Pixel Scroll 6/2/21 For The File Is Scrollow, And I Have Ticked The Box

(1) CATEGORY CHALLENGED. “’Asian Fantasy’ Is A Popular Category — But Is It A Useful One?”NPR’s Kalyani Saxena poses the question to Rebecca F. Kuang, Cindy Pon, Ken Liu, Fonda Lee, Roshani Chokshi, and Tasha Suri.

…However, not all Asian authors writing fantasy feel at home with the genre label. When I reached out to Rebecca F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War, a Hugo-nominated fantasy trilogy inspired by Chinese history, she said that she finds “Asian fantasy” to be a reductive category.

“I think that Asian doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either as a literary category or as an identity category. Obviously, there are a lot of different things that fall under the subcategory of Asian, including East Asian, including South Asians, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, for example,” she says. “So when we call works just blanket ‘Asian,’ that belies an entire world of difference.”

So while the growing popularity of Asian fantasy marks a positive turn towards a broader and more inclusive range of experiences in fantasy, it also raises important questions: Does it actually make sense to group novels by a geographic region, especially one that encompasses billions of people? Does the label “Asian fantasy” help or hurt Asian authors? Well, the answer depends on who you’re asking….

(2) SOMTOW ON SCREEN. The Maestro – A Symphony of Terror, from Somtow Sucharitkul (in the title role) and filmmaker Paul Spurrier, opens July 14 in Bangkok at Central World SF Cinema (one of the major movie chains in Thailand). From there it will do the festival circuit, maybe book a few weird international gigs, and onto some kind of streaming platform, Somtow predicts.

The Maestro tells the story of a misunderstood genius with profound psychological problems. Rejected by the European musical establishment, he returns to his native Thailand and gets a job teaching music in a youth program. Stalked by an obsessed opera singer, ridiculed by his public, his big premiere preempted by a world-renowned conducting mediocrity, he begins a descent into madness. Accompanied by street busking violinist and a prodigy pianist from a dysfunctional family, he sets out to build a musical utopia in the wilderness to bring his transcendent vision to life … only, inevitably, it all goes horribly wrong.

(3) IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT. Hugo Book Club Blog compared the official list of 1963 Hugo Award nominees with a copy of the ballot and found something was missing. And there unquestionably was. But stay tuned for the rest of the story….

They even convinced The Hugo Awards official site to enter a correction:

Note: We previously listed Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) (alt: Night of the Eagle) ([Anglo-Amalgamated/Independent Artists] Directed by Sidney Hayers; Screenplay by Charles Beaumont & Richard Matheson and George Baxt; based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber) as a finalist for the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation; however, a copy of the 1963 Hugo Award final ballot that we received on June 2, 2021 does not include this work as a finalist.

And yet when you look at a scanned copy of the 1963 Worldcon Program Book Burn, Witch, Burn is included. (Remember – 1962 is the eligibility year.)

In the DRAMATIC PRODUCTION category, the top four for 1962 were:

TV series: Twilight Zone

Movie: Last Year at Marienbad

Movie: The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Movie: Burn, Witch, Burn

Why is there a discrepancy between the Program Book and the official use-no-other, no-write-ins-allowed postcard ballot? Because someone made a mistake while typing the stencil for the 1963 ballot. Chair George Scithers blushingly told what happened in the Worldcon runner’s manual he wrote after the con — DisCon 1 Guide: Introduction:

…To encourage voting, we used printed, return addressed, postage prepaid postcards with the names of the nominees thereon. This of course was expensive; about $16, plus printing. On the other hand, it did improve the number of votes (about 226 people voted in the final poll, not counting late votes) and it did insure against anyone not a member sending in a forged card. For future cons, I’d suggest prepaid postcards for both nominations and final votes. Be careful and proofread these final ballots; we left “Burn, Witch, Burn” off our postcard list (4) [If George wasn’t accepting the principle of Collective Responsibility, this would read properly: “Dick Eney left ‘Burn, Witch, Burn’ off …”], an omission which was very embarrassing indeed.

(4) GOT TO HAVE IT. Julie Nováková inventories “What Technology Can’t SF Writers Live Without?” at the SFWA Blog.

When I started editing an anthology of SF stories centered around alien life, each accompanied by a short essay on the science of the story, naturally I was curious about what sciences or technologies inspire the contributing authors, how their process works and how they rely on technology. Conducting a mini-interview with each author, I asked, among other things, whether there’s any technology they can’t imagine to live without. Think for a moment what it would be for you. Some piece of 21st century technology, or something vital developed thousands of years ago? Something to guide your writing process, or indispensable in your life regardless of the craft?

Many writers (including myself, after all) can’t imagine working without computers. Rich Larson says: “Over half my day is spent on my netbook.” He uses it for around ten hours of writing and other work, and then for recreation and socialization. At night, its USB port powers the small fan that lets him sleep. “It’s basically a vital organ!”

“My Bose QC 35 wireless headphones,” says Tobias S. Buckell. They help him create a focusing space around himself. “The ritual of turning on noise canceling and hearing the world around me drop into background; it’s this trigger for focus that really helps me,” he adds….

(5) PURPLE EATER PEOPLE. Inspired by the park’s chicken dinners and boysenberry pie – and a few less legal substances —  Rolly Crump’s “Legendary theme park ride resurfaces at Knott’s Berry Farm” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair” has been recreated after being out of service for a generation. Crump, the 91-year-old designer, also helped shape It’s a Small World, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, 

… “Everyone comes together at the fair at the end,” Merritt says. “All the characters you saw in the previous scene make a new appearance, doing something different and fun. It’s a big room. It takes up almost half of the show building.”

Crump’s theme park designs were known for near constant movement. The figures may not have been as advanced as those at Disneyland, but every mechanical creature was moving. Today’s theme park fans may want to picture the grand musical and animal finale of Disneyland’s soon-to-be rethemed Splash Mountain when trying to picture the closing seconds of Bear-y Tales.

Describes Merritt, “In the middle of the room, there’s a big balloon coming from the ceiling where the Bear-y Family are going up and down, and there’s music, there’s Dr. Fox selling his Weird Juice, there’s puppets and there’s a frog jumping contest. There’s musicians, there’s a rabbit who’s walking on wire, there’s jugglers. It’s too much. It’s sensory overload.”

…The more one digs into the scenes of the Bear-y Tales ride, the more detail and uniqueness one uncovers.

One of Crump’s first jobs at Disney was to partner with illusionist Yale Gracey on potential effects for the Haunted Mansion, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Crump wanted a sense of magic throughout Bear-y Tales. The ride was liberal in its use of projections and Pepper’s ghost-like effects. There were floating instruments, hovering candle tips and one neat trick that Merritt recalls involving an adorable mouse suddenly appearing out of a candle holder in midair.

But perhaps the real reason Bear-y Tales had such a grip on those who rode it is because in some ways it represents the kind of ride that doesn’t really exist anymore. Crump’s original had pies — and pie scents — but was little more than a story about a bunch of nomadic, bohemian animals.

“It’s super unique. It was such a snapshot in time,” says Nix. “When you look at the pictures, it wasn’t terribly advanced. The animatronics were simple, but there were a lot of them. You just felt like you were in these scenes and places.”…

(6) VIRTUAL 4TH STREET. Elizabeth Bear has made public an edition of her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter: “What we’ve been doing around here…” After fulminating against the latest “improvement” of Instagram, she alerts readers to her coming appearance at a virtual con:

….Anyway, speaking of things to do on the internet that are actually fun, there will be a Virtual 4th Street Fantasy convention this year. I’ve recorded a panel for it (“Personalizing the Apocalypse”) with a remarkable cast of brilliant people, and we will be doing a live Q&A for attendees on the weekend of June 18th.

If you would like to “attend,” you can register here! Moneys collected go toward paying off hotel expenses, and if you would like to make a donation, the convention is a 401(c) nonprofit organization, which means donations are tax-deductible.

(7) ATWOOD ACQUISITION. “Doubleday to Publish Margaret Atwood Essay Collection”Publishers Weekly has the story.

Doubleday will publish a new collection of Margaret Atwood’s essays, Burning Questions: Essays 2004-2021, on March 1, 2022. U.S. rights were acquired from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.

…The selection of more than 50 essays, the publisher said, “seeks answers to burning questions such as: Why do people everywhere, in all cultures, tell stories? How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating? How can we live on our planet? Is it true? And is it fair? What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism?”…

(8) TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW. John Hertz celebrates Bob Madle’s 101st birthday with this poem:

All our yesterdays
Live on, or some of them do,
In the fannish mind,
Vitally moving new deeds
Even as we joke of them.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 2, 1950 – On this day in 1950, Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of just ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in a higher esteem that audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a mere fifteen percent rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrim meets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana. Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of Silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade. Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 – Bob Madle, age 101.  He may be Oldest of All.  He was at Nycon I the 1st Worldcon; he named the Hugo Awards.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at SunCon the 35th Worldcon.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Moskowitz Award for collecting.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  This post from last year includes photos and a summary in his own words.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1929 — Norton Juster. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, it is said that he met Jules Feiffer who illustrated that work when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth spending an evening reading. (Died 2021.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1921 — Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented  R.A. Lafferty,  Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1937 — Sally Kellerman, 83. Here for her role as Elizabeth Dehner  in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot for Star Trek. Her first genre role was in an episode of the Outer Limits, “The Bellero Shield”.  She shows up in the Invaders in the “Labyrinth” episode. Her last genre appearance was on the Ray Bradbury Theater in the “Exorcism” episode. She also appeared in the Lost Horizon film. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1941 — Stacy Keach, 80. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999, followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, awaited him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return. Whereas The Hollow has a tasteful title, the Man with the Screaming Brain does not. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds, age 73. Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter. [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney, age 62. Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994.  “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon 34.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1965 — Sean Stewart, 56. Fantastic author whose Galveston novel that won the World Fantasy Award I highly recommend, as well as the Resurrection Man novels. I’ve not read his most recent set of novels, The Cathy’s Book series, but it’s take on augmented reality sounds intriguing. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta, age 48. Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse. Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.  Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1979 — Morena Baccarin, 42. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in the Deadpool franchise; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham. She did an exemplary job of voicing Black Canary in Justice League Unlimited.  (CE) 

(11) ASIAN AMERICAN SUPERHERO Q&A. View “Jim Lee and Asian American Superheroes”, a video interview available at the Library of Congress.

DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee discusses his work in celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. He will appear in conversation with illustrator Bernard Chang (“Generations Forged”) and writers Sarah Kuhn (“Shadow of the Batgirl”) and Minh Lê (“Green Lantern: Legacy”). This event is moderated by former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang (“Superman Smashes the Klan”).

(12) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. This iconic watch has been on stars’ wrists from Elvis to the Men in Black: “Exploring The Hollywood History Of The Hamilton Ventura Watch” at A Blog to Watch.

…The Hamilton Ventura has always been part of the Men in Black movies. Back in 1997, when the first installment (Men in Black) hit the cinema, the choice of Agents J and K was the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (ref. H24411732). Five years later, in 2002’s Men in Black II, the Ventura Chrono Quartz (ref. H24412732) was chosen in the starring role instead. The next decade saw those two watches reunite on-screen for Men in Black III (2012), as well as introducing the Hamilton Ventura XXL.

Men in Black: International will build on the cult following enjoyed by the Ventura since its launch in ’57. The new film focuses on two agents attempting to protect the world from a mole within their own organization, while dressed in their classic suits and armed with their essential neuralyzer pens. Helping Agent M and Agent H on their mission are the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (M), and the Hamilton Ventura Automatic with a cut-out dial and brown leather strap (H), respectively….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched a contestant miss this one on last night’s Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy; category: Around the World

Answer: In the 1860s, a zoologist proposed that this island was once part of a lost continent he dubbed Lemuria.

Wrong question: What is Galapagos? 

Correct question: What is Madagascar?

(14) JDA SUSPENDED FROM TWITTER AND FACEBOOK. Straight from the horse’s…mouth.

(15) A HOLE IN THE WRONG ONE. “’Scary stuff’: International Space Station robotic arm struck by space junk” reports The Guardian.

The sudden appearance of a small hole in a robotic arm aboard the international space station (ISS) has brought renewed attention to the danger posed by space junk.

Mission managers discovered the puncture during an inspection of the exterior of the spacecraft on 12 May. The Canadian space agency (CSA), which operates the arm, described it as a “lucky strike” that did not affect operations or endanger the seven astronauts in orbit aboard the station.

It is not known what kind of object struck the space station or when it happened. But analysts say the incident is a reminder of the proliferating amount of junk circling Earth and the risk that poses as launches and satellites in orbit increase.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there traveling at over 17,500mph and obviously it can do a lot of damage,” John Crassidis, SUNY distinguished professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo, told the Guardian….

(16) SABERKITTENS. These prehistoric credentials probably looked pretty cute as long as you weren’t a mammoth. “Sabercats Raised Their Kittens for Years” affirms Smithsonian Magazine.

…Two new studies published this year have underscored the fact that sabercats required some of the same family ties that today’s big cats rely upon. Some young sabercats may have stayed with their parents for two years or more as they waited for their impressive fangs to come in. Those parents likely played an essential role in teaching their saberkittens how to catch and eat food, including dragging mammoth legs home to chew on. Together, these studies help highlight how sabercat behavior evolved to cope with a world in which many carnivorous species—from dire wolves to giant bears—competed for prey.

(17) WATCH YOUR SIXTH. What’s more dangerous, a sabertooth or the Doctor? Artist JohannesVIII did this piece of Doctor Who‘s Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) as a cat! 

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ben Bird Person, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Marty Helgesen 1938-2021

By John Hertz:  Long-time fan Marty Helgesen, active in fanzines and thus known across the country, sometimes seen at SF cons, quick-witted and comical, thoughtful, cheerfully Catholic, left our Earth for a better life, as his co-religionists trust, on Sunday, May 23rd.  He was 82.

He was a wise guy in the highest sense, like – though the comparison would have embarrassed him – Ronald Knox, a Catholic priest who made a new translation of the Bible and wrote detective stories.  Marty’s fanwriting included – as I noted here – things like “All syllogisms have three parts.  Therefore, this is not a syllogism.”

His own fanzine Radio Free Thulcandra in the mid-1980s through mid-1990s ran three dozen issues of five or six dozen pages, its title alluding to Radio Free Europe broadcasts and a name for Earth in three books by C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent PlanetPerelandraThat Hideous Strength.  Marty was, besides, in three apas that I know of, MinneapaAPA-L, and FLAP.  Minneapa, mighty in its day, came to an end; APA-L and FLAP continue.

He knew and quoted Msgr. Knox’ writing; also the writing of another who had the gift of speaking clearly on topics difficult to manage, Frank Sheed.  This was welcome.  Marty resisted anti-Christian or anti-Catholic prejudice – as I’ve sometimes put it, too often we fans aren’t really tolerant, we just march behind a banner that says “Tolerance” – but, although Christians may proselytize, he did not misappropriate fannish moments to urge his faith.  He was a counter-example to the Spanish proverb Every man pushes his own sardine a little closer to the fire.

He earned his living as a librarian.  He lived in Malverne, New York.

I cherish the memory of running across him one day at a convention, dressed in his usual white short-sleeved shirt with four pockets, black trousers, drawing a little red wagon carrying a children’s T-shirt, the T-shirt filled out somehow as if worn on a human or humanoid body and reading “My parents went to Middle-Earth and all I got was this stupid ring.”

A friend of his posted a notice here about Marty’s funeral Mass and burial, to be held on Friday, May 28th.  If you can go, do.  If you can remember him in prayers, do that.  He and I had substantial differences, but we were too occupied with what we had in common to dwell on them.  I’m not sure fandom is a way of life, but if it is, that’s in it.

He enriched us.

R.I.P.

A Poet and a Comedian

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1445)

Here’s a poem I wrote for Larry Niven’s birthday last week.

Laughter and science
Are the left and the right hand
Reaching for the new,
Realizing the touch of truth
Yet unknown – what a great joke!

It’s an acrostic (read down the first letter of each line) in unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines, like Japanese tanka.

Once our field of speculative fiction seemed to have lots of science fiction and little fantasy; today we seem to have lots of fantasy and little science fiction.  Niven has written both.

Also in The Flying Sorcerers (with David Gerrold) the characters – most of them – think they’re in fantasy, but they’re actually in science fiction; in Rainbow Mars the characters think they’re in science fiction, but they’re actually in fantasy.

Even I have collaborated with Niven; we interviewed the Rainbow Mars character Hanville Svetz, which you can see in Argentus 4 (PDF); we had fun with it, but you have to have read the book.

The most recent solo Niven work I know is “By the Red Giant’s Light”, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, which I recommend.

He’s a poet, and a comedian.

Another Well-Titled Book

By John Hertz: In one of Forry Ackerman’s more inspired puns, he called us the Imagi-Nation.

We make things up.

Of course all art does.  Maybe all life does.

I knew people with a bookshop that had two names, “Bookfellows” and “Mystery and Imagination”.  I told them I liked “Bookfellows” better because all books were mystery and imagination.

SF is particularly hard.  If it’s just like what we already know, it’s only mainstream.  If it’s too unlike what we know, how are we going to engage with it?

I’ve mentioned C.S. Lewis’ advice I call the One Strange rule: ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, or extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances.

Ambitious SF authors may try both.

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  It’s third in a series.  I didn’t re-read the first two before reading it.  I don’t think you’ll have to.

It’s an interstellar-travel book. To manage that, some authors make up a way to go faster than light.  So far as present-day science knows, it can’t be done (yes, I’ve heard of the Alcubierre drive; even if it’s possible we can’t build it now).  There’s no faster-than-light drive in Glorious.  There are no generation ships.  There’s suspended animation – “cold sleep”.  The authors don’t suppose that will be easy or simple.  There’s a lot of high-power computing machinery – artificial intelligence.

I don’t know if AI, cold sleep, or FTL will prove achievable.  A century or a millennium from now any might have been demonstrated to be fantasy.  Meanwhile a story treating any well is science fiction.

Some of Glorious might contradict some people’s religious faith. That faith might be right and Glorious wrong.  But faith – I have some – isn’t science.  It isn’t less valid – or so I believe – just different.  Science is based on things that can be detected and measured in certain ways.  Faith doesn’t have those limitations – so it has other limitations.  I happen to believe some of Glorious is wrong.  But I don’t read books to be agreed with.

Colonists in Glorious think they’re high-tech.  They’ve left Earth, and found what looks like a suitable place far enough away.  It would be only a short hop in an E.E. Smith book, or a Larry Niven Known Space book, but this isn’t one of those.

Colonists try to prepare for surprises. History shows and SF tells they’re surprised anyway.

People in Glorious get downloaded – if I were writing a few decades ago I’d have had to explain that – into bodies and even machines.  That’s almost trivial – I did say almost – compared to what these colonists have to face.

They also have to find how to perceive what they’re facing.

We’ve had stories like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court with protagonists on the high-tech side.  Oh, look at those benighted creatures over there.  In Glorious the sucker is on another tentacle.

There’s some reason to believe the Glorious protagonists are being played for suckers.

Benford is known for imagining physics.  Niven is known for imagining aliens.  Plenty of both in Glorious.  There’s poetic writing too.  It isn’t quite like either of them.  This is a collaboration.

The landing team arrives.  We’re a quarter of the way into the book.

The long meadow before them lay quiet and placid.

No greeting party.

No sign of any reception at all.

Not what any of them had planned.

…. a forest that seemed a writhing mass of wide, hollow limbs.  Every living thing seemed endowed with light, airy mechanics. Translucent spiked leaves wove in an easy breeze, and diaphanous flowers of a shiny blue and golden yellow…. Beth knew that this plain was underpinned by struts, and so was clinging to a silvery tether trellis [p. 119].

Things will get more beautiful and more strange.

In another ambitious feature of this book, it has illustrations.  The graphic artists are Don Davis and Brenda Cox Giguere.  That hasn’t been an ordinary part of novels for adults in quite a while.  The pictures are monochrome.  They aren’t captioned.  Like the words, they result from and invite imagination.  I thought this had better not go without saying.  Getting there took me a while.

Much farther along an alien being says,

“You have encountered our transmitter, which distorts space-time.  You correctly deduce that we use this channel to speak with distant minds that carry out large, powerful experiments.”

“Look,” Viviane said, “we came here to communicate and colonize, if you will be so kind.  Not about physics and such, at least not right away.”

Redwing whispered to her… “Let Twisto go on.  It wants something from us [p. 354].”

If the space – land-space – or something – isn’t unoccupied, and if the people (“Science fiction is about people.  Some of the people are aliens”) are higher-tech than our protagonists, how can colonization be possible – if they will be so kind?  Must our protagonists, or anyone, be careless, arrogant, or worse?

There’s glory for you.

Why I Love Sam Johnson

By John Hertz:  Now and then I say something positive about Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).  Something like “one of the greatest writers English has known”.

Is it because you agree with his politics?

No.

Because you agree with his religion?

No.

Because you agree with his opinions?

No.

Because you want to write like him?

No.

He says things wonderfully.  We don’t use English today the way 18th Century people did; I don’t propose to try.  But put your mind there for a moment. Here he is in his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1773; published 1775).  He’s on the Isle of Mull.

that care which is always necessary, and will hardly ever be taken

Here’s one more – earlier, actually; he’s just entering the Highlands.

every claim of superiority irritates competition; injuries will sometimes be done, and be more injuriously defended; retaliation will sometimes be attempted, and the debt exacted with too much interest

Isn’t that (as I heard the beatboxer D-Nice say the other night) superdope?

Isn’t it amazing astounding fantastic?

Good Names for Bad Guys

By John Hertz:  During 1937-1956 a radio program called “The Answer Man” was broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System.  People sent in some 2,500 questions a day, a million questions a year.  The program’s offices were across the street from the New York Public Library, which helped a staff of forty manage the questions.  The office kept thousands of reference books and a 20,000-card index.

From the start the Answer Man was Albert Mitchell (1893-1954), although others were Answer Men for particular markets. He went to Paris and U.S. agencies dealing with the Marshall Plan a few years before his death; the program went to re-broadcasts. It ran fifteen minutes, twice a day, in a simple format.

Announcer.  Trommer’s White Label, the premium beer that is two ways light, presents Albert Mitchell’s program, The Answer Man.  And here he is, the Answer Man.

Mitchell.  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  Now if you’ll read the first question.

Announcer.  Certainly.  A West Orange, New Jersey, man asks, “Does the British Who’s Who still list Hitler’s telephone number?”

Mitchell.  Yes, it does.

Even people whose questions were not used got a written answer.

This was satirized by the great Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962; his name, incidentally, is Hungarian for smith) as Mr. Question Man, whom people supposedly sent answers, to which he gave – comically fitting – questions.

Steve Allen (1921-2000) did likewise.  A version by Johnny Carson (1925-2005) was called “Carnac the Magnificent”, who perceived answers with mystic powers.

In 1964 Merv Griffin (1925-2007) dropped the comedy for the television game-show Jeopardy!  That’s not my exclamation mark, it’s in the title.

Some high-school friends and I came up with this ear-joke – I have to give it to you in writing, where it won’t work.

Announcer.  The answer is, “It’s good enough for me.”  And what is the question, Mr. Question Man?

QM: What was the patriotic cry of loyal Russians from 1585 to 1605?

We knew how to pronounce the name of the regent, then Tsar, usually given in Roman letters as Boris Godunov.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha 

Well, so did the great Jay Ward (1920-1989), whose widow I met once at the Dudley Do-Right Emporium while I was looking for a cel of Crusader Rabbit and Ragland T. “Rags” the Tiger to give a rabbi whose initials were A.G.S. and kept signing notes “RAGS”.

Ward after inventing Crusader Rabbit – Ward was Jewish, incidentally, as am I; we have a possibly unfair historical bias against crusaders – grew even more famous with Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose.  The main bad guy in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends – who once cut out the r after the F – was Boris Badenov.

And that’s my contribution under the title above.

Four Thoughts from Coleridge

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1432)  We know Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) mainly as a poet.  There’s The Rhyme (he spelled it Rimeof the Ancient Mariner, and for SF-lovers in particular there’s the sublime fragment “Kubla Khan”, to which SF has paid tribute in “The Person from Porlock” (R.F. Jones, 1947; included in Conklin’s first-rate Treasury) and I suggest also “The Skills of Xanadu” (Sturgeon, 1956; often reprinted).

Coleridge in his day was also known as a critic.  Reading the 1978 Penguin reprint of I.A. Richards ed., The Portable Coleridge (1950) I thought to offer you these.

The arrogance of ignorance

1812, on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet  (p. 421)

As long as there are readers to be delighted with calumny, there will be found reviewers to calumniate.

1817, Biographia Literaria ch. 3  (p. 461)

He who tells me that there are defects in a new work, tells me nothing which I should not have taken for granted without his information.  But he, who points out and elucidates the beauties of an original work, does indeed give me interesting information, such as experience would not have authorized me in anticipating.

(p. 465)

Dante … speaks of poets as guardians of the vast armory of language, which is the intermediate something between matter and spirit.

1818, on The Divine Comedy  (p. 407)

Hoping you are the same.

At the Height of His –

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1433)  Tim Powers is at his best in Forced Perspectives.  He managed to bring us this book last March, four years after Alternate Routes, a short time for him.  He writes well – that’s one of my understatements, folks – but not, as he’s told us, fast.

I didn’t re-read Alternate Routes first.  I don’t think you’ll have to.

He is, as we expect, imaginative, poetic, rooted in the world we know and branching away, realistic and strange.

C.S. Lewis advised what I call the One-Strange Rule: either an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, or an extraordinary person in ordinary circumstances.  Rules get exceptions – does that have exceptions? never mind for now – but, or and, Powers does both.

I’ve advised The greater the reality, the better the fantasy.  I didn’t have to advise Powers, he’s masterly at it.

As I said of another Powers book, and Samuel Johnson said of Shakespeare (it may take a genius to write about a genius; I’m doing my best), we’ve never met these people, and if as Powers says himself he is writing fantasy, we can’t meet them; but we believe that if we did, they’d be as he portrays.  Such is the art of fiction.

Some years ago Bob Dylan sang “Nothing is revealed.” That was his art; not Powers’.  If we see a man walking on stilts, with springs under his shoes – another Powers book – or a car painted all over with clown faces, we’ll learn why.

When one of Shakespeare’s characters says “I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” he’s answered “Why, so can I, or so can any man; but will they come when you do call for them?”  Of course that’s iambic pentameter.  Powers has different fish to fry.  His recipe isn’t particularly to sow doubt about the claim (nor is it always Shakespeare’s).  In a Powers story they may well arrive.  His recipe is Then what?

Another part of realism is Where did that come from?  In a Powers story if a man has to swim a long distance under water, or shoot a handgun suddenly and well under great stress, we know how he can do that, and what it cost. 

I’m reminded of a different careful fantasy author who made a modern man wield a centuries-earlier sword.  The man was strong enough; nor did the foes he happened to be against call on him for much skill.  He beat them.  But he blistered his hand.

Not for nothing does SF have visitor stories, growing-up stories, investigation stories.  Readers must somehow learn things the imagined world takes for granted.  Forced Perspectives is an investigation story.  The two protagonists, Sebastian Vickery – not his real name, as the old joke relishes – and Ingrid Castine, try to learn what’s going on. They’ve seen some of this before. They thought they were out of it. They weren’t.

Powers often writes what some call secret histories. Who, really, was Kim Philby (1912-1988; another Powers book)?  How, really, did the sets for Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments (1923) get buried afterward in the sand and sea (this book)?  Powers imagines the answer and tells us the true – according to his fantasy – story.

Another part of his realism – or, more technically, verisimilitude, the appearance of truth – is that he doesn’t invent everything.  For this book he didn’t invent the notion of an egregore.  He didn’t invent the Egyptian gods (or forces of nature? or demons?) Ba and Nu. You can look them up and see they’re what his characters say.  Of course those sources you found might not have known – or told you – the real truth, aha.

There’s comedy in a Powers story.  That’s hard to do, maybe harder in fantasy than in science fiction, which is already hard.

I’m not going to fall into the pit of trying to tell you what comedy is.  I’ll suggest it has something to do with our recognizing That couldn’t be true.  If I said to you What do you think, I can work magic?? you’d smile.  But in fantasy the character who said that might be able to.

Anyway, two of my favorite moments in this book are “Isn’t either” (ch. 7) and “You have behaved in a regrettably high-handed manner all along” (ch. 17).  Also you might recognize “Tension apprehension and dissension have begun” (ch. 15).  I liked them.  Maybe you will.

Once when Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

Speaking of Alexander

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1424)

The man to whom one half … credited everything good in the country and to whom the other half attributed all the bad.

Alexandre Dumas, Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine ch. 31 (1870,
unfinished at the author’s death 1870; C. Schopp ed. 2005;
p. 219 in L. Yoder tr. The Last Cavalier 2007; of Napoleon in 1801)

The history of this book is itself like a Dumas novel.

Dumas (1802-1870), after its predecessors The Companions of Jehu (1857) and The Whites and the Blues (1867), seems to have rushed Le Chevalier into newspaper serialization; a short section at the end never appeared, presumably because the author had died.  After that the book seemed lost.

The great Dumas scholar Claude Schopp (1943-  ) recovered it hunting through archives a hundred thirty years later, as he tells in a seventy-page preface of which every word gladdens the hearts of researchers.

To say Dumas was huge in his lifetime is both figuratively and literally true – see his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (posth. 1873).

Today some of us know The Three Musketeers (1844) – I joke it’s so entitled because there are four of them, who fight with swords – maybe also The Count of Monte Cristo (1845).

But Musketeers has sequels Twenty Years After (1845) and The Viscount of Bragelonne (1847).  And Dumas published 100,000 pages, including history and historical fiction; fantasy; essays; plays, which made him famous; travel; and the still excellent cookbook-encyclopedia.

His father was a great general (T. Dumas, 1762-1806; T. Reiss, The Black Count, 2012; Van 1413).

A son (1824-1895) was also a leading man of letters (author of e.g. The Lady of the Camellias 1848, adapted into Verdi’s opera La Traviata 1853) and thus known as Dumas fils (“the son”).

Dumas père (“the father”) is – literary present tense – a master of romance, both affaires du coeur (“of the heart”) and d’honneur; of story; of suspense; of characterization; of the telling detail.

We can learn from him – and we have; Monte Cristo inspired one of our finest novels, The Stars My Destination (A. Bester, 1956).


In Van 1422, I quoted Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander (130; Sélincourt tr. 1958, Hamilton rev. 1971; of Alexander the Great 500 years earlier).

To Space From the Netherlands

By John Hertz:  Cat Eldridge wrote a birthday notice for C.S. Lewis recently.  Some of us talked about Lewis’ trilogy of Earth-Mars-Venus travel books, Out of the Silent PlanetPerelandraThat Hideous Strength.

You may have seen last year that Perelandra was one of two books on which I led SF Classics discussions at Loscon 46.  My note on them before the con is here, and my con report of that day, including the discussion of Perelandra, is here.

Throughout all three Space books Lewis refers to various things he thought his readers at the time would know, but we sometimes don’t.

A Dutch scholar, Dr. Arend Smilde (“Smill-deh”) of Utrecht, has a Lewis Website (in English), including a page of notes for Silent Planet, one for Perelandra, one for Strength.  He even added some for Perelandra I suggested.

I recommend all three.