By Rich Lynch: Today is the somber 20th anniversary of the passing of Harry Warner, Jr. Two months ago, in celebration of what would have been his 100th birthday, F770ran an essay of mine which provided a condensed and somewhat dispassionate description of his life as a science fiction fan. So for this one I’ll give a much more personal remembrance.
I’ll start with when I first met Harry. That was in 1982, when Nicki and I received a letter of comment from him about the first issue of our fanzine Mimosa. Prior to that we’d published a clubzine titled Chat, but distribution for that had mostly been limited to members of the Chattanooga Science Fiction Association. For Mimosa, we made sure to obtain mailing addresses for fans a lot farther afield, and Harry, due to his reputation as a letter writer, was our #1 priority.
Mimosa ran for 30 issue total, and Harry had letters in all but four of them. And that was only because those four issues didn’t have lettercols. I’ve gone back and re-read some of his LoCs, and I guess the best way to describe them is that they were eclectic in terms of the things he commented on. And sometimes even prophetic – in that first LoC to Mimosa he responded to a pessimistic speech reprint about the U.S. space program by stating that: “The only possible way out of the bogged down condition of the space program that I can imagine is a very long shot: cooperation with the USSR and other nations on big new ventures.” He wrote that 16 years prior to an agreement between the U.S. and Russia for construction of the International Space Station.
Nicki and I moved to Maryland in 1988 and our very first fan activity here was a drive out to Hagerstown to meet Harry in person. He was welcoming and happy to see us, and we spent a couple of very pleasant hours with him before it became time to head on back. I had many other visits after that – sometimes with Nicki and sometimes as an escort for visiting fans. The two that I remember the best were the times that Nicki and I, along with our friend Sheryl Birkhead, took Harry to see minor league baseball games. At that point in his life, Harry was pretty much set in his ways. The Hagerstown stadium was only about a mile from Harry’s home and Harry really liked baseball, but he refused to drive or even walk around outside after dark. So those two outings were probably the first time in decades that he’d attended a game.
That last article was a reprint from 1958 which we ran in our final issue, and it was posthumous – Harry had died six months earlier. My in-person memories of him are so plentiful and so detailed that I guess I was surprised to realize that they only encompass a decade-and-a-half total. Or barely more than two decades if I go back to his first LoC to Mimosa. Our relationship was good throughout – there were a couple of times we had disagreements about the need to re-research a few things for the 1992 edition of his fan history book, A Wealth of Fable (I was the editor for that project) but they were settled peaceably and I believe our friendship was in the end stronger as a result. In fact, Harry was such a constant in my life that I probably took him for granted – so much so that I had thought there was a reasonable chance that he would outlive me. Maybe because of this I can’t remember for sure the final time I saw him – it might have been when I came out to Hagerstown to help him set up a new stereo system (he was a lover of classical music). I never thought, during that visit, that he was in any imminent danger of dying. In the end, what took him must have been quick and easy. And what we have left are all the memories.
There was a fairly-well-publicized dispute after Harry’s death about what would happen to his large and historically valuable fanzine collection. I won’t go into that except to say it was eventually resolved and the collection’s final resting spot ended up being in the hands of someone who had assured that he would be respectful of it. One of the few regrets I have from all the times I went to see Harry was that I never got to see the collection – it was in a part of the house that Harry apparently kept off-limits to visitors. But I have been to see Harry’s final resting spot – it’s near the corner of a large cemetery that’s about half-way between Harry’s house and the Hagerstown baseball stadium. It was very quiet on the day I was there – I remember that it seemed a good place to reflect on the legend that was Harry Warner.
By Rich Lynch: During the past couple of days the news cycle has been dominated by the story of the Chinese Balloon. I imagine that by now we’re all maybe a little bit tired of hearing about it, so let’s instead talk about a different balloon. This one:
Anybody else here old enough to remember it? I was a pre-teen when it was launched in 1960 and space cadet as I was back then, it had supercharged my enthusiasm for all things NASA. The news coverage had stated that the big balloon would be visible to the naked eye, so for the next several clear nights after Echo I had reached orbit I was out in the backyard of my parents’ house looking for it. All I had to go on were occasional mentions in the local news of when it might be visible – I hadn’t had any real idea of where specifically to look in the night sky, so it was a bit of a celestial needle in the haystack exercise. But when I did finally spot it…wow!
I had hoped it would be fairly bright, and it exceeded my expectations. Maybe this is just an overinflated recollection from so many decades ago but I remember it being one of the brightest objects in the sky. And you know, I don’t recall ever seeing it again after that. The thing stayed in orbit for several years until atmospheric drag finally brought it down but if I ever observed it again, those memories have long ago been overwritten. Nowadays, of course, we’ve got websites and smartphone apps aplenty to show us where to look for most every artificial satellite that’s up there. But they’re so numerous and often so faint that it’s become too ordinary to much bother with. Just the opposite, in fact – I’ve had more than one astrophoto ruined by the streak of an artificial satellite that had photobombed the image.
It still causes me to smile whenever I think back to those years and all the things that had excited me during the space race. And even today I’m in awe about all the scientific wonders constantly being discovered up in the heavens. I hope I never lose that sense of wonder.
(1) CHICON 8 SHARES FEEDBACK. Chicon 8 chair Helen Montgomery today published the latest of her “Messages from the Chair” dealing with some postcon housekeeping, and with a long passage apologizing for or explaining some decisions that were made. Here are two of the most significant items.
Credit for Hugo Awards Finalists (Translators and Colorists)
As part of the administration of the Hugo Awards, we endeavor to list all relevant creators on the final ballot presented to voters, and this includes confirming the correct ballot citations with Finalists themselves. The long list in the detailed results released after the Hugo Award ceremony is a different matter: it is required by the WSFS Constitution primarily for transparency into our processes, and has the side benefit of pointing folks to works that garnered significant community interest so they can go seek them out on their own. As noted in the detailed results, we do not vet the long list for eligibility and because the primary function of the long list is transparency into the process (which requires a table that is easy to parse), we do not list out full citations with all associated names, publishers, etc. We truncate references to all the works on the long list, listing authors for the written works, author/artist for the graphic stories, and no names at all for the Best Dramatic Presentations and magazines.
Taking into account feedback from S. Qiouyi Lu and other members of the community, we have come to understand that the work of translators of written works is as fundamental to the work as the authors, and that where one is listed, both should be. We have made corrections to the translated long list works in the 2022 detailed results accordingly. For similar reasons, we are also adding the colorists and cover artists, where they are cited, to the graphic novel listings in the 2022 long list works.
Thank you to S. Qiouyi Lu and everyone else in the community who has worked with us on this issue.
Hugo Awards Ceremony
We would like to discuss two incidents that occurred during the Hugo Awards Ceremony.
First, we would like to apologize to Marguerite Kenner, Finalist in the Best Fanzine category for The Full Lid, whose name was not read aloud during the ceremony. This was simply a mis-read by our ceremony hosts, who did immediately reach out personally to Ms. Kenner after the ceremony to apologize as well.
Second, there were concerns raised online during the Best Semiprozine category presentation when the audience laughed at the discrepancy between the slide listing the names of the Strange Horizons team and what was said aloud. While we spoke with all Finalists and agreed upon the language to be used on the slides and in the presentation, we acknowledge that we did not properly explain to the audience the context and conversation around not reading out the names of everyone on the Strange Horizons team. We also did not properly support our hosts by putting them in this situation. We will be speaking to future Worldcons to pass on our advice and experience in the hope to avoid similar situations in the future.
Other items include: an apology for the original name given to the “Future Worldcon Q&A Session” (“The Fannish Inquisition”), correction of errors in Hugo Awards list in the printed Souvenir Book (names misspelled, Astounding Award 2022 winner name listed); omissions of some credits for the Hugo Awards Ceremony and Opening Ceremony; follow-up with the Airmeet team; Art Show feedback; complaints about badge lanyards; and reasons for having an electronic-only Pocket Program Guide.
(2) FIFTH SEASON RPG CROWDFUNDING. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Green Ronin has launched a Backerkit campaign for the Fifth Season RPG, using their tried-and-tested AGE system (which was also used in the Expanse RPG). “The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game”.
…You and your fellow players take the roles of members of such a community, working to overcome internal difficulties and external threats, in order to be ready when that inevitable Fifth Season comes. Are you a lifelong native of this place, someone everyone has recognized from childhood? Maybe you’re a more recent addition to the comm, someone who’s come from a distance, contributing something to the comm that makes the possibility of your secrets and past catching up to you worth it. Or perhaps you are an orogene, one who was born to sess the movements of the tectonic plates, gifted with a forbidden power to still the shaking earth and bleed heat in your environs away until frost coats everything in a perfect circle around you….
If you’re wondering what The Fifth Season RPG is like, you can find out right now. We’ve got a free PDF Quickstartthat has an introduction to the Stillness, basic rules to play, pre-generated characters, and a complete adventure. Reading it, or better yet playing it, will give the best introduction to what The Fifth Season RPG is all about…
The world is closer to catastrophe than ever: the Doomsday Clock, the metaphorical measure of challenges to humanity, was reset to 90 seconds before midnight on Tuesday.
The science and security board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the move — the closest to widespread calamity humanity has ever been judged to be — was “largely, though not exclusively” due to the war in Ukraine.
The scientific body evaluates the clock each January. This is the first full update since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last February, triggering a war in Europe and a new flood of refugees….
A lot of Eva Green’s success is down to her sense of unknowable mystique. This is a woman who steers clear of the celebrity circuit, who isn’t given to blurting her every waking thought on social media. Interviewers perennially struggle to get to her core. Since her breakthrough in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers almost two decades ago, Green has preferred to let her work speak on behalf of her. She is an enigma, an image on a screen upon which we can project our own feelings.
Or at least she was, because loads of Eva Green’s WhatsApp messages have been read out in court, and hoo boy!
Let’s deal with the court case briefly. In 2019, Green signed up for A Patriot, a science fiction movie that would also star Charles Dance and Helen Hunt. The film – about a Border Corps captain in an authoritarian futuristic state – was never made. When the production hit the skids, Green sued producers for her £830,000 fee (almost a quarter of the film’s total budget). And this caused the producers to countersue, claiming that the reason the film was never made was because Eva Green tried to sabotage it. She argues that she did everything that she could to fulfil the terms of her contract and denies “in its entirety” the allegation that she did not want the project to succeed….
…In the intervening years, I’ve seen countless versions of enhanced books hyped. Last year, there were articles about how “web 3” and crypto would completely change publishing by [something something string of jargon] block chain! All the magazines publishing daily articles on Web 3 and NFTs have stopped talking about them, seemingly in embarrassment as the crypto space has been exposed as a series of Ponzi schemes. (The crypto crowd is too busy focusing on “disrupting” the legal system to keep themselves out of jail to innovate the novel, I guess.) So naturally everyone who, last year, was declaring crypto would revolutionize every aspect of life have pivoted to saying “A.I.” will revolutionize every aspect of life. And, like the tweet above, that means lots of predictions about how the book will be disrupted. (Commenters to the above tweet also suggested putting books in the “metaverse” so you can “live” books instead of read them, whatever that means…)
I’m on the record as a bit of an “A.I” skeptic. And I’m putting A.I. in scare quotes because a computer program that spits out text it doesn’t understand is not an “intelligence” really. (Renaming “software” as “A.I.” was a very clever marketing coup. People freak out when they hear an “A.I.” did something like win a spelling bee even though no one would be terribly impressed to hear a computer program with a built-in dictionary did that.) …
I’ve been watching the Oscars since I was a kid, and writing about them for decades, but this year I did something I never dreamt of during all that time: I cast a vote.
Last year, I was admitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in the At-Large category. (There is no branch representing authors, critics, or preservationists.) As awards season began it dawned on me that I was actually going to participate in this year’s Oscars.
My invitation to vote came about two weeks ago, with a deadline of January 17. As I continued to catch up with foreign-language films, indies, and documentaries I put off voting until Monday, one full day before deadline. The deed didn’t take long, as I was only qualified to cast one vote: for Best Picture.
In the first stage of the awards process, members of the Academy’s branches determine the nominees in each specialized category. Only writers nominate writers, only makeup artists nominate makeup artists, and so on….
(7) FIVE TOP CATS. [Item by Nina Shepardson.] Tor.com has an article about cats in fantasy. Given that File770 has a feature called “Cats Sleep on SFF”, I figured Filers might be interested…. “Admiring Five of Fantasy’s Best Cats” by Cole Rush.
I’ve always thought cats are the perfect companion for the bookish. You never have to put down your book to take a cat for a walk. Instead, our feline friends will curl up on our laps while we dive into our latest fantasy obsessions, as though they’re tiny, fuzzy dragons lounging atop their hoard.
While I have nothing but love and respect for dogs—whether they’re real-life canines or fictional good boys—I feel a special kind of appreciation when a fantasy story contains a cat. Below, I’ll list five of my favorite fantasy felines and briefly discuss whether they’d make good real-world pets….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
2004 — [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]Medicine Road by Charles de Lint
Ok, I’ll admit, it is not about food, but it’s a bar which is sort of related to food, isn’t it? Ok I’m stretching things this time. I’ll admit though The Hole does have food and de Lint (with permission of course) borrowed it from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife.
The quote this time is from Charles de Lint’s Medicine Road which involves the grown up versions of the Dillard Sisters who we last encountered in his children’s book, A Circle of Cats. Here they are folk singers touring the Southwest when they encounter the more mythic aspects of that region.
Medicine Road was one of a series of shorter novels by de Lint that were illustrated by Charles Vess which published by Subterranean Press. Seven Wild Sisters, in which we first met Bess and Laurel, who are another of his sister characters. Both are lovely books as objects and damn fine reads as well.
Here’s my chosen quote.
We’d just finished playing our first set at the Hole, in Tucson, Arizona, and were getting ready to take our break. The place was properly called the Hole in the Wall, but when we asked directions to the Barrio Historica at the front desk of our hotel, the guy with the purple hair told us everyone just calls it the Hole. He also told us that it’s a pretty much a dive, but he should see the roadhouses back home in the Kickaha Mountains. This old adobe building, right on the edge of the barrio, is like a palace compared to some of the places we’ve played in Tyson County.
And it’s trés cool, as Frenchy’d say.
You come in off the street into a warren of rooms with saguaro rib ceilings, thick adobe walls, beautifully carved oak doors, and weathered wood plank floors. It smells of mesquite and beer, cigarette smoke and salsa. The band posters on the walls advertise everything from Tex-Mex and Cajun to bluegrass, reggae and plain old rock ‘n’ roll.
But the best part is that once you’ve threaded your way through the maze of little inner rooms you come out into a central courtyard, open to the sky. Clematis vines crawl up the walls. Mismatched tables are scattered across a cracked tile floor. And there, under the spreading branches of a mesquite tree, is the stage where we’ve been playing.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 24, 1911 — C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaboration resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, Maverick, The Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking the usual suspects, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. (Died 1987.)
Born January 24, 1917 — Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years late, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in Wonderland. Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see… it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get Smart, Future Cop, The Ghost of Flight 401, Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
Born January 24, 1937 — Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
Born January 24, 1941 — Gary K. Wolf, 82. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful.
Born January 24, 1944 — David Gerrold, 79. Let’s see… He of course scripted the Hugo nominated “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
Born January 24, 1949 — John Belushi. No, he was not in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
Born January 24, 1984 — Remi Ryan, 39. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room a decade ago and she retired from acting not long after.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
From Tom Gauld.
(11) JUST A SECOND. “Guns and Nonsense: Part 2” is today’s installment of Camestros Felapton’s analysis of Larry Correia’s newly released nonfiction book In Defense of the 2nd Amendment.
… It is reasonable to say that Larry Correia uses biting sarcasm, opinions differ on whether his wit is incisive and I’ve always found that what logic he uses is supremely vincible. Maybe that’s me. However, [Nick] Searcy [author of the Foreword] does focus on the central quality of Correia’s approach to examining topics of the day: mockery. Michael Moore is a large man and hence somebody who can be mocked and once mocked his opinions can be dismissed. In reality, Moore is far from infallible and his documentaries are far from flawless but engaging with them takes effort and it is so much easier to make a quick dig about over-eating and be done.
Mockery is a recurring rhetorical device in Correia’s style of argumentation and it is what his readership enjoys. He does attempt some arguments of substance but the overall thrust of his approach is not to show that an opinion is incorrect but that it is an opinion that can be mocked or dismissed. To this extent, Searcy is accurately getting to the guts of this book. The point is not to show gun control adherents as wrong but as foolish and contemptible….
(12) I SING THE LYRIC ELECTRIC. Rich Lynch took ChatGPT for a “test drive” and sent File 770 a screencap of the results.
Microsoft said on Monday that it was making a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar” investment in OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind the experimental online chatbot ChatGPT.
The companies did not disclose the specific financial terms of the deal, but a person familiar with the matter said Microsoft would invest $10 billion in OpenAI.
Microsoft had already invested more than $3 billion in OpenAI, and the new deal is a clear indication of the importance of OpenAI’s technology to the future of Microsoft and its competition with other big tech companies like Google, Meta and Apple.
In 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” to reveal a futuristic plan his company had been secretly pursuing to deliver packages by drone in 30 minutes.
A pre-recorded demo showed an Amazon-branded “octocopter” carrying a small package off a conveyor belt and into the skies to a customer’s home, landing smoothly in the backyard, dropping off the item and then whizzing away. Bezos predicted a fleet of Amazon drones could take to the skies within five years and said, “it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
A decade later, Amazon is finally starting to launch drone deliveries in two small markets through a program called Prime Air. But just as it’s finally getting off the ground, the drone program is running squarely into a sputtering economy and CEO Andy Jassy’s widespread cost-cutting efforts.
CNBC has learned that, as part of Amazon’s plan to slash 18,000 jobs, its biggest headcount reduction in history, Prime Air is losing a significant number of employees….
…What the newts need now is a safe way to get to their rendezvous points. In many places, busy roads lie between newts and their breeding grounds. In Petaluma and other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, thousands of newts are killed by cars each year as they try to cross these roads. The carnage in Petaluma is so severe that a group of local residents has taken it upon themselves to stop it.
For the past four years, volunteers have spent their winter nights shepherding newts across a one-mile stretch of Chileno Valley Road, a winding country road in the hills of Petaluma. They call themselves the Chileno Valley Newt Brigade, and their founder, Sally Gale, says they will keep showing up until the newts no longer need them.
On a warm, wet evening in early December, Ms. Gale and her fellow brigaders gathered to do what they do best: save newts. Wearing reflective vests and armed with flashlights and buckets, Ms. Gale and her brigaders split up into groups and began scouring Chileno Valley Road. The conditions were perfect for newts. It had just rained and the temperature was a brisk 55 degrees.
“That’s their sweet spot,” Ms. Gale said.
…On busy nights, as many as 24 volunteers gather on the road to spend their evening shepherding newts to safety.
“It’s such a huge cross-section of people, and we haven’t met a bad one yet,” said Katie Brammer, a graphic designer and newt brigade captain. Among her fellow volunteers are schoolteachers, students, naturalists, business owners and retirees.
Ms. Brammer and her husband, Rick Stubblefield, have been newt brigade captains for just over a year. They say it’s the charisma of the newts that got them hooked on helping.
“California newts are quite endearing,” Ms. Brammer said. “They hold onto your hand as you’re carrying them across the road.”…
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Amdrew (not Werdna).]
By Rich Lynch: It shouldn’t come as a surprise, to anyone who knows me, for me to say that I like museums. A lot. Art museums, history museums, science museums, cultural museums, you name it. They’re all good. Nicki and I live in the D.C. area so we have a membership to the Smithsonian Institution. If we lived in New York City, I know we’d be members of the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. And also one other place.
That would be the Museum of the Moving Image. It’s located over in Queens, adjacent to the Kaufman Astoria Studios, and as far as I can tell it seems to be a mostly undiscovered gem. It’s not huge as museums go, with just under 100,000 square feet of exhibit space (MoMA, by comparison, is more than seven times larger), but it makes very effective use of the room it has. An example of this is MotMI’s core exhibition, “Behind the Screen”, which might be best described as an immersive stroll through the various stages of making movies, television shows, and online productions such as creating a soundtrack, lighting, model making, special effects, and editing. There are small studios where visitors to the museum can try their hand at doing stuff like voice-overs, foley sound effects, and rudimentary stop-motion animation.
And in addition to all this, “Behind the Screen” is also a walk through history. There are more than a thousand items from the museum’s permanent collection on display, things like film and television cameras from decades past, costumes, set design models, and even some media-tie in merchandise from long ago. And going all the way back to the very beginning, there is even a viewing station that shows a short featurette about the French scientist and physiologist Étienne Jules Marey, who in the early 1890s created some of the very earliest moving image productions (it was called ‘chronophotography’ back then). All in all, this exhibition is perhaps the best one in existence anywhere for introducing the layman to the historical background and overall creative processes of how moving image productions are made.
But that’s not what we came to MotMI to see.
Besides the core exhibition, the museum also has room for two additional special interest exhibitions. One of them, “The Jim Henson Exhibition” (which I described in a previous essay back in 2020), has been so popular that it’s going to be there indefinitely. That was most certainly worth another visit, with all its puppets, costumes, storyboards, and film/TV clips which guide you through the career of Jim Henson and explore his creative processes. But we didn’t linger there. Instead, we spent some quality time with Rick, Daryl, Carol, Maggie, Michonne, Negan, and other post-apocalyptic survivors in MotMI’s other special exhibition, “Living with The Walking Dead”.
Before I go any further I should mention that Nicki and I are big fans of The Walking Dead television show. We’ve seen every episode of the original series and also all of the spin-off series. And we’re not nearly the only ones – TWD at one point in its run was the third most-watched show on television in the U.S.A., behind only The Big Bang Theory and Sunday Night Football. So it was a very pleasant surprise during our recent visit to The Big Apple when we discovered that MotMI (with the support of the AMC cable TV network which had aired the series) had organized a large retrospective about TWD which, according to the museum’s website, “addresses the origins, production, fandom, and impact” of the show.
There was far more to see than I had expected, and a lot of it takes you right down into the ‘guts’ of the show. Very literally so – MotMI has posted a disclaimer on its website that reads: “Please note: this exhibition features material depicting graphic violence and other potentially disturbing images and is intended for mature audiences.” Among the items on display are clothes covered with zombie blood and innards (make that seemingly covered, even though it sure looked real to me). TWD is not shy about showing violence that occurs during the zombie apocalypse, and the exhibition was not shy about including depictions of it on video screens that were spread around the exhibition. Some of the objects shown in those video clips were on display, one example being Negan’s barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat ‘Lucille’ which he had used in numerous acts of lethal brutality. There was an explanatory placard for the prop: “The rubber bat on display is rigged with a cavity for a packet of fake blood, which explodes upon contact creating a vivid, gruesome effect.” No surprise that the practical special effects for the show are high-end.
But there was far more to the exhibition than just blood splatter, and that included cinematic and other popular culture forerunners. As stated by the museum’s website: “Living with The Walking Dead explores the cinematic and literary antecedents of the series.” There were homages to other zombie movies including Night of the Living Dead, but what initially caught my attention was in the hallway leading into the exhibition – mounted on the wall was an array of every issue of Robert Kirkman’s TWD comic book series that the TV series was based on. As for what individual episodes of TWD were based on, there were some illuminating displays on that as well. Concept art, costumes galore, storyboards, animatronic zombie body parts, and annotated drafts of shooting scripts all provided an interconnected narrative on how the broad concept for an episode of the show becomes, in the end, a polished production, filled with painstaking detail, that advances the overall story arc.
Hey, I came away really impressed! If I were an aspiring film student I’d consider the three exhibitions of MotMI as master classes that would help me begin a career. As for me, I’ve always been fascinated by the movie-making process, so much so that I’m usually an avid viewer of any TV series or special which illuminates the creative process. This was as much up-close-and-personal to such behind the scenes activity as I’ve ever been. For anybody not already involved in the motion picture industry, this is surely the next best thing.
The last day for the “Living with the Walking Dead” exhibition is January 22nd. If you’re a fan of the show and are in the NYC area, make plans to see it before it closes!
By Rich Lynch: It doesn’t really seem so long to me, but it’s been more than one-third of a century that Nicki and I have lived here in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. And in that time we’ve had many out-of-town visitors who, before they continue on into the nation’s capital to take in what they can of the Smithsonian Institution, often asked an obvious yet oversimplified question: Which one is the best museum to visit?
There are a lot of options! The Smithsonian is the largest complex of museums in the world, seven of which are located in downtown Washington along the National Mall. You can’t see them all in a single day, or even in a single week. But for those who have just one afternoon reserved for their Smithsonian experience and don’t already have a plan, my advice is to go to the one that’s the most eclectic: the National Museum of American History.
It’s been in existence for nearly 60 years, first opening in 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology. It’s the largest museum of the Smithsonian in terms of overall size and has under its purview millions of historical artifacts which have social, political, cultural, scientific, and military significance (even though only a small fraction of them are on display). The museum is big enough that there’s plenty of room for large alcoves that can be used for special interest exhibits. So, on the Winter solstice, Nicki and I took our own advice and traveled down to D.C. to take in the special interest exhibit that was, well, of very special interest to us: Entertainment Nation.
The museum’s website has a pretty good description, so I’ll just go with that: “…a powerful, ever-changing selection of objects and interactive experiences. Through the objects and their stories, the exhibition will explore how, for over 150 years, entertainment has provided a forum for important national conversations about who we are, and who we want to be.” It’s big! The gallery housing it is 7,200 square feet in area, the equivalent amount of living space in a mini-mansion. That’s easily enough room for the museum to showcase the hundreds of objects that it selected to help describe the cultural impact of various different forms of entertainment: music, theater, television, film, and sports. And as part of that narrative, the exhibition featured a varied and broad spectrum of popular culture, including things like the living room set from the TV show All in the Family, Prince’s yellow cloud electric guitar, the iconic stopwatch from the TV news show 60 Minutes, the baseball jersey worn by Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente, the costume worn by Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Broadway musical Hamilton, and the signpost from the TV show M*A*S*H which showed distances to places in other parts of the world outside war-torn Korea. And there were also objects, costumes, and other artifacts from the science fiction and fantasy genres. Many, many of them.
There were way more than I had expected to see – probably 25% of the entire exhibition. From the layout, the focal point was no doubt intended to be the pair of ruby slippers from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but what instead immediately attracted my attention was the Star Wars display. There was a screen which was showing brief snippets from some of the movies but as you’d expect, the centerpiece was R2‑D2 and C‑3PO. There were there in full glory, or whatever the equivalent of that is it in the Star Wars universe. I’d never seen them so up close before so I hadn’t fully appreciated the tremendous amount of skill of the creators of those intricate costumes. But after seeing how confining it must have been for the actors who were inside those constructs, Nicki made a perceptive observation: “It must be hot inside them.” All the more to admire about the acting chops of Anthony Daniels and the late Kenny Baker.
The science fictional and fantastic aspects of Entertainment Nation turned out to be as diverse as the rest of the exhibition. There was a lot to see. A children’s television display included several of the Muppets and the original Howdy Doody marionette. Along the far wall there was a ‘Women in Sci-Fi and Fantasy’ display showcasing costumes worn by Lucy Lawless in Xena and Michelle Yeoh & Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery as well as the fearsome katana sword wielded by Danai Gurira’s Michone character in The Walking Dead, the headband and gloves worn by Julie Newmar’s Catwoman character from the 1960s Batman TV series, and even the ID badge of Gillian Anderson’s Scully in The X-Files. And in displays farther around the gallery the DC and Marvel universes were admirably represented by the original Superman costume worn by George Reeves in the 1950s and the red-white-and-blue shield that helped to protect Chris Evans’s Captain America character.
There were even more besides these – many more – but it eventually got to a point where it became almost too much of a good thing. Not to the point where eyes start to glaze over but well beyond where I started to lose track of the overall narrative about the power of entertainment as a force for change. From personal experience, I know that a docent tour is the best way to take in an exhibition with so many individual and seemingly disparate components like this one has. They probably do happen, but it might be that it needs to be scheduled in advance.
At any rate, there’s good news that Entertainment Nation is intended to be a permanent exhibition, and will have some of its items on display changed out about every six months. Guess we’ll have to come back this summer!
People writing about the issues they care about is what keeps this community going. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. Thanks to all of you who contributed to File 770 in 2022!
…Thinking about Jules Verne, with the new TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days about to start, I just bought the Wesleyan edition of Five Weeks in a Balloon, translated by Frederick Paul Walter – after researching what the good modern translations of Verne are. Verne has been abysmally translated into English over the years, but there’s been a push to correct that….
… It was on FaceBook where I first saw friends’ posting about Opening Ceremonies. According to what was posted, some of the musical selections performed by students from the Duke Ellington School spotlighted the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday.
My immediate reaction was that this was not an appropriate part of Opening Ceremonies, especially since, as far as I know, the religious aspect of the performance was not contained in the descriptions in any convention publication. The online description of Opening Ceremonies says, in its entirety: “Welcome to the convention. We will present the First Fandom and Big Heart awards, as well as remarks from the Chair.” The December 9, 2021, news release about the choir’s participation did not mention that there would be a religious component to the performance….
Whew! We made it. We made it to Issue 100 of the Grantville Gazette. This is an incredible feat by a large group of stakeholders. Thank you, everyone.
I don’t think Eric Flint had any idea what he’d created when he sent Jim Baen the manuscript for 1632. In the intervening two-plus decades, the book he intended to be a one-shot novel has grown like the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters to encompass books from two publishing houses, a magazine (this one, that you are holding in your metaphorical hands) and allowed over 165 new authors to see their first published story in print. The Ring of Fire Universe, or the 1632 Universe, has more than twelve million words published….
This message was written by a fan in Moscow 48 hours ago. It is unsigned but was relayed by a trustworthy source who confirms the writer is happy for it to be published by File 770. It’s a fan’s perspective, a voice we may not hear much….
Right now, when I’m sitting at my desktop and writing this text, a cannonade nearby doesn’t stop. The previous night was scary in Kyiv. Evidently, Russians are going to start demolishing Ukrainian capital like they are doing with Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol.
The Ukrainian SFF Community joined the efforts to isolate Russia, the nazi-country of the 21st century, to force them to stop the war. The boycott by American authors we asked for is also doing the job. Many leading writers and artists of the great United States already joined the campaign.
We appealed to SFWA to also join the campaign, and here is what they replied…
Fortunately, comic-carrying newspapers are, of course, all (also or only) online these days, but even then, some require subscriptions (fair enough), and to get all the ones you want. For example, online, the Washington Post, has about 90, while the Boston Globe is just shy of a paltry one-score-and-ten. And (at least in Firefox), they don’t seem to be visible in all-on-one-page mode, much less customize-a-page-of.
So, for several years now, I’ve been going to the source — two “syndicates” that sell/redistribute many popular strips to newspapers….
There’s been a lot of excitement about Squid Game. Everybody’s talking about how clever, original, and utterly skiffy it is. I watched it, too, eagerly and faithfully. But I wasn’t as surprised by it as some. I expected it to be good. I’ve been watching Korean video for ten years, and have only grown more addicted every year. And yet I just can’t convince many people to watch it with me….
Let me tell you about my favorite building in Washington, D.C. It’s the staid old Arts and Industries Building, the second-oldest of all the Smithsonian Institution buildings, which dates back to the very early 1880s and owes its existence to the Smithsonian’s then urgent need for a place where parts of its collection could go on public display….
When we last left the Heinleins (“What the Heinleins Told the 1940 Census”), a woman answering the door at 8777 Lookout Mountain – Leslyn Heinlein, presumably — had just finished telling the 1940 census taker a breathtaking raft of misinformation. Including that her name was Sigred, her husband’s was Richard, that the couple had been born in Germany, and they had a young son named Rolf.
Ten years have passed since then, and the archives of the 1950 U.S. Census were opened to the public on April 1. There’s a new Mrs. Heinlein – Virginia. The 8777 Lookout Mountain house in L.A. has been sold. They’re living in Colorado Springs. What did the Heinleins tell the census taker this time?…
“In the future, there was a nuclear war. And because of all the radiation, cats developed the ability to shoot lasers out of their mouths.”
On this dubious premise, Laser Cats was founded. By its seventh and final episode, the great action stars and directors of the day had contributed their considerable talents to this highly entertaining, yet frankly ridiculous enterprise. From James Cameron to Lindsey Lohan, Josh Brolin to Steve Martin, Laser Cats attracted the best in the business.
Being part of Saturday Night Live undoubtedly helped….
The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction aims to award disability in speculative fiction in two ways. One, by awarding a writer of speculative fiction for their representation or portrayal of disability in a world of speculative fiction, whatever their health status; and two, by awarding a disabled writer for a work of speculative fiction in general, whatever the focus of the work may be….
Robert Osband, Florida fan, really loves space. All his life he has been learning about spaceflight. And reading stories about spaceflight, in science fiction.
So after NASA’s Apollo program was over, the company that made Apollo space suits held a garage sale, and Ozzie showed up. He bought a “training liner” from ILC Dover, a coverall-like portion of a pressure suit, with rings at the wrists and neck to attach gloves and helmet.
And another time, in 1976, when one of his favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, was going to be Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, Mr. Osband journeyed to Kansas City.
In his suitcase was his copy of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel—a novel about a teenager who wins a secondhand space suit in a contest—and his ILC Dover suit.
Because if you wanted to get your copy of Have Space Suit, Will Travel autographed, and you happened to own a secondhand space suit, it would be a shame NOT to wear it, right?…
… I’m sure that our first face-to-face meeting was in 1979, when my job in industry took me from Chattanooga all the way out to Los Angeles for some much-needed training in electrochemistry. I didn’t really know anybody in L.A. fandom back then but I did know the address of the LASFS clubhouse, so on my next-to-last evening in town I dropped in on a meeting. And it was there that I found Bruce mostly surrounded by other fans while they all expounded on fandom as it existed back then and what it might be like a few years down the road. It was like a jazz jam session, but all words and no music. I settled back into the periphery, enjoying all the back-and-forth, and when there eventually came a lull in the conversations I took the opportunity to introduce myself. And then Bruce said something to me that I found very surprising: “Dick Lynch! I’ve heard of you!”…
It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel. Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.
… It is through Joy and Cassimer’s eyes we experience S.A. Tholin’s Iron Truth, a finalist of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. If there was ever a case of the cream rising to the top this book is one….
In T. A. Bruno’s In the Orbit of Sirens, a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist, the remnants of the human race have fled the solar system ahead of an alien culture that is assimilating everyone in reach. Loaded aboard a vast colony ship they’re headed for a distant refuge, prepared to pioneer a new world, but unprepared to meet new threats there to human survival that are as great as the ones they left behind.
On the morning of Carmen Grey’s sixth birthday an armed team arrives to take her from her parents and remove her to the underground facility where Clairvoyants — like her — are held captive and trained for years to access their abilities. So begins Monster of the Dark by K. T. Belt, a finalist in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition….
G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?…
… What sounds like Firefly also describes the SPSFC finalist novel Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1, a space opera by authors Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. I love Firefly so it wasn’t a big leap to climb aboard this vessel….
…. It would be exceptionally embarrassing for a Worldcon to have to explain why a finalist would have won the Hugo except for — oops! — this bit of outdated fine print. The best course of action is to eliminate that fine print before such a circumstance arises….
The social media of the 30th century doesn’t seem so different: teenagers anonymously perform acts of civil disobedience and vandalism to score points and raise their ranking in an internet app. That’s where Aster Vale leads a secret life as the Wildflower, a street artist and tagger, in A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts, a Self-Published Science Fiction competition finalist…..
R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world….
Paul Weimer went to donate some books at Don Blyly’s new location for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. While he was inside Paul shot these photographs of the bookshelves being stocked and other work in progress.
… Another contributor to the Afrofuturist tradition is Nicole Mitchell, a noted avant-jazz composer and flutist. She chose to take on Octavia Butler’s most challenging works, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, and create the Xenogenesis Suite, a collection of dark and disturbing compositions that reflect the trilogy’s turbulent and complicated spirit….
Anna carefully arranged the necessary objects around her desktop computer into a pentagon: sharpened pencils, a legal pad, a half-empty coffee cup, and a copy of Science Without Sorcery, with the chair at the fifth point. This done, she intoned the spell that would open the channel to her muse for long enough to write the final pages of her work-in-progress. Then she could get ready for the convention….
… In the last five years, the [Hugo Awards Study Committee] [HASC] has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee…..
In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.
… Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.
His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive….
The day of reckoning is here for E Pluribus Hugo. The change in the way Hugo Awards nominations are counted was passed in 2015 and ratified in 2016 to counter how Sad and Rabid Puppies’ slates dictated most of finalists on the Hugo ballots in those years. It came with a 2022 sunset clause attached, and E Pluribus Hugo must be re-ratified this year in order to remain part of the WSFS Constitution….
… His name is Joel Nydahl, and back about the time of that Chicon he was a 14-year-old neofan who lived with his parents on a farm near Marquette, Michigan. He was an avid science fiction reader and at some point in 1952 decided to publish a fanzine. It was a good one….
… Abigail Kamara, younger cousin of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, has been left largely unsupervised while he’s off in the sticks on a case. This leaves Abigail making her own decisions when she notices that kids roughly her age are disappearing–but not staying missing long enough for the police to care….
Friends, let me tell you about one of my favorite TV shows. But I must admit to you up front that it’s not SF/F. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is, as I assume you’ve deduced from the title, a lawyer show. But it’s a KOREAN lawyer show, which should indicate that is NOT run of the mill….
… The Phantom Empire, a twelve-chapter Mascot serial, was originally released in February, 1935. A strange concoction for a serial, it is at once science fiction film, a Western, and strangely enough, a musical. It was the first real science fiction sound serial and its popularity soon inspired other serials about fantastic worlds….
… I find myself explaining the changes to membership in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and the conditions for attending the World Science Fiction Convention that were ratified this year in Chicago (and thus are now in effect, because this was the second vote on the changes)…
Chicon 8’s Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) program offered both memberships and financial stipends. It was established with the goal of helping defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for the following groups of people:
Non-white fans or program participants • LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants • Local Chicago area fans of limited means…
As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions….
… Capclave appeared to be equally star-crossed in its next iteration. It was held over the weekend of October 18-20, 2002, and once again the attendees were brought closer together by an event taking place in the outside world. The word had spread quickly through all the Saturday night room parties: “There’s been another shooting.” Another victim of the D.C. Sniper….
… In Fairy Tale, his newest novel, Stephen King delivers a, cough, grimm contemporary story, explicitly incorporating horror in the, cough, spirit of Lovecraft (King also explicitly namedrops, in the text, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner), in which high-schooler Charlie Reade becomes involved in things — and challenges — that, as the book and plot progress, stray beyond the mundane….
The idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about the Beatles seems like a natural. I’ve been told the two editors, each unbeknownst to the other, both presented the idea to the publisher around the same time…
The Science Museum (that’s the world famous one in Kensington, London) has just launched a new exhibit on what Carl Sagan once mused (though not mentioned in the exhibit itself) science fiction and science’s ‘dance’. SF2 Concatenation reprographic supremo Tony Bailey and I were invited by the Museum to have a look on the exhibition’s first day. (The exhibition runs to Star Wars day 2023, May the Fourth.) Having braved Dalek extermination at the Museum’s entrance, we made our way to the exhibition’s foyer – decorated with adverts to travel to Gallifrey – to board our shuttle….
I was at the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival in Rockville, MD today. If you’re wondering why the festival is there, that’s where Fitzgerald and his wife are buried. Now, I’d never read any of Fitzgerald`s writing, so I spent the evening before reading the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby (copyright having expired last year, it’s online). So far, I’ve yet to find anyone in it that I want to spend any time with, including the narrator.
However, the reason I attended was to see Kim Stanley Robinson, who was the special guest at the Festival. The end of the morning’s big event was a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. Then there was lunch, and a keynote speaker, then Stan introducing Powers to receive an award from the society that throws the annual Festival….
…As a child, I kept a notebook filled with my favorite quotes. (How did I not know I was going to be an author?) The first quote? “Not all who wander are lost.” There was everything from 90s rom com lines to Wordsworth poems in that notebook, but Tolkien filled the most pages….
There is a fundamental implausibility to easy manned interstellar (or even interplanetary) space travel that nonetheless remains a seductive idea even in our wiser and more cynical and weary 21st century. …
Alif is a young man, a “gray hat” hacker, selling his skills to provide cybersecurity to anyone who needs that protection from the government. He lives in an unnamed city-state in the Middle East, referred to throughout simply as the City. He’s nonideological; he’ll sell his services to Islamists, communists, anyone….
Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka….
The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus — which is in fact Eye of Cat — is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navajo born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later….
One fine Monday morning, Peter Grant is summoned to Baker Street Station on the London Underground, to assess whether there was anything “odd,” i.e., involving magic, about the death of a young man on the tracks….
…If you’re not a fan, then there’s a real chance you have no idea how much range animé encompasses. And I’m not even talking about the entire range of kid shows, sit-coms and drama. (I’m aware there may be limits to your tolerance. I’m talking about the range within SF/F. Let’s consider just three examples….
While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up. This is one of those….
It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall. I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him. Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot. So let me tell you a little bit about him….
I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay….
Poul Anderson began writing his own “future history” in the 1950s, with its starting point being that there would be a limited nuclear war at some point in the 1950s. From that point would develop a secret effort to build a new social structure that could permanently prevent war….
…As with Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual feast. Unlike the first film, there aren’t long sweeping pans lingering over beautiful, otherworldly vistas. The “beautiful” and the “otherworldly” are still there, but we’re seeing them incorporated into the action and storytelling….
… When I was growing up, children like myself were taught, no, more like indoctrinated, to think the United States was the BEST place to grow up, that our country was ALWAYS in the right and that our institutions were, for the most part, unassailable and impervious to criticism from anyone, especially foreigners.
I grew up in Ohio in the 1960’s and despite what I was being taught in a parochial Catholic grade school (at great expense, I might add, by my hard-working parents), certain things I was experiencing did not add up. News of the violence and casualties during the Vietnam War was inescapable. I remember watching the evening network news broadcasts and being horrified by the number of people (on all sides of the conflict) being wounded or killed on a daily basis.
As the years went on, it became harder to reconcile all of the violence, terrorism, public assassinations and the racism I was experiencing with the education I was receiving. The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-ins coincided with my high school years and the beginnings of my political awakening.
When I look back on those formative days of my life, I see myself as a small child, set out upon a sea of prejudice and whiteness, in a boat of hetero-normaltity, destination unknown….
… After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”
“Oh really? What’s that?”
“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred-mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)…
Despite some very harsh comments from Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos, threatening that “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” spacefarers seem to have a different perspective and understanding of the importance of international cooperation, respect and solidarity. This appears to have been demonstrated today when three cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station….
Forty-five years ago or thereabouts, on February 26, 1977, the first ‘prog’ of 2000AD was released by IPC magazines. The second issue dated March 5 a week later saw the debut of Judge Dredd. Since then, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Sláine, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog, Roxy and Skizz, The ABC Warriors, Bad Company and Proteus Vex are just some of the characters and stories that have emanated from the comic that was started by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Some have gone on to be in computer games, especially as the comic was purchased by Rebellion developments in 2000, and Judge Dredd has been brought to the silver screen twice.
Addictive and enjoyable stories of the fantastic, written and drawn by some of the greatest comic creators of the latter part of the 20th century, they often related to the current, utilizing Science Fiction to obscure issues about violence or subversiveness, but reflecting metaphorically about the now of the time….
Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time when film critics begin assembling their lists of the best films, actors, writers, composers, and directors of the past year. What follows, then, while honoring that long-held tradition, is a comprehensive compilation and deeply personal look at the finest film scores of the past nearly one hundred years….
The frenzy of joyous controversy swirling over director Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up has stirred a healthy, if frenetic debate over the meaning and symbology of this bonkers dramedy. On its surface a cautionary satire about the impending destruction of the planet, Don’t Look Up is a deceptively simplistic tale of moronic leadership refusing to accept a grim, unpleasant reality smacking it in its face.
What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.
Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.
After interviewing William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema during the torrid Summer of 1969 at “The Playhouse In The Park,” just outside of Philadelphia, while Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC, my old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my brother Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met and befriended all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (William Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Edward Kemmer), Commander of the Space Patrol….
… The first of the most important music modernists, however, in the post war era and “Silver Age” of film composers was Elmer Bernstein who would, had he lived, be turning one hundred years old on April 4th, 2022. Although he would subsequently prove himself as able as classic “Golden Age” composers of writing traditional big screen symphonic scores, with his gloriously triumphant music for Cecil B De Mille’s 1956 extravaganza, The Ten Commandments….
… She was just four days into her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City when this “Unsinkable” vessel met disaster and finality, sailing into history, unspeakable tragedy, and maritime immortality. May God Rest Her Eternal Soul … the souls of the men, women, and children who sailed and perished during those nightmarish hours, and to all those who go courageously “Down to The Sea in Ships.” This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-six years….
… It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned [The Orville] as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions….
… I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands. It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life. The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive. Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence. Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television….
He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction….
On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T….
…Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak….
After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, followed by Wide Country on NBC….
…When Jack Warner was casting the film version of the smash hit, he considered performers such as Cary Grant, James Cagney, or Frank Sinatra for the lead. Meredith Willson, the show’s composer, however, demanded that Robert Preston star in the movie version of his play, or he’d withdraw the contracts and licensing. The film version of The Music Man, produced for Warner Brothers, and starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, opened to rave reviews on movie screens across the country in 1962. Robert Preston, like Rex Harrison in Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady, had proven that older, seasoned film stars could propel both Broadway and big screen musicals to enormous artistic success….
On the evening of May 14, 1998, following the airing over NBC Television of the series finale of Seinfeld, the world and I received the terrible news of the passing of the most beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. It has been twenty-four years since he left this mortal realm, but the joy, the music, and the memories are as fresh and as vital today as when they were born….
Very exciting news. The long awaited CD soundtrack release of 12 O’Clock High is now available for purchase through La-La Land Records and is a major restoration of precious original tracks from Quinn Martin’s beloved television series….
That terrible day in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most significantly traumatic days of my life. I was just seventeen years old. I was nearing the end of my high school classes at Northeast High School in Philadelphia when word started spreading through the hallways and corridors that JFK had been shot. I listened in disbelief, praying that it wasn’t true … but it was….
I recently watched a somber new three part documentary by film maker Ken Burns that is among the most sobering, heartbreaking, and horrifying indictments of humanity that I have ever encountered. It was extremely difficult to watch but, as an American Jew, I remain struck by the similarities between the rise in Fascism in the early nineteen thirties, leading to the beginnings of Nazism in Germany, and the attempted decimation of the Jewish people in Europe and throughout the world, with the repellant echoes of both racial and religious intolerance, and the mounting hatred and suspicion of the Jewish communities and population residing presently in my own country of birth, these United States….
I’ve read with interest some of the recent discussions concerning the measure of Hugo Friedhofer’s importance as a composer, and it set my memory sailing back to another time in a musical galaxy long ago and far away. I have always considered Maestro Friedhofer among the most important, if underrated, composers of Hollywood’s golden era….
…Steven Spielberg’s reverent semi-autobiographical story of youthful dreams and aspirations is, for me, the finest, most emotionally enriching film of the year, filled with photographic memories, and indelible recollections shared both by myself and by the film maker….
My friend Adam Spector tells me that when Ernest Lehman was asked to write the script for North by Northwest, he tried to turn out the most “Hotchcocky” script he could, with all of Hitchcock’s obsessions in one great motion picture.
Moonfall is the most “Emmerichian” film Roland Emmerich is made. Like his earlier films, it has flatulent melodrama interlaced with completely daft science. But everything here is much more intense than his earlier work. But the only sense of wonder you’ll get from this film is wondering why the script got greenlit….
… Having a long career in Hollywood is a lot harder than in other forms of publishing; you’ve got to have the relentless drive to pursue your vision and keep making sales. To an outsider, what is astonishing about J. Michael Straczynski’s career is that it has had a third act and may well be in the middle of a fourth. His career could have faded after Babylon 5. The roars that greeted him at the 1996 Los Angeles Worldcon (where, it seemed, every conversation had to include the words, “Where’s JMS?”) would have faded and he could have scratched out a living signing autographs at media conventions….
When I read in the Financial Times about how Britain’s National Theatre was adapting Sir Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of his Book of Dust trilogy, I told myself, “That’s a play for me! I’ll just fly over to London and see it! OGH is made of money, and he’ll happily pay my expenses!”
Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to London, because the theatre came to me, with a screening of the National Theatre Live production playing at the American Film Institute. So, I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon seeing it….
… Stories matter more in the theatre than in film because far more of a play is in our imagination than in a film. Stripped of CGI and rewrites by multiple people, what plays offer at their best is one person’s offering us something where, if it works, we tell ourselves, “Yes, that was a good evening in the theatre,” and if it doesn’t, we gnash our teeth and feel miserable until we get home…
As Anton Ego told us in Ratatouille, the goal of a critic today is to be the first person to offer praise to a rising artist. It’s not the tenth novel that deserves our attention but the first or second. In the theatre, the people who need the most attention are the ones who are being established, not the ones that build on earlier successes.
So I’m happy to report that Matthew Aldwin McGee, author, star, and chief puppeteer of Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is a talented guy who has a great deal of potential. You should be watching him….
I once read an article about a guy who was determined to live life in 1912. He lived in a shack in the woods, bought a lot of old clothes, a Victrola, and a slew of old books and magazines. I don’t remember how he made a living, but the article made clear that he was happy….
By Rich Lynch: Today we celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Harry Warner, Jr., who was perhaps the best-known stay-at-home science fiction fan of all time.
Harry was a lifelong resident of Hagerstown, Maryland and a fan for most of his life; his fan activities began in 1936, when he was in his early teens, but by then he had already been a science fiction reader for several years: “My father got a couple of Jules Verne’s novels from the library for me to read [and] I read a little science fiction in the Big Little books, which were popular a long, long time ago. But I didn’t discover the prozines until 1933 – I bought my first Amazings and Wonders in that year.”
The path that Harry took into fandom was via the prozines. When he was 13 years old, he wrote a letter to Astounding’s “Brass Tacks” letters column, printed in the October 1936 issue, which mentioned that he would like to “correspond with someone of my own age or a little older”. Soon afterwards, he received about a dozen letters as well as a few fanzines (called ‘fanmags’ back then) in response, and began a letter exchange with some of the people who had written to him. One of these was James S. Avery, a fan from Maine, who convinced Harry they should co-edit their own fanmag, and in November 1938 the first issue appeared. This was Spaceways, a general interest fanmag which became one of the best fan publications of the pre-war years.
Spaceways was not destined to be a collaborative effort – it turned out that Avery never did contribute any material or effort to the publication so he was soon dropped as co-editor. As for Harry, it turned out that one of his talents was in persuading good writers to contribute to Spaceways; this included such notables as H.P. Lovecraft, Jack Williamson, Bob Tucker, Fred Pohl, Forrest J Ackerman, Sam Moskowitz, and Robert Lowndes. Harry also took great pains to keep Spaceways (and himself) above the fan politics and feuds that were endemic to the fandom of the late 1930s and early 1940s. By doing this, he made many friends and very few enemies.
Harry gained a reputation in fandom as ‘The Hermit of Hagerstown’, this from his reluctance or inability to travel far from home. As a result, he was frequently visited by those who were passing through the region on their way to or from various fan gatherings. One of these, in 1943, was the notorious fan freeloader Claude Degler, whom Harry described as actually behaving like a gentleman, but: “He left Hagerstown without getting into my home, an accomplishment for which I have never been sufficiently recognized.”
Over the years, Harry actually did leave Hagerstown to attend a few science fiction conventions, including the 1971 Worldcon where he was the Fan Guest of Honor. He was never very happy with the large crowd scenes, though, preferring the written word as his way of communicating with other fans. In the last decades of his life, he limited his contact with other fans to groups of two or three at the largest, so if you wanted to meet him you had to go visit him in Hagerstown.
All of his fanac then was done from home, either by publishing fanzines, writing articles for other fanzines, or as a correspondent. His prozine letterhack days were pretty much over by the time he became a fanzine publisher, but he remained a prolific letter writer for the rest of his life, usually in response to the myriads of fanzines he received in the mail. Harry always found positive, constructive things to say about even the most abysmal of crudzines, and it was always a badge of honor for a fanzine publisher to include a Harry Warner letter of comment in the Letters Column. Many volumes could probably be published of the entertaining letters he wrote to fanzine publishers; at least partly for this prolificacy he was voted the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice, in 1969 and 1972, winning out over such notables as Walt Willis, Terry Carr, and Susan Wood.
Harry also received one other Hugo Award, in 1993, for Best Non-Fiction Book. His large accumulation of fanzines provided him a resource from which to research the fandom of the 1940s and 1950s, and resulted in two books that he referred to as “informal histories” – All Our Yesterdays (Advent, 1969), about fandom of the 1940s, and A Wealth of Fable (SCIFI Press, 1992), about 1950s fandom. The Best Non-Fiction Book Hugo did not exist in 1970, or both books would likely have won the award.
Harry’s influence as a writer and historian on fandom is huge, and not only in the United States. Noted Swedish fan and writer John-Henri Holmberg wrote that: “What struck me about [Harry’s] letters, as well as his many fanzine essays, was his reasonableness, his sense of proportion, his quiet humor and good sense. In many ways, I suspect that Harry Warner was the ideal fan, in the sense that he managed to avoid both the wild-eyed fanaticism and the angry disillusionment which devour so many of us. He could see both sides to most conflicts, but even more importantly, he could also see that neither was particularly important.”
Harry leaves behind no relatives; only his writings survive him. And even though he was a lifelong bachelor, he was as much a patriarchal figure as has ever existed in science fiction fandom. Not long after Harry’s death in February 2003, fan historian Moshe Feder noted that: “[Harry] may not have any surviving blood kin, but we are his family, and his proper mourners, as is any faned anywhere who will never again receive a Harry Warner letter of comment.” And he’s right.
By Rich Lynch: As the Peanuts cartoon in the newspaper reminds us, today is Ludwig von Beethoven’s birthday. His 252nd, to be exact, and the local classical music radio station is celebrating the day by airing many of Beethoven’s best-known compositions. The one I was listening to during the one o’clock hour was my favorite of all – his fourth piano concerto. And in doing so, I indulged in a bit of mental gymnastics that we all probably have done at one time or another in our lives: If we were somehow gifted with a one-time ability to time travel into the past, what single event would we most want to witness?
You can probably guess where this essay is headed. It would be very tempting to go back to July 1939 so that I could take part in the very first Worldcon but I’ve read and listened to enough first-hand accounts of what happened there that I vicariously already feel like I was a participant. Same goes for many other famous events that have occurred throughout the history of science fiction fandom – I am blessed that I’ve had the honor of meeting and befriending some of those First Fandom ‘dinosaurs’ and have helped to preserve their memories of those times. So no, if I’m limited to a single event my time travel aspirations would be a lot different than that. And as an avid admirer of Beethoven and his music, it would actually be an easy choice – I’d go back more than 200 years so that I could attend one of the most famous classical music concerts ever staged.
It happened on December 22, 1808. On a very cold evening in Vienna, in an unheated concert hall, Ludwig von Beethoven gave his final performance as a concert pianist. It was for the public debut of his 4th piano concerto, but the concert also included the first public performances of two of Beethoven’s most prominent orchestral compositions – the 6th “Pastoral” symphony and the glorious 5th symphony which because of its famous opening theme has come to be known as the “Symphony of Fate”. In all there were eight different works performed that evening, including two sections of his Mass in C Major and a concert aria for soprano soloist and orchestra. And, as a whole, it did not go well.
The unheated concert hall was only a small part of the problem, though it must have been arduous for audience as well as the musicians to persevere for the four hours it took to complete the program. A bigger problem was that the event was scheduled on short notice and up against another concert that same evening to which many of the most experienced musicians in the city had been contractually committed. As a result, the orchestra was comprised largely of amateur and semi-professional musicians who turned out to be very much under-rehearsed. Even the soprano soloist was an inexperienced teen-ager who had been recruited at the last minute, and who had apparently suffered from stage fright. It all must have resulted in glorious chaos. Which is one of the reasons the concert is as famous as it is.
And yet, to paraphrase poet and author José Harris, from truth there is beauty. There are written accounts of the evening which were more than a bit critical, as you might expect, but they mostly relate that the event was so long that it became, in effect, too much of a good thing. There are no accounts (that I can find, anyway) of attendees leaving prior to the event’s conclusion. I can almost get the impression that people witnessing it knew they were in the presence of greatness.
And that’s where I’d want to be, if it were only possible. Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto is, in my opinion, the finest piano concerto ever written and also the composition which most deeply reveals his inner self, especially the middle section which seems reflective of turmoil he experienced at various times of his life. He is not described as a happy man. But he was, apparently an avid beer drinker, so If I’d been there I would have bought him a stein of Vienna’s finest at his favorite hangout. And, assuming I’d been gifted with fluency in German as well as the ability to time travel, I’d have listened avidly to any stories he might have told as he was enjoying his brew. I am sure he had his own fandom. I wonder what he’d think of ours.
By Rich Lynch: It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall. I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him. Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot. So let me tell you a little bit about him.
To begin with, Roger was very much an actifan during the 1980s and very early 1990s. He was a member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club but his fan activities extended far beyond the borders of Australia. Back then the Internet was not the prime means, as it is today, for fans separated by large distances to interact with each other. Instead, we communicated with each other mostly by letters and through fanzines which were distributed the old-school way: by surface mail. And that’s how I met him.
Back then, my wife Nicki and I were publishing a general interest fanzine, Mimosa, and had been sending it out as trade for other fanzines we’d receive in the mail. One of them was the MSFC fanzine Thyme, of which Roger was co-editor. And it was a very pleasant surprise for us to receive a long letter from him, in the first part of 1987, that commented favorably on our second issue. A lot of back-and-forth correspondence followed and a burgeoning friendship developed.
It wasn’t until 1992 that Nicki and I finally got to meet him in person. That year Roger had been elected the 1992 representative of the Down Under Fan Fund (DUFF) and came to the United States for the Worldcon, Magicon, which was held in Orlando, Florida. But the weekend before that he attended a small fan get-together, the Jophan Family Reunion, in Birmingham, Alabama. And it was there that we learned that he was seriously ill with lymphoma. He’d intended to include a stop in Maryland to stay with us as part of his DUFF trip but the disease had caused him to change his plans so that he could return to Australia immediately after the Worldcon to continue his chemotherapy treatments.
Roger had assured us that the disease was controllable – had been controlled, in fact – and that he fully intended to return to North America in 1993 to continue his DUFF excursion. But that turned out to be far too optimistic. When we said good-bye to each other at the conclusion of Magicon, Nicki and I had been hopeful that we’d see him again but fearful that we wouldn’t. And a very few months later, on the night of December 3rd, we received the long-distance telephone call we were dreading would happen, the news of Roger’s death.
Nicki and I were fortunate that in the relatively short time we knew Roger we managed to accumulate many memories of and about him that we’ve continued to treasure: Roger had an unpredictable side where he would do memorable things from out of the blue from time to time, like his ‘telephone call from the future’ to us one New Year’s Eve (he was on the other side of the International Date Line, where the new year had already arrived). We also knew Roger as someone who would gladly go out of his way to do something for you that he knew you wanted; several times we’d received letters from him where the envelope had been almost completely covered with different postage stamps – all because he knew that Nicki (at that time) collected Australian postage stamps.
One other thing about Roger was his hyperactiveness during the Jophan Family Reunion and at Magicon the following week. From what I observed, hardly anybody had the stamina to keep up with him. And that’s the way I remember him most – full of life and enthusiasm. Roger was that special kind of person who could brighten up your day whenever he wrote or called and the world has been a less friendly place without him. To say that I’ve been missing him these past three decades is a huge understatement.
I’ll end this remembrance by describing something that happened during the Jophan Family Reunion, a little anecdote that really shows off Roger’s personality. Roger had been hosted by our mutual friend Charlotte Proctor during his stay in Birmingham and on the final evening of the convention Nicki and me, Roger, and Charlotte went out to dinner at a shopping mall restaurant. Afterwards, just as we were all back in her car and ready to leave, Charlotte suddenly remembered that she’d meant to bring the baked potato from her meal back home for her husband Jerry to eat later. She’d been ready to just forget the whole thing, but Roger said, “Wait! I’ll get it for you!” Charlotte drove to the restaurant entrance and, as the three of us hummed the theme music from Mission: Impossible, Roger raced into the side entrance of the restaurant then, a moment later, came running back out again triumphantly holding up the foil-wrapped potato. He threw himself into the car and we sped off. It was all done so slickly that the restaurant staff didn’t even realize that they had been victimized by The Great Potato Caper. It was truly a moment that fan historians of the future will marvel at.
I’m sorry that most of you reading this never got a chance to meet Roger Weddall. I know you would have liked him.
By Rich Lynch: There have been many times, during my nearly 50 years in science fandom, that I have wondered what it must have been like to been a member of the very earliest fan organizations. To have attended the very earliest science fiction conventions including the first Worldcon. To have been friends with famous fans and pros when they were young men and women. What would it have been like to have been a part of the forefront of fandom back then? What would it have been like?
I was fortunate to have had a friend who had done all of those things and more. Whenever I met or corresponded with him, whenever I sat in on a convention panel where he was a participant, whenever I read from some of his many fan publications that described previous eras of fandom, it was like I was in the presence of a living time machine. His name was Bob Madle.
I had known of Bob even before my first days in fandom back in the mid‑1970s. But it was my great misfortune not to have met him in person until shortly after I had moved to Maryland in 1988. By then I had taken a strong interest in what had happened in earlier eras of fandom and this had manifested into me becoming co-editor, along with my wife Nicki, of a fanzine (Mimosa) whose very reason for existence was the need to preserve bits of fan history, especially from the First Fandom ‘dinosaur’ era, that were then only fragilely kept in the memories of some of the older fans. After our relocation to Maryland it seemed almost too good to be true that one of the most prominent fans of all lived just a short distance away.
I don’t have strong memories of my first meeting with Bob except that he was warm and welcoming when I showed up at his front door one afternoon. He took me down into his basement to see all the science fiction books and magazines that he had for sale in his mail order business, and I do have a strong memory of that. It was awesome. It was like a miniature version of the Area 51 warehouse where the Lost Ark of the Covenant ended up, except that there were stacks of books instead of wooden crates. I must have looked dumbstruck because when I looked over at Bob he had a big grin on his face.
It was only a bit more than two years after arriving in Maryland that I had taken on a big fanhistory project as editor of Harry Warner’s 1950s fanhistory book A Wealth of Fable, and Bob was an invaluable resource who I called upon frequently. He was everything from a fact checker to a provider of photographs for the book to a source of anecdotes and stories about fandom of the `50s. I didn’t actually need the latter since it was Harry’s manuscript, but it allowed me to plant the seed that he really ought to preserve these tales, either in print or on tape. And eventually he did.
It was at the 1998 Worldcon, held in relatively nearby Baltimore, that I finally got the opportunity to do a taped interview with Bob. It was unfortunately not very well attended and held in a room where there were distractions going on outside, but it still resulted in a transcript which was published in two parts in Mimosa. In the first part Bob described his personal odyssey, starting with his discovery of science fiction from futuristic pulp magazine covers in the early 1930s, to the first-ever science fiction convention in 1936, to the beginnings of the Worldcons, through the war years of the 1940s, to the first Philadelphia Worldcon in 1947. In the second, he brought the narrative into the 1950s where the he was involved in the invention of the Hugo Awards, the origination of First Fandom, a very contentious Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund election, and even a less-than-successful attempt to bring fandom to another part of the country. Wonderful stuff.
Come the new millennium, my contacts with Bob became fewer and fewer with the passage of time. We still crossed paths every so often, but usually it was for only relatively brief instances. The last time I visited him at his home was in 2008, and it turned out to be a memorable encounter because it was the only time that I ever had my picture taken with him. I remember that we had an extended chat about fan history and, more specifically, the 1939 Worldcon. And I also remember that I wished it could have gone on a lot longer than it did.
Bob was 102 when he died, and we’re all wishing he could have gone on a lot longer than it did. It was a life well-lived, filled with many memorable events that he participated in. I feel honored that I was his friend and that he shared many of those events with descriptions vivid enough that I could almost believe I was there. So I’ll end this remembrance by paraphrasing Dr. Seuss: “Don’t be sad that it’s over, smile because it happened.” I’m sad, but all my pleasant memories of Bob are making me smile. I think he’d have liked that.