Retro-Hugos: The Past and Future of Passed Future Nostalgia

By Hampus Eckerman: When I was a kid, I learned to read early or to be more truthful, was taught to read early. When my brother started school, two years earlier than me, he taught me how to read at the same time and thus I soon spent the time reading through all the books that existed in the house.

My own books were of course not enough, there was a limit to how many books you could buy a child who could read 5-6 books a week (more during holidays). Soon I trawled through all my parents old books from their childhoods, the good stuff they had chosen to save. After that it was the closest library, then the libraries in nearby areas. After that it was my parents’ libraries and it was there I found it. My father’s collection of Science Fiction.

Many here would recognize it, even if most of it was in Swedish. There was Heinlein, Asimov, Simak, Sheckley, Bradbury, Le Guin and more. It was a full collection of the Swedish Science Fiction magazines Häpna! and Galaxy. To put it more succinctly: There was lot of the stuff that are celebrated in the Retro-Hugos. And I read it all.

The Retro-Hugos for me isn’t as much about the books I discovered for myself. That stuff was mostly horror, something I was the first reader of in the family. No, the Retro-Hugos is in many ways about the stuff that was discovered by my parents. The things I found in their library, in the trunks in our storage room, in the comic albums my father brought home or the books my mother gave me for Christmas. It is about the reprints of old graphic novels you could buy cheaply in secondhand comic stores. Of characters like The Shadow or Doc Savage you didn’t really know anything about apart from sudden appearances in modern comics. It is the stuff from collections of classics or The Best Of Anthologies. The stuff that was already a treasure hunt to find when I was a kid. Hunting for other people’s nostalgia.

And now mine.

* * *

There is much anger towards nostalgia nowadays. It is associated with the Sad Puppies campaign, with reactionaries, sexists and racists. With Lovecraft and Campbell. And it is not without reason. George RR Martin in many ways showed us exactly how nostalgia can be used to block the appreciation and discovery of newer works and creators when he hijacked the Hugo ceremonies to talk about people who hadn’t created much of relevance the last 50 years. The Golden Age of SF is twelve years old I’ve been told repeatedly. And George RR Martin stole the Hugo Ceremony to talk about his Golden Age, not the current one we are in. Even worse, he used it as a slap in the face towards those who rightly had complained about the racism of Campbell and about the great victory of renaming the award that had previously been used to keep on glorifying a man who still spoke in defense of the slavery.

And now that anger is directed against all nostalgia. Against the Retro-Hugos. The award should be cancelled, some say. The rules need to change, others say. The presence of nostalgia and talk about classics is hurtful by itself, says a third. And I just don’t get it.

We have already had a series of bouts where racist, sexist and hateful screeds where placed on the ordinary Hugo ballot. Of course I talk about the Sad Puppies. The solution to that was not to abandoning the Hugos. It was to No Award the racist, sexist and hateful works. It is even easier to do that with regards to the Retro-Hugos, because most of the finalists are dead anyhow, so you don’t have to care that much about someone missing out on an award. Burn the category down if you want. Even without rule changes, it would be easy to keep people like Lovecraft and Campbell away from any win. Just have some of those people now demanding the cancellation of the Retro-Hugos paying attention to what is actually among the finalists. Get the word around and vote. It works.

With a solution already in existence against bad actors or works being placed on a Hugo or Retro-Hugo ballot, it is instead time to discuss what should replace the Retro-Hugos. There are only so many years left. Soon the last Retro-Hugo has been awarded. At least in the current form.

* * *

I like the Retro-Hugos for many reasons.

  • It is the treasure hunt of searching through the internet, trying to find eligible works, see what was published what year, trying to remember old time characters and movies. Sharing the information with others, scanning material, finding archives.
  • It is a fun exercise with low stakes as most finalists are dead or well past the peak of their career. In a time where many finalists in the ordinary Hugos are active participants in social media, it is nice to have an award where there’s less chance of anger, disappointment and mistreatment regarding awards, parties or receptions.
  • It is less time-consuming (for some of us) as many of the works have been read before, where the novels are shorter and much of it can be found online.
  • It is the left field contenders appearing, such as the Little Prince or Wind On The Moon. It is the joy of sharing your favorites from your own golden age with others. Because when you were twelve, you most likely didn’t vote for the Hugos.

So how to create an award that keeps these qualities, but lessen the workload of the administrators? How to put emphasis more on the fun and enjoyment than on the worthy and winners? This is my proposal.

NO AWARD. There is no reason to hand out an award as most finalists are dead. Of course it is fun when someone actually comes to pick one up, but that is not the important thing. To paraphrase an old expression: Maybe the best award was the works we found on the way. It would save much time for administrators not to have to find out who should receive a trophy that perhaps no one would value anyhow.

CEREMONY OR NOT. Have a ceremony. If you want. Or don’t. Perhaps you can have stand-ins for the finalists on stage that get free cake and champagne if their candidate wins. Or draw one person from the audience who wins a book. Just to have someone to celebrate at or cheer for at a win, but with no nervousness as the person really didn’t have any stakes in it. Or just announce through a newsletter. I.e, let the Worldcon decide by time, effort or creativity.

FLEXIBLE CATEGORIES. In the ordinary Hugos, the current worldcon may add one category of their own. Typically used to see what new categories might be viable. I propose that the Retro-Hugos may choose exactly what categories they want. This, because the Retro-Hugos might sometime have to be run for a year where ordinary Hugos have already been handed out. For that year, the Retro-Hugos instead could run categories like.

  • Most Interesting Alien(s).
  • Best Thingamajigg.
  • Funniest work.
  • Most memorable fan moment.
  • Most surprising ending.
  • Best non-English work.

ELIGIBLE YEARS. Change so the Retro-Hugos could instead be run for any year that is 50, 75 or 100 years ago. So moving the step of nostalgia and golden age one step closer.

LONG LIST. Make the long list public directly after the the finalists have been chosen. This gives more time to discuss them and as there are lower stakes, there shouldn’t be that much drama about it. It should also make panel discussions around the Retro-Hugos be more interesting as you could talk about any work on the long list and not only the finalists, thus chosing to talk about more unexpected nominees.

***

Right now there’s 600+ persons who think the Retro-Hugos are fun enough to participate in. That shows that there is a demand for some kind of communal experience around nostalgia. But I think there is a problem in that it is easy for voting to become stagnant and less exciting over time. With less seriousness, more emphasis on the fun and with larger changes in categories, I think it will keep the exciting part of the Retro-Hugo experience.

There’s no hurry, we still have several years to go before the last missing year has been filled and the Retro-Hugos by necessity have to change form. But there’s always a good reason to have the discussion beforehand. At least to make people understand that the end of non-Hugo years must not mean an end to the Retro-Hugos. Or under whatever name the celebration of older works will exist.

Dern — File 770’s Dublin 2019 Coverage

BY DANIEL DERN: Between September 2017 and mid-July 2020 (when I very-belatedly filed my own final Dublin 2019 report), File770 had, according to my searches and calculations, roughly 90 “Scrolls” (posts) either completely about, or with “Items” (sections) relating to the August 15-19 Dublin 2019 Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention).

This included roughly thirty dedicated Scrolls with 300+ photos and roughly 12,000 words of reports (not counting comment wordage, nor this post’s) from various Filers (Chris Barkley, Cora Buhlert, yours truly, Hampus Eckerman, and Rich Lynch), some of who sported Media ribbons that gave us front-row (and line-skipping) access to events and sessions. We covered a mix of official stuff like the opening press conference, the Masquerade, panels and readings, and the Closing Ceremonies, along with pictures of fans schmoozing, wearing hall costumes, buying books, and having fun, and of and around the fair city of Dublin.

The other sixty dedicated-to-Worldcon Scrolls and non-dedicated Scrolls with one or more Worldcon-related items included everything from announcements and reminders (Hugo voting deadlines, “Program is posted!”) — of interest not only to Attending (going to/at the convention) and Supporting (can vote for Hugos) members, and to the generally-curious, along with reports regarding and from Hugo and WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) planning and meetings, along with meet-up plans, restaurant guides… and yet more reports, plus links to other reports posted to Facebook, peoples’ sites and blogs, and elsewhere. So not all might be considered “media coverage,” admittedly.

(And I’ve made some judgement calls, such as not including all of Hugo items where they weren’t also about or at the Con, and also haven’t factored comment content in.)

Here’s a list of File770’s coverage of (and from!) the Dublin 2019 Worldcon:

(If you feel I’ve omitted something that belongs, let Mike Glyer know.)

Thanks again to Mike Glyer for all the work he did getting all this into File770 — and to everybody else for there being stuff to write about, and for reading about it!

DUBLIN 2019 WORLDCON REPORTS AND PICTURES FROM FILERS:

From Chris Barkley:

From Cora Buhlert:

From Daniel Dern:

From Hampus Eckerman:

From Rich Lynch:

FULL LIST OF FILE770 DUBLIN 2019 WORLDCON COVERAGE (CHRONOLOGICALLY):

Again, if you think something’s missing, let Mike know.

Dern: My Final Report From the
Dublin 2019 Worldcon

By Daniel Dern:

AKA — Spider Sings! Timothy, Is That You? Hampus In My Mind

With just shy of fortnight to go before the CoNZealand 2020 Worldcon starts up as I dispatch this to OGH (Our Gracious Host at File 770), here’s my final report from/for the Dublin 2019 Worldcon, saving the best for last.

(1) SPIDER ROBINSON IN CONCERT! Spider Robinson was at the convention… and while he wasn’t on any panels, readings or talks (that I know of), he was listed for and did a concert.

Inaugurating File 770’s new YouTube channel is Spider Robinson, singing The Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better” — enjoy!

His set included singing some songs, reciting some lyrics/poems he had written over the years but not set to music, talking, and being joined on stage at some point by a few other musicians. (One other of my pictures from this concert was in my, cough, previous Dublin 2019 report.)

Spider sang a handful of Beatles tunes — In addition to “I Should Have Known Better,” he also did “Yesterday” and “Till There Was You” (which was from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man), and also a non-moptopper, Jake Thackray’s “Isabel Makes Love Upon National Monuments”. (See Jake’s video  here).  

His recitation/readings of things-not(yet?)-set-to-music included “When I Heard You Sing the Blues in The Dark,” “North Mountain Crazies,” and “What Lasts.”

Showing I had clearly not learned my lesson from the press conference that preceded Dublin 2019’s official opening — namely, when you’ve got a video recorder with more than enough capacity, start rolling and keep rolling (that press conference turned into a rollicking, informative discussion by the panel’s long-memory fans. Yes, Chris Garcia got audio, which he posted to Journey Planet.) Memo to future con planners – please video events like these!

Foolishly, I didn’t keep “rolling tape,” so I can’t give you Spider’s own origin story of how he got into writing science fiction, began selling to Analog, etc.

But I did record several (specifically, the songs and recitations named above), and (after searching my photos, web-sussing LinkedIn and Facebook and even here at File 770 — where I found a key breadcrumb in one of Chris Barkley’s Dublin posts,  “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask — Special Irish Worldcon Edition, Day Five” — followed by a modest email back-and forth), Spider has graciously granted permission (to post one video and also this quote): “Sure, what the hell.  Permission granted.  I’m amazed someone recorded it, and kinda look forward to seeing it.”

So, thanks, Spider, for singing and permitting! (And to Stephan and Colin for helping sort out and confirm said permission.)

(2) A FINAL PHOTO GALLERY: TIMOTHY? AND TOAST. Here are two more photos from Sunday and Monday, in no particular order:

(Fewer than I’d originally intended to include here, but I looked back and saw that several were already in my Monday, August 19, 2019 post.)

  • A White Cat (probably not Timothy) near the Convention Center:

From the Closing Ceremonies: Here’s one more picture, in addition to the ones in my previous Dublin Worldcon post:

  • A toast to all who helped:

(3) HAMPUS ON (IN) MY MIND. An item submitted to File 770 in early September 2019, which OGH suggested would be best as a comment to something. That didn’t happen, but I hung onto it. Here it is. (I’ve added some slight clarifications to my original, [in square-brackets].)

@Hampus — perhaps in part because, since we met during [this] WorldCon, I now know what you look like — you had a brief non-speaking cameo in one of my dreams a night or two ago. We were [in my dream] at some Worldcon event [in the Con’s main auditorium where the Masquerade and other events were done, in the upper level — see the room-full-of-people picture below]. You were a few rows back, I was going to go say hi, but then the event started… and then, it being a dream, cue dream equivalent of a jump cut to some other scene. But it was clearly you.

And once again, thanks to Dublin 2019 Worldcon — the committee, the staff(s), program participants, volunteers, hucksters, the good folks at the Convention Center and other venues, Dublin, and, of course, attending and supporting members.

And with that, I conclude my final final Dublin 2019 Worldcon report.

People of My Generation —
Beware The Corona Virus Like The Plague!

Introduction by Hampus Eckerman: My mother wrote an opinion piece for one of our Swedish newspapers about her bout with the corona virus.

I’m getting kind of scared for all older fans out there, in Sweden there’s a lot of older people still going outside, shopping as usual, because they feel so healthy, so this article hopefully could scare some people to be more careful.


People of My Generation – Beware The Corona Virus Like The Plague!

  • First published as an opinion piece in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, March 29, 2020.

By Ingrid Eckerman: “I’m not scared – I’m healthy!”, say people from my generation and continues to socialize.

I’m also healthy, but I got the corona anyway. I didn’t die. I didn’t have to stay in intensive care for two months. I haven’t even had a high fever. Thus, a rather mild infection.

For ten days, the temperature has fluctuated around 38 degrees Celsius (100F). I have slept around 20 hours a day. I pull myself up on the bedside, waiting for the world to stop. Need support to be able to get up, taking hold in the furniture. I walk like a cripple – the hip part of my body seems to have crumpled. After a few steps comes the breathlessness, perhaps a bout of coughing. My body has aged 20 years.

Dressing is for me a great effort that requires an immediate return to bed. With pepping and prepping, I get my body to accept some basic food, a fruit, some ice cream, for pure survival purpose.

Everything has become heavy. The laptop must be carried with two hands. How should I be able to water the flowers? Getting up from the chair requires extra effort. Hair falls off in tufts.

Now on the twelfth day I begin to see the light in the tunnel. The temperature drops slowly, I’m not as deathly tired. I have felt hunger. Managed to get through both a shower and changing the bed sheets.

But I dare not take out anything in advance. It feels like there has been a war in my body, and the battle is not over yet. There is some small virus behind the sternum waiting for a weakness in my immune system. There is a risk of setbacks.

Now comes the convalescence, the recovery, built up during quarantine to be safe and infection-free before I meet others.

I have not been this sick since I as a child had the potentially deadly diseases measles, mumps and whooping cough. Being home 1-2 weeks extra from school was a matter of course.

Convalescence meant rest and nutritious food. Today, careful rehabilitation is being added. Successfully increasing physical activity, from walking in the apartment to walking in the garden. Return to regular sleeping and meal times.

From freedom of fever, I expect at least two weeks for recovery. This means a total disease period of at least one month. It is too early to say if I am getting any residual symptoms.

Getting corona at 70+ does not mean a few days of fever and then return to healthy as usual. Even if you do not become seriously ill, the illness will take a heavy toll on your body. We have weakened immune systems compared to younger people – we cannot count on a mild illness.

Even you who believe that you are so old that it does not matter if you die you have to think carefully. You must make it clear to relatives and healthcare that you do not want to receive anything but home care – that you refrain from intensive care that allows you to survive for yet some time.

Ingrid Eckerman, 78, MD, retired General Practitioneer in Stockholm, Sweden.


Comments from Ingrid regarding the piece:

1. No, I was never tested. As I didn’t get any breathing difficulties while lying down at rest, I was recommended by the ambulance staff to stay at home. Only those who have to stay in hospitals are tested in Sweden, as the capacity isn’t high enough to test the population as a whole. But I find it hard to imagine any more likely diagnoses.

2. I know nothing about whether I get immunity. Normally, there is flu and cold viruses around us in society, and we get a boost to our resistance every now and then. It helps us to maintain immunity. But this is a new virus that my body does not recognize at all. Maybe I need to get infected several times before I have a lasting immunity.

Thanks, Hampus

by John Hertz:  I’m always glad to agree with Hampus Eckerman (although neither he nor I should be the fans you know if either of us expected that of the other).

This time I thank him for calling attention to The Wind on the Moon (E. Linklater, 1944).

After 

Cora Buhlert on September 5, 2019 at 5:54 am said:

I haven’t even looked for left field finalists such as The Glass Bead Game or The Little Prince yet

Hampus Eckerman on September 5, 2019 at 7:10 am said:

And here comes the left field finalist….
The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater
Oh god, how I love this book.  It is bestest, bestest ever.  It shall has to win.

I borrowed the 1951 reprint from the Los Angeles Public Library.

It’s strange and wonderful.

Discussing the Retrospective Hugos with a librarian, I said The Little Prince wasn’t really a children’s book.  He said “Of course not.”  The Wind on the Moon may be.

It has magic, and two girls who turning into kangaroos learn animals’ language.

It has a very bad man who loves peppermint creams.

In Chapter 8 are 

weary hours they had spent with Miss Serendip trying to learn French

and in Chapter 30, without comment,

voices outside, that now spoke French

Its treatment of lawyers is horrid, though alas not without – I’ll say it – justice, but nevertheless they accomplish (ch. 22) a historic feat. 

It has (ch. 30) 

a sudden clamour, of men shouting and iron gates flung open, and the sky above the trap-door quivered and grew bright in the sudden glare of searchlights. 

Their powdery radiance poured into the van. 

Does it deserve nomination, bearing in mind Ape and Essence and Time Must Have a Stop (both A. Huxley), and Sirius (O. Stapledon)?

That we each decide for ourselves. 

Meanwhile I’m reading Renaissance (R. Jones).

In 1963 it was re-named Man of Two Worlds, which by then was Adam Strange and indeed Julie Schwartz.  But that’s another story.

Cats Sleep on SFF: Kitty Cadaver

Hampus Eckerman had some luck —

Some months ago I participated in the #AuthorsForFireys projects on Twitter and managed to bid for Narelle M. Harris’ book Kitty Cadaver. This week I got it and Sir Scrittles and Nevyn were mightily interested.

Sir Scrittles
Nevyn
Nevyn

Photos of other cats (or whatever you’ve got!) resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 1/23/20 No-One Expects The Scrollish Pixelation!

(1) THE DOCTOR IS STILL IN. Entertainment Weekly confirms “Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker will play time traveler for at least one more season”.

… “I’ve seen loads of fan art, which I always love,” she says. “But it’s never been that great for me to immerse myself in noise that you can’t control, good or bad. I think both are a rabbit hole that you shouldn’t necessarily go down. We know that we work really hard for the show to be the best it can be in this moment. Once it’s out in the ether, how people feel, in a way, is kind of irrelevant.”

But Whittaker isn’t going anywhere. The length of time an actor has played the Doctor has varied over the years — back in the ’70s and ’80s, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor piloted the TARDIS for seven seasons; in the aughts, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor survived just one. So, will Whittaker return for a third run of shows? “Yes, I’m doing another season,” she confirms. “That might be a massive exclusive that I’m not supposed to say, but it’s unhelpful for me to say [I don’t know] because it would be a massive lie! [Laughs] I absolutely adore it. At some point, these shoes are going to be handed on, but it’s not yet. I’m clinging on tight!”

(2) GUINAN. Patrick Stewart, while appearing on The View, extended an invitation to host Whoopi Goldberg to appear in Picard’s second season. See 4-minutue video here. Stewart said —

“I’m here with a formal invitation, and it’s for you, Whoopi.  Alex Kurtzman, who is the senior executive producer of Star Trek: Picard, and all his colleagues, of which I am one, want to invite you into the second season.”

The crowd delivered a standing ovation as Goldberg and Stewart hugged, and Goldberg replied, “Yes, yes, yes!” 

(3) THE PEOPLE ALL RIDE IN A WORMHOLE IN THE GROUND. The New York Post tells readers “Here’s where to get ‘Star Trek: Picard’ MetroCards featuring Patrick Stewart”.

“Star Trek: Picard” is beaming to a subway station near you.

For three weeks starting Thursday, when the show premieres on CBS All Access, the series will be promoted on special MetroCards available at six MTA stations in Manhattan.

In the drama, Sir Patrick Stewart, 79, reprises his “Star Trek: The Next Generation” role of Jean-Luc Picard, the retired Starfleet admiral and former captain of the Starship Enterprise who is living out his latter days on his family’s vineyard in France. Fittingly, the subway promotion will showcase two different cards — one featuring Picard on the front and his family’s sweeping vineyard on the back, the other with Picard’s dog, No. 1, on the front and several planets on the flip side.

(4) IS PICARD MESSAGE-HEAVY? The Daily Beast argues “‘Star Trek: Picard,’ With Its Refugee Crisis and Anti-Trump Messaging, May Be the Most Political Show on TV”.

…At the crux of the Picard premiere is a devastating monologue Stewart delivers recounting a catastrophic event that happened years before, triggering a refugee crisis and driving Picard to quit his position in the Starfleet, disgusted by what the organization and the Federation now stood for. 

It might sound in the weeds if you’re not a Trekkie, but the basics of the plot are refreshingly simple. 

A supernova blast threatened the planet Romulus. Despite their antagonistic relationship, the Federation agreed to rescue the Romulan people. But in the midst of the rescue mission, synthetic lifeforms like Data, who helped Picard pilot his ship, went rogue and destroyed the Federation’s base on Mars, killing over 90,000 people. In the wake of the incident, synthetic lifeforms were banned, a decision that appalled Picard and caused him to quit before he carried out his Romulan rescue mission. 

“It has always been part of the content of Star Trek that it will be attempting to create a better future with the certain belief that a better future is possible if the right kind of work and the right kind of people are engaged in that,” Stewart told reporters. “And my feeling was, as I look all around our world today, there has never been a more important moment when entertainment and show business can address some of the issues that are potentially damaging our world today.” 

(5) CLONE WARS TRAILER. The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts streaming Feb. 21 on DisneyPlus.

One of the most critically-acclaimed entries in the Star Wars saga will be returning for its epic conclusion with twelve all-new episodes on Disney+ beginning Friday, February 21. From Dave Filoni, director and executive producer of “The Mandalorian,” the new Clone Wars episodes will continue the storylines introduced in the original series, exploring the events leading up to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

(6) HAVE SPACEWORTHY 3D PRINTER, WILL TRAVEL. Daniel Dern looks into “NASA’s 3D Printing Space Initiatives” in an article for GrabCAD.

…The SLS [Space Launch System] is intended to be the primary launch vehicle of NASA’s deep space. By manufacturing as many of the engine’s parts as possible (like the fuel injectors, turbo pumps, valves, and main injectors) with 3D printing, NASA can significantly reduce time and money spent.

“NASA is on track to reduce the number of individual parts by an order of magnitude — from hundreds to tens — and reduce the cost of the entire engine by 30% and later by 50%, and the build time by 50%,” John explains.

Dern notes, “This is the 3rd or 4th NASA-related article I’ve gotten to do over the past six months. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this, and hope find more assignments on this stuff over the coming year.”

(7) WHAT IT TAKES. “Oscar-nominated filmmaker Chris Butler’s top animation tips” – BBC video.

Film writer and director Chris Butler, who has been nominated for an Oscar, has said anyone who wants to be an animator needs to be prepared for “hard work”.

His film Missing Link is up against Toy Story 4 in the Animated Feature category, but Butler, from Maghull, Merseyside, has already beaten it – and Frozen II – to a Golden Globe.

He said he was “shell-shocked” when it was announced as the winner earlier this month – so much so that he cannot remember going on stage to collect the award.

Butler said making animated films was “not easy” and warned that budding filmmakers have to “put in long hours” to make it in the industry.

(8) STONE AGE. First Fandom Experience not only remembers when — “In 1939, Lithography Came To Fanzines — But Why?”. Zine scans at the link.

Beginning in 1932, Conrad H. Ruppert reshaped the world of fan publications with the printing press he bought with money saved by working in his father’s bakery. He printed issues of the most prominent fanzines of the period, including The Time Traveller, Science Fiction Digest, and Charles D. Hornig’s The Fantasy Fan. It’s not unreasonable to assert that the professional appearance of Hornig’s leaflet-sized ‘zine contributed to his ascension to the editorship of Wonder Stories at the age of 17….

(9) THOSE DARN FANS. RS Benedict posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast — “This is the first of a two-part series about the dark side of fandom. Why does fandom turn toxic? Can over-investment in fandom stunt your social and artistic growth?” The first episode is here: “The Dark Side of Fandom, Part 1: Have You Accepted Spider-Man as Your Lord and Savior?”

Tim Heiderich of Have You Seen This took the time to talk to us about the creative perils of fandom. Fandom can be fun, but it can also turn ugly too, or it can keep us so busy focusing on someone else’s work that we fail to develop our own talents.

This was a huge conversation, so we split it into two parts. In the first installment, we talk about toxic fandom, simulacra, and the siren song of nostalgia.

(10) EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT. “Orange Mike” Lowrey’s TAFF win attracted local media attention: “From Chester County High School to Stockholm and Birmingham (England)” in the Chester County Independent.

…Lowrey has been attending these conventions since 1975 and loves it. He said he loves how the conventions are filled with interesting, intelligent people. The interaction of science fiction fans overseas is awesome as well he said.
“I got people I consider good friends that I never met before,” he said.
He actually met the woman whom he would spend his life with and marry, C.K. “Cicatrice” Hinchliffe of Bertram, Iowa, at the local Milwaukee science fiction convention in 1981.
Lowrey graduated from Chester County High School in 1971 and earned a magna cum laude degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition to his job with the State of Wisconsin, he’s been working as a writer and editor since 1984.
He is also a bookseller, serves as a local president and state executive board member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and acts as a volunteer administrator for Wikipedia. He has had book reviews published and also Dungeon and Dragon articles published in Dragon magazine.

(11) KARLEN OBIT. John Karlen , the actor who played multiple roles (Willie Loomis, Carl Collins, William H. Loomis, Desmond Collins, Alex Jenkins and Kendrick Young) on the ABC serial Dark Shadows died January 22 at the age of 86.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 23, 1954Killers From Space made it to your local drive-in. It was produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder. It has a cast of Peter Graves, Barbara Bestar and James Seay. We should note that Killers From Space came about as a commissioned screenplay from Wilder’s son Myles Wilder and their regular collaborator William Raynor. How was it received? Not well. There was, in the opinion of critics, way too much too talk, too little action, poor production values… you get the idea. Though they liked Graves. Who doesn’t? Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a decidedly unfavourable rating of just 24%. 
  • January 23, 1974 The Questor Tapes first aired on NBC. Created and written by Roddenberry himself with Gene L Coon as co-writer, it was by Richard Colla. It starred Robert Foxworth, Mike Farrell and John Vernon. (Fontana’s novelisation would be dedicated to Coon who died before it aired.) though it was intended to be a pilot fir a series, conflict between Roddenberry and the network doomed the series. It would place fifth in the final Hugo balloting the following year at Aussiecon One with Young Frankenstein being the Hugo winner.
  • January 23, 1985 — The Rankin-Bass version of ThunderCats premiered in syndication. Leonard Starr was the primary writer with the animation contracted to the Japanese studio Pacific Animation Corporation, with Masaki Iizuka as the production manager. It would run for four years and one and thirty episodes. Need we note that a vast media empire of future series, films, comics, t-shirts, statues, action figures and so forth have developed since then?

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered  for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both digitally and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 23, 1932 Bart LaRue. He was the voice of The Guardian  of  Forever in the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Trek as well as doing voice roles in “Bread and Circuses” (on-screen too) “The Gamesters of Triskelion” as Provider 1 (uncredited) “Patterns of Force” as an Ekosian newscaster (Both voice and on-screen) and “The Savage Curtain” as Yarnek. He did similar work for Time Tunnel, Mission Impossible, Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea, The Andromeda StrainWild Wild West, Land of Giants and Lost in Space. (Died 1990.)
  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg’s aged eighty one years, and Tim passed in 2006. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s  A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice.
  • Born January 23, 1942 Brian Coucher, 78. He appeared in three genre series — first  the second actor to portray Travis in Blake’s 7 and also as Borg in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Robots of Death”. Finally genre wise he appeared in a Doctor Who spin-off that I’ve never heard existed, Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. No Who characters appeared though Sophie Alfred played someone other than Ace here. 
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 77. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages. 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 70. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. 
  • Born January 23, 1976 Tiffani Thiessen, 44. Better known by far by me at least her role as Elizabeth Burke on the White Collar series which might be genre adjacent, she did end up in three films of genre interest: From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (a parade of the Friday the 13th films) and Cyborg Soldier. They’re average rating at Rotten Tomatoes among reviewers is fifteen percent in case you were wondering how good they were. 
  • Born January 23, 1973 Lanei Chapman, 47. She’s most remembered as Lt. Vanessa Damphousse on Space: Above and Beyond, a series that ended well before it should’ve ended. She made her genre debut on Next Gen as Ensign Sariel Rager, a recurring character who was a conn officer. 
  • Born January 23, 1977 Sonita Henry, 43. Her very first was as President’s Aide on Fifth Element. She was a Kelvin Doctor in the rebooted Star Trek film, and she’s Colonel Meme I the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Time of The Doctor”.  Her latest is playing Raika on Krypton.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) AND SPREAD HIM OUT THIN. Adweek says “Rest in Peace, Mr. Peanut—Planters Kills Off Iconic Mascot in Lead-Up to Super Bowl”.  

… In a shocking move, Planters, the Kraft-Heinz-owned snack brand, has killed off its iconic mascot in a teaser for its Big Game spot. Mr. Peanut’s untimely demise began with a Nutmobile crash, followed by falling off a cliff and ending in an explosion.

… And when will the classic mascot be memorialized? During Super Bowl 2020, naturally.

…The loss of Mr. Peanut is a major moment for the brand. Planters first introduced Mr. Peanut to audiences in 1916, meaning that the mascot has been around since the midst of World War I, making him of the longest-standing brand mascots of all time.

The spot, which will air during the third quarter of the Big Game on Feb. 2, was produced by VaynerMedia. Planters also has several promotions and activations to honor Mr. Peanut’s life, including commemorative pins for fans who spot the Nutmobile on the streets and a hashtag, #RIPeanut, for fans to share their sympathies.

(16) POMPEII AND CIRCUMSTANCE. “Mount Vesuvius eruption: Extreme heat ‘turned man’s brain to glass'” – BBC has the story.

Extreme heat from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in Italy was so immense it turned one victim’s brain into glass, a study has suggested.

The volcano erupted in 79 AD, killing thousands and destroying Roman settlements near modern-day Naples.

The town of Herculaneum was buried by volcanic matter, entombing some of its residents.

A team of researchers has been studying the remains of one victim, unearthed at the town in the 1960s.

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, said fragments of a glassy, black material were extracted from the victim’s skull.

Researchers behind the study believe the black material is the vitrified remains of the man’s brain.

(17) YOUR PAL IN SPACE. “Meet Vyom – India’s first robot ‘astronaut'” – BBC video.

India’s space agency has unveiled a robot that will travel to space later this year as part of an unmanned mission

Scientists hope that it will be able to later assist astronauts in a manned space mission called Gaganyaan, which is scheduled for December 2021.

Isro will conduct two unmanned missions – one in December this year and another in June 2021 – before the Gaganyaan mission.

The robot, which has been named Vyom Mitra (which translates from the Sanskrit to friend in space) is designed to perform a number of functions including responding to astronaut’s questions and performing life support operations.

(18) DO IT FOR SCIENCE. Public spirited citizens arise! “Wanted – volunteers to monitor Britain’s growing slug population”.

Citizen scientists are being sought to help carry out the first survey in decades of Britain’s slug populations.

To take part, all that’s required is curiosity, a garden, and a willingness to go out after dark to search for the likes of the great grey or yellow slug.

The year-long research project will identify different slug species and the features that tempt them into gardens.

The last study conducted in English gardens in the 1940s found high numbers of just nine species of slug.

Many more have arrived in recent years, including the Spanish slug, which is thought to have come in on salad leaves. Less than half of the UK’s 40 or more slug species are now considered native.

(19) TRANSMUTING GOLD TO LEAD. Iron Man never had days like this. GQ asks “Does Dolittle’s Box Office Flop Spell Trouble for Robert Downey Jr.?”

For over a decade, Robert Downey Jr. played MCU pillar Tony Stark, a billionaire superhero who would almost certainly consider Dolittle’s abysmal opening weekend earnings to be little more than pocket change.

Despite opening on a holiday weekend, RDJ’s Dolittle made just $29.5 million over the four-day period, and only an additional $17 million internationally. Dolittle cost a jaw-dropping $175 million to make, so those box office numbers are kind of catastrophic, with Universal expected to lose $100 million on the movie, according to The Wrap. Universal, it should be noted, also took a bath last month when the furry fever dream that is Cats flopped, but at least Cats only cost $90 million to make, so the loss isn’t quite as terrible.

The only slim hope for Dolittle’s prospects is a higher than expected haul in the international markets where it hasn’t opened yet—including China—but maybe don’t hold your breath.

It took the strain of wielding all six Infinity Stones to kill him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so Robert Downey Jr. will probably survive Dolittle’s bomb. Still… yikes.

(20) I SPY, AGAIN. “Twitter demands AI company stops ‘collecting faces'”

Twitter has demanded an AI company stop taking images from its website.

Clearview has already amassed more than three billion photographs from sites including Facebook and Twitter.

They are used by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and more than 600 other law-enforcement agencies around the world to identify suspects.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent on Tuesday, Twitter said its policies had been violated and requested the deletion of any collected data.

…US senator Ron Wyden said on Twitter Clearview’s activities were “extremely troubling”.

“Americans have a right to know whether their personal photos are secretly being sucked into a private facial-recognition database,” he said.

“Every day, we witness a growing need for strong federal laws to protect privacy.”

(21) PYTHON PASSPORT. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] A fitting (and unintentional) tribute to Terry Jones. I’d vote for a Brexit for this one if I could.

Original:

Sad to say, the Express graphic is fixed now — “Britons will fly to 2020 summer holiday destinations on classic BLUE passport”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Model Citizen” on YouTube, David James Armsby portrays what seems to be the perfect nuclear family–but why is it controlled by evil robots?

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anthony.]

Pixel Scroll 9/24/19 Scroll If You Must This Old Great Head, But Dare Not Say Aught Bad About Cheesecake

(1) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Shelley Streeby is the 2019 winner of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship sponsored by UO Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon. [Via Locus Online.]

The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight…

This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2019, $2,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections.

(2) FOR THE COOKIE MONSTER WHO LIVES WITH YOU. Bustle tells how Trader Joe’s Haunted House Chocolate Cookie Kit bridges the holidays.

Just in case you missed it, all of Trader Joe’s Halloween and pumpkin products have officially hit shelves for 2019, so autumn is finally in full delicious swing. Joining all of our spooky favorites in this year’s lineup is the Trader Joe’s Haunted House Chocolate Cookie Kit, a crowd-pleaser and returner from last year that will tide you over until gingerbread house season finally arrives. (Although this is arguably much better — what gingerbread house can also boast that it’s haunted?)

As usual, Joe is nothing if not prepared — the kit comes ready with everything your spooky little HGTV-loving heart desires. It contains six different chocolate cookie pieces to make up the house, plus an extra cookie ghost for spooky ambiance.

(3) BAD CHECK TREK. John G. Hertzler, who played Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, has written a Facebook post about his bad experience with Jerry Silber of NE Trek Con in Albany, NY in 2016.

…Just as he did with Aron [Eisenberg] and Bob [O’Reilly], at the conclusion of the convention, Mr. Silber looked me straight in the eye and handed me a bad check that he not only failed to write a number that agreed with the alphabetical amount but he post dated it for nearly a week in the future. He knew what he was doing! I didn’t notice because I trusted him. Bob trusted him. Aron trusted him. Mike Friedman trusted him. Garrett Wang, Max Grodenchik, Chris Abbott trusted him. All were handed bad checks. All were stiffed at the end of the weekend during which we all gave 110% of our ability to entertain and inspire the fans of Star Trek. Aron gave perhaps a little more…like 150%…but he always did. It’s not the money….it’s the betrayal of trust and then the dishonesty. Because I live in New York state, it was fairly simple for me to sue Mr. Silber in small claims court to make good on his check. The judge listened to both sides of the issue and found in my favor in approximately 5 minutes. A judgement was made against Mr. Silber that would follow him about for 20 years or until paid. In two days, it was paid. Somehow he found the money! That was great for me but there were my friends and colleagues who were still left with nothing….

(4) SUPERSTINKERS. James Davis Nicoll makes it sound like you want to be careful not to create any gaps in your urban ecology, because who knows what will move into it: “The Care and Feeding of Supervillains” at Tor.com.

…After all, it’s a lot easier to track down people in bright, garish costumes whose mental quirks compel them to leave riddles, jokes, maps, and large billboards hinting at crimes to come. This is the moment where our roof-runner should stop and think.

Mishandling these eccentrics means the difference between living somewhere like the Silver Age Central City, where rogues were willing to follow rules of engagement, or living somewhere more like the Punisher’s New York, where every encounter is going to end with a corpse….

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 24, 1956 — The world’s first transatlantic telephone cable, from Clarenville, Newfoundland, to Oban, Scotland, began operation.
  • September 24, 1995Space: Above and Beyond with debut the first two episodes, “Pilot” and “Omega Squadron” airing as a single film. It would last a single season.
  • September 24, 2007 — The Journeyman series debuted. Marketed as a “time travel science fiction romance” series, NBC didn’t renew it after the run of its first thirteen episodes was done.
  • Septembr 24, 2009 FlashForward first aired.  Adapted for television by Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer, it was based on the novel Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer. It lasted for one season. 
  • September 24, 2013 — Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. first aired on the ABC Network.  Six seasons later, it’s still going strong. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 Bert Gordon, 97. Film director most famous for such science fiction and horror films as The Amazing Colossal ManVillage of the Giants and The Food of the Gods (based of course on the H.G. Wells’ novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth).  His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” was a reference both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies featuring super-sized creatures.
  • Born September 24, 1930 Jack Gaughan. Artist and illustrator who won the Hugo several times including once for Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist in the same year. Most of his from 1970 onward was for Ace and DAW. He illustrated the covers and hand-lettered title pages for the unauthorized first paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings which Ace released in 1965. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 24, 1934 John Brunner. Favorite works? The Shockwave Rider, the Hugo Award winning Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up. That was easy. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 24, 1936 —  Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal which are also excellent.  (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 24, 1945 Ian Stewart, 74. Mathematician and writer. He makes the Birthday Honors for the four volumes in The Science of Discworld series he wrote with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett. Each segment of the book alternates between the usually absurd Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. He did write two novels with Jack Cohen, Wheelers and Heaven
  • Born September 24, 1951 David Banks, 68. During the Eighties, he was the Cyberleader on Doctor Who in all stories featuring the Cybermen — Earthshock, The Five Doctors, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis. In 1989, he played the part of Karl the Mercenary in the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. There were two performances where he appeared as The Doctor as he replaced Jon Pertwee who had fallen ill.
  • Born September 24, 1957 Brad Bird, 62. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going praise directing for The Iron Giant, The IncrediblesIncredibles 2 and Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films. 
  • Born September 24, 1965 Richard K. Morgan, 54. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series  which is why I haven’t watch the video series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is on my TBR, well, my To Be Listened To pile now. 
  • Born September 24, 1979 Justin Bruening, 40. Seriously who really thought did we needed a reboot of the Knight Rider series? I know it was one where he played Mike Traceur, the son of character Michael Knight, but still… it lasted a pilot film plus eighteen episodes. He went one to to cast as Benjamin Price in  Ravenswood, a supernatural drama that got cancelled after one season. And intriguingly he was cast as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman, a never-broadcast television pilot. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Maria Scrivan delivers a Star Wars chicken joke.
  • The Flying McCoys matches up Bigfoot with another well-known reference and winds up with a pretty funny cartoon.

(8) SCI-FI STANDBY. Titan Comics is reissuing the first two years of adventures from the iconic, British classic Dan Dare written and drawn by David Motton and Keith Watson — reprinted for the first time ever.

(9) HARD-WORKING BIDDER. Hampus Eckerman was amazed at what he received from the Glasgow in 2024 bid chair: “They’re sending out handwritten letters and pins!!”

(10) NO MATTER WHAT YOU MAY HAVE HEARD. “Cats are just as loyal to their owners as dogs, study finds” – an article in the Independent.

…Dr Kristyn Vitale, lead author of the study, said: “Cats that are insecure can be likely to run and hide or seem to act aloof.

“There’s long been a biased way of thinking that all cats behave in this way but the majority of cats use their owner as a source of security.”

Vitale continued: “Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed.”

For the study, the team of researchers replicated situation tests that were originally designed in the 1970s to help evaluate the parent-infant bond.

But, instead of parents and infants, the scientists tested the relationship between 108 cats – including 70 kittens and 38 adult felines – and their owners.

(11) REPRESENTATION CONTROVERSY. In the Washington Post, Lindsey Beyer says that there is a conflict between Autism Speaks and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network over the character of Julia, an autistic character who has been part of the Muppet cast since 2017. “How a ‘Sesame Street’ Muppet became embroiled in a controversy over autism”.

… An autistic “Sesame Street” Muppet is caught in a conflict between the most prominent autism organization in the United States advocating for early intervention, and autistic adults who see the condition as a difference, not a disease needing to be cured….

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), an organization run by and for autistic people, announced it had cut ties with “Sesame Street” after the children’s program partnered with Autism Speaks to make the Muppet the face of a public service campaign encouraging early screening and diagnosis of autism. ASAN has accused Autism Speaks of using “language of acceptance and understanding to push resources that further stigmatize and treat autistic people as burdens on our families.” It contends that resource materials from Autism Speaks encourage parents “to view autism as a terrible disease from which their child can ‘get better.’ ”

(12) LIPS ARE SEALED, EVEN IF ISS ISN’T. Newsweek reports that “Russia Refuses to Tell NASA What Caused Mystery Leak on ISS”.

Russia has said it knows what caused the air leak on board the International Space Station in 2018 but intends to keep it a secret, with its space agency head Dmitry Rogozin stating: “We won’t tell you anything.”

The leak, which caused a drop in pressure, took place on 29 August, 2018. After investigating the cause, the crew found a small hole—0.07 inches in diameter—and fixed it using heat-resistant tape. It was in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked at the ISS and it posed no threat to any of the astronauts on board.

(13) DESSERT TOPPING? FLOOR WAX? BBC tells how “Nasa’s IceSat space laser tracks water depths from orbit”.

Scientists say one of the US space agency’s (Nasa) new Earth observers is going to have a transformative impact in an unexpected area.

The IceSat-2 laser mission was launched a year ago to measure the shape of Antarctica and Greenland, and to track the thickness of Arctic sea-ice.

But early results show a remarkable capability also to sense water depths.

IceSat’s laser light penetrates up to 40m in the clearest conditions, opening up a raft of new applications.

“As much as people think all areas on Earth have been reasonably well mapped, it’s really not true when you start looking at shallow water areas,” said Dr Christopher Parrish from Oregon State University.

“We’ve got huge data voids from the shoreline out to about 5m water depth.

“This hinders our ability to study things like inundation, the effects of major storms, and the changes to coral reef habitat.”

A project has already started to map the seafloor around low-lying Pacific islands and atolls, which will assist tsunami preparedness for example.

The capability should also enable scientists to work out the volumes of inland water bodies to help quantify Earth’s global freshwater reserves.

(14) NO BALONEY SHORTAGE. “Snopes: How do you survive 25 years debunking fake news?”

…Snopes began as a forum for sharing and investigating urban legends and cool folklore.

But in a world where “fake news” dominates, where disinformation is a part of the political sphere and misinformation touches every single corner of the internet, what is it about this online encyclopaedia which has made it become the go-to bible for many fact-checkers?

And how is it evolving to deal with the current landscape?

…David Mikkelson, the co-founder of Snopes, says: “People come to look up things they’ve encountered on the internet and find out whether they are true or not.

…”The standards we use for fact-checking are about going after what most people are questioning or asking about.

“We don’t make any judgments about what’s too silly or obvious or frivolous or not important enough.”

However he added that sometimes he found it disconcerting what the audience considered to be important and how it was sometimes very different to what his team would consider reporting.

“There may be rumours of a chemical attack against civilians in Syria and all sorts of rumours about whether that happened and who was involved. There are questions around did the government do it; was it an outside force etc and that doesn’t get much interest.

“But then you might have a ridiculous story about something like a woman giving birth in an elevator and it gets millions of views.”

(15) STORM SNOOPERS. An amusing account of the mass storming of Area 51 in the Guardian: “I ‘stormed’ Area 51 and it was even weirder than I imagined”.

…My neighbors at the parking lot-slash-campsite were a punk band called Foreign Life Form. They weren’t part of the planned music lineup, one Life Form explained as he ate Chef Boyardee room-temperature from a can, but when they heard about Alienstock, it seemed like fate.

My other neighbor, an erudite, joint-smoking history podcaster from Oregon, wore a T-shirt that said “Take me to your dealer”. He and his son had had the shirts custom-made; the Life Forms were disappointed they couldn’t buy some….

(16) BOT TO TROT. On eBay, bidding is up to $50,100 for this “15-Ton 2-Story Tall Gasoline Powered Car-Smashing Piloted Giant Battle Robot”. Or is that 12 tons? Opinions differ. “This giant 12-ton fighting robot is on sale for $1” says the New York Post.

One man’s 12-ton, 16-foot-tall fighting robot is another man’s treasure.

Eagle Prime, the crown jewel of MegaBots Inc.’s fleet of sci-fi-inspired piloted robots, is being sold on eBay with bids starting at a single dollar. Founded by Gui Cavalcanti, Matt Oehrlein and Andrew Stroup, the company is shuttering operations amid money trouble. Their latest high jinks, a futuristic bot battle between the US and Canada, drew thin crowds online.

“It was meant to be monster trucks meets UFC with a hint of WWE,” Oehrlein tells The Post. “The goal was to build a multibillion-dollar sports league of robots fighting in stadiums.”

(17) GETTING IN THE MOOD FOR HALLOWEEN. The Valley Relic Museum in Los Angeles has lined up a scary panel event.

“For the last twenty years, I have been fascinated with the ghost stories of Los Angeles. One of my favorite pastimes is to explore historical and haunted locations in the area. This past year I’ve turned my hobby into a podcast and I have been interviewing people about their personal ghost stories as well as exploring haunted locations in Los Angeles and beyond for my podcast Ghost Magnet, from the Playboy Mansion to the house on Cielo Drive (associated with the Sharon Tate Murder) there is no shortage of ghost stories or paranormal activity,” says Bridget Marquardt.

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

Fandom, Entitlement and Toxicity

By Hampus Eckerman: On the second day of the Dublin 2019 Worldcon, I went to a panel with the promising name of “With fans like these, who needs enemies?” I hadn’t really read the description, instead going by the idea that it might have something to do with fans sucking the energy out of convention organizers, whether caused by anger, entitlement or a sincere wish to help. Instead it was about how fans made life miserable for creators with George Lucas and Star Wars fandom as the prime example. Most of the panel was about the big media phenomena in SFF, Star Wars, Star Trek and GoT, but there was also an interesting discussion on why Doctor Who fandom hadn’t reached the same levels of toxicity.

And it made me think. Think of my own reactions to changes. To the anger. Resentment. And how I both could understand and be aghast over reactions from fans.

My first understanding of my own potential for toxicity was with the infamous Spider-Man storyline “One More Day”. For you that have never heard of it, the basic plot is as follows: Spider-Man married Mary Jane in 1987. This changed the dynamics of the comic. There was no longer the possibility to add soap elements of romance to the story, Spider-Man being too much of Goody Two-Shoes to be unfaithful. Killing Mary Jane would have caused an outrage, a divorce would still have left the dynamic. And that was not the only problem. Spider-Man had given up his secret identity in the Civil War-storyline, thus even more limiting the possibilities for writing a traditional story. So the decision was made in 2007, some 20 years later, to make a drastic change: Mephisto would for some flimsy reason magic Spider-Man so he wasn’t married, his identity had never been revealed, and a lot of stuff was retconned for no apparent reason, such as Harry Osbourne being alive again.

I remember the enormous *anger* I felt at the time. It felt like they were spitting in my face. And that is where I understood how much of my love for Spider-Man was connected to the accumulation of knowledge. The true nerdhood, to spend an enormous amount of time and money to build up expertise in an obscure subject that most people would most likely have a more casual relationship to. I had read all the Spider-Man that had been published in Sweden. Many American comics too. I had bought all the old comics that were published before I was born. I knew my Spider-Man. Storylines. Villains. I didn’t only have favourite comics, I had favourite panels. Favourite lines.

And suddenly, this knowledge and time investment was rendered obsolete. It no longer mattered. Things I had painstakingly learned over time no longer had happened. People suddenly lived again with no explanation and there would never be an explanation. I had no longer any idea of how much of my knowledge that was useless or how much was still in play. It was *worse* than any reboot in DC, because then I knew everything started from the beginning (except for Batman, because he was too popular). Now I just had no idea.

This was when Twitter was still in its early childhood, before artists and creators had become accessible. I think I would have been one of those sending angry and outraged tweets at Marvel or artists otherwise. Because I felt disrespected. Slapped in the face. I tried to read Spider-Man afterwards, but the joy was out of it. Some 3-4 issues later I quit entirely. And with quitting Spider-Man, I also started to quit other Marvel comics. And DC. In a way, it changed my whole relationship to comics.

* * *

Afterwards, I can see that most of it was a healthy reaction. I quit reading. I didn’t continue, becoming more and more discontent, feeling more sidelined or out of step with the Marvel universe. Instead I found other things to read. Other books. Graphic Novels. Took a step away from superheroes. Thank god I had never been one of those comic book readers that was totally focused on Marvel or DC. My main interest had always been in the broader comic world.

But still remembering that feeling of righteous anger, I have an understanding of what other comic fans feel when they feel slighted or disrespected. And while I think most peoples’ reactions will be somewhat like mine, a quick anger that then passes to something else, there will of course always be the small minority with less control of their feelings and frustrations that will take everything a step further.

But that was of course not my only insight in toxicity with regards to myself. I remember a flatmate inviting her friend to a visit. The flatmate was also a comic nerd, so I remember starting to talk about comics, trying to see what we had in common, what likes we both shared, on what level we could discuss. Until she asked if I was interrogating her. And that was a clear wake-up call. What I was doing was in practice seen as if I was trying to find out if she was a “fake geek girl”, that toxic concept where only women are questioned about their statuses as geeks or nerds. I stopped at once. I can’t remember if I apologized or grumbled something, but I didn’t dare to talk more about comics then. We did talk about other nerdy things afterwards, but then I was much more careful to not spout out questions, instead trying to listen more.

A third insight was only this year while watching first Captain Marvel and then Avengers: End Game. The sudden understanding that I didn’t really get any pleasure out of these movies. I was never that much of a fan of action movies and that is much of what the Marvel movies are. I wasn’t watching them as much out of enjoyment as I was out of addiction. I was watching them as a completionist, wanting to learn all the details, again building up an expertise. But building up that expertise also forced me to spend time on things that I didn’t really like. Often sitting there bored while Captain Marvel was having another uninteresting fight, waiting for it to stop to at least get a bit of plot or dialogue.

Reading articles about fans making petitions, starting online campaigns, attacking and harassing creators, making demands on how comics should be made, I think I’ve started to understand where these fans are coming from. And I think it is something that is not only connected to fandom, to the works we love, but to a whole slew of other things. Thinking of nerds as addicts puts things in a different perspective. Not only as addicts but as persons who come to identify themselves as, let’s use a grandiose expression, Keepers of Knowledge. People who have for 10-20 years built up a knowledge about a subject, are addicted to add to this knowledge, but suddenly recognize that they don’t enjoy it anymore. And the frustration of needing to do things *they don’t like* just to feed the addiction. Not only that. People fearing change because it is possible that they will not like this new thing and what is their patiently learned knowledge worth then?

* * *

Myself, I walked away from Spider-Man and Marvel. They didn’t fit my needs anymore and I moved on. Toxicity, I feel, is for those that can’t move on. But I feel it is good to admit that I myself have these feelings, because that makes it possible for me to recognize them before I grow angry enough. Recognize the pattern in myself and thus being able to also see the flaws it is built on. So when I get my *get of my lawn!*-moments, I can hopefully moderate my reactions a bit.

Perhaps that is my best advice to myself. When I and my friends aren’t the youngest in the park anymore and the lousy kids haven’t got the simple decency to play Motörhead, Slayer or AC/DC on their boom boxes anymore, instead listening to K-pop and talking about their last posting on Booktube – then I do not really have to complain about them not getting off my lawn. Because it is a public park. And Motörhead still plays louder than everybody else.

Whether people like it or not.

Filer Meetups at Dublin 2019: Times and Places

By Hampus Eckerman: The times and places for the filer meetings at Worldcon in Dublin 2019 have now been finalized.


First Filers Almost Sleeping at SFF Meetup

Day: Thursday, 15:th of August

Time: 18:00

Place: Dublin Convention Center, Third Floor

We’ll meet in the Bar Area near the lifts and the Mobi Parking. Please be on time for this meeting as I don’t know how long people will stay. This is mostly to get to know each other’s faces so we recognize each other when we meet during the convention. Possibly to decide a waiting/meeting place if someone has time over and wants to see if that goes for other filers too. There is a map of the are in Progress Report 5.


Filer Live Action Pixel Scroll Meetup

Day: Saturday, 17:th of August

Time: 17:30

Place: East Restaurant, by Spencer Hotel

Website: https://www.thespencerhotel.com/east-restaurant.html

East is an Asian Fusion Restaurant by a Cocktail Bar, a few minutes walking distance, or one bus stop, from the Convention Center. It is a more quiet alternative than the pubs we looked at and was more flexible in accommodating for an unknown number of guests. We said 20-30 persons as a likely number of guests.

If someone has time over before the convention and wants to meetup for dinner or something else, please mention it in the comment section.

Looking forward to seeing you all!