MidAmericon Auction Report plus Tiptree/Sheldon Birthday Links

The Tiptree Award Auction at MidAmericon II was a smashing success, thanks to so many people!


Worldcon gave us the space. Motherboard members Jeanne Gomoll and Pat Murphy (shown above on the Soap box, and also modeling the Spacebabe hoodie) did a lot of planning. Jeanne, Scott Custis, Jim Hudson, and Diane Martin transported Stuff from Madison to Kansas City. Jim also handled the sales. Many others provided essential help. And auctioneer Sumana Harihareswara cajoled almost $1500 out of the audience!

The prize item, unsurprisingly, was the signed copy of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, her most famous novel and one of her finest.

A great time was had by all!


We were pleased to see these birthday tributes to Alice Sheldon:

Leah Schnelbach talks about “What James Tiptree Jr. Can Teach Us about the Power of the SF Community” at tor. com . Schnelbach’s excellent long essay recaps Sheldon/Tiptree’s history. The piece ends with this:

I think it’s worth pointing out, though, and repeating, and underlining, and emphasizing, that Alice Sheldon, a person who felt out of joint for most of her life, found in SF a community that didn’t just tolerate her weirdness, but celebrated it. And that celebration helped her to create some of the greatest work the genre ever saw.

Tachyon Press also gives Tiptree a birthday shout-out here:

Alice adopted her “James Tiptree, Jr.” persona to protect her academic reputation. As Tiptree, she garnered immense praise for her numerous tales that often stretched the boundaries of the genre by challenging the perceptions of gender. Her many awards include two Hugo (1974 novella, “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”; 1977 novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”), three Nebula (1973 short story, “Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death”; 1976 novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”; 1977 novelette, “The Screwfly Solution”), and a 1987 World Fantasy for the collection TALES OF THE QUINTANA ROO.

Both articles are also kind enough to namecheck the Tiptree Award as part of her legacy.

The Motherboard Cooks the Books!

Fran Wilde, host of the amazing long-running podcast “Cooking the Books,” interviews three motherboard members: Jeanne Gomoll, Ellen Klages, and Debbie Notkin in a podcast entitled “Twenty-Five Years of Moving the Conversation Forward.” As you can imagine, much hilarity (and some substance) ensues.


Cooking the Books showcases the intersection between SF&F and food. Fran is a lovely, generous, and amusing host, and the whole series is terrific. You can get it on iTunes or through the link above. But go to the link, because that’s where you’ll find the recipe for Space Babe’s blueberry crumble.

Fran is also the author of Updraft, and the forthcoming Cloudbound. You can support Fran’s hard work cooking the books on Patreon. And you can always support the Tiptree Award moving the conversation forward, through the “Donate” button at the bottom of this page.

Tiptree Winner Nominated for Sturgeon Award; Cupcakes Raise Tempers, Awareness in Australia

We’re delighted to see that “The New Mother” by Eugene Fischer, co-winner of this year’s award, is also a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award. Fischer’s story is on an excellent list which also includes “Emergence” by previous winner Gwyneth Jones and “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by previous winner Kelly Link (and lots of other great stuff). Special thanks to The Sturgeon Award and SF Signal for giving us a link to the text of of “The New Mother” (see above)!

The Sturgeon Award recognizes the best science fiction short story each year. It was established in 1987 by James Gunn and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon, as an appropriate memorial to one of the great short-story writers in a field distinguished by its short fiction.


If you ever doubted the Tiptree Award’s position that holding a bake sale can be a radical act, a feminist organization at the University of Queensland has underscored the point in a powerful (and apparently threatening) fashion.


Here’s Madeline Price, writing for The Guardian (warning: her piece contains some very ugly comments from the men who were angered by the idea):

If someone had told me, one week ago today, that a simple bake sale aiming to educate students about wage disparity in Australia would rile up a university campus to the point of death threats to the organisers, would reach media sources across Australia, the UK and US, and would result in the single most successful bake sale ever to be held on campus, I would have told them not to be silly; no one cares about a bake sale.

I also would have been wrong. …

The idea was that each baked good would only cost you the proportion of $1 that you earn comparative to men (or, if you identify as a man, all baked goods would cost you $1). For example, for a woman of colour in the legal profession, a baked good at the stall would only cost you 55 cents. …

This innocuous bake sale drew a vitriol of negative, derogatory and threatening online comments from people threatened by a discussion about equality and feminism; a discussion that we now, so obviously, need to be having in a public space.

As with all keyboard warriors, however, they never materialise in real life. The actual bake sale event was filled with positivity, support and enthusiasm for starting the conversation about wage disparity, the online behaviours of others, and, most importantly, global gender equality.

But while the keyboard warriors remained behind their screens, the threat to the safety and lives of women, the silencing of women in public spaces, and the wage disparity around the world are still very real issues that impact upon women and other marginalised groups in everyday life. These are the issues that the vitriol of online comments regarding the bake sale brought to light.

The Tiptree Award has generally been remarkably cushioned from this kind of hatred and threat. We extend our support and sympathy to all the people who have not been so lucky.

N.A. Sulway’s Acceptance Speech for Rupetta

Delivered May 25, 2014, at WisCon 38 in Madison, Wisconsin:

I would like to thank Nene Ormes, firstly, for her warm introduction of Rupetta to you, and  for her role on the jury. I would also like to thank all of the jury members: Ellen Klages, who acted as the chair, Jayna Brown, Gretchen Treu and Christopher Barzak.

I would like to extend my thanks to the Motherboard of the James Tiptree Award, especially its founding members Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler, not just for their role in this year’s awards, but for their vision in establishing the award, and their ongoing commitment to bringing the works that the Tiptree jurors uncover to the world.

I would also like to send out a special thanks to the indefatigable Jeanne Gomoll, who has been an amazing support and become a dear friend. Her warmth and good cheer have made the process of organizing my trip to Wiscon a pure joy.

Finally, I would like to thank my publishers. Many authors express gratitude to their publishers. In this instance, however, this is more than just a duty I feel I need to fulfill. My gratitude to Ray and Rosalie at Tartarus Press is heartfelt and sincere. I cannot thank them enough for bringing this work to publication. Rupetta was rejected many times before it found a home. It was rejected because it had too many women characters, because it had too many queer characters, because some speculative fiction publishers felt it was too literary for them, while some literary publishers felt it was too speculative. Rosalie Parker, at Tartarus Press, believed in this work from the beginning. She and Raymond Russell, her partner at Tartarus Press, are the fairy godmothers of this book. I cannot thank them enough for their faith in the work, and their hard work in bringing it to publication.

Rupetta begins on November 11, 1619. This is not an accidental, or incidental choice. On that night, almost four centuries ago, a young man by the name of Rene Descartes had three dreams that inspired him—over the rest of his life—to attempt to develop a new, comprehensive method for perfecting human knowledge.

One of his correspondents – Poisson – writes that around this time Descartes planned to build several automaton driven by magnets. Specifically, he had envisaged constructing a dancing man, a spaniel chasing a pheasant, and a flying pigeon.
It is no coincidence that my novel, which deals in part with some of the same philosophical problems that interested Descartes, begins that night.

I want to acknowledge Descartes tonight because he also—incidentally–inspired three of my own dreams, or wishes.

I figure, as this year’s winner of the James Tiptree Award, along with all of the other amazing gifts I have received, I get to claim three wishes.

When I studied Descartes and his work when I was at university, I learned that he was the father of an illegitimate child, Francine. The daughter of a friend’s housemaid (Helena Jans van der Strom). Very little is known about the relationship between Rene and Helena, except that she became his servant. I learned that Descartes planned to have the child removed from her home and her mother in Amsterdam and taken to France to be educated. Unfortunately, Francince died of scarlet fever when she was five years old, in 1640.

Some biographers have claimed that her death haunted Descartes for the rest of his life. But his grief interests me far less than the grief of Francine’s mother.

Rupetta is in some sense a book about compromised mothering. About non-conforming mothers. About mothers who are separated from their children. About grief. And longing.

My first wish is that we—and by we here I mean feminists—learn to speak about mothering in new, honest, complex and powerful ways. Not as an essential aspect of femininity, because it is not that, or as a biological right, but as a process we, as women, are often part of; a process many of us experience as both a source of power, and a means of oppression. As an intimate and deeply private process, and a very public role.

Descartes is, of course, perhaps most famous for the ideas he laid down in his Discourse on the Method and Principles of Philosophy. It is here that he decides that the only thing we can know without any doubt is that we are thinking beings.

That we think, and therefore we are.

My second wish is that we will continue and finally complete the work of undoing the false assumption expressed so powerfully by Descartes that it is our minds—our intellects—that are our only Truth. That our bodies are merely the vessels in which we live. I want to find a way to convince you to understand that we think with our bodies, and feel with our minds.

That we feel, and therefore we are.

Finally, I want to tell you a story that is not necessarily true, but it’s a good story and that, after all, should be enough. In the last years of his life, Descartes was summoned to the court of Queen Christina of Sweden. He was to act as her tutor and intellectual companion. He travelled to Sweden by ship.

Descartes had told the captain and crew that he was travelling with his daughter. No one aboard ship, however, had heard or seen her during the voyage. One night, a terrible storm overtook the ship. The waves were as tall as mountains. The sailors were afraid for their lives. Overcome with terror, and seeking some kind of magical cure for the sea’s fury, the sailors entered Descartes’ cabin. There, they discovered a cabinet, inside which was a living doll: a replica of Descartes’s dead daughter. According to one source, she sat up and turned to face her visitors.

The sailors took the mechanical Francine up on to the ship’s deck and threw her overboard.

My third and final wish is that, one day, we will find a way to encounter the new, the unfamiliar or uncanny, without fear or superstition or terror. That we will not, in that moment when the stranger sits up and turns to us, hurl stones or throw them overboard. But instead find a way to open our minds and hearts and embrace that strangeness on its own terms. With courage, and grace, and full acceptance.

Homeward Bound

And so we headed home…with a stopover in Paris en route. Karen’s brother, who had lived in Paris, had advised us on choice of hotel, located near the Eiffel Tower. We negotiated the RER (Réseau Express Régional) trains and Metro with aplomb.  Having survived the unpronounceable streets of Warsaw, we scoffed at a few simple accent marks. We dragged our suitcases from the Metro station to the hotel, navigating cobblestone-free sidewalks. It was easy. We were seasoned travelers.

As it begins, so it ends — with suitcases dragged through the city streets.  No cobblestones, no rain — but sidewalks crowded with people. What, we wondered, were all these people doing wandering around on a Thursday evening? The restaurants were overflowing.

Exhausted and ready to be home already, we retired to our room at the Hotel Muguet and were just settling down when something happened.

What next?  Make your choice:

Option one:  We heard explosions outside the window.

Option two: We heard explosions outside the window.

Yes, there really were explosions. We opened the drapes and discovered that we had a view of the Eiffel Tower — silhouetted against fireworks. It was July 14, the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille — also known as Bastille Day.

We watched the fireworks. We laughed. We flew home.

Final questions to consider:

This trip report is written in the form of a “choose-your-own-adventure” tale, but all choices lead to the same place. Is this a cheat? Or does it reflect a belief that many paths can lead to the same end?

Is the writer (that would be me) trying to get away with something? If so, did I succeed?

Do the questions above far exceed the reach of this report? If so, why? If not, why not?

Another Visit to the Underground

Decisions are such ephemeral things. Decisions made that night did not affect our activities the next day.

Very early the next day, we caught the train to Warsaw. We did, at the station, make a rookie mistake and try asking for tickets to Warsaw rather than writing down our destination. But of course it turns out that Warsaw is actually Warszawa, which is pronounced Var-shav-a.

Of course confusion with platforms and trains and we rushed hither and yon, but aided by an elderly Pole with a complicated story, we made it to the right platform and found our way back to Warsaw (oops, I mean Warszawa). We went back to the street with the cobblestones and the guesthouse we had left the week before.

Rainbow over the Cloth Hall in Warszawa
Rainbow over the Cloth Hall in Warszawa

Having left Krakow early, we had time for sightseeing in Warszawa, where we visited the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. In 1944, Polish freedom fighters rose up against the Nazi and met annihilation and retribution. The museum tells this fascinating story. With photographs, recordings, artifacts, and more, exhibits recreate the atmosphere and events of the struggle of 1944, paint a picture of the realities of life under the Nazis, and present the Uprising as an example of the strength of the Polish spirit. The movie “Death of a City” shows Warsaw before the War — and after the Nazi backlash executed thousands of Poles and destroyed every building of importance in to Polish culture.  It’s impossible to summarize the museum (and the history it presents) in a trip report. It’s overwhelming and inspiring — adjectives that equally well describe Poland and the Polish people overall.

What next?  Make your choice: 

Option one:  Inspired by tales of how the Polish resistance used Warsaw’s sewers as an escape routes and fueled by bison grass vodka, we headed down a manhole (make that a “person-hole”) to explore the city’s underground. Eventually, we came back up and caught a plane to Paris.

Option two:  We caught a plane to Paris.

What a Handsome Devil!

Having had it with organized tours, we decided to spend the next day on a self-guided walking tour of Krakow. (Translation: we had a map and a guidebook and we started walking.)

This is a fabulous way to see a fabulous city.  You can read about Krakow in many a guidebook and web page, so we won’t provide a full travelogue. Rather, we will give you our own personal highlights:

  • In Rynek Główny (the city’s largest market square), we eat breakfast while listening to a trio of accordion players belt out the William Tell Overture as horse drawn carriages clopped past.
  • The extravagant decoration of the basilica of the Virgin Mary (or Kosciol Mariacki) warms my heart. Every square inch of the interior is decorated with gold or stars or paintings or carvings.  What could be better? Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I say.
  •  We visit Galicia Jewish Museum, which was created to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to celebrate Polish Jewish culture. The permanent exhibition, Traces of Memory, offers a view of the Jewish past that was destroyed in Poland, documents the Holocaust, and offers a look at current efforts to preserve and recreate the memory of the Jewish past in Poland today.  The museum focuses on Galicia, an area now split between the Ukraine and Poland and coincidentally, the area from which my grandfather emigrated to Canada.
  • We descend 135 narrow stone steps in a dark passageway below Wawel Castle to the Dragon’s Cave. Legend has it that a dragon menaced the city until a prince fed it a sheep’s hide filled with sulfur. The dragon ate it in a single gulp, gulped water from the Wisla River, and then exploded — a fine mix of science and fantasy.  Today, a fire-breathing bronze dragon sculpture stands by the river at the exit from the Dragon’s Cave.
  • We learn the word for ice cream (lody, and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it but at least it doesn’t have any diacritical marks).  We search everywhere in an effort to find the very best ice cream shop. Everyone needs a quest. We thought this was a good one.
  • We mispronounce and drink Żubrówka at the Singer cafe in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter. No, we do not sing — the bar is named for the Singer sewing machines that are scattered about on the tables.
  • We meet an amazingly personable devil, just outside the basilica of the Virgin Mary.
  • Back in the market square, we mispronounce (repeatedly) and drank more Żubrówka while watching performers working the crowd: an opera singer, a troupe of fire dancers, and a levitating magician.
Polish vodka poster; woman in a dress like a business suit, smoking a cigarette
Polish vodka poster

What next?  Make your choice: 

Option one: After the third glass of vodka, Pat decides she will abandon writing in favor of levitation and fire dancing.

Option two: After the third glass of Żubrówka, Karen decides she will abandon writing in favor of opera singing and playing the accordion.

Questions to consider:

Did you know that I spent a year as the marketing director at The Crucible, Oakland’s school of fire arts? The Crucible offers classes in blacksmithing, welding, glass flame working, fire eating, and fire dancing, among other things. Do you think working at The Crucible means I am likely to abandon writing in favor of fire dancing? Or do you think I’ve already gotten the fire-dancing inclination out of my system?

Do you know how Karen feels about opera singing?  Are you sure?  Have you heard us sing to the winner of the Tiptree Award? Do you want to? (Consider your answer carefully.)

Notes from the Underground

As is so often the case, the truth lies in the gray areas between two extremes. Karen and I were given two boxes of Śliwka Nałęczowska w czekoladzie. One box made it back to the USA. Over the course of our remaining travels in Poland, the other box mysteriously and gradually became lighter and lighter — until we discovered it was empty.

Polish vodka poster: Beverages in flight
Polish vodka poster: Beverages in flight

How could such a thing happen? Alien abduction, perhaps. I have heard that aliens are fond of chocolate. It is also possible that Żubrówka was involved.

But again, I digress.

The next day, we boarded a bus for Krakow and had an uneventful journey. In Krakow, we descended into the depths of the earth and met the Devil. In that order, but not like it sounds.

Our descent was into the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Feeling that it was our duty as tourists to take at least one organized tour, we signed up for a tour of the salt mine, which some say inspired Tolkien’s descriptions of the mines of Moria. The mine is a Unesco World Heritage site, after all.

First, a few pertinent thoughts.

  • We cannot pronounce Wieliczka.  Can you?
  • The mining of salt at Wieliczka began in the 13th century and continued for the next 700 years. Commercial mining stopped in 1996.
  • The mine now functions as a tourist attraction. People come from all over to see the amazing underground chapel carved out of the salt by the miners. In the tunnels and chambers are great walls of salt, statues of gnomes and popes and saints, glittering salt chandeliers and the mandatory carving of the Last Supper. There is an underground post office that takes a very very long time to deliver a postcard. (My mother can attest to this.)
  • The mine includes a labyrinth of tunnels, over 180 miles (300 km) of them, on nine different levels.
  • There’s an underground lake in the mine and an underground sanatorium where chronic allergic diseases are treated. Rumor has it that the mine reaches a depth of 1072 feet (327 meters).

The official tour does not include the sanatorium. On the official tour, you must shuffle along in a tourist group, descending a wooden stairway of 378 steps and following a tour guide for about 3/4 of kilometer, staying with the group and never lingering behind to lick the damp gray walls to make sure they really are salt….not that anyone would ever do that.

What next?  Make your choice:

Option 1: Pat and Karen dutifully stayed with the group, mailed letters from the underground post office, and returned to the surface unscathed.

Option 2: Despite having watched many horror movies in which it is fatal to leave the group, Pat and Karen snuck away in a dark tunnel, licked the walls (yes, they are salt), liberated the bored residents of the sanatorium, and went skinny-dipping in the underground lake.  Eventually, the cops were called and the group was ejected. Karen and I talked our way out of trouble and eventually returned to our hotel dripping wet and leaving salt stains on the carpet.

Questions to consider: 

Do you really think Karen and I, co-founders of the Tiptree Award, would stay with the group? Really? How much do you know about us? Have you read any of our books?  Have you read any books that won the award?

Wouldn’t Karen and I have dried off while in police custody? Why would we still be wet when we got back to the hotel? Does considering this detail influence your choice? If so, why? If not, why not?

Do you really think we would lick the walls of the mine?  Maybe I would, but Karen? I mean, she once belonged to the PTA.  Think about it.

Of Course, There Is Chocolate

Pawel, our conference organizer, seemed determined to make certain we experienced a great range of Polish culture — so we finished that day with a feast of Polish cuisine in a restored grain mill outside Lublin. We could not necessarily pronounce all the dishes that we ate, but we could (and did) enjoy them all.

The next day we returned to the university for discussion of gender and sexuality, of Hispanic SF, teaching SF, and much more, ending the day and the conference with the Awards Banquet at the Grand Hotel Lublinianka. The award presented to the Tiptree Motherboard was named for noted science fiction scholar Thomas D. Clareson, The Clareson Award has been presented annually since 1996. Past winners have included Frederik Pohl, James Gunn, David Hartwell, and Paul Kincaid.

Pat and Karen accept the Clareson Award
Pat and Karen accept the Clareson Award

At the ceremony, Karen expressed the Motherboard’s appreciation, saying, “As everyone in this room knows full well, when you join a volunteer organization you’d best expect virtue to be its own reward.  That’s not meant as a complaint.  Pat and I have loved every minute of running the Tiptree Award.  We’ve met amazing people and read amazing work and it’s all been a very good time.  But we did start the award with a specific mission, to support and encourage a kind of speculative literature we worried was not being recognized, a literature very important to us.  And it’s hard to see from the inside whether an impact has been made.  So we are enormously surprised, gratified, and grateful that you’ve chosen to honor us with this award.  It makes us hope that we are, perhaps, achieving those initial, fundamental goals.”

From its inception in 1990, the Tiptree Award has been associated with chocolate. The first award was a typewriter made of chocolate, and all subsequent awards have included chocolate. For that reason, the SFRA presented the Tiptree Motherboard with a delicious but difficult-to-pronounce addition to the usual plaque:  Plum in Chocolate or Śliwka Nałęczowska w czekoladzie.

Polish ad for chocolate beverage
Polish ad for chocolate beverage

What next?  Make your choice: 

Option 1:  Demonstrating our great will power, Karen and I transported the chocolate back to California, where we shared it with other Motherboard members Debbie Notkin, Jeanne Gomoll, Jeff Smith, and Ellen Klages.

Option 2: That night, Karen and I devoured all the chocolate, washing it down with Żubrówka, a specialty of Poland. (In English, Żubrówkais called bison grass vodka, but why call it that when the native Polish offers so many exciting diacritical marks and opportunities for mispronunciation?)

Before you make your choice, here are some questions to consider:

How do you feel about diacritical marks? If you like them, say Śliwka Nałęczowska w czekoladzie three times fast. Do you still like diacritical marks?

Is it proper to eat something you can’t pronounce? What if the item in question is chocolate? Does that change the rules?

Is unpronounceable chocolate better when washed down with an unpronounceable beverage?

Żubrówka can be mixed with chilled apple juice to make a drink known in the United Kingdom as a “Frisky Bison.” Do you think there is a name for a blend of Żubrówka and chocolate? Should there be? Or is the whole thing a very bad idea?

Time Travel of a Sort

Without further incident, we reached Lublin, a university town in eastern Poland, and found our way to the Maria Curie-Sklonowska University. There we found signs we could pronounce.  They said:  “Science Fiction Research Association: Dreams Not Only American.”

At that point, though still in Poland, we were home. We were among our own kind — the kind who consider the subversive potential of Firefly, who care deeply about ecofeminist transgression in the work of Octavia Butler and Molly Gloss, who are willing to discuss freak shows, the fictional history of ants, and so much more. Yes, it was strange to be sitting in a university classroom in Poland chatting about hive minds and interspecies dialog, but it was a very good kind of strange.

We participated in discussions of cognitive linguistics and the metaphors of mathematics.  It was heady stuff, ably organized by Pawel Frelik and supported by graduate students, junior faculty, and faculty of Marie Curie-Sklodowska University and the Catholic University of Lublin. In the program book, Pawel wrote, “not all of them converted to SF but I’m working on it.”  Based on discussions at the conference, I’d say he is succeeding.

In between lofty discussions of science fiction, we wandered the winding streets of Lublin’s Old Town, ate fabulous meals, and drank more than we care to admit. An afternoon excursion organized by the conference took us outside the city to Zamoyski Palace, a Baroque palace complex built in the 1740s and reconstructed and expanded in the early 1900s.  The interior of the palace itself is overwhelmingly opulent — marble stairways, family portraits, sculptures, elaborate stuccowork, velvet curtains, and 19th century furniture. By way of contrast, one of the outbuildings houses the Socialist-Realist Art Museum, with giant portraits of happy workers pouring milk and harvesting wheat.

Jewish Cemetery Lublin — photo by Emmanuel Dyan
Jewish Cemetery Lublin — photo by Emmanuel Dyan

We returned from Zamoyski Palace to visit a darker era of Polish history.  Lublin was founded during the 9th century and grew into a thriving town, a hub of local and foreign trade. In the fourteenth century, Jews first came to the town, part of a Jewish emigration spurred by the invitation of King Casimir (Kazmierz). Royal edicts warranted Jewish safety and religious freedom, encouraging Jews to bring skills and manpower to Poland. Over the following centuries, while Jews were often persecuted in Western Europe, the Jewish population of Poland grew

By 1939, over 40,000 Jews lived in Lublin, making up about 1/3 of the population.  The passage from the Christian to the Jewish portion of the city was Grodzka Gate. At the time of World War II, the “Jewish City” within the city had been developing for almost 400 years.

Today, an exhibition at Grodzka Gate documents Lublin’s Jewish community before the Holocaust. Titled “The Memory of the Place,” exhibits have been created from primary sources. Aerial photos and town planning documents show the extent of the Jewish quarter that was demolished by invading Nazis. In darkened hallways, small openings provide glimpses of the past in the form of hundreds of black-and-white photos of vanished people and businesses, while recordings play the sounds of Lublin, circa 1940.   Placards — each with a photo of an individual and that person’s testimonials — tell the tale of the Holocaust as it affected individuals, both Jewish and Christian.

The effect of the exhibition is hard to describe. It’s overwhelming, saddening, and impossible to comprehend. As an American, World War II is an event in the distant past: important to be sure, but distant in time. In Poland, the same event seems much more recent, much more raw.

What next?  No funny choices here, sorry.