Tarpinian: AltCar Expo Report

Bill Goodwin, Greg Bear, and Howard V. Hendrix. (The image behind them is a 3D photo of a 50 mile section of Gale crater)

By John King Tarpinian: The AltCar Expo was held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on September 29. If you are in the market for a 100% electric BMW or a Dodge 2500 CNG pick-up this was the place to be. My little Volvo only has 26,000 miles on it so I’ll have to wait for next year when they show off the hovercrafts.

My attendance and the only reason to run the gauntlet known as Carmageddon was to hear the talk, “Mars and the Heart of Humanity: Ray Bradbury’s Million-Year Picnic.” Bill Goodwin, Greg Bear and Howard V. Hendrix each took turns talking about Mars in fiction and how it relates to reality, giving credit to Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is hard to talk about Mars, in science, without mentioning these four gentlemen and their contributions to literature.

Charles Baker brought with him a $30,000 1/10th scale model of Curiosity along with a 20” diameter wheel from the sister rover that is used to test possible maneuvers here on earth before they try them on the Red Planet.

If you have seen photos of the rover you may have noticed holes in the wheels’ treads. The reason for the holes is so that sand/pebbles will “fall out” and not weigh down the rover. The original design had the openings be the letters JPL but politics got in the way. So they redesigned it with the holes. What the geeks at JPL did not mention was that the three rows on each wheel spell out JPL in Morse Code. The geeks won!!! (You can see the holes in the photo with the rover model sitting on top of the wheel.)

1/10th scale model of Curiosity Rover being held by Charles Baker.

An extra wheel for Curiosity.

Richard Powers Retrospective

When she introduced the artist at the 1991 Worldcon, Marta Randall said fans in the Fifties and Sixties fans were able to recognize an sf book at a distance, not because there were aliens or brass-brassiered babes on the covers, but because of Richard Powers’ abstract paintings. 

A newly-opened exhibit of Powers’ art is inspiring fresh appreciation for his talents. In Richard Powers: Seen and Unseen, Baldwin Hill Art & Framing and Gallery 55 are presenting 2D and 3D works owned by the Powers estate. The exhibit is open through October 7, at 55 South Main St. in Natick, MA

Some of his largest works are on display:

Throughout his life Powers was known for painting on whatever happened to be at hand. In his later years he took to painting on sections of hollow-core interior doors. These were cheap, readily available, and came in convenient widths from 28 to 36 inches. With proper edge trimming, these pieces had depth and presence while remaining relatively lightweight. Many of these works were done in his “surreal landscape” style with torn paper collage elements and stark, angular black and white lines.

There are smaller works featuring collage and montage elements, including some of his shadowboxes which combine paintings and sculptural elements.

Speaking to fans in 1991, Richard Powers, whitehaired, commanding, with a physique that made him the Michelangelo of paperback artists, declared, “The difference between writing and painting is that writing is work and painting isn’t.” And he told them, “The artist’s job is to do something of a visual nature that can’t very easily be put into words. My feeling is if the writer’s any damn good he doesn’t need me to do a literal illustration of something he’s already described perfectly well.”

Powers died in 1996.

Michael O’Hare (1952-2012)

Michael O’Hare, who played Babylon 5’s Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, died September 28 at the age of 60. He had suffered a heart attack, last weekend and been in a coma ever since.

O’Hare was the original lead actor for J. Michael Straczynski’s sf series. He left after the first season.

Another highlight of O’Hare’s career was playing Colonel Jessup in the stage version of Aaron Sorkin’s  “A Few Good Men”, a role Jack Nicholson played in the movie and received an Oscar nomination.

Deb Geisler, Guinness Record Holder

Deb Geisler is a certified Guinness World Record title holder. In fact, her certificate came in today’s mail. She was one of 38,244 participants in Reddit.com’s 2011 Secret Santa gift exchange, the largest gift exchange ever.

Deb wasn’t in it for the record, she’s been enjoying Reddit.com’s gift exchanges all along:

I had a lot of fun at Christmas with the exchanges and others throughout the year for socks, cook books, regular books, and even one that was a one-way gifting to send much-needed school supplies to K-12 teachers). You can see the gifts site (there’s even a Dr. Who exchange coming up – but I’m not a Dr. Who fan).

Participants in these gift exchanges get matched as a sender to one person, and as the recipient of another, somewhere in the U.S. or overseas.

Ironically, the Secret Santas didn’t actually stay secret:

Everyone who took part in the exchange was eligible to get a certificate, which cost GBP20. Then Guinness sent all of the folks who had ordered the certificates email…without masking any of the addresses. So our huge, anonymous enterprise suddenly wasn’t so anonymous. Most of us thought it was hysterically funny, and the number of people replying to the full list reached a couple of hundred. The goal seemed to be to out-funny the other repliers.

Guinness felt quite embarrassed. They ended up refunding everyone’s payments and giving them the certificates free of charge.

Blue Plate Special

Photo of 2 Darnley Road taken in 1945.

The house where J. R. R. Tolkien and his family lived while he was a Reader in English language at the University of Leeds in the 1920s will be acknowledged with a blue plaque by the Leeds Civic Trust on October 1.

The Tolkien family lived at 2 Darnley Road, West Park for over a year before Tolkien’s election to the Rawlinson and Bosworth chair of Anglo-Saxon saw them return to Oxford in 1926. During his time at the University of Leeds Tolkien was instrumental in shaping the English Language syllabus at the university; some aspects of this were still present sixty years later. He also worked with E.V. Gordon to produce an edition of the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was published in 1925.

The Tolkiens resided briefly at 5 Holly Bank, Headingley and then leasing a house in St Mark’s Terrace before buying the semi-detached property in Darnley Road in 1924.

Ian Spittlehouse, Trustee and the Tolkien Society’s liaison with the representatives of West Park and the Leeds Civic Trust said, “This is a timely recognition of Tolkien’s tenure in Leeds, and a welcome addition to Yorkshire’s influence on his academic and literary career.”

Takei’s WWII Internment Drama

George Takei in Allegiance

George Takei’s childhood experience living in camps in Arkansas and California has inspired a new musical called Allegiance.

Takei plays two characters in the show: Ojii-San, the grandfather of a family in an internment camp, and Sam Kimura, a 77-year-old former internee whose story is told from the present day.

Takei told NPR

I see Allegiance as my legacy project. The story is very important to me and it’s been my mission in life to raise Americans’ awareness of that shameful chapter of American history. I think we learn more from those times in our history where we stumbled as a democracy than we learn from the glorious chapters. We have the history of slavery or inequality to women, and now the civil rights movement of the 21st century is the struggle for equality for the gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. And I think it’s important for Americans to know about the times that we failed, and Allegiance tells that story.

Previews began September 7 at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and several video clips of highlights are available on the theatre’s website.

Playing the younger version of Takei’s character, Young Sam, is Telly Leung (Godspell, “Glee”), and his sister is played by Lea Salonga,winner of a Tony Award for her performance in the role of Kim in Miss Saigon, the first Asian to play Eponine in Les Misérables and the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Fa Mulan in Mulan and Mulan II

Throughout the run of Allegiance a museum exhibit about the history of Japanese Americans who lived in San Diego prior to World War II and their removal to the internment camps is on display in the San Diego Museum of Man Annex directly adjacent to The Old Globe. The exhibit is free to the public and will be open two hours prior to each performance on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays; from noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays; and from noon to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays as part of Balboa Park’s Free Tuesdays.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Let’s Do the NASFiC Again

WSFS also holds a NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention) when the Worldcon is voted to a city outside of North America. With London having won the 2014 site selection, fans now get to choose between Detroit and Phoenix for the location of the NASFiC.

Detroit, Michigan: Tammy Coxen’s bid proposes to hold the NASFiC July 17-20, 2014 at the Detroit Renaissance Center Marriott. The Marriott has 1,200 rooms and 100,000 sq. ft. of function space. The site recently hosted a 10,000 member anime convention, Youmacon.

The Detroit bid committee includes Anne Gray, Kim Kofmel, Mark Hall, Lisa Garrison Ragsdale, Jeff Beeler and David Stein, and local conrunners, several who have helped run ConFusion and Penguincon.

Facebook page: Detroit In 2014

Phoenix, Arizona: Mike Willmoth’s bid wants to hold the con July 31-August 3, 2014 – dates chosen to avoid overlap with Loncon 3 or EuroCon.

The proposed facilty is the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, Arizona (which is just outside Phoenix). It has been the site for previous events sponsored by Leprecon,Inc.,including the 2009 North American Discworld Convention, FiestaCon (Westercon 62),the 2006 Nebula Awards Weekend,and World Fantasy 2004.

The Bid Committee, Bid Staff, Bid Volunteer, and the current Board of Directors of Leprecon include: Len Berger, Mark Boniece, Warren Buff, Michael Contos, Oz Drummond, Bobbie Dufault, Kathy Duval, Bruce Farr, Jeff George, Jerry Gieseke, Glenn Glazer, Jean Goddin, Chris “Glug” Hensley, Charlene “Charlie” Harmon, Steve Harmon, Patti Hultstrand, Anastasia Hunter, Don Jacques, Jeff Jennings, Louise Kleba, Dina Krause, Bill Laubenheimer, Michael “Moebius” Markman, Pam Matthews, Sean McCoy, Tim Miller, Dawn Mullan, Cathy Mullican, Ron Oakes, Carole Parker, Nora Rankin, Heather Stern, Kathy Sullivan, Gary Swaty, Paul Tanton, Bill Thomasson, Adam Tilghman, Arlen Walker, Lee Whiteside, and Mike Willmoth.

Facebook page: Phoenix in 2014

Ellison Goes On Record

The title of a new interview in the L.A. Record“Harlan Ellison: Everything Is Awful” — may go overboard but, as Harlan’s 1950s gang stories attest, he has never romanticized youth and sees no reason to start now.

One of your many achievements on the page was bringing a kind of proto-punk attitude and aesthetic to fantasy writing. While we’re on the subject of young people, please relate any cranky rant about kids today here.
I think on the day after the Aurora, Colorado, massacre, anything said about young people today is moot. No one will face the fact that the NRA runs America and is killing us. There were more people killed in that Aurora slaughter than were killed in the entire country of Japan last year. Only eleven people killed by gunfire in Japan last year and this kid killed twelve. This is bewildering. It’s certainly way past the kid gang stuff, where if you had a switchblade or a zip-gun, you were deadly. Now, they’re deadly and they have AK-47s.

Ron Garmon conducted the interview.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Herbert Lom (1917-2012)

Herbert Lom, the last surviving member of the cast of 1955 Ealing classic The Ladykillers, September 27, aged 95. In a career which stretched back to 1937, his genre roles included The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (tv, 1967), Gerry Anderson’s live-action debut Doppelgänger (1967), Count Dracula, Dorian Gray (both 1970, the former as Van Helsing), Asylum (1972), Dark Places and — And Now the Screaming Starts (both 1973), the movie spin-off of Whoops Apocalypse (1988) and Masque of the Red Death (1989). His final screen appearance took place in 2004.

[Thanks to Steve Green for the story.]