Today In History 11/30

The CageNovember 30, 1964 – Shooting began on The Cage , the original Star Trek pilot.

Jeffrey Hunter starred as Christopher Pike, captain of the USS Enterprise. He left the project after NBC rejected “The Cage.” By the time another pilot was commissioned he was gone.

Before Hunter came on board, other actors whose names were floated for the role by NBC or Roddenberry included Efrem Zimbalist Jr., James Coburn, Peter Graves, George Segal, Patrick O’Neal, Rod Taylor and William Shatner.

A Peter Graves captain would have been a very earnest fellow, as he was running the team in Mission: Impossible – he would have turned Kirk into Janeway.

Even though Coburn could play drama, as in The Magnificent Seven (1960), how could audiences believe he was playing it straight after Our Man Flint (1966)?

George Segal could play anything – in the mid-Sixties he had roles in King Rat, Ship of Fools and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — why would he settle for TV?

Rod Taylor (The Time Machine, 1960), I believe, would have played Captain Kirk fairly similarly to the way William Shatner did, so no great difference there.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is the alternate choice I find most intriguing. He was able to move between drama and comedy with full credibility – from Maverick’s Dandy Jim Buckley to Stuart Bailey in two different detective series, and The FBI’s  Inspector Lewis Erskine. He would have brought an extra something to humorous episodes like “A Piece of the Action” and still had the gravitas for heart-wrenching stories like “City on the Edge of Forever.”

Four Things That Belong Under A Trufan’s Tree

iguanacon stamps on ebay

Enevelopes postmarked at the 1978 Worldcon.

It’s not too late to spend gobs of money on that special fannish someone.

Today on eBay you can get a 3-piece set of items postmarked at the 1978 Worldcon bearing the Viking mission to Mars stamp for a mere $1,000.

Are they really worth all that? Perhaps it’s the fact that the cancellation reads “Iguanacon 1” whereas the name of the event was “IguanaCon II,” though I doubt it can be claimed the mistake makes them more valuable (like that upside-down airplane stamp) — there wouldn’t have been any cancellations with the correct name.

451 asbestos editionBesides, those collectible postmarks look like a bargain compared with the asking price for an autographed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 with the rare asbestos binding – yours for only $16,000.

More frugal fans can still delight their friends with other affordable goodies.

frankensteins-monster-root-1495qxi2753_1470_1Hallmark is offering a Frankenstein’s Monster Christmas Ornament for $14.95:

Remember the chills and thrills of the first time Frankenstein’s Monster came to life every time you hang it from your tree.

I’m sure I will…
Planet Robot COMPOr Restoration Hardware is advertising a more conventional gift, Planet Robot, for $29.95.

Nostalgic for the whiz-bang, wind-up charm of vintage tin toys, we found these spot-on reproductions, meant to call forth the child within every adult. Reminiscent of a 1950s sci-fi movie robot, this emissary from Planet Robot is at your command. Wind him up and he’ll walk gamely forward, with sparks flying behind his transparent face shield.

Walking gamely forward while sparks fly — say, don’t these sound like ready-made convention volunteers?

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Steven Saus Comments on Resignation

While writing about the resignations of Steven Saus and Lucy Snyder from the Context committee yesterday I contacted Saus with questions I had about his decision. He provided these additional insights.

File 770: I read your resignation post, and half a dozen related posts you’ve written lately, trying to understand why you resigned. You make the proximate cause clear enough. But due to your efforts the harassment complaint was acted on and a person banned. If you stayed on the committee, would you have been able to do that if a new complaint arose? In every case I’ve ever heard about there has been resistance to actually carrying out the policy (as Hines’ cartoon [here] illustrates). From the outside, it would have seemed that you succeeded in overcoming that resistance. Which is not the same as changing their minds, but is that required? One of your own posts would say no. If you are willing to comment, I’d appreciate it.

Steven Saus: We did succeed in overcoming the resistance, but barely, and in a case with multiple reports and multiple witnesses for each report. I did not have confidence that any future reports of harassment — especially if they did not have as many witnesses – would be treated seriously by the convention staff.

You are correct; I did say that we do not need to change people’s minds.  But in this case, their *actions* must be uniform and predictable.

When Board members refuse to sign a statement they all agreed to, when Committee members still refer to harassment as “He was guilty of being OLD,” or insist that a report would not be valid if not made during the convention (for three examples out of many), that creates a great deal of doubt about what their future actions will be.

Convention goers need to know that if they report harassment that it will be taken seriously. They should not have to guess which members of the convention staff will ensure their report is taken seriously… or which members of convention staff will dismiss their concerns.

Convention goers need to be able to trust ALL of the convention staff to do the right thing, regardless of personal feelings.

I did not have that trust any longer, and so I felt I had to resign.

Edward Summer (1946-2014)

Jerry Weist, Sam Weller, Edward Summer and Ray Bradbury.

Jerry Weist, Sam Weller, Edward Summer and Ray Bradbury.

Edward Summer, who passed away November 13, may not have thought of himself as a fan but he had many friends in the SF and comics world and attended the occasional convention. He was best-known for starting the first comic book store in New York, Supersnipe, in 1971, through which he met, got to know and went into business with George Lucas for the accompanying comic book art gallery. He also was a good friend of Ray Bradbury. Summer was 68.

A writer, artist, and film historian, he founded the Buffalo International Film Festival.

His 1966 student film “Item 72-D, The Adventures of Spa and Fon” introduced the actor Hervé Villechaize.

Summer wrote for Marvel Comics from 1972 to 1989 and for DC Comics from 1980 to 1990. He contributed the plot for the first issue of Marvel’s Red Sonja . He later was an associate producer of the first Conan the Barbarian film, and authored the original treatment and screenplay.

Edward Summer, Frank Frazetta, George Lucas.

Edward Summer, Frank Frazetta, George Lucas.

He edited a collection of Disney cartoonist Carl Barks’ stories, Uncle $crooge McDuck: His Life and Times.

He founded the Digital Nitrate Prize “to encourage the development of methods to preserve historic movies by duplicating the highly defined look of nitrate motion picture film.”

Summer also was a founding member of New York Area Skeptics and belonged to the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 12.

[Thanks to Moshe Feder for the story.]

Resignations From Context Committee Over Harassment Policy Enforcement

Context’s Programming Manager Steven Saus has announced his resignation from the committee saying “I do not have faith that the harassment policy will be enforced or that reports of harassment would be treated seriously at Context in the future,” even after the board processed a harassment complaint at Context 27 and banned a con suite worker from the convention for five years.

Writing Workshop Coordinator Lucy Snyder followed suit, announcing her resignation on Facebook. And author Jason Sanford, who regularly attends the con, has written a post “Why I won’t be returning to the Context SF convention”.

Context 27 took place the last weekend in September and several harassment complaints were made against one individual. To outward appearances the committee delivered a prompt reaction, as within a few weeks the individual had made an online apology and the board had announced its ban. However, “prompt” is a subjective term – while the committee may have worked much more rapidly than, say, WisCon (which has taken a year or more in a couple of cases), Steven Saus and Lucy Snyder were so dissatisfied with the progress they began responding about the issue in social media. Then, in his latest post, Saus asserts, “Without myself and a very few others, I do not believe there would have been any public response to the reports of harassment at Context 27.”

The other voices, including members of both the Board and the Convention Committee argued against taking action, reducing actions taken, and not making things public….

One ConComm member asserted that no report of harassment could be taken seriously without an uninvolved third party witnessing it. Another stated that unless reports were made at the convention that they couldn’t be taken seriously. In e-mail, a board member used sarcasm quotes referring to the “victims” of harassment. A board member mused about undoing the consequences that were decided upon after the meeting had adjourned. Others blamed those reporting harassment, ignored all but the public reports, and advocated that nothing be said or done publicly. Much was made of the feelings of the harasser – who never denied these multiple reports – while the feelings and safety of congoers were ignored.

This range of responses is typical of harassment cases. What interpretation to put on the discussion is another matter.

Sharon Palmer, who ran the con suite, left a comment on Saus’ blog disagreeing with his characterization:

I am a member of the committee am saying this as my own opinion, and NOT that of the committee, that Steve has misrepresented the issue. Since he has chosen to make this so public, I want to say that he is wrong.  Context has had an antiharassment policy for several years, and has never tolerated harassment and never would, especially not by a staff member.  Please give us time to work through the ramifications of this. We want Context to be an awesome and SAFE convention.

Palmer also responded to Lucy Snyder on Facebook:

Steve and Lucy said “handle it our way or we quit”. And we did. They quit anyway in a way that seems designed to destroy the convention.

From their choices and the price they’re paying Saus and Snyder appear to be trying to improve Context, not destroy it. However, why was resigning the best response to its perceived shortcomings?

In every case I’ve ever heard about there has been resistance to actually carrying out the full terms of the antiharassment policy. Even conventions designed to attract the most progressive viewpoints have been rent by dissent when it came time to apply the policy to people they knew. And here, Context could point to a successful resolution of a complaint, a rarity among the cases that have become public.

Perhaps the frustration and stress from winning out made the prospect of doing it again too painful to contemplate. Also, Saus doubted the outcome of any future complaints and was unwilling to see his name associated with any failure to enforce the con’s policies:

I do not realistically have the ability to make that change before Context 28. Therefore, both out of my ethics and as a signatory to John Scalzi’s harassment pledge, I must resign as programming director for Context. Further, I will not be attending Context 28.

Saus’ announcement follows a series of posts he wrote to sharpen his thinking as the committee went through the process of settling on its official statement regarding the harassment complaints. He seemed to have adopted a pragmatic approach in “We Don’t Need To Police Thoughts. Actions and Statements Are A Different Matter Entirely”. It says in part —

Think that harassment policies are stupid or over the top?  Great!  Obey them anyway, or go somewhere else.

Because if you’re sexist, homophobic, racist, or generally just an asshat, I’m not interested in changing your thoughts. But I am damn sure interested in changing the way you treat others.

He was writing about people in general, not the Context board. It’s just that in pondering his resignation I’d expect someone whose goal is to change behavior rather than thoughts to treat any resistance to his principles as counting less than a bottom-line result which is honoring to them.

McCaffrey’s Fan Letter To John Schoenherr

Analog_1967_10_webAnne McCaffrey’s novella Weyr Search was published in the October 1967 issue of Analog and around the time it was hitting the newsstands she had an opportunity to visit John W. Campbell in his office and see the original Schoenherr illustrations.  She was so captivated by his interpretation of her dragons that she wrote the artist a fan letter, which his son Ian has reproduced on his blog, accompanied by scans of the images.

But man, those are mighty appealing dragons. Particularly, especially, and triumphantly, the one in which Lessa is enclosed in Mnementh’s talons. Oh, that, I die a little over. How HOW did you manage to convey that foolish bronze’s tender regard and lack of menace in black and white, no less. Superb. Honest, I nearly cried in front of John and Miss Tarrant…which at my age would be a little the other side of enough. But the sketch was so much, so very much what I had imagined in my mind for the scene, I’d swear you were a telepath yourself.

The following year Weyr Search became the first story written by a woman to win the Hugo Award.