Pixel Scroll 1/8/22 All My Files Are Packed, I’m Ready To Scroll

(1) SOLDIERING ON THROUGH COVID. ConFusion chair Lithie Dubois has written one of the strongest chair communications I have ever read explaining why the Michigan convention is going ahead. “The State of ConFusion – a Transparent Update from the Conchair”.

My name is Lithie Dubois, and I am the 2022 Conchair. I want to update our community and be as transparent as possible with you. This may be long, but if you are a community member, you will want to read this….

First – are we still holding an in-person event? Absolutely. On January 20, 2022 – myself and my team will begin the task of packing in ConFusion gear to the Sheraton Detroit Novi, and setting up.  

The entire ConCom is deeply aware of the current state of this pandemic, and the Omicron Wave. We understand our community’s concerns, and even their disbelief in the fact that we’re holding an in-person ConFusion. We share in the community’s concerns and fears, as well as their hopes.

Truth is, we have a contract with our hotel. That contract does have what is called an Impossibility Clause. The short explanation of that is as follows; Should the government, be it Federal, State or Local impose orders or regulations which would prohibit us, or the Sheraton from being able to have, or provide what is needed for the event – then we’d be released from the contract with no penalties.  Unfortunately, as of today (Jan 7th, 2022) no such regulations or orders are in place at any level. Thus the Impossibility Clause does not apply. 

…Could we cancel the event outright? Legally, yes. Financially – absolutely not. Make no mistake, ConFusion Community – this con and community does not have $80k, – $90k dollars to pay out the entire contract.

Dubois’ message covers in detail their steps to maximize Covid safety, with changes in program, the con suite, etc.

…As a person who has been involved for many many years running not only fan events, but corporate ones, I can say that I have never had to push my team so hard, so fast, and ask for so many pivots than I have had to do this year. There are countless members of my ConCom that have put in hours of work, while always knowing that they themselves can not attend Rising ConFusion. These individuals helped carry the weight and stress of trying our best to do this the safest way we can, while knowing they’d not even be present to reap the benefits. Then there are those members of the Concom who are able to attend, and have also put in countless hours and brain cells to their departments needs. They’re all STILL working at breakneck speeds.  They are each amazing. While the community may not have witnessed all they have faced, I have.  Truly our community is blessed because of these individuals. Truly.

She also hopes members of the community will help prop up their finances, and suggests two ways to do so:

1) You could purchase a membership – and then not attend. This option will not provide you anything other then the knowledge that you did your best to ensure ConFusion lives on, by supporting the con with your membership. To be clear, we will not be rolling over memberships. If you elect to pre-register a membership and then not attend, that membership will not roll over to 2023, and expires at the end of the 2022 con. 

2) You can directly donate to our cost via our Paypal Donation Link…. 

(2) GIVE READERS WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW THEY WANTED. Clarkesworld hosts “Working Towards Legacy: A Conversation with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer by Arley Sorg” in the January issue.

Ann VanderMeer: …Jeff and I have different skills and talents so that helps make these collaborations work well. He is so good with the bigger picture and the overall concepts; and his instincts are spot-on most of the time. I am a detail-oriented person, so I deal with a lot of the nitty gritty, such as the permissions process (not the most fun, but necessary).

We also made a determination early on that each of us gets one veto (to drop a story) and one selection that cannot be vetoed. Luckily, we hardly ever have to use the veto in either scenario, as we generally agree on all selections before finalizing the table of contents. The bottom line is we have a great deal of respect for one another. This is a key component to our work together….

(3) SLUSH ANALYSIS. Editor Neil Clarke has updated the “Clarkesworld Submissions Funnel 2017-2021”, which breaks down by genre stories submitted and the acceptance rates in each category. Clarke advises against taking it all too much to heart for several reasons, beginning with: “Acceptance rates are fundamentally misleading. They suppose that all stories are equal in quality and we all know that isn’t true.”

…Over the last five years, the percentage of submissions reaching the second round has dropped significantly and the conversion from second round to acceptance has grown from 8% to nearly 35%. These changes are the likely result of our work with the slush team and how we recruit, monitor, and provide feedback to them….

(4) SPRING IS COMING. SF² Concatenation has just tweeted its second advance post ahead of its full spring edition. It’s an article comparing the novel Dune with both its cinematic adaptations.

Frank Herbert himself liked the film script, stating in Starlog in January 1983 that “Believe me, it is good, about two hours, 10 minutes, maybe.”.

The critics were less kind. Critic Roger Ebert’s comment is fairly typical of most. He said, “This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”

SF² Concatenation’s full spring edition is slated for mid-month.

(5) HOLMES. Collector Glen S. Miranker will share his passion for Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects, an exhibit at the Grolier Club in New York from January 12-April 16.

Highlights include leaves from The Hound of the Baskervilles; four short story manuscripts; original artwork by the British and American illustrators who created Sherlock’s iconic look for readers; a wealth of holograph letters from Arthur Conan Doyle to friends, colleagues, and well-wishers; a fascinating cache of pirated editions; the only known salesman’s dummy for the US Hound; an “idea book” of Conan Doyle’s private musings in which he (in)famously penned “Killed Holmes” on his calendar for December 1893; and a handwritten speech—never before displayed—with the author’s explanation for killing Holmes:

“I have been much blamed for doing that gentleman to death but I hold that it was not murder but justifiable homicide in self defence [sic] since if I had not killed him he would certainly have killed me.”

The New York Times helps build anticipation for the exhibit in “A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the Grolier Club”.

This has the makings of a detective story with hints of history: Why did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sign a pirate edition of “The Sign of the Four,” the second of the four Sherlock Holmes novels? Conan Doyle hated pirate editions. He was as famous for denouncing pirate publishers as they were infamous for grinding out cheap editions — and not paying royalties to authors like him.

Consider the plot possibilities here. Did someone force Conan Doyle to write words above his name that he could not have meant — “Yours cordially”?

Sherlock Holmes and Watson are not available to tackle this one, but Glen S. Miranker is on the case. He acquired the evidence years ago….

(6) RETURN TO THE ROCK. Fraggle Rock has been revived and is going to be on Apple TV+ starting January 21.

(7) TOLKIEN SOCIETY ADDS TO ARCHIVE. The Tolkien Society has purchased a historic collection of Tolkien photos taken by Pamela Chandler in 1961 and 1966.

In 1961, Pamela Chandler was commissioned to take portraits of Professor Tolkien. The formal black and white portraits were taken in his study at 76 Sandfield Road, Oxford.

At that time she also took informal photographs of the Professor and his wife, Edith, in the garden.

In 1966, when visiting the Tolkiens, she took a further series of less formal colour photographs of them both, in the study and in the garden.

…The 64 original negatives (which includes the copyright) were bought by the Tolkien Society at auction earlier this month for £18,000 (auction listing here), and the Society anticipates generating a modest income from these into the future. The Society also purchased at the same event lot 1470, two hand-written letters by Edith Tolkien, and lot 1465, a letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Pamela Chandler.

The Society anticipates making these photos available to the Tolkien community for research and academic purposes, as well as generating a modest income from photo libraries and similar agreements. The Society shall be including more information about the photographs, as well as Pamela Chandler, on the website in due course. Until then you can support the Society by purchasing a postcard collection of 8 photographs, or by making a donation to the Society.

(8) JANE HAWKINS (1951-2022). Seattle fan Jane Hawkins died January 7, the day after explaining on Facebook why she was going through Washington State’s Death With Dignity procedures to end her own life. Hawkins had survived multiple cancers, but the latest recurrence came with a terminal diagnosis, and last November she stopped treatment and entered hospice care. “I have gotten to the point where enough drugs to quell pain pretty much renders me unconscious. I can’t focus on a book, a few minutes conversation wears me out completely, and snuggling with my lovely cat is just barely pleasant. Bluntly put, I just don’t want to be doing this anymore.”

Hawkins was a member of Seattle’s Vanguard fan group and hosted its monthly meetings for years. She was a founder of Norwescon, co-chaired three Potlatch conventions, and worked on many other cons including WisCon, Corflu, and Noreascon 3. She wrote one novel, Quantum Gate (1996), and was part of the Pacific Northwest Review of Books 

Jeanne Gomoll has written a deep-felt and insightful tribute to her friend Jane here on Facebook.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1989 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, the Belgian Detective, the most famous creation of that author, premiered on ITV.  

Over the thirteen series and seventy episodes which ranged in length between fifty and a hundred minutes, some ten production companies would be involved in creating what we saw. Each episode was indeed adapted from original material by Christie. 

David Suchet is the only actor to appear in the entire series though Hugh Fraser as Captain Arthur Hastings and Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector James Japp appeared in the first eight series. Pauline Moran as Miss Felicity Lemon appeared in most of the first eight series. Their absence reflects the stories of the latter series. 

Reception for the series was excellent starting with the family who recommended Suchet for the part.  Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard commented: “Personally, I regret very much that she never saw David Suchet.” It even won an Edgar Award for Best Episode in a TV Series for “The Lost Mine”. It holds a near perfect ninety-nine percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor when Doctor Who first aired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years, leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listings for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.)
  • Born January 8, 1941 Boris Vallejo, 81. Illustrator whose artwork has appeared on myriad genre publications. Subjects of his paintings were gods, hideous monsters, well-muscled male swordsmen and scantily clad females. Early depictions of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, and Doc Savage established him as an illustrator.
  • Born January 8, 1942 Stephen Hawking. Y’all know who he is, but did you know that Nimoy was responsible for his appearance as a holographic representation of himself in the “Descent” episode of Next Gen?  He also guest starred in Futuruma and had a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. Just before his death, he was the voice of The Book on the new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger which is well worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI AgentPhillip Jeffries which was his last role. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what am I leaving y’all to mention?
  • Born January 8, 1956 Jack Womack, 66. Ok I was trying to remember what I’d read by him. I realized it was his excellent Ambient novel when it first came out and that I hadn’t kept up with his later writings. So what do y’all think of his later novels? I know, he stopped witting essentially a generation ago except for his Flying Saucers Are Real! non-fiction release. Non-fiction? Really? Truly?  I was surprised the he’d won but one Award and that was the Philip K. Dick Award for his Elvissey novel. 
  • Born January 8, 1958 Lou Aronica, 64. Editor and publisher, primarily of science fiction. As a publisher he began at Bantam Books and formed their Bantam Spectra line. Later he moved on to Avon and assisted in the creation of their Avon-Eos line. He co-edited the Full Spectrum anthologies with Shawna McCarthy which won a World Fantasy Award once. He wrote three genre novels.
  • Born January 8, 1965 Michelle Forbes, 57. Best remembered as  Ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation, she also showed up in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor film as Admiral Helena Cain, and the most excellent pilot of Warren Ellis scripted Global Frequency as Miranda Zero. She played Maryann Forrester on True Blood as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GET YOUR KICKS FROM 1966. “Batman rewatch: We will never see anything like Adam West’s Batman again, alas” mourns Yahoo!

…By the time Adam West published his memoir in 1994, it was conventional to think of him as a bad actor and his Batman as a travesty. Dark Knights on page and screen were moping through BDSM role-play, getting spine-crunched by philosophical ‘roidheads, and carving steel cleats across Superman’s chin. West’s version looked like a toothless punchline in reruns. Which was, of course, the point. “We were farce,” West explains in Back to the Batcave (co-written by Jeff Rovin). “We were a lampoon.” The book reads defensive. Critics were wrong to call his series “camp.” Comic book fans were wrong to say his silliness ruined the character. The creators of the TV show were wrong not to pay him more money. The mega-grossing 1989 film Batman was wrong, because Michael Keaton‘s moody hero was “psychotic,” “addle-headed,” “shallow,” and “unpleasant.” (West wishes the film had starred West.)

No one reading Back to the Batcave had seen Lookwell, the astounding pilot West filmed a few years earlier. He plays a struggling actor semi-famous for a long-gone, three-season TV show: Hmmm. Former fake TV cop Ty Lookwell tries to solve actual crimes, and still chases hot-young-dude casting calls. He should be adrift in the wrong era, a turtlenecked Gloria Swanson washed up on grunge beach — but his baritone assurance warps the world around him. The script came from two young whoevers, Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel, and they realized West’s stentorian I-Am-So-Normal manners had gotten weirder (and funnier) with age….

(13) SIMULATE KINDNESS. The December 19 New York Times Magazine has an interview with New York University philosopher David J. Chalmers about what life would be like if we were living in a simulated work like The Matrix. “Can We Have a Meaningful Life in a Virtual World?”. [May be paywalled.]

“You can try to think of our own physical universe as being a digital universe with bits at the bottom.  That’s not pathological:  that’s just a way for the world to be.  I want to normalize this idea of simulations; I quite like the recent movie Free Guy where the guy discovers he’s a character in a video game, and instead of totally freaking out— –None of this is real!– –he starts a movement.  It’s like, OK, we’re real people, too, and our lives matter and our world matters. That’s thinking of the simulated world not as dystopia but as a place where people can live meaningful lives.”

(14) HARD TRUTH. Try to control your disappointment (yeah, right) – Yahoo! covers the big non-discovery: “Moon Cube Mystery: Chinese Rover Finds It’s Just a Rock”.

…Last November, China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover spotted something curious on the far side of the moon. The image was blurry, but it was unmistakable: The object looked like a cube sitting on the moon’s surface. Its shape looked too precise to be just a moon rock — perhaps something left by visiting aliens like the monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

China’s space authorities called it the “mystery hut.” Others called it the “moon cube.” Yutu-2 was sent for a closer look, and at the leisurely speed the rover is capable of traveling, it took weeks to get up close.

On Friday, Our Space, a Chinese language science channel affiliated with China National Space Administration, posted an update. There is no monolith, no secret base on the rim of a lunar crater. Close up, it turns out to be just a rock. The seemingly perfect geometric shape was just a trick of angle, light and shadow….

(15) BIRDSTRIKE. [Item by Michael Toman.] I thought you (and Other Filers’n’Friends in the Lone Star State?) would be interested in this story I found on MSN: “Texas Walmart Overrun by Thousands of Birds Branded Sign of ‘Apocalypse’”.

…Shoppers were seemingly trapped in their cars—and presumably the store—when the flock descended onto the supermarket’s parking lot, off highway 80 in Mesquite.

One man, named Denis Mehic, filmed the “terrifying” spectacle from his car, where he sat with his children as birds swarmed the vehicle, with droppings landing on the windshield….

Will DisneyNature be streaming this “True Life Adventure” soon?

P.S. And here’s a Shout-Out dedicated to ol’ Winston Hibler!

“Now there’s something you don’t see in the sky every day, Woodrow!”

Now what, Gus?”

“Yonder, over there, past those railroad tracks…”

From Larry McMurtry’s uncut first draft of Lonesome Dove?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Matthias Pilhede hates wizards especially if they have all-seeing orbs!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Ro Nagey (1953-2020)

Ro Nagey

Longtime fan Ro Nagey died July 27 announced a friend on Facebook. She had been struggling with her health since the end of 2019, and in and out of the hospital for most of this year. Ro’s cause of death was listed as COPD.

After meeting other fans at the 1973 Worldcon from Ann Arbor, where Ro was currently attending the University of Michigan as an engineering student, she founded the Stilyagi Air Corps. Their weekly meetings were held in the back room of the Cloak and Rocket, a science fiction bookstore (now long defunct) where Ro was employed.

Ro announced in 2013 that she had transitioned to female, so I will be using she/her pronouns throughout.

With Ro at the helm, the Stilyagi Air Corps ran its first con in a single function room in 1974, then launched a full-sized con in 1975, ConFusion, originally held in Ann Arbor and later in Detroit. The group voted to call its fanzine Cap’n Ro’s Whiz Bang when Ro was out of the room.

Ro dined out for years telling fans the dramatic and silly story of “The Secret Handgrip of Fandom,” based on events at the 1974 PghLANGE in Pittsburgh. A rococo version is in the Ditto 14 program book (starts on page 6.) Be warned that it’s rife with all kinds of sexual attitudes and innuendo that give Seventies fans the reputation that they enjoy today (to quote Captain Renault).

Ro met her good friend Larry Tucker at that first ConFusion, and much of Ro’s own early fannish autobiography threads through the obituary she wrote about Tucker when he died in 2013, for example —  

I had a party at my house for the Stilyagi to celebrate a lunar eclipse. I called it “Big Bird Eats Moon”. It started in the afternoon. It was definitely an early 70’s party. One-third of us were drinking copious quantities of beer, one-third were tripping on LSD and nearly everyone was smoking.

Larry was there to videotape it. Artist Randy Bathurst and SMoF Ross Pavlac were hilarious. They were stone-cold sober and were only drinking soda. At one point, Randy picked up one of my black kittens (I had two: Buddha and The Bitch) and put it halfway into his mouth. Ross and Randy – two very, um, large men – got into a belly bump contest.

That 1975 party is also where I first met Ro. I was in the Midwest for a year taking a master’s degree in popular culture at Bowling Green (OH) State University. And that summer I got to ride with Ro, Ro’s wife Lin, and another Michigan fan to Midwestcon in Cincinnati.

Ro became a science writer after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Engineering Science, “a theoretical midpoint between Engineering and Physics,” according to her bio at Amazing Stories. Her first writing was for the magazine, Automation, which coined the word.

A recognized expert in industrial computer control, she published hundreds of articles and edited several books on industrial motion and control. She represented tech companies such as Apple Computer, Allegiant Technologies, Runtime Revolution and her own software company, Royal Software, at conventions and seminars in America and Europe. Apple Computer sold her software, LiveCard, and featured it during a keynote presentation at the Apple Developers’ Conference. She helped create the Masters of Education (Computers) at Johns Hopkins University.

Ro also achieved fame as an improvisational comedian, appearing with Stephen Leigh as “Cosmos & Chaos,” an improvisational comedy juggling act.

In December 2003 Ro remarried, and moved to Wales where Ro’s wife Heather lived.

The next news I had about Ro came ten years later, with her telling friends in fandom about transitioning to female. Ro became active with organizations in the UK that worked as advocates for transgendered persons, and periodically wrote on Facebook about the hazards and fears she experienced, such as —

A Welsh government survey said that 78% of the transgender community had reported being verbally abused and 48% of the transgender community had been physically abused. So, yes, every time I walk out the door there’s still a thought in the back of my mind if today will be the day I get abused. I’ve been verbally abused. I hope it never gets worse than that….

By 2016, Ro’s health had deteriorated and she wrote in a GoFundMe appeal, “I can barely walk 30 feet and that’s almost always with a three-wheeled Zimmerman frame.” Incapacity forced her to abandon plans to attend the Worldcon in Kansas City.

A long series of illnesses and injuries followed. The ups and downs sometimes came on the same day, as when Ro said some Facebook friends cut ties after she came out as trans, but then David Gerrold made a complimentary comment about her writing. A re-energized Ro concluded: “The majority of you who gave me support all along, love you too!”

Pixel Scroll 1/26/18 The Pixel Scroll Shadow Jury

(1) HE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. Marissa Lingen praises the ConFusion committee’s handling of her report about a highly contentious audience member who tried to commandeer more than one panel at the con — “It’s not your turn, sir.” Here are a few excerpts from her step-by-step summary of what happened and thorough analysis of the issues involved.

…So let’s talk about my second panel, Disaster Response in SFF. I was moderating. A gentleman in the audience had enough of the free-flowing discussion provided by the panelists, apparently. He did not wait for Q&A or even raise his hand. He just jumped right in, interrupting the panel to lecture us with a long, hostile, rambling comment on his own theories of where this panel should go and how wrong we all were for not going there….

…Okay. So. I talked to some friends, some of whom were involved with the concom/staff, and given what I was saying and what they were hearing about his behavior, they encouraged me to file an incident report. ConFusion’s ops team did everything right here. Everything. They made sure that I was seated comfortably, offered water, offered my choice of report formats (written or out loud), that I had a person with whom I was comfortable with me for the whole time, that I could discuss my statement rather than just turning it in and not knowing whether it was getting any attention. They asked after my safety and comfort and what would make me feel safe and comfortable going forward at the con.

Here’s what felt like a sea change to me. Here’s what makes me write about this: they did not minimize OR maximize response. They were proactively interested in an incident of someone being rude and disruptive. At that point I was hoping that just having the incident report on file would be enough, that not having further confrontation would allow this person to go on with his con and simmer down, focus on time with friends, other panels, etc….

… 2. This was not sexual harassment. But it was gendered.

The person he approached to complain about me on Sunday was, like me, wearing some of the trappings of traditional femininity. The people who laughed in his face Friday afternoon with no complaints, no consequences to themselves? All male. All male and all masculine. And yes, I was the moderator on my panel–but he didn’t say a word about Patrick cheerfully saying, “Bye!” to him as he departed, or about Patrick backing up my moderating. There was no complaint about Patrick. It was all me.

I’ll cope with it. That’s fine. But see it for what it is.

Dealing with sexual harassment in convention spaces is hugely important. It has been hugely important for me personally. But don’t for a moment make the mistake of thinking that it is the only gendered interaction that matters. And don’t think for a moment that the dynamic would be the same if he’d decided to turn up glaring with Patrick or treat a male concom member the way he did the person on Sunday. It’s no accident he didn’t try–and so conventions need to be equally deliberate in their handling of this sort of thing. ConFusion was, and I thank them for it.

(2) GROWING EFFORT. John Picacio announced other pros have joined him and John Scalzi to fund Worldcon 76 attending memberships for Mexicanx creators and fans.

Ty Franck — one-half of the blockbuster literary team James S. A. Corey — has kindly joined my effort to improve #Mexicanx representation in sf/f. He’s now sponsoring one attending membership to Worldcon 76 in San Jose, while ace photographer Ctein is sponsoring two more attending memberships.

(3) NO-LONGER-SECRET AGENT. Scott Edelman lets you sink your teeth into Sicilian with Barry Goldblatt in Episode 58 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Barry Goldblatt

At the suggestion of Barry Goldblatt, who founded the eponymous Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency in September 2000, we met at Bella Gioia, a Sicilian restaurant in Park Slope. A wonderful choice! But that’s to be expected when you get together with Barry, for he and I have eaten the fantastic many times before at such restaurants as Alinea in Chicago and Olo in Helsinki—though this is the first time you’re being invited to eavesdrop.

Barry’s clients including such writers as previous guest of the show Fran Wilde, Christopher Barzak, Libba Bray, Charles Vess, Nisi Shawl, and many others.

We discussed why he ended up as an agent rather than an astronaut, the happy accident that led to him being taught by the legendary science fiction writer James Gunn, the time Lloyd Alexander caused him to burst into squee-filled tears, J. K. Rowling’s first U.S. book signing and how she changed children’s publishing forever, what everyone thinks they know about agents that’s totally wrong, the sorts of things he’s told authors to help take their work to the next level, why it sometimes makes sense for him to submit a less than perfect book, whether the YA market is doing a better job with diversity than adult fiction, what he’s been looking for that he hasn’t been getting, and much more.

(4) FUN MUSEUM. The Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery near Portland, Oregon has these events coming soon:

  • 1-28 Sunday Noon – Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons
    Learn the basics of Role Playing with paper; how to create a character, roll dice, join an adventure, and more.
  • 2-1 Thursday 7 pm – Games Talk with Kyle Engen
    Our Steward of Research Kyle will be talking about graphic design in games, using selected items from the collection.

(5) STORIES OF FUTURE PAST. Rocket Stack Rank adds another way to find the good stuff – from 2016. Greg Hullender explains:

Not everyone uses Rocket Stack Rank to find things to nominate; some people just use it to find stories to read. Toward that end, we put together a look back at the best stories of 2016, combining results from all the different reviewers, anthologies, and awards that we follow to produce a comprehensive ranked list.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction”

In the future, we’ll try to do this by August (so the 2017 version should be available in just six months). We’ll have a few follow-up pieces that play with the statistics in this data.ef

(6) MORE LE GUIN TRIBUTES. In the Paris Review

The thing about Ursula K. Le Guin was that she didn’t actually look like a rabble-rousing, bomb-throwing, dangerous woman. She had a gentle smile, as if she was either enjoying herself or enjoying what the people around her were doing. She was kind but firm. She was petite and gray haired, and she appeared, at least on first inspection, harmless.

The illusion of harmlessness ended the moment you began to read her words, or, if you were so lucky, the moment you listened to her speak.

She was opinionated, but the opinions were informed and educated. She did not suffer fools or knaves gladly, or, actually, at all. She knew what she liked and what she wanted, and she didn’t let that change. She was sharp until the end. She once reviewed a book of mine and was not altogether kind about all of it, and I discovered as I read her review that I would rather have been chided by Ursula K. Le Guin than effusively praised by any other living author.

  1. There is no reason a book of ideas can’t also be deeply moving, gorgeously written, and inhabited by people who take rooms in your heart and never move out.

(7) LE GUIN FAMILY NOTES A SUGGESTED CHARITY. Ursula Le Guin’s family has stated that the charity closest to her heart is the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

(8) REAL SPACE OPERA. Atlas Obscura lets you “Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera”, Rigel 9. Recording at the link.

If you’re an Ursula K. Le Guin fan, you’ve likely spent a lot of time in Earthsea, home to endless archipelagos and magical beings. You might have ventured to Gethen, with its glaciers and androgynes.

But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.

(9) JOHN CREASEY OBIT. Filker John Creasey died January 25. His wife, Mary, made the announcement on Facebook:

My husband, John Creasey, passed away this morning around 0915 or so. I hadn’t gotten there by then (he WOULD pick the day when I DIDN’T make my morning visit!). He was still on a ventilator until a doctor officially pronounces him. He had been going downhill for quite a while (multiple systemic infection organ failures), and hadn’t really recovered from the last septic shock crash. He had been non-verbal and non-communicative for at least the last two weeks. I will post later about funeral plans and such. I’m not going to collapse yet; he’s been effectively mostly out of our lives for over a year, and barely aware for much of the last six months, and that only occasionally, so this isn’t really much of a shock. I’m just glad he’s finally not hurting any more.

 

Joe Bethancourt (hat), Richard Creasey (young man in tie-dye) and John Creasey (larger adult man) perform Bethancourt’s filk song “Fishin’ for Chickens” at ConChord in 2005.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 26, 1964:  Hammer’s Kiss of the Vampire opens in its native United Kingdom
  • January 26, 1995:  Peter Weller stars in Philip K. Dick adaptation Screamers.

(11) TWO DAYS AGO’S BIRTHDAY BOY (SORRY WE MISSED IT!)

  • Born January 24, 1944 – David Gerrold

(12) THE SECONDS BLEED AWAY. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says it’s 2018 and time is running out:

IT IS 2 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

2018: The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world.

(13) FREE COMIC ONLINE. Marvel is giving you the chance to dive into THANOS from rising stars Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, the series that IGN is calling “one of Marvel’s most exciting titles” – for free.  THANOS #13, the first Marvel Legacy issue and the kick-off to Thanos Wins, is available now as a free digital comic for a limited time.

Head to www.marvel.com/redeem, enter the code THANOSWINS by Tuesday 1/30, and start reading now! Don’t miss the series that Comic Watch has raved is “the Mad Titan in all his power hungry glory.”

(14) WINTER WONDERS. Heavy Tokyo snowfall leads to snow-minions, snow-Jabba: “Japan’s amazing snowmen will blow your mind”. Photos at the link.

(15) INDIE PUBLISHER FOLDING. When Evil Girlfriend Media closes, it’s taking JDA’s Dragon Award-nominated novel with it  [link to Internet Archive]. Says JDA, “[it] will most likely not be available 30 days from now.” The publisher announced on Facebook they are ending the business:

Dear Readers,

I have notified our authors and editors that I am pulling their books from distribution. Their books will begin to drop from Kindle Select over the next 90 days with some as early as January 31. You can no longer purchase their books as an ebook but may borrow until the end of the 90 day period.

EGM went on hiatus last year for many reasons including that I took a new position with my employer. The commitments of this position make it impossible for me to continue in the publishing business. I hope you all support other indie publishers out there. It takes a lot of money, time, and dedication to create great books.

It has been a fast-paced and enjoyable couple of years. I look forward to the future and enjoying the great works the authors and editors I’ve worked with create.

Respectfully,

Katie Cord

(16) AN INDIE PUBLISHER STILL WITH US. The Kraken Collective is celebrating its anniversary this week — #KrakenFriends2018 Is Here!

The Kraken Collective is an alliance of indie authors of LGBTQIAP+ speculative fiction,  committed to building a publishing space that is inclusive, positive, and brings fascinating stories to readers.

 

(17) SHARKE REFLECTIONS. Shadow Clarke juror Nina Allan’s “Afterwards: thinking about the Sharke”, posted last September, may not have been mentioned here before:

The Sharke has changed me in multiple ways, most obviously as a critic and as a reader. Looking back on the self that first conceived the project, I now believe I had become as entrenched within a certain comfort zone as any hardcore space opera fan, accustomed to looking in the same places for what I deemed noteworthy, places that accorded comfortably with my expectations, which in their turn had mostly to do with style. How much more interesting to strip away one’s assumptions and see what happens. To come at things from a different angle. To stop feeling the need to fight a particular corner in terms of what is good and what is best. Personally, I’m still not a fan of The Underground Railroad. To my mind, it is possibly the most ‘commercial’ novel on the Clarke Award shortlist and its bland surface texture renders it ultimately forgettable to me as a reading experience. I find some of the sentence structure, not to mention the use of science fiction in Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me to be far more interesting. I have found the abstruse weirdness and raw vitality of Ninefox Gambit hanging around in my mind far longer than, for example, the sensitively rendered but ultimately predictable dystopian role-playing of Clare Morrall’s When the Floods Came. Viewed from this new perspective, the landscape of science fiction looks much more exciting to me than it did even before the Sharke was launched.

(18) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. Lela E. Buis shares her “Review of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff”.

The year is 1954, and African American war veteran Atticus Turner is traveling north to Chicago. His dad Montrose has disappeared somewhere in New England, and with his Uncle George and his friend Letitia, Atticus sets out to find him…..

This is an entertaining read, as the characters are all resourceful and end up accomplishing what they need to do through the application of determination and common sense. Regardless of the Jim Crow setting, the characters feel contemporary, as if Ruff has set characters with modern sensibilities into the Lovecraft milieu.

I’ve read some other reviews that promote this book by saying racism is the real horror in the story. I didn’t really see that. If you’re unfamiliar with the facts of Jim Crow segregation and the kind of discrimination African Americans faced in the 1950s, then I suppose this could be a surprise. Presumably Ruff set his story in this period at least partly to display the racial issues, but actually he skims over it as fairly matter-of-fact. Everybody deals and nobody gets lynched.

What really stood out for me instead was the message that these black characters read and treasure the SFF classics of the day by Lovecraft, Burroughs, Bradbury, Asimov, etc., without any disconnect because of their race. Is that so? Currently these writers are all considered to be both racist and sexist because they reflect the attitudes of their era….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Jay Byrd, Michael Toman, ULTRAGOTHA, Karl-Johan Norén and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Larry Tucker (1948-2013)

Larry Tucker at Contraption Kaizen, May 1991. Photo by Michael P. Kube-McDowell.

Larry Tucker at Contraption Kaizen, May 1991. Photo by Michael P. Kube-McDowell.

By Ro Nagey: Larry Tucker died October 8, 2013. Crippled by strokes and other attacks, his body finally gave up today.

I imagine a lot of the people that are in the Stilyagi Air Corps, the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association (AASFA), the ConFusion sf con and the Science Fiction Oral History Association (SFOHA) might never have met Larry or know his enormous influence on those organisations and fandom in general. Even more likely, you never got to know this incredible clever, funny, involved human being that I was lucky enough to know. If there’s one thing I wish to communicate is the awesome human being he was.

I met Larry Tucker at the very first ConFusion back in 1975. As chairperson, I can tell you that none of us knew what we were doing. It was like having a three-day nervous breakdown. We had great fun and learned a lot – we must have as ConFusion, (the successor to the A2 Relax Icon held in ’74), is celebrating its 40th anniversary in January, 2014.

It was on Friday when Larry and Zita Kutkus came up to me in the programming room and introduced themselves. They were dragging all this video equipment with them. This was the early 70’s. They had a Sony Portapak ½” reel-to-reel video tape deck, a state of the art black-and-white camera, a monitor, a tripod and seemingly miles of cables and cords. They asked to videotape what we were doing.

I don’t remember my answer. I bet I said “no.” I was so over my head in running the con that I didn’t want another ball to juggle. I wish I hadn’t. It was an amazing con in so many ways. I would kill to have a video of that con. We had hoped for perhaps 100 people based on the previous year’s numbers. Over 300 people had shown up by then with more on the way. There’s a fine line between Chaos and Confusion and we were balancing on that thin line.

But that was Larry’s entrance into my world. As a result of being at ConFusion, he joined the Stilyagi and threw himself into fandom at large.

Larry changed my life and he changed fandom. Larry had the most interesting energy about him. He saw bullshit for what it was and could – in a single comment – both capture the bullshit, kill it and make fun of it at the same time. The thing was: most people didn’t notice what he was doing. He had this natural humour about him that shielded him from criticism.

It was such an effortless sense of humour. It was like he was able to see the Universe’s Big Jokes and could share them with us. Whether at Stilyagi meetings or the inevitable meeting after the meeting at the Village Bell – whether at parties at homes or at cons – Larry could spot where he needed to be to keep the Stilyagi and its incredible mixture of diverse people together. It was an art, a dance. And I only realised this much, much later in life.

Larry was the prototypical Gentle Man against which the rest of us were measured.

He worked tirelessly on the cons and in promoting ConFusion at other cons. It was sort of a religion for us back then. Ann Arbor had found this amazing thing called fandom and the even more amazing people that made up the Stilyagi. We were definite evangelists back then.

It really was The Day of Giants.

Larry brought me into his world of video. His mother, Nancy Tucker (later, Nancy Tucker Shaw, ran the AV Center at the University of Michigan School of Education and we had access to the studio and could check out the equipment at will. Larry was my first and very important collaborator. We clicked. We were Yin and Yang. I was the crazy one who dreamed far larger than I had any right to and Larry – while wildly creative – was also incredibly detail oriented and kept our stuff tethered to reality.

One day, we took the ‘portable’ equipment (the batteries alone weighed like 10 pounds each and lasted for 15 minutes or so) and went out onto the Diag at the UM Campus. We did impromptu interviews. There was no plan. We were just weird people doing weird interviews. It evolved: ultimately, the interviews involved me asking people if they had heard the rumour that a black hole had hit the Earth and what their reactions were. Interestingly, only about 10% of the people knew it was a goof. The rest was pure gold.

We had no ‘vision’ when we did the interviews. Larry took the footage and turned it into “The Thing That Ate Gorgonzola University”. There is a priceless interview with a lovely co-ed who got genuinely concerned. “Where did it hit?”. I grabbed a country at random: Japan. “O, no!!!! I am studying intensive Japanese!!!” And off she went to talk to her advisor.

Although a common enough sort of thing today, in 1975 or ’76 when we made this, it was, I humbly suggest, ground breaking.

I don’t take credit for this. Yes, it was I doing the interview but it was Larry who had to lug this monstrously heavy equipment around on a hot summer’s day. It was he who figured out the camera angles. It was Larry who took the footage and made it what it became. I knew nothing about video work back then. Hell, no one did.

Larry made it all happen.

I had a party at my house for the Stilyagi to celebrate a lunar eclipse. I called it “Big Bird Eats Moon”. It started in the afternoon. It was definitely an early 70’s party. One-third of us were drinking copious quantities of beer, one-third were tripping on LSD and nearly everyone was smoking.

Larry was there to videotape it. Artist Randy Bathurst and SMoF Ross Pavlac were hilarious. They were stone-cold sober and were only drinking soda. At one point, Randy picked up one of my black kittens (I had two: Buddha and The Bitch) and put it halfway into his mouth. Ross and Randy – two very, um, large men – got into a belly bump contest.

Larry recorded all of this. He did this as only he could. When people needed to feel the presence of the camera, he was obvious in taping them. At other times, he would retreat to the background and capture intimate moments. Larry Tucker had chops. In a better Universe, he would have gone to New York or Los Angeles and been famous for his incredible skills.

Again, we assembled it – with some additional studio footage involving Jerry Steele – into the “Big Bird Eats Moon” video.

We didn’t do it for any other reason than we had a blast making them.

I studied Engineering at UM and wore a train engineer’s cap for giggles. During one taping, Larry took my hat and added a pair of “Groucho” glasses (sans moustache) that I had laying around and “Uncle Albert” was born. This was Larry’s great alter-ego and he appeared in print, audio and video fanzines. To the best of my knowledge, he deserves credit for producing the first video fanzine. He produced Uncle Albert’s Video Fanzine and the cassette-taped Uncle Albert’s Electric Talking Fanzine.

His opus magnum was FAANS. It was filmed at various Midwest conventions and featured an all-star cast of fans and pros.

He also made the only known tapes of Cosmos & Chaos shows: an improvisational comedy juggling act consisting of author and fan Stephen Leigh and myself.

Larry also was a true “key” member of ConFusion. He could be counted on to pick up slack and to take on odd jobs with no advanced notice. He never complained … well, at least not to me.

Before leaving Ann Arbor for work in Cleveland, author Lloyd Biggle (our Pro GoH at the A2 Relax Icon and a Stilyagi supporter) came up with the idea for the Science Fiction Oral History Association. Larry was so on top of it from the beginning. SFOHA was dedicated to recording the history of sf and fandom. Both Larry and his mother, Nancy, helped make SFOHA a success from the very start.

Larry chaired or co-chaired three ConFusions from ’78-’80: “Confusion ?”, “E/c2 Confusion (aka Mass Confusion)” and “Confusion 6 and/or 7”. and remained a fixture on the ConCom for some time. He was the Toastmaster in 1982 at “Confusion 11” and again in ’98 at “ConFusion of the Winnebagos”. He was Fan Guest of Honor in 1988 at “Ambulatory ConFusion”.

Larry was always passionate about the Stilyagi Air Corps and ConFusion. Very passionate. There were more than a few times when his passion rubbed people the wrong way. I know this first hand as I received more than a few phone calls after I had moved to Cleveland from Stilyagis that were having issues with how Larry wanted to do things. That’s the thing about passion: it carries a price and Larry paid it in full.

Larry attended every ConFusion, no matter what. Even after his stroke, Kathy Becker made sure Larry attended in 2012.

And Larry was passionate about life and love. He had a few serious relationships over the years: Zita Kutkus, Leah Zeldes, Debbie Rigdon and, of course, his only wife: Misti Anslin. Larry and Misti were married from 1996–2001.

Given his last name, it was only natural that the joke was started that Larry was Bob Tucker’s son. Both had fun with this.

Nancy had been equally important in the first decades of ConFusion and SFOHA. They shared a loving and healthy relationship. The loss of his mother, Nancy Tucker Shaw, in 2000, was a huge loss for Larry.

Larry was a wonderful, funny creative person. Although I didn’t know enough at the time, looking back, I think he had depressive issues when I first met him – not crippling but I think it was a undertone that, tragically, became a major chord later in his life. He was diagnosed, much later, with depression and atypical bipolar disorder. The meds he was on apparently never worked, according to his ex-wife, Misti. His condition grew worse over the years.

The American healthcare system is barbaric and the social safety net is virtually non-existent. Over the years, Larry’s circumstances – crushing poverty due to inability to work – meant that he had to get rid of all the great creative work he had created.

He was homeless for a while. He finally found a place to live: a room in a low-rent motel in exchange for cleaning rooms and doing maintenance.

In 2011, he suffered a massive stroke. He never bounced back. In fact, it was a downhill trip from there. He had some incredible support from a small-group of friends who visited him regularly long after he was capable of communication. These were saints.

And now, Larry is gone.

I love you, Larry. I will miss you with all my heart and soul. You were one of a kind and we won’t likely see your kind again.

I celebrate his life when it was good and he was free to be and curse the Universe for when it went horribly wrong.

Help Restore His Work!

If you have any of Larry’s work: here’s a chance to help keep Larry’s brilliance alive! So much of his work has been lost.

If you have any of his fanzines – whether in print, on cassette tape and on video…if you have any of his videos: “Big Bird Eats Moon”, “The Thing That Ate Gorgonzola University”, “FAANS” or any of the “Cosmos and Chaos” tapes, please consider either putting them in digital form or send them to me and I will. So much of his work has been lost.

If necessary, contact me privately and I will help you get it to the right place.

Greetings for Glicksohn

Mike Glicksohn, the well-known Toronto fanzine fan, has been under treatment for cancer for some time. He missed attending this year’s Confusion, the first time he failed to attend the con in its 38-year history. Rick Lieder let him know how much he was missed by recording video greetings to Mike and his wife Susan from their many friends. The video has been posted online [YouTube].

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story, via Joel Zakem.]