Pixel Scroll 2/7/19 “What Are You In For?” “Littering.” And They All Moved Away From Me. “And Making A Nuisance.”

(1) TWO CIXIN LIU MOVIES BATTLE FOR TOP BOX OFFICE. A pair of films based on the work of Cixin Liu recorded the top box office grosses in mainland China over the Chinese New Year.

Popular Chinese director Ning Hao has seen his comedy fantasy film “Crazy Alien” gross more than $100 million at the mainland China box office after just two days on release during the Chinese New Year holiday period. It’s the highest two-day total for any film in the Middle Kingdom so far this year.

The milestone was passed at around 8 p.m. on Wednesday. By 10 p.m., the film’s accumulated gross had advanced to $101 million (RMB680 million), according to website China Box Office.

The film is about a zookeeper who finds an unusual animal and takes it home. There he discovers that the creature is in fact an extraterrestrial, but getting rid of it may be problematic.

China’s first homegrown sci-fi epic, The Wandering Earth, is continuing its upwards trajectory. After opening at No. 4 on Tuesday, the start of the Chinese New Year, it gained traction on Wednesday to move into the No. 2 spot, and today, it led the daily Middle Kingdom box office.

With an estimated additional RMB 342M ($50.7M) on Thursday, the increase from yesterday was about 33% for a local cume of RMB 800M ($118.6M). That still lags about $20M behind Crazy Alien‘s cume, though it should quickly make up the difference after Crazy Alien had led the first two days of the Lunar New Year period. The Wandering Earth‘s performance is testament to the positive buzz being generated by the $50M pic, which stars Wolf Warrior 2’s Wu Jing in a race against time to save the planet’s population.

(2) RETCON. Maybe you think you’ve painted yourself into a corner but Robert Woods knows lots of tricks to get out of these situations – “‘Retcon’: How To Rewrite Details In An Ongoing Series” at Standout Books.

Secrets, lies and errors in judgement

The easiest way to add or remove details from a story is to undermine those elements that contradict the new canon. In Stars Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope¸ Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that his father was a skilled pilot betrayed and killed by the evil Darth Vader. Later in the series, it’s revealed that Vader is Luke’s father and that Obi-Wan knew all along.

Creator George Lucas has claimed that he always knew Vader was Luke’s father, but fans point to a host of evidence that this wasn’t the case when the scene was written. If they’re right, Lucas had no problem retconning his decision later, since the information that stood in his way came from a single source. When it’s time to reveal that Vader is Luke’s father, Obi-Wan admits he lied, hiding the truth to try to influence Luke’s reaction.

This is the easiest way to retcon information out of a story – someone lied, omitted key details, implied something that wasn’t true, or thought they were telling the truth but were wrong. Sometimes, this means adding additional information to give characters a reason to have lied, but since all this takes place in the realm of character motivations and interactions, it can even serve to enliven a story, and it might inspire new directions, as in the Star Wars prequel films….

(3) KOREAN SF. Neil Clarke announced Clarkesworld’s opportunity to expand its program of sf in translation: “Clarkesworld Receives Grant to Publishing Korean Science Fiction”.

In May 2015, Clarkesworld published “An Evolutionary Myth” by Bo-Young Kim, translated from Korean by Gord Sellar and Jihyun Park. I am pleased to announce that Clarkesworld Magazine has now received a grant from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea) to translate and publish nine more Korean science fiction stories in 2019.

The process for selection and translation of stories will be similar to the model developed for Clarkesworld‘s Chinese translation project, which has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. In that model, a group of people serve as a recommendation team that will provide story notes and details to Neil Clarke for evaluation and selection. Stories will then be confirmed for English language availability, contracted, and assigned to one of several translators.

(4) HOLD THE CAKE! In theory a new edition of The Best of R.A. Lafferty was released by Gollancz today. Except it wasn’t.

(5) READ THIS, NOT THAT. But yesterday Tor.com published Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut story “Articulated Restraint”.

He took a slow breath. “No one is dead. A ship returning from the moon had a retrorocket misfire while docking with Lunetta yesterday evening.”

“Oh God.” Scores of people worked on the Lunetta orbiting platform. People she knew. And Eugene Lindholm, her partner for today’s run—his wife would have been on the lunar rocket. Ruby played bridge with Myrtle and Eugene. She turned, looking for the tall black man among the people working by the pool. He was at the stainless steel bench, running through his checklist with tight, controlled motions. No one was dead, but if the Meteor had taught the world anything, death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to someone. “How bad?”

(6) FANHISTORY RESOURCE. Peter Balestrieri, Curator, Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections at University of Iowa Libraries has announced —

The Daniel McPhail Correspondence Collection is now processed and ready for research http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836. This includes around 500 letters and post cards sent by the biggest names in fandom and the pros, starting around 1930. It’s not digitized but digitized copies of individual letters are available on request http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836.

McPhail was one of the earliest sf fans (1929). He co-edited a magazine called The Original Idea with Jim Speer (Jack’s older brother). In 1936 he founded the Oklahoma Scientifiction Association. An early member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA), McPhail introduced the Mailing Comment –which, if you’ve ever belonged to an apa, you know that’s what everyone hopes their contribution will inspire. File 770 published McPhail’s obituary in 1984.

(7) JOSHI FELLOWSHIP. There’s a name I don’t associate with fellowship, nevertheless — The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2019-2020 The S. T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 15, 2019.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog Magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others.

The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library. The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $1,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2019 and June 2020. The fellowship is open to individuals engaged in pre- and post-doctoral, or independent research.

(8) HOW TO AFFORD AN EDITOR. Authors who want their manuscripts worked on by a professional an editor know they have to come up with the bucks to pay them. There have been a couple of threads recently filled with more-or-less serious advice about ways “broke” writers can foot the bill. C.L. Polk’s begins here.

Fred Coppersmith’s less serious thread begins here.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio debuted. Guillermo del Toro’s version might be slightly darker.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1812 Charles Dickens. Author of more genre fiction according to ISFDB than I knew. There’s A Christmas Carol that I’ve seen performed lived myriad times but they also list The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year InThe Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of HomeThe Battle of Life, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain and The Christmas Books. Somewhere there being overly broad in defining genre perhaps? (Died 1870.)
  • Born February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He also played the title role in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)
  • Born February 7, 1913 Henry Hasse. Best known for being the co-author of Ray Bradbury’s first published story, “Pendulum”, which appeared in November 1941 in Super Science Stories. ISFDB lists a single novel by him, The Stars Will Wait, and some fifty short stories if I’m counting correctly. (Died 1977.)
  • Born February 7, 1929Alejandro Jodorowsky, 90. The Universe has many weird things in it such as this film, Jodorowsky’s Dune. It looks at his unsuccessful attempt to film Dune in the mid-1970s. He’s also has created a sprawling SF fictional universe, beginning with the Incal, illustrated by the cartoonist Jean Giraud which is rooted in their work for the Dune project which is released as comics.
  • Born February 7, 1941 Kevin Crossley-Holland, 78. Best known for his Arthur trilogy consisting of The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing-Places, and King of the Middle March. I really liked their perspective of showing a medieval boy’s development from a page to a squire and finally to a knight. Highly recommended. 
  • Born February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 70. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 69. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and ““The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Margaret Wander Bonanno, 69. She written seven Star Trek novels, several science fiction novels set in her own worlds, including The Others, a novel with Nichelle Nichols. In putting together this Birthday, several sources noted that she had disavowed writing her Trek novels because of excessive editorial meddling by the publisher. She self-published Music of the Spheres, her unapproved version of Probe, the official publication. According to her, Probe has less than ten per cent of the content of her version.
  • Born February 7, 1960James Spader, 59. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No I did not enjoy that film. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavour. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate,  a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He then plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. 
  • Born February 7, 1985 Deborah Ann Woll, 34. She is known for her roles as the vampire Jessica Hamby in True Blood, and Karen Page in Daredevil, The Defenders, and The Punisher.she also played Molly in the horror film Little Murder and Amanda Harper in Escape Room, another horror film. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Basic Instructions explains the structure of ST:TNG episodes.
  • Tom Gauld has ideas for future weather forecasts.

(12) QUARTERS, WITH MORE OR LESS BITS. Writing for The Mary Sue—and using floor plans that were on Angie’s List—Kaila Hale-Stern takes a look at six different Captain’s quarters from the various Star Trek series (“Let’s Judge These Star Trek Captains’ Quarters”). Welcome to Kirk’s, Picard’s, Sisko’s, Janeway’s, Archer’s, and Lorca’s abodes.

We’ve had several beloved Starfleet Captains, but how are they sleeping at night? Journey with me into the final frontier of Star Trek Captains’ quarters, and let’s see who had the sweetest floor plan.

Courtesy of a post by home services site Angie’s List, we now have detailed layouts to pore over. They created floor plans of our Captains’ quarters, starting with Kirk’s in The Original Series to Archer’s on EnterpriseDiscovery is a bit trickier Captain-wise, since we only have the late unlamented Lorca’s rooms for reference—but maybe Pike will show us where he lays his head in the future.

(13) DON’T SHUSH THEM. Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table… “Brian Blessed among stars brightening up library speaker system”.

Library closing time is ringing out to the sound of Brian Blessed after a host of celebrities recorded their voices for the building’s loudspeaker system.

Manchester Central Library has recruited the Flash Gordon actor and other stars to bring a showbiz feel to its public information announcements.

Former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh and ex-England footballer Gary Neville are also onboard.

The quirky bespoke broadcasts will run for two weeks, the city council said.

(14) PTERRY WOULD BE PROUD. BBC tells why — “Climate change: ‘Future proofing’ forests to protect orangutans”.

A study has identified key tree species that are resilient to climate change and support critically endangered apes.

Planting them could help future proof rainforests, which are a key habitat for orangutans, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN.

Researchers surveyed 250 plants in Indonesia’s Kutai National Park.

Over 1,000 orangutans are thought to inhabit the park, as well as other rare animals such as the Malayan sun bear.

“Selecting which species to plant is a significant contribution to restoring the health of this ecosystem,” said study co-author Douglas Sheil.

“Of course, the reasons why forest cover was lost in the first place must also be addressed for reforestation efforts to succeed.”

(15) NAMING A ROVER. They didn’t pick “Blood” — “Rosalind Franklin: Mars rover named after DNA pioneer”.

The UK-assembled rover that will be sent to Mars in 2020 will bear the name of DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin.

The honour follows a public call for suggestions that drew nearly 36,000 responses from right across Europe.

Astronaut Tim Peake unveiled the name at the Airbus factory in Stevenage where the robot is being put together.

The six-wheeled vehicle will be equipped with instruments and a drill to search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet.

Giving the rover a name associated with a molecule fundamental to biology seems therefore to be wholly appropriate

(16) A PERSONAL CATASTROPHE. While trying to “upgrade their toilet facility” there was a water leak on the International Space Station (“ISS Suffers Toilet Malfunction, Leaks Water Everywhere”). Earthbound DIY plumbers can probably sympathize.

The toilet onboard the ISS was installed in 2008, during one of the last space shuttle missions. It’s based on a design that’s about as old as the ISS itself, so it was in need of some improvement. The ISS astronauts were trying to install that improvement when something went wrong. 

According to a NASA blog, the ISS crew were trying to install the new Universal Waste Management System, a next-gen toilet system that’s supposed to be smaller, lighter, cleaner, and more efficient than what they have now.  […]

The aforementioned 1 February 2019 NASA blog explains:

Universal Waste Management System (UWMS):

The crew successfully installed a new double stall enclosure within Node 3 today. During the activity, the crew experienced a water leak while de-mating a Quick Disconnect (QD) for the potable water bus. Approximately 9.5 liters leaked before the bus was isolated by MCC-H flight controllers. The crew worked quickly to re-mate the leaky QD and soak up the water with towels. An alternate QD was then de-mated in order to continue with the installation. The new concept, referred to as the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), includes favorable features from previous designs while improving on other areas from Space Shuttle and the existing ISS Waste Collection System (WCS) hardware. This double stall enclosure provides privacy for both the Toilet System and the Hygiene Compartment. The starboard side will provide access to the existing toilet and the port side will be used for hygiene until new replacement Toilet System arrives in early 2020.

Mopping up 2.5 gallons of water is hard enough with gravity to collect it all on the floor for you,

(17) GET MY BETTER SIDE. NASA has taken a candid snapshot of the neighbors (NASA: “First Look: Chang’e Lunar Landing Site”). The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the landing site of China’s Chang’e 4 lander on the back side of the Moon. The LRO wasn’t close enough to picture the whole Chang’e 4 “family”—the tiny rover is just too small for the camera to pick up.

On Jan. 3, 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 safely landed on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter, 116 miles). Four weeks later (Jan. 30, 2019), as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70 degrees to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor toward the west wall. Because LRO was 330 kilometers (205 miles) to the east of the landing site, the Chang’e 4 lander is only about two pixels across (bright spot between the two arrows), and the small rover is not detectable. The massive mountain range in the background is the west wall of Von Kármán crater, rising more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) above the floor.

(18) FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT. The future of musical concerts—is it to be folded inside games? Blockbuster shoot-em-up game Fortnite recently called a cease fire and staged a concert (The Verge: “Fortnite’s Marshmello concert was a bizarre and exciting glimpse of the future”).

Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronic music or have never heard of the EDM producer Marshmello, Fortnite’s live in-game concert was still a shockingly stunning sight to behold — it was also an unprecedented moment in gaming. It truly felt like a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment, where the worlds of gaming, music, and celebrity combined to create a virtual experience we’ve never quite seen before. 

At 2PM ET [2 February], every one of the likely tens of millions of players of Epic Games’ battle royale title were transported to a virtual stage. There, Christopher Comstock — who goes by the DJ name Marshmello and is known best for his signature food-shaped helmet — began a 10-minute mini-set, all while while up to 60 players across thousands of individual matches were able to watch live. Epic, having learned from past one-time live events like its iconic rocket launch and its most recent freezing over of the entire game map, smartly launched a special game mode specifically for the show. 

Based on its team rumble mode, it allowed players to respawn if they were taken out by an especially rude enemy trying to spoil the fun. Going even further, however, Epic disabled the ability to use weapons for the entirety of the 10-minute event, which ensured that everyone could have a front-row seat to the spectacle. 

(19) DON’T TELL ME. Matthew Johnson’s song parody is a mite long for a Scroll title, so I’ll salute it here:

Counting pixels on the scroll, that don’t bother me at all
Playing D&D ’til dawn, with my twenty-sideds gone
Eating soylent green and watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Now don’t tell me I can’t go back in time

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

Wandering Through the Public Domain, Episode 1

[[Introduction: Colleen McMahon, who writes comments as cmm, is launching a new series of posts about sff available through public domain sites like Project Gutenberg and Librivox. Welcome to our guide to these resources!]]

By Colleen McMahon: Hello! I want to first think OGH, Mike, for kindly taking me up on my proposal to contribute a regular feature to File 770, in which I’ll write about science-fiction, fantasy, and horror works that are in the public domain and are available online for free. My plan is to make a biweekly post providing a simple roundup of links and short descriptions of books and other publications in our favorite genres. (Yes, your personal Mt. Tsundoku is likely to grow some new peaks and crags!)

Note: since I’m based in the United States, I’m going to be talking about works that are in the public domain in the U.S., that is, published prior to 1923, or between 1923 and 1964 with a copyright that was not renewed. I believe that most of the works I’ll mention will be in the public domain worldwide, but access to some items may be blocked in countries where copyright expires 50 or 70 years after the death of the author. I apologize in advance for any frustrations, and will mention birth and death dates where I know them.

My interest in public domain works is an offshoot of one of my hobbies — I volunteer for Librivox, an all-volunteer project that creates free audiobooks from works in the public domain. I had been listening to their audiobooks for several years, and decided to take the plunge into volunteering as a reader in early 2017. I quickly became hooked, and have recorded multiple chapters of group projects, contributed short pieces to compilations, and am in the middle of my third solo book project.

The process of finding books and other pieces to record led me first to Project Gutenberg, a site that has been publishing free e-texts of public domain works for decades now (Librivox is actually a spinoff from Project Gutenberg), and then to the Internet Archive, a huge repository of all kinds of stuff, from ebooks to music to film and more. I’ve developed a habit of roaming both Project Gutenberg (PG from here on out) and the Internet Archive (IA) looking through their offerings. (Not everything on IA is public domain, so I tend to limit my searches there to the American Libraries section, as most of it is from 1922 and earlier.)

I regularly come across F/SF and horror books and short stories, and it occurred to me that my fellow Filers might also be interested in some of these. I also thought it would also be a good way to raise awareness of these awesome websites and the work they are doing to make obscure older books and stories available.

So that’s what I’m up to here — a regular roundup of links to public domain works of fantasy, SF, horror, and other adjacent genres that might appeal to File 770 fans.  Be advised that I won’t have yet read or listened to most of the works I mention here (my own Mt. Tsundoku is enormous, though it would be smaller if I spent more time reading and less browsing..), so I make no promises of quality.

Enough with explanations, and onto the good stuff:

A recent File 770 post about R.A. Lafferty (1914-2002) led me to check Project Gutenberg (PG) to see if they have any Lafferty tales on their site. I found six short stories:

Four issues of Ray Bradbury’s fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, are available on PG. They are the issues from Summer 1939, Fall 1939, Spring 1940, and Winter 1940.

There is also one short story by Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), A Little Journey, from Galaxy, August 1951.

Sometimes more recent books show up on PG, because the author releases them as public domain works. One of these is 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s by Max Millard. The introduction explains that this is a collection of interviews he did with famous New Yorkers in the late 1970s for a regular feature in a local free newspaper. Most are actors and others in the entertainment industries. Of interest here because it includes interviews with Isaac Asimov and Stan Lee, and possibly others with genre-related credits.

Recent Librivox audiobook releases:

The novel is set in a parallel world in which the existence of psychic powers has permitted the development of witchcraft into a science; in contrast, the physical sciences have languished, resulting in a modern culture reminiscent of our eighteenth century.

To escape from Mars, all Clayton had to do was the impossible. Break out of a crack-proof exile camp—get onto a ship that couldn’t be boarded—smash through an impenetrable wall of steel. Perhaps he could do all these things, but he discovered that Mars did evil things to men; that he wasn’t even Clayton any more. He was only—The Man Who Hated Mars. Included in this recording are four more stories by Garrett: Bramblebush, Viewpoint, Time Fuze and Heist Job on Thizar.

This is a volume of short stories of supernatural fiction by American author Emma Frances Dawson. Not all of the tales depend on ghosts, most of them are much more subtle than that. The author skillfully creates undercurrents, adding a distinct quality to these stories.

Continued from Previous Rock

By John Hertz: (reprinted in honor of RAL’s birth month from Vanamonde 485)  A.E. van Vogt called R.A. Lafferty the most original writer in s-f (Science Fiction Review 23, 1977).  There’s a tribute.

Lafferty is gone now (1914-2002).  He was a strange dreamer, a strong drink.  He published 200 short stories and 20 novels, if that’s what they were.  He won the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award (1990), and a Hugo for “Eurema’s Dam” (1972); he was nominated for three other Hugos and seven Nebulas.

His best may be Past Master (1968) and The Fall of Rome (non-fiction, 1971).  Okla Hannali (1972), an Amerind novel, is celebrated.  Small presses reprint him; you can get Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add? (short stories, 1974; repr. 2000) or many others.

He worried about men who knew everything, machines, manipulation; they made him mordant, and Gene Wolfe says he was the favorite of Joe Mayhew (Locus 496, 2002).

Damon Knight in the original-story anthology Orbit ran nineteen by Lafferty, and introduced the collection Lafferty in Orbit (1991), attracted, I fear, by satire, praising diamonds most for their hardness.

Even the title Past Master is a jest; the expression is “passed master”, i.e. one who has passed the test – “of the guild or public opinion”, W. Follett, Modern American Usage p. 312 (1966) – and earned recognition, but Sir Thomas More has been brought centuries into the future, because or in spite of his mastery.  At the end, re-reading just now, I cried.

Lafferty beginning Rome starts on mosaic chips in the Empire, catches himself with Dimitte nobis rhapsodia nostra, “Forgive us our rhapsodies”, and sails away.

Knight did have another side.  In the “Arcs & Secants” part of Orbit 18 (p. 249; 1976) he printed from Lafferty “the following poem about Ms. Wilhelm:

“Oh Kate has gone to writing pomes!
   Hi ho!
She writes them bright without the bromes,
She piles them up as tall as tomes!
    Hi ho!  The Gollie Woll!
She routs the temper of the times,
    Hi ho!
She cuts the strings that worked the mimes,
It doesn’t matter if they rimes.
    Hi, ho!  The Gollie Woll!

“This was a contribution to a round-robin letter circulated among a few Orbit writers.  Mr. Lafferty later withdrew from it, alleging unparliamentary remarks and stuffiness.”  R.I.P.

Visible Ray

Bud Webster’s extraordinary appreciation of R.A. Lafferty — Secret Crocodiles and Strange Doings (or Sometimes the Magic Really Works) – for Grantville Gazette is well worth your time. Webster says —

Lafferty wasn’t a science fiction writer, regardless of the section of the bookstore in which his titles may have appeared; rather, he was a mad fantasist, a maker of mythologies, a Wizard of Oddities.

Quite right.

Lafferty’s short story “Slow Tuesday Night” is most memorable to me. The pace of human life has accelerated to such a degree that civilization has split into three shifts, the Auroreans, the Hemerobians, and the Nyctalops. People, laughably, still have the exact same superficial attitudes towards wealth, celebrity and love.

“Slow Tuesday Night” is available at this link on the Wayback Machine although to get it to load I had to spit in the back and kick it a couple times, which is to say, click on the “Impatient?” link.

Webster looks at many aspects of Ray’s life. None is more troubling than his heavy drinking, painfully evident when he went to conventions. Seeing that myself made it impossible to laugh anymore at the point-of-view character in “Slow Tuesday Night” who claims to put himself to sleep using the “Natural method. And a bottle of red-eye.”

Classics at Lunacon 2010

The Lunacon 2010 program features several discussions organized by John Hertz, each devoted to one of the “Classics of Science Fiction”. Three of John’s selections are:

Isaac Asimov
I, Robot (1950)
Framed in Dr. Suan Calvin’s reminiscences is this set of stories first published over the years 1940-1950. The author originally wanted to call the book Mind and Iron; what would that have told us? How are the stories as character studies? Narrative? What’s missing from the final episode?

R.A. Lafferty
Past Master (1968)
Thomas More is brought five centuries across time and space, maybe to help — as defined by whom? Lafferty was one of our original authors. This, his first novel, is poetic, satirical, and strange. You can guess which of those I think most lasting; what do you think? A book note by me is at Collectingsf.com.

E.E. Smith
Skylark Three (1948)
Here is the second and my favorite of the Skylark Series, which begins with The Skylark of Space (1946). Space and Three were each published in earlier forms. Discovery and invention fuel the story, which is driven by people, some of whom are aliens. Excitement, adventure, you bet, and it’s remarkable how much is timeless.

Hertz on Collectingsf.com

John Hertz’ contribution to Collectingsf.com this December is a review of R.A. Lafferty’s Past Master (1968):

Science fiction in 1968 was athrob with protest.  There is no sign Lafferty marched to that drummer then nor does this book seem to now.  In the resonance of Past Master his warnings are neither because of nor despite what other people cry.  He speaks in a voice singularly his own.