Finding material eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards

EDIT: Time has moved on and nominations for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards have now closed. If you are looking for how to find the finalists online, click here.
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The deadline for nomination to this year’s Hugo Awards is fast approaching. As well as works from 2019, people can also nominate works from 1944 for the 1945 Retro Hugos.

Much of the short fiction eligible for the Retro Hugos is available on the Internet Archive, where scans of the 1944 magazines can be read online or downloaded as PDFs. On his SF Magazines blog, Paul Fraser has posted links to a vast number of 1944 works eligible for the 1945 Retros. Cora Buhlert has been posting reviews of Retro eligible material on her Retro Science Fiction Reviews blog and has also compiled a monster spreadsheet of eligible material, with some links to where the items can be read.

One approach to nomination, if you have the time, is to browse through Internet Archive scans of magazines such as Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Planet Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales and see if anything takes your fancy. Aside from the stories themselves, that will also expose you to the bizarre products advertised to 1940s fans.

It can be difficult to see the wood for the trees when there is so much fiction eligible for the Retro Hugos. I have below posted links to material that has been frequently reprinted and anthologised, as this means people are more likely to have read it and be in a position to nominate. However, the items below are not necessarily the best science fiction and fantasy items of 1944. Trawling through the lists linked to above or through the Internet Speculative Fiction Database may well yield other undiscovered gems.

One anthology that has shaped opinion regarding the key stories of 1944 is Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 6 (1944), edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. Items appearing in this collection are flagged below.

1944 Short Stories

For Hugo Award purposes a short story must be less than 7,500 pages in length. Here are a selection of 1944 science fiction and fantasy short stories, with links to scans of the magazines they appeared in where these are available.

A. E. van Vogt produced a lot of fiction in 1944. His short story “Far Centaurus” (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1944) appeared in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology and has been extensively reprinted. Other 1944 short stories of his include “The Rulers” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944), “The Harmonizer” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944), “A Can of Paint” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944), and “Juggernaut” (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944).

Fritz Leiber is particularly known for his horror and fantasy work. His short story “Sanity” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944) appeared in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology and has been extensively reprinted. In 1944 he also published the following short stories: “Ervool” (The Acolyte, Fall 1944), “Taboo” (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1944), “Thought” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1944), and “Business of Killing” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944).

John R. Pierce appears to have published just one short story in 1944, this being “Invariant” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944). It appears in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology.

Clifford D. Simak has two of his 1944 short stories in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology: “Huddling Place” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1944) and “Desertion” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944). Both of these would subsequently be incorporated into his City novel. In the same year he also published the standalone short story “Lobby” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944).

Lester del Rey‘s short story “Kindness” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944) is another widely reprinted story that subsequently made its way into the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology.

Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore were a married couple who sometimes wrote together and sometimes separately. Completely disentangling who wrote which work is not always easy, as Moore sometimes published works under her husband’s name (he commanded better page rates). They also both used an array of pseudonyms. Writing together in 1944 they published “Housing Problem” (Charm, October 1944 (online source not found)) under Kuttner’s name. Writing as Scott Morgan, Kuttner himself published “Trophy” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944) and, as Kelvin Kent, “Swing Your Lady” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944). Under his own name he also published “The Eyes of Thar” (Planet Stories, Fall 1944).

There are no stories by Isaac Asimov himself in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology, perhaps due to modesty on his part. Nevertheless, 1944 saw him publish the short story “The Wedge” (Astounding Science Fiction October 1944), which as “The Traders” found its way into his novel Foundation. Meanwhile the robot story “Catch That Rabbit” (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1944) was subsequently included in the anthologies I, Robot and The Complete Robot.

Ray Bradbury also did not make it into Asimov & Greenberg’s anthology, perhaps because his 1944 short stories are more weird than science fiction; weird is nevertheless still eligible for the Retro Hugos. He wrote a lot in 1944. His short stories “The Sea Shell” (Weird Tales, January 1944), “The Lake” (Weird Tales May 1944), “I, Rocket” (Amazing Stories, May 1944), “There Was an Old Woman” (Weird Tales, July 1944), “Bang! You’re Dead!” (Weird Tales, September 1944), “The Jar” (Weird Tales, November 1944), and “Undersea Guardians” (Amazing Stories, December 1944) have all been extensively reprinted. Less reprinted are his stories “The Monster Maker” (Planet Stories, Spring 1944), “Morgue Ship” (Planet Stories, Summer 1944), “Lazarus Come Forth” (Planet Stories, Winter 1944), “And Then—the Silence” (Super Science Stories, October 1944), and “Reunion” (Weird Tales, March 1944).

Robert Bloch is another writer of weird fiction, known today for his much later novel Psycho and his association with H.P. Lovecraft. In 1944 he had two short stories published in Weird Tales, both of which have reappeared in a good few anthologies:
“The Devil’s Ticket” (Weird Tales, September 1944) and “The Bat Is My Brother” (Weird Tales, November 1944).

Another associate of H.P. Lovecraft active in 1944 was August Derleth. His short stories “A Gentleman from Prague” (Weird Tales, November 1944) and “Pacific 421” (Weird Tales, September 1944), have also found their way into a number of anthologies.

Malcolm Jameson‘s science fiction writing drew on his experience in the US Navy. His short story “Tricky Tonnage” (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1944) has been extensively reprinted in both collections of the author’s work and in anthologies of vintage science fiction. The “Hobo God” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944) has also been picked up by other anthologists.

Fredric Brown had a novelette included in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology, of which more later. In 1944 he also published the three short stories “The Yehudi Principle” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944), “Nothing Sirius” (Captain Future, Spring 1944), and “And the Gods Laughed” (Planet Stories, Spring 1944), all of which have been reprinted through mostly in anthologies of Brown’s work.

Like many science fiction writers Frederik Pohl started out as a fan, one of the New York Futurians. By 1944 he was writing his own fiction. His short story “Double-Cross” (Planet Stories, Winter 1944), published under the pen name James MacCreigh, has not been widely reprinted, but it does have its admirers. The year also say his story “Darkside Destiny” printed in the June issue of the Canadian version of Super Science Stories. That issue is not available online, but the story was reprinted in the April 1949 issue of Super Science Stories.

Other pieces of 1944 short fiction that did not appear in magazines but which people may previously have encountered include Lord Dunsany‘s short stories “A Cricket Problem” & “By Command of Pharaoh” (which both appeared in the London Evening News in 1944 before later making their way into anthologies of Dunsany’s work). Elizabeth Bowen meanwhile wrote the short stories “Mysterious Kôr”, “The Inherited Clock”, “The Happy Autumn Fields”, & “Green Holly”, which appeared in various locations in 1944 before being collected in the anthology The Demon Lover and Other Stories and other collections of her work.

1944 Novelettes

For Hugo Award purposes a novelette is a science fiction or fantasy story between 7,500 and seventeen 17,500 words. 1944 was something of a bumper year for novelettes: readers should not struggle to find material worth nominating here.

Cleve Cartmill‘s novelette “Deadline” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944) appeared in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology. It is famous as the story that caused the FBI to raid the offices of Astounding and investigate Cartmill and some of his associates, because the details of a city-destroying bomb were a bit too similar to what was then being developed in Los Alamos. Cartmill was however not a nuclear spy, his technical information sourced from unclassified scientific journals.

Fredric Brown‘s “Arena” (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944) inspired the Star Trek episode of the same name, so much so that Brown was given a writing credit.

Leigh Brackett is now perhaps most famous for her work on the script of The Empire Strikes Back. In 1944 she was more of a crime than a science fiction author, but 1944 saw her publish the novelette “The Veil of Astellar” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spring 1944), which was subsequently included in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology. She also published the novelette “Terror Out of Space” (Planet Stories, Summer 1944).

Clifford D. Simak‘s novelette “City” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944) subsequently became the first full chapter in his novel City and is another story compiled by Asimov & Greenberg in their anthology. In 1944 as part of the City series he also published the novelette “Census” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944).

Lester del Rey‘s novelette “Though Dreamers Die” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944) was not blessed by inclusion in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology but has seen extensive reprinting, particularly in anthologies dealing with robots and thinking machines.

Lewis Padgett was a pseudonym used by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner. Their novelette “When the Bough Breaks” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944) appears somewhat reminiscent of their 1943 classic “Mimsy Were The Borogoves”, with its account of parents increasingly baffled as their child develops in untoward ways. Moore also wrote the novelette “No Woman Born” (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1944), an early exploration of how someone holds onto their humanity when their brain has been transferred into a robot body. Both of these were included in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology. Henry Kuttner’s novelette “The Black Sun Rises” (Super Science Stories (Canadian version), June 1944 (reprinted in Super Science Stories, January 1949)) and their jointly written (as Lawrence O’Donnell) “The Children’s Hour” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944) are less widely reprinted.

Isaac Asimov‘s novelette “The Big and the Little” (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944) subsequently became “The Merchant Princes”, closing chapter of his novel Foundation.

Robert Bloch produced a swathe of novelettes in 1944, of which the most reprinted are “Iron Mask” (Weird Tales, May 1944) and “The Beasts of Barsac” (Weird Tales, July 1944). Less reprinted are “It’s a Small World” (Amazing Stories, March 1944) and the two 1944 novelettes Bloch published in his more lighthearted Lefty Feep series, “Lefty Feep’s Arabian Nightmare” (Fantastic Adventures, February 1944) and “Lefty Feep Does Time” (Fantastic Adventures, April 1944).

August Derleth‘s two Cthulhu Mythos themed novelettes “The Trail of Cthulhu” (Weird Tales, March 1944) and “The Dweller in Darkness” (Weird Tales, November 1944) have been extensively reprinted, with the former lending its title to several collections of Derleth’s work (and more recently a roleplaying game).

Malcolm Jameson‘s novelettes “Alien Envoy” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944), “Blind Man’s Buff” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944), and “The Bureaucrat” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944) have all enjoyed a degree of anthologisation.

Writing as Dick Wylie, Frederik Pohl gave us the novelette “Highwayman of the Void” (Planet Stories, Fall 1944), which, like his 1944 short stories, has not seen much reprinting but has nevertheless received its share of praise.

Olaf Stapledon is best known for his brainy SF novels, but in 1944 he published the novelette “Old Man in New World”. It can be found in collections of Stapledon’s writing.

1944 Novellas

A Hugo eligible novella is a science fiction or fantasy story of between 17,500 and 40,000 words.

Theodore Sturgeon‘s novella “Killdozer!” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944) tells of a bulldozer possessed by a murderous alien intelligence. It is the penultimate story in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology.

A.E. van Vogt‘s novella “The Changeling” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944) appears to be another of his books about people with amazing powers. It was subsquently published as a short standalone novel.

Leigh Brackett‘s novella “The Jewel of Bas” (Planet Stories, Spring 1944) has appeared in many collections of her work.

Henry Kuttner‘s 1944 novella “A God Named Kroo” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944) has not been as widely reprinted as some of the other works by him or C.L. Moore.

The children’s writer Enid Blyton produced the novella Tales of Toyland. This story of living toys is not available online in its entirety but the Enid Blyton Society website has a summary and some illustrations. As with much of Blyton’s work, it appears to be a curious mixture of charming and magical elements combined with aspects that are extremely problematic to a modern reader.

Murray Leinster (the pen name of William Fitzgerald Jenkins) was a prolific author who wrote science fiction but also literature in other genres. In 1944 he published the novella “Trog” (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944).

Ross Rocklynne was another prolific author of science fiction’s Golden Age, who many years later made a post-retirement foray into New Wave SF for one of Harlan Ellison’s anthologies. In 1944 he published two novellas, “The Giant Runt” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Summer 1944) and “Intruders from the Stars” (Amazing Stories, January 1944).

1944 Novels

Hugo-eligible novels must be at least 40,000 words. Here are just some of the science fiction and fantasy novels published in 1944.

Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord, by Olaf Stapledon, deals with a dog who has had his intelligence raised to the level of people and his interactions with his human friends and enemies, a considerably more domestic tale than the author’s other cosmic novels.

Dorothy B. Hughes is primarily known as a crime writer, with several of her novels adapted into film noirs. Her novel The Delicate Ape strays into science fictional territory, dealing as it does with an imagined post-war future, with a sudden murder threaten to disrupt the international force overseeing the occupation of Germany.

Land of Terror is the thrill-powered title of the penultimate novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series. The novel is out of copyright in Australia and can be read on that country’s Project Gutenberg.

Writing as Kenneth Robeson, the author Lester Dent continued to produce a prodigious number of Doc Savage novels: According to Plan of a One-Eyed Mystic, Death Had Yellow Eyes, The Derelict of Skull Shoal, The Whisker of Hercules, The Three Devils, The Pharaoh’s Ghost, The Man Who Was Scared, The Shape of Terror, Weird Valley, Jiu San, Satan Black, and The Lost Giant. The summary of these stories on Wikipedia suggests they are tales of unparalleled thrill power, but perhaps also displaying some of the more problematic attitudes prevalent in the 1940s.

René Barjavel’s Le voyageur imprudent was much later translated into English as
Future Times Three. It has been claimed as the first story in which someone travels back in time to become their own ancestor.

Robert Graves is perhaps most famous as the author of I, Claudius, but in 1944 he published The Golden Fleece (subsequently reprinted as Hercules, My Shipmate), a comic retelling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts.

Aldous Huxley is most famous to science fiction fans as the author of Brave New World. 1944 saw his novel Time Must Have a Stop roll of the printing presses. It has a ghost in it so might tenuously count as fantasy literature.

David V. Reed wrote for Batman in the 1950s and 1970s. In 1944 he brought out two novels with science fiction and fantasy themes. Murder in Space deals with a murder, in space, and can be read in the pages of Amazing Stories, May 1944. The Metal Monster Murders (subsequently reprinted as I Thought I’d Die and The Thing That Made Love) deals with a strange bay dwelling monster that may or may not be preying on local women; Dan Stumpf reports that the book is curious in its use of meta-narrative devices and far less lurid than its covers suggest.

In 1944 E. Mayne Hull and A. E. van Vogt were married to each other and together they wrote The Winged Man, which was serialised in the May and June issues of Astounding Science Fiction. The novel concerns the crew of a submarine who travel 23,000 years into the future and find themselves caught up in a war between bird people and fish people.

As well as her short fiction Leigh Brackett also found time to write her first novel, Shadow Over Mars, which first saw print in Startling Stories, Fall 1944. Dealing with a Martian revolt against human agents of “the Company”, the book appears to have an anti-colonial theme and to echo the anti-corporate themes of later SF.

Renaissance, by Raymond F. Jones, has been reprinted (sometimes as Man of Two Worlds) and translated into many foreign languages. In 1944 it was published in serial form in the July, August, September, and October issues of Astounding. Opening in a computer-organised utopian society, the reader soon discovers that things are somewhat more dystopian than they initially appear.

Days of Creation appeared first in the pages of Captain Future, Spring 1944, before subsequently appearing as The Tenth Planet. Published as by Brett Sterling, it was actually written by Joseph Samachson, who usually wrote as William Morrison. This is a pulpy tale of space travel, detective work, memory loss and mistaken identity.

Eric Linklater’s The Wind on the Moon is a British children’s novel about two girls getting up to magical and fantastical scrapes while their father is away at the war. The book won the Carnegie Medal in its year of publication.

William Croft Dickinson’s Borrobil is a children’s book about some youngsters who stumble into a magical world. While it has barely been reprinted and is long out of print, it appears to have had an effect on at least some of its readers.

And that’s it. Good luck and have fun nominating! Nominations close on 13 March 2020 at 23:59 Pacific Daylight Time (02:59 Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 UTC/Irish Time, and 19:59 14 March 2020 New Zealand Daylight Time). To nominate you need to either have been a member of last year’s Worldcon in Dublin or have been a member of the CoNZealand prior to the start of this year. Eligible nominees should already have received instructions on how to go about nominating.

image source:

Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 6 (1944), cover illustration by Oliviero Berni: Wikipedia

Octocon 2019

Information
My write-up of this year’s Worldcon is almost but not quite complete. Since then I also attended Titancon/Eurocon in Belfast, but rather than write about that or my last day at Worldcon I am now going to leap ahead to a discussion of this year’s Octocon, which took place a week ago. This is the Irish national science fiction convention, normally taking place over a whole weekend but this year reduced down to one day, partly because some of its big programme items had temporarily migrated to Worldcon, notably the Golden Blasters (a competition for short science fiction films) and the Vault of Horror (man with cropped hair and stick shouts at audience members while playing scenes from bad films). This year’s Octocon was pitched as a quiet post-Worldcon catch-up for Irish SF fans and also as a con for people who are averse to enormocons. As with last year it took place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown, with Janet O’Sullivan and Raissa Perez co-chairing.

After the opening ceremony, the first programme it, I attended was the Sunday Service, in which Janet O’Sullivan and James Brophy presented a rofflesome recap of the year in SF. This unfortunately served to remind me of how thanks to my boring World War 1 blog and time spent doing Worldcon stuff I largely missed all the big picture films they mentioned (though frankly I was also washing my hair every night I otherwise had free to see the latest superhero film).

Next I found myself attending a panel on the Fae in popular culture. There always seems to be a fair bit of Celtic fantasy Leprechaun fairy stuff at Octocon; this year it was the overall theme of the convention, with a number of programme items touching on the fair folk. In response to a question the interesting point was made that Ireland’s greater wealth of hidden people lore exists mainly because it was extensively written down in the Middle Ages. It was also noted that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Suggestions were made that people might want to investigate Dúchas, the Irish digital folklore project, and perhaps even volunteer time to assist in the transcription of items from its manuscript collection.

A panel entitled Preserving Nature in SFF Futures looked at ecologically themed SF, something which has been on trend for a while and which I suspect we will be seeing more of in years to come. The subject can be a difficult one, with it being very easy to just fall into writing dystopian grimness. One good point from the audience was that narrative conventions tend to focus on individuals but combatting the ongoing climate crisis requires collective action, something a bit more difficult to represent in fiction. There is also the danger of pushing people into the slough of despond by painting such a convincing picture of the horrors of climate collapse that they are left feeling helpless and without agency.

A couple of fictional works were mentioned at that panel that I though might be worth investigating. Peadar Ó Guilin mentioned Stephen Baxter’s novelette ‘On the Orion Line’, where perpetual war with aliens arises from humanity’s depletion of resources and need for continuous expansion to maintain its civilisation. John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up deals with near future civilisational breakdown due to ecological collapse and resource depletion (in a manner perhaps similar to Harry Harrison’s brilliant Make Room! Make Room!). The commercially unsuccessful film Downsizing was mentioned as one that attempts to look at the personal implications of the approaching end. Even The Hunger Games was cited both for its warnings that economic and political systems can be hard to remove (but also its prescient suggestion that one girl can make a difference).

I do find myself wondering whether the fundamentally depressing nature of climate collapse fiction means that readers will tire of the subgenre. I was struck previously by Morgan Hazelwood’s write-up of a Worldcon panel on Hopepunk, another emerging subgenre, in which writers offer at least some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. There is obviously a danger of switching from helpless despondency to complacency, but I think to make action possible to avert or minimise ecological catastrophe there needs to be some sense that the situation is not completely hopeless.

A writery panel on Suspending Scientific Disbelief looked at how far SFF writers can get away with flying in the face of established scientific fact. However one interesting point for me was when the panelists were invited to bring up examples of scientific facts so bizarre that they would be hard to include in a story. My favourite one mentioned was by Edmund Schluessel, who revealed that the resonating frequency of the cable in a space elevator is related to the resonant frequency of the planet it lifts from, so by twanging the cable one could make the planet explode, or something like that. More generally the point was made by Michael Carroll that while a good plot can survive bad science, there is only so much scientific implausibility the reader can take before they go “Ah here now come on”. I was also interested by the panelists’ mention of The Martian (book and film), in terms of how it dealt with the psychology of the abandoned astronaut and not just the purely physical stuff (which sadly has been somewhat superseded by scientific discoveries since).

And then to a panel on Romance in SFF. I’ve always liked romantic plots in SF and fantasy genres, at least in theory, as they suggest that the human characters are more than just problem-solving automatons. To some extent though I thought this panel talked more about romantic fiction (a separate genre) rather than SFF with romantic elements. Several of the panellists write romantic fiction, a genre with its own set of conventions (one of which mentioned being the Happily Ever After ending). My feeling however is that the appearance of romance in SFF does not require an adherence to romantic fiction genre conventions: the romance in SFF can mirror the romance in real life, where people aren’t always looking to live happily ever after or do not always manage to, and so on.

Nevertheless, the discussion of romantic fiction was fascinating. It is not a genre with which I have much familiarity, but I was struck by Ruth Long’s discussion of the idea people keep having that they could start writing Mills & Boon novels as a way of turning a quick buck. Long does not (I think) write Mills & Boon novels herself but she noted that for a writer they present some pretty unique challenges, with a rigid house-style and required set of characters and plot elements within which a writer is meant to produce something that the book’s readers will not consider a rehash of previous novels. That came across like a form of constrained writing akin to that practiced by Georges Perec and those Oulipo people. I was also reminded of a BBC News article some time back about Roger Sanderson, the one man who has successfully written for Mills & Boon, which provided further insights into the world and its readers’ expectations.

There was some discussion of what counted as examples of good romance in SFF, with Han Solo & Princess Leia being held up as the gold standard. I’ve always found that one of the more tiresome elements of the original Star Wars films, but I’m not sure whether that is because I find it reactionary or whether it is because fundamentally I can’t identify with Han (this in particular may be a romance designed to appeal to girls). For contrast, in my notes I quickly listed the first appealing romantic SFF plots that occurred to me, and here they are:

– Tarrant and Servalan in Sand, an episode of Blake’s 7 written by Tanith Lee. Notable for being one of the few moments in which the Servalan mask slips.
– Eowyn and Faramir in Lord of the Rings. Sad people find each other.
– Laurie and Dreiberg in Watchmen. OK maybe this is a problematic fave, but it is interesting as an example of how the dorky guy getting the girl does not actually resolve his problems and instead leads them down a whole rabbit hole of deeply problematic behaviour.
– K (as played by The Human Corgi) and Joi in Bladerunner 2049. Sad love between two non-humans, at least one of which may not actually be self-aware.
– The unnamed space traveller and the girl he left behind in ‘Spirit of the Age‘, by popular band Hawkwind.
– No spoilers, but a significant part of the plot of now somewhat forgotten film Strange Days is driven by the romantic travails of the male lead.
– Buckaroo and giant pound coin in Pounded By The Pound: Turned Gay By The Socioeconomic Implications Of Britain Leaving The European Union. Love is real, despite Brexit.

And then to Irish Sidhe 101, a talk by Lora O’Brien on the folklore, traditions and history surrounding the fairy folk in Ireland. Lora O’Brien describes herself as a Draoí (not a Druid) and has what might be called neo-pagan beliefs, including that the fairy folk have a real existence. She was also rigorous in her reference to the history of manuscript sources of information about beliefs surrounding them. I was struck by her mention of the Saga of Fergus Mac Léti, a very early manuscript that has descriptions of a class of little person somewhat similar to kitsch modern depictions of Leprechauns, but different in that they were associated with coastal areas and the sea; to me this illustrates how cultural beliefs shift over time.

Billy Edwards update
The last full panel I went to looked at how the terrifying stories of yore find themselves transformed over time into cute bedtime stories. Disney was particularly blamed here, with that studio having so taken over fairy tales that for many people the Disney version is what they think of as the definitive version of the story (this is not always a bad thing perhaps, given how fundamentally unpleasant the original version of Sleeping Beauty is, which must surely be the case for other stories as well). When the panelists were asked about stories or monsters from other traditions that might be worth retelling or recycling things went into pretty bizarre territory. Mention was made of some monster from Swiss folklore that was a giant cow’s udder covered in eyes, which sounds like something from the worst nightmare of HP Lovecraft (sadly I can find no pictures of or references to this online).

The con ended with the closing ceremony and round-up of upcoming events, at which it was announced that after many years of chairing Janet is stepping down, with Raissa chairing alone for next year, which will be Octocon’s 30th anniversary. I then had to return home to attend to the needs of my cat, who had made a surprise appearance in The Observant Octopus. She is still basking in her new-found fame and has completely lost the run of herself.

image sources:

Woman with great hair fleeing gothic house (The Pulp Librarian, Twitter)

Pounded by the Pound (Goodreads)

Helpful Cat