Pixel Scroll 8/3 Crisis in Infinite Victories

A Hollywood bomb that made money, a cable hit with a future, and the perpetual love feast that is the Worldcon, all in today’s Scroll.

(1) James Earl Jones played B-52 bombardier Lt. Lothar Zogg in Dr. Strangelove.

It was his seventh professional credit. In five of his first 10 roles he was cast as a doctor. That early typecasting wasn’t enough to get him the part of Dr. Strangelove himself, though… Jones first appears in this YouTube clip at :40.

James Earl Jones would establish his greatness as an actor a few years afterwards on Broadway, earning a Tony as the lead in The Great White Hope, and an Academy Award nomination in the film version of the play. Because of his prominence in mainstream entertainment, gigs like voicing Darth Vader or Mufasa in The Lion King seem like sidelines, however, Jones has often worked in genre, fantasy and offbeat productions.

He played alien abductee Barney Hill in a 1975 TV movie, Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian, the warrior Umslopogaas in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), reclusive author Terence Mann in Field of Dreams (1989), and also has been in many obscure genre and animated productions.

(2) J. Michael Straczynski, interviewed by Comic Book Resources, is cautiously optimistic about a second season of Sense8.

While the streaming service hasn’t officially given the green light to second season, a promising gesture occurred when Netflix hosted a “Sense8″ panel during the Television Critics Association summer press tour with cast and creators in attendance, including Straczynski who updated the status of a possible renewal. “We’re still awaiting word,” he said on stage. “We’re in the process. We’re waiting for a final determination. We’re cautiously optimistic, but ultimately it’s Netflix’s call.”

If the call does come, Straczynski said he and the Wachowskis have already given plenty of thought to the next phase of the “Sense8” universe. “We’re looking at expanding that as far as logic goes,” he said. “What’s kind of fun about the characters is that what they’re sharing are not necessarily [powered] – like, in other concepts, which might be superpowers, flight. They have ordinary abilities, and we’re trying to say that there is value and merit and power in [that] – whether you’re an actor or you are a martial arts person or a bus driver, you have something to contribute.”

(3) You have til tomorrow to bid on a copy of the American first edition of Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Currently up to $2,400.

twenty thousand leagues vern

(4) “7 Science Fiction Publishers that Pay $750+ for Short Stories” seems to have valid info (I checked the Analog entry and it is good) even if the page itself is an ad for writing jobs.

(5) Today’s birthday boy – Clifford D. Simak, three-time Hugo winner, for “The Big Front Yard” (1959), “Grotto of the Dancing Deer” (1981), and one of my very favorite sf novels, Way Station (1964). He was named a SFWA Grand Master, received a Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, and won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.

After the original Dean of Science Fiction, Murray Leinster, passed away, Isaac Asimov considered only two writers had earned the right to succeed to the unofficial title, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Clifford Simak

Clifford Simak

(6) Artist Bob Eggleton predicts the demise of the Worldcon art show in “We LOVE Worldcon….but here’s what happened…”

Back in the 1980s, it was commonplace for us Pro Artists to schlep or ship our work to the convention. The 80s was a great time,  SF looked good,  major authors were doing major works, the covers were the best they’d ever been.  Costs were low.  Even in the 90s it was still viable. I can remember in 1996 shipping 3 large boxes of artwork to the LACon of that year in Anaheim.  It was a lot of fun, I won a Hugo in fact. The boxes cost me something like $300.00 each way for a total of $600 and change.  I made something like $4500 in the show, so including everything, I still made money.

….It’s the shipping costs that it all comes down to vs the return in sales that are not always congruent. So while people ask “What happened to all the name artists?”….it’s simply cost that we can’t do this anymore. My personal view is also that, Worldcon has changed and few people are interested in the physical art like they used to be, with all the interest in digital media. And it has become a lot of work to prepare for these events. My memories are long and I will always remember the good times, but, they’ve passed. I see a future of an artshow-less Worldcon, due to insurance costs and lack of manpower and, as digital art becomes the mainstay, a lack of physical art.

(7) Dave Freer’s “Show me” at Mad Genius Club is a one-man roundup post.

In this case I’m talking about all those folk who have been telling us ‘we’re doing it wrong’. You know precisely the sort of individuals I’m talking about. They’ll tell me I’m an evil cruel man for killing a chicken or a wallaby… but they have never done it. They’ve never been faced with a choice of that, or no food (let alone meat). They buy a product in the supermarket… which magically makes it appear in the freezer. They’ll tell you that you did your book all wrong and that it is terrible and full of typos… but they haven’t written one. Or if they have, they didn’t have to survive the mill of the slush-pile as I did (or self-pub), but thanks to their ‘disadvantages’ and connections had a publisher pay an editor to help, and proof reader to clear some of those typos. They’ll tell you that the puppies efforts are dragging sf back in time (yes, JUST in time), yet they’ve done nothing to alter the catastrophic plunge of sf/fantasy sales from traditional publishers. If you force them to confront the figures showing they’ve been part of excluding anyone to the right of Lenin from traditional publishing and the various awards (which, it seems extremely likely, downgraded the sale-value of those awards, and the popularity of the genre… they’ll tell you there might be a problem (but of course nothing like as bad as you make it out to be) and we, the puppies just did it wrong.

(8) But never let it be said the Puppies haven’t left their noseprint on the field. Dave Hicks’s cover art for Novacon 45’s progress reports is themed for GoH Stan Nicholls’s Orcs fantasies. Here’s the topical #2.

Art by Dave Hicks.

Art by Dave Hicks.

[Thanks to David Langford and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Snowcrash.]

341 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/3 Crisis in Infinite Victories

  1. Thirded by Nigel ::shakes fist::! and contributing editor too, Woohoo!

    ETA: Pleeeeeease let there be a second season of Sense8 (that keeps up to the first season). It was truly one of the more impressive works I’ve seen on TV in recent times, genre and non-genre included.

  2. Clearly, Dave Freer deserves a Hugo for Best Dead Wallaby.

    It’s a conspiracy, denying him an prestigious award just because he didn’t have anyone to fix his typos, like those privileged wallaby killing dilettantes.

  3. If clearing typos makes me ‘left of Lenin,’ let the games begin. But I do wonder, aloud, what meds Dave Freer is failing to take.

  4. Sorry, while I’m sure that the Freer contains a multitude of interesting things, I’m gonaa wait and hope for someone to do a fisking/ excerpts. Prose-wise, he’s about as poor as Paulk’s Impaler-persona writing, with added meandering, “wait, was there supposed to be a point?”, and “how did you get here from there” values.

    ETA: Regardless, while I’m unsure of wallaby shooting, I do have a healthy respect for roo shooters (the legitimate ones anyway). There’s some severe restrictions on where on the roo it can be shot in order to constitute a good and sellable kill, and to do that to a moving target multiple times a day takes an inordinate amount of skill

  5. Oh boy, can I relate to Bob Eggleton’s comments about Worldcon art shows. My wife has been an SF&F artist since the late 1970s, and she did well at conventions in the 1980s and into the 90s (excepting getting ripped off at ConFrancisco in a smash & grab in 1993, losing over $2K in cash), but at the last Worldcon in Chicago she counted herself lucky to get just over $1,000 in sales. Thankfully she was crashing with a friend on Chicago’s north side and otherwise being her usual frugal self, she made more than the trip cost and had a nice time chatting with Delphyne Woods who was one of the first artists she met in fandom in the Midwest. The memories are sweet, certainly. But the money these days, not so much.

  6. …somebody called him evil for killing a wallaby. Okay.

    Was this a special wallaby? Did he do it for fun? I mean, if he’s maliciously clubbing people’s pet wallabies in front of them, then yeah, that’s pretty bad. Also bizarre.

    And if it was an endangered rock-wallaby, that’s illegal. But if he’s just eating ordinary non-loved non-endangered wallabies, then hey, you do you, man. Kangaroo’s delicious, I imagine wallaby’s much the same, only shorter.

    …people have the weirdest hang-ups, I swear.

    (I would actually far prefer people killed their own chickens, as this would mean non-factory farmed chickens. I buy all mine from a farmer down the road, myself. He processes them, though, because I’m not scalding and plucking a chicken every damn night.*)

    In other news, convention art shows are dying across the board. The most vital one I’ve seen is at a Pittsburgh con, and according to the con chair, it has been in the red by about 15% for the last decade and it’s just the way life seems to be. I sell art at cons frequently, and sales have been slowly sinking for a long time. Print sales in particular went off a cliff around 2008 with the recession, and never rebounded. Originals came back a bit, at least for me, but they no longer command the prices they did. I could easily sell every original I make on-line, easier and faster–the only reason I don’t is because when they ask you out to be a guest, they expect you to put stuff in the art show, so I have to keep it around to hold up my end of the bargain.

    *Remind me to tell you guys about the Turkeyzilla Incident sometime…

  7. Freer needed a proof-reader for the excerpt – among other things he missed closing a parenthesis. If he had a point, it is lost in the incoherence of his terrible prose and inability to write a sentence that actually follows the rules of the English language. But fixing the grammar and punctuation would make him a Leninist, so I suppose that is out of the question.

  8. Enjoyed the piece on James Earl Jones.

    Mr. Freer should understand that, when you choose to go the self-pub route, then copy-editing/proofreading is now part of your job description, unless you’re fortunate enough to convince some hardy soul to do it for you. Life is full of tradeoffs.

  9. If your book, that you expect me to pay my money for, is full of typos, it is terrible and you did it wrong.

    I don’t have to do something myself to know you aren’t doing that thing well.

  10. They’ll tell you that you did your book all wrong and that it is terrible and full of typos… but they haven’t written one.

    That’s right! Nobody who hasn’t written a book should ever dare criticize one for any reason. The entire history of English literary criticism, not to mention Science Fiction fandom, hinges on this fact.

    Or if they have, they didn’t have to survive the mill of the slush-pile as I did (or self-pub), but thanks to their ‘disadvantages’ and connections had a publisher pay an editor to help, and proof reader to clear some of those typos.

    So it’s “disadvantages” that get you a publisher, nowadays, is it? Is he counting “being able to spell” as a disadvantage?

    You can pay a freelance editor, incidentally, if you self-publish and you’re not good at that part yourself. I know lots of people offering services in that capacity. You don’t have to go through a publisher unless you want the publisher to pay for it.

    One thing I’ll say for the sad-n-rabid folks, they have made me appreciate much more both the skills of a good editor, and the tenacity of the brave souls who wade through slush piles.

  11. I’m not sure why the James Earl Jones story is news. Is this a trial run for an upcoming obit? Does Mike know something we don’t?
    I enjoyed seeing Jones in a touring company of Othello a few decades ago, but Christopher Plummer, as Iago, stole the show.

  12. “… yet they’ve done nothing to alter the catastrophic plunge of sf/fantasy sales from traditional publishers. If you force them to confront the figures showing they’ve been part of excluding anyone to the right of Lenin from traditional publishing and the various awards…”

    I see that Freer is drunk again.

  13. Left of Lenin and straight on ’til morning.

    Btw, I’d like to thank all the people who, on a thread some weeks ago, recommended Connie Willis. I just finished To Say Nothing Of The Dog. Great fun.

  14. Morris Keesan: I happened to re-watch Dr. Strangelove yesterday and noticed for the first time that James Earl Jones was in it. So even though I have seen him in all kinds of things, I wondered what else didn’t I know about his career? Then I saw on IMDB that at the beginning half his roles were doctors and decided I might rub that idea together with the title of Dr. Strangelove to spark a joke. Now you know more than you wanted to the rest of the story….

  15. “In other news, convention art shows are dying across the board.”

    Well, it depends on the convention. World Fantasy last year had a number of sales, including $10,000 for one piece. Things have changed with con art shows. And change happens, welcome to the future.

    One of the things we did last with with WFC was to honor one our themes – the centennial of Virgil Finlay – was to put together a show of his art. A little over 100 originals on display. Probably the largest gathering of Finlay art in one place since Ghu knows when.

  16. I have a James Earl Jones story.

    My parents used to volunteer at the Hollywood studio of Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, which prepares textbooks and such for use by students who need audio versions. Each year, they do a fundraiser event where celebrities come in to read for a while and people pledge for their time. (It must be a heck of a rush to find that your math text or whatever has a couple chapters read by a famous person with a familiar voice.) James Earl Jones is one of many celebrities who really like to do good works and give generously of their time.

    But the engineers in the studio all agreed that in some ways he was their least favorite reader. Why? Because nobody wants to be the one to have to say, “Excuse me, Mr. Jones, but you got that wrong. Let’s start again at paragraph 2.” You just don’t ever want to have to interrupt that voice with that kind of news. 🙂

    (It happens that he always takes such things in stride and is happy to try again to get it better. It’s the principle of the thing with that voice.)

  17. I’ve always thought it interesting that Lenin regarded anarchists and various other species of non-Marxist socialists as being to the left of himself. However, having pondered that thought and had another re-read of Lenin’s “Left-wing communism: an infantile disorder” I think I can safely say that it’s relevance to who wins a Hugo Award is zero. Well except in so far as Mr Freer seems to be saying that who wins is both a socialist conspiracy by nefarious lefties and a capitalist conspiracy by nefarious publishing companies.

  18. @McJulie: “You can pay a freelance editor, incidentally, if you self-publish and you’re not good at that part yourself. I know lots of people offering services in that capacity.”

    Some of those people even participate in these comment threads. 😉

    (I’ve caught three very minor slips in the new Tom Holt book, each of which is a single-character fix. I caught significantly more than that in a self-pubbed tie-in to a trad-pubbed series, but I’m not naming names there. If you can’t afford a pro editor, at least find a beta reader who’s willing to point out such things… but never publish for money without having at least one other person look over the piece!)

  19. @ Mike Glyer
    Thanks for the explanation. So many people I admire have died this year, that I was scared it was an obit, til I saw the verb tense.
    @ McJulie
    Thanks for the shoutout for copy-editors! We also serve who only fix the spelling (and grammar). I read a lot for pleasure, and I loathe finding errors that turn my fun into work. That doesn’t stop me from hand-correcting as I read, however, for all the good that does (until I throw the book across the room).

    And it’s nice of Dave Freer to demonstrate the truth of Camestros’ unified puppy theory.

  20. So nice to know it’s only us elitist, communist, capitalist, puppy-kicking snobs that think words should be words, and not random letters.

    Can we all chip in to buy Dave Freer an “enter” key?

  21. Sense8:

    Anyone else watched this yet? It took me a few episodes to get into it, but by the end I was engrossed and thought it was brilliant. If it does get the second season, I think it’s been well set-up for the narrative to really kick in.

  22. Speaking of the importance of editors, and how angry puppies get about the subject, when I was reading “The Dark Between the Stars”, the spelling errors alone were destroying me. The editing job on that book was blog-worthy. Modern day journalism level editing. That was maybe 1/4 of why I bounced off it (the other 3/4 having to do with porn-level character depth and telegraphed bad guys to the point where I was embarrassed for the author). Before trying to read that book, I had chalked up a lot of the “Baen doesn’t care about editing” rhetoric to anti-puppy knee jerking (I love Bujold, so I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Baen for that alone), but now I’m wondering…

    I can see how, when getting a plot-driven, fast-moving story out to readers who are basically the sci-fi nerd version of adrenaline junkies, one may be inclined to allow prose to suffer, because that’s not the point, but then there’s Old Man’s War and other simplistic*, plot-driven pure adrenaline SFF that apparently is at some point filtered through a professional editor. I wish I knew more about editors, so I could have voted in those categories in the Hugos.

    *not to say there’s no nuance in those books, but for my purposes they served primarily as fun escapism.

  23. @paulcarp

    An enter key is not going to suffice. I think we should buy him an enter key and someone who will hit it for him when necessary. And also someone to funnel his tornado of hurt feelings into a single, coherent thesis. Crust, this is very quickly becoming very expensive. Maybe we should just let the market of ideas turn him into mulch.

  24. @Kathodus:

    Perhaps it would be more cost-effective to hire someone to drop by, smash his computer with one of his participation trophies, and see if he gets the message. It would certainly be faster.

    Writers are not entitled to sales. I’ve heard many authors who wouldn’t recognize good grammar if it walked up to them at a party wearing a “HELLO my name is” tag at a party tell me that content is king, so they don’t have to worry about little things like punctuation and spelling. I generally reply by telling them that if tehy rite liek this noboddy wil kare wahy they half two sey. Sometimes that gets the point across.

  25. Msb on August 3, 2015 at 10:13 pm said:

    Thanks for the shoutout for copy-editors! We also serve who only fix the spelling (and grammar).

    Bless them, everyone of them 🙂

  26. I know a lot of people don’t care all that much. I’m sure people who read a lot are far more easily annoyed at bad editing. But as a writer, how could you not care? When I flip a their/they’re/there and realize it later, I freak out if I can’t go back and edit whatever I wrote to fix it, and I gave up on the idea of being a writer years ago.

  27. Dammit, I keep forgetting to subscribe to this thread, despite over-posting on it. Subscribing now.

  28. Dave Freer’s post is just…I can’t describe the weirdness. It’s like he was bitten by the Brain Eater, without the period of success before that. He’s starting from the point where say, Hogan and Heinlein and Sim ended.

    But then I get the feeling that there’s a bent among the Puppies where they look at artists gripped by the Brain Eater, read those badly edited stories built around rants and say “Hey, THAT’S what science fiction should be about!”

  29. Kathodus: Beats me, it really does. I just…when I make something to share with others, I want it to be as right as it can reasonably be, and I genuinely don’t understand how people can simply not care about such things. It’s one thing if I’ve tossed off a comment to share with friends and get some quick feedback (though even then I like it to not have readily avoidable errors). But when I want people to, you know, actually pay money for it? I feel like I owe them my best effort.

    Microtherion, you are my hero of the day.

  30. @rob:

    I loved Sense8 and binge watched it over a few days. Easily the best SF TV series in the last 10 or so years.

  31. And is there anything reliable[1] to support Freer’s idea that the market for SFF is drying up?
    There certainly seems to be an explosion of online magazines right now, the complaint is that there is too much short fiction being published for anyone to properly assess everything which might be eligible for prizes.
    Perhaps there has been a rise of publishers spinning off specialist imprints rather than putting genre works out from the main house, but that’s not necessarily causing an overall decline. I remember from my youth that some houses, Gollancz in particular, was typically Crime and SFF, now it’s just SFF.

    [1] so not on MGC, and probably not written by a MG.

  32. After due consideration of the available options (and thanks to everyone for your suggestions, I did take them seriously), I have decided to make this bracket round a three-way battle. The winner will go up against Tolkien in the Final Round. I will post the bracket shortly.

  33. Kathodus on August 3, 2015 at 11:43 pm said:

    I know a lot of people don’t care all that much. I’m sure people who read a lot are far more easily annoyed at bad editing. But as a writer, how could you not care?

    I don’t care only because 1. I’m lazy and 2. in real life there are valiant souls who check what I write diligently* and 3. I’ve longed since learned not to be embarrassed that I write ‘where’ when I should have written ‘were’ and 4. I help validate the existence of proof readers whom are people I regard as a noble breed with a set of skills that I think are akin to witchcraft. But yeah – letting a commercial product go out to print full of typos? Appalling – and note Mad Genius only recently had a long post about how writers needed to protect their brand!

    [*i.e. what the real meat robot me writes not what I write here which you all get raw an unfiltered like warm unpasteurized milk. Run free little sentences! Free from the shackles of sense or grammar!]

  34. Only three remained.

    The Dark Bracketeer had considered many options. Throwing another sacrifice into the ring for one of the champions to toy with. Resurrecting a dead foe that had done particularly well. Unleashing the Champion from his chains early.

    But no. These three had bested all others. These three deserved to face … each other.

    When only one stood, then the Champion would be freed.

    BRACKET

    Part V

    You may either vote for one option, declare a tie between any two, declare a tie between all three, abstain, or vote for a work off the bracket entirely (any fantasy published up until 1999).

  35. Dare you enter …

    1. THE TOMBS OF THE LAST SMALL UNICORN GODS
    The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
    The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin
    Small Gods, Terry Pratchett

  36. 1. THE TOMBS OF THE LAST SMALL UNICORN GODS
    The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin

    Did anyone think I would vote in any other way?

  37. You may either vote for one option, declare a tie between any two, declare a tie between all three, abstain, or vote for a work off the bracket entirely (any fantasy published up until 1999).

    Is crying an option?

    *sob*

    1. abstain.

  38. @Lorcan Nagle

    Easily the best SF TV series in the last 10 or so years.

    Really? I skipped it because of the generally so-so reviews I’d read when it debuted, and my general lack of trust in the Wachowski’s storytelling instincts post Speed Racer.

    Is it really better than Fringe, Dr. Who reboot, Battlestar Galactica reboot, Orphan Black, or Black Mirror? That’s a pretty tall order, even if one doesn’t particularly like one or another of those shows.

  39. (poster formerly known as Nigel C)

    And I’m Nigel B. There was another one, but he got mistaken for an AE van Vogt novel.

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