Pixel Scroll 5/13/20 You Can’t Sleep ’Cause The World’s On Fire, Don’t Read Me If You’d Prefer The Shire, Techno Thriller

(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?

James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.

McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.

(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:  

After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.

(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.

 …“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.

Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….

If you go: Book Club

Emily St. John Mandeljoins the L.A. Times Book Club in conversation with reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

When: 7 p.m. May 19

Where: Free virtual event livestreaming on the Los Angeles Times Facebook Page and YouTube.

More info: latimes.com/bookclub

(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.  

Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.

While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….

(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.

Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.

(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”,  he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.

…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”

[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.

[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.

(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room.  Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise.  He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.

…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.

(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:

Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?

We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.

(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.

It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical.  An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.

Rick and Morty, however is anything but…

…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.

(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.

The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 13, 1994 The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay.  Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece.  Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny.  Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one.  Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle.  Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons.  Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues.  Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen.  Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman.  First SF novel at age 15.  Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese.  A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more.  Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one.  Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns).  Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini).  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?

As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…

(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.

An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.

The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.

The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.

However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.

(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”

Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturinghasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.

“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….

(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.

(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.

Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing

When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?

In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).

…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.

…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”

(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.

100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.

With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/20 Files In My Pocket Like Pixels Of Scrolls

(1) S.P. SOMTOW RETURNS TO SFF. Somtow Sucharitkul celebrated the appearance of his new novel with these retrospective thoughts —

My first novel was published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It cost $2.50 and I got 20¢ a copy. To earn out my $5,000 advance, I would have had to sell 25,000 books. I don’t know if it sold that many, but it did get reprinted by S&S, and then republished by Del Rey. Later, my advances, and presumably the number of books they sold, increased quite a bit.

Twenty years ago, I kind of vanished from publishing except for the odd (very) Star Trek novel. But anyway the bottom fell out of the market for us mid-list types.

Now forty years have gone by since my first novel came out. I have just put out my first new science fiction novel since 1997 (unless you count that “very” odd Star Trek novel. Today, I’m not even imagining selling 100,000 copies of Vampire Junction or 25,000 copies of a space opera. Today, putting the whole thing on amazon all by myself, I’m thinking boy, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll have made a whole lot of old-time fans, most of whom I know personally, happy. And enjoy a lot of very nice meals.

But here’s the thing … it was REALLY satisfying to finish a science fiction novel. I might have to do some more.

Homeworld of the Heart — the 5th novel in the Inquestor series and my first science fiction book since 1997. Here are the links to the trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

It’s about the childhood of Sajit, who was to become the poet of the entire galactic empire. It’s chock-full of childsoldiers, people bins, tachyon bubbles, utopia hunters, beauty and depravity and the other expected features of the series, but also speaks about the chaos that ensues when the Inquestors’ games misfire, about the subtleties of music in the Inquestral age, and the stone-age taboos of a high-tech civilization.

(2) BAEN SERIES ENDS. I inquired of Baen Books’ Christopher Ruocchio and learned there won’t be a volume of The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF in 2020. He said, “Toni and [editor] David Afsharirad decided that five volumes was going to do it for the military sf anthology series and wrapped it up. Last year’s was the last for the present.” The series will be missed.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Juanita Coulson, 87, was taken to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for tests and treatment. It was suspected she’d had a stroke, however, Bruce Coulson told Facebook readers today in a public post: “Further news on Mom. It turns out she did NOT have a stroke (probably), but does have a UTI and will be off work for a while. On the plus side, she might be going back home in a couple of days.”

Coulson is a sff author, winner of the Big Heart Award (2012), and past DUFF delegate.

(4) CANADA PERFORMS. Margaret Atwood kicks off a streaming series for Canadian writers whose tours have been derailed. “It doesn’t replace the fun of an audience, mass audience response, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I think we’re in the better-than-nothing era.” The New York Times reports: “At Margaret Atwood’s Prompting, Canada Launches Virtual Book Tours”.

Margaret Atwood is launching an online series that she hopes will help Canada’s writers sell books to a nation of shut-ins. But even she has not been immune to the headaches plaguing many people as they attempt to communicate during the global pandemic.

One came half an hour into a conversation about upcoming books with Adrienne Clarkson, a friend and fellow author, hosted by the National Arts Centre on Facebook Live. Atwood’s image froze.

“Come back, come back,” Clarkson said. “Was it anything I said?”

After a few minutes, Atwood did reappear, in a different room of her house with a superior internet connection. The two women continued to go through a list of books they acknowledged that, for the most part, they hadn’t even seen, let alone read, but were written by authors whose earlier works they enjoyed.

Their chat, which veered into social distancing and gardening, among other subjects, was an extension of a program the arts center started two weeks ago, CanadaPerforms, to provide a paid venue for musicians, actors, comedians and other performers at a time when stages are dark around the world….

(5) BARBER OBIT. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Michigan fan Tom Barber (born 1949) passed away on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID 19. Tom was a long time convention worker and occasional t-shirt dealer who, in the past, had chaired both Confusion and Conclave. He was a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and was Fan GOH at Confusion in 2001.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 7, 1933 King Kong was released nationwide I he U.S. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 97% approval rating. You can watch it here.
  • April 7, 1951 The Thing from Another World premiered. It was directed by Christian Nyby, and produced by Edward Lasker. It’s based on John W. Campbell ‘s “Who Goes There?” novella. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness is The Thing, but he is almost impossible to recognize in makeup due to both the extremely low lighting and other steps used to hide his face. Critics at the time weren’t wild about it but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really like it and give it an 87% rating. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories. His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised that role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of  him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve novels and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m certain there was other novels down the years. He worked on the famed Irish fanzines Slant and Hyphen. He was a guest of honor at the 1996 Worldcon. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 85. He edited with his then wife Robbie Holier Than Thou, nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine — losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 81. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he both an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 69. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single ”Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’sA Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Is coronavirus funny enough to fill the entire Comics Section? You be the judge!

  • xkcd tells why homemade masks are better than some other ideas for avoiding infection.
  • Pearls Before Swine’s creator is suspiciously unavailable — April 6 and April 7
  • Brewster Rockit goes for a pretty obvious punchline on the first day, and another one the next day.
  • Frank and Ernest certainly have their hearts in the right place.
  • Lio is about as funny as usual. (If you’ll pardon my saying so.)
  • Tank McNamara, on the other hand, is almost worth a laugh, which has never happened before. 

(9) AS LONG AS YOU HAVE SOME TIME ON YOUR HANDS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Barry Kibrick discuss the Universe from the Big Bang to Newton in a two-part special episode of Between the Lines: “Astrophysics: Part One, From the Big Bang to Newton” and “Astrophysics: Part Two, From Newton to Our Current Time”.

(10) SPIN CONTROL. “Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet” – BBC has the story.

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture.

This time we’re being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away from another black hole at near light-speed.

The scene was actually in the “background” of the original target.

The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

They say their studies of the region of space known as 3C 279 will help them better understand the physics that drives behaviour in the vicinity of black holes.

(11) TIGER, TIGER. Details on the sick tigers: NPR asks “A Tiger Has Coronavirus. Should You Worry About Your Pets?”

Nadia is a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Last week, she started exhibiting one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus: a dry cough.

And it wasn’t just Nadia — her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions were all experiencing the same thing. So the zoo got permission from local and state health departments and animal health authorities, and took a sample from Nadia to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2. The sample was analyzed at the University of Illinois and Cornell University, and the presumptive positive finding confirmed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa.

That positive makes Nadia the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S., the CDC says.

That result raises a number of questions about the virus, and how it could affect the animals we spend time with. We’ll tackle those questions here.

How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?

The test involved an oral swab, a nasal swab, and procedure called a tracheal wash, which allows for sampling of the animal’s airways….

How did the tiger get tested when a lot of people still can’t?

The sample from Nadia was tested at veterinary diagnostic labs that aren’t approved to analyze human tests. The testing of the tiger “did not take a test or resources from human health efforts,” the zoo said.

Nadia and the other tigers and lions are doing well and improving, the zoo says, though some have a decrease in appetite.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “2 Lizards:  Episode 3, 2020” completes a three-part series of short videos on Vimeo in which Oriem Barki and Meriem Bennani show that even lizards get antsy if they stay inside and watch coronavirus coverage on their laptops.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Rich Lynch, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Joel Zakem, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Diamond.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/20 This Machine Scrolls Pixels

(1) MORE SFF EVENTS AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS.

  • The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, has been cancelled.
  • The 2020 Williamson Lectureship, scheduled for April 3 at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

(2) WORLDCON 2020 STILL ON. The CoNZealand chairs gave this status as of March 13 (NZ date): “Covid-19: Update from the Chairs”.

We understand your concerns and that you want as much notice as possible if CoNZealand were to be cancelled. We are extremely keen to see CoNZealand go ahead and bring Worldcon to New Zealand for the first time ever. Our Executive have discussed the situation and unanimously agreed that we are not cancelling the convention.  Please be assured that we are closely monitoring the situation and will make a further statement if the situation changes. We do note that the convention could possibly be cancelled by the New Zealand Government or the venues, but we see no sign of that happening.

Kelly Buehler, Norman Cates – CoNZealand Chairs

(3) SFWA ON UNFIT/UNREAL. SFWA has issued a statement on Facebook warning about the practices of Unreal and Unfit magazines posting lists of rejected stories and author names on Thinkerbeat (reported here in February). However, the Thinkerbeat page seems to have been taken down.  

The Board of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is issuing a warning regarding short fiction publisher Thinkerbeat, which publishes the semi-pro magazines “Unfit” and “Unreal.” The publisher publicly posts lists of rejected stories along with the author’s name and a numeric score.

This publisher’s behavior is far outside of industry standards and is contrary to the interests of writers. Humiliating writers, betraying their trust, and violating their privacy is not acceptable.

(4) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr connects with some furry history: “Unearthing a cool fossil — A 1980’s letter shows furry fandom before the net.”

…We arranged mailing to Summercat (news writer, furry historian, and curator of the Furry Library), who received four huge binders. There were copies of parts of 1980’s zines someone liked and kept. A binder of misc anime stuff, a binder of (colloquial) furry anime stuff, and a binder each that looked like a collection of work from artists Jerry Collins and Juan Alfonso. Among the photocopies, there was a hand written artifact.

(5) MY BABY, THE CAR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Gizmodo says “Supernatural Is Crossing Over With Legends of Tomorrow…via Car”. So (ignoring backstory as not essential for this), the March 24 episode of Legends of Tomorrow brings (some of) our intrepid Legends to where the Supernatural TV series is being shot, so (we) get Baby (which is, I gather, a car) from Supernatural, along with a few other elements of Supn’l (tho no characters, I gather).

So it’s not quite a crossover, depending on your definition of things.

There’s some multiverse precedent, at least from the (paper) comic book PoV, IIRC, where, pre-Crisis (on Infinite Earths), Earth-Prime was “our” universe. Per https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Earth-Prime: “where the readers lived, DC Comics operated as a publisher and all superheroes are fictional. However, Earth-Prime is shown to be an alternate reality when the Flash (Barry Allen) accidentally travels there from Earth-One.”

(I’m still just a teeny bit sad that the recent CW 5-episode crossover didn’t include a Muppets-style montage that included a few seconds also from Riverdale, the Warner Brothers cartooniverse, Nancy Drew, and Penn & Teller. Ah well.)

(6) BOSKONE ON TV. Boston’s WCVB aired a segment shot at Boskone: “The growth in popularity of science fiction literature”. GoHs Holly Black, Kim Stanley Robinson, and artist Eric Wilkerson get extended facetime, but Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari and Mark Olson are onscreen for a split second, too. Video at the link.

L to R: Mark Olson and Joe Siclari

(7) GATE SHOW. The station’s “Chronicle” also ran a video report about the Boston Fan Expo: “Going behind the scenes of the Boston Convention and Expo Center.”

(8) LIU ADAPTATION. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Last night, I saw a screening of a film entitled La Verite (The Truth), directed by Hirokazu Kore-ede and starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke. While it is not a genre film, Deneuve plays an aging actor who is appearing in a  F film entitled “Memories of My Mother,” which is based on the Ken Liu story of the same name. “Memories of My Mother” was initially published on the Daily Science Fiction web site and appears in Liu’s latest collection “The Hiden Girl and Other Stories” (Saga Press, 2020). Liu is also listed as an Associate Producer of La Verite.

A 26-minute short film based on “Memories of My Mother” and entitled Beautiful Dreamer was released in 2016, but I have not seen it.

(9) HERSTORY. CrimeReads’ Jan Eliasberg solves the case — “Dr. Lise Meitner: The Mystery of the Disappearing Physicist”. Tagline: “She split the atom and fled the Nazis. History tried to erase her.”

Otto Hahn remained in Berlin and was named interim head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute “until a loyal Nazi could be found to take over.” But Hahn was so dependent on Meitner that he continued to collaborate with her, even after she’d fled to Sweden. He met with her in secret and sent her, on postcards via courier, the results of experiments they’d designed together. It was Meitner not Hahn, who analyzed the results and recognized that they had split the atom. The notion that a nucleus can split and be transformed into another element was radical; no one had fathomed it before. Meitner provided the first understanding of how and why this had happened.

Because Meitner was Jewish, the paper Hahn published in Germany did not have her name on it. Hahn might have been motivated by the fact that, if they paper had had borne her name, it would have been discredited as “Jewish Physics,” and he certainly was aware that including a Jewish woman on the paper would cost him his career in Germany.  So, he published without Meitner, falsely claiming that the discovery was based solely on insights gleaned from his own chemical purification work, and that any insight contributed by Meitner played an insignificant role.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 12, 1999Wing Commander premiered. It was based rather loosely based on the Wing Commander series. It was directed by Chris Roberts, who created the video game series. It starred Freddie Prinze, Jr., Saffron Burrows, Jürgen Prochnow, David Suchet, and David Warner. Critical reaction to it  was overwhelmingly negative. It has an audience rating of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. It however spawned at least three sequels. You can see it here.

March 12, 2015 Terry Pratchett dies. Cat Eldridge writes –

We lost Him five years ago today and even though I knew it was coming, it still was a horrible shock. Of all the losses we’ve suffered in the genre, this one and the loss of Iain Banks are the ones I’ve felt the deepest. I’m going to offer up the toast that Hob Gadling gives in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season of Mists as an expression of my feelings:

  • To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.

To mark the occasion, Steven H Silver sent out links to his 2000 SF SIte interview with Pratchett.

In any event, the Discworld has changed over time as Pratchett honed his skills as a writer. In early books, Pratchett referred to several characters only by their title. The Archchancellor of Unseen University or the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. As time progressed, the characters acquired names and more definable personalities.

“In those days, the Archchancellor would change at least once per book. I’m a little uncertain about [whether the Patrician changed or has always been Lord Vetinari]. Sourcery actually marked the boundary line. The books before that were ‘Old Discworld’; the books after that were ‘New Discworld.” They are the same place, but written by a better writer.

“Because the early ones were written in the fantasy tradition. You populate, apart from your heroes, with rogues, beggars, vagabonds, lords, whores… you don’t think of them as characters. But I find it much more fun to bring them forward as characters.”

Pratchett’s fans are legion and they are very vocal about their favourite novels and characters. This causes slight problems since everyone tells Pratchett which characters to focus on, but the suggestions are usually contradictory. Pratchett has taken to ignoring the advice.

“The problem is that I get requests from people who want more of the witches or don’t like the witches and want more guards. You’ll get what you’re given, but everyone is cheering for the party of choice.

“I get a lot of e-mail on the subject [of combining series]. But the fact is that if you like pickles and you like chocolate, but chocolate pickles may not be a good idea. If you put them all together, its sort of like a super-hero league where Batman can only have adventures because Superman happens to be out of town. What a lot of people want is to see a face-off between Granny and the Patrician. It may happen, but I don’t want to do it just to have the fun of doing it. I almost had Vimes and Lady Sybil meeting Verence and Magrat in The Fifth Elephant, but it got edited out because I was doing it as ‘series glue’ rather than because it was necessary for the book.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough to see that much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.)
  • Born March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. He’s best-known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia. He was also the Visual Development Artist on The Little Mermaid. (Died 1957.)
  • Born March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty-year period starting in the Fifties: The Great Beast, The Magic of Aleister Crowley, The King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say, the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats  with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best-known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 87. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career. 
  • Born March 12, 1933 Myrna Fahey. Though best-known for her recurring role as Maria Crespo in Walt Disney’s Zorro, which I’ll admit is at best genre adjacent, she did have some genre roles in her brief life including playing Blaze in the Batman episodes of “True or False-Face” and “Holy Rat Race”. Her other genre appearances were only on The Time Tunnel and Adventures of Superman.
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what a role it it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2, Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alasdair Stuart has refilled from the endless banquet of popular culture: “The Full Lid for 6th March 2020”

This week’s lead story is a look at the startlingly audacious Doctor Who season finale and it’s connections to Moorcock’s The Eternal Champion, the Creative Commons Licensing movement and Wildstorm Comics. Backing that up are my adventures attempting to replicate the breakfast sandwich from Birds of Prey, with a recipe from the always excellent Binging with Babish.

In Signal Boost, we’ve got details of the Null & Void.podcast’s crowdfunding campaign, Find them on Twitter here and have a trailer. We’ve also got the amazing Premee Mohamed‘s longform debut, Julian Jarboe releasing the brilliantly titled Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel  and the magic (literally) of Sarah Gailey. It’s rounded off with a Beth Elderkin piece that’s typically eloquent, perceptive and deeply brave. 

(14) FAMILIAR PLOT. Daniel Fienberg reviews HBO’s production for The Hollywood Reporter: “‘The Plot Against America’: TV Review”.

Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America was a cautionary tale about anti-Semitism in the United States and the dangers of a cult-of-personality presidency in which a politically unseasoned celebrity favored for his “America First!” nationalism forges questionable international alliances and enables the worst instincts of his partners and supporters, setting off a wave of hate crimes further emboldened by “But the economy is booming!” platitudes.

Terrifying fantasy. Right?

So what do you do when speculative fiction no longer feels so speculative? That’s the challenge facing The Wire collaborators David Simon and Ed Burns in their HBO limited-series adaptation of The Plot Against America. Simon and Burns aren’t always able to conquer the challenges of Roth’s text — it’s a great book, if not the most fluidly transferrable story to the small screen — but they’ve certainly crafted a six-hour nightmare with an insidious creep. Some viewers are likely to complain that nothing sufficiently dramatic or awful is happening — and they’ll surely be wrong — before the series twists the narrative knife by the end.

(15) IS LESS BETTER? Sean Kelly finds some internal contradictions in the ways Star Trek’s crews amuse themselves. Thread starts here.

(16) KONG’S INSPIRATION. I didn’t know this. I’m not sure I know it now. “How King Kong came out of a real-life scrapped Komodo dragon vs. gorilla fight” at SYFY Wire.

Ever seen an actual gorilla fighting a Komodo dragon? Well, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about animal cruelty) that fight fell through back in the 1920s, as the Depression sent potential investors running for the jungle. But, hoping to get at least some traction from this defunct battle royale, the hopeful promoter of the epic showdown, Merian C. Cooper, dreamed up King Kong instead — which, thanks to Fathom Events, you’ll be able to catch on the big screen for the first time nationally in more than six decades.

(17) COBBLED TOGETHER. “Ancient rock bears isotopic fingerprints of Earth’s origins”Nature has the story.

Identifying Earth’s building blocks from terrestrial rocks is challenging because these ingredients have become mixed as the planet evolved. Evidence of an unknown building block in ancient rocks provides fresh insight.

The Earth formed from an unknown selection of meteoritic material.  New research finds that the composition of ruthenium isotopes in ancient rocks from southwest Greenland contains evidence of a previously unrecognized building block of Earth. Surprisingly, the inferred isotopic composition of ruthenium in the material does not match known meteorite compositions. The authors’ findings suggest that Earth’s volatile components, such as water and organic compounds, could have arrived during the final stages of the planet’s growth…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Hey, every now and then…]

Frank Johnson (1953-2019)

By Joel Zakem: [Reprinted from FB with permission]

This is a post I hoped to never write.

In terms of longevity, Frank Johnson was my oldest friend. I believe that we first encountered each other in 1966 or 67, when we both around 13 or 14. At the time I was looking through a table of used science fiction magazines at the Ohio Bookstore in downtown Cincinnati with my friend Earl Whitson when Frank and his friend, Brad Balfour walked up. The four of us started talking and subsequently became friends. While I’ve since lost touch with Earl and rarely see Brad, Frank and I remained close.

In 1968, the four of us co-edited an atrocious sf fanzine entitled Advocates of the Infinite, which, thankfully, only lasted one issue. In the same year, we attended our first SF convention, the 1968 Midwestcon and in 1969, Frank, Brad and I joined the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (the local SF club, which put on the convention). Frank and I remained members.

In the fanzine world, Frank went on to co-edit, with Brad, the first issue of Conglomeration before going off on his own with Schamoob, which lasted more than 10 issues and where I was a regular contributor. He also provided cartoons to several other fanzines in the 1960’s and 70’s. Frank later revived Schamoob in the music APA “ALPS ,” where we were both members.

As con goers, Frank and I attended 51 straight Midwestcons (1968-2018) and, during every five Midwestcons since our 25th straight, in 1992, we have been hosting an anniversary party. Frank was also a regular attendee of Worldcons and several regionals such as Confusion and Windycon, but he rarely participated in panels or presentations. His 50+ years in fandom probably made him one of the longest tenured African-American SF fans.

Besides fandom, Frank and I shared several other interests, most notably music. While our taste occasionally clashed (we both enjoyed jazz and folk, but Frank tended toward the progressive area of rock while I was more into punk and new wave), I spent many an enjoyable hour in record and CD stores with Frank (and our differences in taste meant that we often would locate items the other wanted). Frank made regular trips to Europe, and he loved browsing the record stores there.

While music was more of a hobby for me, it became a career for Frank, as he has had a long tenure in radio as an announcer and programmer, in genres including album-oriented rock and smooth (or as we sometime called it snooze) jazz. In recent years, he hosted a drive-time classical music show on Cincinnati’s WGUC-FM, a job he truly seemed to enjoy.

Last year, however, Frank was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Like many things in his life, he tended to keep his condition secret from all but his closest friends. Various treatments proved unsuccessful, and the 2018 Windycon (which I regret skipping) became his last con (I offered to drive him to the 2019 Confusion, but he determined that it would have been too much of a strain). 

Though we have lived in different cities for the past 30 or so years, we have remained friends (and Cincinnati and Louisville, our current cities, are only two hours apart). In fact, in early January of this year, I ended up driving him to one of his treatments. At that time, he was noticeably thinner and weaker, but still seemed alert. After the treatment, we returned to the house he shared with Karen, his long-time significant other, where he insisted on playing me certain musical selections on his surround sound system. 

Unfortunately, in the past week, his condition radically worsened, and he ended up confined to bed. I had planned to drive up to see him today (March 20) but, around 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 19, I received a call from Karen saying that I should probably drive up on that day. I quickly showered, threw some things into the car, and hit the road to Cincinnati.

I arrived at Karen and Frank’s at about 11:30 a.m. and was shocked at the deterioration since the last time I had seen Frank. He probably weighed less than 100 pounds, could not talk, and was completely listless. While I would like to think that he knew that I was there, I cannot be sure. I was still there, with several of Frank’s other friends, in mid-afternoon, when Frank took his last breath. He was 65 years old.

Something kind of wonderful did happen right before Frank passed. A few months back, Frank, accompanied by Karen, made a last visit to the radio station where Frank worked. A long-time Hitchhikers fan, Frank asked, somewhat jokingly, that if he did not make it, could the phrase “So Long and Thanks For All The Fish” be used in any on-air tribute to him. (And WGUC just broadcast a moving tribute to Frank which ended with a recording of Frank saying those exact words.)

A package for Frank had arrived from the radio station earlier in the afternoon of the 19th. When Karen opened it, she discovered a glass fishbowl containing a number of paper fishes, each one with a message from one of Frank’s coworkers on the back. Karen, with a little help from me in deciphering some of the handwriting, read each message to Frank. The last one, read shortly before Frank died, read “The Answer is 42.”

I know that I will never forget Frank, and I also know I will never forget the opportunity to share Frank’s last hours with some amazing people, especially Karen who did so much for and with him. Safe journeys, old friend.

Karen Kelley and Frank Johnson in 2006. Photo by Joel Zakem.

Cincinnati Public Radio News’ post “WGUC Announcer Frank Johnson Loses Battle With Cancer” begins:

WGUC classical music host Frank Johnson lost his battle with cancer Tuesday, March 19. He was 65.

The Cincinnati native, who started his career in 1975 at Dayton’s WTUE-FM, joined WGUC-FM in 1998 on the All Things Considered news shift.

He had hosted afternoon and evening music shifts, most recently 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. He had been off the air since December.

Cincinnati Public Radio will pay tribute to Johnson today by playing some of his classical music favorites during his air shift. He loved Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

“The staff and listeners of WGUC and WVXU, as well as the Greater Cincinnati radio and music community – and science fiction fans everywhere – have lost a dear friend,” Cincinnati Public Radio said in an announcement today. “Frank was a true radio professional and aficionado of all types of music, especially jazz, his soul music.” 

And the Cincinnati Public Radio website is hosting a Remembering Frank Johnson page. Here’s the comment left by Denise Johnson —  

Denise Johnson (Frank’s sister)

Although WTUE was his first job after college, Frank’s radio career began while he was still in high school. Junior Achievement had a public affairs program that broadcast from the studios of WCIN. Once bitten he was hooked on mass communications.

An elder neighbor introduced him to shortwave (ham) radio. In order to get a stronger signal, Frank climbed up a telephone pole outside of his bedroom window to connect a tie a wire to the telephone cables.

Frank was an avid comic book consumer and collector. On one occasion, his little sister’s pet gerbil escaped from its cage and nibbled on a prized possession. To impress the importance and value of his collection, he dangled the offending rodent over the toilet as he repeatedly flushed while his sister cried and begged for mercy and his mother stood watch with an arched eyebrow. The gerbil wasn’t flushed and his sister made sure to avoid additional trauma by relocating the pet to an aquarium.

Frank continued to hone his skills as the student newspaper editor at Courter Technical High School and was on the yearbook and “managed” the school’s radio station.

His obsession with science fiction led to a book collection that earned him an award in a contest sponsored by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

His literary pursuits and graphic art skills led his to publish fanzines; the first, Conglomeration – a collaborative effort with other teen sci-fi fans and a solo effort titled Schmoob, published on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine from typewritered stencils. He managed to snag contributions from top-shelf authors like Ray Bradbury — all while still in high school.

While earning his Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Mass Communications at Bowling Green State University, he was the manager of the campus radio station and earned pocket change dj-ing campus dances and parties.

The sum of his combined experiences created a first-call radio announcer, programmer and production manager. Enunciation and a smooth delivery led to a side hustle of voice-over work. He worked in his chosen profession for nearly 50 years.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #35

Mission Worldcon 76 – Fallout!

By Chris M. Barkley: First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this report. In all honesty, I didn’t think I’d be writing up a Worldcon roundup at all this year. I did not keep a set of notes of our activities so everything had to be recreated through photos that were taken and the best recollections of myself and my partner, Juli.

There were also some behind-the-scenes intrigue that I am unable to share for personal reasons and frankly, I had a hard time thinking about what to include or not in this report.

On the whole, we had a good time. I was blessed to have witnessed literary history being made in person, as it happened. And weeks later, as I wrote this report, I find that the overwhelming sense of malaise and failure I was feeling before the convention somewhat muted in the wake of what happened at Worldcon 76.

Thursday, 16 August

My partner Juli and I arrived in San Jose on Wednesday out of necessity; the flight from Cincinnati was routed through Salt Lake City and with the layover of several hours and flight time, we got there in the early afternoon Pacific Time but three hours later in body time. We tried sleeping on the plane on the way out to mitigate the jet lag and it seemed to have worked, at least for a little while. Unwisely (I think), I kept my watch on Eastern Daylight Time throughout our stay just to gauge how I think felt against the actual time back home. More often than not I ended up confusing myself so I made a promise to myself to never do that again. A good night’s sleep followed.

I barely remember the San Jose that hosted the Worldcon sixteen years ago, save for the light rail system running just outside the convention center and a few restaurants. One thing that I did notice right away is that there were fences running along the rail lines to keep errant pedestrians (like myself) from jaywalking across them (as I did all too frequently the last time I was here).

Since Juli and I had already picked up our memberships, we thought it would be cool to just hang out in the convention center lobby and see who came wandering by. Among the first people we saw was our good friend Robert J. Sawyer who posed for a picture with me. Over the past year, we both discovered much to our chagrin, that Facebook’s face recognition algorithms cannot tell the difference between Rob and me. The photo Juli took of us, hilariously, was no exception.

The Dealer’s Room opened at noon. Wandering through we spotted David Gerrold hawking books and tribbles. Juli and I jointly presented him with a of a pair socks, a joke tradition that began back when we saw him at Sasquan in 2015. This year, the socks we presented him with were emblazoned with the snarky saying “Adult In Training” which he seemed to like. We also purchased his vampire novel, Jacob and a tiger-striped tribble one for our granddaughter, Lily.

Steve Davidson, editor and publisher of the newly revived Amazing Stories, was receiving a respectable amount of traffic at his booth. I commended Steve for handing out a superb issue for free to attendees.

As the day progressed, I was approached by a number of friends and acquaintances who expressed their condolences and disappointment over the naming (or, rather, the non-naming) of the Young Adult Book Award. I thanked them all and said that I was happy that Worldcon was finally recognizing the works of young adult authors.

I had my first panel in the afternoon; “My First Worldcon” which also featured Cindy Lin (who did not appear), John Hertz (who was running late), and Edwin S. “Filthy Pierre” Strauss. Most of the audience, numbering about twenty people, had never been to a Worldcon before and for a few, THIS was their first convention. To those few I jokingly said, “Well, luckily for you, it’s all downhill from here,” which drew a hearty laugh.

But from that point on, Pierre and I gave out some basic explanations of the origins of Worldcon, what to expect and how to survive the next four-and-a-half days with their wits intact. Twenty minutes in, John Hertz, elegantly dressed as always even in the daytime, waltzed in and brought the proceedings a great deal more gravitas and more practical advice (hygiene, hydration and happiness basically) than Pierre and I had combined. I hope the audience left a little more informed about what Worldcon was all about and had a good time.

From there it was off to Opening Ceremonies, where we were greeted and regaled by a dozen or so members of the local Native American Muwekma Ohlone tribe, who shared several songs with us. Artist Guest of Honor and Hugo Toastmaster John Picacio introduced his fellow artists of the Mexicanx Initiative who were attending the Worldcon at his behest. By all accounts, they had a great time.

One unusual thing; the First Fandom Award and the Big Heart Award were given out and I don’t recall them ever being presented separately and this early in the convention. I surmised (correctly, as it turned out) that John Picacio was planning to run the Hugo Awards VERY quickly. Erle M. Korshak, one of the last living members of the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 (Robert Madle being the other) presented Robert Silverberg with the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. The late June and Len Moffatt were inducted into the Hall posthumously. My Editor, Mike Glyer, was announced as the surprise recipient of the Big Heart.

Surprisingly, Mike was not present to accept so I promptly texted him: “Dude, YOU just won the Big Heart Award… CONGRATULATIONS!”

His reply, several hours later was:  “Thanks Chris. If only someone had hinted, ‘Mike you shouldn’t miss Opening Ceremonies!’”

As I was checking my Facebook feed at dinner, I saw that Worldcon 76 had an uninvited guest earlier in the afternoon; Jon Del Arroz. His hostile and provocative statements towards Worldcon 76 and previously recorded intentions of disrupting the convention got him banned from attending. Streaming live and commenting as he walked, he filmed himself entering the convention center and tried to register. He was quickly spotted and asked, very politely by Worldcon security, to leave the building.
As Del Arroz was being led out, he repeatedly asked why he was being ousted, knowing full well why he was getting the boot. I only wished I had been there to witness his inglorious exit because as he passed by, I would have piped up and shouted, “You want to know why, Jon? Because you’re a JERK, that’s why!”

Juli and I dined out at a restaurant amusingly called Vietnom, which was situated in an amalgamation of other eateries called SoFA Market. The food was incredibly good and generously portioned. We also heartily recommended Tac-OH, a nice, casual Mexican place with a nice ambiance to our friends and anyone else who would listen to us.

Later in the evening, We did run into Pablo Miguel Alberto Vasquez, with whom we shared several overpriced drinks with at the Marriott bar before retiring.

As my head touched the pillow I remembered that a group of folks from File 770 were going to convene at a bar but completely forgot about it. I made a mental note to try and make the second meet up, which was going to be at another venue on Friday.

Friday, 17 August

The first full session of the Business Meeting was scheduled in the morning. And while I had no doubts about the outcome, I always go in with butterflies in my stomach. To feed those butterflies, Juli and I consulted the Restaurant Guide.

“Hey hon,” said Juli, “what about Peggy Sue’s?”

Something stirred in my memory. “Where is that on the map?”

“About two blocks away.”

Sixteen years ago at ConJose, I usually started my day at an amazing little diner that served amazing food with generous portions. We walked over several streets and easily found Peggy Sue’s on San Pedro Street; a quaint little diner with the sensibility and décor that was straight out of the 50’s and 60’s. The food, eggs, burgers burritos and shakes were the best I have ever tasted. We happily ate there on a regular basis during the rest of our stay.

Frankly, I dreaded going to the Business Meeting. I had no doubt that some there were feeling a certain measure of schadenfreude towards me in the wake of the withdrawal of the proposition to add Ursula K. Le Guin’s name from the Young Adult Book Award. And I did note that several regular attendees went out of their way not greet me or ignore my friendly overtures to make small talk.

There were a few old friends who did come up and either commiserate with my frustration or added the condolences over the situation.

Regular readers of File 770 know that I had been a longtime advocate of making this new award a Hugo Award category. But, after several years and series of study committees (the last of which I did not participate in due to family issues), it was decided that it would be better to have YA novels compete separately from other award categories. But I needn’t have worried about the Friday session; it finished in what seemed to be a record time of an hour and ten minutes without too much parliamentary rancor or shenanigans. Usually these sessions take up the full three hours of allotted time each day.

What would I have said? I would have read the following excerpts from her 1973 National Book Award acceptance speech for her children’s novel, The Farthest Shore, which can be found in her 1979 collection of essays, The Language of the Night:

“I am very pleased, very proud and very startled to accept the National Book Award in children’s literature for my novel The Farthest Shore

“And I also rejoice in the privilege of sharing this honor, if I may, with my fellow writers, not only in the field of children’s books, but in that even less respectable field, science fiction. For I am not only a fantasist, but a science fiction writer, and odd though it may seem, I am proud to be both.

“We who hobnob with hobbits and tell tall tales about little green men are quite used to being dismissed as mere entertainers, or sternly disapproved of as escapists. But I think that perhaps the categories are changing, like the times. Sophisticated readers are accepting the fact that an improbable and unmanageable world is going to produce an improbable and hypothetical art.

“At this point, realism is perhaps the least adequate means of understanding or portraying the incredible realities of our existence. A scientist who creates a monster in the laboratory; a librarian in the library of Babel; a wizard unable to cast a spell; a spaceship having trouble reaching Alpha Centauri: all of these may be precise and profound metaphors of the human condition. Fantasists, whether they use the ancient archetypes of myth and legend or the younger ones of science and technology, may be talking as seriously as any sociologist – and a good deal more directly – about human life as it is lived, and as it might be lived, and as it ought to be lived. For after all, as great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope.”

Yes, even forty-five years ago, Ursula Le Guin UNDERSTOOD the power, grace and majesty of fantasy and science fiction in modern literature even if her mainstream contemporaries and literary critics refused to, then OR now.

But now, the best moment to permanently honor her, in this fashion, has passed. And so it goes.

After the Business Meeting, Juli and I made a beeline to the Dealers Room to decompress. One of our stops was at John Picacio’s table, where we marveled at his series of images inspired by his love of Loterria, a Mexican version of bingo.

We particularly liked El Arbo, La Valiente and La Luna, which we happily purchased on the spot. His image of La Calavera (The Skull) graced the cover of the Worldcon 76 Souvenir Book and the attendee’s badges.

Later that afternoon, Juli and I had the pleasure of playing Loteria (a delightful form of Mexican Bingo) with John and an enthusiastic crowd of several dozen people. We played with cards covered with mystic images, animals and symbols using uncooked beans as cover tokens. John was having a terrific time as our host, giving out prints, posters and cards of his work as prizes. Juli and I came within a space or two of winning but as frustrating as it was, we were having lots of fun and so was the everyone else.

We saw Robert Silverberg wandering in the Dealer’s Room and he said he was looking forward to Harlan’s memorial panel. He then cocked one of his bushy eyebrows at me and asked, “And what are YOU going to share about Harlan tomorrow?”

‘Oh, you’ll see, “ I said with the utmost confidence and a grin. HA! Yeah, I had NO IDEA what I was going to say right then. Then again, it’s never wise to let Robert Silverberg see you sweat.

For dinner, we joined Rick Moen and two full tables of File 770 fans and writers at Back A Yard Caribbean Grill, an excellent hangout with very good Jamaican fare. The Boss was not present but Juli and I were in excellent company.

We also made the rounds of the parties in the Fairmont Hotel. While we had a good time, we were still feeling a little jet lagged from the trip west so retired shortly before midnight.

Saturday August 18

I woke up and lay in bed with a mild case of apprehension.

The “Harlan Ellison Memorial” panel was scheduled at 4 p.m. and I had no idea of what I was going to say yet. I had left the notes I had made when I wrote my remembrance of him for my File 770 column at home.

Former Worldcon chair (and friend) Tom Whitmore was the moderator along with authors David Gerrold, Robert Silverberg, lawyer and photographer Christine Valada and Harlan’s biographer, Nat Segaloff.

And me.

I was a last-minute stand in for another close friend of Harlan’s, Adam-Troy Castro, who was unable to attend. I was pretty damn sure Adam had hundreds of Harlan stories and anecdotes that he could readily remember at a moment’s notice. What did I have?

Of all the people on the panel, Tom and I were the only fans. Realizing that, I knew exactly what I was going to say…

Saturday session came and went as quickly as the previous session. After the YA Award amendment had passed there was a pause in the meeting to provide some maintenance for the video equipment. A friend asked what i thought the YA Award should look like. “It should be a statue of Ursula Le Guin,” I said without the slightest hesitation and a small chuckle. No one knew what the award was going to look like but it was rumored that it was highly likely an engraved plaque would be presented. But I also heard from another well placed source before the convention that there was a surprise in the offing, too.

When Juli and I left the meeting, we determined that there was probably no reason to attend the Sunday session; a proposed amendment regarding the revision of the definitions of the Best Fan and Professional Artist categories had been pushed back to tomorrow’s agenda due to a meeting of the Association of Fantasy and Science Fiction Artists happening later today. ASFA members had read the proposals and wanted to debate their merits beforehand. Since neither I, nor Juli, had an opinion either way about the issue, we decided to skip it. In retrospect, I’ll wish we hadn’t.

After the Business Meeting, we decided to go on another buying expedition back at the Dealer’s room. It was there that Juli and I encountered our good friend Marcia Kelly Illingworth, who beckoned us to her table.

Marcia showed us a vast array of fannish keepsakes, artifacts and jewelry for sale, all the property of Samanda Jeude, the founder of Electrical Eggs. A survivor of a condition known as post-polio syndrome, she started Electrical Eggs in the 1980’s, first to assist physically challenged fans attend Worldcons, and then expanding to local and regional cons as well.

But an object along the back of the table immediately caught my eye, A Hugo Award mounted on a piece of glazed Georgia marble, I picked up and upon reading the engraved plaque, recognized it right away, Judy-Lynn Del Rey’s infamous posthumous Best Editor award from the 1986 Hugo Ceremony. Why do I say “infamous”? Well, Del Rey, a master book editor from all accounts, was so good at handling Ballantine Books fantasy and sf books, she was promoted to editor-in-chief and given their own imprint by Ballantine Books, with the assistance of her husband, Lester, who handled the fantasy line. Judy-Lynn Del Rey suffered a brain hemorrhage in October of 1985 and subsequently died in February of 1986. Fans who knew of her and her work were quick to nominate her in the Best Professional Editor category, which had been dominated by magazine editors since it’s modern incarnation in 1973.

I was in attendance at Confederation when this award was given. Sitting in the audience, and knowing what a curmudgeon Lester Del Rey could be, I had a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach as a representative approached the podium. He (whose name is lost to me and history), read a bitter and forceful statement from Lester Del Rey which more or less said that he was rejecting this award because she was dead and this was just a sympathetic gesture that he want no part of whatsoever. The audience sat there, stunned. The representative left the stage empty-handed. The Hugo Award was taken away, its fate unknown to everyone there.

I felt awed as I held it in my hands. Samanda Jeude and her late husband, Don Cook, members of the Confederation convention committee, were given custody of the Hugo for safekeeping. Marcia explained that Samanda was now in an assisted living facility but needed money to help pay her bills. She also said, emphatically, that this particular Hugo award was NOT for sale; but said that there were competing fund drives being held at Worldcon 76 to determine its fate. We could contribute to one fund to put it up for sale to the highest bidder or the other to make sure it stayed out of the hands of a collector. I pulled out a $20 bill and voted for the latter fund. It belongs in a museum as a noted fictional archeologist one stated. (At the end of the convention, Marcia Kelly Illingworth posted on Facebook that the fans had spoken and the Hugo will be eventually donated to an institution for posterity.)

I also spotted an Incident Response Team desk in a prominent spot in the fan activities area with two staff members at the ready. It was nice to know they were there and on duty.

At around 1 p.m., I decided to take a look outside the north entrance of the convention center. Jon Del Arroz, in his infinite wisdom, had called on like-minded right-wing fans to come and protest hedonism, liberal bias and “pedophilia” of the attendees several weeks earlier. (Which makes his effort to try and register on Thursday appeared to be a rather lame attempt to rile up his supporters.) The call also attracted the attention of Trump supporters and white supremacists, who promised to show up in force. That, in turn, inflamed local antifa members, who promised to be there to counter-protest.

Well, I went to the main entrance, which the committee had forewarned us not to use during the time period of the protest, from noon until four pm. As I descended the stairs, I saw a rather pudgy man trying to enter the front door which was blocked by a police officer and a staff person. I surmised that he was being denied entry because of the sign he was carrying, which said in huge, capitalized block letters: “DEL ARROZ DID NOTHING WRONG.” Oh well, no one said his supporters were smart. I do wish I had taken a picture of that scene, though.

Peering out onto the plaza, I did not see much of anything going on. In fact, it looked as though there were more police officers on the scene than protestors. The official estimate was a total of forty people showed up, evenly divided for each side. The local news coverage bore this out.

The charge of pedophilia against Walter Breen, and by association his wife Marion Zimmer Bradley, are quite real and happened decades ago. Bringing Samuel R. Delany into the discussion is just pure slander. The only thing he might be guilty of is writing “transgressive literature” which some critics and readers must have mistaken for pedophile porn.

I did notice that there were about a dozen people in pink shirts emblazoned with “ I’m Here To Help” acting as escorts for people coming to or leaving the convention. It was a lovely gesture which I am sure people appreciated.

Fifteen minutes before the Ellison panel, I made my way to the Green Room for a drink. As I passed through the lobby, I saw my boss, Mike Glyer, seated at a table with his back to me, holding court with a group of friends. If I hadn’t been en route to my panel, I would have stopped and said hello. In light of what happened the next morning, I really feel badly about that.

As I walked into the Green Room I bumped into my fellow panelist Nat Segaloff, whom I recognized by his Facebook profile picture. And he was there for the same reason I was. After grabbing our beverages of choice, we made our way to Room 210G…

Panelists: Tom Whitmore, Bob Silverberg, Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada, and Nat Segaloff.

And here I must fault the Programming Division on their choice of venue( although it is difficult to predict a panels popularity), which was significantly too small to accommodate the crowd, standing room only; and the time allotted, which was at the very least thirty or forty-five minutes too short. Luckily, Juli got a seat in the back as Nat and I arrived. All of the other panelists were already there except for our moderator Tom Whitmore. I took the third seat from the left, Robert Silverberg on my right, then David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat at the very end of the table. I gave David a hug as he sat but he then leaped up and said, “I forgot my recording mikes. Don’t start without me!”, and he ran from the room.

While David was gone, I took the opportunity to show Christine two items I have on my everyday keychain that I keep in remembrance of her late husband, Len Wein; a very small Batman symbol and a metal tag from the Wolverine work shoes. Len did me a big favor by being a guest on my public access sf radio show back in 1983 (as a counterpoint to another interview guest, Marvel’s editor-in-chief Jim Shooter). I think I may have shown them to Len at a Worldcon years earlier and he got a good laugh out of it. Christine hadn’t seen them and was very appreciative of the gesture.

David came running in with his microphones just as Tom had seated himself at the table. As soon as David had situated himself, Tom opened the proceedings.

So, as the fan representative on the panel, I reached back into my childhood memories and said that I knew of Harlan’s work on television even before I had the pleasure of knowing him. I eschewed more sophisticated stuff like Burke’s Law and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for more works of primal fear like The Outer Limits. I noted my reactions to “Soldier” and “Demon With a Glass Hand” but I also could have included “The Price of Doom” a first-season episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which was disowned by Harlan under his pseudonym “Cord Wainer Bird” (for the VERY first time, by the way), a nightmare story about a strain of mutant plankton taking over the Seaview.

While I was feeling at ease, I was very worried about David, who was opening shedding tears next to me. But when his turn came to speak, he pulled it together and told memorable stories of how they met, how Harlan inspired him as a writer and most poignantly, helped saved his life by listening and reassuring him during a particularly dark period in his life.

As you can tell from the audio recording there were many stories and anecdotes about Harlan, many of them much better than my own, in my estimation. I wished we had more time to take questions and hear memories from the standing room only crowd but it was not to be. When Robert Silverberg capped things with his eloquent quip, we all rose to a big round of applause. I gave David a hug and a kiss. Mr. Silverberg signed my copy of the special 1977 Harlan Ellison issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction I had brought with me and featured a short biographical memory written by him.

After the panel we discovered that Jon Del Arroz had not even bothered to show up at his own protest. In a video on Twitter shot on a boat at sea (not his own, it appeared) he explained that the air quality in downtown San Jose was unsuitable for his young son (WHAT? He was planning to bring his own SON into a potentially dangerous situation?) and begged off attending. Well, isn’t it nice to know that if ANYTHING had gone screwy, America’s Leading Conservative Hispanic author would have been safely out of harm’s way to protest (and annoy us) some other day.

We dined at Tac-Oh, a very nice restaurant located just around the corner from the convention center. While the ambiance and food was great, we and a dozen other patrons were put off because there was only one waiter on duty taking everyone’s orders.

When we inquired why, the waiter told us that the management was NEVER informed about a convention being in town this weekend. Since the wait schedule was made out in advance, once the management found out about Worldcon 76 they found that their most of their staff was unavailable.

Now, this was not the first time that we had heard this during our stay. I don’t know who might be at fault here but somebody, at the visitors and convention bureau or the convention committee or some third-party in between really dropped the ball on this issue. And its little irritants like this that can really stick in the minds of attending fans. Future convention committees and bids should make a bullet point note of this.

Chris Garcia

From there we traveled back to the convention center for the Masquerade, hosted by Christopher Garcia. While the presentation was plagued by what seemed to be an endless series of technical faux pas and delays, Chris gamely plowed forward as the master of ceremonies, improvising with self-deprecating humor and scattershot jokes all during the show.

Shortly after the Masquerade started there was a surprising presentation; the Seiun Awards, which had a longstanding relationship with the Hugo Awards Ceremony, began without any prior announcement from the convention. (I checked the Pocket Program Book later and there was no notice there either.)

As egregious as Programming’s mishandling of the Ellison Memorial panel was, I felt that this was far worse. The Seiun is a highly respected award and had been, to the best of my knowledge, a part of the Hugo Awards Ceremony for a considerable period of time. While I recognize that the Hugo Ceremony has been getting longer in recent years, the relegation of the Seiun Awards to the beginning of the Masquerade seemed either haphazard or, even worse, a slight to those were presenting their awards. If the length of the Hugo ceremony was the problem, then the Seiuns should have been presented at the Opening Ceremonies or in their own hour-long panel and ceremony. I don’t know how everyone else felt about this but It felt awkward that Worldcon 76 had literally put the Seiuns in a corner instead of a deserving and proper setting.

The costuming presentations resumed and when they were over, we did not hangout for the halftime entertainment or the judges’ decisions. Instead, we headed back over to the Fairmount for another round of noisy and exuberant room parties before retiring back to our room for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, 19 August

The morning was spent in the company of Juli’s sister Gail, her husband Mauro and their kids Sonia and her younger brother, Dario. We met at Peggy Sue’s and feasted on a mountain of omelets, breakfast sandwiches and pancakes. Juli and I regaled them with our convention adventures and name-dropping the famous writers and creators that we met that week. We heard from both parents that later that morning, Dario and Sonia vehemently argued over which of us was cooler. Heh!

Meanwhile, as the Business Meeting was concluding its Sunday session, there was a motion from the floor to ask the Officers of BM to send a note of condolences to the family of Ursula Le Guin for the upsetting circumstances behind the naming of the Young Adult Award. I found out about the proposed apology and the vote on the matter after the fact several hours later after Juli read a condensed version off of a report on a blog by a mutual friend, Alex Von Thorn. When I read it, I was furious.

I had spent a great deal of time and political effort in creating the YA Award and attaching Ms. Le Guin’s name to it. And now the very people who opposed her name wanted to apologize?

What the actual HELL?

And then we heard from friends in the Dealer’s Room that Mike Glyer had been overcome with some serious ailment earlier in the morning and been taken to a hospital nearby. I immediately texted Mike on my phone through Facebook wishing him well and  offered to be a designated acceptor in case he won the Hugo. (I needn’t have worried; he called in Jo Van Ekeren to accept in his stead.)

Since there was nothing to be done about it at the moment, Juli and I split up to attend two separate program items. She went to Celebrating the New Award Category (a panel I avoided for obvious reasons) which featured Anna Blumstein, Sam J. Miller, Sarah Rees Brennan and Ursula Vernon. I attended Black Panther, Luke Cage and the #Ownvoices Creators with Steven Barnes, Sumiko Saulson, Leslie Light and T.L. Alexandra Volk. Juli found her panel a fine opportunity for YA authors to speak to other YA enthusiasts (it was well attended) and was mainly focused on its popularity and where it might be going next. My panel was just fantastic; all of the participants were engaging, excited, serious and funny. About twenty percent of the audience was made up of people of color but everyone in attendance was listening raptly to the conversation about race, sexism, appropriation and the current political and socio-economic conditions in art and fandom today.

After a delicious early dinner at La Victoria Tacqueria, we returned to our hotel to dress up for the Hugos. Juli donned a lovely black satin dress with a white bow in the back. I wore a blue suit with a black shirt, orange tie and and florid blue, white and orange FC Cincinnati scarf around my neck.

When I describe the 2018 Hugo Ceremony as a whirlwind affair, it is not an exaggeration. Clocking in at a little over two hours, it is handily one of the fastest on record. Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio had pledged as much when he was named as the Master of Ceremonies. And, as promised, he delivered the goods. (And displacing the other non-Hugo Awards helped as well.)

John Picacio

As each award was announced, I took multiple screenshots of the video boards showing the nominees and the winners on my phone and posted them immediately to my Facebook page. Several people later reported that they appreciated finding out the winners in real-time.

I was very happy that the boss, Mike Glyer, won the Hugo for Best Fanzine. And as Ms. Van Ekeren accepted for him, it was incredibly classy of him to remove File 770 from future consideration. Mike, as it was later reported, was laid up with an irregular heartbeat that would require the insertion of a pacemaker, so the Hugo was a pick-me-up. Also, Mike had Ms. Van Ekeren mention me by name in his speech, which had me a little chuffed as well.
The Best Related Work was won by Le Guin’s collection of essays, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters. I kept thinking how tremendous it would have been to have her name on future issuances of the YA Award and winning her final Hugo in the same evening.

I was quite sure Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form Hugo was going to go to the Black Mirror episode “USS Callister”, a wicked send-up of Star Trek, The Twilight Zone and gaming fandom. Instead, it went to one of the The Good Place’s best episodes, “The Trolley Problem”. I was similarly surprised by Wonder Woman’s win in the Long Form category; the list of nominees was one of the best in recent memory, especially with Academy Award winners Get Out and The Shape of Water in the mix. Get Out ended up finishing a distant second and The Shape of Water (which won the Oscar for Best Picture) was fifth.

Rebecca Roanhorse was also a double winner; she was the winner of John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer AND in the Best Short Story category for “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM”, a tale that penetrates and shatters perceptions of cultural appropriation.

I was delighted that Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots”, a comic story of interstellar war taken from a maintenance bot’s point of view, won Best Novelette. It was my first choice that category and would make a great film for Pixar. Hint, hint.

As much as I admired Sarah Gailey’s alternate history adventure, “River of Teeth”, Martha Wells novella “All Systems Red” (which also won the Nebula Award) was my first choice here as well. I would not be surprised if HBO or some streaming service comes knocking on her door for “Murderbot” stories, sometime soon.

Felicia Day’s appearance as the presenter of the YA Book Award took everyone by surprise. And I could not be any happier that Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior was named the initial recipient of the Best Young Adult Book.

Betsy Wollheim

In fact, she actually received two awards; a plaque from the convention AND a trophy commissioned by Toastmaster John Picacio and designed and built by Sara Felix. If you were wondering how she accomplished this feat, here’s a link:

I hope that Ms. Okorafor’s book will be the first of many inspiring books that will win this special award in the years to come.

The Best Novel winner, N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky was the odds-on winner since it was first published last year and I was not surprised that she prevailed. Juli, myself and the entire audience rose to its feet to applaud the first writer in history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards in the Novel category.

And the speech she gave was fearless, ecstatic, wonderful and electrifying:

And it was over. I wandered close enough to the stage to take a few photos, congratulate John Picacio for his hosting skills and, for a few brief moments, hold Mike Glyer’s Best Fanzine Hugo.

Not having an invite to George R.R. Martin’s Hugo Loser’s Party, we made our way to the Marriott’s overpriced bar to toast the winners. We met up with a friend and fellow Cincinnati Fantasy Group member, Joel Zakem and we properly indulged with hard cider and beer. New England fan Crystal Huff and her friends also wandered in and ended up seated next to us and we engaged in some fannish gossip for a while.

When we discovered that Joel’s flight was leaving at the very same time as ours, 1:10 pm, we made plans to share an Uber to the airport.

Monday, August 20

We arose before 8 a.m. and hit the ground running. I went to a nearby post office and brought back several priority mail boxes to ship back the books we purchased and had gotten signed. It was well worth the effort because we had JUST made it a pound and a half under the weight limit for our single, huge suitcase.

On the way back to the hotel, I passed by the windows of the Westin Hotel’s restaurant and stopped to make funny faces at several diners; con-runners Jim and Laurie Mann, John Lorentz and his partner Kathy, author Jo Walton and her breakfast companion and two Pittsburgh area friends, Bob and Carla Dundes.

We met Joel on the curb outside the Westin at around 11 a.m. and before long the Uber driver was taking us to the airport. I longed to make one more trip to the Dealers Room, say goodbye to friend and attend the Closing Ceremonies. But unfortunately, our early flight and the long layover in Salt Lake City would get us into the Greater Cincinnati Airport around midnight. Poor Joel had a longer haul; his flight was routed through Atlanta and he would be getting back to Louisville, Kentucky at an even more ungodly hour than us.

We were not the only ones making an early getaway; as we made our way through our terminal, we spied authors Nancy Kress (sporting a stylish black cast on her right foot from a mishap) and Jack Skillingstead waiting near a Starbucks for their flight.

Out two flights home were long and uneventful. Luckily, the last leg was a half an hour early and we were safely snug in our beds and surrounded by grumpy cats by 12:30 am. Jet lag be damned, we were asleep in ten minutes.

Pixel Scroll 3/15/18 Yon Pixel Has A Lean And Hungry Look

(1) LUCAS MUSEUM. NBC Los Angeles was there for Wednesday’s ceremony: “George Lucas’ $1 Billion Museum Breaks Ground in Exposition Park”.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts in Exposition Park is beginning to take shape in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park area.

Filmmaker George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson were at a groundbreaking Wednesday for the $1 billion museum. The museum will house works by painters such as Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; illustrations, comic art and photography by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth; as well as storyboards, props and other items from popular films. It will be a “barrier-free museum” where “artificial divisions between `high’ art and `popular’ art are absent,” according to the museum’s website.

“It will be beautiful. It will be 11 acres of new parkland here,” Hobson said. “Everyone always wonders why we are doing so much to make this building stand out. George said, ‘I want an iconic building. I want a child to look at this building and say I want to see what is inside of that building.’ The building itself is a piece of art that will be in this park that we’re creating for this entire community and the world.”

The museum plans to feature a five-story building with 300,000 square feet of floor area for a cafe and restaurant, theaters, office space, lecture halls, a library, classrooms, exhibition space and landscaped open space.

Lucas told a CBS News interviewer:

Movies, including the “Star Wars” series, will be featured in exhibits showing what it takes to make a film, from set designs to character and costume sketches. There will be film storyboards and comic art. But the museum will also display paintings by Renoir, N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell – all from Lucas’ private collection.

“I think more people will come in for Rockwell than will come in for ‘Star Wars,'” Lucas said.

“Norman Rockwell can tell a whole story in one picture,” Lucas said.

“When were you captivated by Rockwell?” Blackstone asked.

“When I was 8 years old… I wanted to be an illustrator. I wanted to be able to do that,” Lucas said. “I wanted to be able to do pictures that have a message that appeals to a lot of people.”

Art that tells a story inspired him to tell stories. That narrative art is what Lucas will share in his museum.

(2) ANNIHILATION. Camestros Felapton has eyeballed the evidence and delivered his verdict: “Review: Annihilation (movie 2018 – Netflix)”.

The film (which had a very limited cinema release in the US and then a Netflix release internationally) is a different creature than the book. Events have been changed, plot elements removed, characters adjusted and the structure of the story altered. All of which seems to have been a good idea. The film carries the same sense of paranoia and wonder as the book and the same theme of people trying to cope when confronted with the incomprehensible. However, it has been remade into its own thing – a story with its own structure and characters that shares DNA with the book but which follows its own course.

(3) HELP WANTED. Journey Planet wants contributors for a Star Wars theme issue —

Regular Editors Chris Garcia and James Bacon, joined by Will Frank, have set out to create an issue of Journey Planet dedicated to the legendary Star Wars Universe. The issue, set for a May 4th release, will look at the films, the universe, the fans, the books, the comics, the toys, the Irish Connection and the meaning of the greatest of all science fiction franchises!

We want to hear from you if you are interested in contributing. We have an instant fanzine and are soliciting pieces, from short pieces on the first time you saw the films, about your massive collection of Star Wars figures (Mint-on-Card, of course)

We already have a beautiful cover by Sarah Wilkinson.

Please contact — journeyplanet@gmail.com

Tell us what you’d like to write about. Then content submission Deadline is April 17th

And may the Force be with you!

 

(4) HAL/ALEXA. So how is this invention supposed to parallel the workings of HAL-9000 – by preventing people from getting back into their homes? The Verge tells us “This replica of HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey comes with Amazon’s Alexa built in”.

HAL-9000, the malevolent supercomputer at the heart of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is an icon of science fiction cinema. So much so, that if you ask any one of the virtual assistants to “Open the pod bay doors,” they’ll dutifully parrot HAL’s lines from the movie back at you. Now, Master Replicas Group wants to take that step a bit further, turning HAL into a virtual assistant that can control your home.

The company name might be familiar to prop and costume fans: the original Master Replicas produced a range of high-quality props from franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek before going out of business a decade ago. If you’ve seen someone swinging around a lightsaber, there’s a good chance it’s one of Master Replicas’ props, or based off of their models. The new company is made up of several former employees, who are getting back into the prop replica business with a new range of products, including an interactive replica of HAL.

This isn’t the first time that someone’s thought about putting HAL into your home’s smart devices: a couple of years ago, fan prop-maker GoldenArmor made its own version that allows someone to mount it over their Nest thermostat. MRG’s prop goes a bit beyond that. It recently obtained the license from Warner Bros. to create an exact replica of the iconic computer, and while most prop replicas are static recreations of a movie or film prop, this version is designed to be interactive, using Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa.

A humorous video simulating “If HAL9000 was Amazon.com’s Alexa” has already gone viral —

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 15, 1956 Forbidden Planet premiered.
  • March 15, 1967 Frankenstein Created Woman stitched together a story for the theaters.
  • March 15, 1972 Slaughterhouse Five was first released theatrically.

(6) IS IT VINTAGE? Mark Kelly considers the sequel to Dandelion Wine in “Ray Bradbury: FAREWELL SUMMER”.

RB provides an afterword to this book, also, in which he explains where this book came from. In the mid 1950s (several years after the successes of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN)  he submitted a manuscript to his publisher, Doubleday, for the book that became DW. But that original manuscript was too long and his editor suggested cutting it. RB quotes his reply (p210 in FS): “ ‘Why don’t we published the first 90,000 words as a novel and keep the second part for some future year when you feel it is ready to be published.’ At the time, I called the full, primitive version The Blue Remembered Hills. The original title for what would become Dandelion Wine was Summer, Morning, Summer Night. Even all those years ago, I had a title ready for this unborn book: Farewell Summer.”

With DANDELION WINE such an entrenched classic, it’s difficult to imagine how the content of FAREWELL SUMMER could have been incorporated into it. That would have been a completely different book. As it came to be, DW has a perfect story arc, across one summer in the life of a 12-year-old. Yet even as a leftover, on its own, FS is a quite different, a rather oddly amazing and moving, book.

(7) WHEATON MEETS SHATNER. In this video, Wil Wheaton acts out meeting William Bleeping Shatner when ST:TNG was in its second season.

The filming of Star Trek 5 happened only a few doors away from Star Trek The Next Generation, Giving Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) the chance to meet his idol William Shatner, it didn’t go as well as he had hoped…

 

(8) LAST-MINUTE CAMPAIGNING. We’re annually snowed under by award eligibility posts, but it’s strange to see them still arriving with less than 24 hours left to nominate, when voters no longer have time to read/listen to the person’s recommended body of work.

Lawrence Schoen urges consideration of his Eating Authors blog:

Every Monday morning*, since June of 2011, I’ve put out a blog post featuring authors and their most memorable meals. That’s more than 350 stories of incredible food, amazing dinning companions, astonishing circumstances, and remarkable settings.

And Crystal Huff points to a year’s worth of tweets:

(9) POOP HAPPENS. From Pitchfork we learn: “Neil Young Writing a Sci-Fi Novel Called Canary”.

Neil Young recently sat down with Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle to discuss his role in the upcoming film Paradox. In the midst of the interview, he opened up about the sci-fi novel he’s been writing. It’s called Canary, and Young said it focused on a power company employee who gets caught exposing the corruption at his workplace. “He discovers the solar company he works for is a hoax,” he explained. “And they’re not really using solar. They’re using this shit—the guy who’s doing this has come up with a way to make bad fuel, the bad energy, this really ugly terrible stuff, and he’s figured out a way to genetically create these animals that shit that gives the energy to make the [fuel]. So he’s created this new species. But the species escapes. So it’s a fuckin’ mess. It’s a long story.”

Young said he already has a New York agent on board with the project, but didn’t share a possible publication date. He also got candid when it came to the topic of retirement tours. “When I retire, people will know, because I’ll be dead,” he said. “I’m not gonna say, ‘I’m not coming back.’ What kind of bullshit is that? I could go out and play if I felt like it, but I don’t feel like it.”

(10) SHETTERLY. Are Will Shetterly’s and Jon Del Arroz’ situations alike? JDA evidently thinks so.

(11) YO HO NO. Fraser Sherman is teed off: “Books are too expensive, so it’s okay to pirate them. Oh, really?”

I have no sympathy for this crap. In the many years I did the struggling-writer shtick, I saw lots of books I couldn’t afford. I didn’t steal copies. I wouldn’t do it if I were still struggling. If it was a paper copy, would they shoplift it from Barnes & Noble if they thought it was overpriced? Or how about a restaurant — if the service takes too long (the “they don’t release it fast enough” argument), does that mean they’re entitled to steal food from the salad bar? Soft drinks cost a fraction of what they sell for, does that make it okay to steal them? Or movie tickets — lord knows those are outrageously priced, but does that justify sneaking in without paying?

(12) THE JEOPARDY BEAT. Rich Lynch says tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! included this answer:

A contestant got it right.

(13) GOT OBSIDIAN? “Changing environment influenced human evolution”: a site in Kenya is “the earliest known example of such long distance [25-95km] transport, and possibly of trade.”

Early humans were in the area for about 700,000 years, making large hand axes from nearby stone, explained Dr Potts.

“[Technologically], things changed very slowly, if at all, over hundreds of thousands of years,” he said.

Then, roughly 500,000 years ago, something did change.

A period of tectonic upheaval and erratic climate conditions swept across the region, and there is a 180,000 year interruption in the geological record due to erosion.

It was not only the landscape that altered, but also the plant and animal life in the region – transforming the resources available to our early ancestors….

(14) STORAGE WARS. That stuff sure looked familiar…. “Police: Marvel fan spotted his $1.4M collection for sale online”.

Police in California said two men were arrested on burglary charges after a man discovered his $1.4 million collection of Marvel super hero memorabilia for sale online.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department responded Feb. 22 to a storage facility where a man discovered his collection of Marvel collectibles had been stolen after he was made aware that some of his items were listed for sale online.

(15) LATE NIGHT NERDS. Joel Zakem spotted this TV highlight: “Steven Colbert talks to Paul Giamatti about Science Fiction and used book stores during the first 5 minutes of this interview from yesterday’s Late Show. It’s probably the only time you will hear Henry Kuttner and Avram Davidson mentioned on late night TV.” — “Paul Giamatti And Stephen Are Science Fiction Nerds”

‘Billions’ star Paul Giamatti gets some gifts or reading assignments from Stephen, depending on how you look at them.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/18 Contents Of The Pixels May Have Scrolled During Flight

Editor’s note: A lean Scroll because I’m on the road overseeing my mother’s care and the motel wi-fi is deadly slow!

(1) DUANE AND MORWOOD APPEAL. Diane Duane and Peter Morwood have run into a financial shortfall, and are in danger of losing their house. Diane tweets about it, and points to an ebook sale:

Their ebookstore is https://ebooksdirect.co/

Duane details the background on her blog: “A Difficult Appeal” and concludes —

…What’s most infuriating (and mortifying) about all this is that if what’s happening now was instead happening in six or eight weeks, it’d be less of an issue, as Peter’s entire (newly revised) backlist will be coming online in paperback format at Amazon. But it’s happening now, and the truth is that without assistance, we won’t make it to the spring—not and keep our home. So, swallowing our corporate pride, it’s time to turn to the larger community and ask for help.

(2) FUNDRAISER FOR A BIG HEART FAN. Big Heart winner Samanda Jeude needs financial help – Marcia Kelly Illingworth explains —

Due to the recent passing of Don Dea Cook, and Samanda Jeude now in residence in a Canton nursing home, there will be a number of sales and auctions of their vast collection of books, art, and collectibles, with all proceeds going to the continuing care of Samanda.

For those younger fans who may not have known Don and Sam, they were very active in the Science Fiction community for many years.  Don/Dea was the Chair of the Atlanta in 1995 Worldcon Committee.  Samanda was the Founder of Electrical Eggs, which started the move toward access to conventions for people with different physical challenges. She spent the biggest part of her adult life working to help others. Now it’s our time to help her.

Sam has asked my husband Tim Illingworth and myself to coordinate the disposition of their collection. Our plan is to hold auctions at as many conventions as possible, as well as online auctions and fixed price sales. We are awaiting word from this year’s DeepSouthCon, ConCave in Kentucky later this month, where we hope to be able to hold the first auction.  After all, Samanda is a past winner of the Rebel Award.

We welcome any suggestions for venues, and volunteers for assistance.  With careful oversight and management, we should be able to take care of Samanda’s needs. If you have any further questions, please contact me via Messenger or email. This post is public, so please feel free to share it far and wide.  Thank you.

If you, or anyone else, have any questions, or suggestions for venues or methods, please feel free to email me. My email address is no secret.

marcia.illingworth@gmail.com

(3) TOLKIEN EXHIBITION. The “Maker of Middle-Earth” exhibit will be on view at the Weston Library, Oxford from June 1-October 28, 2018.

Journey into Tolkien’s worlds in this once-in-a-generation exhibition…

Wizards, elves, hobbits and creatures: the life and worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien are revealed in this unique exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores Tolkien’s legacy, from his genius as an artist, poet, linguist, and author to his academic career and private life….

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores Tolkien’s amazing legacy from his genius as an artist, poet, linguist, and author to his academic career and private life. The exhibition takes you on a journey through Tolkien’s famous works, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, displaying an array of draft manuscripts, striking illustrations and maps drawn for his publications. Discover Tolkien’s early abstract paintings from The Book of Ishness, the touching tales he wrote for his children, rare objects that belonged to Tolkien, exclusive fan mail; and private letters.

This once-in-a-generation exhibition runs from 1 June to 28 October 2018 at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

(4) MILÀN OBIT. Victor Milán died February 13 of myeloma complicated by pneumonia announced Patricia Rogers on Facebook.

Mark Lawrence summarized his career on Reddit’s r/Fantasy section:

In 1986 he won the Prometheus Award for his novel Cybernetic Samurai. More recently he wrote the Dinosaur Lords books.

He was a regular contributor to the George Martin’s Wild Cards series and Tor.com will have one of his Wild Cards short stories on their site tomorrow morning.

(5) RAPP OBIT. Tom Rapp (1947-2018). Joel Zakem writes —

I was saddened to learn that one of my favorite musicians, singer and songwriter Tom Rapp from the band Pearls Before Swine, passed away on February 11. While I can only recall two songs that have SFF connections, I believe both are based on favorites of yours.

First, from their second album, “Balaclava” (!968) this adoption of some of Tolkien’s most famous lines (extra credit for knowing the meaning of the album title):

 

And this Bradbury-based number from 1970’s “The Use Of Ashes”.

 

(6) I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. Rose Eveleth, in the podcast Flash Forward, has an episode called “You’ve Got  Brainmail” where she interviews author Ramez Naam, sf scholar Roger Luckhurst, and the etiquette columnist of the Boston Globe about such questions as the history of telepathy, whether brain to brain interfaces are possible, and what happens when your first wedding invitation is sent telepathically.

(7) MORE 1976 WORLDCON VIDEO. The FANAC Fan History Project has posted another video from the Video Archeology project, “Fifty Amazing, Astounding, Wonderful Years, a talk by James Gunn.”

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. It was also the 50th anniversary of the first science fiction magazine. In this video, Professor Gunn talks about the impact of the magazines on science fiction and the creation of fandom. There’s also an entertaining description of the responses of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne to each other, a brief account of how to create a science fiction writer, and a sense of what the field was like in the early days, all delivered with charming wit. This essay later appeared in Gunn’s “Inside Science Fiction”, published by Scarecrow Press. (1992). The material is brought to you by the FANAC Fan History Project, with video from the Video Archeology project.

 

(8) RESEARCH ALREADY DONE. I didn’t think this was news. In fact, I’m sure crusading journalist (and frequent blockee) Jon Del Arroz has written about it quite often, in the process convincing people it’s the right choice.

(9) NOT MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER. Marvel’s Thor will tee up a new hammer in the next Avengers movie:

Thor Ragnarok had Chris Hemsworth lose his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, but the God of Thunder will get a NEW one in Avengers Infinity War and we have our first look! Jessica has the reveal (WITH SPOILERS) on today’s Nerdist News!

 

[Thanks to Marica Illingworth, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Joel Zakem, Rose Embolism, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Annals of Michifandom at Detcon1

Here are several photos taken by Joel Zakem at Detcon1’s “Annals of Michifandom” panel chaired by Dick Smith and Rich Lynch.

Update 07/21/2014: Thanks to Steven H Silver for identifying the unknown participant in the fourth photo.

Roger Sims and Fred Prophet, co-chairs of 1959 Worldcon, Detention.

Roger Sims and Fred Prophet, co-chairs of 1959 Worldcon, Detention.

Dick Smith, Rich Lynch, Gregg T. Trend.

Dick Smith, Rich Lynch, Gregg T. Trend.

Smiths Lynch Sims Prophet McLaughlin

Dick Smith, Rich Lynch, Roger Sims, Fred Prophet, Dean McLaughlin.

Smith, Lynch, unknown. Cy Chauvin, Trend.

Smith, Lynch, Carol Lynn, Cy Chauvin, Trend.

Opening Hours of Detcon1

Detcon1, the 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention, kicked off today in Detroit.

The first round of programming included “Welcome to the SF Community: Enjoying the NASFiC.” Rich Lynch was there to record to moment for posterity. 

John Hertz, Joel Zakem, Pablo Vasquez, and Nicki Lynch at Detcon1. Photo by Rich Lynch.

John Hertz, Joel Zakem, Pablo Vasquez, and Nicki Lynch at Detcon1. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Zakem: Whither Midwestcon

By Joel Zakem: [The following contains my personal thoughts and should be in no way construed to be the thoughts or position of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG) as a whole or of any other CFG member.]

On August 6, 2013, an article entitled “Midwestcon’s Future To Be Decided” was posted on File770. As of early morning on August 12, only two comments to the piece have been posted. While I drafted a rather lengthy comment to address what I felt was an oversimplification of the issue, upon reflection and after consulting with several other CFG members, I decided it would be best to refrain until after the vote took place. Besides, the CFG had earlier reached a consensus to keep this issue “in-house” until after the vote occurred.

There was a vote at the August 10 CFG meeting (one of the few official votes that I remember taking place during my 40+ years as a CFG member), and Bill Cavin left the voting open until Sunday night so that CFG members who were not able to attend the meeting in person could have their say. The choices were to retire Midwestcon after Midwestcon 65 in 2014; to continue Midwestcon, if possible (important emphasis) into the future; or abstention. At a bit past 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) on August 11, Bill reported that the winning vote was to continue Midwestcon, if possible. Discussions are ongoing as to how this will be accomplished.

Such discussion is necessary because Midwestcon, like several other cons, is in trouble. This is not a new problem and there have been many informal discussions over the past several years, within the CFG and among Midwestcon attendees, as to how to change the trend. Midwestcon’s attendance is decreasing and has fallen under 100 for the past three years, with only 86 paid members in 2012 (78 actually on site) and 90 paid members in 2013 (86 on site). Moreover, a sizable portion of Midwestcon’s current membership consists of locals who do not take a room for the weekend (not that I blame them for trying to avoid the expense), which has necessitated the shrinking of our room block.

Another major problem has been the fact that various department heads are looking to step down. Finding volunteers to work within these departments has never been a problem for Midwestcon. The problem is replacing these persons with others who have the time, knowledge and desire to run the departments, who are able coordinate with the committee and hotel, and who can direct the willing volunteers. As someone aptly stated at the August 10 meeting, “the dragon has many legs, it just needs a head.”

(And before anyone misconstrues what was said, the discussion involved department heads, and not the con-chair. I am unaware of any plans for Bill to step down from his position within the CFG or at Midwestcon. Also, I do not believe I have the ability to take over the positions in question, and this should be in no way construed to be an attempt to throw my hat into the ring. I will, however, continue to help Midwestcon in my way.)

This brings us to the “if possible” portion of the vote. Midwestcon is currently in a precarious financial position, and I believe that a majority of the CFG (myself included) is unwilling to operate Midwestcon at a loss. Therefore, Midwestcon’s attendance must increase, and I believe that the CFG should be open to suggestions on how to increase membership without changing the con’s fundamental nature (though I am realistic enough to realize that some change may be necessary). Some suggestions were made at the August 10 meeting and on email exchanges prior to the vote, and I hope these discussions continue. Midwestcon was the first con I attended, and I would hate to see it fade away.