Freedom, Freedom

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 26)  We could take 2018 or 2019 as the 70th birth-anniversary year of Walt Kelly’s Pogo.  It began as a newspaper comic strip in 1948.  It was adopted for syndicated national distribution in 1949.  It ran through 1975.  Judith Merril put a Pogo sequence in her 6th annual Year’s Best S-F (1961).

I’ve recommended America’s Great Comic-Strip Artists, subtitled  from “The Yellow Kid” to “Peanuts” (R. Marschall, rev. 1997).  Kelly is penultimate (p. 255):

Fantasy was the specialty of Winsor McCay [1867-1934, Little Nemo in Slumberland 1905-1926 his magnum opus]; George Herrimann [1880-1944, Krazy Kat1913-1944] made it his bailiwick too, while staking ground in the realm of literary and intellectual expression.  Cliff Sterrett [1883-1964, Polly and Her Pals1912-1958] also appealed to intellectuals, as Charles Schulz [1922-2000] would later do in Peanuts [1950-2000].  Farce and parody were the domains of E.C. Segar [1894-1938, Popeye from 1929 (in Thimble Theatre; after 1938 continued by others, Hy Eisman since 1994)], and the graphic sense he lacked was displayed with seeming instinctiveness by Frederick Opper [1857-1937, Happy Hooligan 1900-1932].  Dialogue – incisive, distinctive – that revealed not only the personalities of the characters but also the world view of the cartoonist was the special gift of Al Capp [1909-1980, Li’l Abner 1934-1977].

In the company of great cartoonists such as these, one stands out as a monumental talent…. Walt Kelly [1913-1973] was master of all that could be surveyed, the many tools and techniques available to comic-strip artists.  Pogo… generously included elements of fantasy, literary and intellectual touches, farce and parody, graphic brilliance … wonderful dialogue … also … philosophy, politics, whimsy, poetry, metaphysics, social commentary, and good old-fashioned slapstick.

– o O o –

St. Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church, 20340 E. Covina Bl., Covina, CA 91724, held its annual festival 23-25 Aug.  On Saturday evening I went for a few hours.  I’ve told of another one.

Lots of different folks go to these Greek church festivals.  Vendors stock accordingly.  I saw displayed a pair of T-shirts, An Armenian Man Is Never Wrong and An Armenian Woman Is Always Right.  Alas, I did not see them on any husband & wife with the husband wearing Armenian Woman and the wife wearing Armenian Man.

– o O o –

At Hampton, Virginia, it was African Landing Weekend.  The 24th was African Landing Day.  In August 1619 “20 and odd” Africans from what is now the Republic of Angola arrived on the White Lion at Old Point Comfort, now Fort Monroe National Monument, Hampton, the first black slaves to land in English North America.

On Saturday, Governor Ralph Northam, Doug Wilder the first elected black Governor (66th Governor of Virginia 1990-1994, now 88 years old), Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, United States Representative Karen Bass (Democrat – California) chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and 11-year-old Brycen Didly a pupil at Larkspur Middle School in Virginia Beach, were among those who spoke.  Two thousand people came.  The Norcom High School Choir from Portsmouth ended the program with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (poem by James W. Johnson 1900, music by his brother John R. Johnson 1905; called the Negro national hymn by the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People, 1916).

Governor Northam announced a new State Commission on African American History Education.  Didly, who got a standing ovation, said “There is another way that we can give back to our community.  We can start with how we treat one another.  Are you kind to others daily?”

– o O o –

August 20th would have been the 100th birthday of Rodrick W. Edmonds (1919-1985), who during World War II was a Master Sergeant in the 106th Infantry Division.

On 1 Nov 44 the 106th was assigned to VIII Corps, 1st United States Army, 12th Army Group; on 6 Dec moved to France, joining the Rhineland Campaign; 10 Dec crossed into Belgium; 16 Dec assigned to the Ardennes-Alsace Campaign.  On 19 Dec the 422nd Infantry Regiment, including Edmonds, was overrun by Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, and forced to surrender.  In fact the men of the 422nd were still green, with 19 days overseas training in England during November.

Edmonds was taken to Stalag IX near Ziegenhain (in the Rhineland-Palatinate).  Stalag was short for Stammlager, itself short for Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts Stammlager; Stamm is a stem, or a tribe, and like that; Lager is a camp; Krieg is war; gefangen is capturedMannschaft is a crew: a Stalag was a prisoner-of-war base camp – but not for officers, who were held separately.

Edmonds was the highest ranking NCO (noncommissioned officer, i.e. up through sergeant) of 1,275 U.S. soldiers held in Stalag IX on 27 Jan 45.  They had just arrived.  It was bitter cold.  A German officer, Major Siegmann, told Edmonds to identify the Jews by the next morning.

The next morning Edmonds ordered all the U.S. soldiers to assemble outside the barracks.  They did.  Major Siegmann was infuriated.  He walked up to MSG Edmonds snarling, in English, “I ordered the Jews to be separated, to be identified.”  Siegmann drew his Luger pistol and put it to Edmonds’ head.  “You are to identify the Jews, immediately.”

Edmonds did not flinch.  “We are all Jews here,” he said.  He told Siegmann that to shoot the Jews the Nazis would have to shoot everyone.  The Geneva Convention required prisoners only to give their name, rank, and serial number, not their religion. Edmonds said that if any of the prisoners were harmed, Siegmann would be hunted, tried for war crime, and convicted.  Siegmann holstered his Luger and left.  Three months later Allied forces freed these U.S. soldiers.

Edmonds had saved 200 Jews.  He never told the story.  After he died it was pieced together by his son Chris Edmonds, Pastor of the Piney Grove Baptist Church in Marysville, Tennessee.  On 2 Dec 15 Yad VaShem (Hebrew, “a place of memorial”; yad is a hand, shem is a name; Isaiah 56:4-5) the World Holocaust Remembrance Center recognized Edmonds as Righteous Among the Nations.  On 27 Jan 16 in a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy, with President Obama and Ambassador Dermer attending, Rabbi Israel Lau the Chair of the Yad VaShem Council (himself a Holocaust survivor: Buchenwald) presented Pastor Edmonds with Roddie Edmonds’ medal and certificate, the fifth American so honored.

National Poetry Month

By John Hertz:  April is National Poetry Month in the United States.  Science fiction is often set in the future.  So here’s an Englishman of the 16th Century.

What if within the Moones faire shining spheare?
What if in euery other starre vnseene
Of other worldes he happily should heare?
He wonder would much more: yet such to some appeare.

This is from The Faerie Queene (proem to Book II, 3rd stanza); Paul J. Alpers in his anthology Edmund Spenser (1969, p. 21) preserves Spenser’s spelling and punctuation, so I have.  In 1590 happily, like many words then, was closer than now to its root meaning of “occurrence” or “chance”, which we still have in happen.

Wishing you the same.

Rex Stout on Language

By John Hertz: These days we have some of the diversity for which we clamored so long. Not enough, in my opinion, but more than before.

One by-product is that it can less than ever be assumed what people have read or heard. I just asked a woman “Does the name Ernie Kovacs mean anything to you?” She said “Of course.” I said “Not of course. I’ve learned I’d better ask.” She thought it over, and agreed.

Also I’ve been saying “The word oldfashioned is oldfashioned.” We who love diversity may take an interest in things long ago or far away, or both, and discuss them in letters carried by jet airplane, or faster.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) beginning in the 1930s was a name on everyone’s lips, for his fictional detective Nero Wolfe, who never leaves his Manhattan house on business — well, hardly ever — and Wolfe’s assistant Archie Goodwin, who does the legwork.

My Death of a Dude (1969) is the 1981 printing; a note at the back says the 46 stories, many novel-length, had by then been translated into 22 languages and sold over 45 million copies. They are, among much else, fine pictures of life in these United States at the time of writing. I’ve read and re-read them. Maybe you have too.

I say this to bring in a passage that comes to mind (ch. 8). Wolfe is interviewing people — in Montana, a startling place for him to come — about a murder. Goodwin narrates. He uses brackets [ ] for his comments, which I have to report, so I’ll use parentheses ( ) for mine.

* * *

(Mel Fox, who runs a cattle ranch.) “It showed me once more, when I heard about it … that you don’t always know what you’re talking about.”

(Wolfe.) “How could you? Not only ignorance. Man’s brain, enlarged fortuitously, invented words in an ambitious attempt to learn how to think, only to have them usurped by his emotions. But still we try. (To Emmett Lake, an old cowhand.) Mr. Lake. Tell me about Mr. Brodell.”

“Dang Brodell,” Emmett said.

Actually that isn’t what he said…. Those of you who like the kind of words he liked can stick them in yourselves, and don’t skimp.

“Dang [AG] Brodell,” he didn’t say.

“It can’t be done,” Pete Ingalls (postgraduate at the University of California, Berkeley) said. “He’s dead and buried.”

“It was me that said the atrocious [AG] scourge [AG] might marry her, and that shows what a misguided [AG] ignoramus [AG] I was.”

“I thought you were showing understanding and compassion,” Pete said.

“Balls. I said how I figured it. You know what I said. You’re a lot younger than I am and you’re bigger and stronger, but if I sit here and cross my legs good, let’s see you get them opened up. Every breathing [AG] female [AG] alive is a born siren [AG]. The reason I called him an atrocious [AG] scourge [AG] was because he didn’t belong here and all the panting [AG] dudes can thumping [AG] well leave their outstanding [AG] bats [AG] at home when they….”

Oh piffle [AG], that’s enough…. Wolfe stood it a little longer … and then stopped him by saying in a tone that had stopped better men with better vocabularies, “Thank you, Mr. Lake, for illustrating so well what I said about words.”

Learning A New Word

By James H. Burns: Is it possible for a new turn of phrase to enter fandom, or pop culturish affiliated events, without realizing it?

Sunday, when visiting MOCCA Fest, the annual two-day festival sponsored by Manhattan’s Society of Illustrators to celebrate all that’s new and alternative in comics art, I heard a word new to me.

When talking to a couple of twenty-something writers and artists gathered amongst three floors of exhibitors and displays (including a few major publishers), I heard the process of buying space at a gathering refered to as:


I was astonished.

In my day, which I thought was still this day, we called getting a table, “getting a table.” Or, “I’ll be doing that convention.” And, sometimes, “I’ve bought some space;” or even, “I’ll be at that show.”

But “Tabling?”

I thought this was an entirely fresh coinage. But when I Googled, I was surprised to learn that the expression has been around for at least a few years.

As someone who has been friends with some of the “legendary” dealers of the American scene, going back decades, I am compelled to ask:

When oh when, did this happen?

Tuckerization Inflation

Tuckerization — using a person’s real name in a science fiction story as an in-joke – is derived from Wilson Tucker, the author who made the practice famous among fans.

While he originally did it without charge – indeed, usually without the advance knowledge of the victim — in recent years quite a few sf/fantasy authors have been raising money for charities by auctioning off the privilege of being Tuckerized in a story.

And Andrew Porter says the cost of getting Tuckerized is going through the roof. “I paid about $100 to get my name into Robert Sawyer’s novel Mindscan  in a fan fund auction in 2002 or so; someone paid $800, I think, for the right in a Neil Gaiman auction at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon; and  now, $20,000 gets you into a George R.R. Martin book.” Two people have donated that amount to give their names to characters who will be killed horribly in Winds of Winter.

Time Magazine thought that so newsworthy it tracked down and interviewed one of the donors. David Goldblatt, who works for Facebook, says he has chosen to appear in the book as a Valryian, a race known for its purple eyes and platinum white hair.

The second winning bidder, a woman, has elected to remain anonymous. Or at least as anonymous as you can be once you’re a character in what undoubtedly will be a #1 bestseller.


Ned Brooks recently brought the quasiquote to the attention of the Shady Characters blog (about “The secret life of punctuation”) .

Thanks to Brooks, Shady Characters featured scans of two original definitions as they first appeared in mimeographed copies of Speer’s 1944 Fancyclopedia and Tucker’s 1956 Neofan’s Guide.

Jack Speer originally called them quasi-quotemarks:

It frequently is impossible or inconvenient to quote a speaker’s exact word, and not vital to do so. In such a case, you may merely give the substance of what he said, and in place of quotation mark, use quote-marks with a hyphen under each like this instead of qualifying the quotation with a clumsy phrase like “or words to that effect”. Such quasi-quotemarks indicate that you will be answerable for the substantial meaning and implications of the quotation, but either do not have the exact wording available, or have rearranged the construction and wording of the original statement to fit conveniently into your sentence structure. Examples: “but, Every intensely active fan I know of is some kind of disgusting character, says Miske.” “He said he had just been too busy.” (In the first example, Miske’s wording was, “I know of no fan who ranks as ‘intensely active’ who is not some sort of disgusting character.” In the second, “have” in the original has been changed to had).

Author Keith Houston agreed they are useful —

They certainly have a neatly unambiguous function that is not already fulfilled by any other mark of punctuation; writers have been paraphrasing quotations since time immemorial, but either they do not trouble to tell their readers or they signpost their words with exculpatory statements such as “in other words”, or “words to that effect”. And unlike some novel marks of punctuation… the quasiquote is not offensively weird to the eye.

As for myself, I was surprised to discover that what had become a secondary use of quasiquotes by the time I encountered them was once their exclusive purpose. By 1970 they had evolved into something besides an “honest summary.”

I first saw them used in LASFS’ Apa-L, where quasiquotes were often presented as a satirical de-coding of a person’s real meaning. A writer used quasiquotes when mockingly putting words in someone else’s mouth that were more candid but less socially acceptable than what he or she had written, usually done in a kidding manner. I’m now wondering if that innovation was unique to LASFS or spread throughout fandom.

As further explanation I’m tempted to compare how quasiquotes were used in Apa-L with the internet’s “Fixed That For You,” however, online sources don’t all agree what that expression means. It’s at moments like this telepathy would be convenient.

Fans Into Pros

In response to a question from an academic, I spent an hour yesterday generating a list of pro writers who began in fanzines.

Within fandom the idea of what is a “pro” can be rather flexible. Very few people become full-time writers. And among friends, anybody who’s sold one sf/fantasy story might claim to be a “pro.” In the Sixties my local sf club, LASFS, held a Fanquet when a member sold his/her first story. That rite of passage transformed the person’s social identity from fan to writer.

I prefer to reserve the word “pro” for those who have repeatedly sold sf/fantasy stories — who have demonstrated a journeyman level of craftsmanship. In that respect I find myself in company with Dr. Gafia (rich brown)


In fandom, generally it means anyone who has been paid for a published sf story. Although, since it is in fact short for “professional,” it probably should only be applied only to those who have made a significant portion of their living by writing sf.

Surprisingly, there isn’t that great a difference between the minimum fannish definition – anyone who has sold a story – and the minimum professional qualification for a writer to join SFWA as an Active member, which is “Three Paid Sales of prose fiction (such as short stories) to Qualifying Professional Markets” for $250 in aggregate.

Incidentally, I am not including my list of pros-into-fans because I don’t want people who aren’t on it to feel bad. (I’ve made bloggers feel bad enough this week.) Besides, there are only so many Ray Bradburys who belong at the top of this pyramid, and while Mike Resnick has bought a story or two from an awful lot of fans over the years, there is no urgent reason to widen the bottom of the pyramid by adding our names.

Bob Tucker Rides Again

The imminent release of Prometheus prompted Lev Grossman to write about “space opera” for the June 11 issue of Time Magazine (Into The Void, subscription required).

And Grossman remembered to pay homage to fan who coined the term, Bob Tucker —

But the term space opera was originally meant as an insult. It was coined in 1941 by Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker, a novelist and influential science-fiction fan who wrote in his fanzine Le Zombie, “Westerns are called ‘horse operas,’ the morning house wife tear-jerkers are called ‘soap operas.’ For the hacky, grinding, outworn space-ship yarn, or world-saving for that  matter, we offer ‘space opera.’”

[Thanks to Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol for the story.]

Fandom’s Most Beloved Typo’s “Word of the Day” for May 25 is “filk” —

adj. (adj) About or inspired by science fiction, fantasy, horror, science, and/or subjects of interest to fans of speculative fiction; frequently, being a song whose lyrics have been altered to refer to science fiction; parodying.

The Wordnik post takes its definition from the Wikitionary entry for “filk”.

Unlike most developments in the history of popular culture, how the word “filk” got its start is precisely known. Lee Jacobs typoed the word “folk” in the title of his manuscript “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music” intended for distribution in a mailing of the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the early 1950s. While I’ve never seen the article and can’t say what the problem was, Wrai Ballard, SAPS’ official editor at the time, feared its bawdy content could get him into trouble with the Post Office under the Comstock Laws and he refused to send it out. Ballard nevertheless enjoyed the typo, as did the others he told about it. “Filk music” rapidly became part of the faannish jargon.

Thanks to Lee Gold, we even know that the first composition to designate itself a filksong was “Barbarous Allen”, lyrics attributed to Poul Anderson, in Karen Kruse Anderson’s SAPSzine Die Zeitschrift für Vollstandigen Unsinn #774 (1953).

[Thanks to Sam Long for the story.]

Happy Birthday “Nerdagassing”

Two years ago, in June 2008, John Scalzi coined the word “Nerdgassing”. All you students of fanspeak will remember the definition:

Nerdgassing: The venting nerds emit when some (often minor) detail of a book/movie/TV show/comic book/etc either conflicts with canon and/or handwaves through some some suspect science.

John declared at the time, “I coin this word in the name of humanity,” a bit of impudent humor that resonated with me, so I wrote a post that put the new word through its paces.

Lately I’ve wondered — did the word catch on? Who uses it?

A Google search returned 1,980 hits, though only 84 in the past year and just 2 in the past month. John himself last used it on Christmas Day 2008.

On the other hand I know the word remains in fannish memories yet green — as I was researching this post it suddenly popped up in a lively exchange of comments on Joseph Mallozzi’s blog, here and here.

So I learned — nerdgassing is still likely to break out at any moment.