Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #49

**BEWARE SPOILERS**

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – A Review 

By Chris M. Barkley:

Star Wars – Episode Nine: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, 142 minutes, ****) with Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, Billy Dee Williams, Keri Russell, Ian McDermid AND Carrie Fisher. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and J. J. Abrams, Story by Derek Connelly, Colin Trevorrow, Directed by J. J. Abrams.

“NEVER underestimate a droid.”
General Leia Organa

Last month, I had the privilege of meeting actor Anthony Daniels when his book tour in support of his memoir, I Am C-3PO, stopped at my old place of employment, Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio.

As Mr. Daniels personalized my book, I gave him a brief re-telling of my first viewing Star Wars in May of 1977:

While attending Disclave in Washington D.C., I fairly stumbled into discovering that a new movie, Star Wars, was showing at the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue, just a half a mile from the Sheraton Park Hotel. On that Saturday evening, it was one of only 30 places in the entire United States showing the movie. (It rolled out to several hundred more after that weekend.) 

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Saturday’s midnight showing. And when I emerged, dazed and deliriously happy two hours and a minute later, I ran into one of my new fannish friends, future Worldcon chair Michael Walsh. When we spotted each other, we simultaneously and spontaneously started dancing on the sidewalk outside the theater making a spectacle of ourselves.

When I finished my story, Mr. Daniels had a look of utter surprise on his face. After reading the first chapter of his book (which I HIGHLY recommend, by the way), he has stated that he is always surprised and amazed by how many people have been touched in some way by this series of films.

When I first saw what eventually became Episode IV: A New Hope, I was almost twenty-one years old. And amazingly, here I am now, forty-two years later, writing a review of the final film in what is now known as the Skywalker Saga. And what a wild ride it has been over nine feature films, spin off films, several television series and hundreds of novels and comics.

There has been been an immense wave of backlash from detractors of J.J. Abrams and haters of the previous two Star Wars films in advance of the premiere of The Rise of Skywalker. As for myself, I try to stay away from both the hype and the churn of internet spite, least anything disrupt or bias my enjoyment of this film. 

Does anyone out there remember the good old days, when personal beefs and flame wars were either settled within the confines of printed, mimeographed fanzines or in person at sf conventions on panels (or, in some cases, the hallways or the consuite)? Nowadays, all it takes is just a smartphone and two minutes of idle brain farts.   

But alas, I have digressed a bit too much. On with the show… 

[The main review follows the jump]

Continue reading

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #48

Who Watches The Watchmen?  Part Three: Episodes 7-9

By Chris M. Barkley:

Mr. Phillips: “Was I a worthy adversary, Master?”

Adrian Veidt: “No. But you put on one HELL of a show!”

  • Episode 7: “An Almost Religious Awe,” Written by Stacy Osei-Kuffour and Claire Keichell, Directed by David Semel.
  • Episode 8: “A God Walks into Abar,” Written by Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen, Directed by Nicole Kassell.
  • Episode 9: “See How They Fly,” Written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye.

*BEWARE SPOILERS*

In the beginning, there were good guys and bad guys. And all was well.

Until it wasn’t.

The good guy versus bad guy scenario could sustain the comics industry, and their readers, for only a relatively short period of time. Nowadays, the good-evil paradigm has been replaced by who lives or dies, whose ethics are in question, will the right thing be done or will the most pragmatic or expedient course be taken? How far can a hero, or a villain, be pushed in a story?

Have you ever stopped to think about who would ever want to be a superhero? To actually put on a mask, cowl or a cape? Or, conversely, would you have the nerve to do it yourself?

This is particularly pertinent question in a week that not only closes out HBO’s Watchmen miniseries, it also coincides with the momentous milestone of Superman publicly disclosing his Clark Kent identity, a decision that is not likely to be reversed anytime soon.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen wasn’t the first comic book story to dabble in social injustice, heroic ambiguity or the psychological costs of double identities, but the storyline’s deconstruction of the superhero myths brought it to an entirely new and enthusiastic audience. Everyone who has ever been involved in the industry since its publication has recognized it as the gold standard of visual storytelling.

When Laurie Blake told Angela Abar back in Episode Three (“She Was Killed By Space Junk”) that people wanted to become masked vigilantes because of their unresolved issues with some deep, traumatic experience that they have never resolved, it was a moment resonated with me.

As a victim of many childhood traumas myself, I sometimes look back and marvel (no pun intended) at how I held onto my sanity, progressively healed and survived.   

And while Laurie’s cynical observation is somewhat tainted by her own personal history of tragedy, it does, to a certain extent, ring true… .

But, let’s face it, what we’re really talking about here is a basic desire for wish fulfillment; to right wrongs and on some level, fight injustice. And ever since Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox and many others created the comics industry in the late 1930’s, many variations have been spun from their creations and mythologies.

The abandonment of Superman’s secret identity has been the latest in a long line of  events and stunts solely created to keep readers involved, engaged and. most importantly, buying comics and graphic novels.

Damon Lindelof and company’s adaptation of Watchmen is a corporate extension this notion, a television event no one could have possibly imagined doing, a proto-sequel to one of the greatest graphic novels ever written. And while it’s too bad it was done at the expense of its original creator Alan Moore, I am very grateful that it turned out so magnificently. 

After seeing Episode Nine of Watchmen, I can hardly wait to buy a DVD of this series to wallow in and unpack the details of how Damon Lindelof’s puzzle box of a story eventually comes together to form a perfect mosaic of ego, false entitlement, pride, desperation, faith and fate and, of course, love.

In addition, Watchmen is also an exciting, and paradoxically, meditative parable about how America has continually failed in reconciling its past injustices, racist acts and broken promises.

As a viewer, I found it immensely satisfying to watch all of these thematic threads of race, white privilege, cultural appropriation, class, revenge, arrogance and egotism and redemption play out.

Just the musical (and egg) references alone are worth a deep dive, as evidenced here in a (very spoilery) analysis by Jen Chaney at Vulture.com: “Let’s Talk About Watchmen’s Egg-cellent Finale”

In the first six episodes, we more-or- less wondered when Doctor Manhattan would show up. In Episode Seven, we found out he was right in front of us all along.

Besides the big reveal involving Angela (Regina King) and Cal Abar (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) at the end of the episode, the most remarkable thing that happened was Laurie Blake’s (Jean Smart) boneheaded mistake. Since her first appearance she has repeatedly shown herself to be an almost preternaturally observant investigator and usually the smartest person in a three-mile radius. But her blunder, which ended up in her being captured by the Seventh Kalvary, was an attempt to reach out emotionally to a person central to the investigation. And while it advances the plot, it also reveals her to be as human and vulnerable as anyone else in the story.

Another admirable moment happened when Senator Joe Keene, Jr. (James Wolk) attempts to explain his nefarious plot, Laurie, who has obviously experienced this particular trope literally her entire life, cuts him off and says she doesn’t give a shit about his monologuing to her. While monologuing has been a standard (and WAY overused) tool to clue the audience into what may come next, it was refreshing to see it being rejected on screen here (AND in the finale as well).

Episode Eight was an acting showcase for both Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and I expect both to be nominated for Emmys next year because of it. In this mostly timey-whimey set piece, we discover how Angela and Jon Osterman met a decade earlier in Saigon, experience the devastating deaths of her parents and grandmother, which, in turn, leads her to becoming a police officer in Vietnam and meeting and being initially wooed by a disguised Doctor Manhattan.

As often as he as been portrayed as aloof and omnipotent, the one boldest risks of the series was the decision to have him roll the dice and attempt to be human again. (But then again, he saw himself being in love with Angela, so he may have just been following the fate he saw for himself.) However, his ability to see the future, and be in several places in the time continuum at the same time, turns out to be his greatest power and his fatal flaw.  

In the brief vignette with Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), he finds himself on the wrong end of a kangaroo court trial with the “Game Warden” as the judge. When called upon to defend himself, Veidt rises from the defense table and gives one of the most unusual, and deliberately hilarious, defenses in the history of television. 

Over the hour and nine minute finale, all of the narrative strands of our story come together and are pulled taut; Doctor Manhattan finds himself in imminent danger of being utterly destroyed by the Seventh Kalvary AND Lady Trieu, Adrian is freed from his virtual prison to be a spectator of the impending disaster, Will awaits to see his final act revenge comes to fruition and Angela, Laurie and Wade are helpless as they see the  climax unfolding before them.

In the aftermath, Angela ponders the possibility of becoming Doctor Manhattan herself. And while she seemingly accepts the challenge, she, and the viewers, are left in suspense; has she gained his power or will something else happen?

“Considering what he could do, he could have done more,” her grandfather Will tells Angela, which is her impetus to take up the reins of power. Angela may have learned to look past putting on a mask to deal with her trauma, but is she seems to be ready for what happens next.

Because, at its very core, Watchmen is about power; who has it, who doesn’t, who thirsts for it, who dares to accept it and uses it responsibly.

Angela thinks she’s ready. I hope she is. And collectively, we should be rooting for her, too.

Because she is us.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

This column is Dedicated to Curtis Flowers, an African-American political prisoner who was freed on bail on December 16 after spending more than half of his life behind bars. Mr. Flowers was tried FIVE times for 1996 robbery in which four people were killed. Three of the convictions were thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct by the district attorney who prosecuted him, Doug Evans, and two other trials resulted in hung juries. While his innocence is still in question at this point, the case against him has been found to be incredibly suspect by several independent investigations of the crime. I hope that the small measure of freedom he has been granted this week allows him the opportunity to see and enjoy Watchmen.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #47

Who Watches The Watchmen?  Part Two: Episodes 4-6

By Chris M. Barkley:

BEWARE, SPOILERS AHOY!

“I’m in. All the way! Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…”

– Will Reeves, Episode Four

  • Episode 4: “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own.” Written by Damon Lindelof and Christal, Directed by Andrij Parekh.
  • Episode 5: “Little Fear of Lightning.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Carly Wray, Directed by Steph Green.
  • Episode 6:  “This Extraordinary Being.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Cord Jefferson, Directed by Stephen Williams.

As I entered the middle passage of the Watchmen mini-series, I was literally on pins and needles wondering if Damon Lindelof and company were going to serve up more narrative curve balls. Needless to say, I was NOT disappointed…

In the fourth episode, we are introduced to Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), the mysterious Viet-American billionaire who swept up Adrian Veidt’s assets after his disappearance. In the opening moments, she commits a rather shocking piece of extortion (that was chillingly reminiscent of some of the shenanigans they used to pull on J.J. Abrams’ Fox series, Fringe) just before a spacecraft crash lands on their property.

Meanwhile, Angela (Regina King) finds her hijacked car but unfortunately for her, so does Laurie (Jean Smart), who impounds it and finds her grandfather’s fingerprints inside. What Laurie doesn’t find are a bottle of pills in the glove compartment that he apparently left for Angela to find. Angela takes them to the only person she truly trusts, Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson), so they can be independently analyzed by his ex-wife.

While disposing of the evidence of her grandfather’s stay in her police hideout, Angela spies a masked vigilante tailing her. She gives chase but her prey proves to be a bit too slippery for her to catch. 

It turns out there’s another connection with the car that leads Laurie, Petey and Sister Night directly to the immense Millenium Clock project complex. They meet with the mysterious Lady Trieu and her daughter, Bian, who both pledge their full cooperation in the investigation. Trieu also passes along a message to Night from her grandfather in Vietnanese, which she coldly deflects.

Trieu and Will have a plan in motion; they want Angela to be a part of it, but Will insists that his granddaughter must figure out what’s going on on her own. Otherwise, he reasons, she won’t accept the truth directly from him. Trieu disagrees, saying family entanglements may endanger their agenda. Will reaffirms that he is in, no matter what may come.

Meanwhile, Adrian Veidt continues to test the limits of his virtual prison by catapulting the corpses of his clones slaves up in the air to an unknown void…

Episode Five gave us the inside story on how Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson) became the sardonic Looking Glass, the human lie detector. When the infamous giant squid was teleported into New York City in 1985, Tillman was a teenager working as a Jehovah’s Witness in neighboring Hoboken, New Jersey amusement park when it happened. While he survived the attack, he was psychologically traumatized.

As a Tulsa cop, he uses his keen powers of observation to interrogate suspects and solve crimes. But those powers are of little use in his personal life; he’s divorced, lives alone, has trouble connecting with people on a personal level and seems to spend a great deal of time studying and/or living in fear of the next “squid attack’ from another dimension.

Wade is also under pressure at work; Chief Crawford’s murder remains unsolved and Laurie Blake has taken control of the force for the forseeable future. She is also pressuring Wade for information about Angela, whom she strongly suspects knows more about the murder than she’s telling.

One of those things is a bottle of pills that Angela desperately wanted analyzed. His  ex-wife Cynthia informs Wade that the pills are Nostalgia, a pharmaceutical memory aid that has been outlawed due to its dangerous side effects. (It also turns out to be a drug that was invented and marketed by Lady Trieu’s corporation!)

Wade’s cover identity is market research consultant and his public service hobby is helping people who are still traumatized by the 1985 attack or the infrequent “squid drops” that keeps the populous on edge.

When Wade meets Renee (Paula Malcolmson), a new member of the support group, he is initially smitten with her until he spots a clue that indicates she may be a member of the 7th Kalvary. He trails her to a warehouse but turns out to be a trap; Wade is confronted by Senator Joe Keen, Jr. (James Wolk) who is seemingly using the 7th Kalvary as a front for his presidential aspirations. He offers Wade a choice, either watch a video revealing the truth about the ‘alien invasion” or have his life ruined by his operatives.

Keen also wants Angela served up to Laurie and out of the way while the 7th Kavalry’s plan, involving an elaborate teleportation system, goes operational.

In deep despair over his newfound knowledge, Wade tells Angela about Nostalgia in the presence of one of Laurie’s surveillance bugs and she openly admits her grandfather’s involvement in Crawford’s death. When Laurie immediately moves in to arrest her, Angela swallows all of Will’s pills…

Using a powerful trebuchet and wearing a primitive pressure suite, Adrian is launched into the air…and onto an airless moon. He rearranges the numerous corpses of his clone servants into a distress message that may (or may not) be observed by an orbiting satellite. But just as he rejoices in triumph, he is pulled back into his virtual prison by the Game Warden, who arrests him, promising “no mercy” in violation of the rules of confinement.

In Episode Six we take a deep dive into the life of Angela’s grandfather, William Reeves (Jovan Adepo) via the Nostalgia pills she ingested during her arrest. He was the little boy who rescued a child from the Tulsa massacre. In 1938 New York, that child grows up to be his wife, June (Danielle Deadwyler).

Will was inspired by watching silent movies a distant relative, the famed US Marshal Bass Reeves, to become a policeman. But, unlike the movies, life proves to be more complicated. Hired in a move to mollify black activists, he encounters racism from his fellow officers and the public at large.

When Will catches wind of a conspiracy run by the KKK and some NYPD officers in his own precinct, he’s nearly lynched and warned not to “mess in white people’s business”.

Enraged, Will dons a dark hood and becomes Hooded Justice, the first of the many masked vigilantes of the Watchmen universe.

Disguising himself with white makeup (in a similar manner as Angela does with her Sister Night identity), he continues to investigate the Klan and their insidious plans to kill or destroy the lives of African-Americans.

Will heeds a call to join the Minutemen, a group of masked adventurers sanctioned by the authorities, but is disheartened when their leader, Captain Metropolis (Jake McDorman) belittles his pursuit of racists in favor of criminal masterminds.

Several years later into his police career, Will discovers that the Klan is testing a mind control device on black movie audiences in order to cause widespread riots and mayhem. When he discovers their warehouse, he brutally murders the Klansmen, takes a prototype of the device and burns the base to the ground. In doing so, he becomes the very antithesis of the fictional movie version of Bass Reeves, who once intoned,  “There will be no lynching today! Trust The Law!” to moviegoers.

However, his efforts have a price; June, bitterly aware of his vigilante activities, leaves him and takes their young son back to Tulsa.

A flashforward shows Angela exactly how Chief Crawford was killed; Will, using a modified version of the mind control device, forces him to hang himself…

And when Angela awakes from her coma, she is surprised to be in the company of, and treatment, of Lady Trieu…

The pleasures of re-watching HBO’s Watchmen (and what will make it eminently so in the future) is seeing the various references to the past of the origin comic AND our own past intertwined with narrative. I can pluck three from Episode Six alone:

For instance, Bass Reeves was quite real, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. His exploits were so remarkable that they may have inspired Fran Striker and George W. Trendle in the creation of the Lone Ranger in 1933. In a fairer, better world, Bass Reeves would be a better known and loved than a fictional white character.

The immigrant newsstand owner recounts the origin of Superman in Action Comics to Will Reeves, who almost instantly connects with the tale of an alien baby sent to another world to escape his planet’s destruction. 

Fred T., the racist grocery owner who clashes with Will early on in his policing life, could be modeled on the life of Fred Trump, the father of our current chief executive, who was also known to be a not very pleasant person.

Another thing I found admirable about Watchmen was Damon Lindelof’s dedication to making this production as diverse as possible. A majority of the writers (ten of the fourteen) were people of color and three women directed episodes.

Besides being a top-flight piece of entertainment, Watchmen is also a reaction against the willful erasure of the more violent aspects of American history, race relations, colonialism, political hegemony and policing. Heady stuff, to be sure. But so was Alan Moore’s source material.

It’s quite clear to me after six episodes that the narrative strands of the main characters; Angela Abar, Laurie Blake and Adrian Veidt, are slowly being drawn together.

Of the three, I feel emotionally invested in Angela’s story the most; she is learning about her family legacy in a very hard way. Her neat and tidy life of black and white, good and evil has been upended in the most unusual manner. And while she has acted in her own self interests in the protection of her family and herself, we can see the toll it’s taking on her through the sheer acting prowess of Regina King. Jean Smart and Jeremy Irons may delight us by chewing the scenery around the edges of the story but Ms. King’s performance is the living, beating heart of this epic. And I hope the Emmy Award nominators remember that going into the new year.

Also, I must highly commend the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which I neglected in my previous review of the first three episodes. It’s a fantastical, electronic wonderland that invokes thrills, whimsy and dread in all the right places.

Watchmen also features a remarkable number of period pieces from several musical eras, from the Inks Spots, Eartha Kitt and Billie Holiday to Devo, Howard Jones and the Beastie Boys. A weekly updated list of the music being used can be found at:

https://www.menshealth.com/entertainment/a29516167/watchmen-season-1-soundtrack-songs/   

As for me, I don’t know how Damon Lindelof and company are going to pull off this feat of narrative derring-do in the final three episodes.

In an interview published online in Gen Mag (which can be read here) before Watchmen’s premeire, Damon Lindelof made the following statement: “I envision myself holding two stacks of plates each in my outstretched arms and we’re putting plates on both sides to find the perfect balance, but in finding that balance, plates are fucking breaking, man. You can’t play this game and not break stuff. But I hope when plates break, it’s not irreparable. Talk to me in a few months and then we’ll have a conversation about whether it was worth it.”

In three more weeks we’re all going to find out if this ambitious, audacious and totally unauthorized endeavor is going to pay off. Stay tuned…

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #46

2019 Windycon Fan Guest of Honor Speech: An Apocryphal Story, 43 Things I Learned Being In Fandom and Mean Comments From File 770 Readers

By Chris M. Barkley: Good Morning. I’m Chris Barkley.

A word of warning: At one point during this speech, I will be making a partisan political reference that may offend some of you. The rest of you can laugh. Don’t worry, you’ll know it when you hear it. Viewer discretion is advised…

I am very honored to be Windycon’s Fan Guest of Honor this year. Ever since I was asked to be Windycon’s Fan Guest of Honor nearly a year and a half ago, I felt like I was asking to host Saturday Night Live. Because when you think about it, conventions are very much like live television. There’s a lot of spontaneous action and unpredictable stuff going on, sometimes all at once. Well, ok, here the sketches are also longer and it would help if they were better written.

And as a “reward” I am obligated to regale you with some musings and philosophical insights I have gained in my many years in fandom.

I also note that in some circles, I have what is quaintly known as a “bad reputation”. Well, I can tell you that Joan Jett was speaking directly to me when she sang:

(singing BADLY)  

And I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation

Oh no (No no no no no no)

Not me (Me me me me me me)

I was born in August of 1956. Dwight David Eisenhower was the President of the United States. Some weasel from California was the Vice-President. (And NO, this isn’t the political comment you’re waiting for. Patience.)

My mother became an elementary school teacher who specializes in reading. My father was a mechanical engineer for General Electric’s jet engine division. So, it stands to reason that their oldest son is an avid fan of science fiction (and under certain conditions, fantasy).

Comic books were one thin dime apiece. Penny candy actually cost a penny. There were only three broadcast television networks. Rock and Roll, the bastard child of rhythm and blues and jazz was poised to take over the world.

And, aside from the racism, marginalization of minorities, lynchings, rampant, sexism, homophobia, the Cold War, governmental malfeasance and the imminent threat of nuclear war, it was a great time to be alive in the most prosperous nation on the planet.

Not that I’m complaining.

Much.

Chris Barkley

From my perspective as a 63-year-old African American, with forty-three years and five months plus in fandom, I have seen a lot, done a lot and survived all of the cultural and political forces that were lined up against me since my mother, the late Alice Barkley and my father, the late Erbil Augustus Barkley, gave birth to me on a sweltering August summer evening at Jewish Hospital. (PS: I’d like to take a moment to thank them for the free circumcision. A very cool gesture for that era.)

Nineteen years and ten months after my birth, my best friend, Michaele Jordan (no, not THAT Michael Jordan, Michaele Jordan the fantasy novelist my other official, big sister) and I discovered fandom on the back page of the July 1976 issue of Analog, which ran, for the only time in its history, an announcement of a science fiction convention just a few miles away from where we resided. It was held at a run of the mill hotel called the Quality Inn in Norwood, Ohio. The convention was called Midwestcon 27.

“We should go to this convention,” I recall saying to her, most emphatically.

“Are you kidding?”, she replied. “It’s probably just for professional writers. They would just throw us out.”

“Well,” I said, “you can sit at home if you want, I’m going to go there and find out.”

And so we went. It changed the course of our lives forever. Going to Midwestcon 27 introduced us to an entirely new world of people, opportunities and social interactions that resonate to this very day.

The end. Thanks for coming, you’ve been a great audience, Chicago…

NO! WAIT! Just kidding!

Among conventions, Windycon hold a very special place in my heart; I’ve been attending a semi-regular basis since the early 1980’s. I have also attended the four worldcons that Chicago has hosted since I got into fandom and happily served on the staff of three of them.

My slight digression is an Apocryphal Story about Chicago that happened at Chicon 2000, which was held in downtown Chicago.

BUT, in order to do that, I need to digress further and tell you another story about the late Harlan Ellison.

(Oh, so you knew him, too?)

I first met Harlan in 1978 at Kubla Khan 5 in Nashville, Tennessee. Like countless other people, I found him to be a brilliant writer of fiction and essays, a dynamic personality and above nearly all of his other talents, an amazing and brilliant raconteur.

One story he shared with the audience at that convention was been burned into my synapses forever was an incident he had experienced at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Harlan had just finished doing his ‘business” in a washroom when he noticed out of the corner of his eye that a middle-aged patron was leaving without washing his hands.

Now THIS greatly offended Harlan since, if anything, he was a real stickler for health and cleanliness.

“Hey! You”, he said in his loud, nasally, faux-Brooklyn accent. “You forgot to wash your hands!”

The man in question turned and said something incredibly rude about Harlan’s parentage and proceeded to walk out into the terminal.

Enraged at this person’s intransigence, Harlan burst out of the restroom and trailed behind the man screaming at the top of his lungs, “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN! DON’T TOUCH HIM! HE DIDN’T WASH HIS HANDS!”

And he did this. All the way to this person’s departure gate.

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one: For Chicon 2000, I was promoted from my regular duties in the Worldcon Press Office to serve on Chairman Tom Veal’s staff AND as the Fairmont Hotel liaison. It was a very important position, which I shared with my ex-wife, in that both the Masquerade and the Hugo Award Ceremony were being held there.

One afternoon, I was finishing my “business” in the restroom, when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a middle-aged fan was leaving without washing his hands.

My mind immediately flashed back to Harlan’s story. My first thought was, I am NOT Harlan Ellison. And then my second thought was, “What would Harlan do?”

So, within a few seconds, I screwed up my moral courage and, in my even tempered, faux-midwestern black accent, I spoke up and said, “Excuse me, but you forgot to wash your hands.”

The fan whirled around and shouted, “YOU’RE NOT MY DAD!”

Needless to say, I was taken aback. But fortunately, my skills as a radio talk show host and a standup comedian kicked into high:

“You see this?” I pointed to the bright blue COMMITTEE ribbon hanging on my convention badge and stated with absolute authority:

“While you’re here at this convention, this ribbon says I AM YOUR DAD!!”

The fan sighed, turned and washed his hands.


I’ve learned a LOT of things in my time in fandom. I would now like to pass along some of the more profound life revelations that have occurred to me over time, one for each year that I have been in fandom:

  1. Smiling and being polite costs you nothing and may gain you new friends.
  2. Reading is the best gateway to other worlds and other points of view.
  3. I am convinced all fascists and Nazi sympathizers were once involved in Home Owner Associations. It’s the only possible explanation for their actions.
  4. Cultural appropriation is like porn, I KNOW it when I see it.
  5. You must challenge the past in order the forge the future.
  6. When you are making policy or changes in your life only three factors matter; Is it true, is it necessary and most importantly, is it vital?
  7. Try and learn at least one other language in your lifetime. For example, Welsh, Irish, Scottish or Australian.
  8. Never forget that taxes pay for civilization. And that those who don’t pay their fair share are welchers and cheats.
  9.  Buy a copy of the Constitution of the United States. In this day and age you never know when you may have to invoke it, especially to people who haven’t read it.
  10.  Public radio has saved my life and sanity for decades. And it can do the same for you!
  11. BUT, if you love your NPR station and donate your car to help out, would that be considered autoeroticsm? Asking for a friend…
  12.  Occasionally, you may be asked to take a stand and make your voice heard. And yes, you will be afraid to do it. But the alternative, of silence and token assent, is much, much worse.
  13.  Congratulations, you’re working on a convention. Here’s a big piece of advice for you con-runners. To preserve our sanity at Chicon 2000, my friend Bridget came up with a simple working mantra we repeated every morning: There will be a convention. There will be rooms at the convention. Some will be right. Some will be wrong. And then IT WILL BE OVER!
  14. Nothing keeps you more grounded and humble than owning a pet. Pro Owner Tip: If you own a cat (or vice versa), consider emptying an entire bag of cat food into their litter box. That way, you just skip the middle process altogether and get on with your day.
  15. By the way, cat dandruff is a first world problem.
  16.  Never, ever, annoy writers. Especially the good ones. Not only will they say nastily adroit things at you, you may become a victim of embarrassing situation, imprisoned or murdered in a book, play or screenplay with the name of said person so barely disguised, EVERYONE will KNOW it’s YOU!
  17. Speaking of writing, NEVER give in to censorship, either in your works or in the defense of others. Free speech does not mean being free from consequences. But either everyone has the opportunity to express themselves or no one does.
  18.  Unless you are the author or editor, DON’T WRITE, HIGHLIGHT, ANNOTATE OR SCRIBBLE YOUR NAMES IN BOOKS! Well, at least in the books that I want to buy. It’s so damn annoying!
  19. When you write, write for yourself. You should welcome criticism of your writing. But do not make the fatal mistake of pandering to appeal the masses. If you can satisfy your own standards of what you like to read, others will see it as well.
  20.  Also, KEEP WRITING. You’ll get better at it.
  21.  Also: READ! As much as possible; fantasy and sf for sure but try to be as diverse as possible. Don’t confine yourself to literary bubbles and for god’s sake, don’t denigrate anyone else who reads, even if they’re reading something you don’t like. If they read and comprehend and understand what they are reading, there’s a chance, a hope really, that they can understand what is truthful from what is fantasy or propaganda.
  22. You have never known true fear until you see a full-grown Great Dane take a baby chick in its mouth and start running around the yard like a seven-year-old on a playground with their mouth full of Halloween candy. And unfortunately for you, are are trying to catch a three-year-old Great Dane who can run twice as fast as any NFL or Premier League defender. (PS: Yes, I eventually caught the dog and safely freed the chick. But she has yet to lay a single egg. I don’t blame her.)
  23.  Do you know where your water come from? Do you know where the wastewater goes?    Find out. And then pledge yourself to not wasting a drop of it again in your lifetime.
  24.  Music is my friend. Music is my life. No matter what you listen to, enjoy it and let it massage your brain and imagination. And if you actually make music, I envy you because that is one of the greatest gifts of all.
  25. Whether you’re at a convention or not (especially not) if you see something is amiss, if a person is being bullied or harassed, do something or say something. Render assistance in any way you can. Is anyone here familiar with the lyrics to the alternative rock anthem “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths? One part of the main chorus has always touched by heart every time I hear it:

         I am human and I need to be loved

         Just like everybody else does

               Because that should be the core of our values in fandom and in life.

  1. Fan writing is much cheaper than therapy.
  2.  Han Solo’s Rules for Life: Get In. Sit Down. Buckle Up. Hang On.
  3.  Chris Barkley’s Rules for Hitchhikers: See the Han Solo Rules for Life.
  4.  Leading into: If you don’t use your car’s turn signals, YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE!
  5.  I think everyone should take a CPR and Emergency Aid course whether it’s offered by the Red Cross or any other agency in your community. I was once employed to be a caretaker for a disadvantaged person and I took an exhaustive, seven-hour course covering nearly everything and anything that might happen to you. Let me tell you something, it was a real eye opener to find out how many things could go wrong with the human body on a daily basis with the introduction of an infection, virus or pathogen. At this very moment in Los Angeles, the partner of a friend of mine named Genny is fighting off an extremely debilitating disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which struck her suddenly and without warning. The treatment is long and extensive but there is no cure. You should do it because the life you save may very well be a family member, a friend or your own.
  6.  If you want to be loved, start by loving yourself first.
  7.  This past Monday was Veteran’s Day. I would be remiss if I did not remind everyone that at this moment, there are thousands of men, women, members of the LGBTQ, transgendered, non-binary communities and otherwise, are out here serving in our armed forces. And sooner or later, they too, will be veterans. It has been estimated that more than 20 percent of the service personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And thousands of others are suffering from debilitating injuries while serving. And don’t forget that there are still living veterans of World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon deployment, Desert Storm and Shield and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. As they protected us, we need to do everything we can to help them. Find out what your local, state and federal representatives are doing for veterans. If you find out they aren’t, then vote their asses out of office and vote for candidate who will.
  8. Failure is part of life. Don’t be afraid to fail. Success is fine but unless you fail, you don’t learn anything and you never progress as a person. And more importantly, you mustn’t be afraid to fail. In a book that was just published last week, You Are AWESOME, How To Navigate Change, Wrestle With Failure and Live an Intentional Life, author Neil Pasricha points out that one of the main things that hold people back from their full potential is the inability to tell the difference between truth and the narrative lies we keep telling ourselves such as, “ I’ll never learn this”, ”I’m going to be stuck in this job forever” and the always deadly, “Other people are better off than I am”. Your life does not have to be a runaway, non-stop train of doom and gloom. I know because I’ve been there myself and I got off that merry-go-round, with the help of my good friends and beloved partner. You can do it, too. My advice is to stop, take a deep, metaphorical breath and try and find out what you are capable of doing or achieving. Then go for it. If you can do that, you have just taken your first steps to self-discovery.
  9. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood should be mandatory viewing. For the current ‘president of the United States. As part of his sentencing conditions. If he objects, the ONLY alternative should be Paw Patrol. (CHASE! MARSHALL! SKYE! ZUMA! TRACKER! ROCKY! RUBBLE!) Just Sayin’. Period. Full Stop.
  10. Be woke, aware and informed. Try and understand why people come to different conclusions than you. As actor-philosopher Edward James Olmos once said, “There is only ONE race; the human race.”
  11.  On the other hand, don’t take yourself TOO seriously. Don’t be a drag in the consuite.
  12.  If someone likes something you loath, don’t rain on their parade. Let them enjoy it. Don’t post that comment on Facebook or Instagram. Just walk away. Knowing that you haven’t ruined someone’s day.
  13.  I attended a lecture in 1995 at the University of Kentucky in which Stephen King imparted some very pertinent advice to young people: “If an adult tells you NOT to read something, make it your business to go out, find it, read it for yourselves and make up your own mind about it. Don’t ever depend on some ‘well meaning’’ adult with an agenda to tell you what to read, make up your mind for you or dictate how you should lead your life.” Best. Advice. EVER!
  14. Always try to meet your heroes. It’s better to find out that they are just as human and fallible as you are. And maybe even more so if they truly believe they belong on the pedestal people have placed them on.
  15. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once wrote in his novel Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” He also said, “There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.”
  16. Three more things: I know that we’re all here to have a good time and celebrate with our friends and guests of honor. But remember, as bad as things are here in America, our problems don’t begin and end with our country. Hong Kong. Brexit. Bolivia. Chile. The immigration crisis in Central America and Africa. South Sudan. Spain and Catalonia. The Philippines. Myanmar. Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hell, in comparison to those places we are living in paradise. When you leave here this weekend, don’t forget that.
  17. Whenever possible, Be Kind. And always carry a towel.
  18.  And finally, let me leave you with these wise words, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

    Thank You.   

And lastly, I want to dedicate this speech to the memory of the late Frank Johnson, a fellow member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group who died earlier this year. His very last convention was last year’s Windycon. I’d like to think he would have enjoyed this speech.

Thank you for attending and listening to me ramble or a while. Be good to each other and have a great convention.

Frank Johnson

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #45

Who Watches The Watchmen? –  Part One: Episodes 1-3

**BEWARE SPOILERS**

By Chris M. Barkley:

WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 12 Issues, September 1986 – October 1987, omnibus edition DC Comics/Warner Books, 1987.

“This city is afraid of me…I have seen its true face”

-Rorschach

It is widely regarded that Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom (1974) and the late Will Eisner’s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) should be credited as being among the first great, modern graphic novels. 

Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons is, without a doubt, acknowledged as the first masterpiece of this literary form.

This psychological and sociological deconstruction of the nature and mythology of superheroes has been a towering inspiration to nearly everyone who has aspired to work in the comics industry since its publication in the mid-1980’s.

I had the privilege of reading Watchmen in its original twelve issue run when it was first published. I vividly remember being very excited about reading this series. And I, as a jaded 30-year-old-reader, had not been taken by surprise by a graphic novel or comic book since I was nine years old and encountering the Fantastic Four and the Justice League for the first time.   

I was mesmerized as Ozymandias’ (Adrian Veidt) diabolical plan to unite the world by making it fearful of a faked alien invasion played out; the murder of a remorseful ex-hero Eddie Blake (The Comedian), the relentless and brutal investigation of his and other murders by Rorshach (Walter Joseph Kovacs), Doctor Manhattan’s (Jon Osterman) growing alienation from humankind and the personal struggles of Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre) and Nite-Owl (Dan Dreiberg) and the eventual destruction of a good portion of New York City and a massive death toll., .

And the plan worked. Or did it?

A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States was averted, and the surviving heroes, with the exception of Rorshach, agreed to keep silent. Doctor Manhattan kills Rorshach to ensure his silence. But knowing he might not be able to speak out, he cleverly planted a diary outlining most of plot with a tabloid newspaper. We, the readers, were left with an ironic, ticking time bomb waiting to go off…

Moore and Gibbon’s original contract with DC Comics stipulated that if Watchmen went out of print, the publishing rights and characters would revert back to them to do with them as they wished. But, not only a critical success but a big moneymaker for DC. Moore, citing this and other contractual disputes with DC, is totally estranged from the publisher and has repeatedly refused to have anything to do with Watchmen. And I don’t blame him a bit. If we were all moral and ethical people, we would boycott anything and everything Watchmen-related. 

Unfortunately, we are not very moral or ethical people. Are we?      


WATCHMEN (Director’s Cut: 3 Hours 2 minutes, 4/4 stars, 2009) with Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup,Matthew Goode,Carla Gugino,Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. Screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Directed by Zach Synder.

“People’s lives take them strange places. They do strange things, and sometimes they can’t talk about them… I know how that is.”.

Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II

The film rights to Watchmen were immediately snatched up by renowned producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. They were the first of many who tried, and failed, to make a movie out of Watchmen. Several writers and directors were employed to give it a go, among them Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, who exclaimed at one point it would be better as a mini-series and at another said the graphic novel was “unfilmable”.

In 2005, Gordon and a new partner, Lloyd Levin, tapped director Zach Synder, who had just completed the special effects historical epic, 300, to try to bring it all together. Synder and new screenwriter Alex Tse used elements of an earlier script by David Hayer, restored the Cold War setting of 1985 and an element involving Doctor Manhattan working on an energy conversion project backed by Adrian Veidt.

I saw the film when it premiered a decade ago but hadn’t seen it since then. I remember being impressed with it and thought was a very good adaptation. Looking back, I gave it three out of four stars (on the Leonard Maltin rating scale) because as good as it was, I found the underlying themes of the source material somewhat muted. 

To re-acquaint myself with the film, I purchased a copy of Zach Synder’s director’s cut (which has 24 minutes of additional footage) and found it that it was a more satisfying experience. Sure, it features extended action scenes but it also gives more nuance and character motivation to Laurie Jupiter (Malin Ackerman), her mother, Sally (Carla Gugino) and Nite-Owl (Partick Wilson). Their character arcs actually heighten the performance of Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorshach, whose contrasting performance as the hard ass, uncompromising vigilante burns even brighter. In a fairer world would he have been nominated for an Oscar and aced the winner Christoph Waltz (for Inglorious Basterds) for the award.

Synder and screenwriter Alex Tse received a lot of criticism for changing a vital element of the original story; the conspiracy behind faking the alien invasion. Instead, a subplot involving Doctor Manhattan and Adrian Veidt developing a new source of energy derived from his superpowers and Veidt framing him for a far more heinous crime, the utter destruction of several major global cities. While I thought this was a brilliant way to set the film apart visually from the graphic novel, other critics harped that it was either still too faithful version or or disagreed with the choices storywise. As for me, I think that; filmmakers have a better chance of producing more interesting and innovative art when they bring their perspectives and ideas to an adaptation than being a slave to the original material.

(To get an author’s first-hand perspective on how they viewed an adaptation of their own work, interested readers may want to hunt down David Mitchell’s essay on how his 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, was handled by its three directors. It was originally published in the 2012 movie tie-in edition and, as of this post, is not available online.)

Watchmen was not the huge financial success Warner Brothers and DC Comics had hoped for at the box office, earning $185 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $138 million. Sales of various home video editions have been moderately good. In bookstores and online, the graphic novel spiked in advance of the film and did so again this past year upon the announcement from HBO that a limited series was in the works. 

Despite the failure of the film, DC embarked on a series of prequel stories called Before Watchmen in 2012, featuring individual characters from the novel.

Naturally, Alan Moore was very unhappy with these developments, stating in a 2012 interview on the Seraphemera (Books & Music) website:

“All the nasty comments that I was making when I was angry–about the comics industry not having had an idea of its own in the last 40 years…it would seem that DC are really going that extra mile in trying to prove me incontrovertibly right.”

and

“What the comics industry has effectively said is, ‘Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn’t like all the other books.’ Watchmen was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work. What they’ve decided now is, ‘So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.’ and ‘Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.’ Like I say, they’re doing this because they haven’t got any other choices left, evidently.”     


WATCHMEN: White Rabbit, HBO, DC Comics, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Regina King, Jean Smart, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson,Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Louis Gossett Jr. and Jeremy Irons.

“I’ve got a nose for white supremacy and he smells like bleach.” 

Angela Abar/Detective Sister Night, Episode 1

  • Episode 1: “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”, Written by Damon Lindelof, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 2: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 3:”She Was Killed by Space Junk”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Lila Byock, Directed by Stephen Williams

Which brings us to Damon Lindelof’s “remix” of the original graphic novel for television.The veteran of high profile genre shows like Lost and The Leftovers, he turned the job down twice before accepting. He went in knowing that he would never get Alan Moore’s approval and that whatever may come, the die-hard fans of the graphic novel (or the film for that matter) would never be satisfied with the results.

Taking a deep creative breath, Lindelof took to Instagram and made the following statement: “I am compelled despite the inevitable pushback and hatred I will understandably receive for taking on this particular project. This ire will be maximally painful because of its source. That source being you. the true fans.”

He also said: “I’m a true fan, too. And I’m not the only one. What I love about television is that the finished product is not the result of a singular vision, but the collective experience of many brilliant minds.”

Among those brilliant minds is Watchmen’s original artist, Dave Gibbons, who signed on with Lindelof as a visual consultant. His contributions are immediately evident in costumes of the characters and the style and feel of the production itself. 

The story begins with one of the most stunning opening sequencing in the history of television; a brutal recreation of the ransacking, murderous rampage and destruction of the Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Emerging from the carnage, a young black child rescues an infant and flees the burning city.

We then shift ninety-eight years into the future and thirty four after the events depicted in the graphic novel. Loud rap music drones from of a pickup truck late at night. The middle aged driver become apprehensive when police lights signal for him to pull over and it appears he is a victim of racial profiling. And as the officer questions the driver in an antagonistic manner, it verifies these suspicions with one startling twist; the driver is white and the Tulsa cop is African-American and wearing a mask. When the cop is brutally assaulted and critically injured, it set in motion a series of events that will range far across this alternate universe.

And what a strange universe it is. Over the course of the first three episodes several several passing glances and easter eggs have revealed the following observations and easter eggs:

  • That actor Robert Redford has been President for decades. 
  • That African-Americans were granted some substantial reparations from the government over the years.
  • There are no cell phones or the development of any social media outlets. But electric cars seem to be a standard mode of travel.
  • Author/Attorney John Grisham was appointed to the Supreme Court and is retiring.
  • Masked vigilantes were banned in 1977 but apparently many persist in the practice.
  • A newspaper announces that Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) has been officially declared dead.
  • Tiny squids fall from the sky on an irregular basis, a stark reminder that mankind is still living under a threat of an impending “invasion:’
  • A dramatization documenting adventures of the first vigilantes called “American Hero Story” is being promoted on television (a clear call out to the Tales of The Black Freighter comics in the original Watchmen AND to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story).
  • And Doctor Manhattan has been spotted on Mars, puttering around building and deconstructing things on the surface and, presumably, keeping an eye on Earth.

Tulsa’s police chief, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) quickly deduces that a white supremist group, the Seventh Kalvary, was responsible. Three years earlier, the force and their families had been targeted in a surprise attack that left them dead and the few that remained demoralized. In response, the state government funded a pilot project that allowed officers to mask themselves and detectives to don elaborate costumes to protect their identities. Unfortunately, as the first episode amply demonstrates, this habitually leads to the abuse of the civil rights of criminal suspects and innocent civilians alike.

Our main protagonist, Angela Abar, is a survivor of the attack and has adopted the guise of a mild mannered, civilian identity of a local baker. But, when she’s alerted via pager to an emergency, she swiftly enters the back room and, like Spiderwoman, the Green Hornet and countless other heroes, transforms herself into Sister Night; with a nun’s habit and balaclava clad, she is a total badass supercop.

Sister Night forcibly brings a suspect into Tulsa’s secret police facility where he is subjected to an interrogation by Detective Wade Tillman, aka Looking Glass (played a droll and sardonic Tim Blake Nelson), who wears a reflective mirror mask. After conducting a very strange method that seems imitate Bladerunner’s Voight-Kampff test, Tillman concludes that while the suspect may not have been directly involved with the attack, he definitely knows something. And Sister Night proceeds to beat the location of the Seventh Kalvary out of him.

Meanwhile, at an undisclosed location, we spy a man (Jeremy Irons) riding horseback through the countryside. (Although he isn’t identified, I immediately suspected this regal looking rogue to be Adrian Veidt. And I was right.) While he seems to be right at home, he gives the appearance of being preoccupied with writing a play called “The Watchman’s Son” and recruiting his servants, Miss Crookshanks (Sarah Vickers) and Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) to help him bring it to life.

At first, I thought these might be androids, but no, after Mr. Philips is burned alive during the performance of the play, it’s revealed that there are multiple copies of him and Miss Crookshanks, clones, doing his bidding around the castle in various roles. And who knows, they might even be clones of himself!

It also becomes evident that while Veidt lives in relative comfort, he is not at liberty to leave the compound at any time. After another one of his Philips clones expires in a grisly manner during one of his experiments involving a primitive pressure suit and a trebuchet, it is evident that the World’s Smartest Man is trying to escape. And the person who is standing in his way is a mysterious character named “the Game Warden”, who sends Veidt a written warning that he suspects his current activities may be in violation of the terms of his imprisonment. And Veidt, being the person he is, doubles down on his efforts.        

Meanwhile, Sister Night and Chief Crawford lead a nighttime raid on the Kavalry’s remote safehouse, which, like the first two episodes, are thrillingly directed with precision and verve by Nicole Kassell. And while they succeed in breaking up the gang’s current plan, they don’t gain enough intelligence to know exactly what they’re up to. 

Angela goes home only to receive a phone tip from a strange voice who tells her knows who she is and proceeds to demands she drive to a location in a field she knows well. Fearing that her identity and family has been compromised, she drives there only to find Crawford’s body hanging from a tree and a VERY elderly black man in a wheelchair (Louis Gossett, Jr.), proudly claiming to be the murderer.

This man, who calls himself Will, also claims to be Angela’s grandfather and to being 109 years old. Angela takes him to her bakery hideout, handcuffs him and takes a DNA sample to be tested and later is shocked to find out his claim is valid. Having kept Will out of the investigation of Crawford’s death, she decides to formally take him into custody as a material witness. But as she places him in her civilian car under the cover of darkness, a mysterious craft swoops in with an electro-magnetic grapple and spirits Will, and her car (!), away. A paper flutters down from the car; the tattered leaflet with the words “Look After This Boy” scrawled on the back, the same note that was placed in the pocket by the father of the boy who survived the 1921 Tulsa riots. 

The third episode introduces the audience to a middle-aged Laurie Blake (Jean Smart, who is equally snappy and ironically sad in her role) the second Silk Spectre and daughter of Sally Jupiter and Eddie Blake. A hard-bitten veteran of the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force, she also appears to be trapped in a life she doesn’t enjoy very much. It is heavily implied that her ex-husband, Nite-Owl, is languishing in prison for violating the 1977 federal anti-vigilante act and Laurie feels guilty for receiving a get out of jail free card in exchange for her services. 

Enter Joe Keene Jr., a US Senator from Oklahoma (and an aspiring Presidential candidate) who comes calling on Laurie to do him a favor; he has arranged with the Bureau to send her to Tulsa to investigate the death of Chief Judd Crawford, who he strongly suspects might not have been killed by the Seventh Kalvalry but by a masked vigilante. .Should Laurie succeed and he becomes President, he strongly suggests he just might pardon Daniel Dreiberg.

But Laurie doesn’t only pine for her ex-husband, in her spare time from the investigation, she also records phone messages beamed directly to Mars via special booths for her ex-boyfriend, Doctor Manhattan to “hear”.

As sad and lonely as Laurie seems, her demeanor in public is sharp and professional. In her interactions with Angela, Wade and her nerdy FBI partner Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram) she lets it be known that does not suffer fools gladly and that she has read all of the reports, seen all of the video and is as smart as a very sharp, venomous tack. And if anyone is hiding anything, she’ll be the one to suss it out. Wade seemingly bows to her authority but not Angela, who puts on a brave and defiant face. That’s because she has plenty to hide at this point, including finding evidence that Chief Crawford may have been on the take and is concealing her grandfather’s role in his death.

And at the end of the third episode, as Laurie completes her phone call to Mars that evening, pleading for a sign from Doctor Manhattan that he might still care for her or the human race. As she is walking to her car, a huge clue falls into her lap from the sky above. And as she looks to see where it came from, she catches sight of Mars, glowing ominously in the distance. We leave Laurie as she laughs maniacally at the night sky and the audience wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

I must admit that I have been fairly overwhelmed by what Damon Lindelof has done with this production of Watchmen. He clearly reveres the source material but is totally unafraid in taking it in unexpected and startling directions.

There has been some blow back from fans who have complained at great length that Lindelof has made Watchmen too “political”, which is laughable because a more discerning reader should have caught on to those themes in the very first issue back in 1986. 

Others have vociferously objected to Rorschach being held up as a modern-day symbol of white supremacy. Well, those people thought he was the “hero” of previous iterations of Watchmen, when in fact, he was a damaged human being who was given the worst aspects of Batman, which were then magnified to the nth degree. A nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible, Walter Kovacs was the perfect character for other nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible racists to glom onto as their object of adulation.

Furthermore, Lindelof and his crew of creators are daring the audience to immerse themselves in a world where they may have to either root for, understand or have empathy for people, especially police officers, who are going about their jobs and lives in a completely aberrant and disgusting manner as they try to grapple with forces and circumstances they are having a hard time comprehending.

Also, in an era where more television shows and films are telling more diverse stories, it is utterly refreshing to see a gerne-oriented show tackle racial and political issues head on for a mainstream audience. These are exactly the sort of entertainment vehicles we need more of in these confusing and turbulent times; confounding, controversial and profound, they excite the intellect and stir meaningful conversations about who we are and what we should be doing.

This past spring, I stated that I was only going to list HBO’s magnificent techno-horror miniseries Chernobyl as my lone entrant on my Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form Hugo award ballot. Well, I think may have been a bit premature saying that; if Damon Lindelof and company can pull it off this daring adaptation over the remaining six episodes, I’ll be nominating Watchmen as well. 

And from what I’ve seen so far, I’ll be VERY disappointed if they don’t make it. But, after seeing the first three episodes of this series, I have a sneaking suspicion they will stick the landing, in the biggest way possible.

Anthony Daniels On Tour in Cincinnati

By Chris Barkley: Actor Anthony Daniels’ book tour in support of his newly published memoir, I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story, stopped at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio Wednesday evening.

The brief question and answer period was highlighted by a question from a very young fan who demanded to know why C-3PO interrupted the kiss between Leia and Han in The Empire Strikes Back. (Answer: It was not his fault, it was in the script!)

The event was attended by several hundred enthusiastic fans, with many of the attendees in full cosplay mode. (Note: The author was dressed in chinos, a dress shirt, a leather jacket topped off with an NPR baseball cap. DON’T JUDGE ME!)

Daniels’ famous co-star, R2D2 was also on hand to amuse, amaze and pose for pictures with fans…

[Photo of Daniels taken by Paul Glasser, all others by Chris Barkley.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #44

Names and Legacies 

By Chris M. Barkley: If I had told you a month ago that legacies of three of the biggest names in the fantasy and sf community would come under scrutiny and that one in particular would have his name removed from two prestigious awards, you probably would have looked at me oddly and thought I was crazy.

Well now, welcome to Crazy Town.

I, on the other hand, would not have been surprised as much because of what had happened a year ago.

Tuesday, November 27 2018, was the BEST day of Linda Fairstein’s life. Well, you could say it was the LAST best day of her life because forty-eight hours later, it began to unravel.

Fairstein, an acclaimed and best-selling crime writer of many years, awoke that day to find out that her peers in the Mystery Writers of America had named her as a Grand Master, the highest award of their organization could bestow. She was being honored for her series of 20 novels featuring Alexandra Cooper, a sex crimes prosecutor.

When she found out, she took to Twitter, writing,“How is THIS news for a thrilling surprise. I am Mystery Writers of America 2019 GRANDMASTER…..I’m pinching myself.”

But, almost immediately, prominent crime writers, with novelist Attica Locke in the lead, were protesting the announcement. Locke explained vociferously that Fairstein was directly responsible for the false imprisonment of five innocent men. 

Linda Fairstein’s previous occupation was a district attorney for New York City. For nearly a quarter of a century she was the lead prosecutor of the Sex Crimes Unit in Manhattan. In that capacity she became a feminist icon for her tough stances on crime and advocacy for victims’ rights in court.

Unfortunately, she was also responsible for personally supervising the prosecution of the Central Park Five, a 1989 case in which a jogger was brutally beaten and raped. The five Latino and black male teenagers were arrested, questioned, tried and eventually convicted for the heinous crime. They all claimed that the confessions they signed were coerced and that they were innocent. In 2002, all of them were exonerated by DNA evidence, freed and were given a substantial financial settlement from the city.

So, when the MWA reversed themselves, they released the following statement:

“After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused.”

By this past June, Dutton, her current publisher, had dropped her and activists on social media outlets called on the public to boycott her books and anyone selling them.

Fairstein exacerbated her situation by not apologizing for what happened or at least admitting that our judicial system failed these young men miserably. But no; instead she doubled down and she stood by their original convictions despite the evidence to the contrary, and hinted that if they were not guilty of that offense, they were probably guilty of something else and absolutely deserved exactly what they got. When HBO’s drama about the Central Park Five, “When They See Us” was aired this past spring, it featured a less than flattering portrayal of Fairstein. 

When I heard about Linda Fairstein’s problems with the Mystery Writers of America, I got into an semi-argument with a bookselling friend about what should happen to her. He stated, unequivocally, that her actions in her life should have nothing to do with her work as a writer. 

And, In a fair and a just world, that would happen. But, as we have seen repeatedly over the advent of the internet and social media outlets, there are people out there who would vehemently oppose the most harmless and innocuous you could come up with, including kittens. knitting and lawn bowling. 

I told my friend back then that while it was more than likely that Linda Fairstein probably did deserve the MWA honor, people, her peers, critics, and the public at large and the tidal forces of social interaction she helped foment were going to deny her because of her past actions and her adamant defense of them. 

And the very same scenario has played out again, in high definition no less, in these past few weeks. 

When Jeannette Ng made her speech denouncing John W. Campbell, Jr. at the Hugo Award Ceremony three weeks ago, it set off a tsunami of arguments, retrospectives and reassessments of Campbell, the late Alice Sheldon (best known under her pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr), Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback and other various literary luminaries of the past and present.

John W. Campbell, Jr.

By sheer coincidence, I discovered Campbell the editor in high school, several months after he died. My neighbor, Michaele, had a subscription and loaned me her copies of Analog, which were among the last he had edited. The stories were ok but what really caught my eye were the strangely cranky editorials, which made me curious enough to want to meet him. It was well enough that he had departed; had I gone back a few years and read of his 1968 endorsement of George Wallace for President, that would have been quite enlightening.

From 1937, for their first fifteen years or so, Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction magazine (and for the few years it existed, its fantasy counterpart, Unknown) were the biggest influences in sf literature and fandom at large.

But, along came Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas. And Horace Gold. Cele Goldsmith. Frederik Pohl. Ian and Betty Ballantine. Joseph and Edward Ferman. And Harlan Ellison.  And many other editors and publishers who followed in their footsteps. Like all good literary movements, sf diversified, became more inclusive and expanded.

 And Campbell himself? Not so much.

To be sure, he still was respected by authors and artists who produced for him. And don’t forget that he was the first to serialize Frank Herbert’s magnum opus, Dune, and, ironically, the very FIRST story by one James Tiptree, Jr (who is waiting on deck, so to speak).

But Campbell was estranged from a number of major authors such as Robert A. Heinlein, whom he had clashed with over ideological and political differences. 

When the two awards were established in his name two years after his death, John W. Campbell, Jr. was so well thought of and revered that there was no virtually opposition from any of the sponsors; Conde Nast Magazines (which later morphed into Dell Magazines) and the World Science Fiction Society (as the administrator) for the Best New Writer and the Memorial Award for Best Novel by late authors Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss. (The Gunn Center Conference of the University of Kansas formally took over the administration of the Campbell Memorial Award in 1978).

Harrison wrote this of the awards in 1977:

When John died it was a blow to all of us. After the memorial service a number of his writers were talking, and out of the talk came the Astounding anthology, what has been called the last issue of the Campbell magazine. It was a good tribute to a good editor. There is another tribute I think of just as highly, the award for the best SF novel of the year presented in his name and memory. An award I am sure he would have loved because it instantly became involved in controversy when the first prizes was presented. How John enjoyed a good argument and a good fight! That this fight sprawled through the letter columns of Analog for some months would have cheered him even more.

(For those among you who are intensely curious about that first recipient, the very first winner of the Memorial Award for Best Novel award was Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg, a book whose plot and themes probably would have turned his brain inside out. Don’t believe me? Check it out sometime.)

In the wake of the events of the past three weeks, Campbell’s grandson, John Campbell Hammond, has expressed some distress and disappointment over the removal of his name from the two awards. Others have been more pointed in their criticism, calling it a reactionary response of “political correctness” or “erasure”. 

Mr. Hammond may be saddened but at least he can be consoled by the voters of the 1944 Retro-Hugos, which held his grandfather in some high esteem because they awarded him in the Best Editor, Short Form category.

Here’s the thing; while he was a brilliant innovator in our branch of literature, there is also no doubt that his views on women and race were abominable. We can only speculate how much better things might have been if he hadn’t been such a person. Looking back, it is quite evident that the only thing holding up his reputation up for all these decades was white privilege, willful or unknowing ignorance and racism. 

And what’s happened to Campbell is not “erasure” but, as John Scalzi elegantly put it on his blog, a “reassessment”. And part of that process is a condemnation of your past actions.  

Alice Sheldon

Almost immediately in the wake of all of this, The Tiptree Motherboard, the administrators of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, were inundated by requests that they change the name of their award, citing that Alice Sheldon (the alias behind the Tiptree pseudonym) had committed the murder of her spouse, the ailing and terminally ill Huntington Sheldon, and then committed suicide.

Where I had no doubt that removing Campbell name was correct thing to do, I was equally adamant that Tiptree’s name should remain in place.

I am proud to state that I voted for Sheldon’s Hugo winning novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read,” on my very first Hugo Awards ballot back in 1977. At that time, no one knew “James Tiptree, Jr.” was other than a as a damn good writer. Upon first reading, I found her short fiction to be entertaining, intensely personal and incredibly enlightening. And I still do.

The bubble burst the very next year when, in her guise as Tiptree, slipped up and revealed to several of her correspondents that her mother had recently died. That led a few clever people to a Chicago newspaper obituary and directly her real identity.

Sheldon continued to write, as Tiptree and “Raccoona Sheldon” until her and her husband’s deaths in 1987. It was long rumored among her friends and family that she and “Ting” had made a long-standing murder/suicide pact if either became too ill for the other to care for. In her 2006 Hugo Award winning biography, The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, author Julie Phillips did not state conclusively that this was the case. Recently, Phillips wrote on Twitter:

“The question has come up whether Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr) and her husband Ting died by suicide or murder-suicide. I regret not saying clearly in the bio that those closest to the Sheldons all told me that they had a pact and that Ting’s health was failing.

Ting’s son Peter Sheldon also said there was a pact, and that Ting was declining. Alli probably wanted to die more than Ting did. But the pact didn’t have to do with his blindness or disability. He was going, and they chose to go out together.”

Recently on the Tiptree Motherboard, Phillips elaborated further:

“Ting didn’t leave a statement, but all Ting’s friends that I talked to plus his son Peter were unanimous that it was a pact, and that Ting’s health was failing when it happened. The only one who cast doubt on that was the lawyer who talked to her on the last night, James Boylan. He didn’t know either Ting or Alli very well, and I have doubts about how well he understood what was happening. I’m planning to write up what I know, because I left too much room for doubt when I wrote the book.”

I got into a very brief argument on the Tiptree Motherboard Twitter feed with a troll (with no previous history of posting) who stated unequivocally that Sheldon was nothing more than a common murderer.  I countered that while John W. Campbell was a serial offender in life, Alice Sheldon should not be condemned forever for one desperate and tragic choice.

Even moreso, the name “James Tiptree, Jr.” and the meaningful and influential fiction that was presented under that name has transcended the life of the author. I believe that the award cannot be what it is, a celebration of the exploration of sex and gender roles in fantastic fiction without that name attached to it.

On 2 September, the Tiptree Motherboard issued a lengthy statement covering the controversy and stated that a name change was not in the offing. Two days later they, issued the following clarification: 

 We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at feedback@tiptree.org.

So, at least for the foreseeable future, The James Tiptree Award will remain as it is.

Hugo Gernsback

Our last person of interest is Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant from Luxembourg who founded the 1926 magazine Amazing Stories, the very first publication completely devoted to publishing science fiction (which he originally dubbed “scientifiction”). Through it, he also created the “Science Fiction League”, a club whose members published letters in the magazine and corresponded with each other eventually met in person, thus creating the first wave of sf fandom and conventions. 

But before Amazing Stories, Gernsback was better known as a publisher of all sorts of other publications. He was notorious for not paying his contributors very much (or in some cases, not at all) and his business practices were seen by many at the time as very shady or outright fraudulent.

As author Barry Malzberg once wrote:

Gernsback’s venality and corruption, his sleaziness and his utter disregard for the financial rights of authors, have been well documented and discussed in critical and fan literature. That the founder of genre science fiction who gave his name to the field’s most prestigious award and who was the Guest of Honor at the 1952 Worldcon was pretty much a crook (and a contemptuous crook who stiffed his writers but paid himself $100K a year as President of Gernsback Publications) has been clearly established.

The very next year, the Science Fiction Achievement Awards were first given out at the11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. And despite his scurrilous reputation, people began to nickname this new award, “The Hugo”, after him! And I have no doubt that this just tickled his fancy up to his death at the age of 83 in 1967. The name became so universally used that by1992, it was officially codified into the Constitution of World Science Fiction Society.

I am amused that some people are showing some genuine outrage that the most prestigious award in sf is named after such a scoundrel. And not because I think it’s a bad idea. Oh no, on the contrary, this might be a GREAT idea whose time has come. 

All these pundits have to do is come up with a name to replace “Hugo Award”. Something that has a consensus of fandom behind it. A name that can be protected legally by the World Science Fiction Society. And…

A name that will have to endure at the very least, four or five years of committee studies and formal Business Meeting debates, amendments, substitutions and serpentine votes.

To those who wish to embark on this fool’s errand, I wish you all the luck on this Earth and all of its known (and unknown) alternate versions as well. 

In any event, fame and legacies are all fleeting and a fool’s deepest desire. All that really matters in life in the long run are your family, friends, memories and knowing that you tried to do the right thing and the best you can under the circumstances.

My advocacy of new categories for the Hugo Award will probably be my legacy. And I’m hoping for more. But It is my hope that my work will not stand and that others will study, deconstruct, demolish and build on the ashes of my efforts.

I hope a new Best Dramatic Presentation category is even more expansive and inclusive. The Editing category should formally include anthologies and author collections. Manga should definitely be included in the description of the Comics and Graphic Story category. And a Best Translated Novel award (or, at least a test of such a category) should be inevitable and welcomed, not feared.

If I had to single out one of the greatest moments in my life in fandom, I could tell you exactly when it happened, the night before the 2012 Hugo Awards Ceremony at Chicon 7.

My partner Juli and I were hanging out in the Hyatt Regency bar overlooking Michigan Avenue when we were approached by a woman and her partner. She said she sought me out to to thank me personally for working so hard to establish the Best Graphic Story category in which she was a nominee that year. I, in turn, congratulated her on the nomination and wished her the best of luck.

And the next day, Ursula Vernon won her first Hugo Award for her graphic omnibus, Digger. She did not thank me on stage. She didn’t have to because she already had.

It is always better to give than to receive. And I have always strived to create the possibility to give the highest award we have to the most deserving creators. And that is all I have ever wanted.

Or needed.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask — Special Irish Worldcon Edition, The Final Day

WORLDCON 77 – DUBLIN

By Chris M. Barkley:

Field Notes

  • I now KNOW which flatmate is the culprit who has been reversing the direction of toilet paper in our flat. To preserve whatever goodwill we have built up between the visiting fans and the Republic of Ireland, this person shall remain unnamed. But the information has been forwarded to the local Garda. And Interpol.
  • Speaking of which, I am very glad that none of the natives noticed that the pants I purchased at Costco that I’ve been wearing during our stay were manufactured by…English Laundry.
  • I was also informed yesterday that hurling was NOT a sport involving professional vomiting. I was quite relieved to learn this.
  • I like “Airplane Mode” setting on my phone SO MUCH I’m keeping it that way from now on! WooT!
  • Juli persuaded me NOT to wear my Wakanda University t-shirt over my regular shirt today. Because technically, I’m on a diplomatic mission. SHHHHHH!
  • It’s TRUE: Fan Writing is cheaper than therapy! Just Sayin’…

On our last day in Ireland, I woke up thinking about baseball. More specifically, baseball pitchers.

Of all the players who play baseball, it could be argued that the pitcher is the single most important and the most vulnerable parts of the game. Important because the game cannot function without them and vulnerable because the human arm is not exactly designed to throw a baseball for any length of time.

The rule book on baseball pitch consists of only two words: Throw Strikes.There are countless volumes of scholarly studies and critiques have been written on how this might be accomplished.

Those pitchers who do manage to hang on for twenty years and remain effective at some level are an extraordinary group of athletes who deserved to be lauded and revered.

I am not exactly comparing myself to that elite group but I do note that 2019 marks my twentieth year of being involved with and pitching (see what I did there) my amendments, arguments and strategies to the World Science Fiction Convention’s Business Meeting.

In the last few months before Worldcon 77, I had been evaluating how I felt and what I should do next. And like a veteran pitcher at the end of their career, I ultimately came to the conclusion  that my arsenal has been depleted and I have essentially lost my effectiveness to proceed any further in this capacity. 

The past few years have not been easy for me; my mother and father have died, the years long struggle to get a Young Adult Book category going was draining on an emotional level, I had to abandon the attempt to attach Ursula K. Le Guin’s name to the YA Award due to my doubts about winning any support for it at the Business Meeting and my own impatience led to me offer an amendment for a test of a Best Translated Novel even though the Hugo Study Committee appointed by Business Meeting recommended it be discussed for another year.

I have been persistent, stubborn and tenacious in the past but after twenty years of cajoling, persuading, compromising and grinding away making legislative sausage, I was yearning for a new set of challenges and goals.

And after the way things went down after the first two sessions of the Dublin Business Meeting, it became quite evident that I had come to the right decision.

After the Business Meeting was officially adjourned on Saturday, I made a point of going up and bidding a formal farewell to some of the WSFS Business Meeting members I respect the most, Donald Eastlake III, Linda Derenoff, Kevin Standlee and Vince Docherty, telling each of them that I will not be offering any for proposals for future consideration nor would I likely to be very active (unless I’m just there to vote on an issue that I seriously support) at future sessions of the WSFS Business Meeting.

Here’s the thing: when I initially started getting involved with the Business Meeting twenty years ago, I was doing it an everyday fan who wanted to make sure that films, television shows and other forms of media were given a somewhat level playing field when competing in the awards process.

After that, I found that I quite haphazardly stumbled into being an advocate of change. My mission became seeking solutions the inequities in the Editing Category and fighting to see the creators of comics/graphic stories and young adult authors get the recognition they richly deserve from our community.

I did so not to become more influential, to become a fannish insider or be famous. I did this because I revere and honor the Hugo Award and I wanted to see them stay fair, equitable and most importantly, relevant to our times.

In order to achieve these lofty goals, I had to become more of a public face for these ideas. In doing so I acknowledge that I have, in some circles, I have been perceived as an ambitious social climber who stepped on people’s toes and rubbed them the wrong way.

So as willingly as I have accepted the allocates of what I have done, I also unflinchingly take the criticism. Let the literary critics, historians and anthropologists hash out what happened because it doesn’t matter to me right now and certainly won’t after I am dead and gone.

On August 25th, I will be turning sixty-three years old. This past June, I celebrated my forty-third anniversary in fandom. Having spent the first twenty plus years amassing friends and the latter twenty becoming inadvertently well-known, I now take my leave.

Chris M. Barkley

To the members of the Business meeting and the SMOFs mailing list I say this: I thank you for your advice and patience. Your vigilance in protection of the Constitution and the Hugo Awards has been long and admirable. But your seeming officiousness, proof of worthiness, over reliance on years and years of committee studies are your weakness. These things scare and alienate fans from engaging in the process. I implore you all to be more intuitive and take more risks and chances, especially with those who come before you for the first time.

I find it simply astounding (pun definitely intended) that the people who champion a branch of literature that is dedicated to exploring and expounding on scientific, psychological and emotional change, act in such a hidebound, conservative manner and are seemingly determined to see that some fannish things remain the same.

To you, the members of this community who contemplating going to the Business Meeting or are loath to spend any amount of your precious Worldcon time attending these long, laborious meeting; if you do not approve of what is happening at the World Science Fiction Convention or with the WSFS Constitution and the Hugo Awards, there is no substitution for GETTING INVOLVED!. There are a lot of things I regret; not learning how to become a switch hitter in softball, learning to play a musical instrument or becoming bilingual. But all of the time I spent in the Business Meeting was well spent. So go down to your independent/used bookstore or online and get a Roberts Rules of Order and jump into the action. If you don’t, you haven’t any damned right to bitch about what is going on.

As for myself, I walk away proud of what I have accomplished. I have left it all on the field as they say in the sports world. In the last year or so, my activities in the Business Meeting have become too much of a distraction to some of the more important things going on in my life right now.

But don’t think that you won’t be hearing from me any more, you’re not getting off that easily. I am going to be writing my File 770 column for the foreseeable future and on my Facebook page and my Twitter account as well.And there are other long gestating writing  projects outside of fandom that will occupy a great deal of my time as well..

But the MOST important thing in my life is caring for my three-and-a-half-year old granddaughter, Lillyann Virginia. She loves me as the day is long and give her mine. Her wants and needs are more important right now than anything I have ever done at the WSFS Business Meeting. Lillyann is my future and she is yours as well.

The future is happening right now.

It always has been.

**********

The day began in splendid fashion; the sun was shining with a few fleecy clouds in the sky. Good flying weather. Juli and I wished we had more time to see this wonderful country we have come to love these past eight days but our time was up. We had packed our humongous suitcase the night before so we were all set to depart.

Our flight was scheduled for 12:55 p.m. and United Airlines told us before we left that while US Immigration and Customs had a station inside the airport to aid passengers headed for America,  we were advised to get to there AT LEAST three hours before departure time.

Well, unless we are traveling to or from a major hub domestically back in the US, Juli and I usually take this piece of advice with a gigantic, choking grain of salt. Little did we know…

We said our goodbyes to our flatmates Peter and Anna around 9:30 a.m. We walked around the corner to the transit station and purchased two bus tickets to the airport. Our first mistake was not heading to the main drag we knew very well to find the 747 bus route stop, but to wander further into downtown Dublin to find another one.

As we walked along I spotted a bookstore. I stopped to stare and then picked up my pace.

“What’s the matter?”, Juli asked.

“Just keep walking,” I said. I had to concentrate on getting home, not shopping. Hard choices.

After asking directions (a few times, because, accents, theirs and ours) we finally found the bus station. While we were there we came across a few European fans headed to the airport as well. One woman had a very interesting patch on her jacket that I really liked, so I asked her permission to take a photo of it.

We were also approached by a tall panhandler with a foreign (not Irish) accent came up asking for spare change. We kindly rebuffed him because we had no Euros left (and he looked rather sketchy to boot).

After he wandered away, a well-dressed woman came over and said, “It’s good that ye didn’t give ‘em anything.”

“Why is that?” Juli asked.

“Because most of them come over here and they receive more benefits here than they do where they came from.’ she explained in a patient but slightly irritated voice. “Most ’em are either drug addicts or criminals.”

As the woman walked away Juli and I exchanged a look; this was the first person we had come across since we arrived that had shown any sort of negativity towards anyone who wasn’t Irish. I can only hope that she was among the minority here.

The double decker 747 bus finally arrived around 10:30 and it was packed to the gills with travelers. We were among the last in line. Juli was becoming worried. “I’m beginning to think we should have taken a taxi,” Juli said. I tried to remain optimistic; we were still two-and-a-half hours from our flight time. Still…

When it was our turn, the driver looked at our tickets and said, “Sorry mum, these aren’t the right tickets.” Juli explained that we had gotten them from the station and they were clearly marked for transport to the airport.

“But mum,” he said with the resignation of a man who probably dealt with tourists everyday. “these tickets are from a different company altogether. I can’t take ‘em.”

NOW, I began to worry.

“But sir, we already paid fifteen Euros for these tickets.”

“Can we exchange them for the right tickets inside the station?“ I asked.

By this time, there were grumbling comments from some of the passengers and the five people still waiting didn’t look all that happy, either.

“All right,” the driver said, taking the tickets and giving a small jerk of his head. I dragged our suitcase aboard and stood in the main aisle with Juli. Somehow, all of the other passengers squeezed on board behind me and the bus lurched out of the station. We were packed and there was no stopping between there and the airport.

The bus arrived at Terminal Two around 10:45. Still plenty of time, I thought. We made a beeline to the United check-in counters, which were sandwiched in between the Emirates and American Airlines. Luckily, there were only two people ahead of us and no one behind us.

About a minute later, several hundred people arriving off of fleet of shuttle buses DID line up behind us. Timing is everything. Sometimes it’s the ONLY thing.

We stepped up to the station and placed out bag on the scale as the attendant checked our passports and printed out our boarding passes. Our suitcase weighed in at 24.9 kilograms and even though I was lousy at converting that weight to pounds (54.8951 pounds to be exact), I got a sinking feeling we were over the weight limit.

“I’m sorry but your bag is too heavy,” she said in a kindly, but reproachful tone. “You will have to take something out.”

Juli looked at me expectantly. Since I packed it, I knew exactly what to pull out. I took the suitcase, unzippered the main flap, reached inside and pulled out exactly what we needed to lighten the load; our two Worldcon souvenir and pocket program books. I hoisted it back on the scale and presto, 22.9 kg.

From there we took an escalator one level up to the Irish security area. These was a line here, too; a serpentine one that consisted of 13 long rows of stanchions and cloth tape that led to four separate doors with guards motioning people through to another area.

Staying together, we were shepherd into the next room where there were four more lines where bags and people were being scanned. As we were inching through our line, I saw a familiar looking hat out of the corner of my eye. I turned around and exclaimed, “Jo Walton?”

An lo and behold it was indeed my acquaintance, the Hugo and Nebula Award winning author, in the company of fellow author Ada Palmer (winner of the 2017 John W. Campbell Award and the victim of the horrible closed captioning nightmare at the Hugo Awards Ceremony) and her partner, Lauren Schiller.

After everyone was introduced to one another, Jo exclaimed, “We’re off to Edinburgh!” Upon learning I was doing a con report for File 770, Ms.Palmer pressed leaflet outlining her latest project, Worlds of Welcome, an international effort to raise money for refugees in conjunction with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

In an explanation on her website (http://www.exurbe.com), Ms Palmer writes that RAICES main goal is, “… to help those in the camps on the US side of the US-Mexico Border, by organizing  online auction of items donated by the F&SF community: signed books, craft items, fanworks & merchandise, custom fiction, editors willing to give query critiques, or members of underrepresented groups willing to give sensitivity reads to in-progress fiction.  We hope the auction will run in October.  We are currently soliciting donations of items for the auction, and a few more people to help organize it. If interested, please email us at: WorldsOfWelcome@gmail.com.”

The deadline for donations is September 30th and auctions will be held from October 1st through the 15th.

As our lines moved apart we all wished each other luck in making our respective flights.

After passing through the Irish security area, we strolled into a brightly mall of duty-free shops, filled with stuff we could not possibly get into any of our carry on bags. Following a series of American flags with arrows, we arrived at the entrance to the US Preclearance – Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP)…and found yet another, long and crowded passengers waiting in line to have their carry on bags inspected. AGAIN!

It was now 12:15 p.m. We were close but I it was getting close to the time to board our plane.

The lines were so backed up that some of the immigration agents were paging over the loudspeakers or shouting out cities and flight numbers, scrambling to go through the lines to pull out passengers for flights imminently leaving for Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

It was in this line that we saw Philadelphia area fans Joni and Todd Dashoff and a new friend, Abie Eke, whom I first met at the descendants from African Meetup.

Todd and I passed each other so many times that when we finally made it through the inspection and were respectively putting our shoes, I turned to him and said, “I’m tired at looking at you, too!”

“I got tired of looking at you when I first saw you here,” he retorted with a laugh.

“I’m beginning to think that the convention was just one big practice session to wait in line at the airport,” Juli groused when I caught up with her.

When we finally were called to a station to be questioned, our inquisitor was a dead ringer for Nick Nolte with exceptionally beady eyes.

He asked the usual litany of questions; did we have anything to declare, did we have any food or vegetables in our luggage or carry on bags, did we do any work while in Ireland? We answered no to all of these questions.

“Nick” then took our boarding passes and passports and had us step onto a set of footprints a few feet in front of his station and asked us to stare into a scanner as he compared our faces to the images on the passports.

After a few moments of staring at our innocent American faces, “Nick” gave a slight, laconic nod of his head said, “Thank you. Enjoy the flight home.” And with that, we walked swiftly towards the United departure gates.

On the way through the terminal, Juli said, “Look, a dead people walker.”

It was indeed, several dozen yards of non-moving walkway. “Yeah, that one is for zombies only!”

Juli just rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, so funny.”

When we got to our gate it was just about 12:45 p.m. but they had not started the boarding process. Apparently, when our boarding passes were printed, and the delays in the lines were noted, our departure time was adjusted as well, thank goodness.

Waiting in line were a virtual galaxy of fannish stars; Jim and Laurie Mann of Pittsburgh, former Worldcon Chair Deb Geisler from Boston, editor Scott Edelman from West Virginia and the Hugo Award winning fanzine editors, Nikki and Richard Lynch from Maryland. Jim Mann told me that there were probably between twenty and thirty fans from Worldcon headed home on this flight.

Rich and Nicki Lynch
Jim and Laurie Mann
Scott Edelman

We settled into our assigned seats in the aisle and across from each other. Juli sat next to a young couple, I sat next to two older gentlemen.

We took off only twenty minutes late with a flight time of 7 hours and forty-five minutes. Everyone around me pulled their shades, once again denying me a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

After a while, I was pondering when I might try to sleep in order to take the edge off some of the inevitable and dreaded bout of jet lag.

When we reached cruising altitude, the deployment of the beverage cart soon followed. I had a regular Coke since both Juli and I had skipped breakfast during our various adventures earlier in the day.

After drinking it, the older gentleman spilled water on his tray table, narrowing missing the paperback book he was reading. As I helped him clean up the spill with my napkin, I got a good look at the book was reading; a paperback copy of an Adam-Troy Castro novel, The Third Claw of God.

“Hey,” I exclaimed, “I know that writer!” The reader, Sylvan Oppenheimer of Baltimore, was startled that I knew the author. And yes, both he and his older brother Izzy sitting next to him attended the Worldcon and had a wonderful time. Izzy also has good taste in writers; he was reading one of James H. Schmitz’s Telzey Amberdon collections reissued by Baen Books. Both men had gone to Worldcons before but this was their first time going overseas to attend one. They both reported that they had a splendid time.

Sylvan Oppenheimer

I tried to get in a few hours of sleep as we headed westward, five hours into the past. It took me a day or so to recover coming over and I had no doubt that my body’s circadian rhythm was going to take a beating coming back. I picked up United’s in-flight magazine, Hemispheres, and saw that the cover story was titled, “Three Perfect Days in Hong Kong.” I thought about what was happening there at the moment; the citizens who were being harassed and beaten on a daily basis for demanding their rights and freedoms that were supposed to be guaranteed by law. I put the magazine back, unread.   

As I have grown older, I have come to dislike watching movies or television shows up in the air. My usual routine is to sleep, write or shifting my brain into iPod mode, recalling my favorite songs just from memory.

On the other hand, Juli plunged right in and watched two movies back to back; The Best of Enemies with Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell followed by The Hummingbird Project, a financial thriller starring Salma Hayek, Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård.

When I woke up, I got a look outside of Izzy’s window; we were over land again, somewhere along the east coast. As we made our final approach, I noted the overcast skies and some ominous flashes on the western horizon.

We landed at Dulles twenty minutes late at around 5:45 p.m. and just in time; there were several lightning strikes near the tarmac as we pulled into the gate.   

All of our luminaries had departed by the time we emerged into the terminal. When we arrived at our gate a short distance away, the skies opened up a massive thunderstorm was in progress. More lightning strikes closed down all of the ramps. I checked the radar at weather.gov and saw that the current storm was going to pass through quickly but there was another storm front fifty miles to the west and headed directly towards us.

While we were waiting, Juli pointed out that the designation of a nearby gate, C-4, was problematic. Maybe they should ban that gate number permanently, just as the 13th floor is conveniently omitted from most hotels. Just sayin’…

As our flight was about to be called, I reached over to my right to retrieve my fedora from the seat next to me, only to suddenly stop when I realized I had almost picked up a orthodox rabbi’s wide brimmed black borsalino. Fortunately for me, the rabbi was facing the other way and never noticed the move. My hat was on top of my shoulder bag in front of me. Crisis averted!

As the storm moved out, there was a rush to get as many flights into the air as possible before the next storm front arrived. Our flight was called and we were given the rare treat of actually walking out on the tarmac to our plane, which had an old fashioned airstairs leading up to the cabin.

Juli Marr

Just as we had gotten strapped into our seats, the next storm front arrived with additional lightning strikes, once again closing the gates before our luggage had been fully loaded onto the plane.

During the hour-and-a-half delay, we were served repeated rounds of soft drinks, water and cookies. I checked my email and Facebook accounts and was pleased to see that Jeannette Ng’s Campbell speech was getting a lot of coverage in fannish circles and in the mainstream media as well.

We finally took off after the storm front passed and we were finally on the last leg of our trip. When I remarked that this had been one remarkable Monday so far, she corrected me; it was actually Tuesday! Did I mention earlier that time travel was hard? It is very hard. On your brain.

Thankfully, the one-hour trip was unremarkable. The landing in Dayton was a little rough but Juli and I exchanged a happy look as we taxied to the terminal.

Our lone suitcase came down the luggage carousel almost immediately. As we exited the building to flag down the shuttle, the song playing over the speakers was Duran Duran’s 1983 pop hit, “Union of the Snake.”

“Well now, situation normal,” I remarked dryly. Juli gave me a ‘whatever’ eye roll.

The shuttle dropped us off at our car and we were soon on our way down I-75. Darkness had fallen and the skies were clear. I turned on the radio and the Reds were in the late innings of game with the San Diego Padres, leading 3-1. The Reds ended up winning 3-2.

And when the final out was recorded, Marty Brennaman, the Hall of Fame announcer of the Cincinnati Reds sealed the victory with his most famous catch phrase, “And This One Belongs To The Reds!”

At that moment, we knew we were truly home again.

(These reports are dedicated to the memory of my late parents, Alice and Erbil Barkley and also to the recent passing of our dear and loving neighbor, Lillian Feld.) 

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask — Special Irish Worldcon Edition, Day Five

DAY FIVE

By Chris M. Barkley: Author’s Note: This column is being written on the day after our return from Ireland. Because, time travel. AND jet lag.

Field Notes

  • BREAKING NEWS: I received a text from John and incredibly, Carole’s wallet was FOUND with all of the contents intact. I immediately spread the news on the Dublin 2019 Irish WorldCon Community Group and on my own page. I hope the details on who found it and where it was lost will be forthcoming. Needless to say, there was much rejoicing in the land this day!
  • Dublin has a taxi service called FreeNow, which, I have come to discover, is neither. I was considering filing a suit with the World Trade Organization but HEY, Carole’s wallet was found, so forgetaboutit…
  • Neither the flatmates nor myself have turned on the tv since we’ve been here. And we’re good with that.
  • My Irish flatmate Peter has sadly informed me that Hurling is a sport that does not involve vomiting on a professional level. I told him I was very relieved to hear this because the programmers at Fox Sports do not need any encouragement…
  • I do regret not getting to John Scalzi’s incredibly danceable DJ session Saturday night. It probably would have annoyed him if I had pestered him all night requesting Manchester (UK) bands like The Stone Roses, The Smiths, 808 State, Inspiral Carpets, Swing Out Sisters, Simply Red, Oasis, The Chemical Brothers, Electronic, The Mothmen, The Mindbenders, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Charlatans, The Happy Mondays, New Order, Elbow, The Fall, The Courteeners and The Drones but not Bauhaus. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great band, but from Northampton. Sorry.
  • Women and people of color and of alternate and non-conforming genders dominated the Hugo Awards for the umpteenth year in a row. Bravo. There must have been much squealing of horror from the basements of cis-gendered nerd boys last evening. White men had dominated fantasy and sf awards for decades so I am not feeling too sorry that other folks are in the ascendance right now. I am reminded of what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked in 2010, “How many women would be enough on the Supreme Court?” She replied, “Nine, nine… There have been nine men there for a long, long time, right? So why not nine women?”

I began the day solo because Juli had been hit with a double play of a sinus infection and a migraine brought on by the raising and lowering of the house lights during the Hugo Award Ceremony. As such, she remained in bed for most of the day.

Both Juli and I had one big regret out trip; that we hadn’t had time to very much sightseeing beyond the city. But, as I was walking about the city and looking at all of the people from different countries, cultures and languages, all working and living in this big, bustling cauldron of humanity felt like a more worldly, more cosmopolitan city than my own home town. I was both humbled and awed by the city of Dublin. 

As I was crossing the drawbridge, I saw an older woman of indeterminate heritage, sitting off to the right side of the walkway with a dixie cup of with a few coins in it.. I stopped in front of her.

Several weeks ago, while looking through a grocery trash can for losing lottery tickets (which could be redeemed for state lottery prizes), I saw a gleaming flash coming from the bottom. I reached in and pulled out a one Euro coin. My thought was that it was brought back to the US by a tourist and was used to rub lottery scratch off tickets and was either accidentally or deliberately thrown away.

But here I am, an American with an honest to god Euro and I was going to an honest to god country in the European Union. Right there and then, I vowed to make sure that this little Euro went home where it belongs.

And there I was on the bridge. I took that Euro and another coin out of my wallet. I leaned over and she smiled and held her cup up. “ I found this coin my country,” I said to her as I put the coins in her cup, “and I am just returning it to its home.” 

The woman gave me a broad smile and said something that was unintelligible to me but to me it felt both grateful and heartfelt. I wish I had given her more but the only thing I had left at this point in the trip were a few American bills, which would have been problematic for her to exchange. I walked on, hoping for the best for her. When I returned later, she was gone.

There was a Sunday session of the Business Meeting but I decided to skip it for reasons that will become very clear in my final report. 

I checked the schedule of remaining items and there was nothing of interest as far as I was concerned. So I made a beeline for the fan exhibit/dealer’s room. I had only been through the room once before and since I had a limited amount of space and weight allowance for our one suitcase and I wanted to buy at least one thing while I was in Dublin. 

Joe Scilari, Edie Stern and Boston superfan Mark Olson were manning the Fanac.org table and they proudly informed me that over 3500 pages of information had been uploaded to be archived, a tremendous success for the organization.

Edie Stern, Joe Siclari and Mark Olson at the Fanac.org table

If you are unfamiliar with Fanac, their website says:

“This site is devoted to the preservation and distribution of information about science fiction and science fiction fandom. There are fanzines, photos, and all sorts of strange and wonderful information about fandom’s past… 

So, check it out sometime.

While making my way to the New Zealand bid table, I wandered too close to the Chicago in 2022 table and was beckoned over by Dave McCarty, who was sporting the most garishly red Grateful Dead shirt I have ever seen.

Mr. McCarty specifically called me over for the expressed purpose of explaining, in passionate, excruciating detail, why the US Women’s Soccer team was being wrongheaded in their approach to their lawsuit against FIFA for equal pay. 

I will not go into detail about what his arguments were (if you were to contact him directly, I am quite sure he would be MORE than happy to lay out all of the evidence for you) but I conceded that he may have a point, which seemed to satisfy him (for now). And before you all label Mr. McCarty merely a sexist “mansplainer”, I want you to know that he is the father of a daughter and he desperately WANTS them to achieve to goal of being paid on an equal basis as the men’s team.

I also had the good fortune of being present when Mr. McCarty presented his lovely eight-year-old daughter, Mia, with her convention gift, a replica version of Hermione Granger’s wand. 

Dave McCarty and Mia

My next stop was the CoNZealand table where I checked on the price for a pair of supporting memberships. One of the staff members (whose name, unfortunately, I did not record) was utterly delighted to see my “Saint” symbol button and told he about how she obtained a rare copy of the original Leslie Charteris novel Meet The Tiger and how she was lucky enough to get it autographed by the late Sir Roger Moore!

Speaking of which, I had my phone out to check on my Paypal balance when I was approached by a fan named, wait for it…JAMES BOND, who asked me for some help finding a program item on Dublin’s online Worldcon app, Grenadine.

“One moment please,” I said as I put my phone down and reached into my crossbody bag for the printed pocket program book.

“Here you go. I’m analog today, not digital.” Mr. Bond got a good laugh out of that remark. For the record, I did NOT expect him to die…laughing. Just Sayin’.

When I finally got around to shopping the dealer tables, I caught sight of a book that I was very interested in; Farrah Mendelsohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein,  a deep, unflinchingly and critical look analyzing his fiction and non-fiction and how he influenced science fiction literature. 

While I was buying the book, I was reunited with my fellow File 770 reporter, Daniel Dern. We were also joined briefly by one of Dublin’s Special Guests, Spider Robinson and his “driver”, writer and comedian Stephan Herman. Spider had trouble remembering me until I reminded him that I had scored some pot for him and his late wife Jeanne at the 1994 Worldcon in Winnipeg, Canada. Ah good times. Also, yay for the statute of limitations.

Spider told me he had a fantastic time in Dublin and was very excited to sit down with a local genealogist while he was there. “ I have learned more about my family in that one hour than I ever did from the rest of my family during my life,“ he gushed.

Spider Robinson

I went back to our flat to check on Juli around 3:30. She was feeling well enough to go to the Closing Ceremonies at 4:30, but I wanted to take a short nap myself.

This decision proved to be a bad idea because Juli, thinking that I wasn’t getting enough sleep  on this trip, let me sleep in until 4:15. 

We rushed to the auditorium but the ceremony was already under way and we arrived in time to see George R.R. Martin and his partner Parris McBride on stage, accepting a Committee Award from Chair James Bacon for his contributions to Fandom and the Dublin bid in particular. I was saddened to see Ms. McBride in a neck brace and I sincerely hope she recovers soon.

I was surprised and happy to see that Dublin had recruited the creator of Artemis Fowl, Eowin Colfer, as the Host of Closing Ceremonies. Soon enough, Mr. Bacon took to the stage to thank the convention committee, his staff and volunteers and finally the fans who attended, to make it a memorable experience for everyone.

Chair James Bacon and the volunteers

Memorable? Indeed it was, But I can assure everyone reading this that the Dublin convention will be studied, scrutinized and autopsied more closely than any other recent Worldcon due to the cutoff of the sale of attending memberships weeks before the start of the convention, the size of the venue, the imposition of queuing lines by the owners of the convention center and the confusion they caused between the staff, volunteers and the attending fans. But, it’s Worldcon. It’s a certainty that things WILL go wrong and there will be some embarrassments and obstacles to overcome. People may have been angered over some incidents and inconvenienced by others but in the long run, the only thing that matters is that everyone survived and no one died. Having gone the 29 Worldcons now, I can attest to that).

After the gavel was symbolically passed to the New Zealand bid via interpretive dance and acrobatics, Juli and I headed over the The Drunken Fish for a celebratory dinner with Wyn, Liz, our flatmates Anna and Peter and our Australian fans, Susan and Grahame. As usual, I ordered too much food but, in the spirit of detente between the US and Ireland, I finished it all. Except for the extra helping of kimchi someone passed my way. There is only so much kimchi a person can take, I mean, c’mon man.

Wyn and Liz had been in country for nearly a week before everyone else arrived and took an extended driving tour of Ireland, visiting many castles along the way.

“Were any of the castles white?,” I asked Liz, who, thinking of the ubiquitous American fast food restaurant chain, broke out into a giggling fit. 

 As a matter of fact, we did see a white castle,” said Wyn in a very serious manner.

“Really?” I turned to Liz. “How was the food?” Liz collapsed in uncontrollable laughter. Mission accomplished. 

After dinner was consumed, we said goodbye to our dinner companions The flatmate squad then called a cab and traversed over to the southside of Dublin for a whiskey tasting at The Market Bar, the nicest looking hole-in-the-wall that I have ever seen in my life. Since I don’t drink spirits, I drank in the atmosphere and watched grown adults swoon over whiskey. Good times.

It took five tries but we were finally able to summoned a FreeNow cab (which, as I noted above, is neither) and we made our way back home.

While the flatmates recovered by chatting about their convention experiences, I began packing for the flight home, which was scheduled for 12:55 local time tomorrow.

As always, United Airlines advised us to get to the airport at least three hours in advance of the flight. Juli was particularly worried  about getting there early but hey, when we’ve flown in America, the wait time was usually a bogus ruse to get us there and buy stuff while we wait.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong, eh?   

Storm Over Campbell Award

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been presented at the Worldcon since 1973, two years after Campbell’s death. The 47th winner was Jeannette Ng. Will there be a 48th? Many are responding to her acceptance remarks with a call to change the name of the award.

Although voting is administered by the Worldcon, the award belongs to Dell Magazines, publisher of Analog. It was named for him because Campbell edited Astounding/Analog for 34 years and in his early years at the helm he introduced Heinlein, Asimov, and many other important sf writers, reigning over what was called by the time of his death the Golden Age of SF. That cemented his legend as a discoverer of talent (regardless that in later years he passed on submissions from any number of talented newcomers incuding Samuel R. Delany and Larry Niven).

A revised version of Jeanette Ng’s acceptance remarks is posted at Medium, “John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist”, with the profanity removed and other corrections made.

A video of the actual speech is here —

Jeannette Ng’s tweets about the reaction include —

Annalee Newitz commented:

Rivers Solomon, another Campbell nominee, posted screenshots of the acceptance speech they would have given. Thread starts here.

N.K. Jemisin explains why the term “fascist” in Ng’s speech is apposite. Thread starts here.

Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, says:

Past Campbell Award winner (2000) Cory Doctorow supported Ng in an article at Boing Boing: “Read: Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, in which she correctly identifies Campbell as a fascist and expresses solidarity with Hong Kong protesters”.

Jeannette Ng’s speech was exactly the speech our field needs to hear. And the fact that she devoted the bulk of it to solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters is especially significant, because of the growing importance of Chinese audiences and fandom in sf, which exposes writers to potential career retaliation from an important translation market. There is a group of (excellent, devoted) Chinese fans who have been making noises about a Chinese Worldcon for years, and speeches like Ng’s have to make you wonder: if that ever comes to pass, will she be able to get a visa to attend?

Back when the misogynist/white supremacist wing of SF started to publicly organize to purge the field of the wrong kind of fan and the wrong kind of writer, they were talking about people like Ng. I think that this is ample evidence that she is in exactly the right place, at the right time, saying the right thing.

… When Ng took the mic and told the truth about his legacy, she wasn’t downplaying his importance: she was acknowledging it. Campbell’s odious ideas matter because he was important, a giant in the field who left an enduring mark on it. No one disagrees about that. What we want to talk about today is what that mark is, and what it means.

Another Campbell winner, John Scalzi, tried to see all sides in “Jeannette Ng, John W. Campbell, and What Should Be Said By Whom and When” at Whatever.

… You can claim the John W. Campbell Award without revering John W. Campbell, or paying him lip service, and you can criticize him, based on what you see of his track record and your interpretation of it. The award is about the writing, not about John W. Campbell, and that is a solid fact. If a recipient of the Campbell Award can’t do these things, or we want to argue that they shouldn’t, then probably we should have a conversation about whether we should change the name of the award. It wouldn’t be the first time an award in the genre has been materially changed in the fallout of someone calling out the problems with the award’s imagery. The World Fantasy Award was changed in part because Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar were public (Samatar in her acceptance speech!) about the issue of having a grotesque of blatant racist HP Lovecraft as the trophy for the award. There was a lot of grousing and complaining and whining about political correctness then, too. And yet, the award survives, and the new trophy, for what it’s worth, is gorgeous. So, yes, if this means we have to consider whether it’s time to divorce Campbell from the award, let’s have that discussion.

Now, here’s a real thing: Part of the reaction to Ng’s speech is people being genuinely hurt. There are still people in our community who knew Campbell personally, and many many others one step removed, who idolize and respect the writers Campbell took under his wing. And there are people — and once again I raise my hand — who are in the field because the way Campbell shaped it as a place where they could thrive. Many if not most of these folks know about his flaws, but even so it’s hard to see someone with no allegiance to him, either personally or professionally, point them out both forcefully and unapologetically. They see Campbell and his legacy abstractly, and also as an obstacle to be overcome. That’s deeply uncomfortable.

It’s also a reality. Nearly five decades separate us today from Campbell. It’s impossible for new writers today to have the same relationship to him as their predecessors in the field did, even if the influence he had on the field works to their advantage….

Bounding Into Comics’ Spencer Baculi unexpectedly followed Doctorow’s and Scalzi’s lead, even though the site often covers the work of Jon Del Arroz and Vox Day’s Alt-Comics: “2019 John W. Campbell Award Winner Jeanette Ng Labels Influential Sci-Fi Author as a “Fascist” During Acceptance Speech”.

…Ng’s assessment of Campbell is undoubtedly informed by Campbell’s personal politics and beliefs and those who have written about him. Campbell argued that African-Americans were “barbarians” deserving of police brutality during the 1965 Watts Riots, as “the “brutal” actions of police consist of punishing criminal behavior.” His unpublished story All featured such racist elements that author Robert Heinlein, who built upon Campbell’s original story for his own work titled Sixth Column, had to “reslant” the story before publishing it. In the aftermath of the Kent State massacre, when speaking of the demonstrators murdered by the Ohio National Guard, Campbell stated that “I’m not interested in victims. I’m interested in heroes.” While difficult to presume where Campbell’s beliefs would place him in modern politics, it is apparent that Campbell would disagree with many of the beliefs held by modern America.

Ng’s speech unsurprisingly caused backlash and outrage among some members of the literary community, with some claiming that Ng should have withheld from insulting the man whose award she was receiving.

Chris M. Barkley praised Ng’s comments in his File 770 post “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask — Special Irish Worldcon Edition, Day Four”.

…I was one of the people madly cheering this speech. I posted a meme on Facebook as she was still speaking: “Jeannette Ng is AWESOME!!!!!” Moments later, swept up in the moment, I posted another meme, “I’m just gonna say it: The Name of the John W. Campbell Award SHOULD BE F***KING CHANGED!”

To clamor atop a soapbox for a moment; NO, I am not advocating that the life and work of John W. Campbell, Jr. be scrubbed from history. But neither should we turn a blind, uncritical eye to his transgressions. When the winners of such a prestigious award start getting angry because the person behind it is viewed to be so vile and reprehensible, that ought to be acknowledged as well….

Mark Blake honored a request to comment about Campbell on Facebook.

For a brief period a few years ago, my byline was prominently associated with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This was not because I’d ever won such an award, or even appeared on the ballot (I was never a nominee), but rather because I assembled anthologies for the purpose of showcasing new writers during their two-year window of eligibility, as an exercise in public awareness of writing that, despite potential merit, might not have received sufficient reviews to garner an audience among the Worldcon membership at large.

In that context, someone asked me to defend Campbell because of the acceptance speech given by this year’s recipient.

This was an uncomfortable request. The more I’ve learned about Campbell over the years, the more certain I’ve become that I wouldn’t have even wanted to share an elevator with him, much less try to sell him a story… and I say that despite having learned any number of his storytelling and editing techniques by way of hand-me-down tutelage….

Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson was mainly concerned that Ng’s remarks were bad for the brand – i.e., Ng mistakenly identified Campbell as an editor of his magazine instead of Astounding/Analog. “Emergency Editorial”.

…A couple of days ago we watched and updated our post covering the 2019 Hugo Awards;  we were a bit surprised at Jeannette Ng’s acceptance where she made some connections between fascism in the SF field, fascism in the US and the events taking place in Hong Kong right now.  Hong Kong is Ms. Ng’s home base and we are absolutely and completely in sympathy with her and the protesters who are braving arrest, and possibly worse, as they try to maintain their freedoms.

We entirely missed the misattributions of Ms. Ng’s speech;  what she wanted to do was identify John W. Campbell Jr., the editor of Astounding Stories, as a fascist.  She ended up naming Jospeph Campbell as the editor of Amazing Stories….

I am sure she is tired, chuffed, overwhelmed and, perhaps even a bit embarrassed over having misnamed Campbell and the magazine he was associated with in front of an audience and a community that knows this history without even thinking about it.

But the internet being what it is, disrespect for facts being what they are these days, I can not allow the idea that John W. Campbell – racist, anti-semite, fascist, misogynist, whatever – was associated with Amazing Stories to go unchallenged….

Ng has issued a correction:

Swedish Fan Ahrvid Engholm today sent two fannish listservs copies of a complaint he has filed with the Dublin 2019 committee that Ng’s speech violated the convention’s Code of Conduct.

…One may wonder what a Code of Conduct is worth, if it isn’t respected by those who have all eyes upon them on the big stage, during the highlight of a convention, such as the awards ceremonies witnessed by thousands.

I therefore want to report, as a breach of the Code of Conduct during Dublin 2019, the intimidation and personal attacks in Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award speech, of which the very lows are wordings like:

“John W. Campbell…was a fascist” and he was “setting a tone” she claims “haunts” us as “Sterile. Male. White.” glorifying “imperialists” etc.

Full text here https://twitter.com/jeannette_ng/status/1163182894908616706
Several parts of the CoC (as published in the Pocket Convention Guide, and also here https://dublin2019.com/about/code-of-conduct/) may apply, but let me point to:

“Everyone involved with Dublin 2019 is expected to show respect towards…the various communities associated with the convention. …Dublin 2019 is dedicated to provide a harassment-free convention experience for all Attendees regardless of…gender…race…We do not tolerate harassment of convention attendees in any form” /which includes:/
* Comments intended to belittle, offend or cause discomfort”

Most if not all would find being called a “fascist” offending, surely causing discomfort.

And it’s especially deplorable when the person belittled this way has passed away and thus can’t defend himself. It is reported that John W Campbell’s grandson John Campbell Harrmond was present at the convention that branded his grandfather a “fascist”. John W Campbell was the leading sf magazine editor of his era (of Astounding SF, not Amazing Stories as this far from well-founded speech said) and have many admirers who also have cause to feel offended. If you like Campbell, the claim he is a “fascist” surely splashes on you too – you’d be “fascist sympathiser”.

Ms Ng continues to harass whole categories of convention Attendees, those who are “male” and “white”. They are “sterile” and the negative “tone” claimed being “set” in the sf genre. It must be noted that the CoC is explicitly against slurs regarding race and gender. (And in these circumstances “white” indicates race and “male” gender.) The CoC further says it won’t be tolerated “in any form”, which surely must also include the form of a speech from a big stage.

It is too late now do do anything about this regrettable episode, but those making reports are asked to state what they would like to happen next. What I simply want is to get it confirmed that the event reported indeed IS a breach of the CoC, because that could be important for the future.

–Ahrvid Engholm
sf con-goer since 1976 (of Worldcons since 1979)

Scott Edelman supported Ng in several comments, describing his deep unhappiness with some of Campbell’s opinions at the time the were originally published 50 years ago. He also quoted this anecdote from the autobiography of William Tenn / Phil Klass: