2018 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

Frank M. Robinson is the winner of the 2018 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award announced at Readercon on July 13.

The juried award goes each year to a science fiction or fantasy writer whose work displays unusual originality, embodies the spirit of Cordwainer Smith’s fiction, and deserves renewed attention or “Rediscovery.”

The award judges are Elizabeth Hand, Barry Malzberg, Mike Resnick, and Robert J. Sawyer.

Frank M. Robinson

Frank M. Robinson died in 2014. Among his many novels, Robinson considered The Dark Beyond The Stars his best but said Waiting was the most popular. Several were made into movies: The Power, which starred George Hamilton and Michael Rennie, and two collaborations with Thomas N. Scortia, The Glass Inferno, produced as The Towering Inferno and starring everyone in Hollywood from Paul Newman to O.J. Simpson, and The Gold Crew, retitled The Fifth Missile for the screen.

He authored several coffee-table volumes including Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazines and the Hugo Award-winning Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century: An Illustrated History.

Robinson received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 2001, and was voted First Fandom’s Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in science fiction collecting in 2008. When he auctioned off his cherished pulp magazine collection in 2012 it fetched over a half million dollars.

See his entry in the Encylopedia of Science Fiction here.

[Thanks to Robert J. Sawyer for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/17 And With Strange Pixels Even Scrolls May File

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. Smofcon, the con for conrunners has convened in Boston.

  • John Scalzi is there to share what pros expect from conventions.

  • Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories is on hand, too.

The convention is well attended for Smofcons, registration and hospitality were working efficiently the last time I passed through and many interesting conversations have been heard and overheard.

  • An issue of Journey Planet with a con programming theme has been released in time for Smofcon.

  • Jeeze, I played the inaugural version of this game in 1987.

  • Richard Gadsden’s additions to the “Fannish Inquisition” questionnaire are inspired by the virtual wall of TSA.

(2) JUMP IN. Charles Payseur shares his experience and advice to encourage the growth of a deeper and more diverse field of sff short fiction reviewers. “So You Want To Be A Short SFF Reviewer?” at Quick Sip Reviews.

Hi. My name is Charles Payseur and I began reviewing short SFF in early 2014 for Tangent Online, with Dave Truesdale as my guide and mentor. If you shuddered just a bit there, I’m sorry. But imagine, little baby queer me, just getting into the field in my mid 20s, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. And running into that. I’ve had an Education. One that’s been somewhat dearly bought, but here I am, closing in on four years later.

Short SFF is a field dominated by broken stairs and strange pitfalls. What’s more, it seems to attract some (fairly loud) people who really like to make objective statements of merit with regards to stories and are absolute shit at admitting when they’re in the wrong while simultaneously being wrong fairly frequently and jerks generally. It’s a field that chews and spits out a great many excellent reviewers while seeming to find time to praise and promote the most toxic and insensitive. It’s often tiring, draining, and infuriating. But it’s also kind of amazing. Welcome!

My general goal in this is just to give something of a guide for people wanting to get started in short SFF reviewing. Because the field needs more and more diverse voices if it’s to self-govern away from the most toxic examples of short SFF reviewer. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but I’ve left my contact info toward the bottom if you have any more questions. So yeah, let’s get started!

(3) GOOD TO GO. NASA will be able to keep the mission going awhile longer: “Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years”.

If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or “puffs,” lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.

…Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called “attitude control thrusters,” have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy….

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly — and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

(4) MAKE IT SO. Food & Wine reports “New ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Holiday-Themed Beer Getting National Release”.

Courtesy of New York’s Shmaltz Brewing Company comes Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th Anniversary Ale – Captain’s Holiday. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but this beer is trying to cover a lot of bases. Not only is this tropically-tinged beer brewed with natural citrus flavors intended as a holiday release, this “Collector’s Edition” product is also meant to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation which first aired back in 1987. As such, the name “Captain’s Holiday” actually comes from the title of an episode of that series in which “the crew convinces Captain Picard to take a much-needed vacation on the pleasure planet Risa” (of course).

(5) MYTHLORE AT 50. Help the Mythopoeic Society pick what belongs in the collection — “Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years”.

IN 2018 WE CELEBRATE THE FOUNDING OF MYTHLORE, the scholarly journal of the Mythopoeic Society, which published its first issue in January 1969. Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years will collect and reprint the very best articles, artwork, reviews, letters, and creative work, all nominated by readers, along with commentary about the journal’s founding and history, and will be published in time for Mythcon 49.

(6) A GRATEFUL WILLIS. In Connie Willis’ “Thanks on Thanksgiving” post she remembers three people who had a big influence on her.

  1. My eighth-grade teacher, whose name I do remember.

Mrs. Werner was my home-room teacher, and every day after lunch she read aloud to us, one of which was Rumer Godden’s AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS.  This is NOT a children’s book, even though its heroine, Lovejoy, was ten years old.  She was also a thief.  She lived in post-war London, and when she decided she wanted to build a garden in the rubble of a bombed-out church, she not only shoplifted seeds and a trowel, but recruited other kids to steal for her.  She was also thoroughly unpleasant.  Not without reason.  She had a slutty mother with an assortment of nasty boyfriends and was often left with strangers for months at a time.  As I say, not a book for junior-high-schoolers.

I have no idea what anybody else in the class thought about the book, but I loved it AND Lovejoy.  It was my first introduction to Rumer Godden, who I fell in love with, especially her novel about grief, IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE.  It was also my first introduction  to how you can take a classic and update it (AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS is actually Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN retold.)

And it was my first introduction to the Blitz, planting a seed which blossomed when I went to St. Paul’s years later and fell in love with the fire watch and the history of London during the war–which had a HUGE impact on my life.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek appeared in the funny papers with a daily comic strip.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston – your choice, My Favorite Martian, or the Devil in Damn Yankees.

(9) CLASSIC MACHADO. Jane Dykema, in “What I Don’t Tell My Students About ‘The Husband Stitch’” at Electric Lit, says, “The first story in Carmen Maria Machado’s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ brings up big questions about who we believe and why.”

I was first introduced to the husband stitch in 2014, when a friend in medical school told me about a birth her classmate observed. After the baby was delivered, the doctor said to the woman’s husband, “Don’t worry, I’ll sew her up nice and tight for you,” and the two men laughed while the woman lay between them, covered in her own and her baby’s blood and feces. The story terrified me, the laughter in particular, signaling some understanding of wrongdoing, some sheepishness in doing it anyway. The helplessness of the woman, her body being altered without her consent by two people she has to trust: her partner, her doctor. The details of the third-hand account imprinted into my memory so vividly that the memory of the story feels now almost like my own memory. Later that year, Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” was published, and sometime after that, I read it, and the details of Machado’s scene were so similar, down to the laughter, down to the words “don’t worry” (though in Machado’s story they’re directed at the woman), that I’m not sure now what I remember and what I read.

(10) ELEMENTARY. “The Serial-Killer Detector” in The New Yorker tells how A former journalist, equipped with an algorithm and the largest collection of murder records in the country, finds patterns in crime.

Hargrove created the code, which operates as a simple algorithm, in 2010, when he was a reporter for the now defunct Scripps Howard news service. The algorithm forms the basis of the Murder Accountability Project (MAP), a nonprofit that consists of Hargrove—who is retired—a database, a Web site, and a board of nine members, who include former detectives, homicide scholars, and a forensic psychiatrist. By a process of data aggregating, the algorithm gathers killings that are related by method, place, and time, and by the victim’s sex. It also considers whether the rate of unsolved murders in a city is notable, since an uncaught serial killer upends a police department’s percentages. Statistically, a town with a serial killer in its midst looks lawless….

(11) HEAD ‘EM OFF AT THE PASS. Sounds like a Kage Baker story. The Pharaoh’s city from The Ten Commandments is still under the sand south of San Francisco: “Sphinx head discovered beneath sands of California blows dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history”.

The head of a sphinx uncovered from beneath the sand dunes of California has blown the dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history.

The perfectly intact 300-pound plaster head was unearthed by archaeologists excavating the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s 95-year-old movie set for The Ten Commandments.

The piece, buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, is unlike anything found on previous digs, said Doug Jenzen, Executive Director of the Dunes Center.

“The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact.

 

(12) BABELFISH.  The BBC tells about “The translator that sits in your ear”.
So how does the Pilot earpiece work? It uses a sophisticated microphone array along with noise-cancelling algorithms to listen to spoken words from and around the user.

“Those words are passed to the cloud where it is processed through speech recognition, machine translation, and speech synthesis, before it is sent back to the user and anyone else whose Pilot earpiece is synced into the conversation,” explains Ochoa. “This happens within minimal delay, usually in milliseconds.”

There are a number of competitors hot on the heels of the Pilot, including Clik, Skype, and Google, which last month launched its Pixel Buds, complete with the ability to translate in real time between 40 languages. The Pilor earpiece currently works with 15 languages, but can be ugraded to translate more. But with its head start, and now its prestigious nomination, the Pilot may be a step ahead.

(13) FAKE GUARDIAN. Someone’s trying to act like the actor: “Chris Pratt alerts fans to ‘pervy imposter'”.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt has taken to social media to alert his fans to a “pervy dude” who has been allegedly impersonating him online.

“Somebody is trying to pretend to be me on Facebook,” he wrote on Instagram.

The US actor claimed the “imposter” had been “apparently hitting on a lot of different female fans, trying to get their numbers and who knows what else.”

“I find this behaviour reprehensible,” he continued. “If I find out who it is I’ll have their account shut down.”

(14) MEGAFAME. I read both authors, but it felt surreal to see Lee Child and N.K. Jemisin sharing the marquee in the same article.

(15) A WARNING TO PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE.

(16) GREAT COLLECTION. John O’Neill is “Remembering Frank M. Robinson’s Legendary Pulp Collection” at Black Gate.

A complete collection of Weird Tales is a towering achievement. Weird Tales, which had chronically poor circulation, is one of the most sought-after pulps on the market, as it was the most important home of the most significant pulp writers of early fantasy, including H.P Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many, many others. Copies in good condition typically go for several hundred dollars each, and early issues for significantly more than that….

The 1970s might have been the last time it was possible to compile a collection like this, at least for any kind of reasonable sum. His entire collection was auctioned off while Frank was still alive by John Gunnison at Adventure House, and netted a total well north of a million dollars.

(17) ALL WET. Den of Geek goes “Diving Into The Shape of Water with Michael Shannon”, an actor who will also be in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451.

Den of Geek: Have you and Guillermo ever talked about working together before?

Michael Shannon: No, this was totally out of the blue. I didn’t know Guillermo. I was out here doing something silly, I don’t know. Maybe I was out for the indie film Spirit Awards or something and my agent said, “Guillermo del Toro wants to have lunch with you while you’re in town this weekend.” I said okay. So he came to my hotel and we sat at this table out back, and he just laid it all out. Said, “I’ve been writing this movie for a long time. I’ve been writing it with particular people in mind, and you’re one of those people. Are you interested?” And I said okay. That was it. It’s an astonishingly simple and concise story.

He said he wrote Strickland with your voice in his head. So when you got to read the character, what struck you about the character?

I thought it was funny. I thought it was a funny character. I saw a lot of humor in it. I liked the opportunity to play some uptight, confused government agent guy. I mean he’s kind of a train wreck inside, but he’s presenting this exterior of authority and competency, which is a total fabrication at the end of the day.

(18) DON’T BE SHY. In 1962 some authors didn’t want to be known for writing sf. Not much different from 2017, eh? Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf gives a rundown on the situation of half a century ago: “[DECEMBER 2, 1962] THEY CAME FROM THE MAINSTREAM (SF BOOKS NOT PUBLISHED AS SF)”.

Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabakov, best known for his controversial novel Lolita (toned down somewhat in this year’s film adaptation), creates a very unusual structure in his new book, Pale Fire.  It consists of a poem of 999 lines by an imaginary poet, followed by footnotes written by an equally fictional critic.  Read together, the poem and footnotes come together to form a plot of impersonation, exile, and murder.  What makes this a work of science fiction is the fact that it takes place in a world different from our own.  The story deals with the deposed king of the European nation of Zembla.  It takes place in an alternate version of the USA, which contains the states of Appalachia and Utana.

(19) CUISINE OF THE FUTURE. Sometimes that future doesn’t seem very far away.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Memoir About Frank Robinson, Pulp Collector

Walker Martin has written an excellent reminiscence of Frank Robinson, friendly pulp collector at Mystery File.

Great collectors compile great collections not just by buying them but also by helping other collectors. I’ve run into this a hundred times with old-time collectors over the years. Here are some examples where Frank attempted to help me with my collection:

1. During our correspondence, Frank asked me for my want list. At the time I was collecting just about every major pulp title except for the love, sport, and aviation/war magazines. Therefore it was several pages long and handwritten. He found several of my wants and we traded back and forth. A couple months later, I received in the mail a neatly typed manuscript. It was my handwritten want list that Frank had typed and without errors. It must have taken him hours to do it.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the link.]

Frank M. Robinson (1926-2014)

Frank M. Robinson

Frank M. Robinson

Frank M. Robinson, best-selling fiction author, editor, collector and sf historian died June 30 reports SF Site News. He was 87. His health was known to be in decline, as he had been unable to participate in person as Special Guest at last month’s SFWA Nebula Weekend.

Among his many novels, Robinson considered The Dark Beyond The Stars his best but said Waiting was the most popular. Several were made into movies: The Power, which starred George Hamilton and Michael Rennie, and two collaborations with Thomas N. Scortia, The Glass Inferno, produced as The Towering Inferno and starring everyone in Hollywood from Paul Newman to O.J. Simpson, and The Gold Crew, retitled The Fifth Missile for the screen.

Robinson received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 2001, and was voted First Fandom’s Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in science fiction collecting in 2008. When he auctioned off his cherished pulp magazine collection in 2012 it fetched over a half million dollars.

He was an editor for Family Weekly, Science Digest, Rogue, Cavalier, Playboy (where he was responsible for “The Playboy Advisor”) and Censorship Today.

He authored several coffee-table volumes including Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazines and the Hugo Award-winning Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century: An Illustrated History.

Robinson served as a Navy radar technician in World War II. After receiving his discharge he took a degree in Physics at Beloit College. He rejoined the Navy during the Korean War.

He had a bit part in The Intruder, which starred William Shatner years before he did Star Trek. He also made a cameo appearance in the feature film, Milk, for the excellent reason that Robinson had worked as Harvey Milk’s speechwriter and was one of his closest advisers. In 1977, Milk became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.

Robinson explained that the connection happened practically by coincidence. He was in San Francisco on a writing assignment in 1973, when Milk, who owned a Castro Street camera shop, was preparing his second bid for city supervisor. Said Robinson — “I used to walk down to the Castro every morning for breakfast and pass the camera store. One day I fell into conversation with Harvey, and it came up that I was a writer. He said, ‘Hey, why don’t you be my speechwriter?’”

Something For Everyone

SFWA has found an interesting way to mark the end of a week of strife between the opponents of Political Correctness and the critics of sexism in the Bulletin.

SFWA has selected Frank Robinson, author of The Glass Inferno and the Hugo Award-winning Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century: An Illustrated History, to be a Special Guest for its Nebula 2014 Weekend in San Jose.

Robinson, on one hand, once ran Playboy’s Advisor column.

On the other, he once was Harvey Milk’s speechwriter.

Can we all just get along?

Stfnal Additions to National Film Registry

The Matrix and Rob Epstein’s documentary The Times of Harvey Milk are among 25 films being added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.

The Matrix (1999) is well-known both for its science fiction story line and for innovative filmmaking techniques such as the multi-camera setup that dramatically displayed Neo dodging bullets.

The Harvey Milk documentary’s genre connection is indirect – sf author Frank Robinson was Milk’s speechwriter and one of his closest advisers. I don’t know whether Robinson is present in the background of any of the news footage utilized by the Epstein documentary. Robinson did have a cameo appearance in the feature film, Milk.

Since 1989 the National Film Registry has been selecting moving images that it considers important enough to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of the nation’s permanent visual record.

Robinson Auction Sales Released

The first of twelve lots from the collection of Frank Robinson was auctioned last week by Adventure House and the results have been posted. I copied the web pages into a spreadsheet and the sales displayed online added up to $577,606.50.

A complete run of Weird Tales, labeled the “crown jewel of Frank Robinson’s collection,” 366 pieces, fetched $250,000.

Other sales in the upper limits of the stratosphere were:

Doc Savage, complete set –$50,000
The Blue Book Magazine, a nearly complete run, 593 pieces –$48,000
Adventure, complete set, 753 pieces –$40,000
Amazing Stories, a nearly complete run through 1998, 594 pieces — $40,000
Astounding, a full run (pulp, large size, and digest) –$30,000
Planet Stories, complete set, 71 pieces — $14,000
The Mysterious Wu Fang, complete set, 7 pieces — $9,400
Wonder Stories, 68 issues — $8,000
Thrilling Wonder Stories, complete run, 111 pieces — $6,650
Startling Stories, complete run, 99 issues –$4,750
Fantastic Adventures, complete run, 129 pieces — $3,500
Air Wonder Stories, 11 issues — $3,000

While a lot of the sales have eye-catching totals they didn’t always amount to much per-issue. After the run of Wu Fang, among the most valuable individual items were the 2 issues of Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories (a complete run), commanding a price together of $2,200.

Because I used to collect bedsheet Astoundings I was interested that a set of 25 brought $300. I suspect that with inflation factored in it’s really no more than I was buying them for in the Seventies.

Likewise charter subscribers to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine will be disappointed that a nearly complete run through 1999, 229 issues, sold for a grand total of $1,000. If you were holding these for investment, now would be a good time to clear that space on your bookshelves.

While only an experienced pulp collector would be able to spot the genuine missed values, as a layman I was surprised by some results among the British prozines. The first 21 issues of New Worlds went for just $400. Several other lots of New Worlds received no bid at all. The 54 issues from the Sixties sold for only $425. Going unsold were 39 copies of Nebula Science Fiction, a British prozine of the Fifties, noted as the first to publish Robert Silverberg and Brian Aldiss, and also ran a book review column by Ken Slater. So I must be naïve to expect historicity to translate to higher prices.

First Robinson Pulp Auction

The first lot to go under the hammer in the auction of Frank M. Robinson’s pulp collection fetched $250,000 reports John King Tarpinian. (Eventually the official take will be posted here.)

Tarpinian also heard Robinson was offered $100,000 for the lot before the auction started.

The second of 12 lots is scheduled to be auctioned on March 9.

Update 03/01/2012: Participants in the auction dispute the figure reported here, saying it was actually much higher. Well, if there had to be a mistake I’m glad the correction means Frank Robinson realized even more from the first lot auctioned from his collection. I will be watching for the results to be posted as promised by the official web page.

Delivering Milk

Milk is on the way, and longtime fan Earl Kemp says be sure to notice — “I’m part of the wallpaper in many scenes. Please applaud loudly when you see the guy in the very loud, 1979 three piece plaid suit.”

Kemp also points fans to the Chicago Reader’s article publicizing the movie — it focuses on sf writer Frank Robinson and is subtitled “How local sci-fi writer Frank Robinson went from The Towering Inferno to the ‘hope speech’.”

Robinson, a Chicago native, was Milk’s speechwriter and one of his closest advisers. A writing job took him to San Francisco in 1973, just as Milk, a New York transplant with a Castro Street camera shop, was gearing up for his second bid for city supervisor. “I used to walk down to the Castro every morning for breakfast and pass the camera store,” Robinson recalls. “One day I fell into conversation with Harvey, and it came up that I was a writer. He said, ‘Hey, why don’t you be my speechwriter?'”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]