2007 NASFiC: St. Louis Stands Alone

A 2007 NASFiC loomed on the horizon immediately after fans chose Japan
to host the Worldcon for that year. NASFiC – the North American Science Fiction Convention – is provided under the same World Science Fiction Society rules that govern Worldcons, Hugos, and where Ben Yalow
spends Labor Day.

Competing bids for Ocean City, MD or St. Louis, MO were initially publicized, but site selection administrator Tom Veal announced on his Stromata weblog that St. Louis alone submitted a bid by the March 5 filing deadline. Only qualified bids are listed on the site selection ballot. The voters, members of CascadiaCon, the 2005 NASFiC in Seattle, could always indicate a preference for “none of the above” or “no con,” or cast enough write-ins for an unlisted candidate, but the expectation is that St. Louis will win the upcoming vote.

St. Louis bidders will piggyback the NASFiC onto their annual Archon. Instead of the usual fall date, the con will be held August 2-5, 2007. According to bidder Rich Zellich, “This is to allow fans from outside the St. Louis metropolitan area to attend with their families before the fall school sessions start, and puts us a month before the Worldcon instead of a month after it.”

They will use their usual venue, the Collinsville Gateway Center and adjacent Holiday Inn. They will have two additional ballrooms in the Gateway Center for expanded programming, with construction of the new wing scheduled for April 2006 completion.

Zellich cautions, “Even though we are the only filed bidder, since the vote has not yet been held we will refrain from announcing our projected 2007 Guests of Honor until Progress Report Zero, to be handed out on Sunday at CascadiaCon.”

Do-It-Yourself Steve Stiles Webpage

The caffeine in this morning’s coffee jarred loose a memory about Steve Stiles needing a website to effectively compete for the Hugo. Remember? Frank Wu said it here. I’d noticed something missing myself when I made a collection of links to last year’s Hugo runner-ups. I thought here we are again, the nominations just announced, Steve Stiles on the list, but what about a website?

Then I remembered the Internet. Did you know that every fan with a computer is just a click away from having their own Steve Stiles website? All they need is the kind of direction we can easily provide here on Trufen. Armed with my best friend, Google, I set out to harvest the best of Stiles links from the web. And what a fine researcher I turned out to be, because the very first thing I stumbled across was… stevestiles.com

Steve Stiles in caricature poses beside a buxom friend promising a site “loaded with sophistication (as you can see from the broad in the foreground).” And Steve delivers in six colorful segments – Comics Articles, Computer Art, Fanzine Art, Fanzine Articles, Professional Art and Links. Bill Burns hosts this site and receives big credit from Steve for providing help and encouragement.

Comics Articles: Stiles has collected 75 articles he wrote about all kinds of comics for CollectingChannel.com in the days when Arnie Katz was at the helm.

Computer Art: With help from his Mac, Steve can play around with colorful imagery that once he could only do with rare colored ditto masters.

Fanzine Art: Thumbnails of 33 fanzine covers are displayed for you to click on and see the full-size version. His work has appeared everywhere, from classic faanish zines to Worldcon progress reports (“Crabs of Our Solar System” for ConStellation PR 2.)

Steve has done over 4,000 pieces of fannish artwork since his first cartoon appeared in Cry of the Nameless
in 1959. “It was ghastly beyond belief…” Steve insists. I guess when you grow up to be a brilliant artist you are sensitive about these things.

Fanzine Articles: But wait, Steve is a brilliant fanwriter too. He offers a wide selection of his fanzine articles, led off by “Art School.” It was originally published in Mimosa, and its Joe Mayhew illustrations are done in a homage to Steve’s underground style. Most impressive is Steve’s report of his 1968 TAFF trip, titled “Harrison Country.” Without a doubt, people visiting this site to see Steve’s art will also leave with a new appreciation for his written work as a humorist and critic.

Professional Art: Three dozen thumbnails lead to full-sized examples of his pro comics work, for example, “Mind Siege!” published in Kitchen Sink’s horror title Death Rattle. Steve selected a page that includes tuckerizations of [Barry] Smotroff and [Don] Keller.

As you can tell, Steve doesn’t need the do-it-yourself kit I had in mind. But if a visit to his website whets your appetite for things Stilesian, friend Google can help you out. A search of the eFanzines site alone returns 115 links to documents with Stiles references, such as “The Trickle-Down Theory of Dr. Fandom” by Ted White in Apparatchik 72, an article inspired by experiences working at the same company with Steve.

Elsewhere on the web you can find examples of his pro art that are not collected on Steve’s own site. Lambiek.net’s Comiclopedia has two examples, one of them from The Adventures Of Professor Thintwhistle And His Incredible Aether Flier, a strip he did with Dick Lupoff for Heavy Metal (still available from Fantagraphics Press).

Hugo nominations are nice, but egoboo is even better – so take advantage of the e-mail address listed on Steve’s new website to personally tell him how much you enjoy what he’s doing.

NASA’s Smashing Success

Photos of NASA’s ruined Genesis probe were a depressing sight, crushed metal shards left half-buried in the Utah desert last September after a recovery mishap. Plans for helicopters to intercept the solar probe in midair went amiss because its parachute failed to open. This should never be the way expensive scientific missions end! Well, hardly ever. Sometimes a crashing finish is the definition of success.

The Ranger probes, 1961-1965, were designed to take close-up images of the moon while hurtling into the lunar surface. Although the first six Ranger spacecraft either missed the moon or failed to transmit their pictures, finally, Rangers 7, 8 and 9 successfully flew into the Moon, sending back images from six cameras until the moment of impact.

A similar notion inspires the Deep Impact cometary study mission NASA launched on January 12. A probe will gather data as it smashes into its subject, Comet Tempel 1 — a bit of Independence Day fireworks for astronomers if it hits when scheduled, July 4, 2005.

Comet Smackdown

The Deep Impact mission will be carried out by a pair of spacecraft – the “Impactor” payload will be released to slam into Comet Tempel 1 at 23,000 mph while the “Flyby” mothership looks on. “Impactor” carries its own camera and (in the tradition of Ranger!) will return the closest images ever taken of a comet nucleus.

Studying the comet will hopefully reveal something about our origins. “Only the internal material of a comet is unchanged from the beginning of the solar system,” said Deep Impact principal investigator Michael A’Hearn, of the University of Maryland. Much the same was said when underappreciated Comet Shoemaker-Levy met its demise, causing David Bofinger to laugh, “Funny how you don’t learn how ancient and valuable something is until you watch it drop into the red spot of Jupiter.”

For comet researchers the early 21st century is an exciting time. After “Impactor” is sacrificed, “Flyby” will swing past the comet and may be used again to study a couple of other comets in an extended mission. Last year, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft flew through Comet 81P/Wild 2, taking pictures and collecting samples that will be returned to Earth for study in 2006. The European Space Agency (ESA) also launched its comet probe Rosetta
on March 2, 2005 to visit Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it is expected to drop its lander, Philae, on the comet’s surface in 2014.

Comets: SF’s Beginning and End

Science fiction writers have long used their imaginations to probe comets, a favorite part of the science fictional repertoire, especially if they are on the verge of smashing into something important like our home planet (every writer’s favorite target.) For example, in Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer (1977) a giant asteroid or comet collides with the earth and ends middle-class life as we know it. Their bestseller has been called “among the first of the scientifically reasonable impact stories.”

Other writers give an old phrase a new twist – they would start life as we know it by crashing water-bearing comets onto Mars to start life, like Bruce Sterling (“Cicada Queen”). And ultra-scientific Greg Benford says to heck with Mars, let’s use those comets to terraform the moon! (Read how, here.)

Writers have a particular fondness for Halley’s Comet because its 1910 appearance seared a legend into American popular culture and everyone knew the rerun was coming, never imagining it would prove a disappointment. Greg Benford and David Brin in Heart of the Comet
(1986) whet our appetites for a manned expedition to Halley when it comes back in 2061 – if you like redheads, this book’s for you….

Fellow writer Mark Twain was born in a year Halley’s Comet appeared, 1835, and hoped he would go out with it in 1910 – a wish that was granted. Well, some claim otherwise, but close enough for skiffy….