Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Lexica, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

International Costumers’ Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards

Sue Kulinyi and Eric Cannon

Eric Cannon and Sue Kulinyi were honored with the International Costumers’ Guild’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Awards this weekend at Costume-Con 35 in Mississauga, Ontario.

The ICG Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a body of achievement in the costuming art and service to the costuming community. Candidates for the award:

  • Shall have been active in the costuming community for at least 10 years.
  • Shall have achieved significant recognition for their costuming skills, which may be in the form of, but not restricted to, competitive awards, professional accomplishments, teaching of skills, and/or media recognition.
  • Shall have made significant contributions in service to the costuming community.

The husband and wife team of Eric Cannon and Sue Kulinyi are well-known videographers.

Their award citation says —

[They] make it their mission to make costumers look good onstage for future generations to view, as well as providing DVDs for participants to take home to show off, mere hours after the convention has closed.

As official videographers to many costuming conventions, Eric and Sue use their own equipment and usually have to drive to convention sites, and spend considerable time setting up multiple cameras and attending technical rehearsals because they know how important this will be to the costumers and to the archival process.

They are also active in procuring old videos of past convention masquerades and have preserved this footage, making it available through their company, Rare Recorded Videos. Given the frailty of video tape, much of our costuming past was in danger of being lost forever had it not been for their efforts to collect this footage and donate copies to the ICG Kennedy Archives.

In 2014, Eric undertook to further our history by lobbying the Library of Congress to accept our masquerade DVDs into their archive. Because of his efforts, costuming in all its forms has been “recognized as a legitimate art form.”

Sue sometimes steps in as Stage Manager, a role that includes organizing and coordinating the operation of the main stage, and the operation of lighting and sound for the masquerade contestants. Eric occasionally finds time to participate in masquerades, sitting in the audience in costume to record, then running backstage at the last minute to join a costume group and carefully resuming his position behind the camera when the entry is finished.

Eric and Sue have made a major contributions to the continuation of our hobby and art form. They do this with consummate professionalism and good humour.

A year ago Lisa Ashton was presented the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award at Costume-Con 34 in Madison, WI.

Lisa Ashton

Her citation reads:

Lisa Ashton has been active in the costuming community since 1989 when she attended her first Worldcon. She has been recognized as a Master Costumer who is renowned for her workmanship, especially in beading.

Known as an expert in 19th century historical costuming, Lisa founded the ICG’s first Special Intrest Group, “Miss Lizzy’s Traveling Historical Fashion Show,” which exhibits selections from her extensive collection of historic clothing, jewelry, photographs, books, and journals about 19th century American dress and domestic life.

Lisa is also is a tireless volunteer in the community, serving on convention committees, presenting on panels at conventions, teaching workshops to share her knowledge and skills, and serving as a presentation and workmanship judge for several dozen Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Historic masquerades.

 

Group photo of ICG Lifetime Achievement Award winners taken in 2016. Left to right: Sandy Pettinger, Nora Mai. Pierre Pettinger, Kevin Roche, Jacqueline Ward, Tina Connell, Ricky Dick, Lisa Ashton, Bruce Mai, Ann Catelli, Dawn McKechnie, Dana MacDermott, Bruce MacDermott, Byron Connell, Karen Schnaubelt. Photo: Scott Johnson. ©2016 Realtime Portrait Studio.

Pixel Scroll 7/1/16 I Have No Mouse And I Must Fafhrd

(1) A BOOK OWNER’S LIFE. Locus Online’s Mark R. Kelly writes a personal blog, and his newest post is a memoir, “15 Ways of Buying a Book, Part 1”.

Way #1:

The first books of my own, that I bought with my own money and at my own selection, were purchased through a classroom Scholastic Books catalog, in the 6th grade, that is, in 1966-1967. My family lived in Reseda, California, and I attended Vanalden Elementary School, a few blocks from our home. The school was a set of bungalows, separate structures holding two classrooms each, raised off the ground with a crawl-space below and a short set of steps up to the classroom door. A few times a year, pamphlet catalogs were passed out to all the students, listing a selection of titles and prices. We would take the catalogs home, consult with our parents, then return order forms to class with appropriate payment. The books cost 35 or 50 cents each. They were typically special Scholastic editions, short little paperbacks the size of old Ace Doubles, or larger thinner paperbacks for nonfiction. Everyone’s orders would be consolidated into a single order for the classroom, mailed in, and three or four weeks later, a big box would arrive in class and the selections eagerly distributed. (You can imagine: the box would have three copies of this book; five of these; one of this…)

Always being rather obsessive about keeping lists, I have maintained detailed purchase (and reading) records since I was 15 years old (on sheets of paper, later copied to logbooks, later copied to databases), and at some point reconstructed such lists from before that age. So I know exactly which books I bought when.

The three I remember from this 6th grade classroom source, and still have, are Martin Gardner’s Science Puzzlers, Isaac Asimov’s Environments Out There, and Howard Pease’ Mystery at Thunderbolt House. The Gardner likely reflected my interest in puzzles from that Things to Make and Things to Do volume I’ve described in that earlier post; the Asimov, a thin book about the solar system, from my recently discovered interest in astronomy. (My first interest in astronomy was seeing a stack of textbooks, called A Dipper Full of Stars, in a cabinet in my 6th grade classroom, and asking to borrow one. I’ve alluded to this in previous posts.)

(2) FINDING WAYS TO DONATE. Here’s a signal boost for JJ’s answer in comments to Tasha Turner’s wish for “a nationwide and worldwide Internet place to go and see places in need.”

One of the commenters on Greta’s blog linked to this:

DonorsChoose.org. Support a classroom. Build a future. Teachers all over the U.S. need your help to bring their classroom dreams to life. Choose a project that inspires you and give any amount.

search by science fiction

You can also search for projects in the highest poverty areas, nearest to being completed, closest to the deadline date, a specific age/grade range, or projects in or near your current location or your hometown.

(3) UNKNOWN CHRISTMAS COMPANION. ScreenRant says who is a mystery: “Doctor Who 2016 Christmas Special Features ‘Different Guest Companion’”.

Though his newest companion, Bill (played by newcomer Pearl Mackie) has already been introduced, speaking to Doctor Who Magazine, Moffatt has confirmed that her debut will be at the start of Season 10 in 2017, and the Doctor will have a different guest companion for the Christmas Special:

“We’ll introduce [Bill] in the first episode of 2017, and she’ll run through that series. She’ll not be in Christmas [2016], because that would blow the series launch … So there’ll be somebody else – a different, guest companion – this Christmas, like how River Song played the companion role in last year’s Special.”

Of course, this now leads everyone to wonder who might join Capaldi in the TARDIS.

(4) EXEC COMMENTS ON TREK FAN FILM GUIDELINES. Axamonitor has a thorough article covering what a CBS representative has said about interpreting the new guidelines.

John Van Citters, CBS vice president of product development for CBS Consumer Products appeared on the hour-long program, Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast, which was released June 28, to explain the studios’ intent behind the guidelines, why they’re guidelines instead of rules and to clarify some of the guidelines’ specific restrictions regarding run-times, audio dramas, props and costumes…..

An Arms Race

AXANAR MEETING Van Citters was one of two CBS officials who met with Axanar producer Alec Peters in August 2015, followed by a warning of possible legal action.

Van Citters observed that fan productions had spiraled into something “larger and larger,” that had become “something of an arms race about how many Hollywood names could be attached. … That’s not really in the spirit of fan fiction.”

The guidelines, by prohibiting that kind of competition for involving industry professionals, level the playing field for newer and smaller fan productions, he added.

Not the End of Fan Films

Van Citters disputed some characterizations of the guidelines as a means to end fan films. Instead, he said they mark the first time a major copyright holder has ever given any guidelines for unfettered use of a major piece of its intellectual property with just guidelines.

He noted that while the guidelines’ restrictions may seem counterintuitive, they are meant to protect fan films for the long term, and to “cure some abuses that have been out there, and to refocus this around the fan experience … and around creating more stories rather than this kind of arms race about talent and fundraising.”

(5) PACKING IRON. Richard Foss is quoted in KCET’s story about “The Culinary Historians of Southern California”.

With the Cook Bear as their mascot–the only other place he has appeared is in the Pan-Pacific Cookbook published in 1915–CHSC keeps to their mission statement, “Dedicated to pursuing food history and supporting culinary collections at the Los Angeles Public Library”, by taking the money raised from membership dues ($30 a year), fundraising dinners and regular cookbook sales (typically after the events) and giving it to the library. To date the group has donated over $100,000…..

Special Events Chair Richard Foss, who also lectures regularly on a variety of food history topics, sees interest in the subject growing. “The Culinary Historians of Southern California is a club for anyone with any level of interest in food and food history,” said Foss, a journalist, food historian, and author of two books, “Rum: A Global History” and “Food in The Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies”. “It’s as much about anthropology as it is about history and it’s really about food as a transmittor of cultural values.”

 

Richard Foss, a CHSC Board Member, demonstrates how to use an antique waffle iron during a talk on dining in California during the Victorian era at the Workman-Temple Homestead Museum in the City of Industry earlier this year. || Image provided by Richard Foss

Richard Foss, a CHSC Board Member, demonstrates how to use an antique waffle iron during a talk on dining in California during the Victorian era at the Workman-Temple Homestead Museum in the City of Industry earlier this year. || Image provided by Richard Foss

(6) HOWARD AWARDS. Black Gate has the winners of the 2016 Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards, announced in June at the REH Days celebration in Cross Plains, Texas.

(7) COSTUMERS AHOY! Costume-Con 36 (2018) in San Diego has picked its hotel and set a date. The con will take place May 11-14, 2018 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Mission Valley. The hotel is adjacent to the Hazard Center Mall (which offers several restaurant options) and it is across the street from the San Diego Trolley.

(8) TOLKIEN AT WAR. On the anniversary of the first day of the Somme, Joseph Loconte muses about “How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front”. Loconte’s book A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 was released a year ago.

IN the summer of 1916, a young Oxford academic embarked for France as a second lieutenant in the British Expeditionary Force. The Great War, as World War I was known, was only half-done, but already its industrial carnage had no parallel in European history.

“Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute,” recalled J. R. R. Tolkien. “Parting from my wife,” he wrote, doubting that he would survive the trenches, “was like a death.”

The 24-year-old Tolkien arrived in time to take part in the Battle of the Somme, a campaign intended to break the stalemate between the Allies and Central Powers. It did not.

The first day of the battle, July 1, produced a frenzy of bloodletting. Unaware that its artillery had failed to obliterate the German dugouts, the British Army rushed to slaughter.

Before nightfall, 19,240 British soldiers — Prime Minister David Lloyd George called them “the choicest and best of our young manhood” — lay dead. That day, 100 years ago, remains the most lethal in Britain’s military history.

Though the debt is largely overlooked, Tolkien’s supreme literary achievement, “The Lord of the Rings,” owes a great deal to his experience at the Somme. Reaching the front shortly after the offensive began, Tolkien served for four months as a battalion signals officer with the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers in the Picardy region of France.

(9) TRACKING MALZBERG’S COLUMN. Mike Resnick wanted to be sure I understood what really happened:

I’m told that File 770 ran a piece saying that Galaxy’s Edge, the magazine I edit, had pulled Malzberg’s column on Judy Merril due to protests. Nope. We pulled the entire May-June issue in which it appeared at the end of June 30, so we could post the July-August issue on our web page on July 1 (today). This has been our practice since the first issue, 4 years ago. Anyone who wants to read the May-June 2016 issue (#20) is welcome to buy it in epub, .mobi, or paper. Honest.

Thanks to a commenter here, I had already posted the correction by the time Mike reached out to me on Facebook. However, I’m happy to repeat the explanation and clear up the impression created by yesterday’s report.

(10) MALZBERG READERS. Today there were more reactions what Barry Malzberg said about Judith Merril in Galaxy’s Edge.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • July 1, 1899 – Charles Laughton. When Ray Bradbury went to Disneyland for the first time it was with Captain Bligh and the Hunchback and Doctor Moreau. Bradbury also originally wrote the play “Merry Christmas 2116” as a vehicle for Laughton and Elsa Lanchester.

(12) SEARCHING FOR FANNISH MUSICAL LYRICS. Rob Chilson left a comment in the About area asking for help.

I wonder if you or your readers can help me.

40 years less 2 months ago, at MidAmeriCon, I sat in on a reading of a musical version of “The Enchanted Duplicator” — my intro to the classic. It was MCed by Filthy Pierre (Erwin Strauss) who if I recall correctly adapted it to the stage. The others sang the songs and I mumbled along low enough not to disturb them. I’ve now spent a couple of hours on the net looking for one song that started: “Roscoe gave fan an arm of iron to help him pub his zine” and had the chorus, “But for a quarter or a loc, somebody else cranks the damn machine. For a quarter or a loc, a quarter or a loc. A quarter or a three-line ell-oh-cee.” Or words to that effect.

Can anyone point me at the lyrics?

One thought — is there anything like this in “The Mimeo Man”, which dates to that era?

(13) AT LIS CAREY’S LIBRARY. Posted the other day, Lis Carey’s review of an audio version of the Hugo-nominated novella: “Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor (author), Robin Miles (narrator)”.

….Except that Binti has won a scholarship to Oomza University, a very distinguished school–and on another planet. Her family is shocked at the very idea that Binti would actually accept it and go–but their dreams are not her dreams, and she does. And on her way there, the ship she’s on is attacked and boarded by the Meduze, an alien species that has a very real and serious grievance against Oomza University…..

(14) ANTICIPATION? A writer for the Huffington Post contends “A Dystopian Novelist Predicted Trump’s Campaign Slogan in the ‘90s”.

….Whatever the case, it seems sci-fi writer and unofficial Queen of the Galaxy Octavia Butler predicted the slogan a couple of decades ago. Nearly 20 years before Trump trademarked the term, she wrote about a character named Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, a harbinger for violence in her 1998 book Parable of the Talents.

You can see an excerpt outlining Jarret’s use of the phrase “make American great again” below:

(15) ILVERMORNY INK. It wasn’t only Elizabeth Warren having fun, says Entertainment Weekly — “J. K. Rowling’s Ilvermorny inspires excellent jokes from Massachusetts’ government officials”

Later, Governor Charlie Baker’s office even gave a good-natured statement to The Boston Globe about Ilvermorny, which has supposedly resided on Mount Greylock for hundreds of years without detection.

“The governor believes that small businesses are the backbone of the economy whether they are owned by witches or mortals, and because the institution has operated for nearly 400 years without incident, the administration plans to revisit the matter sometime in the next century or two,” Baker’s office told the paper in a statement. “The Department of Revenue’s spell-detecting technology procurement will be in its final stages at that time.”

The Boston Globe also talked to John Dudek, manager of Mount Greylock State Reservation’s Bascom Lodge, who said that the mountain’s weather does sometimes create a supernatural effect.

“It’s a little bit like The Shining here when you’re alone at night,” Dudek said. “There are days when we’re just locked in clouds and you can’t see anything.”

(16) WHAT IT MEANS TO GROW. Bishop O’Connell writes about “Growing as a Writer, and as a Person” at A Quiet Pint.

Yes, I’ve improved as a writer, but for me, being a better writer is inextricably tied to being a better person. Unfortunately, growth and improvement is never a singular, instantaneous event. It happens over a long period of time, sometimes so slow that, like the proverbial frog in the pot of slowly warming water, it goes entirely unnoticed until you have some context. When it happens, it can be embarrassing (see above, and we’re still not talking about it) but mostly it’s wonderful to see, clearly and starkly, just how much progress has been made. In this post I talked about how much I learned about the tropes and stereotypes I’d blindly fallen into and how I work to rise above them. I say work not achieved, because I still have a long way to go. This fact was brought into harsh relief as I was editing The Returned.

(17) 48 HOURS. Here’s a bulletin of interest from The Onion that should keep parents everywhere concerned: “Investigators: First 48 Hours Most Critical In Locating Missing Children Who Entered Portal To Fantastical World”.

“As soon as we learn a child has disappeared down a pool of light underneath their staircase or through a strangely shaped attic door they had never before noticed, we must act fast to assemble search parties and cover as much enchanted territory as possible,” said investigator Joe Phillippe, who urged parents to contact authorities immediately if they believed their child had passed into a gleaming world of crystal palaces or been transported back in time to the age of King Arthur. “If they’re not found within that critical 48-hour window, children typically become disoriented in the thick fog and dense forest of a land where it’s always night, or they’re led astray by a well-dressed fox who promises to take them to a place where kids can play all varieties of games. At that point, they become almost impossible to locate.”

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, Cat Rambo, Steve Davidson, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Sandy Swank (1959-2015)

Lisa Ashton and Sandy Swank in “The Letter.” Photo by Leonard J. Provenzano. Used by permission.

Lisa Ashton and Sandy Swank in “The Letter.” Photo by Leonard J. Provenzano. Used by permission.

Sandy Swank, an active member of the International Costumers Guild, passed away June 13 of lung disease.

He was President of the Greater Delaware Valley Costumers Guild. He also was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, participating in an early 17th century persona.

Before he retired, even his day job allowed him to appear in costume, as a historical re-enactor at Philadelphia’s Cliveden museum, sometimes playing an 18th century German farmer and sometimes the Grandson of Pennsylvania founder William Penn.

After retirement he moved to Charleston, South Carolina. There he co-chaired Costume-Con 33 (2015) with his husband Robert M. Himmelsbach.

He was part of the memorable Chicon 2000 Masquerade entry, the humorous “Mad Cows Through History”.

And Swank and Lisa Ashton won Best in Show at Philcon as well as multiple awards at Costume-Con 29 in 2011 for ”The Letter”  (scroll down for video), a meticulously researched presentation of the famous Sullivan Ballou letter. Lisa Ashton recalls:

We were on a panel together about a year earlier, at a Philcon, on a Sunday morning, and only about 1 person showed up, so we all just talked about things, and the subject came around to the Ken Burns Documentary about the Civil War, and the very poignant letter written by Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah, about two weeks before he was killed at First Manassas. This led to Sandy and I doing this on stage, and people telling us, “The hair stood up on the back of my neck” among other comments. I am smiling as I remember our planning and presentation and how touching it was. We were so in character we barely felt we were ourselves. I still cry watching this presentation on video.

Swank is survived by his husband, and two sisters.

Costumers’ Life Achievement Award to Kathy Sanders

By John Hertz: Among our astounding developments – our amazing, stellar, thrilling, wonderful developments – is the Masquerade at science fiction conventions.  Once a dress-up party as the name suggests, pioneered by Forry Ackerman and no less than Jack Speer, by the 1960s it had come to its present form, an on-stage competition with lights, sound, judges, outdrawing anything except Hugo Night at the Worldcon.  Marvels appear.  Jokes.  It’s been called a cross between kabuki and Little Theater.

Fans and pros have been involved, and of course some people are both.  Larry Niven wrote the script for “One Night at the Draco Tavern” with himself as a helpless man who never quite understood what was going on, and included it in a 2006 collection.  Mike Resnick has been very fine as costumer and as a Master of Ceremonies.  Karen Anderson at Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon was given a costuming Life Achievement Award.  That was the predecessor of the current (since 1990) award given by the International Costumers Guild at Costume-Con.

With the widening appeal of SF, our general-interest Worldcon and its local and regional kin like Westercon, Boskone, Archon, spawned special-interest conventions.  Filksinging, our home-made music, got filkers’ cons.  Gamers’ cons.  Fanziners’ cons. Costume-Con XXIII (15-18 May, Charleston, South Carolina) gave the 2015 Life Achievement Award to Kathy Sanders.

First as Kathy Bushman, then as Kathy Sanders, she was for decades a compelling vibrant force in Masquerades, including Worldcon Masquerades, working alone, in groups — sometimes large groups.  She understood beauty, drama, strangeness, and time.

She co-chaired Costume-Con IV and XIV.  I judged for her when she was Masquerade Director at L.A.con III the 54th Worldcon.

The Masquerade is ephemeral.  Video records are difficult.  Some photographers have learned to make good stills of Masquerade entries.  Run-time footage showing the actual events of the stage, particularly alas for the great decades of the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, even into the Nineties — not great because they’re past, just great — is scanty and often rough.  The ICG Archive much to its credit did manage a Sanders posting for YouTube. It’s worth your while.

So is the list of Life Achievement winners.  You can get it elsewhere, but I give it to you here — in chronological order.  These names are worth recognizing, men and women who have enriched us, in this artform we seem to have invented.


Marjii Ellers
Marty Gear
Bjo & John Trimble
Peggy Kennedy
Janet Wilson Anderson
Karen Dick
Byron Connell
Jacqueline Ward
Gary Anderson
Carl Mami


Sandy & Pierre Pettinger
Animal X
Adrian Butterfield & Victoria Ridenour
Pat Kennedy
Ricky Dick
Cat Devereaux
Barb Schofield
Kevin Roche
Betsy Marks Delaney


Dana & Bruce McDermott
Nora & Bruce Mai
Jill Eastlake
Penny Lipman
Tina Connell
Dawn McKechnie
Ann Catelli
Kathy Bushman Sanders


Costume-Con: The Origin Story

Once an event is as firmly established as Costume-Con few can imagine a time when it was only a daring idea.

Fewer still remember that in 1979 the first attempt to organize a costuming weekend – called Costume Mania – went nowhere! But it’s all there in the official history:

COSTUME-MANIA was the brainchild of Adrienne Martine-Barnes, a costumer of long-standing both in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and at science fiction conventions. Her idea of a costumed weekend was a good one, and it should have happened…

But it didn’t.

There could have been a number of reasons why COSTUME-MANIA didn’t succeed. Not enough people wrote in and showed interest. Adrienne had a hard time finding enough local people to help her run the event.

However, when Adrienne shared her vision with other costumers at the 1981 Worldcon she was very persuasive.

She then began to outline her ideas about holding a convention exclusively for costumers. “Just think of it. You can change clothes nine times a day and show off all your best stuff. You can trade techniques with other costumers. There won’t be anyone around to point their fingers at you and laugh at you for ‘dressing funny,’ because everyone there will be interested in the same thing you are: Costume.”

Karen (Schnaubelt) Turner agreed to chair the first committee and Costume-Con 1 took place in January 1983, drawing 140 attendees.

Finding Marty’s Gear

Dave Doering, Costume-Con 23 co-chair, comments on the passing of Marty Gear:

I am sure I echo the feelings of so many other fans that Marty was a class act. A gentleman in every way. Always with a kind word and simply fabulous behind the microphone as emcee. The gods of fandom smiled upon us when they gave us Marty Gear as voice for our creations onstage.

Doering also remembers coming away from the 1993 Worldcon with this resolve:

I simply loved him in ConFrancisco as emcee–which is why we had him do our SF masquerade at CostumeCon in Ogden.

When Doering’s chance finally came in 2005, it came with a bit of unplanned adventure:

Marty’s persona as Dracula–makeup, costume, etc. –shipped in a large crate–which somehow managed to disappear between Baltimore and Salt Lake. UPS said it was likely on this certain truck en route in the city. I had to chase down this UPS truck through the streets in pursuit of what I hoped was his Marty “gear”. (Just try finding a UPS driver on his route when they didn’t do cellphones!)

I ended up running into another UPS truck, and the two drivers said, “Try the parking lot over on 2nd West near Taco Bell”. Which I did. Fortunately, a UPS truck came gliding up. (I can’t imagine what the driver must have thought finding this anxious conchair tracking him down.)

It was then I discovered just how big that crate was–in fact, it was coffin-sized. And I often wondered if it wasn’t actually Marty in there as well–saving on airfare resting on his beloved turf from his homeland. (Though I didn’t open it but merely took it to the hotel for delivery.)

What a bite to lose him. Really going to miss that guy.

2013 Costume-Con In Memoriam

Last May at  Costume-Con 31 a three-minute In Memoriam video was presented at halftime of the masquerade to honor Kent Elofson, Patti Mercier Gill Paczolt, and jan howard “Wombat” finder.

It was produced by Bruce and Nora Mai.

I discovered it while researching the late Marty Gear, who doubtless will be mourned and remembered at next year’s Costume-Con.

Marty Gear (1939 – 2013)

Marty Gear at 2009 Arisia. Photo by Daniel P. Noé.

Marty Gear at 2009 Arisia. Photo by Daniel P. Noé.

Legendary costuming fan Marty Gear, whose fanac spanned six decades, died in his sleep on July 18 at the age of 74.

Marty and his wife, Bobby (who predeceased him in 2005), won many awards in masquerade competitions. He founded The Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers’ Guild, a forerunner of the International Costumers’ Guild, was the ICG’s first Executive Director, and was honored with the ICG’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.

One of Marty’s earliest fannish experiences, when he was 14, was traveling from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia for the 1953 Worldcon. Marty was unprepared for what he found there, felt overwhelmed and said he would have gone back to his hotel room to hide but for “a tall, white-haired man [who] came over and began to talk to me about what I liked to read. I had just bought a copy of Skylark of Valeron in the dealers’ room… and began enthusing about this ‘new’ writer that I had just discovered, E.E. Smith, Ph.D.” He soon discovered it was Smith himself he was telling this to, and Doc and his wife took Marty in tow, introducing him to other authors and artists. “For the remainder of the weekend, whenever either of them saw me alone they made a point of checking to see if I was enjoying myself, and of somehow including me in whatever was going on.”

Despite this friendly encounter with one of the field’s most loved writers, Marty did not attend another SF con until 1977 when Page Cuddy and David Hartwell “conned” him into going to a Balticon in order to meet Philip Jose Farmer.

After that Marty rapidly developed into a fannish leader. He ran programming for Balticon 13 in 1979 and became a regular fixture as the con’s masquerade director beginning in 1981. He chaired CostumeCon 3 (1985) and Balticon 21 (1987).

He held major committee posts on 4 Worldcons. Michael J. Walsh, chair of the 1983 Baltimore Worldcon where Marty ran the masquerade, likes to tell the story – “In 1981 when I called him from Denvention to let him know we had won: ‘Marty, bad news!’ [He answered] ‘We won?’”

Marty was famous for presiding over masquerades in costume as Count Dracula. And he was infamous for filling time with terrible vampire jokes such as —

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

Frostbite!

One of his most challenging moments came while directing the 1998 Worldcon (Bucconeer) masquerade — at the start he stumbled against a table of awards and took a four-foot fall off the stage. Quite the trouper, Marty got right back up and did his job without visible problems. He even looked in pretty good shape the morning after at the masquerade critique where he had nothing to say about his mishap except an apology for detracting from the costumers. He did use a cane for awhile afterwards, though.

Marty was a fiery advocate for his beloved event. Even at a Worldcon he refused to concede first place to the Hugo Ceremony, protesting during the Bucconeer masquerade post-mortem, “To the Worldcon committee the Masquerade is not the most important event…. It’s just the best-attended, and has the most people involved, but to the committee it’s a secondary event.”

When he was feeling more mellow he’d deliver the message humorously, saying things like, “Costuming is the second oldest tradition in sci-fi fandom. The first is drinking beer.”

Marty remained an active member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and at the time of his death was parliamentarian of the BSFS Board of Directors, coordinator of the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest, and liaison to the school for the BSFS Books for Kids program.

Over the years he was a guest of honor at Unicon 87, Disclave 34, Sci-Con 8, Genericon 2, Arisia 9, and Balticon 30.

Professionally, Marty managed his own company Martin Gear Consulting Ltd.

Other than dressing as a vampire, Marty said one of his favorite costumes was “Cohen the Barbarian” a prize-winner at the 2004 Worldcon as “Best DiscWorld Entry.” His Cohen wore a fur diaper, a very long white beard and an eyepatch — and not much else. In one hand he carried a sword and in the other a walking cane.

To the end Marty continually mentored costumers and passed on his enthusiasm for the costuming arts. He told an interviewer, “I probably won’t stop costuming until I am dead, and maybe not even then.”

***

See Marty in his Dracula garb start the 2008 Balticon masquerade with a horrible joke.

In this interview at Anime USA 2012 Marty explained how he judges anime and reproduction costumes in terms that would be at home on Project Runway — “Clothes have to fit.”

15 Costumers You Should Know

The International Costumers Guild is posting a series of short video tributes to the pioneers and superstars of convention masquerades

The trailer “15 Costumers You Should Know” credits Forry Ackerman as the “Father of Convention Costuming” – he wore a “futuristicostume” made by Myrtle Douglas at the first Worldcon in 1939. The series will revisit the historic work of fans Kathy Sanders, Bruce & Dana MacDermott, Karen Schaubelt Turner Dick, Animal X, Jacqueline Ward, Janet Wilson Anderson, Deborah K. Jones, Pierre & Sandy Pettinger, Barb Schofield, Adrian Butterfield and Ricky Dick.

See more at the IGC Archives.