National Palindrome Week

By John Hertz: In the United States a date is often written as Our Gracious Host does.  For example, September 17, 2019 is often written 9/17/19.

If you allow adjustments to punctuation “9/17/19” backwards is “9/17/19” – the same as forwards: a palindrome.

English is an alphabetical language.  We can have palindromes like “Able was I ere I saw Elba” which Napoleon 1769-1821 could have said (it seems to have appeared in 1848), or “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!” for Theodore Roosevelt 1858-1919 (coined by Leigh Mercer 1893-1977).

Incidentally, 2019 is the centenary of TR’s death.

If English were an ideographic language, where a character is a word (we do that with Arabic numerals: “2” is “two”), we could read “You ain’t seen nothing yet” backwards as “So far nothing ever seen matches you.”

Opinions vary over whether a palindrome must have the same meaning read backward and forward, or may have different – perhaps comically different – meanings.

Chinese is an ideographic language.  Its grammar is flexible, or powerful, or something: for example, there are no nouns or verbs, which we sometimes manage with “He laid a knife on the table” and “I’ll knife you.”  It’s great for poetry.

Su Hui, a Chinese woman of seventeen hundred years ago (I give her name in Chinese style, “Su” the family name, “Hui” the personal name), made a poem of 112 characters, or some say 841.  One story says she embroidered them in a circle.

A thousand years later her poem was known as a grid of 29 x 29 characters that could be read forward, backward, horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or in sub-grids, three thousand ways – some say eight thousand.  This note includes translation by David Hinton (1954-  ).

And here’s a note on Hsiung Yin-tso and his Chinese Palindrome Poems of Four Seasons (1978).

Do geese see God?

Spikecon Spoonfuls

By John Hertz:  Spikecon combined Westercon LXXII (regional) and the 13th NASFiC (North America S-F Con, since 1976 held when the Worldcon is off-continent – this year’s Worldcon was in Dublin, Republic of Ireland), plus a 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flynt’s 1632 series) and Manticon 2019 (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran Navy, i.e. Space navy).  This was a first.

Chair, Kate Hatcher; attendance, about 800; in the Art Show, sales about $20,000 by about 60 artists.

The Westercon and NASFiC each had Guests of Honor.  The Utah Fandom Organization (yes, that spells –) brought two more; eight other sponsors brought nine more.

It all happened at Layton, Utah, 4-7 July 2019, fifty miles from where the Final Spike was driven completing the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier.

Layton (population about 70,000) is twenty-five miles from Salt Lake City, where Westercon LXVII had been – the first in Utah.

We used the Davis County Conference Center and five hotels.

Studying available space I hadn’t seen anywhere to put a Fanzine Lounge.  Hatcher said “How about a fanzine party in the Hospitality Suite?”  With Hospitality Suite chief Dorothy Domitz’ agreement we settled – if that word may be used in fandom – on Friday night, 7-10 p.m.

Craig Glassner, who had hosted the Fanzine Lounge at the 76th Worldcon in 2018, was my co-host for the fanzine party.  We were both on-site by Wednesday and went shopping with Chris Olds the Party Maven.  I made a flier.

Also I was Chief Hall-Costume Judge.  Decades ago hall costume was settled for the costumes some people wear strolling the halls.  Marjii Ellers called them “daily wear from alternative worlds”.

Stage costumes are meant to be seen at a distance; hall costumes are meant to be met.  To acknowledge them a gang of judges prowls the con and, spotting a good one, awards a rosette on the spot.

The con had made disks with Spikecon – Hall Costume Award; while shopping I looked for lace, or like that, to go round them.  JoAnn Fabric & Crafts didn’t have spools enough in any appealing style, but on the way out I saw some red-white-and-blue-striped cake cups (for cupcakes, right?): it was the Independence Day weekend.  We got those.

Selina Phanara hadn’t anything ready to exhibit in the Art Show, but luckily I was able to borrow the Selina Phanara Sampler from fellow Phanara fans Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink & Jerome Scott, a vertically (“portrait”?) laid out banner with color reproductions and her name and E-mail address.  Art Show chief Bruce Miller proved to have space for it.

By Selina Phanara

Friday.  The first of three Classics of SF  discussions 

I led, on “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (which just won the Retrospective Hugo for Best Novelette of 1943), was at 12:45 p.m.  Regency dancing had to be at 3:15 – another time and space problem.  The Chesley Awards (by the Ass’n of SF Artists) and Art Show Reception were at 7.  So after “Mimsy” I hustled back to my room, changed, sauntered to the Conference Center for dancing – can’t hustle in Regency clothes – then met my fellow Art Show judges to decide and turn in the Art Show Awards before the Reception, then back to my room for conventional garments, and hustled to the Hospitality Suite where Glassner had started the fanzine party.

But we trespass upon chronology.

About “Mimsy”.  A.J. Budrys, one of our best authors and critics both, taught “Always ask, Why are they telling us this?”  Why do Kuttner & Moore tell us Jane Paradine, the children’s mother, is very pretty?  Remember a woman is co-writing; K&M always said that everything they published, under any name (they used many; “Mimsy” appeared as by Lewis Padgett), was by the two of them together.

Discussion considered Sexism? – or Mere sexism? (whatever that may mean, about which there was also talk) – or Sexism unconsciously or otherwise adopted by a 1943 woman?

Beyond or beneath or beside this we human beings are drawn to beauty; think not only of an attractive man or woman, but also “I saw young Harry … gallantly armed, / Rise from the ground … and vault … with such ease into his seat / As if an angel dropped down from the clouds, / To witch the world with noble horsemanship” (Henry IV Part 1, Act 4 scene 1).

At different points in “Mimsy” K&M invite us to feel for the parents – for the children.

Note also the sneaky ironic foreshadowing of “The only people who can understand philosophy are mature adults or kids like Emma and Scotty.”

Does Rex Holloway, the psychologist, help or  hurt?  Does Paradine suggest paradigm; does Holloway suggest hollow way?

Is “Mimsy” tragic – in the classical sense, grievous and revealed to result from a fault of the recipient even if – or because – that fault had been thought insignificant?  Why?

Why does the story end with the telephone ringing?  Who did K&M tell us is calling?  Why?

Since Unthahorsten is “a good many million years in the future”, what happens to Emma and Scotty?

About Regency dancing.  Maybe you already knew my article in Mimosa, or maybe you followed the link to it above.  I hold Jane Austen one of the greatest authors in the world, and yes, that means I rank her with Aeschylus, and Shakespeare, and Lady Murasaki.  But she – since I’m talking to SF fans here – is, like them, a Martian writing for other Martians.  She doesn’t explain.  Georgette Heyer, writing two centuries later, like an SF author introduces us to the world she portrays.  So it’s she I recommend, to start with anyhow; luckily she’s a superb author herself.

I’ve said Cross-cultural contact is homework for SF.  Mike Ford said history is our secret ingredient.  Theodore Sturgeon said science fiction is knowledge fiction.  Not all knowledge is data.  Some of it is doing.  I learn a lot from this hobby that grew out of a hobby.

The Hospitality Suite was in the Garden Inn, attached to the Conference Center, not in the Homes2 Suites across a driveway, which had been planned as the Party Hotel.  As it turned out, the Hospitality Suite could stay open until 2 a.m.; the Homes2 shut down parties at midnight.  Could that have been discovered in advance, maybe even worked around?  For ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain, our hotel negotiations are peculiar.

Glassner and I had each brought a handful of fanzines, some recent, some from years past.  People looked and talked.  I’d also printed the opening page of Bill Burns’  That gratified some, and was news to others.  Obviousness is relative.  After our three hours we donated what remained of our food and drink, also two little tables I’d bought to spread fanzines on.

The Hospitality Suite may be the best part of an SF convention.  You’re welcome whether you’re a fan or a pro or both; whether or not you’re in with some in-crowd.  Conversations happen.  You meet people you didn’t know you wanted to meet.

Sometimes it’s called the Con Suite because the con itself hosts it, unlike say a SFWA Suite (SF Writers of America).

In the Homes2 lobby later, half past midnight or maybe one, I found a surprisingly large crowd, and a spread of refreshments along a center table.  Thus I learned parties were being shut down.  People had gravitated, and brought leftovers.  It was Lobbycon.

Here I heard Match Game SF had been fun, as usual.  Of course it had to happen.  Kevin Standlee, his wife Lisa Hayes, and their friend Kuma Bear, were Westercon’s Fan Guests of Honor.  For a dozen years they’ve been mounting this adaptation of the oft-revived television panel-game.  At the Worldcon they’d be nose-deep in the Business Meeting, and like that; Spikecon was the moment.  Until they started this, who knew Standlee had a game-show host in him?  Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma are fen of many talents.  Hayes does the tech.  I think Kuma is the producer.

Rocket Ship “Galileo” at the crack of dawn, i.e. 10:15 a.m.  I was not alone in wanting to celebrate the Glorious 20th; the U.S. Postal Service had issued a stamp.

Two decades before humankind actually did it, Heinlein wrote this speculation.  It’s the first of his “juveniles” – they have young-adult protagonists – books which some of us think his best: they’re gems.

“Galileo” is reasonable science for 1947.  Heinlein said he’d only compressed the time and the number of people.  Note that it isn’t a rocket ship built in a back yard.

Look how he manages the characterization – sparely but tellingly.  The books on the shelf in the clubhouse – Ross Jenkins’ parents (the one-word utterance “Albert.” in Chapter 4!) – “Going to put her down on manual?” and what follows.  Look how characterization also advances the plot – like setting up Art’s speaking German.

The very points we might hang fire on are things Heinlein needs for what I’ve called the C.S. Lewis One-Strange rule: an extraordinary person in ordinary circumstances, or an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances.  Boys taking apart almost anything mechanical from alarm clocks to souped-up jalopies.  “Cigarette, Doctor?  Cigar?” These are verisimilitude at the time of writing.

Were you looking for the Heinlein Double Surprise – something strange happens, then something really strange happens?  There it is!

The Art Show tour I led was at 11:30.  I didn’t invent these tours, but I often arrange them, and usually lead one myself.  Why me?  When Kelly Freas first told a con to get me for one, I went to him.  He said, “You seem to be able to say what you see.”

I’ve never forgotten that.  When I’m arranging the tours it’s what I ask tour leaders to do.

I used to say “docent tours”.  Docent is the right word, but I found people didn’t know what it meant, and didn’t look it up, so it put them to sleep.

The Art Show was one of the strengths of Spikecon.

Here was Mark Roland, one of few who does etching; his “Persistence of Memory” won 1st Place Monochrome (if you follow the link, scroll down, 3rd image; you’ll see he says these are limited-edition fine art prints, hand-wiped and printed on rag paper in his studio).  

Here was Elizabeth Berrien, whose “Cloud Unicorn” in aluminum wire won Best 3-D; she has not exhibited with us for a while, being distracted with airports and hotel lobbies.  Her Website is worth a look. At a party, or a panel discussion, you’ll see her listening or contributing to the conversation, all the while twisting wire.  She must carry the whole in her mind, like Michelangelo saying “I just get a block of marble and chip away anything that doesn’t look like a Madonna and Child.”

Jessica Douglas’ “Ghost Leviathan”, worked up from the page into bas-relief with layers of color, and found objects, won 1st Place Color.  She has recently been at Orycons.

“Always” by Elizabeth Fellows won 2nd Place Monochrome.  Looking straight at it you saw vertical strands of dark yarn on a field of white.  Fellows didn’t, so the Art Show did, mount a sign Look at it sideways.  You then saw a face – which I think was Alan Rickman as Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies – but wasn’t his word “Forever”?  Where are my notes?

I was particularly glad Bjo Trimble, her husband John, and their daughter Kat, were at the con; as it turned out they were sponsored by Ctein (pronounced “k-TINE”; yes, that’s his full name; while we’re at it, there should be a circumflex over the in Bjo, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”).

John, Bjo, and Kat Trimble in the Art Show – Bjo’s panel at left, Kat’s at right.

In the photo you can see Bjo’s “Aslan” (from The Chronicles of Narnia), which won 3rd Place Monochrome, over her head. Kat’s “Mariposa” (which you can’t quite see in the photo) was a Judges’ Choice.

Ctein is one of few photographers in our Art Shows.  Photos are necessarily of things actually existent; what’s the SF element?  We get some neighbors, like astronomicals, or the spacecraft so far built; and indeed Ctein shoots them.  But his other pictures too have a quality of marvel.  The art of photography includes the mind of the artist.  Ctein being one of the judges, and also exhibiting, he insisted that nothing by a judge should get an award.

No picture-taking is our Art Show rule, but Jan Gephardt was allowed to shoot this panel of her own (you can just make out some of her paper sculptures at upper left).

Saturday night, the Masquerade.  Decades ago this was a dress-up party; it’s now a costume competition – with a stage, lights, and sound, if we can manage.  The Masquerade Director was Tanglwyst de Holloway; Master of Ceremonies, Orbit Brown; judges, Dragon Dronet, Theresa Halbert, Kitty Krell.

Entering as a Novice, and winning Best in Show – which is quite possible, I’ve been a judge at Worldcon Masquerades where we did that – was Hanna Swedin, “Snaptrap” (Re-Creation, from Five Nights at Freddy’s 3; Re-Creation entries are based on known images, Original entries are not; the Novice, Journeyman, and Master classes allow entrants to compete against others with their own level of experience if they wish, but anyone can “challenge up”, and experience isn’t everything).

Here’s Swedin with a stage helper so you can see the size of her entry, and here she is with the Snaptrap headpiece and her Best of Show rosette.

Sunday brought the Site-Selection results.  Columbus, Ohio, won unopposed for the 14th NASFiC in 2020 (the 78th Worldcon will be at Wellington, New Zealand, in 2020).  Tonopah, Nevada, beat Phoenix, Arizona, 82-51, for Westercon LXXIV in 2021 (Westercon LXXIII will be at Seattle, Washington, in 2020).  

This is a noteworthy outcome.  In contrast with Phoenix, Tonopah is an unincorporated town of population 2,600; no air, rail, intercity-bus service; it’s halfway between Reno and Las Vegas (each about 200 miles, 250 km, away).  Probably not even the best crystal-gazer would venture to say what lurks in the minds of fen, but “Why Tonopah?” from the bid committee to its parent organization, all explained again at Spikecon in conversation, bid parties, and the exercise we call the Fannish Inquisition, may be instructive.

A quarter to one p.m., October the First Is Too Late.  As always I asked who’d read it recently or had it fresh in mind, who even if having read it didn’t have it fresh in mind, who hadn’t read it, who hadn’t heard of it; most always there are some of each (hadn’t heard of it may prove to be but I hear these discussions are fun, which I’ll take).

By way of reminding people to look things up I pointed out that “bacon” for an Englishman is nearer to what United States people call “Canadian bacon” than to what U.S. people call “bacon”.  If this is what you’re living on while camping, it makes a difference.

What’s all the music for?  Is it mere window-dressing?  Well, it shows the mind of the narrator.  It sets up the exploration of art and technology, human and mechanical possibilities, with the future (though we must beware of that word with this book) keyboard instrument in Chapter 13.

And music, at least as we understand it, is about time, and time is the theme, the endoskeleton, of the book: one of the more brilliant observations I heard all weekend.

What about the framing story?  What about “someone, or something, was using the Sun as a giant signaling device”?  Does it tell us anything about the fourth-millennium people?  The narrative doesn’t take us to it again – or does it, in the last chapter, with “a higher level of perception than our own”?

Are we to be uncertain about the certain uncertainty of the people we meet at the end, like Sir Arthur Clarke’s “It is well to be skeptical [or as he spelled it, sceptical] even of skepticism”?

At Closing Ceremonies the joined Westercon and NASFiC had to disjoin.  When Kate Hatcher ended Spikecon, the Westercon gavel went to Sally Woehrle for Westercon LXXIII; but the NASFiC is an entity of the World Science Fiction Society, so the WSFS gavel went to a courier for the 77th Worldcon which would need it before the 14th NASFiC.

Luckily Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma were present, being Fan Guests of Honor for Westercon LXXII, and Linda Deneroff was present, being Fan Guest of Honor for the 13th NASFiC, all experienced in Business Meeting fandom, so we managed.

Afterward in the course of helping take down and clean up I found my roommate Kevin Rice carrying a box of leftover plastic train-whistles.  He’d made them by 3-dimensional printing, gosh: six inches long with two pipes, the top one marked “Spikecon 2019” and the bottom one “Layton, UT”.  They were in various colors.

I knew there would be a Dead Dog party (until the last dog is –), and separately a Dead Dog Filk, so that’s where I went with them.  More of the filkers being of the musical-instrument type, they took more.

And so home.

Freedom, Freedom

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 26)  We could take 2018 or 2019 as the 70th birth-anniversary year of Walt Kelly’s Pogo.  It began as a newspaper comic strip in 1948.  It was adopted for syndicated national distribution in 1949.  It ran through 1975.  Judith Merril put a Pogo sequence in her 6th annual Year’s Best S-F (1961).

I’ve recommended America’s Great Comic-Strip Artists, subtitled  from “The Yellow Kid” to “Peanuts” (R. Marschall, rev. 1997).  Kelly is penultimate (p. 255):

Fantasy was the specialty of Winsor McCay [1867-1934, Little Nemo in Slumberland 1905-1926 his magnum opus]; George Herrimann [1880-1944, Krazy Kat1913-1944] made it his bailiwick too, while staking ground in the realm of literary and intellectual expression.  Cliff Sterrett [1883-1964, Polly and Her Pals1912-1958] also appealed to intellectuals, as Charles Schulz [1922-2000] would later do in Peanuts [1950-2000].  Farce and parody were the domains of E.C. Segar [1894-1938, Popeye from 1929 (in Thimble Theatre; after 1938 continued by others, Hy Eisman since 1994)], and the graphic sense he lacked was displayed with seeming instinctiveness by Frederick Opper [1857-1937, Happy Hooligan 1900-1932].  Dialogue – incisive, distinctive – that revealed not only the personalities of the characters but also the world view of the cartoonist was the special gift of Al Capp [1909-1980, Li’l Abner 1934-1977].

In the company of great cartoonists such as these, one stands out as a monumental talent…. Walt Kelly [1913-1973] was master of all that could be surveyed, the many tools and techniques available to comic-strip artists.  Pogo… generously included elements of fantasy, literary and intellectual touches, farce and parody, graphic brilliance … wonderful dialogue … also … philosophy, politics, whimsy, poetry, metaphysics, social commentary, and good old-fashioned slapstick.

– o O o –

St. Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church, 20340 E. Covina Bl., Covina, CA 91724, held its annual festival 23-25 Aug.  On Saturday evening I went for a few hours.  I’ve told of another one.

Lots of different folks go to these Greek church festivals.  Vendors stock accordingly.  I saw displayed a pair of T-shirts, An Armenian Man Is Never Wrong and An Armenian Woman Is Always Right.  Alas, I did not see them on any husband & wife with the husband wearing Armenian Woman and the wife wearing Armenian Man.

– o O o –

At Hampton, Virginia, it was African Landing Weekend.  The 24th was African Landing Day.  In August 1619 “20 and odd” Africans from what is now the Republic of Angola arrived on the White Lion at Old Point Comfort, now Fort Monroe National Monument, Hampton, the first black slaves to land in English North America.

On Saturday, Governor Ralph Northam, Doug Wilder the first elected black Governor (66th Governor of Virginia 1990-1994, now 88 years old), Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, United States Representative Karen Bass (Democrat – California) chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and 11-year-old Brycen Didly a pupil at Larkspur Middle School in Virginia Beach, were among those who spoke.  Two thousand people came.  The Norcom High School Choir from Portsmouth ended the program with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (poem by James W. Johnson 1900, music by his brother John R. Johnson 1905; called the Negro national hymn by the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People, 1916).

Governor Northam announced a new State Commission on African American History Education.  Didly, who got a standing ovation, said “There is another way that we can give back to our community.  We can start with how we treat one another.  Are you kind to others daily?”

– o O o –

August 20th would have been the 100th birthday of Rodrick W. Edmonds (1919-1985), who during World War II was a Master Sergeant in the 106th Infantry Division.

On 1 Nov 44 the 106th was assigned to VIII Corps, 1st United States Army, 12th Army Group; on 6 Dec moved to France, joining the Rhineland Campaign; 10 Dec crossed into Belgium; 16 Dec assigned to the Ardennes-Alsace Campaign.  On 19 Dec the 422nd Infantry Regiment, including Edmonds, was overrun by Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, and forced to surrender.  In fact the men of the 422nd were still green, with 19 days overseas training in England during November.

Edmonds was taken to Stalag IX near Ziegenhain (in the Rhineland-Palatinate).  Stalag was short for Stammlager, itself short for Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts Stammlager; Stamm is a stem, or a tribe, and like that; Lager is a camp; Krieg is war; gefangen is capturedMannschaft is a crew: a Stalag was a prisoner-of-war base camp – but not for officers, who were held separately.

Edmonds was the highest ranking NCO (noncommissioned officer, i.e. up through sergeant) of 1,275 U.S. soldiers held in Stalag IX on 27 Jan 45.  They had just arrived.  It was bitter cold.  A German officer, Major Siegmann, told Edmonds to identify the Jews by the next morning.

The next morning Edmonds ordered all the U.S. soldiers to assemble outside the barracks.  They did.  Major Siegmann was infuriated.  He walked up to MSG Edmonds snarling, in English, “I ordered the Jews to be separated, to be identified.”  Siegmann drew his Luger pistol and put it to Edmonds’ head.  “You are to identify the Jews, immediately.”

Edmonds did not flinch.  “We are all Jews here,” he said.  He told Siegmann that to shoot the Jews the Nazis would have to shoot everyone.  The Geneva Convention required prisoners only to give their name, rank, and serial number, not their religion. Edmonds said that if any of the prisoners were harmed, Siegmann would be hunted, tried for war crime, and convicted.  Siegmann holstered his Luger and left.  Three months later Allied forces freed these U.S. soldiers.

Edmonds had saved 200 Jews.  He never told the story.  After he died it was pieced together by his son Chris Edmonds, Pastor of the Piney Grove Baptist Church in Marysville, Tennessee.  On 2 Dec 15 Yad VaShem (Hebrew, “a place of memorial”; yad is a hand, shem is a name; Isaiah 56:4-5) the World Holocaust Remembrance Center recognized Edmonds as Righteous Among the Nations.  On 27 Jan 16 in a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy, with President Obama and Ambassador Dermer attending, Rabbi Israel Lau the Chair of the Yad VaShem Council (himself a Holocaust survivor: Buchenwald) presented Pastor Edmonds with Roddie Edmonds’ medal and certificate, the fifth American so honored.

Pixel Scroll 8/27/19 Fighting Pixels From The Sky, Fearless Scrolls Who Jump And File

(1) CROWDFUNDING RESNICK’S CARE. A GoFundMe has been launched to “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”. There has been a strong response — in the first 18 hours, $7,100 of the $15,000 goal has been raised.

This GoFundMe is for writer and editor Mike Resnick, who has won a number of top awards and is known for his “pay it forward” nature in the writing field, ushering more than two dozen embryonic writers into the industry.

Mike unfortunately spent most of the first half of 2019 in the hospital. At the start of the year he fell twice for some (then) unknown reason, the second time being unable to get up. Carol, his wife, had to call 911 and it was determined that he had pneumonia and acute idiopathic pericarditis. In three days he had 30 pounds of fluid drained from around his heart and lungs. Then, a couple of months later, he collapsed again and within 24 hours the hospital had removed his colon (large intestine). Not many seventy-seven-year-olds recover from such serious medical complications, and he is very lucky to be alive and writing today.

Although he is still confined to a wheelchair, Mike has just this month gone back to writing and editing, and his doctors are very pleased with his progress. But he did go more than half of this year without any income, and as you can imagine the hospital bills are many and prohibitively expensive, as well as half a year’s worth of living expenses. He also still needs regular rehabilitation sessions (luckily, from the comfort of his home), and, quite frankly, he needs the assistance of the community of writers and readers he has had the privilege to call his family for more than half a century.

Mike and Carol Resnick would dearly thank anyone who is able to donate towards the medical/economic efforts in helping this Literary Great of the science fiction and fantasy community get back on his feet. Mike has many more books to write and stories to tell, but he can only do it with your help. Thanks again, in advance!

(2) MOVE FAST IF YOU WANT IT. The edition of WOOF assembled at Dublin 2019 is available as a free download for just a few more hours — WOOF44.pdf (30 MB) is available here. (Don’t ask me why it’s going away so soon.)


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 27, 1922 Frank Kelly Freas. I’ve no idea where I first encountered his unique style on a cover of a SF book, but I quickly spotted it everywhere. He had a fifty-year run on Astounding Science Fiction from the early Fifties and through its change to the Analog name — amazing! There doesn’t appear to a decent portfolio of his work. (Died 2005.)
  • Born August 27, 1929 Ira Levin. Author of Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 27, 1945 Edward Bryant. His only novel was Phoenix Without Ashes which was co-authored with Harlan Ellison and was an adaptation of Ellison’s pilot script for The Starlost. The only short stories of his I’m familiar with are the ones in the Wild Cards anthologies. Phoenix Without Ashes and all of his short stories are available in digital form. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 27, 1947 Barbara Bach, Lady Starkey, 72. She’s best known for her role as the Bond girl Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.  One of her other genre appearances is in Caveman which her husband Ringo Starr is also in. 
  • Born August 27, 1952 Darrell Schweitzer, 67. Writer, editor, and critic. For his writing, I’d recommend Awaiting Strange Gods: Weird and Lovecraftian Fictions and Tom O’Bedlam’s Night Out and Other Strange ExcursionsThe Robert E. Howard Reader he did is quite excellent as is The Thomas Ligotti Reader. He did a Neil Gaiman as well but not even he can find anything original to say Neil at this point.
  • Born August 27, 1957 Richard Kadrey, 62. I’m admittedly way behind on the Sandman Slim series having only read the first five books. I also enjoyed Metrophage: A Romance of the Future and I’ve got The Grand Dark on my interested in list.
  • Born August 27, 1962 Dean Devlin,  57. His first produced screenplay was Universal Soldier. He was a writer/producer working on Emmerich’s Moon 44. Together they cowrote and produced Stargate, the first movie to have a web site. The team then produced Independence Day,  Godzilla and Independence Day: Resurgence. They’re also credited for creating The Visitor series which lasted 13 episodes as The Triangle, a miniseries which I’ll bet you guess the premise of.
  • Born August 27, 1965Kevin Standlee, 54. He attended his first con in 1984, L.A. Con II. Later he co-chaired the 2002 Worldcon, ConJosé, in San José. One source says he made and participated in amateur Doctor Who films in the late 1980s.
  • Born August 27, 1978 Suranne Jones, 41. Not a long genre performance history but she shows up on the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures as Mona Lisa. Yes, that Mona Lisa. She’ll be back on Doctor Who in “The Doctor’s Wife”, an Eleventh Doctor story as written by Neil Gaiman. She Idris, a woman hosting the Matrix of the TARDIS.  

(4) IT COULD ALMOST BE A FANZINE TITLE. [Item by John Hertz.] I happened to meet (on paper) Christian Thomasius 1655-1728 and his monthly review 1688-1690, Scherzhafte und ernsthafte, vernünftige und einfältige Gedanken über allerband lustige und nützluche Bücher und Fragen (German: “Jocose and Earnest, Rational and Silly Thoughts on All Kinds of Pleasant and Useful Books and Questions”).  He was at the time professor of natural law at Leipzig (1684-90).  You’ll note his review and his professorship ended in the same year (I’ve also seen 1689 for the end of the review).  He had to leave town.

(5) FORMELY KNOWN AS THE CAMPBELL. The initial response to the renamed Astounding Award for Best New Writer is largely positive. The comments in the announcement include expressions of approval by John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Nalo Hopkinson. There are posts elsewhere by John Scalzi and David Versace.

The Twitter response runs the gamut, for example:

(6) #METOO7. “Can Daniel Craig complete his biggest mission – modernising James Bond?”

The title of the next James Bond film was announced earlier this week. No Time To Die will see Daniel Craig return as 007 for the fifth time, but there’s little to suggest it will be business as usual.

It’s not just saving the world that will be on his mind for the 25th official film in the series – he’s also on a mission to catch up with the 21st Century. Speaking at the film’s launch in April, Craig promised the film would reflect changing attitudes, recognising Bond as a “flawed” character with “issues… worth exploring and grappling with”.

“Bond has always adapted for the times… We wouldn’t be movie makers or creative people if we didn’t have an eye on what was going on in the outside world.”

So how might the suave secret agent have to change, and can he do so without losing the essence of James Bond?

…Attitudes elsewhere in society are evolving – in many quarters at least – and producer Barbara Broccoli has said the new film “should reflect” the “huge impact” of the #MeToo movement.

Recruiting Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge to the writing team reflects this mission.

As only the second female writer in the franchise’s history, she plans to make Bond women “feel like real people”. For Sturges, this means allowing the women of the Craig era to become more than tokenistic “two-dimensional challengers” to Bond’s machismo.

(7) EXPATRIATE CHINESE WRITER CHARGED. BBC reports “China Arrests Australian Writer On Espionage Charges”.

A Chinese-born Australian writer detained for months in China has been formally arrested on charges of espionage, officials in Canberra confirmed on Tuesday.

Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese diplomat who reportedly became an Australian citizen in 2002 but retains a Chinese passport, has also lived and worked in the United States.

He is the author of three spy novels set in China, according to Reuters. In the past, he has written voluminously on his blog about the rule of law, democracy and human rights, according to However, according to Reuters, in recent years, he has stayed away from sensitive topics and concentrated instead on running an import-export business.

(8) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “‘Rosalind Franklin’ Mars rover assembly completed” – that’s BBC’s text story; sped-up video of final stages is here.

Assembly of the rover Europe and Russia plan to send to the Red Planet next year is complete.

Engineers at Airbus in Stevenage, UK, displayed the finished vehicle on Tuesday ahead of its shipment to France for testing.

Called “Rosalind Franklin” after the British DNA pioneer, the six-wheeled robot will search for life on Mars.

It has a drill to burrow 2m below ground to try to detect the presence of microbes, either living or fossilised.

The project is a joint endeavour of the European and Russian space agencies (Esa and Roscosmos), with input from the Canadians and the US.

(9) BRANDING. Brian Niemeier explains why he avoids online drama. (You didn’t know that, did you?) Thread starts here.

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Rabbit on the Animate Projects Archive, Run Wrake explains the bad things that happen when two children kill a rabbit.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Michael A. Rothman, Juli Marr, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Juli Marr, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Vilfredo Pareto Rides Again

By John Hertz:  Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian who among other things became famous for calling attention to what some of us call the 80-20 Rule.

80% of the unpacking takes 20% of the time.  20% of the people do 80% of the work.

I’m not prepared to say this is built into the Universe, or why it should be.  But it keeps showing up.

I’ve offered it as advice.  I offer it now.

Put 80% of your resources into strengthening what’s going right.  20% into curing what’s going wrong.

Not the other way round.

How tempting to put 80% into what’s going wrong.  Because it’s WRONG.

But, I suggest, you’re actually living on what’s going right.

If you put 80% of your resources into what’s going wrong you may starve before you get it cured.

When I tell this to people they sometimes seem to think I’m saying they should ignore what’s wrong.

Of course not.  Look at it.  Study it.

It may require different thinking or a different perspective.  It may be hard or embarrassing – or it may prove downright silly.  When I’ve solved problems, my own or others’ or both, the end has sometimes been in laughter.

But stay on target.

Nor do I mean to minimize how wrong something can be, or how urgent.  You may indeed have to act on it fast.  It may indeed be so wrong it changes everything.

I’m talking in a more general way about proportion.

Of course this was brought to mind by particular events.  I could have mentioned them, but I didn’t.

And of course you might disagree with this 80-20 advice, or think it’s inapplicable, or like that.  So?  If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.

Maybe it only applies 80% of the time.  I don’t know that either.

I’d love to tell you I always followed this advice myself.  But when I haven’t, and later come to my senses, there it was, waiting.

One Went Twice, One Tried Twice

Geraldyn M. “Jerrie” Cobb poses next to a Mercury spaceship capsule.

by John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 25) Earlier (here) I told of Owen Garriott 1930-2019 (age 88), the first astronaut to operate an amateur radio station from Space (call sign W5LFL).  He was the science pilot of Skylab 3 (1973); he went again on Space Shuttle Columbia (1983).

Geraldyn M. Cobb 1931-2019 (also age 88) died a month earlier.  She had a solo pilot’s license at 16; both a private and a commercial pilot’s license by 18.  She went on to earn Multi-Engine, Instrument, Flight Instructor, and Ground Instructor ratings, and an Airline Transport license.  At age 19 she was teaching men to fly.  At 21 she was delivering fighters and four-engine bombers to foreign Air Forces around the world.  At 29 she had logged 7,000 hours in the cockpit.  She had set world records for speed, distance, and absolute altitude.  She was the first woman to fly in the Paris Air Show.

In 1960 William Randolph Lovelace II 1907-1965, a United States physician, was head of the U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n Special Committee on Bioastronautics.  He and Brig. Gen. Donald Flickinger invited Cobb to undergo the physical testing regimen developed by the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education & Research, Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help select the first NASA astronauts.  She was the first woman to pass.  Twelve more followed.  The program had not been authorized by NASA.  It was cancelled.

Cobb wrote to President Kennedy and saw Vice President Johnson.  On 17-18 Jul 62, U.S. Representative Victor Anfuso (Democrat – 8th District of New York; served in 82nd, 84th-87th Congresses 1951-1953, 1955-1963; lived 1905-1966) held public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science & Astronautics.  Cobb testified “We women pilots…. seek only a place in our nation’s Space future without discrimination.”  NASA required all astronauts to be graduates of military jet test-piloting programs, and have engineering degrees; no woman met those requirements.  No action resulted.  Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova (1937-  ) became the first woman in Space on 16 Jun 63.

Cobb undertook a career as a missionary pilot to indigenous people of the Amazon jungle.  For the next 48 years, typically flying solo in her Aero Commander, using self-drawn maps and pioneering air routes across rainforests and the Andes Mountains, she enabled deliveries of clothing, food, medicine, and seeds.  In 1973, President Nixon awarded her the Harmon Trophy, naming her “the top woman pilot in the world.”

In 1998, NASA announced it was sending John Glenn 1921-2016 back into Space at age 77 to study effects on an older human body.  Cobb asked to go.  The Nat’l Organization for Women campaigned for her.  She was 67.  She was not sent.

She was placed in the Nat’l Aviation Hall of Fame in 2012.  R.I.P.

Marty Helgesen and an Amazing Co-Religionist in the Realm of the Mind

By John Hertz: (reprinted, mostly, from No Direction Home 23) It’s been a while since I’ve heard from or about Marty Helgesen (“All syllogisms have three parts. Therefore, this is not a syllogism”). I miss him.

Besides contributing to APA-L and MINNEAPA (APA = amateur press, or publishing, association), and publishing Radio Free Thulcandra which I still hope to see more issues of, he sparked good conversation at Christian Fandom parties I found at science fiction conventions. I’m not a Christian, but I’m not in fandom to be agreed with.

Just the other day I saw a storefront with a sign The Chiro Man. Helgesen would have understood why I was disappointed to find this was only a chiropractor and not a church.

I thought of him when I happened to meet (on paper) a remarkable co-religionist of his. She died 330 years ago. That’s not too many.

I’ve warned you I’m becoming a man of maxims. I feel it coming over me. My grandfather was a man of maxims, for instance “If it weren’t my fool, I’d laugh.” The two of us pale in comparison to

Queen Christina of Sweden, 1626-1689

Here are a few of hers, from Maxims of a Queen, Birch tr. 1907.

Conscience is the only mirror which neither flatters nor deceives. p. 22

To praise anyone either more or less than he deserves is to betray truth. p. 23

Nature seldom makes a hero and Fortune does not always proclaim those that she makes. p. 24

Reading is part of the duty of an honest man. p. 25

We should always try to surpass ourselves. This occupation will last our lives out. p. 33

And a few more, from F. Bain, Christina, Queen of Sweden (1890).

One is, in proportion as one can love. p. 358

There is a star which unites souls of the first order, though ages and distances divide them. p. 359

He who loses his temper with the world has learned all he knows to no purpose. p. 361

I had to learn about her.

When her father King Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632) died at the Battle of Lützen, she became Queen at the age of 6. He had been 37. Until she was 18 the regent was Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, Count of Södermöre (1583-1654). She was happy to study ten hours a day; she learned Arabic, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Spanish. Oxenstierna discussed Tacitus (56-120) with her.

She assembled a great library, including treasures collected by Rudolph II (1552-1612; Holy Roman Emperor) which came to her when her armies took Prague Castle in 1648. At her death connoisseurs were impressed by her taste in antiques, enamels, engravings, pictures, statues.

She fenced, rode – astride, at a gallop – hunted, and was a crack shot, but “I never killed an animal without feeling pity for it.” Ambassadors treated only with her, never being passed to secretaries or ministers. She never drank anything but water. She never married.

“She collected savants as she collected art” (W. & A. Durant, The Age of Reason Begins p. 503, 1961; v. 7 of The Story of Civilization); she invited Grotius (1583-1645) to become her librarian, but he died on the way; Pascal (1623-1662) sent her one of his calculating machines (“pascalines”) with a letter complimenting her on being a queen in the realm of the mind; she brought Descartes (1596-1650) to organize a scientific academy (1649).

She founded the Regular Mail Times (1645), still the oldest currently published newspaper in the world (merged with Domestic Times, 1821; alas, Internet-only since 2007).

She built a college at Dorpat and gave it a library; she founded six more colleges. She made the college at Åbo (Swedish name of Turku, Finland) into a university, endowing it with money and books (moved to Helsinki 1827, now known as U. Helsinki); she gave the Finns their first translation of the Bible.

She brought in an Italian opera troupe and a Dutch theater troupe.

She made Georg Stiernhielm (1598-1672; historian, jurist, linguist, mathematician, poet; Fellow of the Royal Society of London, 1669; when on his deathbed he asked his friend Samuel Columbus 1642-1679 to write his epitaph, Columbus cried “What shall I write?” and Stiernhielm said “Oh, just a few words, for instance ‘He lived merrily, while he lived’”, which was done) court poet (1649); that year his masque The Captured Cupid was performed with Christina dancing the lead role of the goddess Diana.

She made the French soprano Anne Chabanceau de La Barre (1628-1688) court singer (1653).

“The unanimous testimony is that in government she did her own thinking, made her own decisions, ruled as well as reigned” (Durant, p. 504). But she dreamed of abdication – and of reconciliation with the Catholic Church.

A Catholic could not then hold the throne of Sweden.

She negotiated with the Diet to protect the hereditary character of the monarchy.

In 1654 “the final ceremony was almost as moving as the abdication of Charles V [her grandfather] ninety-nine years before. She took the crown from her head [the Lord High Steward, Count Per Brahe the Younger 1602-1680, was supposed to do that, but did not move], discarded all regal insignia [ceremonially removed one by one], removed her royal mantle, stood before the Diet in a dress of plain white silk, and bade her country and her people farewell in a speech that brought taciturn old nobles and phlegmatic burgesses to tears” (Durant, p. 505).

She left Sweden in man’s clothes and rode through Denmark under the name of Count Dohna (Count and Burgrave Christopher Delphicus of Dohna & Carwinden 1628-1668, Major General of her Royal Guard); a former Swedish queen could not have traveled there safely. Pausing in Ducal Holstein, Hamburg, Leiden, Utrecht (visiting Anna Maria van Schurman 1607-1678, calligrapher, engraver, musician, painter, papercutter, poet, who knew Arabic, Aramaic, Dutch, English, Ethiopic, French, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, Syriac, and had corresponded with Christina in Latin), and Antwerp, she arrived in Italy with a queen’s entourage of 255 persons and 247 horses, announced her conversion, met Bernini (1598-1680) who became a lifelong friend, and was fêted by Pope Alexander VII.

In 1656 she went to France hoping to mediate between France and Spain over Naples. She returned to Rome in 1659. She made three more visits to Sweden, Hamburg again, France again, Rome. She established Rome’s first public opera house (1671). She was the patroness of Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) and Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725); Corelli dedicated his first publication to her (12 Church sonatas for two violins and basso continuo, 1681).

She rebuked King Louis XIV of France for revoking the Edict of Nantes and abolishing the rights of French Protestants; she made Pope Clement X prohibit the chasing of Jews through the streets during Carnival, and she issued a declaration that Roman Jews were under her protection (1686).

She had asked for a simple burial, but she was given the Grotto Vaticane, one of only three women to receive this honor. Pope Clement XI commissioned a monument for her (1702).

Queen Christina (R. Mamoulian dir. 1933; Greta Garbo as Christina; written by S.N. Behrman and Ben Hecht) is famous but inaccurate – unless, as has been suggested, her fictional love for a Spanish ambassador is an allegory for her real love of the intellect and her embrace of the Catholic faith.


One of the symbols of Christianity is the first two Greek letters of Christ (a Greek word), chi and rho (or ro).

WOOFers, Embark

By John Hertz:  WOOF, the Worldcon Order Of Faneditors, is an amateur publishing association with collating and distribution at the World Science Fiction Convention, founded 1976.

You can see more about WOOF here, here, here, and here.

This year’s Official Editor is Kees van Toorn (rhymes with “haze” and “born”) of the Netherlands, who among much else chaired the 48th Worldcon at the Hague.  This year’s Worldcon, Dublin 2019. will be held August 15-19 at and near the Convention Centre Dublin, Republic of Ireland.

Get contributions by E-mail or paper mail to the OE by August 17th.  E-mail address keesvan [dot] toorn [at] hccnet [dot] nl; paper-mail address Postbus 3411, NL 3003 AK Rotterdam, Netherlands.  At the con, bring printed matter or USB sticks to the Private Party room (Stratocaster A), Gibson Hotel, on August 18th from 14:00 to 15:00.  For paper contributions, the copy count is 50 (i.e. 50 identical copies), A4 paper (or compatible).

Collation and distribution is currently planned for August 20th (i.e. after the con – and you’re right, off-site).  Please remember to include your name and the electronic or paper-mail address where your copy of the distribution should be sent.

Arrangements will be available for those wishing a copy of the distribution on paper; for example, Van Toorn can accept PayPal, or $US checks.  So far, several color contributions have arrived; let the OE know whether you want color or monochrome.  The cost of printing and mailing will emerge in due course.  At the moment it looks as if this will be done from Germany.

The cover will be by Sue Mason. 

Woo hoo!

Illustration by Sue Mason

There in Black and White

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 22)  I’ve just had three remarkable meetings, all on paper.


Arriving at a friend’s home and finding him not yet ready to receive me, I picked up a copy of Cities in Flight from a bookshelf and began more or less idly re-reading.

This is the 1970 Avon Books collection of James Blish’s four novels about cities that leave Earth and travel the stars with a gravity-manipulation drive (the Dillon-Wagoner Polarity Generator, colloquially “spindizzy” for what it does to sub-atomic particles; it gets higher speeds the more mass it’s applied to, so cities travel), helped by an anti-agathic drug that stops human aging.

They go off looking for work, like people from Oklahoma in actual history decades ago; the books were at first known as the “Okie” novels: They Shall Have Stars (1956; originally Year 2018! – I’ve joked how the title had better mean “Year 2018, goshwow” and not “Year 2018-factorial”), A Life for the Stars (1962), Earthman, Come Home (1955; Retrospective Hugo Award for its 1953 novelette form), and The Triumph of Time (1958).

I’d read through all four more than once.  Maybe you have too.  Indeed my own current copy is this collection.  At Denvention III, the 66th World Science Fiction Convention, in a set of Classics of S-F discussions under the heading “Wonders of 1958” I took The Triumph of Time and A Case of Conscience (1958; also by Blish; Hugo Award) together, asking “How does Time compare to Conscience?”

So I began They Shall Have Stars.  At the bottom of Page 1 was Jerry Pournelle.

Pournelle and I were friends.  We met for lunch and disagreed. We’d read many of the same books; our talk could be allusive.

Now and then when the American Association for the Advancement of Science came up he might say “or as some have called it, the left-wing Triple-A–S”.  He didn’t wink at me – not his style – but his face and voice indicated he did not necessarily endorse that appellation.  Alas, I can’t remember any instance of my recognizing it.

On Page 1 of They Shall Have Stars it’s given us in the mind (though not actually in the mouth) of Senator Wagoner, the context indicating he does not necessarily endorse the appellation.

Depending upon the circumstances of After-Fandom, Pournelle may be chuckling.


Eric Frank Russell’s novelette “Symbiotica” (1943) is on the Retro-Hugo ballot.  I hadn’t read it in years.  Re-reading, I was going along, remembering as I met them things like the chrysanthemums, when suddenly (Part VII) I saw Jay Score throw an atomic bomb.

A what?

People have been complaining recently of stories set in the far future that show unlikely familiarity with our time instead of Churchill, or Genghis Khan, or Alexander, or some other pre-fusion hero.  Here on the contrary was “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards” (L. Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass ch. 5, 1871; or maybe I should have said “contrariwise”, ch. 4).

You’ll tell me science fiction is in the business of predicting the future.  I don’t think so; I don’t think we earn merit for a speculation which proves right, or lose for one which proves wrong.  To me that’s like You should get a bicycle because it’s good to have a couple of round things in your life.  I was however taken by the appearance of this expression.

Now (or, I suppose, then) Cleve Cartmill’s novelette “Deadline”, published the next year, imagined bomb development actually resembling what was then being done in the Manhattan Project.  He hadn’t gotten at any secrets; he was working from unclassified information; as Confucius said in another context, “Who can go out except by the door?” (Analects VI:17).

The wretched thing should really be called a nuclear bomb.  Physics and chemistry being what they are, any bomb is an atomic bomb (even a pumpkin bomb). However, “atomic bomb” is what lots of people called it then, and still do.

Compare Jay Score’s bomb, which seems about the size and heft of a hand grenade.  Big explosion.  No mention of radiation or fallout.

Russell might just as well have written He fired an electron gun.

But, terminologist that I am, I wondered about “atomic bomb”.  What did we know and when did we know it?

Hunting around, I learned H.G. Wells used “atomic bomb” in The World Set Free (1914; ch. 2).  I haven’t yet found whether Russell saw that.  I haven’t yet read Ingham’s 2010 biography Into Your Tent, nor other Russell stories featuring Jay Score.  I haven’t yet asked Rick Katze, editor of the NESFA (New England S-F Ass’n) Press collection Major Ingredients (2000; does not contain “Symbiotica”).


Also on the Retro-Hugo ballot is Anthony Boucher’s superb “Q.U.R.”

Also Robert Bloch’s “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”.

Both are in the Short Story section, i.e. less than 7,500 words in length.  The ballot being in alphabetical order by title, “Q.U.R.” is immediately above “Yours Truly”.

Boucher was one of our greats, author, editor, critic, anthologist.  He co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  In mystery fiction next door (Why “next door”? and Why “mystery” fiction? will have to wait for another time) too he was excellent.

Bloch was active as both pro and fan.  My connection with him via the 61st Worldcon – if that doesn’t remind you – will have to wait for another time.

“Q.U.R.” was published under a Boucher pseudonym, H.H. Holmes, so credited on the ballot.  That put Holmes right above the Ripper.  Go ahead and look up the original H. H. Holmes.

Depending upon the circumstances of After-Fandom, Boucher and Bloch may be chuckling.