Resolution Asks That Hugo Trophy Also Be Given To Translator, When Applicable

A resolution by Mark Richards, Chris Barkley and Juli Marr has been added to the Dublin 2019 Business Meeting agenda. It has been designated B4, (although there was another item which had that number.)

B.4         Credit to Translators of Written Fiction

Resolved, it is the sense of the Business Meeting that, for the written fiction categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, when the winner in one of these categories is a translated work, the credited translator shall be awarded a Hugo alongside the author.

Mark Richards explains the purpose of the resolution with these comments:

The choice of translator can make the difference in the impact of a work of fiction in translation, in comparison to its impact in its original language.

Fluency in the original language may be enough for a good translation. We feel that familiarity with the context in which a work was written adds to the quality of the result, and that a translator’s contribution there can make a difference.

For example, Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem wouldn’t have been nearly as successful had Ken Liu not gotten all of the nuance of Chinese history during the Cultural Revolution and been able to transmit that
emotional impact.

And there’s a collection of connected short stories, Kalpa Imperial, by the Argentine author Angelica Gorodischer, Any decent translator, I imagine, would have given us a good translation. It was the late
Ursula Le Guin, however, whose prose style was perfect for giving us as fine a work in English as it presumably was in the original Spanish.

Closing, we feel that a translator’s contribution to the success of a story merits recognition in the awarding of a Hugo.

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

Dublin — late afternoon

DAY ONE

By Chris M. Barkley: After a brutal and taxing trans-Atlantic transit on Monday, my partner Juli and I were able to obtain our membership badges fairly easily Tuesday morning.

Yesterday was mainly spent getting used to our surroundings and the weather; the city could have been any busy port city in New England in tone save for the local traffic patterns were the opposite from what we Americans were used to and the skies were for the most part slightly chilly, overcast with partial, misty showers throughout the day.

At 10:20 a.m., Juli and I walked to the Convention Centre which was located less than a kilometer away from the gated apartment complex we were renting for the week.

My first panel was at 11 a.m. in a moderately sized room on the second floor of the Centre, “Crime and Punishment in the Age of Superheroes.” Since it was early in the morning on the first day, my expectations were quite low. I met my fellow panelists, UK fan Rachel Coleman and US novelist Dan Moren in the Green Room situated at the top floor of the building. In our initial greetings they reminded me that I was the moderator of the panel, which I had conveniently forgotten and was a momentary source of amusement. Our fourth member, the Hugo-nominated French author Aliette de Bodard was missing but we weren’t particularly worried that she might not show.

Imagine our surprise when we walked into our room and saw that it was nearly standing room only crowd! As we settled in, Ms. de Bodard came hustling in out of breath but quite able and willing to dive into our subject.

What followed was a lively session in which we discussed the degree superheroes might be legally liable for their activities, the rendition of super villains, how any super-powered person might be tried and imprisoned and what sort of punishment would be appropriate and what would be considered “cruel and unusual punishment”.

One of the more entertaining bits of discussion was comparing the relative degree of danger a person the psychological profile like Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne would be versus some like Peter Parker, who, at least at this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is relatively altruistic.

As always with the panels I moderate, half the time was spent with the panel and the remaining time we took comments and questions from the audience.  

We could have easily gone on for another hour. At the end of our time, the audience gave us a healthy round of applause  and we were quite pleased with their participation.

My next panel, “Sports in Science Fiction and Fantasy” was scheduled for 2 p.m. We decided to cruise through the Dealer’s Room, which was rather smaller in comparison to the previous Worldcons I have attended but I was quite happy with the number of vendors and their wares.

Another early shopper was the well-known media mogul/mega best-selling author George R.R. Martin (pictured below), who was only slightly disguised (eschewing his usual fishing cap in favor of a Game of Thrones baseball cap) and enjoying himself immensely. He also took a moment to take me to task for proposing yet another Hugo Award category (In this case, the Best Translated Novel, which might be discussed at the Main Business Meeting if it is passed on from the Preliminary Business Meeting on Friday.)

“It’s getting to be too much,” Martin said. “I hope it doesn’t get to be like the Emmy Awards.”

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“Well, some of the awards are not going to be televised and are going to be given out before the show. I don’t want that to happen to the Hugos.”

I assured GRRM that I did not want that to happen either and that I personally did not have any plans to introduce any other changes at the moment. We then parted, he with a somewhat relieved look on his face. Have a Happy Worldcon, George…

I had to make a courtesy visit to the Press Office, where Daniel Dern presented me with a spare File 770 “Scum and Villainy” button and met the Area Head, the gracious and amiable Diana Ben-Aron, who presented me with a Press ribbon.   

UK fan Neil Williamson was the moderator of “Sports in Science Fiction and Fantasy” along with novelist Fonda Lee, prolific writer Rick Wilber (author of many baseball and sports related short stories. I described myself as a lifelong baseball fan whose home is also that of the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, celebrating this year the 150th Anniversary of the first team.

With that, I pulled out my black ESPN cap and offered a Euro to the first person who could tell me what the letter  “E” stood for. A number of US fans in the audience were flummoxed by the challenge but a quick-thinking male European fan remembered that it stood for Entertainment Sports Programming Network. Hilarity ensued when I fumbled around and was unable to FIND the coin in my change purse. Anxious to move on, Neil produced a coin and paid off the winner. (Juli gave me a coin to reimburse Neil and I found the coin later and paid her back…)

Fonda Lee and Rick Wilber gave some excellent examples through their own works of how the portrayal of sports in fiction gave some insight into the societies they were writing about. Neil and I mostly mused on how the sports we love might change in the future. Again, the audience seemed to have had a good time and gave us all a round of applause.

From there we checked off the obligatory “American food experience in a foreign country” of the travel list with a lunch at Eddie Rocket’s, a disturbingly familiar place that served burgers, fries and milkshakes. (Picture)

The restaurant was adjacent to the Odeon Theater at The Point our next programming destination, where artist John Picacio was giving a slideshow overview of his works. The venue was rather unique because it took place in a mid-sized movie theater in the complex.

Mr. Picacio regaled the almost full house with stories of how he became artist, techniques and style tips for beginning artists and some fascinating stories of how George R.R. Martin roped him into doing the 2012 Game of Thrones calendar and how the images from this source were highly-referenced by the producers and casting directors in choosing actors for their roles.

Juli Marr and John Picacio

The highlight of the day was the Opening Ceremonies which also presented the1944 Retro Hugo Awards. After some festive banter by our hosts Ellen Klages and Dave Rudden, we were treated to a short comi-tragic play and the introduction of the Guests of Honor, who also served as Hugo presenters.

Ellen Klages and Dave Rudden

Hilarity ensued through the evening as each successive presenter struggled to open the award envelopes, which were triple sealed by masking AND duct tape.

Well, not all of the presenters; Author Guest of Honor Diane Duane was undaunted because she was the only one who was carrying a knife, because, as she explained, “Knives ALWAYS work.” She declined to share the knife with any of the other presenters.

Retro-Hugo presenters: Ginjer Buchanan, Afua Richardson, Sana Takeda, Steve Jackson , Diane Duane, Ian McDonald, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Bill Burns, Mary Burns .

After that it was off to the parties, which were being held on the third level of the Centre. As crowded and festive as this gathering was, I can only wonder what Edie Stern, Joe Siclari and former Worldcon Chair Michael Walsh were intensely discussing near the escalators away from all the revelry…  


Dublin 2019 Chair James Bacon

LEGO exhibits

Distinguished Members of the World Press

Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern

Filers Chris Barkley and Daniel Dern have arrived in Dublin.

For Chris Barkley, it was a roundabout trip —  

Well, my partner Juli and I FINALLY arrived in Dublin after a brief diversion to Frankfort… GERMANY and practically 36 hours without sleep. But we are awake, refreshed, full of Irish coffee and ready to record and reporting on all of the action, starting tomorrow…

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #43

Dystopia, With a Dose of Sudden Death

“Any time a life is lost, it’s a tragedy. But when it’s young people, it’s even worse.” — Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee in the aftermath of a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, July 28, 2019.

“The United States was once grand, very grand,” she says. “The whole world idolized it. But now, I don’t know what’s happening. It’s becoming an ugly place.” — 13-year-old Ana Sofia Valverde, the niece of Elsa Mendoza, an elementary school principal from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, killed in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, August 3, 2019.

“The house can be rebuilt. I can’t rebuild a father.” — Dion Green, a Dayton, Ohio tornado victim whose father, Derrick Fudge, died protecting his son and his partner, Donita Cosey, in a mass shooting in the early morning hours of August 4, 2019.

By Chris M. Barkley: As I write this on a warm sunny Saturday, several funerals are well underway. Some are taking place in California, Texas, Mexico and fifty miles up the road from where I live in Dayton Ohio.

It is also 48 hours before my partner Juli and leave home to travel to the 77th World Science Fiction Convention being held in Dublin, Ireland. We both are leaving with grieving hearts for the victims of these incidents of mass murder and wondering about America’s state of mind and mood.

I have been active in sf fandom for forty-three years. I am going the Worldcon in Dublin to attend and celebrate our annual “family reunion” and to advocate a trial run of a Hugo Award for the Best Translated Novel. I and a few others proposed this category as a signal to the literary world at large that we value inclusion and diversity in this troubled world.

In all of my years in fandom, I can say with some certainty that I have felt incredibly comfortable around fans, most of whom were white. I also felt assured that while I was in their company and, with a few rare exceptions, I was not judged by the color of my skin but the content of my character. That is, until recently.

Since the advent of the internet experience, I have been accused of being racist (by a File 770 commentator who was totally unaware I was black) and of being ignorant and unaware (by a prominent fan from the UK in an argument over judicial due process for police officers in the US) and of being insensitive to gender identity (by a moderator who walked off her own panel in protest).

I will be the first to admit that I am only human and I have apologized when it has been warranted. But there have been very disturbing personal attacks directed towards me because of my ethnicity. But I am quite fortunate in knowing that my friends and acquaintances who know me well far outnumber my detractors.  

Besides a brief foray via a cruise ship to the Bahamas for a wedding in 2015, I have never been off the North American continent before.

For my older sister Gwen, this was a cause for concern.I found it very amusing that Gwen, who works for a well-known insurance company, is actually fearful for my safety by flying over the ocean because “it’s not something the Barkleys do.” 

Well, if she was referring to herself or my late parents (Alice and Erbil) she would be right. The furthest we ever went with them in a car on vacation was north to Dayton to visit my numerous cousins (9), frequent visits northwest to Oxford, Ohio to see a maiden aunt, and south to Camp Marydale, where we were placed (dumped) for two or three weeks each summer to give our beleaguered parents a break.  

I told Gwen this: That statistically speaking, I am probably safer 40,000 feet in the air, squeezed into a winged, pressurized metal tube full of people, burning fuel and hot, roaring engines than I would be stepping out my front door and going shopping. Far safer, in fact.

Which is a shame, because I allegedly live in the greatest country in the world.

As a child, I used to believe that. Then I grew up. 

I grew up mainly in the 1960’s, one of the most turbulent eras of American history. (Then again, looking back over six decades, when HASN’T it been turbulent? The mind boggles.)

When I was very young, I was spoon fed the propaganda that America’s founding and history was just one stupendous struggle after another, all culminating in the magisterial greatness of our republic. 

Except, it seems, for people like me. Although I attended a Catholic grade and high school, it was quite evident that the people of color were treated differently than the white kids we went to school with. Even more so if you were overtly introverted, Intellectual, philosophically-minded or gay. That was a lower circle of hell that kids like myself had to endure.  

As I grew older, informed histories told me that America has always been embroiled in a conflict in which those who would stand for the values embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have always been in conflict with vested interests of white citizens, who in wrapping themselves in the flag, embraced nationalism, manifest destiny, racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia of others from foreign countries and a general fear of “the other” to ensure they maintain solid grip on their political and financial power. And this struggle continues to this day.     

So, when I do step outside, I know I am a marked man. My granddaughter, Lily is white and we are together five days a week as her mother works. It hasn’t happened yet, but I dread the day some racist busybody comes up to me demanding what the hell was I doing with this adorable child who is obviously NOT YOURS! (And fingers crossed, it won’t because we only go to safe spaces where our relationship is known.) 

Sometimes I can feel the hostile stares and see the aggressive stances people take in my presence. It is a statistical fact that I am more likely to be shot by the police than any other segments of the population. That when I enter any retail establishment, I am under a bit of extra scrutiny, that any move I make can possibly be misinterpreted, misconstrued, misunderstood or taken completely out of context, in which case. I may, MAY, find myself facing the business end of a police officer’s 9mm Glock. All because my skin color does not conform to white society’s alleged state of normalcy.

What do I do? Because by any sane person’s standard, America can be considered a dystopian state.

Some might argue that this very real dystopia isn’t anything new, it’s always been present, humming in the background as we went about our daily lives. The difference is that with the election of the current administration, the false veneer of civility that has been slowly eroding since the end of the Watergate era, has finally been ripped away and the hate and terror it abides is visible for all to see. Some see for what it is, others refuse to acknowledge it for what it really is. 

The current administration has not hesitated to pump out false narratives, “alternative facts”, unsubstantiated rumors and outright lies and present them as either facts or policy. Their main ally is a major news network (whose name I am loath to mention) that repeats these lies and distribute their own brand of doublespeak as relevant and vital information to be fed to an increasingly fearful segment of the population. Their sole concern is the profit margin that is dependent on getting the president’s attention AND pleasing his base of voters.  

As far as I’m concerned, one of America’s most urgent problems is that it is awash in firearms and in the grip of generations of a virulent and ugly gun culture. It is estimated that 22 percent of adults in the United States own firearms and that more than 90 percent of them are white and a majority of them live in the southeast and Southwest. Even if we, as a nation, decided to enact more restrictions on future purchases of guns, there are still more of them in circulation now than there are people in the country. 

As the investigations of the mass shootings have proceeded, they are being accompanied by theories from the administration, the NRA and gun enthusiasts that the root causes of these murders are the proliferation of violent video games, salacious movies and tv shows and, more prominently, people with “mental health issues”. 

This “theory” has been slammed by more coherent commentators, stating that other countries seem to be coping with video games and various media outlets but only America seems to have a chronic problem with mass shootings, which, as of this writing, there have been 249 incidents so far this year.

I find it particularly insidious that pro-gun pundits are stigmatizing the mentally ill with these murders. A majority of gun deaths in America are suicides by gun owners or people who gained access to them. They were mostly only dangerous to themselves. It seems to me as though the only motivations of these pundits is either retaining and propagating access to a variety of guns to as many people as possible. 

So, I am leaving my country in a very troubled state. But, I have hope. 

At this moment, politicians across the country, including those who have been ardent NRA supporters in the past, are reluctantly heeding the cries from alarmed citizens to do something; to eliminate the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons, legislate more stringent background checks and require the registration of arms and detailed sales records. Personally, I would make it as hard as possible to purchase any gun, requiring all of the suggestions above plus the mandatory purchase of insurance for each weapon, licensing, and periodic testing as well.   

And activists across the country are tirelessly working night and day, every day, to address gun violence, immigration policies, voting rights and election security, climate change and environmental issues. The enemy they battle is ignorance, fear, apathy and complacency.

Their concerns are my concerns. And their agenda should be your agenda. 

This is why I love fandom, especially our family reunions each year. When the World Science Fiction Convention convenes, it boldly endorses and embraces the diversity of literature, art, criticism and culture the world has to offer. We stand as one against the bullies, liars and false pundits who would see the world burn.  

Because those politicians, religious leaders, bigots, racists and white supremicists who inspire and perpetuate the violence are terrorists.

We don’t negotiate with terrorists. 

Neither should you.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the ONLY thing that ever has.” – widely attributed to cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, 1901-1978.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #42

Neil Armstrong and First Man – A Personal Review

By Chris M. Barkley: Meeting Neil Armstrong was one of the most memorable moments in my life.

Professor Neil Armstrong

From the fall of 1974 through the spring of 1975, I was employed as a server at the University of Cincinnati Faculty Club. It was my freshman year there and I enrolled thinking I was going to major in broadcasting. I needed a part time job to supplement my comic book habit so I looked for something immediately after classes started. Since my previous job had been as a dishwasher in a local restaurant, when the club advertised for a server, I figured (wrongly, as it turned out) that this was probably be a promotion. 

Since my schedule had a huge gap between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., I drew duty tending to the buffet for the professors in the basement of the club.

One fine spring afternoon, while tending a huge pot of turtle soup, I saw a lone figure descending the stairs and walking towards me. He was slight in build and surprising shorter than me. As he approached he was instantly recognizable to me, the most famous and celebrated man on planet Earth at that time. 

I had heard that he was teaching a course on aeronautical engineering on campus (and did so between 1971-1979) but I had not seen him before now. Thinking quickly, I had read that he was loath to have people geeking out on him so I decided to play it totally cool and treat him like any other faculty member.

Professor Armstong walked up and politely requested a bowl of soup. He looked around at the sparsely populated dining area as I ladled soup into his bowl.

“Not much going on around here today, eh?” he said with a slight grin.

“No, not much,” I replied. “Is there anything else I can get for you today?”

“No, thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day.”

“You, too.”

And with that he proceeded to help himself to the salad bar and sat alone in a corner table for the rest of the hour.

Neil Armstrong. Polite. Reserved. Courteous. Living as quietly as possible in shadows, ever so wary of the glaring limelight of fame.

I never saw him again.

But we are still connected, albeit in a sad way. 

Neil Armstrong died on my birthday in 2012.

Nearly everyone who was alive on July 20, 1969, should know this date, what happened that day and where it happened.

When Michael Collins was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1988, he described the Apollo 11 mission as a delicate daisy chain of events; if one or more things went terribly wrong, things could have quickly taken a lethally tragic turn.

On that Sunday, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, I was in my parent’s living room, glued to the television for a good portion of the day, watching Walter Cronkite and the CBS news team’s coverage of the Apollo 11.

An hour and sixteen minutes earlier, the lunar excursion module carrying Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin separated from the command module piloted by Michael Collins. At 4:04 pm, the LEM was 50,000 feet from the surface. A minute later, the main engine fired up for a powered descent. 

Although I was an incredible space geek at the age of twelve, I had no idea what the astronauts and Houston were talking about most of the time. I relied on the studio commentators for that information. So when things went south and everyone went silent in light of the historic occasion, all of the trouble that occurred went right over my head.   

As the LEM descended towards the surface, the radar system completely failed. It was quickly rebooted by opening and closing the circuit breaker on the LEM. A glitch in the guidance computer handling radar data was triggered four times along with another alarm, but ground controllers easily provided quick fixes.

But the biggest problems were two fold;  the LEM’s automated guidance system had overshot the original landing area by approximately five miles and was heading towards a stadium sized crater and a field of car sized boulders. And they were running out of fuel. Reacting quickly, Armstrong took over manually and steered the LEM over the crater to a clearing beyond it.

I was obvious to all of this; very few in the audience watching had any idea what was happening beyond hearing “alarm” several times over the live audio. The landing itself was rendered by an elaborate NASA animation that played over all of the voice communications.

Armstrong finally found a relatively level surface with less than 30 seconds of fuel left. Aldrin called out the altitude until he spoke the first words heard broadcast from the surface of the Moon: 

102:45:40 Adrin: Contact Light.

l102:45:43 Armstrong (onboard): Shutdown

102:45:44 Aldrin: Okay. Engine Stop. 

102:45:45 Aldrin: ACA out of Detent.

102:45:46 Armstrong: Out of Detent. Auto.

102:45:47 Aldrin: Mode Control, both Auto. Descent Engine Command Override, Off. Engine Arm, Off. 413 is in. 

102:45:57 Duke: (Reporting that Houston has received telemetry confirming engine shutdown and that they have heard Buzz’s transmission regarding address 413) We copy you down, Eagle.

102:45:58 Armstrong (onboard): Engine arm is off. (Pause) (Now on voice-activated comm) Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

102:46:06 Duke: (Responding to Neil’s transmission but momentarily tongue-tied) Roger, Twan…(correcting himself) Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.

102:46:16 Aldrin: Thank you.

The image I remember most vividly that afternoon was that of Walter Cronkite right after the confirmation of the Eagle’s landing Profusely sweating, slightly flustered, his kindly face looked relieved and happy at the same time. He knew exactly what had just happened and that a disaster had been barely averted. And his assertion of giddiness mirrored what everyone else watching was feeling; we were on THE MOON!  

At 10:55 p.m., my mother, Alice Elder Barkley and I were watching Neil Armstrong climb down the LEM ladder, live on my grandmother’s vintage 1950’s hand-me-down Philco black and white television set. Everyone else in the house was asleep.

As Armstrong stepped off the vehicle and spoke those words that we know so well, we said nothing. Our two generations had just witnessed one of the most historic events in our brief existence on this planet. What could we say? It was quite profound.

After a while my mother went to bed. I stayed up and heard President Nixon’s call and the rest of the lunar excursion. Afterwards, I stepped out into our backyard and marveled at the spectacle of seeing the moon overhead that night. 

The human race was up there. And since then twelve others have walked and explored there. And some day in the near future, we will return.

Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and President Barack Obama

Originally, I was going to write this column in conjunction with the October 2018 release of First Man, a film based on the 2005 autobiography of Neil Armstrong by James Hansen. While I was very enthusiastic about it, I found myself strangely blocked. Only as the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing approached did I slowly realize that I was just waiting for the right time to express my feelings about it and my connection to Neil Armstrong.

My partner Juli and I went to the opening night screening and I was disappointed to see that it was sparsely attended. Of the twenty or so people there, most were in the 50’s and 60’s like us. After it was all over, most of us lingered for the credits and magnificent closing score by Justin Hurwitz.

First Man was released with great fanfare among film critics and is generally regarded as a great cinematic triumph but a box off failure, only grossing an estimated $107million on a budget of $50 million. I think if the Universal, Dreamworks  and Amblin, the producers of the film, should have rolled the dice and released First Man much closer to the actual date, it might have done much better at the box office. Then again, considering that it might have been competing against Spider-Man, Far from Home, The Lion King and a host of other summer movies might have been a contributing faction.

Director Damien Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer had actually started working on an adaption of First Man before Chazelle had begun work on his multiple Academy Award winning breakout film, La La Land. 

First Man covers the life of Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his then wife Joan (Claire Foy) and two sons Rick and Mark, his struggles as a civilian test pilot, his application and selection as a NASA astronaut to his Gemini and Apollo missions.

Nothing was handed to him on a silver platter; he suffered through the cancerous brain tumor that claimed his young daughter Karen’s life, problems connecting emotionally with his wife and children and the sudden and incredibly tragic deaths of his fellow test pilots and astronauts. 

Although certain liberties were taken with the chronology, Chazelle and Singer managed to accurately convey the essence of Neil Armstong’s life realistically, with all of his flaws and emotional struggles. Gosling portrays him brilliantly; a somewhat doting dad one moment and a repressed, withdrawn and almost too self-centered engineer in many others.

Claire Foy matches him scene for scene as his wife Janet, a woman whose love and compassion for her family runs deep and is unafraid to confront Neil or any other authority when something threatens it.

The screenplay makes it clear that while Armstrong is driven and ambitious, he’s very wary of seeking out fame and undue influence that comes with it. This is illustrated in a very telling scene when Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler), the chief of the Astronaut’s Office informs him that he has been selected to be the commander of Apollo 11, he stoically accepts the assignment but as he looks in the restroom mirror afterwards, you can almost feel the range of emotions raging inside him as he contemplates what he just agreed to do. 

First Man also joins an elite group of films (Destination: Moon, Marooned, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apollo 13) that shows exemplemary care in the depiction of space flight. The visual effects, designed and executed by Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, J.D. Scwalm, deservedly won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Not only did they recreate a realistic and harrowing descent of the Eagle to the Moon, they also made space flight personal by mostly using Armstrong’s point of view during the flight sequences and engages the audience in an intimate way.

Twenty-seven prominent film critics listed First Man in their Top Ten lists of 2018. I am very hopeful that its reputation will become even more burnished as time passes and will lead the more curious to James Hansen’s book and other adventures in science.  

So tonight, if you can, look up and gaze at the moon. Remember those who had the training, skill, luck and privilege of orbiting and exploring it over a half a century ago. And never forget the supporting cast of 400,000 people who made it all possible. 

Also of interest:

Pixel Scroll 7/17/19 By The Time I Get To Pixel, She’ll Be Scrolling

(1) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia and Chuck Serface are co-editing an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to science-fiction comics of the 1950s and 1960s! Any critical articles, fanfic, personal remembrances, artwork, and any media we can publish in a fanzine are welcome.

Chuck Serface says, “Consideration of materials from any comic publisher of the time is fair game: Atlas/Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Charlton, Warren, EC, ones I’m forgetting at the moment — all of them.”

The deadline’s October 14, 2019. They’ll have it out by the end of the calendar year. Send submissions to ceserface@gmail.com.  

(2) COLSON WHITEHEAD Q&A. His new book is not sff, but some of his answers are about genre in “Powell’s Interview: Colson Whitehead, Author of ‘The Nickel Boys’”.

Rhianna: You’ve mentioned in other interviews being an avid reader of horror, and your novel Zone One is a zombie horror story. You’re very skilled at depicting violence. I was wondering if the horror genre has stylistically influenced the way that you depict historical atrocities, like those in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.

Whitehead: Again, I think the story determines how you tell it. The violence in Zone One is gorier. It’s more flamboyant than some of the stuff in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. In those two books, I think the horrific brutality that they experience speaks for itself. They don’t have to be dramatized.

This kind of language, I borrowed from reading the slave narratives. You don’t have to dramatize or sell to the listener or the reader how terrible everything is that is happening because it speaks for itself. If the violence is speaking for itself, I can concentrate more on the characters and what they’re feeling.

(3) TOLD WITH CONVICTION. LAist tells how “This LA Writer Turned Comic-Con Into A Crime Story”.

San Diego’s Comic-Con International starts Wednesday night, which makes this the perfect time to talk about Bad Weekend, a noir set against the backdrop of a fictionalized version of the now famous comics convention.

Writer Ed Brubaker described the graphic novel — with art by Brubaker’s longtime collaborator Sean Phillips and colors by Phillips’ son Jacob — as a weird love letter to comics, being a fan, and the strangeness of the comic book industry.

Bad Weekend is the product of filing away stories he’s heard around the comic book industry for the past 20 to 30 years, according to Brubaker — stories of who screwed over whom, of success not bringing happiness, and of comic companies getting rich off their work with movies and TV shows without the creators sharing in that wealth.

(4) OP-EDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If, like me, you’ve been enjoying the New York Times’ series of science fictional op-eds, they’ve just created a landing page with all the articles in the series now organized in one place:  “Op-Eds From the Future”

It’s worth checking back every second Monday to see the latest installment, as they’ve been excellent so far. 

(5) FILER NAMED FGOH. Chris Barkley shared on Facebook: “I am pleased to report that I was asked and accepted to be the Fan GoH at the 2021 Astronomicon in Rochester, NY along with my good friend (and Identical twin) Robert J. Sawyer.”

(6) TRANSLATED NOVEL HUGO REDUX. Chris Barkley has also addressed criticism of the Best Translated Novel Hugo category in a Facebook post which begins —

I have taken this past week to ponder a response to Neil Clarke and Taiyo Fujii’s objections to the viability of a Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel. And frankly, their objections puzzle me.

I ask this of Mr. Fujii and to Mr. Clarke; if the three Hugos awarded to translated works are the awakening of fandom to translated literature, why haven’t more of those works been nominated in their wake? In the past three years of nominations; only 2017’s Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, has been included in the Best Novel category, all of the other nominees in the category have all been decidedly anglocentric.

The truth of the matter we think that the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards have been overwhelmingly perceived for quite a while as an English speakers only party since a majority of the conventions have been held in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Fujii may see the proposed award as either unnecessary, pandering or condescending to authors and fans but all Ms. Cordasco, my co-sponsors and I only want to do is shine a spotlight to fervently call attention to and honor authors and their translators. Speaking for myself, had there been three, four or five nominees on the final ballot since those historic awards, I would not have contemplated initiating and offering this proposal for an open debate…

(7) JUDGE UNCONVINCED. “Marvel Finally Beats a Lawsuit Over the ‘Iron Man 3’ Poster”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. There does seem to be a family resemblance, just the same:

Horizon still could have gotten the case to trial, but it then needed to show an inference of copying through the similarity of the works. Specifically, Horizon argued the two works were “strikingly similar,” with reliance on an expert report discussing anatomical structures, faces and heads, and camera views.

The judge responds that the expert report is “equivocating” on some of the noteworthy similarities by addressing features on careful viewing and not going quite so far to rule out any reasonable possibility of independent creation. Plus, the judge adds, “there remain enough differences between the two works,” nodding to Marvel’s pointing out differences in pose, differing placement of blue lights, and significantly different overall coloring.

(8) SEE READERCON 30. Ellen Datlow has posted 89 photos taken at ReaderCon 30 in a Flickr album.

Catherynne M. Valente, Heath Miller, and Sebastian

(9) ARE YOU WHAT YOU CONSUME? Surprising no one, here’s where The Hollywood Reporter lands on the meaning of “fan” and “fandom” — “Among Fandoms, Marvel May Reign Supreme, Poll Finds”.

A nationally representative sample of 2,200 adults carried out between July 8 and 10 revealed that, when it comes to genre properties, Marvel is far and away the most successful, with 63 percent of those surveyed considering themselves fans. The next most popular property was Marvel’s Disney sibling, Star Wars, with a 60 percent fandom, and DC followed with 59 percent.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1858 Florence Balcombe Stoker. She was the wife and literary executor of Bram Stoker. She’s best remembered for her extended legal dispute with the makers of Nosferatu, an unauthorized film blatantly based on her husband’s novel Dracula. (Died 1937.)
  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 75. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column in Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog
  • Born July 17, 1952 Robert R. McCammon, 67. Horror writer whose Michael Gallatin books, The Wolf’s Hour and The Hunter from the Woods, Alllied WWII werewolf agent and his adventures, I strongly recommend. His “Nightcrawlers” short story was adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 65. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the commit sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles.
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 52. I just got done reading her brilliant “Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach”.  Right now, it appears only this plus “A Human Stain” and “Waters of Versailles” are available on iBooks and Kindle for reading as she has no collection out yet. And no novel as far as I can tell. 
  • Born July 17, 1971 Cory Doctorow, 48. I’ll admit that I’ve mixed feelings about his work. I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, his first novel, and thought The Rapture of the Nerds had potential but really failed to live to that potential to great. Everything else is ‘Meh’. His activism is oft times that of an overeager puppy trying to get attention for himself. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 43. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.

(12) IN THE BEGINNING. The San Diego Union-Tribune explores “50 Shades of Comic-Con: What we’ve gained and lost in five decades of pop culture celebrations”.

From its inception, Comic-Con had intergalactic ambitions.

The initial show, then called San Diego’ Golden State Comic Con, featured science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt; Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America, X-Men and other iconic superheroes; vintage films; an art auction; and dozens of dealers peddling mountains of new and used comics.

An unforgettable event — for the 300 attendees. Few others noticed and even they dismissed this as a juvenile jamboree. For instance:

On the show’s first day, Aug. 1, 1970, the author of “Fahrenheit 451″ and “The Martian Chronicles” granted an interview to The San Diego Union. Yet Bradbury’s spirited defense of comics was buried on page B-11, under articles about a flower show, the repainting of the White House East Room and a medical brief with the headline “Fat Men More Tipsy.”

… Neil Kendricks is a writer, filmmaker and teacher who recently led a San Diego State course on comics and sequential art. In the early 1980s, though, he was a high school student at his first Comic-Con. In the dealer’s room, he bumped into a white-haired gentleman flipping through the cardboard boxes full of used comics.

“Mr. Bradbury,” he stammered, “will you be here for awhile?”

When Ray Bradbury nodded yes, Kendricks dashed out of Golden Hall and ran the half-mile to Wahrenbrock’s Book House.

“I went upstairs to the science fiction section and bought as many of his books and I could find. Then I ran all the way back and he signed them. That,” Kendricks said, “could never happen now.”

(13) UP ON CHARGES. Trae Dorn reports at Nerd & Tie that a conrunner is being prosecuted in the Twin Cities: “How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape”. Documentation accompanies the post.

On Monday it came to light that long time staffer of Twin Cities based Anime Detour Stephen Gifford has been charged with third-degree sexual assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Gifford was head of Convention Communications for Anime Detour’s 2019 event earlier this year, and has previously served as the event’s convention chair.

… Now we’ve seen cons react to situations like this in many ways, but thankfully Anime Detour’s staff has taken the situation seriously.

(14) KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO. While they still can, WIRED lets readers decide for themselves what to think about this coming technology: “Here’s How Elon Musk Plans to Stitch a Computer into Your Brain”.  

…At a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, hastily announced via Twitter and beginning a half hour late, Musk presented the first product from his company Neuralink. It’s a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires, stitched into living brains by a clever robot. And depending on which part of the two-hour presentation you caught, it’s either a state-of-the-art tool for understanding the brain, a clinical advance for people with neurological disorders, or the next step in human evolution.

The chip is custom-built to receive and process the electrical action potentials—“spikes”—that signal activity in the interconnected neurons that make up the brain. The wires embed into brain tissue and receive those spikes. And the robotic sewing machine places those wires with enviable precision, a “neural lace” straight out of science fiction that dodges the delicate blood vessels spreading across the brain’s surface like ivy.

…And, sure, there’s more. A public records request from WIRED in April 2019 found that Neuralink is licensed to have hundreds of rats and mice in its research facilities. In a seemingly unplanned moment at the Cal Academy, Musk also acknowledged that Neuralink’s research had progressed beyond rodents to non-human primates. It’s only because of a records request filed by Gizmodo that Neuralink’s affiliation with the primate research center at UC Davis is public knowledge. That affiliation has apparently progressed: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” Musk said during the Q and A after the presentation.

His team seemed as surprised and discombobulated by the announcement as the audience. “I didn’t know we were running that result today, but there it goes,” said Max Hodak, president of the company, on stage next to Musk. (Monkeys have controlled computers via BCIs before, though presumably this would be the first time one used Neuralink.)

(15) APOLLO 11 AT 50 CLIPPINGS.

One small holograph for man, one giant holograph for the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a life-size projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Saturn V rocket is now iconic for carrying the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969. The projection-mapping artwork will occupy 363 of the monument’s 555 vertical feet.

As the 17th century’s most famous Italian astronomer surveyed the heavens, he likely never dreamed a rocket shooting fire would one day power people up among the stars he eyed through his telescope, or that his work would help guide a ship to the moon.

But Galileo Galilei’s observations would become a key link in the chain of scientific research and discovery fundamental to our understanding of the universe and our drive to explore it.

That scientific continuum is at the heart of a new Houghton Library exhibit connecting early celestial calculations to the Apollo 11 mission that put two American astronauts on the lunar surface 50 years ago this July. “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty” features gems from Harvard’s collection of rare books and manuscripts as well as NASA artifacts from an anonymous lender and Harvard alumnus, many of which were aboard the spaceship that left Earth’s orbit in 1969.

Not all of the equipment carried into space was cutting edge and expensive. Some of the more humble odds and ends even prevented disaster.

…25: Length of duct tape rolls carried to the Moon, in feet

If there’s one saviour time and again of American space missions over the past 50 years, it’s a roll of duct tape. During Apollo missions, it was used for everything from taping down switches and attaching equipment inside the spacecraft, to fixing a tear on a spacesuit and, during Apollo 17, a fender on the lunar rover.

One of the surviving crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon – Apollo 11 – has returned to the site where the mission set off 50 years ago.

Michael Collins, 88, visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. He marked theprecise time – 09:32 (13:32 GMT) – when their rocket took off.

Mr Collins had stayed in lunar orbit while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

…Mr Collins described how he felt during take-off.

“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” he told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”

Esquire was not expecting much from Neil Armstrong.

“While the space program is poised on the brink of a truly epoch-making triumph of engineering, it is also headed for a rhetorical train wreck,” the story said.

“The principal danger is not that we will lose the life of an astronaut on the Moon, but that the astronauts will murder English up there . . . . That they are likely to litter the intergalactic void with gibberish and twaddle.”

The smugness is rather remarkable, because despite the talent of the people it enlisted, Esquire got not a single decent line from any of them.

It got, in fact, a lot of gibberish and twaddle.

…With that as your benchmark, here’s a sampling of what Esquire’s best and brightest came up with:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist: “We will hafta pave the damn thing.”

Ayn Rand, libertarian thinker and novelist: “What hath man wrought!”

…Leonard Nimoy, the actor, then in his third season as Spock on the new TV series Star Trek: “I’d say to Earth, from here you are a peaceful, beautiful ball and I only wish everyone could see it with that perspective and unity.”

(16) BACK SEAT FLYING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Washington Post: “Airline tweets about where passengers are least likely to die in a crash”. The pic below is cribbed from the WaPo article. Apparently, they got ahold of a screenshot of the since-deleted tweet. The thought process of whoever sent this out must have been, well, let’s just call it astounding.

(17) A KING WILL BE CROWNED. Looper fills us in about The Most Anticipated Sci Fi Movies Of 2020.

2020 might feel far away, but Hollywood’s major studios are already planning ahead with some legit super hits on the horizon. And if you’re a fan of sci-fi flicks, then 2020’s looking like an especially good year for you. These are just a few of the most anticipated sci-fi blockbusters on their way to a big screen near you. Film fans will finally get the answer to an age-old question in 2020, when Godzilla and King Kong face off on the big screen. Director Adam Wingard has already assured fans that his take on the two monsters will crown a definitive winner, unlike the 1962 film that first pit the two characters against each other. This will be the fourth entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, first established in 2014’s Godzilla and further explored in Kong: Skull Island.

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

Best Translated Novel
Hugo Category Proposed

Chris M. Barkley, Juli Marr, and Mark Richards have submitted an motion to create a new Hugo Awards category for Best Translated Novel. It will soon be listed on Dublin 2019’s New Business Agenda. (Update Barkley says this is the text they submitted, but some minor tweaks will be made to the language before it is posted online.)

D.1 Short Title: Best Translated Novel

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of creating a new Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel, by inserting a new subsection after existing Section 3.3.4 and revising sections 3.2.5 and 3.2.6 as follows:

3.3.4: A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more that was translated and published into English for the first time within the previous calendar year. The Award will be given both to the writer(s) of the work and the credited translator(s) of the novel.

3.2.5: In the story categories (3.3.1-3.3.56 and 3.3.78), an author may withdraw a version of a work from consideration if the author feels that the version is not representative of what that author wrote.

3.2.6: The categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, and Best Translation shall be open to works in which the text is the primary form of communication, regardless of the publication medium, including but not limited to physical print, audiobook, and ebook.

Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2022 Business Meeting, this Section shall be repealed and; and

Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2022 Business Meeting.

  • Proposed by: Mark Richards (Attending Member), Juli Marr (Attending Member) and Chris M. Barkley (Attending Member).  

Commentary by Chris M. Barkley and Rachel Cordasco:

Eighty years ago, in July 1939, NYCon 1, the very first World Science Fiction Convention was held in New York City.

The title “World Science Fiction Convention” was a bit of a misnomer; it was about as accurate and plausible as baseball’s championship title “World Series” is today. It was named as such in honor of the World’s Fair exhibition being held nearby in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

We have no doubt that while many of the convention’s participants (and those who were excluded for political reasons) imagined science fiction and fantasy literature had a future, at the time the only thing they could be sure of at that time was that war was on the immediate horizon.

As the decades passed, sf and fantasy literature not only took hold in North American and England, it became a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

And as the Hugo Award grew in stature, so did its reputation outside the confines of the English speaking nations where it was born and nurtured.

Until recently, a majority of the nominated writers in the fiction categories have been dominated by English language authors. In 2015, Cixin Liu’ s The Three Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) became the first novel translated from another language to win the Hugo Award.

Since then there have been very few non-English language nominees in the fiction categories although there have been two winners in the short fiction categories (Hao Jingfang, also from China and Thomas Olde Heuvelt of the Netherlands).

We feel that it is high time that the World Science Fiction Society honor writers from around the world with one of literature’s highest honors.

Each year, US/UK/Australian publishers are giving us more SF in translation (SFT) to read from countries like France, Iraq, Argentina, Japan, Finland, Israel, and many others. In recent years, the number of translated speculative novels has risen to 60-70. After several decades of speculative fiction flowing mostly from the US and UK into other countries, the tide seems to be turning and people who grew up reading translations of Anglophone science fiction or fantasy have been inspired to become translators themselves. Plus, more presses and magazines are open to SFT, and we now have two online publications that actually specialize in international speculative fiction (Samovar Magazine and Future Science Fiction Digest).

The Hugo Award, like the annual Worldcons, are sponsored by the World Science Fiction Society, and it is this inclusion of the word “world” that is at issue when discussions of a “Best Translated Novel” come up. As Donald Wollheim once wrote, “We science fiction readers whose native language happens to be English-…tend to a curious sort of provincialism in our thinking regarding the boundaries of science fiction. We tend to think that all that is worth reading and all that is worth noticing is naturally written in English. In our conventions and our awards and our discussions we slip into the habit of referring to our favorites as the world’s best this and the “world’s best that.” 

Shouldn’t the Hugo Awards recognize more than just those texts originally written in English? SFT is more popular than some people think, and if given the opportunity to recognize a non-Anglophone novel, SFT readers would probably jump at the chance. It’s time to shrug off our Anglocentric perspective, especially in relation to a genre that encourages us to look beyond our immediate environs and learn about those who are sometimes radically different from us.

Simply put, if the Best Novel Category is the equivalent of the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Best Translated novel can serve as our Best Foreign Film. If France, Spain, Israel, China, and other countries can successfully include a “Best Translated Novel” category in their SF awards, so can the US/UK-dominated Hugos.

As the noted philosopher and American football coach George Allen once sagely noted, “The Future is NOW.”

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #41

Chernobyl: A Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Chernobyl (****, 2019, 200 minutes) with Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis, Con O’Neill, Adrian Rawlins,Sam Troughton, Robert Emms,Emily Watson, David Dencik, Mark Lewis Jones, Alan Williams, Alex Ferns, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Fares Fares and Michael McElhatton. Written by Craig Mazin, Directed by Johan Renck.  

Bechdel Test: Passes (In Spades)

Yeah

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
How long?
How long must we sing this song?
How long, how long?
‘Cause tonight, we can be as one
Tonight

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday…

The opening lyrics of U2’s political horror anthem “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” released in March 1983, three years and one month before the Chernobyl disaster…

In Episode Four of HBO’s historical drama series Chernobyl, entitled “The Happiness of All Mankind,” a Soviet soldier encounters an old woman milking a cow in a barn. This soldier is strict under orders to evacuate every civilian from an ever-widening exclusion zone around the city of Pripyat, the site of the shattered and dangerously radioactive Chernobyl nuclear reactor plant.

As the old woman milks the cow, she calmly maintains that she has seen waves of young men with guns, bolsheviks, revolutionaries, thieves and Germans alike, family and friends murdered or disappeared and she has stayed here on her family farm. And she has no intention of leaving now. Nervous and agitated, the soldier snatches the half-filled container of milk from beneath the cow and unceremoniously dumps it outside. Returning, he finds the old woman has resumed her milking with a different bucket. Angry, he draws his service pistol from his holster, cocks it and forcefully says, “It’s time to leave!” The old woman ignores him.

What happens next shocked me to my core and is one of the most brilliantly disturbing moments in this moving, caustic and infuriating docudrama, and in my opinion, one of the best dramas ever made for television.

Nothing can prepare you for some of the shocking images Chernobyl serves up:

  • The meeting of the city’s party bosses, who decide to conceal the truth from the citizens and cut off communications from the outside world to contain the bad news.
  • The face of a plant engineer, who is ordered, under the threat of force, to go to the roof the shattered reactor building to report on the state of the exploded core, knowing all too well that he will have days to live after peering over the edge into the inferno.
  • A fireman, unknowingly picking up a piece of graphite from the core of the reactor, is on the ground minutes later, holding up a blistered and bloody hand.
  • The irradiated bodies of barely alive first responders, whose flesh is literally melting off of their bodies.  

In the middle of watching Chernobyl, I wrote the following post on my Facebook wall:

After seeing three of Chernobyl’s five episodes, I have no doubt WHATSOEVER that it is one of the most excruciating, shocking, sorrowful dramas in the history of television. It is brilliantly acted through an astonishing ensemble and I have yet to detect a false note in its script or direction.

People, I’ve seen a TON of television in my life and I say this from the heart, you may never see a finer drama in your lifetime than HBO’s Chernobyl. SEE IT!

Over the past few weeks, I have also seen a lot of negative reviews in print and online, maligning Chernobyl as being sensationalistic, overwrought, scientifically and historically inaccurate and generally slanders the former Soviet Union, the people who lived in the city of Pripyat and those who heroically dealt with the crisis.

This, of course, is all bullshit.

Chernobyl’s writer, Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck were very upfront in stating that this production was not a documentary but a fictionalized version of events. In other words, Chernobyl is about as accurate as other historical dramas such as the film adaptations of The Right Stuff, All the President’s Men, Hidden Figures, Chariots of Fire, Selma and Moneyball. These works don’t tell the LITERAL truth of their stories but the ESSENTIAL truth of what happened. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Mazin said that “The lesson of Chernobyl isn’t that modern nuclear power is dangerous. The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous”.

And while no docudrama or historical fiction is above criticism or reproach because there have been plenty of ham-fisted and wrongheaded productions that have been produced over the decades. But I get a little annoyed when a remarkable work such as Chernobyl is treated as though it must live up to an impossible standard, when in fact it has made no pretense about being a dramatization, an amalgamation of the true facts mixed with drama. And while drama, mythmaking and truth may not be the same thing but their paths lead in the same direction with a common destination: Illumination.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the mini-series’ emotional heart is anchored by a trio of brilliant, powerhouse performances; veteran character actor Jared Harris portrays Valery Legasov, one of the real scientists who was recruited to help manage the crisis, Stellan Skarsgård as his boss, Boris Shcherbina, a Council of Ministers’ deputy chairman who quickly finds out that all of the political power he wields is no match for the forces of nature he has been commanded by the State to stop; and Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, a composite character created to stand in for the scores of scientists who persistently  defied the Soviet bureaucracy in order to learn exactly what went wrong with the reactor design and how the accident happened. 

I offer a vivid validation in this review I found on the public comments page of Chernobyl’s IMDB entry, from an actual eyewitness::

They got it right

24 May 2019 | by curiosityonmars

“I was born in Pripyat. I was four years old when the accident happened. Watching it is more horrifying than living through it. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. It’s not like a hurricane or an earthquake that takes you by surprise and causes massive destruction. Here everything looked normal, that day was just like any other day and yet you were told to abandon everything and just leave. The immediate casualties of the accident were not huge, but it had an enormous impact on lives of hundreds of thousands of people. I often think what my life would be like if this didn’t happen.

This mini series is a masterpiece, perfect in every way. Some people are complaining here that the actors don’t speak Russian. I’m a native speaker of Russian and Ukrainian, I don’t want the actors to speak Russian. You get so consumed by this show you stop noticing what language they speak.

It’s not a documentary, so not each and every detail is accurate, yet I would still call it authentic. The creators got the important stuff right… Both of my parents worked at Chernobyl plant, I grew up hearing stories and versions of what happened. I think this show is the best depiction of the Chernobyl disaster and the stories of its victims. This show is to remind all of us of the cost of lies.”

In the weeks that have passed since I saw Chernobyl, I have been thinking about next year’s Hugo Awards ballot and what I might be nominating in the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form category. And, as much as I loved Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, Star Trek Discovery, Black Mirror, The Umbrella Academy and probably the upcoming season of Stranger Things, I cannot bring myself to nominate any of them next year. What U2 sang about the terrorism, riots, bloody countermeasures and lies told in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s, easily applies to the leaders and policies of Soviet Union in the 1980’s and, more significantly, today’s brutally toxic political landscape.

I think that Chernobyl will cast a long shadow for the next generation of visual artists, as the high bar for what can be dramatized and how it should be done. In my opinion, efforts like this should not be ignored nor go unrewarded by the fannish community.

Chernobyl will be the lone entry on my ballot in the BDP-Long Form category next year.

And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die

the real battle just begun
(Sunday, Bloody Sunday) to claim the victory Jesus won

On
Sunday Bloody Sunday, yeah
Sunday Bloody Sunday

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #40

The Avengers: Endgame, A (SPOILER FREE) Review.  

By Chris M. Barkley:

The Avengers: Endgame (2019, ****, 181 minutes) with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper 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.


When we last left The Avengers, catastrophe had struck; the mad titan Thanos had managed to collect all of the Infinity Stones for his Gauntlet and obliterated half of ALL lifeforms in in the galaxy.

That included a significant number of Earth protectors, leaving only the original members, Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Helmsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) of the Guardians left to pick up the pieces.

Life on a decimated Earth is hard and most of society is traumatized and mournful. Even the rescue of Tony Stark and Nebula (Karen Gillian) from deep space and the arrival of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who was summoned by Nick Fury in the final moments of Infinity War, brings them any hope or a promise of moving on. They CAN’T move on; they’re The Avengers.

And just as things look as bleak as possible, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) (who was last seen trapped in the Quantum Realm in The Ant-Man and The Wasp), shows up at the Avenger’s front doorstep with a fantastic story and an even more incredible theory about to try to restore the Universe from Thanos’ deadly snap…

When you have a movie this that is so widely anticipated, with such a large cast and a running time of just over three hours, even a seasoned film reviewer such as myself had to wonder in the furthest reaches of my mind, can they pull this off?

Well…

Not only did screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo pull it off, they did it in a monumental, jaw dropping and dare I say, EPIC manner.

In the space of 181 minutes, you experience more callouts, call backs, call ups, fabulous cameos, easter eggs, and some of the most satisfying character arcs and revelations than you can possibly stand.

At the the sold out, first showing audience I attended with I head audible gasps, raucous laughter, and in the most unexpected places, sobs and a lot of tears. Some of them were happy and some were sad. Because sometimes, heroism is great to witness but it comes with steep price to pay.

But it was as satisfying a movie experience, in an actual theater, that I have had in quite a while.

The Avengers: Endgame is a bittersweet and beautiful film to behold, a bold and impressive end to this long and monumental story which began eleven years ago with the first Iron Man film. I don’t know what Marvel Studios has in mind next (besides Spider-Man: Far From Home in July), but my only piece of advice I have to offer them is NOT to try and top this emotional and fulfilling movie.

Because it CAN’T be done!

EXCELSIOR!!!!!

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #39

A Speculative Future of the Sport of Baseball

By Chris M. Barkley: As I write these musings on the day before the opening of the 2019 Baseball Season, there seems to be a great deal of concern about whether or not the venerable sport has any future at all.

Attendance at games have seen a significant decline in the past five years and the games seem to be just as long as ever. In this fast-paced world of short attention spans and increasing competition from all sorts media and other activities, team owners and baseball executives are certainly right to be worried that baseball may be on the verge of a real decline of interest from fans.

Their solution? Speed up the sport to make it more interesting and the games more compelling. The most recent proposals include, introducing the designated hitter to the National League enforcing a 20 second count between pitches and placing a runner on second base at the beginning of extra innings to help settle games faster.

BUT, what if more radical changes were introduced to make the games faster, but MORE compelling for all of the teams playing? And in doing so, make EVERY SINGLE GAME COUNT in the standings not matter which team was playing?

Applying what I have learned over a lifetime as an avid baseball, over forty years in fandom and the past twenty years of WSFS Business Meetings, incessant tweeting, fannish flame wars and Facebook postings, I have come up with a series of provocative, yet thoughtful insights on what Major League Baseball should do to thrive in the Twenty-First Century…

Proposal One: Make the game shorter by two innings, seven, with a maximum of two extra innings. If the game is still tied after the end of the ninth, the game ends in a tie. What, a tie? What the hell, you might ask? I’ll explain this further along down the line…

Proposal Two: Another problem baseball has had is the extended at bat for any player who is skilled enough to foul off pitches. More often than not, this tires out the pitcher and bores whomever is viewing the game. Having played in slow pitch softball leagues with a limited number of fields and the time to play on them, the most recent league I played with had a rule variation where the second foul after a two strikes count was an out on the batter. This forces both the batter and the pitcher to either put the ball in play or force a walk. And the game moves along nicely as well.

Proposal Three: No Designated Hitter: I realize that the game could be still played with a DH but, as a purist at heart, I have hated it with a passion since the American League instituted it in 1973. Pitchers should be FULLY involved in the game at every level. That includes going up to the plate and contributing. If pitchers can’t hit, they should LEARN how to hit, or to least bunt efficiently. Slackers…

Proposal Four: Abolish all regional divisions in favor of a two league table. Until 1969, each league was divided up this way and the top two teams meeting in the World Series. Divisions have fostered some fierce rivalries over the decades but the effect has been, in my humble opinion, diluted by the number of weak teams playing stronger teams in house AND the number inter-league games played each season. While my preference would be to not have ANY games between the two leagues until the World Series, they have been very popular with fans (and team owners) since 1997. So, if we are going to have inter-league games, why not make it more interesting; mandate that all of the teams, on an alternating basis each year, play a three game home and away series with half of the teams (15 at the moment) from each league every year. Each team should be no more than 45 inter-league games each season.

Proposal Five: Drop the number of regular season games to 145 (100 within the league, 45 inter-league games). Why? So glad you asked…

Proposal Six: The League Playoffs should consist of the top eight teams of each division. What would make a compelling pennant race in each league? A change in how the standings are scored.

Proposal Seven: Currently, besides wins and losses, the standing of a team is determined by its winning percentage. I propose that baseball adopt international football league standings; each win will be worth three points, a tie (remember, from Proposal One?) will be worth a point and a loss could be either nothing or, more interestingly, wait for it…minus THREE POINTS! So, suddenly, losing a game in August and September becomes a big freaking deal and some of the so called ‘weaker teams” have more incentive to throw a monkey wrench into the chances of “stronger teams”. In fact, this incentivizes all of the teams in the league to make each team better as the season progresses, possibly enough claw their way into an 8th place in the standings and into the playoffs. If there are any ties for the eighth place, a one game playoff will will determine who advances.

The playoffs would be structured as such: Top seeds play the low seeded number 8, number 2 plays number 7, number 3 plays number 6, and number 4 plays number 5.

The first round: the best 2 out of three games. Second Round: best 3 out of five games. World Series: the traditional best of seven games. A reduced number of regular season games from 162 to 145 can accommodate such a playoff schedule.

Proposal Eight: The All Star Game should be played AFTER the the conclusion of the World Series. Instead of a mid-season break, the game should be played as a celebration of the season that has just past and we have conclusive answers as to who are the BEST players are in each league. All of the season’s awards should surround the event as well, which will give baseball a nice, bright spotlight in the midst of the American football season.  

I am so lucky to call Cincinnati, Ohio my home. It is home of the very first openly all professional baseball team, the Red Stockings, who went 57-0 in their inaugural season of 1869. This upcoming season will mark the 150th season of the Cincinnati Reds. Our Opening Day Parade is world renown and the whole city celebrates as though it was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years’ Eve all rolled into one day.

Over the past five years, if the Reds happen to be playing in town during our fan club’s annual convention, Midwestcon, in June, I try to organize a group of fans to catch a game at Great American Ballpark, which is right on the banks of the Ohio River.

Baseball is great game with a historic and revered past. If a few of the somewhat crazy ideas (or someone else’s crazy ideas) I’ve presented are implemented, I hope Baseball will somehow survive well into our future.

Marty Brennaman

(This column is dedicated to Marty Brennaman,  the Hall of Fame announcer of the Cincinnati Reds, who is retiring after this season after 46 years in the broadcast booth on radio and television. The fans across the country know and respect him but we, in the Cincinnati area, hold him in the highest regard. It is astounding to think that he has been involved nearly a third of all the games the Reds have played in their entire history. And we are so very lucky to have such an acerbic, thoughtful, knowledgeable and witty guide all those seasons. Thank You Marty and no matter what happens, THIS SEASON BELONGS TO YOU…)