Wednesday, January 16, 2008

From the
Mike Resnick

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

John Teehan

I just stumbled upon an interesting bit of trivia. While doing some preliminary research on a short article on superhero names, I discovered a claim on Wikipedia that Guy Gardner, the Green Lantern of Earth (late 80s to early 90s) was named after our own Guy Lillian III and Gardner Fox. This may be old news to some, but new to me. Seems kind of big to me to have a comic book superhero named after oneself-even one as flaky as GG.

Guy, have you ever written anything about this? Or care to make some comments?

Julie Schwartz, under whose editorial guidance the Silver Age Green Lantern came to be, never told me Guy Gardner was named after me and Mr. Fox, but then he never told me he wasn't, either. So ... Sure he was!

And let's not forget Lex Luthor's late mother on Smallville ...

Now, about Challenger #26 ...

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Earl Kemp

It's really a heavy, impressive zine. It's really crammed full of The Good Stuff! It's not only informative; it's enjoyable and a real keeper.

The Benfords' "Asia Emerging" was a very good read, at times almost making me want to have been going along with them on their fantastic trip. I have visited a few of the places they stopped at, but never Sri Lanka. I first met Arthur Clarke in 1952, I believe it was, at Beastley's on the Lake (a.k.a. Midwestcon) in Ohio. Our paths crossed a few times after that and, once he moved to Ceylon, we continued corresponding for a while. Hard to believe he's 90...and I'm still sooooo young. Great Charlie Williams artwork too.

"When Funny Got More Laughs Than Dirty," by Michael Resnick, was also a good read. I liked it better than "Homes Away From Home."

Your "A Show of Hands" was the most impressive piece in the whole issue for me. It was extremely well example of what reporting should be like ... carrying all kinds of subtle undertones along with the narrative. I liked especially your comments about Alexei Panshin, both in the article and in the LoCs. To my way of thinking, Panshin is The No. 1 Authority on Heinlein, regardless of Heinlein's opinion. Besides, his doesn't count any more and mine does.

Alexei has done more than any single person to enshrine RAH as a master scribe ... only he made the mistake of being honest about it. Honesty is the one thing that RAH could never handle. Even now he's probably rolling around in his grave demanding total control. Such a pathetic person.

Alexei, Joseph Major, and I are currently having a bit of fun about the upcoming RAH major celebration for several days in two major big-time hotels. Going through the program book we're looking for things relating to RAH the man and find almost nothing...only things related to praising him as some sort of made-up mythical figure created by ass-kissers who have nothing better to do.

Of the entire list of names of people allegedly attending or participating, only three are recognizably old-line SF Related ... Arthur Clarke, Fred Pohl, and David Gerrold. I seriously doubt if Clarke will make the event and Pohl might not know why he's there ... leaving only one possibility and David's always there, pen in hand, ready to sign most anything...

Not one name known to be an authority on RAH and his works is visible anywhere.

It's sure to be a wonderful affair.

Something tells me you don't really mean that. The Heinlein Centennial is past, now. Anyone attend? How'd it go?

Gary Robe's "How I Escaped My Peruvian Kidnappers" was a delightful read, even though obviously tense for him at times. Fortunately he was ready to do physical battle if necessary. Something I was not able to contemplate when I was scooped up by the Dreaded Peruvian Secret Police (I'd rather face them any day than street hoods) in Lima airport awaiting departure, hustled into a bare interrogation room, searched and quizzed on the subject of why I had too much money on me.

Too much? I never knew there was such a thing, especially on a month long leisurely vacation. It actually involved much the same a Robe's problems, an inability to use Soles (Peruvian currency) any where except within Peru. It has no value internationally.

And I was leaving and I had my pockets full of Soles and going through the airport shops just buying things to get rid of it. That's when I was picked up and taken away.

After about an hour of that third degree, with the airplane waiting, loaded on the runway for me, the pilot and chief stewardess (Argentine Airlines by the way) came to the secret police interrogation room, pounded on the door and demanded either my immediate release or lock me up because the plane would wait no longer.

At the time I was loaded down not only with Soles, but with illegal pre-Columbian art (all erotic), pockets stuffed with cocaine leaves...and a money belt ... and a bunch of bills ... all legal and all mine. The police let me go and I grabbed up my stuff and ran, hand in hand with the pilot and stewardess to the plane, onto the plane, amid loud cheers from the irritated, waiting passengers, and it took off immediately.

With the Soles that I couldn't use at all anywhere else, I bought all the wine on the plane and had it passed out to the passengers.

It is not possible to not like Curt Phillips' "A Tucker Story ... and A Tucker Story." It is not possible to not like Bob Tucker.

What can I say except that you made my day?

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Alexei Panshin

Thanks for the followup on your Shootout piece.

Tom Collins sent me his account, which you saw on stencil, in the form of a limited circulation fanzine, Transient 31, dated 29 May 1974. He also sent me your account in Transient 34, no date, but clearly done shortly afterward. The two mimeographed versions, now beginning to flake at the corners, have been in my Heinlein folder ever since.

I don't agree with everything you've written. Particularly, you characterize my actions and motivations in ways that I wouldn't. For instance, in the original - which is the account I think at this moment that I'd prefer to follow precisely because it was closer to the event - you say: "Panshin left with Collins." That is what happened. Heinlein repeated, "Good day, sir." It was clear he didn't intend to talk with me, and I saw no point in argument, so I left with my wife and Tom. In the new version, you change this to: "Panshin fled. There is no other word for it." Dear me - fled, did I? And there are other things you say in this version that seem like projections to me -- how you think you would have felt, but not necessarily how I did feel.

But I don't want to "correct" you. I simply want to post what various people who were there had to say about the event at the time. To the extent that my own home movie goes differently, that will be expressed in my own account.

As Tom Collins said after publishing what you wrote: "As often happens with conflicting versions of an event, the truth is likely not either, but some combination of both. Reconciling our differences, and determining whether Guy's account supports or undermines some of my own conclusions, is left as an exercise for the indefatigable reader should there be any so inclined."

The incident from 1974 was still being discussed at the last L.A.Con. Your understanding is generous. Speaking of Tom Collins, I hope he won't mind my saying how much I've valued his friendship since our days at UC Berkeley.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Joseph T, Major, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

I've been beginning to wonder about the Bowling Alone thesis. Robert Putnam was discussing the erosion of "social capital" -- how the neighborhood is eroding, so to speak. The network of social groups that cushioned the family and directed it -- the "village" that it takes to raise a child, so to speak, and I bet you recognize that -- has been eroded away.

The Internet, far from providing a global village, has turned out to be a dividing, or perhaps fracturing feature. To veer off on a tangent, consider the problem of anorexia. Previously, while a girl might be faced with skinny models, she would also have not only a family but school organizations, social groups, and other local organizations that would say, "You don't look well." Now, she retreats to her room, logs on to her anorexia chat room, checks out the anorexia vlogs, surfs from anorexia site to anorexia site, and is confirmed in her belief that having all her bones visible is a step in the right direction.

And so, while heretofore Cho Seng-hui would have dealt face to face with other people, now he could be Ismail Ax, the coolest player in Second Life. One is all image, with no there there beneath; and eventually the image will collide with reality.

It is particularly poignant for us because it did touch us. Once we had dreams of altering the world. There were the political ones, the Michelists who would forge a new future. There were the scientific ones. Now, we realize we can't even change the community. Perhaps that encourages retreating into manufactured dreams.

I can't say much against any of the trip reports here. But I do remember that Lan's Lantern declined when it got into running nothing but long trip reports, with little if anything to do with SF.

Resnick could mention a really good example of his thesis about "When Funny Got More Laughs Than Dirty"
-- the movie The Aristocrats, a number of comedians (add quotes if you like) all telling their own versions of the same joke about a vaudeville performance of gross sexual acts, done by a team calling itself "The Aristocrats".

There's a website devoted to that gag-worthy gag.

"A Show of Hands": I think the operative relationship here was power. If you had to have something from RAH, he could graciously grant it. If RAH wanted something from you, that was an imperative. Writers should be read, and not met, as Will Cuppy said.

Unfortunately, the adulators are still around, mostly talking to one another and thinking they are an entire universe. Their response to Earl Kemp's recounting of his nightmarish experiences was that these were old fogies who didn't matter. Not one bothered to respond to Earl.

Fred Lerner: I bet you were at MidAmeriCon, too. I was reminded of how much things have changed when I ran across their lavish Program Book (hardback! Unique!) [all hail Tom Reamy!] and saw that there was basically one and a half program tracks. L.A.con had over 1000 program items.

But then how little we knew. The big thing at MidAmeriCon was their play. That preview room for that flick called "The Star Wars" hardly got mentioned ...

I sat two or three rows behind the Heinleins at that play -- "Sails of Moonlight, Eyes of Dusk" -- and noticed that RAH's head sank onto his chest in the second act. I agreed; I liked the first segment (Twig) and the costumes, but staggered out stupefied before the curtain. As for the panel on "The Star Wars", I attended and met Mark Hamill -- terrific dude.

Thank you for the [Hugo nomination] congratulations. And congratulations to you yourself for your like accomplishment.

We'll get
'em next year.

In re To Kill a Mockingbird: do you prefer Catherine Keener (Capote) or Sandra Bullock (Infamous)?

Keener and Capote. Though she and Seymour Hoffman didn't physically resemble Harper Lee and Truman Capote as well as did Bullock -- great nose -- and Toby Jones, their performances were much, much stronger. When their characters shared a screen I nearly wept, seeing so much talent in one place. Capote has it all over Infamous, anyway: one is about the terrible demands of the writing art, the other an insipid gay love story; one is an invaluable companion piece to In Cold Blood, the other barely watchable.

Hugo nomination pins: Evelyn Leeper used to attach all of hers to her badge, until it got to the point where her badge was being pulled off.

John Purcell: Someday in the course of moving books around the house I will find the Pohl collection with the story about the ultimate euphoric. It was a drug that was easy to make, utterly soothing, and totally non-addictive. As a result, no one ever got off it, since they could at any moment. (There is physical addiction and psychological addiction.) So, with the technological advances available these days it is so easy to do a knock-'em-dead fanzine that everyone is going to do one RealSoonNow.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mary Ann van Hartesveldt, Fort Valley GA, USA

Thank you so much for printing my article on Scientology in issue #25. I got an enormous charge out of the positive comments from your readers. Thanks also for running my self portrait in issue #26. It's nice to remember that I once looked like that.

I didn't
know you drew that yourself! And I could have sworn it was done from life just this year...

Greg Benford, for whom I have a lot of respect, cannot have meant to say that America is "an underpopulated country." No one who has driven across Atlanta in rush hour could believe such a thing. In the last 200 years we have lost 50% of our wetlands, 90% of our northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of our tall grass prairie. Every day about nine square miles of rural land is lost to development. Georgia, Florida, and Alabama are battling over dwindling water resources and that conflict is repeated all over the country. We may not be as overpopulated as some Asian nations, but we are a long, long way from being underpopulated.

I must take exception to Jeffrey Copeland's idea that mental health service providers should be held responsible when those whom they treat commit crimes. The result of such a policy would be that there simply would be no mental health services available at all. Want to see what that is like? Visit Georgia. For the bulk of the population, whose insurance coverage for mental health treatment is severely limited or nonexistent, there might as well be no psychiatric clinics. The result is enormous suffering by people with serious brain disorders and their family members.

I greatly enjoyed Greg Benford's article on Carl Sagan. The man was such a voice of reason. I thought of him a few weeks ago, when there was a tragic case in the headlines in Georgia. A couple was charged with murder in the death by starvation of their infant son. The father had screwball ideas about nutrition, and when relatives urged the couple to take the baby to a doctor, the father refused. He didn't believe in doctors. The jury sent both parents to prison. In effect, they said, "No, you can't ignore scientific facts and make up your own fantasies about medicine and science, and enforce them on others." But how many of those jurors support teaching creationism in the public schools? We have had free, compulsory public education in the South for almost a century, but you wouldn't know it from reading the paper.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Martin Morse Wooster, Silver Spring MD, USA

Many thanks for Challenger #26. Mike Resnick says that Writers Guild members summoned to Los Angeles to meet with producers have to by contract, "be flown first class, driven by limo, all meals paid for, and stay in five-star hotels." Gee, how can I get a contract like that? I'm lucky if someone pays me to stay in a Motel 6! But I do like Resnick's stories of the high life, and I hope he has many more of them to share with Challenger readers.

As for your comments about "the only duty of an artist is to tell the truth" - well, again, artists shouldn't kowtow to a finicky public or ham-handed editors. But reasonable editing and reasonable requests from fans ought to be taken in stride. Of course fen can sometimes be swill; I remember in the great documentary Trekkies DeForest Kelley recalling how someone asked him for a blood sample "for my collection." (Apparently, the doofus made the request more than once.)

I'd like to know who had contributed to that collection.

But writers shouldn't be like Anthony Burgess, who, I was told, would take any book sent to him for a signature and sell it. I just read a profile of Sir Paul McCartney in The New Yorker where McCartney explained that he'll happily sign anything admirers bring him, but he won't allow any photos. That seems fair to me.

You interviewed Robert A. Heinlein! Can I touch you? [No!] But seriously, "A Show of Hands" was a good piece, and I'm glad you dusted it off. I'm sure you'll hear from Heinlein fans about it
- and I hope you don't hear from those who think their hero was flawless. (And do you still just collect the autographs of Hugo winners, or have your tastes changed?)

If you ever read Challenger #1, you'll read how I wasted much of my first worldcon-- in 1969 -- bugging writers to sign their books. A fan could spend the whole con doing that.
So now that I have better things to do at a convention, I only go out of my way to get autographs on award winners
... or classics... or first novels...
or anything else that catches my eye.

I'm sure many of the comedians Mike Resnick speaks of were really funny. (I know the names of at least half of them.) But where is someone who is interested in these comedians going to hear their work? How many radio stations broadcast comedy? Many record stores have cut their comedy sections to a bare minimum. So it's perfectly understandable that no one under the age of 60 has ever heard the work of Severn Darden or Mina Kolb.

Greg Benford is right that no one has really replaced Carl Sagan, and that Sagan did more good than harm. But isn't the reason there's no Sagan successor the natural reluctance of professors to popularize their work? Britain has many "TV dons" who are good at popularizing history. We certainly need more scientists who are good at explaining science to the public.

Best I've ever seen, Jacob Bronouski of The Ascent of Man, but even he couldn't compete with the magnificent "Mr. Wizard", Don Herbert, just this season passed beyond the physical world to the place where all things are known.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Chris Garcia

Susan Russell’s piece on the cover is a big switch from Taral’s cover for the last issue. Each works wonderfully in totally opposite areas. It’s a great cover and one that stuck with me. It reminded me, probably intentionally, of the drawings from the 16th Century that ships would bring back of things they saw … or thought they saw. A beast with a man’s head would fit right in on that scene.

One of the first books my Dad let me destroy from over-reading when I was a kid was the image books from Pioneer Saturn and Venus. There were some many impressive photos, and since my dad was 14 years, 11 months to the dad when Man came to the Moon, he was always a giant space buff. I read those books over and over, and on Space Mountain in Disneyland, I’d always stay behind because on the way out there were photos from those books on the wall and I’d just stare at them over and over. I’ve never managed to see much in the skies myself, but I love being areas where I actually can see a blanket of stars. It’s one of the reasons I like driving to and from Vegas in the dark hours of the morning.

There’s a strange collision of my worlds that has recently raised its head. A fannish friend of mine’s being railroaded for a crime he didn’t commit by a DA who is a friend of mine from a Film Festival I work with. It’s rough, especially since I know he’s innocent of the crimes because he was at a Con, but no amount of evidence seems to be enough. He’s been sitting in jail, waiting for his trial for almost five months now.

I must know details.

I had to explain Virginia Tech to The Little One, who was just in preparation for her 8th Birthday Party. Not an easy task for a girl who knows almost nothing of human death yet. It wasn’t easy, but I got her to the point of understanding that I suspect she’ll try and find out more as she grows. She also recently asked about the IRA and I had to explain that to her. That was harder. It’s easy for a kid to understand a single gunman full of rage shooting people than to grasp the political fortunes of two countries and their people.

That’s a great illustration with the Benford piece. I love stuff like that! It sounds like a wonderful visit and it’s another thing I’m fairly certain I’ll never get to do. I’m not a good flyer and even something as simple as getting to St. Louis by air, which I’ll be doing in a couple of months, requires a lot of mental prep. I gotta agree with ACC about one thing: We should be building a space elevator instead of fighting with each other.

Well put. As you know from reading The Antipodal Route, my DUFF report, I too am a lousy air traveler, and look forward to hearing how you handle transatlantic travel after you win TAFF.

Mike Resnick talks about something that I know a lot about: comedians. Mort Sahl was hilarious and a deep wit, but it’s comedy that has aged poorly. Lenny Bruce still holds up. Far better than anyone else on the list with the possible exception of Tom Lehrer. A few folks at my college wrote a musical using various Lehrer songs and Tom blessed it. I’ve never gotten to meet him despite his nearness to me both when I was living in Boston and out here in the BArea. I never had much use for Mike Nichols or Elaine May. Ernie Kovacs and Sid Caeser were OK, but both were ground-breaking TV. Jonathan Winters changed comedy forever. Without him, there’s no Robin Williams and most likely no Steve Wright or Mitch Hedberg, both of whom are modern geniuses. Woody Allen was a great stand-up and there’s a recording of his time at the hungry i out there that’s fantastic. Sadly, Mike leaves out my three faves of the 1950/60s: Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby and Freddy Roman. They wrote their own jokes and can still knock a guy on his ass on CD. I did a little stand-up and some improv in my day, but I always liked the idea of the Algonquin Round Table: be funny when you’re with your friends. Laughter around a dinner table is equal to all the performances you could ever give. There are still great comics. Mitch was one, and Steven Lynch, a musician and comic, is another. If you’ve never seen Dan Lustrum you’re missing out as he’s one of the greatest political wits ever. Plus you’ve got Louis Black and Maria Bamford too.

I must figure out how to get Julia Morgan-Scott to do some art for me. That piece with “Salad for Breakfast” is brilliant. Eve’s article is really great too. I’ve always wanted to go to Israel, but again that whole flying thing. It’s nothing but trouble, I tell you. I really keep kosher, though once in a while I make it a week or two, but my Grandparents have in the past forced it on us for various periods of time. These things happen.

I’ve only met Astrid Anderson Bear a few times. Nice woman. I’ve got one of her old fanzines in my traveling collection. The illo of the Bat and the Bitten was a great one too. I’ve seen the photo of it so often, but that’s a much better interpretation. [All hail Charlie Williams.]

Also a shoutout to the Little Men. We’re having the first Little Men meeting in years at Westercon in a few weeks.

It’s not easy being a guy who has never been able to fully appreciate Bobby Heinlein. I don’t know why, but I can’t get into him.

Carl Sagan was an important figure for making science that was honestly beyond most people seem like something everyday and understandable. Greene is the closest thing we have today. Nova is still on PBS, promoting science as a popular distraction and sometimes succeeding. There is a need for a new scientist to come forward and try and make particular areas of science interesting. For a large portion of Sagan’s life, he had Dr. Asimov also speaking and publishing popular science-type books. Wolfram was doing the same for math, Ted Nelson for computers. There was a backbone of popular science types and now there are few. We’re cutting the chances of another great pure scientist coming up by not having enough of the Big Name Scientists around.

I’m not the kind of guy who could keep his head on straight in a situation like being kidnapped in Peru. I could barely keep my head on when there’s a traffic jam in Mountain View. That was also a great illo from Kurt. I’ve been lucky enough to get a few pieces from Mr. Erichsen and he’s on my list for every major award for next year. It’s weird that every year a long-standing fan artist seems to change slightly and makes a solid impact. Last year was Brad Foster and this year it seems to be Kurt. I’m not sure how, I’d have a hard time pinpointing it, but it really seems like his stuff is different of late and we’re all the better for it!

So let’s get him – and Alan White, and Marc Schirmeister, and Charlie Williams, and Randy Cleary, and and and – a Hugo nomination next year!

The best hotel I’ve ever stayed at is the Hollywood Roosevelt. I’ve stayed at the Beverly Hills hotels of every stripe, mostly in suites (they put you up in them, four or five to a room, when you’re working on movies) the Presidential at the Four Seasons, St. Francis and Palace in SF and the Millennium Broadway and Caeser’s Private floor in Vegas, and nowhere comes close to the Roosevelt. I absolutely fell in love with the place. I stay there whenever I can.

Again another amazing illo for a great article. People’s Park is still there. Now it’s the hangout for drug dealers and has been a favorite place for sex pushers of all stripes. It’s a shame, but everytime any agency tries to clean the place up, the aging hippy community that has claimed “spiritual ownership” of the park rises up and thwarts it. They let it get as bad as it’s gotten.

Great issue, Guy! I can’t wait for the next one!

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

John Purcell, College Station, TX, USA

I could easily go on forever with a loc about your latest issue. There is so much to comment on!

When I first heard of the Virginia Tech tragedy, everyone on the campus where I teach was shocked and stunned. Almost immediately our college administrators were examining school policies toward student behavioral issues and the appropriate responses. Then I heard that Jamie Bishop was one of the victims. Now, I had never met Jamie, but had

Now that I have a chance to meet, relax, and talk with Greg Benford, reading his travelogue was a fascinating look into the various cultures of Asia that he and Elisabeth visited. It still blows me away to think that they were sitting on the beach of Sri Lanka with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. If that had been me there instead of Greg, I would have been so tongue-tied it would have been pathetic.

The other Benford piece in here reminds me that my next door neighbor when I was a kid, Ron Keith, attended Cornell College as an astrophysics major and Carl Sagan was Ron's doctoral advisor. When my dad learned this, he asked Ron if his doctoral dissertation was a ten-minute spot on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Also, I just double-checked: Dr. Keith is an Associate Professor of Physics at Emporia State University in Kansas. Good to see that he's doing well.

One other thing I'd like to say - even though, as mentioned, there is so much good stuff in this issue – is that I agree with Mike Resnick that modern stand-ups don't really make me laugh that much. Having a foul mouth does not equate for funny, unless the comic uses it judiciously for great effect. The best example I can think of is when I was watching a Bill Cosby HBO special with my folks at their Utah home back in the mid-80s, and Cosby was doing a bit about smoking marijuana. Someone had told him that smoking dope enhanced your natural self, and Cosby responded with, "But what if your natural self is an asshole?" It killed the audience, plus it was the only bad language that he used during the entire hour-long show. Well, there may have been an occasional "damn" or "hell," but Cosby made his mark by telling very funny stories about his family and friends. Great material that just isn't covered anymore, and I miss that kind of humor.

I get your point, and Mike’s, but I must confess to hapless lust for Sarah Silverman and to enjoying Kathy Griffin’s potty-mouthed flailings from the D-list.

Finally, thank you for reprinting that Tucker article, "How Dull Was My Weekend." It serves to beautifully illustrate how Tucker wrote with such wonderful humorous effect. Keeping Lee Hoffman's illustrations with it was a perfect touch, too. This was greatly appreciated. Thank you, Guy.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Brad W Foster, Irving, TX , USA

Looking through Challenger #26, (and so much nicer for us old-school zinesters to flip through a copy than try to scroll a screen. I am so old!), I hit Taral's letter. Teddy Harvia started up a fantastic site to track all nominations and wins for all categories of the Hugo awards, though he has not up-dated it for the last year or two. Still, a great source of info. Titled "Hugo History at a Glance". We need to get a campaign going of people writing to Teddy to get him to update the thing!

The core of Mike Resnick's problem with comics being remembered or forgotten seems to revolve around anyone who performs in an unrecorded medium. There is brilliant stuff being done all the time, now as well as back then, but if it is not recorded in some way for people to see/hear it later, of course those people will be forgotten over time. Sad but true. I knew just about every name on all of his lists.

There were also a lot of bad comics back when those great ones were performing. There are also a lot of great comics today, not just the couple of examples he gives of how bad things are. But then, I am a fan of funny, often leaving the Comedy Central channel on in the background while I am working in my studio, and when they do a day of stand-ups, treated to hundreds of clever observations along with some of the poor ones. Many of those great comics I have seen/heard only in that one recorded performance that showed up. Movie stars are remembered more than theater actors because we can watch them again and again. It's the only reason some people have ongoing fame, and some are forgotten.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mark Plummer

This is something of an iron/striking/hot response to Challenger – or specifically to Taral's letter in “The Chorus Line”. He says:

“At the moment I lag far behind Stu's record – six nominations and losses – but so far as I know that's as bad as it gets. Of course, plenty of fan editors, writers, and artists have had more nominations, but I think one or more wins as well. Does any of your readers have enough time on their hands to ransack their own program books to compile actual stats?”

Well, personally, no, but the good folk at Locus online have already done the work for us.

This puts Stanley Schmidt at the top of the list of never-winners (29), but in the fan categories the questionable laurels are shared between Arthur Hlavaty and Evelyn C Leeper with 12 nominations. I was surprised to see that the biggest (so to speak) loser is actually Mike Glyer, although he does have eight rockets to balance his 39 non-winning nominations. Even more remarkably, Dave Langford is joint sixth on this list, having lost almost as many Hugos as he's won.

It's good to have something to aim for, isn't it?

As of Nippon, I’ve lost TEN. Look out, Arthur, I'm right behind you!

And in regards to my DUFF report, The Antipodal Route

I'm a big fan of substantial trip reports, whether as a result of fan fund or otherwise, but I have a special affection for accounts of journeys through Australian fandom.

We've been to Australia four times now, most recently this June, and I'd certainly second Naomi Fisher's praise for Adelaide as both a city to visit and a fine fannish centre. But as you suggest, there's just so much of the country and so many places and people to see that you can only cover a small fraction unless you're in a position to take one of these epic multi-month trips of which most of us can only dream. Thus, for instance, we've never made it across to Perth or anything else in WA, something I particularly regret as Perth fandom seems to be such a distinct entity. Maybe one day, although we usually try to coincide our trips with conventions – get to see the maximum number of fans that way – and Swancons tend to be at Easter which means they clash with our own national convention.

And on the latest issue of The Zine Dump

Now just a small gripe, in the nicest possible way. Please can you update our address in whatever records you keep. This bundle of stuff went to Claire’s old house which hasn't been her mailing address since 2004. As you can tell, it still reached us – the current occupant is a friend – but if it had gone to my old address it would probably have vanished forever as my post office forwarding has long since run out. Thing is, I have mentioned this before, at least once and possibly twice in response to you kind notices in The Zine Dump. God, even Rodney Leighton has noticed that you haven't noticed – his review of The Zine Dump in the last Knarley Knews – and he's not even on our mailing list.

Mea maxima culpa … my last Zine Dump was based on an obsolete template which held your old address. It has been changed.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Reece Morehead

I just finished reading your interview with Alfred Bester in Challenger 25. I'm envious. I got to meet him at MidAmeriCon, too, for the first and only time. Alas, my experience was not a happy one. After hearing him at a panel discussion, I went up and asked if he would autograph my program book.

His response devastated me. He did sign it for me, so I supposed I can't really kick – unfortunately, he was so unpleasant that I was very taken aback. I was as polite to him as I was to any author/pro whose autograph I wanted; he acted as if I had just ordered him to give me a blow job there in front of hundreds of people. After he signed my book, I thanked him, then got away from him as fast as possible. I'm completely mystified three decades later as to why he behaved that way. He had been one of my most respected sf writers. I can't fathom his reaction to my request.

It was even worse than the time at the 1996 Dragoncon when I asked my favorite writer, Robert Anton Wilson, to autograph some of his books for me. I had gone to the convention specifically to see and hear him and get one or more of his books autographed by him. When I spoke to him outside an elevator, he flatly refused. My wife, Susie, was so upset that she berated him for not autographing any of his books I had so lovingly brought with me. He still wouldn't.

C'est la vie. She badmouthed him for the rest of her life and practically spat his name every time I mentioned him. Most exceedingly strange, both times.

Bester was charming in his public appearances at MAC and polite to me. No way to know why he seemed offended when you saw him; perhaps it was nothing more than a bad moment. In any event. I hope talking/writing about this incident releases some of your confusion and hurt.

As for Wilson, I don't know him, so am not qualified to comment on the seeming childishness and arrogance of his attitude. Whatever reason he had for denying you an autograph, he certainly owed you an explanation for refusing such a simple, harmless, and complimentary favor. Any SF writer who accepts the hospitality of a convention and then refuses to interact with fans should quit the arena.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Shelby Vick, Florida, USA

It's obvious why Challenger has been nominated for and won so many awards. Number 26 is just another step in the same direction.

Understanding Virginia Tech and its like … well, we just can't! It's not just that there's an irrational mind behind it (I can get pretty irrational myself, at times, as I imagine all of us can) but something beyond irrational.

Greg and Elisabeth Benford and Arthur C. Clarke and moving Sri Lanka five degrees; hey, that's quite a feat for Clarke to pull off! (One of the advantages of being a successful author!)

Mike Resnick got it square-on about Funny. I think there are many so-called “humorists” who'd be out of business if it wasn't for smut and filth. Of course, I'm old-fashioned; I still think Jack Benny is/was funny. Or, for that matter, Walt Willis.

And, speaking of humor, you reprinted that classic Tucker piece, “How Dull Was My Weekend”. Great! … But I must correct one item: Paul Cox and I did not pass out!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Lloyd Penney, Etobicoke, ON, Canada

A nice, big slab of paper labeled Challenger 26 arrived about a week or so ago…I guess Canada Post had to sniff it good to make sure nothing bad was arriving before handing it on to me.

Great cover … I agree that there’s nothing as wonderful to see as deep space photos, usually courtesy of the Hubble telescope. We see the depth of creation, and our increasing understanding of what’s out there. And yes, we also see the depth of human beings, and how low some of them can go. There’s been times I’d happily change my species, for I’m quite fed up with my current one. Why did we call it common sense when it seems to be so uncommon? We’re just too eager to kill each other, too happy to massacre others because we’re angry or unhappy or frustrated, yet we consider life sacred. How hypocritical we are.

Arthur C. Clarke is someone I would like to meet. I know the deck is stacked against me, but still, it’s good to know that while aged, he is still doing well. I had hoped to see at least one of the Benford brothers at the International Space Development Conference in Dallas…perhaps the next one we go to, which will probably be in Orlando in 2009. Carl Sagan is someone I’d wanted to meet, too. Popular scientists like Bill Nye, and in Canada David Suzuki, make science fun, accessible and understandable. Sagan did that, too, but got little reward for his efforts.

I disagree about that, unless world fame and the opportunity not only to create Cosmos and Contact but the Pioneer and Voyager plaques are considered "little reward."

The feature on Astrid Bear reminds me of our own costuming days. Yvonne and I competed in Worldcon masquerades in the early to mid-80s. The Spirits of Fire, Young King Neptune and Pet, and our award-winning Royal Canadian Mounted StarFleet. We had a good time, but it soured quickly when some of the people we competed against forgot that the competition was supposed to be friendly. We left masquerade in the late 80s entirely because of backstabbing and people screaming in our faces, and all the fun was gone.

Tom Feller’s article on insurance in post-K NoLa is timely … I’ve so much footage of wide-spread flooding in England. There may be the opportunity to learn something here.

All award systems are flawed in that no matter when happens some measure of bias can creep in. They are inherently subjective. So, any complaints about the Hugos or FAAns or Auroras or any other award should be taken with a grain of salt. Fan programming is also subjective, but many Worldcons are almost unaware of what fan programming consists of. IIRC, Torcon 3 had almost no fan programming, and a fanzine lounge I didn’t find until the third day of the convention. There was some measure of fan programming at L.A.con IV, and Milt Stevens’ great fanzine lounge.

Speaking of whom …

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Milt Stevens, Simi Valley, CA, USA

The cover on
Challenger #26 is quite impressive and definitely in keeping with the Yeats poem. That certainly looks like a rough beast, and gloating seems to be an appropriate emotion. While that particular poem was written about Hitler, it always seems to be current. It’s as if all of history has a sense of impending doom attached to it. Or at least, most of it.

I looked at The Atlas of the Universe. Wow! That’s enough to make just about anyone feel tiny and insignificant. The universe is so much bigger than it used to be. Cosmology has proven to be a goshwow growth industry. If only you could invest in it…

Back in the early eighties, my then wife was taking Astronomy 1 at a local junior college. She asked me for some help on the course. I told her I’d like to help, but half of what was known about astronomy in 1980 hadn’t been known when I took the course in 1960. What is known about astronomy now has probably doubled or tripled again since 1980.

I agree that looking at the night sky is always calming. When I was in the Navy out west I used to go up to primary air defense and look at the stars at night. I regularly took the 0330 to 0730 watch in main communications, so I’d usually go up there around 0300. We were usually running with a minimum of light which made for good observation. Sometimes we were conducting air ops at that time, and observation conditions weren’t as good. Wars will come and wars will go, but the stars will outlast all of them.

My regard for Robert Heinlein was similar to yours. When I was a kid I thought writers and editors were godlike entities who resided in far off New York. After joining fandom, I discovered writers and editors were just as mortal as the rest of us and had just as many flaws. Even with that realization, Heinlein and Campbell still retained a certain godlike quality. Most mythic figures don’t survive encounters with reality, but there can be exceptions.

Greg Benford’s revelation about Carl Sagan not being admitted to the National Academy of Sciences was interesting in a strange way. Of course, I’ve heard of Carl Sagan. However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the National Academy of Sciences before. I thought the French were the people who had national academies.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Robert Kennedy, Camarillo, CA, USA

Thank you for

So, Mike Nifong the scumbag Durham County (North Carolina) District Attorney involved in the phony rape case involving the Duke University lacrosse players resigned and has been disbarred. He may face lawsuits. I would think lawsuits against Durham County and Duke University itself might be in order. Nifong got what he deserved. But, what about the lacrosse players he tried to railroad? Of course Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton jumped in early and played the Race Card. (The case rather reminds me of Sharpton and Tawana Brawley. Either Sharpton has learned nothing or doesn't give a damn. Probably both.) Then there's the New York Times who had the boys' pictures on its front page, but put Nifong's disbarment on page 16. What about the 88 Duke University faculty members who took out an ad denouncing and threatening the boys? Apparently, Nifong finally issued an apology. Better late than never I guess, but it's meaningless. (Isn't it interesting how so many people apologize and say that they are sorry for their actions--after they get caught [witness Michael Vick]?) It was reported (September 1) that Nifong was sentenced to one day in jail having been found in "criminal contempt " for lying to a judge when pursuing charges against" the Duke Lacrosse players. (He could have received 30 days. Lucky man and he isn't even a young
Hollywood so-called celebrity. He should have received several years in prison for his actions.) I wonder if the other people and the New York Times will now render an apology. I also wonder if they all will offer to help reimburse the boys and their families for their legal expenses that I understand are in excess of $1 million. I will not hold my breath.

It would be interesting if a Nifong Award could be established. No limit on the number of awards that could be given in a year. The first award should go to Nifong himself. Awards could be given for the past and the prosecutors and therapists involved in the McMartin case should receive the award.

Then there is the recent case of the two 13-year-old boys in McMinnville, Oregon who were charged with sexual harassment, felony sex abuse and anything else the prosecutors could think of for slapping some girls on the butt. Basically, the students at their school had a slap the butt day so most everyone was
slapping butts. (I know that sounds a bit silly. But, these were only 13-year-olds.) For some reason the Assistant Principal called the police on these two boys. The boys were interrogated by a police officer, arrested, hauled off in handcuffs, strip-searched, and placed in juvenile jail for five days. If convicted they would be required to register as sex offenders for a lifetime. Like Nifong, the District Attorney Bradley Berry keep saying wait until you see the evidence. Each time they came into court another charge was dropped. The girls involved said they wanted all charges dropped. Finally all charges were dropped and the judge dismissed the case. Apparently the boys will have to go through some of the usual therapy crap. The Assistant District Attorney said that under the same circumstances they would bring the same charges. The Assistant Principal, District Attorney Berry, and the Assistant District Attorney are well deserving of the Nifong Award. The Assistant Principal should be fired. District Attorney Berry and the Assistant District Attorney should be fired and disbarred, just like the punishment of Nifong.

Joe Major should be able to come up with an excellent list of other possible recipients of the Nifong Award.

It has just been learned that there is a newly issued book on the Duke Lacrosse Case--Until
Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case by Stuart Taylor, Jr. and K C Johnson. I will either be purchasing the book or obtaining it from the library.

Judge Roy L. Pearson sued cleaners for $54 million because he claimed they lost a pair of his suit pants. The suit apparently went on for some two years. Finally, in June a judge decided the suit was frivolous, that Pearson was not entitled to any money, and that he owed the Chung family (the cleaners) some $1,000 in costs. Finally, a good outcome. Judge Pearson should be removed from office and disbarred.

OK Enough of the rants.

As for #26, another excellent issue that was thoroughly enjoyed. I just don't seem to have much to say about it. I did send a copy of "How I Escaped My Peruvian Kidnappers" by Gary Robe to a friend whose wife is from Peru.

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