SFWA Dues Hike

SFWA President Russell Davis has announced that the organization is raising the annual dues for active members to $80, a $10 increase. Nearly all the other membership classes will have their dues raised as well, except for Estates. Davis explained:

Reaching this decision was not easy for the Board, but the realities are simple: if it weren’t for money coming in from the Authors Coalition, many of our activities would have to be curtailed or abandoned entirely. Even with the increase in dues, our regular annual expenses (the salary for the Executive Director, postage, printing, Nebula Awards, legal fees, etc.) substantially exceeds our dues revenues.  

Interesting. Last year LASFS raised its annual dues to $110. So even after SFWA’s dues increase, that organization will be the comparative bargain. Who would have guessed it is cheaper to be a pro?

Michael Jackson, Ackerman, and Chills

At Forry Ackerman’s memorial people were reminded that he made more than 200 cameo appearances in films. Doubtless the most-viewed cameo – by far! – was that of him sitting in a movie theater behind Michael Jackson during the “Thriller” music video.

Now Michael Jackson’s sudden and unexpected death has elicited worldwide response, with some of the most-widely reported public expressions taking inspiration from that famous video, and renewed attention to the “Thriller”-themed tribute performed by Filipino prisoners in 2007.

Others have taken less savory inspiration from the video, like those at a local outburst reported by the New York Times:

In Los Angeles, hundreds of fans — some chanting Mr. Jackson’s name, some doing the ‘Thriller’ dance — descended on the hospital and on the hillside house where he was staying.

David Klaus observes: “So, outside the house in which he was stricken, and the hospital where he was pronounced dead, his fans were dancing the dance he created for his role as a zombie, an undead creature come back to a shambling semblance of life, which had climbed out of its grave. Even setting aside the poor taste, that’s way too creepy for me.”

Paul Williams Benefit

Paul Williams started publishing fanzines when he was 14. Then, in 1966, at age 17, he capitalized on his fannish experience to start Crawdaddy!, declaring: “You are looking at the first issue of a magazine of rock and roll criticism. Crawdaddy! will feature neither pin-ups nor news-briefs; the specialty of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music…. “

A part of the incandescent music scene of the Sixties, Crawdaddy! enjoyed a meteoroic rise to fame, but Williams left in 1968 to write books. The magazine’s success and prestige carried it another decade, then it went out of business in 1979. Williams reclaimed the title in 1993 and the magazine has relaunched a couple of times since.

However, Paul Williams now has early onset dementia, brought on by a bicycling accident years ago and requires full-time care. He needs the help being provided by the community of supporters who are hosting a benefit for him on June 28. The San Francisco Examiner reports:

This week, friends and fans are coming together to help his family cover costs and lend emotional support at a benefit show Sunday in San Francisco at the Red Devil Lounge: John Doe, Jello Biafra, Mojo Nixon, Mark Eitzel, former Rolling Stone scribe Ben Fong-Torres and others will take the stage to pay tribute to the writer and publisher.

“The fact that he has such passion for the music and for particular artists, his style would just leap in there, with no attempt at what might be considered objective journalism or criticism,” Fong-Torres says. “Whatever he felt was right out there, naked, and I think that made his writing more special and appealing to people and unique in the field of rock writing, which he helped pioneer.”

Williams founded the independent Crawdaddy! when he was just 17. He became part of the fabric of the ’60s rock counterculture, not only writing about it, but also participating in historic happenings, from driving to Woodstock with the Grateful Dead to staying with John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their “bed-in for peace.” 

More insight and history about Williams can be found in this Pat Thomas interview:

Pat Thomas:   So how did you dream this up?

Paul Williams:   Well, there were two big influences on me. One was that I’d been a science fiction fan and was used to putting out magazines. When I was 14, I put out my first science fiction fanzine, and there was a whole community of people doing that, and I put that out for a couple years. You know, mimeograph stencils and writing your own magazine seemed normal to me coming out of that world. The other influence was, when I started Crawdaddy! I was at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, I’d grown up in Cambridge and the Boston suburbs, and there was a very active folk scene, and of course there were folk music magazines…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Waukegan Revamps Bradbury Park

Townspeople rededicated Ray Bradbury Park in Waukegan (Ill.) at a ceremony on June 27. Offiicals unveiled a new interpretive sign featuring facts about Waukegan native son and author, Ray Bradbury. There was also a ribbon cutting for the new playground equipment. Bradbury’s poem “Remembrance” was read by Jason Clark, artistic director of the Bowen Theater Company. The Lake County News-Sun added:

The 1.6-acre neighborhood park… was close to Bradbury’s home and found its way into his imaginary life and writings in “Dandelion Wine,” where he introduces the world to Greentown and in his poem, “Remembrance.”

Bradbury attended the park’s initial dedication in 1990, but not today’s ceremony. Pictures of the original sign and plaque appear below.

Ray Bradbury Park sign Original Bradbury Park dedication plaque

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

Burning Ambition

Speaking of the Bradbury novel, Frank Darabont would like to direct a movie of Fahrenheit 451, but he said in an interview the execs fear the story is too smart for the audience:

Hollywood doesn’t trust smart material. If you show them a really smart script. I actually had a studio head read that script and say: “Wow, that’s the best and smartest script that I’ve read since running this studio but I can’t possibly greenlight it.” I asked why and he says “How am I going to get 13-year-olds to show up at the theater?” And I said “Well, let’s make a good movie and I bet that will take care of itself.” But that argument cut absolutely no ice.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Fahrenheit 451, the Opera

How about a German opera of Fahrenheit 451? The performance begins at the 1:30 mark in this 8:40 compliation of video excerpts from Brenton Broadstock’s musical adaptation of the famous novel by Ray Bradbury.

I thought the vocals were generally good. In fact, a radio broadcast might have been superior to a YouTube video in this case because of the minimalistic set design, and the unfortunate choice to make the firemen’s helmets resemble the one worn by Dark Helmet in Spaceballs.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Can’t Weight To Be Married

Weightless wedding 

“Head over heels in love” is not just a figure of speech when you  get married in zero-G. In history’s first weightless wedding, the bride and groom exchanged vows during the 20-30 second periods of weightlessness created as their plane flew parabolas in the Earth’s atmosphere between 34,000 and 24,000 feet of altitude:

Over the span of nearly eight minutes, the vows and rings were exchanged in a microgravity environment. The aircraft’s interior has padded floors and walls and video cameras to record the experience.

I hope the fellow officiating at the wedding began by saying, “Micwogwavvity is wot bwings us togevor today.”

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Bradbury Crusades to Save Library

Ray Bradbury’s June 20 benefit appearance for the Ventura County Public Libraries made the New York Times:

Mr. Bradbury frequently speaks at libraries across the state, and on Saturday he will make his way here for a benefit for the H. P. Wright Library, which like many others in the state’s public system is in danger of shutting its doors because of budget cuts.

“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

Property tax dollars, which provide most of the financing for libraries in Ventura County, have fallen precipitously, putting the library system roughly $650,000 in the hole. Almost half of that amount is attributed to the H. P. Wright Library, which serves roughly two-thirds of this coastal city about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

In January the branch was told that unless it came up with $280,000 it would close. The branch’s private fund-raising group, San Buenaventura Friends of the Library, has until March to reach its goal; so far it has raised $80,000.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Moshe Feder and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

26 Miles Across the Sea

Snapshots #26: Seven developments of interest to fans:

(1) Here’s a comic strip destined for the memory hole – about a 1984-themed Halloween costume.

(2) Bill Bodden’s review of Privateer Press game figures is an intriguing piece of writing whatever a person’s level of interest in gaming might be.

(3) Quite a few science fiction events have added twitter accounts. The most updated list on the net can be found here.

(4) Don D’Ammassa’s website has just passed 6500 book and movie reviews. Don says,”That’s somewhere between 12 and 15 years’ worth. And I’m still not caught up.”

(5) 8Monkey Labs’ next videogame starts players at the edge of annihilation on history’s darkest days.

Players start the game as a member of General Custer’s unit trying in vain to fend off annihilation by Native American Indian warriors in Montana during Old West days in 1876.

Shortly before being finished off by Indians, the player’s character is rescued by “time agents” and recruited to help expose and stop someone that is tampering with history.

Players’ characters dare battlefields and even an erupting Mt. Vesuvius to make sure people who were supposed to survive do and that outcomes of the momentous events aren’t altered enough to change the future.

(6) More photos from the star-studded performance of Ray Bradbury’s Leviathan 99 by Sean Astin, William Shatner, etc.

(7) ScienceDaily reports progress in technology that promotes healing with light:

Star Trek scanners that fix injuries with beams of light may not be science fiction after all. A new optical technology that lines up living cells and controls their movements has opened the door to better artificial tissues and wounds that heal faster with less scarring.

[Thanks for the links included in the post to David Klaus, John King Tarpinian, and Isaac Alexander.]

Antarctic Bacteria

It’s alive! An Antarctic bacteria has been revived after more that a hundred millennia. Never mind that eerie feeling you once read a John W. Campbell story warning against this sort of thing. How can science be sure a warning is valid unless it courts disaster?

American scientists, showing the reckless disregard for the warnings implicit in quality science fiction that is so regrettably common in the boffinry community, have revived an ancient lifeform which has been slumbering beneath the Arctic ice pack for 120,000 years. To add insult to injury, the scientists believe that their laboratory revenant may be related to indestructible super-aliens yet to be discovered on extraterrestrial iceworlds.

The creature in question is named Herminiimonas glaciei, and was revived from its aeons-long sleep by Dr Jennifer Loveland-Curtze and her colleagues from Pennsylvania State University. The purplish-brown, blobby entity was “coaxed back to life with great patience”, according to Penn State.