Archive for the SF Category

[#design] 600-Or-So Portland-in-2016 Bookmarks For Westercon 67

Posted in design, Graphic Design, logo design, PDX photos, SF, Westercon, Westercon 69 on June 13, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
3111.
The Wife™ had a little busytime project.

You see, we’re involved on the edge of a little group that’s trying to bring Westercon 69, in 2016, two years hence, to Portland. The bid will be voted on at Westercon 67, being held this next month in Salt Lake City, and we have been promoting.

And, by we, I mean a rather divers group of passionate individuals doing what they can, when they can, and making it count. The sun our planets revolve around is the inimitable Lea Rush; entropy fears her, scattered card decks stack themselves at her mere approach. I am essentially a graphic design support grunt at this point, and provide support to Meredith Cook when and as she needs it. The Wife™, she handles the office we’ve called “Mailroom”.

In case you ever needed to know
what more than 600 bookmarks
looked like, here you go.
How to Support
the Bid
(click to embiggen)

At this point, it is as such: a call came a day or so ago from Lea wondering how many bookmarks were left. We had started a stock of 5000; less than 2500 are left (we may have a handful or two left over before this is done, and this is no sin … we own lots of books which require marking), and the mission; send 600-or-so of them to Westercon 67’s ComCon. Mailroom snaps into action: The Wife™ counts out the required number, packages them up, and gets them ready to go.

They’re in a box, right now, ready to be shipped. Inspired by the example of those around us, the proper amount of energy is leveraged for the maximum effect. USPS Media Rate is our faithful friend, and Westercon 67 will have the bookmarks.

Which are sweet, by the way. Featuring the logo designed by Meredith with assistance by myself, they feature a picture of a night-time Portland skyline snapped by the ViviCam 3705, the Plastic Fantastic, back in 2009. ‘Tis a picture I’m most proud of, and I’m equally proud that it may help, in a small way, win a very significant moment in time for the fandom of the Rose City. This is the bookmark:

Like I said, sweet! The night-time scene has a little bit of Tron and Matrix-y stuff going on there. Great mood setting. The round patch is the offiical Portland In 2016 logo, done by Meredith with help from myself. This is the photo it was based on:

 And that was in January, 2009. Photos are forever …

And they make, I’ll say again, sweet bookmarks.

Presupport is still available. Clicky to embiggen the back of the bookmark, on the left above (there’s even a QR code for your enjoyment) for terms, or go to http://portlandin2016.org to find out more.

Yeah. This is something that should happen. 

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[pdx] The Autumnal City, By Way Of SE Division Street

Posted in creative writing, Dhalgren, downtown PDX, Iconic Portland, interpretive writing, Painfully Portland, Photos on Sunday, Portland Architecture, Samuel R. Delany, SE PDX Photos, SF, Sunrises and Sunsets on May 12, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
3082.
In another missive, I said that sometimes I find the theme, sometimes, the theme finds me. 

This is true, and relevant. Also, living in the most violently adorable photogenic city on the planet, sometimes you go out for great vistas, and sometimes, you just stumble and fall flat on your face in front of one.

This is true, and relevant, and what happened later in the evening after our visit to Piccolo Park (see missive 3081, just previous to this one).

SE Division Street is one of those infinitely-long east-west straight (well, mostly) streets that give Portland’s east side its structure, its intent, and its character. It’s a sweet character, and remains so even though the rents on the inner portion have become, in some areas, precipitously lofty. The lowest end is a little tricky, though. Division Street from its true beginning … SE 3rd Avenue just south of Caruthers … runs diagonally, along the rail lines that have gone through the area since it was all industrial.

It’s still mostly industrial, but it’s changing, slowly. Good sides and bad sides to that. That’s for another program however. While travelling west on Division, with no specific agenda except to get to Powell’s Books ultimately and enjoy our time there, just west of SE 11th Avenue, where the street doglegs northwestward (actually, the line of the street continues as SE Division Place until it gets as close to the Willamette as it can) we’re presented with this undeniable photo opp:

BAM, as they say. There’s this thing about sunsets; while there are, statistically and practically speaking, infinitely more sunsets than I’ll be able to biologically endure, each one is, like the notional snowflake, never to be duplicated. The mood that each one generates is as individual as possible. Never to be synthesized, and in the end, ineffable.

Very Taoist.

The funny thing is, I immediately put  my hand out the window and pointed the camera that way, and in adjusting my grip I fired the camera three or four times. I cursed loudly, thinking I had really got some unusable photos (well, at least for this wise). Turned out perfect.

The view that is named is not the view.

The amber tone, in retrospect, makes me think of the opening lines of the Samuel R. Delany epic Dhalgren. Maybe he wrote that because every big American town is something that consumes itself from within, at the same time replenishing itself from within, borning anew constantly, and will continue to do so until it eventually collapses from within because no fuel, no matter how regenerative, would regenerate forever.

It’s a an echo of majestic ruin, while still being astoundingly vital. Kind of like people.  And humanity. We contain our salvation and our ruin in one, I think.

The area, as I said, is still very industrial. If you buy anything Darigold, it came, as likely as anything, from this dairy plant between Division and Powell between SE 8th Avenue and the river. That dairy complex has been there forever. On the left there, supporting the trademark Darigold sign, is a tall column which is limned in red neon. When we lived on SE 8th near here, we would most often come in on the Ross Island Bridge. The Darigold sign was a big nightline showing us the way home. Most reassuring. 

A big old building wedged (literally, that’s its shape) between Division, 11th, and the tracks is the Ford Building. That’s what it started out at … a place that sold Ford automobiles back when the most popular car in the world was the Model T. These days, it’s been gentrified, which means that anything in the building currently is either so cute it’s uninteresting or overpriced but I guess it beats decay.

Not decay, decadence actually. But I carp.

The area has seen massive remodelling as a result of the extension of the MAX into Milwaukie. The Tilikum Crossing is just one thing. Streets have been spruced, realigned (you used to be able transition straight east from Division Place onto Division Street, now that link is gone) and, as is our adorable wont, enigmatic public art has been installed. Just this one square of the new sidewalk pavement reads:

TO READ / THE TRACKS / TO NEED TO KNOW.

I was unable to deduce what the theme here was or the intended meaning, indeed, I couldn’t find any other squares so adorned, so I was left wondering. Of course, given the verbiage … maybe that was the point.

The cloud above the railroad crossing here, The Wife™ called the “greater than” cloud. Why should be obvious.

The opening lines to Dhalgren look something like this:

to wound the autumnal city.
So howled out the world to give him a name.
The in-dark answered with wind.
All you know I know:

 

It’s our city, but I know it differently than you. I see shining possibility and incipient decay; I see Portland triumphant over the ages and Portland deserted and ruined; you see a group of tall buildings against a setting sun and no more.

Each view is equally valid and invalid in the human heart.

The new MAX line, looking toward Milwaukie

SE 8th Avenue and Division Place. This is a new signal.

Day is ending; night is beginning. One death is another birth,
only to eventually die and cause rebirth in return.

The autumnal city. So howled out for the world to give him a name.

Putting ones’ back to the above moody scene, growing in a vacant lot at 8th and Division, beginning to blossom because of or in spite of or both, this. The in-dark answered with wind.

All you know, I know.

The hack poet and blog author finally did make it to Powells, and just to prove that all is not darkling self-absorbed poetry, a sparkling view of NW Couch Street between NW 10th and 11th Avenues, where the upside is that, for better or worse, we’re still here, there’s grim news abounding but the world still seems to work, and a life where you can see things like this certainly isn’t entirely broken.

[info] The Science Fictional Oracle; An Infographic

Posted in info design, infographic, SF on May 1, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
3076.
One thing that gets tedious pretty quick these days is the insistence of people on some kind of oracle.

The future, by definition, hasn’t happened yet; it’s unknowable. It’s guessable. You can predict things, but there’s always the chance that you’ll be wrong, no matter how sure the thing, unless some sort of fix can be put it. But people will dream, so people will nominate oracles.

Modern days’ favorite oracle is the well-envisioned science fiction story. SF, as a genre, seems to have had a contentious time with the idea that it is a predictor; at times, shunning the idea, at others, wholly embracing it. I have my own thoughts on the subject, but first, check this graphic out. The graphic was produced pretty much as blogbait by a printer ink purveyor (link after the graphic) but I found it carefully done, attractive, and quite enlightening. Please view, then join me again at the bottom.

History of Books that Forecast the Future Infographic
Infographic brought to you by PrinterInks

Whew … that was a long one. Was worried you’d lose your way, but it’s good to see you.

Okay. What have we got? Three columns, essentially: on the left, a timeline, with what the graphic artist considered notable books called out in the year of publication. In the middle, the noteworthy ‘predictions’ that the stories made, and on the right, a bar graph that’s designed to quantify how apt the vision was by the number of years after publication that the envisioned development occurred. More green, the longer we had to wait.

One thing that comes right out, at me anyway, is the earlier works had much, much longer to wait before what they foresaw came into being. The laser visionary works gave much shorter lead times. This tells me something about technology and the willingness of the writers to go out on a limb. Writers today have so much instant information to work with, thanks to the Internet, the 24-hour news cycle … time was, we had to go out and get our information. These days, it gets pushed at us so fast that those basements we used to blog out of in the last decade are being used to hide from the onslaught in this.

More, so much newness is feeding back into the system so fast that it’s influencing things a a much more pitched rate than ever before.

See, that’s the difference I have with the ‘SF as predictor’ trope. SF doesn’t predict anything. We see things we recognize in society and evolve to meet us. SF has never predicted anything, it’s really just given us our number, gauged our character, and the most apt SF writers have taken these traits and played with them as a happy child with Legos does, putting them together into different combinations with situations and then seeing how they react. Are they stable … or do they fall apart?

Since SF so quickly enters the pop culture these days, it goes from entertainment to zeitgeist in record time. We evolve the direction we think it shows us because it’s really not telling us anything we don’t know about ourselves; we look into SF and see ourselves reflected back. SF only exists in the future because that’s the place we’re all going anyway.

So, I don’t see SF as some sort of oracle; sure, Star Trek ‘predicted’ things like the iPad and the smart phone, but did it? We’ve always liked portable, flashy toys, and instantaneous communication and entertainment via personal devices didn’t start with Star Trek. It just picked up a well-played ball, dressed it up in chrome and flippy cover, and ran with it with inimitable style. That’s not to say that Trek didn’t do it smashingly well … it did. I just thing that Trek gets maybe a little too much credit for envisioning our personal technological future. Dick Tracy gave us the 2-way wrist radio, after all.

Rather than predicting anything, SF does a sort of odd dance with the present, whispering into our ear what things might look like, and also asking us to think about them and what they do to us. Of course, we only half listen to that. But it’s there, if we pay attention.

Maybe, like the crows we frequently make fun of, we get too obsessed with the bright shinies.

[SF_Lit] Wingrove’s Back: Chung Kuo 01-Son Of Heaven

Posted in Chung Kuo, David Wingrove, SF on November 5, 2012 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2888.Quite a long time ago (it’d seem) I’d fallen, and fallen hard, for a series by a British writer, David Wingrove, called Chung Kuo. Released through the 90s, it’s a series that depicts a future history taking place starting at the fin de siecle of the 22nd Century and extending through the middle of the 23rd. In it, the Han Chinese had, with amazing technology in tow, ascended toward domination of the entirety of Earth, covering major sections of every inhabited continent with sealed arcologies – continental Cities – made of an impossibly durable and strong plastic material called ice.

The conflicts between the author’s depiction of Han culture and European culture and the increasing demands of a global population exceeding 34 Billion-with-a-B provided the tension that drove the conflicts in the novel, both on the personal and the global level. This series extended to eight novels (seven very good ones and one unsatisfying concluding novel) and, though in reviews lauded with the best of Herbert’s Dune, never got the lasting stature it deserved.

Well, Wingrove’s back and he’s rebooting Chung Kuo. To be honest, I’m a bit late to the party; he started this back in 2010 and I’ve only now gotten to read the first novel in the sequence, Son of Heaven. 

The original novel cycle started over 100 years after the conquering of the planet by the Tyrant, Tsao Ch’un, and his continent-girdling Cities of ice, with the advent of Han ascendency hinted at by flashes of backstory. This novel, in contrast, is set in two periods and places: a post-technological Dorsetshire of 2065, and a London of 2043 that is alternatively the land of the polished, glittering, technological elite and the lower castes who have been left behind by them.

The pivotal character is a man named Jake Reed, one of 2043’s Masters Of The Universe; a financial wizard by way of William Gibson, a man who’s equal parts 1-percenter and TRON. He worked in the ‘datscape’ (a word that perhaps suggests that all the good nicknames for the noosphere have pretty much been taken) managing the wealth of nations, taking a pretty cut for himself, and leading the charmed life, pretty much insulated from the incredible poverty that lies more or less invisible from him from his chauffeured ‘hopper’ flights and behind the security of the walls of enclaved communities.

The hammer falls through the actions, though the aren’t apparent at first, of the Chinese named Tsao Ch’un, only hinted at in this first book. Essentially, everything is fine … until over the course of two days, it isn’t. Well coordinated sleepers, infiltrated throughout the Western technological and financial strata, go off, rendering the West decapitated and vulnerable; nations collapse quicker than you can say “I can’t load Facebook and I can’t Google why.”

The book itself is structured in three parts; In the first, we get to know Jake, his son, the community that took him in and the post-technological society of 2065 (essentially, S.M. Stirling’s The Change with electricity); the second book portrays The Collapse starting just before its major inflection point (the assassination of the sixtieth American President, James Griffin, at Comiskey Park) through Jake’s escape from a Collapsing London to the English countryside and his acceptance into a rural community; the third book portrays the coming of the Chinese and the invasion of the hivelike City onto the British isle.

As a beginning its particularly effective; as someone who was a fan of the original series, it’s intriguing and exciting to explore the interregnum that gave growth to the globe-spanning society of the Han in the later books.  I get the sense that Wingrove has found a publisher and an editor who are sympathetic to him telling the story the way it always should have been told. The reborn Chung Kuo has the taste of a Director’s Cut about it, a feeling reinforced by the author’s own telling of how that book The Marriage of the Living Dark, was rushed out under pressure and made to be the end of a series that it was never meant to be. After reading this first book, I’ve got the feeling that we’re about to see the story told the way he really wanted it to be told; in the beginning, I thought, why mess with what was already a great story? and now I can’t wait to get my hands on the next volume.

Maybe now, Wingrove will get the world-building approbation he really is entitled to.

[art] Leo Dillon Is No Longer With Us

Posted in art, artists, passages, SF on May 29, 2012 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2833.If you had to name, as a member of the reading hoi polloi, you (nothing personal), who had a great influence on the way SF and speculative fiction was looked at through the 60s and 70s, in terms of the gestalt … not only what was written on the page but also what contributed to the general perception, stance, expectation, the indefinable aura about the literature that not only informed the reader opening the usually-thoughtfully, sometimes-phantasmagorically decorated covers off the day but also opened the reader up to the changed environment of the story within. … I don’t know who’s name you, dear reader would come up with. But I wonder if you’d come up with The Dillons?

The Dillons – Leo and Diane – became one of the most famous illustrative artists of the speculative fiction field, beloved of by more than one author. I met their work through the books of my favorite author, Harlan Ellison; the cover of a copy of Approaching Oblivion, a collection I got through one of those ‘get-10-books-for-a-penny’ book clubs, was done by then.

If you read paperback SF through the 70s and you got an Ellison book you probably was introduced to The Dillons through the Pyramid Harlan Ellison Uniform series, a line with identically-designed covers different only by the color scheme and the cover art. The books are easy to identify: the name HARLAN ELLISON fills the upper third, designed in a typeface that seems of-the-times, with the counter in the O replaced by the number-in-series of the book itself. After the boldfaced book title and a short tagline takes up the remainder of that upper half, the lower half is reserved for the cover art.

When I’d heard that Leo Dillon had passed away, it gave me cause to think about the effect great cover art has on the reader. A book without cover art or design is fine enough – you’re going in for the meat anyway, and some books comport themselves by reputation alone. A book with bad or mismatched cover art is irritating; you feel like you’re told a lie just to get you to open a book. But cover art that speaks intimately to the subject matter inside – or at least respect it – makes you ready for the material within. It softens you up in the good way. If you opened Ellison’s No Doors, No Windows with any other sort of cover art, I don’t know if you’d be as receptive to the contents within. And each one had an easter-egg; somewhere in the cover art was a depiction of Harlan. Some were easier to find (see right) than others. I own six of them: No Doors, No Windows; Gentleman Junkie; Partners in Wonder; Spider Kiss; The Other Glass Teat; Memos From Purgatory.

Leo and Diane Dillon had a real understanding of where Harlan was trying to get to with his strange and wonderful stories. They must have. How else would they come up with cover art that so intimately suits the material? And how else would they get the intense and sincere favor of Ellison, if he didn’t think they picked up what he furiously put down?

The Dillons illustrated a lot of speculative fiction works over the years, and their work has won plaudits: at least one Hugo, two Caldecotts, Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame; the list goes on (and is provided by some Wikipedian for your convenience). I feel lessened that such a man is gone.

I’ve never met them, but I feel for Diane, in as much as I have a lifelong romance with a spouse, as well, and I can’t even begin to imagine what life would be like without her.

Leo Dillon, 1933-2012.

[sf] Reexamine Harlequin, Said The Ticktockman

Posted in art criticism, Harlan Ellison, SF on August 28, 2011 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2676.One of the most famous short stories out there, and one of the most reprinted, is Harlan Ellison’s “Repent Harlequin, Said The Ticktockman”, a short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1965. A satirical rock-and-roll meditation on regimentation and control and conformity, it seems to use nonlinear story structure to make a statement that tight control is … bad? Good? Simply is? Plants a seed of chaos? Depends on your point of view.

The conventional wisdom seems to hold that this is a sort of screed against the stifling of society by excessive control, and it’s valid to look at it that way, however, this essay which reinterprets it in the terms of the concepts of equality, unity, and the way it subverts its own message to make a deeper point about individuality

http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10294

Just read it. I’ll read this again and approach the story again with fresh eyes, which is a liberation.

[SF] A Letter From Ray Bradbury

Posted in SF, zeitgeist on August 22, 2011 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2654.Anything by Ray Bradbury is marvelous.

But a letter from him telling a young SF fan to follow his bliss?

Priceless.