Bright-spirited – fool? wise? Bees from flowers and from weeds Bring honey. Shall we?
Who walks in where fools fear to tread?
I can’t say Kate Hatcher was an angel; she was a human
woman. Angels are something else.
That much was true of her. She was something else.
Maybe she’s an angel now.
Ben Hatcher, who had devotedly husbanded her, telephoned me
early on Friday – March 6th. Kate would have wanted, he said, for me to
hear it from him. I said I’d try to keep worthy of that.
I had known her since 2014 when she worked on the first Utah
Westercon. Five years later she chaired the second – which was
combined with the 13th NASFiC, another first.
Until 2014 the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference had never
been in Utah. It had found its way out of Los Angeles by 1951
(Westercon IV, San Francisco), out of California by 1959 (Westercon XII,
Seattle); out of the United States, 1977 (Westercon XXX, Vancouver); as far
east as allowed, 1996 (Westercon XLIX, El Paso); off-continent, 2000 (Westercon
But someone must bid to host it, and win votes. Salt Lake City fans
did that with Westercon LXVII. In 2019 it was in Utah again
(Westercon LXXII, Layton).
That was not extraordinary enough. Since 1975 a North
America Science Fiction Convention has been held when the Worldcon is overseas;
in 2019, the Worldcon was in Dublin, so there was a NASFiC; Kate chaired the
bid for the 2019 Westercon, also the bid to host the NASFiC conjointly,
and chaired the two combined cons after both bids won in two separate
votes; also, joined with them, a 1632 Minicon (fans of Eric Flynt’s 1632 series), and
Manticon 2019 (fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran
Navy i.e. Space navy).
Some of our cons get names; this combination of four was called
Spikecon, being 50 miles from where the Final Spike was driven to complete the
Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier. Railroad engineer’s
caps were part of the con. The Transcontinental
Railroad is historic. So are wrongs in its
accomplishment. Human history is part honey, part aloes.
Kate and Ben, reading and watching and gaming with SF, knew
little of organized (if that word may be used) fandom when they came to LTUE half a dozen
years ago. They found out – or were recruited – or something.
LTUE – Life, the Universe, and Everything – began as the Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium
on Science Fiction and Fantasy at Brigham Young University. Three
decades later it’s still held at Provo, Utah, in February, describing itself as
both “a three-day academic symposium
on all aspects of science fiction and fantasy” and “a gathering place for fans
of our creative and innovative world to hang out and share their love of all
things amazing, obscure, and even not-quite-real”.
That’s not the 1890-1965 “Doc” Smith who wrote Skylark and Lensman stories,
it’s the 1932-2002 BYU professor. There’s a book People Named Smith.
Dave Doering, the Westercon LXVII chair, was glad Kate arrived
among us. Three months before his con he found he had no program;
I’ll omit details; anyway Kate in those circumstances was willing to give it a
try: did remarkably well: was then recruited by Westercon LXX (Tempe) and LXXI
(Denver), and the 76th Worldcon (San Jose).
She developed the art, science, or mystery of getting
sponsorships. Here is another balancing act.
Our cons are non-profit. The fees we charge for
membership (we insist we offer memberships, the privilege of
participating, not tickets, the entitlement to watch what someone
else makes) may prove insufficient to cover costs. Whatever commerce means,
still unclear after centuries or millennia, we don’t want to be
commercial; the road there isn’t our way.
With all this in mind can we – should we – get individual, or even
(gasp) corporation sponsors? Healthfully? How? For
what? Think about it.
We vote for Westercons two years in advance. By voting
time at Westercon LXX the bid Kate chaired for LXXII remained
unopposed. This amounts to a compliment, the community’s saying “We
can’t do better; go ahead.” Westercon history shows that an
unopposed bid might still not win our votes. I’ll omit details. Anyway,
Kate’s bid won; then she was made, and served as, chair of the con – another
thing which ain’t necessarily so.
We vote for Worldcons two years in advance; NASFiCs, one
year. At the 2017 Worldcon we voted for Dublin in 2019 – so there
would be a 2019 NASFiC. Where? Conducted by
whom? This was decided at the 2018 Worldcon – a year after voting
for the 2019 Westercon – and by members of the 2018 Worldcon, not necessarily
the same voters.
Someone – Kate has been credited, or blamed – had the bright idea
of combining the 2019 NASFiC and Westercon. She was made the chair
of a bid.
If you took part in that discussion, you’ll remember
it. If not, imagine it.
By NASFiC voting time the Utah bid remained unopposed – and won.
As the Beatles sang – remember them, or imagine them – “Only the
Also in this story is SMOFcon. Our term SMOF, for
“Secret Master of Fandom”, seems to have been coined in the early 1960s, maybe
by Jack Chalker. Later Bruce Pelz called it a
joke-nonjoke-joke. It came to be used, more or less good-humoredly,
for people often involved with conducting our cons, clubs, and like that.
By 1984 we had a SMOFcon, hoping to hand on, or off, expertise.
SMOFcon XXXVI was 30 Nov – 2 Dec 2018 at Santa Rosa, California
(SMOFcon XXXVIII is scheduled for 4-6 Dec 20 at Montréal,
Québec). Kate figured she’d better
attend. How? Luckily she won a scholarship.
She went to study. Naturally she was asked to teach
about sponsors. In principle that was jes’ fine, share and share
alike. In practice – well, I’ll continue to omit details and only
say that as the adventure went on, to and through Spikecon, SMOF was
not always praise in her private conversation.
Of course some people were very helpful. It would be
tragic to draw a false conclusion like expertise is bunk and
condemn oneself not just to re-inventing the wheel but, as Dean Gahlon of
Minneapolis says, re-inventing the square wheel. Perhaps in a
free-form world like fandom both gaining and giving know-how may call for extra
thought. And one has to look.
What struck me, over many hours by phone and in person with her
during these few years, was a willingness to try things, to reach her own
conclusions about what could or couldn’t be done, and perhaps as a product, an
ability to find ways of making things work.
Other folks noted how she could get sought out and brought
in. If she herself was left holding the bag, she made it a Bag of
In my own metaphor, which I think I can now tell you, I called her
I can’t wholly omit her physical health. It was, to
speak mildly, wretched. She wasn’t entirely wheelchair-bound.
Besides Ben, her family included – as she sometimes described
her daughter – an autistic giggle factory named Ireland.
Kate did not push burdens to the fore. She had a
bright spirit. Luckily she had an independent mind. With
these gifts she achieved much.
Dave Doering said she always gave 110%. Even from him
that was an understatement.
Kowtowing never, asking from allone (As Heinlein said), she learned To look, think, for herself and others, Easy or hard, whether advice helped or burned.
poem at the beginning is in unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines more or less like
Japanese haiku; at the end, an acrostic (read down the first
letters of each line) more or less like a quatrain in Chinese regulated verse:
for the scansion, I try sentence-stress instead of the First Tone (Chinese has
no sentence-stress), and disregard insubstantial words (omitted in literary
Chinese); below, / marks the caesura, R the rhyme; “allone” alludes to Time
for the Stars ch. 17 (1956), where our narrator is told, in System
Speech, “Outdown go rightwards. Ask from allone.”
– – /
– x x
x x / x – – R
x x / – – x
– – / x x – R
By John Hertz:Spikecon combined Westercon LXXII (regional)
and the 13th NASFiC (North America S-F Con, since 1976 held when the Worldcon
is off-continent – this year’s Worldcon was in
Dublin, Republic of Ireland), plus a 1632 Minicon (fans of
Eric Flynt’s 1632 series) and Manticon 2019 (fans of David
Weber’s Honor Harrington series, with its Royal Manticoran
Navy, i.e. Space navy). This was a first.
Kate Hatcher; attendance, about 800; in the Art Show, sales about $20,000 by
about 60 artists.
Westercon and NASFiC each had Guests of Honor. The Utah Fandom
Organization (yes, that spells –) brought two more; eight other sponsors
brought nine more.
all happened at Layton, Utah, 4-7 July 2019, fifty miles from where the Final
Spike was driven completing the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years
(population about 70,000) is twenty-five miles from Salt Lake City, where
Westercon LXVII had been – the first in Utah.
used the Davis County Conference Center and five hotels.
available space I hadn’t seen anywhere to put a Fanzine
Lounge. Hatcher said “How about a fanzine party in the Hospitality
Suite?” With Hospitality Suite chief Dorothy Domitz’ agreement we settled
– if that word may be used in fandom – on Friday night, 7-10 p.m.
Glassner, who had hosted the Fanzine Lounge at the 76th Worldcon in 2018, was
my co-host for the fanzine party. We were both on-site by Wednesday
and went shopping with Chris Olds the Party Maven. I made a flier.
I was Chief Hall-Costume Judge. Decades ago hall
costume was settled for the costumes some people wear strolling the
halls. Marjii Ellers called them “daily wear from alternative
costumes are meant to be seen at a distance; hall costumes are meant to be
met. To acknowledge them a gang of judges prowls the con and,
spotting a good one, awards a rosette on the spot.
con had made disks with Spikecon – Hall Costume Award;
while shopping I looked for lace, or like that, to go round
them. JoAnn Fabric & Crafts didn’t have spools enough in any
appealing style, but on the way out I saw some red-white-and-blue-striped cake
cups (for cupcakes, right?): it was the Independence Day
weekend. We got those.
Selina Phanara hadn’t
anything ready to exhibit in the Art Show, but luckily I was able to borrow the
Selina Phanara Sampler from fellow Phanara fans Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink &
Jerome Scott, a vertically (“portrait”?) laid out banner with color
reproductions and her name and E-mail address. Art Show chief Bruce
Miller proved to have space for it.
first of three Classics of SF discussions
I led, on “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” (which just won the Retrospective Hugo for Best Novelette of 1943), was at 12:45 p.m. Regency dancing had to be at 3:15 – another time and space problem. The Chesley Awards(by the Ass’n of SF Artists) and Art Show Reception were at 7. So after “Mimsy” I hustled back to my room, changed, sauntered to the Conference Center for dancing – can’t hustle in Regency clothes – then met my fellow Art Show judges to decide and turn in the Art Show Awards before the Reception, then back to my room for conventional garments, and hustled to the Hospitality Suite where Glassner had started the fanzine party.
we trespass upon chronology.
“Mimsy”. A.J. Budrys, one of our best authors and critics both,
taught “Always ask, Why are they telling us this?” Why
do Kuttner & Moore tell us Jane Paradine, the children’s mother, is very
pretty? Remember a woman is co-writing; K&M always said that
everything they published, under any name (they used many; “Mimsy” appeared as
by Lewis Padgett), was by the two of them together.
considered Sexism? – or Mere sexism? (whatever
that may mean, about which there was also talk) – or Sexism
unconsciously or otherwise adopted by a 1943 woman?
or beneath or beside this we human beings are drawn to beauty; think not only
of an attractive man or woman, but also “I saw
young Harry … gallantly armed, / Rise from the ground … and vault … with
such ease into his seat / As if an angel dropped down from the clouds, / To
witch the world with noble horsemanship” (Henry IV Part 1, Act 4 scene
different points in “Mimsy” K&M invite us to feel for the parents
– for the children.
also the sneaky ironic foreshadowing of “The only people who can understand
philosophy are mature adults or kids like Emma and Scotty.”
Rex Holloway, the psychologist, help or hurt? Does Paradine suggest paradigm;
does Holloway suggest hollow way?
“Mimsy” tragic – in the classical sense, grievous and revealed to result from a
fault of the recipient even if – or because – that fault had been thought
does the story end with the telephone ringing? Who did K&M tell
us is calling? Why?
Unthahorsten is “a good many million years in the future”, what happens to Emma
Regency dancing. Maybe you already knew my article in Mimosa,
or maybe you followed the link to it above. I hold Jane Austen one of the
greatest authors in the world, and yes, that means I rank her with Aeschylus,
and Shakespeare, and Lady Murasaki. But she – since I’m talking to
SF fans here – is, like them, a Martian writing for other
Martians. She doesn’t explain. Georgette Heyer, writing
two centuries later, like an SF author introduces us to the world she
portrays. So it’s she I recommend, to start with anyhow; luckily
she’s a superb author herself.
said Cross-cultural contact is homework for SF. Mike
Ford said history is our secret ingredient. Theodore Sturgeon said
science fiction is knowledge fiction. Not all knowledge is
data. Some of it is doing. I learn a lot from this hobby
that grew out of a hobby.
Hospitality Suite was in the Garden Inn, attached to the Conference Center, not
in the Homes2 Suites across a driveway, which had been planned as the
Party Hotel. As it turned out, the Hospitality Suite could stay open
until 2 a.m.; the Homes2 shut down parties at midnight. Could that
have been discovered in advance, maybe even worked around? For ways
that are dark, and tricks that are vain, our hotel negotiations are peculiar.
and I had each brought a handful of fanzines, some recent, some from years
past. People looked and talked. I’d also printed the opening
page of Bill Burns’ efanzines.com. That gratified some, and was
news to others. Obviousness is relative. After our
three hours we donated what remained of our food and drink, also two little
tables I’d bought to spread fanzines on.
Hospitality Suite may be the best part of an SF convention. You’re
welcome whether you’re a fan or a pro or both; whether or not you’re in with
some in-crowd. Conversations happen. You meet people you
didn’t know you wanted to meet.
it’s called the Con Suite because the con itself hosts it, unlike say a SFWA
Suite (SF Writers of America).
the Homes2 lobby later, half past midnight or maybe one, I found a surprisingly
large crowd, and a spread of refreshments along a center table. Thus
I learned parties were being shut down. People had gravitated, and
brought leftovers. It was Lobbycon.
I heard Match Game SF had been fun, as usual. Of course it had to
happen. Kevin Standlee, his wife Lisa Hayes, and their friend Kuma
Bear, were Westercon’s Fan Guests of Honor. For a dozen years
they’ve been mounting this adaptation of the oft-revived television panel-game. At
the Worldcon they’d be nose-deep in the Business Meeting, and like that;
Spikecon was the moment. Until they started this, who
knew Standlee had a game-show host in him?
Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma are fen of many talents.
Hayes does the tech. I think Kuma is the producer.
Rocket Ship “Galileo” at the crack of dawn, i.e. 10:15 a.m. I was not alone
in wanting to celebrate the Glorious 20th; the U.S. Postal Service had issued a
decades before humankind actually did it, Heinlein wrote this
speculation. It’s the first of his “juveniles” – they have
young-adult protagonists – books which some of us think his best: they’re gems.
“Galileo” is reasonable science for 1947. Heinlein said he’d only
compressed the time and the number of people. Note that it isn’t a
rocket ship built in a back yard.
how he manages the characterization – sparely but tellingly. The
books on the shelf in the clubhouse – Ross Jenkins’ parents (the one-word
utterance “Albert.” in Chapter 4!) – “Going to put her down on manual?” and
what follows. Look how characterization also advances the plot
– like setting up Art’s speaking German.
very points we might hang fire on are things Heinlein needs for what I’ve
called the C.S. Lewis One-Strange rule: an extraordinary person in ordinary
circumstances, or an ordinary person in extraordinary
circumstances. Boys taking apart almost anything mechanical from alarm
clocks to souped-up jalopies. “Cigarette,
Doctor? Cigar?” These are verisimilitude at the time of
you looking for the Heinlein Double Surprise – something strange happens, then
something really strange happens? There it is!
Art Show tour I led was at 11:30. I didn’t invent these tours, but I
often arrange them, and usually lead one myself. Why me? When
Kelly Freas first told a con to get me for one, I went to him. He said,
“You seem to be able to say what you see.”
never forgotten that. When I’m arranging the tours it’s what I ask tour
leaders to do.
used to say “docent tours”. Docent is the right word,
but I found people didn’t know what it meant, and didn’t look it up, so it put
them to sleep.
Art Show was one of the strengths of Spikecon.
Here was Mark Roland, one of few who does etching; his “Persistence of Memory” won 1st Place Monochrome (if you follow the link, scroll down, 3rd image; you’ll see he says these are limited-edition fine art prints, hand-wiped and printed on rag paper in his studio).
was Elizabeth Berrien, whose “Cloud Unicorn” in aluminum wire won Best 3-D; she
has not exhibited with us for a while, being distracted with airports and hotel
lobbies. Her Website is worth a look. At a
party, or a panel discussion, you’ll see her listening or contributing to the
conversation, all the while twisting wire. She must carry the whole
in her mind, like Michelangelo saying “I just get a block of marble and chip
away anything that doesn’t look like a Madonna and Child.”
Douglas’ “Ghost Leviathan”, worked up from the page into bas-relief with layers
of color, and found objects, won 1st Place Color. She has
recently been at Orycons.
by Elizabeth Fellows won 2nd Place Monochrome. Looking straight at it you
saw vertical strands of dark yarn on a field of white. Fellows
didn’t, so the Art Show did, mount a sign Look at it
sideways. You then saw a face – which I think was Alan Rickman
as Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies – but wasn’t his
word “Forever”? Where are my notes?
particularly glad Bjo Trimble, her husband John, and their daughter Kat, were
at the con; as it turned out they were sponsored by Ctein (pronounced “k-TINE”;
yes, that’s his full name; while we’re at it, there should be a circumflex over
the j in Bjo, an Esperantism indicating
In the photo you can see Bjo’s “Aslan” (from The Chronicles of Narnia), which won 3rd Place Monochrome, over her head. Kat’s “Mariposa” (which you can’t quite see in the photo) was a Judges’ Choice.
is one of few photographers in our Art Shows. Photos are necessarily
of things actually existent; what’s the SF element? We get some
neighbors, like astronomicals, or the spacecraft so far built; and indeed Ctein
shoots them. But his other pictures too have a quality of marvel.
The art of photography includes the mind of the artist. Ctein
being one of the judges, and also exhibiting, he insisted that nothing by a
judge should get an award.
No picture-taking is our Art Show rule, but Jan Gephardt was allowed to shoot this panel of her own (you can just make out
some of her paper sculptures at upper left).
night, the Masquerade. Decades ago this was a dress-up party;
it’s now a costume competition – with a stage, lights, and sound, if we can
manage. The Masquerade Director was Tanglwyst de Holloway; Master of
Ceremonies, Orbit Brown; judges, Dragon Dronet, Theresa Halbert, Kitty Krell.
as a Novice, and winning Best in Show – which is quite possible, I’ve been a
judge at Worldcon Masquerades where we did that – was Hanna Swedin, “Snaptrap”
(Re-Creation, from Five Nights at Freddy’s 3; Re-Creation entries
are based on known images, Original entries are not; the Novice, Journeyman,
and Master classes allow entrants to compete against others with their own
level of experience if they wish, but anyone can “challenge up”, and experience
brought the Site-Selection results. Columbus, Ohio, won unopposed
for the 14th NASFiC in 2020 (the 78th
Worldcon will be at Wellington, New Zealand, in
2020). Tonopah, Nevada, beat Phoenix, Arizona, 82-51, for Westercon
LXXIV in 2021 (Westercon LXXIII will
be at Seattle, Washington, in 2020).
is a noteworthy outcome. In contrast with Phoenix, Tonopah is an
unincorporated town of population 2,600; no air, rail, intercity-bus service;
it’s halfway between Reno and Las Vegas (each about 200 miles, 250 km,
away). Probably not even the best crystal-gazer would venture to say
what lurks in the minds of fen, but “Why Tonopah?” from the bid committee to its parent organization, all
explained again at Spikecon in conversation, bid parties, and the exercise
we call the Fannish Inquisition, may be instructive.
quarter to one p.m., October the First Is Too Late. As
always I asked who’d read it recently or had it fresh in mind, who even if
having read it didn’t have it fresh in mind, who hadn’t read it, who hadn’t
heard of it; most always there are some of each (hadn’t heard of it may
prove to be but I hear these discussions are fun, which I’ll take).
way of reminding people to look things up I pointed out that “bacon” for an
Englishman is nearer to what United States people call “Canadian bacon” than to
what U.S. people call “bacon”. If this is what you’re living on while
camping, it makes a difference.
all the music for? Is it mere window-dressing? Well, it
shows the mind of the narrator. It sets up the exploration of art
and technology, human and mechanical possibilities, with the future (though we
must beware of that word with this book) keyboard instrument in Chapter 13.
music, at least as we understand it, is about time, and time is the theme, the
endoskeleton, of the book: one of the more brilliant observations I heard all
about the framing story? What about “someone, or something, was
using the Sun as a giant signaling device”? Does it tell us anything
about the fourth-millennium people? The narrative doesn’t take us to
it again – or does it, in the last chapter, with “a higher level of perception
than our own”?
we to be uncertain about the certain uncertainty of the people we meet at the
end, like Sir Arthur Clarke’s “It is well to be skeptical [or as he spelled it,
sceptical] even of skepticism”?
Closing Ceremonies the joined Westercon and NASFiC had to
disjoin. When Kate Hatcher ended Spikecon, the Westercon gavel went
to Sally Woehrle for Westercon LXXIII; but the NASFiC is an entity of the World
Science Fiction Society, so the WSFS gavel went to a courier for the 77th
Worldcon which would need it before the 14th NASFiC.
Standlee, Hayes, and Kuma were present, being Fan Guests of Honor for Westercon
LXXII, and Linda Deneroff was present, being Fan Guest of Honor for the 13th
NASFiC, all experienced in Business Meeting fandom, so we managed.
in the course of helping take down and clean up I found my roommate Kevin Rice
carrying a box of leftover plastic train-whistles. He’d made them by
3-dimensional printing, gosh: six inches long with two pipes, the top one
marked “Spikecon 2019” and the bottom one “Layton, UT”. They were in
knew there would be a Dead Dog party (until the last dog is –), and separately
a Dead Dog Filk, so that’s where
I went with them. More of the filkers being of the
musical-instrument type, they took more.
(1) MARY SUE ORIGIN STORY. [Item by Jerry Kaufman.] This
recent article from the London Review of Books
is about fandom, or fandoms as the case may be, the woman who identified the
“Mary Sue”, and her recent writing. (I am the real Jerry Kaufman –
accept no other) – “On
Sophie Collins”. (Registration required to
read full article.)
A ‘Mary Sue’ is an implausibly skilful, attractive or successful protagonist who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary quality against fans who used it naively for wish fulfilment. Most of these fans were (like Smith) female. As the term, and the critique, became more common, some fans, and some feminist critics, pushed back. They saw fan communities, and the defiantly unprofessional cultural production that emerged from them, as a kind of safe space, where the rules imposed by a patriarchal outside world about what one can say, and who one can be, could be ignored.
Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s proposal aims to honor Stan Lee’s Bronx roots by co-naming a section of University Avenue between Brandt Place and West 176th Street after the comic book genius.
The city council voted Tuesday to approve the proposal.
… “Stan Lee was a Bronx native who grew up in my district,” said Cabrera. “Stan Lee was a creative genius who co-created iconic super heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more. Mr. Lee’s amazing talent brought joy and entertainment to countless children and adults and he deserves to be permanently memorialized in his home borough, the Bronx.”
(3) BUILDING A STORY WITH MAGIC. Juliette Wade’s new Dive
Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to “Julie
Czerneda and The Gossamer Mage“. View the video interview,
and/or read the summary notes at the link.
…I asked her where the idea for the book started, and she said it started with a pen – and proceeded to show us the pen in question! She brought a lot of cool props to show us, so I encourage you all to check out the video if you’re curious about them.
One of the things that Julie explored while writing this was the history of ink. Battles were fought over areas of the world that provided good ink ingredients, and pirates stole ink as well as other things.
I’ve always found constrained magic systems very interesting, so I asked her to tell us about the magic system she used in The Gossamer Mage. Julie said she agreed with me that she liked constrained systems. She said she liked it when everyone knows how to use the magic, but wait, it’s not so simple. This particular magic system is constrained in part because it requires writing, which means it requires a particular type of scholarship. You have to be able to write words that are not human words, and to intend them. Further, this magic can only be done in the one place in the world where magic remains. One important ingredient here is that magic used to be in more of the world, but is no longer present except in one region, ringed with mountains.
Thus, magic is constrained physically, and it is constrained to scholars….
Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I believe that an appreciation of poetry is essential for any writer in any field. That economy of language reminds you of the importance of choosing exactly the right word, not the word next to the right one on the shelf. On a conceptual level, I admire Ferlinghetti’s writing which comes at you from a right angle with a huge impact, so I reread his work every couple of years to keep my brain flexible.
And so, drip by drip, crumb by crumb, inch by inch, Straczynski manages to become a writer, and it turns out that not only can he write to deadline, he’s really good at it. Even projects that seem silly or trivial on their face, like writing for He-Man or The Real Ghostbusters, are treated with such intense seriousness that they just kill.
But this being Hollywood, where, famously, nobody knows anything, every success that Straczynski ekes out is eventually scuttled by venality, cowardice, grift, or all three, as greedy execs and bullshit-slinging consultants demand that he compromise on what he knows is right. And Straczynski being Straczynski — being the survivor of a campaign of terror visited upon him by a literal Nazi — refuses to back down, because despite the mountain of shit he’s climbed to get where he is, the prospect of falling down to the bottom is incapable of scaring him beyond his threshold of tolerability.
And, remarkably, despite industry concentration and a thousand variations of “you’ll never work in this town again,” Straczynski continues to work. His story is a beautiful parable about how luck is made: the way it’s told, it seems like Straczynski has a horseshoe up his ass, with opportunities dropping appearing over the horizon just a little faster than the burn-rate of the bridges he’s torched behind him, but when you look a little closer, you realize that the most improbable thing here isn’t the opportunities, but rather Straczynski’s relentless, singleminded determination to seize them, writing (for example) entire seasons of his TV shows when the studios’ dumb mistakes leave them shorthanded.
(6) REVOLUTIONARY DATA. Can you imagine Brent Spiner
playing John Adams in 1776? There’s a concept. He’s the guest on the
latest Maltin on
Forever to be remembered as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation and other treks to follow, Brent Spiner is a versatile actor and performer with notable Broadway credits—and two fervent fans in Leonard and Jessie, who saw him play John Adams in a masterful revival of 1776. He’s happy to discuss all facets of his career, from musical theater to his memorable role in Independence Day. Even longtime fans may learn things they didn’t already know about Brent in this delightful chat.
(7) THIS IS COOL. The
earth seen from outer space — here is a visualization of how Planet’s
satellites assemble swatches of remote sensing tiles to complete a global
observation in 24 hours:
In four years, Planet has flown on 18 successful launches and deployed 293 satellites successfully into low Earth orbit. With more than 150 satellites currently in orbit, Planet has the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites in history.
As you may notice, the satellites are not always taking photos (or sending / “beaming” the data down to Earth). Parts of the landmass can also be missing due to complete cloud cover that day. See the Amazon, Central Africa, or Northern Australia for example.
A companion piece reveals more about the satellites themselves; the “doves”, “RapidEyes”, and “SkySats”. Explaining their sizes, the numbers out there already and the types of images they capture. Check out the story here!
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 26, 1883 — Edwin Balmer. Together with author Philip Wylie, he penned When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. The first was made into the 1951 movie by George Pal. He also wrote several detective novels and collaborated with William MacHarg on The Achievements of Luther Trant, an early collection of detective short stories. The latter are not genre, despite being listed as ISFDB as I’ve read them. (Died 1959.)
Born July 26, 1894 — Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class decades ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? (Died 1963.)
Born July 26, 1919 — James Lovelock, 99. Just shy of a century now in life, the Gaia theorist wrote a genre novel with Michael Allaby, The Greening of Mars, of the transformation of the red planet into a green one. His newest work, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, thinks that hyperintelligent machines are coming into being by our own hand and that we better be prepared for their arrival.
Born July 26, 1928 — Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The Shining. Barry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
Born July 26, 1945 — M. John Harrison, 74. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time.
Born July 26, 1945 — Helen Mirren, 74. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Born July 26, 1957 — Nana Visitor,62. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the best of the Trek series to date. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit.
Born July 26, 1971 — Mary Anne Mohanraj, 48. Writer and editor. Founder of Strange Horizons, a genre fiction magazine. She has one genre novel, The Stars That Change, and two stories published in the Wild Cards Universe, “Low Chicago” and “Ties That Bind”. She also an anthology, Without A Map, co-edited with Nnedi Okorafor.
Born July 26, 1978 — Eve Myles, 41. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. She and the full Torchwood cast did an an BBC 4 Radio Play called Golden Age in which they time travelled back to Imperial India. Highly recommended.
…Amazon’s new 8-episode series The Boys – about a team of non-powered mercenaries determined to take down the world’s premier team of evil, corrupt, soulless-corporate-shill superheroes – chooses to play in a sandbox that’s seen its share of use. A sandbox that’s been sitting out in the sun and rain and wind for decades, filling up with cigarette butts and cat poop and old toys left by previous storytellers, who’ve hit precisely the same themes.
This is even more true today than it was in 2006, when the comics series The Boys, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson – from which the Amazon show has been adapted, freely – first debuted.
…What The Boys was, at the time — especially if you’d been reading comics for years — was tiresome, more than anything else: Really? We’re still doing … this?
I’m happy to report that the Amazon series improves on its source material. It does so by taking the comics’ lazy inciting incident – the accidental death-by-superhero of the girlfriend of its main character Hughie (Jack Quaid) – and treating it as something more than solely a plot trigger. The series gives Hughie time to absorb, to grieve, to soak in the brutal incident so – even though it is depicted, lovingly, in garish slow-motion – it becomes something more than another nihilistic gag.
That’s a hallmark of the show, as it turns out. Where the comic was content to steer headlong into bloody spectacle and smugly snicker, the show serves up the spectacle (on a budget) and then … takes the time to inspect it, examine it, unpack it. To legitimately honor it, in other words. In its way.
(10) NEW TENANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Zombieland: Double
Tap comes to theaters October 18.
A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.
Although wackiness levels vary from video to video, the run times are all wisely kept brief. The only things that run longer than the time it takes to decide between regular avocados and organic ones are the cooking tutorials. Everything else—including charm-infused shorts like Christmas in Germany, produced by Condé Nast Traveler, which mixes traditional animation with stop-motion footage of Pfeffernüsse cookies and other German delicacies—runs at around the one-minute mark, making for a thoroughly undemanding watch.
This one’s very stfnal –
While this one’s just plain funky –
(12) NASFIC/WESTERCON IN UTAH. Rodford Edmiston has posted an
of photos from Spikecon at Flickr. Whether
intentionally or not, the photographer showed a genius for standing at the back
of a hall in which the only people were in the front row and on the platform.
STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Andrews McMeel Syndication. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children.
Covered up by a secretive Soviet Union at the time, the true number of deaths and illnesses caused by the nuclear accident are only now becoming clear.
Springtime was always the busiest time of year for the women working at the wool processing plant in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine. More than 21,000 tons of wool passed through the factory from farms all across the country during the annual sheep shearing period. The April and May of 1986 were no exception.
The workers pulled 12-hour shifts as they sorted the piles of raw fleece by hand before they were washed and baled. But then the women started getting sick.
Some suffered nosebleeds, others complained of dizziness and nausea. When the authorities were called to investigate, they found radiation levels in the factory of up to 180mSv/hr. Anyone exposed at these levels would exceed the total annual dose considered to be safe in many parts of the world today in less than a minute.
Fifty miles away was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the power plant suffered a catastrophic explosion that exposed the core and threw clouds of radioactive material over the surrounding area as a fire burned uncontrollably.
But Chernihiv was regarded to be well outside the exclusion zone that was hastily thrown up around the stricken plant and readings elsewhere in the town had shown it to have comparatively low levels of radiation.
…Had Hauer played Batty as another stone-faced Eurobaddie, “Blade Runner” itself might have been a more comfortably classifiable genre effort, the kind of movie that many viewers expected in 1982, the kind that promised to pit Ford, the star so familiar to us as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, against a new kind of futuristic nemesis. Instead, audiences were thrown off by the knotty neo-noir that Scott and the screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples delivered, the film flopped, and a cult masterpiece was born.
Look no further than Batty’s extended final battle with Deckard to see both the evidence of the movie’s idiosyncratic tone and how Hauer’s remarkable performance enhances it, practically deconstructing the simple plot before our eyes. The replicant chases the beleaguered, frightened Deckard around an abandoned building, toying with the cop and playing singsong children’s games. But there’s still a catch in Batty’s words, slight pauses scattered in unusual places. Seeing that Deckard has killed his replicant lover, Pris (Daryl Hannah), Batty offers, “I thought you were good. Aren’t you the … good man?” The awkwardness of the words, combined with the pause before “good man” seems to question the film’s very moral universe…
(16) X MARKS THE PLOT. ScreenRant fires up another Pitch
Meeting – this one for Dark Phoenix.
The X-Men franchise has been running for nearly two decades, and it all culminates with Dark Phoenix, a storyline that the movies already covered in 2006. Once again, Jean Grey goes absolutely bonkers with power, but this time Wolverine isn’t around to stab her. The movie has a pretty awful score on Rotten Tomatoes and definitely raises a lot of questions. Like what’s the deal with the aliens, are they bulletproof or not? Why was Quicksilver dismissed from the movie so quickly? What was up with that Phoenix moment in X-Men Apocalypse? Why do these movies keep jumping forward a decade each time? Is Magneto supposed to be 62 years old, and if so, why is a 42-year-old with no make-up playing him? Why did they show Mystique dying in the trailer?
[Thanks to Jerry Kaufman, Juliette Wade, John Hertz, Chip
Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, mlex, John King
Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories.
Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
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
Art Show director, Bruce Miller. Judges, Peri Charlifu, Ctein, and me.
There was also a People’s Choice
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
1st: Jessica Douglas, “Ghost Leviathan”;
3rd: Theresa Mather, “White Tiger
Angel”; acrylic on feather with onyx, tanzanite, sapphires
1st: Mark Roland, “Persistence of
2nd: Elizabeth Fellows, “Always”;
3rd: Bjo Trimble, “Aslan”; stone
1st: Elizabeth Berrien, “Cloud
2nd: Vincent Villafranca, “Bane
of Thieves”; bronze
3rd: Melanie Unruh, “Nebula”; ceramic
Dragon Dronet, “Enemy Mine Skull”
Jacob & Wayne Fowler, “Grey
Ghost”; wood scroll-saw
Kat Trimble, “Mariposa”; zinc
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
NASFiC 2020: Ben Yalow, Spikecon Site Selection Area Head,
reported the results of the 2020 NASFiC site selection voting held at the joint
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.
Minneapolis in ‘73
Peggy Rae’s House
None of the Above
Total With Preference
Total votes cast
With 87 votes, Yalow
declared that Columbus had won the 2020 NASFiC.
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.
None of the Above
Total With Preference
Needed to Elect (Majority)
Total votes cast
With 82 votes, Tonopah was
declared the winner of the 2021 Westercon.
A video of the Westercon business meeting is available:
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?
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
…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
(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 Series, Justice League Unlimited, Star 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.
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.
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…
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:
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.
“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.’”
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…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….
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.
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.]