The Love [to Spy on You] Boat

Something I didn’t know about the cruise experience is that apparently passengers are incessantly spied upon. News coverage about the woman who went overboard from the Norwegian Pearl, far from expressing surprise, treated it as a welcome development:

The Coast Guard spokesman called the three-hour search “standard operating procedure for them, when they aren’t certain that someone has actually gone overboard.” He also said that the videotape, which is being analyzed by the FBI, is “crucial” to search efforts. According to Orlando, Fla., TV station WFTV, there were about 1,000 surveillance cameras aboard the Norwegian Pearl, raising hopes that more images might help authorities figure out what happened to Ellis-Seitz.

I knew that was standard in Las Vegas (remember the Corflu Silver progress report that warned against the hotel’s intrusive security?)

Coincidentally, the Norwegian Pearl is operated by the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). The company’s passenger fleet once included the S.S. Norway, proposed site of the 1988 Worldcon. Mike Resnick witnessed the birth of the Bermuda Triangle bid at L.A.con II:

That night I went out onto the lanai with John Guidry. After awhile we found a couple of empty chairs and sat down to visit with Neil Rest, who was busy fantasizing about making a Worldcon bid for a cruise ship. Before long he had attracted a hell of a crowd, and by daylight hundreds of people were urging him to make it a real bid. John walked away thinking if there was so little serious support for any Central Zone cities that people actually would support a cruise ship, maybe it was time to put together a New Orleans bid. So that evening saw the birth of two bids: Nolacon II, which won the 1988 Worldcon; and the Boat, which came in second in a field of four.

The committee’s letter of agreement with NCL called for $1.8M to be paid before the boat left the dock. That would have been a sobering thought if sobriety had been much valued by Hurricane-drinking site selection voters.

A final bit of trivia: the S. S. Norway was retired by NCL in 2001. Today it is beached at Alang, India, ready to be broken up. The courts have spent two years reviewing environmental reports and finally given permission for it to be scrapped.

Clarke Condolence Book Delivered

After the sudden death of Sir Arthur C. Clarke last spring, Yvonne Penney created a book of condolences to be sent to the Clarke family and circulated it at conventions for fans to sign. The Penneys brought it to Ad Astra and at Corflu Silver, then Apogee Books publisher Rob Godwin took it to several space conferences.

Fred Clarke now has the book. Godwin spoke with him by phone and reported back to Yvonne: “He got the book and was genuinely thrilled to receive it. I wrote a blurb in the front explaining that it was started by you. Anyway, he just told me that the local town council have finally agreed to give him a building to put in an Arthur C. Clarke museum and the book will be going on display under glass with all the pages blown up and displayed behind it. Just thought you’d like to know that it was a really nice thing you did and it was genuinely appreciated. Last person to sign it was Buzz [Aldrin]…”

Yvonne’s reaction was, “I’m so touched by this… really…I was not expecting this.”

Thanks to Lloyd Penney for sharing the story.

Minehead & West Somerset HospitalI searched for more information about the Clarke museum. It may be part of the plan for the West Somerset Hospital in Minehead, the town where Arthur C. Clarke was born:

A shared vision for the future of the West Somerset Hospital in Minehead has united community and public sector organisations across West Somerset with a single aim to try to keep the historic listed building for the community…

Julian Luttrell, Chairman of the group, explained, “The hospital was built as a town hall in 1889, before it was converted into the Luttrell Memorial Hospital and, latterly, the West Somerset Hospital

The aim of the feasibility study is to establish the ways in which the hospital can be developed to play a significant part in social and cultural life locally. The study will look at the possibilities of incorporating a library, exhibition and museum space, and community arts space, study rooms and offices. It will also explore whether the works and theories of Minehead-born author, Arthur C Clarke, can be celebrated, and there will be scope to look at commercial and residential aspects of any proposals.

And I believe the image above is a picture of the hospital.

New Issue of File 770, the Fanzine

Cover of File 770 #153 by Taral Wayne

The new issue of File 770 is posted at eFanzines as a PDF file. (Paper copies were mailed on June 30.)

James Bacon and I do some last minute fanzine Hugo handicapping. My tribute to Worldcon toastmasters “Silverberg and Resnick – That’s Entertainment!” is in the issue. John Hertz reports several valuable news stories. Mystery writers Mary Reed and Eric Mayer answer my questions about writing historical fiction. I write up my Corflu Silver experiences. James Bacon tells about a day of his honeymoon visit to South Africa. There’s a great cover by Taral Wayne, and new illos by Alan White, Brad Foster and Alexis Gilliland.

Jack Speer (1920-2008)

Jack Speer at Bubonicon 36 (2006)

“First Fandom member and writer of the Fancylopedia Jack Speer passed away this morning [June 28],” writes Patricia Rogers.

Speer’s famous Fancyclopedia, published in 1944, formalized definitions for hundreds of terms in use by fans.

Prior to that, in 1939, he wrote the first history of science fiction fandom, called Up To Now. It was very hard to find copies until just last month when Robert Lichtman recreated it as a PDF edition and posted it at eFanzines. In this zine, Speer first articulated the idea of Numbered Fandoms (fannish historical epochs), which ever since has occupied many a fan’s idle hours.

Speer also innovated several indispensable bits of faanish typography, including the quasi-quote mark and the interlineation. He contributed to faanish cosmology by inventing FooFoo, the ghod of mimeography, fearsome foe of Ghu.

According to Don Fitch, Speer was diagnosed as terminal some weeks ago. Still, Jack had managed to attend Corflu Silver in April, making his way around with the aid of a portable oxygen supply, attentive to everything going on. The con’s classic moment was when fellow eo-fan Art Widner serenaded Jack with the first-ever filksong, written by Jack himself.

Although the term “filksong” had yet to be invented, several of these songs were sung at the 1940 Worldcon. Jack created them by setting new lyrics with a science fictional theme to familiar tunes. A snippet of one goes:

We’ll build a tempo-ship
And we’ll take a little trip,
And watch a million years go by.

In 1995, Speer received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. In 2004, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Noreascon 4. His collection, Fancestral Voices, was published by NESFA Press for the occasion.

Having spent decades thinking of Speer as a distinguished founding father of fandom, as he certainly was, I’ve tended to overlook that he was having a helluva lot of fun while making history. This point is brought home by Harry Warner’s anecdote about Speer at the 1947 Worldcon in All Our Yesterdays:

From time to time that Saturday night, the happy fans were vaguely aware of the existence of loud, intermittent noises. Several Philadelphians explained them away as a local phenomenon that occurred when sewer gas caused manhole lids to lift violently in a sort of municipal burping. However, the real facts were not at all like that. During a late drinking session…Speer had suddenly remembered the existence of fireworks in the hip pocket of the Quintessence of FooFoo, his current auto…. Several roman candles later, policemen in a squad car gave [Speer and other fans] a warning about discharging fireworks within the city limits… [Afterwards], Speer and Davis seem to have taken up strategic posts on upper fire escapes [of the con hotel]… Firecrackers and skyrockets were alternated to provide variety… When the police returned… they paid $5.00 apiece at the 21st District Station for disturbing the peace. The investment was at least partly justified because the pyrotechnics had helped Willy Ley find his way to the hotel.

A later e-mail from Patricia Rogers concluded with this request: “I talked with Ruth [Jack’s wife] for around an hour this evening. The memorial will probably be on July 8 or 9.  She has asked me to speak about Jack and his role in SF/Fandom at the service. I know a fair amount but if you or anyone you can think of has anything they would like to add – I would be happy to – just let me know.”

Corflu in My Ears

Bill Mills’ Voice of Fandom podcast #16 allows your ears to spend an hour at the recent Corflu Silver. Bill & Roxy Mills lead in with their experiences from the convention, followed by the Opening Ceremony. There’s a treasure trove of music: Bill’s “Goin’ To Corflu Blues” and his duets with Teresa Cochran; Nic Farey sings “Werewolves of Fandom,” and 90-year-old Art Widner sings the first filksong ever written. There’s even an excerpt from the performance of Andy Hooper’s play.  

Bill Mills Starts Virtual Fan Lounge

Bill Mills, encouraged by the success of last weekend’s Corflu Silver Virtual Con Suite, is launching a continuous Virtual Fan Lounge utilizing the same software.

According to Arnie Katz: “As with the Virtual Con Suite, the Virtual Fan Lounge will have live and re-broadcast video feeds when available and will feature slide shows of fannish photos, cartoons or other graphics when there’s no video to show.

“The first live video feed will occur on Saturday, May 3. The Vegrants invite you to join them for their meeting, which is likely to include music by Bill Mills and Teresa Cochran and discussions featuring some of the Vegrants. The approximate starting time is 8:00 p.m. PDT (but it wouldn’t hurt to check in earlier). The Virtual Fan Lounge will have a live feed from the club on the first and third Saturdays of every month.”

To visit The Virtual Fan Lounge go to Select “Virtual Fan Lounge” from the menu. That will take you to a page of information about the chat room which includes a link to the Virtual Fan Lounge. Registration and sign-in is only required to participate,  not to read.

Update 5/2/08: Corrected registration requirement to match what it says at the site.

Corflu on the Fly, Part Virtual

Peter Sullivan announces: There is an almost-full transcript of the Corflu Silver Virtual Con Suite, from the morning of Friday 25th to the evening of Sunday 27th. This is stitched together from the transcripts that both Geri Sullivan and Peter Sullivan kept over the weekend.

It would probably be unfair, from a privacy point of view, to post the transcript on a web-page or other publicly-accessible places. But if any fan wants a copy, they can e-mail Peter at peter “at”

The transcript is almost 70,000 words (424k) and, as with most chat-rooms, people talk (or type!) over each other in places. “But there’s a lot of interesting fannish discussion and humour (intentional or otherwise!), so worth a read.  But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I?” concludes Peter. 

Corflu on the Fly, Part V

Here is what technology has done for fandom. Thanks to the Internet, I can run out to the lobby after the Corflu banquet and post the bits of news revealed by the speakers — to be read mainly by an audience of people who already saw every moment via the online simulcast. 

Those bits of news begin with the Fanzine Activity Achievement — FAAn — awards.

  • Best Fanzine: Prolapse, edited by Peter Weston
  • Best Fan Artist: Dan Steffan
  • Best Fan Writer: Arnie Katz
  • Best Letterhack: Robert Lichtman
  • Best New Fan: John Coxon
  • Best Fan Website:
  • #1 Fan Face: Arnie Katz

Then Len Bailes announced that the participants in the Virtual Corflu (in the chatroom), which drew as many as 38 fans at one time, had all signed a special award certificate of thanks to Bill and Roxy Mills.

There really has been a Virtual Corflu, and during yesterday’s state of fandom panel those logged on held a lively discussion of the topic. Peter Sullivan has posted his transcript on the Corflu LiveJournal community.

Other Corflu Honors: Ted White polled the audience and determined that the Past President of Fan Writers of America (fwa) for 2007 had been Dan Steffan.

Finally, everyone acclaimed Randy Byers’ bid to hold next year’s Corflu in Seattle.

Corflu on the Fly, Part IV

Saturday afternoon at Corflu Silver began with a team trivia contest requiring UK fans to answer questions about US fanhistory, and US fans about UK fanhistory. Ken Forman emceed. Andy Hooper invited me to fill out his US team, along with Ted White and Robert Licthman. The UK team included Sandra Bond, Mark Plummer, Nic Farey and Dr. Rob Jackson.

It was remarkable how much fanhistory the two teams darn near but didn’t quite know, which kept the score very close til the end. We did know a few things, as the score was announced as 55-55 during the game. The final outcome was decided by an improvised sudden death question. I think the US team won. At least, Ken Forman afterwards showed me a scoresheet with a big checkmark on that side of the ledger.

Next, fans performed Andy Hooper’s play “The Price of Pugwash” as a reader’s theater. Lise Eisenberg, Len Bailes, Randy Byers, Lloyd Penney, Bill Mills and the rest did very well delivering the lines and carrying off the humor. It was another excellent script by Hooper.

The anchor leg of the afternoon’s program was the auction. Treasures like Warhoon 28 and a 1946 Worldcon program book went on the block. I was very happy to get three early issues of Energumen. I became active in trading fanzines around 1971, so I had already missed several issues of that zine, which set the standard for fannish genzines at the point where I was learning what that was.

Update 4/28/2008: Thanks to Sandra Bond for supplying the name of the fourth member of the Brit trivia team, Dr. Rob Jackson. Update 4/29/2008: And as Mark Plummer points out, he was on the trivia team, not Claire. At this point I can either admit how amped I was to be in the game, which seems to have had a drug-like effect on my ability to remember who was on the other team, or simply claim my view of them was eclipsed by Nic Farey’s hat. Hmmm…