Snapshots Area 51

(1) This weekend at ZomBcon 2010 in Seattle they left no topical gravestone unturned.

Regular Foreign Policy contributor Daniel Drezner, author of Theories of International Relations and Zombies, was on hand to answer the question “What would happen to international politics if the dead rose from the grave and started to eat the living?”

Up til now the political impact of the dead has been limited to a few well-known cities where they habitually rise and vote for the living.

(2) Just how many academics study the undead anyway?  At Harvard Extension School Sue Weaver Schopf is running a course called “Vampires 101”:

Schopf, the associate dean of the Master’s of Liberal Arts program at the Extension School, has always been interested in myths about the undead. She’d been thinking of putting together a course on the subject for years, but when she read the “Twilight’’ series and saw it spark a cultural phenomenon, she put her plan in motion.

Her timing for the class couldn’t have been better. When she listed “ENGL E-212 The Vampire in Literature and Film’’ for the first time for this fall, she not only drew her many loyal literature students, but also pop-culture obsessed vampire lovers — fans not only of “Twilight,’’ but of HBO’s “True Blood,’’ “Let the Right One In,’’ and other blood-sucking narratives.

(3) Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea started airing when I was 12 years old. I was an ambivalent fan of the show, highly critical of its silly special effects – how many times did the sub’s rippling-lighted control panel blow up in a shower of sparks? – yet I watched every week. Perhaps Pete Graham was right when he said that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12.

I have no need to buy the newly-released DVDs and re-watch the program. But I see from reading TV Shows on DVD there are still fans out there interested enough to nitpick details about the series:

…[on the DVD package] the picture on the left, of David Hedison’s “Captain Crane”, shows him in a Soviet uniform from the second season episode “Time Bomb”. This is obviously not really an appropriate image to go on the cover for “Season 4, Vol 2“, and so we passed along this fan feedback to Fox the same day. Fox Home Entertainment has now revised the package art to include a more appropriate picture of Crane…

(4) John Purcell has a lot to say about awards in the latest issue of his fanzine, Askance 21 (PDF file). He bids us not to forget that  

…even Arnie Katz, a long-time fan editor, hosted a webcast, The Wasted Hour, for a short while that was like an audio fanzine but done LIVE online

If John means that fanzine fanac must be defined by its content and not the delivery technology that may be an accurate statement about the fannish culture, but I don’t accept the implication that every form and manner of expressing fannish verbiage ought to be lumped into the Best Fanzine Hugo category.

(In the same article John makes a delightful typo — the “Sidewinder Awards for Alternative History.” If they ever start this, the first award must go to Indiana Jones for “Snakes! Why’d it have to be snakes!”)

(5) This summer readers on the NPR (formerly National Public Radio) nominated 600 novels to the “Killer Thrillers” poll and cast more than 17,000 ballots. The Silence of the Lambs came in first. Stephen King’s The Shining was seventh, The Stand, twelfth. Psycho by Robert Bloch at #56 was the highest ranking by an author closely connected with the SF field. Carl Sagan came next, whose novel Contact ranked #69.

(6) Who’d have predicted this in the days of the New Wave? J.G.Ballard’s archives have become a treasure of the British Library:

And the library is making the most of its new star. One of the jewels of the archive is Ballard’s annotated typescript for Crash, the semi-sane fantasy of autogeddon and paraphilia that cemented his cult status on its publication in 1973. Its first page, scored with madcap scribbles and red pen revisions, now forms part of an exhibition of the library’s greatest treasures, which includes a specimen of Shakespeare’s handwriting, one of the earliest surviving Bibles, a Beethoven sonata in autograph and the Magna Carta. This might, one imagines, come as rather a shock to the publisher’s reader who famously advised after seeing the Crash manuscript that the author was “beyond psychiatric help”.

(7) Highly-sensitive synthetic skin is being developed by several research teams reports the IEEE Spectrum:

Today’s advanced robots and prosthetic arms can grab an egg or a plastic cup without crushing it, thanks to tactile sensors on the fingertips. But you wouldn’t say they’re sensitive enough to pat a baby to sleep. For that you’d need to cover the robot arm with pressure-sensitive synthetic skin that could sense a featherlight touch.

Two research groups are advancing the development of such a sensitive system. An example of how it will be useful is as pressure-sensitive coating on surgical tools which then will be able to feel their way inside a body cavity without jabbing and damaging body tissue.

(8) Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction is a fan-produced TV show on public access in the DC area. The June episode was a highlights version of the 2010 Nebula Awards ceremony. This episode is available to view (or listen to, as an audio only file) from the Fast Forward website. Here is the link to the MP3 audio file.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol, David Klaus, Steven Silver, Isaac Alexander and Andrew Porter.]

Clarkesworld at NYRSF Readings 11/2

Neil Clarke

Deserina Boskovich and Genevieve Valentine will be the featured writers at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings on November 2, 2010. That evening Guest Curator Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine will be celebrating the Hugo-winning semiprozine’s 50th issue, coming out in November.

 The full press release follows the jump.

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Silver Spring Club Turns 25

The Silver Spring Science Fiction Society (SSSFS) held its 25th anniversary meeting October 27 at the Golden Bull in Adelphi, Maryland. The club, the third oldest in the Washington, D.C. area, was founded in October 1985 as a spinoff from the University of Maryland Science Fiction Society. It meets once a month at restaurants in the Montgomery County, Maryland area and occasionally they go to movies.

Founder Martin Morse Wooster was the only person present at the first meeting. He has missed about six of the 300 meetings held by the club.

The club welcomes dedicated sf and fantasy readers who live in the Washington,D.C. area. Call Martin Morse Wooster at 301/565-7820 for more information.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Lost in (Storage) Space

Russia got to the Moon first only in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Advise and Consent. Few have ever seen the spacecraft Russia was developing in hopes of making a first manned Moon landing but now someone has photographed the stash of spacefaring equipment at the Moscow Aviation Institute. A photo of the lander is among those that illustrate “Inside Moscow’s Secret Failed Moon Program”.

Getting to the Moon requires launching a command module and a lander. Both are heavy objects and require massive amounts of thrust to get into orbit. The Soviet’s planned to use their N-1 rocket, but two failed launches in 1971 and 1972 destroyed dummy landing and control modules, as well as the rockets themselves, and led to the program being shelved for lack of a proper launch vehicle.

[Via James Hay.]

Moon, WisCon Covered in Mundane Press

Elizabeth Moon was interviewed by NewsOK, the Oklahoman online, on October 23 about WisCon’s decision to drop her as one of its guests of honor. Here are the first four paragraphs:

A best-selling Texas science fiction author has been un-invited as a Guest of Honor at a literary convention in the wake of controversial remarks she posted on her personal blog Sept. 11 on the subject of citizenship, assimilation and Islam.

Elizabeth Moon is a best-selling author who lives in Florence, a small town of approximately 1,000 people in Williamson County, 40 miles north of Austin. She said she received a phone call Wednesday evening from a representative of WisCon, the self-described “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention”held in Wisconsin every spring, stating her invitation as a Guest of Honor had been rescinded.

Moon’s comments in her Sept. 11 posting, specifically on assimilation and Islam, has generated a firestorm of controversy among the science fiction community of authors.

Moon said she felt her comments were centrist and really didn’t expect them to generate as such controversy as they did. The polarization of American politics, world politics, for that matter,she said, decreases the opportunity for civil discourse. What we dare not mention – because of fear of backlash – and cannot discuss calmly, because of the actual backlash and the feeding frenzy, is often what most needs to be brought into the open….

The article also reports that after the convention’s decision was announced Moon stated on her blog: “WisCon management has the right to make whatever decisions they think best for the convention. I do not and did not dispute their right to rescind the invitation.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Two More Links to Diana’s Trip

Diana’s final stop on her Midwestern trip was the C.S. Lewis Literary Festival in Petsoskey, Michigan.  She delivered a talk, appeared on panels and spoke in a high school class – which she has blogged about in “Creative conversations at Petoskey High School”.

While Diana was still in Chicago Greg Wheatley interviewed her on the Moody Radio  program Inside Look. The program now is available online:

You have probably heard of the Inklings – a literary group of whom C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien are doubtless the best known. We talk with English professor Dr. Diana Glyer about this fascinating group of writers, and the influence they did – or did not – have on each other.

Hollywood SF Memorabilia
at November 6 Auction

Cast-signed Star Wars poster

Over 150 iconic film and television props and costumes will be auctioned live from The Globe Theatre on the Universal Studios, Hollywood lot on November 6, 2010 when Profiles in History, the world’s largest auctioneer of Hollywood memorabilia, partners with Variety – the Children’s Charity of Southern California and the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Team Fox.

The first section of the auction benefits Variety – the Children’s Charity of Southern California to fund lifesaving support for disabled, abused, physically challenged and underprivileged children in the Southern California community. Highlights from this part of the auction include:

· Identity Disk from Tron: Legacy
· Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope one-sheet poster signed by 6 principle cast members
· The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers one-sheet poster signed by 10 principle cast members
· Screen-used Scotty Dog puppet and taxidermy puppet from Coraline
· Megan Fox “Mikaela Banes” Smithsonian costume from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

In the second section the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Team Fox and Bob Gale will raise money for Parkinson’s research. Bob Gale has donated many items from his personal Back to the Future collection and his sales proceeds will go to Team Fox.

In addition to any number of cool props and collectibles, people can also bid on The Bob Gale Experience, in which Bob Gale will dine with the winning bidder and a guest in Los Angeles, a lunch paid for by the Profiles in History team and the television show Hollywood Treasure on Syfy. The winner will also receive a Back to the Future poster, personally autographed by Mr. Gale.

This all brings a smile to my face. I met Bob Gale when we were both freshmen at USC. We went together to the first LASFS event I ever attended, the club’s 1970 anniversary dinner. Harlan Ellison was the featured speaker. Now Bob’s name is part of that illustrious roster of past students of the USC School of Cinema.  

The full press release follows the jump.

The Bob Gale Experience

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CanSMOF Awards Scholarships

CanSMOF Inc., parent non-profit organization of Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon, has announced the winners of its two $500 scholarships given for the purpose of allowing promising conrunners to attend the Smofcon 28 in San Jose.

Kent Pollard of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan won the scholarship open to a Canadian citizen or resident. Norman Cates of Wellington, New Zealand won the scholarship open to anyone regardless of their place of residence or citizenship.