Saraswat Wins SLF Travel Grant

Shuchi Saraswat is the winner of the 2012 Gulliver Travel Grant awarded by the Speculative Literature Foundation.

Saraswat plans to use the $800 grant to travel to elephant sanctuaries to research the relationship between elephants and their caretakers, which relates to her novel in progress about a family curse from Hindu mythological times that is tied to the well-known story of how the Hindu god Ganesha got his elephant head. Excerpts of her novel have recently won her a residency at Writers Omi at Ledig House and the 2012 Writers’s Room of Boston Ivan Gold Fellowship in Fiction.

The Travel Grant judges said of Saraswat’s entry, “The excerpt contains unusual, resonant conflict, well-drawn characters, and a solid mythic feel with overtones of magic realism. The swift narrative is engaging and entertaining. We definitely want more of the story.” 

Saraswat teaches creative writing at Grub Street, Inc, including a workshop in Magical Realism.

Also shortlisted were: Richard Larson, Monica Byrne, Bonnie-Ann Lynch Black, Maureen McGuirk, Rion Scott, and David Sullivan.

“Speculative literature,” explains the SLF’s press release, “is a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing literature ranging from hard and soft science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern mythmaking — any literature containing a fabulist or speculative element.”

The full press release follows the jump.

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Adding C.S. Lewis to Poets’ Corner

C.S. Lewis, who as a young man aspired to greatness as a poet but more nearly achieved it as a scholar and novelist, will be recognized with a memorial in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey next November, 50 years after his death.

He will join a select group of poets, playwrights and writers to have been buried or commemorated there, including Chaucer and Shakespeare.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Brass Cannon’s Vietnam Project

Francis Hamit and Leigh Strother-Vien have started an Indiegogo fundraiser for a book project, Coming Home From ‘Nam, an anthology of short memoirs by veterans of the Vietnam War about their experiences when returning to the United States and their hometowns — How they were greeted by strangers, friends and family and the impact of those receptions on their lives then and later.

WHY THIS BOOK? It’s simple. The Vietnam generation is dying out and there should be a record of these experiences made for future generations. We want to collect and curate these stories while there is still time to get the story direct from those who experienced it. There is a lot of myth about negative outcomes, but we are also looking for instances of positive homecomings to balance out this narrative and testimony.

Hamit and Strother-Vien are the owners of Brass Cannon Books, a small independent publisher specializing in military and related narratives. Hamit is a Vietnam veteran and served as an enlisted clerk in an Army Security Agency aviation company in the Mekong Delta in 1968-69. Strother-Vien was a supply specialist with a Pershing missile battalion in Germany between 1980 and 1984

The full text follows the jump.

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Vanessa Schnatmeier (1954-2012)

Vanessa Schnatmeier, BArea fan and long-time LASFS member, died November 20 from complications of endometrial cancer.

I knew her mainly before she moved to the BArea, when we were both members of LASFS. We both joined in the awful days when the club gathered at the Overland Park Playground.

We may have met briefly even earlier. Vanessa was part of the science fiction group at Granada Hills High School in the late 1960s with Ed Finkelstein (he and I would co-chair the 1978 Westercon), Bill Welden (an Elvish linguist who helped with Tolkien’s languages on the first Lord of the Rings movie) and others. A counselor at my high school steered me to their first organizational meeting for a one-day convention they eventually held. I wasn’t quite ready to become an actifan that day, but in little more than a year we were all attending LASFS.

She was immediately popular there. An overlooked bit of fanhistorical trivia is that Bruce and (then) Dian Pelz’ “divorce party,” which famously inspired Larry Niven’s short story “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers,” also encompassed a surprise birthday party for Vanessa.

By the 1980s Vanessa was living in the Bay Area. She had an active interest in social dancing. She cofounded the Bay Area English Regency Society in 1985.

Every reminiscence I’ve seen today mentions her keen sense of humor. A minor example is visible in the photo below showing Vanessa between Harlan Ellison and Elizabeth Berrien on a “Miss Fan Manners” panel.  

Elizabeth Fox says she’ll never forget walking across the Golden Gate Bridge on its 50th anniversary (1987) with Vanessa and other friends: “Alan [Winston] was griping about carrying a heavy backpack and we ignored him till it turned out he was carrying two bowling balls for Vanessa. She had planned to cross the bridge walking on one, with the other balanced on her head, one of her peculiar talents.”

Harlan Ellison, Vanessa Schnatmeier, Elilzabeth Berrian on the Miss Fan Manners panel (year unknown). Photo by Dik Daniels.

[Thanks to Bill Warren and Moshe Feder for the story.]

Anthony Burgess, Fibber

Jonathan Lethem, at Salon, remembers embarrassing himself while getting an autograph from Anthony Burgess. He asked —

The Wanting Seed, my favorite of his novels – could it, possibly, by any chance, have been influenced by the writing of Philip K. Dick? (I now know that Burgess’s novel was written well before any of Dick’s major novels had appeared; the question was foolish.)

“I don’t read science fiction,” Burgess hissed, taking his revenge now.

But he knew who I was talking about.

This happened in 1985.

Greg Benford, pointing to Lethem’s post, put the lie to Burgess’ claim.

Anthony Burgess didn’t read science fiction ? Oh yeah?

In 1981 he wrote me a letter about Timescape

The Biggest Loser

It’s not easy being extinct. Case in point: — the Giraffatitan. Lost its family (used to be considered the African version of the brachiosaurus.) Lost its claim as the largest dinosaur known (to three species of titanosaurians). Now it’s lost 61 tons!

The traditional method of estimating dinosaur mass was to measure the circumference of leg bones, compare that with the circumference in modern animals, and scale up the result to the size of a dinosaur. These calculations were simplified by modeling leg bones as columnar beams – which may have underestimated the stresses experienced in animal limbs by up to 142 percent.

Researchers have been at work on a new and more accurate system of mass prediction. The new method shows Giraffatitan’s body massed only 25 tons – dramatically less than in previous estimates, which ranged from 31 to 86 tons.

Twenty five tons – 50,000 pounds? That’s not even half the weight aboard the average illegally-loaded tractor-trailer riding an Ohio interstate on its way to Michigan!

Home Designed by Martian Chronicles Artist

Now on the market is the Mid-Century Modern home designed by the late Joseph Mugnaini, an artist and illustrator and best known for his art collaboration with Ray Bradbury, author of the Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451.

“Many of the illustrations used in these books were said to have been created in the detached guest house,” says the listing.

The home is in Altadena, CA. See a video of the property here [Vimeo].

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

What Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?

The Tolkien estate and its book publisher HarperCollins have filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. for copyright infringement and breach of contract. The gist of the suit is that their agreement allows the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise based on the books, not digital products like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.

Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of defendants’ rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works.

The suit also complains the defendants have asserted rights to exploit the books through anything from ringtones and downloadable games to hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh and Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Branding R2D2

R2D2, Luke Skywalker’s robotic sidekick, is a pop culture icon whose design elements continue to be referenced in a multiplicity of other products.

Among them is the customized Vespa scooter shown in these photos, from Incredible Things.

But one of the most far out variations is the R2D2 engagement ring from “My Answer’s Beep Boop!” at Geekologie.


[Thanks to Janice Gelb for the links.]