(1) MEMORIES. “Neil Gaiman at Bard College” in The Millbrook Independent.
…Gaiman described how forgetting the name of a close friend became the inspiration for a story he wrote called “The Man who forgot Ray Bradbury.” His friend, who had died, was a reviewer of Sandman. When he could not remember the man’s name even though they had been close, “it scared me.”
When Gaiman read the story out loud, some of the adults in the audience nodded in recognition of the phenomenon of forgetting words:
“I am forgetting things and it scares me…I am losing words-but not concepts-I look for words as as if someone had stolen them in the middle of the night…things are missing from my mouth…I am lost in the forest and do not know where here is. I learned your books, but I can’t remember your name. I worry that I am the person keeping the stories alive…perhaps God delegates things…but then you forget the things that God has delegated you to remember. I have forgotten the name of the author…I fear I am going mad…I cannot just be growing old…there is an empty space in the bookshelf of my mind.”
He described how he read all of Bradbury. He was particularly affected by The Homecoming, a macabre story of a little boy who does not fit in with his supernatural family of ghouls, vampires, and witches. Having met Bradbury at his 70th birthday, Gaiman gave Bradbury the story he wrote for him on his 91st birthday when the writer was no longer able to read. He was moved by the video that Bradbury had filmed of himself saying thank you to Gaiman for the story. He said he sometimes listens to it when he needs cheering up.
(2) NPR AND TWITTER. “Twitter Removes ‘Government-Funded’ Labels From Media Accounts” reports the New York Times. “NPR and public broadcasters in Canada, Australia and New Zealand had criticized the label as misleading. The CBC and NPR have suspended the use of their Twitter accounts in protest.” NPR has not yet resumed using the account; the last NPR post on Twitter was dated April 12.
… The removal of the labels was the latest shift that Twitter has made abruptly and without explanation under the leadership of its owner, Elon Musk.
Twitter made the change one day after it began removing check mark icons from the profiles of thousands of celebrities, politicians and journalists whose identities it had verified before Mr. Musk bought the company for $44 billion in October. Twitter, which automatically responds to press inquiries via email with a poop emoji, did not immediately comment on Friday.
NPR reported that Mr. Musk said in an email that Twitter had dropped all media labels and that “this was Walter Isaacson’s suggestion,” apparently referring to the author and former media executive who is working on a book about Mr. Musk. Mr. Isaacson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Twitter then changed the label on the NPR Twitter account to “Government-funded Media.” It gave the same designation to PBS, which also said it would stop tweeting from its account.
NPR said last week that it received less than 1 percent of its annual operating budget in the form of grants from the government-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other federal agencies and departments. It said its two largest sources of revenue are corporate sponsorships and fees paid by member stations, which rely heavily on donations from listeners.
PBS says on its website that, because it is commercial-free, many people mistakenly believe the government provides the bulk of its funding. But federal funding accounts for only about 15 percent of its revenue, the broadcaster said….
(3) AVOID THIS FRAUD. Victoria Strauss diagrams the “Anatomy of a Fake Literary Agency Scam” at Writer Beware.
… There are three components to a fake literary agency scam.
- One (or more) fake agency
- One (or more) “trustworthy” service provider
- A parent company overseas, usually in the Philippines, that runs the scam with a brigade of sales reps using American-sounding aliases. This is where your money ultimately goes….
(4) POLITICAL GAMESMANSHIP. [Item by “Orange Mike” Lowrey.] According to the right-wing press, playing Magic: The Gathering means that Missouri Democrat Lucas Kunce (a combat veteran) should be disqualified from holding public office. (Remember the Maine state senate candidate, a nurse, whose crime was playing World of Warcraft?) “Disqualifying: Democratic Senate Candidate Played ‘Magic: The Gathering’ With Journalist” at The Washington Free Beacon.
What happened: Lucas Kunce, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, played Magic: The Gathering with a journalist from Time magazine, a once-respected publication.
The resulting article was clearly inspired by the Washington Free Beacon‘s exclusive report about Kunce being a massive nerd who was a male cheerleader at Yale and got arrested for harassing his neighbors with a box of Lucky Charms because their weed-smoking annoyed him. (Yes, seriously.) He also plays wizard-themed card games in his spare time….
…Why it matters: In a free and just society, playing Magic: The Gathering with a journalist would disqualify someone from seeking public office. To paraphrase one of America’s most formidable intellectual prognosticators: “We don’t want nerds elected in Missouri. No nerds!”
(5) NORTH KOREAN SFF. Sonya Lee introduces readers to “Science Fiction Literature from North Korea” in the Library of Congress’ “4 Corners of the World” blog.
Is there science fiction in North Korea? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Kim Chŏng-il (1941-2011) himself, the country’s second leader, believed science fiction had an important role to play and encouraged its publication. But what does science fiction in North Korea look like?
First, the genre of science fiction in North Korea is tied to anti-imperialism and the concept of juche, often translated as “self-reliance” or “self-determination.” Thus, North Korean science fiction focuses above all on the possibility of molding nature and society according to the will of the North Korean people so they become the master of their own destiny. Juche is a foundational concept in the ideology of the North Korea state, too. The country’s founding leader Kim Il-sŏng (1912-94) connected this idea of juche to the concept of a people’s revolution, one that would be free from imperial, or Western, influence.
Science fiction is a special type of literature that describes technologies that do not yet exist and envisions what our future life may entail with highly developed science. While science fiction often fantastically imagines how science and technology can explore new worlds and even conquer nature, the premises of its stories have to be based on convincing scientific knowledge. Science fiction writers need considerable knowledge of the trends in modern science and technology in order to create convincing previews of a highly developed future.
(6) DEAN KOONTZ Q&A. [Item by Michael Toman.] Would Other Filers also appreciate the opportunity to hear this recommended, inspirational podcast, too? N. B. Dean’s shout-outs for Bradbury, Heinlein, Sturgeon, and ol’ Jack Douglas about 45:00! Not to mention John D. MacDonald! Page One Podcast Ep. 11: Dean Koontz – Quicksilver.
In this very special episode, we discuss the pursuit of being a reckless optimist, fighting nihilism, quantum physics, and the mystery of being in the creative flow—where creativity is not coming from you but through you. Koontz’s creative output is almost superhuman, yet he’s one of the most lovable, down to earth and experienced authors you’ll ever get the pleasure of meeting. Please enjoy his bountiful wisdom on what it takes to become a master storyteller.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1979 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
And this Scroll we have a Beginning courtesy of Reginald Bretnor who was known primarily as a short story writer from the Fifties to Eighties. Under the alias Grendel Briarton, he wrote the very short stories about time traveller Ferdinand Feghoot.
What we’re interested in this Scroll is that he invited various SF and science writers to contribute essays to anthologies for which he had decided the theme beforehand. And brings us to the Beginning tonight.
Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future was first published seventy years ago by Coward-McCann, an imprint of G. P. Putnam’s Sons. It has entries by John W. Campbell, Jr., Anthony Boucher, Fletcher Pratt, Rosalie Moore, Don Fabun, L. Sprague de Camp, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip Wylie and Gerald Heard. Bretnor of course contributed to this anthology as well.
It is, if you are interested in reading it, available from usual suspects in a trade paper edition for a quite reasonable price.
Here’s the entire Beginning otherwise known as the preface by Bretnor…
The twenty-six years that have passed since this book was first published in 1953 have dramatically narrowed the gap (which never really existed except in the public imagination) between science and science fiction. They have been years of marvelous scientific and technological progress—and of almost unbelievable geopolitical idiocy.
Today, perhaps, we are more generally aware of threats to our existence which we ourselves have brought into being, and science fiction has certainly played a major role in achieving that awareness. But we have made little or no progress in understanding how to control these threats—in other words, how to control that destructiveness which is so terrible a part of our universal heritage. The gap between our technological sophistication and our primitive behavior is wider now than it has ever been, and is not narrowing—yet. Here science fiction may seem to have achieved little of its promise, partly for the very cogent reason that destructiveness too often is dramatic and exciting—we all know that star wars can be good, clean fun, now don’t we?—and partly because the field has suffered from a number of derationalizing influences: first, that strange hodgepodge of anti-scientific flummery known rather vaguely as the New Wave, next the (at first grudging and then downright hungry) recognition and acceptance of science fiction by our academics, and finally that Madison Avenue trendiness which always steps in with its cleated overshoes when the general public starts to catch up with something (in this case, with Horrendous Science Stories, circa 1932).
Yet we have a contradiction here, for these influences themselves are perhaps the best evidence that science fiction has been successfully performing its most important function—narrowing the gap between what C. P. Snow calls our Two Cultures: the scientific and the non-scientific literary. The literary intellectual who, for whatever reason, becomes interested in science fiction cannot help acquiring something of a scientific orientation; at least, he will be much less likely to shudder at the thought of “cold, inhuman science”—and his children or his pupils much more likely to dismiss the entire concept as absurd. Similarly, the scientific intellectual who reads, and possibly writes, science fiction cannot help but gain a deeper understanding of, and interest in, what his non-scientific counterpart would call “the warm human emotions.”
And, of course, we may expect to find analogous attitudinal changes on semi-intellectual and even non-intellectual levels.
To my mind, one of the most significant, immediately observable results of this trend is today’s surprising number of highly capable younger writers with solid scientific backgrounds—men and women who—despite the fact that so many of our grammar and high schools have become expensive playpens for the mass production of illiteracy—have somehow managed to get general educations broad enough to enable them to write, not just imaginatively but really well, and to integrate into their work what they know of the exact sciences and their resultant technologies.
The process rather resembles the marriage of the Antique and the Medieval in the Renaissance, and if human events allow it to continue, not just in science fiction but in all other areas, must ultimately produce a culture richer and more coherent than those which have preceded it, a culture at once humane and scientific (because science is human, and there need be no conflict “between humanity and science”), a culture for the first time capable of understanding its own drives, its strengths, its weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Certainly I am not saying that science fiction can or will itself create this culture. But it will contribute to it, partly by helping to bring about the rapprochement we have discussed, and partly through its many attempts to define the future.
I believe that science fiction is the first of that culture’s many voices, most of which are still unborn—and that it already was when this book first appeared twenty-six years ago.
REGINALD BRETNOR. Medford, Oregon. October 5, 1978
Note: When I edited Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future few bibliographical tools were available in the science fiction field, and many errors inevitably went by undetected. For this reason, Advent:Publishers have very kindly provided a comprehensive supplement of corrections and notes.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 22, 1902 — Philip Latham. Name used by astronomer Robert Shirley Richardson on his genre work. His novels were largely first published in Astounding starting in the Forties, With the exception of his children’s SF novels that were published in Space Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote a few scripts for Captain Video, the predecessor of Captain Video and his Video Rangers. His Comeback novel starts this way: “When Parkhurst heard the announcement that climaxed the science fiction convention, he found that he’d been right, years ago when he had faith in science-fictionists’ dreams. But, in another way, he’d been wrong . . .” It’s available at the usual digital suspects for a buck. (Died 1981.)
- Born April 22, 1916 — Virginia Heinlein. Editor of Grumbles from the Grave. Also allowed Tramp Royale to be published after her husband’s death. And for some reason allowed longer versions of previously published works Stranger in a Strange Land, The Puppet Masters, and Red Planet to be published. Anyone read these? Used bookstores here frequently had copies of Stranger in a Strange Land so buyers didn’t hold on to it… (Died 2003.)
- Born April 22, 1934 — Sheldon Jaffery. Bibliographer who was a fan of Weird Tales, Arkham House books, pulps, and pretty much anything in that area. Among his publications are Collector’s Index to Weird Tales (co-written with Fred Cook), Future and Fantastic Worlds: A Bibliographical Retrospective of DAW Books (1972-1987) and Horrors and Unpleasantries: A Bibliographical History and Collector’s Price Guide to Arkham House. He also edited three anthologies which Bowling Green Press printed, to wit Sensuous Science Fiction from the Weird and Spicy Pulps, Selected Tales of Grim and Grue from the Horror Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps. (Died 2003.)
- Born April 22, 1937 — Jack Nicholson, 86. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (previous three films are Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim Burton’s The Batman.
- Born April 22, 1944 — Damien Broderick, 79. Australian writer of over seventy genre novels. It is said that The Judas Mandala novel contains the first appearance of the term “virtual reality” in SF. He’s won five Ditmar Awards, a remarkable achievement. I know I’ve read several novels by him including Godplayers and K-Machines which are quite good.
- Born April 22, 1946 — John Waters, 77. Yes, he did horror films, lots of them. Shall we list them? There’s Multiple Maniacs, Suburban Gothic, Excision, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat and Seed of Chucky. The latter described as a “supernatural black comedy horror film” on Wiki. He also narrates Of Dolls and Murder, a documentary film about a collection of dollhouse crime scenes created in the Forties and society’s collective fascination with death.
- Born April 22, 1977 — Kate Baker, 46. Editor along with with Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace of the last two print issues Clarkesworld. She’s won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine twice, and the World Fantasy Award (Special Award: Non Professional) in 2014, all alongside the editorial staff of Clarkesworld. She’s a writer of three short genre stories, one which of which, “No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak”, you can hear at the link. Trigger warning for subject matters abuse and suicide.
- Born April 22, 1984 — Michelle Ryan, 39. She had the odd honor of being a Companion to the Tenth Doctor as Lady Christina de Souza for just one story, “Planet of the Dead”. She had a somewhat longer genre run as the rebooted Bionic Woman that lasted eight episodes, and early in her career, she appeared as the sorceress Nimueh in BBC’s Merlin. Finally I’ll note she played Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BBC’s Learning project, Off By Heart Shakespeare.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Tom Gauld breaks down all the previously overlooked ingredients.
(10) MEET THE SMOOKLERS. Two longtime Canadian fans have been profiled in LivingLIFE, published by The LIFE Institute of Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education. “Meet the Smooklers, LIFE Institute Pioneers”.
Following a study commissioned by the North York Board of Education in 1987, Elderhostel created a model for seniors’ self-directed learning. With the involvement of three other interested organizations, a home was found on the Ryerson campus. Among those present at the inaugural LIFE meeting in 1990 were Frances and Kenneth Smookler. They would go on to serve 22 terms and 10 terms respectively on the Board.
Both lawyers, they had started practicing in separate firms but soon joined forces and remained the partners of Smookler and Smookler until they retired.
Ken’s interests include research, travel and writing. In 2016 a book he wrote about a fantasy law firm called Farr and Beyond was published and is still available through Amazon. With a background in science, Ken is keenly interested in speculative fiction. He has been on the Board of three World Science Conventions and attended twenty or more, often accompanied by Frances…
(11) CLIPPING SERVICE. The National Air and Space Museum revisits “Project Paperclip and American Rocketry after World War II”. The précis reads:
Project Paperclip, commonly known by misnomer “Operation Paperclip,” was a program designed to bring German and Austrian engineers, scientists, and technicians to the United States after the end of World War II in Europe. The program’s official goal was to bring these skilled experts to the United States for a period of six months to a year to assist in America’s efforts against Japan.
Approximately half of the initial Paperclip experts were affiliated with the Nazi Party, with many joining for opportunistic reasons. The rationale behind bringing them to the United States was that the country required their expertise in weapons programs or, at the very least, had to prevent the Soviet Union from accessing their knowledge and talents.
Project Paperclip made a significant contribution to American technology, rocket development, military preparedness and, eventually, spaceflight, but there was a moral cost to the program: the coverup of the Nazi records of many of the specialists. Curator Michael Neufeld explores in a new blog.
(12) SOUNDS ALMOST FORTEAN. [Item by Michael Toman.] Loon Moon Over Wisconsin? Birdfall Apocalypse? “’Loon fallout’: Strange weather phenomenon causes birds to fall from sky in Wisconsin” reports Yahoo!
… However, due to the many calls the group has received, combined with the region’s winter mix of ice, rain and unstable air currents this week, they said it appears a “loon fallout” is occurring.
“That occurs when atmospheric conditions are such that the migrating loons develop ice on their body as they fly at high altitude and crash-land when they are no longer able to fly due to the weight of the ice on their body or the interference with their flight ability,” said the group, which helps in the care and rehabilitation of wild birds.
…”Loons cannot walk! They will need your help,” the group said in a Facebook post. “If you find a loon on land or on a road or cow pasture, realize that it cannot walk.”
Loon’s legs are placed to the back of the bird and made for swimming and diving, not walking, according to REGI. They also cannot fly from small ponds as they need a quarter mile or more of open water to run across and get airborne….
VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George is there when a “90s Time Traveler Discovers AI”. Comedy gold! Or at least zircon.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]