Next year will be will the thirtieth-fifth anniversary of my single greatest contribution to my alma mater: I co-founded SSFFS, the Smith College Science Fiction and Fantasy Society.
"What!" you cry in astonishment. "Your mere presence was not enough to ensure that Smith would go down in the annals of American higher education? The simple fact that you lived in one of its dormitories, ate Tokyo Turkey Toss and fled screaming from Eggless Egg Salad Sandwiches isn't sufficient for Clio, Muse of History, to put Sophia Smith's perpetual blessing to the nation and the world right up there with Harvard? Your ownership of a piece of parchment that begins 'Collegii Smithensis' does not in and of itself elevate Smith to levels not seen since George Washington welcomed Abraham Lincoln into heaven with a solemn and not even slightly homoerotic embrace?
"What more do The Powers That Be want, a hand-engraved certificate signed by everyone from L. Clarke Seelye to Kathleen McCartney, Sylvia Plath to Sophia Smith herself attesting to your greatness and influence on your beloved school?"
To which I say, "Alas, tis true, 'tis pity. And pity 'tis 'tis true. But such is life, and I am resigned to my lot in it."
And then, with a heavy sigh, I shake my head and add, "Y'know, honestly? I could have done a lot worse than be one of the midwives to an organization that's fostered generations of young female geeks, resulted in one of the very few female-centered science fiction conventions in the United States, and is one of the oldest and largest clubs devoted to speculative fiction at any college in the Northeast. SSFFS may be full of weirdos and lunatics, but by God/dess, we've made our mark, and by and large the school is better for it!
"Besides, we're still the first and only club at a women's college that helps combat the evil influence of the sugary, processed horror known as Marshmallow Peeps, and if that ain't a perpetual blessing to the nation and the world, then what pray tell is?"
All hyperbole aside, tonight's diary, my fourth and last entry in the December Rewind series, is devoted to the literary genre that led me to band together with several other like-minded lasses, boldly cut our way through campus bureaucracy with the aid of a future Broadway producer who was big in student government, and found a club devoted to the literature we loved: science fiction and fantasy. We were girl geeks long before it was fashionable, and because we were students at a school devoted to educating women and only women, we could and did indulge our geekiness without having to worry about male geeks harassing us, questioning our credentials, or otherwise wrecking the whole experience for us because of our gender. Our numbers over the years have counted at least three professional editors, several writers, a bookstore owner, and enough SCAdians, cosplayers, con runners, gamers, and anime fen to put the lie to the mere concept of women and girls only liking SF and fantasy to please the men in their lives.
In honor of Smith, SSFFS, and the literature I love, tonight I bring you four diaries that touch in some way on science fiction, fantasy, or comic books - you know, fannish stuff. One is the saga of a Victorian novelist so bad the most influential fantasists of the 20th century read her books aloud until they choked on their laughter, the second is a list of my personal favorites coupled with a look at the World of Tomorrow as seen in 1939, the third is an object lesson in what happens when a) data is faked and b) genres are mixed with all the discrimination and taste of a schoolchild with a chemistry set, Chef Paul Prudhomme's spice mixtures, and a copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, and the fourth is a dissection of the work product and career of what is possibly the single worst artist who's ever received money from a major comic company, and yes, I am counting some of those early Jack Kirby illos before he'd quite figured out human anatomy -
The Inklings Laughed - few today remember, and even fewer find much literary merit, in the works of bestselling author Amanda McKittrick Ros. Ros, a housewife who persisted in writing despite the best efforts of everyone in the English-speaking world to get her to stop, hit and hit big after several ambiguously worded reviews by incredulous critics brought the same sort of people who love the films of Edward D. Wood, Jr., storming the bookstores looking for Irene Iddlesleigh, Delina Delaney, and subsequent masterpieces.
Known for the use of clever and inventive literary tricks like massive run-on sentences, incoherent descriptive passages, poetry that made William Topaz McGonagall look like Shakespeare, and naming all her characters after pieces of fruit (just what was the Earl of Grape up to?), Ros earned a small but significant place in literary history when members of the Inklings, the legendary group of fantasy writers that included Charles Williams, JRR Tolkien, and CS Lewish, acquired a couple of her books and read them aloud to each other as examples of how not to write. Even better, she turned the tables on her critics late in her career by writing a book where - you guessed it - a snobby litterateur who has no idea what real people like is condemned to the fires of hell.
Talk about getting the last laugh!
Welcome to the World of Tomorrow! - this one starts with a look at the 1939 World of Tomorrow exhibition in Flushing and its influence on popular culture (did you know Superman made a public appearance there?), then briefly touches on my father's love of science fiction and how he passed this love on to me when I was a young teenager. Most of the diary is a list of my personal favorites, from Citizen of the Galaxy to Pilgrimage: The Book of the People.
This is the also the one diary in this grouping that can and will get a sequel in the coming year of grace; I recently found yet more of my dad's photographs, including several of Dad in a straw boater that makes him look like an extra from The Music Man, visiting the 1939 World's Fair. I have no idea if he got to meet Superman, but knowing Dad, it wouldn't surprise me one little bit.
The Seduction of the Crossover - tonight's diary begins with a look at comic books (the redheaded stepchild of science fiction), segues into a brief look at some of the conventions of fanfiction (the redheaded stepchild of literature), and goes on to expose the fraudulent data behind the enormously influential hatchet job of a disgruntled psychologist (the redheaded stepchild of Freudianism). It ends with a look at one of the strangest examples of literary hybridism that ever appeared in print, and trust me, you do not want to miss this one if you've ever wanted to know what would happen if a bunch of superheroes ever crossed paths with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (who has no hair, red or otherwise, unless you count the appalling wig Patrick Stewart wore when he played Sejanus in I, Claudius for Masterpiece Theatre).
How Not to Draw Comics the R___ L___ Way - this diary discusses good illustration and graphic novels before going on to devote an epic amount of bandwidth to an artist who is one of the reasons why superhero comics are still often seen as the redheaded stepchild of graphic novels. This artist, who exploded on the comics scene in the early 1990's with all the subtlety of an overheated Sherman tank, never quite learned enough anatomy to draw a realistic human being. That didn't stop him from being hugely influential, arrogant to the point of hubris, and being about as uncontroversial as a pig roast at a convention of kosher and halal butchers.
WARNING: Do not click on any of the links (especially the last one) if you're drinking, because I don't carry enough liability insurance to cover medical expenses and/or equipment damage if you spit completely through your monitor. I have enough problems as it is without having to pay for damages caused by a link to a picture that takes an innocuous and otherwise blameless superhero and turns him into a microcephalic, steroid-abusing freak with no genitals and really, really bad posture.
Are you a fan? Did you ever read comic books? Is there a copy of Delina Delaney in your attic? A poster of R__ L__ used as a dartboard in your knotty pine rumpus room? Do you remember the World of Tomorrow? Would you admit it if you did? The year is almost over, so now's the time to unburden your soul....
Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:
|DAY||TIME (EST/EDT)||Series Name||Editor(s)|
|SUN||6:00 PM||Young Reader's Pavilion||The Book Bear|
|2:00 PM||What's on Your E-Reader?||Caedy|
|2:00 PM||Bibliophile's Wish List||Caedy|
|4:00 PM||Political Books||Susan from 29|
|Sun||9:30 PM||SciFi/Fantasy Book Club||quarkstomper|
|Bi-Monthly Sun||Midnight||Reading Ramblings||don mikulecky|
|MON||8:00 PM||Monday Murder Mystery||michelewln, Susan from 29|
|Mon||11:00 PM||My Favorite Books/Authors||edrie, MichiganChet|
|TUES||5:00 PM||Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left||bigjacbigjacbigjac|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||LGBT Literature||Texdude50, Dave in Northridge|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||All Things Bookstore||Dave in Northridge|
|Tue||8:00 PM||Contemporary Fiction Views||bookgirl|
|Wed||2:00 PM||e-books||Susan from 29|
|Wed||8:00 PM||Bookflurries Bookchat||cfk|
|THU||8:00 PM||Write On!||SensibleShoes|
|Thu (first each month)||11:00 AM||Monthly Bookpost||AdmiralNaismith|
|alternate Thursdays||11:00 PM||Audiobooks Club||SoCaliana|
|FRI||8:00 AM||Books That Changed My Life||Diana in NoVa|
|Fri||8:00 PM||Books Go Boom!||Brecht|
|Fri||10:00 PM||Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable||shortfinals|
|SAT (fourth each month)||11:00 AM||Windy City Bookworm||Chitown Kev|
|Sat||12:00 PM||You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews||pwoodford|
|Sat||9:00 PM||Books So Bad They're Good||Ellid|