Pixel Scroll 10/10/18 I Grow Old, I Grow Old, I Shall Wear The Bottoms Of My Pixels Scrolled

(1) SCA DEATH. A longtime member accidentally killed himself while riding at a Society for Creative Anachronism event in Kentucky. SFGate has the story —“Man is impaled, dies in ‘freak accident’ during medieval horseback stunt”.

It happened Saturday during the Society for Creative Anachronism event in Williamstown.

The president of the SCA, John Fulton, said Barclay was trying to spear a paper plate on the ground.

Barclay’s brother posted on Facebook that the metal tip of his brother’s lance hit the ground, flipped and then impaled him under his sternum.

“I’ve never had an injury on the field like this, ever, that led to something like this” said Fulton.

We’re told Barclay was flown to a hospital, but died en route.

The SCA said Barclay was a master within the organization and had practiced medieval sports for more than 30 years.

(2) POLCON GROWING PAINS. Marcin Klak analyzes “The issues of Polcon”, Poland’s national convention.

We can define a few issues with Polcon but the main one is that no one really wants to organize Polcons any more. Of course this is not 100% true but we can see an issue here. In the last few years, there was usually only one group willing to run Polcon. It happens that it was known before that Polcon won’t be good but there was only one group willing to do it so there was no choice (and no one really wanted to cancel Polcon). This year, all in all, we haven’t chosen the place for Polcon 2020 yet – we hope that in December we will know this as there is one group that thinks about applying to run it.

(3) BATTLING THE ODDS. Brianna Wu wrote up her congressional campaign for Marie Claire: “I Ran for Congress. I Lost. I’m Persisting. Quitting Is Not an Option In the Trump Era.”

Here in New England, I got to know almost 100 other women that had decided to run for office, many through the Emerge program for training Democratic women. We were running for mayor, running for state senate, running for Congress. Like me, most of my peers were first-time candidates. We were starting to figure out this alien life of being a political candidate.

And I would love to tell you that we all won. In the movies, the underdog always wins. The Death Star always explodes. Carrie always walks into the sunset with Mr. Big. But reality has somewhat different odds than Hollywood. In a congressional race, the person spending less money wins only 9 percent of the time. You have less than 15 percent chance of beating an incumbent—and those odds are way worse if you’re running for the first time.

…For a first-time candidate who raised under $200,000, I did a fantastic job. I got almost 25 percent of the electorate, with over 17,000 people voting for me. I sometimes try to imagine 1000 people telling me they believe in me enough to be their congresswoman, and it’s overwhelming. 17,000 people believing in you isn’t a loss, it’s an excellent start to a career. The guy I was running against has a 20-year head start…

(4) IMAGINE A WORLD IN WHICH… One way social change is contributing to the boom in sff sales — “How Feminist Dystopian Fiction Is Channeling Women’s Anger and Anxiety” in the New York Times.

On a desolate island, three sisters have been raised in isolation, sequestered from an outbreak that’s causing women to fall ill. To protect themselves from toxins, which men can transmit to women, the sisters undergo cleansing rituals that include simulating drowning, drinking salt water and exposing themselves to extreme heat and cold. Above all, they are taught to avoid contact with men.

That’s the chilling premise of Sophie Mackintosh’s unsettling debut novel “The Water Cure,” a story that feels both futuristic and like an eerily familiar fable. It grew out of a simple, sinister question: What if masculinity were literally toxic?

“The Water Cure,” which comes out in the United States in January and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, joins a growing wave of female-centered dystopian fiction, futuristic works that raise uncomfortable questions about pervasive gender inequality, misogyny and violence against women, the erosion of reproductive rights and the extreme consequences of institutionalized sexism.

…Most of these new dystopian stories take place in the future, but channel the anger and anxieties of the present, when women and men alike are grappling with shifting gender roles and the messy, continuing aftermath of the MeToo movement….

(5) FANSPLAINING, CONTINUED. David Gerrold has been there, too:

I always get a smile out of fans trying to school pros.

The latest is a self-appointed gatekeeper telling Neil Gaiman that he must be a relatively recent fan of Doctor Who.

Oh my.

My own recent experience happened a year or so ago, when one of the sad puppies tried to tell me that my argument was useless. He said, “It is too late for the pebbles to vote, the avalanche has already started.”

I don’t remember my exact words. Something to the effect that those words were spoken by Kosh in the Babylon 5 episode “Believers.” It would have been nice if he’d credited the source — and the author of the episode.

He dropped out of the thread immediately. I don’t remember his name or the thread. I just remember the moment of delicious amusement I experienced….

(6) NEW IN 1963. Natalie Devitt is still undecided whether she’ll keep letting Outer Limits control her set’s vertical and horizontal according to her review at Galactic Journey: “[October 10, 1963] The Outer Limits of television — a first look”.

The Outer Limits may have the power to control transmission, but can the show keep viewers tuning in week after week? The verdict is still out. The show seems to be much more rooted in science fiction than most other anthology shows in recent years, which is a distinguishing point, but the batting average will probably have to improve: this month only gave me one fantastic, one somewhat entertaining and two otherwise okay episodes.

(7) CLARKE CENTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Fred Adams: The Degree of Fine-Tuning in our Universe—and Possibly Others” on November 8 at UCSD.

Fred C. Adams, theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Michigan, joins us for an insightful talk about how life in this universe—and potentially others—is possible.

The fundamental constants of nature must fall within a range of values in order for the universe to develop structure and ultimately support life. This talk considers the current constraints on these quantities and assesses the degree of fine-tuning required for the universe to be viable. The first step is to determine what parameters are allowed to vary. In the realm of particle physics, we must specify the strengths of the fundamental forces and the particle masses. The relevant cosmological parameters include the density of the universe, the cosmological constant, the abundance of ordinary matter, the dark matter contribution, and the amplitude of primordial density fluctuations. These quantities are constrained by the requirements that the universe lives for a sufficiently long time, emerges from its early epochs with an acceptable chemical composition, and can successfully produce galaxies. On smaller scales, stars and planets must be able to form and function. The stars must have sufficiently long lifetimes and hot surface temperatures. The planets must be large enough to maintain atmospheres, small enough to remain non-degenerate, and contain enough particles to support a biosphere. We also consider specific fine-tuning issues in stars, including the triple alpha reaction that produces carbon, the case of unstable deuterium, and the possibility of stable diprotons. For all of these issues, the goal of this enterprise is to delineate the range of parameter space for which universes can remain habitable.

November 8, 6:00 p.m. Natural Sciences Building Auditorium, UC San Diego. Free and open to the public; please RSVP here

(8) AT C. James Davis Nicoll continues his new series for Tor.com, “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1980s, Part III”, with writers whose surnames begin with the letter “C”.

Mona A. Clee began publishing short SF works in the 1980s but I know her from her two novels: pessimistic ecological thriller Overshoot, and the somewhat more optimistic Branch Point, in which time travelers try desperately to prevent a 1963 Soviet-American nuclear exchange, only to discover they’ve replaced a horrific atomic war with even more horrific variations. “Oh, dear, we seem to have made a bad situation much worse,” may not sound like it could be more upbeat than any other book, but A) there is a solution, and B: Overshoot is pretty glum.

(9) YARNALL OBIT. Celeste Yarnall, who appeared in a Star Trek episode and in Elvis Presley’s Live a Little, Love a Little, has died at the age of 74 reports Deadline.

In the Star Trek episode titled “The Apple” that aired on October 13, 1967, Yarnall’s red-uniformed Yeoman Landon has a romantic encounter with Walter Koenig’s Chekov. It didn’t last.

Other credits include appearances on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Bonanza, Hogan’s Heroes, It Takes a Thief, Captain Nice, Mannix, Bewitched, Land of the Giants and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and in the films The Nutty Professor, Under the Yum Yum Tree, Eve, The Velvet Vampire, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Scorpio, among others.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 10, 1863 – Vladimir A. Obruchev, Geologist, Writer, and member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR who was one of Russia’s first science fiction authors. In his native country he is best known for two perennially popular science fiction novels, Plutonia and Sannikov Land. Both of these stories are similar to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, but depict with rigorous scientific accuracy the discovery of an isolated world of prehistoric animals in hitherto unexplored large islands north of Alaska or Siberia.
  • Born October 10, 1924 – Ed Wood, Jr., Actor, Writer and Director who created numerous low-budget science fiction, comedy, and horror films and wrote more than 80 pulp novels. He is most famous for the notoriously-bad cult SF film Plan 9 from Outer Space. In 1994 Tim Burton directed and produced an eponymous biographical drama of his life starring Johnny Depp, which won two Oscars.
  • Born October 10, 1947 – Laura Brodian Freas, 71, Classic Music Radio Host, Voiceover Performer, Illustrator and Historical Customer. While married to the artist she published a collection Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It containing art and essays by the two of them. She has also provided a few genre covers, including the cover for the anthology New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow, and numerous pieces of interior art for Weird Tales, Analog, and several Easton Press Signed First Editions. One of her collaborative works with Frank won a Chesley Award; another collaborative work and one of her solo works also received Chesley nominations.
  • Born October 10, 1950 – Nora Roberts, 68, Writer probably best known, and a favorite of Cora Buhlert, for her near-future science fiction In Death (Eve Dallas) series written under the pen name J.D. Robb, which is approaching 50 novels now and features robots, cloning, flying cars, and space habitats; as well as many other fantasy series including the Key Trilogy, the Sign of Seven Trilogy, and the Three Sisters Island Trilogy.
  • Born October 10, 1959 – Kerrie Hughes, 59, Writer and Editor. A prolific anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings, many co-edited with Martin H. Greenberg, and four of the Fiction River series. Favorite titles for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s published more than a dozen short fiction works of her own and essays including “A Travelers’ Guide to Valdemar and the Surrounding Kingdoms” in The Valdemar Companion.
  • Born October 10, 1959 – Bradley Whitford, 59, Actor, Writer, and Producer whose most recent genre role was as the sinister patriarch in the Hugo finalist Get Out; other movie appearances include Bicentennial Man, Kate & Leopold, RoboCop 3, The Cabin in the Woods, The Darkest Minds, The Muse, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters and guest roles in TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, and Cloned.
  • Born October 10, 1967 – Michael Giacchino, 51, Oscar- and Grammy-winning Composer and Musician, who has created the soundtracks for many genre films such as the Hugo-nominated Rogue One and Star Trek 2009 reboot and its sequels, Jupiter Ascending, Tomorrowland, John Carter, Mission: Impossible III and Ghost Protocol, Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Cloverfield, and the Planet of the Apes reboot movies. His animation soundtrack credits include the Hugo finalists Up and The Incredibles, Incredibles 2, Ratatouille, Cars 2, Inside Out, Zootopia, and Coco. He has also composed music for many TV series such as Lost (for which he received an Emmy), Alias, and Fringe, and video game series including Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. He is also responsible for the soundtrack in the Space Mountain attraction at Disneyland and Disney World.
  • Born October 10, 1968 – Bai Ling, 50, Actor, Writer, and Producer originally from China who has had genre roles in the films League of Superheroes, Andover, Blood Shed, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Gene Generation, Code Hunter, and The Crow, guest roles in episodes of Lost and Jake 2.0, and a main role in the TV miniseries The Monkey King.
  • Born October 10, 1968 – Mark Bould, 50, Writer, Editor, and Critic from England who emigrated to Scotland, who has co-authored several nonfiction works on SF including The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction and The Routledge Concise History of Science Fiction, as well as Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction (with China Miéville). He guest-edited two issues of Science Fiction Studies, one on the British SF Boom and one on Afrofuturism (with Rone Shavers), and an issue of Paradoxa on Africa SF, and contributed numerous essays to other scholarly works on SF. He will be Scholar Guest of Honor at next year’s International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA).

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GET NANOWRIMO SUPPORT. K. Tempest Bradford will host a course in “Daily Writing Exercises – NaNoWriMo Edition” during the November novel-writing marathon, joined at times by four other well-known sff authors.

Practice and warm-ups are fundamental to every artistic discipline, from the musician who practices scales for hours on end to visual artists who cover reams of paper with sketches to dancers and actors who rehearse for months. Practicing craft is important for writers, too. Especially when you’re about to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Doing one 10 – 20 minute writing exercise every day before diving into your novel can help kick your brain into creative gear without pressure and give you the chance to try out new craft skills.

That’s what this course is all about. Starting November 1, you’ll get a writing exercise via email every day for a month. Each one is designed to get you warmed up and also to help you get to know your characters better, dig into details of your setting, and play around with voice, point of view, and other aspects of craft.

…In addition to the emailed exercises, all writers taking the course can attend live online write-ins four times a week with me + special guests. Each write-in will start with that day’s exercise then move into 45 minutes of writing together via Zoom video conferencing software. These write-ins are optional and times/days will vary to accommodate writers across different time zones.

Four times during the month we’ll be joined by guest writers who will offer a short pep talk and a writing exercise of their own: Tananarive Due, Stina Leicht, Stant Litore, and Monica Valentinelli.

(13) WALLY WORLD WATCHES. Who knew that Big Brother would manifest as Wally World? Apparently Motherboard (part of Vice) is on the job and knew. Um, knows. Um, at least suspects. (“Walmart Patented a Cart That Reads Your Pulse and Temperature”).

You’re moving through Walmart at a quick clip, bookin’ it through the clearance bread aisle. Sweat beads on your forehead, and your hands grip the cart handle. It’s a race against time before you run into an elementary school classmate’s mom or run into that guy you made out with in high school and his three kids. God, get me out of h—

I saw you might need assistance! An employee appears from behind the off-brand tampons and accosts you. He knows this because he’s been monitoring your biometric data and location from a room in the back, from the sensors in your cart handle. The sensors told him you’re clammy and stressed.

Walmart recently applied to patent biometric shopping handles that would track a shopper’s heart rate, palm temperature, grip force, and walking speed. The patent, titled “System And Method For A Biometric Feedback Cart Handle” and published August 23, outlines a system where sensors in the cart send data to a server. That server then notifies a store employee to check on individual customers.

(14) CAREER REVIVED? The director canned by Marvel could be back in the business already: “James Gunn in Talks to Write, Possibly Direct SUICIDE SQUAD 2”ComicsBeat has the story.

James Gunn, the director fired earlier this year from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, is now in talks to write DC’s Suicide Squad 2 with an eye to also direct, according to a report today from The Wrap.

This could be somewhat of a coup for Warner Bros., the studio behind Suicide Squad and other films based on DC superheroes. With Gunn writing and directing, Guardians of the Galaxy grew from a relatively obscure comic book property into a veritable household name after just two high-earning and critically-acclaimed movies.

Gunn was dismissed from writing/directing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 earlier this year after a concentrated online campaigned publicized a series of tasteless jokes he made years ago about rape and pedophilia on Twitter. Gunn had long since apologized for the jokes, and, as such, his firing set off widespread debate over whether it was merited, with members of Guardians’ cast going to bat for him (especially Dave Bautista).

(15) BATWOMAN. I didn’t think it was a compelling news item, but four people have now sent me links to it, so I’m obviously wrong: “Ruby Rose Rises in First Official Look at the CW’s Batwoman”, image online at ComicsBeat and elsewhere.

(16) GOLDEN AND LESS SHINY AGES. Rob Latham reviews Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction for Nature — “Beyond pulp: trailblazers of science fiction’s golden age”.

…Hubbard’s gift for the hard sell was pivotal, and Nevala-Lee’s portrait of him as a paranoid narcissist and skilled manipulator is scathing. However, Campbell is also sharply scrutinized for his role in midwifing and unleashing Dianetics. Heinlein and Asimov were repelled by what they saw as an uncritical embrace of quackery, and took refuge in newer, often more lucrative markets. The book’s final chapters detail the steady decline of the magazine into a second-rank publication, and Campbell (who died in 1971) into a reactionary crackpot with racist views.

Although much of the story outlined in Astounding has been told before, in genre histories and biographies of and memoirs by the principals, Nevala-Lee does an excellent job of drawing the strands together, and braiding them with extensive archival research, such as the correspondence of Campbell and Heinlein. The result is multifaceted and superbly detailed. The author can be derailed by trivia — witness a grisly account of Heinlein’s haemorrhoids — and by his fascination for clandestine love affairs and fractured marriages. He also gives rather short shrift to van Vogt, one of Campbell’s most prominent discoveries and a fan favourite during Astounding’s acme, whose work has never since received the attention it deserves….

(17) INFINITY’S END. At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry weighs in on the closing volume of an anthology series — “Microreview [book]: Infinity’s End, by Jonathan Strahan (editor)”.

I’m sad that Infinity’s End is the purported final volume in Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity Project of anthologies. The theme has always been loose, no matter what Strahan has stated in the introduction (and I’m not sure he’d truly disagree with me here). He’s just looking for science fiction which stretches the bounds of humanity living in the wider universe. The success is that Strahan has a great idea for good stories and each of the Infinity Project anthologies hits the mark for top notch stories. While I hope that Strahan will revisit the Infinity brand again several years from now (and if so, the anthology should maybe be titled Infinity’s Rebirth), Infinity’s End is a fitting and excellent way to close the book on a solid anthology series. Reading each volume and reading Infinity’s End has been a delight.

(18) GOOGLE’S CHINA AMBITIONS. BBC’s Dave Lee tells how “Leak chips away at Google’s secrecy on China”.

…Now, a freshly leaked transcript of Mr Gomes addressing employees suggests he perhaps wasn’t being entirely forthcoming in our interview. Published by The Intercept on Tuesday, his words suggest an enthusiasm and readiness that arguably goes well beyond “exploration”.

‘We are ready for it’

“Overall I just want to thank you guys for all the work you have put in,” reads the transcript, said to be taken from a meeting on 18 July at which Mr Gomes addressed those working on Dragonfly.

…”Of the people who are internet-enabled, a huge fraction of the ones we are missing out are in China […] It’s clearly the biggest opportunity to serve more people that we have. And if you take our mission seriously, that’s where our key focus should be.”

Standing in Google’s way is the uncomfortable reality that many people do not agree with that focus – including the vice-president of the United States, Mike Pence. He has said Google should “immediately end development” on Dragonfly.

Hiding from public scrutiny

I can’t fathom how Google thinks this will end. Recent history shows how executives at the company have chosen to hide from immediate public scrutiny, only to seriously regret it later.

With Dragonfly, the company simply refuses to share details – not even with US lawmakers. In September, Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai did not show up to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing….

(19) HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE. “Seafloor mapping XPRIZE final will be in the Mediterranean” – here’s what BBC says:

The final of the ocean XPRIZE, which will see fleets of robots compete to map the largest area of seafloor inside 24 hours, will take place in deep waters off the coast of Greece.

Teams will be invited in turn to showcase their technologies, starting in early November.

They will have to chart at least 250 sq km at depths down to 4,000m, and image 10 items of interest.

The group that comes out on top will win $4m. Second place earns $1m.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE was launched in 2015 to find systems and approaches that could finally map the world’s ocean basins to an acceptable precision.

Currently, less than 15% of their bathymetry (depth) has been measured in a meaningfully accurate way. It is one of those truisms that the global surfaces of Mars and the Moon – because they have no water covering – are known in greater detail.

(20) TIME FREAK TRAILER. Coming to theaters November 9, Time Freak.

If you could turn back time…could you win back the love of your life? That’s the problem puzzling Stillman (Asa Butterfield, Ender’s Game), a physics genius recently dumped by his stunning girlfriend Debbie (Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”). So after creating a timeline of their romance and a machine to rewind the past, he grabs his wingman, Evan (Skyler Gisondo), and sets off to right every wrong he made with Debbie. But as this insane comedy proves, there are some mistakes too perfect for science to fix.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/17 Help, I’m Floating And I Can’t Get Down

(1) D FRANKLIN AWARD PREMIERES. Nominations are open for a new award recognizing work in disability advocacy in SFF literature — “Announcing the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award”.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign!

The Defying Doomsday Award is an annual shortlist and prize. The award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. The award will grant one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2016.

We are now seeking nominations for the 2016 Defying Doomsday Award. Please submit your nominations to Tsana and Holly by filling in this form: https://goo.gl/forms/Kq8jGrXlAcdNumxy1

Submissions are open until July 31. The winner(s) will be announced in September.

(2) NOW ON SALE. It’s not exactly a Meredith moment, but until the end of May you can save $200 on The Virginia Edition of Robert A. Heinlein’s collected works. That lowers the price tag to $1,300 in the U.S., or $1,600 for an international destination.

(3) SCIENCE BOOM. You can watch a flock of “Science Movies on Netflix in May”. Two examples –

Available May 5

The Mars Generation (Netflix, 2017): Could humanity’s future include travel to Mars? Astrophysicists and astronauts weigh in on the challenges of long-distance spaceflight and the dream of missions that could transport people to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, teenage trainees at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center immerse themselves in work toward making that dream a reality.

Available May 15

Command and Control (PBS, 2017): Building a nuclear arsenal comes with incredible risks, and most Americans may be unaware that in 1980, an accident at a nuclear missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, nearly resulted in the detonation of a warhead 600 times more powerful than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima. Based on recently declassified documents, this fascinating glimpse into the American nuclear weapons program tracks its history, and evaluates the human errors and accidents along the way that could have doomed us all.

(4) THE BEER THAT HITCHHIKERS MADE FAMOUS. Martin Morse Wooster knows: “Short’s Brewing is notorious among beer geeks for its crazy beers.  So of course they produce Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster!  (It’s a really cool Space Invaders-style label.)”

(5) ANONYMOUS LONGLIST. Here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar. An anonymous longlist for the 2017 James White Award has been announced – the titles of 17 short stories listed without the authors’ names, because the entries are still undergoing an anonymous judging process.

The administrators say the shortlist will come out within two weeks, and the winner announced soon after that.

(6) ABOARD THE QUEEN MARY. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from StokerCon 2017 on Flickr. Below: Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder.

Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder

(7) WIN WWII QUICKER. Gregory Benford shares “The Big Idea” that led to his novel The Berlin Project.

How many more concentration camp victims would have survived if the war had ended one year earlier?  For one, Anne Frank. Most CC victims succumbed eventually to the rugged conditions… The difference between 1944 and 1945 as the end of the war is probably quite significant in terms of lives.

The central context for this novel came from the protagonist I chose to follow through it, Karl Cohen. I also folded in my experience of living in the US occupation of Germany in 1955-57, where my father commanded combat units.

Karl’s words made me think, because in the last year of war, whole societies collapsed. A million died each month, the Soviet Union captured many countries into subjugation, and the devastation of the Axis powers took decades to repair.

Alternative histories are ways of thinking. The entire history of nuclear weapons is interlaced with scientists considering the future, often using science fiction as a prompt. The 1913 “atomic bombs” of H. G. Wells and the Robert Heinlein and Cleve Cartmill stories in Astounding Science Fiction were indeed broadly discussed at Los Alamos –as told to me in detail by Teller.

The wartime investigation into the Astounding stories, as I depict from documents I found, now seems odd indeed. The fiction writers had no classified information at all, just good guesses. Still, this possibility was viewed as very important by the security agencies, including the FBI. As Robert Silverberg has wryly remarked, “Turning war secrets into second-rate SF stories might seem, to the dispassionate eye, a very odd way indeed of betraying one’s country.”

Karl Cohen was my father in law. In 2000 he was voted to be among the 50 most prominent American chemists of the 20th Century. But he was haunted by what he felt was his personal failure to convince the U.S. government to pursue the centrifuge approach during the war. He died in 2012 at age 99. Alas, I had only begun on the novel.

(8) A GLOWING SMILE. Win WWII – and prevent tooth decay! Atlas Obscura tells how Manhattan Project experts got sidetracked in their pursuit of Nazi nuclear technology in “The Mysterious Case of the Radioactive Toothpaste”.

(9) SAVE YOUR MONEY. BookRiot’s Kay Taylor Rea advises which of the Best Novel Hugo finalists to buy, borrow, or bypass.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

The final book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, Death’s End really goes for broke in its attempts to be an epic tale. I struggled through it for much the same reason I struggled through the first two books: the depictions of women are by turns baffling and infuriating. If you were bothered by that in the first two novels, I warn you it’s still at issue here. The woman at the center of Death’s End, engineer Cheng Xin, is by turns patronized, deified, and vilified both by the male characters and the narrative itself. If you can ignore this, and the author’s tendency toward paragraph upon paragraph of info-dumping, there are certainly the bones of a very compelling tale of humanity’s future within these pages. The science involved is fascinating, and if you’re on the hunt for oldschool hard science fiction this might fit the bill.

Verdict: Bypass unless you’ve read the first two and have a hankering for more hard SF.

(10) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? MeTV offers “TV Aliens, Ranked”.

Mr. Spock, ‘Star Trek’

Was this really a competition? Mr. Spock is beloved by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and fans of Star Trek alike. Even though Williams Shatner tried to take the lead on the original series, Spock’s likability and Leonard Nimoy’s depiction made him the most popular character on one of the most popular series of all time.

(11) WESTON OBIT. G.I. Joe inventor Stan Weston died May 1. The Hollywood Reporter recalls:

When Mattel’s Barbie dolls were introduced in 1960, Weston realized boys were an untapped market for the doll industry after noting that many of them played with Ken dolls. He conceived of the idea of a military action figure and in 1963 sold what would become G.I. Joe to Hasbro. The runaway hit would go on to be one of the most enduring toy lines in history, spawning hit TV shows and films as well.

…In 1989, he was among the inaugural class for the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame, which includes notables Walt Disney, George Lucas and Jim Henson.

(12) TODAY’S DAY

Jerry Goldsmith Day

Today Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He scored a vast number of movies, including many genre films. Director Joe Dante, for whom Goldsmith scored Gremlins, Explorers, and Innerspace, lent impetus to the award, saying he’d been “flabbergasted” to learn Goldsmith had not already received the honor. Dante told Variety, “Any film he scored was automatically improved tenfold.”

 

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 9, 1980 — Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th premieres in theatres.
  • May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element is released in the U.S.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 9, 1860 – J.M. Barrie

(15) COMPETITIVE LENGTHS. Greg Hullender says, “Inspired by a blog post from Rich Horton I did a quick analysis of the lengths of novellas overall vs. the lengths of the ones that are Hugo finalist.” — “Story Lengths and Awards: When Does Size Matter?” at Rocket Stack Rank.

It looks like (this year, at least), when it came to getting nominated for the Hugo, longer stories definitely did better than shorter ones in the Novella category and (less dramatically) in the Novelette category, but length had no effect on short stories.

In fact, the effect is so dramatic that the longest novella published by any print magazine is shorter than the shortest novella in the Hugo finalist list!

(16) DIAL 2140. Carl Slaughter did a mini-roundup on a popular new novel.

The New Yorker described Kim Stanley Robinson as “generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers.”  The Atlantic described Robinson as “the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing.” Robinson’s novels have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Campbell awards.  His body of work won the Heinlein award.  He was an instructor at Clarion and the 68th World Science Fiction Convention guest of honor.  Major themes in his novels:  nature and culture, ecological sustainability, climate change and global warming, economic and social justice, and scientists as heroes.

“The environmental, economic, and social themes in Robinson’s oeuvre stand in marked contrast to the libertarian science fiction prevalent in much of science fiction (Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle being prominent examples), and his work has been called the most successful attempt to reach a mass audience with a left wing and anti-capitalist utopian vision since Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel, The Dispossessed.”  –  Wiki

Robinson’s latest novel, NewYork 2140 , which came out in March from Orbit, is about residents of New York coping the the drastic affects of climate change, namely rising sea levels.

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear — along with the lawyers, of course.

There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home– and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.

Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all– and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

Praise for New York 2140:

“Science fiction is threaded everywhere through culture nowadays, and it would take an act of critical myopia to miss the fact that Robinson is one of the world’s finest working novelists, in any genre. NEW YORK 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation.”  ?  The Guardian

“An exploration of human resilience in the face of extreme pressure…starkly beautiful and fundamentally optimistic visions of technological and social change in the face of some of the worst devastation we might bring upon ourselves.”  ?  The Conversation

“As much a critique of contemporary capitalism, social mores and timeless human foibles, this energetic, multi-layered narrative is also a model of visionary worldbuilding.”  ?  RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!) on New York 214

“A thoroughly enjoyable exercise in worldbuilding, written with a cleareyed love for the city’s past, present, and future.”  ?  Kirkus

“The tale is one of adventure, intrigue, relationships, and market forces…. The individual threads weave together into a complex story well worth the read.”  ?  Booklist

(17) SPINRAD REVIEWED. Rob Latham shares his qualified enthusiasm for Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police in “An Unkempt Jeremiad” at LA Review of Books.

I would affirm that The People’s Police is a continuous pleasure to read were it not for the poor production values that persistently hobble the story. While the physical book is well designed, including an arresting dust-jacket by Michael Graziolo, the text itself is littered with distracting typos, oddly repeated words (e.g., “his vehicle had come around again to where where Luke was standing”), and passages still showing the raw compositional process (e.g., “what the upstate Holy Rollers were calling called the People’s Police”). A better job of editing would have caught these various solecisms, as well as the embarrassing fact that some anecdotes — e.g., that Huey Long built “a half-assed half-scale replica of the White House” as his governor’s mansion — are recounted twice, thus compromising their effectiveness. Every time I began to fall under the spell of Spinrad’s kooky grandiloquence, some glaring error like this would throw me out of the story. This is particularly unfortunate given that, as noted above, The People’s Police marks the author’s dogged attempt to break back into the US market after a decade of frustrations.

All in all, though, I think the novel should be well received, as it manifests most of the strengths of Spinrad’s long career….

(18) APOCALYPSE OHIO. There were a few angsty moments at the Scalzi compound today.

(19) AT RISK COMICS. I scanned CosmicBookNews’ list of Marvel comics titles on the bubble, holding in mind the recent controversy about whether diversity sells.

Titles with an asterisk are already cancelled as of July.

CA: Sam Wilson – #21 – 18,650
Gwenpool – #14 – 17,972
Captain Marvel – #4 – 17,893
US Avengers – #5 – 17,880
Ultimates 2 – #6 -17,350
Dr. Strange & Sorcerers Supreme – #7 – 16,887
Man-Thing – #3 – 16,199 [Mini]
Hawkeye – #5 – 16,031
Totally Awesome Hulk – #18 – 16,009
Spider-Man 2099 – #22 – 15,273
Elektra – #3 – 15,113*
Silver Surfer – #10 – 15,041
World Of Wakanda – #6 – 14,547*
Nova – #5 – 14,525*
Silk – #19 – 13,524*
Thunderbolts – #12 – 13,780*
Kingpin – #3 – 13,765*
Rocket Raccoon #5 – 13,373*
Power Man & Iron Fist #15 – 13,055*
Bullseye – #3 – 12,912 [Mini]
Star lord – #6 – 12,278*
Squirrel Girl – #19 – 11,074
Occupy Avengers – #6 – 10,296
Unstoppable Wasp – #4 – 9,780
Great Lakes Avengers – #7 – 8,370
Moon Girl and Devil Dino – #18 – 7,966
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat – #17 – 6,943*
Mosaic – #7 – 5,876*

On the fence:

Ms. Marvel – #17 – 20,881

(20) GUARDIANS INSIDE INFO. Don’t view this unless you are ready for SPOILERS. Looper picks out Small Details In Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 Only True Fans Understood.

After all the hype, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 proved itself a worthy successor to the first film. With another Awesome Mix Tape blasting and another round of adventures for Star-Lord and his gang of unlikely heroes, Vol. 2 offered up the same mix of action and comedy fans have come to love. And like the first installment, the newest Guardians is packed with Easter eggs. Here are all the small details only true fans noticed in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Major spoilers ahead!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Roger Silverstein, Cat Eldridge, Ellen Datlow, ,Andrew Porter, Kat, Kendall, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

SF Scholar Rob Latham Fired by University of California

Rob Latham in 2008.

Rob Latham in 2008.

Rob Latham, a tenured professor of English at University of California, Riverside and a member of its science fiction research cluster who evangelized the Eaton Collection throughout fandom, has been fired by the UC Board of Regents. Charges of sexual harassment and substance abuse are addressed in Latham’s 3,900-word statement, first presented to the Regents and now published by the Academe Blog, however, the exact charges are not quoted.

He denied the complaint of sexual harassment:

….I can’t believe that this case, which began with false charges of sexual harassment brought by a disgruntled graduate student and his girlfriend, has been allowed to reach the Board of Regents. It should have been settled through informal mediation long ago.

However, not only was no such good faith effort ever attempted by the UCR administration, but I was never even invited to respond to the charges or to submit exculpatory evidence. Instead, the administration adopted an adversarial posture from the outset, as if the original allegations—the vast majority of which we now know to be untrue—had already been proven. As Vice Provost Daniel Ozer testified at the disciplinary hearing, the administration never sought to change course even when it became clear that the two complainants had submitted doctored evidence and leveled charges that were proven false by a police investigation.

He argued the issue of substance abuse was being manipulated to support a disproportionate disciplinary action:

I made a serious error of judgment in relation to substance abuse, for which I sought treatment one full year before any charges were filed against me. The Senate, for whatever reason, gave me no credit for that effort at self-correction, and now Chancellor Wilcox is asking you to dismiss me for the recurrence of a psychological illness, rather than for the original charges of flagrant, serial sexual harassment—charges that were considered and dismissed by the Hearing Committee, whose findings the Chancellor has accepted in their entirety.

He levied many criticisms against the hearing process in his address to the Regents, including —

I have outlined, in my ten-page written statement, the political pressures and rank homophobia that deformed the disciplinary process, including acts of official misconduct that are currently being investigated by the Faculty Senate. All I will repeat here is that the intervention of the graduate student union, at an early juncture of this case, and their threats to “go public” if the administration did not acquiesce to their demand for my “removal as Professor of English,” was crucial in setting the administration on the course they pursued. This course included manipulating and corrupting an ostensibly fair and impartial Title IX investigation, coaching student witnesses supportive of their case while attempting to intimidate those supportive of me, and suppressing evidence crucial to my defense before the Faculty Senate.

Latham spent the first 13 years of his teaching career at the University of Iowa as a Professor of English and American Studies, where he ran a Program in Sexuality Studies.

He was hired by UC Riverside in 2008 to join the English Department faculty, with responsibilities that included serving as an informal liaison to the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Utopian Literature. He received the Clareson Award for Distinguished Service from the SF Research Association in 2012, the field’s premier award.

Latham has made many connections with fanzine fans. He contributed a perceptive and well-received article to Earl Kemp’s eI #37 about using fanzines for academic research. Mike Horvat’s vast fanzine collection landed at the University of Iowa because a former student of Latham’s, Greg Beatty, a UI graduate spotted the listing online, and immediately emailed Latham.

Despite the growing prestige of UCR’s science fiction collection and research, there have been signs of conflict between the administration and faculty members in UCR’s science fiction research cluster. Both Latham and Nalo Hopkinson, a well-known sf writer and another member of that research cluster, publically expressed concern in summer 2014 about the way the Eaton Collection was being administered (see “How Healthy Is The Eaton Collection?”.)

Nothing that was aired in 2014 seems directly related to the issues in Latham’s hearing, other than the foreshadowing of the toxic professional relationships explicitly described in Latham’s statement to the Regents:

My hiring was the result of an international search for a senior scholar, mounted by former Dean Steve Cullenberg and former Chancellor Tim White, two very good men and superb administrators with whom I had an excellent working relationship. However, following the hire of Chancellor Wilcox in 2013—and especially of Provost D’Anieri in 2014—the atmosphere at UCR changed from one of cooperation and consultation with faculty to one of confrontation and hostility. I say this merely to indicate that I gave seven years of exemplary service to the campus but, following the lodging of false charges by a student with a grudge, have been hounded by a vengeful administration intent on railroading me out of my job.

Readers do not have full information to evaluate the case, nor is that likely to become public unless Latham follows up with a lawsuit and the suit goes to trial. However, news of Latham’s firing is all the more surprising for coming at the same time his standing as a scholar has been affirmed by an announcement that the MLA 2017 session “Dangerous Visions: Science Fiction’s Countercultures” will base its call for papers on responses to Latham’s “Countercultures” chapter in his edited volume The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction (2014).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter and Nick Mamatas for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/16 Farmer In The Tunnel In The Dell In The Sky

chronicles-of-narnia-silver-chair-book-cover-357x600(1) BACK TO NARNIA? According to Evangelical Focus, a fourth Narnia movie – The Silver Chair — could be ready in 2016

The story happens decades later. In Narnia, King Caspian is now an old man. Eustace and Jill will be asked to find Caspian’s son, Prince Rilian, with the help of Aslan.

Scriptwriter David Magee (“Life of Pi”, “Finding Neverland”) is writing the film adaptation, which will be released five years after the previous movie, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

Collider says the next film will be the start of a new franchise entirely – one where The Walden group, makers of the earlier movies, will not be involved.

The rebooted angle doesn’t come as a total surprise. The Mark Gordon Company and The C.S. Lewis Company took over the rights from The Walden Group back in 2013, when they first announced plans for a Silver Chair adaptation, so it’s not surprising that the production companies would want to build something new instead of relying on the foundation of a franchise that was ultimately always a bit of an underperformer.

Collider also asked about casting.

Given the plot of The Silver Chair, the fourth book in the series, which takes places decades in future from where we last saw our heroes in 2010’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I also asked if we would see any of the original cast reprising their roles in the new film. The answer is a hard no.

[Mark Gordon] No, it’s all going to be a brand new franchise. All original. All original characters, different directors, and an entire new team that this is coming from.

If the phrase “original characters” causes your hair to bristle, don’t worry, I asked him to clarify if these were entirely new character creations or existing characters in the Narnia mythology that have yet to get the movie treatment, and he confirmed the later. The new characters will come “from the world” of Narnia.

The IMDB FAQ has more information about what characters will be included:

Will we see characters from earlier Narnia films?

Not necessarily. We should see Eustace Scrubb as a main character, along with Aslan. But Silver Chair, the novel, does not include his Pevensie cousins, Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter. Other returning characters who may or may not be included are Trumpkin (PC), King Caspian (PC, VDT), Ramandu’s Daughter (VDT), and Lord Drinian (VDT).

(2) IDEA TO HONOR GERRY ANDERSON. Some of his admirers have launched a “Campaign for blue plaques in honour of Kilburn creator of Thunderbirds”. (via Ansible Links.)

Gerry Anderson, who attended Kingsgate Primary School, is most famous for the cult 1960s series Thunderbirds, which featured iconic characters including Scott Tracey, Lady Penelope and Parker.

The Historic Kilburn Plaque Scheme (HKPS) is looking to raise £2,500 to mark his contribution with two plaques: one on his old school in Kingsgate Road, and one on the Sidney Boyd Court estate, on the corner of West End Lane and Woodchurch Road, where he used to live.

Mr Anderson lived with his parents in a large detached house on the site of the estate from 1929 to 1935 before the area was bombed in the war.

(3) AND WE’RE STILL MAD. “Seven TV Finales That Went Out of Their Way to Anger Fans” at Cracked. Number six is Quantum Leap.

In the last episode, Sam somehow leaps into his own body in some kind of odd purgatory-like dimension that looks like a bar — which, as far as purgatory dimensions go, ain’t half-bad. Also, a guy who is implied to be God is there, working as a bartender. If the fact that even God had to have a part-time job in the early ’90s doesn’t disprove Reaganomics, what will?

(4) IS THIS CHARACTER THAT POPULAR? Suvudu’s Matt Staggs reports “Poe Dameron to Have Monthly Comic Book”.

He was only on screen for a few minutes, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens Resistance pilot Poe Dameron turned out to be one of the film’s biggest breakout characters. (Well, maybe next to TR-8R.) This week, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Marvel Entertainment announced that he’ll be the star of his own comic book: Star Wars: Poe Dameron. The new ongoing series will be written by Charles Soule (Lando, Obi-Wan and Anakin) and illustrated by Phil Noto (Chewbacca).

(5) UNDER-REMEMBERED AUTHORS. David Brin, in a post that begins with a tribute to the late David Hartwell, also names some forgotten authors – who should not be.

A fun little conversation-starter? On Quora I was asked to name “forgotten” sci fiauthors.  Other respondents were citing Roger Zelazny, L. Sprague de Camp, Ursuala Le Guin, Lester del Rey, A.E. VanVogt, Fritz Lieber, Clifford Simak, Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon. Well, of course Zelazny and Farmer and Ursula and those others should never be forgotten.  But would any reasonably well-read person say they are?  Or Walter Miller or Iain Banks?  No, not yet on any such list!  And I hope never.

For my own answer I dug deeper. From Robert Sheckley and Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.) and William Tenn, the greatest of all short story writers to lamented classics like John Boyd’s “The Last Starship From Earth.”

(6) CALL FOR PAPERS. The MLA 2017 session “Dangerous Visions: Science Fiction’s Countercultures” seeks papers that probe the following topic –

In the introduction to the chapter on “Countercultures” in his edited volume The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction (2014), Rob Latham asserts that “Science fiction has always had a close relationship with countercultural movements” (383). The alternative worldmaking capacities of SF&F, in other words, has long had resonances in the sub- and countercultural movements of the past few centuries, “especially,” as Latham qualifies and expands, “if the allied genre of the literary utopia [and, we might add, the dystopia] is included within” the orbit of SF.

The convention will be held in January 2017 in Philadelphia. Papers proposed to the panel … might address the countercultural forces of the following topics, broadly conceived, or take their own unique direction:

  • pulp magazines
  • SF and the Literary Left
  • the New Wave (American or British)
  • cyberpunk
  • British Boom
  • contemporary/world SF
  • postcolonial SF
  • (critical) utopias/dystopias
  • SF as counterculture
  • SF beyond “science fiction”
  • SF comics, films, television

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 23, 1957 – Machines at the Wham-O toy company roll out the first batch of their aerodynamic plastic discs–now known to millions of fans all over the world as Frisbees.

(8) SOME GOOD OLD DAYS. The Traveler at Galactic Journey in “20,000 Leagues Over The Air!” is among the very first in 1961 to review Vincent Price’s performance in Master of the World.

Every once in a while, my faith is restored in Hollywood, and I remember why I sit through the schlock to get to the gold.

My daughter and I sat through 90 minutes of the execrable, so bad it’s bad Konga because we had been lured in by the exciting posters for Master of the World.  It promised to be a sumptuous Jules Verne classic a la Journey to the Center of the Earth, and it starred the inimitable Vincent Price to boot.

It was worth the wait–the movie is an absolute delight….

(9) TIME TRAVELING IN STONE. On Book View Café, Steven Popkes tells about a road trip that combined “Fossils and Atomic Testing in Nevada”.

It was also a different perspective to see how people in Nevada viewed such things. I was living in California most of that time. We ducked and covered in the classrooms in case war came. But, in Las Vegas, people saw the flash. There were hundreds of tests in Nevada, many above ground. Every time an above ground test happened, it was seen across much of the state. In California, we were scared of something amorphous. In Nevada, they saw it every few months.

Then, back to the hills and looking for rocks and fossils.

We ended up with about 100 pounds of rock holding down every counter in the hotel room. Fifty pounds were our addition to the adjacent rock garden but the remaining 50 pounds needed to be shipped. We ended up purchasing a sturdy suitcase in Walmart and paying $25 for a check on. We heard, “what do you have in here? Rocks?” more than once. We just smiled and gave them our credit card.

(10) TROUBLE MAGNET. Lela E. Buis shares her ideas about “The dangers of Internet activism”.

However, some of these activists have run afoul of public opinion and suffered for it. Jenny Trout was dropped by her publisher after the Fionna Man episode. Ann Rice, Kevin Weinberg and Marvin Kaye suffered from their efforts to counter some of these attacks. Sarah Wendell received a lot of negative attention after Vox Day featured her comments on his conservative blog. And Day is a prime example himself. Everyone in the SFF community should know his name after last year’s Hugo debacle, but most of the press is so negative that it leads people to discount his viewpoints.

(11) TERMS WITHOUT ENDEARMENT. Did Steve Davidson just refuse John C. Wright’s surrender?

[Davidson] Response: “Publicly repudiate slates and campaigning. Don’t participate; let your readers know that you don’t endorse slates and have requested that your works not be included on them.”

[Writer left unnamed in article] “Done! I accept your offer, I have posted a notice on my blog eschewing slate voting, and you must now perform your part of the deal, and forswear putting my works, should any be nominated, below ‘No Award.’”

[Davidson continues] And now for the analysis.

First, note that in the first quote from PP we have this “assuming it wins the nomination”.

This whole thing is about the nominating process and the final voting, not just the final vote.  PP has very carefully tried to thread a needle here by entirely ignoring the fact that slates and campaigning are pretty much a done deal by the time we get to the final ballot.

So, PP.  No.  Your assumption about what you’ve agreed to do is meaningless because the assumption is wrong – and I think deliberately so.

Moving on:  We’ve been through this in detail for over two years now.  You may have made a statement on your blog – but I see no requests you’ve made to have your works removed from slates.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Melissa Conway Retires from the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Melissa Conway EI

Melissa Conway

Melissa Conway, the director of the world’s largest collection of science fiction and fantasy, announced her retirement on January 3, 2015. Conway has been at the University of California Riverside for thirteen years, arriving as Head of Special Collections in May 2001. Conway followed her husband to the west coast, having previously worked at the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Yale’s Beinecke Library, and a private art collection in Washington, DC.

Conway, a specialist in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts with a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from Yale University, had no scholarly background in science fiction when she came to UCR. “George Slusser was the Eaton Curator when I arrived, so I didn’t have to worry about promoting the Eaton,” explained Conway. But when Slusser retired shortly after she arrived and UCR decided to hire a University Archivist instead of another science fiction specialist, Conway realized she had to learn about science fiction—and quickly! “I didn’t want to be responsible for the decline of the world’s largest science fiction research collection!” she says. Conway took her role seriously, and was particularly pleased when the Eaton was assessed in an independent study as the leading science fiction research collection among Association of Research Libraries in 2006.

Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections & University Archives at UCR, displays a rare first edition of Utopian writer Tommaso Campanella's "Civitas Solis" (City of the Sun), written in Latin in 1623.

Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections & University Archives at UCR, displays a rare first edition of Utopian writer Tommaso Campanella’s “Civitas Solis” (City of the Sun), written in Latin in 1623.

Highlights among Conway’s accomplishments include reviving, in 2008, the Eaton Science Fiction Conference after a nine-year hiatus, making it not only financially self-sustaining but also profitable; establishing the Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction, honoring SF masters Ray Bradbury (2008), Frederik Pohl (2009), Samuel R. Delany (2010) Harlan Ellison (2011), Ursula K. Le Guin (2012), Ray Harryhausen and Stan Lee (2013); increasing the holdings of Eaton by 40%, largely through donations and grant funding; raising more than $5 million dollars in gifts-in-kind and cash donations, including the 1517 Paris edition of Thomas More’s Utopia, the science fiction fanzine collection of Bruce Pelz, the anime and “furry” collections of Fred Patten; the 1623 edition of Tommaso Campanella’s Civitas Solis; the Jane and Howard Frank Collection of the papers of Edwardian horror writer William Hope Hodgson; the papers of Anne McCaffrey; and the photographic archive—and $3.5 million cash endowment—of Jay Kay Klein, the largest cash gift to the UCR Library in its sixty year history.

Conway even found ways to combine her background in medieval studies with science fiction, including having been chosen in 2009 to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar in Florence, Italy on Dante and The Divine Comedy, for her project on Dante’s influence on more than fifty works of SF.

Conway wishes to acknowledge the steadfast support and essential contributions of her colleagues at UCR in the success of the Eaton, in particular Professors Rob Latham, Sherryl Vint, and Nalo Hopkinson; Julia Ree, Eaton Subject Selector; Sarah Allison, former Reading Room Coordinator in Special Collections; Dean Stephen Cullenberg, who established the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; former University Librarian Ruth Jackson, who was a steadfast supporter of the Eaton; and the late George Slusser, who fought the good fight for twenty-five years when the Eaton Collection—and science fiction as an academic discipline—were under attack from various quarters. “Without each of them,” Conway notes, “none of these advances would have been possible.”

Conway’s brilliance and diligence as a curator and conference organizer, as well as her graciousness and good humor as a colleague, have earned her the respect and affection of the UCR faculty who have worked with her. Professor of English Rob Latham, co-director of the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program, who has helped to mount two Eaton Conferences alongside Conway, says that “UCR library—and the entire SF community—simply will not be the same without her. She has been an unparalleled champion of archival research in the field, as well as a wonderful collaborator and a very good friend. Her departure is a terrible loss for all of us who love science fiction.”

“Melissa Conway was an ideal colleague: knowledgeable, dedicated and seemingly tireless in her advocacy of the Eaton collection,” says Professor of English Sherryl Vint, who co-directs the SFTS program with Latham. “She is responsible not only for sustaining this world-class collection but also for creating a vibrant and welcoming intellectual community around it. She will be dearly missed and her absence will be a loss felt across the field.”

In the words of Nalo Hopkinson, award-winning SF author and Professor of Creative Writing at UCR: “Dr. Conway’s work championing and increasing the scope of the Eaton Archive built brilliantly on Dr. Slusser’s legacy. She possessed a visionary approach to collection development and fundraising. The results speak for themselves. Under Dr. Conway’s leadership, she and her staff created an unparalleled dynamic of trust, collegiality, and cooperation with faculty in UCR’s science fiction research cluster and with the science fiction community in general. A golden era has ended.”

[From the press release.]

SF&F Translation Awards Ended

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards series has come to an end. Cheryl Morgan, a director of the Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation (ARESFFT) which administered the award, announced October 29 the organization is being dissolved.

There are many reasons for this, but mostly they are to do with the time and effort required to run the awards on an amateur basis. It has become increasingly difficult to find people willing to act as jurors. Several of the existing Directors have had major changes in their lives that have left them with far less free time than they had previously. And all attempts to find new Directors have failed to produce any volunteers.

The members of the Board of Directors were Gary K. Wolfe, President, Kevin Standlee, Secretary-Treasurer, Melissa Conway, Rob Latham, Cheryl Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson.

The SF&F Translation Awards were given from 2011-2013.

How Healthy Is the Eaton Collection?

The estate of Jay Kay Klein has donated $3.5 million to the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy announced UC Riverside officials on August 28. It is the largest gift ever received by the UCR library and ranks among the top 25 donations campuswide.

Klein contributed his photo collection of 66,000 images of sf fandom and authors to the Eaton Collection prior to his death in 2012. The photo collection was valued at $1.4 million.

Two Eaton archivists studying a Klein shipment.

Two Eaton archivists studying photos in a shipment from Jay Kay Klein. Photo by John Hertz.

These gifts are credited to the relationship he established with Melissa Conway, the library’s special collections director.

A cash donation of such magnitude might have appeared one more step in the triumphal march of the Eaton Collection’s development were it not just three weeks ago that Nalo Hopkinson, sf writer and teacher of creative writing at UC Riverside, fired off this SOS:

I’m sad to have to report that new library administration doesn’t seem to appreciate the value of the Eaton Collection or the expertise that goes into it. Since spring of this year, their accomplishments have included driving out staff members and pushing changes to collection policies that would reduce the Eaton’s holdings, its value to researchers and as a repository of our community’s history, and its standing as a world-class archive. Meetings with the staff of the Eaton have been productive, collegial gatherings. Meetings to negotiate with the new library administration, not so much. It’s putting the faculty of the research cluster in the alarming position of having to protect the very collection we’re charged with fostering. We’re dealing with the new library admins’ efforts to split up the collection and change priorities for what to collect (eg, e-text over print) without consulting scholars in the field, and with what we’d characterize as harassment of staff, who’ve demonstrated extreme competence over the years.

But Hopkinson followed that warning with this provisional good news just one week later:

We three profs in the science fiction research cluster at UCR met with Dr. Stephen Cullenberg, the Dean of Humanities. He’s the person who had the vision a few years ago to create a faculty research cluster to promote the Eaton. (I should be clear that the profs in the research cluster are not employees of the Eaton. Drs. Vint and Latham are in the English Department and I — not a Dr — am in Creative Writing.) Dr. Cullenberg told us that he’s had a message from the new UCR library administrators. They’re beginning to work on a few proposals aimed at addressing our concerns about the way they’re managing the collection. There will be negotiations and resolutions mediated through a committee that will provide a trackable log of the decisions and actions upon which we’ve all agreed. Of course, this is all a couple of theoretical birds in the bush. The time for rejoicing is when you have actual birds in hand. For, me, this isn’t so much cautious optimism as it is “wait and see.”

She also reports that Eaton’s Dr. Rob Latham wrote on Facebook:

“At this meeting we were apprised of recent, potentially positive news emanating from the library dean involving plans to establish a “focused Eaton unit” with two full-time staff positions. There has also been movement toward creating an advisory body composed of faculty and administrators from both our college and the library whose charge would be to oversee the Eaton. We are cautiously optimistic about these initiatives and hope that they will lead to an enhancement, rather than a diminishment, of the value of the Collection.

Hopkinson and Latham wrote their comments before Klein’s bequest was announced. One can only speculate whether it helped thaw the attitudes they’ve been contending against.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the story.]

Ted Chiang at UCR on 3/4

Ted Chiang

Acclaimed sf writer Ted Chiang will read selections from his work at UC Riverside on March 4 at 7 p.m. in the Department of English conference room, HMNSS 2212.

“Ted Chiang is the premier writer of short fiction in the field today,” says Rob Latham, professor of English and a senior editor of the journal Science Fiction Studies.

He has won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, four Nebula awards, four Hugo awards, three Locus awards, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Sidewise Award, and a British Science Fiction Association Award.

The event is free and open to the public. Parking costs $5.

SFL Supports SF&F Translation Awards

The Speculative Literature Foundation has pledged $250 annually to help fund the SF&F Translation Awards. The awards recognize the work of those who translate science fiction and fantasy into English and promote the fiction of non English-speaking authors.

The current plan is for the award to be given for the first time to work published in 2010. The presentation is expected to be at the Eaton Conference. There are two award categories, long form (40,000 words and above) and short form. The winning translator and author will both receive a trophy and cash prize.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards are administered by the Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization whose directors are Gary K. Wolfe, Kevin Standlee, Melissa Conway, Rob Latham and Cheryl Morgan.

The full press release follows the jump.

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