The Age of Lucius Shepard

How old Lucius Shepard was when he died proved to be a controversial question here.

Shepard’s Wikipedia entry and the obit posted at the SFWA Blog listed 1947 as the year of his birth. However, I followed the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s lead and reported he was born in 1943.

Which is right?

The 1947 date was favored by Shepard. It appears in his official bio. He also did not demur when Jason S. Ridler posed a question in a Clarkesworld interview that stated the writer was 33 when he went to Clarion – assuming a 1947 birth date.

However, with Dave Langford’s help I was able to learn more about the SF Encyclopedia’s preference for 1943, based on Mike Ashley’s search of the public record.

  • The 1945 Florida census includes a Lucius Shepard, age 2, listed as born in Virginia. (Shepard’s official bio states he was born in Lynchburg, VA.)
  • The US Public Records Office lists Lucius T. Shepard as living in Seattle in 1993, with a birth year of 1943.
  • Finally, Shepard said he attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill — and a Lucius T. I. Shepard is listed as attending there in 1962 aged about 20.

So there’s persuasive support in official records for a 1943 birth date, in which case Shepard was 70 years old when he died.

Copyright 2014 by File 770

Amazing Offers Free SF Online in April

Amazing_April_2014_cover SMALLThe world’s first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, will begin celebrating its 88th anniversary on April 1. Fiction and non-fiction will be published throughout the course of the month of April with a new story or article appearing approximately every three days.

The anniversary issue will feature a classic reprint in association with FuturesPastEditions as well as thirteen other new and reprinted stories accompanied by new artwork, a science feature and a review and interview with the author of The Martian, Andy Weir.

At the end of April the contents will be bundled together, formatted and offered as an E-zine. If the new issue is sufficiently popular, the publishers may do a print edition as well.

This magazine revival follows Amazing’s return in January 2013 as a multi-author blog. Now edited by Steve Davidson, Amazing was founded in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback.

Copyright 2014 by File 770

Today in History

March 31, 1969: Slaughterhouse Five published.

People are expected to respond as if it’s the height of irony when they’re told Vonnegut’s novel, ranked by the Modern Library as #18 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, lost both the 1970 Hugo and Nebula awards to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I like both books, and see no reason 1970’s award voters need to blush.

Copyright 2014 by File 770

2014 CUFF Nominations Open

cuff01_logoThe Canadian Unity Fan Fund is looking for nominations to be the delegate from Eastern Canada to attend the 2014 V-Con in Surrey, BC this October. CUFF provides for a Canadian sf/fantasy fan to attend Canvention on the opposite side of the country.

Canvention is the annual convention of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. In 2014 CanVention will be held at V-Con 39 in Vancouver, October 3-5.

In order to be nominated for the CUFF this year an application must be submitted by email to or via mail to CUFF 2014, c/o 250 Jarvis Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2L2.

Nominees must apply by April 27. Applications require a minimum of three supporters from the West and three from the East, plus a letter from the nominee including a self-description and an explanation about why his/her selection would be beneficial to the community.

Any Canadian fan or pro may individually nominate a fan to be this year’s CUFF delegate by sending an email outlining your reasons for believing that the fan would make a good delegate to: Nominators who are not known to the current fund administrators Debra Yeung or Kent Pollard should provide a name and contact info for a fan who is known to one of them.

Final voting will run May 1-21. Anyone may vote for CUFF who has been active in Canadian fandom for two years prior to the Canvention, (so for this year, October of 2013) or anyone who has a membership to Can-Con 2013. Voters are required to make a donation to the fund of at least $5.00.

Copyright 2014 by File 770

Doctor Who and The Little Chickadee

By James H. Burns: While glancing through the redoubtable Peter Haining’s biography of the wondrous Raquel Welch this afternoon, this was just about the last reference I expected to see:

Within a discussion of 1970’s Myra Breckinridge, Haining quoted a British review, “Of the performers, Raquel… Is passable, and always good to look at. The same isn’t true of the stiff, aging, monotonous bulk of Mae West, who moves about like some tea-cosied Dalek…”

Photo here of Raquel in the movie.

Copyright 2014 by File 770

Hertz: Beware the Chides of March

By John Hertz: Voting for the 2014 DUFF delegate closes at midnight Pacific Daylight Time, March 31, 2014. Will you have done your part?

To those who already voted, thanks. If you haven’t, it’s not too late.

This year the Down Under Fan Fund sends a fan from North America to Australia – New Zealand. There are two good candidates, Aurora Celeste and Juanita Coulson, each interesting in a different way.

Founded in 1972, DUFF is supported entirely by donations. A donation of at least $5 Australian, Canadian, United States, or $7 New Zealand, goes with your ballot. If you can’t decide or don’t care to, but wish to support the Fund, you can vote No Preference.

A ballot explaining how to vote electronically, with more about DUFF, the candidates’ nominators and platforms, can be found in several places, for example here.

Paper ballots have been circulated too.

As the NA Administrator, I look forward to counting the votes with my ANZ counterpart Bill Wright any minute now.

Oh, and while I’m reminding you of things, this year’s Hugo nominations close at the same date and hour. You can find more here.

Kate O’Mara (1939-2014)

Kate O-Mara

Kate O’Mara as The Rani in Doctor Who.

By James H. Burns: It was always the eyes I thought of, and perhaps that smile, of Kate O’Mara, whenever I heard her name, the way she portrayed the title adversary of Doctor Who’s  “Rani” episodes…

Which was intriguing, since no doubt I had already seen her in Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers or The Horror of Frankestein, or perhaps one of her guest roles in Danger Man, The Saint, and The Avengers.

But there was simply something remarkable about O’Mara’s turn on those otherwise generally unremarkable Colin Baker years of Doctor Who

O’Mara starred in the British teleseries The Brothers, Triangle, as well as a season of the American hit, Dynasty.

She also worked on the British stage, and authored books.

But how is it now, I keep seeing that videotaped visage…?

Astounding and the Atomic Bomb

In 1944 Cleve Cartmill’s atomic bomb story “Deadline” famously inspired an investigator from the War Department to visit Astounding’s editor. What few remember is that Cartmill’s story was actually the culmination of John W. Campbell’s long flirtation with atomic weapons in the pages of his magazine.

Alex Wellerstein’s Restricted Data, the Nuclear Secrecy Blog recently discussed Campbell’s nonfiction article “Death Dust”, published in a 1941 issue of Pic, and readers chimed in with numerous juicy details about its fictional corollary, Heinlein’s “Solution Unsatisfactory,” as well as the creative relationship between the editor and his leading author, and the sources of what they knew about reactors and U-238.

Bill Higgins supplied an outline of Campbell’s correspondence with Heinlein in 1940 and 1941 when “Blowups Happen” and “Solution Unsatisfactory” were in the works.

Heinlein biographer Bill Patterson also chimed in with several interesting comments, for example —

Estelle Karst [in “Solution Unsatisfactory”] is, indeed, an homage to Lise Meitner, who worked out the necessary mathematical support for the idea of fission in 1939 on a train fleeing Nazi Germany. In January 1940 Campbell wanted Heinlein to write a story about “uncertainty in the sub-etheric field” (he probably got that story in 1942 as “Waldo”), In the meantime, Heinlein had been talking with his friend physicist Robert Cornog about subjects related to a reactor, and Heinlein combined Cornog and Campbell and the result was “Blowups Happen.” At the time there was no reactor in existence — and not as much as a gram of purified U238 in existence, so most of the physics here was speculative.

Even Campbell’s granddaughter had something to say.

[Thanks to Gene Dannen for the story.]

Jabba and Racism

The People’s Court of the Internet is now in session, the Honorable Judge 770 presiding! You may be seated… Bailiff, read the charges.

The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria accuses the toymaker Lego of perpetuating racism and prejudice against Muslims among children by making its Jabba’s Palace set look like a mosque.

People sent me several copies of this story last year but I put off writing about it because I momentarily expected to announce the complaint was a hoax, and the organization possibly nonexistent. Unexpectedly, a message board identified a genuine-looking website for the Türkische Kulturgemeinde Österreich (Turkish Cultural Community of Austria), adorned by recent clippings of its director’s quotes from Spiegel Online Panorama (rendered in English by Google Translate) —

General Secretary Melissa Gunes: “We want to first of all have peace in our own home. This peace is endangered by war toys such as LEGOs ‘Jabba’s Palace.’ Peace at home, peace in the country, peace in the world. This is our motto! I hope that LEGO is helping to make this world.

“Lego means in Danish ‘Good game.’ Stars Wars in English means ‘Star Wars,’ and the culture-racist toy ‘Jabba’s Palace’ is molded in plastic clichés and prejudices that give us no feeling of ‘play good,’ but rather of ‘evil.’”

The internet’s let’s-you-and-him-fight media loved this story because it made both sides look bad and when there are two losing sides the cognoscenti can enjoy themselves twice as much.

The figure of Jabba the Hutt towers over Ray Bradbury at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

The figure of Jabba the Hutt towers over Ray Bradbury at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Lego looks bad because there is an undeniable grain of truth in the complaint. Star Wars’ Jabba the Hutt looks like Casablanca’s Signor Ferrari (Sidney Greenstreet) reincarnated as a mutant sea slug. Both characters control crime syndicates in desert cities. But Ferrari’s Casablanca existed only on a sound stage while the exteriors for Star Wars’ Mos Eisley were actually shot on location in Tunisia, imagery Lego extrapolated into a grandiose headquarters for a villain that arguably resembles the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Are we supposed to pretend that it doesn’t?

On the other hand, the protestors’ complaint has a kind of easy-to-criticize, past-sale-date quality. Jabba’s palace was shown in The Return of the Jedi in 1983 without any known fuss. Starting one now?

The story intrigued me because I’ve been inside the Hagia Sophia. I was fortunate to travel to Turkey and see some of its greatest historical and archeological sites in 2004 — although that was not the most auspicious time for an American to be traveling there, just three weeks after the Abu Gharib photos were published. No, indeed. Our Turkish tour guide felt the urge to take the microphone a couple of times and air his opinion of the Bush administration. Otherwise, things went pretty smoothly. Well, except the afternoon I was ripped-off by an Istanbul cabbie who realized I was ignorant of the exchange rate and bilked me out of US$75 in Turkish currency for a six block ride. A more serene individual would have been thrilled by this authentic connection to tourist traditions reaching back to the founding of Constantinople. Not me.