Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

124 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

  1. First?

    Can we put the tedious beyond belief trad pub vs self pub arguments in Camestros’ dumpster so we’re not subject to them in 2017?

    Also, dumpster needs more fire

  2. I expect we’ll learn more about this Phoenix Comicon thing as it develops, but my initial instinct is that I would be unlikely to knowingly attend a con where the volunteers are paying to work the show.

    [Then again, given how few cons I do, this is not much of a danger for any con.]

    At the very least, volunteers who work the show should get their “membership fee” refunded in recognition of their valuable contribution in the form of unpaid labor.

  3. @Chris S

    +1

    Self-pub is neither the appalling trash that the HuffPo article claims, or the saviour of all authors that some proponents claim. The world really didn’t need that HuffPo article. (It also didn’t need yet another Larry fisking for that matter, but he seems addicted to them).

    Actually I just read some very interesting reviews of some self-pub books at P*rn*kitsch (gets caught by the spam filter without asterisks) as part of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.

  4. That’s “Orphan Black,” not “Black Orphan.” And yeah, Tatiana Maslany is mesmermizing as so many clones with drastically different personalities. It gets really interesting when one of the clones impersonates one of the other clones.

  5. “I am the Filer of the Pixel Scroll!”
    “And a right good Filer too!”

    Oh, and it looks like Live Journal is taking a definite step in some terminal direction, and people who still have a presence there (like me, barely) are being urged to desert that ship post haste. (Thanks to Making Light’s current open thread for that.)

  6. Hey I made the scroll!

    4)Stormtroopers, no surprise, aren’t any better in Rogue One.

    Really, except for when Obi-Wan describes their blaster fire as being more accurate than sand people, when have Stormtroopers been anything but incompetent?

  7. Carrie Fisher’s brother has announced that she and Debbie Reynolds will have a joint (and private) funeral and be buried together.

  8. Really, except for when Obi-Wan describes their blaster fire as being more accurate than sand people, when have Stormtroopers been anything but incompetent?

    Well, they seemed pretty effective when seizing Leia’s ship at the beginning of Star Wars.

    They also seemed to be competent when they attacked the rebel base on Hoth, and when the occupied the Cloud City on Bespin.

  9. It’s getting towards the end of the year, which means it’s time for end-of-the-year summary posts! And for me, that means books. Books books books. Yeah. I’ll divide this one up into a few posts, since it’s liable to get long.

    First up:

    The Best Books I Read In 2016 (That Weren’t Published In 2016). These are all ones that blew my mind, Scotty:

    The Interior Life, by Katherine Blake — This unjustly obscure classic is unlike pretty much any other fantasy novel. Jo Walton once said it was “published by Baen in what seems to have been a fit of absentmindedness”, since it is so very far from being a typical Baen book. But then, it’s very far from being a typical anything book. The story of an ordinary housewife who totally isn’t really helping to battle the forces of darkness in a fantasy realm, unless she is.

    Afterparty, by Daryl Gregory — If you could really hack someone’s mind with designer drugs, the result would be this disturbing dystopia. Unless it’s secretly a utopia. Maybe it’s both. Great story guaranteed to provoke uncomfortable thoughts.

    Gullstruck Island, by Frances Hardinge — Hardinge pulls no punches here. Not every YA book starts with a massacre. Complex, riveting, with a world and characters that will suck you in and never let go.

    Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente — Experimental, disjointed, told in snippets and fragments. A solar system where silent movies are shot on the moon. A beloved documentary filmmaker disappears mysteriously. What happened, and why, and how do her friends and relatives cope? Beautiful and strange.

  10. Next up —

    The Best Books Published In 2016 That I Read In 2016. These are the ones that are most likely to show up on any awards list I nominate for, always bearing in mind that I have plenty more left to read from this year still! (And also bearing in mind that maybe one of them has much chance of making it onto any of the shortlists I’ll be voting on, but that’s neither here not there.):

    The Spider’s War, by Daniel Abraham — A stellar end to an engrossing series. Abraham has added a relatively unique character to the fantasy genre with financial wunderkind Cithrin bel Sarcour, plus a chilling, trope-inverting villain in Geder Palliako.

    A Closed And Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers — Chambers’ second book is, if anything, even better than her first, continuing her characteristic empathy while offering a more tightly focused plot, and using science fiction and nonhumans as a keen lens to examine the human condition.

    Mr. Splitfoot, by Samantha Hunt — Odd, offbeat literary fantasy, a mystery and a ghost story that doesn’t ever quite go where you might expect.

    The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin — The sequel to The Fifth Season doesn’t pack quite the innovative, genre-stretching punch of the first, but that’s barely a criticism; a solid story and continued revelations have me eager to find out where it’s all going to end up in book three.

    Mother of Souls, by Heather Rose Jones — No one else in fantasy is doing exactly the same thing as Heather Rose Jones, and she does it excellently; fans of stories about magic, women, and historical fiction will all find much to enjoy in her 1820’s country-that-never-was of Alpennia.

    Indexing: Reflections, by Seanan McGuire — Apparently, I’m a sucker for hard-bitten, no-nonsense fairytale characters. This sequel continues the great story begun in Indexing.

    Kingfisher, by Patricia McKillip — McKillip tells the Fisher King legend as only McKillip can. Lyrical and lovely.

    The Guns Of Empire, by Django Wexler — The fourth book in Wexler’s pentology ups the stakes, as the characters we’ve come to love aim their muskets at an enemy that proves to be disturbingly penultimate.

  11. Moving On To —

    Other Standout Works I Read In 2016 (Not Published In 2016). Great books all, that I might have nominated for awards if I’d read them when they were, you know, eligible and stuff:

    The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers — Chambers’ debut novel was a welcome change from run-of-the-mill sci-fi, with an ensemble story more focused on small group dynamics than heroics.

    My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante (not SFF) — The first of the Neapolitan novels is about two girls growing up in post-WWII Italy. The characters are more then enough to carry the story.

    The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (not SFF) — Bestselling YA before YA was a thing. So much has been modeled on this one that it has to be kept in mind that it hadn’t been “done before” then; it was an original.

    A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (not SFF) — Alternately charming and depressing, and great at both. Plus, there’s a musical. With ninjas.

    Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion — Of the many Shakespeare adaptations I read this year, Romeo and Juliet with zombies was by far the most memorable. What could easily have been a one-joke piece ends up being quite a bit more.

    Uprooted, by Naomi Novik — Novik takes her writing to the next level in this virtuoso fantasy novel. Every note is perfectly played.

    The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien — Weird. Wild. Wonderful. And there’s a lot of talk about bicycles.

    Hotel World, by Ali Smith (only marginally SFF) — Five interconnected lives are examined with Smith’s characteristic brilliance. An author who isn’t afraid to experiment, and whose experiments usually pay off.

    The Pleasure Merchant, by Molly Tanzer (not SFF) — A modern version of an 18th century morality tale, but one that takes a sharp eye to the confines of that genre, subverting and exploding it at will.

    Castle Hangnail, by Ursula Vernon — Thoroughly charming in every respect. The perfect book for every child (or adult) who has dreamed of having their own Villainous Lair.

    The Shadow Throne, by Django Wexler — The second book in Wexler’s Not-Napoleonic fantasy grows more interesting as the Not-French Revolution begins in Not-France.

  12. And that brings us to —

    More Good Stuff Published In 2016. These all might have made my award-nominating list in a different year. Heck, I may change my mind about some of them and bump them up:

    All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders — Deftly mixing SF and fantasy, Anders presents a story of isolation and connection that’s all about transcending boundaries.

    Who Killed Sherlock Holmes, by Paul Cornell — The grim & gritty entries in the Magical Detectives In London subgenre (yes, there is one), Cornell’s mix of police procedural and dark fantasy is a pleasure.

    The City of Woven Streets, by Emmi Itaranta — Beautifully written with lovely description and deft characterization. A maze of a story, and that’s a good thing.

    The Devourer Of Gods, by Thomas Benjamin de Mayo — Fans of well-researched alt-history will find much to chew on in this densely-plotted saga.

    Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire — A genre-savvy work that’s more a book about portal fantasies than a portal fantasy itself. Great characters.

    ?A Tangle Of Gold, by Jaclyn Moriarty — A somewhat uneven end to the trilogy, but it’s such a strong trilogy that I wasn’t much bothered by the bumps. You’ll follow the characters anywhere.

    The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home, by Catherynne M. Valente — A solid end to a great series, putting Valente’s talent for invention on full display.

    The Edge Of Worlds, by Martha Wells — A welcome return to novel-length Raksura books, this was an intriguing start to what promises to be a cracking good story as more books come out.

  13. @Mike Glyer: Aw, contributing editor! 😀 I’d like to thank my weird memory for old ads, despite muting or fast forwarding through ads these days.

    (3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. Uh . . . this isn’t a joke, is it. Hahahahaha! I’ll laugh anyway. Or, wait, do they get to go to the con free or something? (Basically, what @Kurt Busiek said.)

    (5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. One of us. One of us!

    (6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cute, and I chuckled when I go to the translations for Dwarven names.

    (8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Best of luck, @Paul!

    @Kyra: Thanks for posting your round-up here! I’m looking into a couple of the new-to-me ones after I post this. 🙂

  14. So, um the next would have been More Good Stuff, Not Published In 2016, That I Read This Year, but that turns out to be upwards of 50 books, and that’s just too many to write mini-blurbs for each one. I thought about just posting a big ‘ol list of books for it, but … bleah. It was just a wall of text.

  15. I’ll close out with …

    Decent Stuff Published In 2016. I liked these, by didn’t adore them. However, I can see how other people might:

    Borderline, by Mishell Baker — I liked the (deliberately hard to like) main character and the premise, but I though that ultimately too much didn’t make sense.

    Fellside, by M. R. Carey — I may be unfairly comparing this one to The Girl With All The Gifts. It’s a good book, and might have looked better if the author hadn’t just previously written a brilliant one.

    Magisterium: The Bronze Key, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare — A series that benefits from being read as one in conversation with the Harry Potter books. Nice examination of tropes, but the story wasn’t quite as strong in this entry as it could have been.

    Margaret The First, by Danielle Dutton (not SFF) — Fictionalized biography about one of the most interesting people in history. I wanted more than this one gave.

    False Hearts, by Laura Lam — A lot of interesting stuff packed into this one, but I felt it kind of fell apart at the end.

    An Accident of Stars, by Foz Meadows — From a description of the plot, this is just what I want in a portal fantasy, but while I enjoyed it, somehow it didn’t grab me the way I wanted it to.

    Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson — This series had a great start, but by this final book in the trilogy, the characters had begun to wear out their welcome.
    ?
    This Savage Song, by V. E. Schwab — Another book with a great set-up and a bit of a let-down ending. But the first in a series, so my opinion of the end could change depending on what comes next.

    Occupy Me, by Tricia Sullivan — Another one that I really, really wanted to like more based on the description, and somehow just didn’t, although I certainly didn’t hate it.
    ?
    As I Descended, by Robin Talley — An lot of good ideas here, but I thought it never quite all came together the way it needed to.

    And I think I’ll wrap up there … Decent Stuff Not Published In 2016 isn’t all that long, but is just a bunch of random-books-that-were-OK, and I’ll leave off all of the Books I Was Disappointed By, because hey, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

  16. 18) Laurie Gough’s article belongs into Camestros’ flaming dumpster. And Correia manages to be unpleasant, even when he has a point.

  17. Kyra on December 30, 2016 at 7:28 pm said:
    Fellside, by M. R. Carey — I may be unfairly comparing this one to The Girl With All The Gifts. It’s a good book, and might have looked better if the author hadn’t just previously written a brilliant one.

    I literally just finished reading that book!
    I agree completely. Interesting – would make an interesting TV thriller mini-series but not brilliant. Ending went a bit awry IMHO.

  18. I defeated the Cover That Would Not Load, so my final review of 2016 is up and waiting to go live. Ditto my stats for the year, which were a bit disappointing. More tomorrow.

  19. @Camestros Felapton: Tentacles are always appreciated. 😉

    @Soon Lee: Gak, what? I’m not ready for you to be in a different year! I’m just barely into the 31st here!

  20. 18 (self-pub vs. trad-pub):

    For someone who so denounces validation, Larry sure seems to need a good deal of it. For that matter, if he likes self-publishing so much, why’d he sign with Baen?

    I think Gough has a point about the value of gatekeepers, but that it’s improperly stated and – dare I say it? – comes from a position of privilege. Yes, editorial gatekeepers have a valuable function in terms of weeding out the truly awful and/or subliterate trash, and self-publishing allows those would-be writers to sidestep that obstacle and shovel their trash directly onto an unwitting public. That’s bad, and I completely agree with Gough about that. However, editorial gatekeepers also have a horrible track record when it comes to minority voices and hard-to-pigeonhole stories, and that’s an obstacle that should be dodged. “Good” comes in objective and subjective flavors, and blending them together sinks her argument.

    I’ve lost count of the number of self-pub books that I praise for having good stories even while I bemoan their bad grammar. (One 200-page book I marked up this month had upwards of 500 mistakes, most of which were examples of two or three basic rules.) Unfortunately, the people most prone to heed my advice of “get an editor and listen to them” are those least likely to need it in the first place. The truly awful authors don’t think that stuff matters, and sadly, some of them have high sales ranks. Some readers just don’t mind reading slop.

  21. Rev. Bob: Some readers just don’t mind reading slop.

    That’s the thing that I find mind-boggling. It brings to mind that Puppy who posted several times here last year, using Amazon reviews about books to back up his claims about the quality of those books — without having actually read the books himself. He preferred getting seven 99c ebooks, no matter how bad the quality of writing or editing, over one well-written, well-copyedited ebook for $6.99 — and claimed that all those hundreds of free and 99c ebooks were as equally worthy of Hugo consideration as the books nominated by Worldcon voters.

    I’m just completely unable to fathom that sort of mentality. 😐

  22. 18) Is it just me, or does anyone else think that HuffPo article seems like the perfect other bookend for the one from MGC arguing the opposite position a few Scrolls back?

    @ Kyra: Yay, another Interior Life fan! It’s one of the books I keep going back to for comfort reading.

    Unfortunately, The Harbors of the Sun is slated to be the final Raksura novel. However, Wells has said she’ll probably continue to post shorter pieces on her Patreon. (And of course, there’s always fanfic…)

  23. Thanks for the recommendations, Kyra!

    I’ve just closed out 2016 with Penric’s Mission, which is now my favourite of the Penric novellas so far – but if, as I hear, it’s actually short novel length, I’m not sure it’s strong enough for my novel ballot.

    So far I’ve read 33 novels and 17 novellas published in 2016, and while I’m hoping to add significantly to that total in the next couple of months I was inspired by the YET ANOTHER ALL MALE LIST linked in 5 to put together my own definitely-not-all-male-white-or-straight recommendation thoughts of 2016 so far:

    The things that I personally adored:
    THE OBELISK GATE by N.K. Jemisin
    NINEFOX GAMBIT by Yoon Ha Lee
    BORDERLINE by Mishell Baker
    THE RAVEN AND THE REINDEER by T. Kingfisher
    WALL OF STORMS by Ken Liu
    A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT by Becky Chambers

    (Nomination ballot is six items in 2017, yeah? Phew!)

    LOST CHILD OF LYCHFORD by Paul Cornell
    COLD FORGED FLAME by Marie Brennan
    RUN TIME by S.B. Divya

    Other things I recommend:
    CENTRAL STATION by Lavie Tidhar
    STAR WARS: BLOODLINE by Claudia Gray
    MARESI by Maria Turtschaninoff
    ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders
    CITY OF WOVEN STREETS by Emmi Itaranti
    EVERFAIR by Nisi Shawl
    THE READER by Traci Chee

    THE JEWEL AND HER LAPIDARY by Fran Wilde
    PENRIC AND THE SHAMAN by Lois McMaster Bujold
    PENRIC’S MISSION by Lois McMaster Bujold
    BRUSHWORK by Aliya Whiteley
    EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan MacGuire

    Scattered thoughts on other categories
    – Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent books, starting with BRIEF NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS and continuing in 2016 with LABYRINTH OF DRAKES, is certain to make my Best Series list.
    So is Jaclyn Moriarty’s Colours of Madeleine, which starts with A CORNER OF WHITE and ended this year with A TANGLE OF GOLD
    – I will probably nominate Kameron Hurley’s Bel Dame apocrypha off the publication of THE HEART IS EATEN LAST (unless I have five equally great things which require less nomination shenanigans)
    – THE GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION for Best Related work, definitely.
    – I haven’t got to AFTER THE CROWN by K.B. Wagers yet but if I like it I’ll probably add her to Campbell.

    I hope that’s a helpful data point to anyone looking to prioritise their TBR stack in the next few months before Hugo nominations, or just interested in random people telling them about cool stuff on the internets.

  24. Arifel: I’ve just closed out 2016 with Penric’s Mission, which is now my favourite of the Penric novellas so far – but if, as I hear, it’s actually short novel length, I’m not sure it’s strong enough for my novel ballot.

    You know that you get to nominate in the Hugo Novella category too, right?

    The following are Novellas:

    LOST CHILD OF LYCHFORD by Paul Cornell
    COLD FORGED FLAME by Marie Brennan
    RUN TIME by S.B. Divya
    THE JEWEL AND HER LAPIDARY by Fran Wilde
    PENRIC AND THE SHAMAN by Lois McMaster Bujold
    PENRIC’S MISSION by Lois McMaster Bujold
    BRUSHWORK by Aliya Whiteley
    EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan MacGuire

    In fact, nominating a Novella in the Novel category is probably not a good idea, anyway — because if a Novella got enough nominations to make the Final Ballot in the Novel category, it would just get disqualified as not being eligible.

    With the exception of “Lychford”, which I have not read yet, and “Lapidary”, which I thought had an interesting premise but failed in the execution, all the other novellas you’ve listed here are on my Hugo Novella longlist for this year.

  25. I noticed this long ago with fanfic: Sturgeon’s Law was talking about stuff that has been filtered by an editor. Assume every level of filtering takes out 90% – that means 99% of self-pub stuff is crap. Numbers on fanfic archive sites seemed to confirm it: if there are 1000 fics in a category, 10 of them will be good, one will be awesome. The fanfic solution was to find a good fic-recommendation group.

  26. @JJ Yep! I didn’t make it clear above but I was separating the novels and novellas in each category with a line break.

    I had read, probably somewhere in a comment long gone, that Penric’s Mission is actually over 40k words (or I guess 40k +10% which is the discretionary margin if I recall correctly) and so might not be eligible as a novella despite being published as one. I’m pretty sure I nominated a short novel (All That Outer Space Allows) as a novella last year but I read significantly less that time around and, as you say, it’s effectively a wasted nomination and I have more than six things in both categories I’d like to see recognised so…

    Also, Arrival of Missives is high on my novella reading agenda based on your review, though I am still hoping the ebook will become more reasonably priced first!

  27. Finally ticking, also have realised I’m getting nomination procedure wrong next year and can only write five things down after all. Please excuse this soopergenius…

    Time to see off the year in GMT +8, see you all next year!

  28. Arifel: I had read, probably somewhere in a comment long gone, that Penric’s Mission is actually over 40k words (or I guess 40k +10% which is the discretionary margin if I recall correctly)

    Okay, I just used Calibre to check, and that is true:

    Penric and the Shaman – 37,698 words
    Penric’s Mission – 45,238

    So the latter is indeed in the Novel category.

  29. As we seem to be posting end-of-year consumption, and it’s still NYE here for over 17 hours…

    I’m about a quarter of the way through McGuire’s second Indexing book, and I may finish it off today. I’m also about a third of the way through the first collection in the current She-Hulk series (story looks promising, don’t care much for the art so far), and it’s more likely that I’ll finish it before hitting the sack. Finally, I’ve been taking my time with the first Batman Elseworlds compilation – it’s close to 600 pages – and don’t intend to finish it today. I’ve been reading it in pieces while escorting my mother to doctor’s appointments.

    Meanwhile, I’m about to finish watching the fourth season of Get Smart. I’ve had the box set for years, watched the first two seasons, and then lost steam. I started season three a couple of days ago and now have two episodes left in season four; season five may be my New Year’s Day viewing. My four complaints with the set, such as they are: (1) the laugh track, as I got spoiled by MASH giving me the option to omit it, (2) no subtitles, (3) the custom packaging is fragile, and (4) some of the two-parters got split across discs. That last could’ve been fixed if they hadn’t stuck to a rigid 7-7-6-6 episode count; shuffling the breakdown a bit (e.g. 7-6-7-6) would’ve kept the stories intact.

    My other significant stat for the year, although unrelated to SFF media, is $1525. That’s how much I’ve been able to earn in gift cards through Perk and Viggle, which is how I’ve fed my entertainment habit while being unemployed. That’s how I paid for the three books I mentioned earlier, and I may use up a little more of that balance later. Marvel has some digital collections on sale for $4 and $5 through the weekend, and I have another $25 credit coming on Monday, so I may pick up a couple of the collections I’ve been curious about.

  30. The main thing that puts me off self-publishing is that I’d have to do all the work… including all the jobs… including some jobs I’m just not very good at.

    I mean, I reckon I can write a decent story, and I have a good eye for detail and a fair knowledge of grammar and spellyng and stuff, so I can at least go through the text and eliminate any obvious howlers. So that’s writing and subbing covered… but, well, can any of us be objective enough to do higher-level editing on our own stories? And then I would also have to do things like layout (which I reckon I could manage, sort of, eventually), cover design, and publicity (both of which I suck at).

    So, having a trad publisher to deal with the stuff I can’t do… sounds like not such a bad idea after all.

    Like (I suspect) most people around here, I’ve read some good and some bad self-published books, and some good and some bad traditionally-published books. The one generalization I’d make is that the bad self-pubbed books tend to be worse than the bad trad-pubbed ones – because some people really do need to be filtered out by the Traditional Gatekeepers. (Of course, there are small presses out there which do lousy design and no editing, thus combining all the disadvantages of self- and trad-publishing…. I’ll leave it to others to come up with an example.)

  31. I’ve been reading a bunch of self-published horror lately, along with some self-published fantasy, and I do keep being struck by how many okay-to-pretty good stories I read that could have been good-to-excellent with another draft and some editing in depth. It’s too common to encounter some genuinely striking images, an engaging character or few, and a cool setting and/or plot idea that just aren’t well served by the story they’re in.

    I’ve been blessed with some great editing, and I’m prone to saying that good editing making a story more itself – more of what it has the potential to be, stripped free of accretions that may or may not have merit but don’t serve the whole very well. I wish more of these pieces with potential could get that kind of care.

  32. @Kyra

    The Guns Of Empire, by Django Wexler — The fourth book in Wexler’s pentology ups the stakes, as the characters we’ve come to love aim their muskets at an enemy that proves to be disturbingly penultimate.

    As well as +1ing your opinion, I’m just going to admire your use of “disturbingly penultimate” a bit more.

    Fellside – I just picked this up on Amazon sale and was going to see if it disturbed my 2016 shortlist, but sounds like it might not. I think Closed and Common Orbit is the next thing I haven’t read but need to, probably followed by This Savage Song.

  33. Cheap eBook Alert: Five books by Patricia C. Wrede (Shadow Magic, Daughter of Witches, The Harp of Imach Thyssel, Caught in Crystal, The Raven Ring) are available in one package as “The Lyra Novels” for $3.99 at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Kobo.

  34. Finally got around to reading Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, where I had backed the Kickstarter last year. My overall take is that there are some excellent stories in there, but the premise of the anthology may not have been all that successful: The more faithfully the stories stuck to the premise, the more predictable and on the nose they appeared to be.

    Stories I liked best:

    Can You Tell Me How To Get To Paprika Place by Michael Underwood: Robots from children’s TV, converted to deadly weapons in a war of entertainment corporation, try to make their way back home after the war.

    The White Dragon by Alyssa Wong: Chinese-American sorceress in San Francisco’s Chinatown gets tangled up in a Film noir crime story.

    Requiem for a Manic Pixie Dream by Katy Harrad and Greg Stolze: Maybe the most successful story among those that really just took a trope and turned it upside down. Boy meets Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

    The Refrigerator in the Girlfriend by Adam-Troy Castro: for all his Pixel-Scroll linked opinions I’ve read, I think this is the first fiction of his I’ve encountered, and I enjoyed it. In a slight extrapolation of current body modification trends, a young woman has a refrigerator built into her abdomen.

    The Tangled Web by Ferrett Steinmetz: A super squicky glimpse into the love life of some arachnid society.

  35. My final numbers for the year are:

    255 books read. 161.5 by women (0.63), 91.5 by men (0.36), 2 by authors who identifies as neither (0.01). 62.5 by POC (0.25).

    Numbers are down from 2015 because I had a lousy start to the year that took me a while to recover from (followed by what I will politely call The Summer of Endless Death) and because my editor asked me to scale because to five reviews a week because seven per week is an unreasonable workload.

    I read and reviewed lots of good stuff this year and if we’re not all charred meat sometime in 2017, I will read more good books in 2017.

    Recentish books I liked:
    Linda Nagata’s The Red series
    T. Kingfisher’s The Raven and the Reindeer
    Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein’s 2015’s Letters to Tiptree
    Zen Cho’s The Terracotta Bride
    B. R. Sanders Ariah.
    Graydon Saunder’s Safely You Deliver
    S. L. Huang’s Plastic Smile
    Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution
    Corinne Duyvis’ On the Edge of Gone
    Adam Rakunas’ Like a Boss

    (that’s Jan to June. More later)

  36. I’m curious what the minimum age is to understand today’s title. Wikipedia tell me that the series of ads ran from 1966 to 1992. So late 20s? Or is it one of those things that lives on long after the commercial has stopped running. Do people still make jokes about Mr. Whipple and squeezing the Charmin?

    I would have thought it was US specific, but wikipedia tells me that Madge/Françoise/Tilly/Marissa appeared in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark and Italy. (Also in Australia and New Zealand with a different actress as Madge.)

  37. My favorite published in 2016 was Monster Hunter Memoires: Grunge by Correia and Ringo. Sinners was not as good.

    A common theme at 770 is the love of carefully crafted prose with sound editing and dislike of occasional editing mistakes. To each his own, but I would much rather read something with occasional spelling and grammar errors that is interesting than something boring with beautiful language.

    The Wearing the Cape series and everything by Jim Bernheimer are excellent and self published. I’m sure there are many other examples. I’m sure that many self published books are horrible.

    Larry enjoys fisking idiots. I enjoy reading his rants. If you don’t enjoy reading them, don’t look. I think Scalzi’s political opinions are garbage and don’t care for his taste in books. I don’t read his blog.

  38. @airboy

    I think Scalzi’s political opinions are garbage and don’t care for his taste in books. I don’t read his blog.

    What exactly is the point of this totally unsolicited pop at Scalzi?

    A common theme at 770 is the love of carefully crafted prose with sound editing and dislike of occasional editing mistakes. To each his own, but I would much rather read something with occasional spelling and grammar errors that is interesting than something boring with beautiful language.

    How about enjoying something that is both interesting and well-crafted? Is that allowed? Because you seem to be excluding that particular middle.

  39. I can still argue against self-pub (even if I have to retreat to the past and mention that “in my day” no serious author would ever think of going the “vanity press” route), but even if I were 100% correct on that score, it’s a losing argument in the face of reality.

    Not to mention the fact that the problem really isn’t every non-writer and their second cousin once removed thinking that because they can press keys, they are entitled to foist their ill-considered (and most likely re-treaded) fantasies upon us.
    No, the real problem is the audience.
    IF the audience had some small bit of appreciation for what makes for good writing, it wouldn’t matter how many POS ebooks were listed on Amazon, they’d have no audience. They’d object to being unwitting first readers and volunteer slushies.

    We see these things – the poor grammar, confused settings, unintended POV shifts, cases changing mid-paragraph, even characters changing names with no prior explanation (not to mention those moments of “that violates the laws of thermodynamics” or “that’s physically impossible” or even “hey, so-and-so wrote this story in the 50s and despite being so old it got stuff right!” – unfortunately, the mass of the reading audience out there does not.
    It’s not that they ignore it because the story is so compelling – they simply do not have the educational background to realize the error, see the similarity (if not near-plagiarism) or get tired of reading “your” that ought to be “you’re”.

    I believe it really is true that SF requires a special kind of reader and that attempting to commercialize the genre (by which I mean trying to expand the market by appealing to a wider audience) is diluting it so much that the expression “oh, that Buck Rogers stuff!” (muttered in derision) will once again become an accurate characterization of the field.

    SF will never “die”, but it sure can get stupid(er).

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