Snapshots 44 Magnum

Do you feel lucky? Here are 8 developments of interest to fans:

(1) Frederik Pohl will be getting Arthur Hlavaty’s vote for the Best Fan Writer Hugo in part because of this irresistible series of reminiscences about Robert Heinlein and his wives

(2) The University of Oklahoma’s World Literature Today for May 2010 delivers an incredible feast of science fictional art, literature and commentary. For example — and this is just the tip of the iceberg — there is Paul Di Filippo’s The Best Speculative Fiction of 2009, Paul Kincaid’s essay, Against a Definition of Science Fiction, Daniel Powell’s essay, After the End of the Whole Mess: Isolation and Confinement in American Narratives of the Apocalypse, the full text of Pamela Sargent’s story, The True Darkness and guest editor Christopher McKitterick’s list of the Don’t-Miss Speculative Fiction Events.

(3) Hearing that CBS will air a sitcom in which William Shatner plays a cranky old fogie whose rants are captured by a Twitter-obsessed son with a million followers, Janice Gelb asked, “Wonder if he ever says ‘Get off my lawn!’”

(4) Chris Jones, who writes “Theater Loop” for the Chicago Tribune, thinks the local productions of “War with the Newts” and “Neverwhere” are “very decent.” But that’s not a bad review coming from someone who knows “science fiction and fantasy can be tricky, tricky genres in the theater.”

(5) As a method of storytelling, John W. Campbell advocated taking an idea and extrapolating all its consequences. And let’s admit it, not every story he bought was any more scientifically sound than this report on the “homeopathic bomb”:

Homeopathic bombs are comprised of 99.9% water but contain the merest trace element of explosive. The solution is then repeatedly diluted so as to leave only the memory of the explosive in the water molecules. According to the laws of homeopathy, the more that the water is diluted, the more powerful the bomb becomes.

“‘A homeopathic attack could bring entire cities to a standstill,’ said BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner, ‘Large numbers of people could easily become convinced that they have been killed and hospitals would be unable to cope with the massive influx of the “walking suggestible”.'”

(6) Doubtless the “walking suggestible” will also be falling for this gag.

“Not the Onion, believe it or not, but the University of Reading,” says David Klaus of Graham Cluely’s blog post headlined, “Scaremongering scientist claims to have infected himself with computer virus”:

Yes, you could put software code on an RFID chip that you could put in your body…but so what?

The fact is that that code would not be read until an RFID reader came into contact with the affected RFID chip and even then the software connected with the RFID reader would need to have a vulnerability that would allow the code to be run….

Frankly, I’ve got more chance of being flattened by a falling grand piano than I have of getting my dog virus-infected next time I take him to the vets.

(7) On the other hand, recent headline news about genuine domestic terrorism prompted Francis Hamit to write “Some of my old world has, alas, become relevant again” and point to his 1995 “The Enemy Within: Security Threats From Domestic Militia Groups,” a 10,000-word ebook on the rationals, history and countermeasures against such groups available for $4.99.

(8) Now I’m wondering — was Dorothy Gale the inventor of the homeopathic bomb? One thing I know for sure is that getting melted ended the career of the Wicked Witch of the West. Later in life she was reduced to hawking coffee and cheating at checkers (YouTube).

[Thanks for the links in this post go to David Klaus, Isaac Alexander, Steven H Silver, and Janice Gelb.]

Alexei Kondratiev (1949-2010)

Celtic scholar, linguist and long-time member of the Mythopoeic Society, Alexei Kondratiev has died at the age of 61 of a heart attack.

This year’s Mythcon chair Jason Fisher posted the news he received from Anthony Burdge and Jessica Burke on Lingwë – Musings of a Fish:

In Alexei, Jessie and I share a mutual friend, Carole L. Gonzalez, who was his close friend. Carole wrote to us via facebook this morning and told us the news. They suspect a heart attack, but we are not sure at the moment.

Alexei Kondratiev was born in New York to a French mother and a Russian father. Raised in rural France near the site of ancient Celtic remains, he was inspired to learn the Irish language, first from books he found in libraries, then by living four years in the Aran Islands among native speakers.

For the past 25 years he taught Irish language at the Irish Arts Centre in New York as well as courses on Celtic mythology, early Celtic Christianity, and the history of Celtic traditional music. He authored The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. He was scholar guest of honor at the 2002 Mythcon in Boulder.

I always felt Kondratiev was a prototypical Mythopeoic Society member, someone fascinated by a linguistic and literary subject who spent his life mastering its intricacies, yet (here’s the exceptional part)  just as willing to hear about your scholarly passions as he was willing to share his own.

[Thanks to Lynn Maudlin for the story.]

How Did I Not Know This?

Letters of Note has posted Robert Heinlein’s letter to Forrest J Ackerman offering condolences on the death of his brother, Alden, at the Battle of the Bulge on New Year’s Day 1945.

Forry had a brother who died in the war?

It’s hardly shocking that another fan would be ignorant of a friend’s mundane relatives who passed away decades before the two of them met. But what if that fan has written dozens of news stories about the friend? What if that fan not long ago spent hours researching the friend’s obituary? What if that fan is me (coff coff) and the information is on a page I consulted in Harry Warner Jr.’s All Our Yesterdays?

His only brother, Alden Lorraine, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge on New Year’s Day, 1945. Ackerman published a memorial booklet in which he spoke with a simple eloquence, like a newly matured person.

Forry evidently had asked Heinlein to contribute to the booklet and the letter conveys Heinlein’s answer.

Alden Lorraine Ackerman died at the age of 21 while serving in D Company of the 42nd Tank Battalion of the 11th Armored Division. It’s entirely possible that his death is the subject of this entry on the unit’s webpage describing the events of January 1 (the only deaths specified that day) while the battalion was fighting its way to Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne:

Between 1930 and 2000, one enemy airplane bombed Rechrival three times scoring a near miss on one tank which was not damaged. However, two men standing near-by were killed. The rest of the night was marked with scattered artillery fire which did no damage. 

Heinlein not only said no to the invitation, he took the opportunity to tee off on fandom for its perceived failure to join the war effort. One of his milder statements is:

I know that you are solemn in your intention to see to it that Alden’s sacrifice does not become meaningless. I am unable to believe that fan activity and fan publications can have anything to do with such intent. I have read the fan publications you have sent me and, with rare exceptions, I find myself utterly disgusted with the way the active fans have met the trial of this war.

Of course, it should not be surprising that in 1945 Heinlein would feel that way toward any able-bodied person who was not in the service or doing war work. Therefore, the most remarkable thing about this letter actually is the warmth Heinlein expresses to Ackerman in closing (after attempting to persuade him to request a transfer to serve in Europe):

We are very fond of you, Forry. You are a fine and gentle soul. This is a very difficult letter to write; if I did not think you were worth it, I would not make the effort.

I was really surprised by this. Til now, all the stories I have ever heard were about the friction between them, such as Heinlein’s famous letter telling Ackerman to “Keep your hands off my property” after Forry sold Heinlein’s 1941 Denvention GoH speech to Vertex in 1973.

[Via Ansible Links.]

Jonathan Lethem Goes West

Jonathan Lethem in 2008

Jonathan Lethem is taking over the Roy Disney Chair of Creative Writing at Pomona College, a position held by David Foster Wallace until his death, in 2008:

Lethem and Wallace have had what might be called a mystical relationship. They never met, but they might have. In the early nineteen-eighties, a mutual friend told Lethem that he should meet a guy named Dave, “who wants to write, too.” In later decades, they moved in the same literary circles, and, Lethem said, “had indirect gestures in one another’s direction. He said some very nice things about my work, and I returned the favor by plagiarizing him” (in a defense of plagiarism titled “The Ecstasy of Influence” that ran in Harper’s in 2007). The symmetry of their careers makes the Pomona job seem to Lethem “strange and ghostly and almost like a Henry James story of a mysterious great man whose footsteps you walk into.”

Upon reading the news of Lethem’s move west the more literary among you doubtless had a more worthy thought than “I wonder if he’d be on a panel at Loscon?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

NYRSF Readings for 6/1

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings on June 1 features N. K. Jemisin, E. C. Myers and Devin Poore — three members of the writers group Altered Fluid.

Altered Fluid is a speculative fiction writers’ group based in Manhattan. Its members have been meeting since 2001 to workshop their short stories and novels of science fiction, horror, fantasy and slipstream.  Its ranks include some of the rising stars in the genre and Fluidians have been nominated for this year’s Nebula Award, Hugo Award and Campbell Award, respectively. 

N. K. Jemisin, a Brooklyn writer of short stories and novels, wrote The Hundred Thousand KingdomsE.C. Myers is currently finishing his fourth young adult novel. Devin Poore writes short stories and novels that deal with everything from vampires to magic to the Civil War.

The full press release follows the jump.

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John King Tarpinian:
Wednesday in the Store with George

By John King Tarpinian: Starting June 2 George Clayton Johnson will be giving FREE weekly writing classes at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights. These classes will be held at Mystery and Imagination, 238 N. Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203 (818-545-0206). (Click on thumbnail to see flyer.)

Just a partial list of George’s writing credits include the script for the original Ocean 11 (we are talking the Rat Pack). For the Twilight Zone he wrote A Game of Pool, The Four of Us Are Dying, Execution, A Penny for Your Thoughts, Ninety Years Without Slumbering, Nothing in the Dark and Kick the Can.

Nothing in the Dark starred a very young Robert Redford. Kick the Can was chosen by Steven Spielberg for his direction of The Twilight Zone movie. A Game of Pool starred Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters.

His The Demon God episode of Kung-Fu was the first flash forward episode in television.

George wrote the first aired episode of the original Star Trek, The Man Trap.

Lastly he co-wrote Logan’s Run with William F. Nolan. At the time, they were paid a record breaking sum for the script rights.

If you look up the word loquacious in the dictionary you’ll see George’s picture.  Anybody interested in writing or the writing process should consider attending.

Howard Waldrop Sighting

 ConQuesT 41 is running in Kansas City this weekend with an excellent slate of guests including Michael Swanwick, Toni Weisskopf and Geri Sullivan. But that’s not all!

Once again on Saturday night there will be a con-within-a-con in the Dawn Patrol suite. To quote Jimmy Hollaman:

As some of you know, this coming weekend is ConQuesT 41. What you might not know is that for the last few years on Saturday night, another convention has been held. Room Con. Basically it’s a convention with in a convention. This year we will be throwing ROOM CON 6.6.6. the con of all Evil, and what a lineup we have. Writer Guest is Howard Waldrop (a national treasure), Artist Guest is Mitch Bentley, Toastmaster is Jim Murray, Fan Guest is Sue Sinor, and last but certainly not least, our returning Musical Guest Bland Lemon Denton (Brad Denton). And for those that drink, you can try a Pale Jimmy, a home brewed beer made just for Room Con. If you have not got to make it to a Room Con yet, please feel free to stop by. Saturday night at 10 we will be opening the doors. Live music, great guest and an art show where you are the artist. Yep come by and create some art with your fellow fans. For more info on Room Con, go to Facebook and look up ROOM CON. There you will find pictures of some of the past Room Cons.

Yes, my sense of humor may be too basic, but something that always gets a laugh out of me is any variation on the nickname “Blind-Lemon-whoever.”

[Via Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.]

The Planet Eater

Headline: Hubble catches planet being devoured by its star.

Wow! How cool…gotta click on this.

The Hubble space telescope has discovered a planet in our galaxy in the process of being devoured by the star that it orbits, according to a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The doomed planet, dubbed WASP-12b, has the highest known surface temperature of any planet in the Milky Way — around 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,800 degrees Fahrenheit).

But it could be enveloped by its own parent star over the next ten million years, the paper’s authors have concluded.

So… It hasn’t happened. And won’t for a ton of years. Because the “happening” is nothing more than a breathless sales hook by the nerd who wrote the story.

Yet the article has a dramatic picture — that is simply the artist’s conception of this nonexistent event. You know, this “happening” that was “caught by the Hubble.”

[Via the Ditch.]


King Kong, last seen heading for Universal Studios Hollywood, left a trail of giant footprints across the Dodger Stadium baseball diamond.The stunt publicizes Universal’s new King Kong attraction opening in July.

I thought it was amusing. It also reminded me of another local advertising stunt about a dozen years ago to promote either Deep Impact or Armageddon. Several sky-blue circles were fastened to the mirrored windows of an office beside the freeway in West LA to make it appear as if it had been struck by meteorites.