Jordin Kare Passes Away

Jordin Kare (1956-2017), respected science panelist and filksinger, died July 19, having never recovered from surgery to replace his failing aortic valve.

An astrophysicist who worked on the Clementine lunar mapping mission and developed the Sailbeam propulsion concept, Kare received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from University of California, Berkeley in 1984.

He told a Smithsonian interviewer in 2014 —

I went into astrophysics because I was interested in the large-scale functions of the universe, but I went to MIT because the hero of Robert Heinlein’s novel Have Spacesuit, Will Travel went to MIT.

He typically described his career in convention bios this way —

After working for a decade at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on big lasers and little spacecraft, Jordin became a freelance rocket scientist (really — “Will design satellites for food”). He’s won two NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts fellowships. Since 2007, he’s hung up his rocket scientist hat and works as a staff inventor at Intellectual Ventures. In his spare time he’s lead engineer for LaserMotive…

He said that as a child, he went to a science camp and learned how to build a laser. When he got his laser to turn on, he had an epiphany and was absolutely sure that he wanted to work with lasers for the rest of his life.

Kare and Thomas Nugent of LaserMotive won $900,000 at the Space Elevator Games in 2009. Theirs was one of three competing teams which built prototypes designed to climb a one-kilometer cable held aloft by a helicopter. Kare explains how LaserMotive won in this video.

As a filksinger he published two albums, Fire in the Sky (1991) and Parody Violation: Jordin Kare Straight and Twisted (2000). His song “Fire in the Sky” received a Pegasus award for Best Classic Filksong in 2010 and has been quoted on national television by astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Kare also was an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, an important filksong collection, and later a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings.

Kare’s first convention was Boskone 1975. He and his future wife Mary Kay met for the first time at Denvention (1981) after she admired his writing in the Filk Foundation zine.

He was the brother of Susan Kare, designer of the fonts and icons of the original Apple Macintosh user interface.

He has been Tuckerized in several sf stories. An astrophysicist character with his name appears in two of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels, War of Honor and Torch of Freedom. Jordin and Mary Kay were Tuckerized in Callahan’s Touch by Spider Robinson.

Pixel Scroll 11/27 The Pixel Scrolled Back from Nothing at All

I’m off to Loscon for the day — so a very early Scroll.

(1) ARTISTS AND NEW WFA. Several tweets of interest about the call for submissions of World Fantasy Award designs.

The first three of nine tweets by John Picacio responding to discussion of his blog post “Artists Beware”.

(2) FAN CRITICS OF TOLKIEN. Robin Anne Reid’s “The question of Tolkien Criticism” answers Norbert Schürer’s “Tolkien Criticism Today” (LA Review of Books).

Fans can and do write critical commentary of Tolkien’s work, and not all critics/academics distance ourselves from being fans, a distancing stance that was perhaps once required to support the myth of academic objectivity. I suspect, given Schürer’s commentary on Tolkien’s work and style as well as his conclusion, that he would not identify as a fan. But his idea that the primary audience for Tolkien scholars is only fans (instead of other Tolkien scholars) strikes me as bizarre as does the idea that fan demands would affect what a critic would say:

Just as importantly, Tolkien should not be treated with kid gloves because he is a fan favorite with legions to be placated, but as the serious and major author he is (para.22).

Since the quote above is Schürer’s conclusion, he provides no evidence for this claim that critics treat Tolkien “with kid gloves” for fear of these legions of fans.

(3) REACHER. Andy Martin observed Lee Child writing the Jack Reacher novel Make Me from start to finish. Martin, a University of Cambridge lecturer, and the author have a dialog in about their experience in “The Professor on Lee Child’s Shoulder” at the New York  Times Sunday Review.

MARTIN I was sitting about two yards behind you while you tapped away. Trying to keep quiet. I could actually make out a few of the words. “Nothingness” I remember for some obscure reason. And “waterbed.” And then I kept asking questions. I couldn’t help myself. How? Why? What the…? Oh surely not! A lot of people thought I would destroy the book.

CHILD Here is the fundamental reality about the writing business. It’s lonely. You spend all your time writing and then wondering whether what you just wrote is any good. You gave me instant feedback. If I write a nicely balanced four-word sentence with good rhythm and cadence, most critics will skip right over it. You not only notice it, you go and write a couple of chapters about it. I liked the chance to discuss stuff that most people never think about. It’s weird and picayune, but obviously of burning interest to me.

MARTIN And the way you care about commas — almost Flaubertian! I tried to be a kind of white-coated detached observer. But every observer impinges on the thing he is observing. Which would be you in this case. And I noticed that everything around you gets into your texts. You are an opportunistic writer. For example, one day the maid was bumping around in the kitchen and in the next line you used the word “bucket.” Another time there was some construction work going on nearby and the next verb you used was “nail.” We go to a bookstore and suddenly there is Reacher, in a bookstore.

(4) ACCESSIBLE CONS. Rose Lemberg adopts a unified approach to “#accessiblecons and Geek Social Fallacies”.

“Geek Social Fallacies” are in themselves a fallacy. There are many people – not just the disabled -pushed away from fandom.

It’s not expensive to get a ramp in the US with pre-planning. Most hotels have them ready because they are ADA-compliant. If you invite a person in a wheelchair to speak at a con, and there is no ramp, you ostracized them. Own it.

It’s not because it’s too difficult, too expensive, it’s not because the fan did not ask nicely or loudly or politely enough. It’s because you did NOT accept them as they are. It’s because you ostracized them. Will you own it?

Year after year, I see defensiveness. I see the same arguments repeat. It’s too pricey. It’s the disabled person’s fault. Where are our Geek Social Fallacies when it comes to access? Can we as a community stop ostracizing disabled fans already?

(5) LON CHANEY. Not As A Stranger (1955) will air on Turner Classic Movies this Thursday December 3 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern; Lon Chaney cast as Job Marsh, father of Robert Mitchum, a moving portrayal that ranks among his very best.

(6) SF SCREENPLAYS. Nick Ransome, “Writing Science Fiction Screenplays” at Industrial Scripts.

Sci-Fi is the only genre, apart from the Western, still to resist the post-modern impulse. This could be due to the fact that Sci-Fi is not a genre at all, but the actual reason that Sci-Fi so completely resists the post-modern relativity of time and meaning is because that is what it was always about in the first place. There are no realities or meanings more relative than those revealed by Science Fiction.

In its purest form, the Sci-Fi narrative presents a polarity of moral choices and asks the most difficult of existential questions. This polarity is encapsulated by the utopian (ordered, no conflict, boring) and the dystopian (messy, intriguing, human).

LOGAN’S RUN is the best example in terms of story theory because although the action begins in a utopia, we soon realise that in fact we are in a dystopian nightmare (the Act One reversal). Films like BRAZIL, DARK CITY and THE MATRIX may start with a semblance of reality (the world as you just about know it) but then fairly swiftly make us aware that we are actually in a version of hell (or rather an allegory of the world as it really is).

(7) CIXIN LIU. A Cixin Liu interview about “The future of Chinese sci-fi” at Global Times was posted August 30, however, I believe this is the first time it’s been linked here.

GT: Some Chinese fans have said they want to band together to vote on the World Science Fiction website next year. What’s your opinion on this? Liu: That’s the best way to destroy The Three-Body Trilogy. And not just this sci-fi work, but also the reputation of Chinese sci-fi fans. The entire number of voters for the Hugo Awards is only around 5,000. That means it is easily influenced by malicious voting. Organizing 2,000 people to each spend $14 is not hard, but I am strongly against such misbehavior. If that really does happen, I will follow the example of Marko Kloos, who withdrew from the shortlist after discovering the “Rabid Puppies” had asked voters to support him.

GT: Many fans believe that even if The Three-Body Problem had benefited from the “puppies,” it still was deserving of a Hugo Award. Do you agree? Liu: Deserving is one thing, getting the award is another thing. Many votes went to The Three-Body Problem after Marko Kloos withdrew. That’s something I didn’t want to see. But The Three-Body Problem still would have had a chance to win by a slim margin of a few votes [without the “puppies”]. After the awards, some critics used this – the support right-wing organizations like the “puppies” gave The Three-Body Problem – as an excuse to criticize the win. That frustrated me. The “puppies” severely harmed the credibility of the Hugo Awards. I feel both happy and “unfortunate” to have won this year. The second volume was translated by an American translator, while the first and third were translated by Liu Yukun (Ken Liu). Most Chinese readers think the second and the third books are better than the first, but American readers won’t necessarily feel the same way. So I’m not sure about the Hugo Awards next year. I’m just going to take things in stride.

GT: It’s not easy for foreign literature to break into the English language market. What do you think of Liu Yukun’s translation? Liu: Although only my name is on the trophy, it actually belongs to both myself and Liu Yukun. He gets half the credit. He has a profound mastery of both Oriental and Western literature. He is important to me and Chinese sci-fi. He has also introduced books from other countries to the West. A Japanese author once told me that the quality of Japanese sci-fi is much better than China’s, but its influence in the US is much weaker. That’s because they lack a bridge like Liu Yukun.

(8) RETRO COLLECTION. Bradley W. Schenck is pleased with the latest use of his Pulp-O-Mizer.

I ran across a post at File770.com featuring the third volume of a collection of stories eligible for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards at next year’s Worldcon. The collection is an ongoing project by File770 user von Dimpleheimer.

Since the third volume is a big batch of stories by Henry Kuttner and Ray Cummings I followed the link and grabbed a copy, only to discover that von Dimpleheimer had made the eBook cover with my very own Pulp-O-Mizer. This put a smile all over my face. Like, actually, all over my face.

So I went back and downloaded the first two volumes and, sure enough, they had also been Pulp-O-Mized. This may be my very favorite use of the Pulp-O-Mizer to date.

(9) TEASER. A new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser was posted on Thanksgiving. I’m leery of viewing these TV spots because I’m already sold on the movie and don’t want to dilute the experience of watching it. YMMV.

The minute-long teaser, dubbed “All The Way,” debuted on Facebook, but will also appear as a TV spot. IT finds Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke character telling Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, “Even you have never faced such a test.”

[Thanks to Francis Hamit, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jonathan Edelstein.]