Pixel Scroll 1/24/17 You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question: “Do I Feel Ticky?”

(1) SURE AS SHOOTIN’. Days of the Year says this is “Talk Like a Grizzled Old Prospector Day”.

“Well hooooooo-wee! Ah reckon we’ve found ourselves some bona fide golden nuggets right here in this ol’ mound o’ grit! Yessiree, Momma’s gonna be marty proud when she discov’rs we can afford fresh beans ‘n’ biscuits for the winnertarm, an’ there’s gonna be three more weeks uvvit if mah old aching knee is t’be rckoned with.”

Yes. Well, anyway. Today is Talk Like a Grizzled Old Prospector Day, which can be a lot of fun, unless of course you already are a grizzled old prospector, in which case just carry on as normal. For the rest of us it’s an opportunity to use terms like “consarn it” when we spill our coffee at work, and “Who-Hit-John” when referring to whiskey (although unless you work in a bar or a liquor store, you should probably leave the latter until you get home).

Now go on, get out there and call somebody a varmint!

Here’s your training video, featuring prospector Gabby Johnson from Blazing Saddles:

(2) THE MAGIC GOES AWAY. Kameron Hurley tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth in “Let’s Talk About Writing and Disappointment”.

There was a huge amount of buzz around the release of The Geek Feminist Revolution last year. More buzz than I’d seen for any book I’d ever written. People were telling me on Twitter that they’d bought three or four copies and were making all their friends read it. I heard from booksellers that the books were flying off the shelves. We went into a second printing almost immediately. I did a book signing in Chicago that sold a bunch of books. The reader response at BEA was surreal. It was magical.

This, I thought, is what it must feel like to have a book that’s about to hit it big. This was it. This was going to be the big one. It was going to take off. I gnawed on my nails and watched as big magazines picked up articles from it and it got reviewed favorably in The New York Times, and I waited for first week sales numbers.

I expected to see at least twice the number of first week sales for this book as I had for any previous book. The buzz alone was two or three times what I was used to. This had to be it….

But when the numbers came in, they weren’t twice what I usually did in week one. They were about the same as the first week numbers for The Mirror Empire.  And… that was…. fine. I mean, it would keep me getting book contracts.

But… it wasn’t a breakout. It was a good book, but It wasn’t a book that would change my life, financially.

Reader, I cried….

(3) THE HORIZON EVENT. Strange Horizons has announced the results of its 2016 Readers Poll.







(4) O, CAPTAINS MY CAPTAINS. Whoopi Goldberg hosted a Star Trek Captains Summit with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes in 2009. Now the feature is part of the Blu-Ray Movie Box Set. Among the revelations from the discussion:

  • William Shatner confesses he’s never watched an episode of Next Generation.
  • Patrick Stewart admits he was a pain in the *** to his castmates during the first season.
  • Whoopi Goldberg reveals she has never been invited to a convention.
  • Jonathan Frakes attended an informal “Paramount university” for 2 years to earn his stripes as a director.
  • A fan asked Leonard Nimoy to take a picture of him with Tom Hanks.

(5) MORE LARRY SMITH APPRECIATIONS. Among those grieving the passing of bookseller Larry Smith are John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow. His support for the founding of Capclave has also been acknowledged:

You may not know what Larry did to promote Capclave, which was the revival of Disclave (after a three-year hiatus with no Washington D.C. SF convention). Larry promised to show up every year so that there would be a good Dealer’s Room at Capclave. And he did, even though it was a tiny convention compared to many of the others he would set up at.

(6) URBAN SPACEMAN. Jeff Foust reviews Richard Garriott’s autobiography Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers, Hidden Worlds, and the Creative Spark at The Space Review.

Growing up in Houston, he thought it was obvious that one day he would go into space himself. But he was told at age 13 his eyesight was too poor to qualify as a NASA astronaut. His dreams of spaceflight put on the back burner—but not forgotten—he soon rose to prominence as an early computer game developer, best known for the Ultima series. Much of the book delves into the accomplishments and challenges he faced in that career.

Garriott returns to the topic of space later in the book. While best known for flying on a Soyuz to the International Space Station in 2008, he had been trying to find a non-NASA way into space for two decades. In the book, he describes how he and his father established a company called Extended Flights for Research and Development, or EFFORT, around 1987 to develop a pallet for the shuttle’s cargo bay that would allow the shuttle to remain in orbit for more than a month. NASA was not interested. He was an early investor in Spacehab, the company that developed pressured modules for the shuttle with visions, ultimately unrealized, of some day carrying people commercially.

Garriott was also an early investor in space tourism company Space Adventures, and funded out of his own pocket a $300,000 study by the Russian space agency Roscosmos to determine if it was feasible for private citizens to fly on Soyuz spacecraft. When the answer came back in the affirmative, “I immediately booked my flight,” he wrote. However, the dot-com crash wiped out much of his net worth, including the money he planned to use for the flight. Dennis Tito instead got to fly in the seat Garriott planned to buy.

Garriott rebuilt his wealth and got another opportunity to fly in 2008….

(7) NEXT. Sam Adams reviews The Discovery for the BBC — “What would happen if we knew the afterlife was real?”

The Discovery, which, like McDowell’s debut, The One I Love, he co-wrote with Justin Lader, opens with a jarring but gimmicky prologue. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), the scientist who has provided proof that there is some form of life after death, is in the midst of defending his findings to a TV interviewer (a far-too-brief appearance by Mary Steenburgen), when a member of her crew interrupts to blow his brains out on the air. But in contrast with last year’s twin Sundance entries about the on-camera suicide of Florida newscaster Christine Chubbuck, his action isn’t a protest so much as an invitation: if there’s another world, it can’t be worse than this one, so why not get there as soon as you can?…

The question of whether an afterlife exists is as much epistemological as metaphysical: if not necessarily all, at least a significant percentage of the world’s religious faithful have long had all the proof they need. Thomas Harbor’s discovery would seem to overwhelmingly settle the question, but as his son argues, “Proof shouldn’t be overwhelming; it should be definitive.” (The extent to which that statement sounds either profound or sophomoric is a good indication of how much you’ll get out of The Discovery.)

(8) SKY HIGH DEFINITION. Praise for photos from a new weather satellite orbited in December — “’Like High-Definition From The Heavens’; NOAA Releases New Images Of Earth”.

The satellite, known as GOES-16, is in geostationary orbit, meaning its location does not move relative to the ground below it. It is 22,300 miles above Earth. Its imaging device measures 16 different “spectral bands,” including two that are visible to the human eye and 14 that we experience as heat.

It is significantly more advanced than the current GOES satellite, which measures only five spectral bands.

(9) A TV SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS. NPR says the TV series gets the books better than the movie did: “’A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Is All About Olaf”.

It’s the Netflix series that comes closest to achieving that tone, for two reasons.

One, it foregrounds Lemony Snicket. Jude Law played him in the movie, but chiefly in voice-over. The Netflix series turns him into a kind of omnipresent, lachrymose host played with deadpan, note-perfect solemnity by Patrick Warburton.

In the series, Snicket is constantly stepping into the shot to impart some new nugget of depressing information, or express concern at something that has just happened, will soon happen, or is happening. He’s like Rod Serling at the beginning of The Twilight Zone, if an episode ever featured Neil Patrick Harris in drag.

Snicket’s physical presence turns out to be important. In the movie, Law’s voice-over did much of the same work, or tried to, but having Snicket literally step into the proceedings to warn us about what we’re about to see next feels exactly like those moments in the books when Snicket’s narrator would admonish us for reading him.

But the big reason it all works? Neil Patrick Harris’ evil Count Olaf.

(10) BONUS ROUND. The author of the Lemony Snicket books, Daniel Handler, appeared on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me over the weekend. NPR has posted a transcript of the show.

HANDLER: I have one son, yes.

SAGAL: And how old is he?

HANDLER: He’s 13.

SAGAL: Right. And did he read the “Series Of Unfortunate Events?”

HANDLER: He’s actually reading them now. He was quite reluctant to read them for a long time. And for many years, about every six months, he would say to me, what are these books about again? And I would say, they’re about three children whose parents are killed in a terrible fire and then they’re forced to live with a monstrous villain. And he and I would, you know, have that sad look that passes between children and their parents a lot about the inheritance of a confusing and brutal world. And then he would go read something else.

(11) FOR INCURABLE CUMBERBATCH FANS. Have a Benedict Cumberbatch addiction? Check out this 2008 BBC science fiction miniseries, The Last Enemy, available on YouTube. Cumberbatch was nominated for a Satellite Award for his role as a lead character.  The story combines pandemic and big brother technology premises.

(12) NOW WITH MORE BABY GROOT. New proof that science fiction movie trailers are much more fun with Japanese-language titles – Guardians of the Galaxy international trailer #2 (followed in this video by the original English-only traler):

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

95 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/24/17 You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question: “Do I Feel Ticky?”


    I’m surprised none of the media conventions ever invited Whoopi Goldberg, given the incredible entertainment value they would have received.

  2. Pre-5th!
    The new satellite pictures sound like fun…gotta go look.

    And yeah. why no invites for Goldberg, considering all the less-well-known guests from the various series?

  3. (9) So by this point I’ve seen the Netflix Series of Unfortunate Events, and (as a big fan of the books) I’m very pleased with it. It definitely does a good job recreating what made the books special, and it’s a lot of fun.

    As for NPH, I enjoy him in the role, but he *still* feels to me like the weakest part. He feels like he’s playing “Evil Barney” — for good and for ill. And he’s played much more as a buffoon, which sits uneasily with me – the SoUE humor is so very, very deadpan, and NPH breaks that.

    In the books, I feel like the awful thing about Count Olaf is how easily other people are just willing to accept everything he says. How things that just shouldn’t work, that nobody should believe, are met with “Oh, okay, I have no reason to distrust you, I wouldn’t want to make trouble.” And, there’s a fair measure of that in the Netflix series, which is great.
    But there’s also Count Oaf being a clown in his own right, especially all the moments of slipping and incompetence… and, well, I can’t say it doesn’t work, but it’s a very different tone.

  4. (12) I know Gamora’s not a chatty character, but does she have any lines in the movie? Not a word in either trailer.


    Congratulations to the winners. Here’s the full fiction lineup:

    First place: “Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic” by José Pablo Iriarte
    Second place: “Das Steingeschöpf” by G. V. Anderson
    Third place: “A Spell to Retrieve Your Lover from the Bottom of the Sea” by Ada Hoffmann
    Fourth place: “Applied Cenotaphics in the Long, Long Longitudes” by Vajra Chandrasekera
    Fifth place: “How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World” by Arkady Martine

    I’ve only had time to dip into some stories from SH this year based on recs but based on what I did read that’s a pretty good top 5. I prefer the Arkady Martine and the GV Anderson to the winner but that’s a matter of taste rather than disliking it or any of the others. A few others that I would have thrown in are:
    Gorse Daughter, Sparrow Son by Alena Indigo Anne Sullivan
    The Dancer on the Stairs by Sarah Tolmie
    We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You? by Rebecca Ann Jordan


    A bit of 2017 reading: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages, a tor.com novella. I was going to pass on this because the concept sounded far too light on fantastic elements for my tastes, but some rave reviews persuaded me to try it. I was right that it was very light on the actual fantasy, but it was beautifully written with compelling characters and relationships, and the historical elements of 40s San Francisco were fascinating, so I’m glad I picked it up. I think this review from Liz Bourke does a better job of describing the premise than I can.

  6. Mark-kitteh: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages, a tor.com novella

    Amazon says it’s 226 pages, so surely it’s a novel? (the boundary usually falls around 150 pages)

    Thanks for the rec — I have that on my list already based on the synopsis, but I appreciate knowing that I’d probably want to move it up a bit in terms of priority.

  7. Re: 2
    Yeah, I keep telling my co workers that many of the authors I know have day jobs, and ways to put bread on the table other than writing novels, because that’s a fundamental fact of modern publishing. When I hear a favored writer of mine celebrating getting a job as a manager of a winery, it stings. Because its reality.

    Some writer, I can’t remember who, said that the best thing a writer could have was a spouse with a day job and health insurance for both. So, yeah…

  8. but does she have any lines in the movie? Not a word in either trailer.

    Not even a “Star-Lord no BAKA!” in the Japanese trailer?

  9. @JJ

    I did a hurried check of the word count via calibre and it was somewhere between 38-39k. I’ll double check it later in case I made a mistake.

  10. There was also a semi-animated (IIRC) clip-art-type Grizzled Old Prospector that the Colbert Report used to bring out when Stephen wanted to say “Gold! Gold!” and cackle a bit for any given reason.

  11. RE: Passing Strange: Ellen Klages was on the most recent episode of the Coode Street Podcast talking about it, and they posted a second episode that was 10 minutes of her reading from the book. I’m definitely going to be adding it to my list.

  12. @m.c. simon:

    No, Syndrome’s Mr. Incredible’s enemy. You know, the guy with the big round robot? Nothin’ grizzled about ‘im.

  13. Referring to nothing in particular, I was listening to classic rock radio and was surprised to hear Led Zeppelin directly namecheck Lord Of The Rings in the song “Ramble On”:

    When magic filled the air
    ‘T was in the darkest depths of Mordor
    I met a girl so fair
    But Gollum, and the evil one
    crept up and slipped away with her
    Her, her, yeah
    Ain’t nothing I can do, no

    Are there any other songs that directly refer to specific SF/F works in its lyrics? Nothing immediately comes to mind….

  14. @Rob — Another Zeppelin song springs to mind: Battle of Evermore

    The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath,
    The drums will shake the castle wall,
    The ring wraiths ride in black, ride on.

  15. @Rob Thornton

    Is it surprising that “modern” folk music refers to “modern” themes? I would not think so.

    Easy answers to songs that directly refer to specific SF/F works in the lyrics can be found in the output of Hawkwind (over several decades) and Rush (nearly as long). Not to mention Mike Moorcock (you know, the SF/F writer), had his own band for a while…

  16. @ Takamaur Misako –

    Since I’m not really a Hawkwind person–all I have is the self-titled album and “Space Ritual”–and I’m definitely not a Rush person, a lot of this went past me. However, a quick search revealed an io9 article from Phil Freeman about Michel Moorcock’s extensive musical efforts:


    For example, I definitely did not know that Hawkwind did an entire album about the Eternal Champion in 1985 (The Chronicle of the Black Sword).

  17. And Blue Oyster Cult has songs referencing SFnal themes (2 or 3 inspired by discussions with Michael Moorcock, iirc) including at least one song with a direct reference.

    Oh no, they say he’s got to go, go go Scrollzilla

  18. @Rob Thornton
    Blue Oyster Cult reference Moorcock directly in Black Blade and The Great Sun Jester.

    Hawkwind diverted to Zelazny with Jack of Shadows and Damnation Alley, name checked Bradbury with Fahrenheit 451, returned to Moorcock with Chronicle of The Black Sword and most recently tipped their hat to EM Forster with The Machine Stops.

    Steve Hackett recorded Narnia for one of his early solo albums. Paul McCartney and Wings recorded Magneto & Titanium Man.

    Iron Maiden’s To Tame A Planet was inspired by Dune although their song Out Of The Silent Planet seems about as connected to the novel as Yes’s Starship Trooper.

    Moorcock’s band was the Deep Fix.

  19. I was going to mention Hawkwind

    I just took a scroll
    In a pixel machine
    And I’m still feeling keen.
    Do you wanna scroll, see your filk going by.
    The other side of the file

    I got a pixel machine.

  20. @ Hampus –

    Thanks for mentioning Iron Maiden and Dune. Though there are no lyrics on German synth artist Holger Czukay’s album Dune, it’s still worth a mention I think,

  21. Hi everyone, nice reason for a first post:
    There’s Jeff Wayne’s extraordinary War of the Worlds album (featuring Richard Burton and Phil Lynott)
    Offhand there also pops Iron Maiden’s “Out of the Silent Planet” and “Brave New World” into my mind.
    And Metallica – “Call of Ctulhu”

  22. And speaking of Queen, their song ’39 is about a spaceship crew that arrives back at earth hundreds of years after if left because of relativistic time dilation. (Similar to the premise of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.)

    You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was written by the band’s guitar player Brian May, who was working on a Ph.D. in astrophysics before the band hit big.

  23. @Rob Thornton: I think Zeppelin’s Misty Mountain Hop may have something to do with Tolkien, too. I think the titles a geographic reference, maybe something to do with the lowlands around the river Anduin.

    Yeah, that’s probably it.

    Or, y’know, maybe it has to do with the Hithaeglir mountain range, called the Misty Mountains in the common tongues of man.

  24. Brian May, who was working on a Ph.D. in astrophysics before the band hit big

    And has since finished, submitted, defended and been awarded it…

  25. And has since finished, submitted, defended and been awarded it…

    Well, yes. But that hadn’t happened yet when he wrote the song. Which is why I didn’t call him Dr. Brian May. 😉

  26. @JJ

    Amazon says it’s 226 pages, so surely it’s a novel? (the boundary usually falls around 150 pages)

    Page count is an unreliable guide to word length–even when it comes from the same publisher. I collected data on that for twenty or thirty Tor novellas before I gave it up. Price is a more reliable indicator. If the Kindle edition is $2.99 it’s almost always a novella, and almost all novellas are $2.99. But there are exceptions on both sides.

    Anyway, “Passing Strange” has 38,685 words, so it’s comfortably under the 40,000-word limit.

  27. [It goes into black and white because the color copy looks better and sounds better, but is not complete otherwise.]

  28. Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation has The Sprawl which was inspired by William Gibson (but actually quotes Denis Johnson) as well as Hey Joni which seems to reference him as well.

    And while we’re there;
    “I wanted to know the exact pixels of scroll”

  29. Another worthy 1970s SF-ish track – rather obscure these days, but I remember when it would get radio play – is “Watcher of the Skies” by Genesis, from the mid-Peter Gabriel era. (Wikipedia claims that its lyrics – “Judge not this race by its remains,” etc. – were influenced by Childhood’s End, but I wouldn’t assume that to be fact.)

  30. When David Gerrold’s THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMELF was nominated for a Hugo as a novel, someone (Charles PLatt?) went through the book and counted the words and said it was a novella. The original edition of it did have sizeable type and lots of white space

  31. I can think of a few things off the top of my heard. I haven’t heard it, but there’s an Alan Parsons Project album entitled, I, Robot. They also did an album focused on the work of Edgar Allen Poe. There’s the Bowie album that was intended to be a kind of rock opera homage to 1984, but became Diamond Dogs because he didn’t get permission. Joy Division references Ballard. Also, there are too many Lovecraft references in metal songs to mention, but I really like Metallica’s. Bob Drake’s Skull Mailbox takes the Lovecraft influence in a very different direction, and is also fairly interesting.

  32. Judas Priest has a song called Metal Gods, about robots taking over the world. They don’t seem to be referring to any particular story of robot revolution, however.

  33. Mark-kitteh, Greg, thanks for the updates on the word count of Passing Strange; I’ll update my lists. 🙂

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