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.

Alan White Is 2020 Rotsler
Award Winner

By John Hertz: The Rotsler Award for 2020 has been given to Alan White of Las Vegas.

The annual Award, begun in 1998 after the death of Bill Rotsler and in his memory, is for long-time wonder-working with graphic art in amateur publications of the science fiction community.  It is decided by a three-judge panel and carries an honorarium of US$300.  Rotsler was, among much else, one of the great fanartists.

Alan White has contributed to these publications since the 1970s – mainly the periodicals by and for fans that fans call fanzines (coined by Russell Chauvenet in the 1940s), also fannish conventions’ fliers, program and souvenir books, and other such companions.

When this drawing

was used to decorate Matters Passed On to This Year’s Business Meeting in the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention (“L.A.con II”) Program Book, White was already well known.

This one

appeared earlier in Scientifriction 9 (1977).

As other media became available, he used them.  Here is his cover for File 770 138 (2001).

Caricatured at left are (top to bottom) Mike Glyer, Bruce Pelz, Larry Niven.

Here is another drawing of about the same date which appeared some years later – as happens in Fanzineland – in Vanamonde 1403 (weekly; 2020).

Here is an even more elaborate cover for File 770 155 (2009).

Here is a recent image from This Here 35 (2020).

Fanart comes in many forms.  Good artists choose what will best suit what they wish to do – line drawings or computer-aided compositions, monochrome or color.  White is very good.

The Rotsler Award is sponsored by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests, Inc., a nonprofit California corporation (yes, that’s what the initials spell, in this case pronounced “skiffy”).  The current judges are Mike Glyer, John Hertz, and Sue Mason.

Geeks Bearing Gifts

By John Hertz:  Yesterday being Don Fitch’s 92nd birthday, I wanted to bring him something; as the saying goes, a token but not a measure of my esteem.

I consulted Geri Sullivan in Wales – Wales, Massachusetts.  She confirmed DF was still living assistedly where I’d thought him.  Health precautions were strict just now, but I could relay through an attendant at the front door.  This dissuaded me from gift-wrapping.

GS had arranged with local fan Chris Marble to get DF a flower and some sushi from her and him.  Luckily I’d asked before redounding (note that redundant still keeps the old sense of “swollen, overflowing”).  GS asked “How about books?” pleasing me that my reputation there was still good.  “He’s been reading mysteries,” she said.

A first-rate used-book shop was on my way.  Traffic on the roads would be swollen soon, disincentive from an afternoon’s browsing.  I got the Nero Wolfe books Some Buried Caesar and Might As Well Be Dead, Georgette Heyer’s historical romance mystery The Masqueraders, and the SF mystery Saturn Run which I brought to your attention here (p. 17; PDF).

CM told me he’d got an Orange Gemstone orchid, and albacore and yellowtail sushi.

I arrived in good time, rang the doorbell, and handed gifts to a greeter.  As I was leaving, another attendant called “Would you like to see him?”  She didn’t have to ask twice.  She set a chair for me outside a mesh-screened window and brought a pad of paper.  DF’s deaf; not expecting to see him I hadn’t brought one.

In a moment there he was on the other side.  He walked up smoothly, so I supposed easily, with a bamboo staff (i.e. a walking stick as tall as he was).  His beard was full and well-kempt.  We had a happy 1/3 hour, the duration that house rules allowed.  He spoke, I wrote.

He hadn’t brought more than a few feet of books when relocating there a couple of years ago.  He was glad of Caesar and Might and the Heyer, had until then only heard of Saturn.

We talked of re-reading.  Since SF was thought a literature of ideas, he said, some was hardly worth a second go once its ideas were known.  It’s too bad, I said; I feared some authors didn’t trouble to write well.

We talked of re-thinking young and old.  I recounted how, at a museum in Japan, a guide had said of calligraphy by Soseki Mûso (14th Century) “The vigorous and self-confident brush strokes suggest that this was written in the later years of his life.”

We told a few jokes.  Since I was wearing a nose-and-mouth mask I drew a smiley face.

And, as Mary Poppins had said, it was time for me to go.

Happy the Dwarf

By John Hertz:  Results of the 2020 SF Poetry Ass’n Contest were posted here on September 25th.

I won 3rd Place in the Dwarf category (1-10 lines).

Two Filers’ comments congratulated me by name.  Thanks.

Perhaps you’d like to see my entry.  It’s an unrhymed stanza in 5-7-5-word lines.

That hill – a giant
Green elephant asleep, lost
On his way to Mars.

File 770 reported the Contest’s biographical notes about the winners.  Mine was simply “John Hertz is”.  This was due to no request, coyness, or like that, from me.  No one asked.  If the Contest called for any biography from entrants, I missed it.  However, I’m content.


Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the first full-length cel-animated feature film.  In Disney’s telling, Snow White meets dwarfs called Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey.

Two Fritz Favorites

By John Hertz:  It’s the death-anniversary of Fritz Leiber (1910-1992).  He wrote both fantasy and science fiction – all strange; if I may quote a Robert Louis Stevenson story, “Desire of strange things swept him on” (“The Isle of Voices”, 1893).  Actually that’s not fair.  I keep objecting when someone attributes what authors write to what they want.  Leiber’s writing sweeps us on.

Two of my favorites among his science fiction are The Big Time (1958) and The Wanderer (1964).  Both won Hugos.

Recently I hear people complaining when attitudes of characters in a story published in the past are other than what we’d aspire to now.  I’m partly with this and partly not.  I think the first look is at how authors treat their characters.  A Filer said the other day I’d not call that book misogynistic.  The character is, but the text clearly shows he’s an idiot.  Then, as another Filer said, Of course it seems laughable to us now.  Isn’t that a gratifying sign of how far we’ve come since then?  There’s more, and Our Gracious Host has encouraged me to explore it, but I’m going to stop there for the moment.

We discussed The Big Time at Denvention III (66th Worldcon) in a set of SF Classics which I called “Wonders of 1958”.  See this Eddie Jones cover of a German edition.

I wrote, 

Spiders are the good guys, and our hero is a woman.  The first Hero was a woman too, go look up Leander.  Indeed this is a very classical book; it preserves the unities of time, place, and persons, which is mighty strange, considering.  There’s slashing drama, and if you’ve never been a party girl, it might not be what you think.

We discussed The Wanderer at Renovation (which I always pronounce “Reno-vation”; 69th Worldcon).  See this Allison cover of an Italian edition.

I wrote, 

Here are a host of viewpoints, a first contact with aliens story as we learn a third of the way in, a look at some favorite notions like “Rovers are free and good” and “Love conquers all”, and a breathtaking exercise in climax and perspective.

May I recommend these two books to you? 

Like a Wide Road

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1410) I hadn’t read Mencius for a while, so was glad to find in a used-book shop the 1970 translation by D.C. Lau for Penguin Classics.  Dr. Lau (1921-2010) writes,

Only two Chinese philosophers have the distinction of being known consistently in the West by a latinized name.  The first is Confucius.  The second is Mencius…. second only to Confucius … in the Confucian tradition … officially recognized in China for over a thousand years [p. 7]….  [one of] the Four Books which, until the present century, were read and memorized by every schoolboy in his first years [p. 8]….  Mencius, besides being one of the greatest thinkers, happens to be one of the greatest stylists in the whole history of Chinese literature [p. 222].

Mencius, living a hundred years after Confucius i.e. 2,300 years ago (372-289 B.C.E. – roughly contemporary with Plato), as Dr. Lau says is called the Second Sage i.e. after Confucius himself.  His power as a stylist is as might be expected hard to render in translation.

Education based on committing texts to memory is so strange to us – perhaps rightly – that it is hard to grasp.  We know it has too often meant rigidity and blind acceptance.

Yet Mencius said (Bk. VII, pt. B, sec. 2) Chin hsin, tse pu-ju wu.

{Note 1: This piece from Vanamonde had to be re-formatted because Our Gracious Host’s software won’t allow some characters I could use in Van.  I’ll indicate as I go.

{Note 2: As some of you know, I prefer the Wade-Giles system of romanization to the p‘in-yin system so loved in Mainland China.  I’ll say something about that at the end.

{Note 3: The Vanamonde piece used both parentheses ( ) and brackets [ ].  I’ll use braces { } here to show what I’ve had to do for reprinting by OGH.

{Now back to what I had in Vanamonde – jh.}

The p‘in-yin romanization favored on the mainland would write this Jìn xìn, zé bùrú wú.

In Mencius’ literary Chinese – sometimes called “classical Chinese” – the word shu “book” is implied: Chin hsin [shu], tse pu-ru [shu].

I confess that while I prefer the Wade-Giles romanization, or transliteration if you like, its use of is confusing to readers of English.  W-G hs for the sound p‘in-yin writes as isn’t bad, but the of p‘in-yin is less misleading than W-G’s j.

Also I confess that the four diacritical marks p‘in-yin uses for the Four Tones are more helpful to readers of English than W-G’s superscripts i.e. chin4 hsin4 [shu1], tse2 pu4ju2 wu2 [shu1].  {But not all those diacritical marks are allowed by OGH’s software, while the superscripts come through just fine!}

Literary Chinese is terse.  Not only does Mencius omit the Chinese word shu, he expects readers to know from the context what book he means: the Book of History.

Wikipedia on Mencius, rendering the original’s six words, apparently misses some of what they imply, resulting in an exaggeration: “One who believes all of a book would be better off without books”.

Dr. Lau (p. 194) makes it “If one believed everything in the Book of History, it would have been better for the Book not to have existed at all”.

I call to your attention that this – from the Second Sage – is a healthful splash of water on our notion of a memorizer: the Book of History was almost revered, and thought to have been compiled by Confucius.

Here’s some more Mencius.

The organs of sight and hearing are unable to think and can be misled by external things.  When one thing acts on another, all it does is to attract it.  The organ of the heart can think.  But it will find the answer only if it does think [Mencius IV:A:15, Lau p. 168].

Benevolence overcomes cruelty just as water overcomes fire [IV:A:18, p. 169].

The Way is like a wide road.  It is not at all difficult to find.  The trouble with people is simply that they do not look for it [VI:B:2, p. 172].

To feed a man without showing him love is to treat him like a pig; to love him without showing him respect is to keep him like a domestic animal….  Respect that is without reality will not take a gentleman in merely by its empty show [VII: A:37, p. 190].

Wishing you the same.


B.C.E. = Before the Common Era, used by many who do not care for dates stated according to divinity in Jesus.

The Four Books were canonized by Chu Hsi (1130-1200 i.e. the Sung Dynasty): the Great Learning which he took from the Book of Rites (this English word is often used, but decorum might be better; to Confucius is attributed “Of all things to which people owe their lives, the Rites are the most important”; recorded in the Chou Dynasty 1122-221 B.C.E.), the Doctrine of the Mean another part of the Rites, the Analects of Confucius, and Mencius.

Gentleman has been the usual translation of chün tzu {with Wade-Giles superscripts, chüntzu3; the First Tone is shown by a macron in p‘in-yin, the Third by a caron, but since I can’t do either of those here, I’ll write jûnzï: in p‘in-yin an is used here for the unstressed central vowel, like “a” in English “about”}, “either a man of moral excellence or a man in authority”, Lau p. 49 note 3.

This is not what we in the U.S. today call a class distinction, i.e. not hereditary, but a condition of being, to which any can aspire, which any can achieve – to which Confucianism directs us.

As for me, while I aspire to moral excellence, and think it engenders authority, I’m not a Confucian (nor am I big on memorizing); but I don’t read books to be agreed with.

{Here’s the further note on Wade-Giles which I promised above.

{The sign ‘ is used in Wade-Giles for Chinese aspirated consonants, so e.g. p‘in means an aspirated consonant, pin would mean an unaspirated one; in the mainland’s system, those two consonants are written pin and bin.

{Also, Wade-Giles uses a hyphen to show connected words, while in the mainland’s system they are run together, like writing in English “used-book shop” or “usedbook shop”.

{Thus in Wade-Giles p‘in-yin but in the mainland’s system pinyin.

{Wade-Giles writes the unaspirated consonant ts which the mainland’s system writes z.  Wade-Giles writes chin where the mainland’s system writes jin.

{As to whether Wade-Giles might actually be preferable for readers of English, I’ll quote the translator Red Pine: “I continue to find Mainland China’s p‘in-yin romanization system too cruel to use on uninitiated readers . . . [I] romanize all Chinese words according to the more traditional and somewhat less bizarre Wade-Giles system”.

{To give you something you can find electronically, I quote his 2004 edition of the Buddhist “Heart” Sûtra, p. 161.}

Pixel Scroll 8/29/20 I Know I Filed This Pixel Somewhere

(1) DATLOW TAKES QUESTIONS. On the Full Contact Nerd podcastCris Alvarez does a Q&A: “Ellen Datlow Interview- Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fiction – ‘Edited By’ (Subterranean, 2020)”

Ellen Datlow has been editing horror, fantasy, and science fiction short stories and novellas for over forty years. She’s won numerous awards and accolades for her work and has edited numerous best of anthologies along with short stories for magazine and book publishers. Subterranean Press is releasing a book on some of the best stories she’s edited. I spoke to Ellen about her work as an editor, about genre fiction, and about the business in general.

0:32: Ellen talks about how she got into editing and editing anthologies….

(2) COPING WITH ALS. Sara Hendren tells Slate readers about “The Truest Cyborg I Know”.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been visiting Steve Saling in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where he lives in a residence he designed for himself and a couple dozen other people, a mix of stunning “smart home” technology and human care that he created to arrive in time for his body’s big changes. Steve got a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his late 30s. He’s 51 now. More than a dozen years into his condition, he has said repeatedly that his life is worth living—and that technology, in the absence of medicine, is “the cure.” Maybe that sounds like one more instance of overhyped claims for Silicon Valley—I would have thought so upon first hearing—but, over time, I came to understand what he meant.

In the architecture of the life that Steve created, I saw a kind of “anticipatory design”—to repurpose a term of Buckminster Fuller’s. At Saling House, the residence that bears Steve’s name, there are impressive digital devices that act, in one sense, as treatment: a whole array of ingenious software and hardware made to maximize his independence even as his body gradually changes. The sheer novelty of the engineering is impressive. But more impressive by far are the ideas packed into all his designed gear and services for life with little mobility—ideas about help, about needfulness. About assistance itself in every life. On my afternoons with him, my perspective and my vocabulary about giving and receiving help changed. Steve taught me to think differently about the plain fact of human needfulness and its role in a desirable life….

(3) EXCELLENT. We’ve recently seen what a John Scalzi 1990s movie review looks like – here’s your chance to see one from 2020: “Movie Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music”

I enjoyed Bill & Ted Face the Music quite a bit, which is utterly unsurprising as I am both Gen-X, i.e., the generation of Bill and/or Ted, and also I used to live in San Dimas, home of Bill and Ted and the town in which almost all of this film takes place (fictionally; it doesn’t look like they did a whole lot of filming in actual San Dimas this time around). Also I am the fan of the first two films, particularly Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the first film in history to successfully reference both Ingmar Bergman and the glam band Poison. What was surprising to me was that I teared up a bit at the end of this one. I know why, and I’ll tell you in a bit.

(4) D&D IS BETTER THAN IRL. “Plague Comforts: Dungeons & Dragons Is the Real World Now” contends Mother Jones writer Wll Peischel.

…In Dungeons & Dragons,everything pretty much goes as planned. 

In the real world, the pressing themes—pandemic, climate change, state-sanctioned brutality, the government’s emphatic disinterest in functioning properly—lend themselves to a darker, more surreal plot. It is serious. We’re holed up in our homes. The absence of bars, physical workspaces, and cheap baseball tickets from our lives creates a sense of confused inertia. Are we a tenth of the way through the pandemic or halfway? Are we actually getting anywhere, or are we stuck in the last season of Lost? There is endless horizon in every direction—we’re measuring our time in hair growth, if at all.

D&D, on the other hand, is full of clear lines and brighter absurdities. I’m on my 18th session; I live in a tower on the outskirts of a village called Goosetown. Like real life, much of what goes on isn’t scripted. But, unlike reality, it’s safely self-contained. In a session of D&D, the cocktail of youth nostalgia and fantasy otherworldliness could give rise to almost anything—as long as it abides by the game’s few rules. It isn’t the leap into unbounded fantasy that appeals; it’s the lines, the structure, the finitude (with a sort of community working within them).

(5) DON’T FIRE THE RETROS. Cora Buhlert takes up the challenge of explaining “Why the Retro Hugos Have Value” – of which this excerpt is just part of the introduction.

…Now no one is obliged to care about the Retro Hugos. However, if you didn’t nominate and vote, you don’t get complain about the results. I also understand the frustration that Retro Hugo voters keep voting for familiar names like John W. Campbell and weak early stories by future stars of the genre over better works, because I share it. However, unlike many other folks, I didn’t complain, but decided to do something about it, so I started the Retro Hugo Recommendation Spreadsheet and Retro Science Fiction Reviews to help potential Retro Hugo nominators and voters make more informed choices. Because I believe that it’s better to try and fix something than destroy or abolish something that some people enjoy.

And while I understand why Worldcons are reluctant to give out Retro Hugos due to the work and expense involved, I really don’t understand the intense hatred they engender in some fans. There are a lot of things going on at Worldcons that I personally don’t care about, but that doesn’t mean I want to take those things away from the people who do enjoy them. I simply focus on the things that give me joy and ignore the rest.

However, the current campaign against the Retro Hugos is part of a larger trend to dismiss the past of our genre as racist, sexist and irrelevant. Also witness the recent debate about the SFF canon, what it is and whether it is relevant with contributions by John Scalzi (here and here), Nina Allan, Camestros Felapton (here and here), the Hugo Book ClubFont FollySteve Davidson, Doris V. SutherlandAidan Moher and others. The canon discussion is mostly civil (and the only uncivil are the usual idiots I haven’t linked here) and also makes a lot of good points, such as that there is no one fixed SFF canon, but that individual people have different works which are important to them, that canons can be abused as a form of gatekeeping, that it’s not necessary to read classic SFF works, unless you enjoy them or want to write an academic work about SFF. However, pretty much everybody who is interested in older SFF has experienced hostility about this interest, even if we don’t go around and tell people that they’re not “real fans” (TM), unless they have read the entire output of Heinlein, Asimov, Lovecraft, etc… (and in that case, I wouldn’t be a “real fan” (TM) either). Witness Jason Sanford saying that the Retro Hugo voters are “a small group of people stuck in the past giving today’s genre the middle finger”, never mind that most Retro Hugo voters are Hugo voters as well. Or the person who called me a Nazi on Twitter for tweeting about the Retro Hugo winners, until I blocked them.

As I said before, no one has to care about older SFF and no one has to read it, if they don’t want to. But attacking people for being interested in older SFF and enjoying the Retro Hugos is not okay. Nor is everybody who’s interested in older SFF a reactionary fascist, even if received wisdom claims that the SFF of the golden age was all racist and sexist stories about straight white American men in space, lorded over by the twin spectres of Campbell and Lovecraft.

There is just one problem: The received wisdom is wrong. Because the golden age (intended here as a designation for a specific time period, not a value judgment) was more than just Campbell and Astounding.  It was also a lot more diverse than most people thinkas I explained in a three part post last year….

(6) SKIFFY TREATS. “I scream, you scream, what’s up with all the celebrity ice cream?” asks FastCompany. Followed by Cat Eldridge asking, “So I wonder what would be celebrity genre ice creams?” 

… It appears that we are now entering into a new phase of celebrity signature products, one that combines the scarcity of a limited-edition booze or sneaker, with the massive scale of something everybody loves.

Welcome to celebrity ice cream.

This week two very different arbiters of cool dropped their very own frozen treat collaborations. First up was pop star Selena Gomez, who managed a double dip collaboration, first on a song called . . . yep . . . “Ice Cream” made with K-pop stars Blackpink, and spinning that into her very own flavor for specialty ice-cream brand and chain Serendipity. It’s called Cookies & Cream Remix, and it’s pink vanilla ice cream with crunchy cookie bites and fudge bits.

(7) GARCIAGATE GOFUNDME. The “GarciaGatePenguins Fire Relief” GoFundMe has raised $11,115 (the original goal was $10K) and is still taking donations. Chris Garcia, Vanessa Applegate and the boys had to evacuate from their Northern California home because of the fires. So far their house has survived, but there’s no telling when they will be able to return. Til then, they’re in hotels.

(8) BOSEMAN OBIT. Actor Chadwick Boseman died August 28 reports Yahoo! News.

Chadwick Boseman, who played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before inspiring audiences worldwide as the regal Black Panther in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise, died Friday of cancer. He was 43.

…Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

John Hertz celebrates it.

The sun’s risen on
Independent Bookstores Day.
May they earn still more.

The celebration had been delayed from April until today.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 29, 1957 X Minus One’s “Volpla” was first broadcast. Based on a story by Wyman Guin who first gained noticed with his “Beyond Bedlam” novella in Galaxy Science Fiction in August 1951. (In 2013, he would receive the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.) His story in “Volpla” is that an individual creates small creatures and teaches them to say they are aliens. Ernest Kinoy as usual wrote the radio script. Nelson Olmstead, Adele Newton and Sarah Fussell were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 29, 1905 – Don Wilcox.  Five novels for us, ninety shorter stories; detective  and Western stories; plays; paintings.  Some Captain Video for television.  For a while with Amazing and Fantastic under Palmer, averaged 40,000 words a month.  Best of DW vol. 1 appeared 2016; vol. 2, 2017.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1926 – Thomas N. Scortia.  Chemist.  Worked in aerospace.  Six novels for us (some with Frank Robinson), fifty shorter stories.  The Glass Inferno (with FR) became The Towering Inferno (I. Allen dir. 1974).  With Dalton Trumbo, The Endangered Species.  Collection Caution! Inflammable! has an introduction by Theodore Sturgeon.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1942 – Dian Crayne.  Three novels, eight shorter stories (one with Larry Niven), a few interiors; The Game of Fandom.  Married to Bruce Pelz 1964-1970 (their divorce party inspired LN’s “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”; a chocolate-covered manhole cover has been part of the L.A. Science Fantasy Soc, Gift Exchange every December since), to Chuck Crayne 1972-2009 (he and BP co-chaired L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon, co-founded the North America SF Con held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Here she is at Pacificon II (22nd Worldcon) as Thuvia, Maid of Mars, BP at her left.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best-known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born August 29, 1946 – Robert Weinberg.  A dozen novels, fifty shorter stories; five dozen anthologies; Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction & Fantasy ArtistsThe Art of the Pulps (with D. Ellis, H. Hulse), The Collectors’ Book of Virgil Finlay (with D. Ellis, R. Garcia).  Letters, essays, editorials in Collecting FantasyThe DiversifierERB-dom (E.R. Burroughs), Fantasy NewsletterHorrorstruckThe “Weird Tales” CollectorWindy City Pulp Stories.  Co-chaired Chicago Comiccon 1976-1996; 9th and 16th World Fantasy Cons.  Sam Moskowitz Archive Award (excellence in collecting).  Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon) Special Award for service.  (Died 2016).  [JH]
  • August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 69. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not. (CE) 
  • August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 67. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain. (CE)
  • August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 66. A filker which gets major points in my book (filker link: “Back in Black” .) And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him. I’m getting old.  (CE) 
  • August 29, 1959 Rebecca de Mornay, 61. May I note she made a deliciously evil Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers? She’s Clair Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Wendy Torrance in The Shining miniseries (no, I never heard of it) and Penelope Decker in several episodes of Lucifer. Oh, and she was Dorothy Walker in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series. (CE) 
  • Born August 29, 1970 – Jenn Reese, 50.  Five novels; Tales of the Chinese Zodiac, twelve shorter stories 2005 adding in 2006 a carp, a mantis, an owl; Alphabet Quartet perhaps inevitably became 26 flash-fiction stories “Arthur” – “Zoom” (with G. van Eekhout, T. Pratt, H. Shaw); two dozen other short stories; nine covers.  Here is Mitigated Futures.  Here is Do Better.  Currently a graphic designer in Portland where she can revel in the rain.  [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1977 – Renée Carter Hall, 43.  One novel, thirty shorter stories.  Limestone Circle (poetry) 1999-2002.  Cóyotl Award.  Co-authored a story in 8th Grade with two friends which reached Steven Spielberg and was used in Tiny Toon Adventures with all three friends as cartoon characters.  Website here.  [JH]
  • August 29, 1989 Charlotte Ritchie, 31. Like so many British performers, she’s had a role on Doctor Who playing Lin in the Thirteenth Doctor story, “Resolution “. Her first genre role was an uncredited one in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I see she was Alison in the first season of Dead Pixels, and another Alison in Ghosts, a truly haunting series. (CE) 

(12) BLACK-OWNED BOOKSTORES. O, the Oprah Magazine, lists “120 Black-Owned Bookstores in America That Amplify the Best in Literature”. Even a few comics stores in there.

… Kalima Desuze, owner of Cafe con Libros in Brooklyn, New York, describes recent business as both “lucrative” and “bittersweet.”

“Many folks are buying books, but may not have a home to dialogue about it,” she says. “This work cannot be done in isolation; we all need community. I’m tired of solidarity with Black folks only coming after death when some of us have spent our lives talking about and organizing against systemic racism… So, while I definitely appreciate the support, it’s been hard to profit off the bodies of fictive kin.”

It should also be remembered that independent book stores owned by African Americans have been around for decades. The first in the country was Oakland, California’s Marcus Books, which opened its doors in 1960 and is still in business today. There are now 119 other Black-owned establishments in the country, and though they make up just 6% of indie bookselling companies in the U.S., they’re home to powerful works that serve to educate and amplify vital voices.

“The stories have always been there, and the experiences have always been there, but not everybody was comfortable talking about them,” says La’Nae Robinson, who co-owns Bliss Books & Wine in Kansas City with her sister, La’Nesha Frazier. “So I think now that it’s more in the spotlight, it’s creating more conversations, and people are open to having conversations—and they’re actually holding them in their hands and educating themselves on topics that they just didn’t think about.”

(13) SFF MARKETING. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will do a show about “SF&F Marketing Masters: Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Self-Publishing” on September 5, 2020.

Joining us on the 5th of September will be those who plan and execute the marketing of legends.
– Dave Farland will join us to discuss his plan with Scholastic for making Harry Potter big.
– Ed Elbert will discuss the advertising of Star Wars.
– Craig Miller will share the stories of fandom and community outreach for Star Wars.
– Brian Meeks will bring us to 2020 with a discussion of self-publishing.

(14) YOU COULD WRITE AN EPIC WITH IT. Fork over $4,275 and this sterling silver “Montegrappa The Lord of the Rings Fountain Pen” will be on its way to you. Comes with a removable gold ring!

One pen to rule them all. Our tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved trilogy is made with a level of craftsmanship to rival the great Elven-smiths of Eregion. The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition is a magical creation of lostwax casting that celebrates imagination, creativity and heroic journeys at their finest.

…Armaments and regalia belonging to the Fellowship of the Ring make up the elements of the barrel. Gandalf’s staff, Aragorn’s sword and Gimli’s axe are just some of the icons contained within a structure crowned by a cubic zirconia set in the emblem of the White Tree of Gondor.

The cap’s major features are a hand-enamelled Eye of Sauron suspended in the Tower of Barad-dûr, and a clip resembling Frodo’s Elvish blade, Sting. In place of a conventional capband sits a removable replica of the One Ring, inscribed with Tengwar script and plated in gold.

(15) R.H.I.P. Popular Mechanics boosts a signal from Admiral Kirk: “William Shatner to Space Force: Use Navy, Not Air Force Ranks”.

A sci-fi legend is making the case for the new U.S. Space Force to use naval ranks. In an Military Times op-ed, Star Trek‘s William Shatner argues—with prodigious use of emoji—the long history of naval ranks in science fiction makes it appropriate for the burgeoning Space Force to follow suit.

Although Shatner’s argument is tongue in cheek, there’s actually a more practical reason why the Space Force might emulate the U.S. Navy—not the U.S. Air Force.

…Shatner writes:

“Star Trek” has borrowed so much of its iconic rank symbols from the U.S. military and NASA. When you unveiled the Space Force logo, many immediately saw it as an homage to “Star Trek” (even though our Delta was an homage to the previous military space insignias). Why not borrow back from “Star Trek” and adopt our ranks as well? We took them from the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship.

In a practical sense, there is some rationale for using naval ranks. Spaceships are a lot like submarines: enclosed vessels traveling through a void-like medium on long treks. Like subs, spaceships handle hull pressures, though they must deal with pressure on the inside and outside.

Naval forces have deep experience with planning and conducting voyages that could take weeks or months, while most Air Force missions last several hours at the most. When the Space Force finally operates spaceships, it might find itself more culturally aligned with the Navy than the Air Force….

(16) FLY FREE. The Austin Chronicle tells how this weekend’s virtual con will escape Planet COVID: “ArmadilloCon 42 Blasts Off Into Cyberspace”.

…Sure, we know as well as you do that the transition to online events has been 50 shades of awkward for most organizations. But if any group should be prepared for a transition to the digital plane, it’s fans of speculative fiction, who have been immersed in synthetic lifeforms, alien worlds, next-wave tech, and cyber-realms for years. No need to be skeptical about ArmadilloCon 42’s virtual nature; these folks are hardwired for it.

More importantly, the ArmadilloCon team is still inspired by the same spirit of community and love of the genre that was shared by the 300 or so fans who gathered at the Villa Capri Hotel in May of 1979 for the first con. That means not just celebrating the futures of the past – those imagined by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, and their peers – but also the futures of the future: those being conjured by writers breaking into the field. The con’s 42-year mission, to borrow a phrase, has always been to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new writers and new speculative fiction, to boldly go with them where no fan has gone before. You can count on ArmadilloCon to continue that mission online in the same way it always has IRL.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Gadi Evron, Cat Eldridge, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Sic transit gloria mundi

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1409)

Muscular delicacy

John Clute and David Langford, of Lord Dunsany

– o O o – 

Roberta Pournelle left our stage on August 3rd (1935-2020).  She survived her husband Jerry (1933-2017) by three years.

There was no public church service.  Interment was at Forest Lawn on the 14th.  Forest Lawn said “We’ll provide ten chairs.  Don’t bring any more people than that.”  I said I’d not go.  There were plenty who had a better claim.

Christened Roberta Jane Isdell at her birth in Victoria, Idaho, she was reared in Seattle by a family of readers and singers.  She put herself through Univ. Washington working as a secretary at Boeing. She met Jerry in 1958.  Their romance included aerospace, fencing, philosophy, plays, religion, science fiction, writing.

Jerry had several careers, some of them simultaneous.  To name two sometimes neglected, he was was board chairman of the Seattle Civic Playhouse, and founding President of the Pepperdine Research Institute.  He eventually earned fame with science fiction and user’s tests of computer hardware and software.

With these, and four children, and visitors, and dogs, he came to call the Pournelles’ house in Los Angeles (Studio City neighborhood) Chaos Manor.  It may not be fair to say Roberta was Lady of the Lake – there was a swimming pool – nor was it plain who captivated or restored whom – but anyway mistress of the manor.  At the end a woman who’d known her for decades said she was queenly, the kind you felt glad to be with.

Meanwhile Roberta taught English for thirty years at the Kirby Center for Delinquent Minors, twenty miles southeast in Commerce, California.  When I last looked she and Jerry went to St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church, Sherman Oaks.  She sang in the choir.

Stories abound of Roberta and Jerry’s different styles.  Waiting in what seemed an endlessly slow line to be seated at a ceremonial banquet, you might hear Jerry bellow “Donner, party of 16!” – then after more waiting, “Donner, party of 15!”  You might also see Roberta quietly finding the shyest contest winner and engaging in conversation for ten or fifteen minutes, then quietly finding the next-shyest and doing it again.

The electronic may see the very moving eulogy by Jennifer Pournelle, Ph.D., [here].  She is Jerry’s daughter by a previous marriage.  As it happens I was the lawyer who arranged her adult adoption some years ago.

My appreciation of Jerry can be seen [here].  As I just now wrote to a friend – whose politics I have never asked about –

James Blish in his novel Doctor Mirabilis (1964) about Roger Bacon (1220-1292) has a character observe that we human beings are part honey, part aloes.  Exploring whatever agreements and disagreements I may have had with Roberta seems immaterial to me now.

R.I.P.


The Donner-Reed party was a band of migrants to California snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter of 1846-1847.  Their sufferings were terrible.  Some resorted to cannibalism.

Three from Me

By John Hertz:  It’s not that I have nothing to do (sing rickety-tickety-tin).  But I thought you might like these.  Our Gracious Host once said I had the heart of a poet – yes, I know the Bob Bloch joke.

* * *

The clouds floating by,
Slowly, it seems, remind me
They are big, but far.

* * *

For Bjo Trimble’s birthday

Birthing new ideas,
Juno to many of us;
Old and young she sparks.

* * *

Dance, so much with time,
Rhythm its flowing blood, yet
Independently
Nourished, nourishing, opens
All it touches to depths, heights.

The first two are in unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines, somewhat like Japanese haiku.  The third is in unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines, somewhat like Japanese tanka.  The last two are acrostic (read down the first letters of each line).  The third is a birthday present for a woman I know through another hobby.

Bjo’s name is properly spelled with a circumflex over the “j”, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”, but OGH’s software won’t allow it.

Wishing you the same.