Pixel Scroll 6/27/22 Scroll Ain’t Nothing But Pixel Misspelled

(1) STOP STICKING IT TO AUTHORS. In “Amazon’s e-book return policy comes under criticism from authors” NPR takes up the cause of the writers whose pockets are being picked.

… Authors are protesting Amazon’s e-book return policy, a system they say allows readers to “steal” from self-published authors. Amazon’s current return policy for e-books allows customers to “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But, for some readers, seven days is more than enough time to finish a book and return it after reading, effectively treating Amazon like a library.

When an Amazon customer returns an e-book, royalties originally paid to the author at the time of purchase are deducted from their earnings balance….

…Those suggesting the read-and-return practice think they’re “sticking it to Amazon,” but in reality are only harming the authors, said Eva Creel, a fantasy writer who publishes under the name E. G. Creel.

“I have my book available at the library. If somebody wants to read it for free, they can,” Creel said. “But reading it and making me think that I’ve made an income and then that income being taken away from me, that feels like stealing.”

Science fiction and fantasy author Nicole Givens Kurtz said she’s concerned that this trend will continue.

“If people continue to promote [reading and returning e-books], it impacts my income, which impacts my quality of life and my ability to take care of my family,” she said. “I don’t think readers quite understand or see the person behind the product.”

(2) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM CFP. The Gunn Center reminds everyone that the deadline for proposals for the first annual Sturgeon Symposium is only 3 days away. The event takes place September 29-30 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. See the call for papers here.

(3) INCIDENT INTERRUPTS BUSINESS AT MACMILLAN. “After ‘Security Incident,’ Macmillan Closes, Will Not Process Orders” reports Shelf Awareness. The details are not disclosed.

Macmillan sent a notice to customers saying that because of “a security incident” on Saturday that involved its servers and internal system, the company has closed offices today, Monday, June 27, in order to continue its investigation and to rebuild “a secure working environment.” As a result, Macmillan is currently not able to process, receive, place or ship orders. The company added that it will keep customers posted.

(4) HUGO TAKES. This month the SF Insiders blog launched. Who’s writing it? No idea! It’s a secret.

Not unlike other writers hoping to break into the science fiction and fantasy field, we have high hopes, many opinions, and no power. We remain anonymous to protect ourselves from the Internet horrors we’ve seen inflicted on others.

The blog’s first order of business is evaluating the 2022 Hugo finalists. They’ve written about two Hugo categories and the Astounding Award so far.

2. Sheila Williams

Williams is the only previous winner on this year’s ballot and the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction. She’s also edited several anthologies, but none of those were published in 2021. Asimov’s output for 2021 was exactly what we’ve come to expect and Williams continued involvement with the Dell Award did not go unnoticed by us. There’s a reason she’s won two Hugos and continues to appear on this list.

5. Escape Pod

A science fiction podcast that publishes a mix of reprint and original stories. Their editors are finalists for Editor Short form and we stand by the opinions stated there. On discussing this publication for the second time, however, we questioned why the same work is eligible for two awards. This isn’t the first time it has happened, but we think it would be more fair if these magazines choose to be in one or the other. With how often there are repeat finalists in these categories, restricting it to one would give us more variety to choose from.

We were supposed to talk about the Astounding Award finalists during this week’s Zoom, but we went in a different direction instead: the “not a Hugo” status of the award. Maybe someone can tell us how has this never become an official Hugo Award? As writers, the current status feels like a slap in the face and we’re not even eligible yet….

(5) LE GUIN, ROBINSON, AND UTOPIAS. The Tin House podcast offers “Crafting with Ursula : Kim Stanley Robinson on Ambiguous Utopias”.

Today’s guest, Kim Stanley Robinson, is perhaps the living writer most associated with utopian literature today. And as a student of the philosopher, political theorist, and literary critic Fredric Jameson, Robinson has thought deeply about the history of utopias, the history of the novel, and the strange hybrid form that became the utopian novel. In his mind it was Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote the first truly great utopian novel. We discuss Le Guin’s utopian work alongside his, and contextualize her importance historically. Robinson also shares some incredible anecdotes from his time in the 70s as her student and the ways their lives as fellow writers have intersected over the decades.

What is a utopian novel? What is an ambiguous utopia? And why has this genre become a particularly vital form and even a critical tool of the human imagination today? Listen in to find out. 

(6) NO COUNTRY FOR YOUNG MEN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Ringer does some interesting research into the trend of Hollywood blockbuster action movies that center on older actors and finds that it’s a multifaceted phenomenon that can be tied to economic heft of older moviegoers, changing media tastes in younger generations, and shifts in how movie studios build tentpole features around intellectual property rather than around individual actors and their personal brands. “The Golden Age of the Aging Actor”.

They quote film historian Mark Harris: “Maybe they’re gamers, or maybe what they really enjoy is TikTok, or maybe it’s something else, but a generation can’t generate stars if it doesn’t really love the medium that creates and accommodates stars.”

(7) BRYAN BARRETT OBITUARY. Fan and bookdealer Bryan Barrett, who co-chaired the 1998 World Fantasy Convention, died June 21. Lucy Huntzinger relayed the news from Bryan’s nephew, and wrote a tribute about him on Facebook which says in part:

…I can’t say enough about what a genuine, caring, intelligent, interesting man he was. He was always willing to help out friends with his little truck while he still had it, and he had a marvelous time at the San Jose Worldcon in 2018 seeing many old fannish and mystery friends again.

Because of his poor health in the last few years he lived a life that became increasingly housebound and full of medical appointments, but he never stopped caring about the world, about fairness and justice, about democracy….

(8) MEMORY LANE

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-six years ago this evening on ABC, the rather at first mundane soap opera Dark Shadows first aired. Now it wasn’t until ten months later that the Toothy One, vampire Barnabas Collins, as played by Jonathan Frid, made his first appearance. 

Before its six seasons and one thousand two hundred and twenty-five episodes ran their course, those of us who watched it will have seen Frankenstein style monsters, ghosts, a parallel universe, time travel, warlocks, werewolves, witches, and even zombies. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something of a fantastic nature that happened there. 

It has never left syndication in forty years. Dark Shadows (later referred to as Dark Shadows: The Revival) was attempted in 1991. That too created by Dan Curtis who was responsible for Dark Shadows, it lasted twelve extremely poorly received episodes. Dan Curtis also did two films set in the Dark Shadows continuity, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows.

It was somewhat unusual in a small company of performers played many roles; and as performers came and went, some characters were played by more than one performer.

I am not going to comment about Tim Burton directing a film version of this starring Johnny Depp, who finally realized one of his childhood fantasies of being Barnabas Collins. Really. I’m not. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1909 — Billy Curtis. You’ll best remember him as the small Copper-Skinned Ambassador in Trek’s “Journey to Babel” episode. His genre experience goes all the way back to Wizard of Oz where he was a Munchkin, and later on he’s a mole-man in Superman and The Mole-Men, and later on a midget in The Incredible Shrinking Man. He had lots of one-offs, be it on Batman (twice there), Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Planet of The Apes or Twilght Zone. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 27, 1941 — James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. The group that gave out the Prometheus Award certainly thought so with fifteen nominations and two Awards for two novels, The Multiplex Man and Voyage from Yesteryear. I’m sure that I’ve read at least a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1952 — Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice”. Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available at the usual suspects. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 — Stephen Dedman, 63. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it. He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles.
  • Born June 27, 1966 — J.J. Abrams, 56. Executive Producer of AliasLost: Missing PiecesStar Trek, Lost, FringeStar Trek Into DarknessAlmost Human… Well you get the idea. Most fans really like, a few very vocal ones really hate his guts mostly for his Star Trek work. I love Fringe unreservedly and therefore will forgive any transgressions he committed elsewhere. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 — Christian Kane, 50. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before becoming Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 — Tobey Maguire, 47. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one seriously weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film. 
  • Born June 27, 1987 — Ed Westwick, 35. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarize), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy shows a writer with ambitious goals.

(11) TRALFAMADORIAN TOOLKIT. Emily Temple has collected “Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Writing Advice” for Literary Hub.

5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

(12) HISTORY JUMPS THE TRACKS. Annalee Newitz joins Margaret Atwood on the list of sff writers who didn’t set out to predict the present in “Science fiction, abortion, and predicting the future” at Slate.

A few months before COVID shut the world down in 2020, I published a book called The Future of Another Timeline. Set in 2022, it’s about a group of time travelers who live in an alternate United States where abortion was never legalized. Working in secret, they travel 130 years back to the 19th century to foment protests against the anti-abortion crusader Anthony Comstock. Their goal is to change the course of history. Spoilers: They succeed—sort of. When they return to 2022, abortion is legal in a few states, though it remains illegal in the majority of them.

It is not a good feeling to live through a version of the dark timeline I imagined in my fiction….

(13) A LONG TIME AGO. Craig Miller posted the letter he sent to winner of a contest he ran for The Star Wars Corporation in the Seventies.

In issue two of the Newsletter of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, I announced a contest to come up with an actual name for the newsletter. Fans could send up to three suggestions. We received a huge number of entries. I don’t remember how many but, apparently, there were thousands.

…The winning name: Bantha Tracks. And the winner, Preston Postle.

The letter is dated just 10 months after I started this newzine. I should have asked Craig for some of his discards – I’ll bet there were some better ideas in there than File 770, eh?

(14) THIS REMINDS ME. [Item by Chris Barkley.] When I heard this story, naturally I thought of this quote: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Listen to the Here and Now report on WBUR: “Don’t worry about the robot revolution: One expert explains why AI is nowhere near sentience”.

For decades, robot revolutions have been a staple of science fiction stories. But earlier this month, the stuff of fiction came a little too close to reality when Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer, claimed that the company’s artificial intelligence had achieved sentience, the ability to experience feeling and thought.

While Lemoine’s claims made waves online, many experts are pretty skeptical. They argue that just because a program can imitate human language doesn’t mean it’s actually human.

One of those critics is Emily M. Bender, a professor at the University of Washington specializing in computational linguistics and grammar engineering. She spoke with Here & Now‘s Celeste Headlee.

(15) GOOD FORM. Walter Jon Williams told readers he recently leveled up in his martial arts training: “Achievement Unlocked”.

…I successfully tested for my 6th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. In the days since, I’ve been judging at the tests of lower-ranking belts, and participating in a demonstration in front of a live audience.

All with a torn achilles tendon which requires me to walk with a cane much of the time.

Fortunately most of the test consisted of theory and philosophy. I was required to do some forms, but I designed most of these myself, and could alter them when I needed to. (For the demonstration, I was able to do my own kata more or less without modification, and the other form requires me to alter the steps once. It was uncomfortable and a little awkward, but I wasn’t left with the impression I’d bungled anything.)…

(16) POORFEADING. Jon Del Arroz, who styles himself a leading figure of ComicsGate, wrote an article belittling Heather Antos’ work for IDW. A true case of Muphry’s law in action, as Taylor Talks Comics pointedly reveals in a thread that starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(17) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Thanks for a friend alerting me that Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is now available on the Disney+ streaming service for free (well, no $ other than the monthly fee), I’ve got one non-spoiler question (not directly germane to the movie, but I suddenly found myself wondering):

What happens when Blackadar Boltagon (aka Black Bolt), a (Jack Kirby-created) Inhuman usually ruler of Attilan and (often but not always) spouse to (the Inhuman named) Medusa, whose slightest whisper is explosive, burps, hiccups, or sneezes. (Or, for that matter, snores — let’s hope he doesn’t have sleep apnea.)

(18) OLDER THAN LUCY AND PROBABLY DESI. “Ancient fossils in the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ are more than 1 million years older than previously thought” reports Yahoo!

In 1936, archeologists began unearthing a trove of early human fossils in a South African cave. Now, researchers say most of those ancient bones date back 3.7 million years, which makes them more than 1 million years older than previously thought….

To gauge the ages of the hominid skeletal remains, Granger and his team used a technique known as “cosmogenic nuclide dating,” or burial dating, which involves examining the rocks that encased the ancient bones. It works like this: When energetic particles from space, or cosmic rays, hit rocks, they produce elements like aluminum and beryllium that build up and decay at a known rate.

“We’re able to take a rock that was exposed to cosmic rays, and if it falls into a cave, it’s shielded from more radiation,” Granger told Insider, adding, “It’s called burial dating because, really, what we’re doing is dating when the rock was buried.”

Granger used the same method in 2015 to estimate that one set of Australopithecus remains found in the Sterkfontein Caves, nicknamed Little Foot, was about 3.4 to 3.7 million years old. The new study suggests that in addition to Little Foot, all Australopithecus remains on the site are between 3.4 and 3.7 million years old, rather than roughly 2 million years old, as scientists previously thought.

The remains’ shifting age puts the species within roughly the same time frame that the famous human ancestor “Lucy” — which belonged to the species Australopithecus afarensis — roamed what’s now Ethiopia, 3.2 million years ago. According to Granger, that refutes the theory that the Sterkfontein individuals descended from Australopithecus afarensis. “There must be an older common ancestor somewhere,” Granger added…

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, Stephen Burridge, Alan Baumler, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Paul Weimer Wins DUFF

Congratulations to Paul Weimer on being officially named the 2017 Down Under Fan Fund Delegate. Co-administrator Lucy Huntzinger announced that he received virtually all the first place votes. Weimer was running unopposed. Full voting statistics will be released later.

He will travel from Minnesota to Continuum, the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne this June.

Update: Huntzinger has posted the voting figures:

There were 21 valid ballots submitted in North America and 19 in Australasia for a total of 40. Paul received 37 first place votes.

Of the 21 North American votes cast, 19 listed Paul Weimer in 1st place, 2 listed Hold Over Funds in 1st place.

Of the 19 Australasian votes cast, 18 listed Paul Weimer in 1st place, 1 listed No Preference in 1st place.

DUFF received two valid ballots with no votes listed and a request to accept the fee included as a donation only. We also received one ballot with no fee submitted; it was disqualified.

2017 DUFF Race Begins

Voting on the Down Under Fan Fund delegate to Continuum, the 56th Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia, has opened and will continue until March 10, 2017 at 23:59 PST. There is one candidate in this year’s race, our own —

Paul Weimer

I’m a podcaster for the Skiffy and Fanty podcast, the SFF audio podcast, a noted SF/F book reviewer and a regular panelist at local cons. I am also an amateur photographer. I have only been to one international con, the Worldcon in London in 2014, and would love to broaden my international fandom connections. If I have the honor of being selected, I aim to build the links I already have with Australian fandom (in things like being a prior participant in The Australian SF Snapshot) into face to face interviews, meetings, and more with fans and genre folk at Continuum and elsewhere in Australia. Have camera and recorder and ready to travel!

Nominators: North America: Mike Glyer, Arref Mak, and Jen Zink. Australasia: Gillian Polack and Alexandra Pierce.

It’s important for fans to vote because that’s a source of funds for Paul’s trip. (Votes should be accompanied by a minimum contribution of $5 in US, Australian, Canadian, or New Zealand currency, or an equivalent sum in other currencies. Any contributions in excess of the minimum voting fee will be gratefully accepted.)

You can vote online using this form, or you can print a copy of the ballot by downloading the PDF.

DUFF was founded in 1972 to exchange delegates from Australia, New Zealand and North America.

Delegates are chosen as active members of the SF community whom fans on the visited side would like to meet. The delegate travels as much as possible, makes friends, radiates goodwill, and becomes the Administrator in turn until the next cycle. There is an expectation (not always fulfilled!) that delegates will write a trip report during or after their trip. Delegates’ trip reports are sold to support the Fund.

The current administrators of the fund are Lucy Huntzinger in North America, and Clare McDonald-Sims in Australia.

2017 DUFF Nominations Are Open

The Down Under Fan Fund administrators are taking nominations for the 2017 DUFF delegate who will travel from North America to Australasia to attend Continuum 13, the Australian National Convention, being held in Melbourne from June 9-12.

We are looking for fun, outgoing fans to participate in this 44-year-old fannish cultural exchange by visiting Australia and New Zealand, meeting lots of people, attending cons, and returning home to run the fan fund for the next two years. Are you that fan?

Submit nominations to Lucy Huntzinger at downunderfanfund@gmail.com by January 22, 2017.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

DUFF Year-End Status Report

Down Under Fan Fund administrator Lucy Huntzinger has published a year-end statement.

DUFF North America began the year with $8,247.27 and ends with $5964.27.

The fund took in $1,455 in donations, $1,400 of which was raised during the fan fund auction at the Worldcon. Thank you, fandom!

The fund paid out $3,738 for Clare McDonald-Sim’s five week visit to the USA as delegate. This is a higher amount than normal due to DUFF being unable to secure her much in the way of accommodations with fans as she traveled; she was obliged to stay in hotels instead. I hope we can do better next time as half the fun of traveling as a delegate is staying with fans. Clare did an amazing job on her trip and created a lot of goodwill between our fandoms.

Thank you to everyone who donated time, energy and money to DUFF NA in 2016.

Huntzinger, the 1987 DUFF delegate, is acting administrator for 2014 winner Juanita Coulson.

2016 DUFF Race Voting

The Down Under Fan Fund election results have been posted by Lucy Huntzinger. Clare McDonald-Sims ran unopposed.

A complete breakdown of votes by region, and second/third place votes, is on the Unofficial DUFF Facebook page.

Just over AUD$400 was raised in the voting process.

  FIRST PLACE VOTES
Clare McDonald-Sims 33
No Preference 2
Hold Over Funds 1
Write-in* 0

* There were two second-place write-ins on North American ballots, for Bruce Gillespie and “John Bansund” [sic]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/16 Pixelpotamus vs. Scrolloceros

(1) PRECISION. In “Save the Allegory!” on Slate, Laura Miller calls on writers to actually define “allegory” correctly.  She quotes from C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love at length and makes lots of superhero references.

What people usually mean when they call something an allegory today is that the fictional work in question can function as a metaphor for some real-world situation or event. This is a common arts journalist’s device: finding a political parallel to whatever you happen to be reviewing is a handy way to make it appear worth writing about in the first place. Calling that parallel an allegory serves to make the comparison more forceful. Fusion says that Batman v Superman is a “none-too-subtle allegory for the fight between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.” (It is not.) The Hollywood Reporter calls Zootopia an “accidental anti-Trump allegory”—this despite the fact that there is no literary form less accidental than allegory. The meaning of the word has drifted so far that even works that aren’t especially metaphorical get labeled as allegory: A film about artistic repression in Iran is a “clunky allegory” for … artistic repression in Iran.

Allegory or metaphor: The distinction might seem obscure and academic to many readers. Shouldn’t allegory be grateful to get any attention at all? Isn’t it just an archaic literary mode that nobody uses anymore? Yes and no. About the only people creating true allegories today are political cartoonists. But a culture never entirely discards its roots, and allegory, which first appeared in the waning years of the Roman Empire, is one of the foundations of Western literature. Maybe if we understood it better, we’d realize how much we owe to it.

(2) NEXT AT SFWA. While detailing her writing and travel plans for the summer, Cat Rambo also previews SFWA’s upcoming activities in “Catching My Breath and What’s Coming Up”. In her second year as the organization’s president, she will be putting some needed infrastructure in place.

In SFWA areas, I’m focusing on a new committee that I’ll be working with, the Membership Retention Committee, whose job will be to look at the new member experience for SFWA members as well as how to keep the organization useful for members. (If you’re interested in volunteering with that, feel free to drop me a line.) Other efforts include a) working with SFWA fundraising, b) a small musical endeavor that I just prodded someone about and which involves Tom Lehrer (yes, that Tom Lehrer), and c) helping out where I can with some of M.C.A. Hogarth’s amazing efforts, such as this mysterious thing here lurking under a tarp that I am not at liberty to discuss. *mouths the words “SFWA University” then is dragged away by the SFWA honey badgers while shouting something about a guidebook*

Three other important SFWA things:

  1. I’ll be watching the results of our decision to admit game writers with keen interest. I can tell you that the initial set is criteria is being voted on right now and I expect to see it announced soon.
  2. An effort is in the works that I think will prove a lovely tribute to longtime SFWA volunteer Bud Webster and which will, in the longtime SFWA tradition, provide a benefit for professional writers at every level of their careers.
  3. And we’ll (finally) be announcing some of the partnerships we’ve been making — you saw reps from Amazon, Audible, BookBub, Draft2Digital, Kickstarter, Kobo and Patreon at the Nebulas and those relationships are going to extend beyond the weekend and give our members special resources and relationships at all of those companies — and others, including one that I am super-stoked to have facilitated.

(3) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives his view about how long you could survive on each planet in our solar system. It’s a 2015 video.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

(5) POSERS FOR TINGLE. Neigh, a thousand times neigh!

(6) EVERMORE. The Baltimore Sun quotes lots of people involved with the convention in “Balticon grew to 50 as sci-fi, fantasy grew more mainstream”. Several are Filers.

Even 50 Balticons later, Ray Ridenour remembers his introduction to the annual gathering of the Baltimore region’s science-fiction and fantasy aficionados.

Ridenour, then a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, recalls taking the elevator to the top floor of the city’s since-demolished Emerson Hotel. This was the first Balticon put together by the then-4-year-old Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and he had little idea what to expect.

“As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard something very noisy and stepped back in,” he recalls. “Two guys roared by in a wheelchair; one of them was singing loudly, the other was pushing loudly. They careened down the hotel aisle and then zoomed in another direction and disappeared.”

Ridenour asked someone walking by if they had any idea what was going on. “‘Oh, yeah,'” came the reply. “‘That was the president of the club.'”

Ridenour, now 68, a graphic artist and designer living in Hampden and a veteran of every Balticon since, knew he was in the right place. “So I said, ‘Well, these guys look like they know how to party.'”

…Baltimore natives Miller, 65, and Lee, 63, authors of a series of books set in the Liaden universe, were guests of honor at Balticon 37 in 2003. Veterans of Balticons dating to the mid-’70s — they met at Balticon 10 in 1976, when Lee won a short-story contest Miller had helped start — they have been married since 1980.

Balticon’s strength, Miller says, lies in its deep fan base. At a time when many fan gatherings have become massive affairs staged by professional organizations whose business is organizing conventions, with an emphasis on movie- and TV-star guests, Balticon is still organized and run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and skewed toward the written word.

“Balticon hasn’t lost touch with the fact that it’s a bunch of fans putting this together, for their own interests and the interests of their friends,” Miller says.

(7) DUNGEON N-COUNTER. Jo Lindsay Walton tweeted this sample of what goes on in the Sputnik Award’s Dungeons of Democracy.

(8) ARE GO. Michael Flett describes the 2015 revival in “Thunderbirds 1965” at GeekChocolate.

…Adhering strictly to the ethic of the late sixties, wires are visible, the motion and expressions of the puppets are limited but still capable of expressing great character, and while Tracy Island is extended by the use of archive footage of tropical islands there can no justifiable objection to this use of stock footage nor in the famous launch sequences or any repeated shots of flybys, as this was all part and parcel of the original productions.

What is undeniable is the loving recreations of puppets, props, sets and machines, from Lady Penelope’s wonderfully shiny pink Rolls Royce FAB1 to the Thunderbirds vehicles themselves, the characters themselves graced by the creations of costume designer Liz Comstock-Smith who has crafted an exquisite new wardrobe for Lady Penelope, much to the chagrin of her chauffeur Aloysius Parker who in addition to his other duties must act as porter.

“When one is visiting, one tries to look one’s best,” his employer drily responds as she arrives at Tracy Island in opening episode Introducing Thunderbirds, less of an audio adventure now granted a visual dimension than, as the name would suggest, a showcase of International Rescue’s secret base and the amazing vehicles used to perform their daring missions.

Adapted from the soundtrack of F.A.B., The Abominable Snowman offers more in the way of spectacle with big explosions from the opening moments as a fire rages at Meddings Uranium, named of course in honour of the late special effects designer Derek Meddings who worked on many Anderson shows and later progressed to several James Bond films….

(9) STOP FIGHTING THE LAST WAR. Jim Henley, in “Hugo McHugoface Has Sailed”, offers his own frame for the Hugo reform discussions.

…Various options – including some kind of jury component and restricting voting rights (e.g. to only attending members) – have raised the objection that “They change the fundamental character of the award.” That class of objections fails to recognize the core truth: the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed. Again, the character of the Hugo Awards has already changed.

The Hugo Awards have become an internet poll in the age of Boaty McBoatface, freeping and chan culture. Nobody set out to make them this, and ex ante it was reasonable to imagine that the supporting membership fee (currently $50) was enough of a gating function to keep LULZers and trolls from targeting the process for abuse. But experience shows that there are enough motivated bad actors willing to spend that much to tie up the bulk of the ballot with whatever works their whims inspire them to place there, motivated by any combination of venial and mortal sins.

There is no question of preserving the character of the Hugo Awards. That ship has sailed, and it is not named for David Attenborough. The question is how can the award process be restructured so that future nominees and award winners will be of a character consistent with the Hugo tradition for the ’70 years prior to the mid-’10s.

I suppose the other question is how long it will take Hugo fandom and WSFS members to admit this.

(10) VERBAL AUTOPSY. Toby Litt tells Guardian readers “What makes bad writing bad”.

…Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation with their own badness by reference to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defence-worthy characteristics….

(11) DOWN UNDER FAN FUND. Julian Warner, Justin Ackroyd and Lucy Huntzinger officially announced that the winner of the 2016 race is Australian fan Clare McDonald-Sims. She was the only candidate. The administrators say voting numbers to follow. McDonald-Sims will attend MidAmeriCon II.

(12) IT’S STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE. Fanac.org now has James V. Taurasi’s classic fan newzine Fantasy Times online, published from 1941-1955.

Also, congratulations to Jack Weaver, Fanac.org’s Webmaster of 20 years, and the site’s software developer, who received a special award at FanHistoricon in Virginia last month.

weaverplaque

(13) TANK FOR THE MEMORIES. NPR covered yesterday’s transfer from the harbor to the museum – “A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA”.

fuel tank

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center…..

As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center….

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Brian Z., and Jim Henley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

2016 DUFF Race Begins

Voting on the Down Under Fan Fund delegate to MidAmericon II has opened and will continue until May 16 at 23:59 AEST. There is one candidate in this year’s race —

Clare McDonald-Sims

I’m a serial committee member and volunteer for fan clubs and smaller conventions in Melbourne, and a collector of SF books, digests and pulps. I’ve attended four Worldcons in four countries and would like to break that one-for-one streak. I love travelling to places I haven’t been, which includes Kansas City! If I have the honour of being the 2016 DUFF delegate I will attend as many cons, visit as many clubs, meet as many people and travel to as many new places as possible. I’m friendly, hardworking and will happily say g’day to everyone I meet.

Nominators: Australasia: Rose Mitchell, Janice Gelb, and Bruce Gillespie; North America: Curt Phillips and Steve & Sue Francis.

You can vote online using this form, or you can print a copy of the ballot by downloading the PDF.

DUFF was founded in 1972 to exchange delegates from Australia, New Zealand and North America.

Delegates are chosen as active members of the SF community whom fans on the visited side would like to meet. The delegate travels as much as possible, makes friends, radiates goodwill, and becomes the Administrator in turn until the next cycle. There is an expectation (not always fulfilled!) that delegates will write a trip report during or after their trip. Delegates’ trip reports are sold to support the Fund.

The current administrators of the fund are Lucy Huntzinger in North America, and Julian Warner and Justin Ackroyd in Australia.

2016 DUFF Nominations Open

The Down Under Fan Fund is taking nominations for a delegate from Australia or New Zealand to travel to Kansas City for MidAmericon II. Nominees will be accepted through March 1.

DUFF was founded in 1972 to exchange delegates from Australia, New Zealand and North America.

The successful nominee, after voting has taken place will then become the DUFF delegate.

Delegates are chosen as active members of the SF community whom fans on the visited side would like to meet. The delegate travels as much as possible, makes friends, radiates goodwill, and becomes the Administrator in turn until the next cycle. There is an expectation (not always fulfilled!) that delegates will write a trip report during or after their trip. Delegates’ trip reports are sold to support the Fund.

The current administrators of the fund are Lucy Huntzinger in North America, and Julian Warner and Justin Ackroyd in Australia.

Three Australian/New Zealand nominators and two North American nominators are required for each nominee. A written platform of about 100 words should be submitted by the nominee providing some information about themselves in a fannish context. Nominees are also asked to make a small donation to the fund as a bond of 25 Australian or New Zealand dollars.

Inquiries about nomination or other DUFF matters can be addressed to:

  • For Australia/New Zealand: Julian.warner@people.net.au
  • For North America: downunderfanfund@gmail.com

Down Under Fan Fund Issues Financial Report

Lucy Huntzinger, the Down Under Fan Fund’s acting North American administrator, took over the duties from Juanita Coulson in May. She has just published a year-end financial statement on the DUFF site.

She began work with a bank balance of $4,717.84. Funds were raised by an auction at Sasquan ($1,111), and another auction at GenCon ($398.65). Sasquan also donated $2,000 to DUFF out of its surpus.

Since the DUFF race for this year was suspended there was no outlay for a trip in 2015. Other expenses were minimal, so the fund balance has been built up to $8,247.27.