June Moffatt Remembered at LASFS

By John Hertz:  June’s local club was, and mine is, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. She died on May 31st. She was my longest-time friend in fandom.

LASFS (to me and many, pronounced “lahss fahss”; to June’s late husband Len rhyming with sass mass) was founded in 1934.  Our memorial for her was June 28th.  We meet every Thursday; it was our 4,220th.  No one could take Our Gracious Host’s place, but I told him that if he couldn’t attend I’d take notes.

On the way I found classical-music radio Station KUSC broadcasting Chopin’s Waltz No. 9 (Op. 59 No. 1, 1835) “L’adieu” played by Garrick Ohlsson.

We’ve been renting the Null Space Labs in North Hollywood.  We outgrew our third clubhouse, sold it, and are looking for a fourth.  Our meetings start at 8 p.m.  This time we thought we ought to serve snacks, so we did that starting at 6.

We’d had another blow that day: Harlan Ellison. He would have a separate memorial.

Club business didn’t take long.  Usually a lot is monkey business.  We left that out and went on to what the unusually large attendance had come for.

June’s oldest son Bob Konigsberg had been able to visit her from his home in Los Gatos three hundred fifty miles away.  I’d sometimes found him at Moffatt House, serenading her.  Tonight he told us she loved railroad songs, like “The Wabash Cannonball”.

A gadget in Bob’s hand, coupled with one Matthew Tepper had, let us hear from June’s daughter Caty, still on the road.  It’s called Bluetooth, I muttered to Lee Gold, because you put it in your ear.  You know it’s named for Harald Gormsson, she muttered back, quite rightly shushing me as I started to explain that the Greek dance Hasapikos (Turkish kasap, a butcher) is so called because sailors do it.

Caty told us she’d seen how much LASFS meant to her mom.  As it happened no one broke into “Mutual Admiration Society” but we could have.  June and Len were like that too.  Caty thanked us all and said she heard us thanking her.

Barbara Gratz Harmon had married Jim Harmon about the time June married Len.  They had double-dated.  Len and Jim both died in 2010.  Tonight Barbara talked about June.

Barbara lives in Burbank; the Moffatts lived in Downey.  With Len and Jim gone, June spent Thursday nights after LASFS meetings at Barbara’s, and drove home the next day.  Barbara is a cellist in several orchestras.  When she had to practice late at night, June took out hearing aids and slept jes’ fine. When Barbara was on jury duty for five months, June had a key to the house.  Barbara’s dog Leslie loved her.

June became unable to drive.  She passed the written exam but couldn’t see well enough.  Carol Sperling, among other things founder of the Blustering Gales, a local Sherlock Holmes club – detective fiction was another Moffatt interest – told us about taking June around.

George McUrso did some of that too.  Eventually he had, as regular Thursday night passengers, June, Barbara, Charlie Jackson, and Rowan Dao (who was also the youngest Blustering Gale).

In 1991 George (then using the surname Mulligan) had been given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS; he was one of June and Len’s nominators when they were given the Evans-Freehafer in 1994.

Like Carol Sperling, he had other adventures driving June.  They went to an Edgar Rice Burroughs fans’ Dum-Dum, and the Orange County Museum of Art.  He learned what a great film Oklahoma! was.  Once at Clubhouse III he was looking for The Mouse That Roared. After a while June thought it was time to go home.  Just then our librarian Gavin Claypool emerged calling that he had it, and The Mouse on the Moon too.  June said “Can we get out of here before he finds any more mice?”

Matthew Tepper said June had agented his Lzine when he lived in Minneapolis and San Francisco.  She asked him to find music for Len’s LASFS memorial.  Tonight he began to play it from a gadget he had – “No, that’s Mussorgsky” – then we heard “I Go Pogo”. The Moffatts were Pogo fans.

Barry Gold had found LASFS in 1964.  June’s equanimity and aplomb, he said, had won her the name Mother Jaguar. June and Len made him feel he’d known them for ages.  Near the end while visiting her he’d sung “Bouncing Potatoes” and told Bob Konigsberg how Poul Anderson was driven to write it.

Charlie Jackson said he’d just finished re-reading The Wind in the Willows when she died.  Comments in her APA-L zine were headed “Onion-Sauce” (ch. 1).  With Len and June, he said, as we agreed, seldom was heard a discouraging word.

Ed Green said there was no bigger heart than Len and June’s.  They sponsored people, including him.  A bright light had gone out.

I said – there was more, but I’ll stop here –  Judaism taught that, whatever else after death there may be, the dead live in their good deeds.  And we should take the torch.

                             

Some of this is also in Vanamonde 1308.

Classics of S-F at Worldcon 76

By John Hertz:  The 2018 World Science Fiction Convention is the 76th, to be held 16-20 August at San Jose, California, U.S.A.  Its Website is here. Some Worldcons have nicknames, but this one is just called “Worldcon 76”.

We’ll discuss three S-F Classics, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

I mustn’t go further without a bow to James Blish.  In 1957 he published a book – yes, I know that’s a problematic use of the word published – called Year 2018! Arithmetic shows he must have meant, not 2018 factorial – try it – but 2018, goshwow.  And here we are.  Never mind whether things are like his story now or not.  His imagination and writing were remarkable.  A partner of this book, The Triumph of Time, was one of our S-F Classics when the Worldcon was last in a year ending in 8, Denvention III.

At an earlier Worldcon his widow danced with me.  Maybe you did.  There was bowing in that too.

“What do you mean by a classic?” you ask.  I’m still with “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

These three may be more interesting today than when they first appeared.

Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Do what you can, don’t do what you can’t.

Leigh Brackett, The Sword of Rhiannon (1949)

It’s been called her best early work; concise, eloquent, fresh, poetic.  Why a sword? is answered, also Is this science fiction?  Perhaps unanswerable by human beings, but addressed, are questions of identity, motive, recognition, and will, during an adventure in our great romantic tradition.

Robert A. Heinlein, Red Planet (1949)

To use a technical term, this is a Bildungsroman, a novel of maturation.  But that turns out to be one of the author’s jokes, along with Who’s taking care of whom?  At Westercon LXXI a perceptive woman said, over a bottle of 1985 Château Coutet “Nothing in Heinlein should be taken at face value.”

Edgar Pangborn, A Mirror for Observers (1954)

It’s been translated into Dutch, French, German, and Italian.  Boucher and McComas said it had the depth, perception, and warmth of a true novelist.  Groff Conklin said its detail made its tragedy all the more impressive.  Jo Walton said the mood kept bringing her back.  Science fiction is about people.  Some of the people are aliens.

Let’s Hear It For the WOOF Guy

By John Hertz: Guy H. Lillian III has confirmed he’ll be the Official Editor of WOOF this year, hurrah!

WOOF, the World Order Of Faneditors, is an amateur publishing association (or “amateur press association”) whose contributions are collected, and whose distributions are issued, at and from (but not by or for) the World Science Fiction Convention.

The 2018 Worldcon will be 16-20 August at San Jose, California, U.S.A.  Some Worldcons have nicknames, but this one, the 76th, is just called Worldcon 76.

An apa is an assemblage of amateurs’ publications.  You send copies of yours and get back a distribution containing yours and everybody else’s.

The central receiver-sender of WOOF is the Official Editor.

In the S-F community we borrowed the notion of apas from another hobby, amateur journalism.  What seems the first apa was theirs, founded 1876 (NAPA the National Amateur Press Ass’n), still ongoing.  The first in the S-F community was FAPA the Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n, founded 1937, also still ongoing.

Apas come and go, each with its own rules, customs, and jokes.  Most apas have been quarterly or monthly.  I’m in one that’s weekly.  WOOF is yearly, founded 1976 by Bruce Pelz.  As Suford Lewis said, he had a fruitful imagination.  Some say his epitaph, among us anyhow, should be Si monumentum requiris circumspice. (Latin, “If you seek his monument, look around you.”

The number 76 keeps recurring in this article.  I can’t help it.  You might have wanted the 2018 distribution to be WOOF Trombone or WOOF Osmium. You could argue that WOOF is brassy (or, I suppose, that I am), or that it slides.  You could observe that osmium is the densest naturally-occurring element (or, I suppose, quarrel with “naturally”).  However, the 2018 WOOF distribution will be WOOF 43.

Even better!  Technetium! Irreproducible results! Nice try.

WOOF 43 should be the 43rd WOOF distribution.  Alas, it seems that the last time we tried to comprehend our history, we got it wrong.  There has not been a WOOF distribution every year since its beginning.  We knew that, but miscounted.

Apas, among us anyway, are part of the world of fanzines.  Our fanzines are amateur magazines by and for S-F fans – note that some fans are pros.  As Patrick Nielsen Hayden says, and he should know, fanwriting is not a junior varsity for pro writing; they’re different artforms.  We started S-F apas to distribute fanzines.  After a while apazines took on a life of their own.

The Fanzine Lounge at this year’s Worldcon will be hosted by Craig Glassner.  Look for a WOOF drop-off box there after the con opens on Thursday.  WOOF will be collated there at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 12th.  A Charlie Williams cover is already in the works.

I may have coined the name Fanzine Lounge at the 42nd Worldcon.  Or maybe you did.

This year’s copy count for WOOF is 50, i.e. 50 copies required of each contribution.  Any extra copies will be for sale, US$3 to contributors (who get one free), US$5 otherwise, proceeds to benefit the international traveling-fan funds TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) and DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund).

If you do not expect to be present at collation, please make your own arrangements.  Some long-time WOOFers have seldom been able to attend the con at all, instead sending contributions via friends, providing for return envelopes and postage as needed.

Usually WOOF distributions consist of contributions stapled together, and at least some copies of the distribution are sent by real-mail.  Please consider accordingly the media by which and onto which you publish your contribution.  Paper of 20 or 24 lb. weight, and 8 1/2 x 11” dimensions or size A4, is preferred.

Various apas have tales of fans’ sending strange paper or even slices of bologna.  Some practices are more honored in the breach than in the observance.

What to write about?  Well, cabbages, kings, why the sea is boiling hot (I think it’s the influence of the sun, myself), whether pigs have wings; rum-pots, crack-pots, and how are you Mr. Wilson?

The OE this year may be able to print some contributions sent him by E-mail; ask him, ghliii [at] yahoo [dot] com.  You may also write to him at 1390 Holly Ave., Merritt Island, FL 32952, U.S.A.  You may also mail contributions to Craig Glassner, 750 Linden Ave., San Bruno, CA 94066, U.S.A.  You may also write to or call me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A., (213)384-6622 (Pacific Daylight Time).

It may be worth mentioning that from Radio Station WOOF, Hoople, Southern North Dakota, Peter Schickele while ignorant of WOOF the apa so far as I know has broadcast music of the composer he discovered to the world, P.D.Q. Bach.

I knew Bruce Pelz, and have been associated awhile with this WOOF, but it would take a less trepid fan than I (I am not, however, a tepid fan) to venture whether it, younger than Schickele’s, was named ignorantly of him.  Roger Hill’s WOOFzine has long been Report from Hoople.  And on that note, which I hope is not flat –

A Peep for You

By John Hertz:  Possibly because I’m recovering from Westercon LXXI, I’ll take a leaf from Lloyd Penney’s book and show you a letter I wrote to someone else.

– o O o –

Dear Mr. Quachri,

Thank you for Dr. Gregory Benford’s “Physics Tomorrow” in the March-April Analog.

It’s a tour de force.

Having it in your magazine is a particular achievement.  Perhaps no one could have produced it as well as he.  It may also be a distillate or essence of your spirit – I mean the spirit of Analog.  Those last four words, I realize, could be thought an unfortunate metaphor.  In their defense I had better not offer any notions of my own, but I might be allowed to quote Dr. Clarke, who said “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

Dr. Benford knows, as many of us your readers may, that Physics Today has been, since 1948 – a little younger than Analog – a magazine of the American Institute of Physics, indeed its flagship publication.  His piece is in every other way I can see – manner and detail, illustrations, timely allusion to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics (pertaining to which I recommend Dr. Michael Smith’s 2017 memoir To Catch a Black Hole, focussing, if I may venture that, on his own part), worthiness to follow The Berlin Project (pertaining to which I recommend Norman Spinrad’s review in the May-June issue of your companion magazine Asimov’s) – so perfect as to be not only good science fiction, but good comedy.  Jack Benny, had he worked in our field, could hardly have reached higher.

– o O o –

I wonder if I’ll ever learn whether my addressee recognizes this isn’t the first time I’ve brought in Mr. Benny.

Montaigne again

By John Hertz:  The other day I brought you something by Montaigne. Here’s another one (Essays, Bk. III ch. 13 “On experience”; Screech tr. 2003).

Truth itself is not privileged to be used all the time and in all circumstances: noble though its employment is….  you [could] release truth … not merely unprofitably but detrimentally….  No one will ever convince me that an upright rebuke may not be offered offensively nor that considerations of matter should not often give way to those of manner [p. 1223].

But wait, there’s more.

A king is not to be believed if he boasts of his steadfastness [against] the enemy if, for his profit and improvement, he cannot tolerate the freedom of [one] who loves him to use words which have no other power than to make his ears smart, any remaining effects of them being in his own hands.

Now there is no category of [persons] who has greater need of such true and frank counsels than kings do.  They sustain a life lived in public and have to remain acceptable to the opinions of a great many on-lookers: yet, since it is customary not to tell them anything which makes them change their ways, they discover that they have, quite unawares, begun to be hated and loathed by their subjects for reasons which they could often have avoided … if only they had been warned in time and corrected [p. 1224].

Various comments come to mind, but I omit them.  Even I do that sometimes.

Harlan Ellison Tribute Roundup

Acclaimed speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison died today at the age of 84. Here is a selection of tributes and reactions posted in social media immediately following the announcement.

Stephen King

Samuel Delany on Facebook

Here’s the guy who started the notable part of my career. At the Tricon, he ran up to me and demand a story: I wrote it at the upcoming Milford–Aye and Gomorrah, which won the following year’s Nebula Award.

Patton Oswalt

Arthur Cover on Facebook

As most of the planet knows, Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep last night. I am seriously bummed. Little did I know when I bought the first volume of the paperback edition on Dangerous Visions when I was a sophomore at Tech did those two words would have such a profound impact on my life. Harlan was responsible for my first sale, to the mythical Last Dangerous Visions, at a Clarion Workshop.

He became a big brother figure to me, and I stayed at Ellison Wonderland on and off during the many times when I was *ahem* between places in LA. I knew his dog Abu, who used to sneak out of the house to get some Hungarian Goulash from a couple down the street. I knew his maid Yosondua, a wonderful person. And I missed meeting his mother by a couple of weeks. There’s so much to remember about him that I can barely stand it.

I met a whole bunch of interesting people thanks to him. Forget the famous ones like Erica Jong; thanks to him, I met Pam Zoline, author of “The Heat Death of the Universe.” We saw Borges together. Thanks to him, I discovered Mahler and Bruckner. I turned him on to Kalinnikov. We both read comics and he liked to impersonate the Hulk with the voice of Ronald Coleman. (Try it.) He tried to set me up with young women; usually I ignored them, thus driving him stinking bonkers. And that was just the 70s.

Then there’s that Dangerous Visions thing – a whole bunch of autograph parties just for starters. (And let’s not forget the time he streaked A Change of Hobbit.) He was immensely supportive throughout the entire frustrating, rewarding enterprise. True, he had his faults; usually I ignored them too. But the exception of my family and friends from Tazewell, I wouldn’t know any of you today were it not for his generosity and friendship. He was a helluva guy, and I have been proud to be his friend forever.

Barbara Hambly on Facebook

Just got word that my friend Harlan Ellison passed away last night. An amazing man to know. I knew he was very ill – he’d never really recovered from a stroke a couple of years ago. So I feel no surprise. Just very, very sad.

Michael Cassutt on Facebook

A talented writer for sure, a self-made writer for absolutely sure…. I so remember “Repent, Harlequin” and “On the Downhill Side” and THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER… and his columns that became THE GLASS TEAT, which sent me here to LA…. and more, the friendship that developed in the past decade or so, where I would pop up to Ellison Wonderland and have coffee with HE in his kitchen…. telling tales of George O. Smith and who else. I am actually bawling right now…..Harlan was my big brother and while his passing now, given his stroke three years back, is not a surprise…. it’ s still a shock.

Jaym Gates on Facebook

Harlan Ellison has died. My sympathies to those who will miss him. His voice was powerful, sometimes for good.

As a woman, I am not sad that there will be one less person who thinks it is funny to grope a woman on stage, and who was often used as a smoke screen for bad behavior by creative men.

Wil Wheaton on Twitter

Rest in Peace, Harlan. You always treated me like I was a person whose voice mattered, and I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

David Gerrold on Facebook

Harlan didn’t drink. I rarely drink.

Today I will drink.

Today I will toast a man who was a role model, a mentor, a critic, a friend — and ultimately my big brother.

He knew how much I loved him. I told him more than once.

The one thing he said about me that I cherish the most was shortly after I adopted Sean. He said, introducing me to someone else, “David Gerrold is the most courageous man I know.” Actually, it was Sean who needed the courage, but I understood what he was saying. He was acknowledging that I had finally grown up.

Harlan had a great public persona — but it was the private soul I loved the most. And goddammit, I’m going to miss that man.

Charles de Lint on Facebook

I’m very sad to have to write this but Harlan Ellison has passed away. He was a voice of reason, if somewhat contrary, and one of the best short story writers this field, or really any field, has known. He wore his “angry young man” persona lost after he was a young man but behind that bluster was a kind and generous man who would do anything for a friend. He will be greatly missed.

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Ellison’s voice was infectious and has a tendency to creep into his fans’ writing. When I was 19, I attended a writing workshop at a local convention taught by Ann Crispin, who told me that I would be pretty good writer once I stopped trying to write like Harlan Ellison (I went on to sell that very Ellisonian story to Pulphouse).

Harlan was one of my Clarion instructors in 1992. He taught us remotely, by speakerphone, from his hospital bed in LA where he was recovering from angioplasty. I had attended that year because I couldn’t miss the opportunity to learn from Harlan Ellison, whom I held in highest regard (“hero worship” is not too strong a phrase to use here).

Ellison was not a good teacher (that year, at least). In fact, I think it’s safe to say that his instructional methods, which involved a combination of performative bullying and favorite-playing, were viewed as a disaster by all of my classmates, at least in hindsight.

Confronting the very real foibles of the object of my hero-worship was the beginning of a very important, long-running lesson whose curriculum I’m still working through: the ability to separate artists from art and the ability to understand the sins of people who’ve done wonderful things.

John Scalzi in the Los Angeles Times

…My second Harlan Ellison story was from 2011, the last time he was a finalist for the Nebula Award, given out by SFWA. Traditionally, SFWA contacts the Nebula finalists by phone to see if they’ll accept being on the ballot, and knowing of Harlan’s sometimes irascible phone manners, I was the one to call.

Harlan was not irascible. He wept into the phone. He had been ill, he said, and he wondered if what he was writing now still resonated and still mattered to people. To have his professional peers nominate him for one of the field’s most significant awards, he said, meant everything to him.

In that moment he wasn’t a giant of the field, a figure equally loved and loathed, a man about whom everyone had a story, or an opinion, about. He was simply a writer, happy to be in the company of, and remembered by, other writers.

Jeff VanderMeer on Facebook

He was a monumental personality who was influential in his day and to some extent today. He dove into the style and issues of his times with vigor, which sometimes makes his work feel dated but also resulted in classics that feel timeless. As an anthologist, he pushed boundaries in ways that, like his fiction, risked looking silly or actively terrible to modern audiences, but because of that also published a ton of innovative material and furthered the careers of writers who were quite experimental.

In erratic and sporadic fashion Ellison tended to be immensely helpful to some beginning writers and actively not helpful to others for no particular reason. Sometimes, I think, because he was too caught up in his mythology. Sometimes because he had a chip on his shoulder and was mercurial. I have mixed feelings about him for that reason, not to mention others, but there’s no denying he was a protean creative talent. I did learn to take risks in my writing from him, while also learning who I did not want to be as a teacher.

Richard Pini on Facebook

There are no words. He used them all anyway, and far better than most.

Robert Crais on Facebook

We lost Harlan Ellison today. The dedication to THE FIRST RULE reads as follows: “For my friend, Harlan Ellison, whose work, more than any other, brought me to this place.”. He cannot be replaced. He was a giant. He mattered.

David Brin on Facebook

Harlan was wickedly witty, profanely-provocative, yet generous to a fault. His penchant for skewering all authority would have got him strangled in any other human civilization, yet in this one he lived – honored – to 84… decades longer than he swore he would, much to our benefit with startling, rambunctious stories that will echo for ages.

John Hertz

I can’t remember who first remarked that “H.E.” stood equally for Harlan Ellison and High Explosive.

It also stands for His Excellency. Our H.E. being a whole-souled egalitarian would never have stood for that. But if one can break from the bonds of aristocratic associations – which in principle he was always for – it’s true.

I’m glad, not I hope without humility, that what pushed down the Montaigne piece was your notice of Brother Ellison’s death. Although Montaigne and the nature of zeal were two topics I never discussed with him, he might – and he did this sometimes – have approved.

David Doering

I feel a strong sense of loss with his passing. While he and I shared few opinions in common, I always appreciated his ability to stir up discussion.

To be clear, I did not have much personal interaction with Harlan over the years. The first tho was at a Worldcon in the 80s when he asked a large audience who had read a particular book he appreciated. Turned out that only he and I had done so. We chatted for a minute sharing comments, and, as a first encounter, I found him pleasant despite his reputation.

The other time was when Ray Bradbury suggested I call “his friend Harlan” about serving as a guest to LTUE. I can just imagine what must have gone through Harlan’s mind when he got a call from Utah, and from very Mormon BYU at that, asking about being a guest. (Had it happened, it would certainly have stirred things up here!) He was polite, straightforward, and nothing like his public “persona”. I came away appreciating him much more.

The last time was at a LASFS meeting at the old “Hooverville” building. He looked tired, but came to be with fen and seemed to have a good time. I’ll keep that image in my mind as I remember him.

Deadline.com“Harlan Ellison Dead: Legendary ‘Star Trek’, ‘A Boy And His Dog’ Sci-Fi Writer was 84”

Along with the Star Trek episode, Ellison’s 1964 Outer Limits installment “Demon with a Glass Hand” is widely considered among the best of its series. The bizarre, uncanny episode starred Robert Culp as a man who wakes with no memory but an apparently all-knowing glass hand. For years, rumors persisted that “Demon” inspired Terminator, though Ellison was quoted to have said, “Terminator was not stolen from ‘Demon with a Glass Hand,’ it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, ‘Soldier.’” According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, Ellison once again sued and settled.

ComicBook.comSci-Fi Writer Harlan Ellison Dies At 84

…Ellison also crafted a script for the Batman ’66 television series that would’ve introduced Two-Face into the show’s canon, but it was never shot. The story recently was turned into a comic titled Batman ’66: The Lost Episode, which officially brings the character into the series.

Variety Harlan Ellison Dead: Sci-Fi Writer Was 84

…When he dealt with Hollywood, he fearlessly said exactly what he thought again and again — often causing fallout as a result. In the wake of the 1977 release of “Star Wars,” a Warner Bros. executive asked Ellison to adapt Isaac Asimov’s short story collection “I, Robot” for the bigscreen.

Ellison penned a script and met with studio chief Robert Shapiro to discuss it; when the author concluded that the executive was commenting on his work without having read it, Ellison claimed to have said to Shapiro that he had “the intellectual capacity of an artichoke.” Needless to say, Ellison was dropped from the project. Ellison’s work was ultimately published with permission of the studio, but the 2004 Will Smith film “I, Robot” was not based on the material Ellison wrote.

Perhaps Ellison’s most famous story not adapted for the screen was 1965’s “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” which celebrates civil disobedience against a repressive establishment. “Repent” is one of the most reprinted stories ever.

Shawn Crosby

[Editor’s note: The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his legend. In some of the worst cases he refused to have his name appear in the credits, and they aired with his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird shouldering the blame.]

Harlan’s death is accompanied by the passing of Cordwainer Bird, his writing partner of many years, described as “a short, choleric, self-possessed writer of mystery stories and science-fiction for television”, who “has no compunction about punching directors and producers two foot taller than himself right in the mouth.” Bird’s parents were Jason Bird and Rhonda Rassendyll, and he is nephew to The Shadow and a descendent of Leopold Bloom. As a member of the Wold Newton Family himself, Bird’s illustrious heritage has made him something of a fighter for justice in his own right.

Godspeed, gentlemen…

Mark Barsotti

A great voice silenced.

Until you pick up one of his books…

 

For the Love of (Another) Mike

By John Hertz:  I’m reading M.A. Screech’s second edition (2003) of Montaigne’s Essays.  Dr. Screech collates the different versions, translates the many quotations, and annotates.  That’s the literary present tense; he died June 1st (1926-2018).

Montaigne once said congenially “the most fruitful and natural play of the mind is conversation,” and yes, his name Michel Eyquem de Montaigne points to the land from which, after his life, has come one of the greatest wines in the world, Château d’Yquem (and don’t miss it in Nabokov’s novel Pnin).

He was a skeptic (or, in Commonwealth language, a sceptic), but not in the unhappy sense so often brandished now; as Dr. Screech warns, “Today the very word scepticism implies for many a mocking or beady-eyed disbelief” (p. xxxvi).  He famously asked “What do I know?” and tried to answer.

Of course I expected to keep agreeing and disagreeing with this man, and I haven’t been disappointed.  I thought this passage (Bk. I ch. 56; M.A.S. ed’n 2003 at p. 360; paraphrasing Nicetas; in fact the chapter is “On prayer”) well put.

the factions of princes are armed with anger not with zeal … zeal itself does partake of the divine Reason and Justice when it behaves … moderately but … it changes into hatred and envy whenever it serves human passions, producing then not wheat and the fruit of the vine but tares and nettles.

Wishing you the same.

Ctein Plunges Ahead

By John Hertz:  He has just the one name, pronounced “k’TINE”.  Not even “Mr. Ctein”. The United States grant no titles of nobility, nor knighthoods, so we need not speculate as to whether he might ever become Sir Ctein or Lord Ctein. Rules get exceptions, and I myself humbly acknowledge having now and then the favor of acquaintance with a baron, or even a duke, but in his case the possibility seems doubtful.

You may well know him.  He has long been part of our community, and has appeared here.

His widest renowned accomplishment may have been his mastering the subtle and difficult dye transfer photographic process.  It is unequalled in photochemistry.  He may have been the leader in the world.  Fortunately he as a photographer is also a superb technician.  He has exhibited at the World Science Fiction Convention.  Unfortunately the maker of essential dye-transfer ingredients ceased production.  Fortunately he was able to stockpile a supply.

In 2015 he and John Sandford published a science fiction novel, Saturn Run.  It was his first fiction and his co-author’s first science fiction.  This adventure too was extraordinary.  You can see my interview with Ctein here (PDF file, starts at p. 17).  I thought Saturn Run Hugo-worthy.  Ctein said “Naah.”  Anyway in 2017 its paperback followed.

Thereafter he began a collaboration with David Gerrold, who told us in February some of it would appear soon.  It has; “Bubble and Squeak” in the May-June Asimov’s.

It is not a comedy, despite the title and many puns – one, seeded at the start, comes to fruit so much later it may deserve comparing with Walt Kelly’s architecture of “Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia”; another is so exquisite I may be forced to excuse reliance on a sadly unscholarly mispronunciation; another unfortunately prevents me from telling you it’s Sloane, solid Sloane.

The thrust of the story is a near-desperate adventure.  It’s hard.  It conforms (if I may use the word in connection with these authors) with Theodore Sturgeon’s “Science fiction is knowledge fiction” – another great pun, consider the Latin.  It has compassion and even a case of conscience.

It will gratify some readers and trouble others.  I spent half an hour with a friend discussing the ending. But these are deep waters, Watson.

It isn’t news for David Gerrold to publish science fiction.  It’s still news for Ctein.

To Us As Much As Anyone

By John Hertz:  In the United States, where I live, today is Juneteenth.

I saw this Langston Hughes poem on a bus placard.  It’s addressed to us as much as anyone.  You can find it in A. Rampersand ed., Collected Poems of Langston Hughes p. 546 (1994).

To You

To sit and dream, to sit and read,
To sit and learn about the world
Outside our world of here and now –
our problem world –
To dream of vast horizons of the soul
Through dreams made whole,
Unfettered, free – help me!
All you, who are dreamers too,
Help me to make our world anew.
I reach out my hands to you.

Me too.

Pixel Scroll 6/14/18 When The Scroll Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pixel Pie, That’s A-nnoying

(1) PUTTING SOME ENGLISH ON IT. Should the Hugo Awards add a Best Translated works category? Here are Twitter threads by two advocates.

(2) EXPANDING STOKER. The Horror Writers Association will be adding a new Bram Stoker Awards category for Short Non-Fiction in 2019.

HWA President, Lisa Morton welcomes the new addition, stating: “As a writer who has written non-fiction at all lengths, a reader who loves articles and essays, and an admirer of academic study of dark fiction, I am pleased to announce this new awards category.”

(3) WEBER DECLARES VICTORY. David Weber’s Change.org petition, “Ensure Freedom of Speech & Assembly at ConCarolinas”, recorded 3,713 signatures. Weber’s fans were so enthusiastic one of them even signed my name to the petition. Although I asked them to remove it I’m still getting notifications, like this one — “The Vote Is In…”

Our petition in favor of the policy on guest invitations for ConCarolinas enunciated by Jada Hope at the closing ceremonies of the 2018 convention is now closed.

That policy, simply stated, is that ConCarolinas will issue apolitical invitations to genre-appropriate guests and that guests, once invited, will not be DISINVITED because of political hate campaigns waged online after the invitations are announced.

In the week that it was open, it accrued over 3,700 signatures, many of whom left comments explaining why they had signed in support of that policy. We believe this is a fairly resounding statement of the fact that many more members of fandom support a policy in which individuals are not excluded because of the political demands of a vocal minority who assail conventions online. We believe the fact that NONE of the signatures on this petition were anonymous speaks volumes for the willingness of the signers to “put their money where their mouths are” on this issue.

At no time have we suggested that conventions are not fully entitled to make their initial guest selections on whatever basis they like, including how compatible they expect that guest’s apparent politics to be to the con goers they expect to attend. What we have said is that there is no justification for RESCINDING an invitation, once issued and accepted, simply because someone else objects to that guest’s inclusion. Clearly there will be occasional genuinely special circumstances, but unless something becomes part of the public record only after the invitation has been extended, it should not justify rescinding an invitation. That was that thesis of this petition, and that was what all of these individuals signed in support of.

Sharon and I thank you for the way in which you have come out in support of our position on this, and we reiterate that it does not matter to us whether the guest in question is from the left or the right. What matters is that true diversity does not include ex post facto banning of a guest simply because some online mob disapproves of him or her.

Fandom is supposed to be a community open to ideas that challenge us. Creating an echo chamber in which no dissenting voices are heard is the diametric opposite of that concept. Thank you, all of you, for helping to tone down the echo effect.

(4) WHERE STORIES COME FROM. Robert Aickman recalled, in “Strange, Stranger, Strangest” at The Baffler.

Like some of his more famous contemporaries—Evelyn Waugh, say, or Aldous Huxley—Aickman yearned for those pre-industrial times before the democratic rabble began making all their poorly educated and unreasonable demands; and while his political prejudices didn’t yield what some of his contemporaries considered a satisfactory person (one of his closest friends recalled him as being incapable of any “real commitment to anyone”), they inspired him to explore narrative ideas that were always idiosyncratic, funny, disturbing, and unpredictable. No two Aickman stories are alike; and no single story is like any other story written by anybody else.

The most dangerous forces in an Aickman story often emerge from common and unremarkable spaces: tacky carnival tents, rural church-yards, the rough scrim of bushes at the far end of a brick-walled back garden, the human rabble who visit their dead relatives in decaying cemeteries, or remote (and often unnamable) foreign holiday isles. And while supernatural events may often occur in Aickman stories—at other times they only seem to occur, and at still other times they don’t occur at all.

(5) JEMISIN GETS AWARD. The Brooklyn Book Festival Literary Council has announced the lineup of initial 150-plus authors for this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival (“Brooklyn Book Festival Announces Stellar Fall Line-Up”), September 15-16. Hugo award-winning author N.K. Jemisin will be the recipient of the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award.

Brooklyn author N.K. Jemisin has been named the recipient of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s annual Best of Brooklyn (or BoBi) Award. The annual award is presented at the September Gala Mingle to an author whose work exemplifies or speaks to the spirit of Brooklyn. Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

(6) LE GUIN TRIBUTE. John Lorentz, who attended, says the video recording of last night’s tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin is now available online at http://www.literary-arts-tribute.org/.

It was a special night (Ursula was a real treasure here in Portland, and throughout the literary world), and we were very happy that we could be there.

It was a mix of videos of Ursula and live speakers, such as Molly Gloss, David Jose Older and China Mieville.

And a dragon!

(7) AROUND THE BLOCK. Mary Robinette Kowal says NASA astronauts are now doing the spacewalk she saw them rehearse. Get on the Twitter thread here —

(8) SNEYD OBIT. Steve Sneyd, a well-known sff poet who also published fanzines, died June 14. John Hertz, in “The Handle of a Scythe, commemorated Sneyd after the Science Fiction Poetry Association named him a 2015 Grand Master of Fantastic Poetry.

He was poetry editor for Langley Searles’ unsurpassed Fantasy Commentator.  His own Data Dump has been published a quarter-century;

.. On the occasion of the Grand Master award, Andrew Darlington posted a 3,400-word piece “Steve Sneyd from Mars to Marsden” at Darlington’s Weblog Eight Miles Higher,  with photos, images of Sneyd’s various publications including Data Dump, electronic links, and things too fierce to mention

Sneyd’s own website was Steve-Sneyd.com. And there’s an entry for him at the SF Encyclopedia — http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/sneyd_steve.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 14  — Lucy Hale, 29. Bionic Woman (2007 TV series) as Becca Sommers, sister of Jaime Sommers, and voiced Periwinkle in TinkerBell and the Secret of the Wings.

(10) NOW AUTOMATED. CockyBot™ is on the job.

(11) SWATTERS PLEAD. “Two rival gamers allegedly involved in Kansas ‘swatting’ death plead not guilty in federal court” reports the Washington Post.

…Late last December, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill, two young men separated by more than 800 miles and a time zone, clashed inside the digital playpen of “Call of Duty: WWII.” The Wichita Eagle would later report that the disagreement was over an online wager of less than $2.

But according to a federal indictment, Viner, from North College Hill, Ohio, became “upset” with Gaskill, a Kansas resident. Plotting a real-world revenge for the alleged slight delivered in the first-person shooter, Viner allegedly tapped a 25-year-old  from Los Angeles named Tyler Barriss to “swat” Gaskill.

“Swatting” — or summoning police to an address under false emergency pretenses — is a particularly dangerous form of Internet harassment. But when Gaskill noticed that Barriss had started following him on Twitter, he realized what the Californian and Viner were plotting. Instead of backing down or running for help, Gaskill taunted the alleged swatter via direct message on Twitter.

“Please try some s–t ,” Gaskill allegedly messaged Barriss on Dec. 28, according to the indictment. “You’re gonna try and swat me its hilarious … I’m waiting buddy.”

The wait was not long. According to authorities, about 40 minutes after the messages on Twitter, police in Wichita swarmed a local house in response to a hostage situation. Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was shot dead by law enforcement — the result, allegedly, of Barriss’s fake call to police. The deadly hoax, sparked by an online gaming beef, quickly became international news.

Now Viner, Gaskill, and Barriss are all facing federal criminal charges stemming from the shooting. On Wednesday afternoon, Viner and Gaskill — 18 and 19, respectively — were in a Wichita courtroom making their first appearance in the case. The Associated Press reported that both men pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and wire fraud.

(12) WARM SPELL. NPR reckons “Antarctica Has Lost More Than 3 Trillion Tons Of Ice In 25 Years”.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica’s ice sheet to date. And they found that it’s melting faster than they thought.

Ice losses totaling 3 trillion tonnes (or more than 3.3 trillion tons) since 1992 have caused global sea levels to rise by 7.6 mm, nearly one third of an inch, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

Before 2010, Antarctica was contributing a relatively small proportion of the melting that is causing global sea levels to rise, says study co-leader Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds.

But that has changed. “Since around 2010, 2012, we can see that there’s been a sharp increase in the rate of ice loss from Antarctica. And the ice sheet is now losing three times as much ice,” Shepherd adds.

(13) DUSTY ROADS. The end? “Enormous Dust Storm On Mars Threatens The Opportunity Rover”.

A massive dust storm on Mars is threatening NASA’s Opportunity rover, which has been conducting research on the Red Planet for well over a decade.

Where the rover sits, the dust storm has completely blotted out the sun, depriving Opportunity of solar power and cutting off communications with Earth.

NASA scientists believe the rover has fallen asleep to wait out the storm, and that when the dust storm dies down and sunlight returns, the rover will resume activity.

“We’re concerned, but we’re hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate with us,” says John Callas, the Opportunity project manager.

The rover has survived dust storms before, but it’s never lost power this thoroughly.

The dust storm on Mars grew from a small, local storm into a massive event over the course of the last two weeks. Opportunity is located near the middle of the storm, while the newer rover Curiosity — which is nuclear-powered, so not threatened by the loss of sunlight — is currently near the storm’s edge.

… There’s no expectation that the rover will be completely buried by dust, but there are risks associated with the lack of temperature control and the extended lack of power.

“The good news there is that the dust storm has warmed temperatures on Mars,” Callas says. “We’re also going into the summer season so the rover will not get as cold as it would normally.”

The rover also has small, plutonium-powered heater units on board that will help keep it from freezing, and NASA scientists believe the rover will be able to ride out the storm until the skies clear. It’s not clear how long that will take.

(14) HOMEBREW DROID. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Patrick Stefanski decided, even before Solo: A Star Wars Story hit the theaters he wanted to build an Alexa-powered version of the droid L3-37. Well, the head anyway. He combined his skills with 3-D printing, model painting, and electronics to have his robot head respond to “Ethree” as a custom wake word and reply with a sassy “What?” when summoned. Those changes required running Amazon Voice Services software—basically the thing that powers Alexa—on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer rather than using stock Amazon hardware. That change also allowed him to set the localization to the UK so “she” could speak with a British accent.

Quoting the io9 article “Talented Hacker Turns Amazon’s Alexa Into Lando’s Sass-Talking L3-37 Droid” —

One of the best parts of Solo: A Star Wars Story is Lando Calrissian’s piloting droid, L3-37, who’s been uniquely pieced together and upgraded from parts of other droids. Patrick Stefanski has essentially done the same thing to turn Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into a desktop version of L3-37 who answers to your beck and call.

The customizability of Amazon’s Echo speakers, which feature Alexa built-in, are quite limited. So in order to make his L3-37 actually respond to the simple phrase, “Elthree,” Stefanski instead used a software version of Alexa running on a Raspberry Pi3 mini computer. It also allowed Stefanski to alter his location so that his Alexa-powered L3-37 speaks in a British accent, similar to actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance of the character in the movie.

The SYFY Wire article has more of an interview with Stefanski, “This dude built a fully-functional and definitively sassy 3D-printed L3-37 Alexa”, including:

“I originally wrote off the idea of doing a 3D printed L3 project when I first saw her in a teaser trailer. Here is a 6- or 7-foot walking humanoid robot with tons of articulation and a ton of personality. What could I possibly do with that? Some builder’s tried to tackle K2-SO, a very similar droid from the Rogue One movie, and ended up with a 6-foot static mannequin.

…]That’s cool and all but, me, I’m all about the motors and the electronics and the motion.

“Then as luck would have it, the first time I heard L3-37 talk (a British female voice), it happened to be on the same day I saw a random YouTube video about someone hacking together an Echo Dot and one of those old ‘Billy the Bass’ novelty fish. […] My daughter is 3, and just starting to really get comfortable with Alexa. ‘ALEXA PLAY FROZEN!!!!’ is something you’ll hear yelled in my house a lot! So, I started thinking of something fun to do with our Echo, and the idea of turning it into this new female robot from Star Wars kind of just fell into place.”

(15) GREEN HELL. Science Alert is enthralled: “Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Is Literally Raining Gemstones Now, And We Want Some”.

If Hawaii’s K?lauea volcano were to offer an apology for its chaos and destruction, it just might come in the form of a beautiful green mineral called olivine.

Over the past months we’ve reported on devastating lava flows and bone-shattering boulders. Now it’s raining gems – a rare event that has geologists enthralled and the rest of us just plain confused.

But ULTRAGOTHA sent in the link with a demurrer: “I will note that I am not confused as to why an active volcano is producing olivine.  This one does it a lot. There is a green beach on Hawai’i.” She has in mind Papakolea Beach:

Papakolea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach[1]) is a green sand beach located near South Point, in the Ka?? district of the island of Hawaii. One of only four green sand beaches in the world, the others being Talofofo Beach, Guam; Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands; and Hornindalsvatnet, Norway.[citation needed] It gets its distinctive coloring from olivine sand eroded out of the enclosing volcanic cone (tuff ring).

(16) HIGH PRICED TICKET. This weekend, “Aliencon links the worlds of space travel, UFOlogy and science fiction at the Pasadena Convention Center”. Story from the Pasadena Weekly.

Tully notes that AlienCon moved to Pasadena this year simply because of needing a bigger venue, and that there is no hidden agenda or secret information that ties Pasadena to an impending alien invasion or hidden landing sites from past eras.

“That question of whether we know things we can’t tell came up numerous times at the first AlienCon,” says Tully. “I don’t know anything, hand over heart, but I believe we have a panel that answers everything one could possibly know. They don’t get censored by the government.”

The move to Pasadena has already paid off with one-day passes  for Saturday already sold out, as are the Bronze and Gold level (which includes a private event with the “Ancient Aliens” cast) passes, which cost $124 and $549, respectively. The remaining Silver level passes cost $436 and, according to the website, “passholders receive guaranteed premium seating in the Main Stage, a voucher redeemable for autographs or photographs, a tote bag with exclusive merchandise, and much more!”

The fact that AlienCon doesn’t feature any experts from Caltech or JPL raises the antenna of Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Altadena-based Skeptic Society, who has long debunked the prospect of alien life forms as well as the existence of God. While he was somewhat impressed that the chief astronomer of the federal government’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program and “Star Trek: Voyager’s” Picardo (who works with the Pasadena-based Planetary Society) will be panelists, he was more incredulous about the moneymaking aspects of the event.

“It’s a fun topic, like talking about God, where everyone has an opinion, but no one has any proof,” says Shermer. “But with the Gold Pass costing $550, you better be able to meet and greet an actual alien.”

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