File 770 Issue 158 Available Online

File 770 #158 (PDF file) is now online, courtesy of Bill Burns at eFanzines.

Taral Wayne provides the cover art, and in “The Fanwriter’s Fanwriter” critiques the fanac of a universe that strongly resembles but doesn’t entirely overlap our own.

The prolific James Bacon has three pieces in this issue. He supplies a whole list of reasons for liking Renovation’s YA Worldcon membership policy. The lively tone of James’ WexWorlds conreport is matched by Filip Naum’s brilliant photos. And James also has written about visiting steam railways on the Isle of Man.  

There’s an appreciation of the late Mark Owings by Martin Morse Wooster, plus remembrances of the late Takumi Shibano, Roy Test, Jim Harmon and others.

John Hertz has a Loscon report. And the editors of the Chinese fanzine New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Xin Huan Jie) catch us up on their progress.

George Scithers (1929-2010)

One of the very few fans who did it all, George Scithers, died of a heart attack on April 19 at the age of 80.

He was a small press publisher, fiction writer, prozine editor, Worldcon chair, and Hugo-winning fanzine editor.

His plaid jacket was almost as well-known as Ben Yalow’s bow tie. Scithers was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1979 NASFiC (NorthAmericon) and the 2001 Worldcon (Millennium Philcon)

It was as an editor Scithers engraved his mark on the science fiction and fantasy fields.

Scithers was the founding editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (1977), for which he won the Hugo twice, in 1979 and 1981. After he departed Asimov’s (1982), Scithers edited Amazing until 1986 and thereafter was active in the revival of Weird Tales.

It’s in every prozine editor’s interest to cultivate new talent, but while Scithers was at Asimov’s that was his profound mission and made him highly visible at conventions and in workshops.

He published a fanzine, Amra, devoted to sword-and-sorcery fiction (indeed, the term first appeared in its pages.) It won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1964. Although Robert A. Heinlein never wrote anything for the zine, he dedicated Glory Road to “George H Scithers and the regular patrons of the Terminus, Owlswick, and Ft Mudge Electric Street Railway” (the latter being a press name for Scithers’ fanac) because the book was inspired by Scithers’ postcard asking the question, `What happens after the Hero wins the hand of the princess and half the kingdom.’”

Scithers chaired Discon, the 1963 Worldcon, attracting 600 fans to Washington D.C. Afterward he wrote The Con-Committee Chairman’s Guide: The Story of Discon I (1965), reflecting the kinder and gentler days of single-track programming. When I was working on the Nolacon II program in 1988 Bruce Pelz showed me Scithers’ remarks: “For the Discon, we set up most of the convention program in July, which seemed early enough to us…” I had a long, hysterical giggle.

Before embarking on a career in sf, Scithers was a West Point graduate who retired as a lieutenent colonel, a Signal Corps officer who had seen service in the Korean War. He was still in the service when I first met him.

Scithers founded specialty publisher Owlswick Press in 1973. Its eclectic titles included To Serve Man, the cannibal cookbook.

He also edited numerous anthologies, the latest being Cat Tales: Fantastic Feline Fiction (2008) and very recently Cat Tales 2, according to John Betancourt.

In 1992, Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer won a World Fantasy Award for their work on Weird Tales. At the 2002 World Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis, both Scithers and Forrest J Ackerman won World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.

John Betancourt reports that cards may be sent to Scithers’ longtime partner, Larry Fiege, at 218 Blandford St., Rockville, MD 20850-2629.

Rising Above the Sands of Time

Scott Timberg’s latest article about sf for the LA Times traces the origins of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune.

The novel was sparked when, in the late 1950s, Herbert flew to Florence, Ore., in a small chartered plane to write about a U.S. Department of Agriculture effort to stabilize sand dunes with European beach grasses. The author was struck by the way dunes could move, over time, like living things — swallowing rivers, clogging lakes, burying forests. “These waves can be every bit as devastating as a tidal wave . . . they’ve even caused deaths,” he wrote his agent, beginning an article, “They Stopped the Moving Sands,” that was never published.

Timberg has a fresh quote from Kim Stanley Robinson, too, whom he praises saying, “Many consider Robinson’s trilogy about the terra-forming of Mars the best-realized exercise in the form since Herbert’s.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

Meatspace Justice for Virtual Theft

Going on virtual quests filled with violence, death, and treasure-taking exercises a player’s spirit of adventure. But don’t try stealing his World of Warcraft account — by golly, there are laws against that sort of thing!

Four years ago in Finland Hannu Ahola bought a World of Warcraft account from a teenaged acquaintance. He spent many hours developing a strong character. He did such a good job that the acquaintance decided to log in and hijack the account.

Hannu appealed to the highest authority in meatspace — the acquaintance’s mom — but didn’t get the account back. So he hired an attorney and a year-and-a-half later received 4000 Euros in an out-of-court settlement. Which he’s presumably already spending to play World of Warcraft.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Super-Science Tales Selected

The Haffner Press collection Tales of Super-Science Fiction, edited by Grand Master Robert Silverberg, is rounding into a shape. Stephen Haffner’s latest press release announces some of the authors whose stories will appear:

  • Don Berry
  • Robert Bloch
  • J. F. Bone
  • A. Bertram Chandler (as George Whitely)
  • Daniel F. Galouye
  • Tom Godwin 
  • James E. Gunn 
  • Alan E. Nourse
  • Charles W. Runyon
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Jack Vance
  • Robert Moore Williams

The cover art will be by Frank Kelly Freas. Silverberg and Haffner are still securing rights to additional texts.

There are details of several other projects in the full press release, which appears after the jump.

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Kemp’s Pulp Database

Earl Terry Kemp has produced the Golden Age of Pulps SF Magazine Database, Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror (1890-200) database.

The database runs as an MS Access application, and masses 786 megabytes once all the CD’s are installed. The cost is $40.

Indexed are contributions to 1,300 different magazine titles, a total of 19,140 separate issues (with over 13,333 cover scans), with contributions by 33,861 writers (with over 1,171 pseudonyms), as well as contributions by over 3,016 cover artists. Indexed are 171,871 entries and serial segments, 24,295 poems, and 44,999 articles and columns.

Earl says it’s the most comprehensive database ever constructed of contributions to magazines in the field of fantastic literature — speculative fiction including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and weird fiction. “It is so comprehensive that it cannot be surpassed, it can only be supplemented,” Earl claims.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

CUSFS Chairbeing Gains Fame

When was the last time the newspaper said anything as nice about your local science fiction club president as the Daily Mail wrote about the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society’s  “Chairbeing”?

Alexander Guttenplan’s encyclopaedic knowledge, modesty and calmness have made him the sensation of this year’s University Challenge as well as a surprise heart-throb.

Guttenplan became a TV celebrity when he led Emmanuel College, Cambridge to the finals of a BBC2 quiz show by answering questions about Greek philosophers, Latin mottos and web comics.

I’ll bet fielding those questions seemed a breeze after Guttenplan deciphered his own club’s cryptic list of “CUSFS Vice-Presidents”. A sense of what might be going comes from the only line written in clear:

We determined the final six by dropping small pieces of paper down the central space of `E’ staircase, New Court, St John’s in a sort of gravitational Pooh sticks.

Would the rest be as entertaining if I really understood them?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Michael Burstein in Contested Election

SF writer Michael Burstein is finishing his second three-year term as a Brookline (MA) library trustee and would like to be re-elected. But there are five candidates pursuing the four open seats — so somebody is going to be left standing when the music stops. Trying to make sure it’s not him, Burstein is running an active campaign.

I missed publicizing last weekend’s Burstein for Brookline $5 Baked-Good Fundraiser, where for a minimum donation of $5 people were able to meet with the candidate and sample Nomi S. Burstein’s award-winning chocolate chip cookie bars. But it’s not too late to contribute to the campaign, just use the form on the website.  

Burstein might be the greatest friend libraries have had among sf writers since Ray Bradbury.

In his pitch to the electorate of Brookline he says:

As a new parent with twin daughters born last July, I have become even more attuned to the need for an excellent public library system in our community. In these difficult financial times, I have fought to keep our library on the cutting edge of technology.

The voters go to the polls on May 4.