By Martin Morse Wooster: Ellen Caswell, a long-time member of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society (PRSFS) and Knossos, the Washington chapter of the Mythopoeic Society, died on October 16 of cancer.
Ellen grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland and graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in linguistics. She worked with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for many years as an editor and graphic designer.
She was an avid reader not just of sf, but also mysteries and other genres. She once read 18 Harlequin romances in two days while staying in a Boston hotel room during a snowstorm. She also read the last page of any novel first and if the ending satisfied her, she would then read the rest of the book.
Some examples of her tastes came from the books she picked for Knossos, which has a monthly book discussion. The last five authors she picked as selections were novels. by Rosemary Kirstein, Garth Nix, Katherine Eliska Kimbriel, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Diane Duane. It is because of her that I read Bujold’s Paladin of Souls and discovered that the book was an entertaining historical fantasy novel in the tradition of Rafael Sabatini.
Some examples of her writing come from the club newsletter, which she edited from 1986-1988. PRSFS, in its 45-year history, has prided itself on never collecting dues, and one recurring gag is for one member to say, “I vote to raise the dues” and members come up with increasingly facetious multiples of zero. “For any who may be coming to the club for the first time,” Ellen wrote, “don’t worry, only a few people have been bankrupted by the dues.”
In another newsletter, Ellen wrote about “New Works in the Prissyfish Library.” For Jean Dunnington, who worked in the Folger Shakespeare Library and liked to knit, Ellen came up with Shakespearean Crochet. Another member who liked cats and Jewish culture was presented as the author of Yiddish Cat Tales. Two other members who had recently moved were the joint authors of Surviving Torture: A Guide to Moving Incredible Numbers of Books.
Ellen spent a few years as a caregiver or her parents and had enough money from the inheritance to rent a small old house which we used for several pleasant meetings. She was an active officer of the local community association until her death. She also kept up membership in her two clubs, including more than one meeting where the Zoom connection was made from a hospital bed.
In personality, Ellen was very calm. She certainly let you know what she thought but she never tried to dominate a conversation. She always had plenty to say—and she always kept reading.
In general, speculative fiction in translation (SFT) accounts for a very small fraction of the fiction published in English each year. This past year was no exception: 50 books (novels, collections, and anthologies) and 80 short (standalone) works of SFT made their way to Anglophone readers. While this may not sound like much, it does signify a slow but steady increase in non-Anglophone speculative fiction since the turn of the century. Not since the 1960s and ’70s have we seen such an increase, and while I can’t point to any one factor as an explanation, I imagine that the unprecedented worldwide connectivity brought about by the internet at the end of the last century, coupled with the increase in small and micro-presses and magazines that regularly publish speculative fiction, may offer a partial answer. Perhaps another factor is the growing interest of speculative fiction fans in stories that are written from a non-Anglophone perspective…
(2) LONDON’S OFF THE HOOK. Yesterday, the London Book Fair planned
to carry on, even in the face of businesses dropping out because of coronavirus
fears. Today, The Guardian reports
it’s been cancelled.
One of the world’s biggest international literary events, the London book fair, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears, amid growing anger that the delay in calling it off was putting people’s health at risk and an unfair financial strain on publishers.
Organiser Reed Exhibitions announced on Wednesday that the escalation of the illness meant the fair, scheduled to run from 10 to 12 March, would be called off. Around 25,000 publishers, authors and agents from around the world had been due to attend the event, where deals for the hottest new books are struck.
But the event was already set to be a ghost town when it opened its doors, after publishers and rights agencies began withdrawing en masse over the last week. Some of the world’s biggest, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette had already pulled out, as had Amazon and a host of literary agencies including Curtis Brown.
(3) NO TIME TO DEBUT. Another British institution, Agent
007, has also been affected by fears of the spread
of the COVID-19 flu: “No
Time to Die’s Release Is Delayed Seven Months Because of Coronavirus”.
The 25th James Bond movie was
supposed to premiere in April, but GQ reports it now will open in
November. The date has been pushed back so the film can make money in Asian countries
whose movie theatres are currently in trouble because of the coronavirus.
Now there are reports that the spread of the illness—and subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions in China—will likely impact the arrival of Baby Yoda toys.
Hasbro, which has the license for several Star Wars toys, including some dolls and figures of The Mandalorian’s breakout star, is very concerned about the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt its toy-making supply chains. CNN Business spoke to toy-industry expert Jim Silver, who said that the first batch of Baby Yoda toys, which are supposed to arrive later this month, are mostly in the clear so far. However, if things don’t return to normal by the start of the summer, Silver predicts “shortages on a litany of toys.”
In a filing released on Thursday, Hasbro admitted that it was experiencing coronavirus-related production difficulties in China, where more than 80,000 people have been infected. The company added that the flu “could have a significant negative impact on our revenues, profitability, and business.”
(5) NEXT YEAR IN HORROR. The StokerCon 2021 website has gone live. Next
year’s Horror Writers Association gathering will take place in Denver, CO from May
20-23. Memberships go on sale April 20 for $150 (Early Bird Special). The next rate
hike is June 30, 2020.
(6) TURNOVER ON THE MASTHEAD. Sean Wallace, Publisher of The Dark Magazine, told
followers about some recent and upcoming personnel changes.
Just before the start of the new year, our reprint editor Michael Kelly stepped back from his duties to put more time and energy in his small press company, Undertow Publications, and we wish him all the best in his endeavours. And then in other somewhat-related sad news, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is also soon leaving The Dark Magazine to focus on her writing career, which is really taking off, and rightfully so. As such, her last month will be with the July 2020 issue, which we are putting together the original lineup as we type this out.
Beyond that, we have no immediate plans to hire a new co-editor, at least for the remainder of 2020, but I will be sending out a further update on this closer to the end of the year.
OBIT. Aly Parsons (1952-2020) died February 9, reports Locus
Online. With her husband Paul Parsons (d. 2008), she hosted the Potomac
River Science Fiction Society for 12 years, and worked on Unicons and the 2003
World Fantasy Convention. She cofounded a Washington DC writers’ group that met
for decades. Her pro sales included a short story published in Marion Zimmer
Bradley’s Darkover anthology Sword of Chaos (1982).
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 4, 1956 — The Atomic Man premiered. If you saw it in the U.K., it was Tinmeslip. It was directed by Ken Hughes, and produced by Alec C. Snowden from The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the screenplay. It starred Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. You’ll need to watch it for yourself here to see how it is as there’s no Rotten Tomatoes ratings for it.
March 4, 1958 — Cosmic Monsters (The Strange World of Planet X in the U.K.) premiered. It was produced by George Maynard and John Bash, directed by Gilbert Gunn. It starred Forrest Tucker and Gaby André. It was a double bill with The Crawling Eye. It bombed at the Box Office, critics at the time hated it and it currently has a 6% rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
March 4, 1977 — Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four films. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 4, 1905 — Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. (Died 1980.)
Born March 4, 1923 — Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing of thing.” Despite that, he’s here because, he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour.“ And he was in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.)
Born March 4, 1933 — Bernie Zuber. A fan artist who was the original vice president of the Mythopoeic Society. He was also a long-time member of LASFS who joined in the Fifties. He served as one of the first editors of Mythlore, but leftafter a falling out with the Mythopoeic Society, and became the founder and president of the Tolkien Fellowships. He published Butterbur’s Woodshed, Germinal and The Westmarch Chronicle. (Died 2005.)
Born March 4, 1938 — Paula Prentiss, 82. One of the wives of the original Stepford Wives, she also appears as Sonia Dracula in the second Mr. and Mrs. Dracula pilot in 1981 after the first pilot was deemed not workable by the network. That pilot was also not brought to series either.
Born March 4, 1958 — James Ellroy, 72. Ok Filers. ISFDB lists two novels by him as being genre, Blood Moon and American Tabloid. I’ve read neither but nothing that I can find on the web suggests that either is even remotely genre adjacent. Who’s read them?
Born March 4, 1965 — Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event Horizon, Alien V. Predator, Pandorum and even the forthcoming Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy.
Born March 4, 1966 — Daniela Amavia, 54. She appeared as Alia Atreides in the Children of Dune series.usually I wouldn’t include a performer fir just one genre credit, but she made a most perfect Alia that I will make an exception and do so in her case.
…But sometimes, Doctor Who’s willingness to play fast and loose with things we previously knew to be true just makes its stories unnecessarily complicated without adding anything of value to them. (See also: Clara’s status as the Impossible Girl, Melody Pond growing up to be River Song or the Hybrid mystery.) It certainly feels like that’s the case in the Season 12 finale, an episode which gives the Doctor an entirely new origin story, destroys her race (again!) and creates what feels like an almost limitless number of incarnations of the character that we, as viewers, will likely never meet.
Because the question at the end of all this is: So what?
After promising a game-changing finale that would upend everything we, as viewers, understood about the show, “The Timeless Children” didn’t really live up to that promise. It actually changes very little. By the time the closing credits roll, the entire series’ universe is supposed to be different. The problem is, it’s not. Not really. There are new pieces to the story, sure. But largely those pieces exist in the same places the old ones did. So, it’s hard to tell precisely why this story matters….
Because you can’t have it both ways: Either existing Doctor Who lore is important enough that shaking it up and turning it inside out and fighting strangers on the internet about it matters, or it doesn’t. If we change the rules, those changes need to mean something, and the story that comes out of those has to be worth rewriting the things that have come before. (And you have to respect that there were rules that existed in the first place.) It’s not clear that this episode does that, regardless of whether we’re talking about the Master’s characterization, the Doctor’s past, or the apparent erasure of Rassilon from existence. If nothing is truly different in the aftermath of stories that supposedly change everything, then what’s the point of telling them? Sure, “The Timeless Children” dropped the bombshell that the Doctor is functionally immortal, but we all sort of knew that already, since she was given a new set of regenerations back when she was Eleven.
(12) FRAUD, HE SAYS. While Paste Magazine is dubious,
John C. Wright is absolutely outraged (as one might expect) and calls the season-ending
Death of Doctor Who”. Again, BEWARE SPOILERS.
…So the Doctor turns out to be, not an eccentric Time Lord who stole a broken TARDIS to flee into time and space for madcap adventures helping the helpless, nay.
He is in fact a foundling, a poor little black girl, who is the sole source of the regenerative ability of the Time Lords, hence the true founder of their society, not Rassilon.
…The point of message fiction is twofold.
The first, like Aesop, attempts to convey a moral maxim or lesson in a palatable fashion to influence young minds.
This can be done well or poorly, depending on whether the story rules the message, or the message rules the story.
The message itself, like any sermon, can also be well written or poorly written.
But if the message derails the story, that is fraud. The author who promises an entertainment, but delivers a lecture instead, is just as much a cheat as a bartender who charges for a mug of beer but puts a glass of buttermilk before you. Buttermilk may be better for your health, but, honestly, the bartender is not your mother, and he is not doing the job you paid him for.
Wright proceeds to condemn all of this in the strongest terms. I can only imagine how upset he might have been if he had actually watched the show, but he assures his readers —
I have not seen the episode, nor, indeed, the season, nor ever will I.
(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy!
contestants strike out on this one:
Category: America’s Richest Self-Made Women
Answer: Part of this author’s nearly $400 million fortune came from books she wrote under the J.D. Robb pseudonym.
For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body.
The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.
“We’re really excited about this,” Dr. Eric Pierce, a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, who is leading a study that the procedure launched, tells NPR.
“We’re helping open, potentially, an era of gene-editing for therapeutic use that could have impact in many aspects of medicine,” Pierce says.
The CRISPR gene-editing technique has been revolutionizing scientific research by making it much easier to rewrite the genetic code. It’s also raising high hopes of curing many diseases.
Before this step, doctors had only used CRISPR to try to treat a small number of patients who have cancer, or the rare blood disorders sickle cell anemia or beta-thalassemia. While some of the initial results have been promising, it’s still too soon to know whether the strategy is working.
In those other cases, doctors removed cells from patients’ bodies, edited genes in the cells with CRISPR in the lab and then infused the modified cells back into the volunteers’ bodies to either attack their cancer or produce a protein their bodies are missing.
A filmmaker says social media rules to prevent extremist material going online are thwarting his attempts to tackle hatred and extremism.
Rizwan Wadan said algorithms used by Facebook and TikTok were making it hard to promote his films.
Mr Wadan, 38, of Luton, said automatic filtering of words such as “jihad” and “terror,” forced users underground to learn about and discuss the issues.
Facebook said his trailer broke its ban on “sensational content” in adverts.
Mr Wadan, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, developed camera stabilisation systems and has worked on films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
He set up a £1.2m project called The Error in Terror to “give Muslims a voice,” and made films intended to deter acts of terrorism and challenge people to rethink their views.
But he said trailers for his work have been “restricted” on Facebook and said TikTok removed the content because it was deemed to break its guidelines.
“If we have algorithms that pick up words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘jihad,’ if we’re not allowed to discuss these things on social media platforms, then people who need to learn about this get pushed underground,” he said.
“They might start to learn about these things from people abroad where jihad is applied very differently and it could encourage individuals to get into revenge and retaliation, and this is very dangerous for us.
“It’s the responsibility of social media platforms to allow this kind of discussion to take place.”
11-year-old Star Wars fan Isabella Tadlock was born with a nub on the end of her left arm and no fingers on her right hand. Actor Mark Hamill saw her story on Twitter and helped her get a R2-D2 bionic arm.
(18) BOOKSHOPPING LEADS TO BOOKHOPPING. Powell’s Books
Blog presents “Portrait
of a Bookseller: Dana P.”, who recommends V.E. Schwab and Neil Gaiman,
and confesses a habit that will probably sound familiar to some of you.
Do you have any odd reading habits? I definitely have a bad habit of hoarding books and then starting too many of them at once. I love the feeling of just starting a book, when it holds so much potential, so I’ll often have about six books I’m in the middle of — but I’ll bounce back and forth between them so none of them feel neglected.
(19) THE INTERNET OF REBELLIOUS THINGS. Connected is about —
…an everyday family’s struggle to relate while technology rises up around the world! When nature-loving dad Rick… determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time…. the Mitchells’ plans are interrupted by a tech uprising: all around the world, the electronic devices people love – from phones, to appliances, to an innovative new line of personal robots – decide it’s time to take over. With the help of two friendly malfunctioning robots, the Mitchells will have to get past their problems and work together to save each other and the world!
It arrives in theaters September 18.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ,
Mike Kennedy, Michal Tolan, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of
these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack
By Martin Morse Wooster: Jean Dunnington, who was one of the founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society (PRSFS) in 1975 and who remained an active member of the club until her death, died on February 5. She had a very rare form of cancer.
Jeanie Dunnington worked as a cataloger at the Folger Shakespeare Library until her retirement in 1997. While at the library, she was one of four catalogers who helped produce the 1993 publication Renaissance Animals, which accompanied an exhibit at the library. She also kept the Folger staff apprised of sf and fantasy books that had Shakespearian elements.
As long as I knew Jeanie, for nearly 40 years, she had vision problems that gradually got worse throughout her life. She never let her eyesight slow her down. She regularly attended Balticons, Disclaves, and Capclaves, where she could be spotted wearing floppy hats and a giant pink button that said, ‘I HAVE LOW VISION.’ She very much enjoyed filk concerts at cons.
Jeanie was one of PRSFS’s most avid readers. She started off as a major Andre Norton fan, but later branched out to read all sorts of books. At one point we had a discussion about who had read all 21of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels. Jeanie had listened to all 21 books, and asked if that counted. Since she listened to unabridged audiobooks-which accounted for over 200 hours of listening — we said that of course that counted.
Jean Dunnington had many interests besides sf — so many, her sister Betty Thompson recalled at her memorial service, that she was known to her many friends as “the little engine that could.” She was very active in her church, St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. In 2010, she was elected a vice-president of the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Council of the Blind, where she served two terms. In 2012, she was elected as secretary of the American Council of the Blind in Maryland. Jeanie was also active in advising the Montgomery County, Maryland Libraries on all sorts of issues that concerned disabled patrons: what’s the best way to design entrances to make it comfortable for disabled patrons to enter and leave? How should libraries be designed to make it easy for the disabled to move around?
Jeanie extended her efforts for disabled people to sf conventions. Whenever she was at a con, she always asked the hucksters why they didn’t carry more audiobooks.
Despite her vision problems, Jeanie Dunnington traveled frequently, including trips to Ireland and Greece. In 2006, New York Times reporter Sarah Wheaton interviewed Jeanie in the queue of people lining up outside the Capitol at the funeral of Gerald R. Ford. “Despite vision problems that make getting around somewhat difficult,” Wheaton reported, Dunnington spent two hours to get her chance to pay her respects. “I thought he deserves a proper showing,” Jeanie said. “I respect the office no matter who’s in it.”
Jeanie Dunnington was one of the most pleasant people I have known in fandom, who always had intelligent things to say about the books she read. I never knew her to raise her voice or complain, even as she dealt with her failing eyes and her recovery from complicated surgeries. She had many friends in fandom — and no enemies.
By Martin Morse Wooster: Jim Goldfrank, an active fanzine fan in the 1960s and 1970s who was one of the founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, died in Ocala, Florida on November 3. He was 80.
Goldfrank grew up in Long Island, and started reading sf at an early age. Thanks to eBay, I learned that he was a Planet Stories letterhack as early as 1947. I think he also attended meetings of the Eastern Science Fiction Association in the 1950s. He moved to the Washington D.C. area in the 1960s and eventually lived in Herndon, Virginia until moving to Ocala in 2007. He was a software engineer for IBM, programming on traditional “big iron” mainframes until his retirement in the late 1990s.
Goldfrank joined the Washington Science Fiction Association in the 1960s, and was a frequent reviewer for WSFA’s clubzine The WSFA Journal. When the journal seceded from WSFA with editor Don Miller, Goldfrank continued to write for the renamed SF&F Journal. He also contributed to Mythologies, Mimosa, and It Goes on the Shelf.
As a reader, Goldfrank had many enthusiasms. He very much enjoyed the horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft and his acolytes, and frequently posted on alt. chtluhu. Another author he was passionate about was Ken Bulmer writing planetary adventure stories under the pseudonym Alan Burt Akers. He frequently corresponded with his fellow Akers fans, where he adopted the penname of “Zheem.”
One of Goldfrank’s reviews of a Harlan Ellison story prompted Ellison to call Goldfrank and yell at him for some time. I don’t know and can’t find the review in question, but it should be noted that Goldfrank was not a knee-jerk Ellison hater. A review of Wandering Stars preserved in the online archive of the WSFA Journal praises Ellison’s story “I’m Looking for Kadak” for providing “warmth, uproarious humor, and joy.”
In June 1975 Goldfrank, along with Don Miller, Chick Derry, Lester Mayer, Bob Madle, Joe Mayhew, Avedon Carol, Jean Dunnington, and Martin Morse Wooster, founded a group which split away from WSFA to form a club that talked about books. That group, now known as the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, continues to meet. Goldfrank didn’t attend many meetings, but PRSFS still remembers him as one of the club’s founders.
Goldfrank’s other enthusiasm was folk music. He had seen most of the major folk artists many times. He was particularly interested in Irish music, and in a letter published in a 1999 issue of Ireland ofthe Welcomes explained his love for the country:
“My ancestral home is Bavaria, but I only associate that with the Holocaust. Ireland is the home of my heart. I have been there five times including three trips to the ‘Willie Clancy Summer School.’ I love Ireland’s beauty, her people and her music. I feel that love of saiorse (freedom) is something that Irish culture and my Jewish culture have in common.”
After moving to Ocala, Goldfrank founded another club, the Oak Run Science Fiction Society. He was a member of Congregation Beth Israel. He was also a supporter of the Ocala Cannibals Roller Derby club. “I saw Derby as a teenager and am anxious to see it again,” he said in a 2011 post to the club website. Finally, Goldfrank loved schnauzers and had several of them for most of the past two decades.
Goldfrank is survived by his second wife, Henrietta, two daughters from his first marriage, several children from his second marriage, and several grandchildren.
Dan Hoey died August 31 by his own hand. He was, recalls Rich Lynch, “one of the nicest people not only in D.C. fandom, but in fandom anywhere.”
Dan was a very active member of the Washington Science Fiction Association in the Eighties and Nineties. He chaired chaired Disclave in 1995. Since then, he had become less active. He was involved in the Potomac River Science Fiction Society (he hosted the July meeting), otherwise was rarely seen at local fan events except for Capclave.
He worked as a mathematician, programmer, and computer science researcher. Fans who have visited Nielsenhayden.com should remember one example of his work, Hoey’s extended version of the Panama palindrome, produced by a program he coded using the Unix “spell” dictionary.