Monday, May 23, 2022

Song of the Day: Reina del Cid and Toni Lindgren, "Roswell"

 


Book Review: "Foundation and Empire" by Isaac Asimov

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov (Avon, 1966)

I started reading this immediately after reading Foundation. That’s not always the case with me for series or sequels. For example, while I’ll return to Jack L. Chalker’s Well World series and Larry Niven’s Ringworld series based on the strengths of the first books—which I also read recently—I wasn’t driven to do so immediately. With the Foundation series, however, after all these years, I had to. It’s just that good. Again, what was I waiting for?

Like Foundation, Foundation and Empire is also a fix-up, collecting two short stories published over the course of several issues of Astounding Science Fiction. The novel combines “Dead Hand” (Astounding, April 1945)—here, the section titled The General—and “The Mule” (Astounding, November-December 1945). Both continue Asimov’s ongoing exploration of the activities and impact of various kinds of men after the collapse of the Empire.

While Foundation considers the role of the psychohistorians, encyclopedists, mayors, traders, and merchant princes, Foundation and Empire narrates the first steps of a returning Empire, considering the generals, as various leaders reclaim border planets while vying for power against the Foundation. And the Mule is a very special leader indeed. You see, he’s a mutant.

Both sections—stories, really—of the novel are excellent, but it is the Mule (“The Mule”) that sings. The character Ebling Mis might remind readers of Hari Seldon. Bayta Darell might remind you of Teela Brown from Niven’s Ringworld. She doesn’t have the same luck, but her realization of why she and her husband Toran seem to be present for the occurrence of so many notable events struck me as a similar epiphany.

In the end, the Mule is humanized. Readers will empathize. And the Darells are left to continue to search for the Second Foundation, on the opposite end of the galaxy. Just as I searched for the next novel, Second Foundation, in a few boxes of paperbacks we have in our library. I don’t have the next book easily at hand, so I can’t continue reading the series immediately like I want to. Instead, I’ve turned momentarily to Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Hopefully my copy of Second Foundation isn’t on the opposite end of the galaxy, too.

(Interestingly, my copy of the mass-market paperback, the thirty-second printing of Avon’s 1966 edition of the 1952 novel, was missing a page of text: Page 94. Very little text was on that page, so I transcribed it from an online copy using a Bic Flair pen.)

Daily Headlines for May 23, 2022

America’s billionaire class is funding anti-democratic forces

The pandemic created a new billionaire every 30 hours as millions brace for extreme poverty
“The super-rich have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits,” Oxfam International warns.

Buffalo Shooting Tests Internet Antiterrorism Accord
Live-streaming of the rampage shone spotlight on the Christchurch Call, launched after 2019 mosque killings in New Zealand

Why we need a public Internet and how to get one
‘We need politics. We need public policy. We need social movements’

SiriusXM acquires Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco podcast company for $150 million

Nintendo Switch Sports shows that innovation is necessary for sequels to thrive
After being given so much, it's hard to be taken away from.

The hard truths about Web3: What no one else is talking about

In a decentralized Web3, DAOs will be the driving force of decisions

Why some recommendations fall flat: Recommendation engines & their challenges

Augmented reality, superhuman abilities and the future of medicine

Don’t expect large language models like the next GPT to be democratized
They're frightfully expensive to build and train — and give their creators a competive advantage worth protecting

For the metaverse, embodied reality is the true final frontier

Shining a light on equal pay and the wage gap

Christine Lagarde says crypto is worth nothing

How the résumé business has changed amid the Great Resignation (and what that means for you)
TopResume’s Amanda Augustine says “career-advancement opportunities” replaced “day-to-day work” for the first time as one of the top three priorities for 2022. Here’s how your résumé can reflect that.

Taking a career hiatus is now perfectly okay
LinkedIn research shows a break in your career journey is no longer something to hide or speak vaguely about.

How to give your boss feedback (and keep your job)
Sometimes it’s necessary to provide feedback, but it can be a delicate situation.

What it’s like to have employer support for abortion care
On the latest episode of The New Way We Work, we hear from Emma Hernandez about her experience accessing abortion care at two different points in her life: with and without employer support.

An effective way to recruit talent? Try to get your current workers to leave
Forget about the ‘why you joined’ story. Encourage your team to tell a ‘why I would not leave’ tale.

Everyone is drafting their own startup Black Swan memo

How to Design (and Redesign) the Practices of Company Culture

Hello? Hello? Is This Facebook? Anybody There? (Nope.)
Users with account problems go to extreme lengths to reach someone, anyone, for customer service; ‘I have never been able to speak to a human’

Apple Looks to Boost Production Outside China
iPhone maker tells suppliers it wants to manufacture more in India and Southeast Asia

Elon Musk’s Planned Twitter Takeover Creates a ‘Chaos Tax’ for Employees
Deal has left employees bewildered about what their jobs are and will be

Government faces High Court trial over £854mn supercomputer contract
Atos claims it was wrongfully excluded from bids for advanced system for predicting weather and climate change

How tech from Slack to Discord can prepare students for the future of work
Nectir CEO Kavitta Ghai maintains that we should be encouraging students to use social and collaboration tech in the classroom to be more effective when they join the workforce.

COVID-19 relaxed red tape in cities. Then the bureaucracy returned
The fight over a parking lot in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a microcosm of a bigger problem that’s playing out across the country: Cities are designed for cars, not people, and not even a global pandemic has changed that.

How NASA finally melted its giant “self-licking ice cream cone”
"Government should be about getting the taxpayer the best value."

The new season of Love, Death and Robots doesn’t miss
A violent, clever, and eclectic animated anthology

Stranger Things 4 cranks everything up way past eleven
The Upside Down is back and more brutal than ever

The stunts don’t stop in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning’s first trailer
The seventh Mission: Impossible hits theaters in 2023

Friday, May 20, 2022

LOC for MT Void #2220-2223

The following is a letter of comment sent to Mark and Evelyn Leeper, editors of MT Void, commenting on #2220-2223.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Leeper:

Having recently received several new issues of MT Void via the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s franking service—and having had a letter of column printed and even responded to by a fellow reader (Hello, R. Looney!)—I see fit to write again after reading #2220-2223.

The reprint and discussion of Dale Skran's review of Motherland: Fort Salem is intriguing. Given the current anti-woman and anti-reproduction rights leaning in the United States, I’m not sure if I’d enjoy the television program right now, but I did recently read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Perhaps the fantastic elements of the show will dull the parallels sufficiently. Last weekend, my wife and I participated in a reproductive rights rally in downtown Los Angeles. We definitely don’t need another witch hunt right now. Skran’s review also reminded me slightly of The Nevers, which is streaming broadly—and an excellent television program. Have you watched The Nevers? You and Mr. Skran might also get a kick out of the Image comic book limited series Man-Eaters: The Cursed. Its precursor (Man-Eaters) was an amazing story, and the subsequent miniseries quite good as well, swinging the title’s attention from women as lycanthropes to witchcraft.

I also recently read John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society and appreciated Joe Karpierz’s review. My review appeared in The N3F Review of BooksApril 2022 issue. I read it, while Karpierz listened to it, but I can imagine how enjoyable Wil Wheaton’s narration must have been. Very cool.

The reviews of relevant movies recently aired on Turner Classic Movies were welcome—but I wish I’d been aware of their scheduling beforehand so I could watch them, too! I’ll have to pay more attention to their schedule. I usually do in October for their active classic horror lineup leading up to Halloween. Maybe it’s something my alter ego Cathode Ray could work into his “Celluloid Sentience” movie and DVD release column for FanActivity Gazette. Not a bad idea, and one for which I thank you. (As a side note, I’ve been enjoying the MT Void mini-reviews that Philip De Parto circulates to the The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County. Another pleasant surprise in my in box!) 

Karpierz’s review of Kimberly Unger’s The Extractionist doth compel, but the book isn’t even out yet! (Now, that’s science fiction for you.) The reviewer, lucky fellow that he is, must have received an advance reading copy. Evelyn’s consideration of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “​​A Study in Scarlet” was also inspiring. I’m curious whether you’re active in Mrs. Hudson's Cliffdwellers or The Priory Scholars of NYC. It looks like The Sherlock Breakfast Club in Los Angeles hasn’t met since 2017, but The Curious Collectors Of Baker Street are still active. Thanks for the inadvertent nudge!

And I found Skran’s “Reforming the Short Form Hugo” of high interest. The N3F and its directorate has been having a similar discussion about the categories and approach to nominees for the National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Awards, or Neffy Awards, which while not as notable or visible, still run slightly parallel. I agree with Skran’s proposal: a Dramatic series Hugo focusing on series from the last year. We could even take some cues from the Emmy Awards, which offers useful precedent. My preference—for the Neffy Awards at least—is to focus on shows that premiered during the previous year. But my Neffy thinking hasn’t gone further than that. For the Hugos, the Emmys’ attention to any six eligible episodes for final-round judging might be a useful standard. Skran’s three is also a reasonable number.

The Emmys also concentrate on episode length. They consider Short Form series as having episodes with an average running time of two to 20 minutes, Half-hour series as 20-40 minute episodes, and Hour-long series as 40-75 minute episodes. Taking that approach could still allow room for other shorter-form content. And I think Skran’s general concern about the Hugo category being potentially biased toward large streaming platforms (or network or cable TV, for that matter) has merit. The N3F Directorate has had similar conversations about conventionally published, print-on-demand, and self-published books. I’d advocate for breaking them all out and including them all, while we currently lump them all together and have a slight bias against conventionally published books in some quarters.

But why I’m really writing to you is because I read Catherynne M. Valente’s Comfort Me With Apples last night. I’d requested the ebook from my local library, missed the first hold release, and wanted to jump on the subsequent hold release. So I read it in one sitting lest my 21 days pass uneventfully. What an absolutely wonderful and surprising read. Thank you, Mr. Karpierz, for recommending it. Given my remarks in the letter of comment in #2221, it did not end up being the book I was expecting. Though it was wholly unlike The Cabin at the End of the World, The Couple Next Door, or Lying in Wait—though still a domestic thriller—it was even better than I’d imagined. More along the lines of Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives reimagined by Neil Gaiman. I’m not sure what Looney would make of it. The Comfort Me With Apples he mentioned (by Peter DeVries) is described as “a laugh-out-loud novel about teenage pretensions and adult delusions from an author whom the New York Times has called ‘a Balzac of the station wagon set.’” Valente’s book, a serious doozy of a read, is not that comic, for sure. Instead, it is darkly fantastic, mundane and mythic in its scope, and subtly shocking at times. I would not have read it were it not for MT Void. Thank you.

I hope you and yours are well.

LOC for Alexiad Vol. 21 #2

The following is a letter of comment sent to Lisa and Joseph Major, editors of Alexiad, commenting on Vol. 21 #2.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Major:

Last night, I read Alexiad Vol. 21 #2—which I received through the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s franking service—and wanted to drop you a brief note to wish you well. It’s overcast and cool in southern California today, downright gray, and my neighbors are doing some construction work, so my home office is full of the sounds of hammers, power tools, and Mexican radio. I don’t mind the radio. And I’m thankful it’s Friday.

I remember seeing an issue of Alexiad previously. I’m not sure if I printed it out at work to read or if you mailed it to me, but it was definitely a hard copy, so if I’ve been remiss on responding to a mailing, I apologize. I am also sorry that you have been not entirely well and harassed by other issues. Things have been slightly heavy here, too, with family concerns, work challenges, and world affairs over the last few weeks.

My wife and I enjoyed the recent lunar eclipse and plan on traveling to see the 2024 solar eclipse somewhere in the Midwest. Our son went on a camping road trip with the Scouts in 2017. I was unable to join the troop because of work commitments and regret not being able to participate. He had a grand adventure by all accounts.

Your review of Moira Greyland’s memoir The Last Closet interested me. I, too, read it not that long ago—and I’d been unaware of the scandal when it came to light in 2014. (My review is in the March 2022 edition of The N3F Review of Books and is also available on my blog.) Your commentary focused more on issues I didn’t address, and I found your point of view thought provoking. Vox Day’s involvement in the publication of the book definitely lends a political purpose to the book, and I was disappointed by Greyland’s conflation of child sexual abuse with homosexuality—though I have never experienced anything like what Greyland survived and I can only empathize. It was, after all, her traumatic experience.

While I agree with the idea of not kicking someone when they’re down—or dead—I’m not sure how compelling I find the argument that Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen can no longer defend themselves. Do they need to? Breen’s penchant for abuse—and his fate—were determined before his death. And while Bradley wasn’t found guilty of a crime, necessarily, her and Elisabeth Waters’s depositions make for concerning, if not alarming, reading. If we can accept their depositions at face value, if any of the claimants involved are reliable narrators—Greyland included—Bradley didn’t really actually counter any of her daughter’s claims; instead, she merely claimed that she didn’t know any of it had happened until well after the fact. And Waters’s deposition seems to bolster and confirm Greyland’s claims.

In any event, it is definitely a series of unfortunate events, and my heart goes out to Greyland—even if I think it’s incorrect to place the blame on her parents’ sexual identity or orientation. This is just one study, but C. Jenny, T.A. Roesler, and K.L. Poyer’s “Are children at risk for sexual abuse by homosexuals?” (Pediatrics. 1994 Jul;94[1]:41-4) suggests that the risk of children being abused by homosexual adults ranges between 0% to 3.1%. Meanwhile, in 82% of the cases in that study, the alleged offender was a heterosexual partner of a close relative of the child. Given the changing makeup of families over time, more recent studies might need to be done to better assess the likelihood of a parent or partner abusing a child, regardless of their sexual orientation. But the case doesn’t seem strong enough to suggest that all (or even most or much) LGBTQ+ parents are likely to abuse, much less that all parents are.

The earlier Breendoggle was paired with the Great Exclusion of 1939 for consideration in Hannah Mueller’s The Politics of Fandom (McFarland, 2022), which I also recently read and reviewed for the N3F Review. So I was momentarily thrown by your subsequent comments on Tom Veal’s Igor's Campaign: A Tale of Ambition. I had to laugh out loud when I realized it was an alternate history! The ebook might make a fun parallel read with Andy Hooper and Carrie Root’s “Read and Enjoyed, but No Content” play script reprints in Captain Flashback. I’ve ordered it and will let you know what I think.

Your comments on the Worldcon bids are poignant: “Some argued that old writers who weren’t being read any more had no appeal to the contemporary crowd. Others regretted the end of an era where one could mix with those who had made the field.” Makes me wonder, though: Who makes up the contemporary crowd? Yes, there’s a generational shift in fandom underway. It’s been going on for some time, at least since the advent of Star Trek and the resultant media fandom, exacerbated by so much of communication’s move online and the shift away from fanzines and more traditional correspondence culture. Then there’s the more recent shift to mainstream pop culture cons rather than fannish cons. (I would love to read the model railroading and rail fanning story you remember—I do not know what it is, either. Perhaps Dale Speirs of Opuntia knows? Sounds like something he’d come across.)

But there’s got to be room for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a literary fan or a media fan, an offline fan or an online fan, or a fandom studies academic’s vision of an affirmational fan or transformative fan. Do we need to jettison the past to move into the future? Or can we bring our history with us and leave room for the old and the new, contemporaneously? Ghods, I hope so.

I wish you and your wife well, in happiness and in health. The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society recently lost member Karl Lembke to cancer, so the mortality of fen is foremost in mind. Hopefully we can avoid the mortality of fandom itself.


Book Review: "Foundation" by Isaac Asimov

Foundation by Isaac Asimov (Ballantine, 1983)

I’ve been reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror for about as long as I’ve been able to read—since before kindergarten. And I’ve never, ever read Foundation. I’ve long known that it’s a classic, that it’s one of the best sf series ever. In fact, in 1966, it received a Hugo for Best All-Time Series, beating out no less than Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom series and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. (I bet that inspired some lively conversations among fen.) But I’ve never, ever read it.

Why? It was supposed to be daunting, convoluted, complicated. It took place over the course of something like 30,000 years and was therefore way multigenerational. As a preteen, I’d fizzled out reading Frank Herbert’s Dune series midway through Heretics of Dune when I realized that I didn’t really know who anyone was anymore. (Having reread Dune during the pandemic, I intend to take another stab at it; who knows whether that experience will hold.) And I was put off by the idea of a series focusing primarily on conversation, psychology, and politics—with characters who don’t stick around. So I’ve avoided and neglected it despite reading and enjoying much other Asimov.

When the television show came out, I returned to the idea, wanting to read at least the first novel before watching the Apple TV+ program, and last month, I finally turned to it. But even the TV show wasn’t the real reason why. You see, I learned that Foundation is a fix-up.

Yes, though a novel, Foundation is in fact the melding together of several short stories. The book, originally published in 1951, contains the stories “Foundation” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942), “Bridle and Saddle” (Astounding, June 1942), “The Big and the Little” (Astounding, August 1944), and “The Wedge” (Astounding, October 1944). They are reprinted in the novel as the sections “The Encyclopedists,” “The Mayors,” “The Merchant Princes,” and “The Traders.” And the first section of the novel, “The Psychohistorians,” was written last as an introductory section to the first Gnome Press edition of the book in order to help it begin less abruptly.

Despite the long time frame, the multiple characters, and the wide-ranging aspect of the series, the series of novels is in fact quite manageable because it was written and originally published in pieces and parts. The same is true for the next two novels in the series. Foundation and Empire combines “Dead Hand” (Astounding, April 1945) and “The Mule” (Astounding, November-December 1945), and Second Foundation incorporates “Now You See It…” (Astounding, January 1948 and June 1949) and “...And Now You Don’t” (Astounding, November 1949 to January 1950). That means that not only can you take breaks while reading the books if you need to, the books are designed for readers to do so in a logical and story- —or stories- —serving manner.

So I finally read Foundation. And it was grand. Asimov’s introductory remarks, “The Story Behind the ‘Foundation,’” goes far to detail the history of the book and series, as well as situate it in the writer’s life and career. “[T]o make sure that [John] Campbell really meant what he said about a series, I ended ‘Foundation’ on a cliff-hanger,” Asimov wrote. He even writes about the popularity of the series and how he kept getting called back to it to write more even though he’d moved on to other projects. An interesting background story.

And the novel itself? Even if read in several sittings rather than as its pieces and parts? Excellent. Foundation effectively tells the tale of a society as it falls and struggles to rise again, as various parts of society—different social functions and groups—pass the baton to rebuild. The psychohistorians give way to the encyclopedists, who hand things over not entirely willingly to the mayors, who pave the ground needed by the traders and merchant princes to emerge. The book is still largely political and the narrative predominantly conversational, but it’s an interesting look at social forces at work—even religion. Not sure how I would’ve taken to it as a younger man, but at my current age, I loved it.

So I started reading Foundation and Empire immediately after finishing Foundation. I don’t always do that with series. I’ll take a break and read other books before picking up Larry Niven’s The Ringworld Engineers (having recently read Ringworld), which I’ll probably read before returning to Jack L. Chalker’s Well World and Exiles at the Well of Souls. Wanting to remain immersed in a series’ world is a good sign that I’m enjoying a book. Sometimes you just don’t want the book to end.

I’ve also watched the first few episodes of Foundation on TV. I recommend you read at least “The Psychohistorians” before doing so yourself, but already the program is different enough from the book that I don’t think Asimov’s characterizations or narrative will suffer dipping into both. Personally, I’m glad the show was produced. It helped pull me back to a series I’ve too long neglected. A series I need to now read to completion.

Quotes of Note: "Comfort Me with Apples" by Catherynne M. Valente

Quotes of note from Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente:

(I read this on my iPad via Kindle, so page numbers are suspect. Thank you, public library!)

"Silver hair ... is the medal won by wisdom." (19 percent)

"A surprise, even a little one, means a change in the world... ." (22 percent)

"When he thuds, the world listens and gets out of his way. That is her whole understanding of men." (26 percent)

"There is nothing better in the afternoon than a meal and a bit of music." (27 percent)

"It is always a blessing and a relief to be spoken for." (28 percent)

"I am happy... . How could I be otherwise? I am fed, I am housed, I am busy, I am loved." (29 percent)

"It is such a wonderful thing in this world, to have friends." (31 percent)

"Holidays are therefore superfluous." (31 percent)

"Suffering of any kind is and shall be considered contraband." (31 percent)

"A freelancer knows not the meaning of the words day shift or night shift!" (32 percent)

"Honest work banishes bad memories with such efficiency!" (33 percent)

"[S]he is not lying. Not yet." (42 percent)

"Be a good neighbor and you will have good neighbors!" (47 percent)

"You are the life, but I am the party." (72 percent)

"[I]t feels so good to be held, it feels so good to be spoken to like she is capable and wise, to hear her life gain weight, fed by [another]. Fed by being seen." (72 percent)

"Solidarity is a hell of a thing." (75 percent)

"You are beautiful and convincing too... ." (77 percent)

"The truth hurts so much better." (79 percent)

"[N]o one should have to live without the things they love." (81 percent)

"If I do not deserve happiness, who does?" (84 percent)

"Your Father is my Father too. He made me too." (85 percent)

"This is the beginning of the universe and I make the rules." (89 percent)

Daily Headlines for May 20, 2022

Streaming reached a record share of total TV viewing last month, says Nielson
People are all about the streaming these days.

Those still paying for Netflix are watching nine of the top 10 shows, says Nielson
Netflix shows are beating the rest in terms of minutes watched.

How the GOP assault on social media flipped net neutrality on its head

“Our mandate was the take the biggest possible swings": With the wind out of its sails, a battered BuzzFeed News forges on
The site’s prized investigations unit is disbanding and dropping its last bombshells—“a triumphal exit,” says the team’s editor—as a scaled-back news division narrows its search for an editor in chief.

Afghanistan's female TV presenters must cover their faces, say Taliban

Obi-Wan is coming to Fortnite next week
Watch out when he has the high ground

DOJ Announces It Won’t Prosecute White Hat Security Researchers
The new policy addresses decades of uncertainty around the law and security research.

Canada bans Huawei equipment from 5G networks, orders removal by 2024
Following restrictions from key security allies

One man’s quest to bring back the small phone

A brief history of no-code software — and its future
The rise of nonprogrammers building today's software

How to get better at using inclusive language in the workplace
A few, simple vocabulary changes can make your workplace more welcoming.

The 3 pillars of a happier and more productive workforce
Start by ensuring worker autonomy is built into your work culture.

What will the ‘de-Arching’ of McDonald’s in Russia actually look like?
How do you draw the line between a business and its branding? In Russia, the fast-food chain formerly known as McDonald’s is about to find out.

DJ Justin Blau’s crypto startup Royal wants to remix the music industry
Many touted the music industry as the next wave after art to push NFTs deeper into the mainstream—and Royal wants to lead the charge.

Should the federal government spend more money on conducting elections?
A new report examines inventive ways the federal government could spend on elections, including ‘ballot real estate’ and ‘ballot eyeballs.’

We have to stop destroying our future

The EU is replacing Russian oil with solar energy
Solar is the secret sauce to less reliance on oil

New study estimates how long mined metals circulate before being lost
In some cases, we're throwing out one metal in the process of extracting another.

NASA engineers trying to figure out strange readings from aging interstellar spacecraft
Voyager 1 is being a little weird

How 'The Essex Serpent' uses color to tell the growth of a main character
Claire Danes' character goes through quite the transformation during the show.

Stephen King lauds Apple TV+ thriller 'Shining Girls' saying it's 'scary and involving'
Stephen King knows a thing or two about thrillers.

This Japanese designer turned discarded fishing containers into groovy furniture
Japan’s declining fishing industry has left behind a constellation of discarded fishing containers. Now some of them have been reborn as chairs.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

LOC for Captain Flashback #41

The following is a letter of comment sent to Andy Hooper and Carrie Root, editors of Captain Flashback, commenting on #41.

Dear Mx. Hooper and Root:

More than a decade ago, I compiled a directory of then-active apae, first titled Active APAs and then Blue Moon Special. They are available at https://efanzines.com/ActiveAPAs/. And while I fall far, far short of any kind of comprehensive expert on current apae, I had never, ever, ever heard about the Turbo-Charged Party-Animal Amateur Press Association. I’m still not sure whether it exists, though Fancyclopedia 3 also suggests that it does.

Perhaps in part influenced by Captain Flashback #41’s “Read and Enjoyed, but No Content” (Chapter Eight of a Serial Play about APAs), reading the issue was a surreal and surprisingly fun experience. Truth be told, I took much of it, even “Comments on Turbo-Apa #429” as fiction. My first experience reading your fanzine felt like reading an old issue of Farm Pulp, almost a glimpse into a parallel universe in which there were also apae and fanzines, just not… the ones with which I was familiar or even aware. It was a fun, fun read.

The opening piece, “Looking for a Good Ship,” was the most familiar and least alien writing: book reviews grouped under a theme. I recently started compiling an sf club news column for the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s newszine, FanActivity Gazette; I would love to learn more about the Science Fiction Without Borders discussion group in Madison. I’ll include the current ish of Fanac Gazette when I send this letter of comment, and if the group is interested in sending some recent and upcoming news, I’d love to include it in the roundup. In your review roundup, you mentioned several recent and older titles that I’ll have to add to my reading list, and I appreciated the focus on spaceflight and ships as settings for storytelling.

“Read and Enjoyed, but No Content” took my breath away. I cannot wait to read the whole thing. The fen in the audience who got to witness the staging at Corflu 22 are lucky ducks. I really got a kick out of the combination of apae elements and dialogue, and look forward to reading the preceding chapters. The character names, apae elements, and content—which I read and enjoyed—put me in a fugue state of sorts. What a wonderful idea.

Influenced by that piece, my first read of “Mailing Comments on Turbo-APA #429” struck me in a similar vein. I read on, presuming that—similar to the play script or transcript preceding it—the names, titles, and content were also fictional, perhaps blending in actual fannish commentary. While I am still not entirely sure what is factual and real in Captain Flashback, I love the idea of doing a fictional apa featuring fictional participants, fictional commentary, a fictional fandom, a fictional genre, and fictional resultant drama. Such a rich idea. Despite that fugue state and surreal intrigue, I’ve since reread your commentary as (f)actual comments. After all, Madison is a real city. A real Mad City, in fact. (I grew up in Wisconsin; my parents still live near Madison.) So kudos to you two. I’m still not sure what is real.

As a member of the N3F since 2008 or 2009, former editor of The National Fantasy Fan (the 2009-2011 issues, the closest I’ve come to a genzine in sf fandom), and the N3F’s current chair, I appreciated and enjoyed Jerry Kaufman’s letter of comment, as well as your response. “[M]any fans thought the N3F was a good idea when it started,” Kaufman wrote. And while I might disagree with your reply—“[T]he N3F continues to be valuable today, as a place where people who need a title can go to find one.”—folks’ mileage might vary. I actually get a kick out of the occasional N3F jabs, japes, and jokes even as a member. It inspires me do more, and to do better.

Since finding sf fandom by way of comic books and punk rock fanzines, most of my fan activity has been through the N3F—my editing The Fan as a borderline prozine, paying cover artists and fiction authors for their submissions, being a highlight. Even though I still actively contribute to the N3F clubzines and chair the Directorate, I’m also a member of LASFS (I just dialed in to the weekly meeting) and contribute to APA-L and LASFAPA. Regardless, I realize I’m no Damon Knight, Forrest J Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, or Bjo Trimble. I still enjoy the straight line to history, as well as the creative outlet, friends (some of whom have drifted off, and some of whom drift back), and fun my involvement has brought. And I quite like the idea of the N3F—or a national club, going back to the original vision—serving to help to bridge other fanac (apae, local clubs, etc.) for those fen who find that interesting and useful.

Again, your mileage might vary.

I look forward to future issues of Captain Flashback, as well as future apa comments, fictional or factual. I love it when I come across new (to me), still active apae. Huzzah to the participants of the Turbo-Charged Party-Animal Amateur Press Association!

LOC for MarkTime #140

The following is a letter of comment sent to Mark Strickert, editor of MarkTime, commenting on #140.

Dear Mr. Strickert:

Last night’s reading was my first exposure to your fanzine MarkTime, and I wanted to write a letter of hello and how do you do. Rialto’s not too far away from me in the Los Angeles area, but the closest I’ve found myself to you is in San Bernardino while on my way up into the mountains to a Scout camp near Lake Arrowhead. It’s good to know there’s a fellow fan and fanzine guy out that way! I enjoyed MarkTime’s mix of personal, travel, and public transit commentary.

I am glad your son has been able to avail himself of punk and hard rock records and T-shirts at local record stores such as Amoeba, Doctor Strange, and Penny Lane Records. If you ever find yourself in Fullerton and other parts Orange County, I’d check out Black Hole Records, Radiation Records (great for punk, hardcore, and metal), Left of the Dial Records, and White Rabbit Music (formerly Burger Records). And closer to west LA, I enjoy Headline Records (also great for punk and hardcore), Record Surplus, and Timewarp Records.

While you were in Portland, I’m glad you got to stop by Powell’s Books and Microcosm Publishing. And even though you felt your acquisition of The Zinester’s Guide to Portland would have been welcome earlier, I’m glad you picked it up—as well as Xerography Debt, which has reviewed some of my non-sf zines over the years. You should consider sending in MarkTime for review! (Some of my online writing was included in Microcosm’s Zinester's Guide to NYC, courtesy of Ayun Halliday, who does a great little minicomic/zine titled The East Village Inky, which is also worth checking out.) I love it when my involvement in sf and other zines intersects.

Your transit riding and rail fanning in Oceanside, Carlsbad, and San Diego made me slightly jealous. I need to do more of that. I am not at all surprised to see Fred Argoff of Brooklyn! zine fame in your letter column. He’s published some of my non-sf writing, as well. Worlds collide.

Argoff’s August 2021 letter of comment resonated with me. Even though I only lived in New York City briefly, I was more of a Mets fan than a Yankees fan, and since moving to southern California, I’ve been hard pressed to find a baseball team to follow actively—largely because of the Dodgers’ relocation, which far predated my time in Brooklyn. The closest I’ve come is minor league, specifically the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes out your way, but this year I’m trying to remain aware of the Angels. My attention has already drifted. It was also fun seeing missives from John Hertz, a fellow LASFS and APA-L member, and Lloyd Penney, whose letterhacking I can only aspire to.

Your mention of Retro TV reminded me of MeTV, which I watch on cable, and Pluto TV, which I watch online, as well as on our smart TV. Using the pseudonym Cathode Ray, I write a television column for the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s FanActivity Gazette newszine called “Rabid Ears.” You might get a kick out of it. I’ll send you the most recent edition with this LOC.

Well, that’s all for now. Plenty of overlapping interests, and I look forward to future issues. Next time you come to west LA to walk along the now-vacant cable car corridors, let me know.


LOC for Spartacus #55

The following is a letter of comment sent to Guy Lillian, editor of Spartacus, commenting on #55.

Dear Mr. Lillian:

I recently read a recent issue of your perzine, Spartacus #55, and in an effort to develop the habit of writing more letters of comment, here’s a brief missive. I hope that my correspondence finds you and yours happy and healthy.

I enjoyed reading about your recent travels to Paris, London, and Edinburgh. I am especially glad you were able to see the Mona Lisa up close and personal. The last time I visited the Louvre, with my wife while visiting friends, we saw it the way you described it from video: "crammed shoulder to shoulder, belly to belly with tourists." It was still meaningful and worthwhile, though I envy your prolonged exposure. You also reminded me of my brief time in Edinburgh, perhaps more than two decades ago. Most of what I remember is mist and cool and stonework. A beautiful city redolent of atmosphere and the weight of history.

Given Lloyd Penney and Rich Lynch’s letters of comment, I seem to have missed a lively discussion of Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine. I shall have to explore back issues, perhaps. I am heartened by—and encourage—discussion of world events in fanzines such as yours. Avoiding political conversation doesn’t seem to be a viable solution to the situations in which we find ourselves. With the recent shooting in Buffalo, I think we’re already seeing the expected outcome of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

Your inclusion of William O. Douglas’s concurring decision in Roe v. Wade made for interesting parallel reading. And I think the Supreme Court leak, draft opinion, Buffalo shooting, and Rittenhouse are unfortunately interconnected. Not only could overturning Roe v. Wade lead to the erosion of other personal rights for women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color, but participating in a reproductive rights rally this past weekend with my wife, I was also mindful of the increasing enabling of far right and police state violence against peaceful protesters, as well as the dearth of media coverage of such protests, while smaller events held by the far right seem to draw more attention. I was also mindful of the chilling effect such violence—police or otherwise—can have on peaceful protest. There are days I wish we lived in less interesting times, and as a person of some privilege, I am aware that many others feel the weight of such issues even more heavily. Empathy is increasingly needed. As is direct talk about just what extreme rightists are afraid of and fighting for—or fighting against. We need to be able to address that explicitly.

But the concerns about privacy writ large are also compelling and concerning—and would affect all people, regardless of gender, race, or sexual identity or preference—presuming any shifts in privacy protections are applied equitably. That’s one of the most challenging aspects of events in recent years: the uneven application of law, largely based on class and race, and the lessening recognition and strength of what we’ve already agreed to in terms of community, legislative, and procedural standards. There’s a difference between changing our societal mind based on new knowledge or modern attitudes, and disregarding standing rule of law to increasingly protect the interests of a growing minority, imposing those interests on—and removing existing rights of—the larger collective.

Having recently read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, I am curious whether you’re aware of other books that address similar issues: reproduction rights, bodily autonomy and integrity, privacy, religious fascism, and political violence.

Thank you for such a thought-provoking issue. I look forward to exploring future editions of Spartacus.