Cats Sleep on SFF: The Martian Named Smith

Chris M. Barkley adds a volume to our feline library —

My cat, MissJackson, was named by my daughter Laura and given to me a newly weaned kitten more than ten years ago.

As you can see, she is a book hoarder and on the lookout for anyone trying to swipe her stash…


Photos of other cats resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 11/17/18 You Can Hear The Pixels Scroll One Hundred Files

(1) THE NEXT DAY. That’s got to smart. No sooner did Arisia announce its move to the Boston Park than the strike that forced the change came to an end. Boston’s CBS affiliate reports “Marriott Hotel Workers In Boston Reach Deal To End Strike”.

The union representing them, Unite Here Local 26, confirmed Saturday they “reached a tentative agreement” on a new contract. A few hours later, a ratification vote at Hynes Convention Center officially ended the strike.

“We can confirm we have a tentative agreement. We look forward to welcoming our associates back to work,” a Marriott International spokesperson said in an e-mail.

(2) WFC 2019 FALLOUT. Adam-Troy Castro is arguing that critics of Robert Silverberg, in trouble for his disdainful remark about N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo acceptance speech, should pull their punches:

This is how much a racially charged statement can affect status: the World Fantasy Convention is making public apologies for, among other things, inviting Robert Silverberg. Close to seventy years a fixture of the field, hundreds of novels and nonfiction books and short stories, an influence and footprint that cannot be denied; really, a giant, or the word “giant” doesn’t mean anything and never has. (DYING INSIDE, alone.) And now he’s in danger of having this become his entire legacy in eyes of the next generation, and…damn.

I understand why people are mad at him. I really do. I believe they should be. I am, whether you believe me or not….

… I have given the only reply that makes sense to me: that someday, your splendid, woke, brilliantly sensitive perfect generation will have this happen to you too. The attitudes you think natural will seem neanderthalic to those who come after you. The icons of your current cultural starscape will someday be torn down, for missteps or beliefs central to their work. Maybe it should happen, but when it does happen, it will hurt and you will protest and you will be condemned for any affection you still possess for those figures.

However, in Marta Randall’s comment there (screencapped by rcade), she casts doubt on this being a one-time lapse.

(3) NOT SO BAD. Today’s the 40th anniversary of the airing of one of TV’s negative icons – but The Hollywood Reporter had nice things to say about it at the time: “‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’: THR’s 1978 Review”.

If the prospect of a two-hour Star Wars Holiday Special conjured up visions of “May the force be with you” repeated ad nauseam in your head, this show on CBS was a welcome surprise….

For the most part the special was [an] inventive diversion that stood on its own merits.

(4) INFO DUMPSTER FIRE. Slate’s Dan Kois isn’t nearly as forgiving of this movie’s flaws s other critics: “The New Fantastic Beasts Is So Bad It Actually Makes the Other Books and Movies Worse”.

…Instead of building upon the story, characters, and conflicts that Fantastic Beasts torturously established, The Crimes of Grindelwald layers on further exposition and introduces yet more new characters. Even a character I thought was safely dead is once again alive! Remember poor Credence (Ezra Miller), the moody teen who sometimes turns into a screaming cloud of smoke? I swear he got disintegrated in the New York City subway at the end of the previous movie, but now here he is moping around Paris rooftops, trying to find his mom. In my opinion he should chill out; he’s got cheekbones to die for and a hot girlfriend who’s also a huge snake, which seems like a scenario out of any goth teen’s dreams….

(5) NO WRITER, NO SERIES. Funny how that works. Knock-on effects of Chuck Wendig’s exit from Marvel are still happening. Gizmodo’s io9 says that “Marvel Comics Scraps New Darth Vader Series After Chuck Wendig’s Controversial Exit”.

Almost a month and a half after it was first announced at New York Comic-Con, Marvel has pulled the plug on its latest Star Wars miniseries, Shadow of Vader, bringing an awkward end to the saga the publisher created by booting writer Chuck Wendig from the book in the first place.

Wendig made waves last month when he explained in a lengthy series of tweets that he had been fired from the Shadow of Vader title—at that point mere days after the series had been publicly unveiled—with the writer pinning the reasoning as allegedly down to an editor citing Wendig’s coarse language on social media, combined with the writer’s discussion of U.S. politics online. When initially asked, a Marvel Comics representative would not confirm why Wendig was suddenly off the book. It was the latest in a line of recent incidents in the pop culture space over hollow calls for civil discourse in the wake of targeted campaigns of harassment.

(6) IN TIMES TO COME. Congratulations to WIndycon 2019’s guests!

Windycon 46 will be held November 15-17 in Westin Lombard, IL. The guests are:

Author GoH: Elizabeth Moon
Artist GoH: Mitchell Bentley
Fan GoH: Chris Barkley
Toastmistress: Lee Martindale

Next year’s theme is “Space Opera”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 – Raymond F. Jones, Writer who is best remembered for his novel This Island Earth, which was made into a movie which was then skewered in Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. However, he produced a significant number of science fiction novels and short stories which were published in magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy, including “Rat Race” and “Correspondence Course”, which respectively earned Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1925 – Rock Hudson, Oscar-nominated Actor whose best-known genre role was in The Martian Chronicles miniseries; he also played the President in the alt-history miniseries World War III. Other roles included The Golden Blade, based on a One Thousand and One Nights folktale; Embryo, about artificial gestational chambers in a much less benign scenario than Bujold’s; and Seconds, about transplanting the minds of wealthy elderly people into fresh young bodies. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 17, 1931 – Dennis McHaney, Writer and Critic. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who, between 1974 and 2008, published The Howard Review and The Robert E. Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did, as he created reference works such as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket Checklist, Robert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk, and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing entries such as Frazetta Trading Cards, The Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine, and The Films of Steve Reeves. Fascinating… (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1944 – Danny DeVito, 74, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer whose best-known genre role was as The Penguin in Batman Returns (for which he received a Saturn nomination), but he also had roles in Matilda (which he directed, and which was based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name), Mars Attacks!, Men in Black, Big Fish, Junior, and the black comedy cult film Death to Smoochy, about an anthropomorphic character actor, which JJ thought was hilarious. He provided the voice for the credential detective Whiskers in Last Action Hero, as well as for characters in Look Who’s Talking Now, Space Jam, the My Little Pony movie, Hercules, The Lorax, Animal Crackers, and the forthcoming Dumbo.
  • Born November 17, 1966 – Ed Brubaker, 52, Writer and Artist of comic boooks and graphic novels. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives, I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The Authority, Batman, Captain America, Daredevil, Catwoman, and The Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was Gotham Central. It’s Gotham largely without Batman, but with the villains, so the Gotham Police Department has to deal with them by themselves; grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Saturn-winning Westworld series, where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan. He’s had numerous nominations and wins for Harvey and Eisner Awards, as well as a Stoker nomination for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel.
  • Born November 17, 1971 – David Ramsey, 47, Actor and Martial Artist, who is best known for his role in the the Arrowverse (Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow) as John Diggle/Spartan, but he also had roles in The Nutty Professor and the pandemic film Fatal Contact, and has appeared in episodes of Ghost Whisperer, Space: Above and Beyond, Journeyman, and Charmed.
  • Born November 17, 1978 – Tom Ellis, 40, Actor from Wales who is currently playing Lucifer Morningstar in the Lucifer TV series based on the character from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. It’s quite good. He’s also had roles in Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time, Messiah, The Strain, and Merlin.
  • Born November 17, 1978 – Rachel McAdams, 40, Oscar-nominated Actor from Canada who played the titular character in the The Time Traveler’s Wife, a film based on the Clarke- and Campbell-nominated novel of the same name, which she followed up genre-wise by earning Saturn nominations for playing Irene Adler in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films and the terrorists’ target in the creepy Red Eye. She also had lead roles in Dr. Strange, Midnight in Paris, and another time-travel movie, About Time. Her sole series work is apparently in an episode of Earth: Final Conflict, and she had a voice role as The Mother in an animated version of The Little Prince.
  • Born November 17, 1983 – Christopher Paolini, 35, Writer known for the Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, the first of which was made into a Saturn-nominated film and a videogame of the same name. In December of this year, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, will be published.

(8) BY BIRTHDAY CANDLELIGHT. Rich Horton, in “Birthday Review: Stories of Raymond F. Jones”, gives reasons that name should not be forgotten.

Raymond F. Jones would have been 103 today. He’s not much remembered these days, but he was an interesting writer of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. His career continued into the 1970s — his last story appeared in Ted White’s Fantastic in 1978.  In his memory I’ve compiled this set of reviews of his stories, that I wrote based on reading several old magazines in my collection.

(9) TRIMBLES TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. Bjo and John Trimble responded on Facebook to Steve Davidson withdrawing Amazing Stories sponsorship of their GoH expenses at the 2019 NASFiC after they decided to continue as Arisia 2019 GoHs.

This is Steve Davidson’s reaction to our decision to attend Arisia. He makes some assumptions that we don’t agree with, but we’re not about to get into a “he said” “they said” conversation here. Suffice it to say that we feel strongly that Arisia is making an attempt to deal with their former transgressions, including offering space at the 2019 con to discuss this with people willing to do so. We look forward to that meeting. It may be a worthwhile contribution to something that has not yet been openly addressed in fandom.

(10) JOURNEY PLANET CALLING. Chuck Serface says the Journey Planet theme issue he’s working on is  looking for contributors:

A reminder to all that Christopher J Garcia and I are co-editing an issue of Journey Planet dedicated to Silicon Valley. We’re looking for articles, creative writing, and art based on anything related to this part of the world — technology, history, the arts, cultures, peoples, politics, stories, poetry, whatever strikes your interest. Our deadline for submissions is December 10, 2018, and we’ll get the issue out before the end of the calendar year. Send your entries to ceserface@gmail.com!

(11) ACE SEXTET. That’s what you get when Galactic Journey reviews three fresh-off-the-shelf (in 1963) Ace Doubles. In the first book, Leigh Brackett is on one side, and on the other –

Legend of Lost Earth, by G. McDonald Wallis

It’s common practice in SFF for women to initialize their first names (or flat-out take on male pseudonyms).  I have been told vociferously by one of my readers that this practice has nothing to do with any bias against women in the genre; nevertheless, it is puzzling that men don’t seem to do it.  In any event, the “G.” stands for Geraldine, and this is her second Ace Double, the first being The Light of Lilith, which I have not read.

(12) SUBSTANDARD COMPENSATION FOR SUBWAY ARTISTS. The ghost of Harlan Ellison was invoked by Toronto columnist Cliff Goldstein in “Drawing the line on a sketchy TTC ad campaign”.

I was on the subway recently, enjoying some of the lovely art created by local artists as part of the TTC’s Sketching The Line campaign. Curious to find out if the artists were paid for their contributions, I submitted a query through the artintransit.ca website listed on the posters and got a timely answer from Antonina MacDonald, sponsorships and events specialist for Pattison, the outdoor advertising giant.

“They are not compensated… in the form of money. It [compensation] is provided in the form of exposure on our subways and buses.”

This was not the answer I had expected from Canada’s largest outdoor advertising company that’s part of an international corporation with 39,000 employees worldwide and annual sales that have grown to $8.4 billion annually.

…One of my favourite authors, Harlan Ellison, said it best in the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth: there is no value in publicity for starving artists.

(13) WRITE MYSELF A LETTER. Cool idea — “Shrinking Swiss glacier hosts world’s largest postcard”.

Laid out on the shrinking Aletsch Glacier, this huge mosaic is actually made from 125,000 drawings and messages about climate change.

They measure 2,500 sq m (26,910 sq ft), and were created by children from all over the world.

“WE ARE THE FUTURE GIVE US A CHANCE,” urged one poster, standing out against the snow.

Seen from above, the whole picture read: “STOP GLOBAL WARMING #1.5 DEGREES C”

(14) HWA YA. The Horror Writers Association announced the Table of Contents for its next anthology for young readers, New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark edited by Jonathan Maberry

Contents:
1. “The Funeral Portrait” by Laurent Linn
2. “The Carved Bear” by Brendan Reichs
3. “Don’t You See the Cat?” by Gaby Triana
4. “The Golden Peacock” by Alethea Kontis
5. “Strange Music” by Joanna Parypinski
6. “Copy and Paste Kill” by Barry Lyga
7. “The House on the Hill” by Micol Ostow
8. “Jingle Jangle: by Kim Ventrella
9. “The Knock-Knock Man” by Brenna Yovanoff
10. “The Weeping Woman” by Courtney Alameda
11. “The Neighbor” by Amy Lukavics
12. “Tag, You’re It” by Nancy Lambert
13. “The Painted Skin” by Jamie Ford
14. “Lost to the World” by John Dixon
15. “The Bargain” by Aric Cushing
16. “Lint Trap” by Jonathan Auxier
17. “Cries of the Cat” by Josh Malerman
18. “The Open Window” by Christopher Golden
19. “The Skelly Horse by Trisha Wooldridge
20. “The Umbrella Man by Gary N. Braunbeck
21. “The Green Grabber” by D.J. MacHale
22. “Brain Spiders” by Luis Alberto Urrea and Rosario Urrea
23. “Hachishakusama” by Catherine Jordan
24. “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” by Margaret Stohl
25. “In Stitches” by Michael Northrop
26. “The Bottle Tree” by Kami Garcia
27. “The Ghost in Sam’s Closet: by R. L. Stine
28. “Rap Tap” by Sherrilyn Kenyon
29. “The Garage” by Tananarive Due
30. “Don’t Go into the Pumpkin Patch at Night” by Sheri White
31. “Pretty Girls Make Graves” by Tonya Hurley
32. “Whistle Past the Graveyard” by Zac Brewer
33. Title TBD by James A. Moore
34. “Mud” by Linda Addison
35. “The Tall Ones” by Madeleine Roux

(15) CALLING SANTA. Congratulations to Juniper Books for finding a way to make Harry Potter even more expensive to buy! These Harry Potter Sets in a luxurious traveling case sell for $275.

(16) A KIND OF SHREK QUILT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Movie remakes, right? Gotta love ‘em, right? (Or maybe I was looking for a different word.) Well, apparently someone loves them; about 200 someones in the case of Shrek Retold—a retelling of the first movie by a large group of artists, each using her or his own style. The Verge ( “Over 200 artists got together to remake Shrek”) has the story and the Retold trailer. The release is coming 29 November on on the 3GI website.

The internet’s favorite ogre may already be headed for another Hollywood-backed installment, but fans of the fantasy parody aren’t waiting around for its release. Instead, hundreds of artists have collaborated on their own scene-by-scene retelling of the first Shrek movie. Produced by Wisconsin comedy group 3GI, each artist brings their own style into the mix, meaning there’s everything from live-action bits to CGI and pixel art thrown into the same film. The project looks absurd in the best possible way, like a viral eBaum’s World video for 2018.

(17) HISTORIC PARK MAKES RECOVERY PLAN. These sets were on National Park land, and new ones may take their place: “Paramount Ranch, Western Town, will rise from the Woolsey fire’s ashes, officials vow”Daily News has the story.

Friday’s media event also announced the launch of The Paramount Project to rebuild the ranch’s Western Town. The 24-month projected rebuilding effort is organized by the Park Service’s nonprofit partner the Santa Monica Mountains Fund. You can get more information on the Project and contribute at www.samofund.org/2018/11/15/the-paramount-project/.

“This was a very emotional, iconic place, it captured history of the area and of Los Angeles,” Fund board president Sara Horner noted. “It’s globally significant, it is locally significant and culturally significant.

“Park Services, as you can imagine, is reeling from the losses,” she added. “So they will put together an assessment of their losses, and then we will refine the direction of the plan in place – which will probably change. But there is a plan of what we would like and a schedule for how it will get built, and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund will spearhead the fundraising for that.”

Horner said several movie studios have already called the fund inquiring about how they can help. Her organization is also planning meetings with location managers and other industry professionals to do informal surveys of what they would like to see in the rebuilt Western Town. Due to rigorous Park Service guidelines on what can and cannot be built on their land, she can’t say exactly, but Horner expects a combination of the setting looking somewhat like it did before the fire and new facilities to help the film industry to be up two years from now

LAist has a gallery of photos of the fire damage.

Today, the National Parks Service gave LAist a tour of the ranch post-fire. Little except smoldering piles of wood and cleared land remained of what was once a backdrop to legendary TV shows like The Cisco Kid and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, rcade, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #36

Election Day 2018 : A New Hope

By Chris M. Barkley:

Tuesday, 6 November 2018, was a beautiful day.

The forecast had called for rain but in the mid-afternoon, the temperature was in the low 60’s a scattering of wispy cumulus clouds dotted the skies of southwest Ohio.

I was in a neighborhood park with my nearly three-year-old granddaughter Lily, watching her madly dash around the playground in an effort to tucker her out and be more amenable to an afternoon nap.

Lily has been the main focus of my world for the better part of the past two years. She is beautiful, ebullient, smart, assertive, curious, opinionated and fearless almost to a fault.

She also has a quality I rarely see in children her age. When she was playing and sliding on the artificial hillside, she became very concerned when an older boy and girl were tumbling together down and into a heap at the bottom. Even though they were laughing, Lily turned to me and expressed her worries by saying , “They gonna hurt Papa, hurt,” she said in a concerned tone.

Lily’s show of empathy is quite remarkable for a child as young as she is. Just knowing there are children like Lily out there, being raised by responsible, loving parents and caregivers, gives me hope that America, and the world, can survive our current travails.

My mood last week was cautiously optimistic. News outlets were reporting a record turnout for the mid-term elections and Hamilton County was no exception. I voted in person at the Board of Elections with my partner Juli more than a week and a half earlier. There was steady stream of people present to cast an early ballot.

Traffic control was necessary due to the large number of people crossing the street from the parking lot. I witnessed one telling incident; a car driven by a middle-aged white man was approached by several black women who shouted at him to encourage him to stop in and vote early. The man visibly recoiled from these loud, but friendly entreaties and looked relieved when he was permitted to proceed by the police.

My county has been seen as a growing Democratic stronghold the past few election cycles and a quarter of the people in line were holding lists of party candidates. But my hope had been tempered by the fact that southwest Ohio has been gerrymandered in favor of the Republican Party for the past eighteen years. Still, I was feeling hopeful as I filled out my ballot.

As it turned out the Republican incumbent won his house seat again, but only by five and a half points. And most of the statehouse will be red as well, but, paradoxically, our current Democratic Senator held onto his seat.

Across the nation, more than one hundred million people voted in the mid-term elections, the largest turnout in a non-presidential election year. The House of Representatives changed hands and the Senate (as of today) may end up being a 50-50 tie.

The results of this election cycle is sent a clear message from voters that our current dystopia was unacceptable and that at least a modicum of oversight was in order.

That folks, is hope. And that, coincidentally, is the message that the best imaginative literature offer as well. And when our children read, listen to, watch imaginative literature and stories, we produce better and more aware children.

Well, at least that’s what I think. Which brings me back to the young adults who are coming of age today and all of the other children who will come after them, including Lily.

The future of our country, and our world, is going to eventually rest on their shoulders.

The most apt piece of advice I can give them came in the form of a very inspirational (and viral) Facebook meme posted by (but not authored by) a fan named Michael Annis on November 1st:

To which I reply, “SO SAY WE ALL!”

Excelsior!

(Dedicated with Much Love & Gratitude to the memory of Stan Lee)

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #35

Mission Worldcon 76 – Fallout!

By Chris M. Barkley: First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this report. In all honesty, I didn’t think I’d be writing up a Worldcon roundup at all this year. I did not keep a set of notes of our activities so everything had to be recreated through photos that were taken and the best recollections of myself and my partner, Juli.

There were also some behind-the-scenes intrigue that I am unable to share for personal reasons and frankly, I had a hard time thinking about what to include or not in this report.

On the whole, we had a good time. I was blessed to have witnessed literary history being made in person, as it happened. And weeks later, as I wrote this report, I find that the overwhelming sense of malaise and failure I was feeling before the convention somewhat muted in the wake of what happened at Worldcon 76.

Thursday, 16 August

My partner Juli and I arrived in San Jose on Wednesday out of necessity; the flight from Cincinnati was routed through Salt Lake City and with the layover of several hours and flight time, we got there in the early afternoon Pacific Time but three hours later in body time. We tried sleeping on the plane on the way out to mitigate the jet lag and it seemed to have worked, at least for a little while. Unwisely (I think), I kept my watch on Eastern Daylight Time throughout our stay just to gauge how I think felt against the actual time back home. More often than not I ended up confusing myself so I made a promise to myself to never do that again. A good night’s sleep followed.

I barely remember the San Jose that hosted the Worldcon sixteen years ago, save for the light rail system running just outside the convention center and a few restaurants. One thing that I did notice right away is that there were fences running along the rail lines to keep errant pedestrians (like myself) from jaywalking across them (as I did all too frequently the last time I was here).

Since Juli and I had already picked up our memberships, we thought it would be cool to just hang out in the convention center lobby and see who came wandering by. Among the first people we saw was our good friend Robert J. Sawyer who posed for a picture with me. Over the past year, we both discovered much to our chagrin, that Facebook’s face recognition algorithms cannot tell the difference between Rob and me. The photo Juli took of us, hilariously, was no exception.

The Dealer’s Room opened at noon. Wandering through we spotted David Gerrold hawking books and tribbles. Juli and I jointly presented him with a of a pair socks, a joke tradition that began back when we saw him at Sasquan in 2015. This year, the socks we presented him with were emblazoned with the snarky saying “Adult In Training” which he seemed to like. We also purchased his vampire novel, Jacob and a tiger-striped tribble one for our granddaughter, Lily.

Steve Davidson, editor and publisher of the newly revived Amazing Stories, was receiving a respectable amount of traffic at his booth. I commended Steve for handing out a superb issue for free to attendees.

As the day progressed, I was approached by a number of friends and acquaintances who expressed their condolences and disappointment over the naming (or, rather, the non-naming) of the Young Adult Book Award. I thanked them all and said that I was happy that Worldcon was finally recognizing the works of young adult authors.

I had my first panel in the afternoon; “My First Worldcon” which also featured Cindy Lin (who did not appear), John Hertz (who was running late), and Edwin S. “Filthy Pierre” Strauss. Most of the audience, numbering about twenty people, had never been to a Worldcon before and for a few, THIS was their first convention. To those few I jokingly said, “Well, luckily for you, it’s all downhill from here,” which drew a hearty laugh.

But from that point on, Pierre and I gave out some basic explanations of the origins of Worldcon, what to expect and how to survive the next four-and-a-half days with their wits intact. Twenty minutes in, John Hertz, elegantly dressed as always even in the daytime, waltzed in and brought the proceedings a great deal more gravitas and more practical advice (hygiene, hydration and happiness basically) than Pierre and I had combined. I hope the audience left a little more informed about what Worldcon was all about and had a good time.

From there it was off to Opening Ceremonies, where we were greeted and regaled by a dozen or so members of the local Native American Muwekma Ohlone tribe, who shared several songs with us. Artist Guest of Honor and Hugo Toastmaster John Picacio introduced his fellow artists of the Mexicanx Initiative who were attending the Worldcon at his behest. By all accounts, they had a great time.

One unusual thing; the First Fandom Award and the Big Heart Award were given out and I don’t recall them ever being presented separately and this early in the convention. I surmised (correctly, as it turned out) that John Picacio was planning to run the Hugo Awards VERY quickly. Erle M. Korshak, one of the last living members of the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 (Robert Madle being the other) presented Robert Silverberg with the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. The late June and Len Moffatt were inducted into the Hall posthumously. My Editor, Mike Glyer, was announced as the surprise recipient of the Big Heart.

Surprisingly, Mike was not present to accept so I promptly texted him: “Dude, YOU just won the Big Heart Award… CONGRATULATIONS!”

His reply, several hours later was:  “Thanks Chris. If only someone had hinted, ‘Mike you shouldn’t miss Opening Ceremonies!’”

As I was checking my Facebook feed at dinner, I saw that Worldcon 76 had an uninvited guest earlier in the afternoon; Jon Del Arroz. His hostile and provocative statements towards Worldcon 76 and previously recorded intentions of disrupting the convention got him banned from attending. Streaming live and commenting as he walked, he filmed himself entering the convention center and tried to register. He was quickly spotted and asked, very politely by Worldcon security, to leave the building.
As Del Arroz was being led out, he repeatedly asked why he was being ousted, knowing full well why he was getting the boot. I only wished I had been there to witness his inglorious exit because as he passed by, I would have piped up and shouted, “You want to know why, Jon? Because you’re a JERK, that’s why!”

Juli and I dined out at a restaurant amusingly called Vietnom, which was situated in an amalgamation of other eateries called SoFA Market. The food was incredibly good and generously portioned. We also heartily recommended Tac-OH, a nice, casual Mexican place with a nice ambiance to our friends and anyone else who would listen to us.

Later in the evening, We did run into Pablo Miguel Alberto Vasquez, with whom we shared several overpriced drinks with at the Marriott bar before retiring.

As my head touched the pillow I remembered that a group of folks from File 770 were going to convene at a bar but completely forgot about it. I made a mental note to try and make the second meet up, which was going to be at another venue on Friday.

Friday, 17 August

The first full session of the Business Meeting was scheduled in the morning. And while I had no doubts about the outcome, I always go in with butterflies in my stomach. To feed those butterflies, Juli and I consulted the Restaurant Guide.

“Hey hon,” said Juli, “what about Peggy Sue’s?”

Something stirred in my memory. “Where is that on the map?”

“About two blocks away.”

Sixteen years ago at ConJose, I usually started my day at an amazing little diner that served amazing food with generous portions. We walked over several streets and easily found Peggy Sue’s on San Pedro Street; a quaint little diner with the sensibility and décor that was straight out of the 50’s and 60’s. The food, eggs, burgers burritos and shakes were the best I have ever tasted. We happily ate there on a regular basis during the rest of our stay.

Frankly, I dreaded going to the Business Meeting. I had no doubt that some there were feeling a certain measure of schadenfreude towards me in the wake of the withdrawal of the proposition to add Ursula K. Le Guin’s name from the Young Adult Book Award. And I did note that several regular attendees went out of their way not greet me or ignore my friendly overtures to make small talk.

There were a few old friends who did come up and either commiserate with my frustration or added the condolences over the situation.

Regular readers of File 770 know that I had been a longtime advocate of making this new award a Hugo Award category. But, after several years and series of study committees (the last of which I did not participate in due to family issues), it was decided that it would be better to have YA novels compete separately from other award categories. But I needn’t have worried about the Friday session; it finished in what seemed to be a record time of an hour and ten minutes without too much parliamentary rancor or shenanigans. Usually these sessions take up the full three hours of allotted time each day.

What would I have said? I would have read the following excerpts from her 1973 National Book Award acceptance speech for her children’s novel, The Farthest Shore, which can be found in her 1979 collection of essays, The Language of the Night:

“I am very pleased, very proud and very startled to accept the National Book Award in children’s literature for my novel The Farthest Shore

“And I also rejoice in the privilege of sharing this honor, if I may, with my fellow writers, not only in the field of children’s books, but in that even less respectable field, science fiction. For I am not only a fantasist, but a science fiction writer, and odd though it may seem, I am proud to be both.

“We who hobnob with hobbits and tell tall tales about little green men are quite used to being dismissed as mere entertainers, or sternly disapproved of as escapists. But I think that perhaps the categories are changing, like the times. Sophisticated readers are accepting the fact that an improbable and unmanageable world is going to produce an improbable and hypothetical art.

“At this point, realism is perhaps the least adequate means of understanding or portraying the incredible realities of our existence. A scientist who creates a monster in the laboratory; a librarian in the library of Babel; a wizard unable to cast a spell; a spaceship having trouble reaching Alpha Centauri: all of these may be precise and profound metaphors of the human condition. Fantasists, whether they use the ancient archetypes of myth and legend or the younger ones of science and technology, may be talking as seriously as any sociologist – and a good deal more directly – about human life as it is lived, and as it might be lived, and as it ought to be lived. For after all, as great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope.”

Yes, even forty-five years ago, Ursula Le Guin UNDERSTOOD the power, grace and majesty of fantasy and science fiction in modern literature even if her mainstream contemporaries and literary critics refused to, then OR now.

But now, the best moment to permanently honor her, in this fashion, has passed. And so it goes.

After the Business Meeting, Juli and I made a beeline to the Dealers Room to decompress. One of our stops was at John Picacio’s table, where we marveled at his series of images inspired by his love of Loterria, a Mexican version of bingo.

We particularly liked El Arbo, La Valiente and La Luna, which we happily purchased on the spot. His image of La Calavera (The Skull) graced the cover of the Worldcon 76 Souvenir Book and the attendee’s badges.

Later that afternoon, Juli and I had the pleasure of playing Loteria (a delightful form of Mexican Bingo) with John and an enthusiastic crowd of several dozen people. We played with cards covered with mystic images, animals and symbols using uncooked beans as cover tokens. John was having a terrific time as our host, giving out prints, posters and cards of his work as prizes. Juli and I came within a space or two of winning but as frustrating as it was, we were having lots of fun and so was the everyone else.

We saw Robert Silverberg wandering in the Dealer’s Room and he said he was looking forward to Harlan’s memorial panel. He then cocked one of his bushy eyebrows at me and asked, “And what are YOU going to share about Harlan tomorrow?”

‘Oh, you’ll see, “ I said with the utmost confidence and a grin. HA! Yeah, I had NO IDEA what I was going to say right then. Then again, it’s never wise to let Robert Silverberg see you sweat.

For dinner, we joined Rick Moen and two full tables of File 770 fans and writers at Back A Yard Caribbean Grill, an excellent hangout with very good Jamaican fare. The Boss was not present but Juli and I were in excellent company.

We also made the rounds of the parties in the Fairmont Hotel. While we had a good time, we were still feeling a little jet lagged from the trip west so retired shortly before midnight.

Saturday August 18

I woke up and lay in bed with a mild case of apprehension.

The “Harlan Ellison Memorial” panel was scheduled at 4 p.m. and I had no idea of what I was going to say yet. I had left the notes I had made when I wrote my remembrance of him for my File 770 column at home.

Former Worldcon chair (and friend) Tom Whitmore was the moderator along with authors David Gerrold, Robert Silverberg, lawyer and photographer Christine Valada and Harlan’s biographer, Nat Segaloff.

And me.

I was a last-minute stand in for another close friend of Harlan’s, Adam-Troy Castro, who was unable to attend. I was pretty damn sure Adam had hundreds of Harlan stories and anecdotes that he could readily remember at a moment’s notice. What did I have?

Of all the people on the panel, Tom and I were the only fans. Realizing that, I knew exactly what I was going to say…

Saturday session came and went as quickly as the previous session. After the YA Award amendment had passed there was a pause in the meeting to provide some maintenance for the video equipment. A friend asked what i thought the YA Award should look like. “It should be a statue of Ursula Le Guin,” I said without the slightest hesitation and a small chuckle. No one knew what the award was going to look like but it was rumored that it was highly likely an engraved plaque would be presented. But I also heard from another well placed source before the convention that there was a surprise in the offing, too.

When Juli and I left the meeting, we determined that there was probably no reason to attend the Sunday session; a proposed amendment regarding the revision of the definitions of the Best Fan and Professional Artist categories had been pushed back to tomorrow’s agenda due to a meeting of the Association of Fantasy and Science Fiction Artists happening later today. ASFA members had read the proposals and wanted to debate their merits beforehand. Since neither I, nor Juli, had an opinion either way about the issue, we decided to skip it. In retrospect, I’ll wish we hadn’t.

After the Business Meeting, we decided to go on another buying expedition back at the Dealer’s room. It was there that Juli and I encountered our good friend Marcia Kelly Illingworth, who beckoned us to her table.

Marcia showed us a vast array of fannish keepsakes, artifacts and jewelry for sale, all the property of Samanda Jeude, the founder of Electrical Eggs. A survivor of a condition known as post-polio syndrome, she started Electrical Eggs in the 1980’s, first to assist physically challenged fans attend Worldcons, and then expanding to local and regional cons as well.

But an object along the back of the table immediately caught my eye, A Hugo Award mounted on a piece of glazed Georgia marble, I picked up and upon reading the engraved plaque, recognized it right away, Judy-Lynn Del Rey’s infamous posthumous Best Editor award from the 1986 Hugo Ceremony. Why do I say “infamous”? Well, Del Rey, a master book editor from all accounts, was so good at handling Ballantine Books fantasy and sf books, she was promoted to editor-in-chief and given their own imprint by Ballantine Books, with the assistance of her husband, Lester, who handled the fantasy line. Judy-Lynn Del Rey suffered a brain hemorrhage in October of 1985 and subsequently died in February of 1986. Fans who knew of her and her work were quick to nominate her in the Best Professional Editor category, which had been dominated by magazine editors since it’s modern incarnation in 1973.

I was in attendance at Confederation when this award was given. Sitting in the audience, and knowing what a curmudgeon Lester Del Rey could be, I had a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach as a representative approached the podium. He (whose name is lost to me and history), read a bitter and forceful statement from Lester Del Rey which more or less said that he was rejecting this award because she was dead and this was just a sympathetic gesture that he want no part of whatsoever. The audience sat there, stunned. The representative left the stage empty-handed. The Hugo Award was taken away, its fate unknown to everyone there.

I felt awed as I held it in my hands. Samanda Jeude and her late husband, Don Cook, members of the Confederation convention committee, were given custody of the Hugo for safekeeping. Marcia explained that Samanda was now in an assisted living facility but needed money to help pay her bills. She also said, emphatically, that this particular Hugo award was NOT for sale; but said that there were competing fund drives being held at Worldcon 76 to determine its fate. We could contribute to one fund to put it up for sale to the highest bidder or the other to make sure it stayed out of the hands of a collector. I pulled out a $20 bill and voted for the latter fund. It belongs in a museum as a noted fictional archeologist one stated. (At the end of the convention, Marcia Kelly Illingworth posted on Facebook that the fans had spoken and the Hugo will be eventually donated to an institution for posterity.)

I also spotted an Incident Response Team desk in a prominent spot in the fan activities area with two staff members at the ready. It was nice to know they were there and on duty.

At around 1 p.m., I decided to take a look outside the north entrance of the convention center. Jon Del Arroz, in his infinite wisdom, had called on like-minded right-wing fans to come and protest hedonism, liberal bias and “pedophilia” of the attendees several weeks earlier. (Which makes his effort to try and register on Thursday appeared to be a rather lame attempt to rile up his supporters.) The call also attracted the attention of Trump supporters and white supremacists, who promised to show up in force. That, in turn, inflamed local antifa members, who promised to be there to counter-protest.

Well, I went to the main entrance, which the committee had forewarned us not to use during the time period of the protest, from noon until four pm. As I descended the stairs, I saw a rather pudgy man trying to enter the front door which was blocked by a police officer and a staff person. I surmised that he was being denied entry because of the sign he was carrying, which said in huge, capitalized block letters: “DEL ARROZ DID NOTHING WRONG.” Oh well, no one said his supporters were smart. I do wish I had taken a picture of that scene, though.

Peering out onto the plaza, I did not see much of anything going on. In fact, it looked as though there were more police officers on the scene than protestors. The official estimate was a total of forty people showed up, evenly divided for each side. The local news coverage bore this out.

The charge of pedophilia against Walter Breen, and by association his wife Marion Zimmer Bradley, are quite real and happened decades ago. Bringing Samuel R. Delany into the discussion is just pure slander. The only thing he might be guilty of is writing “transgressive literature” which some critics and readers must have mistaken for pedophile porn.

I did notice that there were about a dozen people in pink shirts emblazoned with “ I’m Here To Help” acting as escorts for people coming to or leaving the convention. It was a lovely gesture which I am sure people appreciated.

Fifteen minutes before the Ellison panel, I made my way to the Green Room for a drink. As I passed through the lobby, I saw my boss, Mike Glyer, seated at a table with his back to me, holding court with a group of friends. If I hadn’t been en route to my panel, I would have stopped and said hello. In light of what happened the next morning, I really feel badly about that.

As I walked into the Green Room I bumped into my fellow panelist Nat Segaloff, whom I recognized by his Facebook profile picture. And he was there for the same reason I was. After grabbing our beverages of choice, we made our way to Room 210G…

Panelists: Tom Whitmore, Bob Silverberg, Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada, and Nat Segaloff.

And here I must fault the Programming Division on their choice of venue( although it is difficult to predict a panels popularity), which was significantly too small to accommodate the crowd, standing room only; and the time allotted, which was at the very least thirty or forty-five minutes too short. Luckily, Juli got a seat in the back as Nat and I arrived. All of the other panelists were already there except for our moderator Tom Whitmore. I took the third seat from the left, Robert Silverberg on my right, then David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat at the very end of the table. I gave David a hug as he sat but he then leaped up and said, “I forgot my recording mikes. Don’t start without me!”, and he ran from the room.

While David was gone, I took the opportunity to show Christine two items I have on my everyday keychain that I keep in remembrance of her late husband, Len Wein; a very small Batman symbol and a metal tag from the Wolverine work shoes. Len did me a big favor by being a guest on my public access sf radio show back in 1983 (as a counterpoint to another interview guest, Marvel’s editor-in-chief Jim Shooter). I think I may have shown them to Len at a Worldcon years earlier and he got a good laugh out of it. Christine hadn’t seen them and was very appreciative of the gesture.

David came running in with his microphones just as Tom had seated himself at the table. As soon as David had situated himself, Tom opened the proceedings.

So, as the fan representative on the panel, I reached back into my childhood memories and said that I knew of Harlan’s work on television even before I had the pleasure of knowing him. I eschewed more sophisticated stuff like Burke’s Law and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for more works of primal fear like The Outer Limits. I noted my reactions to “Soldier” and “Demon With a Glass Hand” but I also could have included “The Price of Doom” a first-season episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which was disowned by Harlan under his pseudonym “Cord Wainer Bird” (for the VERY first time, by the way), a nightmare story about a strain of mutant plankton taking over the Seaview.

While I was feeling at ease, I was very worried about David, who was opening shedding tears next to me. But when his turn came to speak, he pulled it together and told memorable stories of how they met, how Harlan inspired him as a writer and most poignantly, helped saved his life by listening and reassuring him during a particularly dark period in his life.

As you can tell from the audio recording there were many stories and anecdotes about Harlan, many of them much better than my own, in my estimation. I wished we had more time to take questions and hear memories from the standing room only crowd but it was not to be. When Robert Silverberg capped things with his eloquent quip, we all rose to a big round of applause. I gave David a hug and a kiss. Mr. Silverberg signed my copy of the special 1977 Harlan Ellison issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction I had brought with me and featured a short biographical memory written by him.

After the panel we discovered that Jon Del Arroz had not even bothered to show up at his own protest. In a video on Twitter shot on a boat at sea (not his own, it appeared) he explained that the air quality in downtown San Jose was unsuitable for his young son (WHAT? He was planning to bring his own SON into a potentially dangerous situation?) and begged off attending. Well, isn’t it nice to know that if ANYTHING had gone screwy, America’s Leading Conservative Hispanic author would have been safely out of harm’s way to protest (and annoy us) some other day.

We dined at Tac-Oh, a very nice restaurant located just around the corner from the convention center. While the ambiance and food was great, we and a dozen other patrons were put off because there was only one waiter on duty taking everyone’s orders.

When we inquired why, the waiter told us that the management was NEVER informed about a convention being in town this weekend. Since the wait schedule was made out in advance, once the management found out about Worldcon 76 they found that their most of their staff was unavailable.

Now, this was not the first time that we had heard this during our stay. I don’t know who might be at fault here but somebody, at the visitors and convention bureau or the convention committee or some third-party in between really dropped the ball on this issue. And its little irritants like this that can really stick in the minds of attending fans. Future convention committees and bids should make a bullet point note of this.

Chris Garcia

From there we traveled back to the convention center for the Masquerade, hosted by Christopher Garcia. While the presentation was plagued by what seemed to be an endless series of technical faux pas and delays, Chris gamely plowed forward as the master of ceremonies, improvising with self-deprecating humor and scattershot jokes all during the show.

Shortly after the Masquerade started there was a surprising presentation; the Seiun Awards, which had a longstanding relationship with the Hugo Awards Ceremony, began without any prior announcement from the convention. (I checked the Pocket Program Book later and there was no notice there either.)

As egregious as Programming’s mishandling of the Ellison Memorial panel was, I felt that this was far worse. The Seiun is a highly respected award and had been, to the best of my knowledge, a part of the Hugo Awards Ceremony for a considerable period of time. While I recognize that the Hugo Ceremony has been getting longer in recent years, the relegation of the Seiun Awards to the beginning of the Masquerade seemed either haphazard or, even worse, a slight to those were presenting their awards. If the length of the Hugo ceremony was the problem, then the Seiuns should have been presented at the Opening Ceremonies or in their own hour-long panel and ceremony. I don’t know how everyone else felt about this but It felt awkward that Worldcon 76 had literally put the Seiuns in a corner instead of a deserving and proper setting.

The costuming presentations resumed and when they were over, we did not hangout for the halftime entertainment or the judges’ decisions. Instead, we headed back over to the Fairmount for another round of noisy and exuberant room parties before retiring back to our room for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, 19 August

The morning was spent in the company of Juli’s sister Gail, her husband Mauro and their kids Sonia and her younger brother, Dario. We met at Peggy Sue’s and feasted on a mountain of omelets, breakfast sandwiches and pancakes. Juli and I regaled them with our convention adventures and name-dropping the famous writers and creators that we met that week. We heard from both parents that later that morning, Dario and Sonia vehemently argued over which of us was cooler. Heh!

Meanwhile, as the Business Meeting was concluding its Sunday session, there was a motion from the floor to ask the Officers of BM to send a note of condolences to the family of Ursula Le Guin for the upsetting circumstances behind the naming of the Young Adult Award. I found out about the proposed apology and the vote on the matter after the fact several hours later after Juli read a condensed version off of a report on a blog by a mutual friend, Alex Von Thorn. When I read it, I was furious.

I had spent a great deal of time and political effort in creating the YA Award and attaching Ms. Le Guin’s name to it. And now the very people who opposed her name wanted to apologize?

What the actual HELL?

And then we heard from friends in the Dealer’s Room that Mike Glyer had been overcome with some serious ailment earlier in the morning and been taken to a hospital nearby. I immediately texted Mike on my phone through Facebook wishing him well and  offered to be a designated acceptor in case he won the Hugo. (I needn’t have worried; he called in Jo Van Ekeren to accept in his stead.)

Since there was nothing to be done about it at the moment, Juli and I split up to attend two separate program items. She went to Celebrating the New Award Category (a panel I avoided for obvious reasons) which featured Anna Blumstein, Sam J. Miller, Sarah Rees Brennan and Ursula Vernon. I attended Black Panther, Luke Cage and the #Ownvoices Creators with Steven Barnes, Sumiko Saulson, Leslie Light and T.L. Alexandra Volk. Juli found her panel a fine opportunity for YA authors to speak to other YA enthusiasts (it was well attended) and was mainly focused on its popularity and where it might be going next. My panel was just fantastic; all of the participants were engaging, excited, serious and funny. About twenty percent of the audience was made up of people of color but everyone in attendance was listening raptly to the conversation about race, sexism, appropriation and the current political and socio-economic conditions in art and fandom today.

After a delicious early dinner at La Victoria Tacqueria, we returned to our hotel to dress up for the Hugos. Juli donned a lovely black satin dress with a white bow in the back. I wore a blue suit with a black shirt, orange tie and and florid blue, white and orange FC Cincinnati scarf around my neck.

When I describe the 2018 Hugo Ceremony as a whirlwind affair, it is not an exaggeration. Clocking in at a little over two hours, it is handily one of the fastest on record. Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio had pledged as much when he was named as the Master of Ceremonies. And, as promised, he delivered the goods. (And displacing the other non-Hugo Awards helped as well.)

John Picacio

As each award was announced, I took multiple screenshots of the video boards showing the nominees and the winners on my phone and posted them immediately to my Facebook page. Several people later reported that they appreciated finding out the winners in real-time.

I was very happy that the boss, Mike Glyer, won the Hugo for Best Fanzine. And as Ms. Van Ekeren accepted for him, it was incredibly classy of him to remove File 770 from future consideration. Mike, as it was later reported, was laid up with an irregular heartbeat that would require the insertion of a pacemaker, so the Hugo was a pick-me-up. Also, Mike had Ms. Van Ekeren mention me by name in his speech, which had me a little chuffed as well.
The Best Related Work was won by Le Guin’s collection of essays, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters. I kept thinking how tremendous it would have been to have her name on future issuances of the YA Award and winning her final Hugo in the same evening.

I was quite sure Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form Hugo was going to go to the Black Mirror episode “USS Callister”, a wicked send-up of Star Trek, The Twilight Zone and gaming fandom. Instead, it went to one of the The Good Place’s best episodes, “The Trolley Problem”. I was similarly surprised by Wonder Woman’s win in the Long Form category; the list of nominees was one of the best in recent memory, especially with Academy Award winners Get Out and The Shape of Water in the mix. Get Out ended up finishing a distant second and The Shape of Water (which won the Oscar for Best Picture) was fifth.

Rebecca Roanhorse was also a double winner; she was the winner of John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer AND in the Best Short Story category for “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM”, a tale that penetrates and shatters perceptions of cultural appropriation.

I was delighted that Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots”, a comic story of interstellar war taken from a maintenance bot’s point of view, won Best Novelette. It was my first choice that category and would make a great film for Pixar. Hint, hint.

As much as I admired Sarah Gailey’s alternate history adventure, “River of Teeth”, Martha Wells novella “All Systems Red” (which also won the Nebula Award) was my first choice here as well. I would not be surprised if HBO or some streaming service comes knocking on her door for “Murderbot” stories, sometime soon.

Felicia Day’s appearance as the presenter of the YA Book Award took everyone by surprise. And I could not be any happier that Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior was named the initial recipient of the Best Young Adult Book.

Betsy Wollheim

In fact, she actually received two awards; a plaque from the convention AND a trophy commissioned by Toastmaster John Picacio and designed and built by Sara Felix. If you were wondering how she accomplished this feat, here’s a link:

I hope that Ms. Okorafor’s book will be the first of many inspiring books that will win this special award in the years to come.

The Best Novel winner, N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky was the odds-on winner since it was first published last year and I was not surprised that she prevailed. Juli, myself and the entire audience rose to its feet to applaud the first writer in history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards in the Novel category.

And the speech she gave was fearless, ecstatic, wonderful and electrifying:

And it was over. I wandered close enough to the stage to take a few photos, congratulate John Picacio for his hosting skills and, for a few brief moments, hold Mike Glyer’s Best Fanzine Hugo.

Not having an invite to George R.R. Martin’s Hugo Loser’s Party, we made our way to the Marriott’s overpriced bar to toast the winners. We met up with a friend and fellow Cincinnati Fantasy Group member, Joel Zakem and we properly indulged with hard cider and beer. New England fan Crystal Huff and her friends also wandered in and ended up seated next to us and we engaged in some fannish gossip for a while.

When we discovered that Joel’s flight was leaving at the very same time as ours, 1:10 pm, we made plans to share an Uber to the airport.

Monday, August 20

We arose before 8 a.m. and hit the ground running. I went to a nearby post office and brought back several priority mail boxes to ship back the books we purchased and had gotten signed. It was well worth the effort because we had JUST made it a pound and a half under the weight limit for our single, huge suitcase.

On the way back to the hotel, I passed by the windows of the Westin Hotel’s restaurant and stopped to make funny faces at several diners; con-runners Jim and Laurie Mann, John Lorentz and his partner Kathy, author Jo Walton and her breakfast companion and two Pittsburgh area friends, Bob and Carla Dundes.

We met Joel on the curb outside the Westin at around 11 a.m. and before long the Uber driver was taking us to the airport. I longed to make one more trip to the Dealers Room, say goodbye to friend and attend the Closing Ceremonies. But unfortunately, our early flight and the long layover in Salt Lake City would get us into the Greater Cincinnati Airport around midnight. Poor Joel had a longer haul; his flight was routed through Atlanta and he would be getting back to Louisville, Kentucky at an even more ungodly hour than us.

We were not the only ones making an early getaway; as we made our way through our terminal, we spied authors Nancy Kress (sporting a stylish black cast on her right foot from a mishap) and Jack Skillingstead waiting near a Starbucks for their flight.

Out two flights home were long and uneventful. Luckily, the last leg was a half an hour early and we were safely snug in our beds and surrounded by grumpy cats by 12:30 am. Jet lag be damned, we were asleep in ten minutes.

Harlan Ellison Remembrance Panel at Worldcon 76

By Rich Lynch: There were panels at Worldcon 76 which were so popular that the audience filled every seat, took every standing room place around the room, and even spilled out into the convention center hallway. For those you had to get there early as I found out to my dismay a couple of times. The one that possibly had the greatest audience overflow happened on the middle day of the convention – it was a remembrance of Harlan Ellison, who had died just a few weeks earlier.

As most of us know, Ellison had a very outgoing and at times provocative personality (to say the least!), and he often interacted with fans throughout his life partly because he was a science fiction fan before he became a professional writer. A show of hands indicated that most of the people in attendance had a personal Harlan story of some kind (Nicki and I included), but given how packed the room was and how limited the available time was (just 50 minutes were allotted) it was only the panelists who shared their memories about Ellison with the most entertaining ones, no surprise, coming from Robert Silverberg, who had been friends with him for more than 60 years.

Ellison was depicted as one of the great science fiction writers of all time, which he certainly was, and also someone who wasn’t averse to stirring up some controversy by his words and actions from time to time. Which he certainly did. The panelists appeared to me to show catharsis with all their Harlan stories, and in the end there was consensus that there was a pedestal somewhere out there that Mr. Ellison’s career and reputation would reside upon.

He was unique, and that was emphasized at the end of the panel by Silverberg when, after hearing the moderator say that we would not see Harlan’s like again, responded: “One was more than enough!” It brought the house down.

[This is an excerpt from Rich Lynch’s full Worldcon report, which he’s still drafting.]

Panelists Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg, Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada, Nat Segaloff.

Update: 09/06/2018: Closing quote changed to conform to version reported in Ansible.

Withdrawal of the Re-Naming Addendum from the Worldcon 76 Business Meeting

By Chris M. Barkley: Today, as of Noon today, EST, I formally ask that the proposal to add Ursula K. Le Guin’s name to the Lodestar Award be withdrawn from consideration at the Worldcon 76 Business Meeting.

After consulting with the late author’s agent, Ginger Clark, and Theo Downes-Le Guin, her son and literary executor and myself, we came to the conclusion that pursuing this action would not be in the best interests of the award or the late Ms. Le Guin.

As the maker of the proposal, I want to state that I am appalled at the negative reactions towards my motives in putting forth this idea and the intensely personal attacks directed towards myself and the co-sponsors of the proposal which led us to this unfortunate decision.

I want to apologize to my co-sponsors, Robert J. Sawyer, David Gerrold, Steven Silver and Juli Marr, for any inconvenience or discomfort they may have suffered at the hands of the discontented fans during the past week after the official announcement of the proposal.

Although I take full responsibility for the failure of this effort, I am neither ashamed by my advocacy of this particular proposal nor am I unbowed by the end of this effort.

Despite this setback, I remain a staunch supporter of the Young Adult Book Award, the Hugo Awards and the World Science Fiction Society.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #33

The Ursula K. Le Guin Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

By Chris M. Barkley:

Ursula K. Le Guin in 2013. Photo by R. Durburow.

On the evening of March 6, 2018, I wrote the following, a boldly ambiguous press release for File770.com about re-naming the Young Adult Book Award:

Press Release for immediate distribution

6 March 2018

Subject: A Proposal to Re-Name the Young Adult Book Award at Worldcon 76

By Chris M. Barkley

“When the mind is free, magic happens.”

? Young Adult author C.G. Rousing

“Harry Potter” blew the roof off of children’s literature. But that doesn’t mean the work is done — for YA authors, it just means more scope for the imagination.”
– Huffington Post reporter Claire Fallon, June 2017

Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. For a time in our modern age, it is seems as though young grade and high school kids had abandoned reading books.

Then, in 1997, along came J.K. Rowling and her creation, the world of Harry Potter. And now, after twenty-one years, it’s hard to imagine what might have happened to entire generation of young readers if Bloomsbury and Scholastic Books hadn’t taken a chance on the saga of a young wizard and his friends and deadly enemies.

The Harry Potter novels, which continue to sell, provided a mighty tide that raised the fortunes of a great many writers; new authors such as Suzanne Collins, Garth Nix, Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan and Tamora Pierce, led story hungry children to the older works of seasoned professionals like Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Madeline L’Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert A. Heinlein.

In 2006, The Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of America created the Andre Norton Award, which is given to the author of the best young adult or middle grade science fiction or fantasy work published in the United States in the preceding year.

Five years later, a serious effort was started to establish a Hugo Award for young adult books. The World Science Fiction Convention Business Meeting, which governs the WSFS Constitution that administers the Hugo Awards, several committees over several years, determined that the proposed award would better be served as a separate category, to be on par with the other non-Hugo category, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The amendment to add the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book to the WSFS Constitution was first ratified last summer at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland by the members of the Business Meeting and must be ratified a second time at this year’s Worldcon in San Jose, California to begin its official trial run as a category.

This year’s Worldcon Convention Committee (headed by Kevin Roche) has graciously accepted to administer the Young Adult Book award in addition to the new Best Series and Campbell Awards.

The nomination period for the Hugos, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer opened this past February 5th.

We, the undersigned, wish to congratulate the various YA Committee Members for reaching a consensus with their diligent work in crafting the parameters of the YA Award for the World Science Fiction Convention. However, we also think that the name of this new award should have a name which not only should be universally recognizable, but have an equivalent weight to the name of John W. Campbell, Jr.

We, the undersigned, will respectfully submit a new name for the Young Adult Book Award at the Preliminary Session of the Worldcon 76 Business Meeting on August 17th, 2018 as a strike though substitution for the name ‘Lodestar’, under the rules governing the WSFS Business Meeting.

We will also embargo the name until the start of the Preliminary Session.

There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.

While we also understand that while this motion may cause a great deal of consternation, we also feel that this would be an excellent opportunity to generate a great deal of interest about the Worldcon and bring MORE attention to this new award to potential nominators, readers of all ages, booksellers and the public at large.

The proposed name will forever be known and honored in perpetuity with the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award, and the World Science Fiction Convention.

This proposal was signed by myself, my partner Juli Marr and several other prominent authors,  editors and members of fandom.

All of this was done with good will and the best intentions. But by the end of the evening, there were a great many people who, if they had the time, inclination and opportunity, would have my head on a nice, long pike like poor Ned Stark. They chose instead to take a torch to my reputation in fandom, challenge my integrity and the very nature of the proposal.

How did this happen? And more importantly, why is this being announced now, less than two weeks before the 76th Worldcon in San Jose?

To understand what happened and explain my actions in any sort of sensible context, I must go back to the origins of the Best Young Adult Book Award.

After the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal,  I began looking into the possibility of gathering support for a Young Adult novel award.  On January 2, 2011, I created a Facebook page to promote this idea: (https://www.facebook.com/YA-Hugo-Proposal-187492394596256/)

I would not call the page an overwhelming success because the number of members topped out at around 250 people. But what we lacked in numbers we made up in our enthusiasm about establishing a Young Adult Hugo award category.

I made recommendations to the committees of Reno Convention in 2011, Chicon 7 in 2012 and San Antonio in 2013 to no avail. But our persistence finally caught the eye of the Loncon Business Meeting in 2014, which set up a series of committees to study the concept and make recommendations.

While I was in the mix for the first committee, I dropped out due to personal concerns, mainly to deal with the failing health of my mother and father.  The members doing a majority of the heavy lifting were Katie Rask, Dave McCarty and Kate Secor. Without their diligence and hard work, the YA Award would have been dead on arrival.

One of the many choices that were eventually agreed upon by the committee was to establish the new category as a companion award to the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and not as a Hugo Award.  Their reasoning was that making a new category for novel length should be done separately to avoid any confusion or conflict with the Best Novel category.

While I disagreed with their decision, when it came time to debate and vote on their recommendation at MidAmeriCon Business Meeting in 2016, I wholeheartedly endorsed their proposal, which was passed by a majority of the members present.

But there were some unusual elements of that first passage of the amendment in the Finland Business Meeting (which requires votes by consecutive Business Meetings to become part of the Constitution) was made with the wording incomplete, including a name for the new award.

At this year’s Business Meeting in San Jose there will be the final ratification vote for what is being called the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.

This had to be a hard choice because if you examine at the all the literary awards being given out today, you’ll see that all of the niftier names are already taken; Starburst, Aurora, Skylark, Bradbury, Heinlein, Norton, Asimov, Saturn, etc…

By definition, a lodestar is described as “a star that is used to guide the course of a ship, especially Polaris.”

I must admit that I was never really that enamored of the name “Lodestar” as the name for this award. Mind you, other names were bandied about, including the names of living and dead authors before they chose Lodestar. Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein were already taken.  Many were reluctant to consider an obvious choice like Madeline L’Engle because of her reputation as a overtly “Christian” fantasy writer. Octavia Butler was another great choice but she was passed over. Other notable writers of young adult fiction like Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce and Ursula K. Le Guin were still among us and rejected for consideration. The decision seemed final and I was quite content to let it go at that.

But on January 22, 2018, Ursula Kroeber Le Guin passed away at the age of eighty-eight. Her death was a shock to the entire community because nearly all of her fiction and non-fiction were being issued in new editions and she had just published a new book of essays, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, in December of last year (and nominated in the Best Related Work category this year).

It was while I was attending Capricon 38 and participating in a panel obliquely called “Obligatory Discussion of New Hugo Award Categories,” that I first thought trying about changing the Young Adult Book category. And thought was not born out of malice towards the name Lodestar, seeking the spotlight for myself or upstaging the work of the committee that helped create it.

My thoughts were mainly on the family of Ms. Le Guin and the legacy of John W. Campbell, Jr.

Although I was grieving along with her family and readers around the world, I also saw this as the perfect opportunity to honor her lifetime of works, especially her young adult Earthsea series and the Annals of the Western Shore.

Then there is the matter of her illustrious career and awards; Ursula Le Guin was the Professional Guest of Honor at the 33rd World Science Fiction Convention in 1975 (AussieCon),  was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention in 1995, a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (2001), named a Grand Master by her peers of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (2003) was the first woman to win a Hugo and a Nebula for Best Novel (The Left hand of Darkness, 1970) and the first to do it twice ( for The Dispossessed, 1975).

In addition, she was nominated for a total of 42 Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards and won six of each, won 19 Locus Awards, a 1973 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (The Farthest Shore), was named as a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress for “her significant contributions to America’s cultural heritage” and two awards in 2004 from the American Library Association for her lasting contributions to young adult literature.

I could go on (because there is SO MUCH more) but I’ll leave you with this one last singular honor; in 2014, Ursula K. Le Guin was honored with the Medal for Distinguished American Letters by the National Book Foundation.  Here’s her acceptance speech:

As you may have noted, her defense of and praise for her fellow writers of fantasy and sf and her veiled damnation Amazon and her own publisher were not well received. And it did not matter a bit to her; she wore her convictions and informed opinions proudly on her sleeve for all to see.

John W. Campbell, Jr. is still revered in this day and age as one most influential writers and monolithic editors of the 20th century science fiction and fantasy literature. I think we can safely surmise that that without him, the development of modern science fiction and fantasy literature may have been slowed or stunted. And while we all owe him a measure of gratitude for what followed in his wake, we also cannot overlook his insensitivity towards writers of color and the public displays and editorial statements of racism.

If we are to continue to honor Campbell’s name in this fashion, then I have no doubt whatsoever that the name Ursula K. Le Guin name should adorn this award we are establishing to honor the best young adult book of the year.

After concluding that this was the course of action to take, I sought out a number of fans at Capricon, including a member of the committee that helped write the YA amendment. To a person they all concurred that this was an excellent idea.

Returning home, I immediately wrote out a constitution amendment to facilitate the name change.  When I sent a copy to the eminent parliamentarian and esteemed Business Meeting Chair emeritus Kevin Standlee for an appraisal, he pointed out that a name change as an amendment would be a known as a “greater change”, which, if it were passed by the assembly, would be the start of another two year cycle of voting for it to be ratified.

Mr. Standlee then pointed out that if the name change was presented as a substitution of language (by presenting by striking out the old language and substituting a revised version) it may be considered in tandem with the amendment under review.

Having found the proper way to submit the addendum to the San Jose Business Meeting, I was ready to email the substitution for submission to the agenda.

But I hesitated because I was lacking two things; sponsorship from others and more vitally, expressed permission from the Le Guin family.

I decided that contacting the family had priority so one month to the day after the death of Ursula Le Guin, I reached out to another prominent fan, who in turn led me to the author’s agent, Ms. Ginger Clark of the Curtis Brown Agency, Ltd.

Good Evening Ms. Clark,

I realize that I am writing to you on the one month anniversary of our loss of Ms. Le Guin but I have an urgent matter that I must bring to your attention.

As a member of the World Science Fiction, I have been at the forefront of making the Hugo Awards fair, competitive, engaging and most importantly, relevant in the 21st century.

I’ve been working since 2010 to establish a Young Adult Book category. After some considerable struggle, a YA category was finally created at the Worldcon past August. As you might imagine, there was some considerable discussion about who, or what, to name the award after.

Of course, Ms. Le Guin’s name came up but there were objections from a majority on the standing committee exploring the issue (but not from me, mind you) about naming the award after a living person. In the end, they decided on the name, Lodestar.

The late Ms. Le Guin was one of the brightest stars in modern literature. I, and a few other friends, would like to honor her by naming our new YA award after her; the Ursula K. Le Guin Earthsea Award for Best Young Adult Book.

At the moment, I have no way of contacting the family and I would like to seek their permission before submitting her name to the San Jose Worldcon Business Meeting for a ratification vote in August, which I think will have no trouble at all passing.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could pass this request along to Ms. Le Guin’s family for their approval. I can be reached via this email address:

On February 26, I received a reply from Ms. Clark, who thanked me for the email which she passed along to the family.

On the afternoon of March 2nd, I received an email from Ms. Clark stating that the family approved the use of her name and the name Earthsea (although she pointed out that the name Earthsea was trademarked and may be a factor on my decision to use in the title of the award.

As a matter of fact, it did; I had some very serious doubts that the members of the Business Meeting would want to bother with a trademarked name so I dropped it from the proposal. And, I reasoned, it would be in incredibly bad form to jettison the name Lodestar, a name the committee worked very hard to come up with in the first place.

But a short time after the confirmation email, Ginger Clark threw me a curveball; she was under the impression that I was putting her name out publicly closer to the convention in early August, and definitely not in March, which was NOT what the family wanted. And I can see the reasoning behind this request; the family was still in mourning and waiting until August would give the family enough space to grieve. Out of respect for the family, I emailed Ms. Clark with a solemn promise not to reveal officially Ursula K. Le Guin’s name under any circumstances until August and the addendum was submitted.

So I was faced with a paradoxical dilemma; how could publicize a name change without naming the person we were going to honor?

I contacted Kevin Standlee to see if the addendum proposal could be embargoed for a few months but he immediately replied with a firm no, the items up for discussion were open for scrutiny at all times.

After consulting with my partner Juli for several days, we came up with a (somewhat ingenious) plan; we will recruit a all-star lineup of co-sponsors, explain that we were going to honor Ursula Le Guin by inserting her name into the new award, swear everyone involved to secrecy and issue a press release teasing of reveal of the name in August, right before the convention.

Well, I dipped into my list of Facebook contacts and I did recruit a stellar group of writers, editors and fans to co-sponsor the addendum and explaining clearly (or, so I thought at the time) that the process will play itself out at the convention and that their sponsorship would be a key element in ensuring its passage.

On Tuesday evening, March 6th, I sent the press release above to Mike Glyer for immediate release on the File 770 website.

We then proceeded to go out to dinner and play several round of Buzztime Triva with some close friends.

What, Juli and I thought at the time, could possibly go WRONG?

As it turned out, almost EVERYTHING went wrong.

Almost immediately, one prominent author was inundated with curious and/or angry emails, text and Facebook messages demanding why she would be involved with such fannish chicanery? She immediately spilled the beans about what and who of the whole affair on her Facebook page. From her page the word spread like wildfire over social media. She messaged me an hour after the press release was published and asked to have her name removed as a co-sponsor.

Over the next several hours, the “controversy” spread accordingly to several other co-sponsors, who subsequently asked to have their names removed as well.  (Please note that I have avoided naming names to spare any of the people involved from any further inquires or harassment.)

For several days, I was pilloried and flamed on every social network platform. Or, that’s what friends reported back to me because I did neither read nor reacted to any way of the negative commentary thrown my way. If I had, I’d still be fighting and responding to EVERY SINGLE REPLY.

I also did not respond because I made a promise to the Le Guin family not to officially reveal her name as the subject of this project on the record, TO ANYONE, until the addendum was submitted to the Business Meeting.

But, as badly as the news was received in some fannish circles, the proposal actually did elicit some support with some people, which gave me some hope that the storm over this may pass in time. And, looking on the bright side, everyone was debating this open secret drawing their own opinions and conclusions.

(My partner Juli Marr, did read and keep track of the comments and did come across one amusing anecdote; someone on a Facebook page had hypothesis that my press release was actually a classic “false flag” operation designed to malign the name and reputation of Ursula Le Guin in order for the supporters of Madeline L’Engle to mount a counter insurgency campaign at the Business Meeting to have her name submitted as true name of choice. Yeah, uh-huh, sure, THAT scenario may actually happen. NOT!)

On July 28th, I emailed Ginger Clark:

Ginger,

I am checking in with you one last time since the deadline for proposing a name change at the Worldcon is next Thursday.

The text of the name change has been written and a follow up column for File 770 officially explaining why the Young Adult Book Award should be called the Ursula K. Le Guin Award will be presented.

If the family has any second thoughts or concerns at this point, PLEASE contact me (or have a family representative do so) as soon as possible.

Thank You,

Chris Barkley

On July 30th, Ms Clarke replied that the family had no second thoughts, wanted me to proceed with the submission of the addendum and wished us Good Luck!

So, on Tueday August 1st, a day before the deadline for the New Business deadline, the following was submitted to the Worldcon 76 Business Meeting for discussion with copies sent to all of the co-sponsors.

And with that, my promise was kept…

22 February – 2 March 18

Re-Naming the Lodestar Award – A Proposal for a Strikethrough Addendum

A.4 Short Title: Re-Name That Award

Moved: to name the award for best young adult book the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book by inserting words as follows. The revised Young Adult Book award would then read as follows:

3.7.3: Nominations shall be solicited only for the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.

3.10.2: Final Award ballots shall list only the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.

3.3.18: Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book. The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book is given for a book published for young adult readers in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year, with such exceptions as are listed in Section 3.4.

Proposed by: Members of the YA Award Committee

Replaced by:

A.4 Short Title: (Re)Name That Award: The “Ursula K. Le Guin Lodestar Award for Young Adult Book” Award

Moved: to name the award for best young adult book from the Lodestar Award to the Ursula K. Le Guin Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book by inserting words as follows. The revised Young Adult Book Award would then read as follows:

3.7.3: Nominations shall be solicited only for the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the Lodestar Ursula K. Le Guin Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.

3.10.2: Final Award ballots shall list only the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the Lodestar Ursula K. Le Guin Award Lodestar for Best Young Adult Book.

3.3.18: The Lodestar Ursula K. Le Guin Award Lodestar for Best Young Adult Book. The Lodestar Ursula K. Le Guin Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book is given for a book published for young adult readers in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year, with such exceptions as are listed in Section 3.4.

The YA Committee is to be congratulated for their diligent work in crafting the parameters of the YA Award for the World Science Fiction Convention. However, we the undersigned see an opportunity to honor the work, legacy and memory of Ursula Kroeber Le Guin by re-naming this new award after her.

Thusly, she will be known and connected in perpetuity with the Hugo Awards Ceremony and the World Science Fiction Convention. We are also of the opinion that such a award must have a name of important stature, just as the other non- Hugo Award category, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The proposers of this change wish to thank the Le Guin family for their consent with a special acknowledgement to Ginger Clark, the literary agent of the Le Guin estate for her help in facilitating this historic agreement.

Proposed by Juli Marr (Attending Member), Chris M. Barkley (Attending Member), Robert J. Sawyer (Attending Member), David Gerrold (Attending Member) and Steven H. Silver (Attending Member).

In closing, I would like to thank my co- sponsors, Robert J. Sawyer, David Gerrold, Steven H. Silver and my One True Love, Juli Marr.

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.

Ursula K. LeGuin

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #32

Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty images

Remembering: Harlan & I

By Chris M. Barkley

“Awareness and Kindness are the only sacred things.”
– Harlan Ellison

On May 14, 2018, Tom Wolfe died.

Most of you reading this know him as the author of The Right Stuff, a nonfiction chronicles of test pilots like Chuck Yeager and those who came after him to become the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts. Astute fans also know he was on the vanguard of “new journalism” of the 1960’s (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) and wrote several novels of note (The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full).

There were eulogies, obituaries and tributes galore. There is no doubt in my mind that Tom Wolfe’s literary legacy is well assured.

On May 22, 2018, Philip Roth died.

Mr. Roth had an extraordinary literary life; a winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle awards twice each, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Awards three times. His 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, was given the Sidewise Award for Alternate History In Time in which American hero and Nazi collaborator Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt to become the President in 1940, with dire results. The waves of accolades and praise for Roth and his works came, all well deserved.

And then, on June 28, Harlan Ellison died.  And to me, seems as though the entire world just suddenly STOPPED in its tracks to pay tribute to this man, this splendid wordsmith.

It had been a very busy day. I woke up at 3 a.m. to take over the counter meds for the slight rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder (and NO, I will not be back in time for the playoffs, thank you very much for asking!).  At 7:20, I was up and listening to NPR’s Morning Edition (which my partner Juli and I have humorously nicknamed “Damage Report”), preparing the morning coffee, chai and a cat food feast for four hungry faces.

I was watching that day’s first World Cup match (Senegal vs Columbia) when I received an urgent call from my neighbor, Lillian. If you were to google a casting call image of a little old lady, ninety-five year old Lillian’s face would likely appear; frail, five foot one, probably ninety pounds soaking wet with the sweetest smile and a New York accent to die for. She adamantly insists on living by herself and manages to do so under the watchful eyes of Juli and I and her numerous in-laws and grandchildren.

“Oh, I hate to bother you,” she said, “but could you come over and have a look at the blinds upstairs? I think they might be broken.”

Well, of course I could. Because that’s what good neighbors do. And besides, I am a former Boy Scout of America and I have been mostly home since I stopped working at the bookstore over a year ago. So while Columbia was busy fending off Senegal, I was measuring her blinds to be replaced because the plastic inner mechanism had finally become so brittle and dry, it gave up the ghost. She fretted about replacing all three sets of shades in the room (because she wanted them to match) but I assured her that when she and her granddaughter returned from Home Depot later in the day, I could easily handle them.

After watching Columbia defeat Senegal 1-nil, it was time to pick up my two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Lily, from pre-school. As many of you have seen from photographs posted here, she is a lively, smart-for-her years imp of a little girl. When I picked her up and bundled her into the car, she demanded her toys that are usually littered about the back seat, a pair of plastic dinosaurs (a stegosaurus and velociraptor), a tiny albino Bengal tiger and a small waterless coloring board. And once we’re underway, as she is regularly wont to do, she deftly removes her socks and shoes and settles back in her car sear for some serious singing, playing and some occasional comments about my driving abilities.

Thirty minutes later, Lily was protesting being put down for her nap, even though this has been a part of her daily routine for the past year and a half. But she’s more tired than she realizes and is soon fast asleep. And in the meantime, I asked the household’s Alexa to dial up NPR’s Here and Now for the latest news. Now it’s my turn to fret; the border crisis, the upcoming tariffs on foreign trade and the continuing analysis of the Supreme Court decisions and the speculation on who will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy dominate that day’s show.

Lily’s mom Beth came home an hour and a half later. I headed back to the house and had settled into watch the evening match in Kaliningrad between England and Belgium when I get the call from Lillian about her blinds. I went next door immediately. “I don’t want to keep too long,” she said, so she insisted I only replace the broken blind and the rest could wait until tomorrow. It took less than ten minutes and  she pronounced the work, “beautiful”.

I had just sat down on my mushroom-shaped chair to check my email when I saw it.

Right above an announcement about breaking news event about a mass shooting at a newspaper in Annapolis, there was an email from Variety with the headline: “Harlan Ellison, Sci-Fi Writer Who Contributed to ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Babylon 5,’ Dies at 84.”

My heart shuddered.

The world fell away.

I took my glasses off and openly wept.

It had finally happened and for several minutes I tried to take it in and comprehend what I had just read.

He was gone.

I had contemplated calling Harlan on his birthday in May but demurred, first because I truly did not know the state of his health and did not want to bother him unduly. I discarded the idea completely when I heard that his good friend, fellow author and editor, Gardner Dozois, had died earlier in the day. There was no way Harlan nor could his lovely wife Susan entertain the idea of a call from me. It felt like a terrible idea. So, I let it go I have no regrets.

I noodled around online looking for more information but after a while, I became fatigued with grief. I went to lie down on the bed and did so until my sweetheart and partner Juli came home from work. She had heard the news, too.  She had never met him but she knew only knew of him by his reputation and stories that she had read about him over the years. Her opinion of Harlan was quite neutral but she also knew how deeply I felt about him. “What do you want to do?,” she asked in a soft, knowing voice.

It was Thursday, which was trivia night at one of our favorite brew houses, The Casual Pint. I asked myself, what would Harlan and Susan do? They would probably say that life was the living and that moping around wasn’t going to do the dead or you any good.

So I chose to get off my ass. “Let’s go,” I said.

On the way down the highway, we received a text from Juli’s son-in-law, Tim; he wanted to go out that evening with our granddaughter Lily but couldn’t because Beth accidentally took his car keys with her to work. Since we both knew he loved craft beers, we called him, changed course and picked them up.

We arrived at The Casual Pint just in time; our team leader, a retired insurance adjuster named Ed, had already submitted our usual team name, “Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine.” Tater tots, cider, beer and brats were ordered and the game was on.

There are six rounds of general knowledge questions, with each question separated by a soundtrack of cheesy rock and pop songs that lasted around three to four minutes. Cheating with smart phones was not allowed.

We were playing against an overwhelmingly millennial crowd. Between Juli, Tim, Ed and I, we kicked their little tushes back to grade school with 93 total points, thirty more than our nearest opponent, “Mr. Peabody’s Way Forward Machine.” Our prizes were $25 in gift cards shared among us, a brand new FC Cincinnati t-shirt for me and two tickets to the Saturday game with the Ottawa Fury, which we gave away to a couple who just moved to Cincinnati from Washington state just days earlier.

That felt good. And I felt alive, well and connected to the world once more.

My first encounter with Harlan Ellison’s work began in the summer of 1971. That was when my geeky new friend, Michaele, came home from college. I was heavily in to comics and loaned her some essential issues from my DC and Marvel collection. She, in turn, gave me a hardcover book club edition of the World’s Best Science Fiction 1970, edited by Terry Carr and Donald Wollheim. It was (and still is) filled with fine stories by Richard Wilson (“A Man Spekith”) Fritz Lieber (“Ship of Shadows”), Ursula K. Le Guin (“Nine Lives”), Robert Silverberg (“After the Myths Went Home”), Norman Spinrad (“The Big Flash”), James Tiptree, Jr. (“Your Haploid Heart”), Suzette Haden Elgin (“For the Sake of Grace”) and Larry Niven (“Death by Ecstasy”), among others.

But as I perused the table of contents, my eye was drawn to a singularly titled story, “A Boy and His Dog” by one Harlan Ellison, a writer I had never heard of before. Out of all the titled stories, for some unknown reason, I chose the story with the simplest, least ornate title.

Curious, I began to read. And damn, I was richly rewarded.

There may be some of you reading this have never had the pleasure of reading Harlan’s Nebula Award winning novella. I have no intention of recapping the plot of this well-known story. From its deceptively benign beginnings to its jaw dropping ending, I will only state that I was not the same person who began reading that story. And I must say, before I read “A Boy and His Dog”, my fourteen-year-old brain could not contemplate the possibility of sex being written in a prose style that could be interesting, arousing or heart-rending in ANY way.

Soon thereafter, I discovered that this remarkable writer had written some very memorable stories; “’Repent, Harlequin,’ Said the Tick-Tock Man”, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”,  “Delusion For a Dragon Slayer” , “Paingod” and “The Beast That Shouted Love at The Heart of the World.”

If I were to compare Harlan to a baseball pitcher, I couldn’t do it, it would have to be at least a minimum of THREE; the fastball of the Cleveland Indians’ Bob Feller (of whom I have no doubt Harlan followed as a kid), the self-assured goofiness of journeyman knuckleballer Jim Bouton and the determination, cunning, intelligence, sheer skill and intimidation factor of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson, who would throw at your eye teeth if you tried to dig in at the plate.

The day after Harlan Ellison died, I saw a Facebook post in which the writer (whom I am protecting from the wrath of the internet by not naming), praised him as a writer but then turned around and stated that due to his manic behavior and explosive personality, his collective works were probably the product of a “idiot savant”.

What?

Oh, HELL NO!

These were the works of a restless and assertive man, always striving to be better, do better and most importantly, DEMAND better of himself, his friends and acquaintances and the world at large. And if this worldview did not coincide with your interests, you were going to have problems with Harlan Ellison. And he had problems with a lot of people.

Harlan and I were born at the opposite ends of Ohio; him in Cleveland in 1934 and me in Cincinnati twenty-two years later. And although each city has a long, adversarial history of sniping at each other, I never got a negative vibe from him about that. In fact, Harlan spent many a summer in the 1950’s attending Midwestcon, a relaxacon (a non-programmed convention) based in the Cincinnati area.

This convention, coincidently, is also where, in the summer of 1976, I discovered fandom (a full account, 13,000 plus word account of which was previous published in File 770 in 1997) but Harlan had long since stopped attending.

I found out that Harlan drew from his boyhood memories and experiences from glancing at a map of Ohio the other day. He grew up in the small town of Painsville (oh, the irony), which is approximately thirty miles northeast of Cleveland.

Now (unfolding the map), starting from Painsville, follow Ohio State Route 2 southeast twenty-six miles to the southwest, where it merges with I-90, past Euclid…Do you see it?

Bratenahl. That happens to be the last name of Harlan’s reporter protagonist in his richly vivid screenplay adaption of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. A coincidence, you say?  Not a chance!

And there, to the south, running right through US 422, is Solon. I’m pretty sure he used that town’s name somewhere in his corpus of works. Are there more little gems out there waiting to be discovered by literary detectives and scholars decades from now? Most assuredly, I think.

Reading Harlan Ellison was one thing. Encountering Harlan Ellison in person was like stepping through a portal into an alternate, whirlwind dimension…

One of the people I met and befriended at that first Midwestcon was now Professor Emeritus Joseph Patrouch of the University of Dayton. He was also instrumental in bringing Harlan to town in November of 1977 for an event on campus. Not only did Joe send me an invitation, I also got to tag along to have dinner with him beforehand at a nearby restaurant.

Much of that evening has become a hazy blur over the years but I do remember him being very friendly and gracious to me when I was formally introduced to him (I saw him previously in May at Kwintus Kublius, a sf convention in Nashville) and the dinner was punctuated with stories and laughter.

The event itself was electrifying; a reading from a story he had just completed, punctuated by some searing commentary about America, the evils of contemporary television, some rather pointed statements about abysmal state of students and youth culture he was encountering during the lecture tour and the somewhat tenuous state of the world  at that moment.

Harlan spoke loudly, forcibly and most importantly, with an enormous amount of vigor and passion. Anyone who has ever witnessed his lectures, signings or public performances knows EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.  To anyone who was receptive, his speeches, observations and pronouncements left you in turns, angry, sad, amused, shocked and overwhelmed. And informed, always informed. (Well, at least to his point of view; merely agreeing with him was, in my estimation, lazy thinking.” Don’t believe me”, he would always say, “find out for yourself and forge your own, informed opinions.”) .

Harlan’s enthusiasm was infectious. If anyone in that audience that night had an inkling of becoming a writer, they were certainly given a powerful impetus to do so that evening. At least, I hope they did. I know that is was true for me.

In his 1980 non-fiction tome on horror Danse Macabre, Stephen King invited Harlan to describe his work in his own words. He said, “My work is foursquare for chaos. I spend my life personally, and my work professionally, keeping the soup boiling. Gadfly is what they call you when you are no longer dangerous; I much prefer troublemaker, malcontent, desperado. I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket. My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrator or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”

Over the years, I have tried to emulate his code of ethics; if you see something wrong, speak up, help if you can help, do not suffer fools gladly, never settle for the mediocre in yourself or anything you do, don’t be a slave to what’s fashionable, do vote in elections and, if you accept help, pay it forward to the next person.

To be sure, Harlan didn’t always follow his own sage advice; I have read and heard about his infamous temper, which sometimes got the better of him with his dealings with fans, television and film executives, fellow authors, editors, publishers and just plain folks. I have never truly felt his wrath mostly because I closely listened and learned. Over the first few years that I knew him, I learned that there were certain odious subjects and red zones that I was never going to broach with him; his previous marriages, Richard Nixon, Star Wars (the films or the missile defense “scheme”), Gene Roddenberry and The Last Dangerous Visions.

By now you have either heard of, read or re-lived some of the more infamous true incidents; the dead gopher, the slugging of tv producer Adrian Samish, the testy encounter with Frank Sinatra, being dismissed from the Walt Disney studio after less than a day on the lot, the Starlost debacle, the I, Robot debacle, what the pseudonym “Cordwainer Bird” really means when he uses it, the bricks that were mailed to a publisher (intentionally sent with postage due, mind you), the physical assault on author Charles Platt at the 1985 Nebula Awards banquet, forcing James Cameron to admit that some of the story material in the making of the Terminator films were actually Harlan’s and the successful settlement of a lawsuit against AOL for infringement and the illegal distribution of his works online by its users.

And then there was the 2006 incident with Connie Willis at the Worldcon, which I’ll delve into that a little further along.

Over the past forty-one years, I had the privilege of experiencing a parade of encounters with Harlan Ellison.

In early May of 1977, I was sitting in the audience of Harlan’s Guest of Honor speech at the aforementioned sf convention in Nashville. He read his soon to be published (and future Hugo Award winning short story), “Jeffty Is Five” and soon after, was regaling us with stories about running away with the circus in his youth and the entertainment of that era, that included the last vestiges of the vaudeville era and minstrel shows. Several in the audience called out for him to sing a song and he was about to do so when his eyes swept to room and came resting directly on me, the only African-American person in the room. He stopped, raised his hand and said, “No. Sorry folks, I can’t do that. We have a gentleman in the audience who might object.” And everyone then expectantly turned to me.   I, in turn, said, “Hey, well, you know…”

Silence.

And Harlan smiled and put an end any thought of doing a THAT kind of song and that was the end of it. And I was grateful, then and now, that he had taken the time to notice me and took time to take my feelings into account.

The very next year Harlan was the GoH of the Iguanacon, the 36th Worldcon that was held in Phoenix, Arizona. This was my second Worldcon and the journey by air was the furthest I had ever been from my home by myself. I remember that stepping from the Hyatt Regency entrance onto the street was like entering a blast furnace. The convention center was several hundred yards away across an open plaza and there were several times that I was sure quite sure the gym shoes would melt from the walk on the pavement.

Parked just outside the hotel there was a huge mobile home Harlan had rented for the occasion. He was ensconced there as a protest against the Arizona state legislature for not passing the Equal Rights Amendment (which, as of July 2018, the Republican majority in both houses were still actively blocking).

At one point during the proceedings, wandered into the hotel lobby where Harlan was sitting in a transparent tent, writing a story for everyone to see.  As I sat down to watch this spectacle, unfold, I found myself sitting next to and becoming acquainted with one of Harlan’s close friends, author Norman Spinrad. It was an unforgettable experience.

In 1994 I was in the midst of my first go round working at my dream job as an employee of Joseph Beth Booksellers, one of the best independent retail book outlets in the country. When Harlan’s illustrated version of his 1978 screenplay for Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot was published later that year, I immediately chose it as my staff pick. To further promote the book, I called Harlan and set a time for him to call the store for a phone conference book club. Twenty-five people showed up as Harlan patiently explained his lifelong friendship with Asimov, the genesis of the project and detailed why the script would probably never be put into production.

(Note: The abominable 2004 version starring Will Smith, directed by Alex Proyas and mostly written by Akiva Goldsman over the vigorous objections of the original screenwriter, Jeff Vintar, had NOTHING to do with Asimov’s book. The late film critic Roger Ebert wrote, ”The plot is simple minded and disappointing, and the chase and action scenes are pretty much routine for movies in the sci fi CGI genre.” Ebert was also an ardent sf fan, had read I, Robot  and it’s more than likely he knew about Harlan superior screenplay. I tried watching it once on cable and turned it off after ten minutes. One day, I would like to ask Smith, who took an executive producer’s credit, whether or not he read or knew about Harlan’s script with the same name…)

A few days after the event, I got a call from Harlan thanking me again for the opportunity to talk some intelligent fans of his work. He also wanted to ask a favor; could he order a book on dinosaurs that had just been published? Not only did I order it, I gave him a 20% discount and free shipping to boot. Because that’s what friends do for each other.

Friends also help friends get nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  In 2004, I did just that.

I have held a longstanding grudge against the Swedish Academy’s Literature Committee, for not only snubbing American writers like the late Philip Roth and the very much alive Joyce Carol Oates, but brilliant fantasy and sf writers like Jack Vance, Guy Gavriel Kay, Margaret Atwood, Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin and…Harlan Ellison.

I was going to send each of the fifteen sitting member of the Literature Committee a copy of the thirty-five year retrospective of The Essential Ellison to get their attention but it proved to be very cost prohibitive and also out of bounds, rules wise.

The rules as it turned out, were very simple:

Qualified Nominators

The right to submit proposals for the award of a Nobel Prize in Literature shall, by statute, be enjoyed by:

1. Members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies which are similar to it in construction and purpose;
2. Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges;
3. Previous Nobel Laureates in Literature;
4. Presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries.

Harlan was not out of the loop; I called him very early in the process and when I told him what I was up to, there was an incredulous cry of “WHHAAAAAAT!” on the other end of the phone. But once he calmed down, he was very much on board to make it happen.

Somewhere in my National Archive-sized rental storage unit, I have a copy of a letter from a professor (whose name, alas, I cannot remember at this moment) who taught at Northern Kentucky University and was a huge fan of Harlan’s. I found him by querying around local writer’s groups and schools for a volunteer to contact the Swedish Academy.

He readily agreed to write an official letter and simultaneously email the Swedish Academy with the nomination. When that was done, I would send out an officially approved press release announcing the nomination to all of the major newspapers

Well, the morning the professor sent word that the email had been sent, I first alerted the gang with a detailed post at Unca’ Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion with the good news. For a good long while, this website was the only place to contact him or his legions of friends and acquaintances online. I was within minutes of sending out the press release when I received several emails begging me NOT to.

Puzzled, I asked why and several correspondents explained that the Academy frowns upon public displays or announcements about nominations. So sending out that email would have practically ended any consideration of Harlan’s work for a Nobel Prize.

With a heavy heart I called Harlan later in the morning with the news. “I know kiddo, I know,” he said with some sadness in his voice. “But,” I said, “you still have the nomination. You just can’t talk about it.”

He gave a chuckle and thanked me profusely for my efforts. I’d like to imagine that at the very least he called up Robert Silverberg exclaiming, “Hey, GUESS WHAT I HAVE that you don’t?”

I celebrated my 50th birthday at two years later at L.A.con IV, the 64th World Science Fiction Convention. It was memorable in many, many ways. For good and for naught, as it turned out.

I met up with Harlan and Susan in the Green Room just before his first panel of the day. I came in part to present him with a signed and framed copy of the professor’s Nobel Prize nomination. Susan accidentally spilled some coffee on me and Harlan was mortified even though there wasn’t too much damage done to my pants or leg. As he graciously signed a few books I brought with me, actor Robert Picardo came by to see them. I stepped aside, said farewell and went about my assigned duties in the Press Office.

I met UK author Paul Cornell and gave him an embarrassingly long hug for writing this Hugo nominated Doctor Who episode, “Father’s Day”. The dealer’s room and art show were enormous. There was a marvelous dinner at a Bucca di Beppo’s , a franchise I had never heard up until then of and seemed to me to be solely dedicated to killing off its customer base several thousand calories at time.

At the Business Meeting, Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden and I shook hands as the members voted to split the Best Editor award in two; a Long Form category for the editor of at least four novel-length works and a Short Form category for the editor of at least four anthologies, collections or issues of magazines. (This turned out well for Patrick; he won the first Long Form award a year later at Nippon 2007 and received a wondrous award that featured the traditional Hugo rocket, Mt. Fuji and Ultraman!)

Then there was the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Saturday night. As a staff member of the Press Office, my primary job that evening was wrangle the group 30 or so journalists covering the event. I had them seated in several rows in an area just to the left of the stage. No more than forty feet away from the elevated stage.

I remember that the ceremony was going very well. Connie Willis was the Mistress of Ceremonies. When it was time for the Best Short Story to be awarded, Harlan came ambling on stage to present it.. Mind you, his appearance was not much of a surprise because the short story was his favorite medium to work in and the award has near and dear to his heart.

What happened next…

When I watched a You Tube video of the incident for this tribute was painful and took a great deal of effort because having seen it live and in person once was quite enough for me. It felt surreal. Harlan comes out. They start a humorous exchange and then Harlan puts the head of the microphone, foam and all INTO HIS MOUTH and goes into a weird “babyman” shtick, babbling and well, then, see for yourself:

As I was sitting there, I my mouth gaped open and I said to myself, did I just see what I just saw? There were some audible gasps from around me but, as you can see, it happened so quickly and as you saw Connie Willis left the stage without further incident and Harlan went on to present the award.

Needless to say, things got crazy. Harlan was roundly pilloried and condemned. Everyone had an opinion. A day after the convention closed, I had not read nor heard anything from either party about the “incident”.  Then, on the following Tuesday, the following query was posted on the Unca Harlan’s Art Deco Dining Pavilion:

Anne Batik, Aberdeen, UK – Tuesday, August 29 2006 7:43:46
WorldCon awards ceremony
For the record: I’ve met Mr. Ellison, had a conversation with him, and liked him. I found him intensely funny. I respect his work –a lot– the man is a great writer.

But grabbing Connie Willis’s breast is NOT ok, and people being upset over it is perfectly legit, not just “a bunch of fen in a snit.” Grabbing any woman’s breast, uninvited, much less a professional author of equal stature, in public, just because he wanted to I guess — is **NOT OK**. He really ought to issue Ms. Willis an apology. Period. He has no excuse. That is not how you treat women and not how you treat a colleague.

The man I met ten years ago had more class than that, even though he enjoyed being abrasive. What the heck happened?

Harlan responded a few hours later:

  • – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:19:50
    REPLY TO LYNNE BATIK:

Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress … and having left the hall entirely … yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato’s traditional chili party … and having taken off next morning for return home … and not having the internet facility to open “journalfen” (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis’s left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar …YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN’S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go ‘way over the line in terms of invasion of someone’s personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie’s breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I’ve called Connie. Haven’t heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It’s not as if I haven’t been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn’t–till now–reached your level of outrage.

I’m glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.

  • Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:26:56

CONNIE WILLIS’S LEFT BREAST, REDUX

Did I fail to mention, I am 100% guilty as charged, and NO ONE should attempt to cobble up mitigating excuses for my behavior? As with everything else I REALLY DO (as opposed to the bullshit that is gossiped third-hand by dolts), I am responsible for my actions 100% and am prepared to shoulder all consequences, instead of shunting them off to Vice-President ScaryGuy.

Adultly said, Yr. pal, Harlan

HARLAN ELLISON
– Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:28:31
REDUX, REDUX’D

This may be what killed vaudeville.

he

  • HARLAN ELLISON
    – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:31:1
    REDUX TERTIUS

How’s chances of me playing either the “I’m an old man and my brain is leaking out of my ass” card … or … even better …

“I’m an old Jew and this is just another example of anti-Semitism because all you goyim are pissed that Jews really DO control the whole world.”

I can go either way.

Yr. pal, Harlan

  • HARLAN ELLISON
    – Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:43:2
    ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH

On a more serious note: if, in fact, Connie (or Courtney, or Cordelia) were/are/might in any way be offended by this latest demonstration of give’n’take jackanapery between Connie and Harlan (now in its longest-run on Broadway), you may all rest assured I will apologize vehemently, will crawl to Colorado through broken glass and steaming embers, and beg her (their) forgiveness. I need no one to prompt me.

Harlan Ellison, a friend of Connie Willis

Connie Willis has never (to my knowledge) ever publicly made a statement about what happened.

You have seen the video. You have read Harlan Ellison’s apology. So much has been said, written and pontificated upon that my opinion won’t mean much of anything in the critical maelstrom that has followed in the wake of Harlan’s passing. I’ve given my testimony. I believe that it just an accident. You can form your own opinions. Harlan would.

A little more than a year later, it was my turn to take a little tour of hell.

My marriage was on the rocks; my then wife moved from Middletown, Ohio where we were living, to Dayton twenty miles away to pursue a degree in medieval history full time. Without her income, I just could not make ends meet on the part-time salary working at the local Sears outlet. Over the preceding year, I started selling my extensive book collection on eBay. As the months went by the bills began accumulate and I sold nearly everything, including all of my signed Ellison editions.

In desperation, I began calling friends in and out of fandom to beg for assistance. When I reached the end of that list, I thought very hard about calling Harlan and Susan for help. I knew they had a done a bit of a philanthropic assistance to others but on the other hand, I hated to impose on them.

One evening, I took a deep breath and I called. Harlan answered.  “Hey, howzit going,” he asked enthusiastically.

For the next few minutes, I then laid out my tale woe. When I finished there was a few moments of silence then, he asked, “How much do you need?” I am embarrassed to say I asked for five thousand dollars.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not gonna happen. I can’t help you that far, buddy, I just can’t.” I was crestfallen. He then said, “I will help you as far as I’m able to right now. Will a couple of hundred tide you over?” I pushed down my disappointment and said yes indeed, I would be incredibly grateful for anything right now. Harlan also said, “ I’m going to do you a favor, too; I’m not gonna come after you for a payback, it’s just an open loan. Just pay me back when you can.”

A few days later, a personal check for two hundred dollars arrived in the mail. That money did not solve my problems. But here’s what it did do; it put food on my table, gas and oil in the dilapidated wreck I was driving and most importantly hope that I could extract myself from the quagmire I was floundering in.

By the end of 2007, I successfully declared bankruptcy, saved some money and with the help of my daughter Laura and some friends I had made in Middletown, moved back to Cincinnati and into a large, cheap apartment carved out of a nineteenth-century tenement house that was located, ironically enough, in the neighborhood I grew up in as a child.

I survived on a grueling series of temp jobs (including a three-month stint at a Amazon.com warehouse which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy) and extended unemployment benefits from the kindly state of Ohio for four long years until I finally landed back at my old dream job Joseph Beth in the fall of 2011.

During that period I also found Juli, my partner and true love. I persuaded her to move up from her warm and comfortable home in South Carolina to brave somewhat intemperate climate of southwestern Ohio, with only the promise of my undying love for her.

Flash forward to 2015. Juli and I live comfortably in an integrated community on the outskirts of the city. She is working in a very sales lucrative position for Verizon and I am holding the position of periodicals manager in the best bookstore in Cincinnati. My work at the store was recognized by CityBeat, the weekly alternative newspaper and Cincinnati magazine as being the Best Magazine/Newspaper outlet in the tri-state area for past three years.

During those years, Harlan and Susan were always on my mind. There had been a heart attack back in the 90’s and a bout of clinical depression in 2011. Then there was Harlan’s stroke two years later. From most of the reports I had heard, Harlan was still his cantankerous, biting self, still writing and editing works, just a little less so than usual.

So, one summer’s day, I went to my credit union and withdrew two sequentially numbered one hundred dollar bills. I went to the book store and chose a small thank you card with a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which I thought they might find pithy and wise:

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.

I signed the card with my best wishes, placed the two crisp bills and mailed it. I never heard back from them and frankly, no response was needed. Because sometimes you pay forward and sometimes you pay it back, gladly.

Over the decades that I have known Harlan Ellison, he has done hundreds, maybe thousands of small favors like mine. His stories, novels, teleplays, essays and deeds have inspired millions of people around the world. I am privileged to be one of them.

The afternoon after Harlan died, I received a call from my neighbor Lillian, who asked me to come by and put up the two matching blinds in her bedroom. It took about fifteen minutes. I also loaded the two good blinds in the car so they could be donated to Goodwill. She clapped her hands in delight when I finished, which is all the reward I would ever want from her.

I did not share my grief over Harlan’s passing with her; I had heard about her own stories of grief, tragedy and death from her in-laws and grandchildren. So I chose not burden her with mine.

Lillian is a subscriber to the New York Times, something else that endears her Juli and I. But there is no railing beside the two steps leading up to her front door. So, soon after we moved in next to her, we took it upon ourselves to make sure the paper was on the top step, leaning against the door. This is not only a courtesy, it also tells us on a daily basis that she is still with us. This was yet another lesson Harlan taught me, try never trouble the people you love unnecessarily, offer them comfort and familiarity instead.

Were Harlan and I ever truly friends? We never spoke of it over the years that we knew each other it but I’d like to think to think so. He was certainly there when I needed him and him for me. Even more so now that all we have left are our memories and his work.

Over breakfast this past week, my partner and true love Juli said it best; “He was a man of great knowledge and talent. To some he was a god, to others he was the devil incarnate. So, I guess, in the end, he was a just a man.”

To me, he was quite a man, whom I knew ever so briefly but who will always matter to me.

Goodbye, Harlan.

“My mantra is this: I am engaged in the noblest, most honorable profession that the human mind has ever conceived. I am a storyteller. That’s what I am. I tell stories. I am a writer. Not a famous writer, not a literary writer, not a blah-blah-blah writer. I’m a writer. That’s all I ever aspired to be and, at core, is all I am. I am a very content man. I have spent my life doing what I wanted to do.”

Harlan Jay Ellison, 1934-2018

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #31

Why I am Advocating for a Best Translated Novel Category

By Chris M. Barkley:

Author’s Note: Like Jo Van Ekeren, I am a member of a Hugo Awards Study Committee, which was formed last year at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland. The views expressed in this editorial are solely mine and may not reflect the views and interests of anyone else serving on the Study Committee or anyone connected with any Worldcon, past or present.

My first encounter with the Hugo Awards began back in high school in the early 1970’s when I stumbled upon a copy of The Hugo Awards Volumes One and Two, edited by Isaac Asimov. Up until I cracked open this particular anthology, I had only been a casual reader of fantasy and science fiction. Reading it plunged me into a literary whirlpool that I have reveled in and loved ever since.

When I started thinking about proposing changes to the Hugo Award categories in 1998, I had no idea how to proceed. I had attended fifteen Worldcons but I had attended only a single Business Meeting, and that was only because I was passing where it was being held one afternoon and a friend grabbed me and asked me to vote on something of vital importance. I went in, raised my hand when asked and did so and went on my merry way without knowing what I had just supported.

At Chicon 2000, I became a regular attendee and over the years learned how to cajole, advocate, persuade and validate my points of view. I did learn quickly to develop some thick skin as my early efforts were mercilessly stonewalled and ridiculed on a regular basis.

Through the tireless efforts of myself and other dedicated fans, we made significant changes to the Hugo Award categories and all of them were for the better, in my opinion.

But, as time has gone by it has become evident to some (including myself) that we should take a serious look at all of the categories to see if ambiguities could be removed from the language in the WSFS Constitution, redefining, improving, eliminating or suggesting new categories altogether. The Helsinki Business Meeting commissioned such a Study Group last summer and I happily volunteered.

At the moment, the group is gearing up to reach a consensus to issue a report in time for Worldcon 76 in San Jose.

On June 9, I presented the idea of a Best Translated Novel to the group. I did so because I believe that it is time the World Science Fiction Convention become a truly global award of cultural distinction.

Of course, the group on the whole had its concerns about establishing a new category. On the whole, I would say that we are not in favor of turning the Hugo awards into the Grammys with a nearly endless parade of sub-categories and narrowly defined special interest awards.

Well, imagine my surprise when I opened the June 14 edition of the Pixel Scroll and saw tweets from Rachel S. Cordasco and Claire Rousseau espousing the very same idea! Needless to say, I was very excited to see this and contacted them to enthusiastically pledge my support.

But there is a problem; as Ms. Van Ekeren rightly pointed out, even though we are less than two months way from Worldcon, the time frame for discussing it in advance and scheduling it for a formal debate at the Business Meeting is less than desirable at this point. We are, in essence, the gatekeepers of the Hugo Awards. And while I relish this vital role, I have often been frustrated by the somewhat glacial pace of the process and the sometimes overwhelming sense of caution the members of the Business Meeting immerse themselves in.

Be that as it may, I am quite confident and certain that this proposal will be assigned to a study group, will be roundly debated in the coming year and an amendment will be presented at the Business Meeting in Dublin.

The very first World Fiction Convention in 1939 was held in New York City and it has been documented that the original intention was to have the convention named as homage to the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows. And as time has passed, and innovations and technology have made our community more global, it just makes good sense to extend the good will and honor of being nominated for or winning a Hugo Award to the rest of the world. Because we, as a community, must show that the Worldcon isn’t just a traveling genre party for English speakers, but the whole, wide world. As an analogy I offer the example of the Academy Awards; a Best Translated Novel is just like offering the equivalent of the Best Foreign Film category.

For decades, the Hugo Award was mainly dominated by writers from the United Kingdom and North America. And while we called ourselves members of the World Science Fiction Society, the first convention wasn’t held outside North America until 1957 (London, UK) or in Europe until 1970 (Heidelberg, West Germany). Even then, English-speaking writers have prevailed. That is, until recently.

My inspiration for supporting the Best Translated Novel was inspired by the recent Hugo wins by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Cixin Liu and Hao Jingfang. This shows that the inherent bias against writers from other countries and cultures is slowly melting away. And while no translated novels or short fiction is on the final ballot this year, I am reasonably sure more nominations from writers of different countries and cultures will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, I am writing this column to directly address some of the issues Ms. Van Ekeren pointed out in her editorial.

First, the intent of the proposed amendment is to honor translated novels seeing their first publication in English. In the WSFS Constitution, the definition of a novel (as of this writing) is: ”A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more. ” This would or should exclude works of non-fiction, manga or anything else that would not fit into what we traditionally know as the novel category.  I take it for granted that some sort of provision will be written to prevent a nominee in the Translated category from also being considered in the Best Novel category.

If and when the definition of the novel category is changed, the wording of the Translated Novel category will be adjusted to suit the Constitution. The one thing that I would insist on inserting into the proposal is that translators of the work being honored also receive a Hugo for their efforts.

As to whether or not adding this new category will “dilute” the prestige of the Best Novel Award or make it a second class or lesser award, I completely reject that sort of reasoning. I have held many of them in my hands on many occasions during my four decades in fandom. Ask any of the recipients in any category whether or not they feel that their Hugo is any less special than anyone else’s. And the answer would probably be a unanimous NO. They are grateful and happy to have their work honored by knowledgeable fans.

One of the main objections seems to be finding eligible works to be nominated. This in turn brings us back to Dr. Cordasco, who has a Ph.D in literary studies, is a huge fan of translated fantasy and sf. She has been running a website completely devoted to tracking translated works for several years. (Speculative Fiction in Translation)

She has also meticulously compiled a list of works (431 as of this writing) published in English: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RyMOXmi1Zd4yvuTVHQcw5gka8YLZ1In42GJn6Rhh12E/edit#gid=0

Here is a list of translated novels published just in the past two years:

2018 ( Published or scheduled so far)

  • Anna by Niccolò Ammaniti, translated by Jonathan Hunt (Italian)
  • The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum, translated by Ira Moskowitz (Hebrew)
  • The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan, translated by Will Vanderhyden (Spanish)
  • Elven Winter by Bernhard Hennen, translated by Edwin Miles (German)
  • Alphaland by Cristina Jurado, translated by James Womack (Spanish)
  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt, translated by Owen Witesman (Finnish)
  • Ball Lighting by Cixin Lui, translated by Jowl Martinsen (Chinese)
  • Faces From the Past by Rodolfo & Felicidad Martinez, translated by Rodolfo Martinez (Spanish)
  • Nekomonogatari White by Nisioisin, translated by Ko Ransom (Japanese)
  • Apple and Knife by Intan Paramaditha, translated by Stephen J. Epstein (Indonesian)
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad by Achmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright (Arabic)
  • Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz, translated by Madeline G. Levine (Polish)
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 6: Flight by Yoshiki Tanaka, translated by Tyran Grillo (Japanese)
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 7: Tempest by Yoshiki Tanaka, translated by Daniel Huddleston (Japanese)
  • The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani (Japanese)
  • Sisyphean by Dempow Torishima, translated by Daniel Huddleston (Japanese)
  • Science: Hopes and Fears by Juza Unno, translated by  J. D. Wisgo (Japanese)
  • Eighteen O’Clock Music Bath by Juza Unno, translated by J. D. Wisgo (Japanese)
  • The Invisible Valley by Su Wei, translated by Austin Woerner (Chinese)
  • A Hero Born (The Condor Heroes, Book 1) by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood
  • I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargey (Swedish)

2017

  • The Sacred Era by Yoshio Aramaki, translated by Baryon Tensor Posadas (Japanese)
  • SRDN: From Bronze and Darkness by Andrea Atzori, translated by Nigel Ross (Italian)
  • The Dying Game by  Asa Avdic, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles (Swedish)
  • On the Trail of the Grail by Svetislav Basara, translated by Randall A. Major (Serbian)
  • Heavens on Earth by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Shelby Vincent (Spanish)
  • Bodies of Summer by Martin Felipe Castagnet, translated by Frances Riddle (Spanish)
  • Our Dead World by Liliana Colanzi, translated by Jessica Sequeira (Spanish)
  • The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria, translated by Ramon Glazov (Italian)
  • Hadriana in All My Dreams by Rene Depestre, translated by Kaiama L. Glover (French, by way of Haiti)
  • The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel, translated by   Margaret Sayers Peden (Spanish)
    The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresan, translated by Will Vanderhyden (Spanish)
  • Orbital Cloud by Taiyo Fujii translated by Timothy Silver (Japanese)
  • Spells by Michel de Ghelderode, translated by George MacLennon (French, by way of Belgium)
  • Me by Hoshino Tomoyuki, translated by Charles De Wolf (Japanese)
  • You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Ross Benjamin (German)
  • Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry, translated by Arielle Aronson & Madeleine Stratford (French, by way of Canada)
  • Kzradock the Onion Man by Louis Levy, translated by W. C. Bamberger (Danish)
  • Blumenberg by Sibylle Lewitscharoff, translated by Wieland Hoban (German)
  • Only She Sees by Manel Loureiro, translated by Andres Alfaro (Spanish)
  • The Irish Sea by Carlos Maleno, translated by Eric Kurtzke (Spanish)
  • Fever by Deon Meyer, translated by K. L. Seegers (Afrikaans)
  • The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz, translated by Stanley Bill (Danish)
  • The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan, translated by Yuri Machkasov (Russian, by way of Armenia)
  • Malacqua by Nicola Pugliese, translated by Shaun Whiteside (Italian)
  • Locus Solus by Raymond Roussel, translated by Rupert Copeland Cunningham (French)
  • 2084 by Boualem Sansal, translated by Alison Anderson (French, by way of Algeria)
  • Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by David French (Polish)
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell (Spanish, by way of Argentina)
  • The King in the Golden Mask by Marcel Schwob, translated by Kit Schluter (French)
  • Hexagrammaton by Hanuš Seiner, translated by Julie Novakova (Czech)
  • The Book of the Dead by Orikuchi Shinobu, translated by Jeffrey Angles (Japanese)
  • Familiar Things by Hwang Sok-yong, translated by Sora Kim-Russell (Korean)
  • Monday Starts on Saturday by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, translated by Andrew Bromfield (Russian)
  • Moon Scars by Ángel Luis Sucasas, translated by James Womack (Spanish)
  • S(Es) by Koji Suzuki, translated by Greg Gencarello (Japanese)
  • Archeon by Alessandro Tagliapietra, translated by Patricia Keiller (Italian)
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 4: Stratagem by Yoshiki Tanaka, translated by Tyran Grillo
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 5: Mobilization by Yoshiki Tanaka, translated by Tyran Grillo
  • Amatka by Karin Tidbeck, translated by Karin Tidbeck (Swedish)
  • Bullseye! by Yasutaka Tsutsui, translated by Andrew Driver (Japanese)
  • Radiant Terminus by Antoine Volodine, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman (French)
  • Frontier by Can Xue, translated by Karen Gernant (Chinese)

If you thoroughly peruse the Google doc, you will see that several dozen translated novels have been published in the past decade or so.

Are these works “Hugo worthy”? That determination should be made by the readers and fans, not a committee. I also submit that the point is moot since none of the works above will be nominated since there is no category, so to speak. But the fact that they have been translated and published in such great numbers seems to indicate, at least by the publishers, that there is a market out there for translated novels.

And yes, this would mean that fans who are interested in voting in this category would have to be devoted enough to buy and read more books. And frankly, I there isn’t much of a downside to that.

So, what I am asking is the members of the Study Committee and the World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting is to take yet another leap of faith with me.

In doing so, I point back to my advocacy of splitting the Best Dramatic Presentation and Editing categories, the establishment of the Best Graphic Story and my co-sponsorship of the Best Fancast categories. I helped work for their passage because I had a gut feeling they would work. And each of them has not only become popular among fans who vote on the awards, they have also drawn in new fans who had never heard of the Hugo Awards or the World Science Fiction Convention before.

After all the travails, waiting, frustration, arguing and controversy, what, you might ask, are you getting out of this? Although I achieved a certain low level of infamy over the years, I have never sought to be in a spotlight or capitalize on my advocacy.

This week, I celebrated my forty-second year in fandom. On June 25, 1976, I showed up at a convention which happened to be located just a few miles from where I lived (Midwestcon 27), bought a five dollar membership and changed my life forever.

What I have attempted to do over the past eighteen years is try to pay back all of the friendships and wonderful experiences by helping to ensure the legacy of the Hugo Awards and the works they honor and to make sure they endure far beyond after I take my leave from fandom and life. Each year, I admit feeling a bit of pride as the winners in the categories I helped shepherd into existence receive their just due.

And for me, that is more than enough.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #30


Solo: A Star Wars Story/A Film Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Solo; A Star Wars Story, (***) with Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Walter-Bridge, Joonas Soutamo and Paul Bettany. Screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, based on characters created by George Lucas, Directed by Ron Howard.

Sooner or later, it happens. A film franchise overstays its welcome and the whole enterprise implodes on its own bloated budget, poor storytelling, lackluster acting performances, studio hubris and finally, the indifference of the audience.

But, fortunately for legions of Star Wars fans everywhere, Solo, the second film in a series of standalone films, dodges this bullet.

An orphan, young Han (Alden Ehrenreich), manages to barely escape poverty and is forced into thievery on his home world, Corellia, only to find himself fighting as an infantryman for the Empire on the dangerous backwater worlds on the Outer Rim. He sees a chance to desert when he encounters a group of smugglers disguised as soldiers headed up by Tobias (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton). Not wanting any new recruits, they arrange to have Han thrown in the brig, where he meets and wins over the trust of a fellow prisoner, a wookiee named Chewbacca. The duo’s escape impresses Tobias so much, he takes them on apprentices.

Complications arise when a heist goes wrong and the gang finds themselves in the debt of Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), leader of the Crimson Dawn Syndicate. His lieutenant, Qi’ra, is someone Han’s know well: she is the other person he was forced to leave behind when he fled Correlia. A new heist is set into motion but one of the requirements is a very fast ship to deliver the merchandise in an incredibly tight timeframe. So the gang seeks out a legendary “retired” smuggler named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the owner of a certain YT-1300 freighter named the Millennium Falcon…

A number of mainstream reviewers and critics are already bashing Solo because, in their estimation, it adds “nothing new” to the Star Wars canon. Well, to be perfectly honest, they don’t get it. Star Wars fans probably know most of Han Solo’s story before they see a frame of this movie. What they want is too actually fill in the blanks of his story; to see where he came from and what formed his character from an early age.

And for the most part, this movie delivers some slightly predictable, but pertinent answers. Sure, Han Solo has some rough edges but, as Jake and Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay takes pains to point out, he’s smart, resourceful and cunning, and he’s still trying to figure things out, including who he is and exactly what he wants to do with his life.

Both Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover had the most unenviable tasks in Solo; trying to convince audiences that they can fill the shoes of Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams. And surprisingly, they did evoke enough of the ambiance, mannerisms and swagger needed to succeed on their own terms.  And after seeing his work here, I desperately want Donald Glover to headline his own Star Wars spinoff, with Han and Chewie as the supporting characters.

Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra radiates a smug confidence about herself and her abilities but at certain points, also show a vulnerable side that can barely hold back telling Han her true feelings and unbearable secrets. (And her true employer, who is revealed towards the end of the movie, is, trust me, a real SHOCKER!)

If Solo has a palatable weakness, it’s Woody Harrleson’s Tobias Beckett. He’s Solo’s Yoda, so to speak, giving sage advice and trying, against his better nature and interest, to mentor Han. But his narrative function in the story seems a bit too well telegraphed as the movie goes forward.  This, however, did not diminish my admiration of his acting; I just wish his character had been more hard-edged in marked contrast to Solo’s.

A particular delight was Phoebe Walter-Bridge voice performance as Lando’s navigator and companion, L3-37. A “liberated” droid who freely dispensed advice, insults and insights, she was easily my favorite new Star Wars character. And after three films, I think Joonas Soutamo owns the role of Chewbacca for the next generation or so.

If anyone was wondering if they could distinguish which parts were directed by the original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who were fired but accepted Executive Producer credits) and their replacement, Ron Howard, don’t bother because it doesn’t really matter. It’s all very well-directed with some gorgeous visuals and nifty callbacks (or, rather, call-forwards) to Han and Chewie’s other adventures.

Solo: A Star Wars Story may not be a top rank film like its predecessor, Rogue One, but it is a smart, fun little thrill ride that will tide fans over very nicely until Episode Nine opens in a year and a half.