By John Hertz (reprinted from Vanamonde 1506): We’re big on defiance these days in the speculative-fiction community.
Indeed my saying that may provoke a response “What! We are not! I’ll show you —”
Tim Powers in person may not seem particularly defiant. He sports no tattoos, long hair, piercings, sloganized clothing. His manner is mild.
Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.
His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive.
His latest, Stolen Skies (January 2022), contains fantasy and science fiction both. This may be defiant. At least when we begin with one we do not expect to find the other. Stories like The Flying Sorcerers (Gerrold & Niven, 1971) where characters think they’re in fantasy but are in science fiction, or Rainbow Mars (Niven, 1999) where characters think they’re in science fiction but are in fantasy, are few.
Any SF authors have to invent their science fiction and fantasy. Science fiction has things not yet made or done but seemingly possible — at the time of writing. From the Earth to the Moon (Verne, 1865) did not retroactively become fantasy when we found the gun barrel would be too short and the acceleration too high. Fantasy has things seemingly impossible — at the time of writing. “Waldo” (Heinlein, 1942) will not retroactively become science fiction if we ever find we too can draw power from an Other World.
How may authors tell us of what we have never known? One way is by tying to what we do know — or at least consider we know. The fantasy in Stolen Skies congrues — there must be a verb for congruent — with recognizable notions in the universe of discourse. The science congrues with astronomy and physics. Astronomy? Physics? I told you there was science fiction.
What about aliens? Outside SF we’re so far not sure we’ve met any. Dolphins, maybe. Ghosts. Or the remark attributed to Leo Szilard (1898-1964), We ARE among you. We call ourselves Hungarians. In SF we’ve met some strange aliens. I’ve mentioned Niven’s stories. What if we met really strange aliens? Humpty Dumpty says to Alice, “Your face is the same as everybody has — the two eyes, so’ (marking their places in the air with his thumb) `nose in the middle, mouth under”‘ (Through the Looking-Glass ch. 6; Carroll, 1865). Never mind the text and the Tenniel illustrations’ showing that’s his face. Or maybe we should mind. Maybe this illustrates how even superb imaginers feel they’d better set limits. Or how Powers is defiant.
I’m not here to compare Powers with Carroll, Tenniel, Verne, or Niven. But in Stolen Skies there just might be —well, no spoilers.
I’ve called Or dinary people in extraordinary circumstances, or extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances the One-Strange Rule. It’s been attributed to C S. Lewis. I’ve said Powers does both. See Stolen Skies.
Its two main characters we’ve met before: a man and a woman, Sebastian Vickery — not his real name — and Ingrid Castine. This is our third adventure with them, after Alternate Routes (2018) and Forced Perspectives (2020); neither he nor she is particularly happy about that. There’s no sign they’ve ever been, or will be, romantically involved. Powers is defiant again.
George Orwell said of C.S. Lewis “When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side will win” (Manchester Evening News 16 Aug 45; P. Davison ed., Compl. Wks. of GO v. 17 p. 250, 1998). Optimism from Orwell! Though some say there are sneaky signs of it in his Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). Perhaps he should have noted Grantland Rice’s saying “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the game” (“Alumnus Football”, 1908).
I’m not here to say Stolen Skies tells us God and the Devil are in conflict. It doesn’t — like the Book of Esther. There are people hard to sympathize with. Among Powers’ masterly touches, he shows of them too how they think they’re right. And then there are — well, I said no spoilers.
(1) FREE READ. The final free story in The Sunday Morning Transport’s month-long adventure of free reading is John Wiswell’s “Demonic Invasion or Placebo Effect?” “which shares a unique perspective on an experiment of sorts, gone very, very wrong.”
The Sunday Morning Transport is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work and our authors, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
(2) HOME COOKING. Media Death Cult posted two videos of conversations with author Claire North. First, “Meeting Claire North”.
I made myself comfortable in Catherine Webb’s kitchen, otherwise known as the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated author, Claire North.
…Twitch, more than Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, is an intimate platform, designed to make its stars seem like actual friends of their fans, hanging out virtually with them. Those cozy relationships are a core part of the site’s business model. But they sometimes turn unhealthy.
“In livestreams, they see into your home, into your bedroom, and it feels very personal with them,” Ms. Siragusa said. “I think that is what contributes to a lot of the stalking: They feel like they know you.”
Streamers on Twitch and other platforms have had stalkers show up at their homes and at fan conventions, been targeted by armed and violent viewersor dealt with swatting, a sometimes deadly stunt in which someone calls the local police to report a fake crime at a streamer’s home, hoping the raid will be caught live on camera.
In response to the harassment, threats and stalkers she has endured since joining Twitch in 2016, Ms. Siragusa has bought guns, installed security cameras and gotten a Caucasian shepherd, a breed of guard dog, named Bear. She has been swatted so often that law enforcement agencies in her area know to check her Twitch stream when they get a call. Last year, when a trash can outside Ms. Siragusa’s house caught on fire, police suspected arson….
(4) ORIGIN STORY. George Jetson was born today, July 31, 2022. Don’t ask me where – I only know that in The Jetsons he lived in Orbit City. But NPR can tell you why the date is a logical inference.
…Here’s how the math works: The show first aired in 1962, but was set 100 years in the future. That would be 2062.
During the first season of the show, George reveals that he’s 40 years old. So 2062 minus 40, and there you go.
The fact-checking website Snopes looked into the claim and concluded it is, in fact, a “reasonable estimation of his birth year.”…
… Holding a Westercon there was Lisa Hayes’ idea. The Tonopah Convention Center had been a USO hall (United Services Organization; entertainment, hospitality for armed-forces personnel and their families) when armed forces had bases nearby. The Belvada Hotel 100 yards (90 m) away, and the Mizpah Hotel 150 yards (140 m) away, are historic buildings. A 2,000-person Westercon wouldn’t fit there, but a 200-person Westercon, about what could be expected even with COVID-19 easing, would. Hayes was vindicated. 278 attending memberships were sold (and 59 supporting memberships); 159 people arrived. This was an intimate con. It was also hybrid, with some programming available virtually via Zoom. The Convention Center was its hub, like a great Hospitality Suite….
As it is the last day of our annual Write-a-Thon, there’s still time to squeeze in some writing towards your goal or help us get closer to our fundraising goal! A huge thank you to all of the participants, cheerleaders, signal-boosters, and donors who have helped us with the Write-a-Thon this summer. This annual fundraiser is an essential source of scholarships that provide opportunities for future students.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1966 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Bloch was a very prolific genre writer and among those writings were three scripts for the original Trek series. (IMDb says that he wrote fifty-five tv and film scripts in total.) I would argue that his three Trek episodes were among the best episodes done. So let’s look at them
The first of them was the one I was least aware that he’d done, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” A season one undertaking, this is a straight SF story involving androids, one of whom of is played by Ted Cassidy as Ruk. I’d rate it a decent story. The make-up on Cassidy is quite wonderfully done. And yes, we get a bit of eye candy as well, something Trek did in its female androids more than once.
Now the next Trek story, “Wolf in the Fold”, from the second season, with its take off the Ripper mythos is delightful indeed. Bloch does horror very, very well and within the restrictions of Sixties television governing what can be shown for blood and violence, he does quite a bit here. I’ll single out the acting of the nebbish like killer Administrator Hengist as played by John Fiedler.
Now I admit that I had to go back and rewatch “Catspaw”, another second season episode, as I sort of remembered it but not quite though I knew Bloch had scripted it. Fortunately I subscribe to Paramount+, home of everything Trek. Ahhh, now I remember the All Hallows episode with the delightful Antoinette Bower as Sylvia and Theo Marcuse as Korob. And let’s not forget the cat as where would All Hallows’ Eve be without a cat. All in all a most wonderful tale.
Bloch I’d say acquitted himself most admirably in these three scripts.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 31, 1932 — Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek which is mentioned above in today’s featured essay and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the “The Corbomite Maneuver” episode and the Gorn in the “Arena” episode. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair” episode, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. And failed magnificently. I watched a few months back. (Died 1979.)
Born July 31, 1939 — France Nuyen, 83. She showed up in the original Trek as “Elaan of Troyius” as Elaan and was on the new Outer Limits in the “Ripper” episode. She was in the original Fantasy Island series, also the Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Automan, and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
Born July 31, 1950 — Steve Miller, 72. He is married to Sharon Lee, and they are the creators of the vast and throughly entertaining Liaden universe. I was surprised though they’ve won both a Golden Duck and Skylark that they have never been nominated for a Hugo.
Born July 31, 1951 — Jo Bannister, 71. Though best known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The Matrix, The Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first though y’all corrected me when I first ran this Birthday note several years back.
Born July 31, 1956 — Michael Biehn, 66. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnificent Tombstone film. Likewise he was in The Magnificent Seven series as Chris Larabee.
Born July 31, 1959 — Kim Newman, 62. Though best known for his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing.
Born July 31, 1962 — Wesley Snipes, 60. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. Most likely deservedly.) I also like him a lot as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. And he was Aman in Gallowwalkers, a Western horror film.
Born July 31, 1976 — John Joseph Adams, 46. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond. He did The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed Magazine since the early part of the previous decade. He is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Nominated for the Hugo many times, he won for the Lightspeed prozine at Loncon 3 (2014) with Rich Horton and Stefan Rudnicki and at Sasquan (2015) with Horton, Rudnicki, Wendy N. Wagner and Christie Yant.
Amazon reported a $2 billion net loss in the second quarter ending June 30, a blow to the company that reported net income of $7.8 billion in the same period last year.
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon, blamed inflation among other issues for the disappointing quarter.
“Despite continued inflationary pressures in fuel, energy, and transportation costs, we’re making progress on the more controllable costs we referenced last quarter, particularly improving the productivity of our fulfillment network,” Mr. Jassy said.
The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon’s plans to purchase One Medical for $3.9 billion last week.
This deeply researched book tells the backstory of the notorious strike that occurred at the Walt Disney studio in 1941. It was a life-altering event for Walt and its aftereffects were still felt decades later. One of its many ironies is that it pitted Disney against the man he once regarded as his star animator, Art Babbitt. They would become blood enemies as a result of Babbitt’s passionate unionism—and his strident nature.
Students and followers of Disney know his side of the story by now, but may not recall that his father Elias was an active socialist. His upbringing wasn’t so very different from that of Arthur Babitsky, the son of Russian immigrants, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Fate brought these two gifted and strong-willed individuals together as Disney was envisioning new horizons for animation in the early 1930s….
Who’s a good movie? Not “DC League of Super-Pets,” a big colorful idea that proves promising in theory – tailor-made for a two-minute trailer – but a rather tedious slog as a full-length animated film. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s “Jumanji” reunion as the central voices and an intriguing start to serve up a few bones fun-wise, but not nearly as much as there should be….
…Something I didn’t appreciate when I first read (and re-read) these novels previously but is now clear to me know is the role of serendipitous luck in how these novels kick off. It is luck and chance in both volumes that puts Gersen in the path of this latest foe, quite by chance and accident, and he spends the rest of the novel trying to force a decisive confrontation with the Demon Prince. Also in both novels, there is a sense of “I want you to know it was me” Olenna Tyrell sort of feel to Gersen’s revenge. Shooting the Demon Prince out of the sky is not quite satisfactory enough for Gersen The Prince must face his avenger….
The world’s first autonomous AI-powered robot, Bruce the Robot, talks about his desire to fly first class, tells Jimmy his best pickup line and shows off his rapping skills.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage’s Tested looks at an animatronic Baby Yoda at Comi-Con built by Garner Holt Productions. The price of this “bespoke” object isn’t mentioned, because, if you have to ask you can’t afford him! “Lifelike Animatronic Grogu Puppet at Comic-Con 2022!”
The highlight of Comic-Con 2022 so far is this fully animatronic Grogu from EFX Collectibles, designed by the engineers and artists at Garner Holt Productions. We get up close with this incredible animated puppet, which uses 15 servos to recreate all of the character’s joyful expressions seen in The Mandalorian. Star Wars fans at San Diego Comic-Con have to check this out!
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
“What’s On?” gives a preview of Westercon 74, to be held July 1-4 in Tonopah, NV. Chair Kevin Standlee reports the con currently has 320 members. The guests of honor are Kevin Andrew Murphy and Myrna Donato.
For the benefit of people who don’t have time to read through the entire progress report or search around the website, we have updated our What’s On page to give people a better idea of what will be happening at Westercon 74 and when. With the doors opening at 10 AM on Friday, July 1 and the final scheduled item being the Alien Autopsy Party (scheduled to end just before Midnight on Monday, July 4), and with the Convention Center open around-the-clock the entire time in between — none of this “it’s 6 PM, get out” stuff we’ve sometimes faced at other facilities — I suggest anyone who wants the full experience of the “Wild, Wild Westercon” to arrive at least the day before and not plan to leave until July 5.
Online programming is available to all members, including supporting members. Information on how to access online programming will be sent to all members who have registered an email address with the convention closer to the convention dates.
The online program’s list of international participants is impressive! Lauren Beukes, Mike Carey, Ashraf Fagih, Fábio Fernandes, Stark Holborn, Lucy Holland, Cristina Jurado, Ken MacLeod, Juliet E. McKenna, Cheryl Morgan, Noura Al Noman, Gareth L. Powell, and Adrian Tchaikovsky.
The in-person side includes John Hertz running two “Classics of Science Fiction” items.
Classics of Science Fiction
By John Hertz: We’ll discuss two Classics of Science Fiction at Westercon LXXIV, one discussion each. Come to one or both as you like. You’ll be welcome to join in.
Our working definition of a classic is “A work that survives its own time. After the currents that might have sustained it have changes, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.” If you have a better definition, bring it.
Each work is famous in a different way. Each may be more interesting now than when first published Have you read them? Have you re-read them?
The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein (1956). If you don’t know who Petronius Arbiter was, it wouldn’t hurt you to look him up. That’s what Dan named his cat, so you’ll learn something about Dan. There’s plenty going on. You’ll meet people coming and going. Please don’t worry about whether the year 2000 really turned out this way. Carl Sagan said our book was tautly constructed; that matters. So does the title.
Judgment Night by C.L. Moore (1943). Poetry. Combat. A Galactic Empire. Rebellion. An Amazon. Throughout all, the author manages an almost palpable sense of inevitability; as things happen, you knew that they would — a tribute to her vision and narration. A.J. Budrys called our book an Astounding tour de force. So it is.
…These Valentine’s Day stories cover the broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have urban fantasy, a lot of paranormal romance, paranormal mysteries, science fiction mysteries, science fiction romance, space opera, space colonisation, horror, alternate history, time travel, dragons, werewolves, wizards, ghosts, demons, aliens, robots, magical greeting card writers, crime-fighting witches, crime-fighting ghosts, Viking ghosts, dinners with demons, grumpy cupids, love potions, Valentine’s Day in space and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set on or around Valentine’s Day….
(2) EVEN BEFORE COVID. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Fans who had to deal with Covid restrictions coming to DisCon III should be interested in June Moffatt’s account of the preparations she and her husband Len Moffatt had to do before travelling to the UK and Germany as 1973 TAFF delegates, as recounted in their report The Moffatt House Abroad.
Then there was the matter of shots for overseas travel. We thought of smallpox vaccinations immediately, but our doctor said they were hardly necessary where we were going, and said we’d do better with protection against cholera and typhoid, which we might be exposed to in crowded international air terminals.
It was a remarkably warm winter and it seemed as if we took turns having colds, so we never did get to the doctor for the necessary shots…The Friday before we were supposed to leave, I was driving home and listening to the radio when I heard a bit of news that startled me considerably. There had been an outbreak of smallpox in London. Only three known cases so far, but the authorities were watching carefully.(It seems that a lab worker had been working with smallpox virus without having been immunized. When she got sick, she was hospitalized in a regular ward, while her doctor worked to find out what she had. Two people visiting the person sitting on the bed next to hers had caught it from her. They subsequently died. She recovered.)
The next day we were at our doctor’s office, sans appointment. When we explained the problem, he subsequently immunized us and had a few remarks to make on people who disapprove of smallpox vaccinations. (The remarks were not particularly complementary, in case you were wondering.) He gave us our yellow health certificates and advised us to get them stamped by a local health department, which we did on Monday.
Danny Dunn and the Anti-gravity Paint was a 1956 fictional book. Part of a 15 book series about Danny Dunn written by by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. In 1967 they reprinted “…and the Anti-Gravity Paint.” It had a new painted cover making it seem modern to young space-age children. Danny Dunn books were loosely science-based so the problems were solved with scientific ideas. I thought the 1956 space race setting of the book connects it with others of the time like Rocket Ship Galileo.
(4) BERYL VERTUE (1931-2022). Beryl Vertue, a writers’ agent who became a television producer with credits including Sherlock, has died at the age of 90. The Guardian noted some of her achievements.
Beryl Vertue, who has died aged 90, played an important role in the history of British television comedy. She began as an agent for writers such as Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, as well as the performers Tony Hancock and Frankie Howerd, before pioneering the sale of hit UK TV formats to American television.
The Moffat-Vertues partnership had further success with two drama series transposing Victorian literary figures to the present day. Jekyll (2007) starred James Nesbitt as Robert Louis Stevenson’s doctor with a split personality, while Sherlock (2010-17) was an irreverent take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective, co-created by Moffat and Mark Gatiss, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr Watson. Cumberbatch dubbed Vertue “Sherlock’s godmother”.
From typing scripts for The Goon Show (1951-60) and other radio and TV sitcoms, Vertue became the company’s business manager – later managing director – and negotiated deals with broadcasters. This made her an agent for some of the most respected writers in the country, who also included Barry Took, Dick Vosburgh, Marty Feldman, John Junkin and Johnny Speight.
Outside comedy circles, Vertue sealed a deal for Terry Nation that gave him partial copyright on the Daleks when he introduced them in Doctor Who’s second story shortly after the sci-fi series began in 1963.
She also blazed a trail by persuading the BBC to venture into programme-related merchandise, resulting in Daleks memorabilia, a Hancock’s Half Hour board game and Steptoe and Son jigsaws.
Alongside film production, Vertue negotiated the sale of British sitcom remake rights to American and European channels. In the US, Till Death Us Do Part became All in the Family (1971-79) and Steptoe and Son was retitled Sanford and Son (1972-77).
She was also executive producer of Tommy (1975), the film of the Who’s rock opera…
Vertue was made an OBE in 2000 and a CBE in 2016, and presented with the Royal Television Society’s lifetime achievement award in 2012.
(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1972 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty years ago today, Cabaret premiered as directed by Bob Fosse and produced by Cy Feuer. It would be Fosse’s first film success, after Sweet Charity, his first film, failed badly.
Set in Berlin in obviously a cabaret during the Weimar Republic, the film is based on the 1966 Broadway Cabaret musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, which was adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories novel and the 1951 play I Am a Camera by John Van Druten adapted from that work.
It had a stellar cast of Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Marisa Berenson. Fritz Wepper and Joel Grey. The film would bring Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, her own first chance to sing on screen, and she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
It goes without saying that the critics loved it with Roger Ebert being effusive when he said in his later critical review of it that “Instead of cheapening the movie version by lightening its load of despair, director Bob Fosse has gone right to the bleak heart of the material and stayed there well enough to win an Academy Award for Best Director.” And Emanuel Levy on his review website says that “After a decade of stagnant musicals, Fosse reenergized the genre with a dazzling, socially conscious musical, which was more reflective of the 1970s zeitgeist than the Nazi era. Liza Minnelli is brilliant in what’s the best role of her career.”
Box office wise, it did fantastic earning forty-three million against just five million in production costs. It was a Good Thing that it did considering that Sweet Charity, his first film based off the musical by him of the same name had lost twelve million dollars after costing only eight million to produce. Though even that disputed with the Studio saying it only made four million.
Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a seventy two percent rating. Cabaret is available for watching on HBO Max. Pretty much every other service has it for rent.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 13, 1908 — Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
Born February 13, 1932 — Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild West, Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, The Invaders, Night Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
Born February 13, 1932 — David Neal. He had a number of genre roles including showing up on the 1980 Flash Gordon as Captain of Ming’s Air Force. He would be on Doctor Who during the time of The Fifth Doctor for the “The Caves of Androzani” story”. And he played, and I kid you not, the Dish of the Day in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. (Died 2000.)
Born February 13, 1938 — Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. At least I’m reasonably sure it is. (Died 1999.)
Born February 13, 1943 — Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana (most superb) and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
Born February 13, 1944 — Michael Ensign, 78. One of these performers whose showed up in multiple Trek series, to wit The Next Generation where he played a Malcorian, on Deep Space Nine where he was a Vulcan, on Voyager where he was a Takarian and Enterprise where he’s another Vulcan. Impressive indeed!
Born February 13, 1959 — Maureen F. McHugh, 63. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for the Hugo at ConFrancisco and the Nebula Award as well, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is Night, Mission Child and Nekropolis. She has an excellent collection of short stories.
(7) COMICS SECTION.
Thatababy has an improbably science fictional gag compared to its usual fare.
…But as far as what to expect, and maybe have a hope of staying ahead of Ford in reading it for the first time, you need to know which espionage writers influenced Ford.
In his introduction, Charles Stross, whose Laundry Files and Merchant Princes novels have borrowed, if not been nearly pastiches of, various espionage novel authors, provides a Rosetta Stone, a cryptography key, to what Ford was doing here. Ford’s inspiration, model, and some might even say passion is Anthony Price. Anthony Price’s Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler novels are counter espionage thrillers and highly regarded in that genre. I’ve never read any of them, but I know enough about espionage thrillers, both novels and movies, to fit into the plot, characters and story quite well. It is no coincidence that George Smiley (of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) gets invoked on more than one occasion….
…You *could* go into this book cold and enjoy and appreciate Spelunking Through Hell. Seanan McGuire is really, really good at setting up the beginning of a novel with just enough recap and context to pull the reader along. I just wouldn’t know what that looks like because I’ve hooked on this series since book one and I’ve read all of McGuire’s Incryptid stories on Patreon that’s been filling in the family history up through Alice and Thomas. I can’t get my mind in the place to understand what cold reading would look like. I’m invested….
…George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” said Williams was the “secret sauce” of the franchise. While the two sometimes disagreed, he said Williams did not hesitate to try out new material, including when Lucas initially rejected his scoring of a well-known scene in which Luke Skywalker gazes at a desert sunset.
“You normally have, with a composer, giant egos, and wanting to argue about everything, and ‘I want it to be my score, not your score,’” Lucas said. “None of that existed with John.”…
…As production continues on the film, James Gunn took to Twitter to share a behind-the-scenes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 image. The writer/director revealed Gillan has been trolling him on the set of the film by sneaking in drawings to his shot plans in an effort to get more Nebula scenes, to which the actress hilariously and seemingly confirmed her hijinks in a follow-up post. Check out the funny posts below:
European scientists say they have made a major breakthrough in their quest to develop practical nuclear fusion – the energy process that powers the stars.
The UK-based JET laboratory has smashed its own world record for the amount of energy it can extract by squeezing together two forms of hydrogen.
If nuclear fusion can be successfully recreated on Earth it holds out the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon, low-radiation energy.
The experiments produced 59 megajoules of energy over five seconds (11 megawatts of power).
This is more than double what was achieved in similar tests back in 1997.
It’s not a massive energy output – only enough to boil about 60 kettles’ worth of water. But the significance is that it validates design choices that have been made for an even bigger fusion reactor now being constructed in France….
…Preempting Hardcastle and McCormick on ABC, the 8 p.m. telefilm drew a staggering 100 million viewers, an audience that at the time was second only in non-sports programming to the series finale of M*A*S*H. According to Nielsen, 62 percent of all televisions in use that night were tuned in.
What they watched didn’t really qualify as entertainment; Meyer stated he had no desire to make a “good” movie with stirring performances or rousing music, but a deeply affecting public service announcement on the horrors of a nuclear fallout. He succeeded … perhaps a little too well….
Bliss composed one of the most famous British film scores for the 1936 production of H. G. Wells’ “Things to Come.” Here he conducts its March on a Reader’s Digest LP with the New Philharmonia Orchestra (recorded 1967). Note: This has now been released on a ‘Classic Recordings Quarterly’ CD entitled “A Tribute Sir Arthur Bliss” (CRQ Editions CRQ CD 283) which also features Bliss conducting the music of Rossini, Borodin, Handel, Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Parry and Arne.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!
… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.
… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?” He said “No. But my characters do.” As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”
… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …
… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests.
… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.
His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….
Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.
… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios. Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each. To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations.
There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.
… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble. Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while. It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house. And then it was gone from sight. I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…
On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)
This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….
Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.
There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”
And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show. Working on Dublin was like that for me as well. I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”
But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…
… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”
… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….
Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.
The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….
The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….
… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….
…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…
Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.
If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….
… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few….
The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?
Then down the long hall there arose so much chat, that I sprang from my chair to see what was that? Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng as the loud murmuration came strolling along.
… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.
I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….
Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….
… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….
The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.
A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.
“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”
“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”
“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…
… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….
The day started out as pretty dreary to fly out of Cincinnati. The morning was punctuated by heavy rain showers and overcast skies. But, as the morning progressed, the skies cleared from the west and the sun revealed itself in full splendor.
My partner Juli and I received our first bit of DisCon III news just before we boarded our plane. Kevin Standlee reported on the geographic distribution of the 2023 Site Selection ballots in advance of the end of voting on Friday. The fact that this dispatch reflected that the Chengdu bid was projected to win in a landslide caused a HUGE kerfuffle online and at DisCon III. So much so that the upper management of DisCon III, asked that the post be removed and/or redacted online. And shortly thereafter, it was.
I must note here that Kevin Standlee has been a very good friend of mine over the past twenty plus years and that my heart goes out to him. But I fear that he has done the Worldcon and the Site Selection process a great disservice by his actions.
This development came on the heels of an editorial published Tuesday on File 770 by the distinguished UK fan Colin Harris, who suggested that if the bid from Chengdu did win that the fan community should take a deep breath and accept the results of the election.
I have heard a great many good things about the members of Chengdu bid, in the earnest efforts to become a part of the worldwide community of fandom and their work towards winning the 2023 bid. I applaud their efforts, but I must say that my only fear, along with many others, is not any racial animus towards Chinese fans but that the authoritarian government of the People’s Republic of China may interfere with the convention committee, its members and its programming.
(Thursday morning addendum: Kevin Standlee has been removed as the Chair of WSFS Business Meeting and also been fired as an advisor from 2023 Winnipeg bid for in an announcement on the JOF Facebook page, “acting without consulting the bid’s senior management”. )
Well, counting Wednesday, there are three more days of voting to go. As NBC’s statistical analyst (and khaki pants advocate) Steve Kornacki will tell you, the early vote may be in but all of the precincts have yet to be heard from and that it’s still anyone’s race. We’ll find out for sure by late Friday night or very early Saturday morning. Watch This Space.
The flight was smooth and the landing was only slightly terrifying. Being seated on the left side of the plane, Juli and I were treated to a 45 second tour of all of the classic tourist sights anyone could want; the Capitol Building, the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials AND the Watergate apartment and business complex. So much for sightseeing!
As we were strolling through National Airport in search of the taxi station, we spied a cute CNBC kiosk. We didn’t stop to shop but I am imagining that all of the Brian Williams items have been marked down ninety percent. Just Sayin’…
At first sight, the Omni Shoreham Hotel looks quite massive; it is at least several hundred yards long and ten stories high. The exterior looks rather modern but the interior has the feel of an older hotel. Inside we found a spacious area around the lobby but it feels rather smaller as you journey inwards. Which leads me to the first of several criticisms of the hotel, the elevators are dreadfully small. So I can only imagine how chaotic things are going to get as people want to go to parties, programming events or checking in and out.
Accessibility for the disabled was a hot topic before the convention and the Omni Shoreham’s deficiencies were on full display as I noticed many individuals struggling to get to Opening Ceremonies. This is not to say that accessible services are non-existent, but it is sorely in short supply abound the entire hotel. Did I mention that those elevators are REALLY SMALL?
Easily getting through Registration has never been a hallmark of any convention and DisCon III was no exception. The incredibly long line stretched from the Western part of the Promenade all the way to the Eastern Promenade elevator bank. Juli and I entered the end of the line around 2:30 p.m. After fifteen minutes, I decided to go forward to investigate why.
What I found were two people seated at a station near the Registration Desk checking everyone’s Covid-19 vaccination cards. Only two. Around the corner, there were only two or three people relentlessly processing convention badges.
It was at this moment that DisCon III was critically short of volunteers. Everyone reading this knows that Worldcons are run by volunteers.
I, for one, refuse to completely blame DisCon III for the shortage of people working the convention. They have been begging for help for months and due to the pandemic and moving the convention date to December has decimated the number of people who normally would have volunteered.
(Personal Note: I was asked to head up the Press Office earlier this year but I declined because I was unable to persuade the people I usually work with to come to DisCon III. This was the impetus for me to write the Press Office Manual and its anecdotal notes that were published here several months ago.)
But here we are. And we will have to make do with the resources we have on hand.
ON the bright side, EVERYONE was masked and distancing as well as they could.
At around 3:30 p.m., I was beginning to think that Juli and I wouldn’t make it to Opening Ceremonies so I took some drastic action. I hated to cut through the throngs of people waiting but I went to the Press Office (which was conveniently located near Registration), made the acquaintance of Kevin, the Deputy Head of the office, who provided us with press ribbons and made sure Juli and I got our badges. We then rushed off to find the Regency Ballroom, which was located on a lower level of the hotel.
And Opening Ceremonies were a splendid affair, hosted by Ulysses E. Campbell, and featuring a performance from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir (who serenaded the group with a medley of Christmas carols, complete with choreography!) and an honor guard as well. I was personally delighted that the recipient of this year’s Big Heart Award was given to longtime fan Linda Deneroff, who was absolutely stunned and speechless (a rare occurrence, I assure you) as she accepted her plaque.
The event climaxed with Sebastian Martorana’s incredibly informative presentation on how he fashioned this year’s Hugo Award base, which were made from the same sort of marble from Baltimore that was used to construct the top portions of the Washington Monument.
Unfortunately, we had to leave right afterwards because it was 5:15 p.m. and my first panel, “What Makes A Classic A Classic,” was due to start at 5:30. There was another mad dash to find the Calvert Room, which we found with minutes to spare.
What followed was a wild and wooly hour about how the panel felt about what makes our favorite works of sf and fantasy classics. Our Moderator was Shaun Duke of the Skiffy and Fanty podcast and featured myself (singing, wut?!?!?), author, scholar and editor Ellen Kushner, collector and writer Bradford Lyau and the legendary fan editor and writer John Hertz. A full audio version will be posted on File 770 sometime in the next day or so.
Finding dinner was strangely fortuitous; Robert’s, the restaurant located in the atrium of the hotel, told Juli that they were closing at 7:00 p.m. due to a lack of serving personnel and supplies. You would have thought that the hotel would have made plans for extra service with a major convention starting that week. Well, noted and logged…
That threw us both for a loop. After seeing the meager offerings at the pop up takeaway in another corner of the hotel, we decided to go to one of the eateries on the corner of Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue.
On our way out the door, we encountered mega-fan Bobbi Armbruster, her husband Warren, Kathi Overton and her partner John Pomeranz. They all enthusiastically endorsed going to The Gourmand Grill, a Mexican American place that was a short walk right around the corner.
It was a rather small place down a steep set of stairs but Juli and I were totally enchanted by the atmosphere, the affordable menus and the incredibly helpful wait staff.
When someone canceled an order of Chipotle Shrimp, our server offered it to us at no extra charge. I had the Fish and Chips and Juli had the Meatball appetizer with a small side salad. Everything was eagerly devoured. I am quite certain we will be returning before the end of the convention.
At around 8:30 p.m., I wanted to go find the Con Suite. Juli was feeling rather tired and decided to retire to our room.
After a bit of confusion about its location, I was told that the Con-Suite was located in Room 840 in the Western part of the hotel. Upon arrival, I was informed that they had closed at 8:30. A passerby did mention that there was a party being held by a group called TANSTAAFL on the fifth floor.
While I was there, I was asked by Dave McCarty to engage in a contest. Once he outlined what it was all about, I enthusiastically accepted the challenge. What is it? What is it all about? I’ll explain in a future post, AFTER I have performed my part. Laters!
I snacked on a few dessert items and then I decided to call it a day at around 10 p.m.
After seeing what happened today, I knew tomorrow would be more of the same, if not more so.
More As It Happens, Your Faithful Correspondent
On Site Head Count: Not Available.
Luminaries Spotted Today: Nancy Kress, Dave McCarty, John Picacio, Marah Searle-Kovacevic, Tammy Coxen, Greg Ketter, Ellen Kushner, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Lt. Colonel Jonathan Brazee (Ret.), Kathi Overton, John Pomeranz and Michael J. Walsh.
By John Hertz: WOOF (Worldcon Order Of Faneditors) is the apa (amateur press association) whose distributions have been collated annually at the World Science Fiction Convention since 1976.
Apas were invented in the Amateur Journalism hobby (sometimes “ayjay” for short). NAPA the National Amateur Press Association was founded 1876 and is still ongoing.
Our first apa, FAPA the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, founded 1937, is also still ongoing.
We’ve had dozens of apas. They come and go, each with its own rules, customs, and jokes. Most of our apas have been quarterly or monthly. I’m in one that’s weekly.
WOOF is one of many Bruce Pelz inventions.
The central and only officer of WOOF is the Official Editor. Some have held that position for years – Pelz himself, and Victoria Smith, to name two – but this too comes and goes.
The OE for WOOF in 2021 is Richard Lynch, who among much else won six Hugos with his wife Nicki for their fanzine Mimosa.
The Worldcon in 2021 – the 79th, gosh – will be at Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, 15-19 December. You can see its Website here https://discon3.org. It’s called Discon III, the third Worldcon held there.
The 2020 Worldcon, CoNZealand at Wellington, New Zealand, had to be virtual-only (except the Business Meeting.) WOOF was too.
DisCon III will be hybrid – virtual + in–person. WOOF in 2021 will too – electronic + paper.
Because the OE will only be attending the con for a few hours, he will only accept contributions via email. Send a PDF (Portable Document Format) file to him at: email@example.com. Your contribution must reach him by 21 December.
Paper contributions can be given to me at the con. I’ll arrange a box where they can be deposited; in the Hospitality Suite if there is one – look for my announcement in the con newsletter if there is one, and I’ll try to make and put up fliers. You need provide only one copy; it should be suitable for scanning; I’ll get at electronic mail somehow and send to the OE after the close of the con.
The OE will collate after the con and post the result at Bill Burns’ Website https://efanzines.com. If you wish a paper copy, tell the OE with your electronic contribution, or tell me with your paper contribution; include your paper-mail address. I’ll mail paper copies, anywhere in the world.
Why me – when I’ve never been in WOOF? Well, Lord Melbourne (William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, 1779-1848), when told he was a pillar of the Church, said “I don’t think I can be a pillar of the Church. I must be a buttress. I support it from outside.”
My address and telephone number are public: 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.; (213)384-6622 (Pacific Time zone).
By John Hertz: We’ll discuss three Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLVII, one discussion each. Come to as many as you like. You’ll be welcome to join in.
Our working definition is: “A classic is a work that survives its own time. After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.” If you have a better definition, bring it.
Each of the three is famous in a different way. Each may be more interesting now than when first published. Have you read them? Have you re-read them?
James Blish, The Triumph of Time (1958)
It’s Blish’s centennial year (1921-1975). Here he imagined you could go much faster than light – if you had the mass of a city. This is the last in the “Cities in Flight” series. Is it the best? What about “SF stories never end”?
Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow (1955)
There are no surprises at all in the first part of this book. But don’t think for a moment that Brackett’s poetic power is all that redeems it. A.J. Budrys said “Always ask ‘Why are they telling us this?’”
Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
…However, not all Asian authors writing fantasy feel at home with the genre label. When I reached out to Rebecca F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War, a Hugo-nominated fantasy trilogy inspired by Chinese history, she said that she finds “Asian fantasy” to be a reductive category.
“I think that Asian doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either as a literary category or as an identity category. Obviously, there are a lot of different things that fall under the subcategory of Asian, including East Asian, including South Asians, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, for example,” she says. “So when we call works just blanket ‘Asian,’ that belies an entire world of difference.”
So while the growing popularity of Asian fantasy marks a positive turn towards a broader and more inclusive range of experiences in fantasy, it also raises important questions: Does it actually make sense to group novels by a geographic region, especially one that encompasses billions of people? Does the label “Asian fantasy” help or hurt Asian authors? Well, the answer depends on who you’re asking….
(2) SOMTOW ON SCREEN. The Maestro – A Symphony of Terror, from Somtow Sucharitkul (in the title role) and filmmaker Paul Spurrier, opens July 14 in Bangkok at Central World SF Cinema (one of the major movie chains in Thailand). From there it will do the festival circuit, maybe book a few weird international gigs, and onto some kind of streaming platform, Somtow predicts.
The Maestro tells the story of a misunderstood genius with profound psychological problems. Rejected by the European musical establishment, he returns to his native Thailand and gets a job teaching music in a youth program. Stalked by an obsessed opera singer, ridiculed by his public, his big premiere preempted by a world-renowned conducting mediocrity, he begins a descent into madness. Accompanied by street busking violinist and a prodigy pianist from a dysfunctional family, he sets out to build a musical utopia in the wilderness to bring his transcendent vision to life … only, inevitably, it all goes horribly wrong.
(3) IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT. Hugo Book Club Blog compared the official list of 1963 Hugo Award nominees with a copy of the ballot and found something was missing. And there unquestionably was. But stay tuned for the rest of the story….
Note: We previously listed Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) (alt: Night of the Eagle) ([Anglo-Amalgamated/Independent Artists] Directed by Sidney Hayers; Screenplay by Charles Beaumont & Richard Matheson and George Baxt; based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber) as a finalist for the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation; however, a copy of the 1963 Hugo Award final ballot that we received on June 2, 2021 does not include this work as a finalist.
And yet when you look at a scanned copy of the 1963 Worldcon Program BookBurn, Witch, Burn is included. (Remember – 1962 is the eligibility year.)
In the DRAMATIC PRODUCTION category, the top four for 1962 were:
TV series: Twilight Zone
Movie: Last Year at Marienbad
Movie: The Day the Earth Caught Fire
Movie: Burn, Witch, Burn
Why is there a discrepancy between the Program Book and the official use-no-other, no-write-ins-allowed postcard ballot? Because someone made a mistake while typing the stencil for the 1963 ballot. Chair George Scithers blushingly told what happened in the Worldcon runner’s manual he wrote after the con —DisCon 1 Guide: Introduction:
…To encourage voting, we used printed, return addressed, postage prepaid postcards with the names of the nominees thereon. This of course was expensive; about $16, plus printing. On the other hand, it did improve the number of votes (about 226 people voted in the final poll, not counting late votes) and it did insure against anyone not a member sending in a forged card. For future cons, I’d suggest prepaid postcards for both nominations and final votes. Be careful and proofread these final ballots; we left “Burn, Witch, Burn” off our postcard list (4) [If George wasn’t accepting the principle of Collective Responsibility, this would read properly: “Dick Eney left ‘Burn, Witch, Burn’ off …”], an omission which was very embarrassing indeed.
When I started editing an anthology of SF stories centered around alien life, each accompanied by a short essay on the science of the story, naturally I was curious about what sciences or technologies inspire the contributing authors, how their process works and how they rely on technology. Conducting a mini-interview with each author, I asked, among other things, whether there’s any technology they can’t imagine to live without. Think for a moment what it would be for you. Some piece of 21st century technology, or something vital developed thousands of years ago? Something to guide your writing process, or indispensable in your life regardless of the craft?
Many writers (including myself, after all) can’t imagine working without computers. Rich Larson says: “Over half my day is spent on my netbook.” He uses it for around ten hours of writing and other work, and then for recreation and socialization. At night, its USB port powers the small fan that lets him sleep. “It’s basically a vital organ!”
“My Bose QC 35 wireless headphones,” says Tobias S. Buckell. They help him create a focusing space around himself. “The ritual of turning on noise canceling and hearing the world around me drop into background; it’s this trigger for focus that really helps me,” he adds….
(5) PURPLE EATER PEOPLE. Inspired by the park’s chicken dinners and boysenberry pie – and a few less legal substances — Rolly Crump’s “Legendary theme park ride resurfaces at Knott’s Berry Farm” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair” has been recreated after being out of service for a generation. Crump, the 91-year-old designer, also helped shape It’s a Small World, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland,
… “Everyone comes together at the fair at the end,” Merritt says. “All the characters you saw in the previous scene make a new appearance, doing something different and fun. It’s a big room. It takes up almost half of the show building.”
Crump’s theme park designs were known for near constant movement. The figures may not have been as advanced as those at Disneyland, but every mechanical creature was moving. Today’s theme park fans may want to picture the grand musical and animal finale of Disneyland’s soon-to-be rethemed Splash Mountain when trying to picture the closing seconds of Bear-y Tales.
Describes Merritt, “In the middle of the room, there’s a big balloon coming from the ceiling where the Bear-y Family are going up and down, and there’s music, there’s Dr. Fox selling his Weird Juice, there’s puppets and there’s a frog jumping contest. There’s musicians, there’s a rabbit who’s walking on wire, there’s jugglers. It’s too much. It’s sensory overload.”
…The more one digs into the scenes of the Bear-y Tales ride, the more detail and uniqueness one uncovers.
One of Crump’s first jobs at Disney was to partner with illusionist Yale Gracey on potential effects for the Haunted Mansion, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Crump wanted a sense of magic throughout Bear-y Tales. The ride was liberal in its use of projections and Pepper’s ghost-like effects. There were floating instruments, hovering candle tips and one neat trick that Merritt recalls involving an adorable mouse suddenly appearing out of a candle holder in midair.
But perhaps the real reason Bear-y Tales had such a grip on those who rode it is because in some ways it represents the kind of ride that doesn’t really exist anymore. Crump’s original had pies — and pie scents — but was little more than a story about a bunch of nomadic, bohemian animals.
“It’s super unique. It was such a snapshot in time,” says Nix. “When you look at the pictures, it wasn’t terribly advanced. The animatronics were simple, but there were a lot of them. You just felt like you were in these scenes and places.”…
(6) VIRTUAL 4TH STREET. Elizabeth Bear has made public an edition of her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter: “What we’ve been doing around here…” After fulminating against the latest “improvement” of Instagram, she alerts readers to her coming appearance at a virtual con:
….Anyway, speaking of things to do on the internet that are actually fun, there will be a Virtual 4th Street Fantasy convention this year. I’ve recorded a panel for it (“Personalizing the Apocalypse”) with a remarkable cast of brilliant people, and we will be doing a live Q&A for attendees on the weekend of June 18th.
Doubleday will publish a new collection of Margaret Atwood’s essays, Burning Questions: Essays 2004-2021, on March 1, 2022. U.S. rights were acquired from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.
…The selection of more than 50 essays, the publisher said, “seeks answers to burning questions such as: Why do people everywhere, in all cultures, tell stories? How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating? How can we live on our planet? Is it true? And is it fair? What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism?”…
(8) TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW. John Hertz celebrates Bob Madle’s 101st birthday with this poem:
All our yesterdays Live on, or some of them do, In the fannish mind, Vitally moving new deeds Even as we joke of them.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
June 2, 1950 – On this day in 1950, Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of just ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in a higher esteem that audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a mere fifteen percent rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup. In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrim meets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha. In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons. In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana. Nobel Prize in Literature. (Died 1919) [JH]
Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger. Pioneer of Silhouette animation. Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924). Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film. Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928. Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade. Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979. (Died 1981) [JH]
Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey. Fan, pro, short-order cook. Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes. Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books. (Died 1993) [JH]
Born June 2, 1920 – Bob Madle, age 101. He may be Oldest of All. He was at Nycon I the 1st Worldcon; he named the Hugo Awards. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate. Fan Guest of Honor at SunCon the 35th Worldcon. First Fandom Hall of Fame. Moskowitz Award for collecting. Big Heart (our highest service award). This post from last year includes photos and a summary in his own words. [JH]
Born June 2, 1929 — Norton Juster. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, it is said that he met Jules Feiffer who illustrated that work when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth spending an evening reading. (Died 2021.) (CE)
Born June 2, 1921 — Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction. Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE)
Born June 2, 1937 — Sally Kellerman, 83. Here for her role as Elizabeth Dehner in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot for Star Trek. Her first genre role was in an episode of the Outer Limits, “The Bellero Shield”. She shows up in the Invaders in the “Labyrinth” episode. Her last genre appearance was on the Ray Bradbury Theater in the “Exorcism” episode. She also appeared in the Lost Horizon film. (CE)
Born June 2, 1941 — Stacy Keach, 80. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999, followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, awaited him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return. Whereas The Hollow has a tasteful title, the Man with the Screaming Brain does not. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo. (CE)
Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds, age 73. Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n). Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award. First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America. First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years). Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th. Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter. [JH]
Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney, age 62. Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994. “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon). Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon 34. Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. [JH]
Born June 2, 1965 — Sean Stewart, 56. Fantastic author whose Galveston novel that won the World Fantasy Award I highly recommend, as well as the Resurrection Man novels. I’ve not read his most recent set of novels, The Cathy’s Book series, but it’s take on augmented reality sounds intriguing. (CE)
Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta, age 48. Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies. Prix Benois de la Danse. Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet. Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a Faun, Apollo, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot. Memoir, No Way Home. [JH]
Born June 2, 1979 — Morena Baccarin, 42. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in the Deadpool franchise; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham. She did an exemplary job of voicing Black Canary in Justice League Unlimited. (CE)
DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee discusses his work in celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. He will appear in conversation with illustrator Bernard Chang (“Generations Forged”) and writers Sarah Kuhn (“Shadow of the Batgirl”) and Minh Lê (“Green Lantern: Legacy”). This event is moderated by former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang (“Superman Smashes the Klan”).
…The Hamilton Ventura has always been part of the Men in Black movies. Back in 1997, when the first installment (Men in Black) hit the cinema, the choice of Agents J and K was the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (ref. H24411732). Five years later, in 2002’s Men in Black II, the Ventura Chrono Quartz (ref. H24412732) was chosen in the starring role instead. The next decade saw those two watches reunite on-screen for Men in Black III (2012), as well as introducing the Hamilton Ventura XXL.
Men in Black: International will build on the cult following enjoyed by the Ventura since its launch in ’57. The new film focuses on two agents attempting to protect the world from a mole within their own organization, while dressed in their classic suits and armed with their essential neuralyzer pens. Helping Agent M and Agent H on their mission are the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (M), and the Hamilton Ventura Automatic with a cut-out dial and brown leather strap (H), respectively….
(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched a contestant miss this one on last night’s Jeopardy!
Final Jeopardy; category: Around the World
Answer: In the 1860s, a zoologist proposed that this island was once part of a lost continent he dubbed Lemuria.
Wrong question: What is Galapagos?
Correct question: What is Madagascar?
(14) JDA SUSPENDED FROM TWITTER AND FACEBOOK. Straight from the horse’s…mouth.
The sudden appearance of a small hole in a robotic arm aboard the international space station (ISS) has brought renewed attention to the danger posed by space junk.
Mission managers discovered the puncture during an inspection of the exterior of the spacecraft on 12 May. The Canadian space agency (CSA), which operates the arm, described it as a “lucky strike” that did not affect operations or endanger the seven astronauts in orbit aboard the station.
It is not known what kind of object struck the space station or when it happened. But analysts say the incident is a reminder of the proliferating amount of junk circling Earth and the risk that poses as launches and satellites in orbit increase.
“There’s a lot of stuff out there traveling at over 17,500mph and obviously it can do a lot of damage,” John Crassidis, SUNY distinguished professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo, told the Guardian….
…Two new studies published this year have underscored the fact that sabercats required some of the same family ties that today’s big cats rely upon. Some young sabercats may have stayed with their parents for two years or more as they waited for their impressive fangs to come in. Those parents likely played an essential role in teaching their saberkittens how to catch and eat food, including dragging mammoth legs home to chew on. Together, these studies help highlight how sabercat behavior evolved to cope with a world in which many carnivorous species—from dire wolves to giant bears—competed for prey.
(17) WATCH YOUR SIXTH. What’s more dangerous, a sabertooth or the Doctor? Artist JohannesVIII did this piece of Doctor Who‘s Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) as a cat!
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ben Bird Person, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
By John Hertz: Long-time fan Marty Helgesen, active in fanzines and thus known across the country, sometimes seen at SF cons, quick-witted and comical, thoughtful, cheerfully Catholic, left our Earth for a better life, as his co-religionists trust, on Sunday, May 23rd. He was 82.
He was a wise guy in the highest sense, like – though the comparison would have embarrassed him – Ronald Knox, a Catholic priest who made a new translation of the Bible and wrote detective stories. Marty’s fanwriting included – as I noted here – things like “All syllogisms have three parts. Therefore, this is not a syllogism.”
His own fanzine Radio Free Thulcandra in the mid-1980s through mid-1990s ran three dozen issues of five or six dozen pages, its title alluding to Radio Free Europe broadcasts and a name for Earth in three books by C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength. Marty was, besides, in three apas that I know of, Minneapa, APA-L, and FLAP. Minneapa, mighty in its day, came to an end; APA-L and FLAP continue.
He knew and quoted Msgr. Knox’ writing; also the writing of another who had the gift of speaking clearly on topics difficult to manage, Frank Sheed. This was welcome. Marty resisted anti-Christian or anti-Catholic prejudice – as I’ve sometimes put it, too often we fans aren’t really tolerant, we just march behind a banner that says “Tolerance” – but, although Christians may proselytize, he did not misappropriate fannish moments to urge his faith. He was a counter-example to the Spanish proverb Every man pushes his own sardine a little closer to the fire.
He earned his living as a librarian. He lived in Malverne, New York.
I cherish the memory of running across him one day at a convention, dressed in his usual white short-sleeved shirt with four pockets, black trousers, drawing a little red wagon carrying a children’s T-shirt, the T-shirt filled out somehow as if worn on a human or humanoid body and reading “My parents went to Middle-Earth and all I got was this stupid ring.”
A friend of his posted a notice here about Marty’s funeral Mass and burial, to be held on Friday, May 28th. If you can go, do. If you can remember him in prayers, do that. He and I had substantial differences, but we were too occupied with what we had in common to dwell on them. I’m not sure fandom is a way of life, but if it is, that’s in it.