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Yesterday Today:
SF’s Roots on View at Milford Festival

September 29th, 2017

My previous post concluded with mention of the grand finale at this year’s Milford Readers and Writers Festival and the promise of a follow up post. Here, then, are some of the talking points from our three-hour program at the Milford Theatre, a conversation that considered how science fiction came of age in Milford during the middle of the 20th century.

The story begins with the Futurians, a group of Brooklyn writers interested in moving science fiction beyond its pulp origins. Among them were James Blish, Virginia Kidd, Damon Knight, and Kate Wilhelm, who moved to Milford in the 1950s and whose homes became gathering places for fellow writers. The Blish-Kidd home (left) became known as Arrowhead, and it remains a central part of the sf world today.

The other Milford retreat, the home of Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, was known as The Anchorage (right), a place that James Blish described as “a looming, dark and slightly crumbling mansion.” It burned down decades ago but holds an important place in sf history as the the site of the original Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference. It is also the place where sf artist and filmmaker Ed Emshwiller shot The Thing from the Back Issues — a science-fiction short featuring Algis Budrys, Judith Merril, Harry Harrison, Ted Cogswell, Damon Knight, and other sf luminaries.

Last week, as part of the panel discussion at the Milford Theatre, I got the chance to screen that film and discuss it with fellow writers Gordon Van Gelder, Paul Witcover, John Grant, and Robert Levy (who, alas, is not shown in the photo below). The film is a wonderful time capsule, a window back to the early days of science fiction. You can watch it in its entirety by clicking the embedded video at the top of this post. Enjoy … and I’ll be back soon with news about another film — the Mick Garris anthology Nightmare Cinema that is currently making its way to a theater near you. Until then, scop on!

Gordon Van Gelder, Paul Witcover, Lawrence C. Connolly, and John Grant at the Milford Readers and Writers Festival

Images

  • Arrowhead Today. Photo by The 21st-Century Scop.
  • The Anchorage, circa 1955.
  • Four-fifths of the SF-Roots panel at the Milford Theatre. Photo by Christine Cohen.

Looking Ahead:
This Weekend at the Milford Festival

September 12th, 2017

Sixty-four years ago, science fiction writers Virginia Kidd and James Blish moved to Milford, PA, into a home that they called Arrowhead. It was there that Virginia Kidd founded the first literary agency devoted to the sf genre and where James Blish and colleagues such as Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm wrote stories that helped define modern sf.

Given Arrowhead’s proximity (less than a six-hour drive from my home) and the fact that that The Kidd Agency has been representing me for the past 17 years, I’m surprised I’ve yet to make a pilgrimage to Milford.

This weekend, that’s going to change.

Thanks to a generous invitation by the organizers of the science-fiction track of the Milford Readers and Writers Festival, I’ll be kicking off this weekend by attending a private reception at Arrowhead on Friday afternoon. After that, I’m scheduled to take part in reading, storytelling, and panel events that will culminate with a science fiction panel hosted by Gordon Van Gelder in the Milford Theatre on Sunday.

You can get an overview of the entire event at my previous posts here and here, and I anticipate having a full recap of the event posted at this site sometime next week. For now, heane’s a overview of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing while there.

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

If you love science fiction and you’re anywhere in the New York Metro Area this weekend, I’ll hope to see you at the Milford Festival. Until then … scop on!

Images:
Arrowhead, Long Ago. vk-agency.com.
Milford Theatre Marquee.

Celebrating the Roots of the Genre:
Pennsylvania’s Place in SF History

August 15th, 2017

Next month, I’ll be helping celebrate the roots of modern science fiction by heading east to Milford, Pennsylvania, where some of the genre’s biggest names helped establish sf as we know it today. It’s an exciting history that will be commemorated on September 15-17 at The Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

I’ll be attending as this year’s science-fiction guest of honor. Needless to say, I’m jazzed.

In the days ahead, I’ll be posting more information about the event. For now, here’s the official press release:

Milford, PA – The Milford Readers and Writers Festival is thrilled to announce that Science Fiction will be back in Milford, providing three separate Science Fiction/Fantasy Events. Milford, though people may not remember, was a bastion of science fiction/fantasy from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and the original home of the famous Milford Writers Conference for writers of science fiction. The Conference was founded by such notables as Damon Knight, Kate Williams, Virginia Kidd and Judith Merrill and held at the Anchorage, Damon Knight’s home in Milford.

Among the many famous writers who attended these Conferences are Harlan Ellison, James Sallis, Thomas M. Desch, Ann McCaffery and Algis Budrys. It is only fitting that today the Milford Readers and Writers Festival includes events that celebrate this great history.

The main offering will be held at the Milford Theater on Sunday, September 17 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and will include a slide show, a panel discussion and a Q & A session. The panel moderator will be Gordon Van Gelder, the editor and publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The panelists will include Lawrence C. Connolly, as guest of honor, the science fiction writers Paul Witcover and Robert Levy and John Grant, encyclopedist and past guest of honor.

Two additional free events will take place on Saturday, September 16. The Twilight Zone Marathon will be held at the Milford Library from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The marathon will consist of a continuous showing of the original episodes of The Twilight Zone. The second event, Beer Tasting and Readings, will be at the Dimmick Inn from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The science fiction writers featured on Sunday’s Science Fiction Panel will be reading from their novels and you can enjoy a beer while listening to the readings. There will also be drawings for SF/F books provided by the Kidd Agency and for tours of Arrowhead, Virginia Kidd’s home in Milford.

In addition to the Science Fiction Panel the Festival also includes the following, all part of the Festival Pass on sale now:

· Love Letters, a two-person award winning Broadway play performed by actors Len Cariou, and Heather Cariou, at the Historic Milford Theatre;

· Lee Child, whose Jack Reacher series has sold more than 100 million copies world wide, in conversation with Stephen Rubin, publisher and President of Henry Holt and Co.;

· Robin Morgan, award winning author, activist and feminist in conversation with journalist Farai Chideya, whose most recent book is The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption;

· Patricia Bosworth, one of the country’s preeminent biographers (Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus, Marlon Brandon, Jane Fonda) and author of a recent memoir, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan in conversation with the director of the Woodstock Bookfest, Martha Frankel, author of a memoir (Hats & Eyeglasses) and other books;

· A Plenary Panel with all the above writers in conversation with each other and the audience; and

· A Private Author’s Reception and a chance to meet and talk with all the authors from the main stage panels at the Hotel Fauchere.

Individual tickets for the Science Fiction Panel only on Sunday, September 17, are on sale now for $25 per person.

A limited number of Festival Passes valid for entry to all Festival events as well as a private Authors Reception open only to Pass holders are now available for sale at the special early bird discounted price of $125 per person.

Tickets can be purchased at the EVENTBRITE LINK and more information about the festival can be found here. (Prices for the Pass and the Science Fiction panel will increase on August 15).

In addition to the ticketed events, the festival also offers a host of free programming and events around Milford and open to the public, including “Women Writing About Their Lives,” “Restaurants that Changed America,” storytelling and children’s and young adults events at the Pike County Public Library, “Artists Writing about Art”, “Recovery from Trauma”, poetry, travel writing, conservation at Grey Towers, an open-mic event: “RAW After Dark” at Bar Louis, a “pop-up” bookstore, conversations and book-signings with local writers and more. The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

So that’s the official release. I’ll have more to share in the days ahead, but for now, I hope you’ll consider saving the date for what looks to be a terrific celebration of reading, writing, and the history of science fiction. More details coming soon. For now … scop on!

Images

Damon Knight, Anthony Boucher, and Judith Merril at the Milford Science Fiction Conference in 1956. From Aloud Magazine, October 1992.

Harlan Ellison circa 1970 from popmatters.com.

Gordon Van Gelder from orbooks.com

The Twilight Zone circa 1959

“The Wizard and the Dragon” by John Longendorfer, from milfordreadersandwriters.com