Pixel Scroll 12/27/19 With Slow Glass Pixels, It Will Take Ten Years To Scroll

(1) WELCOME WAGON. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal responded to the Romance Writers of America meltdown by tweeting, “As president of SFWA, please accept my invitation to consider our organization if you feel your work has a kinship with SFF, even a tenuous tie.” Thread starts here.

Many interesting replies. A couple of them are –

(2) STAR POWER. Thomas Disch dominated the Galactic Stars awards presented by Galactic Journey for the best sff of 1964: [December 25, 1964] Stars of Bethlehem and Galactic Journey (Galactic Stars 1964).

Best author(s)

Tom Disch

This Cele Lalli discovery, just 24 years old, garnered three Galactic Stars this year.

He narrowly beats out Harry Harrison (and Harrison might have been on top, but he came out with clunkers as well as masterpieces this year).

And bless the Journey staff for recognizing newzines in this category —

Best Fanzine

Starspinkle gave up the ghost last month, though it has a lookalike sequel, Ratatosk.  They were/are both nice little gossip biweeklies.

(3) CLASSIC IRISH FANWRITING. The Willis Papers by Walt Willis is the latest free download produced by David Langford in hopes of inspiring donations to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.

A collection covering the first decade (and a bit) of Walt Willis’s fanzine writing, from his 1948 debut in Slant to 1959, edited by George W. Field and published by Ted Johnstone in August 1961. As well as twenty-two classic Willis articles, there are Prefaces by both editor and publisher, while Vin¢ Clarke and John Berry provide not entirely serious tributes to the great man.

The text of The Willis Papers was long ago transcribed into HTML by Judy Bemis for Fanac.org, and this Ansible Editions ebook is gratefully based on that version. The cover photograph of Walt Willis at the 1957 London Worldcon was taken by Peter West. (From the Ethel Lindsay photo archive, courtesy of Rob Hansen.) Ebook released on 25 December 2019. 31,500 words.

Walt Willis was born in October 1919, and his centenary in 2019 has been little remarked in science fiction fandom.

One small gesture is the simultaneous ebook release of Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator and The Willis Papers as a 2019 Christmas treat for fans.

(4) CASUALTY LIST. “China Blocks American Books as Trade War Simmers” — the New York Times has the story.

…Publishers inside and outside China say the release of American books has come to a virtual standstill, cutting them off from a big market of voracious readers.

“American writers and scholars are very important in every sector,” said Sophie Lin, an editor at a private publishing company in Beijing. “It has had a tremendous impact on us and on the industry.” After new titles failed to gain approval, she said, her company stopped editing and translating about a dozen pending books to cut costs.

The Chinese book world is cautiously optimistic that the partial trade truce reached this month between Beijing and Washington will break the logjam, according to book editors and others in the publishing industry who spoke to The New York Times.

… Still, publishing industry insiders describe a near freeze of regulatory approvals, one that could make the publishing industry reluctant to buy the rights to sell American books in China.

“Chinese publishers will definitely change their focus,” said Andy Liu, an editor at a Beijing publishing company, adding that the United States was one of China’s most frequent and profitable sources of books.

“Publishing American books is now a risky business,” he said. “It’s shaking the very premise of trying to introduce foreign books” as a business.

While China is known for its censorship, it is also a huge market for books, including international ones. It has become the world’s second-largest publishing market after the United States, according to the International Publishers Association, as an increasingly educated and affluent country looks for something engrossing to curl up with.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on cannoli with author Bob Proeh in Episode 112 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Bob Proehl

This time around, you get to take a seat at the table with Bob Proehl, who published his first novel in in 2016. A Hundred Thousand Worlds is about the star of a cult sci-fi TV show and her nine-year-old son making a cross-country road trip with many stops at comic book conventions along the way, and was named a Booklist best book of the year.

His latest novel, The Nobody People, about the emergence of super-powered beings who’ve been living among us, came out earlier this year…

We slipped away to Sabatino’s Italian restaurant …where we chatted over orders of veal parmigiana and eggplant parmigiana. (I’ll leave it to you to guess which of us was the carnivore, though I suspect that if you’re a regular listener, you’ll already know.)

We discussed how it really all began for him with poetry, the way giving a non-comics reader Watchmen for their first comic is like giving a non-novel reader Ulysses as their first novel, why discovering Sandman was a lifesaver, the reason the Flying Burrito Brothers 1968 debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin matters so much to him, why he had a case of Imposter Syndrome over his first book and how he survived it, the reasons he’s so offended by The Big Bang Theory, what he meant when he said “I actually like boring books,” his love for The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the X-Men, whether it’s hard to get a beer in New York at six o’clock in the morning, why he wasn’t disappointed in the Lost finale, and much more.

(6) HECK YEAH. The DisINSIDER says “‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Director Wants To Tackle A Rose Tico Series on Disney+”.

…Of course the tweet is simply just that a tweet, and doesn’t mean anything will come it. However, Chu is a hot name in the industry after directing the 2018 hit Crazy Rich Asians, he would be a fantastic choice to develop a Rose Tico series. Chu is currently working on the film adaptation of In The Heights based on the hit broadway musical, and will return to direct China Rich Girlfriend.

(7) INSIDE SFF HISTORY. Jonathan Lethem interviews M. John Harrison at Literatura Inglesa. The English language version follows the long Spanish language one — scroll down. “Derribando los pilares de la ficción: una entrevista con M. John Harrison.”

You also mentioned that your time at New Worlds was an exciting one as it provided you with the possibility to read the manuscripts of Ballard’s stories even before they were printed. What’s interesting to me is that, while writers like Aldiss or Moorcock, who loved SF and fantasy genre and helped revitalize it (although Aldiss later disowned his participation in the new wave “movement”), Ballard seemed to quickly abandon the genre (except, maybe, for Hello America).

I think it took Ballard a long time to “abandon” the genre, if he can be said to have done that, and that the process began much earlier than people admit. From the beginning his relationship to science fiction was modified by his personality, his needs as a writer, and his many cultural influences outside SF. So from the outset of his career he was working his way towards the idiopathic manner we associate with short stories like “The Terminal Beach” and novels like The Drought and The Atrocity Exhibition. It was not so much an “abandonment” as a steady evolutionary process. This happens with writers. They develop.

(8) SUPERCOLLABORATOR. CBR.com looks back on “When Superman Helped Kurt Vonnegut Write a Novel!”.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Stephen R., we take a look at the time that Clark Kent had to help Kurt Vonnegut finish a novel!

The story appeared in 1974’s Superman #274 by Gerry Conway, Curt Swan and Vince Colletta, where Clark Kent and Kurt Vonnegut are both on a talk show together…

The “Wade Halibut” name is a reference to Vonnegut’s famous fictional writer, Kilgore Trout, who appeared in many of Vonnegut’s classic works, like Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse Five

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 27, 1904 –J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan premiered in London.
  • December 27, 1951 Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere premiered on film screens. It was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace A. Grissel with a script by Royal G. Cole, Sherman I. Lowe and Joseph F. Poland. Judd Holdren, in what was only his second starring screen role, plays Captain Video, the leader of a group of crime-fighters known as the Video Rangers.  This fifteen-part movie serial is unusual as it’s based off a tv series, Captain Video and His Video Rangers. Like most similar series, critical reviews are scant and there is no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It was popular enough that it aired repeatedly until the early Sixties. There’s a few episodes up on YouTube – here’s one.
  • December 27, 1995 —  Timemaster premiered on this date. It was directed by James Glickenhaus and starred his son Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus, Pat Morita and Duncan Regehr. It also features Michelle Williams in one of her first film roles, something she now calls one of the worst experiences of her acting career. The film got universally negative, if not actively hostile, reviews and has a 0% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 27, 1888 Thea von Harbou. She penned the novel Metropolis based upon her uncredited screenplay of that film for husband Fritz Lang. She also collaborated with him on other projects, none of which save her 1922 Phantom screenplay appear to be genre. (Died 1954.)
  • Born December 27, 1917 Ken Slater. In 1947, while serving in the British Army, he started Operation Fantast, a network of fans which had eight hundred members around the world by the early Fifties though it folded a few years later. Through Operation Fantast, he was a major importer of American SFF books and magazines into the U.K. – an undertaking which he continued, after it ceased to exist, through his company Fantast up to the time of his passing.  He was a founding member of the British Science Fiction Association in 1958. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 27, 1938 Jean Hale, 81. If you’ve watched Sixties genre television, you’ve likely seen her as she showed up on My Favorite Martian, In Like Flint (at least genre adjacent), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, My Brother the AngelWild Wild West, Batman and Tarzan.
  • Born December 27, 1948 Gerard Depardieu, 71. He’s in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet which we all agree (I think we agree) is genre. He plays Obélix in the French film Asterix & Obélix and Asterix at the Olympic Games: Mission Cleopatra and is Cardinal Mazarin in La Femme Musketeer. 
  • Born December 27, 1951 Robbie Bourget, 68. She started out as an Ottawa area fan, where she became involved in a local Who club and the OSFS before moving to LA and becoming deeply involved in LASFS. She was a key member of many a Worldcon and Who convention over the years (she was the co-DUFF winner with Marty Cantor for Aussiecon) before she moved to London in the late Nineties.
  • Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 68. ExploItation film maker who’s here because some of his source material is SFF in origin. Arena was scripted off the Fredric Brown “Arena” short story which first ran in the June 1944 Astounding, and From Beyond which was based on H P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, first published in June 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 59. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role in it. 
  • Born December 27, 1969 Sarah Jane Vowell, 50. She’s a author, journalist, essayist, historian, podcaster,  social commentator and actress. Impressive, but she gets Birthday Honors for being the voice of Violet Parr in the Incredibles franchise. I say franchise as I’ve no doubt that a third film is already bring scripted.
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 42. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story “The End of Time” as Addams, but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time.
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 32. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed.
  • Born December 27, 1995 Timothée Chalamet, 24. First SF role was as the young Tom Cooper in the well received Interstellar. To date, his only other genre role has been as Zac in One & Two but I’m strongly intrigued that he’s set to play Paul Atreides In Director Denis Villeneuve forthcoming Dune. Villeneuve is doing it as a set of films instead of just one film which will either work well or terribly go wrong.

(11) HEARING FROM THE EXPANSE. The Guardian books podcasts asks the authors of The Expanse, “When imagining our future, what can sci-fi teach us?”

This week, Richard sits down with duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who write science fiction together under the name James SA Corey. Their bestselling space-opera series, The Expanse, which started in 2012 and is due to end in 2021, is set in the middle of the 24th century, when humanity has colonised the solar system. Human society is now beyond race and gender, and is instead divided on a planetary level: those living on Earth, on Mars and on various asteroids, moons and space stations called Belters.

The eighth book in the series, Tiamat’s Wrath, is the latest, while the fourth season of the award-winning TV adaptation [is] on Amazon Prime on 13 December.

And Claire, Richard and Sian discuss the 20 books up for the 2019 Costa awards shortlists.

(12) A RECORD RECORD. As Bruce Sterling said, new technologies don’t replace old technologies. But how many of the old ones hang onto life so tenaciously — Billboard’s numbers show “Harry Styles, Billie Eilish & The Beatles Help Vinyl Album Sales Hit Record Week in U.S.”

Vinyl album sales hit yet another record week in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music.

In the week ending Dec. 19, the data tracking firm reports 973,000 vinyl albums were sold in the U.S. — marking the single biggest week for vinyl album sales since the company began electronically tracking music sales in 1991.  

(13) NIGHT BLIGHT. “Satellite constellations: Astronomers warn of threat to view of Universe” – the Dave Clements mentioned in BBC’s report is an SF fan.

From next week, a campaign to launch thousands of new satellites will begin in earnest, offering high-speed internet access from space.

But the first fleets of these spacecraft, which have already been sent into orbit by US company SpaceX, are affecting images of the night sky.

They are appearing as bright white streaks, so dazzling that they are competing with the stars.

Scientists are worried that future “mega-constellations” of satellites could obscure images from optical telescopes and interfere with radio astronomy observations.

Dr Dave Clements, an astrophysicist from Imperial College London, told BBC News: “The night sky is a commons – and what we have here is a tragedy of the commons.”

The companies involved said they were working with astronomers to minimise the impact of the satellites.

And Clements occasionally writes sff – his story “Last of the Guerrilla Gardeners” originally appeared in Nature.

(14) OUT OF CHARACTER. Ganrielle Russon, in the Orlando Sentinel story “The Disney employees behind Mickey Mouse, Minnie and Donald Duck were violated by tourists”, says that three Walt Disney World employees say they were inappropriately touched while in costume at Walt Disney World and have filed grievances.

…Another incident happened that same day at the Magic Kingdom, the world’s busiest theme park.

It started innocently when a 36-year-old Disney employee who portrays Minnie Mouse posed for pictures with a man and his wife from Minnesota in the park’s circus-themed meet-and-greet area.

Afterward, Minnie Mouse gave the man a hug. Then without saying a word, he groped her chest three times, according to the sheriff’s incident report.

The employee alerted her supervisors. On Dec. 6, she identified pictures of the 61-year-old man from Brewster, Minn.

She decided against pressing charges.

It wasn’t the first time the man had done something wrong at Disney World on his trip.

The man also had “an inappropriate interaction with a cast member” Dec. 5 at the Magic Kingdom, according to the sheriff’s office incident report that didn’t provide any additional details on what happened. Disney declined to elaborate.

(15) RAPPED GIFT. Bad Lip Reading dropped a bizarre “A Bad Lip Reading of The Last Jedi” on Christmas.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

At NYRSF Readings, a Brave Little Toast to Thomas M. Disch

Henry Wessells

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, February 6th, at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn (somewhere on the Ruins of Earth), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series presented a tribute to the brilliant author and poet Thomas M. Disch (1940-2008), a celebration of his life and work, guest-hosted by Henry Wessells (a past guest curator) and featuring his peers and friends, including his literary executor, readings from his works and a short film.

The evening began with Series Producer and Executive Curator Jim Freund welcoming the crowd to the final session of the Series’ 27th Season, adding that there would be a special Summer Series: .

  • July 3rd – David Mack and Seth Dickinson, guest curated by Amy Goldschlager (a former Curator)
  • August 7th – A Launch Party/Reading for Sunspot Jungle, with guest curator Bill Campbell

As usual, he cautioned us that the event was being Livestreamed (so watch where you scratch) and asked all who could donate to donate (suggested amount $7, but no one gets turned away).

Freund related that he met Tom Disch during his early days at Hour of the Wolf, and that he was among the first ever to read at the NYRSF Reading Series. Disch’s last public appearance was a reading from his new novel, The Word of God, at a NYRSF event on June 3, 2008, 10 years and two days ago. (It was at the Series’ then-venue, the South Street Seaport, and I was privileged to have attended.) In it, Disch was God (and Philip K. Dick was Satan). Sadly, Disch killed himself by gunshot on July 4, 2008 (he referred to the 4th as “the Holiday”) in his Manhattan apartment. He had been depressed since the 2005 death of his partner, Charles (“Charlie”) Naylor; the two had been together for some three decades.

Shifting tone, Freund announced that the evening had “a sponsor,” and proceeded to read (his delivery bringing to mind Johnny Carson’s pitchman character Art Fern) “Fun With Your New Head.” (“Two heads are better than one. … Only $49.95!”)

(On a personal note, the story collection Fun with Your New Head was the first Disch that I ever read; and, it seems, for Elizabeth Hand as well.)

Then Wessells, a short story writer, poet and antiquarian bookseller, assumed his role of host. As well as a writer of prose – which ranged from wildly satirical stories to dark cautionary tales to works for children – Disch was a poet, and “wanted to be remembered as the Thomas Beddoes of death in America.” (Beddoes was a minor Romantic poet. “Americans,” said Disch once, “don’t read poetry, but they love poets.”) The first part of the evening, he announced, would be a panel on his life, followed by a clip from the film Winter Journey.

Gregory Feeley, Elizabeth Hand, John Clute, Henry Wessells

He was joined on stage by John Clute, Gregory Feeley and Elizabeth Hand. Hand, a multiple-award-winning author of novels and collections of short fiction, and reviewer, read a note from John Crowley, “Remembering Tom,” followed by “Ghost Ship,” a story from Disch’s last blog.

John Clute

Clute is variously an author, reviewer, critic, and encyclopedia writer – he is best known for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (the first version of which was published in 1979 and now exists in an online version). He shared that he met Disch in 1961 when they were at NYU, and their friendship continued until Tom’s death. His writing ability was “full-fledged” at 22. He was kind and generous, but he was also quick to end friendships for the littlest reason. He also sent out signals that his death, when it came, would be at his timing and at his own hand.

Elizabeth Hand

Gregory Feeley is a writer of and about science fiction. He is Disch’s literary executor (he had two, one for prose, Feeley, and one for poetry; though sometimes overlooked, poetry was half of Disch’s professional life), and is preparing an edition of Disch’s best short fiction. He met Disch in late 1978, when the Magazine of F&SF announced that they were going to publish On Wings of Song, which they described as “his best and longest novel,” in serial form, and he wrote him a letter, which Disch answered. Wings’ protagonist, Daniel Weinreb, was loosely based on Naylor, though the latter was not “a man without talent.” Clute, armed with laptop, read a very brief reminiscence from Pamela Zoline.

Henry Wessells knew him during the last years of his life. (He was with Disch when he spread Naylor’s ashes.) Though regarded as part of the British New Wave, Camp Concentration was “very much an American book.” Disch lived in New York, London, Spain and Turkey, but he remembered his Midwestern roots (he was born in Iowa and grew up in Minnesota). Wessells subsequently cited his “Minnesota Quartet,” The Businessman, The M.D., The Priest, and The Sub. (Disch later said that he thought that The Priest was published 10 years too early.) During his lifetime, he won a Hugo (his only one) for a nonfiction work (Best Related Book), for The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, and a John Campbell Award, for On Wings of Song (which received nominations for the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel).

Eric Solstein and Henry Wessells

Filmmaker Eric Solstein, joining Wessells on stage, related that he met Disch at the Sullivan County (aka the Catskills) home that he shared with Naylor, and, after Naylor’s death, Disch asked him to videotape what he called his “suicide note.” The “note,” such as it was, took the form of “a suite of 31 poems,” “a cycle of mourning verse” about Naylor, called Winter Journey, the title of the film as well. Shot with a handheld camera (as was evident), it took, said Solstein, three years to edit it, during which Disch went on with his life. We watched an excerpt, the first three poems. (It may be viewed on Solstein’s YouTube channel.)

Thomas M. Disch on video

During the intermission, a raffle was held for donors, with the prizes being a copy of Samuel R. Delany’s The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch – “Angouleme” (“Angouleme” was a story in 334), and a copy of a video featuring Disch’s NYRSF readings from 1993 and June 3, 2008.

The second half of the evening focused on Disch’s work. Wessells read a note from Delany, an excerpt from The American Shore, praising him as a “raconteur.”

Brendan C. Byrne

Brendan C. Byrne (neither the late Governor of New Jersey nor the since-renamed arena) has written criticism and short fiction. He never knew Disch, except as a reader. He offered an essay on 334. Written in and reflecting 1972 New York, his future Manhattan is a city of shortages and xenophobia (seen in its sterilization policy), and without privacy. Clute added that 334 has to be read against the background of the British New Wave. People aren’t starving, as in typical sf dystopias; it’s an impersonal welfare state, but not malignant. “It’s a complex vision.”

Terence Taylor

On Wings of Song (1979), said Wessells, “is set in an America not unlike our own, but suffering more shortages;” many cities have collapsed. Flying is achieved through rapture in song, but Daniel Weinreb, the protagonist, is not a good enough singer. (Disch, Clute observed, was obsessed with music.) With that, he introduced Terence Taylor, horror writer and the Series’ Tech Director, who took the stage to read an excerpt from the novel.

Wessells then brought his panel (Clute, Feeley and Hand) back on stage, with Byrne joining them, and asked them to cite or recommend Disch works. Byrne said that he was next going to read The Sub. Hand said that “The Roaches” and “The Descending” (in Fun with Your New Head) were the first Disch stories that she read (at 9), adding that we shouldn’t overlook The Brave Little Toaster. (Disch was, we were told, “mad about Paddington Bear;” he and Naylor had stuffed animals. “He was a depressive, but he wanted to be happy.”) She added Neighboring Lives (which he wrote with Charles Naylor). Clute recommended The Word of God, “a minor book, but in its way hilarious,” and Feeley Clara Reeve (written as Leonie Hargrave), which was set in the Victorian Era.

Gregory Feeley, Elizabeth Hand, John Clute, Brendan C. Byrne, Henry Wessells

On a final note, Wessells said that Disch had written a treatment for Disney that generated the original idea for The Lion King. (Well, Hamlet and Kimba the White Lion inspired it too.)

Regrettably, and doubtless embarrassingly, in a bit of strangeness, there were some technical difficulties during the evening, from sudden reverb to lights going on full force.

As traditional, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a slew of books. The audience of perhaps 60 included Melissa C. Beckman (the Readings’ photographer), Moshe Feder, Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, Lissanne Lake and Marco Palmieri. Over the course of the evening, audience members availed themselves of the Café’s food, coffee bar, beer and wine.

That’s about the size of it.

— June 6, 2018

Ed Bryant (1945-2017)

Ed Bryant. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Science Fiction author Ed Bryant, who died in his sleep after a long illness, was found February 10 reports Locus Online.

Bryant discovered science fiction at the golden age of 12 when he purchased the August 1957 issue of Amazing Stories. A decade later, he made his way to the very first Clarion Workshop in 1968, where he sold a story to Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions that became his first professional publication.

John Clute’s entry about Bryant in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia captures one of the reasons for the author’s meteoric ascent in Seventies sf.

His conversational, apparently casual style sometimes conceals the tight construction and density of his best work, like “Shark” (in Orbit 12, anth 1973, ed Damon Knight), a complexly told love story whose darker implications are brought to focus in the girl’s decision to have her brain transplanted into a shark’s body, ostensibly as part of a research project; in the story, symbol and surface reality mesh impeccably. The setting for many of the stories in this collection is a California transmuted by sf devices and milieux into an image, sometimes scarifying, sometimes joyful, of the culmination of the American Dream…

Registering an exception to the overall regard for Bryant’s work was Thomas M. Disch, who named him as part of “The Labor Day Group” (1981), a set of young writers whose work stroked fannish sensibilities, and as a result often won Hugo and Nebula awards. This provoked a response from another Disch target, George R.R. Martin, “Literature, Bowling, and the Labor Day Group”, which gave Bryant a deceptively lighthearted defense.

The Colorado resident was a 7-time nominee for SFWA’s Nebula Award, winning twice – “Stone” (1979) and  “giANTS” (1980) – as well as a 3-time nominee for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. The International Horror Guild Awards named Bryant a Living Legend in 1997.

Bryant has been a prolific short fiction writer whose career has been regularly punctuated by new collections of stories — Among the Dead and Other Events Leading up to the Apocalypse (1973), Cinnabar (1976), Wyoming Sun (1980), Particle Theory (1981), Neon Twilight (1990), Darker Passions (1991), The Baku: Tales of the Nuclear Age (2001), Trilobyte (2014), and Predators and Other Stories (2014).

He regularly contributed to George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, appearing in five different volumes.

His other professional gigs included writing an annual media coverage essay in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthology, which he did for over 20 years. He also edited an anthology of original stories and some poems, 2076: The American Tricentennial (1977).

Bryant’s fame did not rest entirely on his writing. He was in great demand as a convention toastmaster, gaining the pinnacle of notoriety by conducting the Denvention Two (1981) Hugo Awards ceremony on roller skates.

[Thanks to  Andrew Porter for the story.]

Conflicted Memories

Sam J. Miller’s “Who Killed Thomas Disch” (at Strange Horizons) is organized around a silly title at the expense of questions Miller himself says have genuine value: “What was really going on? Where do we put the blame? What do we do with our grief? With our guilt?” For it’s the time he spends on those questions that makes the reading worthwhile.

When some of the sf field’s talents die their passing elicits a certain amount of survivor’s guilt, though not in the case of Arthur C. Clarke, or others who achieve literary fame and fortune. But I remember a friend of the late Roger Zelazny speaking with bitterness and guilt about the last days of this great writer of sf short stories, as if they personally and society at large hadn’t done enough.

Some of that emotion permeates Miller’s piece about Disch, a richly-detailed, but ultimately question-begging exploration of the late sf writer’s last days. After all, most people enduring the same conditions do not kill themselves, so while much can be suggested nothing can be proved. I found Miller’s essay challenging and interesting (I wouldn’t write about it if I thought it wasn’t worth your time), though it would have been more satisfying (to me, anyway) if Miller had been governed by his own conclusion:

While I’d love to turn Disch’s death into one more argument in favor of expanded rent-control laws, or better tenant protections, or gay marriage (the surviving half of a married straight couple, in Disch’s situation, would be far better situated to fend off eviction attempts), there’s something creepy about reducing a human being to a weapon in the service of a political agenda. My need to find a scapegoat for his death does Disch a disservice. Disch’s life, like his work, was defiantly resistant to outside influence. From the very start of his writing career we see someone willing to slaughter sacred cows and name names and subvert all expectations, and it’s selfish to wish he’d given us a happy ending.

Disch Appreciation by Moshe Feder

Moshe Feder wrote about Thomas Disch’s death in a post on his LiveJournal, “Grains” (and in a comment on Disch’s last post to his own LJ, “Endzone.”) I asked permission to quote him here in full, and Moshe not only said yes, he generously worked up a slightly revised and expanded version:

Moshe Feder: I was saddened on Monday night, July 7th, to learn that Tom Disch had left us, dying by his own hand the previous Friday. I hadn’t seen him in quite some time and had no idea what a difficult time he’d been having. Here’s a link to the New York Times obituary:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/08/books/08disch.html

Tom was, in my estimation, a genius. There were few writers I was more in awe of, and more nervous about meeting. Could I say anything that would possibly be of interest to him? But Tom was as gracious and sweet to me as he was brilliant and acerbic to the world, and always treated me like an equal, which I definitely am not.

Talking to him anywhere was a delight, as was sharing a lively convention panel, and I’ll always treasure the memory of the time he invited me up to his hotel room for drinks and a couple of hours of serious literary conversation. I’m not much of a drinker, so I sipped as slowly as I could, and tried to get him to do as much of the talking as possible.

It was particularly a privilege to review his books, and thereby be among the first to read them. In my opinion, his masterpiece was On Wings Of Song, a great novel of the 20th century — period, full stop. It was also, incidentally, one of the greatest SF novels ever written; and surely one of the most affecting. It should have won all our awards. With all due respect to Arthur, it’s a travesty that it lost the both the Nebula and the Hugo to Clarke’s The Fountains Of Paradise.

It’s ironic that Tom’s only Hugo win was for a work of nonfiction, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a typically brilliant book that I couldn’t quite agree with. His was the tragedy of many of our field’s best writers. Only the literary crowd was capable of appreciating what they are achieving, only the sf/fantasy audience would want to.

Nevertheless, it’s the novels and the stories he’ll be remembered for. I’m confident they’ll stand the test of time.

I’ve been wondering if he chose Independence Day deliberately. It would be well within the compass of his oh-so-sardonic wit to have a final joke by choosing that day to ‘go off with a bang.’ In any case, from now on, the Fourth of July will always have a Tom-shaped shadow lurking in it.

His friends and his readers will miss him, and the work he might yet have done.