The Sam Moskowitz Centenary

By John Hertz:  Bob Madle lived to see his 100th birthday.  SaM did not; he left the stage in 1997.  It would have been today.  Let us salute him.

Here they both are at Philadelphia in 1937.  Standing, left to right: Donald A. Wollheim, Madle, Richard Wilson, SaM, Dave Kyle, Daniel Burford, Julie Schwartz, Leon Burg. Kneeling: Robert G. Thompson, Edward Landberg, Jack Gillespie, James V. Taurasi, Oswald Train. 

This photo appears on Page 89 of The Immortal Storm (rev. 1954), SaM’s history of fandom’s earliest days – which you can read here.

This book has been praised and pilloried.  Both those perspectives are pure. 

Author photo of Sam Moskowitz from The Immortal Storm (1954).

SaM’s endless care and endless vigor deserve applause.  His more than occasional errors deserve – well, I’ll quote again a brilliant law professor I was lucky to have and often disagreed with: he was speaking of a greater man in history, with whom he disagreed powerfully – There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.

SaM chaired the first Worldcon.  That convention may have been the bravest thing we ever did – except for the second Worldcon.

For Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon he wrote profiles of the 1st, 9th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 22nd.

He wrote for Locus and SF Chronicle.

He edited a score of anthologies.  He edited Fantasy Times and the 1973 revival of Weird Tales.  He reviewed books for SF Plus and Fantastic Novels.  While Cele Goldsmith was the editor of Amazing he wrote two dozen profiles of SF authors, including Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Moore.

He published a dozen short stories, one of which was translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese.

Near the end Jeffrey Elliot interviewed him by mail and Fred Lerner edited the correspondence into After All These Years (1991).

He was an unsurpassed collector, equaled perhaps only by Forry Ackerman.

He was given the Big Heart, our highest service award.  He was given the SF Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for lifetime contribution to science fiction and fantasy scholarship.

You could do worse than read Peter Nicholls & John Clute’s 2018 appreciation of him in the Clute-Langford-Nicholls-Sleight Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Here is a portrait of him by Kelly Freas.

Ave atque vale.

Pixel Scroll 6/2/20 The Pixel-Hinged File

(1) WOULD YOU BUY IT FOR A QUARTER? “Royal Mint launches first-ever augmented reality dinosaur coins”.

Royal Mint have released some very special dino coins.

Not only do they have amazing pictures of dinosaurs on them but they also are the first-ever to use augmented reality (AR).

Royal Mint, which makes most of the the UK’s coins, used the latest colour printing techniques to vividly show the megalosaurus, iguanodon and hylaeosaurus on the coins.

It worked closely with experts at the Natural History Museum to try to bring the prehistoric creatures to life.

The coins feature the dinosaurs and show where and when the first fossil was discovered.

After receiving the coin, collectors can use AR to scan the packaging to unearth facts, clips and images about the prehistoric beasts.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The May 2020 entry in the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell.

The evening before you sign and take delivery of your son, you call Charlie and tell him you think you’ve made a huge mistake.

“Let me come on over and split a few with you,” he says. “I haven’t seen the fire pit yet.”

It was published along with a response essay, “When the Robot You Consider Family Tries to Sell You Something” by John Frank Weaver, an attorney who works on AI law, and author of the book Robots Are People Too

… That’s the part that worries me, as artificial intelligence applications may be able to leverage the data to manipulate Cory and other people—just as technology, PR, and marketing companies try to do in our lives today.

(3) A BRAND NEW ENDING. OH BOY. “Missing The Jackpot: William Gibson’s Slow-Cooked Apocalypse” – Robert Barry interviews the author for The Quietus.

“There’s never been a culture that had a mythos of apocalypse in which the apocalypse was a multi-causal, longterm event.” William Gibson speaks in the whisper-soft drawl of a man who for a long time now has never had to speak up in order to be heard. Though a certain edge had crept into our conversation by this point, watching him stretch out on the leather chaise longue of this hotel library (“my second home,” he calls it, as we make our way up from the lobby), it struck me that few people are able to seem at once so apprehensive and yet so intensely relaxed about the prospect of the end of the world as we know it.

“But if we are in fact facing an apocalypse,” he continues, getting now into the swing of this particular riff, “that’s the sort we’re facing. And I think that that may be what makes it so difficult for us to get our heads around what’s happening to us.”

(4) X MAGNIFICATION. In his column for CrimeReads, “Chris Claremont And The Making of an X-Men Icon”, Alex Segura interviews Claremont on his creation of Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix, and her role in the X-Men saga.

…Though Claremont accepts the thesis that Dark Phoenix is, in many ways, in tune with the femme fatale trope, he’s not sure it’s totally apt.

“I’m not sure I would consider her a femme fatale. That actually is more Mystique’s side of the ledger,” Claremont said, referring to the blue-skinned, shape-changing mutant villain he’d introduce a bit later in his run. But the writer cannot deny the influence he and initial X-Men series artist Dave Cockrum had in reshaping Jean Grey—moving her from soft-spoken B-list heroine to full-on goddess.

“The fun with Jean for example was that when I first took over X-Men, Jean was a relatively two-and-a-half-dimensional character,” Claremont said. “What you had there was essentially unchanged from what [X-Men co-creator] Stan Lee had introduced years before. And we wanted to, I think, rough things up a tad but in the process, explore her more.”

(5) SAY CHEESE. In the Washington Post, Lela Nargi reports on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Unified Geologic Map Of The Moon, in which the survey combined maps made during the Apollo missions with subsequent satellite photo missions to create “the definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology.” “A new map shows the moon as it’s never been seen”.

…The USGS, which released the map in April, makes a lot of maps of Earth. It is also the “only institution in the world that creates standardized maps for surfaces that are not on Earth,” says USGS research geologist James Skinner. That includes Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system.

The new moon map took more than 50 years to make. It started with six original maps collected from the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s. The maps did a good job of showing the basic layout of the moon.

New technology has made it possible to create an updated map and “turn it into information scientists can use,” says Skinner.

(6) I WAS BORN UNDER A WANDERING STAR. James Davis Nicoll introduces us to lots of characters who can make that claim in “Planets on the Move: SF Stories Featuring World-Ships” at Tor.com.

Recently, we discussed science fiction stories about naturally occurring rogue worlds; there is, of course, another sort of wandering planet. That would be the deliberately-impelled variety, featured in stories in which ambitious travellers take an entire world along with them. This approach has many obvious advantages, not the least of which is that it greatly simplifies pre-flight packing….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 2, 1950 Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in higher esteem than audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a 16% rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrimmeets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana.  Nobel Prize in Literature.  Translated into Dutch, English, German, Polish, Swedish, Thai.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade.  Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 Robert A. Madle, 100. File 770 celebrates Bob’s big day in a separate post about his fannish career. And fanhistory website Fanac.org dedicated its splash page to a collection of pointers to the audio and video they have of Bob, such as a recording of his 1977 Worldcon Guest of Honor speech, as well as links to the fanzines he edited in the 1930s. (OGH)
  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster, 91. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, he met Jules Feiffer who illustrates when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth an evening spent reading. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman, 83. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds.  Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter.  [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney.  Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994. “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon XXXIV.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1963 – Katsuya Kondô.  Manga artist, character designer, animator, animation director.  His character designs are considered the epitome of the Studio Ghibli style.  Known for Kiki’s Delivery ServiceOcean Waves (both Ghibli); Jade Cocoon (PlayStation game); D’arc (2-vol. manga about Joan of Arc; with Ken’ichi Sakemi).  Recently, character design for Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter (Ghibli, 2014).  [JH]
  •  Born June 2, 1972 Wentworth Miller, 48. I’m including him here today as he plays Captain Cold on the Legends of Tomorrow which might one of the best SF series currently being aired. His first genre role was on Buffy and other than a stint on the Dinotopia miniseries, this role is his entire genre undertaking along with being on Flash. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta.  Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.   Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]

(9) A POEM FOR THE DAY. By John Hertz:

May didn’t do it.
A month whose name’s almost young
Dealt him out to us.
Lively-minded, he connects
Energizing give and take.

 __________

An acrostic (read down the first letters) in 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump has a joke about dragon housekeeping.
  • Cul de Sac tries to imagine what makes up the universe.
  • Frazz tells us how to recognize “literature” when we read it. 

(11) CLASSIC SFF ART. The host of Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations creatd a thread about the careers of artists Leo and Diane Dillon. It starts here.

(12) IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. Lois McMaster Bujold has posted about her experiences at the online SFWA Nebula Conference, including the text of her Grandmaster award acceptance remarks which end —

… And, throughout it all, I have been endlessly supported by my agent, Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency. We first met face-to-face at the Nebula weekend in New York City in 1989. The morning after _Falling Free_ won my first Nebula Award, we shook hands over a hotel breakfast in a deal I trust neither of us has had cause to regret. Though I don’t think either of us realized how long it would last, three decades and counting.

(13) HARE GROWTH. A new collection of shorts on HBO Max, Looney Tunes Cartoons, captures the look and feel of the originals. The New York Times article may be paywalled; here are the key points and cartoon link.

In “Dynamite Dance,” Elmer Fudd comes at Bugs Bunny with a scythe, prompting the hare to jam a stick of lit dynamite in Elmer’s mouth.

Over the course of the short animated video, the explosives get bigger and more plentiful, as Bugs jams dynamite in Elmer’s ears, atop his bald head, and down his pants. The relentless assault moves from rowboat to unicycle to biplane, each blast timed to the spirited melody of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours.”

The short has the look, feel and unabashed mayhem of a classic “Looney Tunes” cartoon, circa the early 1940s. But “Dynamite Dance” is of much more recent vintage, one of scores of episodes created by a new crop of WarnerBros. animators over the past two years.

…“I always thought, ‘What if Warner Bros. had never stopped making “Looney Tunes” cartoons?’” said Peter Browngardt, the series executive producer and showrunner. “As much as we possibly could, we treated the production in that way.”

…The creators of the new series hope to do justice to the directors, animators and voice artists of the so-called Termite Terrace, a pest-ridden animation facility on Sunset Boulevard where many of the franchise’s most beloved characters were born.

“There was something about the energy of those early cartoons,” Browngardt said. “And those five directors: Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery before he left for MGM, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng. They literally invented a language of cinema.”

(14) EMPLOYEES ABOUT FACE AT FACEBOOK. NPR reports “Facebook Employees Revolt Over Zuckerberg’s Hands-Off Approach To Trump”.

Facebook is facing an unusually public backlash from its employees over the company’s handling of President Trump’s inflammatory posts about protests in the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

At least a dozen employees, some in senior positions, have openly condemned Facebook’s lack of action on the president’s posts and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of that decision. Some employees staged a virtual walkout Monday.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” tweeted Ryan Freitas, director of product design for Facebook’s news feed.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up,” tweeted Jason Toff, director of product management. “The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

(15) GOING DOWN. NPR presents excerpts of the resetting of Orpheus and Eurydice (and Tony winner for Best Musical of 2019): “Hadestown: Tiny Desk Concert” — long audio/video.

You can probably guess that we recorded the original Broadway cast of Hadestown before the coronavirus pandemic made live theater (live anything) an untenable risk. The reminders are everywhere — in the way 16 performers bunch up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera — that this took place in the Before-Times. To be specific, on March 2.

We’d actually been trying to put this show together since the spring of 2019, when Hadestown was a freshly Tony-nominated hit musical. We hit several delays along the way due to scheduling issues, only to end up rushing in an attempt to record while playwright Anaïs Mitchell — who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based — was eight months pregnant.

Thankfully, we captured something truly glorious — a five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production. A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene before a medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love. “When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad. And in “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

(16) NO NOSE IS BAD NOSE. From the Harvard Gazette: “Loss of taste and smell is best indicator of COVID-19, study shows”.

MGH, King’s College London researchers use crowdsourced data from app to monitor symptoms in 2.6 million, study how the disease spreads

Though fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 infection, a recent study in which 2.6 million people used a smartphone app to log their symptoms daily showed that the most oddball pair of indicators — loss of smell and taste — was also the best predictor, and one that scientists said should be included in screening guidelines.

…The scientists adapted a smartphone app that had been created by corporate partner ZOE, a health science company, for research on how to personalize diet to address chronic disease. The new program, a free download from the Apple or Google app stores, collects demographic and health background information and then asks how the participant is feeling. If they’re feeling well, that’s the end of the daily entry. If they’re not it asks further questions about symptoms.

(17) BLIT FOR ANDROID? BBC asks “Why this photo is bricking some phones”.

Dozens of Android phone owners are reporting on social media that a picture featuring a lake, a cloudy sunset and a green shoreline is crashing their handsets when used as wallpaper.

Several brands seem to be affected, including Samsung and Google’s Pixel.

The bug makes the screen turn on and off continuously. In some cases a factory reset is required.

The BBC does not recommend trying it out.

Samsung is due to roll out out a maintenance update on 11 June. The BBC has contacted Google for comment but not yet had a response.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At Axios “Science fiction writers tell us how they see the coronavirus pandemic”.

  • Neil Gaiman, author of “Coraline”: “I think this period of time is going to be a fertile time for storytellers for decades and, I hope, centuries to come.
  • Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver”: “We’re at the part of the book where the reader is feeling a terrible sense of suspense.”
  • Nnedi Okorafor, author of “The Shadow Speaker”: “One thing I’ve felt since all of this has happened, is this idea of … oh my gosh, it’s finally happening.”
  • Max Brooks, author of “World War Z”: “Those big crises that affect us all have to be solved by all of us … it may not be some alpha male with a big gun or some clairvoyant wizard or someone with magical powers.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Andre Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joseph Hurtgen.]

About Zelazny

Roger Zelazny in 1988

By John Hertz:  Cat Eldridge and I are just getting used to doing these birthday notices together.  So far we seem to be coöperating well.  Hope you like the results.

In case your equipment doesn’t show it, there should be two side-by-side dots over the second “o” in “coöperating” just above: a dieresis mark.  “Dieresis” rhymes, more or less, with “Why, there is Sis.”  Shows there are two separate sounds, i.e. not coop-er-ate.  Punctuation is your friend, it’s here to help you.

Anyway, Cat told me he wanted to do the birthday notice about Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) for the 13 May 20 Pixel Scroll, so I didn’t do one.  I did say I had an anecdote.  He seems to think I should tell you.

I can’t avoid mentioning “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” (Nebula for Best Novelette), This Immortal (Hugo winner), and Lord of Light (Hugo winner).  Zelazny won four more Hugos, two more Nebulas – all before Nine Princes in Amber.  Gosh.

Anyway – or as Pul the grik-dog might have said (The Witches of Karres, ch. 11; grik-dogs can talk as good as anybody), double anyway –

Some years ago I was working at an in-store delicatessen of a supermarket chain in Hollywood.  Various people shopped and worked there.

One fellow-worker said he owned the rights to film Lord of Light.  He hadn’t yet made the film, he said, because the special-effects technology he could get at couldn’t do what he wanted.

Lots of folks there said lots of things.  Some might be true and some not.  Or both.  What did I know?

A woman who worked with us – can a woman be a fellow? – had striking conventional beauty.  That and other things, her conversation, her manner, left me thinking “This woman could be a Playboy Playmate.”  In fact she was a Playboy Playmate.  And, though I hadn’t heard at the time, one of her two Great Reads was Lord of Light.

So I just said “Sure, B– ” (I’m leaving his name out) and went on brewing coffee.  I couldn’t do anything about it anyway.  That’s triple anyway.

Some while later, but more or less around then, I ran into Zelazny at a party.  I didn’t know him, but I knew who he was.  We fell into conversation, as happens in the science fiction community.  I told him how much in particular I liked Lord of Light.  Few had tried what it did.  Few had succeeded.

Ambiguity is difficult because you have to keep the reader engaged.  So is mystery.  Next door in detective fiction some character is trying to resolve the mystery.  In SF there are often one or two characters trying to find their way.  It’s no accident that many an SF story is a Bildungsroman, an adventure of maturation and thus learning.

Also difficult is a story where at the beginning the reader doesn’t know although the characters do.

Lord of Light manages all that.  Also jokes.  There’s one about an epileptic shan, another about soulless followers.

Incidentally, I said, I’ve met a man who said he had the rights to film Lord of Light.

Without missing a beat Zelazny said “Well, if his name was B– it’s perfectly true.”

Zelazny was as accessible, and had as good a memory, as his reputation held.

That was the end of the anecdote for me.  There was more, much more, about Lord of Light, and filming it, and Jack Kirby, and indeed as Burl Ives sang, things too fierce to mention.  But they never had anything to do with me.  What, never?  No, never.  Anyway – quadruple anyway – that’s the end.

Pixel Scroll 5/7/20 They Probably Still Use Feet and Inches

(1) FIRST FIFTH. Camestros Felapton’s fifth anniversary celebration is in progress and he’s rolling out the party favors, like today’s “Book Launch: How To Science Fictionally, “a new collection of posts spanning the nearly two-thousand day history of the blog.”

We answer all the important topics! How can you make your space ship travel faster than light? How can you make your teleporter work? How are you going to send a message home and how are you going to style your beard?

(2) ESTATE SALE. Doug Ellis alerted Facebook readers to the availability of a catalog for the Spike MacPhee estate sale of original art, books and other material.

From 1977 to 1989, the Science Fantasy Bookstore operated in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Deb and I hung out there when we were in law school and became friends with the owner, Spike MacPhee. Spike was a member of NESFA and also founded the small press, Paratime Press, which published several checklists in the 1970’s. He was also GoH at the first Arisia convention in 1990.

Besides reading SF, Spike was a devoted science art collector. From the late 1960’s into the 1990’s, Spike attended several SF conventions – among them Boskone, Lunacon, Nycon III, Noreascon, Discon, Torcon and Disclave – where he would often buy art at the art show auction. He also became friends with many SF artists of the 1970’s and bought art directly from them as well. Spike remained a passionate fan until he passed away on November 13, 2019.

The second catalog is now available, and can be downloaded until May 10 as a 30 MB pdf file here.

If you’d like to download actual jpgs of the images, those can be downloaded in a zip file until May 10 directly here.

(3) WHAT KEEPS HIM READING. In “Cosmic Horror: The Worst Possible Discoveries A Detective Could Make”, CrimeReads’ Scott Kenemore ponders why, even if the face of the author and his characters’ failings, he finds Lovecraft’s stories so compelling.

….The answer—I eventually decided—was that Lovecraft’s unlikable, stuffy, racist neuters have a way of stumbling onto things that hint at some of the most dramatic and gripping revelations one could bring to light.

Namely, Lovecraft’s protagonists tend to encounter clues that point to the fact that humans—their hopes and dreams, their institutions and religions, and most certainly their accomplishments—don’t, for lack of a better word, matter. That the universe doesn’t give a damn what we do, and that our opinion of ourselves is a case of vast overestimation.

Crime fiction is full of stories in which a detective seeks to solve one mystery, but his or her digging unintentionally unearths other, deeper, more disturbing secrets. So it is with Lovecraft. . . just to the nth degree….

(4) MR. SMITH GOES TO LAKE-TOWN. Not quite as handsome as Jimmy Stewart, but his heart is in the trim:“Gollum actor Serkis to raise cash by reading entire Hobbit live online”.

Andy Serkis will give a continuous live reading of The Hobbit online, to raise money for charity.

The Gollum actor will read JRR Tolkien’s 1937 novel from start to end, breaking only to nip to the loo.

Money raised from the 56-year-old’s expected 12-hour performance will be split between NHS Charities Together and Best Beginnings.

Serkis played the corrupted character, originally known as Smeagol, in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.

“So many of us are struggling in isolation during the lockdown,” he said.

“While times are tough, I want to take you on one of the greatest fantasy adventures ever written, a 12-hour armchair marathon across Middle Earth whilst raising money for two amazing charities which are doing extraordinary work right now to help those most in need.”

,,,His reading will take place from 10:00 BST on bank holiday Friday, with streaming details to follow via his Hobbitathon Covid-19 Go Fund Me Page.

(5) REMOTE TOUR. BBC tells what it’s like when “Sir Quentin Blake does ‘The Robot'”.

The cartoonist and illustrator Sir Quentin Blake is famous for his collaborations with the writers Roald Dahl and David Walliams.

But now he has stumbled on a story of his own involving a mysterious taxi driver and a robot.

Sir Quentin has created a massive new artwork following a “bizarre” encounter with a taxi driver two years ago.

“We live in worrying times,” the driver had told Sir Quentin, when he picked him up from his home.

“He [the taxi driver] went on to say that he’d seen Picasso’s Guernica a couple of times in Spain. And then he said, ‘what we need is a picture like that for our time and you are the person to do it.'”

Sir Quentin could not resist the challenge and felt: “I must try something.”

…He completed the “narrative picture” in a day. It forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition called We Live in Worrying Times, which was due to open at Hastings Contemporary last month.

But the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that.

At the age of 87, Sir Quentin is self-isolating. And the Museum has been closed to the public since March.

That, though, is where the robot comes in.

A camera, mounted on a thin black pole attached to wheels, is able to tour the gallery and stream pictures back to viewers watching on their computers at home.

Up to five people at a time, plus an operator, can join the tour and explore and examine Sir Quentin’s new work.

(6) EIZO KAIME OBIT. Special effects modeler Eizo Kaime, who worked on the original Godzilla movie, died of leukemia on April 24. He was 90.

In the 1954 film “Godzilla”, he was in charge of the modeling of special effects costumes based on the prototype created by the sculptor Sadazo Toshimitsu.
Japanese paper and cloth were piled up on the mold made of wire, wire mesh, and bamboo, and the raw material synthetic latex of rubber was used for the hull. It took about two months to make the production. 

He then contributed to Godzilla Raids Again (aka Gigantis The Fire Monster), King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Godzilla Vs. The Thing, Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster and Invasion Of The Astro-Monster, and many other such movies. In 1966 he formed his own company, Kaimai Productions, where he continued working on TV shows, including the Ultra Q and Ultraman, until the early 1980s.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 7, 1895 — H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine is first published in book edition by Henry Holt & Co. (after having been serialized.)
  • May 7, 1966 — BBC first aired Doctor Who‘s “Don’t Shoot The Pianist”.  A First Doctor Story, It involved the TARDIS landing at Tombstone as the Doctor needs a dentist, which results in the Clantons believing the Doctor to be Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp taking him into protective custody while the Companions of course get in danger. It is one of the surviving episodes of that Doctor and despite the fan myth is not the lowest rated story of all time.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge, with an assist from John Hertz.]

  • Born May 7, 1912 Clyde Beck. Fan and critic who wrote what Clute says in EoSF is the first work of criticism devoted to American SF: Hammer and Tongs which waspublished in 1937 by Futile Press. It was assembled from four essays and the reviews Beck wrote for The Science Fiction Critic, a fanzine by his brother Claire P. Beck with a newly written author’s preface by Clyde. He wrote four pieces of genre fiction between the Thirties and Fifties. None of what he wrote is in-print. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 7, 1918 – Walt Liebscher.  His fanzine Chanticleer was a finalist for the 1946 Retro-Hugo; Harry Warner said “Liebscher did incredible things with typewriter art.  He specialized in little faces with subtle expressions…. the contents page was frequently a dazzling display of inventive borders and separating lines.”  His later pro writing was collected in Alien Carnival (1974).  He was given the Big Heart, our highest service award, in 1981.  (Died 1985)
  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Oh, I loved him being Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates“ episode which you can watch here.
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun. He’s won BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally, I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 69. SF reviewer for the LA Times, the unfortunately defunct Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
  • Born May 7, 1964 Craig Hinton. He’s best remembered  for his work on various spin-offs from Doctor Who. He wrote six novels set in the Whoverse plus two more in Tomorrow People audio series as produced by Big Finish. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1968 Traci Lords, 52. Yes she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars.  By the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
  • Born May 7, 1972 Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 48. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which Rotten Tomatoes gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Danish artist Striber’s political cartoon translates: “And the award for best Representation of Bats in media this year goes to…”

(10) CAP. “Finding Space for Art in Dark Times” at LitHub is about “Megan Margulies on Her Grandfather [Joe Simon], Captain America, and the Purpose of Creation.”

…My grandfather worked for Fox Publications at the time, but he and fellow artist Jack Kirby rented an art studio where they worked after-hours. Hunched over their desks all night, they brainstormed new character ideas and worked on freelance assignments that offered needed extra income. It was here in this studio, their own bubble of imagination, that Captain America was created. While the newspapers reported the horrors overseas, as the city buzzed with fear and heated debate over whether the United States should enter the war, my grandfather put his pencil to paper.

While writing, there are moments when I stop typing, my eyes lose focus, and I’m gone. It’s as though I’ve entered another dimension where I take pieces of the world, rearrange and jostle, until I can understand what it is I’m trying to put on the page. I’m grateful for the escape, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I picture my grandfather in this dimension, leaving the buzz of the city, the photos of war in the newspapers, his hand frozen over the blank sheet of paper.

I often study his artwork that hangs on my walls. If you look closely enough, you can see the ghost of an erased line where his hand worked, moving—rearranging and jostling—the shapes and movements of a character. Sometimes it’s the letters that were erased, the words that he reconsidered. He was a writer as well, his mind always spinning tales of adventure and humor.

(11) JAILBREAK. Matt Patches, in “The post-disaster artist” on Polygon, has a profile of Josh Trank, whose new film Capone is the first effort of his since his widely-panned Fantastic Four film in 2015. Trank says he was offered a Boba Fett film what was never made, but which eventually became The Mandalorian.

…“If Josh Trank is not in Movie Jail,” one critic tweeted after the announcement of Capone, “does Movie Jail even exist anymore?” Trank doesn’t believe it does. Hollywood has sentenced directors to careers in TV or general obscurity, but to Trank, escaping the metaphorical lockup is about writing and directing one’s way out of it, doing the work. There’s undeniable privilege to the perspective, considering the struggle marginalized groups face in breaking into the industry, yet little to argue with, logically — the best way to get a movie made, if all you want to do in the world is make movies, is to write a movie to make and go get it made.

I spoke to Trank off and on for four years as he reeled from Fantastic Four and set out to make Capone. And while he sidestepped Movie Jail, there may be no escape from the larger requirements of the industry and his own personal hang-ups. There are costs to every step of the process, and some personalities are more susceptible than others.

“Whatever I’m sacrificing just has to be sacrificed,” he said. “It’s worth it for me […] I’m just here to do this.”

(12) RIVERDALE EPISODE RECAP – BEWARE SPOILERS. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night on Riverdale Archie and the gang were getting their acceptances to college, and Jughead Jones was admitted to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop — a highly unusual move, because while the workshop has undergraduate courses, nearly everyone there is working on their M.F.A.’s.  But Jughead has to write an additional story to be admitted, so he spends much of the episode writing a story about killing their enemy, Mr. Honey the principal. and the fantasy of Mr. Honey’s death is dramatized along with what really happened to Mr. Honey.

Also, a character named Chuck is introduced just so a character can say, “What’s up, Chuck?”

(13) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. The American Museum of Natural History in New York City invites you to come along for “Field Trip Mars” this Friday, May 8 at 1:30 pm ET on YouTube.

Are volcanoes still active on Mars? What does Mars smell like? Where did the water that was once on Mars go? Get answers to these questions—and ask your own! Join the Museum’s Director of Astrovisualization Carter Emmart and astrophysicist Jackie Faherty during a real-time flyover across the Martian landscape on the Museum’s YouTube channel

(14) PLANTING A FIELD OF DREAMS. Todd Zaleski, in “Harper joins Phillie Phanatic for bedtime story” on MLB.com, says that Phillies slugger Bryce Harper decided to read The Phillie Phanatic’s Bedtime Story on Instagram, a tale that turns out to be sf, because the notorious green blob dons a virtual reality helmet and time-travels to the Colonial era, where he flies a kite with Ben Franklin and cracks the Liberty Bell!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus who was inspired by Xtifr’s comment.]

Some Achieve Greatness

By John Hertz:  It occurred to me, after mailing this thought in a letter of comment to another fanzine, that you might be interested also.

People talk – and quarrel – about what might be, or be candidates for, the great American novel.

Now and then some speculative fiction is proposed.

What about these (of course neither complete nor conclusive)?

  • A Canticle for Leibowitz (Miller, 1960)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Twain, 1889; you can see a note by me via a set of links on the sidebar)
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Baum, 1900)
  • Alas, Babylon (Frank, 1959)
  • The End of Eternity (Asimov, 1955 – see my note on it too)
  • Space Cadet (Heinlein, 1948)

You might like to bear in mind a criterion I’ve used in another context.

A classic is an artwork that survives its time; after the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen as worthwhile in itself.

Over a door at the central branch of the Pasadena Public Library is (adapted from Mary Carolyn Davies, in The Skyline Trail, 1924)

Be made whole by books as by great spaces and the stars.

________________________________

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em”, says Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (Act II, sc. 5); others learn that, though he is ridiculous, they should not be harsh

On the Narrow Road

by John Hertz: National Poetry Month in the United States.

Between the clouds, shining;
It’s vegetable springtime,
Flowering cheerfully.

For a thousand years the highest form of Japanese literature was a 31-syllable poem, in five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables.  Originally it was called waka, “Japanese poem”; in those days Chinese poems – by Japanese – were regarded even more highly, like the use of Greek in the Roman Empire, or the use of Latin in England until at least the 18th Century.  Eventually this form was called tanka, “short poem”.

That wasn’t short enough, so the Japanese dropped two lines, leaving the form we know as haiku (from a word meaning “unorthodox”) – even harder to write.

Anyone can string together 5-7-5 syllables.  But haiku is to be a poem.

It should present a moment.  It should show the meeting of the inner or subjective world, and the outer or objective world, to appear at the end of the first or second lines.  Oh, and it should say or point to what season the moment is in.

Richard Wright (1908-1960) toward the end of his life wrote haiku.

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white.

R. Wright, Haiku no. 31 (Y. Hakutani & R. Tener eds., rev. 2011)

One of the greatest haiku masters was Buson (1716-1784).

The evening breezes –
The water splashes against
A blue heron’s shins

(in Japanese yûkaze ya / mizu aosagi no / hagi o utsu; the notation û is for a long vowel, which some would write uu; tr. by the great Donald Keene 1922-2019, who called this haiku by Buson a tour de force; F. Bowers ed., The Classic Tradition of Haiku p. 54, 1996)

Hoping you are the same.

___________________

Bashô, The Narrow Road to Oku (1702; D. Keene tr. 1996) 

Tell the Truth and Run

By John Hertz:  (reprinted from Vanamonde 1389) Dan Goodman (1943-2020) was active in New York, San Francisco, L.A., and Minneapolis fandom.  In New York he was in FISTFA (Fannish & Insurgent Scientifictional Association; scientifiction the coinage of Hugo Gernsback 1884-1967); FISTFA started APA-F, the first weekly fannish apa, which in 1964 inspired APA-L; APA-F lasted until ’69, we in APA-L are still at it.

When I came to fandom in 1969 he was already here.  Then and since I’ve seldom been able to attend LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) meetings; my Lzines (APA-L is the Amateur Press Ass’n – LASFS, though collated only at, not by or for, the club) have been printed and gotten to the Official Collator, then the distribution gotten to me, with assistance.  

For years Dan was my go-between.  If I wasn’t home he slid my disty (John Trimble famously said Anyone who would call a distribution a “disty” would probably call it a “disty-wisty-poo”; naturally we –) under my door; I didn’t have a transom for him to throw it over.  I lived near Alvarado St.; he sometimes called this the Alvarado APA, or STUD (Shoving Things Under Doors).

We talked of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings. Then and since another of my interests has been the folkdance of southeast Europe; Yugoslavia (as it then was), Bulgaria, Greece.  He joked that his physical condition left him with the balance and coördination of someone who’d had a few beers, or a shot or two of šlivovica (“shlee-vo-vee-tsa”, plum brandy), so he could dance the kolo (Serbian dance idiom; people in a curved line, or you could call it a chain, holding hands, no partners, with individual variation on a basic step; kolo, literally “circle”, or “village”) as well as anybody else.

He gave me a Serbian proverb, Reci pravo pa bež’ (“reh-chee prah-vo pa bezh”, more formally beži “beh-zhee”) – Tell the truth and run – which I took to an ethnographer friend who, knowing the region well, said he’d never heard of it, but it had not only the right spirit but the right linguistic structure.

After a while Dan moved to Minneapolis.  He started, edited, and I believe named the Minn-STF (there’s scientifiction again; more formally the Minneapolis Science Fiction Society) clubzine Einblatt.  He got one SF story published that I know of, “The Oldest Religion” in Tales of the Unanticipated (1988; semiprozine, sometimes “TOTU”, started by Minn-STF, independent since 2003); he was in the fanzine Lofgeornost at least as recently as 2014.

In February of 2020, with his health failing at last, and after he’d been hit by a train – not the only reason I’m glad Van 1389 wasn’t ready in time to be dated April 1st – Minn-STF brought a meeting to him.  He did not live to see the end of March.  Ave atque vale.


The amateur-journalism hobby is credited with inventing the amateur press association, in which, subject to local variations, members print their own zines and get them to a central officer, who collates and distributes them; the first known is NAPA the Nat’l Am. Pr. Ass’n, founded 1876, still active; the first fannish, FAPA the Fantasy Am. Pr. Ass’n, founded 1937, still active; most apas have been monthly, or quarterly: weekly was and remains a shocker, even after the rise of Electronicland.

[Editor’s note: In the fifth paragraph the Latin letter “c” has been substituted for a character which WordPress does not support and persists in turning into a question mark.]

Fanziners Too Convene

Illo created by Teddy Harvia and Brad Foster for Corflu Heatwave publications.

By John Hertz:  The only current annual fanziners’ convention I know of is Corflu.  Another called Ditto having run two decades, not always annually, fell asleep.  An attempt at another called Toner lasted, if memory serves, two years.

Corflu is mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable.  The Mimeograph was a 19th Century invention for making inexpensive copies by forcing ink through stencils held on a rotating drum.  In the United States, “Mimeograph” was a registered trademark of A.B. Dick Co., but was allowed to become generic.

Bob Tucker with a mimeograph in the 1940s. Collection of Toni Weisskopf

Gestetner-brand machines appeared a few years later.  With Roneo-brand machines you could change drums to change the color of ink.  Rex Rotary was another brand.  I’m not sure how widely mimeograph or mimeo was used as a generic term outside the U.S.

Many thought this the Grade A technology for fanzine publication until cheap photocopying arrived.  Corflu was essential so as to cure misteaks.

Spirit duplication, which always sounded to me like something out of a fantasy story, was a 1920s tech.  Writing on a master sheet pressed the master against a second, inked sheet; the master, duly inked on its back side, and attached to a drum, was rolled over a wick holding an alcohol-based solvent that transferred ink onto paper.

The Ditto brand was best known; another was Heyer.  You could correct errors with skillful use of a razor blade, or an X-Acto knife, and rewriting (or even retyping).

Each of these had various advantages, disadvantages, and know-how.  Generally mimeo could reproduce more copies, spirit duplication was cheaper.

Toner is the powdery ink used in laser printers and many photocopiers.

As Paul Skelton recently quoted from Marshall McLuhan in Raucous Caucus 7, when technology becomes obsolete it reshapes into an art form.  Actually McLuhan also said obsolescence isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning.  Speaking for myself I’m big on Right tool for right task.

Corflu XXXVII was March 13-15, 2020, at College Station, Texas, U.S.A. (some cons get names; this one was “Corflu Heatwave”).  Corflu XXXVIII is scheduled for March 26-28, 2021, at Bristol, England, U.K. (“Corflu Concorde”).  Seldom able to attend in person, I’ve been a faithful Supporting Member, and happily recommend membership in either kind.

If you’re electronic you can start here; or you can always write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

That’s the Spirit

By John Hertz:  The other day I passed a Catholic church that had a sign out “Masses and services temporarily postponed.  Church open for adoration and prayer.”

I thought, That’s the spirit.  Pun intended.

Here in California the Governor on account of the pandemic virus COVID-19 has ordered us to stay home, and operations with physical mingling to pause, unless essential.  Even to a disaster one can overreact.  One had better not underreact.  Some of each can be found.  I report what one church announced.

I’m not a Catholic.  I’m not even a Christian (I’m a Jew, Christians’ older brother – which reminds me how rich brown – no capital letters in his name – used to say he was everyone’s rich brother).  You may be a Muslim, or Baha’i, or pagan, or none of the above – pun intended.

If you’re a Catholic, here’s my applause.  For the rest of us, here’s another of my maxims.  Let us do as well in our way as they in their way.

Pixel Scroll 3/23/20 So Tomorrow We Are Heading Up That Scrolly Road, Rocks And All. Got Any Dragons You Need Pixeled?

(1) WORTH YOUR WHILE. Having seen what shoppers are lined up for, James Davis Nicoll tracked down five highly time-absorbent novels — “Five Massive SFF Books to Read While You’re Social-Distancing” at Tor.com.

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

Clocking in at a streamlined 1120 pages, Ash tells the tale of 15th century mercenary Ash, a woman whose Europe is both very much like and very much different from our own. A natural soldier, she is drawn into the effort to defend a disunited Europe from the Visigoth army that threatens the continent. Visigoth-ruled Carthage has numbers and a seemingly magical technology the Europeans cannot match. Key to the invader’s success: the Faris, a woman guided by mysterious Voices…a woman who could be Ash’s twin.

(2) INSTANT TSUNDOKU. Paul Weimer presents “Mind Meld: The 101 and the 201 of SFF” at Nerds of a Feather. The feature involves asking people a genre-related question and sharing their responses. Answering this time are Marissa Lingen, Megan O’Keefe, Alix Harrow, Adri Joy, Marina Berlin, Lisa McCurrach, Melissa Caruso, Andrew Hiller, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Keena Roberts, J Kathleen Cheney, Elizabeth Fitz, Camestros Felapton, Catherine Lundoff, Sophia McDougall, and Julie Czerneda. His question is:

Some readers are looking for entry points into fantasy and pointing them at a book rich in the conversation and assumed tropes can throw them right out of it again. Other readers want more than a basic experience but are frustrated with novels that retread the same basics over and over.

So I’d like for you to recommend me *two* books:

1. A 101 SFF book that someone who may have seen Lord of the Rings but never cracked open an SFF book might fruitfully read. 
2. A 201 SFF book for someone looking for a deeper, richer experience, rewarding their previous reading in genre. 

(3) NEW ZEALAND GOING TO TOP ALERT LEVEL. Of concern for those hoping the 2020 Worldcon might still be held this summer, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the nation has gone to Level 3 status, and tomorrow they will be going to Level 4 status for at least 4 weeks.

A New Zealand Herald article explains: “Coronavirus: What Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4 mean for you and your family”.

New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is now at alert level 3 – and will move to level four for likely at least four weeks from Wednesday.

Alert level 3 means the risk of the potentially deadly virus not being contained and there will either be community transmission of the virus or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

Essential services will be open at all alert levels, but level level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just told the nation “we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential”.

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

(4) LAFFERTY FANS DISAPPOINTED. Laffcon, a one-day event about the works of R.A. Lafferty that had been scheduled for June 8 in Lawenceville, New Jersey has been postponed until June 2021.

(5) HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe to help the late Kate Hatcher’s family has been launched by Rick Kovalcik: “Help Ben (and Ireland) Hatcher”.

As you may know, Kate Hatcher passed away early in March after battling pneumonia (http://file770.com/kate-hatcher-1974-2020/). She left behind her partner, Ben Hatcher, and a daughter with health issues, Ireland. Various people have asked if there is anything we could do for Ben and Ireland. Well, John Hertz called me yesterday and said Ben and Ireland really could use some money, especially in the next month, while Ben tries to straighten out the finances and government payments to Ireland. Since John is not on the Internet, the suggestion was that I create a GoFundMe and send the money to Ben Hatcher. I am doing so. As I did for the Boskone ASL Fund, I will make up the GoFundMe fees (up to the asking amount) in addition to my personal contribution so that Ben and Ireland get the full amount that people are donating.  As suggested by John Hertz, I will send Ben a money order on about March 31st with what is raised to that point and then follow up with additional funds as appropriate (perhaps weekly). If anyone wants to check the veracity of this, please feel free to contact John Hertz; if you don’t have his phone number, I can give it to you.

(6) FAN FAVORITES. The nerd folk duo doubleclicks will livestream interviews with two sff authors this week. (Times shown are PDT.)

TUESDAY:
11am: Interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarers Series, which we’ve read about 2 dozen times. The second book has an AI in it whose story makes me feel one million things. Becky’s latest book is To Be Taught, If Fortunate and is also completely lovely!!

THURSDAY:
11am: interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries, which we’ve also read about 2 dozen times. This series is about a “robot” who just wants to binge tv shows and protect people and the books are so funny and real and emotional.

(7) A CHAPTER IN GENRE HISTORY. Joel Cunningham, the person who started the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, tells the story of the site, which closed last December after five years. Thread starts here. He’s got a new job at Lifehacker. 

(8) NOSTALGIA AVAILABLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An Ontario guy set up a site with all sorts of old broadcasts and bits and pieces many locals grew up with. Did you know that in 1972, Dan Ackroyd voiced the call sign for a TV station? They also have Judith Merril’s post-show discussions of Doctor Who episodes from 1980, old commercials, stuff from the Buffalo TV stations … a lovely rabbit hole to slither down: Retrontario.com.

(9) PLAGUE INVADES THE LOCKED TOMB. Bad news for those awaiting the sequel to one of last year’s most talked about sff books. Tamsyn Muir told readers today —

(10) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. “Not like the pictures”: “William Gibson Says Today’s Internet Is Nothing Like What He Envisioned”

William Gibson writes visionary stories — in his early work, he imagined an information superhighway long before the Web existed. But in a dozen novels over the last 35 years, Gibson has stalked closer and closer to the present.

His latest, Agency, has a complicated plot that jumps between the far future and the immediate present; Gibson says his favorite type of science fiction requires time and effort to understand. “My greatest pleasure in reading books by other people is to be dropped into a completely baffling scenario,” he says, “and to experience something very genuinely akin to culture shock when first visiting a new culture.”

Gibson imagined that sort of culture shock back in 1982 when he coined the word “cyberspace” in a short story. Two years later he popularized the term in his first novel, Neuromancer, about a washed up hacker hired for one last job.

…”He said once that he was wrong about cyberspace,” says author Lev Grossman, “and the internet when he first conceived it, he thought it was a place that we would all leave the world and go to. Whereas in fact, it came here.”

Grossman is a former book critic for Time magazine and author of the fantasy bestseller, The Magicians. “You have an artificial intelligence that is everywhere. It’s in all your devices. You’re looking through it as a lens to see the rest of the world. It’s an extraordinary vision of how computers will become aware, and become the thing that mediates between us and reality.”

But Gibson himself thinks the future of artificial intelligence will require human sensibility to take it to the next level. “Over the past few years, I’ve more and more frequently encountered people saying that the real change-bringer might not be something, an intelligence that we build from the ground up, but something like an uploaded healing consciousness that we then augment with the sort of artificial intelligence we already have.”

(11) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Marie Claire ran an article about nineandthreequartersco whose products we mentioned here the other day: “Harry Potter-inspired tea and coffee just launched in a whole range of magical flavours”. See more Harry Potter-themed beverages on the company’s Instagram page.

All the names take inspiration from J.K. Rowling’s fictional world; from ‘espresso patronum’, to ‘butter brew’, to ‘brew that must not be named’, there are flavours for every Potterhead.

The ‘espresso patronum’ coffee blend is, as you may have guessed, an espresso blend, promising to provide a smooth and chocolatey cup of coffee with a slightly fruity finish. The ‘butter brew’ coffee on the other hand, is a sweeter butterscotch flavour brew, taking inspiration from the beer the wizards drink at Hogsmede pub. More information about the other coffee flavours on their website.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 23, 1962 — The third season episode of Twilight Zone entitled “Person or Persons Unknown” first aired. Written by Charles Beaumont Who wrote a number of other classic episodes in this series such as “The Howling Man” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, he also was the scriptwriter for such films as  7 Faces of Dr. Lao and Queen of Outer Space. The premise of his script is simple: upon awaking from a bender, his protagonist find no one recognises him. Richard Long is David Andrew Gurney and the supporting cast are quite fine in their roles as well.  

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several year later in the Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1937 Carl Yoke, 83. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is to be in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of those serious academic volumes no one really reads for the most part. Yoke does have two genre stories to his credit, they’re called The Michael Holland Stories.
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 68. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad Awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work! 
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 62. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 23, 1959 Maureen Kincaid Speller, 61. British reviewer and essayist who has been nominated for Hugos for Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer. She’s had an extensive career with her writing showing up in MatrixSteam Engine TimeThe Gate and Vector (all of which she either edited or co-edited), Barbed Wire KissesFire & HemlockLocal FanomenaRed Shift, Interzone and The BSFA Review. Other than a brief collection by BSFA, And Another Thing … A Collection of Reviews and Criticism by Maureen Kincaid Speller, her work has not yet been collected. 
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 43. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First, she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think there’s there a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro answers the question, “What’s Heaven to a chicken?”
  • Bug-eyed aliens from Neptune invade Calvin & Hobbes.
  • Cul de Sac chronicles The Attack of the Monster Worm!  

(15) COMICS PIPELINE SHUT OFF. Bleeding Cool reports “Diamond Comic Distributors No Longer Taking In New Comics”.

Bleeding Cool has been informed by multiple senior industry figures that Diamond Comic Distributors is requesting that no more product be shipped to any of its warehouse until further notice. Product already in its warehouses will be distributed, such that it can, but after that they will be distributing no more comics, magazine, books, toys, games, or any other product until further notice….

The company’s reasons for the decision are chronicled at Adventures in Poor Taste: “Diamond Comics Distributor explains choice to halt shipping and marks March 25 as last slated shipment”.

… Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease….

(16) CORONA CARTOONIST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Chen Wang, who uses the name “Messycow” for her cartoons, who uses her background as someone born in Wuhan but who now lives in Seattle, whose comics deal with how she copes with the coronavirus. “Chinese American cartoonist finds satire in coronavirus crisis — with a perspective from both cultures”.

“People in the rest of the world might not have known much at the time, but it was all people cared about in China,” says the artist, who has family in Wuhan. “I followed the news closely and experienced a lot of emotions.”

To channel those emotions creatively, she took a humorous tone with the comic “Quarantine Makes Life Better,” which depicted a faux-news report of characters coping with stay-at-home life.

(17) PIXAR’S ONWARD ONLINE. Adweek reports “Disney’s Onward Available for Digital Purchase Tonight as Coronavirus Shutters Theaters”.

Disney’s latest Pixar film, Onward, opened in theaters just two weeks ago, but the company is already making it available for digital purchase tonight, making it the latest current release to quickly migrate to video-on-demand platforms as the novel coronavirus’ spread wipes out traditional movie theater attendance.

The film, which follows the adventures of two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, will be available to purchase on digital platforms for $19.99 beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Disney said this morning.

It will then be released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ just two weeks from now, on April 3.

(18) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. The British Science Fiction Association has made its archive of its official journal Vector available on the Fanac.org website: “Early Vector now open access”.

The BSFA have partnered with FANAC.org to make sixty years’ worth of back issues available free online. This collection includes for the first time scans of all of the first seven issues (editors inclue E.C. Tubb, Terry Jeeves, Roberta Gray, and Michael Moorcock).

Most of what has been digitized is now available on Fanac: issues from the 1980s and 1990s should follow shortly.

(19) COMFORT READS. The New York Times features includes a couple of genre books (one of them by Harlan Ellison): “Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, Min Jin Lee and Others on the Books That Bring Them Comfort”.

Celeste Ng – ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman

In 1987, my sister was halfway through reading me “The Princess Bride” when she went off to college. The day she left, I cried myself to sleep — and then, after I got my bearings again, I read the rest of the book on my own. So this has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges that life isn’t fair (“It’s just fairer than death, that’s all”) yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there’s a point to it all. If you only know the (fantastic) film, pick the book up, too — it’s just as much of a delight. —Celeste Ng’s most recent book is “Little Fires Everywhere.”

(20) DEPTH SHALL NOT RELEASE YOU. BBC has the bad news — “Climate change: Earth’s deepest ice canyon vulnerable to melting”.

East Antarctic’s Denman Canyon is the deepest land gorge on Earth, reaching 3,500m below sea-level.

It’s also filled top to bottom with ice, which US space agency (Nasa) scientists reveal in a new report has a significant vulnerability to melting.

Retreating and thinning sections of the glacier suggest it is being eroded by encroaching warm ocean water.

Denman is one to watch for the future. If its ice were hollowed out, it would raise the global sea surface by 1.5m.

…Most people recognise the shores around the Dead Sea in the Middle East to have the lowest visible land surface elevation on Earth, at some 430m below sea level. But the base of the gorge occupied by Denman Glacier on the edge of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) actually reaches eight times as deep.

This was only recently established, and it has made Denman a location of renewed scientific interest.

(21) NOT BLASTS FROM THE PAST.  Got to love this title: “Not Rocket Science: SF Stories Involving Alternatives to Space Rocketry”, a Tor.com post by James Davis Nicoll:

…A cousin to the sling is the accelerator, a (presumably firmly bolted down) device which uses some force other than centripetal to accelerate payloads. Such devices have some obvious limits (namely, power supply, heat management, and the trade-off between accelerations low enough not to crush the payload and final velocities high enough to be useful). They also have advantages, not least of which is not having to haul a gigawatt-plus power supply off-planet and across space. Accelerators of various kinds go way back in science fiction, at least as far as Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, whose Baltimore Gun Club delivers a living payload past the Moon using a very, very large gun. No, larger than that.

Various flavours of accelerators show up all through SF. One of the more striking examples is Michael Swanwick’s Vacuum Flowers, whose “transit rings” manipulate space-time to accelerate payloads to high speeds without the payloads feeling the forces involved. I wonder if this was inspired by Robert Forward’s Guidelines to Antigravity

(22) LET THE SUNSHINE IN. Oh, sure, if you’re going to count everything“Electric car emissions myth ‘busted'”

Fears that electric cars could actually increase carbon emissions are a damaging myth, new research shows.

Media reports have questioned if electric cars are really “greener” once emissions from manufacture and electricity generation are counted.

The research concludes that in most places electric cars produce fewer emissions overall – even if generation still involves fossil fuels.

Other studies warn that driving overall must be reduced to hit climate targets.

The new research from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen – in The Netherlands – and Cambridge shows that in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a petrol car.

The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal.

(23) SEA FOR YOURSELF. SYFY Wire applauds a scientific development: “Creepy Extinct Fish With Fingers Unearths The Bizarre Truth Of How Hands Evolved”.

Humans may not be directly related to fish (except maybe Abe Sapien or that creature from The Shape of Water), but the fossil of an extinct fish known as Elpisostege watsoni was a breakthrough for a research team from Flinders University in Australia and Universite de Quebec a Rimouski in Canada. This literal fish out of water had fingers, as in actual finger bones, in its pectoral fins. Its 380-million-year-old skeleton revealed how vertebrate fingers evolved from fins — and how prehistoric fish morphed into tetrapods.

(24) ANCIENT PILOT. William Shatner was Archie Goodwin in this adaptation of Nero Wolfe.

An unsold, 1959 pilot for a proposed NERO WOLFE TV series starring Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. The theme was composed by Alex North. Rumor has it there are two additional unsold pilots with this cast out there somewhere.

(25) VULCAN LIVES. John Prine’s “Lonesome Friends of Science” is news to me!

“This song here is an epic.  This tells you about the humiliation of the planet Pluto, when it was told it was no longer a planet, the romantic escapades of the Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama, and the end of the world as we know it.  All in a little over four minutes.” 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nancy Lebovitz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, rcade, Joe Siclari, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Darrah Chavey, Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirebiting editor of the day Brian Z.]