Spikecon Art Show Awards

By John Hertz:  Spikecon was held on July 4-7, 2019, at Layton, Utah, combining Westercon LXXII (yearly; regional), the 13th NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is not in North America), Manticon 2019 (yearly; fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series and its Royal Manticoran Navy, i.e. Space navy), 1632 Minicon (yearly; fans of Eric Flint’s 1632 series).

Attendance about 800.  Art Show sales about $20,000 by about 60 artists.

Art Show director, Bruce Miller.  Judges, Peri Charlifu, Ctein, and me.

There was also a People’s Choice award.

Ctein felt strongly that judges who also happened to be exhibiting should not be considered for awards.  Brother Charlifu and I went along with this.

Best of Show, also People’s Choice

  • Devon Dorrity, “Queen of the Sea”; bronze

Color

               1st: Jessica Douglas, “Ghost Leviathan”; mixed media

               2nd: W.J. Hodgson, “Nebulous”; reverse glass painting

               3rd: Theresa Mather, “White Tiger Angel”; acrylic on feather with onyx, tanzanite, sapphires

Monochrome

               1st: Mark Roland, “Persistence of Memory”; etching

               2nd: Elizabeth Fellows, “Always”; fiber

               3rd: Bjo Trimble, “Aslan”; stone lithograph

Three-Dimensional

               1st: Elizabeth Berrien, “Cloud Unicorn”; wire

               2nd: Vincent Villafranca, “Bane of Thieves”; bronze

               3rd: Melanie Unruh, “Nebula”; ceramic footed bowl

Judge’s Choice

               Dragon Dronet, “Enemy Mine Skull”

               Jacob & Wayne Fowler, “Grey Ghost”; wood scroll-saw

               Kat Trimble, “Mariposa”; zinc plate etching


Ctein is pronounced “k’TINE”; that’s his full name; not “Mr. Ctein” or “Ctein Jones” or “Bill Ctein”, just Ctein.  There should be a circumflex over the “j” in “Bjo”, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”.

NASFiC 2020, Westercon 74 Site Selection Voting Statistics

NASFiC 2020: Ben Yalow, Spikecon Site Selection Area Head, reported the results of the 2020 NASFiC site selection voting held at the joint NASFiC/Westercon.

The information was shared as a courtesy at the Westercon business meeting on July 6, there being no WSFS business meeting at a NASFiC. The complete Westercon 72 Business Meeting minutes are posted here.

Columbus ran unopposed. Yalow said 100 votes were cast.

Candidate Mail Thu Fri Total
Columbus, OH 7 46 34 87
Grantville, WV 1 1   2
Tonopah, NV     2 2
OVFF 1     1
Arcosanti 1     1
Minneapolis in ‘73   1   1
Peggy Rae’s House   1   1
None of the Above     1 1
Total With Preference 10 49 37 96
No preference   1 1 2
Invalid 2     2
Total votes cast       100

With 87 votes, Yalow declared that Columbus had won the 2020 NASFiC.

2021 Westercon Site Selection: Ben Yalow also presented the results of the Site Selection for Westercon 74. With 140 votes cast, 68 votes were required to declare a winner.

Candidate Mail Thu Fri Total
Phoenix, AZ 3 11 37 51
Tonopah, NV 9 32 41 82
Both     1 1
None of the Above       0
Total With Preference       134
Needed to Elect (Majority)       68
No preference     6 6
Total votes cast       140

With 82 votes, Tonopah was declared the winner of the 2021 Westercon.

A video of the Westercon business meeting is available:

[Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the story.]

Half the places I have been to, never were

By John Hertz: (reprinted in part from No Direction Home 19) Over the weekend Columbus, Ohio, won its bid to hold the 2020 NASFiC. Sit enim sit bonum omen (Latin; “Let it be a good omen”). This is the 125th birth-anniversary year of Columbus boy James Thurber (1894-1961; December 8th). His name still is on many lips. Try The Seal in the Bedroom (1932); The Thurber Carnival (1945; Broadway revue, 1960).

The NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention) is held – since 1975 – when the World Science Fiction Convention is outside North America (Section 4.8, Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society).

The 2019 Worldcon will be August 15-19 at Dublin, Republic of Ireland; the 77th Worldcon. The 2019 NASFiC was July 4-7 at Layton, Utah; the 13th NASFiC.

Layton first won its bid to hold Westercon LXXII (annual West Coast – but it can be anywhere in North America west of the 104th West Meridian [or in the State of Hawaii], Section 3.1, Westercon Bylaws – Science Fantasy Conference); then won a bid to hold the NASFiC concurrently.

These two general-interest SF cons were then joined by two special-interest cons, the annual 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flint’s 1632 series) and the annual Manticon (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran Navy — i.e. Space Navy).

The four-con combination was called Spikecon, for the Final Spike completing the Transcontinental Railroad, driven 150 years ago (10 May 1869) at Promontory, Utah, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of the con site.

The 26th Worldcon was combined with Westercon XXI. We’d never combined a Westercon and a NASFiC before. Recall Ben Yalow’s apothegm (there’s reason to spell it apophthegm, but this is complicated enough) “Running a Worldcon is impossible. Running a NASFiC is harder.”

The 2020 Worldcon will be at Wellington, New Zealand. So Spikecon administered voting for the 2020 NASFiC.

Minneapolis in ’73 and Peggy Rae’s House each got 1 write-in vote, which I’ll tell you all about some other time.

I’d started reading Thurber long before I got around to The Thurb Revolution (A. Panshin, 1968; note that Kevin Roche, who chaired the 76th Worldcon, won an award as Torve the Trog in the Masquerade at Costume-Con III, 1985). I’m not aware that Thurber wrote science fiction. He did write fantasy. I recommend The 13 Clocks (1950). Marc Simont did the illustrations.

Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke…. His hands were as cold as his smile and almost as cold as his heart…. His nights were spent in evil dreams, and his days were given to wicked schemes …. impossible feats for the suitors of Saralinda to perform…. to cut a slice of moon, or to change the ocean into wine…. finding things that never were, and building things that could not be….

….a prince, disguised as a minstrel, came singing to the town that lay below the castle…. weary of rich attire and banquets and tournaments … to find in a far land the maiden of his dreams….

“The Duke….” a tosspot gurgled…. “breaks up minstrels in his soup, like crackers.”

The minstrel began to sing again. A soft finger touched his shoulder and he turned to see a little man smiling in the moonlight. He wore an indescribable hat, his eyes were wide and astonished, as if everything were happening for the first time…. “I am the Golux,” said the Golux, proudly, “the only Golux in the world, and not a mere Device…. I resemble only half the things I say I don’t…. The other half resemble me…. Half the places I have been to, never were. I make things up. Half the things I say are there cannot be found….

“The Duke prepares to feed you to his geese…. We must invent a tale to stay his hand…. to make the Duke believe that slaying you would light a light in someone else’s heart. He hates a light in people’s hearts….”

The iron guards of the Duke closed in…. There was a clang and clanking.

“Do not arrest my friend,” the youth implored.

“What friend?” the captain growled.

The minstrel looked around him and about, but there was no one…. A guard guffawed and said, “Maybe he’s seen the Golux.”

“There isn’t any Golux. I have been to school, and know,” the captain said.

Neil Gaiman said “This book is probably the best book in the world. And if it’s not the best book, then it’s still very much like nothing anyone has ever seen before.” But what does he know?

Eric Flint Hospitalized During Spikecon

Eric Flint

Eric Flint was taken ill with a bout of pneumonia while attending the NASFiC/Westercon/1632 Minicon in Layton UT last weekend as one of the guests of honor.

Walt Boyes informed Facebook readers on July 7:

He is in the hospital, getting antibiotics and oxygen but he’s doing well and expects to get out and go home in a couple of days. He was able to do Snerking the Plots by Skype from his hospital bed. He’s going to be fine, so no worries, but good thoughts would be appreciated.

Best wishes to him for a full and rapid recovery.

Pixel Scroll 7/7/19 Just A Small Town Scroll, Living In A Pixel World

(1) PENRIC RETURNS. Lois McMaster Bujold has finished another Penric and Desdemona novella – see “The Orphans of Raspay cover sneak peek” at Goodreads.

When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by Carpagamon island raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, Lencia and Seuka Corva, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.

This novella follows about a year after the events of “The Prisoner of Limnos”.

E-publication before the end of the month, I’m pretty sure; this week or next, maybe. I still have some last polishing and fretting to do on the text file, and then there is the vexing question of a map.

(2) GAINING INSIGHT. Jonathan LaForce advises writers looking to base their stories on lived experience “How to Talk with Veterans” at Mad Genius Club.

Last month, we talked about telling the stories of combat veterans as they really happened. Without whitewashing or varnish. Without embellishment. Without lies.
In the third-to-last paragraph, I make mention of sitting down and talking with veterans. Over the last month I’ve been looking around and realizing nobody has ever explained how to talk with veterans, as a writer looking for technical (and personal) knowledge about the profession of arms. Today, we’re gonna start down that road.

(3) THE OLD EQUATIONS.

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s article “Throw Grandma Out the Airlock: Representation of Old Women in Science Fiction” appears in SFRA Review #217, published by the Science Fiction Research Association.

This project started because I was wrong. My initial premise was that speculative fiction relegated women “of a certain age” to very specific roles: the crone, the wise woman, the meddling mother, the friendly innkeep. This seemed such an obvious truth that it was barely even worth stating. We’ve seen these women all our lives, in fairy tales and epic fantasy, and of course in Terry Pratchett’s wonderful parodies of old women in all of their cliched roles.

However, when pressed, I discovered that there was one place where we do not see these women: in science fiction novels. Old women are a rarity in science fiction and when they do exist, they inhabit a very different space. We don’t have innkeeps, we have immortals. We don’t have crazy cat ladies, we have body snatchers. There’s a distinct lack of old ladies who love solving cozy mysteries, but we do have a greater than-normal number of politicians. 

(4) UNREAL ESTATE. What are “The Most Terrifying Buildings in Literature”? Riley Sager has a little list at Crimereads.

Building: The World’s Fair Hotel

Book: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

“I was born with the devil in me.” So said H.H. Holmes, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Holmes began construction of his so-called hotel as Chicago was gearing up for the 1893 World’s Fair. Far from your normal bed and breakfast, the building included soundproofed rooms, maze-like hallways and, in the basement, a crematorium and acid vats. Although the number of people he killed there is unknown, it was more than enough to give the building a different name—“The Murder Castle.” 

(5) WRITERS AT SEA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 commemoration series revisits “The celebrity cruise to celebrate the end of the Moon landings was a delightful train wreck” – “The voyage set sail powered by the hot air of macho writer Norman Mailer, and it was precisely the 1970s freak show you’d expect.”

…But perhaps the oddest Moon-related cultural experience was one that happened on the occasion of the launch of Apollo 17, in December 1972, the last Apollo mission to the Moon. It was a Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s ship, the S.S. Statendam, and anyone with the money for a ticket could mingle with NBC newsman Hugh Downs, science fiction legends Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova, novelist Katherine Anne Porter, and yes, Norman Mailer himself. This curious collection of luminaries also organized events and panels as part of the ship’s entertainment. The cruise lasted almost as long as the Apollo 17 mission itself: nine days, starting with a seaborne view of Apollo 17’s launch from seven miles off Cape Kennedy….

(6) DECALCOMANIA. The family that cosplays together….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert Heinlein. So what do you like by him? I’m very fond of The Moon is A Harsh Mistress. And I like Starship Troopers despite the baggage around it. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is on my occasional re-read list as I find a fun read in a way that Friday isn’t. Time Enough for Love is, errr, self-indulgent in the extreme. Fun though. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 7, 1919 Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four year run here, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his fist roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 7, 1931 David Eddings. Prolific and great, with his wife Leigh, they authored several best-selling epic fantasy novel series, including The Belgariad, The Malloreon and The Dreamers to name but three of their series. They’ve written but one non-sriracha novel, The Redemption of Althalus. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 7, 1948 Kathy Reichs, 71. Author of the Temperance Brennan series which might be genre adjacent, she’s also the author of Virals, a YA series about a group of a young adults with minor super powers. 
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 60. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. BTW,  IDW did a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures and Amazon has it for a mere twenty-five bucks! 
  • Born July 7, 1968 Jeff VanderMeer, 51. Ok I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about the Southern Reach Trilogy and am not sure if it’s brilliant or not. I will say the pirate anthology he and his wife Anne did, Fast Ships, Black Sails, is quite tasty reading. 
  • Born July 7, 1969 Cree Summer, 50. Voice performer in myriad series such as as Spider-Man: The New Animated SeriesJustice League UnlimitedStar Wars: The Clone Wars, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s playing a number of the cast in the current Young Justice series including Madame Xanadu and Aquagirl.
  • Born July 7, 1987 V. E. Schwab, 32. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range is there when an important discovery is made about the dark side of the moon.

(9) FINDING RETRO NOMINEES. Ian Moore advises about “Finding the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists online” at Secret Panda. Lots of archival links.

Soon in Dublin the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards will be revealed, including the winners of the Retro Hugo Awards for science fiction published in 1943. This year unfortunately there is no voters packet for the Retro Hugos. However most of the publications in which the finalists appeared are available on the Internet Archive, where they can be read online or downloaded by Hugo Award voters. See below for links to where the various works can be found. Voting closes at midnight on 31July, so get reading.

(10) NOW IN BLACK AND WHITE. Missed out on this when it first came around in 2015 – a takeoff on “Batman v Superman” courtesy of a “Vulture Remix” of two 1940s serials.

These days, superhero movies are all about bombast — take, for example, the upcoming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” But there was a simpler time, when superheroes looked terrible and were more charming than scary. We imagine what a Batman/Superman matchup would’ve looked like in the era of the first serial films about the characters from way back in the middle of the century.

(11) POWER OF THE PRESS. Another Superman stalwart is getting an update this month – the New York Times has the story: “Lois Lane Fights for Justice in a New Comic Series”. “Lois Lane stars in a new 12-issue series focusing on her career as a reporter.”

Revoked White House credentials, the mysterious death of a journalist and a conspiracy to profit from the separation of migrant families at the border. This looks like a job for … Lois Lane, the Daily Planet reporter.

The character, who, like Superman and Clark Kent, first appeared in 1939, is starring in a 12-issue comic book series that begins on Wednesday. The story, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Mike Perkins, focuses on Lois Lane as she tries to find out more about the death of Mariska Voronova, a journalist who had been critical of the Kremlin.

(12) NOTES FROM SPIKECON. David Doering sent a couple of short news items from the NASFiC/Westercon:

Joy Day’s fabulous ASFA award, a vibrant spherical interpretation of a Black Hole, got lost enroute to Layton in the Black Hole of the USPS…

While I hoped for one or more of our locals who were nominated to win, but those that did were very worthy.

Sadly, not one winner was in attendance. We need to elevate the appreciation of art. Cover art and illustrations are often the cause of us picking up a book or magazine in the first place.

I still associate Lord of the Rings with the gum drop tree cover art from 1965…

Then, this morning, Dave was able to check another box on his fannish bucket list:

I earned the dubious honor tonight  of having our room party shutdown  for being too noisy. Who knew that LTUE  and World Fantasy crowd could be so boistrous? 

(13) ALSO SEEN AT SPIKECON. Tanglwyst de Holloway was encouraged by John Hertz to share this photo, as it was the first time John had seen it done:

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. In the July 7 issue of the New York Times Book Review, author Charles Yu reviews Neil Stevenson’s new book:

His latest, “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell,” is another piece of evidence in the anti-Matrix case: a staggering feat of imagination, intelligence and stamina. For long stretches, at least. Between those long stretches, there are sections that, while never uninteresting, are somewhat less successful. To expect any different, especially in a work of this length, would be to hold it to an impossible standard. Somewhere in this 900-page book is a 600-page book. One that has the same story, but weighs less. Without those 300 pages, though, it wouldn’t be Neal Stephenson. It’s not possible to separate the essential from the decorative. Nor would we want that, even if it were. Not only do his fans not mind the extra — it’s what we came for.

Also, New York Times Book Review’s Tina Jordan conducts a brief interview with Neal Stephenson about Fall, which debuted at No. 14 on the paper’s New Fiction list.

“Unlike some of my hard science fiction books, such as ‘Seveneves’—where I sweated the details of orbits, rocket engines, etc.—‘Fall’ is meant to be read as more of a fable,” Stephenson explains. “I’m not making any pretense in the book that the neuroscience and computer science are plausible. My approach was to take a particular way of thinking around brains and the uploading of human consciousness into digital form, and just say, ‘Suppose this is all true; let’s run with it and see where it takes us on a pure storytelling level.’”

(15) BANK EARNS NEW INTEREST. A key player in many older SF novels, “Jodrell Bank gains Unesco World Heritage status”.

Jodrell Bank Observatory has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It has been at the forefront of astronomical research since its inception in 1945 and tracked US and Russian craft during the space race.

The site in Cheshire is part of the University of Manchester. It is dominated by the landmark Lovell Telescope.

It joins the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon and other locations that have been added to the prestigious list.

…Scientific research began at Jodrell Bank Observatory in 1945 when the physicist Sir Bernard Lovell came to the University of Manchester.

The site pioneered the then new science of radio astronomy, which used radio waves instead of visible light to understand the universe.

(16) BESIDE THE SEA. SYFY Wire tells how people looking for rarities found one: “Canadian gemstone miners discover prehistoric sea monster skeleton”.

Enchanted Designs Limited miners digging at Alberta’s Bearpaw Formation for rainbow-shaded ammolite gemstones, which are created by the fossilized shells of extinct marine mollusks called ammonites, discovered the nearly complete remains of the “T-rex of the Seas” in soft black-shale mudstone. The impressive specimen measured in at between 20 and 23 feet long.

(16) PITCH MEETINGS. Beware spoilers in ScreenRant’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home Pitch Meeting.”

Marvel Studios wrapped up Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame — except wait no, they squeezed another Spider-Man movie in there before closing the curtains. Spider-Man: Far From Home is Tom Holland’s second “solo” outing as Peter Parker, and the character is still heavily influenced by the recently departed Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. Far From Home raises a lot of questions. Like what exactly is Mysterio’s long-term plan? What’s going on with all the other living Avengers? How does Spider-Man get his Peter Tingle back? Why are the mid-credits and post-credits scenes the most memorable parts of this film? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to Spider-Man: Far From Home! It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience!

 [Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Nicholas Whyte, Tanglwyst de Holloway, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Tonopah Wins 2021 Westercon Site Selection

Kevin Standlee posted the unofficial 2021 Westercon Site Selection vote count, showing the Tonopah bid strongly outpolled Phoenix for the right to host Westercon 74. The results were to become official once accepted by today’s Westercon business meeting at Spikecon.

The unofficial pending results were Tonopah 82, Phoenix 51, Write-ins 1. That’s 134 votes with preference, so 67 votes (a majority) were needed to win. In addition, there were 6 No Preference (abstention) votes that do not count toward the total for the purpose of determining a majority.

The Tonopah bid leadership team is Kevin Standlee, Lisa Hayes, and Kuma Bear. The guests of honor have not yet been posted online (if, indeed, they have been announced). The bid website is here.

Pixel Scroll 6/26/19 Pixel Scroll Powers Activate!

(1) HILL HOUSE. Whatever DC Comics’ other problems may be, they’re pretty sure they can sell this: “DC Launching New Horror Line From Writer Joe Hill”.

Hill House Comics will consist of five miniseries and debut this October. Just days after announcing the closure of the DC Vertigo imprint, DC is signaling that it hasn’t moved away from creator-owned comic book material. The publisher has announced a new pop-up imprint, Hill House Comics, curated by horror writer Joe Hill.

The line of five original miniseries — each one targeted to readers 17 and older — will feature two titles written by the Fireman and Heart-Shaped Box author himself, with all five titles including a secondary strip, “Sea Dogs,” also written by Hill. Other titles will be written by The Girl With All The Gifts author Mike Carey, playwright and The Good Fight screenwriter Laura Marks, and critically acclaimed short story writer and essayist Carmen Maria Machado. Artists for the line include Sandman veteran Kelley Jones, as well as The Unwritten’s Peter Gross.

(2) CAFFEINE SEEKERS. Ursula Vernon has the most interesting conversations. Thread starts here.

(3) WESTERCON/NASFIC. The Spikecon program is live — https://spikecon.org/schedule/

(4) NET FANAC. In 2017, The Guardian tracked down these behind-the-scenes fan creators: “Watchers on the Wall: meet the rulers of the world’s biggest TV fan sites”. Whovian.net’s Dan Butler said:

I was 12 when Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005, and at school it was seen as nerdy. Because I had no one to talk to about it, I created a website to show my love. I wrote reviews of the episodes and used a website builder, then later I built a site from scratch.

What I loved about the show was the idea that you could be walking down the street and meet the Doctor, and your life could change forever. I liked the balance between domestic drama and science fiction – the first series was like watching a soap one scene, and Star Trek in the next. For me, Christopher Eccleston, who was my first Doctor, is the closest to how I think the part should be; if you walked past him, he wouldn’t stand out. Since then, the Doctors have been more flamboyant – more alien.

(5) WHERE PULP HISTORY WAS MADE. This was once the headquarters of Street & Smith’s pulp magazine empire, which after 1933 included Astounding: “The 1905 Street & Smith Building – 79-89 Seventh Avenue” at Daytonian in Manhattan

In 1928 the firm took made an innovative marketing move by hiring the Ruthrauff & Ryan Advertising Agency to produce a radio program to promote Detective Story Magazine.  Called “The Detective Story Hour,” it was introduced and narrated by a sinister voice known as “The Shadow.”  His tag line became familiar to radio listeners across the country:  “The Shadow knows…and you too shall know if you listen as Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine relates for you the story of…” whatever story was featured that week.

As it turned out, The Shadow’s character was so successful that it detracted from the Detective Story sales.  Street & Smith decided the best way to handle the problem was to introduce a new magazine featuring The Shadow.

(6) STAND ON ZANZIBAR. Extra Credit makes John Brunner sound absolutely prescient.

How do we cope with a crowded world we as humans were never evolutionarily designed for? Stand on Zanzibar was written in 1968 but it uncannily, accurately predicts many of our present day’s social tensions and stressors. However, it also has a certain optimism that makes it stand out among other dystopic fiction we’ve discussed.

(7) ARISIA CORRECTS GOH LIST.  Saladin Ahmed proved to be unavailable after Arisia 2020 prematurely announced him as a Guest of Honor. There was a tweet —

He had also been added to the Arisia 2020 website (still visible in the Google webcache at this time). When his name was taken down without an announcement, there was curiosity about the reason.

I asked Arisia President Nicholas “phi” Shectman, and he replied:

Saladin was invited and let us know that he was interested but had to check availability. We misunderstood and made an announcement (and put his name on our web site) prematurely. It turns out he’s unable to make it this year. We’ve apologized to him privately and are preparing a public retraction.

(8) OTHER ARISIA NEWS. Arisia Inc.’s discussion of how to improve its Incident Report process, and the determinations made about some of the IR’s (with no names cited) are minuted in the May issue and June issue of Mentor.

The June issue also gave an update about the litigation over Arisia’s cancellation of plans to use two strike-affected hotels (for the 2019 event):

Hearings for the Westin and Aloft disputes are still scheduled for July 11 and June 25 respectively. We have hired Deb Geisler as an expert witness to testify about how hard it is to change hotels at the last minute, in support of our assertion that the deadline we gave the Westin for the strike to be resolved was the actual latest we could wait before canceling with them. I still think there is an 80% chance that we will prevail and if we do we will still be in the Westin. I also still expect to know the answer in late July or early August.

…Deb is a professor at BU, teaches non-profit event management, has chaired Intercon, we mainly selected her because she has academic credentials

Deb Geisler also chaired Noreascon 4 (2004).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 26, 1904 Peter Lorre.  I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 26, 1910 Elsie Wollheim. The wife of Donald A. Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 26, 1950 Tom DeFalco, 69. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 26, 1969 Lev Grossman, 50. Author of most notable as the author of The Magicians Trilogy which is The Magicians, The Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Perennial best sellers at the local indie bookshops. Understand it was made into a series which is yet another series that I’ve not seen. Opinions on the latter, y’all? 
  • Born June 26, 1969 Austin Grossman, 50. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designed, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 26, 1980 Jason Schwartzman, 49. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 26, 1984 Aubrey Plaza, 34. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. Currently she’s Lenny Busker on Legion. 

(10) MCINTYRE MEMORY BOOK. Remembering Vonda, the memorial book of anecdotes and sentiments about the late Vonda McIntyre, is not only available for sale as trade paperback ($12.12), but can be downloaded as a free PDF.

TRADE PAPERBACK 
FREE PDF

Jane Hawkins had an idea: to collect all the lovely stories written around Vonda’s death, and to put them in one place for us all to enjoy. This book is that place.Stephanie A. Smith and Jeanne Gomoll joined forces to edit the book. Vonda’s community—her friends, colleagues, readers, and admirers—shared their fondest memories, stories, praise and love for the dear friend they had recently lost.

All proceeds from books sold through LuluDotCom will benefit Clarion West.

(11) DEAL TERMINATOR. Unfortunately, most of the article is behind Adweek’s paywall, but the photo is funny: “Arnold Schwarzenegger Kicks ‘Gas’ as a Used Car Salesman in This Parody for Electric Vehicles”.

It’s no surprise that a cheesy used-car salesman like Howard Kleiner, sporting a man-pony, a Hawaiian shirt and a porn ‘stache, would be into throwback gas guzzlers. For him, it’s V8 or nothing, and if you pick the wrong vehicle on his lot, he may hand you a snide bumper sticker that says, “Carpool lanes are for sissies.”

(12) HISTORY THAT IS EVEN MORE ALTERNATE THAN USUAL. Jered Pechacek is determined to explain to us “WHY you can’t LEGALLY MARRY CLAMS in the STATE OF MAINE.” Thread starts here. Even easier to follow at Threadreader.

Oh yes, let freedom ring.

(13) CONVERTIBLE FALCON. Not much gets by Comicbook.com“Funko’s Massive Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop is Live”.

Today, out of nowhere, Funko launched a Deluxe Star Wars Millennium Falcon with Han Solo Pop figure today that must be among the largest that they have ever produced. It measures a whopping 5.5″ tall, is 10.5″ wide and 13.25″ long with a price tag to match – $64.99.

(14) THE MOUSE THAT ROARS. NPR tells you how it’s going to look from now on: “‘Endgame’ Nears All-Time Record, And The Age Of The Disney Mega-Blockbuster Is Upon Us”.

There’s been some question about whether Avengers: Endgame will knock global box-office champ Avatar out of first place in Hollywood’s record books.

…Now, you’d think the threat that Disney might swipe the crown away from Fox would prompt wails of anguish, but it’s hard for the folks at Fox to be too upset.

Because these days, Disney owns Fox.

Which means Disney doesn’t just own the Marvel Universe — and Star Wars, which it bought a few years ago — it now also owns Avatar. And that fact is about to change the way the rest of Hollywood is forced to do business.

…In its first week, Avengers: Endgame sold 88% of the movie tickets that were purchased in North America, leaving just 12 percent to be split by more than a hundred other movies that might as well not have been open. Go back to other mega-blockbusters, and you see the same thing. they take up all the oxygen. Avengers: Infinity War, The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens, Black Panther each took in about 80 percent of their opening weekends, crushing everything else at the multiplex. Small wonder that other studios have learned to steer clear of these all-consuming box office behemoths.

…Every studio opens something big in late December, which has resulted for years in a happy flotilla of blockbusters that play to different audience segments, lifting all boats.

But Disney recently made an announcement that’s going to change that. Now that the company controls all of the franchises in the 2-billion-dollar club (Marvel, Star Wars and Avatar), it doesn’t have to play chicken with other studios about opening dates — it can just claim them.

And it’s done that … for the next eight years.

(15) IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Spirited Away: Japanese anime trounces Toy Story 4 at China box office” — BBC has the numbers.

Japanese animation Spirited Away has dominated the Chinese box office over its opening weekend, making more than twice as much as Disney’s Toy Story 4.

The Studio Ghibli film grossed $27.7m (£21.8m), according to Maoyan, China’s largest movie ticketing app.

Spirited Away was officially released in 2001, but only now, 18 years later, has it been released in China.

However, many Chinese viewers grew up with the film, having watched DVDs or pirated downloads.

…China has a strict quota on the number of foreign films it shows.

One analyst told the BBC last year that political tensions between China and Japan in the past could be why some Japanese movies had not been aired in China until very recently.

(16) HOW TO FIND IT AGAIN. WIRED’s Gretchen McCullough praises Hugo-nominated Archive of Our Own in “Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online”.

…The Archive of Our Own has none of these problems. It uses a third tagging system, one that blends the best elements of both styles.

On AO3, users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you….

(17) SCOOPS AHOY. Delish says get ready to stand in line in Indiana, er, Burbank: “Baskin-Robbins Is Recreating The Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop From ‘Stranger Things'”.

Deep into any Netflix binge of Stranger Things, it’s easy to get sucked into the misadventures of Eleven and co. and wonder what a day in the life of a character would be like. Baskin Robbins is making this marathon-fueled fever dream one step closer to a reality. The ice cream retailer announced on Wednesday that they’ll be recreating the Stranger Things Scoops Ahoy Ice Cream Shop.

Lick your ice cream cone like its 1985 at a Burbank, CA, installation in its Baskin-Robbins location. Designed to reflect the ice cream parlor located inside the food court of Starcourt Mall—which is frequented by Hawkins, IN locals—you can visit from Tuesday, July 2 to Sunday, July 14.

Not only does a press release boast replicas of nautical décor and staff uniforms (like you could forget Steve Harrington and Robin’s shifts scooping sundaes there), but also show-inspired treats. Previously announced Stranger Things flavors, which have been teased relentlessly on the company’s Instagram, will be ready for consumption and include:

Flavor of the Month, USS Butterscotch: Inspired by the Scoops Ahoy shop at the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins, IN, the July Flavor of the Month is a decadent butterscotch-flavored ice cream with butterscotch pieces and a toffee-flavored ribbon. Also available in pre-packed quarts.

(18) SPIDER-MAN THEME REVISITED. Mark Evanier pointed out this music video on News From Me.

We love a cappella singing on this site and Will Hamblet told me about this one. It’s the theme from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon show as rendered by a vocal quartet called Midtown. The snazzy video was, they say, shot entirely on an iPhone using the iMessage comic filter.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, 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 Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/19 Of All The Pixel Joints In All The Scrolls In All The World, She Files Into Mine

(1) DUBBED. The Daily Mail’s headline is apt: “The knight who says Ni! Actor Michael Palin receives his knighthood from Prince William in 50th anniversary year of Monty Python”.

Sir Michael Palin managed to suppress a joke when collecting the ‘unbelievable’ honour of a knighthood from the Duke of Cambridge for his post-Monty Python career.

The writer and broadcaster was dubbed a knight by William for services to travel, culture and geography, making him the first star of the sketch show to receive the honour.

(2) CHANGING FORMULAS IN STORYTELLING. In “Love isn’t what it was” on Aeon, graduate student Sophus Helle says that animated films Disney has released in this decade, including Brave, Frozen, Finding Dory, and Inside Out, show that in these films “the ideal of heterosexual romance has been replaced by a new ideal: family love. The happy ending of our most watched childhood stories is no longer a kiss.”

…It’s not just the word ‘love’ that has changed meaning over the past 10 years of Disney. The word ‘family’ has done the same. Neither Mother Gothel nor the fairy godmother of Maleficent are the biological parents of the films’ main characters, but they still end up taking emotional centre-stage because the actual biological parents are either cruel and psychotic, as in Maleficent, or distant and idealised, as in Tangled. Parenthood is determined by one’s emotional bonds. As a result, the very question of what counts as a ‘family’ in Disney has become more ambiguous and more modern.

(3) BOMBS AWAY. NPR’s Scott Tobias advises, “Erase The Awful ‘Men In Black: International’ From Your Mind”.

If Hollywood studios are content to cannibalize the vaults in search of new hits, the first thing they should remember is why the original films were hits in the first place. For all the bells and whistles that went along with the original 1997 Men in Black, with its cutting-edge alien effects, the reason it works is extremely old-fashioned, rooted in an effective cross-pollination between fish-out-of-water comedy and mismatched buddy comedy.

…There’s a lot of plotting in Men In Black: International, which makes room for a diabolical three-armed seductress (Rebecca Ferguson) and a compact weapon of planet-destroying power, but the more the story unfurls, the deeper the film sinks into quicksand. Director F. Gary Gray and his screenwriters, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, have made the crucial mistake of believing the franchise needs complex world-building instead of streamlined comedy. Even if the events in the film made any kind of sense, they were never going to matter as much as the good time Hemsworth, Neeson and the two Thompsons are supposed to be showing us. And yet that’s where the emphasis lies.

The Boston Globe gives it 2.5/4 stars.

(4) FIRE TWO. NPR’s Andrew Lapin says “‘The Dead Don’t Die’ In Jarmusch’s Latest, But Your Patience Will”.

“This is going to end badly,” Adam Driver says, over and over with slight variations, in the new zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die. It’s both the movie’s catchphrase and raison d’être. Things tend not to end well in general, because people have a habit of taking bad situations and making them worse, and there’s no reason to suspect that will change when the dead are rising from their graves and feasting on the bodies of the living. To the extent that the film has a joke, this is it: Humans mess everything up, and in the end probably aren’t worth saving.

All fair points. But does that sound fun to watch? Maybe it could have been, in another universe, with this exact cast and this exact director. Jim Jarmusch is a national treasure, after all, and he’s already proven himself a master of idiosyncratic, cracker-dry comedies that play with our love of dead or dying cultural icons, from Elvis to diners to samurai. But as The Dead Don’t Die smirks through its ironic corpse pile-up, dispatching a parade of beloved actors like rancid meat and playing the same original Sturgill Simpson tune on loop, it’s hard not to wonder if the joke is on us for watching it.

And the Boston Globe gives this one only 1.5 stars.

(5) THEY LOVE TOY STORY 4. But wait! BBC says this one’s getting good reviews — Toy Story 4: What did the critics think?” Out today in the UK, the fourth (and supposedly final) instalment of Toy Story has been warmly welcomed.

Woody, Buzz and Jessie are returning nine years after they said goodbye to Andy and settled into their new home with Bonnie at the end of Toy Story 3.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy said: “It’s now certain what one of the summer’s blockbusters will be.

“More than that, how many other film series can legitimately claim to have hit four home runs in a row?” he added.

Variety’s Peter Debruge said the movie gives “satisfying emotional closure”, adding that “the fourth movie wraps up the saga beautifully”.

He added the film “explores the idea of purgatory: What’s it like for a plaything to be ignored, overlooked or entirely unused?”

(6) WOODY ON TOUR. Tom Hanks went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to promote the movie, and showed he didn’t think much of the heavy-handed guidance he was given by the marketing division: “Tom Hanks Shares Disney’s Strict Rules for ‘Toy Story 4’ Media Tour”.

Hanks also decided to poke more fun at the late-night host by reading a surprising note Disney gave him for any time he would make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “When doing Kimmel, please do not mention the Academy Awards. What’s that about?” Hanks asked. After Kimmel questioned why they would add that note, the actor replied: “You got bounced, my friend!” 

With fans anticipating the fourth installment of the popular franchise, Hanks celebrated Toy Story 4 for adding new talent in Tony Hale, Keanu Reeves and Carl Weathers. Though he’s starred as Woody since the original film, Hanks revealed that Toy Story 4 may be the best film in the franchise. 

“I know it sounds ridiculous because I’m in it, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

Hanks also revealed that he didn’t know Weathers was in the film. “We never see each other. We maybe will run into each other when somebody’s session finishes and the other is waiting to go on, but at the premiere I saw Carl Weathers and I had to go shake the man’s hand because not only was he Apollo Creed, he was Action Jackson,” said Hanks.

(7) FAMILIAR VOICE. The new Maltin on Movies podcast brings us “Alan Tudyk”.

Alan Tudyk is a gifted actor and a familiar face who achieved cult status as a costar of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its follow-up feature-film Serenity…but he’s also become the man of a thousand voices. If you’ve seen Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, or even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story you’ve heard his facility with accents, dialects, and the ability to embody colorful characters. He also stars in one of Leonard and Jessie’s favorite unsung movies, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Alan is only too happy to demonstrate his vocal talents during our hilarious interview. Angelenos can currently see him onstage in Mysterious Circumstances at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 14, 1908 Stephen Tall aka Compton Crook. Stephen Tall was the most common pseudonym of American science fiction writer Compton Newby Crook. He wrote two novels, The Ramsgate Paradox (in his Stardust series) and The People Beyond the WallThe Stardust Voyages collects the short stories in that series. The Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award was established by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in his name for best first novel in a given year. He is not available in digital form in either iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 14, 1909 Burl Ives. No, I’m not including because of being him voicing  Sam the Snowman, narrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in that film though I could argue it is  genre. No, I’m including him because he was on The Night Gallery (“The Other Way Out” episode) and appeared in several comic SF films, Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Earthbound. He also appeared in The Bermuda Depths which is more of a horror film. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 14, 1914 Ruthven Todd. Scottish author of mostly children’s books whose series The Space Cats begins with Space Cat and features a cat who stows away on a spaceship.  He wrote several more conventional genre novels as well, Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller. A Space Cats omnibusand The Lost Traveller are available at iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1978.)
  • Born June 14, 1921 William L. Hamling. He was a lifelong member of First Fandom. Editor of the Stardust fanzine in 1940, and Imagination and Imaginative Tales in the Fifties. He did the 1940 Chicon program book with Mark Reinsberg.  And his Regency publishing concern in the Fifties would do paperback editions of Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bloch and Philip José Farmer. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 14, 1949 Harry Turtledove, 70. I wouldn’t know where to begin with him considering how many series he’s done. I’m fairly sure I first read novels in his Agent of Byzantium series and I know his Crosstime Traffic series was fun reading. 
  • Born June 14, 1972 Adrian Tchaikovsky, 47. He is best known for his Shadows of the Apt series, and for Children of Time which won an Arthur C. Clarke Award. The After War series is multi author. He wrote the first, Redemption’s Blade, and Justina Robson wrote the second, Salvation’s Fire

(9) THINKGEEK SALE. The ThinkGeek website is moving its business the main GameStop website, and they’re doing a 50% off sales-final sale on the whole site if you use the code MOVINGDAY. While supplies last, of course. As for the future —

IS THINKGEEK SHUTTING DOWN?

Nope. On July 2nd, 2019, ThinkGeek.com will be moving in with our parent company GameStop. After this move, you will be able to shop a curated selection of unique items historically found on ThinkGeek.com via a ThinkGeek section at GameStop

Daniel Dern returns from a personal scouting expedition to say, “Alas, the Con Survival Bag of Holding is out of stock, and I don’t even see the class Bag of Holding (which had been revised/updated in the past year, although I haven’t yet seen it up close and personal).”

(10) TROJAN APP. According to NPR, “Spain’s Top Soccer League Fined For Using App To Spy On Fans In Fight To Curb Piracy”.

On Tuesday, Spain’s premier soccer league, La Liga, was hit with a 250,000-euro fine — about $280,000 — for using its mobile phone app to spy on millions of fans as part of a ploy to catch venues showing unlicensed broadcasts of professional matches.

The country’s data protection agency said the league’s app, which was marketed as a tool to track game scores, schedules, player rankings and other news, was also systematically accessing phones’ microphones and geolocation data to listen in on people’s surroundings during matches. When it detected that users were in bars, the app would record audio — much like Shazam — to determine if a game was being illegally shown at the venue.

(11) VENICE OF THE NORTH. Like they say, if it’s not Scottish, it’s… “Scotland’s crannogs are older than Stonehenge”

Archaeologists have discovered that some Scottish crannogs are thousands of years older than previously thought.

Crannogs were fortified settlements constructed on artificial islands in lochs.

It was thought they were first built in the Iron Age, a period that began around 800 BC.

But four Western Isles sites have been radiocarbon dated to about 3640-3360 BC in the Neolithic period – before the erection of Stonehenge’s stone circle.

(12) BUILT TO LAST. BBC asks “How to build something that lasts 10000 years”.

Alexander Rose and a team of engineers at The Long Now Foundation are building a clock in the Texan desert that will last for 10,000 years. He explains what he’s learnt about designing for extreme longevity.

…Over the last two decades, I have been working at The Long Now Foundation to build a monument-scale “10,000 Year Clock” as an icon to long-term thinking, with computer scientist Danny Hillis and a team of engineers. The idea is to create a provocation large enough in both scale and time that, when confronted by it, we have to engage our long-term future. One could imagine that if given only five years to solve an issue like climate change, it is very difficult to even know where to begin because the time scale is unreasonable. But if you reset the scale to 500 years, even the impossible can start to seem tractable.

Building a 10,000-year machine required diving into both history and the present to see how artefacts have lasted. While we can slow the workings of the clock itself down so that it only ticks as many times in 10,000 years as a watch does in a person’s lifetime, what about the materials and location? Over the last 20 years I have studied how other structures and systems have lasted over time, and visited as many of them as I can. Some sites have been conserved by simply being lost or buried, some have survived in plain sight by their sheer mass, others have had much more subtle strategies.

(13) URSA MINOR. In Mission: Unbearable, Kuma Bear is tasked with a Mission to SpikeCon.

(14) DOCTOR SLEEP. The official trailer has been released for Doctor Sleep, based on Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining.

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

A Word to the Wise

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 12)  Indeed there was rejoicing on Friday 10 May at Promontory, Utah.

That’s 40 miles from Layton, site of this year’s combined Westercon LXII [West Coast Science Fantasy Conference – oh, all right, it’s been in Colorado and Texas, and Alberta] and 13th NASFiC [North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas] (also, for good measure, combined with the 1632 Minicon – Eric Flint’s 1632 shared-universe stories – and the Manticon – David Weber’s Honor Harrington stories with their Royal Manticoran Navy), to be held 4-7 July.

A hundred fifty years ago at Promontory, on May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven into the final rail-tie completing six and a half years’ work to create the Transcontinental Railroad.  Travel – of passengers or freight – from New York to San Francisco was shortened, not in space but in time, from six months to ten days.

So our convention will be Spikecon.

We s-f fans are to some extent students of technology.  Here was some.

Thousands attended the 150th-anniversary celebration, from 49 of the 50 States and from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Switzerland.

The Central Pacific railroad had built from the west, the Union Pacific from the east.  In a famous photograph – more technology – the Central’s steam engine No. 60 and the Union’s No. 119 met, cowcatcher to cowcatcher, two 60-ton machines great in their day, the Union’s burning coal, the Central’s burning wood.  They were represented on this anniversary by restorations.

Who first sang “Who built the Ark?”  I’ve traced it to 1892 and it was well known then (The Dental Register v. 46, p. 603).  Thousands of Chinese helped build the Transcontinental in the west, thousands of Irish in the east.

Daniel Mulhall, ambassador from the Republic of Ireland, was present for this 150th, and raised a toast.  The ambassador from the People’s Republic of China, whose name in courtesy to him I had better spell Cui Tiankai and not Ts‘ui T‘ian-k‘ai, said in a recorded message the Transcontinental was a “telling example of how the Chinese and American people can come together to get things done and make the impossible possible.” 

Elaine Chao, United States Secretary of Transportation and the first Chinese-American of Cabinet rank, said “The Central Pacific needed industrious, tireless workers, and Chinese answered the call with great skill and dedication.”  A multiracial theater troupe performed a musical retelling in the wrong kind of Chinese peasant hats.  Lance Fritz, head of the Union Pacific, which now hauls far more freight than passengers, said the railroad laborers, in 12-hour days and sometimes brutal conditions, changed America forever.

Herman Wouk (rhymes with “oak”; May 27, 1915 – May 17, 2019) died ten days short of his 104th birthday.  He became famous several times.

His first novel Aurora Dawn (1947) was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.  His third, The “Caine” Mutiny (1951), won the Pulitzer Prize, was adapted into a Broadway play The “Caine” Mutiny Court-Martial (1953) and a motion picture with Humphrey Bogart (E. Dmytryk dir. 1954).

His next, Marjorie Morningstar (1955), put him on the cover of Time magazine and was made into a movie with Gene Kelly (I. Rapp dir. 1958).  His sixth, Youngblood Hawke (1962), which he denied basing on Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), was serialized in McCall’s and made into a movie (D. Daves dir. 1964) with James Franciscus.

His eighth and ninth, The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978), were made into television mini-series (D. Curtis dir. 1983, Winds; 1988-89, Remembrance) with Robert Mitchum.

A Hole in Texas (2004) is science fiction; what if, years after U.S. President Clinton canceled the Superconducting Supercollider, the Chinese announced finding the Higgs boson?  In fact no one found it until 2012.

The inside jacket of Hole says Wouk “exercises his deep insight and considerable comic powers to give us a witty and keen satire – about Washington, the media, and science, and what happens when these three forces of American culture clash.”  That’s true.

Like a good satirist he is fundamentally concerned with human nature, our foibles and – Sarcasm is in anger, satire is with love – our fortes.  Like a good s-f writer he illuminates by means of possible, fictional, science.  He realizes, as Sturgeon said, that Science fiction is knowledge fiction.

Winds and Remembrance together are 1,800 pages.  Hole is 280.

A word to the wise is sufficient.  This is problematic for satirists.  What if people in the audience – including, perhaps, the satirized – aren’t very wise?

Lafferty made Thomas More (1478-1538) the eponym of his marvelous Past Master (1968).  Poor Sir Thomas, if one may use that expression, pulled five hundred years into the future, keeps crying “Utopia [1516] is a satire!”

We haven’t yet reached the setting of Past Master – and I certainly hope we shan’t – but fifty years after Past Master was published we still don’t see that about Utopia.

You may jib at Hole’s explanation, chapter 5, thinking “It would have been better if Wouk had read more s-f.”  You may dislike, as the book goes on, what seems to be increasingly fundamental masculine sexism.

Should those befall, you will be lucky if you remember the superb management of what characters and readers must know in Marjorie Morningstar, and the devastating treatment of masculine and feminine romantic sex fantasies there and in Youngblood Hawke.

Maybe you won’t.  Maybe you won’t have read them.  In that case, and if nothing else helps you first, wait till the end of Hole, when the bubble bursts, the man is crashingly shown not so smart, and – satire is with love – everything nevertheless comes right.

Marjorie Morningstar may be Wouk’s best.  It may be great.  I have yet to meet anyone who was awake to it – what’s the author’s name?? – but time may tell.

The National Book Foundation making it a finalist said Marjorie was “released from the social constraints of her traditional Jewish family, and thrown into the glorious, colorful world of theater….  [a] paean to youthful love and the bittersweet sorrow of a first heartbreak.”  O Sir Thomas!

Classics of Science Fiction at Spikecon

By John Hertz:  Spikecon, 4-7 July 2019, will combine two general-interest s-f conventions, Westercon LXXII (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference – oh, all right, it’s been in Colorado and Texas) and the 13th NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the World Science Fiction Convention is overseas), and two special-interest ones, 1632 Minicon and Manticon 2019.  There’s a big tent for us!  Or maybe a geodesic dome. Or a Dyson sphere.

The con is named in honor of the Golden Spike, the last spike driven to join the Central Pacific and Union Pacific creating the Transcontinental Railroad on 10 May 1869, just forty miles from the con site.

We’ll do three Classics of SF discussions, one story each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

I’m still with A classic is an artwork that survives its time; after the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen as worthwhile in itself.  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Here are our three.  I think each is interesting in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when originally published.

Kuttner & Moore, “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (1943)

The authors each said, after they married, anything under their names or their various pseudonyms was by both.  Decades later, Tim Powers is known for explaining the real – i.e. SF – reason for something in history; here’s the real – i.e. SF – reason for something in fantasy; yet even that’s hardly the greatest element.  The title alludes to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871), as we – maybe – eventually understand.

Heinlein, Rocket Ship “Galileo” (1947)

We’ve also come to the golden anniversary of the Glorious 20th, when humankind first set foot on the Moon.  Decades earlier came this speculation.  It isn’t, incidentally, a rocket ship built in a back yard; and as A.J. Budrys used to demand, it answers “Why are they telling us this?”  Nor are these pioneers the first – nor yet the second.

Hoyle, October the First Is Too Late (1966)

This first-rate astronomer – he was knighted six years later – also wrote SF.  In both fields he was famously willing to propose speculations far from others’.  In science one may someday be proved right or wrong; fiction doesn’t work that way.  We might say of this story It’s about time.  Only maybe it isn’t.  Maybe time isn’t.