By Bruce Gillespie: Helena Binns has been a stalwart of Melbourne fandom since 1958, when she made contact with the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. She has been both artist and writer for MSFC publications, and for the last fifty years she has been the photographer for most conventions held in Melbourne, including four Aussiecons.
Born Margaret Duce on December, 18 1941, in the countryside outside of Melbourne, Victoria, she was introduced to science fiction at a very young age by an uncle, and read her first sf short story when she was 5 or 6. Her uncle’s magazine stash gave her, at the age of 13, the address of a fan in Wellington, New Zealand, which led to a pen friendship with famous New Zealand fan Mervyn Barrett. He told her about the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. She began to contribute to Etherline, the Club’s long-lived magazine of the 1950s.
When she was 15, she was denied permission to study science during the last two years of her secondary schooling at a country high school. This heartbreaking event was a major influence on the rest of her life. She was able to study Art at Melbourne Technical College, and later tried to rely on her artistic talent to try to make a living. She retained a vital interest in the sciences for the rest of her life, but could never find a way of acquiring qualifications in those fields.
On January 23, 1958, she visited the Melbourne Science Fiction Club for the first time, making friends immediately with fans such as John Foyster, Chris Bennie, Dick Jenssen, and Mervyn Binns. She remained a contributor to Etherline and attended Melcon, the Melbourne convention of 1958, the last Australian convention until 1966. She remained in touch with the Club, which in the early 1960s was kept going almost solely by Merv Binns.
In 1965 she married Kelvin Roberts, a commercial artist who specialized in photographic retouching. They both enjoyed the movies shown regularly at the MSFC. For reasons that she cannot account for, she changed her name from Margaret to Helena.
1966 saw the revival of Melbourne fandom at the Easter convention in Melbourne. In 1973 she received her first camera, and began her lifetime of chronicling every convention she attended. Helena and Kelvin were the official photographers for Aussiecon in 1975 in Melbourne, the first Worldcon to be held in Australia.
Kelvin died in 1991 of lung cancer. Helena gradually became closer to Merv Binns, who had been a good friend for over thirty years. They married in 1998, and attended every Melbourne convention together. Helena was made an Honorary Life Member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club in 2009. She was also involved in Star Trek and Tolkien fandom, and was a lifelong member of the Space Association of Australia.
Merv died in 2020 of heart failure. Helena found it difficult to maintain the large house they rented in South Oakleigh. She entered the Wantirna Views nursing home in early 2022, and died there on September 18 this year. She is remembered with great affection by all her met her. She left behind an enormous collection of books and memorabilia, and also a large collection of CD-ROMs of convention photos.
[By Bruce Gillespie, based on Helena’s own autobiographical essay.]
By Bruce Gillespie. [What Bruce says is an “immediate, non-comprehensive response”– with much more to be considered later for his fanzine SFC.]
Lee Harding, Australia’s senior SF writer (although he did not regard himself as a writer of SF during the last 30 years or so), died yesterday at the age 86. There is almost too much information to summarise for a newszine obituary — the entries in both Wikipedia and the SF Encyclopedia have no inaccuracies that I can spot. They also don’t tell the whole story.
Much of the flavour of Lee’s life, especially in his last years, can be found in Belinda Gordon’s (Perth-based daughter) account, which I’ve just put up on Fictionmags, and transcribed on Facebook yesterday. [Note: that post is friends-locked.]
In 1952 at the age of fifteen Lee was one of the founder members of the Melbourne SF Club, along with Merv Binns, Race Mathews, Dick Jenssen, and a few others. Merv left us in 2020, but the others were in good health up to about five years ago. Lee dropped out of fandom in the late 1950s, but in 1962 he met John Bangsund. Lee was already selling stories to E J Carnell’s magazines in England, but Bangsund knew nothing of SF or fandom. That meeting eventually led to the launching of Australian Science Fiction Review (ASFR) in 1966, from which all SF-related events in my life proceed — in fact the whole future of Australian fandom. John wrote an amusing account of meeting Lee for the first time, which Sally Yeoland (John’s widow) has placed on her Facebook page more than once.
I met Lee in December 1967 as a result of being invited by John Bangsund to meet the ‘ASFR crew’ in Ferntree Gully over a weekend. John was a shy person, compared to his paper personality, so it was Lee who took me under his wing and conveyed all his enthusiasms, especially for SF writing and classical music.
During 1968 I entered Melbourne fandom, and visited Lee and his first wife Carla as often as possible. During 1969, Lee was selling stories to the new Vision of Tomorrow, launched by Sydney rich bloke Ron Graham, but the magazine folded after a year. Lee had been a professional photographer for at least ten years, but during his time of regular writing took jobs in bookshops in Melbourne, including the famous Space Age Books (from the beginning of 1971 until 1976). He and Carla split up in 1972, and soon after he and Irene Pagram met. Their daughter is Madeleine, who still lives in Victoria. Lee and Irene married in 1982, and at the same time Carla and her children with Lee (Erik, Belinda, and Stephen) moved to Western Australia.
Lee put on the first writers workshop in Australia in 1973, then edited The Altered I (1976), the book that came out of the Ursula Le Guin workshop in 1975. He had his greatest success as a writer at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, with Displaced Person (Australian Childrens Book Award winner 1980) and Waiting For The End Of The World. It was never clear to his friends why a successor to Waiting was never written. I lost contact with Lee and Irene for long periods during the 1980s. He and Irene split up in 1997. During the last 40 years he has been able to visit Perth every year to visit his extended family there.
During the early 1990s Race Mathews and Dick Jenssen, also original members of the MSFC, made contact with Lee, and we saw a fair bit of him over dinner during the 1990s until just before the Covid epidemic lockdowns. However, Lee’s health began to deteriorate about six years ago, and he began to suffer from falls and some memory loss. Eventually, after a bad fall, he was advised not to return to living by himself. He moved to Perth at the end of last year, and his old friends had to be content with phone calls from him. The only original members of the MSFC still alive are Dick Jenssen and Race Mathews.
I remember Lee best for his enthusiasms, and his help at various times. I am most grateful to him for turning me onto classical music in 1968, after a decade of listening and listing Top 40 music during my teens. Twenty of my favourite original LPs are those sold to me by Lee when he was really desperate for cash at the end of 1969. He was a great advocate for Australian SF, and encouraged many new writers and SF enterprises during the 1970s. His interests turned elsewhere during the last thirty years, but he remained a fan of great films, and was always pointing me and Dick toward some new masterpiece he had just discovered.
One link with Lee: he was almost exactly 10 years older than me (his 19 Feb 1937 to my 17 Feb 1947). But I doubt he was as jolly about celebrating birthdays as I’ve been over the years.
It is very hard to consider life without Lee Harding being part of it in some way or another. He sent cheery emails until recently, but had to admit that his old days as a bon vivant were over. He leaves great memories.
The Maurice Sendak Foundation has granted $100,000 to the New York Foundation for the Arts for an emergency relief grant program “to support children’s picture book artists and writers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.” They will provide grants of up to $2,500 a person, and hope to raise at least another $150,000 in the initial phase.
A large group of comic book creators are banding together to help support comic book retailers whose business have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Using the Twitter hashtag #Creators4Comics, more than 120 creators will be auctioning comic books, artwork and one-of-a-kind experiences. The auctions will run from Wednesday through Monday and will benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which is accepting applications from comic book shops and bookstores for emergency relief.
The effort was organized by the comic book writers Sam Humphries and Brian Michael Bendis, along with Kami Garcia, Gwenda Bond and Phil Jimenez. Humphries will be auctioning “How to Break Into Comics by Making Your Own Comics,” which are video-chat sessions with aspiring writers. “It mirrors my own comic book secret origin story,” he said in an email. More information can be found at the Creators 4 Comics website….
An Attending Membership is for people who will engage in the live, interactive Virtual Convention. There are a number of different types of Attending Memberships. Attending Memberships are all inclusive. You do not have to pay anything more for access to any of our online activity.
You will receive all our publications. This also comes with the right to nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards in 2020. You can also vote in Site Selection for the 2022 Worldcon.
Young Adult Attending is based on being born in 2000.
Unwaged Attending is a NZ resident of any age who does not have a consistent wage. This includes students, retirees, beneficiaries etc. Please contact us if you have questions about this.
We will trust that if you become waged by the convention, that you will upgrade to a Full Attending.
This morning, Star Trek: Voyager star Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) announced that he has teamed up with co-star Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) on a new podcast called The Delta Flyers. The new pod promises inside stories as the pair plan to rewatch every episode of Voyager, with the first episode arriving in early May.
“I’m happy to report that the judging has been handled mostly virtually to date,” SDCC’s Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer told Newsarama. “Things are in flux as you can imagine but our hope is to be able to have a list of Eisner winners for 2020.”
Longtime awards administrator Jackie Estrada is working with this year’s judges Martha Cornog, Jamie Coville, Michael Dooley, Alex Grecian, Simon Jimenez, and Laura O’Meara.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula has remained in print since it was first published in April 1897. A bestseller in its day, it has gone on to spawn countless derivatives and become one of the most indelible pop-cultural touchstones in recent history. Obviously. But, upon its first release, it was seriously outsold by another novel, a supernatural tale of possession and revenge called The Beetle, which fell out of print after 1960. And let me tell you, it’s something else.
Written by Richard Marsh, the author of extremely successful commercial short fiction during this era, The Beetle is actually rather like Dracula in form and plot. In addition to its being an epistolary novel, it is similarly about a seductive, inhuman, shape-shifting monster who arrives in England from the East, entrances a citizen into becoming its slave, and wages an attack on London society. And civilization’s only hope against this invader is a motley group of middle-class individuals (including one forward-thinking young woman and one expert on the supernatural), who must figure out what the creature actually is and ascertain why it has arrived to England, before finally destroying it….
… There is a forthcoming anthology of rebuttals to The Cold Equations. I expect many essayists to add elements that are not present in the original story to reach their own preferred conclusions. Rather than address the story as written, they will probably add in a factor that is not otherwise evident as a lever to be used against the main purpose of the story.
Rather than discussing the merits and criticism of the story, I’m first going to travel to Texas, rhetorically.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick implied that he was willing to die to ensure the survival of his children and grandchildren. He went on to suggest that lots of grandparents would make the same choice. The context of his comments was the “choice” between maintaining our self-quarantine that is significantly damaging our economy or resuming normal social habits at the demonstrable risk of killing off a substantial number of our elderly.
…We are not currently at the point where we need to be deciding who lives and who dies. We are most certainly not at the point where we need to risk the lives of senior citizens by prematurely restarting the economy.
That being said, we do have to make choices; sometimes hard choices….
…The fact is that we all have to make choices based on what we hope is the best of information. We are all learning now about the importance of certain types of medical and personal protective equipment. We are learning that we had manufacturing and import capacity to cover the usual needs of society, but not enough to cover our needs during a pandemic. We are learning that we had stockpiles sufficient to cover a few significant regional calamities, but such stockpiles were entirely insufficient for a larger catastrophe.
…Will the critics of The Cold Equations pause in their rush to suggest alternative conclusions to acknowledge the practical limitations, however ham-handedly presented, that were in play?
There’s something a bit uncanny about Apsara Engine, the new comics collection by Bishakh Som. The world of comics is all about genre — superhero, sci-fi, fantasy, horror — and most of the time it’s pretty easy to match any book to its proper slot. Even highbrow graphic novels tend to categorize themselves through the style of art they employ and the types of stories they tell. Not this book, though. Its images and concepts seem to come from a place all their own. Som’s imagination is science-fictiony, without being particularly technological, mythic without being particularly traditional, and humanistic without cherishing any particular assumptions about where we, as a species, are headed.
You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes. Even the book’s structure keeps the reader off-balance. Som intersperses tales of future civilizations and half-human hybrid beasts with vignettes of run-of-the-mill contemporary life, so the reader never knows if something odd is about to happen.
You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes.
…Som’s artistic style breaks boundaries, too. She’ll employ traditional comic-book techniques for page layouts and character designs, then toss them aside with the turn of a page. A character who’s drawn iconically, with just a few efficient lines defining her features, will become lushly realistic at a pivotal moment. A story drawn in the usual square panels will suddenly burst forth into a series of flowing, uncontained two-page spreads.
Such moments of explosive transition provide the book’s heartbeat. It’s a mesmerizing arrythmia. The deceptiveness of what we think of as “ordinary life” is a running motif, one Som explores through unexpected juxtapositions. In “Come Back to Me,” a pretty young woman engages in an utterly mundane inner monologue while walking on the beach. Her reminiscences about the time she cheated on her boyfriend, which appear above and below the drawings, continue to unspool implacably even as she’s pulled into the ocean by a mermaid….
In 1970, Binns established Space Age Books, with the help of his friends Lee Harding and Paul Stevens. It soon established a reputation as the best source of science fiction, fantasy and counter-culture literature in Melbourne, and probably Australia.
Space Age became the hub of a growing science fiction community and Binns became associated with leading authors, editors and publishers, as well the growing number of fans, in Australia and internationally.
As a result, Binns and Space Age were integral to the hosting of World Science Fiction Conventions in Melbourne in 1975 and 1985.
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
April 18, 1938 — Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published by National Allied Publications even though the cover said June. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. This was actually an anthology, and contained eleven features with the Superman feature being the first thirteen inside pages. Five years ago, a pristine copy of this comic sold for a record $3,207,852 on an eBay auction. It was one of two hundred thousand that were printed.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 18, 1884 — Frank R. Paul. An employee of editor Hugo Gernsback, he largely defined the look of both cover art and interior illustrations in the pulps of the Twenties from Amazing Stories at first and later for Planet Stories, Superworld Comics and Science Fiction. He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s own novel, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660. You can see his cover for Amazing Stories, August 1927 issue , illustrating The War of the Worldshere. (Died 1963.)
Born April 18, 1922 — Nigel Kneale. Writer of novels and scripts merging horror and SF, he’s best remembered for the creation of the character Professor Bernard Quatermass. Though he was a prolific British producer and writer, he had only one Hollywood movie script, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. (Died 2006.)
Born April 18, 1945 — Karen Wynn Fonstad. She designed several atlases of fictional worlds including The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Atlas of Pern and The Atlas of the Dragonlance World. (Died 2005.)
Born April 18, 1946 — Janet Kagan. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit of short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2008.)
Born April 18, 1952 — Martin Hoare. I’m not going to attempt to restate what Mike stares much better in his obituary here. (Died 2019.)
Born April 18, 1965 — Stephen Player, 55. He’s deep into Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh but that’s just a mere wee taste of he’s done as he did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money.
Born April 18, 1969 — Keith R. A. DeCandido, 51. I found him with working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, Andromeda, Farscape, Firefly, Aliens, Star Trek In its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Spider-Man, X-Men, Hercules, Thor, Sleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Has he ever written a novel that was a media tie-in?
Born April 18, 1971 — David Tennant, 49. Eleventh Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly. He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
Born April 18, 1973 — Cora Buhlert, 47. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and she’s also a finalist for the Best Fan Writer Hugo this year.
It’s been a wild month for comic book fans everywhere. Since the COVID-19 crisis fully took hold we’ve been getting used to new ways of living, working, and accessing our favorite art, even SDCC has been canceled! It was only a few weeks ago that Diamond–the comic book industry’s only physical distributor–would stop distributing single issues to comic shops. Since then, there have been plenty of rumors, failed plans, and new ideas. But now DC Comics has announced they will be selling comics directly to shops via two new distributors.
It’s great news for comics fans but also has massive implications for the future of the industry as a whole. We’re here to break down why.
… The fact that DC Comics is breaking with the exclusive deal Diamond has had with them for decades means that they are introducing two new distributors into the market for the first time in 20 years. It could essentially break the monopoly that Diamond has had on the industry. Possibly freeing up the proverbial trade routes that have long been under the control of one massive company….
…In a previous column, I wrote about the unprecedented library closures around the country in the wake of the pandemic. The value of public libraries is rarely questioned in times of crisis—think of the New Orleans Public Library after Hurricane Katrina, or the Ferguson Municipal Public Library during the unrest there. But this crisis—more specifically, the social distancing required to address this crisis—strikes at the very foundation on which the modern public library rests. And as the days go by, I find myself increasingly concerned about how libraries come back from these closures.
For one, I suspect that Covid-19 will change some people’s perspective on what can and should be shared. I fear many people will begin to overthink materials handling and the circulation of physical library collections, including books. It’s a reasonable assumption that people will emerge from this public health crisis with a heightened sense of risk related to germ exposure. How many of our patrons—particularly those with means—will begin to question the safety of borrowing books and other items from the library?
In terms of our buildings, open access for everyone has long been a celebrated library value. Public libraries have evolved, survived, and have even managed to thrive through a digital transformation by reconfiguring our spaces to be more social, more functional, and by offering more programs and classes. Can we maintain that in an age of social distancing? Will libraries need to supply gloves for shared keyboards? Will parents and caregivers still want to bring their children to a “Baby and Me” program? Will seniors still find respite in a library community?
…This time, though, the launch will be markedly different from any other in the history of the space agency. Unlike Mercury, Gemini, Apollo or the space shuttle era, the rocket will be owned and operated not by NASA, but by a private company — SpaceX, the hard-charging commercial space company founded by Elon Musk.
(18) KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. The Washington Post’s Travis M. Andrews says that last Saturday a giant music festival was held “featuring emo titans American Football, chiptune pioneers Anamanaguchi and electropop pioneer Baths,” but social distancing protocols were followed because this was a virtual festival that took place inside Minecraft. “Thousands gathered Saturday for a music festival. Don’t worry: It was in Minecraft.”
… Interested parties could “attend” in a few different ways. Some watched on the video game streaming site Twitch. To really get into the action, though, you needed to log into Minecraft, plug in the proper server info and, voilà!, you’d pop to life in a hallway and then explore the venue through your first-person viewpoint.
Purchasing a VIP pass (with real money) allowed access to special cordoned-off parts of the venue and the chance to chat with the artists on the gamer hangout app Discord. Meanwhile, the nearly 100,000 unique viewers on Twitch were encouraged to donate money to disaster recovery org Good360, which ended up with roughly $8,000 in proceeds.
What does an outdoor cat do all day? According to new research, it could be taking a heavy toll on local wildlife.
A tracking study of more than 900 house cats shows when they kill small birds and mammals, their impact is concentrated in a small area, having a bigger effect than wild predators do….
“Even though it seems like their cat isn’t killing that many, it really starts to add up,” said Roland Kays, a scientist at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. (Full disclosure: Kays isn’t a cat or dog person but a “ferret person.”)
Kays and colleagues collected GPS data from cats in six countries and found most cats aren’t venturing very far from home.
“These cats are moving around their own backyard and a couple of their neighbors’ backyards, but most of them are not ranging very much further,” Kays said. “So initially I thought: ‘Oh, this is good news. They’re not going out into the nature preserves.’ “
Then Kays factored in how much cats kill in that small area. Some cats in the study were bringing home up to 11 dead birds, rodents or lizards a month, which doesn’t include what they ate or didn’t bring home to their owners.
“It actually ends up being a really intense rate of predation on any unfortunate prey species that’s going to live near that cat’s house,” he said.
Deep in the Pacific Ocean, six-foot-long Humboldt squid are known for being aggressive, cannibalistic and, according to new research, good communicators.
Known as “red devils,” the squid can rapidly change the color of their skin, making different patterns to communicate, something other squid species are known to do.
But Humboldt squid live in almost total darkness more than 1,000 feet below the surface, so their patterns aren’t very visible. Instead, according to a new study, they create backlighting for the patterns by making their bodies glow, like the screen of an e-reader.
“Right now, what blows my mind is there’s probably squid talking to each other in the deep ocean and they’re probably sharing all sorts of cool information,” said Ben Burford, a graduate student at Stanford University.
Humboldt squid crowd together in large, fast-moving groups to feed on small fish and other prey.
“When you watch them it looks like frenzy,” Burford said. “But if you pay close attention, they’re not touching each other. They’re not bumping into each other.”
Stephen King jumped into the live stream game on Friday afternoon. The Master of Horror flipped on the camera to read the first chapter from his new book If It Bleeds. As previously reported, the book collects four different novellas — similar to Different Seasons or Four Past Midnight — and is available for Constant Readers on April 21st.
Wearing a Loser/Lover shirt from It: Chapter One, which is just all kinds of charming, King read from the first novel Mr. Harrigans Phone. The story continues the author’s mistrust of technology in the vein of Cell, and should make us all think twice about our respective smart phones. So, think about that as you watch King from your couch.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Bella Michaels, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
By Bruce Gillespie: Mervyn R. Binns, best known to everybody as Merv Binns, died April 7 at the Kingston Centre, Monash Health, Melbourne. Born July 8, 1934, he was 85 years old. Merv had suffered serious heart problems during the last two decades. He was admitted to hospital about a month ago, then suffered a seizure on April 2. He had been slowly slipping away since then.
Because of the coronavirus shutdown in Australia, his funeral can only be attended by a very small number of people, so his wife Helena will arrange a gathering in celebration of his life and work as soon as feasible.
Merv Binns was Melbourne’s ‘Mr Science Fiction’ from when he was a teenager and worked behind the counter at McGill’s Newagency, Melbourne. This was one of the few sources of science fiction books and magazines and Melbourne in the early 1950s. He and a small group of teenagers formed, first, the Melbourne Science Fiction Group, then the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, in 1952. After the Club obtained its own clubrooms, Merv became the main driving force of the Club, a social centre for Melbourne fandom from then until now.
In 1971, Merv, with generous help from Sydney fan Ron Graham, established Space Age Books in the centre of Melbourne. It provided not only a retailer of SF and fantasy books and memorabilia, but also a social centre for Australian fans and pro writers. Merv published Australian Science Fiction News, which was both a valuable newszine and a marketing tool for the shop. However, Space Age Books was forced to close a few months after Aussiecon II in 1985, and Merv took early retirement. His interest in the science fiction world never diminished, and in 1998 his life greatly improved when he and Helena Roberts married. Helena has been staying at the Kingston Centre during Merv’s last days.
Merv received four lifetime achievement awards (the Big Heart Award, the A. Bertram Chandler Award, Peter MacNamara Award, and the Eternity Award), as well as a number of awards for his magazines and writing.