Terry Bisson Remembered

Terry Bisson in 1996. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

By Gary Farber: Terry Bisson, writer extraordinaire, died January 10, 2024. It’s now January 18th, and his preliminary obituary is already off the Locus front page, though we’re told that a full obituary will appear in the February print issue.

Terry never had a hit novel, though at least two of his short stories, “Bears Discover Fire” and “They’re Made of Meat” became almost instant classics and have each been reprinted in many anthologies, as well as bootlegged the hell out of all over the interwebs.

But you can read the details of Terry’s published works in the Locus Online obituary, and you can read an excellent personal retrospective on Terry’s life by John Kessel on Facebook.

I’m here largely just to say a bit about the Terry I knew; I don’t claim to have been a close friend; I simply worked with Terry sporadically for the couple of years I was at Avon Books in the mid-Eighties, saw him socially on occasion, and in later decades, after we’d both moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d see him at the “SF in SF” events Terry coordinated for years, wherein excellent, often up-and-coming, writers would be interviewed superbly by Terry and talk about their work.

I first met Terry in early 1986, when we were both doing a variety of freelance editorial and writing work for Avon Books; mostly, but not entirely, for John Douglas, a senior editor at Avon.

Terry was a good friend of John’s, but also had been and continued to be a freelance expert copywriter for a variety of mass-market and trade genre houses/lines, well-known after a time as one of the very best in the business.

Terry could write immaculate cover copy for any category of book, any flavor, any writer.

When I did that work, I’d have to stare at a manuscript, flipping through it, trying to find hooks and approaches and good quotations, but Terry would just sit down and turn out nearly instant copy, whether by pen or typewriter — yes, that’s how long ago this was — and the copy would never have to be revised. It sparkled and hooked readers.

Terry worked mostly closely with our tiny science fiction department because Terry wrote brilliant science fiction and fantasy short stories and novels himself, which is likely how you know him.

All of Terry’s books are worth picking up, and worth picking up before they eventually become collector’s items, I suggest, as none, be it hardcover or soft, were published in huge numbers.

Only Terry’s fine short stories sporadically hit the reprint slot machine and one or more of those is probably how you know him.

I had the privilege of working on the paperback of one of his best novels, Talking Man, which I gave out numerous copies of after we published it, trying to stir up as much attention to it as I could, far more than I did with almost any other Avon book I worked on; it was one of the works we did that I was most proud to have helped out on, though all I did was my usual junior scutwork — arranging front and back matter, checking each stage of production, circulating the work on to the next department and the next, assigning a completely superfluous copyeditor, and engaging in a long variety of the other trivial details that go into the production of a paperback, as usual with all of our department’s books (as well as working on various other assignments of my own).

Terry wrote at least four other Hugo-nominated short stories, a couple of Nebula-nominated and one winning story, and picked up a number of other award nominations and wins. None of his novels, alas, got that sort of attention.

One thing Terry concealed from all but his closest friends for many years were his politics. It was only after months of working with Terry that he slowly confided in me that he was, oh noes, a communist.

As more months passed, Terry slowly let me know — after repeatedly swearing me to utmost secrecy, for reasons that became obvious — more details about his past, which included close support of comrades in the Weather Underground. Terry eventually went to jail for several months as a result of his beliefs and activities. Many writers talk the talk, but Terry walked the walk, all of his adult life, with his politics; later he went on to edit many chapbooks for the left-wing P.M. Press, as well as write biographies of Mumia Abu-Jamal (“On a Move: The Story of Mumia Abu-Jamal”) and Nat Turner for another left press.

Terry put great thought into his politics and his activities, in which he supported innumerable hardcore leftist causes that frequently few other people would touch. Terry was a fucking revolutionary. But only a strong researcher will ever adequately begin to document that side of his life. An entire essay about Terry’s political history and activities remains worth writing by someone.

That was also Terry’s other publishing life: working unpaid for various tiny leftist publishers, making their output look beautiful.

For many years Terry lived with fear that word about his politics would slip out — and we’re not talking about soft liberalism — and he’d be blacklisted. So far as I knew, that never happened in the 20th century. After Terry’s move to the Bay Area and cessation of freelance work in NYC, he became more and more open about his politics, as they became less and likely to bring him legal trouble.

Terry’s politics struck me as a combination of 1930s Old Labor Communism and hardcover revolutionary 1960s militant communism, all carefully hidden discreetly in the 1980s under a calm and unflappable exterior.

Terry’s sf and fantasy I’ll leave to the far more competent analysis of others, but all except his work-for-hire work, which he largely hated doing, are worth reading: the two handfuls of novels, and several dozen short stories. As well as other oddities, such as his Locus “future history” paragraphs-at-a-time.

One thing that happened, alas, is that Terry very sensibly one day realized that he could make more money at any grunt job than he could writing and selling wild tales about filming movies on Mars, or folk wizards in Kentucky, where Terry’s roots were. Terry very much remained a rural Kentuckian throughout his life, as was easily hearable in his language, both in person and in some of his writing. Talking Man is only one of the most obvious examples.

All of Terry’s books are brilliant, and yet there are Wikipedia articles for only one or two, including that Kentucky-wizard book, Talking Man, and including one of Terry’s only fictional works where some of his politics slipped out, into an account of what might have happened if John Brown’s Raid had succeeded.

In genre fiction, Terry’s words graced the covers and interiors of more books than we’ll ever know, absent some fanatic biographer addressing Terry’s history as it should be. He became one of the most sought-out copywriters in genre fiction, freelancing for various publishers.

Terry was also one of the most hilarious people I’ve ever met, muttering asides frequently, sometimes barely more than under his breath.

Science fiction/fantasy lost one of its great writers today and the worst part is that hardly anyone will know it for a long time. He will be, and already is, much missed.

It’s a shame that both David Hartwell and John R. Douglas are dead, as they’re the only two people I knew whom I think could really begin to do Terry Bisson’s publishing career, at least, justice in death.

But if you hunt long enough, you may find the three in a bar somewhere, telling each other scandalous and obscene stories. I suggest you keep looking.

[Reprinted by permission.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/23 Take Back The Links, Take Back The Scrolls

(1) WORLDCON VENUE CONSTRUCTION REPORT. A Weibo user posted a video showing progress at the Chengdu Science and Technology Museum and Science Fiction Museum construction site. Here is a screencap from the video.

(2) WHEN FACEBOOK IS OUT OF TUNE. Somtow Sucharitkul shared his good-natured response to an annoying example of Facebook moderation.

(3) FIGHTING BACK. “Booksellers Move to the Front Lines of the Fight Against Book Bans in Texas” reports the New York Times.

With a book-rating law set to take effect in September, a group of booksellers, along with publishers and authors, filed suit to argue that it is unconstitutional.

A group of booksellers, publishers and authors filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to stop a new law in Texas that would require stores to rate books based on sexual content, arguing the measure would violate their First Amendment rights and be all but impossible to implement.

The law, set to take effect in September, would force booksellers to evaluate and rate each title they sell to schools, as well as books they sold in the past. If they fail to comply, stores would be barred from doing business with schools….

…Charley Rejsek, the chief executive of BookPeople in Austin, said that complying with the law would be impossible. BookPeople — which takes its name from Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451,” in which a group of people try to preserve books in a world where they are burned — was founded in 1970, Rejsek said. The store does not have records of titles sold over the last half century, much less a way to know which of them are still in circulation — but under the law, BookPeople would be responsible for rating those books.

“I don’t see a clear path forward for complying with the law as written,” she said. “I don’t know how I can rate them if I don’t have any records.”

Going forward, she said, BookPeople would have to read and rate many thousands of titles requested by school districts. Some might be in languages her staff cannot read, she said.

“I want to work with schools,” she said. “But I just literally can’t find a way to comply.”

(4) BLERDCON. Listen as NPR’s “Here and Now” shares how “Blerdcon celebrates Black nerd fandom throughout the year.

While summer may be the season for fan conventions, Blerdcon is unique in catering expressly to Black nerds (or blerds).

Founder and CEO Hilton George explains the rise of Black nerdom and the events he puts on to celebrate it throughout the year.

(5) FAMED MYSTERY BOOKSTORE OWNER. The Bookshop Podcast’s Mandy Jackson-Beverly interviews Otto Penzler of The Mysterious Bookshop.

In this episode, I chat with Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop about publishing, the genre of mystery and crime fiction, female mystery writers, and collecting first editions.

Opened in 1979 by Otto Penzler, The Mysterious Bookshop is the oldest mystery specialist book store in America. Previously located in midtown, the bookshop now calls Tribeca its home.

The bookshop stocks the finest selection of new mystery hardcovers, paperbacks and periodicals and also features a superb collection of signed Modern First Editions, Rare/Collectible hardcovers and Sherlockiana.

(6) THE SPACE PROGRAM’S ORIGINAL COMPUTERS. PBS’ American Experience covers “The Women Who Brought Us the Moon”.

…The women working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1960s were all highly trained mathematicians, and many possessed advanced degrees. Helen Ling was born in China and experienced a tumultuous childhood formed under the pressures of WWII. Coming to the United States for college, she earned her master’s degree in mathematics before leading the computing section in a managerial role for over three decades. There was also Janez Lawson, the first African American hired in a technical position at the laboratory. She held a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UCLA and by modern qualifications would be hired today as an engineer. However, in the 1950s, her gender and race impeded her employment and she was brought in as a computer….

The section on JPL is followed by another devoted to the African American computers at the Langley Memorial Aeronautic laboratory in Hampton, Virginia made famous by Hidden Figures.

…In a system designed to repress their advancement, the African American women became indispensable. “A Trojan horse of segregation opening the door to integration,” Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in Hidden Figures, her 2016 nonfiction book documenting the groundbreaking female African American computers at Langley and adapted into a feature film of the same name. In the book, Shetterly focuses her narrative on three human computers turned engineers: Katherine Johnson, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. While their careers spanned decades, their contributions to early human spaceflight are most frequently lauded…

(7) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] A number of SF-related clues in Wednesday’s Jeopardy! episode, for some reason all in the first round.

I’m Blue, $200: This Oscar-winning actress has a certain mystique playing Mystique, who, deep down, is all blue

Challenger Lucas Partridge got it right: “Who is Jennifer Lawrence?”

All Kinds of Literature, $600: “Bowman could bear no more. He jerked out the last unit, and HAL was silent forever” is a line from this sci-fi work

Lucas knew this one.

Recent TV Shows by Episode Title, $400: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”

Lucas tried “Obi-Wan”, which left the field open for returning champion Julie Sisson to respond, “What is ‘The Mandalorian’?”

I’m Blue, $400: In this novel, a character is described as having “the half-tint blue eyes that told of off-planet foods in his diet”

Nobody knew what this one does. (I’ll presume that all the Filers do.)

Recent TV Shows by Episode Title, $600: “Dear Offred”

Lucas got it right: “What is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?”

“Da” or “Ba” or “Dee”, $800: It’s a word describing motorcyclist Bud Ekins, or the name of a Marvel hero

The third player, Alex Muhler, responded with “What is Daredevil?”

(8) ONE RING. Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman star in 57 Seconds, debuting September 29.

Time bends, revenge ignites, and survival hangs by a thread in 57 SECONDS! Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman team up in this heart-racing action thriller. Franklin (Hutcherson) seeks vengeance against the man who killed his sister and the corporate empire he reigns, as he discovers a time-altering ring dropped by tech guru Anton (Freeman) that propels him into a pulse-pounding battle for survival.

(9) DAVID K. M. KLAUS (1955-2023). Longtime fan and File 770 contributor David K. M. Klaus died July 27 at the age of 67. He is survived by his sons Kevin and Ryan.

Gary Farber wrote a reminiscence on Facebook which begins with meeting David at Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon. About the David he knew for the next almost-fifty-years he says:

…Eager to help, friendly like a puppy, and occasionally overdoing it a bit. He helped several more times on sf conventions I worked on in later years, as well as many others. He also remained a major fan of fanzines and attempted to contribute to local clubs in the various places he lived. Science fiction clubs being what they are, sometimes his efforts were more compatible than others. But he truly wanted to help and was looking for no other reward.

David felt passionately, beyond passionately, about his various enthusiasms, especially his beloved STAR TREK, which remained central to the core of his ethos and who we was. David Klaus was always Starfleet in his own mind.

And now he no longer has to deal with the pain of his relatively recently deceased wife of many years, Nila….

Nila and David met at a Star Trek club meeting, married, and were together for many years, til he lost her to ovarian cancer in 2016.

I was honored with the rare opportunity to have dinner with the whole family when I was in St. Louis on business in 2010.

However, over the years our friendship experienced sudden peaks and valleys, the reasons for which I won’t go into here. Fortunately our last exchange of emails in 2022 ended on an up note when I told him, “I should just point out some things I respect about you. You took care of your family, raised your sons, worked hard. You kept it together. There are some things in that line I’d like to have done as well as you did.” 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1938 Pierre Christin, 85. French comics creator and writer. In the mid Sixties, collaborated with Jean-Claude Mézières to create the science-fiction series Valérian and Laureline for PiloteTime Jam: Valerian & Laureline, a French animated series was released, and a feature film directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, was released as well. A officially released compilation of the Valerian & Laureline series is on YouTube here.
  • Born July 27, 1948 — Juliet Marillier, 75. She’s a New Zealand-born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She contributed to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1939 — Sydney J. van Scyoc. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Assignment Nor’Dyren is one of her better novels. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. (Died 2023.)
  • Born July 27, 1952 Bud Webster. Writer known for his essays on the history of science fiction and genre anthologies. His Bubba Pritchert series, all four stories, is fun reading indeed. He did but a handful of stories but essays as I alluded to above, oh my. Mike has a loving look at him and everything he did here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 55. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, which won a BSFAHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she is a Karl Edward Wagner Award winner as well.
  • Born July 27, 1973 Cassandra Clare, 50. I read at least the first three or four volumes of her Mortal Instruments series which I see means I’ve almost completed it. Damn good series. Anyone read her Magnus Bane series? Interestingly she’s been nominated for myriad Goodreads Choice Awards and won two for City of Fallen Angels and City of Heavenly Fire.

(11) A HOWARD BROTHER. Slashfilm points out that “Star Trek: SNW’s Latest Guest Star Appeared in Star Trek When He Was Six Years Old”.

…In “The Corbomite Maneuver,” the U.S.S. Enterprise is approached by a massive and mysterious alien spaceship, perfectly spherical and possessed of immense destructive power. The ship is called the Fesarius, and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) can only communicate with the Fesarius’ captain, Balok (voiced by Ted Cassidy), via audio. Balok declares that he very much intends to destroy the Enterprise using his superior weapons. Thinking quickly, Kirk bluffs; he says that the Enterprise is equipped with an imaginary substance called Corbomite that would react negatively to a weapons attack and destroy both ships. The bulk of the episode is a standoff between the two captains. 

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is able to hack into the video cameras on board the Fesarius and gets a visual of Balok. Children of multiple generations likely recall the nightmare-inducing image of Balok’s evil face. Cruelly, the “Star Trek” producers included Balok’s evil face over the credits of every episode. 

At the end of the episode, however, it is revealed that Balok was also enacting a bluff. He was not an evil, blue-skinned alien, but a creature that looks an awful lot like a six-year-old boy. Balok was merely testing Kirk and would love to chat diplomatically. 

Balok was played by a six-year-old Clint Howard, an actor who has revisited “Trek” periodically over the decades, and he appears in the latest episode of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” as a general in the Klingon Wars. 

…Howard’s latest “Star Trek” appearance is in “Under the Cloak of War,” a flashback episode which shows what Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) and Dr. M’Benga (Bab Olusanmokun) experienced during the Klingon Wars. Nurse Chapel arrives at a remote Federation outpost that is being aggressively bombarded by Klingon forces and is immediately made one of the chief medical officers because her predecessor was just killed in combat. Howard shows Nurse Chapel around, completely jaded by death and unaffected by the violence. …

Collider has an episode recap: “’Strange New Worlds’ Season 2 Episode 8 Recap: War Makes Monsters of Us All”.

(12) SFF COFFEE BREAK. Bones Coffee Company offers the Crusader’s Cup blend.

Crusader’s Cup is a wise choice for those who want to embark on a flavor-filled journey with hints of nutty chocolate, butterscotch, and caramel. If you’re ready to take on the world and explore new horizons, grab Crusader’s Cup and set out on your next adventure.

(13) PRIME REAL ESTATE CAN BE YOURS. Here’s another plug…. GameSpot says “Lord Of The Rings Monopoly Is On Sale At Amazon Right Now”.

Ever wondered what it would be like to own property in Middle-earth? Well, you can find out if you pick up the Amazon-exclusive Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings edition while it’s on sale for just $26 (normally $45). This price is from a third-party seller, but if you’d rather buy directly from Amazon, you can get it for $32.49 with Prime shipping.

Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Edition reimagines Hasbro’s classic board game with locations, characters, and items from The Lord of the Rings film series directed by Peter Jackson. For example, instead of the original game pieces like the top hat and thimble, the game uses the iconic members of the fellowship–Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, Merry, Boromir, and Gandalf. Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings edition also adds new rules where players compete for control over The One Ring and journey to Mordor along with the classic Monopoly gameplay….

(14) WRITER NOTED AS BODYPAINTING SUBJECT. “At NYC Bodypainting Day, Naked Bodies Become Artists’ Canvases” in the New York Times.

…Across from a Pret a Manger near Union Square Park, Nicolette Barischoff held still as an artist painted an open blue eye across her sternum on Sunday. It was around 88 degrees and a crowd had assembled around them. But the temperature and the audience did not faze Ms. Barischoff. Nor did the fact that she was naked.

“It’s a very Zen experience,” she said, as photographers snapped pictures from behind police barricades. “This is my fishing.”

Ms. Barischoff, 38, a writer in Los Angeles, was among the 60 people who had paid $100 to become mostly nude human canvases for 40 artists during NYC Bodypainting Day, a public art exhibition that has been staged annually since 2014. This year’s installment was the 10th — and the last, according to the event’s founder, Andy Golub, an artist. He said he was ending it to focus on other projects for his organization, Human Connection Arts….

Barischoff’s online bio at Uncanny Magazine tells about the many sff projects she’s worked on:

Nicolette Barischoff has spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome. She qualified for SFWA with her first three stories, published in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, and Unlikely Story’s The Journal of Unlikely Academia. Her work has been spoken aloud by the wonderful people of PodCastle, and one of her novelettes is mandatory reading at the University of Texas, Dallas. She edited the personal essays section of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, which won a Hugo Award. She’s also a fierce advocate for disability and body-positivity, which has occasionally landed her in trouble. She made the front page of CBS New York, who called her activism “public pornography” and suggested her face was a public order crime. She has the exact same chair as Professor X, and it is also powered by Cerebro.

(15) THE MARTIAN PARTICLES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature reports a wide range of organic compounds found by Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater on Mars: “Diverse organic-mineral associations in Jezero crater, Mars”.

The results come from the rover’s Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument.

The SHERLOC instrument is a deep ultraviolet (DUV) Raman and fluorescence spectrometer designed to map the distribution of organic molecules and minerals on rock surfaces.

(16) NUCLEAR PROPULSION BACK ON THE DRAWING BOARD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Rocket geeks of a certain age will remember the NERVA program, one of the first attempts to design a nuclear thermal rocket engine.

Well, NASA and DARPA are reviving that concept with the intent of a test flight as early as 2027. This version will be limited to cislunar space, but the idea is to enable flight to Mars and possibly beyond. “The US government is taking a serious step toward space-based nuclear propulsion” at Ars Technica.

Four years from now, if all goes well, a nuclear-powered rocket engine will launch into space for the first time. The rocket itself will be conventional, but the payload boosted into orbit will be a different matter.

NASA announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the US Department of Defense to launch a nuclear-powered rocket engine into space as early as 2027. The US space agency will invest about $300 million in the project to develop a next-generation propulsion system for in-space transportation.

“NASA is looking to go to Mars with this system,” said Anthony Calomino, an engineer at NASA who is leading the agency’s space nuclear propulsion technology program. “And in this test is really going to give us that foundation.”

… The basic idea is straightforward: A nuclear reactor rapidly heats up a propellant, probably liquid hydrogen, and then this gas expands and is passed out a nozzle, creating thrust. But engineering all of this for in-space propulsion is challenging, and then there is the regulatory difficulty of building a nuclear reactor and safely launching it into space….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. One of many trailers shown at SDCC is this one for Popeye The Sailor, a live-action fan-made film.

Based on characters created by E.C. Segar, Popeye The Sailor is a No budget, action, adventure fan film coming later this year. Before Olive, before Bluto, before Sweet Haven and its many residents, this feature film tells the story of a younger Popeye, wandering the world alone, living with questions of his past. In his quest to find answers, new foes are met, and new allies are made.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, David Goldfarb, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Jim Shull Rediscovered

Jim Shull’s cover for Mike Glyer’s fanzine Prehensile 8.

By Gary Farber: Holy mother of Ghu-Ghu, Foo-Foo, and Roscoe!

I sent Jim Shull a Friend Request a few years ago after noticing him on Facebook and realizing that he must be the great fan artist of the 1970s, whose work filled fanzines such as Energumen, Xenium, Outworlds, The Spanish Inquisition, and so many other fanzines of that era that it seems as if he must have given “fillostrations” to nearly every quality fan publisher of the time.

Best known then as “James Shull.”

He also graciously sent me illos that I used in my crappy little fanzines when I was a teenager.

He wasn’t just prolific, but one of the most talented fan artists to ever grace science fiction fanzine fandom, being nominated for the Best Fan Artist Hugo no less than five times: 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978.

As well, he was nominated for the Best Serious Fanartist in the classic fanzine FAAn Awards (set up by a committee of peers that included well over a dozen well-known faneditors and fanzine fans; I was the administrator of the very last iteration — sort of) in 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978. (Technically the “Fanzine Activity Achievement Awards.” And not to be confused with the FAAN Awards subsequently given out by the CORFLU convention; these were earlier.)

Sometime after that he seemed to disappear from fandom.

I never noticed him posting on Facebook and more or less forgot that he was on here. His entire set of posts to this day consists of only a handful of photos.

He has “only” 243 Friends on FB and we have only two mutual Friends, Hank Luttrell and Leah A. Zeldes, which did help confirm for me that he was the Jim Shull I knew from fandom when I first noticed his FB presence, many years ago now.

So I was just reading a Washington Post piece looking back on “Why Disney’s pricey Star Wars hotel is such a galactic failure.”

And around the 30th ‘graph, I read: “The intense experience created a niche audience for the Starcruiser, said former Imagineer Jim Shull, who retired in 2020 after more than three decades.”

And I thought: No! I couldn’t be! Could it? Could that be OUR Jim Shull? The former fan who was so esteemed in science fiction fandom, who sent little old me fan illustrations when I was barely a kid? The fan artist so renowned and appreciated in our little world of science fiction fanzines almost fifty years ago?

Was he now Twitter Jim Shull, the Disney “Imagineer for 33 years”?

The Jim Shull whose barebones entry (as so many entries are) in Fancyclopedia III says:

(March 9, 1952 – ) James Shull, a fan artist, was particularly active in the 1970s. His distinctive and well-executed art seemed like it appeared in nearly every major fanzine. He published the fanzine Crifanac and was co-editor of The Essence.

The Jim Shull so modest that there’s no entry whatsoever for him in Wikipedia?

I found his website, https://jimhshull.com/ titled “Creative City: Random Musings On Disney And More.”

And… no, it wasn’t our Jim Shull.

Aww, who am I kidding? OF COURSE IT TURNED OUT to be “our” Jim Shull!

While his small blog is filled with entries and photos of Disney parks, his entry from September 22nd, 2022 gave it away:

The Name Change.

Sharp eyed readers will note that the name of this blog has changed. No, the purpose of the blog didn’t change, just the name, because I have embraced the spirit of adaptive reuse. I have resurrected the name used decades ago for one of my fanzines. And, for those of you who don’t know or recall fanzines they were a form of communication among fans (thus the name) in the age before the internet.

Mimeo, ditto or hectograph these self made and self distributed publications connected people before social media. And some of the people connected went on to careers in the industry that they wrote about. The image here is by Tim Kirk, a person who enjoyed an important and productive career at Walt Disney Imagineering. Tim’s art work is the cover to an even earlier fanzine of mine entitled ‘Esoteric’, and makes word play on my name.

So, the title has changed but not the purpose.

And his first post on his blog, dated January 22nd, 2022, includes:

…and I was lucky to be a participant or be a witness during a period of over three decades when The Walt Disney Company extended their theme park resort locations from four to twelve standing on the sites during construction of Euro Disneyland through Shanghai Disneyland Resort. In my career I’ve been a theme park designer, animation story director, a syndicated comic strip writer, and other ‘stuff’.

This is my place to delve deeper into the stories of projects and my experiences being part of bringing them to life. We’ll begin shortly.

A Tweet of his from September 21st, 2021:

So: OH MY FUCKING GOD, nice to see you, Jim Shull! How the hell are you?

And thanks for those fillos!

I can’t help but be reminded of 1976, when I started sending mail — “snail mail” was the only kind of mail of our day, if you weren’t on DARPA-net — to Richard Bergeron at the Dakota apartment building in Manhattan, began getting mail back, and then went by his apartment to drop off two large boxes of sf fanzines of the last five or so years, hoping to tempt him back into active fanzine fandom. Which worked, and resulted in Bergeron’s resuming publishing, including the massive 500-page-plus volume of Warhoon collecting most of the works of Walt Willis.

Classic fanzine fandom was always a small world, and its remnants are even smaller, but it was and is — or at least can be — a proud and lonely thing to be a fan.

Examples of James Shull’s work can be found at Fanac.org in its files for such fanzines as Energumen, Outworlds, Prehensile, Xenium, and Spanish Inquisition.

[Reprinted from Facebook with permission.]

ENDNOTE: Here are the paragraphs from the Washington Post article “Why Disney’s Star Wars hotel failed” that reference Jim Shull:

The intense experience created a niche audience for the Starcruiser, said former Imagineer Jim Shull, who retired in 2020 after more than three decades. The ideal guest had to be a Star Wars fan who was willing to drop a wad of cash on less-than-luxury accommodations. Some visitors found windowless rooms, bunk-bed setups and the lack of a pool unappealing.

“No matter how good the product is, no matter how good the hotel was, there just aren’t enough people who could come night after night to make that a success financially,” he said.

… Shull said that based on his decades of experience at the company, he would estimate investments in Galactic Starcruiser reached nearly $1 billion between construction, tech development and operation. Disney has not said how much the project cost and declined to address the $1 billion estimate. The company acquired the Star Wars rights in a $4.5 billion deal for Lucasfilm in 2012….

… Shull said the company would have examined every option before shutting down such a major enterprise. He also said that if the Starcruiser were losing money now, the company would not want it to lose money in the next fiscal year, which starts in October….

Pixel Scroll 10/21 One Ink Cartel

(1) The Onion reports a major addition to the movie ratings scheme.

WASHINGTON—In an effort to provide moviegoers with the information they need to determine which films are appropriate for them to see, the Motion Picture Association of America announced Tuesday the addition of a new rating to alert audiences of movies that are not based on existing works.

According to MPAA officials, the new “O,” or “Original,” designation will inform viewers that a particular film contains characters with whom they are unfamiliar, previously unseen settings, and novel plots. The rating will also reportedly serve as a warning of the potentially disorienting effects associated with having to remember characters’ names for as many as two hours and the discomfort that can occur when one is forced to keep track of narrative arcs for an entire film.

The MPAA’s new O rating will appear on all movies containing explicitly original, unadapted, and unfamiliar material.

(2) In a day devoted to Back To The Future nostalgia, Bill Higgins would like to remind everyone that Ronald Reagan “smuggled a quote from the film into an important speech to Congress.” C-SPAN has the clip, from Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union address.

Reagan also liked the movie’s joke about him being president – according to the Wikipedia he ordered the projectionist of the theater to stop the reel, roll it back, and run it again.

(3) Here’s a link to BBC video of the Back To The Future day unveiling for a Belfast university’s electric-powered DeLorean project.

(4) And in (wind) breaking news — “Michael J. Fox arrested for insider sports betting”

Fox aroused suspicion after achieving a statistically-impossible, perfect record on the site under the username NoChicken.

Authorities found an unusually worn copy of a sports almanac which was just recently printed and which has markings cataloging winning bets Fox has placed since the late 80’s.

(5) Today’s Birthday Girls:

  • Born October 21, 1929 — Ursula K. Le Guin celebrates her 86th birthday today.
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher, famous for portraying Princess Leia onscreen, and author of the bestselling novel Postcards from the Edge.

(6) New York Mets fan James H. Burns is flying high. He has some tales you’ve never heard before in “The Curious Case of Daniel Murphy” on the local CBS/New York website.

(7) Steven H Silver, on the other hand, is suffering and reminds people about his 2008 article for Challenger, ”I Call It Loyalty, Others Call It Futility”.

Several years ago, I spent two summers working at Wrigley Field. When most people say something like this, it means that they sold beer or peanuts during the games (which is what my brother-in-law did). I did something different.

On Sundays during the season, when the Cubs are playing on the road, Wrigley Field is open for tours for a minimal charitable donation (at the time $10, which goes to Cubs Care Charities). I spent two summers giving tours of the ballpark. The tours included the standard places open to the public, like the concourse under the stands, the stands, and the bleachers, but also non-public areas like the press box, the visitor and home team locker rooms, and the security office. Two of my more interesting memories were getting to watch a Cubs game on television from within the confines of the visitor’s locker room and escorting a woman out to the warning track in center field so she could scatter her husband’s ashes.

The tours, of course, included information and trivia about the Cubs’ history and the stadium’s history. The tour guides were pretty good on the whole and worked to debunk legends and stories about the field while presenting information in an interesting and memorable manner.

(8) Ken Marable says the 2016 Hugo recommendation seasons begins November 2 – at least on his blog, which is coincidentally named 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season: The Non-Slate: Just Fans Talking About What They Love. For the first week he’ll focus on the Best Semiprozine category.

(9) The Wall Street Journal’s “Dan Rather, Still Wrong After All These Years” opines —

The movie ‘Truth’ is as bogus as the original attempt to smear George W. Bush’s wartime service.

Seeing that brought to mind my article about Gary Farber in File 770 #144 [PDF file] where I mentioned Farber’s then-recent participation in outing that fraud:

Within hours of “60 Minutes” purported exposé of memos by George W. Bush’s old Air National Guard commander, people were blogging away with accusations that the documents were forged because the text could not have been produced on typewriter likely to have been in use at a Texas military office in 1971, if indeed it could have been produced by anything besides Microsoft Word. Gary’s analysis showed no one knows better than a fanzine fan about the capabilities of 1970s-era business typewriters.

Another paragraph in my article praised Gary for a quality still missing from most political discourse today:

Amygdala shows how disagreement can be handled without loathing, and that evidence is more important than orthodoxy, two notions practically extinguished from the rest of the Internet in 2004. I’ve always been more conservative than a lot of fannish friends and favorite sf writers, finding the contrast informative and fascinating. Yet in 2004, I had to drop off two fannish e-mail lists to escape the constant spew of venomous political nonsense, and tell two individuals to quit sending me their mass-copied clippings. So not sharing too many of Gary’s political views, one of the pleasures I find in reading Amygdala is how his provocative viewpoints are expressed in a way that values the reader’s humanity regardless of agreement.

(10) Bob Milne reviews Larry Correias’s new Son of the Black Sword at Speculative Herald.

Larry Correia is an author best known for his guns-and-monsters, no-holds barred, testosterone-soaked urban fantasy sagas, Monster Hunter International and the Grimnoir Chronicles. For those who were curious as to how he’d make the transition from guns to swords, Son of the Black Sword is pretty much everything you’d expect, with his macho sense of almost superhuman bravado slipping well into a pulpy heroic fantasy world.

(11) What a wonderful alternate universe it could be…


(12) Mayim Biyalik on “My Sort-Of Acting Method”.

I’m not a real actor. Well, actually, I guess that’s not fair – what I mean is I’m not a trained actor. Many actors you love and see on TV and in movies studied acting for real. Like, some of them even have degrees in acting and stuff. I call those people “real actors.”

I have never studied acting in a class or in school or in college. I don’t know Stanislavsky from Uta Hagen or method acting from acting that isn’t method. It’s all Greek to me. But I do have a method of my own, from my almost 30 years being employed as an actor, and trained actors I know tell me my ‘method’ actually is a sort of method. So there you have it.

The scene I had with Jim Parsons in this past week’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory” (Season 9, Episode 5, “The Perspiration Implementation”) was a very emotional one. I cried the first time we rehearsed it and each time we showed it to our writers and producers. (Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen it.)

(13) “You too can learn to farm on Mars” promises the article.

“Congratulations! You are leaving Earth forever,” the case study begins. “You are selected to be part of a mining colony of 100 people located on the planet Mars. Before you head to Mars, however, you need to figure out how to feed yourself and your colleagues once you are there.”

The task is similar to that of Watney, who has to grow food in an artificial habitat after he is separated from his mission crew in a Martian windstorm. “Mars will come to fear my botany powers,” he boasts.

“Farming In Space? Developing a Sustainable Food Supply on Mars” can be found here. Teaching notes and the answer key are password protected and require a paid subscription to access.

(14) NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars photographed Earth on January 31 using the left-eye camera on its science mast. See a video of Curiosity’s Earth-from-Mars images here.

(15) Makes yourself clean and shiny before lining up to see the new Star Wars movie with the help of these Darth Vader and R2-D2 showerheads.

star-wars-showerhead-darth-vader-r2-d2-gif-1 COMP

What are the major differences between the Vader and R2 model? Aside from the price, the lowest setting on the Darth Vader showerhead makes water run from the mask’s eye sockets, allowing you to bathe in Sith Lord remorse. This model also provides a handle, leaving less of your bathing up to the Force.

Darth Vader has a handle, but I don’t know that I would want to aim Darth’s tears at any vulnerable body parts….

(16) Last night Camestros Felapton staked out his spot in comments with this video is about fours waking.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Bill Higgins, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

The Scarlet Litter 6/21

aka Puppy on a Hot Tin Roof

Today’s roundup brings you Spacefaring Kitten, Gary Farber, Peter Grant, Tom Knighton, Sgt. Mom, Martin Wisse, David Nickle, Edward Trimnell, John Scalzi, N. K. Jemisin, Neil Clarke, David Gerrold, Ferrett Steinmetz, Jonathan Crowe, Andrew Hickey, Jason Cordova, Nicholas Whyte, Tim Hall, Mari Ness, Kevin Standlee, Mark Ciocco, Lis Carey, Vivienne Raper, and Jonathan Edelstein. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Daniel Dern and James H. Burns.)

Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words

“Having a successful boycott is not the point” – June 21

As I said before, Day is following the Tea Party/Breitbart Culture Wars playbook. Gin up outrage, energise your base, focus their attention on the designated enemy, then fleece the suckers. Vox knows how the game is played because he’d been working for Worldnet Daily one of the low rent rightwing clearing houses his daddy had set up until he became too loony even for them. What are the odds on the next instructions of Day, as “leader of the Rabid Puppies”, will next issue instructions that the only proper way to boycott Tor is to instead buy books by goodthink publishers like Baen or his own vanity press?

The key is not to win, the key is to keep the fight going and make some money doing so. That’s been the career path for whole generations of roghtwing bloviators: fart out articles and blogposts and books about the evil of libruls and blag your way onto wingnut welfare. But to do so you need that red meat to keep the suckers in line. Without the month late fauxrage at Gallo’s comments the Puppies wouldn’t have anything to talk about. But this? This they can spin out until long after this year’s Hugo results are revealed.

It’s hard to deal with this. Just ignoring it is one option, not giving the oxygen of publicity to these people, but can obviously backfire. You can’t deal with this thinking these are normal fans, and that just ignoring it will starve this “controversy” of the fuel it needs. People like Day (and Larry and Brad) are perfectly capable of keeping the fire stoked indefinitely. Not responding just cedes ground and helps them keep up the pretence that they’re speaking for some imagined silent majority.


Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring Extradimensional Happy Kittens

“Kittens Will Prevail” – June 21

The culture war in science fiction and fantasy fandom is practically over before it even began — and it sure was the lamest war ever. The thing that has been clear for everybody except the Sad Kennelkeepers is that an overwhelming majority of SFF fans, authors and editors are and have always been liberal, in the broad sense of the word.

Yes, a huge part of fandom consists of unpolitical SFF enthusiasts who may from time to time sneer at pro-diversity people who suggest things they find a bit hardline, such as not reading books by straight white males for a year or something, but they’re still open-minded and tolerant. And sure, there are political conservatives in SFF too, but very few of them are interested in really taking any part in the culture war project lead by Larry Correia, Brad R. Torgersen and Vox Day/Theodore Beale, because they’re aficionados first and political activists second or third (and they, too, are mostly open-minded and tolerant). Importing the culture war dynamic somewhere where the other side is missing is not going to end well.


Gary Farber on Facebook – June 21

I can barely skim the Puppy summaries at FILE 770 any more because I literally start to feel physically ill. These people and their utter lack of interest in facts, their lunatic paranoia, their rationales for justifying every kind of tactic and practice on the grounds of imagining and alleging that their enemies do it, their crazy tropes (the Nazis were really left-wing!; Planned Parenthood is genocidal!; Emanuel A.M.E. Church isn’t a black church!; Tor Books is an leftist ideological publisher!”), literally make me sick. John C. Wright: “The other side consists of people at Tor who regard Tor as an instrument of social engineering, an arm of the Democrat Party’s press department, or a weapon in the war for social justice.” That would be why they publish … John C. Wright. Thirteen of his books so far.


Peter Grant on Bayou Renaissance Man

“Latest developments over the Tor imbroglio” – June 21

Speaking of Vox, he’s taken note of speculation from SJW’s and their ilk that the individuals at Tor who’ve been named in connection with the boycott may be at risk of violence.  Since I’ve seen not a single reference to that – even the vaguest hint – from our side of the fence, I, like him, can only put it down to paranoia, or an utterly warped, twisted sense of reality (or the lack thereof), or deliberate lying.  It’s absolutely insane . . . yet they’re hyping it up.  (Edited to add:  James Sullivan absolutely nailed the process in a comment at Vox’s place.)



Sgt. Mom on The Daily Brief

“Making Blight at Tor” – June 21

And what ought to be the response of those who feel deeply and personally insulted by employees of Tor, such as MS Gallo, and those who clearly stand in agreement with her ill-considered remarks? And what ought Tor to do, over what they already have done? Clean house seems to be the basic consensus; leaving the precise details up to Tor. And to effect that? Some of the offended recommend and are participating in an outright boycott. Some of them – like me – have tastes that run to other and non-Tor published authors, and haven’t bought anything from Tor in years. Others favor purchasing their favorite Tor authors second-hand, and hitting the authorial tip-jar with a donation. I still have the sense that for many of us – after having weathered numerous comments along the same line as MS Gallo’s without much complaint – this was just the final straw.


David Nickle on The Devil’s Exercise Yard

“Art Lessons” – June 21

It seems to me that the life of my father Lawrence is a good example to bring up right now, in this very political culture war about what is at its root, an art form.  The point of doing art, to paraphrase Neil Gaiman, is to make good art. It is not to chase awards, or other sorts of validation; it is not to look enviously at those who do receive those awards, who bask in that validation, and try to supplant them through forces democratic or otherwise.

It would be naive to say that such things don’t happen in communities of proper artists. They do, again and again, and are happening now in this science fiction and fantasy community of proper artists.

But I think my father would have said that the behaviour of the Puppies whether sad or angry, is the one sure sign of not being a proper artist. He would take it as a vulgar sign of weakness. It would earn his quiet but certain contempt.


Edward Trimnell

“Boycott Tor Books, you ask?” – June 21

A few readers have recently emailed me to ask if I plan to join the boycott of Tor Books, or if I publicly support the boycott.

The short answer is: No. But let me give you the longer answer—because this covers some important issues.

First of all: I am on record as disagreeing with the positions of Patrick Nielsen Hayden and John Scalzi. (I’ve taken Mr. Scalzi to task on this blog many times.) I’m not as familiar with Moshe Feder and Irene Gallo. But what I have seen of them so far, I don’t evaluate favorably.

That said, I think the boycott is a bad idea. And here’s why:

I dislike the Internet mob—whether it is a rightwing mob, or a leftwing mob. I dislike the Internet’s hive mindset, which says:

“If you say something we don’t like, we’re going to whip up all of our minions into a frenzy, and then destroy your livelihood, or harass you into silence at the very least. Oh—and we’re going to do all of this anonymously, hiding behind bogus screen names, avatars, and IP addresses! And aren’t we courageous!”

That is, of course, exactly what the SJW crowd does. But I’m not one of them—and I’m not a joiner, either. Just because I disagree with John Scalzi & Co. doesn’t mean that I’m eager to flock to the banner of Vox Day and others on the far right.


John Scalzi on Whatever

“Note to WSFS Members: Killing the Best Novelette Hugo is a Terrible Idea” – June 21

[Excerpts two of five points.]

  1. It is unnecessary to get rid of the Best Novelette category in order to “make room” for the Best Saga category. I’m unaware of the need in the WSFS constitution to limit the number of Hugo Awards given out; it’s not a zero sum game. Speaking as someone who has both emceed the Hugos and sat in its audience, I understand the desirability of not having an infinite proliferation of Hugo categories, because the ceremony can be long enough as it is. But that’s not a good enough reason to give one fiction category the axe at the expense of another, nor can I think of another good reason why the inclusion of the “saga” category requires the doom of another fiction category. It is, literally, a false dichotomy.

This false dichotomy is bad in itself, but also offers knock-on badness down the road. For example:

  1. It privileges novel writing over short fiction writing. Bud Sparhawk, a writer and human I admire rather a bit, complained to me once (in the context of the Nebulas) that calling the Best Novel award “the big one,” as many people often do, is an implicit disrespect of the art of short fiction writing, and of the skills of those who write to those lengths.


John Scalzi in a comment on Whatever – June 21

Now, if the Best Saga Hugo proposal hadn’t had tried to unnecessarily murder the Best Novelette category, is it something I could see my way toward voting for?

My current thought about it is “no, not really.” Here’s why: …

[Makes a four-point argument.]





David Gerrold on Facebook – June 21

You can have my Best Novelette Hugo when you pry it out of my cold dead hands.



Jonathan Crowe

“Some Initial Thoughts on a Couple of Hugo Award Amendments” – June 21

The [Best Saga] amendment points out that most sf/fantasy comes out in series nowadays — around two-thirds, they claim — whereas Hugo voters tend to vote for standalone books. According to the proposal,

for the past decade, the Best Novel category has been dominated by stand-alone works, with nine out of the eleven winners being such (and one of the two series novels is a first book in its series). The distribution of Best Novel winners is badly out of step with the general shape of the market, even though the nominees run close to the market trend.

I’d argue that a decade doesn’t give us nearly enough data points. Over the past quarter century, the split between standalone books and series books among Hugo winners is about fifty-fifty — and I’m including the first books of eventual trilogies, such as Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (2014), Robert J. Sawyer’s Hominids (2003) and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin (2006). Sequels to have won Hugos include Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls (2004), Vernor Vinge’s Deepness in the Sky (2000), and Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead (1987). Books two and three of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series won Hugos, as did the fourth installments of the Harry Potter and Foundation series. And that doesn’t get into the number of Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan books that have won Hugos as well.

So I’m not sure that the proposal’s premise holds up.


Andrew Hickey on Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

“Hugo Blogging: Sagas” – June 21

Were the “best saga” award to be brought in *and all books in series to be removed from the “best novel” category*, I would be ecstatic, because that would give more exposure to the standalone novels the field should be producing. As it is, though, it seems likely that it will encourage even further the decline of the field into a niche of thirty-book series called The Chronicles Of The Saga Of Dullworld. When the playing field is already tilted in one direction, tilting it further seems a bad idea.




Nicholas Whyte on From The Heart of Europe

“E Pluribus Hugo, and other proposals (long post)” – June 21

My conclusions on the various proposals: So with a slightly heavy heart – I regret that small-minded slate-mongers have killed off a large part of the wisdom-of-crowds aspect of the Hugo nominations process – I endorse E Pluribus Hugo as the best fix to prevent slates from dominating the process in future without irreparable damage to the credibility of the awards. Edited to add: I no longer think that a “large” part of the wisdom-of-crowds aspect has been killed off.

Three other proposals for reforming the Hugo process have been submitted to Sasquan. One is to abolish the 5% threshold; as I mentioned above, I agree with this faute de mieux, but E Pluribus Hugo removes the threshold requirement anyway, so I would only support it if E Pluribus Hugo is rejected.

I don’t support the proposal to merge two of the short fiction categories and create a “Best Saga” category. The multiple short fiction awards at present reward writers who express their ideas succinctly rather than at big commercial length, and I’m in favour of that. The “Best Saga” proposal doesn’t fix any existing problem but does create new ones – not least of which, who is going to have time to read all the finalists between close of nominations and close of voting?

I do support the “4 and 6” proposal, to restrict voters to a maximum of four nominations rather than five as at present, but to extend the final ballot to include six rather than five finalists. If E Pluribus Hugo is not adopted, the “4 and 6” proposal is a lesser safeguard against slates, in that it becomes much more difficult to marshall your minions to support six slated works if they have only four votes each. And if E Pluribus Hugo is adopted, voters who nominate five candidates will get less value for their nomination than those who nominate four, and so on; the first part of the “4 and 6” proposal seems to me a decent indication to voters that a slightly different nominating strategy is now necessary (even though it’s not actually part of E Pluribus Hugo). As for the second part, I do feel that good work is left off the Hugo ballot every year, and while Mike Scott’s proposal from April (1, 2, 3) would have designed a certain responsiveness in the system specifically in reaction to the slates, I’d prefer a broader, simpler and less slate-dependent change, and I think that expanding the final ballot to six rather than five does that.


Tim Hall on Where Worlds Collide

“E Pluribus Hugo” – June 21

Out of Many, A Hugo, the proposal from Making Light for changing the Hugo Awards voting system in an attempt to fix the problems that came to a head this year.

It uses a Single Divisible Vote, which is a form of proportional system rather than the first-past-the-post system used up to now, and is designed to prevent any well-organised minority from dominating the nominations out of all proportion to their numbers.

I like the system a lot, although the complexity of the counting system means the count must be computerised. It has many of the same advantages as the widely-used Single Transferrable Vote system, though a notable difference is that you don’t need to rank your nominations in any kind of order.


Mari Ness

“Proposed changes to Hugo Awards” – June 21

Moving onto the “KILL THE NOVELETTE CATEGORY ALREADY!” question, well, I’m a short fiction writer, so I’m an interested party here.

First, I’ll note that there’s some precedence for this, with the World Fantasy Award which does not offer a separate category for novelettes. Second, I am deeply sympathetic with the complaints of voters who do not want to check the word count for the short fiction they’ve read, and that the dividing line between novelette and short story has issues because of where it lands (at 7500 words) and that really, novelettes are just long short stories and should be treated like that. Not to mention the complaints that the Hugo ballot is waaaaayyyyyyyy too long as it is. I’ve made that last complaint myself. My understanding is that the novelette category has historically gotten fewer nominations than other categories, so even as a short fiction writer, I fully get the keeeeellll it! keeellllllll it dead! feeling here.


The first problem is the number of eligible short fiction works versus the number of eligible works in most of the other categories. Novels possibly come close, and, with blog posts eligible for the catch-all category of Best Related Work (which this year includes a nominee that isn’t even particularly “related”), that category does as well. Novellas are currently experiencing a resurrection, so those numbers might creep up.

Otherwise – the number of eligible podcasts is in the double digits. The number of semi-prozines and fanzines is also in the double digits; the same names keep popping up in those categories for a reason. The number of eligible graphic novels probably in the triple digits. Films are in the double, maybe triple digits. Television episodes, including cartoons, might pop up to a little over 1000. The number of eligible short stories, in that category alone, is conservatively around 6000. Expanding that category to include works up to 10,000 words will just expand that number.


Kevin Standlee on Fandom Is My Way Of Life

“New Business Is New Business”  – June 21

The deadline for submitting proposals to the Business Meeting this year is August 6, 2015. The procedure for submitting proposals is listed on the Business Meeting page on the Sasquan web site under “New Business Submissions.” The WSFS Rules are published online and are distributed to the members in the progress reports. None of this is secret. And if you have questions about the process, you can write to me or to the entire WSFS business meeting staff through the wsfs-business address @sasquan.org.

I’ve written a Guide to the Business Meeting that tries to explain this. I’m available to answer questions. I just beg of people to not assume the worst of everything. It’s very frustrating to work this hard and to hear people assuming that it’s all rigged in some way. Well, it’s set up to allow the members who choose to participate in the process to come to a decision in a way that balances the rights of the members as a whole, of the members who attend, of majorities and minorities, of individuals, and of absentees, in a fair manner. However, “fair” and “I got what I personally wanted” are not always the same thing, and it would be wise to keep that in mind when approaching any form of deliberative assembly.


Mark Ciocco on Kaedrin Weblog

“Hugo Awards: Novelettes” – June 21

[Reviews all five nominees]

Novelettes! Good old novelettes! What do you call something that’s longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel? A novella, of course, but that’s too easy. Let’s invent something between a short story and a novella, and call it a novelette! On the one hand, it is a bit odd that SF/F seems to be the only genre in literature that makes this distinction (something about a legacy of SF’s pulpy magazine roots, where different sized works had different pay scales) and it seems rather pointless and confusing for no real reason. On the other hand, it just means we get to read more fiction, which is actually a pretty cool thing. Once again, none of my nominees made the final ballot, but such is the way of short fiction awards. Last year’s Novelettes were pretty darn good (with one obvious and notable exception), and it looks like this years will rival that:…


Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine” – June 21

Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine is a 2015 Hugo nominee for Best Semiprozine.

Visually, I found this a lot more appealing than Abyss & Apex, the only other nominated semiprozine I’ve looked at so far. On the other hand, I was not as impressed by the accessible fiction. Also, there seemed to be no means to access the relevant material, i.e, what was actually published during 2014.


Vivienne Raper on Futures Less Traveled

“Reading the Rockets – Best Short Story” – June 21

[Reviews all five nominees.]

First up, Best Short Story. The nominees are:

  • “On A Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)
  • “Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, 07-2014)
  • “Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

These range between dire and good. And only one of them, in my view, is even remotely worthy of being considered for a Hugo Award (if I’m being charitable). And that, surprisingly, is the military SF story Turncoat.


Jonathan Edelstein in a comment on File 770 – June 21

Officer Pupke


Dear kindly Sergeant Pupke You gotta understand It’s just that we’re fed up-ke About our losing hand; The lefties run the ballot And us they underrate: Golly Moses, that’s why we’re a slate!


Officer Pupke, we’re really upset Our writing never got the love that it ought to get. We’re not really rabid, we’re misunderstood – Deep down, our books are pretty good.


There’s some good!


There is good, there is good There is unread good! In the worst of us, there is some good.



Jonathan Edelstein in a comment on File 770 – June 20

[Parody of ”Guys and Dolls”]

…When you see a guy froth without knowing why You can bet that he’s angry about some CHORF. When you spot a dude sounding like he’s von Krupp Chances are he’s a Pup whose full-measured cup of outrage is up.

When you see Vox Day swear he’ll make Gallo pay And direct all his minions to cut Tor off Call it dumb, call it cloying But the thing that is most annoying Is that he’s only angry about some CHORF….



Cheryl, Meet Occam’s Razor

Like many fans, Gary Farber wants to know what stuff on the internet has been made eligible for the Best Fanzine Hugo now that the “Making the Web Eligible” rules changes have been ratified by the 2009 Business Meeting. Which is correct, my take in “The Future of the Best Fanzine Hugo” or something Cheryl Morgan wrote in reply to a comment Gary wrote on her blog?

As Gary commented on a post of mine:

You and Cheryl Morgan seem to be contradicting each other; she wrote in her comment #7 here that “To qualify as a fanzine the site still have to be non-profit and (at least currently) to have recognizable issues.”

Which would exclude blogs. So which is it? Are blogs eligible as Fanzines, or not? (I’m fine, I think, with them not, as that seems reasonable, what with them not being made of discrete issues, and the writers still being eligible, obviously, for Best Fan Writer; I’d just like a clarification of the facts here, please.)

The answer really depends on what next year’s Hugo Administrator does if a blog or website finishes among the top five Best Fanzine nominees. And that in itself demonstrates how defective the new rule is: on its face, a dramatic change has been made yet no one can say with authority what kinds of things are allowable as nominees in the Best Fanzine category on next year’s Hugo ballot. Including Cheryl Morgan, whose comment I’ll discuss at the end.

What’s comparatively easy to show is what the movers of the rules change intend to have happen: for certain blogs and websites to become eligible in the Best Fanzine category.   

The long-established Best Fanzine rule requires four cumulative issues, one in the eligibility year. But it doesn’t define “issue.” Doubtless most fans interpret “issue” to mean a discrete, separable publication. There isn’t any restriction on media, either — the old audio cassettes of Uncle Albert’s Electric Talking Fanzine were issues. It’s evident that the rules change hasn’t been made to address “other media” but to create an equivalency for a class of things not produced in issue form with those that are.

Obviously blogs and websites are not fanzines in the taxonomy of fanac, nor are they done in issue format in the manner of paper, PDF or audio cassette magazines.

The rules change actually erases the current functional definition of the category. – fanac done in issue format – and makes any non-professional etc. etc. publication that has added material four times in its existence, once during the eligibility year, eligible to be nominated for Best Fanzine. (“Publication,” of course, merely means “distributing copies of a work to the public.”) A static website would fail the multi-issue requirement. A blog with too few posts would fail it. That leaves plenty of others that will qualify.  

And that’s the meaning of the change addressed in the 2008 Business Meeting minutes. They report the Chair offering interpretive comments while discussing the interaction of two proposed rules changes, “One Fewer Award,” the motion to delete the Best Semiprozine Hugo, and “Making the Web Eligible”:

Chair: “One Fewer Award” would override “Making the Web Eligible” with regard to the deletion of the semiprozine Hugo category.
Ben Yalow (F): We’ve decided work is work, whatever the medium. This is just amending the categories to make it clear content is key, not the medium.
Warren Buff (PoI): Would blogs could go in 3.3.5 [Best Related Work, as amended] or best fanzine.
Chair: That’s down to the administrator.

Plainly, neither the makers of the motion nor the Chair answered Warren Buff’s point of information by saying “blogs are ineligible,” they answered that it would be the Hugo Administrator’s call what category they went into (because of the complex interaction of the new category definitions.)

Also, Warren Buff wrote online in July, “given that the Business Meeting resoundingly responded that blogs belong in the fanzine category when I asked about those last year…” — verifying the consequence intended by those changing the rules.

So that’s that. There’s always a chance the Smof Uncertainty Principle may come into play, stalling a foreordained result because somebody forces a public discussion about its merits. But there is no doubt about what was attempted – and as far as I can predict, will happen.

It is unfortunate that the “Making the Web Eligible” rules changes didn’t modify the definition of “issue.” We’re deprived of an authoritative measure of “the equivalent in other media.” But I know that the numbered series of text-filled postcards titled Nine Inch Nails were universally accepted as issues of a fanzine though they contained only a couple hundred words apiece. Wouldn’t a series of separately-dated blog posts be equivalent to issues of Nine Inch Nails? The wording of the rules, the report of the 2008 Business Meeting and subsequent online discussion by people who were there show that non-professional blogs and websites that have been updated sufficiently often will be eligible in the Best Fanzine category.

I believe the general object of the change is entirely reasonable and appropriate, and could have been done well. Since the days when Bill Bowers’ Fan Basic 101 “aimed at providing a concise entry point for fannish fans newly on line,” practically ever faneditor with a sniff at a Hugo nomination believes he needs to have an online presence. Only one perennial contender, Banana Wings, has no online counterpart. I had a website for years and started this blog in 2008. Nearly all of the nominees have a website or blog in addition to a paperzine and believe they could not get on the ballot otherwise. Let’s not pretend this isn’t happening.

Everyone also is aware of the trend for long-time fanzine editors to produce only PDF editions of their zines. The Hugo rules have always been interpreted to accept the eligibility of fanzines distributed solely online, for example at eFanzines.com. Therefore it is apparent that the latest rules change is aimed at admitting online work not done in the form of issues, such as blogs, or websites that change their content sufficiently often to qualify. I’d rather that were done in a way that keeps fanac as the focus of the category.

In that context, let’s turn to the answer Cheryl Morgan gave to Gary:

And note that we are not lumping all web sites into Fanzine. To qualify as a fanzine the site still have [sic] to be non-profit and (at least currently) to have recognizable issues.

What is at the bottom of these vague statements?

If not all web sites will be “lumped into Fanzine,” the reciprocal remains true, that some web sites will be eligible in the Best Fanzine category, yes?

However, it is absolutely untrue that the rules make “non-profit” status a condition of eligibility for the Best Fanzine Hugo. As most Worldcon runners know (and ‘til now, I’d have numbered Cheryl among them), a “non-profit” is a government-authorized entity, usually a corporation, organized as a step in applying for an income tax exemption (state or federal).

Sometimes people with a weakness for high-flown language say “non-profit” when all they mean is “doesn’t make money.” If that’s what Cheryl means, well, losing money also has never been a condition of eligibility for Best Fanzine and hasn’t been made one by the “Making the Web Eligible” amendments we’re discussing. The only measures of this type are in the definition of Best Semiprozine, which as I discussed the other day are useless for getting a handle on something like Locus Online.

Or maybe Cheryl simply lost track of what is meant by “non-professional,” which is one of the requirements of a Best Fanzine nominee. That would be an easy mistake to make. The Hugo rules no longer define “professional,” so you can hardly rely on them for any help in defining “non-professional.” Yes, there is a real-world distinction between the two classes, but a Hugo Administrator has been given nothing to point to when assailed by irate nominees he or she disqualifies.

Finally, her assurance that eligible nominees must “have recognizable issues” is the part that most begs the question. There is no definition of “issue” in the rules, so what would it mean to require that the issue be “recognizable”? How can the movers of something called “Making the Web Eligible” have intended to allow only things that look like paper magazines into contention as fanzines? For then, they need not have bothered to change the rules at all. And that’s where Cheryl runs afoul of Occam’s Razor.

The only thing that is absolutely certain about next year’s ballot is that semiprozines like Locus, NYRSF and Interzone still will be ineligible to be nominated for Best Fanzine.

Update 08/09/2009: Reworded explanation of “non-profit” in response to a correction from John Lorentz.

Snapshots 6

Here are six developments of interest to fans.

(1) Taking the Sci-Fi Theme Music Quiz was a humbling experience. I got the practice question right, but after that it was all downhill.

(2) Amy Sturgis is holding her fourth annual, month-long celebration of Halloween at her LJ, posting classic literature and contemporary links, generally celebrating.

(3) The many moods of Godzilla.

(4) Lorelle Van Fossen has a very interesting series of articles about what to do when somebody steals your blog content:

This is the first of three articles. This article covers tips, information and resources to help you deal with copyright infringement, the theft of your blog or website content. The second article includes helpful links and resources for finding stolen content and copyright infringements. The last article in the series examines the growing trends in content theft such as image hotlinking, website hijacking, and abusive use of feeds to replace original content without permission, as well as other copyright infringements on the rise.

(5) A studio is developing a feature version of Yogi Bear, the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The project is planned as a live-action/animated hybrid along the lines of Fox’s Alvin & the Chipmunks. Much of the movie will be live action, but Yogi Bear and sidekick Boo Boo will be done in CG animation.

(6) Gary Farber wants you to know: It’s snowing on Mars!

[Includes links via Isaac Alexander, David Klaus and Gary Farber.]

More About Jack Speer

Some new blog posts point out more things worth remembering about Jack Speer.

Gary Farber reminds us

If you’ve ever written a blog comment you owe this man.

Well said, Gary. In 1938, Jack invented the practice of making short responses —  mailing comments — in his zine to the other zines distributed through the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA). Other fans reciprocated his comments, and it’s gone on ever since. From his snowflake to today’s avalanche.

Speer worked in law and politics during his career:

In the mundane world, John Bristol Speer was a retired lawyer who resided in Albuquerque since 1962; previously, he was a Democrat state representative from the Bend, Washington area during 1959-1961.

Speer was also a former judge. It might be said that in his day he dispensed “law West of the Pecos.”