That’s what was printed on a button which was handed out to attendees of the 2002 Capclave convention. It was the second Capclave; the previous year the convention had debuted as a successor to Disclave, which had passed from existence following the notorious ‘Disclave flood’ incident of 1997 (and there are abundant details if you do a Google search). The first Capclave had taken place just a few weeks after the nine-eleven attacks, and as a show of solidarity there had been buttons which had read: NO STUPID TERRORIST IS GOING TO RUIN MY CONVENTION. I remember that most everybody did wear the button and it helped make the gathering seem more like the reunion of a large extended family than a science fiction convention.
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.
We’ve reached the 20th anniversary of that terrible three weeks of violence so maybe a short summary of what happened is in order. Starting on October 2, 2002, there was a series of 15 sniper attacks, the locations ranging from Rockville, Maryland all the way down to a northern suburb of Richmond, Virginia. Parking lots and gas stations where there were clear sightlines seemed to be the preferred places for shootings, especially if they were located near a multi-lane avenue which provided a quick-and-easy escape.
The break in the case resulted after the sniper telephoned police from a pay phone and boasted of a previous unsolved shooting at a liquor store in Alabama. A fingerprint from that crime matched one for a 17-year-old man, Lee Boyd Malvo, who had a previous arrest out in Washington state. And it turned out that there were actually two people who were the shooters: further investigation indicated that Malvo was in the company of a much older man, John Allan Muhammad, who owned a Chevrolet sedan with New Jersey license plates. The pair were finally captured on October 24th, after two separate callers to a 911 emergency line informed police that they had spotted the car at an Interstate rest stop.
Ten people were killed during the three weeks of the D.C. Snipers’ shooting spree. In September 2003, Muhammad was tried and convicted in a Virginia court for one of the murders in that state and was sentenced to death. He was executed in 2009. Malvo was tried and convicted in Virginia a month later for another of the murders, and then pleaded guilty to two other murders in the state. Because he was not yet legally an adult at the time of the killing spree, he was spared the death penalty and instead was sentenced to three consecutive sentences of life-without-parole. He subsequently pleaded guilty to six of the killings in Maryland and received another six life-without-parole sentences.
The 2002 Capclave took place near the end of the ‘reign of terror’, as news media now describe those three weeks in October. It was easy to see that there was some edginess with many of the attendees, especially ones from out of town, but there was heightened awareness even from local fans who were there. Robert Macintosh, for instance, claimed he hadn’t been particularly concerned about personal safety but he had still noticed that there were open sightlines in the vicinity of the hotel, including one where he had been unloading equipment and supplies. This cautiousness extended beyond the convention. Ted White exemplified this when he later wrote that: “They shot into the parking garage of the Seven Corners Home Depot, less than a mile from my house. My daughter had been in that garage less than 10 minutes earlier. And, on another occasion, the snipers picked off a man at a Sunoco station just off of I-66, near Manassas, miles west of here, a station where I often gassed up when visiting my friend Michael Nally at his store nearby. I was super-cautious then, crouching low next to my car every time I gassed it up, and not lingering in the open in parking lots. It seemed prudent.”
Even commuting to work for fans became a memorable experience, though not in a good way. George Shaner later wrote that: “There were moments toward the end of this period, when I was walking to the Ballston Metro stop in the early morning to commute to work, where I thought that this would be just the sort of circumstances where I could become a statistic.” For me it was a similar situation. In 2002 my work location was down in D.C. and I was commuting to the Metrorail station by bus. Each morning during the work week, bright and early, I and maybe another dozen-or-so people queued up at the Gaithersburg park-and-ride lot waiting for the bus to arrive. It was a very exposed location and I made sure to keep moving around while I was in line so that I wouldn’t be a stationary target. It was always a relief to see the bus turn into the parking lot to pick us up. And it was a huge relief when the shooters were finally captured.
As for the 2002 Capclave, my recollection is that just like the previous year, horrible events in the outside world brought us together. We took comfort in each other’s presence and in the end we refused to allow the snipers to ruin our convention. I hope I’ll never have to experience another three weeks like that. But it certainly was an extraordinary time, and it made the convention utterly unforgettable for me. I have no doubt that most other attendees thought so too.
By Rich Lynch: Once in a while, just for the fun of it, I do Internet research to find out what happened to science fiction fans who were active in past decades. And with Chicon 8 now looming on the temporal horizon it seems appropriate to tell you about someone whose relatively brief stay in fandom began in the same year as the second Chicon.
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.
He named it Vega, after the bright star, and after a modest first few issues it gained enough acclaim where he was able to get contributions from some of the most famous fans of the day: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dean Grennell, Juanita Wellons, Lynn Hickman, Bill Venable, Jack Harness, Wilkie Conner, Fred Chappell, Shelby Vick, Gregg Calkins, Bob Tucker, Robert Bloch, Bob Silverberg, and Harlan Ellison. By the middle of 1953, Vega had become known as the best monthly fanzine and for a crowning achievement (after huge amounts of effort and no small expense) Nydahl published his 12th issue as an over-the-top ‘annish’ to mark a full year of its existence. At 100 pages of top-notch material and with a wonderful three-color cover by Margaret Dominick it was something the likes of which had rarely ever been seen in fandom before.
But there had been a cost. Even though it had resulted in “letters of the wildest praise”, as Nydahl described it, there was never another issue after that – he dropped from sight and departed fandom. Nydahl much later wrote that “I remember only that once the Vegannish was in the mail, I had no interest in putting out a thirteenth issue; nor, strangely, did I have an urge to read any more science fiction.” His departure from fandom was so precipitous that the cause became known as ‘Nydahl’s Disease’, which according to Fancyclopedia 3 is “the diagnosis of any fan who gafiates amid or immediately after any big fannish project”.
Nothing further was heard from Nydahl for another 48 years and then, at the 2001 Philadelphia Worldcon, he resurfaced. Several weeks prior to the convention he had been located by an Internet search and had then been contacted via email by both Robert Lichtman and Ted White. This had intrigued him sufficiently to where he decided to attend Philcon because, as he described it, he found he was interested “in meeting old friends and rehashing old times with individuals whom I fondly remembered”. Nydahl was at the convention for only one day, but his presence was almost immediately noticed with amazement by several fanzine publishers and fanhistorians who were there. And after that he was gone again, back to his life in mundania as head of the English Department at Broward College in Florida. But he left us all a parting gift, an article in Lichtman’s fanzine Trap Door (issue 21, March 2002) which described in detail his brief career in fandom and what he had experienced during his one day at Philcon. It’s a good read.
And now, twenty years later, I found Joel Nydahl’s obituary in a web search – he had passed away on May 15, 2019 “following a brief illness”. Turns out that after departing fandom in 1953 he had turned his attention to academia and other interests. Following graduation from high school he went on to earn a degree in English from the University of Michigan and some years later a doctorate in American Studies. His obit describes him as having had a “sense of adventure and curiosity [which] took him from his hometown of Marquette, MI, to more than 15 countries around the world where he lived and taught English”. The obit concluded by stating that: “Joel had a terrific sense of humor, occasional corny jokes included, was a loving and sensitive husband and will be greatly missed and always loved by his wife and their many friends.”
I’m glad I got to meet him, if only briefly – I was one of those amazed fan publishers and fan historians at Philcon. We talked just for a couple of minutes, as he was heading off to try to find someone he knew during his days in fandom. I remember that Ted White took a photo of the two of us, but alas I can no longer find it. No matter, the memory of the encounter is enough.
I’m writing this because I want you all to remember him too. Vicariously, in this case, as I very much doubt there are many people left in fandom who have ever met him in person. Joel Nydahl was one of the many notable fans of the fabulous 1950s, and fandom was blessed by his presence. He was a bright shining star – just like Vega.
By Rich Lynch: 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.
Back in 1939, at the urging of fellow scientists, preeminent physicists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard sent a letter to the President of the United States. Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning that Nazi Germany could be planning to develop an atomic bomb. This, as we know, led to the super-secret Manhattan Project which beat the Nazis to it. But what if there had also been a second letter from Einstein and Szilard to Roosevelt that warned of the Nazis’ interest in time travel? And what if that resulted in a second super-secret Government activity, the Indiana Project, which eventually resulted in the creation of a working time machine during the post‑WWII Cold War era?
IMDB describes The History of Time Travel as: “A fictional documentary about the creation of the world’s first time machine, the men who created it, and the unintended ramifications it has on world events.” And there are no lack of those. What if, instead of turning the completed device over to the U.S. military, the scientist inventor instead used it to go back in time to save a family member from a deadly disease? What if the Soviets took notice and stole the machine and its plans for their own uses? What if persistent meddling in the time stream ended up drastically changing historical events? And what if it was continuing to happen as the documentary was being filmed?
This is a pretty slick production, especially considering it was made with what must have been a microscopic budget relative to Hollywood norms. It was structured as a series of short straight-up interview snippets – the Astrophysicist, the Philosopher, the SciFi Writer, the retired Army General, the Time Historian, the family friend – which tell the story in what starts as a straightforward manner. But then, stuff starts to happen. Little stuff at first – a coffee cup is a different color, a globe in the background shows a different hemisphere. And then, not-so-little stuff – a change in an object on one of the interviewee’s desk indicates that the entire history of the world since WWII has been tossed into the blender. This includes the personal history of the inventor and his family, which becomes wildly recursive until it reaches what seemed to me an inevitable conclusion.
All this is succinctly and ironically summed up in what one of the interviewees states near the end of the film: “We experience time as we perceive it, but if time could be altered and was being altered would we perceive that? Would we even notice?”
It’s the ‘noticing’ of all those subtle and not-so-subtle alterations to the timeline that, in part, makes this such an interesting production. When I watched it at the 2015 Orlando Worldcon, I found it so entertaining that it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered it had finally made its way to Orinoco Prime. And I hear it’s also going to be part of a film festival down in Douglas Commonwealth next year if the COVID-16 pandemic is finally over by then. Rumor is that President Harris is even going to see it. You should too.
By Rich Lynch: Twenty years ago today I lost a friend. I remember first learning about it from an Internet news group: [Matthew Tepper] “I have just returned from tonight’s LASFS meeting. Larry Niven announced that Bruce Pelz died this afternoon.”
I’m trying to think back to when I first met Bruce. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, as I’d known of him practically since my entry into fandom in the mid-1970s – he was frequently mentioned in many fanzines that I read back then. But 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!”
Thus began a friendship that lasted right up to his death in 2002. It took a few years after that first meeting for me to develop a strong interest in fan history, and Bruce was partly responsible for that. My wife Nicki and I decided to publish Mimosa, a fanzine dedicated to fan history, in large part because of Bruce and other fans interested in preservation of our past enthralled us with entertaining and interesting stories about fandom’s past eras. It was inevitable that Bruce and I would work together on fan history projects, but it took more than a decade after our initial meeting before the first of those happened – he used his considerable power of persuasion to convince me to be editor of Harry Warner, Jr.’s anecdotal history of fandom in the 1950s, A Wealth of Fable. It had previously existed as a three-volume fanzine, filled with a myriad of typographical errors that needed to be fixed and more than a few instances of incorrect or outdated information that needed to be re-researched. This was officially a project of a L.A.’s Worldcon corporation, SCIFI, but in actuality it was Bruce who was the project manager. And also my chief researcher. I leaned on him, heavily at times, to take advantage of his deep knowledge of fandom of that era and also his extensive library of fanzines that often contained exactly the information we were looking for. How he knew where to find it I’ll never know, but he always did.
After that came a much less successful undertaking, the now-moribund 1960s fan history project. Bruce was once again an able researcher, and his involvement was a big reason we were able to produce a knowledge base of sorts that now resides on the Internet in the form of a very extensive outline. The project eventually proved to be undoable, mostly because 1960s fandom was so much larger in size and scope than its 1950s predecessor that it became obvious that a lot more research was needed than either of us had time or resources for. But for a few years we both had a lot of fun, if that’s the right word, discovering and sometimes re-discovering various nuggets of information about that era which eventually made their way into the outline.
It might be that the 1960s project was a progenitor of FanHistoricon. Bruce, along with Joe Siclari and Peggy Rae Pavlat, came up with the idea and the first one was held in 1994, deliberately sited in Hagerstown, Maryland so that attendees could have the opportunity to visit the legendary Harry Warner, Jr. at his home there. That’s probably the main memory which most attendees took away with them, but Bruce also used the occasion to do some ideating in the workshop portion of the event. The result was formation of the Timebinders, an informal association of fans which had the goals of ensuring the preservation of endangered fannish materials and finding ways of making fan historical information more widely available. That organization, in the end, was a bit too informal to last for very long, but it was most likely an inspiration for a parallel organization which has all the same goals: fanac.org. Joe Siclari was one of the main architects of that but it’s I think it’s fair to say that Bruce, holding forth as he did at the first FanHistoricon, certainly helped to plant some of the seeds.
These are not nearly all the projects and activities that Bruce originated or was otherwise involved in over the more than four decades of his life in fandom. He was the driving force behind the creation of Retrospective Hugo Awards. He championed a large fundraising campaign which allowed LASFS to purchase its first clubhouse. He persuaded LASFS to hold an annual convention, Loscon. He edited and published the focal point newszine Ratatosk in the middle part of the 1960s. He was active in many amateur press associations and founded the annual Worldcon Order of Faneditors (WOOF). He was the much-deserving Fan Guest of Honor at the 1980 Worldcon. And outside of the science fiction genre, he was one of the creators of the World Mystery Convention, BoucherCon.
Bruce was also an avid fanzine collector, as I’ve described earlier, and at one point had arguably the largest collection in the world. I feel fortunate that I got to see it, back in the mid-1990s, and it was amusing to learn about his modus operandi for sorting new acquisitions: toss them gently into the air and after they come to rest on the floor, peruse through them for interesting stuff before filing them one by one. That’s just one of many pleasant memories I have of Bruce. Living on opposite coasts of the United States, we didn’t physically cross paths all that often and I treasured the times that we did. The final one was at the 2001 Worldcon in Philadelphia, though I’m not sure when during the convention it was. It probably happened when we went to dinner on Saturday night, prior to the masquerade. I remember that we shared about an hour’s worth of conversation, on topics ranging from places in the world we wanted to go back to (he was a world traveler in his final years) to what we thought would make good fan history projects in the future. Before we parted he told me a story about him spending a night in Robert Heinlein’s fallout shelter that he soon afterwards wrote up for Mimosa. No surprise, he was also a really good writer.
Back then, I don’t think I ever once thought that would be the last time I’d see him. He was always a rock, someone whose presence at Worldcons I attended seemed an absolute certainty. And then, less than a year later, he was gone. Two decades after Bruce’s passing, rarely does a week goes that I don’t think of him. He was a great friend. And also a strong influence. Whenever I’m at a loss on how to proceed on some kind of fandom-related project I’m involved with, I often ask myself, “What would Bruce do?” It usually helps a lot.
“The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.” – William Gibson
By Rich Lynch: 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. Its first event was the inauguration ball for President James Garfield but once it officially opened to the public it has hosted a multitude of exhibitions and displays on the arts, industry, and the sciences. It was the place where dinosaur fossils and the Smithsonian’s extensive gems and minerals collection were displayed until the National Museum of Natural History was constructed in the early 1900s. It was the place where cultural and social items preserved throughout the existence of the United States were displayed until the National Museum of American History was constructed in the early 1960s. And it was the place where historic aircraft and spacecraft were on display until the National Air and Space Museum was constructed in the middle of the 1970s. But that’s not why it’s my favorite D.C. structure – I greatly admire it because of its design and appearance.
It was an architectural creation of Adolf Cluss, a prolific German-born immigrant who specialized in the design of churches and markets. The Arts and Industries Building contains elements of both: a four-cloistered cathedral-like cross-section with a central rotunda, and three-story-tall interior pavilions with a roof supported by iron trusses. But it’s the exterior of the building that makes it special, with all its spires and geometrically-pattered brick façades. It’s an iconic structure which has rightfully been designated as a National Historic Landmark. But for the past three decades of its existence, it has been in disrepair.
So much so that it was closed down in 2004 for stopgap architectural stabilization which, due to limited funding, took more than ten years to complete. But even after that was wrapped up the building has seen only sporadic use, and it’s scheduled to close indefinitely for major renovations starting in the second half of 2022. But until then it’s host to a special exhibition, one that Nicki and I had very much wanted to see. It was all about the future.
Or make that ‘Futures’. Depending on one’s outlook there are many possible futures, and this exhibition is a noble and ambitious attempt to explore some of them. The Smithsonian’s website describes it as: “Part exhibition, part festival, [with] nearly 32,000 square feet of new immersive site-specific art installations, interactives, working experiments, inventions, speculative designs, and ‘artifacts of the future’.” There was quite a bit to take in, easily enough to fill the entire building with the each of the four cloisters having a different focus: ‘Futures that Unite’, ‘Futures that Inspire’, ‘Futures that Work’, and ‘Futures Past’. What immediately grabbed our attention was the ‘Inspirational’ one because it provided an answer to the question that all science fiction fans inevitably ask at some point in their lives: “Where’s my flying car?” It was right there in plain view!
It’s a prototype concept vehicle, the ‘Nexus’, built by Bell Textron (the same company that 75 years ago developed the experimental X-1 aircraft that propelled Chuck Yeager beyond the speed of sound), and the ‘Futures’ exhibition is its first D.C.-area public showing. It was actually developed to be an air taxi, not a private car that flies, and that seems appropriate since it’s entirely battery-powered – there’s no telling how long it would take to recharge that thing at home using wall socket power. And even if that was actually feasible, where would you park the thing? Nicki dryly commented that: “I don’t think it would fit in our garage.” To say the least!
There was much more in the ‘Futures that Inspire’ wing of the exhibition than just the flying car. The overall intent (according the Smithsonian’s website) was to “…encourage you to think adventurously about what might lie ahead. In the brave world of the future, what seems impossible today may become totally commonplace tomorrow.” And to that end there was lots of interesting stuff, such as the immersive virtual reality installation “ReWildAR” by media artist Tamiko Thiel which remade that part of the building into a rural meadow with dozens of virtual wildflowers and insects. There was even some superhero presence – Marvel Studios had loaned the exhibition the costumes from The Eternals movie under the guise that: “Five original costumes showcase how evolutions in storytelling and cinema technologies can illustrate new futures in incredible ways.” I guess I’ll have to take their word on that.
The other three parts of the exhibition, while perhaps somewhat less visually impressive, were just as interesting from a forward-looking perspective. The centerpiece of ‘Futures that Unite’ was a detailed display on the concept of ‘Citizen Science’, where basically any interested individual with a computer and fast Internet access can contribute to the world’s knowledge base by helping to sift through huge amounts of data from various scientific endeavors that’s been collected and archived over the years. Or, for some projects, add to the amount of useful data that exists. This was the most obvious manifestation of the ‘Unite’ wing of the exhibition, as it exemplified the overall theme to: “Explore new ways to connect and collaborate that all aim for the same goal: to tap into our collective humanity.” But, as we observed, there were also other ways to epitomize that theme. One of them was showcasing a topic that’s near and dear to the hearts of many current-day science fiction fans: Afrofuturism, which the Smithsonian accurately describes as being how “…the cultures of the African diaspora are seen through the lens of science fiction”. For that there was a prominent though a bit understated display which honored the person who has been credited with the literary concept of Afrofuturism: the late Octavia Butler.
The display consisted of only a few items, the most colorful being a really nice large-panel work by artist Nettrice Gaskins using a computer program that utilizes AI to generate detailed and complex images. It was inspired by Butler’s Parable of the Sower novel and includes, among other images, a depiction of Butler’s typewriter. And not to be outdone, that same typewriter was also an integral part of the display. Overall, it was a praiseworthy tribute to a groundbreaking author.
The ‘Futures that Work’ wing of the exhibition had as its main display piece another corporate construct, one which has gotten a lot of press in the past few years – a transport pod for the proposed Virgin Hyperloop. This was originally envisioned as a very high-speed magnetically-levitated underground transport, initially conceived as a people-mover but recently (and more realistically) re-imagined as a cargo transport. Besides that there were a lot of eco-friendly ideas being showcased, all of them innovative and a few (like the egg-shaped pod which eventually converts a corpse into a tree) a bit out on the fringe.
But my favorite part of ‘Futures that Work’ was the ‘Sailing on Sunbeams’ display which advanced the concept of light sails as a means of space propulsion. It had caught my attention because it featured a reproduction of the 1960 painting of a science-fictional solar sail by the great Robert McCall, whose artwork has in past years been a part of many space-related ventures – everything from postage stamps to NASA mission patches to movie posters to large murals (including a famous one just inside the south entrance of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum). But I don’t think I’d ever seen this “Solar Sails of the Future” painting before, even though the original is owned by the Smithsonian. It was a nice bit of retro-future.
There was more retro-future in the last of the four focal areas, ‘Futures Past’. A big display case contained posters and historical objects from long-ago World Fairs and Expositions. Back then, a common World’s Fair theme was to attempt to portray the so-called ‘world of tomorrow’, which as it turned out none of them were really able to do. But on the other hand, maybe one of them actually did, in a synchronistic way. Some of ticket proceeds from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, which was the first World’s Fair ever held in the United States, helped to fund the construction of the Arts and Industries Building.
There was more of interest for ‘Futures Past’ than just memorabilia from old World’s Fairs. The intent was “…to illuminate the many ways that people have tried to make a brighter tomorrow”, and the Smithsonian used that as an opportunity to show off a few seldom-seen items from its collection. One of them was the chemical reactor that back in the very early 1900s was used to produce the world’s first synthetic plastic, Bakelite. And there was also a robot! I’m guessing this was specifically included because you really can’t have an exhibition themed on the future without a robot, right? Except that this one was labeled as an ‘android’ – it was built by NASA, back in the 1960s, as a humanoid platform for testing astronaut space suits. This was one instance where I wished there hadn’t been an explanatory description – it would have been way more fun to let my imagination roam.
There were even more science-fictional parts of ‘Futures’ than just what was contained in the various individual exhibits. There was also an anthology of sorts. Eight of the Smithsonian’s research teams were asked to imagine what the future, fifty years from now, would look like in their areas of expertise. And then two science fiction writers, Tochi Onyebuchi and Madeline Ashby, were commissioned to write short stories which incorporated those visions. The result was a poster display, all of them stylistically similar to Robert McCall art, with each poster having a QR code link to the story it depicts.
The one I naturally ‘gravitated’ to was of a space museum, in space! The accompanying story, “In Pursuit of Extra-Terrestrial Life”, was written by Ashby and imagined “…the world of 2071, in which an international crew of researchers, scientists and museum professionals learn how to safely bring a fetus to term on the Moon, ushering in a new generation of humanity among the stars”. After reading it, it’s probably not going to be something that I’ll nominate for a Hugo Award. But I will give it an A+ for its futurism.
One other noteworthy thing about the ‘Futures’ exhibition was all the quotes from an eclectic cross-section of famous celebrities – everybody from Carl Sagan to Kermit the Frog – about possible futures and what they could contain. Some of the usual suspects were there (such as Arthur C. Clarke’s “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”) as well as some that were less familiar (for example, William Gibson’s “The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.”). I’ve read some reviews that would try to convince you that the ‘Futures’ exhibition itself is not very evenly distributed, tilting too much toward eco-pessimism and fawning too much toward corporate interests, but I’m not in that camp. I liked it a lot and actually came away with a newly-strengthened sense of wonder from everything that I took in.
On the way home, in the subway car, Nicki and I shared out thoughts about the exhibition – what we liked and what we really liked. And, in the end, it was pretty easy to reach consensus: This was a splendid way to spend a day at the museum.
…Virago has pre-empted the first and only authorised biography of acclaimed science and speculative fiction author Ursula K Le Guin. It is written by Julie Phillips.
Rose Tomaszewska, editorial director at Virago, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights from Will Francis at Janklow & Nesbit on behalf of Melissa Flashman in the US.
Hearing of an auction to acquire the book in the US, the Virago team acted swiftly to pre-empt it, securing rights ahead of the US, which closed with Thomas Gebremedhin at Doubleday. Publication is slated for 2026.
Phillips is the award-winning author of James Tiptree, Jr (Picador) and The Baby on the Fire Escape (WW Norton & Co). After Phillips interviewed Le Guin for her biography of Tiptree (the pseudonym of science fiction author Alice B Sheldon), Le Guin invited Phillips to “rescue me from the vultures”.
Agreeing with Le Guin that the biography should be posthumous, Phillips spoke to her in-depth over several years and frequently visited her at her home in Portland, Oregon. …
(2) YOU BE THE JUDGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 2000AD are not bad at running conventions. Their 40th anniversary convention in 2017 was quite something. And now, this past weekend, they held their 45th anniversary event — but on-line due to on-going CoVID concerns. Unlike many SF cons providing online content, 2000AD have made much of theirs easily accessible to the world at large. There is simply too much to report, but check out their YouTube channel for over a score of zarjaz videos. Nonscrots and thrill suckers go hide. Splundig.
Adopting the use of they is far from the last change we’re going to make in the language and none of what’s being said right now is going to be the last word on gender. Pay attention.
And no, you don’t get an exemption on account of age. Getting old doesn’t mean getting stuck in your rut. If you’re still writing or working or dealing with people in the world, you’re not too old to pay attention to the important changes around you.
Trust me on this one.
(4) ABOUT ALOPECIA. Will Smith’s violent response to Chris Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness is being discussed everywhere, even in comments here. And I was personally surprised to see my daughter’s former dance teacher Alison Hooper Keslake being interviewed by the local ABC 7 News station about her experience with alopecia and her thoughts about the joke. I haven’t seen Alison for probably six years, which was just before she began dealing with the malady. She now goes bald, too. Video of her remarks can be seen on Facebook.
…When the final Harry Potter installment was published on July 21, 2007, bookstores across the U.S. celebrated with midnight release parties — some with booze, befitting a series whose earliest readers were now in their 20s. These parties took place at thousands of bookstores at a time that was, in retrospect, Peak Bookstore.
“That era, 1997 to 2007, was truly a sweet spot for readers,” Jenna Amatulli reminisced in HuffPost in 2017. “They watched the fandom bloom from nothing, lined up willingly outside of a physical store — oftentimes without a celebrity-sighting incentive — and read without the fear of a push-alert or Twitter spoiler.”
Even so, that HuffPost story, now five years old, may have played taps for the chain bookstore too soon.
Plenty of Millennials who grew up with a Waldenbooks, a Crown or a Borders have the same nostalgia for those chains that they feel for the malls that once contained them. At the same time, Gen Z is taking to TikTok to talk about books — driving billions of views as well as sales for authors’ backlists — and staging those videos at Barnes & Noble. B&N’s green-and-cream decor persists as an accessible symbol for books and, in a country recently starved for social interaction, a place where one day we will browse together again. Trends may come and go, but wooden shelves and squishy chairs will always mean, “Curl up with a book.”
In the early 1970s, Dave Goelz was an industrial designer working for Hewlett-Packard by day and obsessing over the puppets on Sesame Street in his spare time. Fifty years later, Goelz still has the dream job he left Silicon Valley to pursue. He’s the Muppet performer bringing life to Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Waldolf, Zoot and others. We’ll talk about the creative alchemy of Jim Henson’s Muppet universe with Goelz as well as Henson’s biographer and the curator of Imagination Unlimited, an exhibit about Henson which opens this week at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
Captain’s log. Using the light-speed breakaway factor, the Enterprise has moved back through time to the 20th century. We are now in extended orbit around Earth, using our ship’s deflector shields to remain unobserved. Our mission – historical research. We are monitoring Earth communications to find out how our planet survived desperate problems in the year 1968.
Fifty-four years ago on this evening, Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired on NBC as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history.
It was directed by Marc Daniels whose firsy break in the business was directing the first thirty eight episodes of I Love Lucy. (Remember where Trek was produced.) This was one of fifteen Trek episodes he’d direct. He won a Hugo at NYCon 3 with Gene Roddenberry for Best Dramatic Presentation for “The Menagerie”.
The story by Art Wallace and Gene Roddenberry. Wallace, who also did the teleplay, is best remembered for his work on the soap opera Dark Shadows. Oh and he did some scripts for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.
It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series that Gene Roddenberry planned but that never happened. That is interesting story as though Roddenberry’s intent was that Lansing and Garr would continue in the series if it was commissioned, but since NBC was not involved in casting the backdoor pilot, it could and well might have been that NBC would insisted on changes or even completely recast the series had it picked up.
Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Verti, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore. Her identity was unknown until 2019 when The Trek Files podcast cited a production call sheet for extras dated the fifth of January for the year of broadcast.
For decades now, fans had believed that the very briefly seen human form of the cat Isis was portrayed by actress Victoria Vetri. Many articles and websites treat that belief as revealed truth. Recently Vetri herself confirmed that she was not in the episode. No idea why the rumor started.
Barbara Babcock, best remembered as Grace Gardner on Hill Street Blues, a most excellent series, was the Beta 5 computer voice (uncredited at the time) and she did the Isis’ cat vocalizations as well. Speaking of that cat, it was played by Sambo as you can see by this NBC memo. Interestingly Lansing though would later contradict that claiming that there were actually three black cats involved. I can’t confirm his claim elsewhere.
Though this back door pilot did not enter production as a television series, both Seven and Roberta were featured in multiple stories and they were spun-off into a comic book series from IDW Publishing, Star Trek: Assignment: Earth by John Byrne. And there was the excellent novelization of the episode that Scott Dutton did for Catspaw Dynamics. I’ve read it and it’s quite superb.
In addition, according to Memory Alpha, the source for all things Trek, “Seven and Lincoln have appeared in several Star Trek novels (Assignment: Eternity and the two-volume series, The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh by Greg Cox) and short stories (“The Aliens Are Coming!” by Dayton Ward in Strange New Worlds III, “Seven and Seven” by Kevin Hosey in Strange New Worlds VI and “Assignment: One” by Kevin Lauderdale in Strange New Worlds VIII).”
The plot concept of benevolent aliens secretively helping Earthlings was later resurrected by Roddenberry for The Questor Tapes film. That film was one of a series of television movies in which Roddenberry was involved — Genesis II, Planet Earth, Strange New World and Spectre. Need I say none made it past the stage of the initial television movie which served as a pilot?
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 29, 1943 — Eric Idle, 79. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Yellowbeard, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (nominated at MidAmericaCon), Quest for Camelot, Shrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel.
Born March 29, 1947 — Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I, it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended. James Cameron purchased the movie rights to her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. Cold Allies was a Compton Crook Award finalist for best first novel. (Died 2013.)
Born March 29, 1950 — Val Mayerik, 72. “Aw, clam up, bud! You don’t even know the meaning of the word! Finding yourself in a world of talking hairless apes–Now that’s absurdity!” —Howard the Duck. Mayerik is best known as the co-creator along with Steve Gerber of Howard the Duck. He first appeared in Adventure into Fear #19, a horror comic published by Marvel. However he was not Howard the Duck there as he had no name at all at this point – they named him later.
Born March 29, 1955 — Marina Sirtis, 67. Counselor Deanna Troi in the Trekverse. Waxwork II: Lost in Time as Gloria is her first true genre film role followed shortly by a one-off on the The Return of Sherlock Holmes series as Lucrezia. And then there’s her mid-Nineties voice acting as Demona on Gargoyles, quite possibly her best role to date. Skipping some one-offs on various genre series, her most recent appearance was on Picard where she and Riker are quite happily married.
Born March 29, 1956 — Mary Gentle, 66. Her trilogy of Rats and Gargoyles, The Architecture of Desire (an Otherwise nominee), and Left to His Own Devices, is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. Ash: A Secret History is superb, it won both a BSFA and a Sideways Award as well as being a finalist for a Clarke and a Campbell Memorial.
Born March 29, 1957 — Christopher Lambert, 65. He became famous by playing Tarzan in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. I however best remembered him as Connor MacLeod in Highlander in which he had one of the worst Scottish accents ever attempted. He’s the villain in the Ghost Rider sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, but do we really have to mention that film? And I absolutely refuse to admit that the first Highlander film spawned a series of sequels. Shudder!
Born March 29, 1957 — Elizabeth Hand, 65. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are the Shirley Jackson Award winning Wylding Hall, Illyria and Mortal Love. And let’s by no means overlook Waking the Moon which won both a Mythopoeic Award and an Otherwise Award. Her only Hugo nomination was at Renovation for her “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” novella.
Born March 29, 1968 — Lucy Lawless, 54. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role was Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance.
(10) AUDIOBOOK KICKSTARTER. Student Loans Paid in Blood is joined by The Cursed Apps, the second volume in the “Hardboiled Magic” series for a two audiobook set, currently funding on Kickstarter.
“You know how everyone threatened to write a book during COVID?” asks author Todd Allen. “I actually did and returned to the Hardboiled Magic series. I’ve been away for too long.”
The audiobooks are performed by Erik Braa, known as the voice of Draven in the League of Legends series.
The campaign runs through Wednesday, April 27. Todd Allen encouraged us to link to the over 60 minutes of sample chapters available on the campaign page.
What does an occult detective do when a mad god owes him money? Follow the trail into a world of student loans paid off by ritual blood sacrifice, of industrial espionage that comes from beyond the grave and where urban renewal leaves a trail of corpses.
Here’s the book’s inciting incident, in its entirety:
In a desperate bid to prevent being ousted from his own company, a startup founder accidentally draws the attention of necromancers looking to protect their secrets. Occult attention spills over from the founder to his shady investor, whose entire portfolio becomes infested as a food delivery app delivers vampires, a dating app transmigrates souls and a social media influencer’s video game creates literal zombie followers. Are the apps cursed or is something else in play? It’s tale of death and revenge set against a sardonic look at the tech world and venture capital.
…The dog-like robot is the latest in a series of technologies used as part of a broader project to better manage the archaeological park since 2013, when Unesco threatened to add Pompeii to a list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved its preservation….
A four-legged robot called Spot has been deployed to wander around the ruins of ancient Pompeii, identifying structural and safety issues while delving underground to inspect tunnels dug by relic thieves.
The dog-like robot is the latest in a series of technologies used as part of a broader project to better manage the archaeological park since 2013, when Unesco threatened to add Pompeii to a list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved its preservation.
Spot, made by the US-based Boston Dynamics, is capable of inspecting even the smallest of spaces while “gathering and recording data useful for the study and planning of interventions”, park authorities said.
The aim, they added, is to “improve both the quality of monitoring of the existing areas, and to further our knowledge of the state of progress of the works in areas undergoing recovery or restoration, and thereby to manage the safety of the site, as well as that of workers.”
(12) THUMBS UP, THUMBS OUT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Douglas Adams talks about So Long And Thanks For All The Fish and chats about a “forthcoming” Hitchhikers film that never appeared in his lifetime in this clip from the David Letterman Show in 1985.
(13) A MOMENT OF PEACE. Peter Capaldi in 2016 reads a letter by British Captain Reginald John Armes to his wife about the Christmas Truce of 1914 during World War I.
On Christmas Eve of 1914, five months into World War I, something amazing happened: thousands of British and German troops on the Western Front decided to put down their weapons and greet each other peacefully. For the next few days, 100,000 men, British and German, chatted, exchanged gifts, sang carols, played football. They also, without fear, were able to buried their dead. On the evening of December 24th, the first day of the truce, Captain ‘Jack’ Armes wrote to his wife and described this incredible occurrence.
(14) THAT’S THE SPIRIT. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a new game. Here’s the Official Reveal Trailer.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fanac.org has posted video of Rich and Nicki Lynch’s Mimosa 3.5 – a “live fanzine” done as a panel at Chattacon XIII on January 16, 1988. (You also can read the script in the PDF copy of Mimosa 4 hosted by the FANAC archive.)
Beginning with Doug Chaffee drawing the “cover” on camera, and ending with WAHF (“We Also Heard From”) excerpts from letters of comment, this recording really is Mimosa Live. Mimosa, edited by Rich and Nicki Lynch, was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo 14 times between 1991 and 2004, and won 6 times.
Articles in Mimosa 3.5 are read/performed by Chattacon guests Ron Goulart (who also draws another cover), Jack Chalker and Maurine Dorris. Julius (Julie) Schwartz makes an appearance with “The Amazing Flying Wollheims”. You’ll also see a very young Pat Malloy, Eva Chalker and others.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Todd Allen, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
By Rich Lynch: I read the news about him today at the File770.com newsblog: “Past Worldcon chair and First Fandom Hall of Fame inductee Roger Sims died January 23 at the age of 91 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.”
My memories of Roger go back to 1987, when I first met him at the Corflu fanzine convention in Cincinnati. We only talked for a very short time, but it was enough to cement a friendship that had its roots about a year earlier when I had contacted him about being on the program at the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon. My wife Nicki and I were organizers of the Fan Programming track at ConFederation, and we wanted to see if he would be available to introduce the highly-entertaining video production FAANS, where he played a hotel detective during a fictional science fiction convention who became drawn into much intrigue involving iconic fannish myths and legends. Alas, I didn’t actually see him at ConFederation because I missed the panel due to a scheduling conflict. But after that, Nicki and I were looking for opportunities to preserve some of Roger’s memories about previous fan eras in our fanzine Mimosa.
And it turned out there were many. Roger was a good writer and the articles he authored or co-authored for Mimosa were both entertaining and informative. They ranged from stories about 1950s science fiction conventions (including the now-famous Room 770 party at the 1951 New Orleans Worldcon) to recollections about nearly-forgotten fan organizations (such as the Morgan Botts Foundation). From a tale about a memorable fan dinner to a recollection of an even more memorable few months sharing an apartment with Harlan Ellison. From a story about the possibly apocryphal Second Fandom to a heartfelt remembrance of his closest friend, Lynn Hickman, written not long after Lynn’s passing. It was our honor and privilege to have published Roger’s essays about his fandom, and I wish there had been more of them.
Even after Mimosa ended its run in 2003, Nicki and I maintained our friendship with Roger and his wife Pat. Strengthened it, actually. We crossed paths only a few times each year at Midwestcons and Worldcons, but always looked forward to times where we could sit down and talking and as well as opportunities to dine together. In particular, Midwestcons were essential fan activities for us because it was a fannish nexus – we knew we could reconnect with Roger & Pat as well as other fans from storied eras of the past.
I can’t remember for sure which Midwestcon it was when I noticed that Roger seemed to be having mobility issues. Pat informed me that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which I knew would eventually result in his death at some indeterminate point in the future. And every year after that he seemed a bit more frail, though far from fragile – fandom had been a big part of his life for many decades and my impression was that it would take something truly dire to prevent him from being at his favorite fan gatherings. And unfortunately, about two years ago, there was.
One of the many things I despise about the pandemic world of 2020 and 2021 was that it curtailed in-person fan events. The last time I saw Roger, at the 2019 Midwestcon, his wellbeing appeared to have worsened to the point where his attendance at future conventions probably seemed questionable. But you know, I never really thought that – he was such a constant at Midwestcons that, to me, it seemed inconceivable that he wouldn’t be back. And then COVID happened.
I wish I could recall what Roger and I talked about during that final Midwestcon for him. We did have some quality time together and probably shared some memories about recent and long-ago fan happenings. But I just can’t remember for sure. So instead I’ll let my mind travel back to a much-earlier Midwestcon. It was back in 1988, not long before the New Orleans Worldcon where he was the Fan Guest of Honor, that Nicki and I tape-recorded a Saturday night ‘bull session’ where Roger and his friends Howard Devore, Lynn Hickman, and Ray Beam had a grand time reliving their fabulous fandom of the 1950s. There was a small crowd of fans who had gathered around and I have an image frozen in my mind of all the pleasantness and amusement on faces of people who were there. And that’s how I’m always going to remember Roger – a good friend who had many memorable experiences that he was happy to share. And in doing so, made them a permanent part of the legendry of fandom. As is he.
Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!
… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.
… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?” He said “No. But my characters do.” As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”
… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …
… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests.
… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.
His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….
Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.
… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios. Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each. To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations.
There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.
… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble. Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while. It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house. And then it was gone from sight. I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…
On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)
This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….
Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.
There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”
And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show. Working on Dublin was like that for me as well. I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”
But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…
… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”
… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….
Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.
The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….
The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….
… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….
…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…
Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.
If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….
… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few….
The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?
Then down the long hall there arose so much chat, that I sprang from my chair to see what was that? Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng as the loud murmuration came strolling along.
… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.
I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….
Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….
… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….
The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.
A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.
“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”
“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”
“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…
… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….
To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, Discon III – December 16-17, 2021
By Chris M. Barkley: There are some days, you just feel LUCKY.
On this fine day, Juli, our friend Anna and I decided to try the Omni’s restaurant for breakfast. After ordering coffee and tea, I suddenly remembered that I had not taken my diabetic meds.
I excused myself and walked back to the elevators. There was a bit of a crowd there so I decided to take the steps up one flight to our room. There are two sets of steps and the convention had posted signs indicating which ones to use going up and which to go down. I went to the right and up the steps.
As I opened the door, I looked down and became very surprised; there on the floor right at the entrance was my convention notebook! Apparently, it dropped out of my pocket as we left our room. I scooped it up and immediately wrote my name and phone number on the inside of the front cover. If I had the cash for a lottery ticket, I would have gotten one today. I was smiling for the rest of the morning…
We were joined at Breakfast by Chicago area super-fan Sandra Levy, who was having a splendid time at Discon III.
After breakfast, Juli and I decided to go Vote at the Site Selection area in the Dealer’s Room. Along the way, we encountered Laurie Mann at the Boskone Fan Table, who exhorted us to VOTE!
At the Site Selection Desk, Sharon Sbarsky reported that had been a steady stream of fans coming to vote, both yesterday and today.
As we wandered through the Dealer’s Room (which I found out later in the day was actually the Omni’s Parking Garage and looks very reminiscent of the sets they used on The Matrix films…) we came across the table of former Worldcon Chair (ConStellation, 1983) and bookseller Mike Walsh.
My eye was immediately drawn to a BIG collection of Krazy Kat comic strip Sunday pages. And when I mean big, I ACTUALLY MEANT GIGANTIC!
Being an ardent fan of George Herrimann, the late creator of the classic comic strip, I was immediately smitten with it. As I frantically wrote out a check to make the purchase, the Best Girlfriend in the World had already whipped out her credit card and gave me a very early Christmas gift. I LOVE you Juli and I thank you for loving my stupid face every day. At 3:00, we checked out the Con Suite, which was located on the 8th floor of the East Wing of the hotel. The food and drink were quite varied and plentiful but due to the pandemic, no one was allowed to eat in the suite. The suite’s balcony was open and a few people at a time did go out to take in the captivating view of Washington D.C.
At 4:00 p.m., we caught up with Hugo Award-winning author Jo Walton (whom we last encountered at the Dublin Airport on the way home) and the Hugo Award winning editor-in chief of Clarkesworld, Neil Clarke. Since I could not bring the many books I’d like to have signed, both happily consented to signing several book plates instead.
Also in the Dealers Room, Dave McCarty introduced me to writer/director Eric Brammer, who is shooting here with a crew for a documentary on Worldcons. He hopes to have either a rough cut or finished version done to show at Chicon 8 next year.
Later in the day, Juli and I sat for a while with fan writers and editors Nicki and Richard Lynch, who live about an hour away from D.C. They are longtime attendees of our local Ohio relaxacon Midwestcon and asked about its status for 2022. (It is currently unknown to me.) We were lucky to catch them because they are lovely people (i.e.: baseball fans) and were only attending for the day…
Nearby, The Hugo Nominee’s reception was in full swing…with The Little Big Band, an ACTUAL swing band!
In the reception area, constant Filer (and Hugo Nominees) Olav Rokne and his partner Amanda Wakaruk were holding court with Skiffy and Fanty podcast host Shaun Duke.
We had dinner at the Open City restaurant, a delightful eatery located a half a block away from the hotel. Dinner was so delicious that Juli and I agreed that we would make that our destination for breakfast the next day.
As I began writing up the day’s events (and keeping an eye on the Eagles-Chief game on Fox) we tried to find a first run copy of Day One’s Dis ‘N Dat, which featured the first mention of the Site Selection controversy. We examined all the copies we had on hand but they were all the redacted versions.
We eventually surmised that by the time we arrived on Wednesday, ALL of the offending copies had already been rounded up and destroyed.
But anyone who does have an original, is in possession of one of the rarest of all ephemeral artifacts, ground zero of this year’s biggest fannish scandal. I can only imagine seeing it on Antiques Roadshow twenty or thirty years from now…
An Editorial About the WSFS Business Meeting. On the second day of DisCon III, a Preliminary Business Meeting of the World Science Fiction Society was held to confirm the agenda for the Main Business Meeting, which will be held on Friday.
I did not attend the Preliminary Meeting nor do I intend to go to the Main Business Meeting.
The Business Meeting and I became first acquainted in 1999 at Aussiecon 3 and parted bitterly at the Dublin Worldcon in 2019 and I, dear reader, was the plaintiff.
Back on November 22nd, File 770 published a link to Nicholas Whyte’s analysis of the 2021 WSFS Business Meeting’s Hugo Award Study Committee, which, over the past several years, has been charged with recommending rule and category changes to the WSFS Constitution.
What they have done is left a trail of obfuscation, hand-wringing and utter disdain for the proposals that came before them. I should know, I was one of the people doing the proposing.
It was only through the persistence of myself and a dedicated group of supporters and collaborators that any changes have been made at all. They have my undying gratitude for all the time and effort they have put into getting those changes through the arduous process of being ratified.
As many of you regular readers may know, I was one of the main proponents of the Young Adult Book Award, now known as the Lodestar Award.
And, as one of the more recent additions to the WSFS Constitution, the Lodestar Award is up for re-ratification this year. I support its continuation, even though I, and many other people, would prefer it be recognized as a full-fledged Hugo Award category, as it was originally intended.
Reading Nicholas Wyhte’s comments on this year’s Business Meeting agenda stirred up some strong feelings within me.
Specifically, I have found that many times, the proposals that had been made and debated online in advance of the Business Meeting, most egregiously in the case of the Young Adult Book Award, there were motions to delay debate on or outright reject proposals with BM sanctioned committees, like the Hugo Award Study Committee mentioned by Mr. Whyte, for the sole purpose of obstructing and eventually killing any possibilities for new award categories.
There have been arguments that any new award proposals should be accompanied by evidence or statistics that would support a new award. The people making these objections claim they are doing so to protect the integrity of the Hugo Awards but know that such evidence is either hard to collect or nearly impossible to produce.
As any mathematician worth their salt will tell you that a negative cannot be proven. The only appropriate way to see if a proposal is viable is to persuade a Worldcon committee to use its special award privilege as specified in the WSFS Constitution:
3.3.19: Additional Category. Not more than one special category may be created by the current Worldcon Committee with nomination and voting to be the same as for the permanent categories. The Worldcon Committee is not required to create any such category; such action by a Worldcon Committee should be under exceptional circumstances only; and the special category created by one Worldcon Committee shall not be binding on following Committees. Awards created under this paragraph shall be considered to be Hugo Awards.
In the past decade, the members of the Business Meeting have taken very swift action on some issues when there has been a consensus that something needed to be done.
Per wit; the Fancast Award and Best Series Award were fast tracked through the process without too much resistance and legislation was quickly passed and ratified during the Angry/Sad/Rabid Puppy Crisis to deter a rash of slated voting.
In the meantime, the Young Adult Book Hugo Award proposal languished in committees and discussion groups as they argued over the worthiness of honoring a branch of literature that the Locus and Nebula Awards have no problem honoring previously for many years.
The Lodestar Award, sans it’s Hugo Award status, finally debuted in 2018.
As I have argued over the past twenty one years, the Hugo Awards NEED to evolve and change with the times lest they become irrelevant and obsolete in our cultural landscape. And when I say change, which includes the categories I had a hand in creating, the Long and Short Form Best Dramatic Presentation, Short and Long Form Editing and Best Graphic Story or Comic (which, upon further reflection, NEEDS the term Manga added to the title to expand and clarify the category’s reach).
In examining its record over the past few years, I too have concluded that the Hugo Award Study Committee has been a dismal failure, having accomplished nothing except squelching debate on new categories and delaying vitally needed reforms for a whole host of issues, including categories I mentioned above and the Best Fan and Professional Artist categories as well.
As Mr. Whyte mentioned in his blog post, the Lodestar Award is up for a final ratification for a permanent spot on the Hugo Awards ballot. I have every expectation that it will be ratified, seeing that it has more than proved its worthiness having averaged well over 500 nominating ballots over the past four years.
I am also of the opinion that if the Lodestar Award were struck down by the Business Meeting, it would not only be a black eye for the fannish community and it would also invite a backlash from the wider Young Adult readers around the world.
The other measure up for re-ratification is the Best Series Award; I expect that it too, will be a permanent fixture on the ballot, at least until the literary quality of the series being nominated falls off.
The move to limit a television or a streaming series to a single nomination (instead of the current limit of two) is probably a mistake because it will restrict the voting for two connected, serialized episodes, which I think would be profoundly unfair. The only upside I can see is that more people will start nominating an entire mini-series or a season of a series in the BDP Long Form category, something that I have been advocating people to do, even at the expense of some of the longer eligible films.
The solution to this particular conundrum would be to redefine the Best Dramatic Presentation into Best Series and Best Film categories, with a third category for very short items of under one hour’s running time. (This solution was actually submitted to the Business Meeting by myself and Vincent Docherty way back in 2015 when we were both members of another “Hugo Award Committee”. It was summarily dismissed and subsequently ignored.)
While I enthusiastically support the idea of a Best Audio Book award, I am afraid that it will either be voted down not to be considered or, if they’re lucky, relegated to a study committee where it will either be hashed around for several years or ignored and discarded.
I have a word of advice to Michele Cobb and Nicole Morano, the fans who proposed the Best Audio Book Award. The only way to advance your idea is to show up with enough supporters to advance your amendment past the Preliminary Meeting to get to the Main Meeting and hope for some spirited debate between yourself and them.
If you fail, my advice to you is to be PERSISTENT. Show up and keep showing up.
If not this year, then next year and the year after that. Wear them down until they actually listen to you. Persuade people. Build coalitions. Spread the word. Build a groundswell of support among fans of audio books.
And, if you love your idea and believe in it, do not retreat and never, ever, surrender to the naysayers.
Fans appreciate a good story and sculptor Sebastian Martorana held the Opening Ceremonies audience’s rapt attention as he traced the history of the marble used in creating the DisCon III Hugo Award bases.
Martorana, a Baltimore artist, made the bases from the same material as much of his best-known work, salvaged marble from the Beaver Dam Quarry originally used in local buildings. The same kind of stone was used in the construction of the Washington Monument in DC. He can only acquire this stone through salvage because the quarry has been under water since it flooded in the 1930s.
At Opening Ceremonies he showed the selection, cutting, edging and finishing of the marble cubes, and noted, “I was incredibly lucky to be able to work with the team at Hilgartner Natural Stone to make this project happen.”
A sample base with Hugo rocket was displayed on the podium. Afterwards, Rich Lynch was able to take the above close-up photo, which has been color corrected to compensate for the yellowish ambient light. (Olav Rokne has also tweeted a photo.)