Pixel Scroll 8/12/18 Let My Pixels Go

(1) NINE WORLDS. London’s Nine Worlds wrapped today, and the leadership has announced plans to move on:

Nine Worlds is beginning a process of reconstitution. This means that the current ownership will be dissolved, and the assets, liabilities and necessary data transferred to a new entity. The purpose of this is to a) ensure that its continued existence is sustainable and rewarding for those involved in it, and b) allow me (Dan) and the other shareholders to step away from the company and our responsibilities to it….

Why is this happening, and why now?

The current organising model is not sustainable for those on the organising side of it. A lot of people gain a lot from the event, but certain roles reliably cause harm to the people performing them or exploit them, and there’s a treadmill effect that leads to organisers carrying on until they burn out and / or do something that can’t be reconciled with continued involvement. I include myself in that: I’ve been working without choice and without pay for over two years now.

Additionally, the mix of cultures and people involved has embedded tensions that may benefit from a more concretely agreed purpose and identity. This has been causing issues from the event’s beginning, and while the intent to create a big platform that still kept high expectations of behaviour and support was positive, I’m not sure that the event will be able to meet a standard that’s acceptable to all those who attend and take part in organising, without being clearer who it’s for, what it stands for, and what people should expect, and letting people choose whether to engage in that knowledge.

And finally, I’ve invested a huge amount of time, money and my heart in Nine Worlds, but I’ve done so as a job, often working all the time for months at a time. My ’employer’ hasn’t paid me in years and imposes working conditions that would be illegal in any volunteering or employment context, and I’ve been wanting to move on for some time.

The reason I’m doing it right now is that I couldn’t do it two years ago, as an attempt to change the organisation in a different way three years ago failed hard, and necessitated an intervening two years of steady steering.

2016 put Nine Worlds Ltd far enough in debt that I couldn’t guarantee the end result of any process to reconstitute. We were reliant on future sales to cover the running cost of the current convention, and failure to transition (or attempting to close down) would result in the business failing and being unable to repay the future event sales to ticket holders.

I now have enough money to cover the shortfall without opening future ticket sales, and the event’s financial position has also improved, so I can start this process without trying to sell tickets for an undetermined event with unknown leadership to cover the gap.

(2) SPIDER TRACKS. Worldcon 76 is running a travel blog about one of the guests of honor — “The Worldcon 76 – Bound Peregrinations of Spider Robinson.” But the first entry sounds pretty disturbing.

Day 1: Victoria to Port Angeles

The trip began with a 4 AM call.

“Steph. I don’t think I’m gonna make it”

The Worldcon 76 Guest of Honour was white as a sheet and barely able to stand. It was my job to get him from Canada to San Jose in one piece and it was looking like the trip was going to be over before it began.

After six hours in the emergency room, we got the all clear and Spider finally got some needed sleep. Luckily so did I.

The spirit of Fandom and SF must have been watching over us, because when he woke up he was his old self and willing to try to make the trip after all. (I on the other hand was about ready to pass out from stress and worry).

(3) MCMOVIE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “‘Mac and Me’ at 30: ‘Ronald McDonald’ remembers his infamous 1988 movie” notes that this is the 30th anniversary of Mac and Me, a cheesy ripoff of E.T. in which Ronald MacDonald teams up with alien “MAC” (or “Mysterious Alien Creature”.)  Squire Fridell, who played Ronald MacDonald at the time, tells stories about the production and wishes that the Razzies had mailed him his award for Worst New Actor.  Paul Rudd has a long-running gag on Conan where he promises an “exclusive new clip” from whatever movie he is promoting and then shows something from Mac and Me.

The trailer turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch, and not just because it made the movie look halfway entertaining. While Ronald presents himself as an equal co-star with the titular bug-eyed alien, his actual role in the Stewart Raffill-directed movie is little more than a glorified cameo.

 

(4) ASK THE PRIMATES. BBC profiles “Primate speech: How some species are ‘wired’ for talk” — since we don’t have soft tissues from our own ancestors, looking at evolution of speech by studying vocalization in existing species.

A new study has compared different primate species’ brains.

It revealed that primates with wider “vocal repertoires” had more of their brain dedicated to controlling their vocal apparatus.

That suggests that our own speaking skills may have evolved as our brains gradually rewired to control that apparatus, rather than purely because we’re smarter than non-human apes.

Humans and other primates have very similar vocal anatomy – in terms of their tongues and larynx. That’s the physical machinery in the throat which allows us to turn air into sound.

So, as lead researcher Dr Jacob Dunn from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge explained, it remains a mystery that only human primates can actually talk.

(5) SOMEHOW STILL HERE. In “Coral reefs ‘weathered dinosaur extinction'”, new studies say that corals go back 160Myrs, not just 60.

Corals may have teamed up with the microscopic algae which live inside them as much as 160 million years ago, according to new research.

The two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they need each other to survive.

But this partnership was previously thought to have developed about 60 million years ago.

The new findings suggest that reef algae may have weathered significant environmental changes over time.

This includes the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.

Algae’s resilience to temperature changes has been of concern to scientists recently, as warming events on the Great Barrier Reef have seen the coral “bleached” of its algae.

(6) TALK TO THE ANIMALS. How hot was it, Johnny? “Cows allowed to visit Swedish nudist beaches in heatwave”.

The government in southern Sweden have granted permission for cows to visit nudist beaches during the prolonged summer heatwave, despite complaints from locals, it’s reported.

According to The Local news website, nudists have been complaining to officials in provincial Smaland about livestock visiting their beaches, saying that their presence is “unhygienic and could pose a health risk”.

It says the roasting summer heat affecting much of continental Europe has led to drought throughout the country, and has meant that farmers have been struggling to feed their animals.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 12, 1939The Wizard of Oz receives its world premiere in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on this day.
  • August 12, 1941 – Premiering this day, Dr.  Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Spencer Tracy.
  • August 12, 1943 – Universal’s Phantom of the Opera debuts. At one point in pre-production it was planned for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to star.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 12, 1881. Cecil B. DeMille. Yes he did some genre work as Producer: When Worlds Collide, The Ghost Breaker (a silent horror film now lost) and the 1953 War Of The Worlds which he’s not credited for as Executive Producer.
  • Born August 12 — William Goldman, 87. Writer and / or screenwriter of The Princess Bride, The Stepford WivesMemoirs of an Invisible Man, Dreamcatcher (horror film) and a short video based on The Princess Bride with apparently none of the original cast.
  • Born August 12 — Sam J. Jones, 64. Flash Gordon in the 1980 film of that name, Krebb in the later Flash Gordon series.
  • Born August 12 — Bruce Greenwood, 62. Lead in the Nowhere Man series, the Sleepwalkers series, I, Robot, voice work in animated Class of the Titans series, Christopher Pike in Star Trek and voices Batman in Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Young Justice. Not the same Batman mind you
  • Born August 12 — Claudia Christian, 53. Babylon 5 of course, and genre roles also in the possibly forthcoming Space Diner Tales in which the year is 2075 and an alien race is set on conquering Earth, the Upworld detective series complete with a talking gnome, Space Rangers, Relic Hunter and Starhyke, a truly awful sounding series.

(9) THE ICING ON THE CAKE.

(10) NOTCONJOSE II. George R.R. Martin will be there: “Worldcon Time!”

I have cut way down on the number of cons I attend, due to the press of work, but there’s no way I’d miss a worldcon, by any name.   I’ve only missed one in the last thirty years.   Dragoncon and San Diego Comicon and GenCon and many other cons are now much bigger, but worldcon remains the original, and the best, the heart of the fannish community.   Worldcon is like a family reunion.   And yes, like any large family, we have our share of drunken uncles, loony cousins, and snot-nosed kids… but still, family is family.   I’ll be there for the whole con.  I hope to see many of you in SanJose.  Worldcon is great time for getting together with old friends and making new ones.

(11) JUST ONE THING MISSING. Andrea discusses “Nexhuman by Francesco Verso” at Little Red Reviewer.

#sorrynotsorry, I’m going to give you a spoiler right out of the gate:

Nexhuman will offer you enough ideas and discussion topics and thought experiments to keep you busy for the next ten years. In fact, an entire Convention programming track could be built just around the questions and ideas in this book.

What Nexhuman does not offer is concrete answers to any of the questions that are brought up.

(12) FRESH OFF THE 1963 NEWSSTANDS. Galactic Journey’s John Boston finds a little gold-dust among the grit in the new issue of Amazing: “[August 12, 1963] WET BLANKET (the September 1963 Amazing)”.

But the issue opens with Poul Anderson’s Homo Aquaticus, illustrated on the cover by a swimmer with a menacing look and a more menacing trident, next to a nicely-rendered fish, in one of artist Lloyd Birmingham’s better moments.  This is one of Anderson’s atmospheric stories, its mood dominated by Anglo-Saxon monosyllables.  No, not those—I mean fate, guilt, doom, that sort of thing.  The story’s tone is set in the first paragraph, in which the protagonist “thought he heard the distant blowing of a horn.  It would begin low, with a pulse that quickened as the notes waxed, until the snarl broke in a brazen scream and sank sobbing away.”

This is rationalized as the wind in the cliffs, but we know better.  The good (space)ship Golden Flyer and its crew have been sentenced to roam the galactic hinterlands after some of their number betrayed other ships of the Kith, a starfaring culture separated from planetary cultures by relativistic time dilation.  Right now they’re looking at what used to be a colony planet, but all they see is ruins, until their encounter with the colony’s descendants, as given away by the title.  In the end, doom and fate are tempered with rationality and mercy.  Three stars, but towards the top of Anderson’s middling range.

(13) LECKIE LIKES THESE. Ann Leckie recommends three books in “Some things I’ve read recently” beginning with —

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Look, you should just read this. Rivers is nominated for the Campbell (Not a Hugo) this year on the strength of this book. It would have been an entirely worthy Best Novel finalist, quite frankly. I was late to it partly because I have lots of things to read and very little time to do it in, and also because I was aware that it would be a difficult read–as in, full of violence and death and heartbreak. That’s all true. This is a fabulous book.

(14) A CONVERT. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds says he now understands what the Stephenson hype was about: “Philoso-monks Save Some Worlds: Anathem by Neal Stephenson”.

A few times while reading this book, I tried to explain the basic premise to friends. The best I could do is something like this: weird monks on an alien planet or maybe another dimension talk about philosophy, science, and math. This does not in any way do it justice, of course, but it’s really hard to explain this novel.

Of course, for hard core Stephenson fans, the name on the cover is enough. And for philosophers such as myself, those weird alien philosophical monks are irresistible (which is why this novel made a lot of the lists of philosophers’ picks for best philosophical SF compiled by Eric Schwitzgebel). I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some other lovers of this book who sometimes dream about a life as a monastic entirely dedicated to intellectual pursuits, or who maybe just liked Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Others who might love this: people who love immersive world building and massive tomes that come with with a glossary (no maps here, but there are a few calcas – explanatory appendices for those who need even more nerdish detail).  As I am at least an occasional member of all of the above groups, my love for this book is present in all nearby possible worlds.

(15) SAVED. Much truth in this.

(16) BATWOMAN LEAVES TWITTER. Yahoo! Lifestyle reports “Ruby Rose Apparently Left Twitter Following Harassment over Her “Batwoman” Role”.

Ruby Rose has apparently removed her Twitter account after continued social media harassment that centered on her upcoming role as Batwoman.

As noted by SyFy, the Orange is the New Black star’s absence from Twitter was spotted by fans on August 11. Ruby also appeared to allude to a potential leave of the platform on Friday, August 10, tweeting: “Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be Batwoman’ come from — has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change.” Her account appears to have been removed soon after the tweet was made.

Ruby’s Instagram remains active, but SyFy reports that she seems to have limited what comments appear. Her last Instagram post was shared on August 10.

(17) DIOP TURNS OFF COMMENTING. Another actress facing toxic social media: “‘Titans’ Star Anna Diop Disables Instagram Comments”ComicBook.com has the story.

The first trailer for Titans brought its cast into the spotlight this week, and it looks like that has had some major effects.

Anna Diop, who is set to play Koriand’r/Starfire on the DC Universe series, recently disabled comments on the vast majority of her Instagram posts. Her Instagram, which you can check out here, features only six photos that have been posted since May 11th. The latest post, where Diop announces that she has a role in Jordan Peele’s Us, is the only one that currently allows comments.

While it’s unknown exactly why Diop essentially cleaned house on her Instagram, some have speculated that it is due to the negative backlash from the first Titans trailer. The trailer, which debuted on Thursday, features several brief glimpses of Starfire using her powers, which have appeared to only continue the racist and sexist remarks surrounding Diop’s casting.

Earlier this year, a series of leaked set photos provided the first look at Diop and her co-stars in costume, which earned backlash for not being “comic accurate”. At the time, Diop actually used Instagram to fire back at the negativity, posting a passionate response to her followers.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The New York Public Library’s Collections of Weird Objects on Vimeo, The New Yorker shows viewers some weird things that have ended up in the library’s collections, including a paw from one of Charles Dickens’s cats!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Karl-Johan Norén, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/18 I Should’ve Never Rolled Those Hypercubical Dice

(1) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. John Picacio tells how Constellation 9 helped him hit the Assistance Fund’s $15,000 goal.

Picacio gave a play-by-play on his blog:

I was the Artist Guest of Honor at Constellation 9 in Lincoln, Nebraska this past weekend. It’s a small sf/f convention — the kind that pulls a modest 350-person attendance and serves a ‘big tent’ approach to fandom, celebrating art, books, films, TV, anime, gaming, cosplay and more. However, in all of my years of attending conventions, I’ve never seen a show with bigger heart. How big are we talking here?

Big enough to take The Mexicanx Initiative‘s $4333 remaining distance toward its $15,000 Assistance Fund goal and CRUSH IT in a single, unrelenting, hellacious Saturday Night Charity Auction.

That’s right.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED for The Mexicanx Initiative’s Assistance Fund — we reached our $15,000 goal this past Saturday night, thanks to everyone who gave in recent weeks and finished off by the incredible sf/f fandom of Constellation Nebraska, who believe in an American dream where all cultures are represented and welcomed. Shoutouts to Nanci H., Sam S., Nate W., Theron, Brian H., and the greatness of Dylan N. of NebrasKon (pictured upper right), who offered to shave his head AND his beard in order to raise money for The Initiative, generating a thunderous roar from the approving mob, reportedly causing onlookers to pass out. It was an epic night, hosted by John Pershing and Richard Graham, and by the end of the three-hour fever dream, Constellation Nebraska generated a whopping, record-setting $4,444, which brought the Mexicanx Initiative’s Assistance Fund total to $15,121!

And Nebraska wasn’t done — on Sunday, more contributions arrived, bringing The Mexicanx Initiative’s Assistance Fund total to $15,304.19 — $4,627.19 of that coming from the hearts, souls, and hairlines of the legendary Nebraskan people. Every dollar of that will benefit the 50 Mexicanx all-star pros and fans attending Worldcon 76 this summer.

(2) LAMBDA VISIONARY AND TRUSTEE AWARDS. Lambda Literary announced the winners today.

Lambda Literary, the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature, is pleased to announce that Edmund White will receive Lambda’s Visionary Award and Roxane Gay will receive the Trustee Award at the 30th Annual Lambda Literary Awards (“Lammys”).

White and Gay will be honored along with the winning authors of 23 separate LGBTQ literary categories determined by over 65 judges. The Lammys bring together over 500 attendees, sponsors, and celebrities to celebrate excellence in LGBTQ publishing, making it the most glamorous and prestigious LGBTQ literary event in the world.

The awards will be hosted by Kate Clinton on Monday, June 4 in New York City

[Via Locus Online.]

(3) TED TABLE TALK. The Periodic Videos team, using the TED-Ed platform, has created a video lesson about every single element on the periodic table. (And with no help from Tom Lehrer.)

Take your old pal Beryllium, for example —

(4) POUL’S PRONUNCIATION LESSON. John Hertz remembers –

I believe it was while Poul Anderson was a Guest of Honor at Lunacon that he told an eager group “I’ll teach you all how to pronounce my name.” We bated our breath. He said, “AN-der-son.”

(5) BROUGHT TO YOU BY. James Davis Nicoll reaches names that start with the letter K in “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part V”.

Lee Killough first appeared under the Del Rey imprint. I suspect editors Lester and Judy-Lynn may have been searching for authors like Larry Niven at the time. Yes, there’s a faint resemblance, but Killough has greater talent than Niven for crafting memorable characters. I quite liked her re-contact novel A Voice Out of Ramah, which is out of print, and her collection Aventine, which is also out of print. The Killough novel that first caught my eye was 1979’s The Doppelgänger Gambit, an engaging police procedural that followed a desperate killer’s attempts to evade a panopticon state. Doppelgänger, happily, is available in a new edition, which sadly lacks the eye-catching Michael Herring cover of the original edition³, but which is definitely worth your time.

(6) STAR WARS AND OTHERS. In 2016, Sarah Ellison, writing for Vanity Fair, profiled Kathleen Kennedy: “Meet the Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood”.

In 2012, after more than three decades producing hits such as E.T., Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List, Kathleen Kennedy was handpicked by George Lucas to head Lucasfilm. Now, with the smash success of The Force Awakens behind her, Kennedy sits down with Sarah Ellison to talk about her mentors, her sense of equality, and her vision for the Star Wars franchise.

(7) GAMING NEWSLETTER. James Davis Nicoll is giving this a signal boost: “More Seats at the Table: a newsletter featuring awesome games by underloved designers”

We’re so pleased to be able to announce More Seats at the Table – an email newsletter designed to highlight games made by designers and creators who don’t fit neatly into the gender binary, femmes, and women.

More Seats at the Table came about as a result of a conversation between Kira Magrann and Anna Kreider about the problem of games by and about not-cismen being perceived as only for not-cismen – and they decided a good way to address this challenge would be an email newsletter highlighting the work of marginalized designers. To that end, they enlisted the organizational aid of Misha Bushyager of New Agenda Publishing and Kimberley Lam.

But we don’t just want this email list to be subscribed to by marginalized designers. Cismen, we’d very much like you to subscribe, and if you find work that excites you – then we hope you’ll consider either buying or using your platform to signal boost work by marginalized designers that you find exciting!

If you’d like to subscribe to the email list, please fill out our sign-up here. Our first issue will be sent out this Friday, April 27th!

“Cismen” sounds like something Flash Gordon fought, not a way I’d describe myself.

(8) NANCY. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna says that Olivia Jaimes, after taking over Nancy from Guy Gilchrist on April 9, has caused the hits on this ancient strip on GoComics to 5,000  per dayto 390,000 as Nancy and Sluggo now encounter earbuds, social media, and Snapchat: “How the new ‘Nancy’ creator is handling divided fans and sudden fame”.

“Olivia must be channeling her inner Bushmiller,” wrote one positive commenter on the syndicate’s website, referring to longtime “Nancy” creator Ernie Bushmiller, around whom a cult of top comics professionals has formed. Another commenter noted how Jaimes nods to the comic’s tradition even while including modern touches, writing: “It is refreshing to see a return to its original style and humor.” And wrote another: “Nancy Goes Millennial.”

Others have not been as pleased. One commenter wrote on April 16: “This is ridiculous. You’d never catch Ernie Bushmiller doing a joke about Snap Chat. Bring back, Ernie!” And a reader expressed to The Washington Post, “Since the characters have not aged in 85 years I don’t think it’s necessary to change them now.”

Some friend of mine used to revere Nancy – was that you, Penguin Dave Feldman?

(9) VENOM. Venom Official Trailer:

(10) ABOUT THOSE TROLLS. J.K Rowling says this —

(11) DON’T GET PURGED. Amanda S. Green suggests this solution to those who are going to follow Amazon’s rules about reviews:

However, a number of those who claim to be innocent victims of Amazon purges really aren’t. Oh, they might not have set out to violate Amazon’s ToS but they did. Every time an author says, “If you review my book, I’ll review yours,” they violate the ToS. Every time someone receives a free book and gives a review without also noting they received the book without buying it, they violate the ToS.

So how do we get around this? I want to be able to review books my friends write and I know they want to review mine. But we have hesitated because we don’t want to violate the ToS — or get caught up in the latest ‘bot review even though we didn’t trade reviews.

The answer is simple: review the book on your blog. Link your blog to Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms. But don’t review it on Amazon. Yes, there are negatives (mainly, by not reviewing it on Amazon, the author doesn’t get a review that counts to that magic number that starts the “if you bought this, you might enjoy that” sort of recommendation). However, a number of readers really don’t read Amazon reviews. They might look at the number of reviews a book has, or at least the overall number of stars, but they don’t read the reviews.

(12) STAN LEE. Here’s something else that probably won’t make it into Stan Lee’s biography.

A massage therapist says Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fondled himself and inappropriately grabbed her during arranged massages at a Chicago hotel in 2017, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County circuit court.

The massage therapist, Maria Carballo, also filed a complaint with Chicago police on March 16, said her attorney, Alexandra Reed-Lopez. A Chicago police spokeswoman confirmed a complaint was filed that date against Lee, under his legal name, Stanley Lieber. The case is still under investigation, police said.

The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000, punitive damages and attorney fees from Lee.

“He is a high-profile public figure and I think it’s a shakedown,” said Jonathan Freund, an attorney for Lee. “The guy is 95, I don’t think he would do that.”

…Freund said Lee “will defend his rights vigorously.”

(13) ROBOT HELPS GRANT A WISH. Through telepresence, “Robot helps Jack McLinden, 14, to be Everton mascot”.

Jack McLinden, who has multiple health conditions, experienced joining his heroes on the pitch before their game against Newcastle United on Monday.

Everton captain Phil Jagielka carried the robot, which fed panoramic live images and sound back to Jack’s tablet.

…The company has worked with UK charity WellChild to give Liverpool teenager Jack, who has much-reduced mobility, an unforgettable experience.

Jack needs oxygen 24 hours a day which means he can never attend a match at Goodison Park, even though he lives just under two miles away.

His mother Michelle Wignall said it was a “once in a lifetime experience” for her son.

(14) QUBITS. Popular Science peeks inside: “In photos: a rare glimpse inside the heart of a quantum computer”.

Qubits rely on many components. A wall of microwave generators create electromagnetic pulses that travel through a maze of coaxial cables and send the qubits—deep in the 5-foot-tall blue fridge pictured at the top of this article—into action. To create a climate colder than outer space, external pumps drive helium-3 refrigerant into copper tubing. As the helium circulates, it compresses, liquefies, and chills. It takes a day to hit the lowest low: 0.01 degrees Kelvin, or minus 459 degrees F.

(15) TIME TO FEUD. I’m Filmy brings you “Avengers: Infinity War Cast Play Family Feud.”

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

Karen Anderson (1932-2018)

Karen Anderson in 1965.

Karen Anderson, author and a master of all the fannish arts, died March 17. Her daughter, Astrid Bear, announced her passing on Facebook.

My mother, Karen Anderson [widow of Poul Anderson], died last night. It was a peaceful and unexpected passing — she died in her bed and was found by the Sunday visiting nurse…. Memorial gathering plans to be announced later, but in the meantime, raise a glass to the memory of a fine woman. If you are moved to make a donation, please consider the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund or the UCLA Medical School.

Born Karen Kruse in Kentucky in 1932, she married sf writer Poul Anderson in 1953. They moved to the Bay Area, where their daughter Astrid (now married to Greg Bear) was born in 1954. Poul died in 2001.

Karen and Poul collaborated on a number of stories over the years, and on the King of Ys series published in the 1980s. And she wrote poetry, including the first published science fiction haiku (in F&SF, July 1962).

Even more notably, Karen made many historic contributions to fannish culture.

She was the first person to intentionally use the term filk music in print. ZineWiki explains

In the 1950s, Karen Anderson spotted a typo in a fanzine while reading an essay by Lee Jacobs on folk music, where he had mistyped “folk” as “filk”. In her words, “Who ever heard of a filk? Since the essay appeared in an amateur publication circulated among science fiction fans, though, there was only one thing to do. Rather than waste a phrase like “filk song”, something must be created to which the name could be applied.” There had been songs written by science fiction fans since the 1940s, but Anderson’s new name for them caught on, and she is credited with naming “filk songs”.

Karen Kruse Anderson also was the first faned to publish a filksong, as Lee Gold documented:

Traveling yet further back in time, to the 26th SAPS distribution, Winter, 1953, on page #22 of Die Zeitschrift für Vollstandigen Unsinn #774 by Karen Kruse Anderson is…the first-known song published as a filk song [123k scan] – written (see the note in The Zed #780) by Poul Anderson.

And Karen, a rare beauty, shined as a costumer. She personified a familiar sf image in this array of “Warrior Women” photographed by George Young at the 1955 Worldcon. (She’s on the right.)

Warrior Women. 1955 Worldcon. Karen is on the right. Photo by George Young.

Later, she brought daughter Astrid into her presentations, as shown here in Ben Jason’s photo from the 1964 Worldcon.

Five years later at St. Louiscon, mother and daughter etched their names in masquerade history as “The Bat and the Bitten.”

Astrid and Karen Anderson as “The Bat and The Bitten,” 1969 Worldcon. Photo by Mike Resnick, used by permission.

Fanac.org relates the dramatic moment:

“The Bat and the Bitten” Astrid Anderson & Karen Anderson delivered a truly chilling performance as a vampire sires a new acolyte. Astrid is the victim in a white mini dress who transforms as the vampire envelops her in her huge black wings and secretly squirted Astrid with a homemade mixture of gelatin, red ink & yellow food coloring so that after the bite, Astrid opened her 14 foot white wings to reveal the blood that ran from her neck and down her dress to a horrified audience. It is still considered one of the best performances to this day and it was awarded both the Grand Prize & Judges’ Choice.

In 1988, costume fandom presented an award for lifetime achievement to Karen Anderson at the Worldcon, Nolacon II (New Orleans). This was the first such award, ever. It is a forerunner of the ICG Lifetime Achievement Award.

Karen had an avid interest in daily life throughout history and in different cultures, especially cooking as shaped by culture, available tools, and local or imported ingredients.

Her interest found a perfect outlet in the Society for Creative Anachronism, started in 1966, of which she, Poul, and Astrid were founding members. She remained active in the SCA for many years, once serving as “herald of the known world.” As late as 2010 she still officered a local organization as Baroness of the Angels.

Karen and Poul joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in 1967. She had earlier made her mark in LASFS history by appearing in the fannish film The Musquite Kid Rides Again (1960), based on a story from Lee Jacobs’ fanzine The Ballard Chronicles,  She moved back to the LA area after Poul died in 2001, and regularly attended club meetings for several years. She won the club’s Forry Award in 2010 for lifetime achievement in sf.

Karen was also a Sherlock Holmes fan, who co-founded a Holmes society with a couple of friends in 1959. The affinity continued all her life. She was made a member of the Baker Street Irregulars in 2000, receiving her investiture as Conan Doyle character Emilia Lucca.

Karen was an extraordinarily bright and talented person who made towering contributions to fandom and the sf field.

Pixel Scroll 3/11/16 Guardians of the Fallacy

(1) SF BEER. Poul Anderson used to set great store by Heineken beer. This billboard ad from the 1970s claims Mr. Spock did, too.

Spock-744x419

(2) SYFY PROTOTYPE. Deadline tell us “Cote de Pablo Poised To Star In Syfy Pilot ‘Prototype’”.

EXCLUSIVE: NCIS alumna Cote de Pablo is nearing a return to series television. I have learned that the fan favorite is in negotiations to play the female lead opposite Jack Davenport in Prototype, Syfy’s sci-fi thriller drama pilot written by Tony Basgallop (24: Live Another Day). It centers on three unlikely cohorts  — two of them played by de Pablo and Davenport — who inadvertently stumble upon an invention that challenges the very nature of quantum physics – a discovery which in turn puts their lives in grave danger.

De Pablo would play Laura Kale, a driven, extremely intelligent mother of two. Excited about a potentially world-changing machine being developed by herself and two partners, she is certain that she is on the brink of something history-making. Propelled by a shot at glory, she is not about to give up despite numerous setbacks.

(3) AUTOGRAPHED LENSMAN. Heritage Auctions is already taking bids for items in its “April 6 Rare Books Grand Format Auction”.  The chair J.K. Rowling sat in to write a couple of Harry Potter books is on the block. So is an autographed boxed set of the Fantasy Press edition of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series – they’re looking for an opening bid of $2,000.

Edward E. (“Doc”) Smith. The History of Civilization, including: Triplanetary, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensman, Children of the Lens. Reading: Fantasy Press, 1955. First edition, limited to seventy-five numbered sets, of which this is number twenty-four. Each volume signed by the author and volume one additionally warmly inscribed to Smith’s “friend and fellow-toiler in the vineyard of SF,” Ben J[—]. Six octavo volumes. Publisher’s special binding of quarter reddish-brown leather over brick red cloth-covered boards, spines lettered in gilt, in publisher’s original box. Books very nearly fine with only minimal rubbing to spine ends and light soiling. Box edges worn, some lid edges split with tape at corners. From the collection of Dr. Stuart David Schiff.

(4) ANOTHER REASON MCDEVITT ROCKS. Locus Online reports the International Astronomical Union has approved a proposal to name an asteroid after sf writer Jack McDevitt:

The asteroid, now known as “Jackmcdevitt,” is designated 328305, and was discovered in 2006 by astronomer Lawrence Wasserman at Kitt Peak observatory in Arizona.

(5) WHY BATMAN STINKS ON ICE. ScreenRant will happily tell you the “13 Worst Things About Batman & Robin”.

11. Bat Ice Skates

Again, in a continuation of the bizarre ‘60s Batman mythos, Joel Schumacher’s take on the Dynamic Duo is filled with a collection of oddly specific bat-gadgets. Considering that Batman had no idea that Mr. Freeze would turn out to be the big villain of the movie, it’s strange that he had already prepared a collection of ice-themed accessories, including a jet ski and special ice-themed costumes.

In their first run-in with Mr. Freeze, upon discovering that the floor has been frozen solid, Batman and Robin activate their “bat ice skates,” which appear out of the bottom of their boots with a click of the heels. The convenience of this gadget takes the silly accessories of Batman’s utility belt from the ‘60s show to a cinematic extreme, adding fuel to the fire of the joke that Batman’s true superpower is his magic utility belt which can produce anything the plot requires it to.

(6) GRAPHIC MARCH MADNESS. Comic Mix is getting ready to run webcomics brackets — “Announcing the 2016 Mix March Madness Webcomics Tournament”

Yes, it’s that time of year again, the time where bracketology reigns supreme and the cry around the nation is “Win or Go Home!” Last year’s Mix March Madness Webcomics Tournament was incredibly popular, and so we’re doing it all over again– and raising money for the Hero Initiative in the process!

We’re giving you a list of over 300 webcomics, and we want your votes . We’re taking the top 128 and putting them in a single elimination tournament where we whittle down the contestants down to one. The top 128 vote getters make it into the tournament, with the biggest getting top seeds. The voting ends Sunday, March 13 at 11:59 PM EDT, and brackets go up on Monday, March 14!

Simply check off the strips you want to see in the tournament below. If there are webcomics you don’t see, check “Other” at the end and include the strip name AND THE URL. We’ll add them to the main list periodically for higher visibility.

(7) FREE AUTOGRAPHS. The West Australian has a story on the Australian national convention — “Perth fandom unites for 41st Swancon”. It’s funny what you have to explain to people nowadays.

Beasley said Swancon welcomed the increase interest in fandom these nationally-run conventions bought but he hoped the local version could always retain its more intimate, community feel.

“You will most likely see our guests wandering around the hotel interacting with anyone who buys them a coffee,” he said.

“The membership fee covers everything contained in the convention and our guest signings are also free.”

(8) WILL BLOOM AGAIN. Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend series will get a second season.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 11, 1818 Frankenstein published.
  • March 11, 1971: George Lucas makes his feature debut with THX-1138.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 11, 1952 – Douglas Adams

(11) DYEING OUTSIDE. Cat Rambo’s “Pink Hair Manifesto” at Medium.

The first time I dyed it, I was about to head off to my first Wiscon?—?a large feminist science fiction convention held yearly in Madison, Wisconsin. As I’ve found the case at sf conventions since then, I wasn’t the only person there with an odd hair color; I glimpsed rainbows of pink, blue, and green. And I realized it was becoming. Complete strangers would lean over and whisper, “I like your hair,” including two flight attendants on the way home.

After the con the color faded, softer and softer, until finally, when I went to get a haircut, the hairdresser was cutting away dusty rose tips. I looked in the mirror and saw a middle-aged woman with a short, practical cut.

I bought a new kit on the way home and re-pinked my hair that afternoon….

That’s another reason why I dye it pink. People talk to me. There’s something about the color that draws them to ask about it or say that they like it. The only person I’ve ever found who disapproved outright was a relative’s girlfriend. She didn’t last. My hair color has.

But more than that, the pink forces me to talk to people as well. I’ve habitually toed the line between introvert and extrovert, depending on which Meyer Briggs results you look at, and I like the fact that the pink pushes me outside myself, makes me be socially brave in a way I’ve sometimes retreated from.

(12) RABID PUPPIES. Vox Day moves on to the novella category of his slate — Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novella.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novella category.

  • “Fear and Self-Loathing in Hollywood”, Nick Cole
  • “Penric’s Demon”, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • “Hyperspace Demons”, Jonathan Moeller
  • “The Builders”, Daniel Polansky
  • “Slow Bullets”, Alastair Reynolds

(13) HOW DEADPOOL BEGAN. Steve Fahnestalk’s latest “Second Looks” column at Amazing Stories includes two reviews — “Marvel’s Deadpool & Ant-Man and Some Words on Writing”.

And now we come to Deadpool. I was vaguely familiar with the character—I think I’d read a recent Spiderman with him in it (one of the ones after Miles Morales became Spiderman). I knew he was called “The Merc With The Mouth,” and that he apparently couldn’t be killed, but I knew little else about him. Now I know that he’s been around for—wait for it!—25 years! (Thanks, Wikipedia!) I also found out, courtesy of the Wiki, that he was played by Ryan Reynolds already in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and that he was the dude who had everyone’s powers including Cyclops’s, and whose head was cut off and destroyed the atomic cooling tower! Whoa! Looks like I needed a crash course! (So I got some fairly recent Deadpools, like Deadpool – Dracula’s Gauntlet and Deadpool’s Secret Wars [both 2015], and read up a bit.) And from what I can tell, by casting Ryan Reynolds in this movie, Marvel (or whomever did the casting) really, really nailed the character. He’s profane, obscene, funny, athletic, heroic and antiheroic, mouthy, sexy, and a whole lot more.

(14) HOW DEADPOOL SHOULD HAVE ENDED. Yes, the How It Should Have Ended team has fixed Deadpool for ya.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Glen Hauman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5 The Scrolls of His Face, The Pixels of His Mouth

Leia SW poster

(1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens character posters are out.

(2) The WTF Bad Science Fiction Covers took a detour to Canadian sci-fi and comics.

Batman and Robin fail to prevent yet another Mountie murder due to their fondness for midnight, off-piste jaunts.

(3) Speaking of the Dynamic Duo, Batmobile designer George Barris passed away this morning at the age of 89.

In the ’60s TV show “Batman,” the Batmobile was powered by atomic batteries, equipped with a radar scope and “bat beam,” and slowed by parachutes. The latter really worked — Barris was once pulled over on the Hollywood Freeway for using them.

For many years, Barris’ handiwork was all over the television screen. He created the Munsters Koach — a combination of three Ford Model T’s — for “The Munsters”; the surfboard-topped, flower-decaled Barris Boogaloo for “The Bugaloos”; and the convertible version of KITT from “Knight Rider,” among many.

(4) Kalimac researches a Worldcon tradition.

The San Jose Worldcon bid wants to crowdsource suggestions for Guests of Honor. It says that among “the traditional criteria for Worldcon Guest of Honor consideration” is “an established career, usually considered to be 30 years from entry into the field.”

And I wondered, how long has it been 30 years? In the early days, the SF field hadn’t been around very long, and because it was small, new names could easily make a big impact. I remembered that Robert Heinlein was GoH at the third Worldcon in 1941, only two years after he sold his first story. That would be highly unlikely to happen today, even for another Heinlein.

So I made a list of all the professional fiction writers who’ve been Worldcon GoH over the years. Just the authors, because the SF Encyclopedia is conscientious about listing first published stories, but it’s not so rigorous with the entry dates of artists or other categories of pros. Making a quick chart, I found that less than 30 years was the rule up until about 1970, and, that among authors, only Hugo Gernsback (1952, 41 years since his first published SF story, but he was really honored as an editor, and it was only 26 years since he’d founded Amazing), Murray Leinster (1963, 44 years), and Edmond Hamilton (1964, 38 years) exceeded it, though a few others came close.

Since 1970, under-30s have been less common, though for many years they still occurred frequently (Zelazny, 1974, 12 years; Le Guin, 1975, 13 years; Ellison, 1978, 22 years; Haldeman, 1990, 21 years; and some others). But since 2001, there have only been two authors with less than 25 years: Bujold in 2008 (23 years), and 2017’s Nalo Hopkinson (who will be 21 years at that point).

(4) Amy Sterling Casil’s engaging and substantial new post for Medium has a satirical title, but here’s what it’s really about —

This article is about 3 fantastic women artists whose work was sold or misidentified as painted by a man. This is only connected to Tim Burton in the sense his film Big Eyes about Margaret Keane (Medium readers may know the film as featuring Bond villain Christoph Waltz) introduced me to the concept that rather than my personal problem, I might just be one of the more recent members of a long line of women whose creative work had been literally misappropriated by men. As in “sold for profit under male names” like Frank Keane did to “Big Eyes” artist Margaret Keane until she fought back in court and won.

(5) Like anyone, Joe Vasicek sometimes bounces off books, and not necessarily the ones you’d predict (Brandon Sanderson!).

He discussed several examples in a post on One Thousand and One Parsecs“Books I haven’t been able to finish”.

The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman

On this I have to plead guilty of letting my own personal sentiments get in the way of enjoying the story. I read The Golden Compass and LOVED it… right up to the last five pages. I HATED the ending of that book—SO dissatisfying, as if the author had stuck out his tongue at me and said “neener neener neener! I’m not going to give you the ending you want—better read the next book!”

UGH. I hate that.

So I came at this book a little prejudiced. I read the first page with a judgmental eye, thinking “nope, no hook on the first page. Oh, and there’s an unnecessary adverb, and there’s a said bookism, and there’s a…” etc.

Still, I didn’t let that stop me from reading on, and after the first chapter, I was interested in the story. I just wasn’t… I don’t know, interested enough. The book stayed in my car, I got busy with other things, and eventually just dropped it.

(6) More people don’t bounce off Philip Pullman, whose epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials is going to be produced as a drama series for BBC One.

To be made in Wales, the series, which will be told across “many episodes and series” has been commissioned by Charlotte Moore, controller BBC One and Polly Hill, controller BBC Drama Commissioning, and will be produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema.

Hill said: “It is an honour to be bringing Philip Pullman’s extraordinary novels to BBC One. His Dark Materials is a stunning trilogy, and a drama event for young and old – a real family treat, that shows our commitment to original and ambitious storytelling.”

His Dark Materials consists of the Northern Lights, first published in 1995, which introduces Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. Lyra’s search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children and turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. In  second novel, The Subtle Knife, she is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds. As Lyra learns the truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny, the two young people are caught up in a war against celestial powers that ranges across many worlds and leads to a thrilling conclusion in the third novel, The Amber Spyglass.

(7) Mark Lawrence answers the question “Do author blogs matter? One million hits”

Very soon this blog of mine will pass 1,000,000 hits – it has 994,396 at the time of posting and averages around 1,400 hits a day.

I blog when I feel like it and generally don’t feel under pressure to come up with something to ‘fill the space’.

The high traffic author blogs tend to be political, championing the causes beloved of the more extreme left or right. I don’t go there. I’m more about curiosities of the genre, the business of writing, info graphics, and random shit.

I do get a lot of authors asking me whether blogging is ‘worth it’. Mostly they’re people who don’t want to blog, find it a chore to come up with regular posts, but worry that they’re somehow letting themselves down if they don’t – missing out on book sales that would otherwise be theirs.

So, is blogging ‘worth it’?

I tend to tell the authors who ask me this question that they can probably relax. If they enjoy blogging, go for it. It might help a little. But if they don’t enjoy it, just don’t. My feeling is that the difference between bestseller and getting pulped isn’t ever going to swing on whether you blogged.

(8) Kate Paulk ostentatiously pays no attention to Ancillary Felapton’s “An open letter to Kate Paulk” in “That Moment When” at Mad Genius Club.

Seriously, folks, when the best you can manage in so-called critique is to claim that something I wrote was poorly written (without evidence of my alleged poor writing – which means it’s probably a case of either “oooh, my feelz” or “I don’t get it, it must be horrible”) and then go on to repeat every single tactic I dissected with hardly any variations, you’re doing it wrong. You’re also kind of amusing, in a train-wreck kind of way.

I’m not going to bother dissecting this rather shallow bit of hurt feelings – I’d spend more time on it than it deserves and hand the so-called author more page views and it really isn’t worth that (yes, it. Since this particular author is using a handle that’s not obviously male or female, and is clearly so far in the non-binary-gender camp it’s through the other side or something, I can’t default to “he” or “she”. I’m writing in English, which leaves “it” as the sole option for the non-binary-gender sort.)

(9) Brad R. Torgersen wonders, could this be “The Year Without Politics?”

My Facebook friends have also noticed that I am dialed up extra-cranky about the cultural Chekist infestation that’s plaguing social media right now. I was prepared to launch into a lengthy tirade about the whole schizophrenic mess, but (irony of ironies) Bill Maher did it for me!

Now, nobody can accuse me of fondness for Maher; he’s far too much of a raging anti-theist. But I think he nailed it right between the eyes with his Halloween 2015 commentary. It really says something when a chap like Maher is going off on the Politically Correct. His point at the end is especially apt. It’s something I’ve been saying for awhile now: the cheap “virtue” of internet slacktivism, is no virtue at all. It’s just self-righteous no-effort self-huggies for people who don’t want to break a sweat, nor get their hands dirty. You want to make the world better? Get off the damned internet and go do something that takes work. Otherwise, you’re not helping anyone, or anything.

Which takes me to Sad Puppies — or, rather, the people who fought against Sad Puppies with every fiber of their being. Because when the Hugo awards went off-script, it was literally a catastrophe so terrible and great that the Puppy-kickers pulled out all the stops to challenge Lord Vox in the Ritual of Desecration.

(10) Kermit is in trouble with more than just Miss Piggy –  “’The Muppets’ Showrunner Exits ABC Series”.

Bob Kushell is exiting ABC’s “The Muppets” as showrunner, TheWrap has learned.

Kushell’s exit comes amid reports that the executive producer clashed with co-creator Bill Prady on the creative direction of the series. No official replacement showrunner has yet been named.

The news comes after the network gave the freshman comedy an additional three episode order last week, bringing the total number of episodes for the first season to 16. The show’s most recent outing scored a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49 and an average of 4.5 million viewers during its half-hour run.

(11) This Week In History

(12) In NASA news, “Researchers Catch Comet Lovejoy Giving Away Alcohol”.

Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

Poul Anderson would have enjoyed this discovery – and perhaps used it as an excuse for a sequel to his short story “A Bicycle Built For Brew”.

(13) Alastair Reynolds reviews ”Asimov’s April/May 2015 double issue” on Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon.

Unfortunately – for me, anyway – the lead story in this issue, “The New Mother” by Eugene Fischer, was one of those pieces I couldn’t finish. I did try. It’s an extremely lengthy account of the emergence of a strange new sexually transmitted pandemic that gives rise to diploid eggs, allowing for “virgin” births. It’s competently told – there’s nothing clumsy about it on a line by line or even page by page level – but the net result is, to my eyes, dull, diagrammatic storytelling, propped up by lengthy infodumps in the form of article excerpts. If you’ve ever wondered how the American medical system would respond to the kind of pandemic outlined in the story, it’s probably accurate enough in its imagined details, but despite two goes I couldn’t get more than a few dozen pages into it. I wasn’t engaged by the journalist protagonist, her situation, her travels, the dull-but-credible dialogue. The stuff I want from short science fiction – colour, pace, weirdness, estrangement, invention, language, mood … it’s all absent here. Sorry.

(14) Lis Carey’s review of “The New Mother” was rather more enthusiastic, though she also identifies a serious flaw (not quoted here).

I was totally caught up in it. This is in many ways a very American story, with the issues surrounding HCP  very tied up with American culture wars issues. That’s not a weakness, but it is a reason this story may be less accessible to non-Americans.

(15) Today In History

  • November 5, 1605 – Guy Fawkes is caught guarding a cache of explosives beneath the House of Lords, foiling the Gunpowder Plot. The date is set aside by Parliament for thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day comes to be celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. (The photo comes from an old issue of Tops.)

Tops 2

(16) Tammy Oler’s review of Ancillary Mercy at Slate, “Oh, the humanity”. SPOILER WARNING.

Central to Leckie’s trilogy is how important it is to feel a sense of control over one’s identity and how being recognized is a precondition for having power. These themes are not exclusive to one particular time or place, of course, but Leckie taps acutely into the feelings (and fears) that drive current American politics and movements for change. One of the chief pleasures of the trilogy is just how many wrongs Breq tries to make right and how committed she is to making incremental progress even when problems become fraught and complicated. Breq’s actions are underscored by her profound grief, anger, and shame that give way, even if just a little bit, to the solace and hope she finds in her crew and her makeshift family of A.I.s. The end of Ancillary Mercy is satisfying because it is so very un-Radchaai: diverse, messy, and honest. “In the end,” Breq realizes, “it’s only ever been one step, and then the next.”

(17) Famous Monsters’ Caroline Stephenson reviews Tamashii Nations’ samurai-inspired Ashigaru Stormtrooper.

(18) Today’s Scroll closes with this 30 for 30-style documentary remembering the magical season chronicled by Angels in the Outfield….

No one will ever forget the incredible run the 1994 California Angels made on the back of Mel Clark. It was a team in disarray, managed by former cop Roger Murtagh, beloved by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and starring Rust Cohle in centerfield. Despite the early season disaster, somehow, the team turned things around and went on to win the pennant.

ESPN’s 30 for 30 didn’t remember this improbable run in baseball history, probably because it’s from a movie, but College Humor did. The result is a five-minute mockumentary of pure perfection.

 

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, Will R., Hampus Eckerman, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Fandom’s Most Beloved Typo

Wordnik.com’s “Word of the Day” for May 25 is “filk” —

adj. (adj) About or inspired by science fiction, fantasy, horror, science, and/or subjects of interest to fans of speculative fiction; frequently, being a song whose lyrics have been altered to refer to science fiction; parodying.

The Wordnik post takes its definition from the Wikitionary entry for “filk”.

Unlike most developments in the history of popular culture, how the word “filk” got its start is precisely known. Lee Jacobs typoed the word “folk” in the title of his manuscript “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music” intended for distribution in a mailing of the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the early 1950s. While I’ve never seen the article and can’t say what the problem was, Wrai Ballard, SAPS’ official editor at the time, feared its bawdy content could get him into trouble with the Post Office under the Comstock Laws and he refused to send it out. Ballard nevertheless enjoyed the typo, as did the others he told about it. “Filk music” rapidly became part of the faannish jargon.

Thanks to Lee Gold, we even know that the first composition to designate itself a filksong was “Barbarous Allen”, lyrics attributed to Poul Anderson, in Karen Kruse Anderson’s SAPSzine Die Zeitschrift für Vollstandigen Unsinn #774 (1953).

[Thanks to Sam Long for the story.]

Disaster Tourism

Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland.

In these Phil Dick-ian times it’s a coin toss whether an idea will be imagined as an sf story before it really happens and gets reported by journalists.

Take “disaster tourism.” Just the other day MSNBC ran a report by a writer who took a tour of Chernobyl:

Even before the crisis at a Japanese nuclear plant broke out in March, interest in visiting Chernobyl was growing so much that the Ukrainian government started an initiative to bring in more visitors by streamlining procedures for signing up for the tours.

“We want to say ‘come and see for yourselves,'” Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Yershova told The Associated Press. Then she added a remark indicating that the meaning of Chernobyl is elusive even for those who live closely with it: “We want to dispel the myth that Chernobyl still remains dangerous for Ukraine and the world.”

But Chernobyl is in fact still a dangerous place, as the rules for visitors make clear. Don’t touch any structures or vegetation, don’t sit on the ground or even put your camera tripod there, don’t take any item out of the zone, don’t eat outdoors. Guides make sure the visitors understand that various spots in the zone are more contaminated than others and insist no one wander off the designated paths.

I was initially going to spin the story of “disaster sightseeing” tours to Chernobyl as more-science-fictional-than-science fiction. But doesn’t this precise combination of morbid curiosity and imagination drives a great many sf stories?

One example that comes to mind is Kage Baker’s “Company” story, “Son, Observe the Time,” set on the eve of the San Francisco Earthquake. Baker’s story involves much more than the quake – because a lot of smash and crash, without more, doesn’t add up to a story. And that fact is one of the ironic distinctions between fiction and reality. Loads of people want to visit real life scenes of wreckage and ruin, and no character development or plot resolution is needed.    

There are guided bus tours to New Orleans neighborhoods that were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Discover The World, a British tour operator, runs a “volcano hotline” and calls travellers as soon as a volcano erupts, offering them a trip to see it. Tourists left for Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland within 48 hours after the eruption began:

From a couple of miles away, we first catch sight of the crater, spewing fire into the darkening sky, and we stop to take photos. This is dramatic enough, but our guide motions at us to start up the snowmobiles again and we head closer. Suddenly, we crest a rise, the ice turns from white to ashen black, and the fiery crater is there before us, no more than 500m away. The sight is mesmerising, but oddly familiar from films and TV – you have to remind yourself this is for real. The sound is thrilling and unexpected though, a succession of low booms as the lava explodes up 100 metres into the air, then comes crashing to earth.

Where science fiction writers have the edge on travel agents is that they can send people to the edge of jeopardy in cosmic environments that can only be reached in the imagination, like Poul Anderson’s Flandry, stranded on the surface of a Jovian world and trying to imagine how to attract the attention of alien rescuers, or Niven’s Beowulf Schaeffer snared in the tidal pull of a black hole.

Edd Cartier Passes Away

Cartier illustration for Hoka story

Edd Cartier, who created some of the signature images from the Golden Age of Astounding Science Fiction, including the one above for Dickson and Anderson’s Hoka tales, died on Christmas Day at the age of 94. Robert Greenberger’s obituary for ComicMix reminds that Cartier not only was John W. Campbell’s favorite artist, he also did hundreds of illustrations for Street & Smith’s other magazines, such as The Shadow, Red Dragon and Super-Magician Comics.

Here is a link to a gallery of his art, including images collected and published as a 1950 calendar by Gnome Press:  http://www.scanraptor.com/hiper/ecartier2.htm

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

Where Real Writers Work

The desk and chair Charles Dickens used while writing Great Expectations sold for £433,250 at auction in early June. It is the original of the desk shown in Filde’s drawing known as “The Empty Chair” and upon it were written Dickens’ last works.

When I looked at “The Empty Chair” I immediately wondered: How did Dickens ever get any work done in such a neat room? Impossible. Someone must have cleaned it up before they let the artist in. I don’t know any writer who could even begin to work in such a sanitized environment.

Certainly Dickens’ contemporary Mark Twain didn’t. Go to the interactive map of Mark Twain’s House. Click on the Third Floor “Billiard Room” to see where Samuel Clemens did Mark Twain’s work. Even now that it’s a museum, the curators haven’t forgotten to spread around some clutter to simulate the great man at work. (While you’re there, click on the First Floor “Entrance Hall” and look at the three-story spiral staircase. Legend holds that whoever seeks to be a writer should touch the staircase’s mahogany railing. Now wipe the fingerprint off of your monitor.)

Thanks to Google, it’s easy to find lots of photos of science fiction writers’ offices to illustrate the same point. A collection of links appears after the jump.

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