Pixel Scroll 10/2/18 I’ve Got Two Pixels To Paradox

(1) SETTING THE SCENE. For the premiere of First Man they turned the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood into the moon.

(2) TERRESTRIAL RAYS. The versions available today are much too big to work as phasers, however, Cosmos assures readers that “The ray-gun is no longer science fiction”.

In the last decade we’ve seen spectacular advances in laser technology that may make the ray-gun practical again.

The Laser Weapons System (LaWS) is one of the first of a new breed of more compact systems based on the fibre laser. Fibre lasers can generate laser beams at efficiencies of 40%, far higher than conventional lasers, and achieve kilowatt powers. High power fibre lasers are already used in industrial cutting and welding machines, some with laser power of 100 kW and capable of welding blocks of metal parts 30 cm thick.

A 100 kW infra-red laser is exactly the ‘heat-ray’ that Wells imagined—equivalent to using a giant, kilometre-wide magnifying glass to focus the sun’s heat energy onto a single point the size of your fingernail.

The objective for LaWS is to affordably shoot down cheaply made insurgent rockets and drones, without wasting absurdly expensive missiles. While an anti-air cruise missile might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, a single shot from LaWS works out at about $1 in energy cost. In 2014, a LaWS prototype installed on the USS Ponce demonstrated it could shoot down drones and disable boats. The US Air Force plans to put a similar device, developed by Lockheed Martin, on a fighter jet by 2021.

One difference from movie sci-fi, these real ray-guns don’t emit exciting ‘Pew! Pew!’ sound effects when they fire. They’re silent. Wells’ ominous words are more apt: “this invisible, inevitable sword of heat.”

(3) CASTING CALL. For a Dublin 2019 production —

(4) CAMPAIGNING AGAINST THE JEDI. The Hollywood Reporter boosts the signal — “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Negative Buzz Amplified by Russian Trolls, Study Finds”. Or as Rainbow Rowell puts it —

An academic paper finds that half of criticism aimed at director Rian Johnson was politically motivated.

Did Star Wars: The Last Jedi destroy the franchise and permanently rupture the fandom as its critics (melodramatically) have accused it of doing? According to a new academic paper by researcher Morten Bay, the answer is clearly no.

The paper, titled Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, examines the online response to 2017’s Last Jedi, a movie that has come to be considered controversial amongst the larger fanbase of the franchise.

Bay suggests that reputation may not be earned, and instead “finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments,” as he writes in the paper’s abstract. He continues, “The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation.”

(5) BLEAK GEEK. Variety discovered “The Connection Between the Brett Kavanaugh Hearings and Gamergate”.

…Following the revelations regarding his potential involvement in the allegations against Kavanaugh, Judge deleted his Twitter account. However, what remains via screenshots and tweets from others shows regular interaction with other prominent figures in the alt-right, including Chuck Johnson and actor Adam Baldwin, who helped coin the term Gamergate.

In his first Gamergate story for the publication in 2015, Judge exclusively takes aim at Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian, a frequent target of Gamergate harassment, labeling her arguments as “overly broad.” While he suggests that the harassment campaign against Sarkeesian was “disgusting, sad, and intolerable,” he quickly pivots to talk about how “gamers have absolutely demolished” her points….

(6) S&S. DMR begins a Wollheim retrospective with “The Sword and Sorcery Legacy of Donald A. Wollheim: Part One”.

From the day he published the first part of Robert E. Howard’s “The Hyborian Age” in the Spring 1936 issue of The Phantagraph, Donald A. Wollheim–at the ripe old age of twenty-one–began making his mark as an editor in the field of sword and sorcery literature. REH died soon after and Wollheim never published the entire essay, but his S&S cred had been established. To be able to claim the honor of publishing something Conan-related straight from the typewriter of Howard while he was still alive would be a horn on the helm of any heroic fantasy editor, but Don had much more to contribute in the decades to come.

(7) PIONEERING CHARACTERIZATION. Ira Galdkova’s self-revelatory literary exploration, “Miles Vorkosigan and ‘Excellent Life Choices’: (Neuro)Divergence and Decision-Making in Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga”, is featured at Uncanny.

But that very preoccupation with appearance is what I want to talk about. Miles spends so much more time and energy working to normalize the way he looks than normalizing the way he thinks that he can come off as downright anosognosic when it comes to his own neurodivergence. It is only halfway through the series, when Miles makes a disastrous decision while neither manic nor depressed, that he truly grapples with how he makes decisions and weighs choices. Miles is clearly meant to be seen as nonnormative, and psychological treatments are explicitly available in his world. His mother Cordelia advocates therapy in cases such as trauma but doesn’t seek to pathologize Miles’s brain or suggest any form of professional psychological treatment. Other characters also comment on Miles’s mental state(s) but eschew the idea of therapy: “You mean psychiatric? Absolutely not. Real bad idea. If the psych boys ever got hold of him, they’d never let him go. No. This is a family matter.”  In other words, Miles may not be aware of his own neurodivergence, but the text explicitly is, and the way Bujold plays with Miles’s decision making is worth examining.

The narrative thrust of the Vorkosigan Saga is predicated largely on Miles’s many questionable decisions, and decision making is a classic casualty of both bipolar disorder and ADHD. In sharing those conditions, I find Miles fascinating as a protagonist—as subject rather than object. Although recent works like Mishell Baker’s Borderline and Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts feature neurodivergent protagonists, Miles predates them by decades. Society, and by reflection literature, has long framed neurodivergence as a problem to be solved, as a topic rather than a subjective experience. It’s unclear how intentional Bujold was in her portrayal of Miles’s psyche vis-a-vis our pathologized categorizations of conditions such as bipolar and ADHD, but she has consistently captured how those conditions affect the ability to make decisions, and the ability to live with them.

(8) DWYER OBIT. Award-winning set decorator John M. Dwyer has died at the age of 83. The Hollywood Reporter obituary recollected his work on Star Trek, crediting him with the creation of the tribble. (We’ll set aside the role of David Gerrold and Robert Heinlein til another day…)

The 6-foot-6 Dwyer joined the original Star Trek for its second season in 1967, and the first episode on which he was employed was the legendary “The Trouble With Tribbles,” where he got creative using puffy blobs of fur.

He went on to dress up sets for 38 installments of the NBC series, earning an Emmy nomination (shared with Walter M. Jefferies) in 1969 for their art direction and scenic design on the episode “All Our Yesterdays.”

“In the original series we had to be really inventive, because we were dealing with stuff that nobody knew anything about,” he said in “Designing the Final Frontier,” a featurette for a Star Trek DVD. “There was no space shows, and we didn’t have any money, so you had to scrounge; in effect, scrounge everything that you got.”

Dwyer once noted that his budget was usually $500 per show, so he would squirrel away money from one episode to another when he could and picked through trash to use items like packing materials and plastic coffee lids for the Enterprise and alien environments.

“I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I keep in touch with materials that are going around,” he said in 2002. “On the original series, we were the first ones to use refractive Mylar, because it had just come out … and I went crazy with the stuff. In those days, nobody cared what you put on the set, so long as there was something that looked right. I’d take a piece of Masonite and cover it with some adhesive Mylar, put a two-by-four on the backside of it and hang it on a wall.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 2, 1955Alfred Hitchcock Presents made its television debut.
  • October 2, 1959 — The world was changed with the first aired episode of The Twilight Zone

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 2, 1906 – Willy Ley, Writer, Cryptozoologist, and Spaceflight Advocate who helped to popularize rocketry, spaceflight, and natural history in both Germany and the United States. He wrote a handful of SF stories as Robert Willey, but was best known for his non-fiction science articles for Astounding and Amazing Stories, and later for Galaxy Science Fiction, where he was the science editor for the 16 years before his death. He won two Hugo Awards and a Retro Hugo, and two International Fantasy Awards, for his space-related non-fiction writing. The crater Ley on the far side of the Moon is named in his honor.
  • Born October 2, 1909 – Alex Raymond, Artist, a cartoonist generally only known for creating Flash Gordon for King Features in 1934. The strip has been adapted into many media, from a series of movie serials in the 30s and 40s, to a 70s TV series and the 80s feature film — not to be confused with the American-Canadian TV series of the same vintage. Radio serials, myriad films, comic books, novels — any medium that exists has seen Flash Gordon fiction. There are at least fifteen authorized strips and a number of bootleg strips as well. Needless to say, there are bootleg films and serials too.
  • Born October 2, 1911 – Jack Finney, Writer of many short stories who had great success with the time-travel novel Time and Again, but is best remembered for The Body Snatchers, which has inspired numerous alien possession movies including Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a finalist for the 1979 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. About Time is a collection of his time stories from The Third Level and I Love Galesburg in the Springtime. He was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1987.
  • Born October 2, 1944 – Vernor Vinge, 74, Writer and Mathematician whose numerous short stories and two novel series, both of which I consider excellent, Realtime and Zones of Thought, have garnered many Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Clarke, Prometheus and Kurd Laßwitz Awards and nominations. He’s done a handful of stand-alone novels; I’ve very fond of Tatja Grimm’s World and Rainbow’s End which won a Hugo. His novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster also won Hugo Awards. He was Writer Guest of Honor at ConJosé, the 60th World Science Fiction Convention, in 2002.
  • Born October 2, 1948 – Persis Khambatta, Actor, a former Miss India who became famous for playing the bald Deltan Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a role which garnered her a Saturn nomination. In 1980 she became the first citizen of India to present an Academy Award. Sadly, she died from cardiac arrest two months short of her 50th birthday.
  • Born October 2, 1948 – Avery Brooks, 70, Actor and Director best known to genre fans for playing Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and lending his majestic voice to videogames in that franchise.
  • Born October 2, 1951 – Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting, 67, Actor, Composer and Musician from England who played Feyd-Rautha in David Lynch’s version of Dune and Baron Frankenstein in The Bride, appeared in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and has lent his voice to several animated movies and TV episodes including The Simpsons, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and Peter and the Wolf.
  • Born October 2, 1967 – Lew Temple, 51, Actor who has played numerous roles in supernatural and horror movies, including The Visitation, Deja Vu, Silent Night, Zombie Night, the reboots of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, and more recently, a part in the TV series The Walking Dead.
  • Born October 2, 1986 – Camilla Belle, 32, Actor who started young, playing genre roles in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Annie: A Royal Adventure, Practical Magic, and A Little Princess and Back to the Secret Garden, the movie versions of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s well-known childrens’ fantasies.

(11) VINGE. Rich Horton celebrates with a post at Strange at Ecbatan“Birthday Review: A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge”.

…As I said, I found the plot inspiring as well. This is a very long book, about 600 pages, but I was never bored. Moreover, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden has taken pains to point out, the prose in this book is quite effective. I believe Patrick used some such term as “full throated scientifictional roar”. Without necessarily understanding exactly what he meant by that, the prose definitely works for me, and in ways which seem possibly particularly “scientifictional” in nature….

(12) WELLEN. Steven H Silver’s winner in today’s birthday sweepstakes was – “Birthday Reviews: Edward Wellen’s ‘Barbarossa’”.

Most of Wellen’s publications were short stories and he was more active in the mystery field than in science fiction, although he began publishing in the genre in 1952 with the non-fact article “Origins of Galactic Slang” in Galaxy.  In 1971, he published his only science fiction novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) KEEP BIG BANGING ON. In “The Fourth Copernican Revolution” on Nautilus, Sir Martin Rees, in an excerpt from On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, speculates on if we are living in a multiverse, and if we are, why that would be “the fourth and grandest Copernican revolution.”

At first sight, the concept of parallel universes might seem too arcane to have any practical impact. But it may (in one of its variants) actually offer the prospect of an entirely new kind of computer: the quantum computer, which can transcend the limits of even the fastest digital processor by, in effect, sharing the computational burden among a near infinity of parallel universes.

Fifty years ago, we weren’t sure whether there had been a big bang. My Cambridge mentor Fred Hoyle, for instance, contested the concept, favoring a “steady state” cosmos that was eternal and unchanging. (He was never fully converted—in his later years he espoused a compromise idea that might be called a “steady bang.”) Now we have enough evidence, especially from measurements of the primordial background radiation and the relative abundances of hydrogen, helium, and deuterium created in the first three minutes, to delineate cosmic history back to the ultradense first nanosecond—and to do this with as much confidence as a geologist inferring the early history of Earth. So in 50 more years, it is not overoptimistic to hope that we may have a “unified” physical theory, corroborated by experiment and observation in the everyday world, that is broad enough to describe what happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second—where the densities and energies were far higher than the range in which current theories apply. If that future theory were to predict multiple big bangs we should take that prediction seriously, even though it can’t be directly verified (just as we give credence to what Einstein’s theory tells us about the unobservable insides of black holes, because the theory has survived many tests in domains we can observe).

(15) ABOUT THE FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 PUSHBACK. The Washington Post’s Mili Mitra says in an opinion piece that the controversy over Nagini in Fantastic Beasts 2 shows that “fans are also right to ask for thoughtful representation that does more than haphazardly introduce underrepresented caricatures.” — “Is ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ racist? Not quite.”

Twenty years after the first Harry Potter book was released in the United States, the franchise still has the power to amaze — and offend. To this day, J.K. Rowling’s series is still banned in some schools and libraries for promoting “witchcraft.” But with the release last week of a new trailer for the next film in the fictional universe, “Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Rowling is facing a different sort of backlash. This one shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.

(16) ANOTHER CENTURY OF AVENGERS. It’s issue #700, and the story’s set in another timezone “as the mystery of the 1M BC Avengers continues!”

There’s no rest for the heroes who protect Earth…not even when it comes to the Avengers! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will find themselves facing some of their harshest battles yet – including Namor’s fearsome new Defenders of the Deep and the reimagined Russian Super-Soldiers of the Winter Guard!

To celebrate this jam-packed, landmark 700th anniversary issue, Marvel is excited to reveal an all-new cover by legendary artist David Finch!

(17) FIRST OF THE UNCANNY AVENGERS. They’re back….

This November, UNCANNY X-MEN returns with a new ongoing series, bringing together nearly every mutant left on earth in a story that threatens to destroy them. It’s an epic tale of mystery and tragic disappearance, with an adventure so earth-shattering, it could very well be the X-Men’s FINAL mission!

In celebration of the much-anticipated launch of UNCANNY X-MEN #1, Marvel is excited to reveal a new Hidden Gem variant cover from very own Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, with colors by Richard Isanove!

(18) WONDER WOMAN VARIATION. LAist studies “Wonder Woman’s Latest Enemies: Nazis, The Patriarchy, And Pick-Up Artists” because Earth One, Volume 2 is being released this week.

WONDER WOMAN VS. PICK-UP ARTISTS

One of the book’s villains, codenamed Doctor Psycho, was presented in his 1940s origins as an obvious bad guy. This time, Morrison’s taken that early interpretation and infused it with the modern idea of the pick-up artist community.

Morrison spoke with a female expert on pick-up artist techniques to use them in the new interpretation of the character.

“The Doctor Psycho sequence where he sits and talks to Diana [Wonder Woman] is actually based on the script used by pick-up artists,” Morrison said. “Even the movements he makes — he mirrors all her gestures, he makes these casting off gestures every time he talks about something that he wants her to perceive as negative.”

Today’s LAist post is based on a DC Comics blog interview published in April, “Morrison and Paquette Discuss Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2”

For those of you unfamiliar, the Earth One graphic novels are special out-of-continuity stories that reimagine some of the DC Universe’s most familiar heroes in a totally unfamiliar light, whether it’s stripping Green Lantern of his willpower or imagining Bruce Wayne getting kidnapped for ransom rather than orphaned in an alleyway.

For Diana Prince, Earth One means a brand-new look at both the origin story of Wonder Woman, the culture of Themyscira altogether and her role as an Amazon ambassador to the world of man, something that gets further explored under the highest of stakes in the upcoming, eagerly anticipated WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 2….

(19) THE HORROR. Are you and Goodreads still on speaking terms? If so, ‘tis the season to find out if you’ve read the “50 Most Popular Horror Novels on Goodreads”. I’ve only read 5 of these, so you’re bound to score much higher.

From literal monsters to purely psychological terrors, these are tales of madness and pandemonium, retribution and absolution. Long heralded as the “Master of Horror,” Stephen King reigns supreme, with five books on our list, but his son Joe Hill is not far behind, nabbing four spots. And along with classics from Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Kirkman‘s end-of-the-world comic, The Walking Dead, made the cut as well as an award-winning children’s ghost story, The Graveyard Book, from Neil Gaiman.

And now we present the top horror books on Goodreads in alphabetical order. Proceed at your own risk—and then tell us how many you’ve read in the comments.

(20) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. It’s being eaten alive! — “Is this the last chance to see the Titanic?” Rust-forming bacteria are rapidly consuming the Titanic. Experts predict it will last only a little more than 20 years. This is especially a problem if you were planning to visit in person.

At least 1,500 people died. Engulfed by deep-sea darkness, the wreck sat for more than 70 years while bacteria ate away at its metal hull, leaving behind millions of delicate, icicle-shaped formations.

“Now, there’s more life on Titanic than there was floating on the surface,” says Lori Johnston, microbial ecologist and a six-time visitor of the wreck.

These ‘rusticles’ are the by-products of bacteria that oxidise the iron they consume. The acidic, oxidised fluid oozes downward with gravity, forming fragile branches of rust. “The rusticles are unique because they’re kind of the dominant species down there,” Johnston says.

(21) WOMAN WINS NOBEL PRIZE. BBC brings word of “First woman Physics Nobel winner in 55 years”“Donna Strickland: The ‘laser jock’ Nobel prize winner”.

Donna Strickland, from Canada, is only the third woman winner of the award, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.

Dr Strickland shares this year’s prize with Arthur Ashkin, from the US, and Gerard Mourou, from France.

It recognises their discoveries in the field of laser physics.

Dr Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study biological systems.

(22) THEY BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. On the frontiers of research….

ULTRAGOTHA sent the background to the link: a New Scientist article about Gelada monkeys and wolves — “Monkeys’ cosy alliance with wolves looks like domestication” — basically boils down to: (1) the wolves catch more rodents when the monkeys are present and (2) the monkeys will swarm a wolf that attacks a monkey and drive it away, so it behooves the wolf to not eat the monkeys. “Whether this is a precursor to domestication, I leave up to more research,” says ULTRAGOTHA.

(23) ROSARIUM COMICS. Coming from Rosarium on October 16 – Super Sikh #3 – “If this is your vacation, then your job must be really crazy…”

The Sikh superhero comic book from Eileen Kaur Alden, Supreet Singh Manchanda, and Amit Tayal is now being published by Rosarium Publishing!

Meet Deep Singh. He loves Elvis and hates bad guys. By day he works at a tech company and lives with his parents. But that’s just a front. For Deep Singh is really a top secret agent for the United Nations, fighting terrorism all around the world.

(24) STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Season 2 poster –

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/18 Pun For A Headline, Pixels Comment Underground

(1) DILLON KICKSTARTER. A Kickstarter to crowdfund “Daydreamer’s Journey, a new Art Book by Julie Dillon” was launched July 24. Dillon is one of the top artists in the field, a three-time Hugo Award winner (plus five Chesley Awards, three Locus Awards, and a British Fantasy Award).

I absolutely love to draw and paint, and art has been a vital part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Art can offer an escape as well as an invitation; a way to process one’s experience of the world, a way to offer a different perspective. It can illuminate and reveal the magic lurking just beneath the surface of the world, and that is what I’ve attempted to do throughout my career as an artist.

I’ve put together an art book that will let me share with you more of my art and ideas than I ever have before….

Daydreamer’s Journey will be a 200 page 8.5″ x 11″ hardcover book, on beautiful thick glossy paper. This book will contain personal work, freelance projects, sketches, studies, and illustration drafts, some of which either has never been posted online or that hasn’t been available online in over a decade. Also included will be my commentary and thoughts, as well as progress shots for most pieces so you can see part of my painting and brainstorming process.

With 29 days to go, Dillon so far has raised $12,653 of her $18,500 goal.

(2) #METOO AT COMIC-CON. SFGate evaluates the attention to antiharassment efforts at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego: “Comic-Con in the #MeToo Era: Progress Comes One Panel at a Time”.

…Officially, Comic-Con was silent about #MeToo. When SDCC programming director Eddie Ibrahim gave his traditional kick off speech in Hall H on Thursday morning, notably absent was any mention of the convention’s harassment policies. That continued for all four days of the convention.

…Comic-Con for its part has chosen not to update those anti-harassment policies, which state in part that “harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated,” and that “persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy” should seek out security or SDCC staff.

Whatever actions the organization is taking behind the scenes, it ultimately chose not to discuss them publicly. Comic-Con International did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap

Unofficially, fans and creators were frequently vocal in support of greater inclusion and representation, and in talking about harassment and abuse.

The panel for NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” on Friday night was a particular stand out, with cast members, producers, and fans touching on a range of sensitive issues. Notably, one fan thanked Terry Crews, who accused William Morris Endeavor agent Adam Venit of groping him, “for your part in #MeToo,” adding, “I’m so sorry for all of us that are part of #MeToo that you have to be part of it.”

And at a panel called “The Future Is Female,” “Bumblebee” and “Birds of Prey” screenwriter Christina Hodson got huge cheers and lots of knowing muttering when she celebrated the successes of the #MeToo era but noted that much work remains.

“Nine months ago, no one gave a s—. Like, no one cares what happens. Now everything has shifted. So I think behavior on set, in writers’ rooms, that’s all going to shift. So I’m very happy about that,” she said.

(3) ELFQUEST PROFILED. Rob Beschizza explores “The Weird Of Wendy Pini” at BoingBoing. “Voices from another world spoke with sublime otherness, helping an indie cartoonist face down prudes, pain and the patriarchy.”

Elfquest began in 1978 and concluded this spring, forty years in the telling. Devised and written with her husband Richard, its story follows the Wolfrider clan and its chief, Cutter, burned from their ancient forest home by vengeful humans. Sweeping from a rough fantasy premise to epic science fiction, the Wolfriders find other elfin refugees, the derelict spaceship of their shape-shifting ancestors, and unsettling truths concerning their own nature. At its sales peak, the magazine-sized pamphlets were selling 100,000 copies at an intersection of fandom rarely seen in comic book stores: women, queer folk, people of color.

The American Library Association describes Elfquest as “one of the most important works in American fantasy”. Georgy Khoury and Alex Ross, in Comic Book Fever, call it one of the “first long-form sagas of the art form,” unique for its “confident and inspired storytelling.” Artist and historian Trina Robbins told me that Wendy’s strong women characters were responsible for getting countless young girls into comics. Elfquest was one of the books targeted as obscene material in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s first case. Buzzfeed ranked it as the most life-changing graphic novel of all time.

(4) TODAY’S VISION. Rick Liebling recalibrates the historic look of sf in a post for Medium: “The Aesthetics of Science Fiction. What does SciFi Look Like After Cyberpunk?” (First in a two-part series.)

But now, some three decades-plus since we first “saw” Cyberpunk, what do we have now? Is there a unifying visual idea that we associate with modern (2000 and beyond) science fiction? I’ve noticed over the last decade or so that there are some recurring themes. Perhaps not exclusive to science fiction – in the same way that the Cyberpunk aesthetic wasn’t exclusive to science fiction (see: Black Rain) – but that I’ve seen recurring in genre work.

I call it Hard Concrete.

Like Cyberpunk and Atomic Age &Space Age design before it, Hard Concrete is linked to the realities of the times. If Cyberpunk was the visual embodiment of the corporation as mysterious behemoth, Hard Concrete parallels a world where corporations and governments have been exposed as brutal, uncaring and stripped of their shiny, mirror-glass facades. They may be no less controlling, violent or malevolent, they just no longer bother to hide it.

(5) ORDER ME ANOTHER SCREWDRIVER. The Thirteenth Doctor has a collectible out already: “Jodie Whittaker Reveals the New Sonic Screwdriver Fan Collectible at San Diego Comic-Con”.

Today in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, Jodie Whittaker revealed the new Sonic Screwdriver Fan Collectible, a replica of the one her character will use in the new series of Doctor Who, now available to pre-order.

Designer Arwel Wyn Jones talked through the new sonic; “It’s a privilege to have been asked to redesign the iconic Sonic Screwdriver for the Thirteenth Doctor and a new generation of audiences.  I can’t wait for people to see how the Doctor acquires it!”

(6) ORIGINAL WONDER. Al Abbazia’s superb Rockwell-inspired Saturday Evening Post magazine cover featuring Wonder Woman can be seen on Facebook. The artist said:

It’s beyond gratifying that the granddaughter of William Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, found me and took a special liking of my art piece, saying it honored her family. My daughter, Emily Claire Abbazia (who came up with the concept) and myself thank you Christie Marston 🙂

And thank you to the wonderful Shiree Collier for her excellent modeling and Gal Gadot for that pretty face.

(7) ‘WARTS AND ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Those cunning Danes are at it again, dreaming up ways to take your money. LEGO has announced a new Hogwarts set (io9: “Lego’s New 6,020-Piece Hogwarts Castle Set Is Huge and Pricey”) priced at a “mere” $399.99. It’s built on their “microscale” standard, to use microfigs rather than the more familiar minifigs—presumably to keep the both the overall size and the price in check.

Quoting the io9 article:

…Lego is also bundling 27 microfigures with the set, including Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Snape, McGonagall, Remus, Umbridge, and even Lord Voldemort, as well as Aragog the spider, the Basilisk, a Hungarian Horntail dragon, and five dementors.

There are minifigs involved, thogugh. The founders of the four houses of Hogwarts (Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Salazar Slytherin, and Rowena Ravenclaw) are included in minifig form. Writing for io9, Andrew Liszewski seems taken by the quality of the set:

Despite the smaller overall footprint of the set, Lego has still managed to stuff an incredible amount of detail into Hogwarts, including the castle’s Great Hall, the library, potions class, the Room of Requirement, the giant chess set, and the Chamber of Secrets, among other places for the microfigures to re-enact scenes from the books and movies.

(8) KGB READINIGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Michael Swanwick and Jeffrey Ford on Wednesday, August 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards, and has the pleasant distinction of having been nominated for and lost more of these same awards than any other writer. He has written ten novels, over a hundred and fifty short stories, and countless works of flash fiction. His latest novel The Iron Dragon’s Mother, will be published by Tor Books in 2019

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The PhysiognomyThe Girl in the GlassThe Portrait of Mrs. CharbuqueThe Shadow Year, and the four collections: The Empire of Ice CreamThe Drowned LifeCrackpot Palace, and A Natural History of Hell. His most recent novel is Ahab’s Return: Or The Last Voyage published by HarperCollins. He has been the recipient of the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Edgar Award. He lives in Ohio and teaches writing part time at Ohio Wesleyan University.

The KGB is at 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs) New York, NY. Website: www.kgbfantasticfiction.org.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WORLDCON 76 BUSINESS MEETING AGENDA. More items have been added, so WSFS Secretary Linda Deneroff suggests you re-check the Business Meeting Agenda.

(11) ONE IS THE ONLIEST NUMBER. James Davis Nicoll asks “What’s With Sci-Fi’s Fixation on Single-Gendered Planets?” at Tor.com.

I recently reread three thematically similar books: Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, A. Bertram Chandler’s Spartan Planet, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Ethan of Athos. All three imagine single-gender planets: worlds whose populations are either all men or all women. This particular selection of books to reread and review was mere chance, but it got me thinking…

There are actually quite a few speculative fiction books set on single-gender planets (in which gender is mainly imagined in terms of a binary model) 1. Most of them are what-if books. As one might expect, they come up with different extrapolations….

(12) REMEMBERING THE PAPERBACK REVOLUTION. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind, in “Doubling Down With Don Wollheim”, says “The Ace Double paperbacks have long been a favourite of science fiction collectors. So here are 15 amazing facts about the Ace Doubles, #6 will shock you to your very core (he claims tongue in cheek).”

…So how similar was the packaging? Well this is the cover of the very first Signet Double….

And this is the cover of the very first Ace Double….

Okay, so they don’t look that alike and the Ace artwork is decidedly pulpier in style. But then it would be, wouldn’t it? Don Wollheim wasn’t going to try and muscle in on Signet’s classier patch. No, Don Wollheim was going to do what he knew best and let’s not forget that Don’s editorial career had begun with Cosmic Stories and Stirring Science Stories, two of the pulpiest of the pulp magazines.

Covers not withstanding it’s pretty clear to me that the Ace books borrowed a lot of layout detail from Signet. If you have any doubt about that compare the spine of Signet’s Knock On Any Door with the spine of a 1958 Ace Double featuring Eric Frank Russell I just happen to have laying about.

Oh, Don Wollheim you clever scamp.

Now you might be thinking that this is all very well but really, what did the Ace Doubles do other than borrow some layout details from Signet? The core feature, the two different novels in one volume, well that’s clearly unique to Ace, isn’t it? Now if you’ve been thinking anything like that then you are so very wrong. Consider the examples pictured below and their publication dates; Two Complete Detective Books (Winter 1939), Two Daring Love Novels (January 1948); and Two Complete Science-Adventure Books (Winter 1950). Three magazine titles that predated Ace Doubles by years (and the first two even left Kurt Enoch and his Signet Doubles in their dust).

(13) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll complains that “Classic Sci-Fi Star Systems Keep Getting Ruined by Science”. Well, complains is probably overstating things….

There are a lot of SF novels, particularly ones of a certain vintage, that feature that particular set of stars. If one is of that vintage (as I am), Alpha Centauri, Epsilon Indi, Epsilon Eridani, Procyon, and Tau Ceti are old friends, familiar faces about whom one might comment favourably when it turns out, for example, that they are orbited by a pair of brown dwarfs or feature an unusually well-stocked Oort cloud. “What splendid asteroid belts Epsilon Eridani has,” one might observe loudly, in the confident tone of a person who never has any trouble finding a seat by themselves on the bus.

In fiction, Procyon is home to L. Sprague de Camp’s Osiris, Larry Niven’s We Made It, and Gordon R. Dickson’s Mara and Kultis, to name just a few planets. Regrettably, Procyon A should never ever have been tagged as “possesses potentially habitable worlds.” Two reasons: solar orbits and Procyon B’s DA classification.

(14) THE LATE MR. ELLISON. Mark Evanier tells “A Harlan Ellison Story” at News From Me.

Now with Harlan’s passing, the Internet is filled with remembrances and honors and cyber-mourning and tributes, and in lot of them you’ll see some version of the phrase, “He inspired me to become a writer.” Harlan did a lot of that. He inspired people in other ways, as well. He occasionally inspired someone to hate Harlan Ellison but we won’t go into that here. Here, I’m celebrating him for inspiring so many people in a good way. Like I said, he was a writer who made other writers proud to be writers.

So many of us learned good, valuable things from him but a few writers I can think of learned to yell and scream about every rewrite, every note, every alteration. I can’t guarantee the following but supposedly, someone once asked Ray Bradbury if it was a wise idea for a writer to fight about each bit of interference the way Harlan did. Bradbury reportedly replied — and this sure sounds like an answer he’d give — “I don’t know if that’s okay but if you try it, check first and make sure you have the talents of a Harlan Ellison.”

…But he was late with so much of what he wrote, and I suspect…well, I know there are writers who think, “If Harlan Ellison can be weeks/months/years late, so can I.” To quote Ray Bradbury again, assuming he even said it, “I don’t know if that’s okay but if you try it, check first and make sure you have the talents of a Harlan Ellison.”

One might argue that he was not late with the Batman story he promised in 1971 to write for Julie Schwartz since he never had a firm deadline. But it finally saw print in the October, 1986 issue of Detective Comics, fifteen years later…and eight years after Julie had stepped down as the editor of Detective Comics. Deadline or no deadline, that’s late…

And all that is just an introduction to the story Evanier promised in the title….

(15) MORE TO BE READ. Publishers Weekly lists books of interest to adult-age readers of children’s literature in the ambiguously-titled post “2018 Adult Books on Children’s Lit”:

From an analysis of the psychological impact of fairy tales to an illustrated biography of a well-known illustrator and a book about the landscape that inspired Anne of Green Gables, there’s plenty to inform and inspire adult readers of children’s books.

What are we talking about? Here are three of the titles on the list:

Astrid Lindgren: War Diaries 1939–1945

By Astrid Lindgren, translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death (Feb. 27, Yale, $20 paper, ISBN 978-0-300-23456-5).

Originally released in hardcover in 2016, the wartime diaries of the author of Pippi Longstocking are now in paperback.

Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling

By Philip Pullman (Sept. 18, Knopf, $30 ISBN 978-0-525-52117-4).

The author of the His Dark Materials series shares the secrets behind how he writes his influential novels.

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

By Anne Boyd Rioux (Aug. 28, Norton, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-393-25473-0).

In time for the 150th anniversary of the story of four American sisters, Rioux, a professor of gender studies, explores the impact the novel has had through its depiction of female growth.

(16) CALL GOES OUT. Manifold Press is relaunching and Managing Editor Farah Mendlesohn wants to spread the word.

As from today, we are delighted to announce that after a period of reorganisation, Manifold Press will relaunch on the 1st January 2019.

Please note: we are revamping our web pages so none of the menu links work. That will change bit by bit over August.  We’ll announce on the blog and on twitter and fb etc as we create new pages.

At our AGM in July we bade a fond farewell to Julie Bozza who is heading back to Australia; Fiona stood down as Managing Editor after 9 years with the press.

The new Board consists of Farah Mendlesohn (Managing Editor), Sandra Lindsey, Fiona Pickles and Aleksandr Voinov. We are actively recruiting others.

We have opened a new call for submissions.

(17) DO YOU GROWL WHEN YOU’RE PLEASED? The BBC story “The complicated truth about a cat’s purr” notes that cat research lags behind the study of dogs because dogs are more willing subjects….

Part of the mystery around the purr is that we often only notice cats purring “when we tickle them in places that they like to be tickled”, says Debevere. Yet they also purr when we’re not around, and the extent of that purring varies between individuals. “All cats are different, some never purr and some will purr constantly,” she says. She draws the comparison between her cat Luigi – a stray who followed someone in to their office and was subsequently taken to a shelter – and Archie, who “moved in from next door” and became part of the family. Luigi purrs little, and Archie a lot.

“I’ve photographed more than 3,000 cats so far [at shelters] and no two are the same,” Debevere says. “I’ve witnessed a lot of cats purring when they’re dying, and when they’re being put to sleep. The vet will say something like ‘They were purring right up until the end’, and people assume they’re happy when they’re purring. That’s just not always the case.”

(18) UH-OH. Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post report that the James Webb Space Telescope, which has already cost $7,6 billion, will have its launch delayed until 2021 because of screws that fell off of the sun shield during a test, leaving critics to argue that the telescope could be “too big to fail and too complicated to work.” “NASA’s next great space telescope is stuck on Earth after screwy errors”.

The Webb’s problems have rattled many powerful constituencies. NASA is embarrassed and dismayed by the human errors that have snarled its biggest robotic science project, which was identified by the astronomy community back in 2000 as its top priority.

(19) NOT THE SAME SHAPE. Judge dismisses The Shape of Water copyright suit – the BBC has the story.

The plot of Oscar-winning fantasy film The Shape of Water was not copied from a 1969 play, a US judge has ruled.

Judge Percy Anderson has dismissed a legal action that claimed Guillermo del Toro’s film copied the story of Let Me Hear You Whisper by Paul Zindel.

The late playwright’s son sued del Toro, the Fox Searchlight studio and others in February, claiming the two works were “in many ways identical”.

In his ruling, however, the judge said they only shared “a basic premise”.

(20) THE STARS THEIR DESTINATION. Something people of the future will be running into: “Japanese firm to launch wedding plaques into space”.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the Warpspace start-up in the city of Tsukuba is working with Kibo, Japan’s orbital science module, to launch wedding plaques from the International Space Station.

The company, which is largely staffed by faculty members from the University of Tsubuka, says that it will engrave couples’ names, messages, and other information on titanium plaques, measuring some 16 millimetres by eight millimetres.

The plaques will then be loaded onto miniature cubic satellites, which can hold several hundred plaques, and be released into orbit. They will join the tens of thousands of satellites, man-made objects and space junk already orbiting the Earth.

(21) BATMAN’S AMBITION. On the Conan O’Brien show, “Batman Wants To Join The Marvel Universe.”

Batman is sick of the perpetually rainy and depressing DC Universe; he’d rather have a seat at the Avengers’ table.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, James Davis Nicoll, Julie Dillon, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anthony.]

Full of Quotations

By John Hertz:  I’m not sure if it’s a classic of science fiction.  But it reminds me of the fellow (in 1875?) who said Shakespeare was full of quotations.

By the time I got to Stephen Vincent Benét’s “By the Waters of Babylon” (1937) I’d read a lot of post-apocalypse stories.  The title recalls one I think is among the best, Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959).

“By the Waters” has Dead Places which are forbidden and a religion of caretakers.  Its boy narrator coming of age finds on a journey a lost place of great riches.  The god who lived there must have been a powerful god.

There was a shattered image of white stone, a man or a god who wore his hair tied back and whose name, on the cracked half of a stone, was ASHING.  You can supply W and TON and so could I.

The boy wants to tell everyone but his father, a priest, says “Truth is a hard deer to hunt.  If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth.”  Perhaps, thinks his son, in the old days people ate knowledge too fast.

Look at the date.  Benét’s story came two years before the Einstein-Szilárd letter, a year before the Hahn-Strassman-Meitner-Frisch discovery of nuclear fission; four years before Heinlein’s “Solution Unsatisfactory”, seven before Cartmill’s “Deadline”.

Scholarship says, as I understand, that Benét was probably moved by the bombing of Guernica, 26 Apr 37.  Picasso finished his painting in June.

“I like the Carpenter best,” said Alice, “if he didn’t eat so many oysters as the Walrus.”  “But he ate as many as he could get,” said Tweedledum.

We’ve anthologized “By the Waters” repeatedly over the years, starting with Wollheim’s pioneering Pocket Book of Science Fiction (1943).

Benét was a fine and maybe a great poet.  During his life he was better known than T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens.

Some prose is poetry.

Some Thoughts on Who Was Really #1

By Rich Lynch: It was 80 years ago that an extraordinary event took place.

It happened on January 3, 1937, in the English city of Leeds.  It was there that a group of science fiction fans gathered for what has been described as the first-ever science fiction convention.

Walter Gillings, Arthur Clarke, and Ted Carnell
at the 1937 Leeds convention.

What records remain of the event indicate there were fourteen people in attendance, several of whom would go on to become luminaries of the science fiction literary genre: Ted Carnell, Walter Gillings, Eric Frank Russell, and Arthur C. Clarke.  It was a single-day conference, hosted by the Leeds branch of the newly-formed world-wide Science Fiction League of fan organizations.  The day featured speeches and testimonials on various topics related to science fiction and after that, group discussions on “ways and means of improving British science fiction” according to a one-off fanzine published soon afterwards which reported on the proceedings.  What resulted was the formation of the Science Fiction Association, a proto-British fan organization centered around the “four Hells” fan clubs in Leeds, Liverpool, London, and Leicester.  It only lasted about two years, due to the onset of the Second World War, but it did set the stage for a permanent organization, the British Science Fiction Association, which eventually came into existence in the 1950s.

That 1937 convention was truly a seminal event, and it helped pave the way toward the promulgation of science fiction fandom throughout the United Kingdom.  But was it really the first science fiction convention?

Maybe not.

Donald Wollheim, Milton Rothman, Fred Pohl, John Michel, and Will Sykora at the
1936 Philadelphia convention.

On October, 22, 1936, about half a dozen fans from New York City traveled by train to Philadelphia, where they convened for several hours at the home of one of the fans there.  In all, there were a similar number of fans brought together as for the Leeds convention.  What made it a convention, in the minds of its attendees, was that a business meeting was held with the host, Milton Rothman, being elected Chairman.  Fred Pohl, who had been designated the Secretary, took the minutes and then subsequently lost them.  But Pohl later stated that no recordable business had been brought up because the event had only been informal in nature, with fans talking to fans about things like which books they had recently read, which authors they liked, and what they hoped these authors would write next.  The most significant outcome was that everyone had such a good time that a follow-up event was held in New York in February 1937 with about 40 fans attending.  This created the momentum for an even bigger event, a bit more than two years later which was held in New York on July 4, 1939 – the first World Science Fiction Convention.

Those first two fan gatherings have been a source of continuing controversy ever since then.  Which one was really #1?  The Leeds convention was the better planned of the two, with groundwork laid for the event several months earlier – the Philadelphia convention was, according to accounts from several fans attended it, mostly spur-of-the-moment with little advance preparation.  There has been speculation that the only reason that the Philadelphia event occurred at all was because of one-upsmanship.  The idea for that gathering was originally put forth by New York fan Don Wollheim, who back then had gained the reputation for being quarrelsome, antagonistic, and more than a bit provocative.  It’s very possible, even likely, that he knew of the upcoming Leeds event, which had been talked up not only throughout Britain but also in some U.S. prozines.  So, supposing the underlying reason for the Philadelphia meet-up was really only to sabotage any Leeds stake to being the first science fiction convention, should that disqualify Philadelphia’s claim for that distinction?

No, that’s insufficient.  There have been other conventions that have been organized on little more than a moment’s notice and in any event, overall intent is irrelevant – you can hold a convention for any purpose you want.  A much better reason for possibly honoring Leeds as #1 is that the Philadelphia event was an invitational gathering not open to the general public, with only the New York and Philadelphia fan clubs involved.  But this, too, does not hold very much water as there have subsequently been other, in effect, invitation-only conventions, including the very first DeepSouthCon.  And one other criticism of the Philadelphia event’s claim for being #1 is that there was “no recordable business”, very little reportage after the fact, and indeed, not even a program.  But this is the weakest argument of all, and one only has to point toward the annual Midwestcon conventions, which also have none of these, as a refutation.

And so the controversy has lingered for all this time.  The 1936 Philadelphia event was first chronologically, but was it a convention or just a meeting?  In the end there probably will never be a consensus – after eight decades this is still perhaps the most polarizing topic in all of science fiction fandom, at least from a historical perspective, and people will believe what they want to believe.  But there have at least been attempts at finding some middle ground.  Noted fan historian Mark Olson, in Fancyclopedia 3, has suggested that: “Perhaps it would be fairest to say that the first thing that could be called a convention was held in Philadelphia in 1936, while the first thing that must be called a convention was held in Leeds in 1937.”  And he’s right.

But as for me, I think we are asking the wrong question.  What we instead should be inquiring is: “Who first came up with the idea for staging a science fiction convention?”  That’s really the more important aspect, and the Leeds group was first.  There’s serendipity that they held their event at the Leeds Theosophical Society – the word ‘theosophy’ parses to ‘divine wisdom’, which is an apt description of the concept for the science fiction convention.  And of that, at least, we can be absolutely certain!

2016 Wollheim Scholarship Winners

Elsie and Don Wollheim. Photo taken and (c) by Andrew Porter. Used by permission.

Elsie and Don Wollheim. Photo taken and (c) by Andrew Porter. Used by permission.

The New York Science Fiction Society (Lunarians) has announced two writers have won 2016 Donald A. & Elsie B. Wollheim Memorial Scholarships.

Taimur Ahmad of New York, New York received a Scholarship to attend the 2016 Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, Washington.

Matthew Dunn of Stewart Manor, New York was given a Scholarship to attend the 2016 Odyssey Writing Workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Both scholarships are in the amount of $300.

The Scholarship Fund, created in 1989, was renamed in 1991 to commemorate Donald A. Wollheim, legendary sf fan, writer, editor and publisher of DAW Books. The Fund was renamed in 1996 after the passing of DAW Books co-founder Elsie B. Wollheim.

The fund aids students from the Greater New York Metropolitan Area who want to participate in writers workshops such as Clarion, Clarion West and Odyssey.

Much of the money for the fund is raised each year at Lunacon, when books and other materials donated to the Convention Book Exhibit are raffled. Donations are also accepted.

The New York Science Fiction Society – the Lunarians (2), Inc. is a New York State Not for Profit corporation and has applied for recognition under IRS section 501(c)(3).

2015 Wollheim Scholarship Winner

Elsie and Don Wollheim. Photo taken and (c) by Andrew Porter. Used by permission.

Elsie and Don Wollheim. Photo taken and (c) by Andrew Porter. Used by permission.

The New York Science Fiction Society (Lunarians) will provide a grant from its Donald A. and Elsie B. Wollheim Scholarship Fund to Julia Wetherell of Brooklyn, New York to help her attend the 2015 Clarion West Writers Workshop.

The fund aids students from the Greater New York Metropolitan Area who want to participate in such writers workshops as Clarion, Clarion West and Odyssey. It is named in honor of the Wollheims, longtime supporters of Lunarians and Lunacon, and founders of DAW Books.

Much of the money for the fund is raised each year at Lunacon, when books and other materials donated to the Convention Book Exhibit are raffled off to attendees who purchase raffle tickets. Donations are also accepted.

He Was the Dean

Promotional copy for the new Murray Leinster biography says he was known as “The Dean of Science Fiction.”

I should not have been surprised: I read this in Sam Moskowitz’ Explorers of the Infinite: Shapers of Science Fiction way back in the Seventies. However, I’d managed to forget it since. Or possibly repressed it, because as a young fan my fannish loyalties were to that rival claimant of the title: Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein acquired the title “Dean of Science Fiction” sometime around 1960, says J. Daniel Gifford in Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion.

How? Thomas Clareson suggests in his essay for Voices for the Future (1976) that whoever wrote the jacket copy on his books was responsible:

Today Heinlein is known to many, thanks to paperback advertising techniques at least, as the “Dean” of science fiction writers, not so much because of his length of service as because of his relationship to the corporate body of science fiction.

Certainly a book cover was the first place I saw Heinlein called “Dean.” On the other hand, Leinster was called “Dean” in 1949 by no less an authority than Time Magazine

In the U.S., Will F. Jenkins, a 27-year veteran, who also writes under the pen name of Murray Leinster, is regarded as the dean of writers in the field.

Leinster was rather humble about the whole thing. In his introduction to Great Stories of Science Fiction (1951) he explained that he was sometimes called “’Dean’ of science fiction writers by virtue of my having outlived a number of better men. This wholly accidental distinction is perhaps the reason I was given the opportunity to compile this book.”

And as Leinster makes clear, the term “Dean” was primarily associated with seniority, length of service in the sf field. Lester Del Rey in The World of Science Fiction, a survey of the genre published in 1980, echoed the choice of Leinster:

…Murray Leinster, whose work remained popular in science fiction for more than fifty years and who was rightly named “the Dean of science fiction writers.”

I don’t know whether Heinlein liked being called “Dean” or thought it mattered at all. Maybe Bill Patterson can answer this in a later volume of his Heinlein bio. From a fan’s viewpoint I thought the name suited RAH because so many of his stories involved mentoring, the acquiring of self-discipline, or were delivered in the voice of a respected elder who has things to say about life, like Lazarus Long.

After Leinster died in 1975 some of the writers who acknowledged him as the “Dean” thought the title deserved to be perpetuated, which meant picking a successor. Isaac Asimov made it clear he preferred length of service as the criterion for naming someone the “Dean.” In his 1979 essay for IASFM “The Dean of Science Fiction,” Heinlein was not a finalist. Asimov listed Jack Williamson, Clifford D. Simak, L. Sprague de Camp and Lester Del Rey. And just a few years later – even while all four were still alive – Asimov seemed to have narrowed his list to two, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Both Simak and Heinlein died in 1988. Del Rey died in 1993. De Camp died in 2000.

Williamson seems to have been the writer most people felt comfortable calling the “Dean” in later years. Several of his peers labeled him by some version of the title both before and after Heinlein died. Interestingly, when Algis Budrys dubbed Williamson the “Dean of Science Fiction” in a 1985 essay for The Science Fiction Yearbook the usage even passed muster with the volume’s editor, Jerry Pournelle, a good friend of Heinlein’s. Williamson lived on until 2006, continuing to produce, his last novel The Stonehenge Gate published just the year before he died.

Some others regarded Arthur C. Clarke as the true heir to the title. Gerald K. O’Neill in The High Frontier (1989) called Clarke the dean of science fiction, and so did a contributor to a 1989 volume of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Clarke passed away in 2008.

People outside the field have always bandied the title about – Ray Bradbury was called the Dean on a TV show in the Sixties. Now he practically qualifies, though not quite – I imagine Fred Pohl has the edge in years as a professional writer.

Other specialties in the science fiction field have their “Deans.” Google tells me Frank Kelly Freas was called the “dean of science fiction artists,” though I must say I managed to go my entire time in fandom up to today without ever hearing him called that.

The New York Times once referred to Donald Wollheim as the “Dean” of science fiction editors, according to a 1981 article in The Bloomsbury Review.  Campbell had been so-called at least as early as 1947 — in Samuel Stephenson Smith’s How to Double Your Vocabulary, of all places — but he’d been dead almost ten years before The Bloomsbury Review took up the subject.

And let’s not forget that in Ann Arbor in 1975, Dean McLaughlin, author of “Hawk Among the Sparrows,” was who trufans called “Dean of Science Fiction.”

Of course, many will have become aware that no woman author’s name has been mentioned at any point, even in touching on the most recent decade. Ursula K. LeGuin regularly offers wisdom about topical issues in the field, and until death ended her long career Andre Norton was respected and influential, so there are women who might have been nominated to the role. However, I suspect the whole notion of a “Dean of Science Fiction,” which was never more than of anecdotal significance, is fading from fannish awareness too rapidly for a real sense of injustice to take hold.

[Thanks to John Lorentz, Google Ngram and Steven H Silver’s SF Site for help with this story.]