Sakyo Komatsu (1931-2011)

Nippon 2007 GoH Sakyo Komatsu died July 26 at the age of 80. Pneumonia was the cause of death.

Komatsu was born in Osaka. He studied Italian literature at Kyoto University. After graduating he worked as a magazine reporter and a writer for stand-up comedy acts. His first SF story came out in 1962.

Japan Sinks, published in Japanese in 1973 and in translated into English in 1976 is Komatsu’s best-known title worldwide. Edward Lipsett’s tribute on the Nippon 2007 website analyzes some of the uniquely Japanese qualities of the novel:

While most English SF presents a problem, rises to a climax and resolves the problem, a great deal of Japanese SF ends after only the first two elements, leaving the reader with a chewy nugget rather than a marshmallow to melt away as passing fun.  In “Japan Sinks,” for example, there is no resolution…  the title of the book reveals the climax, and the story is in the interpersonal relations and descriptions of how Japan tries to cope with the end of its world.  And we never do find out if Japan was successful in its efforts, as the story ends with boat people watching the steaming waves that have swallowed their homeland.  Science fiction is a vehicle for Komatsu, a means of illuminating different and often hidden aspects of the Japanese worldview or culture and stimulating us to think. 

John Hertz’ Nippon 2007 report described a special Komatsu exhibit featuring twelve novels and thirteen shorter stories, with notes in English and Japanese, posters, and color reproductions of book covers. Komatsu’s Japan Sinks was humorously referenced during opening ceremonies by another GoH, Yoshitaka Amano, when he reminded the audience that the convention site was built on landfill — “This used to be sea, so Yokohama is suitable.”

Philip Rahman Dies

Philip Rahman, co-founder of small press Fedogan & Bremer, reportedly died on July 23. 
Stephen Jones has marked Rahman’s passing with a fine tribute which begins —

Philip was a gentle and generous person—often to a fault. He cared about other people too much and not enough about what it cost him. In the late 1980s, Phil and Dennis Weiler created the Minneapolis imprint Fedogan & Bremer to do the kind of books that they felt Arkham House should still be publishing. Over the next sixteen years they produced a number of attractive and important volumes by Donald Wandrei, Howard Wandrei, Carl Jacobi, Robert Bloch, Hugh B. Cave, Basil Copper, Richard L. Tierney, Brian Lumley, Richard A. Lupoff and Adam Niswander, along with a series of Lovecraftian anthologies edited by Robert M. Price. Several of their books went into reprint and mass-market editions, and some were award winners and nominees….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Be Kind to Your Fur-Footed Friends

Everyone’s used to political mudslinging — but how often does the mud come from Middle-Earth?

Senator McCain criticized some colleagues’ approach to the debt-ceiling issue on July 27, quoting extensively from a Wall Street Journal op-ed that compared tea partiers to “hobbits”.

The WSJ‘s Tolkienesque analogy reads:

The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post reports that “Tea Party members responded in kind”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) deadpanned that ‘he would rather be a hobbit than a troll,’ while 2010 Senate candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada said that ‘it is the hobbits who are the heroes and save the land.’

True – up to the point when Frodo put on the ring for the last time, had delusions about ruling the world, and was only spared an evil fate because Gollum bit the ring off his hand and accidentally fell into Mount Doom.  I couldn’t tell you where to look for checks and balances like that in our democratic system.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Phillips: Who Wants To Be On The Radio?
Curt Phillips Announces Open Auditions

By Curt Phillips: As those who know me best are all too aware, I’m hosting a radio show every Friday evening this summer on WEHC-FM, the public radio station of Emory & Henry College in Emory, VA. So far, that show has been called “Class of ’77” and has featured classic rock or other music that I felt like playing — such as the Seattle band ThorNton Creek, who sent me some fantastic review CDs recently. I’ll be playing them heavily on my August 5th show and you should all tune in for that because it’s one of those great bands that no one’s discovered yet.  Check their website at and you’ll see what I mean.

My Friday night show will come to an end in September and so for my final show I’m throwing the airwaves open to any music makers or creators of audio wonders within the sound of this e-mail. If you are a musician (and I define that term loosely) and you’d like a chance to be heard on a radio station with a potential world-wide audience (via our streaming audio broadcast on the world-wide web), send me your recordings. If you know a good band or musician that would like a little exposure, send them this note and suggest that they send me their recordings.

Now, I’m only distributing this initial announcement within Fandom (if you’re part of it you know who I mean) and a very few select friends simply because I want to start it that way, but each of *you* may forward this announcement to anyone or anywhere you like. I trust you. You have generally good taste. Go forth, spread the word, and make me proud… I admit that I’ll listen a little closer to anything sent to me by a known fan or someone I recognize (and yes,  I’d love to get enough good material to make an all-fannish show), but I’ll try to listen to every submission I receive and give it a fair hearing. If I get over whelmed, know that I’ll try to do my best. I can’t promise personal responses to each submission, but I’ll try to do that too.

You can send your CDs (sorry, no tapes), or vinyl records to me at the mailing address below. I prefer CDs (and CD-Rs are fine, by the way), but if you want to e-mail me an audio file I can accept it but I’ll have to run it through virus software before I can even listen to it and if time grows short, guess which format will go unlistened to first? If you want your cd’s returned I’ll be glad to do so IF YOU ENCLOSE a stamped, self-addressed mailer to return them with. Otherwise I’ll not be able to return them, sorry.

All submissions should either be licensed through BMI or ASCAP, or should otherwise be your own work. Your submission of the material shall be considered to be your release to Curt Phillips and/or WEHC-FM to air that material with no compensation. All submissions must be identified by title and name of artist as you prefer, and a little background information on the material and artist would be good to have too. I’ll probably quote such material in my on-air introductions. All submissions should be air-play ready and should comply with all requirements and restrictions of the Federal Communications Commission. In other words, no bad language and no plagiarized material. If you sample, please identify the sources.

The station is WEHC-FM, 90.7 Emory, Virginia, USA, and the live audio stream can be heard at . Click on the “Listen Live” link at the top of the page. My show is heard every Friday night through this summer from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time and I invite you to listen in. And also to my Old Time Radio drama and Big Band music show every Sunday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on the same station.

I’ll consider any submission in any length (but remember, this is a 90 min. show), genre or style. All the material has to do is impress me. The deadline is Friday, Sept. 2, 2011. And Sept. 2, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. is when this one-time show will air. Any questions? Ask me. Otherwise, ready, set, go…

Curt Phillips
19310 Pleasant View Dr.
Abingdon, VA 24211

E-mail: Absarka_prime (at) comcast (dot) net

Look for Bill Mills at Renovation

Las Vegas fandom’s own Bill Mills will be putting on a “Filk Concert” at Renovation. Bill says he and Roxie are hoping to see many old L.A. friends and SF fans in the audience. So if you’re coming to the Worldcon, please plan to spend time Saturday night starting at 9 p.m. listening to Bill perform his versions of classic filksongs like “Mary O’Meara,” “Shottle Bop,” “Ship of Stone,” “Bouncing Potatoes” — and some new ones too!

Bill will be doing programs throughout the con:

Thu 8pm – 9pm, Liar’s Panel (Game Show), A03 Reno-Sparks Convention Center (RSCC) Panelists attempt to come up with the most outrageous prevarications in an ongoing quest to best the other panelists.
Jay Lake, James Patrick Kelly, Bill Mills, Connie Willis

Fri 1pm – 2pm, Voice Acting (Panel), A16 Reno-Sparks Convention Center (RSCC), Voice acting is resurging with the explosion in audio books and podcasts. listen to a discussion among voice actors about the field.
Bob Kuhn, Ellen Klages, Bill Mills, Lloyd Penney

Sat 2:30pm – 3pm, Reading: Bill Mills, A15 Reno-Sparks Convention Center (RSCC), “No Exit” By Larry Niven and Jean Marie Stine. With introduction written and read by Jean Marie Stine

Sat 9:00pm – 9:30pm (possibly 9pm-10pm, this is still being decided) – Peppermill Hotel – Sorrento1 room, Filk Concert – Bill Mills

Asimov’s Post Office to be Cancelled?

Michael Burstein wondered if the Post Office in West Newton, MA where Isaac Asimov once got his mail is among those the USPS is reviewing for potential closure. An example of Asimov’s letterhead with his old West Newton address appears at Letters of Note.

The USPS says it may close some of its 32,000 retail offices nationwide because more customers are doing their postal business online or on smartphones. The shuttering of these small offices will certainly be felt in their neighborhoods:

The West Newton Post Office also on the list, is on Waltham Street, just steps from the police station and movie theater. Toward closing time yesterday, about a dozen people stopped by to pick up and drop off letters and packages.

“You feel like you’re losing all of the community feel when they close all these little branches,’’ said Lynne Georgian, 53, of West Newton.

Ed Seiler believes Asimov’s post office is not on the hit list:

There are three post offices in the area: West Newton 02465, at 525 Waltham St., Auburndale 02466, at 2122 Commonwealth Ave., and Newtonville 02460, at 914 Washington St.

As you can see in the Horn Book letter [on Letters of Note], his postal code at the time was 65, which I believe is equivalent to 02465. I think that 45 Greenough Street is still in 02465, although it is extremely close to the border of 02466.

The picture caption clearly indicates Newtonville, and [an old New York] Times article describing his first-in-the-morning pickup and disposal of junk mail jibes with In Joy Still Felt, so I’m inclined to think that the Washington St. post office is the one at which he picked up his mail, and that location does not appear to be on the list.

Asimov’s memoir In Joy Still Felt dramatically retells his experience of being in line at the local post office when a car nearly crashed into the building:

It was an automobile, hard up against a telephone pole just outside the post office, with the driver slumped over the wheel. There was no mystery about what had happened. The driver had had a heart attack while driving, and was dead. Had he been pointed in a slightly different direction at the moment of attack he would have gone through the glass front of the post office and all of us in line might have been killed.

[Thanks to Michael Burstein, Jamie Todd Rubin and Ed Seiler for the story.]

Update 07/28/2011: Revised story to address Seiler’s information.

Sprinkling Saturn

Seems like in space there’s actually “water, water everywhere…”

The European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory has shown that water expelled from Saturn’s moon Enceladus forms a giant torus of water vapor around the planet:

Enceladus expels around 250 kg of water vapor every second, through a collection of jets from the south polar region known as the Tiger Stripes because of their distinctive surface markings.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]