Posts tagged ‘Elizabeth Anne Hull’

Frederik Pohl

 

 
By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Windycon 41 was a lot of fun for me this year, especially the session dedicated to Frederik Pohl and his impact on science fiction.

Some highlights: We opened with a solemn presentation to me of a polished brass plaque which appeared on a commemorative bench at Loncon this year by Helen Montgomery and Dave McCarty from the executive committee of Chicon 7 and ISFiC. I was truly touched.

Gene Wolfe, our friend who lived in nearby Barrington till just recently, joined the panel at the last minute, and set the tone for the panel and made the audience laugh when he talked about how upset he was when Fred and I got married, and I soon after stopped being one of the hosts of our local fan group, SFFNCS (a.k.a. Science Fiction Fans of the Northwest Chicago Suburbs, pronounced “Sphinx”). In my defense, being Fred’s wife took a lot more time than being his girlfriend! Not to mention that I was holding down a full-time job at Harper College and developing their Honors Program, as well as the fact that Fred and I did a lot of traveling together to some pretty interesting and exotic places around the world.

Fred’s long-time editor Jim Frenkel kept us focused on the description of the panel: Fred’s multifaceted contributions to the field. He revealed some of what it was like to work editorially with Fred, who could always recognize a good editorial suggestion when he received it. We all agreed that all of Fred’s experience as an editor both for magazines and for books had sharpened his fiction skills and the ability to self-edit, and his period of agenting had also made him very aware of how important marketability is to a writer’s career.

I admitted that Fred was already a Big Name Pro and had a lot of experiences that I knew about only second hand when I met him at the Worldcon in Kansas City in 1976. I had in fact, taught The Space Merchants in my SF class but changed to Gateway in the late ’70s.

Long-time Chicago-area fan Neil Rest talked about the sensation Fred made on local fans when he came with me to one of parties held every month at the apartment of George Price (of Advent:Publishers) —or perhaps it was at one of the weekly meetings on the North Side called “Thursday,” quite possibly at the home of Alice Bentley, who might have been still a teenager or at least wasn’t yet a bookstore owner. We did a lot better at remembering our feelings than actual details, as will happen over more than 30 years.

From his beginnings in the New York area in the ’30s, Fred never gave up fanac and his sense of being a fan when he became a pro. I told how thrilled Fred was at Foolscap in Seattle in 2000 where Fred and Ginjer Buchanan (then an editor at Ace) were co-fan guests of honor. They called the con the “Fred and Ginjer Show.” In the ’30s and ’40s, Fred told me many times, he was very fond of the beautiful and talented Ginger Rogers, who he said, had to do all the steps Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels.

Much more recently, Fred was also entirely thrilled in 2010 when he won a Hugo as Best Fan Writer at Aussiecon for his work in this blog. He was happy to give credit wherever due, and thanked his blogmeister, Leah A. Zeldes, who allowed him to concentrate on writing without having to worry about the technicalities of the Internet posting, as well as Dick Smith, who enabled Fred to use his obsolete word processor to write both fiction and non-fiction.

Continue reading ‘Windycon Honors Frederik Pohl’s Contributions to SF’ »

windycon41

 
Coming to Windycon this weekend? Join Elizabeth Anne Hull, Dick Smith and Leah A. Zeldes for a discussion of discussion of Fred’s many contributions to science fiction:

“As a magazine editor, a multiple-award-winning author, and fan writer, SFWA Grandmaster and member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Fred’s contributions make him a major figure of 20th and 21st-century speculative fiction.”

The panel takes place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Betty will also be signing autographs from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, and giving a reading at 4 p.m.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, Betty will appear with security expert Bruce Schneier and others on a panel, “Magic Mirrors: Surveillance in Modern Society.”

If that’s not not your thing, you can catch Dick at 1 p.m. Sunday on a panel about “How Social Media is Shaping and Changing Fandom.”

—the blog team

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Betty at Fred's Memorial Celebration

Betty at Fred’s Memorial Celebration

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

To those folks who attended the Frederik Pohl memorial service on August 2, my thanks to every one of you! I and everyone who spoke to me thought it was a moving and joyous tribute to a great man, with whom I was happy to share my life for over thirty years. Thanks also to everyone who spoke or performed for the occasion. I appreciate that you took the time and effort to participate. I will eventually post links to as much as I can of the service here on the blog.

The Fredzine I was planning to distribute for the occasion turned out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated, and so it was not ready for the service. Many thanks to Mike Page, who let me copy a selected bibliography of Fred’s work to give attendees. His critical biography of Fred’s life and analysis of his major works should be available from the University of Illinois Press. Meanwhile, I am still working on editing and assembling the zine, and if all goes well, I expect to have it done by Thanksgiving, around what would have been Fred’s 95th birthday. I think it will be worth the wait. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, my granddaughter Christine Wintczak, married Joseph McElwee the following month at St. Thomas More Church in Elgin, in another grand celebration of family and friends. The wedding itself was long enough to give it solemnity but short enough to satisfy young and old alike. The reception and banquet afterward had the best food and drinks and courteous efficient service of any large party I’ve ever attended—the hot food was served piping hot and the cold quite crispy and cold.

In particular, Steve Claussen really put the icing on the cake for me. (Steve and his daughter Melissa had provided the music to open Fred’s service and Steve had been a wedding singer at both our marriage in 1984 and our renewal of vows in 1994.) He presented me with a garter which Fred took off my leg and threw for the assembled bachelors; Steve had caught it and kept it all those years!

The Circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers, previous American Book Award winner, Knopf, New York/McSweeney’s Books, San Francisco, 2013 (ISBN 978-0-385-35139-3 (It’s available on line, in bookstores in print and e-book form and at most libraries in large print too.)

 
By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Blogger/writer Rudy Rucker called Dave Eggers The Circle “a page-turner,” explaining, “I plowed through it in two days, thinking a lot about the characters and the ideas, and when it was done, I missed having it to read.” When I read the novel last spring, my reaction my reaction was almost exactly the same, although my feelings were more complex. Other critics have called it a dystopian novel. It centers on a company called the Circle, a Twitter / Google / Amazon /Microsoft / Apple / Facebook / LinkedIn / YouTube mash-up, a company hell-bent on making us all one people, like it or not.

The protagonist, Mae Holland, lands her dream job at a relatively new and small but potentially powerful Southern California tech company and becomes an expert at her job of finding out what other people want and giving 100-percent satisfaction to them. Her transformation over the space of more than 400 pages is compelling.

Pleasing customers is only the beginning of what she must learn; she also must become a transparent member of the company and give up any other competing interests or obligations, including family, friendships, and even romantic entanglements. Sounds like a cult? She is, in fact, transformed into Everywoman for the 21st century. I don’t know whether you’ll find her sympathetic or not, but her journey is fascinating to watch and her decision at the end is thought-provoking..

The Circle raises questions about keeping up with the latest in technology as well as the issues of privacy, vulnerability, transparency, being in control of one’s destiny, our social and moral responsibility to others, and the blessing/curse of the permanence of the Cloud, and facing the consequences of decisions we make all too innocently, all of which are now in the news. These are all women’s issues, but they are more than that: they are human concerns.

pronouns

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Elizabeth
Anne Hull
 

According to AAUW, since the 1990s, a hot topic in the field of college-level feminist/gender studies is dealing with gender-specific pronouns when discussing unknown persons. (Feminists don’t all read SF, so they might not realize that Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue addressed the situation from a linguist’s perspective in the previous decade.)

Pronoun/antecedent agreement is a perplexing grammatical problem that I’ve dealt with since I began teaching freshman composition at Loyola University Chicago in the late 1960s.

Loyola being a Jesuit university, you might well understand the conservative emphasis on grammar in assessing writing and assigning grades. In fact, the grading guidelines given us teaching assistants stipulated that a paper with too many mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the conventions of Standard English — what we called basic skills — should be penalized in grading or even failed altogether, no matter how well that essay succeeded in other ways, such as organization, soundness of facts/research, clarity of thought, freshness of language, delightful sense of humor or other signs of original creativity, logical reasoning, and general effectiveness.

One cardinal sin of grammar was violating the principle that pronouns should agree in person and number with their antecedents and referents.

Mind you, it wasn’t a new problem then, either. A bit of history: this was one of the reasons that classes in English composition, usually known as 101 and 102 and sometimes called “bonehead English,” were introduced after World War II. Prior to that, professors could usually assume that only well-prepared students were admitted to colleges and universities (and legacies, of course, the sons of alumni, men who were happy with a “gentleman’s C”). From the late 1940s onward, however, GIs returning with their education benefits were enrolling in record numbers in pursuit of the American Dream

These were men (almost all were men) who, by and large, had never intended to go to college, but with the support of the grateful government and the encouragement of the American people, were willing to work hard and learn the proscriptive rules that prevailed in those early years. In hindsight, this may have been a large factor in the success of American enterprises in those years of the Greatest Generation.

Pluralizing the noun and using the plural pronouns will solve a lot of the agreement problems, but occasionally a singular noun seems essential for clarity, so I came up with my own solution, which allows the writer to be both grammatical and not seem forced. It’s simply to recast the sentence to avoid or eliminate the need for an antecedent. For example, instead of “Each applicant has to submit his own supporting documentation,” try “Each applicant must submit individual supporting documentation.”

Since English has many ways to phrase almost any idea, writers have the advantage over speakers in that they can reflect on both what they want to convey and how they choose to phrase the ideas. As true as it was in my youth and my first years of teaching, the mechanical aspects of writing are far less important than the other aspects of communication.

But it seems there will always be judgmental readers who are looking for reasons to reject the point the writer is trying to convey, and basic literacy skills are one easy way to eliminate those whose opinions we wish to ignore or discount. In my childhood, when someone rejected me, my mother always used to comfort me, “Consider the source.” But I still believe that it’s best not to alienate readers unnecessarily, and I will continue to try to avoid grammatical mistakes.

Spelling errors are another particularly easy way for those who disagree with us to reject what we have to say, because for the last several hundred years we have had standard spellings in dictionaries. Despite my tolerance for dyslexics, I admit I was comforted by fact that some young people are still trying to be correct in spelling in the age of texting.

In a record-setting regional contest of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, two outstanding students quickly eliminated the other competition and continued to spell word after word correctly. After they exhausted the list of over 60 words, local administrators requested that both children be allowed to advance to the national finals. But eventually the judges decided to continue the standoff, adding another 20-some more words, till seventh grader Kush Sharma finally beat fifth-grade Sophia Hoffman in an exciting match in Jackson County, Missouri. Let’s hope Sophia returns and tries again. The spirit of the Greatest Generation is not dead.