Pixel Scroll 9/20/19 Pixels Are Finite, Scrolls Are Infinite

(1) TIPTREE BIOGRAPHER COMMENTS FURTHER. Julie Phillips, author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon blogged about “On Tiptree and naming” on September 17.

A number of people are reading the manner of Alli and Ting’s Sheldon’s death as an instance of caregiver murder, in which a person with a disability is killed by a person responsible for caring for them. There is a pattern of murders like this being downplayed or dismissed as “understandable” because the caregiver “must have been under such strain.” This is extremely upsetting and hurtful to people living with disabilities. You can read more about this here and here. (Content warnings: suicide; Americans’ appalling lack of access to heath care.)

Mostly I’ve been asked for factual answers: Did it happen? Did it not happen? It may be that a name that calls up painful associations should be changed in any case. But I believe it matters to talk about what we know and don’t know, and here are some thoughts about Ting’s and Alli’s choices.

(2) GETTING WARMER. Andrew Liptak chronicles sff’s track record with other issues before asking “Does Science Fiction Have a Moral Imperative to Address Climate Change?”

… Topics such as pollution, overcrowding, and a warming Earth began to appear more frequently within the genre. Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! (later adapted—and firmly embedded in pop culture consciousness—as Soylent Green) examined the plight of an overcrowded Earth, though today the main drivers of climate change are far less attributable to rising populations in less developed areas of the world and far more to do with mass consumerism in the developed world.

J.G. Ballard’s 1962 novel The Drowned World specifically imagines a post-apocalyptic 2145 in which global warming (caused by solar wind heating the atmosphere, rather than specifically fossil fuel emissions) lead to sea-level rise, ruining London. Even nearly 60 years ago—long before “climate change” had become a source of widespread anxiety, it was a stark vision; reviewer Peter Brigg noted, “Ballard created in this novel the most pervasive demonstration of the frailty of ‘technological’ man.”

(3) NEW SFF COMPETITION. The Clarke Award is publicizing “A New Science Fiction Competition For Young People”. 

The Rumble Museum, in association with the Arthur C. Clarke Award, is delighted to announce a national science fiction competition for young people who would like to see their ideas turned into a short story by a professional science fiction author.

Anyone 15 years or younger can enter, and full entry details can be found here. Deadline for entries October 31.

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, please submit a premise and opening lines for a science fiction short story. We would like to see a description of the world or society your story is set in, an outline of the main characters and plot, and first 350 words or first page.

(4) SIXTY-FOUR ON THE FLOOR. Galactic Journey contributors assemble! A trio of reviewers comment on the latest (in 1964) novels from PKD, Leiber, Bulmer and Farmer in this omnibus post: “[September 20, 1964] Apocalypses and other trivia (Galactoscope)”. Jason Sacks begins —

…Like many fans, I first became really aware of Philip K. Dick after he won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel for his remarkable The Man in the High Castle. That book dazzled in its chronicle of an alternate history in which the Nazis and Japanese won World War II (which opened up many areas of thought and conversation for me and my friends) as well as in its brilliant world-building and the fascinating, multifaceted characters at the heart of Dick’s award-winner.

High Castle was also an amazingly tight novel, packing a dense plot into its mere 240 pages. As many of us Dick fans have learned, not all of his works are quite so tightly plotted. I adored his Martian Time-Slip and Dr. Bloodmoney from last year, but those books tended to both delight and annoy in their meandering, nearly stream-of-consciousness styles.

The newest Philip K. Dick novel, The Penultimate Truth (just out in paperback from Belmont) fills a bit of the gap between his ’62 masterpiece and the challenging ’63 books. This thoroughly delightful book wanders a bit but always held me in its comforting grasp.

(5) LID O’CLOCK ROCK. Alasdair Stuart’s newest Full Lid embraces the profoundly weird career of Gerard Butler, examines the Hot Zone and attends the Battle of Big Rock: “The Full Lid 20th September 2019”

(6) IT’S THE PITTS. NPR’s Chris Klimek reports that “‘Ad Astra’ Soars”

With its austere surfaces and jaundiced view of humanity’s interplanetary destiny, James Gray’s stirring sci-fi epic Ad Astra can’t help but evoke Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the paterfamilias of all “serious” space movies. But in fact it’s a closer cousin to another long-delayed, wildly over-budget spectacle that initially fared better with ticket-buyers than critics, only to be revealed in time as a masterpiece: Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

Like Coppola’s surreal Vietnam War movie, Ad Astra is told to us by a haunted man on a mission into the unknown. After a thrilling set piece involving an unplanned high-altitude skydive from the “International Space Antenna,” Brad Pitt’s Major Roy McBride is dispatched to investigate the cause of a series of destructive cosmic ray bursts emanating from Neptune.

McBride is given the task because his superiors believe these disruptions might somehow have been caused by his father (Tommy Lee Jones), commander of an exploration mission that was presumed lost some 16 years earlier. In the event the old man has somehow survived and gone all Colonel Kurtz on them, they’re hoping his baby boy might be able to talk him down.

One needn’t have seen 2001 — or for that matter, last year’s undervalued Neil Armstrong biopic First Man — to grok that emotional availability is the one area in which McBride is seriously deficient. (His heart rate has never risen above 80, his dossier says.) In space, no one can hear you cry…

… though they are sometimes privy to your internal monologue. “We are the world-eaters,” McBride laments in voiceover as he takes in the Applebees and Hudson News shops that pimple the near side of the moon in the mid-to-late 21st century. The only thing Ad Astra shares with the comparatively upbeat adventure The Martian is a notion we might be wiser to leave space exploration to our robots. We see McBride file a psychological self-evaluation each time he’s getting ready to launch; only if the A.I. concurs with his assessment that he’s fit to fly is he permitted to go.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 20, 1979 — The film version of Buck Rogers was edited for television as “Awakening” to serve as the very first episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It would last two seasons.
  • September 20, 2006 Jericho aired its pilot episode on CBS.  It was cancelled after its first full season, because of poor ratings. A fan campaign persuaded the network to bring the show back for another season, of seven episodes, after which it was cancelled again. IDW has done two seasons in comic book form. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 20, 1948 George R. R. Martin, 71. I’ll admit that I’ve only read the first two volumes of ASOFI.  I loved The Armageddon Rag and think that he’s a wonderful short writer.  And no, I’ve not watched A Game of Thrones. 
  • Born September 20, 1955 David Haig, 64. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7 in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the 2006 film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally, I should I should he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back. 
  • Born September 20, 1959 James Blaylock, 69. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. 
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 33. He plays Alec Hardison on Leverage. Ok, I know it’s not SFF but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking Dead, Star Trek Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…)
  • Born September 20, 1989 Malachi Kirby, 30. He shows up on Doctor Who as Gastron in “Hell Bent”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and he’s on Black Mirror as Stripe in their “Men Against Fire” episode. 

(9) MAKER MAKES NEWS. In the Washington Post, Patti Restivo profiles cosplayer Kyle Wilhelm, whose crosstitiching on his costume as “Wolf Shaman” at the Maryland Renaissance Festival was so good that he got an apprenticeship at Outback Leather, whose clients include  the Renaissance Festival, Medieval Times,  a nearby horse racing track, and several motorcycle clubs. “A costume wizard brings his skills to Maryland Renaissance Festival”. Photo gallery here.

…Like Sargent, Wilhelm describes himself as mostly self-taught. He said he trained as a blacksmith and in animal care-taking, and previously worked part-time gigs as an actor, model and stuntman.

For at least a decade, the 29-year-old said he did leather crafting in his basement before landing at Outback Leather with Sargent and finding his calling.

“Ron’s like my second dad,” Wilhelm said.

(10) HUGO LONG LIST. David Steffen says his “Long List Anthology Volume 5” Kickstarter has now raised enough money to acquire all the stories he could get the rights to.

After the Hugo Awards each year, the World Science Fiction Society (who administer the award) publishes a longer list of works that fans cast nomination votes for.  The works on the ballot get a lot of attention, the purpose of this anthology is to get more readers for these other stories that were also loved by so many fans.  The result each year is a big and ecclectic collection of fiction very different in tone and theme that can act as a sampler for work enjoyed by the Hugo voting audience.

This project is not endorsed by nor affiliated with the Hugo awards, WSFS, WorldCon, or any associated entities. The Hugo name is used with permission.

(11) ALL WET. LAist shows why it’s only natural that a 20-minute theme park show would be more successful than the namesake 3-hour movie: “What Universal Studios’ Waterworld Got Right About A Stunt Show, Wrong About Climate Change”.

“It’s a really odd situation where I think the attraction is far more popular than the movie, in most ways,” Shawn Marshall of theme park site Parks And Cons said. “Probably for a lot of theme park fans, when you say ‘Waterworld,’ we’re all thinking of the Universal show moreso than the movie at this point.”

If you haven’t seen the show, it simplifies the movie’s story and packs it into 20 minutes of pure action. After a pre-show getting the crowd hyped and explaining/showing that you may get very, very wet if you’re in the splash zone, a deep voice comes on over the loudspeakers to explain the story.

(12) THIS IS GENIUS. Richard Paolinelli sent a DMCA takedown notice to the Internet Archive requiring them to remove all saved copies of pages from his blog. And they did. What a hack! Who would have thought he had it in him.

(13) HUNGER GAMES FOR ADULTS. NPR’s Jason Heller finds that “‘The Divers’ Game’ Depicts An Unimaginably Unjust, All Too Believably Cruel World”.

Dystopian stories are, in essence, thought experiments. And few come as thoughtful as The Divers’ Game.

The latest novel from acclaimed author Jesse Ball depicts a world both unimaginably unjust and all too believably cruel: Society has been split into two distinct halves, the pats and the quads, with the former group given unchecked supremacy over the second. It isn’t the most original premise in dystopian fiction, but Ball clearly isn’t trying to reinvent any genre tropes. Rather, he’s plumbing the depths of a familiar conceit, attacking it from a fresh angle, and constructing a parable that’s jarring in its subtle complexity and profound, horrific revelation.

…Ball’s bombshell is undisguised and unapologetic: He’s taking dead aim at current U.S. policy in regard to immigration and the detention of asylum-seekers, and the repercussions he speculates upon leave no doubt as to his standpoint on the topic — even as he expresses them in nested sequence of vicious satire. But his series of modest proposals culminates in the second section of the book, in which the titular’s divers’ game is unveiled. It’s a game played by quad children, and it’s as much of a Shirley Jackson-esque premise as it is an exquisite probe of liminal zones and psychogeography between the privileged and the oppressed.

(14) “…WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS”. “Remake The Princess Bride? Inconceivable!”

Another week, another set of divided opinions online about, well, almost everything.

But this week one thing seemed to unite most people – if Twitter is anything to go by, at least.

Remaking the classic 1987 film The Princess Bride is a bad idea. An even worse idea, in fact, than getting involved in a land war in Asia.

The debate was started by an interview by Variety with Norman Lear, the film’s producer.

He said “very famous people, whose names I won’t use, but they want to redo The Princess Bride.”

Even that tantalising hint was enough to make many fans reach for the gifs.

(15) SHE’S A WONDER. SYFY Wire pens “An ode to Robin Wright, from princess to queen”.

Robin Wright’s breakout role as Buttercup in The Princess Bride left a mark on a lot of childhoods, and it would be difficult to dismiss the importance of that role in her film career going forward. While she’s gone on to play a wide variety of complicated characters, it is also true that the no-nonsense and self-possessed attitude of Buttercup would be a defining characteristic, not just of Wright’s career, but of Wright herself.

More recently, Wright had the chance to play a new icon of feminine power for audiences of all ages with her role as General Antiope in Wonder Woman. In many ways, these are two incredibly different characters, but they both carry with them that sense of sustained defiance that audiences have come to admire in many a Robin Wright role.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Liptak, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #44

Names and Legacies 

By Chris M. Barkley: If I had told you a month ago that legacies of three of the biggest names in the fantasy and sf community would come under scrutiny and that one in particular would have his name removed from two prestigious awards, you probably would have looked at me oddly and thought I was crazy.

Well now, welcome to Crazy Town.

I, on the other hand, would not have been surprised as much because of what had happened a year ago.

Tuesday, November 27 2018, was the BEST day of Linda Fairstein’s life. Well, you could say it was the LAST best day of her life because forty-eight hours later, it began to unravel.

Fairstein, an acclaimed and best-selling crime writer of many years, awoke that day to find out that her peers in the Mystery Writers of America had named her as a Grand Master, the highest award of their organization could bestow. She was being honored for her series of 20 novels featuring Alexandra Cooper, a sex crimes prosecutor.

When she found out, she took to Twitter, writing,“How is THIS news for a thrilling surprise. I am Mystery Writers of America 2019 GRANDMASTER…..I’m pinching myself.”

But, almost immediately, prominent crime writers, with novelist Attica Locke in the lead, were protesting the announcement. Locke explained vociferously that Fairstein was directly responsible for the false imprisonment of five innocent men. 

Linda Fairstein’s previous occupation was a district attorney for New York City. For nearly a quarter of a century she was the lead prosecutor of the Sex Crimes Unit in Manhattan. In that capacity she became a feminist icon for her tough stances on crime and advocacy for victims’ rights in court.

Unfortunately, she was also responsible for personally supervising the prosecution of the Central Park Five, a 1989 case in which a jogger was brutally beaten and raped. The five Latino and black male teenagers were arrested, questioned, tried and eventually convicted for the heinous crime. They all claimed that the confessions they signed were coerced and that they were innocent. In 2002, all of them were exonerated by DNA evidence, freed and were given a substantial financial settlement from the city.

So, when the MWA reversed themselves, they released the following statement:

“After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused.”

By this past June, Dutton, her current publisher, had dropped her and activists on social media outlets called on the public to boycott her books and anyone selling them.

Fairstein exacerbated her situation by not apologizing for what happened or at least admitting that our judicial system failed these young men miserably. But no; instead she doubled down and she stood by their original convictions despite the evidence to the contrary, and hinted that if they were not guilty of that offense, they were probably guilty of something else and absolutely deserved exactly what they got. When HBO’s drama about the Central Park Five, “When They See Us” was aired this past spring, it featured a less than flattering portrayal of Fairstein. 

When I heard about Linda Fairstein’s problems with the Mystery Writers of America, I got into an semi-argument with a bookselling friend about what should happen to her. He stated, unequivocally, that her actions in her life should have nothing to do with her work as a writer. 

And, In a fair and a just world, that would happen. But, as we have seen repeatedly over the advent of the internet and social media outlets, there are people out there who would vehemently oppose the most harmless and innocuous you could come up with, including kittens. knitting and lawn bowling. 

I told my friend back then that while it was more than likely that Linda Fairstein probably did deserve the MWA honor, people, her peers, critics, and the public at large and the tidal forces of social interaction she helped foment were going to deny her because of her past actions and her adamant defense of them. 

And the very same scenario has played out again, in high definition no less, in these past few weeks. 

When Jeannette Ng made her speech denouncing John W. Campbell, Jr. at the Hugo Award Ceremony three weeks ago, it set off a tsunami of arguments, retrospectives and reassessments of Campbell, the late Alice Sheldon (best known under her pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr), Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback and other various literary luminaries of the past and present.

John W. Campbell, Jr.

By sheer coincidence, I discovered Campbell the editor in high school, several months after he died. My neighbor, Michaele, had a subscription and loaned me her copies of Analog, which were among the last he had edited. The stories were ok but what really caught my eye were the strangely cranky editorials, which made me curious enough to want to meet him. It was well enough that he had departed; had I gone back a few years and read of his 1968 endorsement of George Wallace for President, that would have been quite enlightening.

From 1937, for their first fifteen years or so, Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction magazine (and for the few years it existed, its fantasy counterpart, Unknown) were the biggest influences in sf literature and fandom at large.

But, along came Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas. And Horace Gold. Cele Goldsmith. Frederik Pohl. Ian and Betty Ballantine. Joseph and Edward Ferman. And Harlan Ellison.  And many other editors and publishers who followed in their footsteps. Like all good literary movements, sf diversified, became more inclusive and expanded.

 And Campbell himself? Not so much.

To be sure, he still was respected by authors and artists who produced for him. And don’t forget that he was the first to serialize Frank Herbert’s magnum opus, Dune, and, ironically, the very FIRST story by one James Tiptree, Jr (who is waiting on deck, so to speak).

But Campbell was estranged from a number of major authors such as Robert A. Heinlein, whom he had clashed with over ideological and political differences. 

When the two awards were established in his name two years after his death, John W. Campbell, Jr. was so well thought of and revered that there was no virtually opposition from any of the sponsors; Conde Nast Magazines (which later morphed into Dell Magazines) and the World Science Fiction Society (as the administrator) for the Best New Writer and the Memorial Award for Best Novel by late authors Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss. (The Gunn Center Conference of the University of Kansas formally took over the administration of the Campbell Memorial Award in 1978).

Harrison wrote this of the awards in 1977:

When John died it was a blow to all of us. After the memorial service a number of his writers were talking, and out of the talk came the Astounding anthology, what has been called the last issue of the Campbell magazine. It was a good tribute to a good editor. There is another tribute I think of just as highly, the award for the best SF novel of the year presented in his name and memory. An award I am sure he would have loved because it instantly became involved in controversy when the first prizes was presented. How John enjoyed a good argument and a good fight! That this fight sprawled through the letter columns of Analog for some months would have cheered him even more.

(For those among you who are intensely curious about that first recipient, the very first winner of the Memorial Award for Best Novel award was Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg, a book whose plot and themes probably would have turned his brain inside out. Don’t believe me? Check it out sometime.)

In the wake of the events of the past three weeks, Campbell’s grandson, John Campbell Hammond, has expressed some distress and disappointment over the removal of his name from the two awards. Others have been more pointed in their criticism, calling it a reactionary response of “political correctness” or “erasure”. 

Mr. Hammond may be saddened but at least he can be consoled by the voters of the 1944 Retro-Hugos, which held his grandfather in some high esteem because they awarded him in the Best Editor, Short Form category.

Here’s the thing; while he was a brilliant innovator in our branch of literature, there is also no doubt that his views on women and race were abominable. We can only speculate how much better things might have been if he hadn’t been such a person. Looking back, it is quite evident that the only thing holding up his reputation up for all these decades was white privilege, willful or unknowing ignorance and racism. 

And what’s happened to Campbell is not “erasure” but, as John Scalzi elegantly put it on his blog, a “reassessment”. And part of that process is a condemnation of your past actions.  

Alice Sheldon

Almost immediately in the wake of all of this, The Tiptree Motherboard, the administrators of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, were inundated by requests that they change the name of their award, citing that Alice Sheldon (the alias behind the Tiptree pseudonym) had committed the murder of her spouse, the ailing and terminally ill Huntington Sheldon, and then committed suicide.

Where I had no doubt that removing Campbell name was correct thing to do, I was equally adamant that Tiptree’s name should remain in place.

I am proud to state that I voted for Sheldon’s Hugo winning novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read,” on my very first Hugo Awards ballot back in 1977. At that time, no one knew “James Tiptree, Jr.” was other than a as a damn good writer. Upon first reading, I found her short fiction to be entertaining, intensely personal and incredibly enlightening. And I still do.

The bubble burst the very next year when, in her guise as Tiptree, slipped up and revealed to several of her correspondents that her mother had recently died. That led a few clever people to a Chicago newspaper obituary and directly her real identity.

Sheldon continued to write, as Tiptree and “Raccoona Sheldon” until her and her husband’s deaths in 1987. It was long rumored among her friends and family that she and “Ting” had made a long-standing murder/suicide pact if either became too ill for the other to care for. In her 2006 Hugo Award winning biography, The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, author Julie Phillips did not state conclusively that this was the case. Recently, Phillips wrote on Twitter:

“The question has come up whether Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr) and her husband Ting died by suicide or murder-suicide. I regret not saying clearly in the bio that those closest to the Sheldons all told me that they had a pact and that Ting’s health was failing.

Ting’s son Peter Sheldon also said there was a pact, and that Ting was declining. Alli probably wanted to die more than Ting did. But the pact didn’t have to do with his blindness or disability. He was going, and they chose to go out together.”

Recently on the Tiptree Motherboard, Phillips elaborated further:

“Ting didn’t leave a statement, but all Ting’s friends that I talked to plus his son Peter were unanimous that it was a pact, and that Ting’s health was failing when it happened. The only one who cast doubt on that was the lawyer who talked to her on the last night, James Boylan. He didn’t know either Ting or Alli very well, and I have doubts about how well he understood what was happening. I’m planning to write up what I know, because I left too much room for doubt when I wrote the book.”

I got into a very brief argument on the Tiptree Motherboard Twitter feed with a troll (with no previous history of posting) who stated unequivocally that Sheldon was nothing more than a common murderer.  I countered that while John W. Campbell was a serial offender in life, Alice Sheldon should not be condemned forever for one desperate and tragic choice.

Even moreso, the name “James Tiptree, Jr.” and the meaningful and influential fiction that was presented under that name has transcended the life of the author. I believe that the award cannot be what it is, a celebration of the exploration of sex and gender roles in fantastic fiction without that name attached to it.

On 2 September, the Tiptree Motherboard issued a lengthy statement covering the controversy and stated that a name change was not in the offing. Two days later they, issued the following clarification: 

 We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at feedback@tiptree.org.

So, at least for the foreseeable future, The James Tiptree Award will remain as it is.

Hugo Gernsback

Our last person of interest is Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant from Luxembourg who founded the 1926 magazine Amazing Stories, the very first publication completely devoted to publishing science fiction (which he originally dubbed “scientifiction”). Through it, he also created the “Science Fiction League”, a club whose members published letters in the magazine and corresponded with each other eventually met in person, thus creating the first wave of sf fandom and conventions. 

But before Amazing Stories, Gernsback was better known as a publisher of all sorts of other publications. He was notorious for not paying his contributors very much (or in some cases, not at all) and his business practices were seen by many at the time as very shady or outright fraudulent.

As author Barry Malzberg once wrote:

Gernsback’s venality and corruption, his sleaziness and his utter disregard for the financial rights of authors, have been well documented and discussed in critical and fan literature. That the founder of genre science fiction who gave his name to the field’s most prestigious award and who was the Guest of Honor at the 1952 Worldcon was pretty much a crook (and a contemptuous crook who stiffed his writers but paid himself $100K a year as President of Gernsback Publications) has been clearly established.

The very next year, the Science Fiction Achievement Awards were first given out at the11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. And despite his scurrilous reputation, people began to nickname this new award, “The Hugo”, after him! And I have no doubt that this just tickled his fancy up to his death at the age of 83 in 1967. The name became so universally used that by1992, it was officially codified into the Constitution of World Science Fiction Society.

I am amused that some people are showing some genuine outrage that the most prestigious award in sf is named after such a scoundrel. And not because I think it’s a bad idea. Oh no, on the contrary, this might be a GREAT idea whose time has come. 

All these pundits have to do is come up with a name to replace “Hugo Award”. Something that has a consensus of fandom behind it. A name that can be protected legally by the World Science Fiction Society. And…

A name that will have to endure at the very least, four or five years of committee studies and formal Business Meeting debates, amendments, substitutions and serpentine votes.

To those who wish to embark on this fool’s errand, I wish you all the luck on this Earth and all of its known (and unknown) alternate versions as well. 

In any event, fame and legacies are all fleeting and a fool’s deepest desire. All that really matters in life in the long run are your family, friends, memories and knowing that you tried to do the right thing and the best you can under the circumstances.

My advocacy of new categories for the Hugo Award will probably be my legacy. And I’m hoping for more. But It is my hope that my work will not stand and that others will study, deconstruct, demolish and build on the ashes of my efforts.

I hope a new Best Dramatic Presentation category is even more expansive and inclusive. The Editing category should formally include anthologies and author collections. Manga should definitely be included in the description of the Comics and Graphic Story category. And a Best Translated Novel award (or, at least a test of such a category) should be inevitable and welcomed, not feared.

If I had to single out one of the greatest moments in my life in fandom, I could tell you exactly when it happened, the night before the 2012 Hugo Awards Ceremony at Chicon 7.

My partner Juli and I were hanging out in the Hyatt Regency bar overlooking Michigan Avenue when we were approached by a woman and her partner. She said she sought me out to to thank me personally for working so hard to establish the Best Graphic Story category in which she was a nominee that year. I, in turn, congratulated her on the nomination and wished her the best of luck.

And the next day, Ursula Vernon won her first Hugo Award for her graphic omnibus, Digger. She did not thank me on stage. She didn’t have to because she already had.

It is always better to give than to receive. And I have always strived to create the possibility to give the highest award we have to the most deserving creators. And that is all I have ever wanted.

Or needed.

Pixel Scroll 9/1/19 I Have Pixeled The Scroll Less Tickboxed, And That Has Made All The DIfference

(1) TIPTREE BIOGRAPHER WEIGHS IN. Julie Phillips, author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, shared her research about the death of Tiptree and her husband. Thread starts here.

(2) STOKERCON UK ADDS GUEST. Mick Garris will be StokerCon UK’s media guest of honor in 2020.

STOKERCON UK—the Horror Writers Association’s fifth annual celebration of horror and dark fantasy in creative media and the first to be held outside of North America—is delighted to welcome award-winning American film-maker MICK GARRIS as its latest Guest of Honour.

Mick Garris began writing fiction at the age of twelve. By the time he was in high school, he was writing music and film journalism for various local and national publications, and during college, edited and published his own pop culture magazine. Steven Spielberg hired Mick as story editor on the AMAZING STORIES TV series for NBC, where he wrote or co-wrote ten of the forty-four episodes. Since then, he has written or co-scripted a number of feature films and teleplays (*BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, THE FLY II, HOCUS POCUS, CRITTERS 2 and NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES, amongst many others).

As a director and producer, he has worked in a wide range of media, including feature films (CRITTERS 2, SLEEPWALKERS, RIDING THE BULLET, NIGHTMARE CINEMA); made-for-TV movies (QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY, VIRTUAL OBSESSION, DESPERATION); cable movies and series (PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and its spin-off RAVENSWOOD, WITCHES OF EAST END, SHADOWHUNTERS, DEAD OF SUMMER, ONCE UPON A TIME); network mini-series (THE STAND, THE SHINING, BAG OF BONES); series pilots (THE OTHERS, LOST IN OZ) and series (SHE-WOLF OF LONDON). He is also the creator and executive producer of Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR anthology series, as well as creator of the NBC series, FEAR ITSELF.

Mick is known for his highly-rated podcast, POST MORTEM WITH MICK GARRIS, where he sits down with some of the most revered film-makers in the horror and fantasy genre for one-on-one discussions, including the likes of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Roger Corman, Walter Hill, Neil Gaiman, and many others….

(3) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. John Coxon has posted his report: “Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon”. Lots of in-depth talk about facilities, parties and program.

Finally, let’s talk parties. These were so much better than Loncon 3 and Helsinki, and represent the first party scene outside a US Worldcon that I’ve thought really worked. The model of having programme rooms by day become party rooms by night worked well, and in general it was a fun time. There was a failure mode — the queue to get a drink in the Glasgow in 2024 party was as big as the room, making it difficult to actually enjoy the party after you’d got your drink through no fault of the organisers — but most parties were a good mixture of people, pleasant to spend time in, and had interesting drinks and snacks (although the expense of having to use conference centre catering meant these often ran out quite early). Having the bar just down one floor meant that if you got bored of the parties you could head back, and vice versa. This felt nicer than the fan village in Loncon 3 mostly because that space was one, gigantic space with no nooks or crannies, which to me fails to capture what’s nice about drinking at Eastercon, i.e. the ability to find a little niche and settle with friends, or go from niche to niche changing context. Dublin very much captured that feeling, and the nightlife felt much, much more like a giant Eastercon than it did at Loncon 3. I liked that the bar was named in honour of Martin Hoare, who died shortly before the convention.

(4) AUTOPSYING THE ART BOOK CATEGORY. 2019 Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte’s extensive analysis of “A Hugo Award for Best Art Book: the 2019 experiment”, on his blog From the Heart of Europe, includes this statistical summary:

So, we unleashed it along with the other Hugo and Retro Hugo categories in January, and tallied the results after nominations closed in May. Participation at nominations stage was frankly disappointing.

  • Best Art Book had the lowest participation at nominations stage of any 2019 category (248 voters compared to the next lowest two: 290 for Best Fan Artist and 297 for Best Fanzine).
  • It had the lowest number of nominees (78, compared to the next lowest two: 91 for Best Semiprozine and 102 for Best Fanzine).
  • The top finalist in the category had the lowest number of votes for a top finalist in any category (51, compared to the next lowest two: 70 for the top finalist in Best Fan Writer and 72 for the top finalist in Best Fancast).
  • The lowest-placed finalist had the second lowest number of votes for the lowest-placed finalist in any category (28, ahead of 25 for the lowest-placed finalist in Best Fan Artist but behind 33 for the lowest-placed finalist in Best Graphic Story).
  • The sixteenth-ranked nominee had the second lowest number of votes for any category (6, compared to 5 for Best Fan Artist and 8 for Best Fanzine).
  • The count for Best Fan Artist had the second lowest number of rounds of any category (36, ahead of 31 for Best Fanzine, behind 43 for Best Semiprozine).
  • The votes cast for the top 16 nominees were 51, 47, 47, 39, 30, 28, 25, 24, 24, 19, 15, 12, 12, 10, 8 and 6.

(5) WFC 2019 ROOMS. This year’s World Fantasy Con committee reminded everyone time is fleeting – click here for room reservations.

As a reminder, the World Fantasy Convention 2019 hotel discount block closes on September 30! You can reserve a hotel room at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel for $149 (plus taxes & fees) by visiting our Venue page below, and clicking on the “Book Your Room Now” rate.

(6) HUGO LOSERS PARTY. Beyond the File 770 comments section, there have been trenchant responses to George R.R. Martin’s post about the party.

Alex Acks writes, “I didn’t feel personally belittled until this moment: George’s Hugo Losers Party explanation”.

There are a few things in particular I’d like to respond to in George’s epic non-apology.

I do not know that anything I can say will appease those who did not get into the party… but I can at least explain what happened, and why.

We’re writers. Words and word choice matter, and we’re not going to pretend otherwise. I do not need to be appeased like a tantrummy child, and I don’t appreciate the implication. I wanted an apology for those of us left out in the cold.

I actually do appreciate the explanation of the communication issues, of how things got so messy. The party is a large undertaking. It’s also George’s party, and as I have stated before, he can invite who he bloody well pleases. I also do appreciate this:

We knew the capacity of the floor we were renting well in advance, and worried whether the 450 limit would be a problem for us.   The possibility was there, we all saw that.    But there was no easy answer, so in the end we decided to go ahead as planned in the hopes that things would work out.   The final decision was mine.   It was the wrong decision.

Which is then rather deflated by:

A number of the louder Twitterers have stated SOMETIMES IN SCREAMING CAPS that it is simplicity itself to calculate the number of attendees at a party.   That makes me suspect that none of them have ever organized one, at least not one as big as the Hugo Losers Party.

Feel free to name me if you have a problem with me. I certainly used screaming caps because I was, I would hope understandably, upset…

Renay, part of the team that creates Lady Business, this year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner, took issue with the entire post, of course, especially objecting to this phrase:

Also, whereas in the past categories like fanzine and semiprozines only had one editor, and therefore one nominee (Andy Porter for ALGOL, DIck Geis for ALIEN CRITIC, Charlie Brown for LOCUS, Mike Glyer for FILE 770, etc.), now most of them seem to be edited by four, five, or seven people, all of whom expect rockets and nominee invitations.

Thread stars here.

Alexandra Erin makes extensive comments beginning here.

Kat Tanaka Okopnik, who experienced the inconvenience of waiting to get into the party, shared observations on Facebook.

We (waiting outside) had no idea the buses weren’t supplied by GRRM. It added to the consternation.

It was raining intermittently, the buses had left, and there as no shelter and no seating. Most of us were willing to stand, although it was cold and most of us were not prepared for standing outside — femme party clothes don’t prioritize weatherproofness. We asked for seats for people who needed not to be standing.

…I’m writing this account in hopes of adding to the aggregate narrative about the night, and with the expectation that having more facts and viewpoints available affects the way someone might think of the events and choices that lead to them. GRRM’s generosity is legendary, but it’s true that we shouldn’t expect it to be bottomless. I thank him for both his hospitality and for the accounting he has shared with us giving insight into his planning process.

Lastly, someone slipped a joke onto the internet!

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree wth that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. (Died 1950.)
  • Born September 1, 1936 Gene Colan. He co-created with Stan Lee the Falcon, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics. He created Carol Danvers, who would become Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, and was featured in Captain Marvel. With Marv Wolfman, he created Blade. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 1, 1941 Elen Willard, 78. She’s best known for her portrayal of the character Ione Sykes in “The Grave” episode  of The Twilight Zone. You can rent it on iTunes or Amazon. She also shows up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘s “The Jingle Bells Affair”. 
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 77. I certainly think the Hugo Award winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners.
  • Born September 1, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 76. A noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician who born in Washington, D.C. He frequently is known by the nickname Filthy Pierre. He’s is the creator of the Voodoo message board system once used at cons such as Worldcon, WisCon and Arisia. 
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 68. He co-edited The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman which I highly recommend. He is a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and he’s member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies.
  • Born September 1, 1952 Brad Linaweaver. Mike’s remembrance post is here. (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 1, 1952 Timothy Zahn, 68. Apparently he’s known more these days for the Thrawn series of Star Wars novels.
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 55. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards. Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Dairies are amazing reading? 
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 52. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in Gormenghast and Harmony in Good Omens.

(8) BIRTHDAY PARTY IN PROGRESS. [Item by Standback.] Cassandra Khaw’s “Birthday Microfiction” has been exploding all over Twitter and it’s fantastic. You can see lots and lots and LOTS of people throwing their hat into the ring here.

Lots of great ones, large and small. My favorite so far is Marissa Lingen’s “hardest experience in a magic ollege major” thread; they’re on-point and fantastic.

Some excellent ones that could use some more prompts:

* A continuing story, @fromankyra:

* Strange dubbed TV, Laura Blackwell:

* Imaginary TV shows, Evelyn Chirson:

…and, I’m doing one too, if you want to hear how your themed birthday party is going to pan out.

It’s a lot of fun

(9) SPOOKY HISTORY. ‘Tis the season to remember who made it up — “Have You Ever Heard of a Halloween Tree?”

It can be speculated that the Halloween tree got its start from the 1972 fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. In the novel, eight boys are out trick-or-treating on Halloween night when they realize their friend Pipkin has been taken away. The trick-or-treaters find their way through time, wandering through Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Roman cultures, Celtic Druidism, the Notre Dame in Medieval Paris, and finally the Day of the Dead in Mexico. As the friends travel through time, they learn the origins of Halloween and in the end, the Halloween Tree, filled with jack-o-lanterns, serves as a spooky metaphor for all the different cultures and how they celebrate Halloween.

(10) HONK IF YOU LOVE GAMING. “A gaming company is releasing something called “Untitled Goose Game” and people are losing their honking minds”CNN has the story.

If you have ever wanted to be a “horrible goose” House House’s new video game Untitled Goose Game, may be for you.

The Australian gaming company released a honking new trailer for the game that has been in the works for three years and comes out on September 20.

And there are options. You can be a goose on your Nintendo Switch, Mac or PC and terrorize the citizens of a village.

(11) PRIORITIES. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid for August 30, 2019 talks about what it’s like to not win a Hugo, and what’s worse than losing —

That is an amazing set of winners! Especially delighted to see Zen Cho, Jeanette Ng, Becky Chambers and Mary Robinette Kowal recognized. That being said. there are times when Hugo voters can, intentionally or not, be cruel. Two of them hit this year.

Charles Payseur getting fewer votes than No Award is indefensible. Charles is a dynamo who, along with colleagues like Maria Haskins, has made short fiction reviewing viable and vital and in doing so has aided the entire field. The industry needs him, it doesn’t need to insult him. I hope next year that’s rectified.

Didi Chanoch‘s thread here covers the ground concerning Gardner Dozois’ posthumous Hugo brilliantly. All I’ll add is this: the voters didn’t recognize the 13 years E Catherine Tobler and Shimmer put into making the industry better. That’s a massive shame.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. According to Vox: “Brain-reading tech is coming. The law is not ready to protect us.”

Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year.

Other companies such as Kernel, Emotiv, and Neurosky are also working on brain tech. They say they’re building it for ethical purposes, like helping people with paralysis control their devices.

This might sound like science fiction, but it’s already begun to change people’s lives. Over the past dozen years, a number of paralyzed patients have received brain implants that allow them to move a computer cursor or control robotic arms. Implants that can read thoughts are still years away from commercial availability, but research in the field is moving faster than most people realize.

Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer.

(13) TODAY’S OTHER THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Ars Technica: “How the NFL—not the NSA—is impacting data gathering well beyond the gridiron”.

As guards were going so far as to check inside NFL fans’ wallets as part of routine security measures before a recent preseason game at Levi’s Stadium, a different form of surveillance was taking place on the inside of the San Francisco 49ers’ one-year-old, $1.3 billion home here in Silicon Valley.

We’re not talking about facial recognition devices, police body cams, or other security measures likely zeroing in on fans. Instead, employees from San Jose-based Zebra Technologies had recently finished scanning the NFL uniforms of the 49ers and of their opponents—the Dallas Cowboys. All of a sudden, an on-the-field de facto surveillance society was instantly created when Zebra techies activated nickel-sized Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) chips that were fastened inside players’ shoulder pads. Every movement of every player now could be monitored within an accuracy level of all but a few inches…

(14) THREE YEARS BEFORE 1984. Andrew Strombeck looks back at “The Year of the Werewolf” at LA Review of Books and asks what it tells us about our current moment.

Why all the lycanthropy? The werewolf was an apt figure for 1981, a moment when prominent commentators worried that many Americans had become too self-focused. Tom Wolfe had first advanced the argument in 1976, dubbing the 1970s the “me” decade, wherein Americans, under the lingering influence of the counterculture, were spending way too much time cultivating their bodies and minds. Christopher Lasch’s 1979 The Culture of Narcissism was so popular that Lasch was invited to the White House, where his ideas would influence Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “crisis of confidence” speech. Linking the OPEC embargo, Watergate, and a declining economy, Carter told Americans “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption,” turning away from the broad project of American productivity that characterized the postwar years. By “self-indulgence,” Carter was referring to the human potential movement, a combination of therapeutic techniques, meditation, swinging, and yoga. Lasch blamed these cultures for the baffling emotional, economic, and social violence that seemed everywhere: in rising divorce rates, widespread unemployment, and the destruction of the inner city.

(15) EAST OF JAVA. BBC looks back at the “Game of Thrones makers on that coffee cup blunder and season eight”.

The Game of Thrones creators said they would be “very far from the internet” when the final episode of the show aired, and it seems they were true to their word.

It’s been more than three months and David Benioff and DB Weiss have just given their first interview addressing Game of Thrones’ controversial eighth season.

While Japan’s Star Channel didn’t ask about the nearly 2 million people that have signed a petition calling for the final season to be re-made, they did bring up that coffee cup – the one left in a scene in front of Daenerys Targaryen.

David Benioff called it their “Persian rug”.

(16) DRAGON AWARDS TRIVIA. The ceremony ran opposite Doctor Who companion Catherine Tate’s appearance and 58 other items starting at 5:30 p.m. per the list in the online schedule.

[Thanks to Standback, Jeffrey Smith, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Contrarius, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]