Finding Heinlein in Boy’s Life

Here’s a vote of thanks to the Crotchety Old Fan for leading his fellow Heinlein fans to a trove of Heinlein’s fiction from Boy’s Life.

He has posted links to scanned-in issues hosted on Google Books with such stories as “Tramp Space Ship,” published in hardcover as The Rolling Stones, and “Tenderfoot in Space,” about a Boy Scout and his dog on Venus told partly from the dog’s point of view. “Tenderfoot” is more historical curiosity than hidden gem. It went unreprinted for over 30 years before Yoji Kondo reissued it in Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Tributes to the Grand Master.

Crotchety sounds conflicted about posting links to anything at Google Books. Tormented, really, as he begins, “Regardless of how you feel about the Google Book Settlement (an I’m agin it – check out my name in Ursula Le Guin’s letter on the subject)…”  and ends, “I wonder if the Heinlein estate has ‘opted in’ to Google books and whether or not they’re getting a couple of pennies every time someone reads these stories.  If not – I wonder what the executors think of entire RAH novels being freely available on the web…?”

Though I wouldn’t bet against anyone who thinks Heinlein’s executors would like to collect a royalty every time someone reads one of the master’s stories I came to the same conclusion as Crotchety did – so long as the stories are only a click away it’s a shame to let the opportunity go to waste.

Loscon Blinked

During Loscon 37’s “Delphic Oracle” game show Todd McCaffrey posed questions and the panelists built answers, each contributing one word in turn.

David Gerrold had just added the word “illuminate” when the hotel power failed. Everyone was plunged into darkness for a few seconds til the emergency lights came on.

Fellow panelist Tadao Tomomatsu, impressed by this special effect, immediately stood, bowed and salaamed David with outstretched hands.

Regular power was soon restored.

Leslie Nielsen Dies

Leslie Nielsen, actor, died November 28 at the age of 84; he’d been hospitalised with pneumonia. Early appearances included the sf anthology series Tales of Tomorrow (1952-53). He played Commander J. J. Adams in Forbidden Planet (1956). His career took an unexpected shift into comedy with Airplane! (1980), with similar roles in Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), 2001: A Space Travesty (2000), Superhero Movie (2008) and Stan Helsing (2009).

Surely I will always remember him as The Swamp Fox, the American Revolutionary War leader he played in several episodes of ABC’s Disneyland series (but I know, don’t call him Shirley…) When Walt Disney’s TV show moved to NBC the season after I told my father, who worked at NBC’s Burbank studio as a video engineer, he should ask them to make another Swamp Fox story. I was an 8-year-old history buff at the time and convinced this good idea would be practically self-evident. General Sarnoff and Walt must have felt otherwise.

[Thanks to David Klaus, Steve Green and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Putting in a Good Word for the Philistines

Just checking in from Loscon, where I organized the program. Serendipity plays a considerable role in this job — when I looked at the Aussiecon 4 schedule I saw they had a presentation from someone who had done archeological work on the Philistines and the subject intrigued me enought to try and figure out how to make it into a panel, though I never got very far trying to brainstorm that idea. Then, lo and behold, Dr. Hitchcock herself contacted me to say she was going to be in LA at Thanksgiving. Great! So we’ll have her Aussiecon presentation here Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the – Houston room (at the LAX Marriott):

In the Wake of the Sea People, in the Footsteps of Goliath: The Bar-Ilan and University of Melbourne Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath

Dr. Hitchcock writes: “To be a ‘Philistine’ has entered our language to mean uncouth or barbaric, a perception deeply situated in Biblical thought. Just as the Greeks described non-Greek neighbors as ‘Barbarians,’ so too did the Biblical writers describe people settled along the southern coast of the Levant in derogatory terms. My presentation will discuss the Aegean and Cypriot origin of the Philistines, who were reputed to be among the Sea People wreaking havoc in the Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age (ca. 1180 BC). I will present recent results from the archaeological excavations at the Philistine site at Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel), the city associated with Goliath in the Bible.  The archaeological remains of the Philistines reveal them to be a socially and economically advanced, technologically innovative (iron production), artistically sophisticated (decorated Mycenaean-Greek style pottery), and cosmopolitan culture that positively influenced the surrounding region.”

Intent of the Founders

An Oxford professor wonders if science fiction stories might be used to convey real science to influence world policy-makers.

When did he begin to suspect? Did Hugo Gernsback blab?

Actually, T. N. Palmer’s article “Is Science Fiction a Genre for Communicating Scientific Research? A Case Study in Climate Prediction” in the October 2010 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society is interested the highly focused question of whether SF can promote the acceptance of climate change science by key leaders:

Are there situations where science fiction is an effective genre for communicating—for example, to key policy- and decision makers—results from contemporary scientific research? Indeed, might sci-fi sometimes be a more effective genre for communication than conventional means? I want to discuss this question in the context of anthropogenic climate change. Certainly there have been a number of sci-fi stories that deal with the climate change problem (e.g., by Kim Stanley Robinson and Michael Crichton), including one very memorable movie: The Day After Tomorrow. I am sure readers will have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of such works of fiction in promoting the science underlying climate change.

It’s probably my duty as a fan to quibble about the use of the term “sci-fi” in relation to hard science stories. Isn’t the whole thrust of “sci-fi” a certain crowd-pleasing abandonment of strict adherence to genuine science? But that’s a minor point.

The major road block in the way of Palmer’s vision of using SF to promote climate change science is that readers are not being wooed by just one side. There are SF writers positioned on both sides of the debate — setting aside for the moment the technicality that only one side considers there to be anything to debate. So there is a significant noise level to overcome (or the free exchange of ideas in the intellectual marketplace, depending upon your view.)

Another consideration is that SF is a skeptical genre – obedient compliance with massive governmental initiatives and conformity to emergency measures is the opposite of most readers’ idea of entertainment.

However, most people will find something to like in Palmer’s short story “Sunrise” (PDF file), a homage to “Nightfall” that accompanies his article as a demonstration of the didactic fiction he has in mind.

Palmer knows it’s hard to save a world from climate change even if the need is generally accepted – in fact, so hard his characters fail, and a civilization-destroying disaster ends the story.

And isn’t that what readers respond to, genuine science or not? Like Raymond Chandler’s dictum about what must happen if a gun is mentioned at the beginning of a mystery, science fiction writers are not allowed to dwell on a predicted disaster then end a story by waving a cape as it passes everyone by.   

[Thanks to Sam Long for the link.]

Asenath Hammond (1950-2010)

Asenath Katrina Hammond died November 22 at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles.

She was active in many stfnal communities over the years, among them NESFA (Boston), New York fandom (residing at the Avocado Pit), and the LASFS (which she joined in 1978).

She was in Minneapolis for the 1974 group photo of Minneapa members.

She is survived by Joshua, her son with Rick Sternbach, and other family.

[Thanks to Gary Farber and Gregory Benford for the story.]

Ingrid Pitt Passes Away

Ingrid Pitt, who survived a Nazi concentration camp and became one of Britain’s top horror movie actresses, died November 23, two days after her 73rd birthday.

Most closely associated with Hammer’s softcore period: The Vampire Lovers (1970), Countess Dracula (1971). Also appeared in AIP’s The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and British Lion’s The Wicker Man (1973).

TV appearances included Doctor Who (1972 and 1984, in different roles), Aremis 81 (1981).

“It’s great meeting the fans,” she once said. “They say I’m more beautiful now than I was 25 years ago. All lies of course, but sweet. Where else is an old bag like me going to find strapping young men and women to whisper sweet nothings in her ear?”

[Thanks to Steve Green for the story.]

James Bacon: Free Books at WonderCon
— Not an April Fools Joke

James Bacon: Readers of File 770 will know that I am earnest in my pursuit to let more folks know about the wonderful things going on in the world of science fiction fandom.

I truly feel — and am sure you know my level of commitment to things Fannish — that we need to work to let people who are “our type” of science fiction and fantasy readers know we are here. We need to talk to them about our enthusiasm, I hope shared, for SF/F and introduce them to the brilliant things that are Worldcons and local science fiction activities.

I am leading an initiative — a science fiction outreach initiative — to do this at next year’s WonderCon, a three-day comics celebration in San Francisco that is the Little Brother of San Diego Comic-Con.

We intend to go to a massive comics convention and find the book readers!

Experience from similar events in London has shown that our fans do exist. At London Film and Comic Con and Collectormania we have given away books and seen the results in convention memberships.

We want the book readers. We want to find the potential fans who like books and want to discuss them.

34,000 people are expected at WonderCon in San Francisco next April, and we have found a way to attract and talk to the “book readers.” We will be giving away free science fiction and fantasy books.

Some 7,000 books. Six pallet loads.

If you think about it, if you were at any event yourself, and saw free SF/F books, would you be attracted to it, and chat with the folks giving them away? Sure you would!

As people look for a book our team will be there to chat, recommend a book, and pass along information about Worldcons and SFnal activities. We hope that one-on-one conversation will ignite a latent interest in our sort of hobbies and activities.

We will have a bookmark in each book promoting the next two seated Worldcons and upcoming Worldcon bids and a few local cons and organisations (and a few websites, Mike). We will have maps, flyers, and calendars to illustrate what is going on in our fannish community.

Since we plan to hire and fill two exhibit booths with books, this is a massive undertaking. There will be a lot of work and effort involved in moving books about and getting shelving — hundreds of feet of shelving — and moving pallets around in trucks.

Living in London makes this not-so-easy to coordinate on my own, so Chris Garcia and others in the San Francisco area, and Helen Montgomery in Chicago are on the team. We’d like to see that grow.

This is not hot air, Good Reader, this is something that is happening!

I am hoping that when you read this, you might think of how YOU can help us with this ambitious project. We have had terrific support already from Renovation and Chicon 7. Many other fannish organisations are at this moment discussing this initiative, because we have asked for their financial assistance and general support. Meanwhile, individual fans have expressed their enthusiasm! I was stunned into silence when, out of the blue, we received a large private donation. I am rarely silent. This show of generosity strengthened my resolve that we are trying something worth doing.

But back to you Dear Reader. How can you help? Well, first we need to organise a couple of book drives. Loscon will host our first such drive. Others will soon follow. Watch our soon-to-be-launched website for a listing.

We need second hand and new books. You might know a dealer who has old stock, or a shop that has boxes they don’t expect to sell. Many fans have contemplated a clear out, and now is an occasion to take that action. Your books won’t just be recycled, they will be the outreach to new fans. If you are able to bring books to Loscon, please contact us at the Renovation/Chicon 7 table. For future book drives, keep an eye on our webpage here:

You may have somewhere to gather and store books in the Bay Area or elsewhere in the state. We have storage space for three pallets so far, but we need more. Please let us know.

Maybe you can help us move the donated books — having access to a van or a brother-in-law with a truck. Perhaps you can lend a hand loading a car or even better load YOUR car and bring the books to us.

Can you host a book drive at your local convention? If that interests you, or if you have books to donate, contact Chris Garcia. You can reach him via our email address,

We will need volunteers to staff our booth for half-day shifts, on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of April 2011. We need people who are enthusiastic and want to talk about books and our activities, who will engage and be friendly. We are not sales people, but we are well-read and enthusiastic about the genre and our community.

I was asked if we want young people. My answer is:  I would like ALL people who feel young at heart and comfortable, or enjoy talking briefly to hundreds of people about fan activities. The best person at this in London is John Dowd, who last year retired from teaching. Knowledgeable, and young at heart.

So that’s the plan, Good Reader.

Consider this our call for volunteers! It’s not an easy task, and people need to be committed, but if you love SF Fandom and books, and are happy to talk to comics readers, then consider joining us. If you are able to donate, move or store books, please help. And ask your local fan organisation to support this outreach initiative with funding.

Will you help me? Please.

First Outreach Book Drive at Loscon 37

If you’ve thought about trimming your book collection (how long has it been since you’ve seen the floor anyway?) James Bacon has a much better suggestion than simply recycling — donate them a project that will use them to introduce comics and media fans to science fiction fandom.

James is the initiative’s coordinator.He explains: “As a book reader and comic reader, if I saw free sf/f  books, would I be attracted to that booth, and perhaps listen to the folks giving them away? Of course I would.” His experience with similar events in London has shown that book fans do attend these comics events. “At London Film and Comic Con and Collectormania, we have given away books and seen the returns in convention memberships. We want the book readers. We want the potential fans that like books and want to talk about them, and will appreciate meeting like minded folks. We have found a way to attract and talk to the book readers: giving away science fiction and fantasy books.”

Now a team of science fiction fans is planning to go to the Bay Area’s WonderCon in April 2011 and give away six pallets of FREE BOOKS!

WonderCon, held annually in San Francisco, attracts 34,000 people to a celebration of comics and media. A group of fans affiliated with the World Science Fiction Convention intend to establish an outpost at WonderCon, and reach out to the potential science fiction and fantasy readers who pass through the exhibit hall. Along with a free book, these readers will be given information about the amazing things going on in the “fannish” community, ranging from Worldcons to regional conventions to local sf club gatherings.

Book donations will be accepted at area conventions, beginning with Loscon 37 over Thanksgiving Weekend. Got books? Bring them to the Renovation/Chicon table at Loscon!

The full press release follows the jump.

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Taral Wayne: SFContrario Observations

SFContario has come and gone, leaving me with very mixed set of feelings.
On the whole, the con seemed well managed, though somewhat on the lavish side.  I wondered how they would pay for it all, on a budget of three hundred or four hundred members, tops.  For example, all the concom had their own special staff t-shirt –  there seemed to be more than one design, in fact.  The con gave out recyclable fiber bags with their logo on one side.  I think that must have been paid for mainly by advertising on the other side.  The program book looked considerably better than Torcon 3’s.  As well, the consuite was generous in providing cheeses, soft drinks, bagels and spreads, hot food and veggies.
If I were to make a complaint, it’s that there was too much program.  Usually there were two major and two minor events at all times during the bulk of the day, running to late at night.  If you were the sort who absolutely must hear some talking heads at the front of the room discuss SF and the environment, or fandom vs. the internet for the 8th time, there wasn’t much time left for hanging out and talking with your friends. Strangely, most people in fact seemed to me to have their noses buried in the program schedule an awful lot of the time.  It must the growing stuffiness of fandom – even the older hands seemed to be sitting to hear the same old sercon that was more or less familiar from thirty years ago.  Oh well…  they do call themselves science fiction fans.

All I saw of the program, myself – and of some of the Con Guests, even Michael Swanwick – were the Opening Ceremonies and one panel.  I wanted to stay through to the end of a panel on SF and science that Bob Wilson and Robert Sawyer were on, but I couldn’t follow the discussion. Sawyer rang loud and clear like a bell.  Bob, naturally soft-spoken, came through about 50% of the time.  But I know as well as the next person how bad my hearing is and was resigned to leaving early.  Mikes might have been a big help, even in that modest sized program rooms.

Taken in its entirety, the convention hotel was well-located in regard to transportation and restaurants.  The con suite and other rooms I saw were or reasonable size, though somewhat eccentric.   Because of the layout, you could not really reach the bathroom or other sitting room without going through the middle of the main room and interrupting whoever was talking there.  Program facilities were more than adequate, though spread out surprisingly far for a small hotel.  The one exception to adequacy was the tiny, wretched, ill-lit hole under the lobby stairs that had been set aside for the art show. 

The work of only four or five artists was on display, and none was original that I could see –  only digital print-outs and lithographed repros.  The Artist GoH – Billy Tackett –  had one end of the room for his prints.  They were what you would see on his website –  paintings of Dracula or Tor Johnson rising from the grave, except even more ghastly looking, if possible.  The artist himself was thin, dressed entirely in black and wore a “bad-ass” cowboy hat… also black.  Actually, he looked more the sort who would be more comfortable in a cinder-block biker bar with a neon Coors sign in the window.  He was from rural Kentucky… where that may well be the general fashion sense.

The dealers room had at most ten dealers.  I can recall eight or nine, but will allow for another one or two that I don’t remember.   Bakka was there, three or four small press reps and the authors they published kept a vigil, and a collector or two who was selling his surplus pretty much filled the room.  They were almost all in the book business, one way or the other.  One dealer was filk-singer – whose name meant nothing to me – with his DVD’s.  One other table that was nothing but hand-made Victorian jewelry.   I have no idea who buys that sort of thing –  costumers?   Gypsies?  I don’t think business was brisk, but Bakka assured me that they would do alright.
As small cons go, I’d say SFC was top-heavy with costuming and filking.  There was a prominent Steampunk event.  There was at one time two simultaneous filk events.  As well, the con featured a spin-off of Dr. Horrible’s “sing-along-whatever.”  I counted three anime panels — in fact, I was on one of them, which was surprisingly lively and one of my personal favorite hours during the con.  The bottom line is that SFC was more “literary” than Ad Astra has been for years, but not quite as “literary” as it seems to me they had been presenting themselves.
Mike Glicksohn and Susan Manchester attended on Friday, but not Saturday or Sunday.  He’s looking well, considering his chemotherapy.
I did four panels, and was exhausted by Saturday evening.  I won’t go into the details of what’s wearing me out so easily, but by the time I had finished my last panel I felt I had seen everything and had nothing left to do.  People at the con seemed constantly busy, so trying to work up a small talk in the halls was often wasted effort.  I seemed to be meeting actual discouragement from some of them.  Apart from helpful staff, the con suite was occupied by a couple of the usual bores whose stories I had heard the day before.  I really didn’t know what to do with myself at that point.  I left for home at a surprisingly early hour – 8 p.m.
For me the con was a bumpy ride with several ups and downs.  I loved being on the Studio Ghibli panel with René Walling and some English dude from Anime North.  We obviously all knew the subject well, were passionate about the films of Hayao Miyazaki, and had the desire to communicate that passion.  Another of my panels, on the effect of digital technology on pubbing, went fairly well, I thought. Several usable suggestions were made that Bill Burns needs to hear about.  A third panel – on why fans accept some movies and TV shows as legit SF but not others –  I think could be counted a success.  The most fannish panel I participated in was the one I ended up being least enthusiastic about.  It was a round-robin in which good fanwriting was demonstrated by readings and discussion.  While the other participants were probably pleased with the proceedings, I thought we were largely going through the motions. 

When I enjoyed myself at SFC, I really did.  What does it say, though, that my peak experience may have been going around the corner with Bob & Sharry Wilson to have a hamburger?  (It was the only time I ate out at the con, in fact.  No one asked, and I didn’t notice anyone leaving either.)  Other moments, though, were like those recurrent bad memories I have of cons from the Old Days – SFC was often exactly like some of the dullest, most pointless times I spent at cons in the 70s and 80s, when I was desperate to engage in small talk with perfect strangers at 2 a.m. …because otherwise there would have been nothing to do at all.
I think I may have just outgrown that sort of thing…  Maybe outgrown conventions, even.  At some age, a good hamburger or a good night’s sleep becomes better than any con. 

SFContario next year will be held at the same Ramada Plaza on Jarvis Street, November 19-20, 2011.  Guests already confirmed are John Scalzi, Karl Schroeder, Gardner Dozois and “Toyboat.”