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

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Today, as of Noon today, EST, I formally ask that the proposal to add Ursula K. Le Guin’s name to the Lodestar Award be withdrawn from consideration at the Worldcon 76 Business Meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Chris M. Barkley:

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

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

Press Release for immediate distribution

6 March 2018

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

By Chris M. Barkley

“When the mind is free, magic happens.”

? Young Adult author C.G. Rousing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Evening Ms. Clark,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As it turned out, almost EVERYTHING went wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On July 28th, I emailed Ginger Clark:

Ginger,

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

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

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

Thank You,

Chris Barkley

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

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

And with that, my promise was kept…

22 February – 2 March 18

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

A.4 Short Title: Re-Name That Award

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

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

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

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

Proposed by: Members of the YA Award Committee

Replaced by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ursula K. LeGuin

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

Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty images

Remembering: Harlan & I

By Chris M. Barkley

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

On May 14, 2018, Tom Wolfe died.

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

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

On May 22, 2018, Philip Roth died.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart shuddered.

The world fell away.

I took my glasses off and openly wept.

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

He was gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What?

Oh, HELL NO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rules as it turned out, were very simple:

Qualified Nominators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened next…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harlan responded a few hours later:

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

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

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

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

I agree wholeheartedly.

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

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

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

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

Yr. pal, Harlan

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

  • Tuesday, August 29 2006 12:26:56

CONNIE WILLIS’S LEFT BREAST, REDUX

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

Adultly said, Yr. pal, Harlan

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

This may be what killed vaudeville.

he

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

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

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

I can go either way.

Yr. pal, Harlan

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

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

Harlan Ellison, a friend of Connie Willis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye, Harlan.

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

Harlan Jay Ellison, 1934-2018

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

Why I am Advocating for a Best Translated Novel Category

By Chris M. Barkley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 ( Published or scheduled so far)

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

2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for me, that is more than enough.

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


Solo: A Star Wars Story/A Film Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #29

Avengers: Infinity War/A Film Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Avengers: Infinity War (2018, ***1/2) with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Helmsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Guria, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt and Josh Brolin. Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on The Avengers by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.

Bechdel Test: Passes, in spades.

We’ve come a long way since we were first introduced to the cinematic version of Marvel Comic’s Tony Stark, the “billionaire genius playboy philanthropist”, the first protagonist of the Marvel’s movie universe. The success of the 2008 movie has spawned eighteen loosely interconnected sequels which culminate the ultimate Marvel extravaganza, Avengers: Infinity War, which premieres today.

This was the conflict that we have long-awaited since the tantalizing appearance of uber-villain Thanos in an extra scene at the end of the first Avengers film in 2012. He’s an alien with a very specific goal; obtaining the six mystical stones of Time, Mind, Reality, Power, Space and Soul, that when fitted into a specially designed gauntlet, to become the most powerful entity in the universe.

Although this story has already played out in a series of comics published in 1992, millions of movie fans are anxiously awaiting what screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo have in store for the twenty-two assembled heroes.

Looking back over the past decade’s worth of superhero films, Marvel Studios is clearly triumphant in every sense of the word, culturally, critically and especially financially. Despite their best efforts, the competition from DC Comic’s entries has only seen some marginal gains at the box office. Their next release, Aquaman, is scheduled far, far away from this weekend, which should see the record box office receipts either match or exceed the opening grossed of Marvel’s previous film, Black Panther.

And as all of this is unfolding, I cannot help but wonder if with this release, the superhero movie is approaching the apex of its popularity with the film going public. How can any studio, even Marvel, go any higher, keep up the esthetic pace and production values before it loses its audience and the whole enterprise collapses in on itself?

And the real question everyone should be asking is does Kevin Feige KNOW when these movies have reached a saturation point and go out on top? Speculation has been running rampant about which high-priced actors and/or characters character will die or survive the calamitous encounter with Thanos. Is there a calculated plan to keep the Marvel Cinematic Universe alive for another decade?

Needless to say, if Marvel keeps delivering films like Infinity War, it ‘s guaranteed that they’ll will be around for around for at least another decade.

As the film opens, Thanos and his enforcers have attacked and overrun the ship containing the survivors of the destruction of Asgard. Although a wounded Thor doesn’t know it at that moment, his brother Loki possesses the Space Stone (otherwise called “the Tesseract” in previous films).

Meanwhile, Thanos’s agents are on Earth seeking the Time Stone from Doctor Strange and the Mind Stone, which is resting in the forehead of one of the Avengers, The Vision. Wanda and Vision are ambushed in Scotland, Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon arrive to help.

When alien craft land in Manhattan, Iron Man and Spider-Man swing into action. The Guardians of the Galaxy are drawn into the action when they rescue Thor and discover that Thanos has attacked the Nova Corps home base and has the Power Stone. Realizing that her step-father may be close to obtaining all six stones, Glamora makes a strange and compelling request of Peter Quill…

As these story threads are spun out on Earth and throughout the galaxy, other heroes and villains will be drawn together in a deadly game of pursuit and combat. And at the center of it all is Thanos, powerful, regal and seemingly omnipotent, he sees as the savior who must destroy half the universe in order to save. As portrayed in motion capture by Josh Brolin, he exudes a single-minded passion in his quest for genocide.

I must say that I have to admire the audaciousness and skill of the Russo brothers in making Infinity War. I have already heard some criticism regarding the story being too spread out and the short shrift some characters receive in the exposition of the story. My only comment as a long time reviewer and lifelong fan is that this movie could not have possible been executed any better and in any other way.

And believe me; nothing can prepare you for the ending of the movie. Prepare yourselves to be shocked, bewildered and dismayed. There is only one extra scene, a cryptic shot that takes place after all the credits have run. It provides a single ray of hope that may hold the key to salvation.

In the meantime, enjoy Ant-Man and the Wasp, which opens on July 6th.

If you can.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #28

Martin Luther King and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Plus 50

By Chris M. Barkley:

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

If anyone understands it on the first viewing, we’ve failed in our intention.
Director Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968.

Fifty years ago today, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, while attempting to support the city’s sanitation workers’ strike for better wages and working conditions.

Two days earlier, the world premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s visionary science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey was held at the Uptown Theatre in Washington, D.C.

One event nearly shattered the United States and the other marked a seismic occurrence in film history. Both still continue to resonate and shape our lives to this day.

April 4, 1968 was a Thursday. I was in the sixth grade, attending a Catholic parochial school, St. Francis de Sales. I don’t remember seeing any ads about 2001 during that period of time. The main news of that day, that week, as a matter of fact, was the assassination of Dr. King. President Lyndon Johnson urged the populace remain calm.

That Saturday, the Cincinnati Reds announced that the Opening Day parade and game were postponed. The mayor declared a sunset to sunup curfew for all citizens. Rioting erupted in urban areas all over the country, including Cincinnati. In Avondale, a neighborhood a few miles away from our home, the entire shopping district was destroyed. Two were killed. Ironically, the only thing left standing was a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln nearby.

In the meantime, 2001 opened across the country a few weeks later to mixed reviews. Variety’s Robert B. Frederik proclaimed that it was not a cinematic landmark, claiming, “2001 lacks dramatic appeal to a large degree and only conveys suspense after the halfway mark. Despite the enormous technical staff involved in making the film, it is almost entirely one man’s conception and Kubrick must receive all the praise – and take all the blame.”

Pauline Kael, one of the premiere film critics of the mid-20th century, said, “It has the dreamy somewhere-over-the-rainbow appeal of a new vision of heaven. 2001 is a celebration of cop-out. It says man is just a tiny nothing on the stairway to paradise, something better is coming, and it’s all out of your hands anyway. There’s an intelligence out there in space controlling your destiny from ape to angel, so just follow the slab. Drop up.”

Roger Ebert, an up and coming film reviewer at the Chicago Sun-Times (and ardent, die-hard sf fan as it turned out), was tad more perceptive when he stated, in a five-star review, “The fascinating thing about this film is that it fails on the human level but succeeds magnificently on a cosmic scale. Kubrick’s universe, and the space ships he constructed to explore it, are simply out of scale with human concerns. The ships are perfect, impersonal machines which venture from one planet to another, and if men are tucked away somewhere inside them, then they get there too.”

In the spring of 1968, I was mostly oblivious to 2001. I was mainly more concerned with surviving the seventh-grade landscape, in which dodging bullies, doing homework, baseball, meeting my parent’s expectations reading and watching as many movies and consume as much television as possible.. I was also being outfitted with a series of glasses as my myopia decreased the acuity of my eyesight.

Doctor King’s message of non-violence was a sound theory to me at the time. The problem was that the other children I went to school with or were living in my neighborhood were more interested in acting like typical adolescent kids than pondering the philosophical mysteries of being a better person.

Eventually, film was a welcome diversion. Although I missed 2001 on its first theatrical release, I was more than ready in 1974, when it came back to theaters for a limited run in its original 70MM form.

Nothing prepared me for the totally immersive experience of the widescreen presentation. I count seeing 2001 for the first time one of the most influential and best film experiences of my life. From the stunning beauty and grand vistas of the African veldt to the eerily accurate rendering of the lunar surface (15 months before the real deal) to beyond the stargate, I was completely captivated.

What is also remarkable is that all of the makeup, ship models, stunts and special effects were all physical or manmade and not computer generated.

Beyond feeling that I had experienced something transcendental (without the aid of any recreational drugs, mind you), I did not know what to make of my first viewing of 2001. To me, it is completely open to a number of interpretations which is its greatest strength and exactly what Stanley Kubrick in mind.

Kubrick, in an interview with Playboy magazine said, “You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film—and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level—but I don’t want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he’s missed the point.”

When quizzed on the subject, Arthur C. Clarke gleefully recommended people read his novelization (which is still in print, BTW) of the film, which in turn contained substantial changes from the film narrative and further clouded the issue of whose version of the story is more “true”.

Yesterday, I took time out to watch a 2007 dvd reissue of 2001 in a way that I have never attempted before with any other movie I own; with the audio commentary on. The lead actors of the film, Keir Dullea (David Bowman) and Gary Lockwood (Frank Poole) provided a fascinating play-by-play of their involvement with their part in the film and other peripheral views they witnessed firsthand. Since I have seen the movie eight or nine times, I could readily follow the action as they talked. Of particular interest are their descriptions of various scenes such as Lockwood’s jog around the centrifuge of Discovery’s spaceship cabin and Dullea’s rather perilous reentry into the ship after being locked out by HAL.

Another note; Stanley Kubrick showed his true genius in the casting Lockwood and Dullea; the former was a California born athlete and television supporting actor and the latter a film veteran with the attitude of a New York stage actor. Both are approximately the same age (81 as of this column) and remain friends to this day. Although they come from completely different backgrounds and acting styles, they found that each complemented the other perfectly in their roles of astronauts.

Martin Luther King Jr. never had the opportunity to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. Frankly, I can’t see it as being the kind of film he would be interested in seeing. But, if he had done so, I think he would have focused in on one of the most famous moments in the film, the ‘match cut’ as main ape character, Moon-Watcher, learns to wield an animal bone as a weapon and subsequently throws it up in the air, only to come down through the frame and transition four million years later as a nuclear armed satellite orbiting the earth.

Most film critics over the decades have seen interpreted particular moment as the advancement of the human species from its primitive roots to a technological extreme.

Canadian sf novelist Robert J. Sawyer had a different view. Speaking in the Canadian documentary 2001 and Beyond, he saw the film cut from a bone to a nuclear weapons platform as,  “…what we see is not how far we’ve leaped ahead, what we see is that today, ‘2001’, and four million years ago on the African veldt, it’s exactly the same—the power of mankind is the power of its weapons. It’s a continuation, not a discontinuity in that jump.”

I am quite sure that if Doctor King had seen 2001, he would have seen that connection, that our violent past and present might be transcended some day. He might have not agreed with the method, especially if it was implied that it would happen at the hands (or appendages) of extraterrestrial life. He would have preferred that mankind was more than willing and capable of achieving that on our own.

Today, as I reflect back on the past fifty years, I note that people still suffer from classism, voter suppression and widespread profiling and physical violence from the police. That at this point in time, our political system seems to be in total disarray. And that the city of Memphis, the very city Doctor King was in when he was brutally cut down, is still rated by the US Census Bureau as one of the highest rates of poverty in the country.

I prefer to believe the world of 2001, as depicted in the film, is a better place than ours. That, in spite of the apparent tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, we cooperate to the extent that both parties (and more) can operate in space and the moon in relative harmony. And by extension, we may have solved our energy and climate concerns.

Despite everything that has happened since their deaths, the works and words of Doctor Martin Luther King, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke continue to inspire us to do our best for humanity. And hopefully, they will for quite a while.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #27

The author, enjoying some peach moscato, 26 February 2018

 The State of My Union – An Personal Assessment

By Chris M. Barkley:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.

– John Allen Paulos

Until recently, I really hadn’t given too much thought to the opening to Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, which remains one of the most memorable opening lines of any English language novel.

But it became uppermost in my mind when I sat down to write this particular column. I wanted to express my unease at how I look at the world and how it is balanced out by the joy of being alive in this time and place.

I paired Dickens with a quote from eminent mathematician John Allen Paulos because it perfectly summarizes the same point Dickens had made more than a century earlier. While I despair about the condition of our world, I am continuingly amazed at how aware I am and the amazing technology and we have at our fingertips each day.

On the evening of January 31st, my partner Juli and I went to see an excellent historical drama about the Pentagon papers, The Post. Staying home and watching The State of the Union Address was out of the question.

For the most obvious of reasons; the United States is currently led by a vile, anti-intellectual and profoundly stupid man. And by writing that, I want to extend an apology to all stupid people.

As we drove home, I began thinking about what was going to be the subject this column (who is intimately involved with The Post) but as I sat down to write it, I changed my mind.

This column, which is now more than a year old, was intended to be a sounding board for my thoughts and concerns about all things fannish. Looking back, I see that while there were some pretty serious columns, it seems that lately, it has been a little too top-heavy with media related reviews. So, it seems as though I was long overdue for an introspective look at something else. Myself.

My heath is rather nominal. I say rather because while I feel well enough, I have discovered after a discussion with my doctor, that I have been undergoing an extended bout of hyperglycemia brought on by my overuse of Splenda. I know how crazy that sounds but it is true. This is particularly bad news for me because I am a fanatical tea drinker and I like it sweet. Since I have type-2 diabetes, I just assumed it was safe for me to put 4 or five packs of Splendas in a 16 ounce serving. My body had different ideas. The theory is that my body, in the absence of real sugar, has been tricked into producing more sugar and insulin (with a sidecar of dopamine) which, in turn, has thrown everything out of whack.

My doctor has given me eight weeks to get my blood sugars under control or I will be prescribed to undergo insulin injections. Needless to say, my fear of needles is driving my urge to eat properly, walk and exercise on a daily basis.

Officially, I have been unemployed since April 30th of last year. I walked away from my position as the periodicals manager at one of the best independent bookstores in America I felt undervalued by the management and my boss was…well, let’s just say I lost confidence in her and let it go at that.

My current job right now is being a primary caretaker of my two-year-old granddaughter, Lily Bug. She is a delight to watch and I am quite privileged watching her growing and learning each day. She learns quickly and has an uncanny knack of showing that she is self-aware and confidently self-assured before she turned a year old, which I found a bit unusual for someone her age.

As the only child (at the moment), Lily is afforded special privileges from her overly indulgent, such as her Christmas gift of a thirteen-foot-diameter trampoline, which she lovingly calls “jumpy-jumpy”.

I’m also looking forward to her being properly potty-trained by her parents REAL SOON NOW because I would really like to put my toxic waste disposal days behind me.

Books are my life. I have sold them for over a quarter of a century and reading them all of my life. I am overwhelmed with books. I have a very bad habit of starting several books at once so my nightstand is rather swamped at the moment:

Tau Zero (1970) by Poul Anderson; this would be a perfect vehicle for a director like Kathryn Bigelow, Alex Garland or Duncan Jones. Someone should send a copy to each of them so there would be a bidding war. If you haven’t read it, it is one of the finest examples of hard adventure sf ever written.

Mary Astor’s Purple Diary (2016) written and illustrated by Edward Sorel – The Great Sex Scandal of 1936; Mary Astor was a revered character actress in the golden Age of Hollywood. Her personal life became fodder for the tabloid press when her affair with playwright George S. Kaufman was revealed because her salacious diary was discovered by her husband, Doctor Franklyn Thorpe. To say that hijinks ensued would be an incredible understatement. Woody Allen, in a rare move into literary criticism, infamously reviewed this tome for the New York Times Review of Books, which led to a backlash of virulent protest against the book editor, Pamela Paul. As Spock would say, fascinating…

The Nashville Chronicles (2000) by Jan Stuart; a lucky find at a library book sale because I had NO IDEA this book existed. Nashville is one of my top ten favorites of all time and I am enjoying this book as much as I adore Aljean Harmetz’s making of Casablanca, Round Up the Usual Suspects.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit: A Celebration of 75 Years (2015); When I started digging into the history of comics back in 1967, the very first book I came across was Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes. I skipped all of the mumbo jumbo analysis that I could barely understand and dove right into the comics. The most thrilling find was Eisner’s tough talking masked man, a comic strip hero I’d never heard of before. I instantly became a lifelong fan.

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (2017); This is a compilation of the ten short stories that comprise the first season of the Amazon Prime series that dropped in late December.

Of course, once the Hugo nominations are announced, all of the above will be put aside to assess what I will be voting on…

There are some days that some of my most creative writing is done on Facebook. While I find it personally satisfying to get the better of trolls and other malcontents whom I verbally cross swords with, but it is very distracting and very time-consuming. I could be doing research, reading and honing my craft and so I might stand a chance of getting paid for this writing gig some day.

But I am passionate about a few things online; censorship, police relations with the public, political corruption of all stripes and most of all, gun control. The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida two weeks ago [at the time this was written] pointedly illustrated out how polarized and partisan Americans feel about the struggle between those who strive to protect their gun rights against gun control advocates.

I don’t want to confiscate anyone’s guns unless it is absolutely necessary. I have only held an actual firearm in my hands twice in my entire life. I have no problem telling anyone that guns terrify me. I’ve been stopped by police officers over a dozen times and managed to survive all of those encounters. I have no need of a gun and absolutely no desire to own one right now. I sincerely doubt I will change my mind but I remain open to being trained one day, just in case.

But over the past few weeks, I have compulsively and aggressively engaged many people on this issue, especially the overly officious people who would dismiss the survivors of the Parkland Massacre because they do not meet their narrow and dogmatic standards:

R: Yes. I have around 70 years familiarity with weapons of all kinds, weapons history (not talking just firearms, here), and literally 50 years of participation in the FAPOL (Firearms And Politics) arena. I pretty much qualify as an expert.

What they saw was horrible, but has absolutely no relevance to what they say about guns, gun owners, or gun laws – I haven’t heard one speak yet who wasn’t absolutely clueless on the subject.

When people insist on vague – or specific but ridiculous – changes to something they don’t know anything about and get wrong every time they open their mouths, it leaves people who do know something about the subject staring at them like they have their heads on backwards.

The fact that they, and other people like them, refuse to listen when you try to educate them, or correct their misstatements, doesn’t buy them any credit whatsoever – it subtracts from whatever credit they started with, and ultimately it gets them ignored as irrelevant.

ME: R, I am ten years younger than you. I have seen plenty myself. I have no problem telling you that you are dead wrong. As wrong as Johnson and Nixon were about the protesters of the Vietnam war. I could cite other examples, but you should keep that one primarily in mind. Historical movements have been started with less provocation. The kids who survived that ordeal on Valentine’s Day are now the spokespersons for an ENTIRE GENERATION who have had enough of the proliferation of guns, enough of the platitudes of politicians who have been paid off in money and influence by the NRA to do their bidding, enough of attitudes like yours, R., that weapons and the right to own and carry them are more important than their rights and their lives.

It’s all going to change R, whether you like it or not.

Change is hard. You can sit on the sidelines harping about these kids all you want.

You can’t stop them. You won’t stop them.

With their help, am I hoping they will be the vanguard of a range of social changes, and that sir, will bloody well include gun control in various forms.

Now, either you or your friends can continue to be part if the problem or you can be part of the solution. I intend to be in the right of history.

I’m supporting these kids.

Mind you, R. was at a distinct disadvantage because I was watching the recent Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour and I felt as though I was directly channeling him as I was tapping out this reply.

And there was this exchange:

V.L.: I believe in liberty and the constitution. The 2cond amendment and the individual right to bear arms is guaranteed by our constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court in the Heller case. As a reasonable person I’m open to some of the ideas being discussed; raising the age to 21 for purchase of certain weapons, universal background checks, banning bump stocks ect. The ‘assault weapons’ ban has zero merit. There’s nothing about guns made with black polymer that look like military weapons that make them more deadly than ordinary wooden semi-automatic rifles. It’s really magazine capacity, not the gun, that makes mass shootings more deadly. My issue with many on the left is they don’t believe people should own guns at all, or they say everyone should be allowed to own a musket because that’s what was available when the founding fathers penned the Constitution. The rationale of the 2cond amendment was a well armed militia to defend the country from a tyrannical government (which had just occurred) so the weapons of the militia should be equivalent to those of the government. I’m not advocating that citizens have access to tanks and rockets, but at the same time the 2cond amendment never had to do with hunting which is now what the left uses as the ‘need’ for guns. “I don’t want to take away Uncle John’s hunting gun”… This was never the basis for the second amendment. Murder is already illegal. Guns shouldn’t be the main focus; hardening school security should be.

To V.L.: ”Hardening school security”? What are you suggesting? Because it sounds like you’re suggesting more of a settling for a prison than school.

And, for the record, those of us who are level-headed folks who believe in some changes in the gun laws want law abiding gun owners to STOP acting like the 2nd Amendment, as written, is the most important thing in your lives. Your “gun rights” are not more vital than any human life.

We want to live in a world where guns are just as hard to buy as houses, cars and a Lear jet. That would include licensing, insurance for each weapon and regular recertification. Anyone caught without those accreditations should be prosecuted to within an inch of their lives and jailed.

THAT’S what we want. Some ideas in your post are a good start. But they don’t go far enough. Either you’re part of the problem or you’re part of the solution.

Choose.

Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado stated in an interview on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on February 27 that on the whole, we are terrorizing ourself over what to do about gun violence in America. When he was asked by host Rachel Martin whether or not the country had reached a tipping point on gun control with the Parkland tragedy, he said, “Well, there’s an accumulation of sorrow. And I think people’s hearts are just breaking, and there is a frustration now. For the first time, I keep hearing people talking about, you know, long-term Republican funders saying they’re going to fund people based on how they respond to gun safety, the introduction of gun safety laws, and that’s new. I mean, I haven’t heard that before where Republicans, who historically have been fighting for, you know, more traditional Republican goals, right? Lower taxes, smaller government, that kind of thing. Now they’re looking at gun safety as a large enough issue that it will define who they donate money to and who they vote for.”

I plan on working on posting a Gun Safety Manifesto to Change.org in the next month or so. The emphasis of the petition will be on gun safety, not “gun rights. Gun culture, either through the machinations of the National Rifle Association or other gun rights groups have had their day. Repealing or changing the Second Amendment will be on the table one day soon.

The sooner the better I think.

“Those who never change their minds never change anything.”
-Winston Churchill

Dedicated to the students, faculty and administrators of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #26

A Wrinkle In Time: A Film Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

A Wrinkle in Time (***1/2, 2018) with Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey,Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Deric McCabe, Levi, Miller, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis and Chris Pine. Screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, Based on A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Directed by Ava DuVernay.

Bechdel Test: PASS!

When we first meet Meg Murray (Storm Reid), she is in terrible shape. He scientist father Alex Murray (Chris Pine) has been missing for four years. Although she has proven herself to be an excellent student on occasions, her grades are down, she is incessantly bullied by a clique of girls at her school, she a discipline problem for the principle (Alex Holland), she feels overshadowed by her genius little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and, as all fourteen year olds do sooner or later, has no confidence in herself.

Then, one dark and stormy evening, the children and their bewildered mother Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) meet Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) a free-spirited entity who seems to know Charles Wallace and is afflicted with a good case of Asperger’s syndrome.

Soon afterwards, Charles Wallace introduces Meg and a school acquaintance, Calvin (Levi Miller) to the slightly narcoleptic Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who dispenses her wisdom through quotes and song lyrics.

The arrival of Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), the third and seemingly most powerful alien shows up, she announces that the three have been chosen for an incredible quest: the rescue of Dr. Alex Murray from the furthest reaches of unknown space!

When filmmakers dare to take on a nearly universally acclaimed piece of literature to adapt for a movie, they proceed at their own peril. For every Casablanca, The Third Man and The Godfather, there are dozens of others wrecked along the road to respectability (and profitability.

Now in the docket is Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, a young adult science fantasy novel which won the prestigious Newbery Award for children’s literature in 1962. It has been such a popular and beloved book that has NEVER been out of print.

Taking on the challenge are director Ava DuVernay (Selma), director/screenwriter Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Zootopia) and Jeff Stockwell with producer Catherine Hand and Jim Whittaker. It was mainly through the dogged persistence of Hand, who had produced a lightly received, 2003 ABC television movie version, that a big budget version was fully realized fourteen years later.

And let me tell you, this version succeeds magnificently.

I will tell you quite frankly that this film took my heart in its hands and ran with it when Meg, who was being bullied on the playground, lost her temper, took a basketball and beaned her queen bee neighbor square in the face. As someone who was bullied as a child, I felt immense satisfaction in seeing her do THAT! Of course, Meg was totally wrong in her actions, which also illustrates that a big part of her problem is her temper and acting impulsively.

Cleverly, this of all plays into the narrative of the book AND the film, Meg trying her best to cope with, understand and control these feelings.

And while the supporting cast is great, the whole enterprise firmly relies on the shoulders of Storm Reid, who gives a star-making performance.

Over the past two days I re-read A Wrinkle in Time, have noted the changes that have been made and I think that this film is one of the best film adaptations I have had the privilege to see.

Although it has been a nearly month since the opening of Disney’s other juggernaut, Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time has performed slightly below its target of $35 million dollars in the opening weekend, I fully expect that in time, audiences, especially parents with kids over the age of eight or nine, will discover and LOVE this movie.

Each generation of children have had a seminal film for which they will forever associate with their first real movie experience; The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Star Wars, E.T., The NeverEnding Story, etc…

Mark my words, despite the 42% Rotten Tomatoes score, a 52% on Metacritic and a just a “B” from CinemaScore, I fully believe that this film will not only succeed, but endure with children as time goes by.

Tremendous Pushback Against Barkley YA Award Name Proposal

Since Chris Barkley released his “Proposal to Re-Name the Young Adult Book Award” yesterday it has been heavily criticized, and five of the nine signers have removed their names —  Juliette Wade, Melinda Snodgrass, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vasquez, and Shawna McCarthy, and Vincent Docherty, who says his name never should have been included to begin with.

Last year, the Worldcon 75 business meeting finalized creation of a new YA Award for the World Science Fiction Convention, ratifying it by a vote of 65-27, and a motion naming it the Lodestar award received first passage. (For a complete explanation of how the committee chose that name, read the YA Award Full Report.)

Barkley’s proposal urges the award be given a different name — though just what name he planned to keep embargoed until the start of this year’s business meeting. (“There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.”)

However, when Melinda Snodgrass told Facebook readers why she was no longer a signer, she also revealed the proposed name.

So I have apparently inadvertently stepped into the middle of a science fiction fandom/Hugo/Worldcon hornet’s nest. So do pass on to anyone who might care that this was done innocently and was me attempting to not seem to be slighting Ursula K. Le Guin who was one of our greatest writers.

How this all happened — I had the vague memory that we now have a YA award of some kind and when I got a request to put my name on a petition to have it named for Le Guin it seemed churlish to refuse. I thought it was another make nice sort of honorary thing so I said sure even though it didn’t matter to me one whit.

But apparently this process has consumed fandom and worldcon like a wildfire for the past several years, and I have apparently been pulled into this fight when I didn’t even know there was a fight.

So consider this me stating that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m not taking a side because I didn’t know there were sides to be taken, I’ve requested my name be removed and I’m backing slowly away from the whole thing so I can get back to writing and working to get Wild Cards on the air.

Once this whole thing gets settled I will be happy to vote for a YA novel because I really enjoy YA novels. And I don’t care what they call the award.

Chris Barkley sent File 770 this comment “on the record”: “I do not have any comment at this time. If anyone wants to know what name will be officially revealed, they are welcome to attend the Preliminary Business Meeting at Worldcon 76.”

Also, Ellen Datlow, although not listed in Barkley’s post on File 770, announced on Facebook that she has removed her name from the petition.

Renay of Lady Business has made the most thorough critical response to the motion. Jump on the thread here:

At another point she underscores how the proposal disrespects the process used to create the award —

She is not the only one to see the proposal as demeaning people’s work on the award:

While the name was still unknown, Brian White voiced his deepest fear….

However, it needs to be made clear that the Worldcon was not the author of this idea —

Stacy Whitman satirized the proposal in a thread —

And a writer who knows something about the years of debate behind the award wryly suggested another new name:

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, and Chris Barkley for the story.]