The Harlan Ellison Links Keep on Coming

The WSJ Speakeasy asks “Would You Pay $40,000 For An Antique Typewriter?”

What if it was the one Harlan Ellison used to write his 1957 short story “Soldier From Tomorrow,” later made into an episode of The Outer Limits?

Speakeasy interviewed Ellison about the sale and his future in an interview that included this exchange:

Cormac McCarthy recently sold his typewriter, a typewriter Jack Kerouac used sold: you are a person who’s had his hand in a lot of popular culture in the last 50 years. Are you vying into that trend as well or is your decision completely independent of that?

No it’s all tied up in the fact that I’m 76 and I’m very ill and like a sage old dog I can smell when certain signs are there. We are trapped in a medical eddy, this mad meat house of medicine where we cannot get the help we need. I’m not a bag lady, I live in a particularly good house that I’ve been living in since 1966, but we don’t have anywhere near the chance of getting Marcus Welby to fix my problems. As a consequence we have to get some money and as time goes by you get more and more famous and less and less wealthy. I literally have to start eating my past and turning into the actually dollar all of the artifacts that have made me who I am. I am eating my past.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Classic Mimosa Issue Added to Website

Rich Lynch has unveiled Mimosa 9, the December 1990 issue, in a web-readable format. Despite my frequent use of the superb Mimosa website for fanhistorical research I hadn’t realized that the entire run of the zine has yet to be posted. So I’m happy to see that #9 has been added. All but the first eight issues are now available.

Rich reminds everyone:

As usual there’s plenty of fan history in that issue, including an article by Dave Kyle that provides some background to the fannish phrase “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here” and a long letter from Alexis Gilliland about 1960s fan publisher Don Miller.  Nicki and I also have a report of our trip “Across Europe on Rail and Plastic” for the 1990 Worldcon, and the issue also contains the great Bob Shaw’s last Serious Scientific Speech “Corn is the Lowest Form of Wheat” and a collection of poems (of many different forms) by Australian fan Dave Luckett.  In addition, the letters column includes correspondence from Harry Warner, Buck Coulson, Terry Jeeves, Mike Glicksohn, rich brown, and Joseph Nicholas, among others, and the covers are by the late Joe Mayhew.

Snapshots 55 Not Just a Good Idea, It’s the Law

Here are 5 developments of interest to fans:

(1) Everything depends on what yardstick you choose. I’ve complained about the chaos my family experienced over the past two days due to U.S. Air. But compared with the passengers on the Titanic? Not so bad. So I admit it’s unlikely that fans a century hence will be inspired to re-enact The Glyers Return From New Mexico the way a group of San Diego costumers will be celebrating the 99th anniversary of the departure of the Titanic with a “Bon Voyage Sunday Lunch” on April 17:

The Titanic carried 2207 people. Everyone will choose and come as an actual passenger that sailed on the Titanic. You can come as JJ Astor, Molly Brown, Captain Smith, crew member, valet or maid. 1st, 2nd or 3rd class passenger. NO JACK OR ROSE, they are NOT real! Be prepared to say a few lines about your persona and whether you lived or died.

Ook ook, as Elst Weinstein would say.

(2) Roger Ebert’s review of Tron: The Legacy contained a shout-out to fans:

I’m giving this more attention than the movie does, which is just as well. Isaac Asimov would have attempted some kind of scientific speculation on how this might all be possible, but Tron is more action-oriented. (Personal to sci-fi fans: If 2001 is Analog, Tron: Legacy is Thrilling Wonder Stories.)

(3) Vikings vs. a Russian tank?  David Klaus commented sardonically, “SCA combat rules would never allow the opening…”

(4) I know I have reached a certain age when I see somebody I went to school with endowing a university. Karen Stoddard and I were graduate assistants in the Department of Popular Culture in 1974-1975; she and her partner are making the gift:

Eileen O’Neill, one of Bowling Green State University’s 100 Most Prominent Alumni, is giving back in a big way. O’Neill, the president and general manager of the cable network TLC, and her partner, Karen Stoddard, have given the University a $100,000 gift to establish “the Stoddard and O’Neill Endowment for Studies in Popular Culture” as well as another $10,000 to the department that can be used immediately to assist students and faculty…

(5) Eighty-plus hours of vintage Firesign Theatre radio broadcasts? Where do I sign up? (Hint: Click the link.)

Duke of Madness Motors is the ultimate box-less boxed set of Firesign’s complete broadcast output for the years 1970-1972, when they were blowing minds on Los Angeles radio with The Firesign Theatre Radio Hour Hour, Dear Friends, and Let’s Eat. Our reissue package is nothing less than the complete history of the period in one 108-page book and one DVD-ROM of MP3 data. The book contains an 8000-word historical essay, new interviews with Firesign and their producer and engineer, complete show rundowns, original scripts, vintage Phil Proctor photocollages, found objects and much more.

At the website — – you can also access audio samples, essays, etc.

Big light in sky slated to appear in East.
Sonic booms scare minority groups in Sector B.
And there’s hamburger all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut.
  — Firesign Theatre

[Thanks for these links goes out to David Klaus, Janice Gelb, Jim Hay and Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.]

John Hertz: Loscon XXXVII

By John Hertz (reprinted from Vanamonde 915): The Los Angeles local con is Loscon, held over the U.S. Thanksgiving Day weekend. Loscon XXXVII was November 26-28m 2010 at the L.A. Int’l Marriott Hotel: Author Guest of Honor, Emma Bull; Graphic Artist, Phil Foglio; Fans, Kim & Jordan Brown; attendance about 1,000; in the Art Show, sales $7,200 by 42 artists.

España Sheriff, Leigh Ann Hildebrand, and Jason Schachat hosted the Fanzine Lounge: following Geri Sullivan at the ’92 Worldcon there was a Fanzine Lounge by Day in a hotel “function room” (so Leibnizian) and a Fanzine Lounge by Night in a bedroom suite; I brought a few dozen recent zines for visitors to look at, and toys. Sam Chiang, Kate Morgenstern, and Brian O’Neill helped me build the Rotsler Award exhibit in the Art Show, honoring this year’s winner Stu Shiffman.

I chose three Classics of S-F: Fredric Brown, What Mad Universe (1949); Hal Clement, Mission of Gravity (1953); H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895); the Universe and Time discussions I led alone, for Gravity I was joined by Greg Benford. Time was far the oldest and most widely popular, but Gravity I guessed was our best loved, and its hour was fullest. Maybe, someone said afterwards, that was because you were with a Famous Pro. Maybe, I said, but I think he was there for the same reason I was, and you were. However the hour kept digressing to the influence of Gravity, from the more vital question, what about the book was so good? One Universe attender had happened upon the NESFA Press collection of Brown’s novels Martians and Madness (2002) in a used-book shop; on its cover an alien reads an issue of Astounding showing the great Kelly Freas picture for Martians, Go Home (1955), by which artistic license (Kelly’s cover was for the 1976 Ballantine printing, nor had Martians been in Astounding) Bob Eggleton got to paint a cover with one of Kelly’s best images, what fun. Time, we observed, expatiated little its fictional technology, a mark of good s-f; also of all three the strange minds it met were interacted with least.

On Friday night Bull, and Will Shetterly, came to Regency Dancing. On Saturday afternoon I led a tour of the Art Show, asking as I do What’s happening in this artwork? How does the artist show us? On Sunday from 1 a.m. till dawn Becky Thomson, Tom Veal, and I hosted the Prime Time Party, with good food, drink, conversation. The final event of a con is the Dead Dog Party (customarily hosted by the current con committee, or next year’s; until the last dog is –), but there wasn’t one. At 2 a.m. on Monday the Fanzine Lounge at Night was going strong as I left.

[Editor’s Note: Congratulations to John for being selected as next year’s Loscon Fan GoH.]

Fancy Free

Jim Caughran, who has tried to bring the Fancyclopedia to the web and make it a living, wiki-like document, admitted his frustration with the project in a widely-broadcast e-mail titled “Fancyclopedia free to good home” –

I’ve not had the energy to do a good job with Fancyclopedia. I’ve never been good at asking people for contributions to fanzines or to Fancyclopedia, nor am I knowledgeable enough to write on my own. I had hoped it would spontaneously take off, contributors flocking to the site to write their version of history. Silly me.

Still, the site has its good points. I was proud of the reformatting and cross-referencing of F2. There have been updates to several items. It’s easily available and potentially valuable to fan historians.

The cost is fairly small, but I don’t see the point of paying it in perpetuity for a static site.

If someone is willing to take over, or if someone has ideas of how to get it working, let me know.
Off the top ideas:
    a committee? (would this doom it?)
    Subsume it into Wikipedia?

Jim Caughran can be contacted at fancyclopedia (at) gmail (dot) com.

Jim deserves thanks, both for his work to date and for publicly raising the issue instead of abandoning the project. And if his off-the-top ideas for getting it working bear fruit that will be great, though I will be surprised if that happens. A committee’s failure to significantly advance Fancyclopedia 3 is one reason the project passed into the current hands. Then, the Wikipedia is administered by a tangled fandom of its own that I predict won’t regard most of the material as significant enough to warrant inclusion. They also don’t tend to accept articles without citations, or citing little-known blogs and websites (much less citing dead links at

Let’s remember what was behind the success of the first two Fancyclopedias – a fan passionately dedicated to writing and completing the project, Jack Speer on the first Fancyclopedia and Richard Eney on the update. Over the past 25 years small groups of fans have tried to devise processes to compensate for there being no volunteer wanting to take that level of responsibility for the task. Experience has shown that you cannot get the work of a lion out of a pack of well-intentioned part-time volunteers.

I suspect that level of passion is needed for more than one reason at this point. There’s the mass of writing that needs to be done, of course. Passion will also be needed to overcome any doubts as to why such a project is still a good investment of time. How many people will use an online Fancyclopedia? Questions constantly arise that experienced fans might answer by opening one of Harry Warner’s histories, but they often don’t do it.

On the other hand, justifications like audience size were irrelevant to Speer or Eney (although I’m sure they felt the membership of FAPA made up in quality what it lacked in quantity.) The truth about most fannish undertakings is that nobody really needs them, fans simply insist on doing them. (Consider this blog, for example…) That kind of self-determined fanwriter is what the project requires if it’s ever going to be done.

Postscript: Should a group rather than an auteur continue the Fancyclopedia project anyway, I offer them this advice.

It’s impossible to attract fanwriters by telling them you plan to treat them as unskilled laborers. I wonder how many people turned aside from the project after reading this warning:

Unlike Wikipedia, Fancyclopedia is to be an edited encyclopedia. Your editors will impose their own iron whim on content, style and presentation.

Also, it is necessary to overcome, not be subservient to, the form in which the project is cast. Fans are less interested in articles that deliver data than they are in stories. I think the underlying appeal of the faanish dictionaries produced by Elst Weinstein and rich brown was how many of their definitions conveyed a story about an individual, event or controversy. The online Fancyclopedia needs to draw on the same energy source.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

NYRSF Readings for 1/4

Rick Moody and Gary Shteyngart are featured at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings on January 11, 2011. Ron Hogan, author and reviewer for Shelf Awareness, will serve as curator.

Rick Moody’s novel Garden State won the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award. He has also won the PEN/ Martha Albrand Award, the Addison Metcalf Award, the Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

His latest novel is The Four Fingers of Death, in which a likable but ill-starred and unevenly gifted author named Montese Crandall writes the novelization of a 2025 remake of a B-movie horror flick. 

Gary Shteyngart’s debut novel, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His second novel, Absurdistan, was named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review.

His new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, was described in the NY Times review as “a wonderful […] novel that gives us a cutting comic portrait of a futuristic America, nearly ungovernable and perched on the abyss of fiscal collapse, and at the same time it is a novel that chronicles a sweetly real love affair as it blossoms from its awkward, improbable beginnings.” 

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Jim Freund for the story.]

Continue reading

Four For TAFF

Four fans have answered the bell for the 2011 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race, the largest field of candidates in a westbound race since 1993:

  • Graham Charnock, nominated by Harry Bell, Sandra Bond, Rich Coad, Mike Meara, and Robert Lichtman;
  • John Coxon, nominated by James Bacon, Claire Brialey, Chris Garcia, Dave Langford, and Steve Stiles;
  • Liam Proven, nominated by Bridget Bradshaw, Lillian Edwards, Nic Farey, Lloyd Penney, and James Shields; and
  • Paul Treadway, nominated by Vincent Docherty, Fran Dowd, Mike Glyer, Tim Illingworth, and Maureen Kincaid Speller.

The winner will attend the Worldcon in Reno next August.

Voting is open until March 12, 2011.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Testing Google Ngram

Google’s new data-visualization tool Ngram Viewer searches datasets of 500 billion words from 5.2 million books in Chinese, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish to tell how frequently selected words or phrases have appeared from year to year.

Wanting to put this tool through its faanish paces I searched “sci-fi” but got zero hits. So I tried searching for the name of the most famous fan of all time, “Forry Ackerman.” There were lots and lots of references to Forry, all when and where you’d expect them to be – nothing requiring any analysis.

That changed when I searched for “fanzine”. A little blip right at the beginning of the graph showed an occurrence of the word around the year 1810. What was this? Evidence of time travel? Or maybe someone once coined “fanzine” as a technical term, long since forgotten? Patrick O’Brien readers know what a vast, specialized vocabulary there is for sailing ships alone and every other line of work presumably had its own.

Ngram Viewer allowed me to drill down to the page where it found “fanzine” – a page from a 19th century edition of Plutarch’s Lives. And no, Plutarch had nothing to say about fanzines. What Ngram Viewer actually had found was “Fanguine,” which is the word “sanguine” rendered in the typography of the time when the character used for the letter “s” sometimes resembled the letter “f”.

Can you come up with your own creative uses for Ngram Viewer? I look forward to hearing your stories.

Not Your Grandfather’s TAFF Race

In case anyone wondered, Graham Charnock didn’t declare for TAFF as a nicey-nice gesture to help make a race for 2011. He’s in this to win!

Charnock has revamped his website with traditional campaign paraphernalia – a poster, a slogan, and campaign promises:

If elected I will happily make a fool of myself at the drop of a hat, sing lots of Astral Leauge songs, and carry on the spirit of British con partying which so terrifies US fans, and report back with full gory details. That’s why you should vote for me for TAFF.