Pixel Scroll 6/27/16 770 Sunset Scroll

(1) BREAKING IT DOWN. Damien G. Walter contemplates “Systems fiction: a novel way to think about the present” in The Guardian.

Weirdly enough, science fiction is not the best lens through which to examine science fiction. In the 80s, critic Tom LeClair came up with an alternative category for all the weird literary novels that veered into speculative territory: the systems novel. These books pick apart how the systems that keep society chugging along work: politics, economics, sex and gender dynamics, science, ideologies – all can be explored through fiction, especially experimental fiction. LeClair applied this tag specifically to Don DeLillo, but it can be expanded more widely: think Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan and Umberto Eco, among others….

“The future is here,” William Gibson famously said. “It’s just not evenly distributed.” And in these difficult times, the visionary possibilities of the systems novel can be comforting. When we’re in the capable hands of guides like Atwood, DeLillo and Robinson, these novels can be a profound reminder of human progress and potential. In the wake of the EU result, and ahead of the US elections, if you are feeling at all unsettled about the future – go read these books today.

(2) POST-BREXIT FASHION. Jim Mowatt’s FB page displayed a “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Remain” t-shirt, and I made an idle joke that the marathon runner should really be wearing a different slogan – which Alison Scott immediately made available (or that’s the impression I got).

i voted rhino

(3) WHAT’S UP WITH SFWA. Episode 3 of the SFWA Chat Hour features SFWA Board Members Jennifer Brozek and Matthew Johnson, CFO Bud Sparhawk, and President Cat Rambo.

Includes discussion of what the criteria for game writers will be like and when they’ll go out (hint: soon!). Also the usual books we like, writing advice, reports on the Locus Weekend, Stokercon and Origins, and ice cream vs. sherbet, in which we unanimously vote for ice cream.


(4) CAMESTROS FELAPTON. When not busily engaged arm-wrestling with Vox Day about their IQs, Camestros turns his talents to the visual arts.

(5) HORROR PODCAST. The Horror Writers Association recommends the Scary Out There podcast. The latest installment offers a dialog with Kaitlin Ward, the author of Bleeding Earth (Adaptive Books, February 2016). Listen to the episode here.

Hello Horror Fanatics! Today Scary Out There is sitting down with Kaitlin Ward, the author of Bleeding Earth (Adaptive Books, February 2016). Listen as Kaitlin discusses how she came up with the idea for Bleeding Earth, why it’s important for children and teens to read horror, what scary books she recommends, and more.

Kaitlin Ward grew up on a dairy farm in Monroe, New Hampshire, the same town where she lives today with her husband and son. Before settling back in her hometown, Kaitlin studied animal science at Cornell University. She co-founded the well-known blog, YA Highway, and by day she works at a company that sells coins. Bleeding Earth is her debut novel. Kaitlin’s new book, The Farm, will be released by Scholastic in 2017. Keep up with Kaitlin at kaitlin-ward.com and follow her on Twitter @Kaitlin_Ward.

Kaitlin recommends the following horror titles: Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics (Harlequin Teen, September 2016); Relic by Gretchen McNeil (HarperCollins/EpicReads Impulse, March 2016)

(6) FANS WHO SNORT. In the July/August Fantasy & Science Fiction, David Gerrold has a novelette called “The Thing on the Shelf” that begins as a report on the 2013 World Horror Convention, which hands out the Bram Stoker Award.

“The World Horror Convention was one of the better conventions I attended. Horror fans are clean, well-dressed, intelligent, polite, and enthusiastic. I have no idea why this is so. (Although I have to admit I was a little put off by the beautiful woman who came up to me and said she wanted to lick my Stoker. I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, and I’m not up on this year’s crop of new slang terms.)”

He adds the following:

“At one con, a young fan saw my badge had the ‘Pro’ ribbon attached, so he leaned forward and read my name.  ‘I never heard of you,’ he said. ‘What did you write?’

I replied, “I wrote the novelization of Battle of the Planet of the Apes. I said it with deadpan pride.

He snorted and walked off, his way of showing how unimportant I was.”

(7) DININ’ GAIJIN. Liz Braswell tells the readers of Eating Authors about a memorable meal in Japan. The best part follows this excerpt.

My husband, my crazy-blond toddler, my sister Sabrina and I were in Japan for work and fun — the vacation of a lifetime. One night Scott took the baby and a colleague of his took Sabrina and me for a night out on the town. Mutsumi asked us where we wanted to go and of course we answered someplace super obscure no Americans have been to Japanese only please we’ll behave.

She very nicely obliged and led us through the labyrinth of streets, around and around and deeper and deeper into Tokyo. Most of the city doesn’t follow a grid system and buildings are addressed by age rather than specific location; were my sister and I by ourselves we never would have found our way in or out of the tiny neighborhood we eventually wound up in. And forget about stumbling upon the tiny, unmarked, second-floor restaurant where we were, indeed, the only gaijin.

Everything about the place was perfect: from the rustic tables and wooden shutters to the little button one presses to ring for a waiter—otherwise diners are left in perfect privacy. The sake came in hand-thrown cups, Mutsumi ordered for us, we behaved.

We wanted to stop drinking at one point, but apparently that would not have been behaving, so we continued….

(8) EXIT POLL. Nicholas Whyte ranks his Retro and regular Hugo picks in “My Hugo and #RetroHugos1941 votes: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)”. In second place on his Retro Hugo ballot —

2) The Adventures of Superman: “The Baby from Krypton”

The only radio play in the mix (as opposed to two years ago, when we had four radio plays and a TV play than nobody had seen), it’s the origin story of Superman, and does what it says on the tin perfectly competently. Lara, Kal-El’s mother, is played by Agnes Moorehead, later Endora in Bewitched.


  • June 27, 1927 — “Captain Kangaroo” Bob Keeshan
  • June 27, 1966 — J.J. Abrams

(10) SKIFFY AND FANTY. I tend not to cover podcasts — even with hearing aids I’m not able to listen to them effectively. I will say the blurb for this episode of The Skiffy and Fanty Show makes it sound pretty irresistible: 298. Sphere (1998) — A Torture Cinema “Adventure”.

Eggs, squid, and bad dreams, oh my!  Our latest listener-directed Torture Cinema episode has finally arrived.  This time, we discuss the infamous adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Sphere starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, and more!  At least two of us have a bit of a rant about this movie, so you should expect some pure, unadulterated Skiffy and Fanty rage in this episode!

(11) AND SOMETHING BUT THE TRUTH. Alexandra Erin is right on the money about “Sad Boner Confessionals”.

You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when the language suggests a high wire act where the author is trying to achieve some delicate balance between “I’m a sensitive man” and “BUT I’M A MAN” and wants you to sympathize with the contortions he puts himself through as  a result. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is describing the worst trauma of a woman’s life purely in terms of what it means about him. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is telling you everything he’s learned from the mistakes he’s made but none of those things are accountability or personal responsibility. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when all admissions of past sins have a sheen of humblebragging about them.

(12) LABYRINTH. The BBC article “Why Labyrinth is so memorable” talks about the advantages of real-time puppetry over computer animation. Chip Hitchcock comments, “They don’t discuss how/if the gap has been narrowed by motion capture; would be interesting to see discussion of this — or any input by Mary Robinette Kowal, who has done fascinating convention talks about the practice of puppetry and the theory behind it.”

Jim Henson’s beloved 1986 movie musical Labyrinth, one of only two non-Muppets films the legendary puppeteer directed, is famous for several reasons.

Fans of David Bowie will recall visions of the late musician wearing extremely tight trousers that fail to obscure an enormously large codpiece. Bowie wrote and performed all the songs, including the iconic Dance Magic Dance. He plays a nefarious, all-singing, all-dancing king of a fantasy world of goblins, castles and all manner of strange colourful creatures.

One of Labyrinth’s best-known scenes is a sensational finale that takes place on a set modelled on Escher staircases. It is also the production that brought a then-unknown, then-15-year-old Jennifer Connelly to the public’s attention.

… One of the first creatures she encounters in the Goblin King’s fantastical world is a dwarf named Hoggle: a morally dubious, Sméagol-esque character whose motives and allegiances are unclear. With a huge lumpy nose, spurts of shoulder-length white hair and a crinkled, finely detailed face, Hoggle is an amazing puppet, at once both magical and realistic.

His seemingly effortless facial and body movements required the collaboration of six people working in real time. The character’s large face contained 18 motors, which were manipulated off-frame by four crew members using remote controls. Diminutive actor Shari Weiser controlled Hoggle’s body and Brian Henson, Jim’s son, provided his voice.

(13) STOPWATCH. Are you worried about how long Suicide Squad will run? ScreenRant is going to tell you anyway.

Collider has heard from their sources that Suicide Squad runs approximately 130 minutes with credits. Its DCEU predecessors were both in the range of 2.5 hours, meaning Suicide Squad will be about 20 minutes shorter than either Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice. Considering the sheer amount of characters Ayer is working with, some may be concerned that Squad is actually too short, but a shade over two hours gives him plenty of time to flesh everything out. After all, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had a lot on its plate and accomplished it all in 136 minutes.

(14) A DIFFERENT DICTIONARY. John G. Hartness, in Magical Words’ “Making Money Mondays” post, uses a commercial definition of “Fans v. True Fans”.

Now on to our main topic – fans. Now I’m not ever going to bash fans, because I love my fans. Hell, I love everybody’s fans, because I’m a fan myself. But what we want to talk about today is the concept of the True Fan, what they are, how best to interact with them, how to find them, how to keep them. Looking at that, it’s going to take more than one post, so this week we’ll talk about what a True Fan is, then later on ee’ll look at how to cultivate them, how to deal with them, and how to convert a Lesser Fan into a True Fan.

For the record, exactly ZERO of this material is anything I came up with. The concept of 1,000 True Fans was first put forth by Kevin Kelly in 2008 on his blog post here. He later references a couple of other folks who had similar ideas a little earlier, unbeknownst to him, but his site, with a tip of the hat to Seth Godin, who wrote the blog post that first turned me on to Kevin’s work.

Kelly postulates that any independent artist, that is any artist outside the big machine of superstar entertainment, needs to cultivate only 1,000 True Fans to survive. BTW, this whole blog post came out of a late-night conversation with AJ Hartley, where I claimed the number was 100. I’m bad at math. He defines a True Fan as someone who spends $100 per year on your work, and those thousand people then contribute to a $100,000 annual income, which is a pretty comfortable living in most places. At least that’s the rumor. I’m a writer, I don’t make anywhere near that kind of money.

So what’s a True Fan, and how do I get their hundred bucks? I assume that’s what you’re all asking. In this case, it’s usually a lot easier to show you than tell you….

(15) DON’T BE ALARMED. George R.R. Martin expressed gratitude about winning a Locus Award together with Gardner Dozois, and he couldn’t resist adding a punchline.

All kidding aside, I am very proud of OLD VENUS, and I know Gardner is as well. There are some terrific stories in there, and one that in any normal year would have been a surefire Hugo finalist. This is the third year in a row that one of the original anthologies that I’ve done with Gardner has won the Locus Award, and I can’t tell you how gratifying that is. Gardner and I both began our careers (a long time ago) with short fiction, and it pleases me no end to be able to provide a showcase for some of the extraordinary short stories, novelettes, and novellas still being written in this age of the series and the meganovel. If you don’t read anthologies, friends, you are missing out on some great stuff.

Oh, and before the crazy internet rumors start flying, I had better say that I was only kidding about OLD URANUS….

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

127 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/27/16 770 Sunset Scroll

  1. I will not try to watch MLP myself. I get angry if there is too much cuteness or wholesomeness. Makes me want to desecrate a furby or something.

  2. 11) Holy canolli, I read the parody. I’m slightly scared that Alexandra can get so deeply into the mind of a douchebag, and hope she showered afterwards, but it’s a great piece of writing.

  3. Adding: Just read the original piece. If anything, Alexandra went too easy on him. Wow.

  4. The nice thing about not knowing your IQ score is that you can’t bring it up in conversation.

    I’ve never seen an IQ test score. I grew up in an age where that sort of testing was on its way out. (We didn’t get real grades until junior high. And these days I often have to explain what junior high is, too.) So other than the bogus tests online, who just want you to spend money to get the full report, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a traditional IQ test.

    Now let me tell you about my SAT scores. Remember I took the SATs before they changed the curve…

  5. Don’t forget, it wasn’t advertised as just Mazes and Monsters. It was always Rona Jaffe’s Mazes and Monsters. So I always feel free to assign blame.

  6. @Petréa Mitchell

    (7) I’d like to take this opportunity to inform everyone that gaijin is a genuine slur in Japanese and not to be tossed around lightly. It doesn’t mean “foreigner”, anyway, but “outsider”.

    I used to live in Japan, and I can add a little bit to this.

    It’s absolutely true that that gaikokujin is the polite word for foreigner. It literally means “a person from outside the country.”

    It’s equally true that that gaijin is a rude word. It literally means “an outside person” but it’s offensive because it carries the implication of not being a real person. I’ve seen it translated as “barbarian” in context.

    However, American expats in Japan (including me when I lived there) freely use the term about ourselves, with each other, and even in front of Japanese friends. I thought it was funny–sort of making a joke at our own expense–but I stopped doing it when I realized it upset expats from countries other than the US (even UK and Australia).

    What’s interesting is the reason it upset the other expats. They felt it was us expressing our total confidence in our own absolute superiority. “Yeah, I’m different–I’m better.” I’m not sure anyone really meant it that way, but it was enough to make me stop.

    That and the fact that I realized I’d be very uncomfortable if a Japanese person said things like “I was the only Jap in that restaurant.”

  7. I’ve never seen an IQ test score. I grew up in an age where that sort of testing was on its way out.

    When I was in middle school, we took an IQ test (I don’t know which one) as part of standardized testing. I don’t think that we were supposed to be shown the scores, but the teacher in my class either didn’t know or didn’t care, and called each of us to his desk individually to show us our scores (with the other scores on the page blocked out by sheets of paper.) I’m not even sure about the ethics of the teacher knowing the scores of the entire class. (FWIW, mine was a mere 120, so I’m not an official super-geenius.)

  8. IQ tests and funny stories. I always thought my brothers had higher IQs than I did – were told in the the sooper-genius range. Not sure where I’d gotten the impression – maybe because I was the one cleaning and cooking while they got to play? Recently IQ tests came up and my mom was surprised by my memories and said something like no you had the highest score. I wonder how much better I would have done on future standardized tests and math/science had I known. Standardized tests results aren’t in the various papers she saved and passed on when she was cleaning out her stuff although all my report cards from 1st -12th grade are (lazy, doesn’t live up to potential, reads in class).

  9. Airplane read #1: In the Time of Dragon Moon, by Janet Lee Carey

    YA-ish fantasy novel; in the 13th century, on an island where dragons and fairies live alongside humans, a physician and his daughter are kidnapped from their tribe by a crazed queen who wants fertility treatments. Technically the third in a series, but the books stand alone reasonably well.

    There are some interesting ideas here, particularly when the book takes a hard look at colonialist racism disguised as a desire to “help”. But those are touched on briefly, and the bulk of the book deals with a plot against the royal family which is both a far more conventional storyline and a far less interesting one. By the end, I was thinking, “‘Seraphina’ did this kind of thing a lot better.”

    I would still recommend Carey’s “Dragonswood”, another book in this loose series, but I don’t think I can give a strong thumbs-up to this one. It was OK, but nothing special.

  10. Airplane read #2: The Wrath & The Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh

    Fantasy, first of a series; a retelling of the Shaharazad story with a more modern sensibility. Most notably, it gives the Shaharazad character more motivations for doing what she does, and the Caliph a … more valid reason for killing women each night (there’s a curse), which makes it less of a jaw-dropping plotline for them to actually end up in love.

    It’s well written in terms of its prose and its characterization, but even with the updated concepts some things really needed more explanation for me to get on the Caliph’s side (Why didn’t he tell people about the curse? Why didn’t he consider suicide? I could believe there might be valid reasons for those things, but they simply weren’t examined.) Also, I wanted WAY MORE STORIES from the 1,001 Nights incorporated into the text! There’s only, like, TWO! That’s a disservice to the theme of stories and storytelling which could and should have been a central idea here rather than a side issue.

    I didn’t hate it it, and would even consider getting the sequel, but I might not, and I’m certainly not in any great rush to do so.

  11. I guess how you view gaijin also varies with how you feel living in Japan… cultural feelings about dwelling abroad may be different for US citizens as opposed to UK or EU citizens. I aways felt like an outsider there myself, though I didn’t feel bad about that (my choice, after all) or feel superior to anybody in my otherness.

  12. I think there are forms of genius not observable in a written test.

    I got one of those IQ tests and was placed in an overachievers class. Some bullying ensued that year, and I was put into the lower rung.

  13. Airplane read #3: Kingfisher, by Patricia McKillip

    Fantasy; in a world with both knights and automobiles, the son of a sorceress goes off to seek his father.

    This book is mainly about what time does to myths — how they change and bend to accommodate the needs of the current era, but how the older stories still lurk just beneath the surface, needing only a prod to come rearing up in all their power. While the book is primarily a retelling of the Fisher King story, fans of Welsh legends (or Lloyd Alexander) will note the additional presence of a familiar and older set of ideas.

    While it’s not the best thing Patricia McKillip has ever written, her low bar is way above most author’s high bar. This is written in beautiful, evocative prose, and left me thinking about what it was saying for a long time after I’d finished reading. I’ll be putting this one on the 2016 recommendations page, and so far it’s hanging around near the top of my 2016 novels list along with “All The Birds In The Sky” and “The Spider’s War”. Many novels left to read yet, though …

  14. Greg Hullender said:

    That and the fact that I realized I’d be very uncomfortable if a Japanese person said things like “I was the only Jap in that restaurant.”

    My feelings exactly. I know that longtime expat residents of Japan are known to use gaijin, but they are at least making an informed choice in doing so.

  15. This is like having a daytime talkshow. “Fans Who Snort: Confessed serial snorter Steve Davidson, today on File 770.”

  16. LeClair’s “systems novel” emphazises one of the axes along which fiction can be arranged, and while he is on to something with the modern novels he points to, it strikes me as a hypertrophy of the kind of big-picture ambition that appears in Dickens or Tolstoy or even George Eliot (if we adjust the scope to apply to a community, as in Middlemarch). In fact, “scope” might be one of the distinguishing characteristics of a “systems novel,” since operational curiosity–attention to and analysis of how-things-work–is part of, say, the police procedural and the popular widescreen novel of the Airport tradition, as well as hard SF.

    If “genre” means (in part) “group of texts with common features that audience and author agree are worth exploring and working variations on,” then the LeClairian “systems novel” is a Thing, and it can overlap conventionally-understood SF–and also some kinds of historical fiction along the lines of Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and Baroque Cycle. (And what drives the psychological novel if not an intense desire to understand the operations of the systems of “character”?)

  17. Petrea Mitchell: I saw gaijin used in an Ian Fleming James Bond novel and knew from that it was uncomplimentary, and wondered from its use here 50 years later whether the meaning had been diluted, or was one of those terms that has been, not really reclaimed, but repurposed by those to whom it applies. You and Hullender seem to have answered that question.

  18. snort

    I use my “snort” as a kind of “laugh”; it usually means “yeah, if I didn’t consider how stupid what you just said was, it would be funny” or “boy was that funny thing at MY expense! (and yeah, it’s okay because whatever you were just commenting on in a humorous manner was pretty stupid…)”

    Considering that the interrupted glottal stop (?) employed is largely the same as the hebrew cha sound (lechaim, chutzpa), but done while breathing in rather than breathing out, I think it is a sound not usually heard outside of jewish circles, and one reflective of jewish self-deprecating humor. The feeling is reminiscent of “so who else is going to spill soup on me today? Hey, look, the soup stains kind of match my tie…”

    Robert Whitaker Sirigano is referring to is a strictly “from disdain” snort, which is not nearly as nuanced as the jewish one.

    I think there’s someone’s dissertation to be found in an explication and analysis of the ethnic qualities found in snorts.

    On Gaijin: A. B. Chandler has a story titled Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo; considering his then (and remaining) popularity in Japan, I can’t help but think that he was very familiar with the meaning of the word and chose to use it deliberately.

  19. Paul_A: (11) Only the weak acknowledge mistakes.

    Mature, responsible adults acknowledge their mistakes, apologize for them, and learn from them.

    Selfish, immature, irresponsible people (such as the guy in question) refuse to recognize and take responsibility for their mistakes, and blame their mistakes on other people or on “it just happened”.

  20. Reading (11), I was reminded of the evening I baby-sat two little girls, aged five and six. They had a riotous evening, sneaking around, whispering, giggling, jumping on the bed, all after they were supposed to be sleeping. When the two sets of parents came home (there’s a clue right there, come to think), the girls were finally tired and somewhat stationary. As Jessica’s parents put her to bed, I asked her why she didn’t go to bed earlier. In a voice already 60% asleep, she said, “Things just kept happening.”

    Only, from a little girl, it’s cute and endearing.

  21. So I love the byways and ramblings that Filers engage in…..sneaking in to say that I respond at times in ways others have defined as ‘snorting’ (it’s an exhale, with the tongue pressed against the back of the mouth as if pronouncing “k” (http://www.say-it-in-english.com/BasicEnglish7.html), but with only air exhaled, I promise).

  22. Airplane Read #4: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

    Science Fiction (making use of fantasy tropes). A classic story about the one human left in a world of vampires, set in the far-flung future of the late 1970’s. It’s easy to see why this is Matheson’s best-known novel, as it’s chock full of ideas that have inspired multiple imitations (and more than one movie). The writing often subtly inverts the tropes of its genre and time — our blond, blue-eyed science hero seeking vengeance for his dead wife and child is not really the kind of protagonist he thinks he is. Nor is the damsel in distress really a damsel in distress. At the same time, though, the book is sometimes heavy-handed in its approach; it’s admirable for being the first of its kind, but it isn’t necessarily the best or most polished of its kind. Definitely, however, worth a read.

  23. Wow, contributing editor status! Thanks, Mike – cheered me up on a grey, soggy, miserable day (seems that the British Weather has Taken Back Control of the British summer).

  24. @robinreid: This also encompasses my snort!

    11 – I read the Sad Boner Confessional original. Well…hate-skimmed, honestly. About every third sentence, my desire to reach through the screen and high-five his ex-wife grew too intense to continue. I suspect the ex gave him permission to publish it just so that she had something to show people when they asked what happened to the relationship.

    14 – I remember when the true-fans thing went around the first time, and I disliked the term enormously even then. If we’re talking money, “patron” is much less judgmental.

  25. For me, “snort” indicates what happens with you start laughing with your mouth closed. A short, sharp rise in the diaphragm driving an exhalation through the nose, but generally not continued through further cycles.

    As an indication of disdain, there may will be a physio-psychological explanation somewhere within the laugh+closed-mouth combination.

    I freely confess to snorting on occasion.

  26. @Kyra: I appreciated your comments on Kingfisher. Back in April I wrote a combination of review and essay on the use of mythology in this novel. At that time I really wanted to discuss it with someone; 10 weeks later I’m not entirely sure my memory is good enough, but I would love to hear your thoughts anyway.

  27. BTW, McKillip has a new collection out, which contains two previously unpublished stories, both of which I thought were middling, but worth reading, particularly “Alien”, in which a mother at a family reunion ponders the sense of wonder evoked by the idea of alien visitors, and the reactions to the idea by family members of various ages and life circumstances, particularly her grandmother and her young son.

  28. All My Snorts Remembered.

    Snort, Harlequin, Said the Ear, Nose, Throat Man

    Time Enough For Snorts

    The Snorts of the Baskervilles

    My Snorts, All Sublime

  29. Re #4

    I took a look over at Camestros’ blog, and just Wow:
    Beale is just hilariously insecure on this topic, isn’t he?

    Between Scalzi having gotten into a better school, Aaron running rings around him logically, and the carefully-filtered dullards in his orbit, it’s obvious that not only doesn’t he understand IQ, but it’s also obvious that he’s never even MET any intelligent people.

  30. Hampus Eckerman: The older MLP series were saccharine overdoses, but this one owes a lot to Looney Tunes – the first episode I watched, in fact, had Pinkie Pie chasing another character while doing the Pepe LePew bounce. They’ve lost a bit of that dual-level appeal in the later seasons, but they do cover some deeper topics that aren’t solved by tea parties – The Cutie Map is an interesting story about the perils of enforced conformity, it just isn’t Hugo caliber.

    OTOH, my brother had a Furby and I see no reason to wait for an excuse to desecrate them.

  31. Vasha — read your review/essay, and would love to talk about it (and her book of short stories is slated to be acquired in my next round of Buying Books.)

    I think you’ve found the key point when you talk about this book being about reconciliation — here, as in Solstice Wood, reconciliation between the spiritual and the material, the old and the new, in the same sense as Eliot’s The Wasteland.

    Honestly, I think it’s a key theme in almost all of McKillip’s work — while I tend to mentally divide her writing into two periods (1970’s / Everything Else), almost all the books I can think of are concerned with either nonviolent resolution between opposing sides, righting old wrongs, or both.

  32. Airplane Read #5: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (not SFF)

    YA lesbian romance. This is an often charming, sometimes very sad story about a teenager falling for her former middle school bully during a production of a musical written by a close friend who died in a car accident. The musical, by the way, is called “Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad”. I’m not sure I need to say more to sell this one.

    There was one subplot that might have strained my credulity if it had not pretty much happened to me in real life, so I’ll have to give that one a pass (short version — there is pretty much NOTHING a U.S. high school is unwilling to censor.) Oddly, this is the second book I’ve read in a short time involving someone falling for their former bully at school. This is the MUCH better one. Definitely recommended, and a big thumbs up.

  33. 2) Post Brexit Fashion: Allison Scott can perhaps be forgiven for seemingly being unaware that in Canada there IS a Rhinoceros Party (or was that the joke?) — I know, because I still have one of their campaign hand-outs from the year I voted for them. Unfortunately, Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister. One of the party’s platform planks was to make Canada more equal by filling in the Great Lakes with the Rocky Mountains. Now that I look back on it, maybe that wasn’t such a great idea, and we could have done worse than have a corporate suck-up like Brian Mulroney as PM.

  34. Airplane Read #6 (last one!): Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Moon

    Fantasy, first of a series; a woman joins a mercenary company and learns the ropes. A good example of what I’ve sometimes heard referred to as Low Fantasy (although, this being the confusing world of subgenre terminology, I’ve also heard Low Fantasy used to refer to different things entirely.) In this case, I’m using it to mean the story of someone who lives in a world of epic magic and adventure but is at best on the fringes of those events, living their life from day to day. (There are some indications that the sequels will head more towards high or epic fantasy.)

    I liked the depiction of the inner workings, troubles, and camaraderie of a mercenary company. In some ways this book presages the current grim & gritty strain of fantasy fiction in its unflinching acceptance of death and violence, but it really isn’t one — too many of the characters, including the main one, are too basically nice and the outlook is too fundamentally optimistic.

    I was amused by a blurb calling this series the heir to Tolkien, because it was utterly clear to me that the roots here come not directly from Tolkien, but rather Tolkien and others heavily filtered through Dungeons and Dragons. (Nothing wrong with that, I like D&D.)

    (A minor note — I want to be clear, here, that I have no axe to grind against Baen and am a devoted fan of several of their authors. Bearing that in mind, I think there is a reason that “Baen editing” is a little notorious, and that came up a few times here … most notably when a character got a few lines of dialogue 12 pages after his death.)

    Anyway, I’ll be reading the sequels to this one.

  35. “Baen editing” – HA! Kids These Days! Mr Dr Science & I like to reminisce about Ye Olden Dayes, when we — though 1000 miles apart and years from meeting — were each marking up books (especially but not only Ace doubles) to move mis-placed paragraphs/pages/lines, cut out duplicates, etc.

    It was particularly annoying when the author was Zelazny or had what I called “Zelazny disease” — long back-and-forth pure dialogue exchanges without any markers about who was speaking, so you had to count back to figure out who was who.

    But really, it’s been decades since I’ve seen typesetting as bad as what I got used to in the 60s and early 70s.

  36. Well, Baen-related folks do seem to keep going on and on about how SF was so much better back in the “good ol’ days.” Maybe all the bad editing is just one more of the things (like the casual racism and sexism) that they’re hopelessly nostalgic for! 🙂

  37. Hugo Novella Reading:

    I started with “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor. I knew within a few paragraphs it would be a high bar to beat, and, not surprisingly, none of the rest made it.

    I’d been trying to avoid spoilers, but the few I’d seen led me to expect something *much* more downbeat than I actually got. To me, the almost hilarious meta-thing about the story is how Heinleinesque it is. Grrantr zngu travhf ehaf njnl sebz ubzr gb Fcnpr Npnqrzl! Rapbhagref nyvraf naq fbyirf vagrefgryyne pbasyvpg! How old-school can you *get*?!?!! Seriously, it’s one of the core SF plots, with a new-style character and a hair (lol) more complexity — but the same basic feeling that lifted my heart when I was 12.

    “Slow Bullets” by Alastair Reynolds. Does this belong to one of his other series? Is it the start of a new one? It strikes me as too short for all of what happens, so crucial parts are kind of glossed over. It’s also really odd, to me, to have a long story where we may have to rebuilt civilization etc., where there are male and female characters but no indication that anyone has sexual interests or motivations, nor are there any discussions about having children. Did I miss something about everyone being asexual, somehow? *scratches head*

    “Penric’s Demon” by Lois Bujold. This is another one where the treatment of sexuality confuses me. I think I can say, without major spoilers, that the basic plot is the trope known as “Sharing a Body”, and in this case the body-owner is a young man, while the passenger turns out to be, essentially, n pbafbegvhz bs gjryir jbzra.

    Now, I’m used to seeing this trope in fanfiction, where I would expect the story to be heavily focused on issues of sexuality, gender, and the characters’ feelings about bodies. At first I thought Bujold was heading there, but then she sort of veered off to Plot-land, before the POV character had done more than guvax nobhg znfgheongvat. I was left feeling rather wrong-footed, and only sort of interested in the Plot. In sum: for me it was a good enough story, but rather bizarrely incomplete.

    “Perfect State”, by Brandon Sanderson. Too much like a video game, though an interesting enough take on an old SF question. I just don’t believe that most humans really want Awsum Powah instead of comforting relationships with other actual people.

    I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to rank those three stories (places 2 through 4), but I’m going to put “The Builders” by Daniel Polansky below No Award, and maybe off the ballot altogether. I just can’t finish it, the animals are too pointless, clichéd as both animals and humans.

  38. (1) No love for “chortle” for the snorting laugh? Humpty (and Lewis Carroll) haz sadz.
    (2) @Petréa Mitchell I was getting the sadz about “gaijin” until your final comment about using it with full awareness of the connotations. I lived in Japan for a decade and continue to play chess for the Japanese national team, but anyone of a certain age who plays chess, writes poetry and music, or loves SF (or all of the above) knows what it is to FEEL like an “outsider” even in one’s country of birth no matter how much one is affirmed by other socially-approved acts or successes. So I personally appropriated the word (even performed as “Badogaijin”–Bard Gaijin), and I still use it in interactions with old friends from Japan. As far as I can tell (does anyone ever really know?), they either accept it as part of my quirky personality or are too polite to call me on my BS.

  39. @Kyra:

    I have lots of thoughts but I will post them in the comments at my blog so I don’t have to use rot-13.

  40. I’ve snorted derisively on several occasions. Often at the kind of guys Alexandra Erin parodies so perfectly.

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