Snapshots 64 Squares on a Chessboard

Here are 9 developments of interest to fans:

(1) Sherwood Smith ponders the durability of the Harry Potter phenomenon in a most entertaining way at Book View Cafe:

A little over a century ago, there was a best seller called Trilby, which in spite of reviewers and readers everywhere hailing as a classic in the making, dwindled gradually to the name Svengali entering the surging sea of detached metaphors whose origin is long lost.

How can we tell at the time if the work is going to become an enduring part of literature or a relative flash like Trilby, all but forgotten the next generation down? When I was young, the two ‘new classics’ were Love Story and Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

(2) Those of you who think there’s really no difference between pros and fans except for their jobs ought to take a close look at the Washington Post’s coverage of Nebula Weekend. Do fans obsess about the potential of awards they’ve won for serving useful household purposes?

Before Rachel Swirsky won the Nebula award for best novella Saturday, she went to an authors’ reception and learned some tips from veterans of the science fiction awards circuit.

“Apparently the Hugo makes a great paper-towel holder,” Swirsky says. “And if you put a sock over the World Fantasy Award,” it looks like a profile of Jacques Cousteau. But what to do with a Nebula — a heavy glass block — no one knew. And so Swirsky, a first-time author whose novella, “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window,” recounts the weary adventures of a resurrected magician, made a vow in her acceptance speech at the Washington Hilton: “I will figure out” what to do with a Nebula.

The idea of using a Hugo as a paper towel holder suggests a previously unconsidered reason why Chesley Bonestell reportedly deposited his 1974 Special Committee Award, a Hugo rocket, in the bathroom atop the toilet tank.

(3) A BBC News program, Egypt’s Lost Cities, shows the uses of high-tech in archeology:

An infra-red satellite image reveals the pattern of streets and houses in the buried ancient city of Tanis in Egypt. The new technique has also shown up the sites of 17 lost pyramids as well as thousands of tombs and settlements.

David Klaus asks, “So which building is the Well of Souls and is the Ark of the Covenant still in it? Where is Indiana Jones when we really need him?”

Dunno. Last time I saw him he was getting bombed inside a refrigerator.

(4) Elsewhere in Egypt a robot explorer has found ancient markings in a secret chamber at the Great Pyramid of Giza:

The markings, which have lain unseen for 4,500 years, were filmed using a bendy camera small enough to fit through a hole in a stone door at the end of a narrow tunnel…

“The big question is the purpose of these tunnels,” he added. “There are architectural explanations, symbolic explanations, religious explanations — even ones relating to the alignment of the stars — but the final word on them is yet to be written. The challenge is that no human can fit inside these channels so the only way to do this exploration is with robots.”

Does this reveal a Fourth Law of Robotics? “Robots must maintain their figures so they’ll be skinny and svelte enough to go places that those big oafs can’t fit.”

(5) There’s nothing high-tech about this third archeological clipping – a big iron anchor was retrieved from the wreck of Blackbeard’s flagship:

Archaeologists recovered the first anchor from what’s believed to be the wreck of the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship off the North Carolina coast Friday, a move that might change plans about how to save the rest of the almost 300-year-old artifacts from the central part of the ship.

Divers had planned to recover the second-largest artifact on what’s believed to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge but discovered it was too well-attached to other items in the ballast pile, said project manager Mark Wilde-Ramsing. Instead, they pulled up another anchor that is the third-largest artifact and likely was the typical anchor for the ship.

CNN explains that Queen Anne’s Revenge is believed to have run aground in the shallow waters off Beaufort in 1718 and was rediscovered in 1996. Blackbeard, born as Edward Teach, died in combat against British naval forces in November 1718 aboard another vessel, Adventure.

(6) Guy Gavriel Kay described his favorite room in the world to the Globe and Mail:

I don’t read (or write) in cafés. I meet friends in cafés. I do read in bed, and in the bath (family newspaper, discerning readers: bad photo idea). But truth is, I’m one of those who prefers his lair, which is my library/office and an old cracked-leather recliner up against bookcases and beside a big painting I love, by Andy Patton. This is my favourite room in the world, with the possible exception of the one in the Musée de Cluny in Paris where they keep the Unicorn Tapestries.

(7) Publishers Weekly blogger Rose Fox met Margaret Atwood at Book Expo America. Asked Fox, “When are you going to write another book that you admit is science fiction?” Despite the mildly snarky tone of the question Atwood responded with a genuine news flash:  

…[She] smiles back and tells me that she is in fact working on a book called In Other Worlds about the history of “science fiction and speculative fiction” (I decide that a crowded, noisy party is not the right place to inquire about her definitions of either term) and it will be coming out from Doubleday/Nan A. Talese in October.

Atwood will be explaining the history of the sf genre? Ook ook, as we intelligentsia say.

(8) Fans of Richard and Wendy Pini’s Elfquest comic series can see the whole series for free online here.

(9) David Klaus followed his story about the Heinlein telephone call with another absolutely true skiffy tale:

I used to put my hand over my kids’ little faces like the face-hugger from Alien and sing-song “Aliens got your face!”, making them giggle.

When he was about nine months old, like his older brother before him at the same age, Ryan said his first words.  He reached up, put his little palm over the tip of my nose and said (I swear!) “A Gah Fa!” (with long-‘a’ sounds at the beginning and end).

Ryan’s first words were “Aliens Got (your) Face”!

I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.

Sounds to me like a challenge to every fan with children, or who ever met a child. I better sign off and start clearing disk space to hold all the incoming e-mails…

[Thanks for these links goes out to David Klaus, Andrew Porter, James Hay and Etaoin Shrdlu.]

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3 thoughts on “Snapshots 64 Squares on a Chessboard

  1. #9: Oh, it’s been done. A Mythopoeic fan we both know taught his tiny daughter for her first sentence to say “Cthulhu is my friend.”

    This was getting on thirty years ago. She survived the experience and is now an astrophysics postdoc. No word yet on whether the Great Old Ones are hanging around extrasolar planets.

  2. It’s pretty much what she’s been saying all along. To her, SF is stories about alien invasions and the Lizard Men of Xenor, and since her books don’t have that, they’re not SF.

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