MacIntyre Profiled in New York Times

Authorities hope they soon will be able to formally identify the fire victim believed to be F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, reports Corey Kilgannon in the New York Times:

The medical examiner’s office has not officially confirmed the identity of the man who burned to death that day in Apartment C-9. The corpse is “not visually identifiable, from the fire,” and there were no dental or other X-rays to help identify the body, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the office.

The body has remained unclaimed for months, but last Wednesday, Ms. Borakove said that “a relative was recently located, and DNA testing is being conducted to positively identify” the body. She would not say whom, citing privacy policies.

Kilgannon’s fascinating and detailed profile contrasts MacIntyre’s acceptance as a writer and in online communities with his everyday life as a pariah in a Brooklyn apartment building.

Sf figures quoted in the article are Darrell Schweitzer (MacIntyre’s editor and agent), Bud Webster, and Andrew Porter.

“It was the bizarro death of a man who lived a bizarro life,” said Andrew Porter, a Brooklyn writer who was among the first to announce Mr. MacIntyre’s demise, on the sci-fi fan blog File 770. “What was his real name? Where was he born? No one knows. Froggy was weird, and his death is just as weird.”

[Thanks to David Klaus and Gary Farber for the link.]

Snapshots 49ers

Here are 15 developments of interest to fans:

(1) Is the new Hugo Award logo gaining acceptance? Baen recently put out The Vorkosigan Companion by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers (eds.) in mass market paperback format and Lois McMaster Bujold grotched to Facebook readers that “they didn’t get a little cartouche with ‘Hugo Award Nominee!’ on the cover…” It’s good to see a writer looking for it.

(2) Also, don’t miss Lois McMaster Bujold bantering with Miles Vorkosigan on the Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore site:

LMB:    It’s a hard-used 39 [years old]. You need reliable help, I acknowledge that. And Roic is practically a Boy Scout, or at least a Canadian Mountie. Quite a change from old Sergeant Bothari. Have you noticed how your minions are getting saner and saner as you age? Why is that, I wonder?

Miles:   Sampling artifact. If you’re starting with Bothari, there’s nowhere to go but saner.

Lady Vivamus

(3) Having Thanksgiving dinner with fans? Think how impressed they’ll be when you carve the turkey with your double hollow-ground steel blade designed by master swordmaker Jody Samson:

This is the only official Lady Vivamus, endorsed by the Heinlein Prize Trust, in a limited edition of 100 swords, based on the sword described in the Robert Heinlein classic, Glory Road.

No, no, just kidding. Master Samson isn’t any likelier to endorse using Lady Vivamus to take off a drumstick than Len Moffatt is to let someone make a mixed drink with his Chivas Regal.

(4) A Washington DC area Shakespeare theatre company will do selections from Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing in the original Klingon next month

Don’t you love that remarkable moment when roSenQatlh and ghIlDenSten exit the stage and Khamlet is left alone to deliver the immortal words: “baQa’, Qovpatlh, toy’wl”a’ qal je jIH”?

No? Well, it always kills on Kronos. That’s the home planet of the Klingons, the hostile race that antagonizes the Federation heroes of “Star Trek.”

The play owes its Klingon language to Mark Okrand. Okrand says actors have been challenged by it since he consulted on the first Star Trek movie

After an actor put too much lilt into a line, Okrand recalls, Nimoy shouted: “Cut! Cut! You’re Klingon, not French!”

(5) Now available, time travel into the past without that inconvenient grandfather paradox.

(6) Kirstin Imani Kasai has taken the plunge and is shopping for her first ereader:

I was staunchly pro-print. Books are tactile. You can dog ear the pages and write in the margins. If you drop a novel in the bathtub, you simply let it dry out and continue reading its rippled leaves. Finish a book on a trip and you can leave it behind in the plane’s seat pocket for another traveler to discover. Best of all, books are desert island-proof–no batteries required.

Conversion has been a slow process. My right hand got tired holding up “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” It was no easy feat to iron my hair while reading it, the book balanced on the sink’s edge, a giant clippy holding it open.

(7) I thought heroic rats only existed in cartoons. Laurel Anne Hill has discovered them in real life:

Giant pouched African rats have a nose for success. APOPO, a registered charity in Belgium and based in Tanzania, has trained these long-whiskered critters to sniff out unexploded land mines and save human lives. Working for rewards of banana slices and peanuts, “Hero Rats” schooled in Tanzania have become amazingly proficient at smelling TNT on the job in Mozambique.

(8) One of our leading sf writers said on Facebook the other day, “Excess fat carried on American tummy hips & butt would sustain caloric needs of Afghanistan people for a year.”

It’s only a matter of time until we see a Pashto translation of George Scithers’ famous cookbook To Serve Man.

(9) Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void was reviewed by M. G. Lord in the New York Times who liked the book but not the vision of man on Mars:

At the book’s end, after more than 300 pages of debunking the romance of spaceflight, Roach herself buys into that idea, making a misguided, emotional pitch for a $500 billion human Mars mission — at the expense of cheap, reliable, robotic missions. I am not impervious to sentimentality. I felt a surge of tenderness when Roach described the “unlikely heroics” of a patch of moss on Devon Island: “something so delicate surviving in a place so stingy and hard.”

Yet compared with the irradiated void of space, a frozen rock in the High Arctic is as cozy as a baby’s crib. Packing for Mars, Roach has shown, can be entertaining here on Earth. But no way are humans ready to make the actual trip.

(10) Geoff Boucher of Hero Complex explained that Star Wars Uncut  is a shot-for-shot crowd-sourced remake of Star Wars, and —

It is, foremost, hilarious and strange, a stunt and a hoot, a crazy idea — crazy good idea! — that actually got done.

(11) Letters of Note has posted a 1987 progress report from Paramount about the casting of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Can you imagine Wesley Snipes as Geordi? It could have happened.

(12) Prisoners at Gitmo like to read. Harry Potter is a particular favorite:

There’s not a lot to look forward to if you’re one of the 176 prisoners held in the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay — no visits from loved ones; no parole or release date; and for many, no prospect even of a day in court to answer charges. Still, at least there’s Harry Potter. He may not come riding in on the back of a hippogriff to free his favorite captives from their own version of Azkaban, but he shows up once a week on a cart of books from the prison library, offering an escape of the imagination treasured by many. Indeed, the Harry Potter series has been one the most popular titles among the 18,000 books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers on offer from the prison library at Guantánamo.

A conservative sf writer likes to talk about the West using its “cultural weapons of mass destruction” to overcome enemies by converting their citizens to a materialistic lifestyle resembling our own. But I’ve long suspected they could find reasons entirely their own for enjoying our mass entertainment. Is that the case here?

(13) Rachel Bloom sang that NSFW song about Ray Bradbury, inspiring someone (you know who you are) to arrange for them to actually meet. This link will take you to a perfectly innocent photo of the two talking up a storm (Facebook access required).

(14) SF Signal’s Mind Meld, one of the best things going on the internet, recently asked participants: What are some of the SF/F tropes that need to be retired? Nick Mamatas went first and when he finished there didn’t seem to be a single old favorite left. Then he wisely added, “But that’s what genre is, isn’t it?”

[Thanks for these links goes out to David Klaus, Michael Walsh, Bjo Trimble, Dave Langford (oops, I’ll bet that comes as a surprise,) Steven H. Silver, Taral, Gary Farber and James Hay.]

Bradbury, Weller to Launch Big Read

Add the city of Pomona, California to the long list of places that have selected a Ray Bradbury book for their Nation Endowment for the Arts Big Read program. Participants will be reading the classic sf novel Fahrenheit 451 between October 8 and November 13.

The goal of the Big Read is to restore reading to the center of American culture and highlight the importance of literature in daily life. The Big Read aims to directly address the decline of reading for pleasure by providing citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their community.

Pomona’s Big Read kicks off with an appearance by the author and his biographer at An Evening with Ray Bradbury and Sam Weller on October 8, 6 p.m., in the Western University of Health Sciences, Health Education Center, 701 East Second St., Pomona, CA 91766.

Sam Weller will discuss his books The Bradbury Chronicles and the newly released Listen to the Echoes: the Ray Bradbury Interviews. Both authors will sign books afterwards.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Two More Days of Ray Bradbury Week

Taral must be wondering where the Ray Bradbury coverage has gone. Fortunately John King Tarpinian has furnished some more reports about Ray Bradbury Week in Los Angeles.

On August 26 there was a screening of Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (photos here).

John King Tarpinian writes: “One of Joe Mantegna’s first paying acting jobs was for Chicago’s Organic Theatre Company’s production of Ice Cream Suit…which was F. Murray Abraham’s first paying acting gig as the tailor. Stuart Gordon, best known for the cult classic, Re-Animator, and Joe entertained the audience about stories about filming the movie. They said that when Sid Caesar was on the set filming each take was different and funnier than the one before…the crew was laughing so hard that they were the ones ruining the shot.”

Earlier in the week, on August 24, the Playboy Foundation presented a screening of Fahrenheit 451 starring Julie Christie, Oskar Werner and Cyril Cusack. The film was preceded by a discussion with Ray Bradbury and Hugh Hefner moderated by Los Angeles Times reporter and Hero Complex blogger Geoff Boucher.

Tarpinian was there: “Among the things said by Hef was how grateful he was to have met Ray at the right time in both their lives. How Ray introduced him to Charles Beaumont which resulted in The Crooked Man being the first piece of fiction published in Playboy.”

On stage: Hef, Geoff Boucher of LA Times, Ray and Richard Stayton of Written By magazine.

Fan Expo Canada Apologizes

Fan Expo Canada, a commercial sf convention held in Toronto at the end of August, drew 60,000 fans last year but wasn’t prepared to handle the throngs wanting to get in this year. The con was overwhelmed and its reputation took a beating in the local paper:

Hundreds of gamers, superfans and sci-fi geeks are fuming after a mismanaged weekend at Fan Expo Canada, a popular annual convention celebrating pop culture.

Eventgoers say this year’s three-day convention was marred by hours-long lineups. On Saturday afternoon, crowds became so unmanageable organizers had to shut down door sales and temporarily lock out ticket holders, prompting hordes of frustrated fans to start chanting for refunds.

While the Fan Expo has always seen its share of organizational glitches, loyal attendees say this year’s convention was by far the worst.

Con committees – even profit-motivated ones – are not renowned for making gracious replies to criticism, but Fan Expo has proved to be an exception to the rule. They posted this public apology immediately after the con:

On behalf of the staff of Fan Expo Canada™ I would like to apologize for the lengthy delays and inconvenience experienced by many at Fan Expo Canada™ this past weekend.  We were, quite simply, inadequately prepared for the increased crowds in a venue that was neither familiar to us nor not capable of meeting our collective demands. We recognize and have heard from many of you that this was unacceptable and unfair to our loyal fans. 

Fan Expo Canada is one of three media cons held in Toronto, a different event than Anime North, or Polaris (formerly Toronto Trek).

[Thanks to Taral for the story.]

Dublin 2014: Don’t Panic

Who wants to read a fan news story with no controversy to report? We’re going to find out today, because here it is.

Irish fan and 2010 GUFF winner James Shields’ e-mail of September 8 titled “Dublin 2014” caused a momentary spell of vertigo among fans who know that’s the same year London is bidding for the Worldcon.

The dizziness passed once fans realized Shields really wants a London Worldcon. It will draw well-known authors to the U.K. who might be persuaded to attend the convention he wants Irish fans to run in Dublin the weekend afterwards. That’s what he means by Dublin 2014.

Shields is taking inspiration from Au Contraire, the New Zealand national convention he attended on the way to Aussiecon 4. “It’s interesting to note that the New Zealand NatCon the weekend before got about 150 extra attendees. (normal attendance 100 – was 250)…. Dublin is much closer to London than New Zealand is to Melbourne, so I think we could get even more visitors as a result – 300-400 attendence would seem credible.”

He emphasized, “I don’t wish to run against London, rather complement it.”

James Bacon mentioned the development to the London in 2014 Worldcon bid committee and they concluded, “No issue our end.”

See? No reason for controversy. Try not to be disappointed.

[Thanks to James Bacon for the story.]

2012 Site Selection Report

Mark Linneman’s official 2012 Site Selection report now is posted on the Worldcon website. It confirms the vote totals I ran the other day and is studded with fascinating details about the write-ins. Mark says:

There were 25 votes for “none of the above” and 20 expressed no preference. Minneapolis in ’73 received 8 votes, Peggy Rae’s 4 votes, Monkey’s Eyebrow 3, and Dave McCarty’s and Xerps in 2010 2 votes each. Fifteen different locations each received a single vote. There were 189 mail-in ballots and 337 cast at Aussiecon 4.

Single Votes: Chiculub, Chitzen Atzai, Barnes City,IA, Dave Freer’s House, Mons Olympus, Tenopah, NV, Kauai, No Dams, Antartica, Boston in Orlando, New Zealand 2020, Huntsville, AL,Rottonest Island, The Fabulous Bungalow, Perth, Australia.

Hard to guess the intent behind some of these misspellings. On purpose? By mistake? Years ago a friend of mine cautioned, “Intentional misspellings are meaningless when true errors abound.”

Farewell Echinda

Looks like Aussiecon 4 blew away the attendance records of past Australian Worldcons. Voice of the Echidna #11 (PDF file) reports:

By the close of Sunday, the con had 1673 pre-registered members on site, and 64 walk-in full members. There were 74 Sunday day members. In total, there were 2034 warm bodies on site at various times during the con not counting Monday walk-ins.

I had great fun reading Aussiecon 4’s daily newzine. The staff struck a wonderful balance between useful news and zaniness. It’s almost a pity to read the final issue because they leave you wanting more, with bizarre service announcements like this:

Cold water to refill your bottle can be obtained from the cold taps in the disabled toilets. [And, presumably, all of the other toilets as well…?— Ed]

Bravo, Echidna!

More Thoughts on the Fan Hugo Statistics

Who gets the most nominating votes isn’t always a great predictor of who ultimately takes home the fan Hugos. Yes, Fred Pohl got more nominations than any other candidate for Best Fan Writer, but Challenger received more nominations for Best Fanzine (48) than this year’s winner Starship Sofa (46).

Obviously the tsunami of internet attention given Pohl and Starship Sofa foreshadowed the strong voter support they received in the finals. (Here’s a link to Pohl’s blog featuring a joyous headline and a big photo of Robert Silverberg accepting Fred Pohl’s Hugo.)

Yet it’s worth noting that in the nominating round these two winners had a solid number of nominating votes — Pohl got 44 and Starship Sofa got 46 – not an army. Measured by the yardstick of past Hugo history the totals were not as breathtaking as the turnout for 2005’s leading Best Fan Writer nominees Dave Langford (67) and Cheryl Morgan (60).

If we happen to be experiencing a sea-change in respect to what people and works win fan Hugos, it’s built on marginal shifts in populations of vote support. Both old and new faces and titles are still within striking distance of the final ballot. 

Even the rules change that made many blogs and websites eligible for Best Fanzine hasn’t radically altered the landscape — yet. Almost all of the Best Fanzine finalists had both paper and another kind of electronic presence (blog, website, PDF distribution), however, what about purely online publications? The three with the most support were SF Signal (17),  Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (13),  and The Way the Future Blogs (11).

The other day last year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner, John Klima, graciously posted at the Electric Velocipede Blog:

I’m sure that Mike Glyer and Guy H Lillian III and the other Best Fanzine nominees feel like they can’t catch a break. They all do amazing stuff, and it’s a tough category as there are so many things that are eligible for the category. Even getting nominated is a challenge.

And it’s not going to get any easier! The key will always be — how can fans draw attention to the contenders they feel do the best work?

Let me close this post by complimenting Vincent Docherty on the excellent job he did as Aussiecon 4’s Hugo Administrator, rising to meet the year’s exceptional challenges.

2010 Hugo Voting Statistics Posted

Vince Docherty had the Hugo Award voting and nominating statistics available right after the awards, though it took awhile for them to make it online. The report is now here (PDF file).

In the Best Fanzine category I was most interested in learning how Banana Wings placed, knowing how many fanzine fans have said it is the best zine going. (I’ve even heard this from several of File 770’s main contributors who didn’t feel they needed to sugar coat the truth for me!) Banana Wings placed second — a very competitive finish. It received exactly half as many first place votes as Starship Sofa but closed the gap during the the automatic runoff, ending just 46 behind the winner.

I was surprised that when File 770 was eliminated after the fifth round as many as 22 voters listed Starship Sofa as their next choice (the other 46 with a preference going to Banana Wings). People’s tastes aren’t as predictable as I sometimes think… 

I’m not completely sure what to make of the fact that 89 ballots ranked No Award higher than Starship Sofa.  In comparison, 48 ranked No Award higher than Banana Wings. However, it appears all other nominees had more than 50 No Award votes ahead of them. Maybe some people were making a statement about the category, not the nominees?