ph.D., age 52.  Jaffe Foundation award.  Amazon Shared-Worlds Residency.  A novel (“loopy lyricism … whacked out paranoia … joyous farce”, NY Times Book Review) and a dozen shorter stories.  Teaches at Univ. S. Carolina (Columbia). [JH]
  • Born December 26, 1970 Danielle Cormack, 50. If it’s fantasy and it was produced in New Zealand, she might have been in it. She was in Xena and Hercules as Ephiny on recurring role, Hercules again as Lady Marie DeValle,in Jack of All Trades, one of Kage Baker’s favorite series because, well, Bruce Campbell was the lead. She was Raina in a recurring role, and Samsara on Xena in another one-off and Margaret Sparrow in Perfect Creature, an alternate universe horror film. (CE)
  • Born December 26, 1983 – Nicholas Smith, age 37.  Thirty novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Ironman tri-athlete.  NY Times and USA Today Best-Seller.  Has read Custer Died for Your Sins and The Hobbit.  “I only leave positive reviews…. If I don’t like a book [and] don’t finish it … I don’t trash it because who knows what I missed.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows how Santa anticipated the current surveillance society.

(12) PLAY IT AGAIN. Nerdist would like to convince you “Why LEGENDS OF TOMORROW Is Perfect for 2020 and 2021”.

…It’s not the writing, acting, special effects, or deus ex furby plot twists that make Legends worth a (re)watch these days. While the show found its niche in a careful balance of absurdity with genuine tension (case in point: season four, episode 13, which simultaneously featured an Indiana Jones-esque plot to keep a dragon egg away from Nazis, a book club gone wrong, and a surprise attendee at a romance novel convention; we cannot make this stuff up), it’s the surprising attention to character development and the ongoing themes of hopefulness, redemption, and growth in the face of trauma and loneliness that sets Legends apart.

(13) REVISITING LEMURIA. A news story I couldn’t link here because it’s member-locked turned out not to be all that new – except to me, and perhaps you, too. Here are three updates that appeared between 2015-2018.

Erin Ehmke on hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur:

It could be an internal genetic trigger for hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur. Since we share genetic code with the federal dwarf lemur, [the medical community is interested in understanding if] we have that same intrinsic trigger that could be tapped into for long term coma patients to prevent the cell breakdown – deep space travel, could we somehow trigger hibernation in astronauts to help get to deep space travel.

… Those lemurs could hold the key to faster recovery times from injuries and even deep space travel because of hundreds of species of primates, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur is the closest genetic cousin to humans that can hibernate.

“That suspended animation doesn’t occur in primates very often,” explained Duke Lemur Center veterinarian Bobby Schopler. “These are relatives of ours that do this, and it’s a fascinating aspect.”

Scientists have been studying the primates in their natural habitat for 48 years at the Duke Lemur Center. Duke researchers want to find out how some of the lemurs can regulate body temperature, store massive amounts of energy and sleep for 7 months at a time.

… Interest in suspended animation, the ability to set biological processes on hold, peaked in the 1950s as Nasa poured money into biological research. The hope was that sleeping your way to the stars would mean spacecraft could carry far less food, water and oxygen, making long-haul flights to distant planets more practical. It would also save astronauts from years of deep-space boredom.

Nasa’s interest died at the end of the space race, but Mr Vyazovskiy and his team of researchers at the University of Oxford are now exploring ways to put astronauts into stasis, using knowledge gained from mammals, including bears and dwarf lemurs.

(14) PRESERVED IN PUMICE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Archeologists have discovered a 2000-year-old street food stall in Pompeii, complete with illustrations of the food (or rather the animals that provide the food) on offer. I’m amazed how modern the whole thing looks. I can imagine this stall setting up shop at our annual autumn fair without raising any eyebrows: “Pompeii: Ancient snack stall uncovered by archaeologists” at CNN.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Contrarius, Francis Hamit, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Wright.]

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.]