Pixel Scroll 3/16/17 Let’s Go Scrollin’ In Pixel Land

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. The panel is getting younger. “This week actual high schooler (for about two more months) Raya joins the crew, says James Davis Nicoll. “Like most of the others, she’s familiar with recent genre but not the older material.”

Her first assignment: Joan D. Vinge’s “A View From A Height.”.

1978’s Hugo Nominee “A View From a Height” first appeared in the June 1978 issue of Analog. It was selected for Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year, #8, Gardner Dozois’ Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Eighth Annual Collection, Pamela Sargent’s Women of Wonder, the Classic Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s, as well as other collections and anthologies. The theme of irreversible life decisions cast into doubt by new revelations seemed to me one that would have aged well. Let’s see if I was right.

(2) ORWELL PRIZE. The Orwell Prize for Books 2017 Longlist consists almost entirely of nonfiction, with one exception of genre interest —

The Power by Naomi Alderman (Viking)

It starts with teenage girls. At 14 or 15, the age when in our present world girls are waking to an awareness of their own sexuality tangled up in all the ways society will seek to stifle or exploit it, Alderman has them come alive to the thrill of pure power: the ability to hurt or even kill by releasing electrical jolts from their fingertips. “Something’s happening. The blood is pounding in her ears. A prickling feeling is spreading along her back, over her shoulders, along her collarbone. It’s saying: you can do it. It’s saying: you’re strong.”

The shortlist will be announced on May 15, and the winner on June 8.

(3) MAKING MUSIC. Sammy Cahn (“Come Fly With Me,” “Three Coins in the Fountain”) used to tell people he got his inspiration when the check arrived. Disney songwriter Alan Menken says he needs a little more.

“Where does it start and where does it end, and what’s the title and what song might it remind us of? …” Menken asks. “A million questions and only then will I sit and … start to play the piano.”

Menken’s musical chops were developed off-Broadway. He and lyricist Howard Ashman’s success with the 1982 comedy rock horror musical Little Shop of Horrors got Hollywood’s attention.

But when he first started working at Disney animation, he had some reservations. “I can’t tell you how many people said to me: Ugh, man, take a powder. Nobody takes animated musicals seriously,” he recalls.

Menken and Ashman’s first musical film — The Little Mermaid animation in 1989 — was a life saver for Disney. It lifted the studio out of a slump, and led to more big hits.

(4) UNSPOKEN MEETS UNSPEAKABLE. About a currently-running horror movie:

The new film, Get Out, defies easy classification. Though it has funny moments, it’s primarily a horror film, with racial anxiety at its center. Writer-director Jordan Peele tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that he thinks of Get Out as a “social thriller.”

The movie tells the story of a young black man named Chris whose white girlfriend, Rose, takes him to meet her parents for the first time — without first telling them he’s black. Rose’s parents go out of their way to show Chris how open minded they are, but there’s something suspicious in the liberal facade they present. The film takes several twists and turns (which we won’t spoil here) as Chris figures out what is going on.

Peele wanted the audience, regardless of race, to see the subtle racism through Chris’ eyes. “It was very important to me to just get the entire audience in touch in some way with the fears inherent [in] being black in this country,” Peele says. “Part of being black in this country, and I presume being any minority, is constantly being told that … we’re seeing racism where there just isn’t racism.”

(5) DOPPLEGANGERS. NPR’s “Movie Twins? Weirdly Similar Films That Came Out Within Months Of Each Other” cites many genre examples.

The new movie Life, which opens March 24, is about astronauts who discover an alien life form and live to regret it. You could say exactly the same thing about Alien: Covenant, which was originally scheduled to open the following Friday — until someone realized that was a recipe for box-office disaster. Alien: Covenant will now open in early May, and that close call, crazy as it is, isn’t uncommon in Hollywood.

Rival studios often stare each other down, refusing to blink, in showdowns that didn’t need to happen. In 1998, Earth-snuffing asteroids were blown up in the nick of time by nuclear warheads not once, but twice: with much electronic beeping and enormous special effects in Armageddon, and slightly higher beeping and enormous special effects in Deep Impact. That same year, animated insects skittered onto movie screens in both Antz and A Bug’s Life — and all of that just one year after dueling lava flows erupted in Dante’s Peak and Volcano.

(6) ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu was interviewed in New York Times Magazine.

Do you really think Democrats need to take pages from the Trump playbook? I would say we need to speak with our hearts more. The typical Democratic way of talking about, say, wealth inequality is to bring out Robert Reich, who will give a cute academic presentation. But at the core, wealth inequality is about people’s dreams for their families and their children. It’s friends my age who are dying to have a child and don’t know if they can afford to do that. The Democratic Party tends to have this hypereducated ruling-class mentality, and we need to realize that’s not making us connect with a lot of voters.

Considering the internet culture leading up to the election, some have said 2016 was a banner year for internet trolls. Do you think that’s accurate? Absolutely. I’ve rarely talked about Obama’s share of the blame for the rise of the alt-right and Gamergate. I had two separate calls with the White House, and they were telling me they had some ideas they were putting together to address Gamergate without needing to go through Congress, and nothing came of it. And what happened is a lot of people learned that there are no consequences to harassing women. If I play Grand Theft Auto and I decide to blow up a police helicopter, there are going to be consequences to that; eventually I’m going to go to jail and maybe pay 100 virtual dollars. We don’t even have that…..

In the aftermath of Gamergate, you said that you and the other women who were harassed “did everything right, and the system failed us.” Now you’re saying you want to be a part of that system. Do you think you can make changes inside of it? To me, the only way to get further gains on these issues is for more women to be represented in Congress. I don’t even care if it was a higher percentage of Republican women: I genuinely believe that if that number were closer to 50-50, we wouldn’t have ludicrous policies like the Hyde Amendment going through and devastating women’s access to reproductive health care. I want women out there to look at how incredibly unqualified Trump is and then ask themselves: “What on earth is holding you back? Do you think you don’t measure up with Donald Trump in the White House?”

(7) CHARACTERIZATION. Marko Kloos, whose Angles of Attack won two Rampant Manticore awards, explains how the novel came to have a gay Russian space marine.

Truth be told, when I wrote Dmitry, I didn’t know he was gay until I got to the scene in ANGLES OF ATTACK where Dmitry and young master Andrew have a drink together and show each other pictures of their main squeezes, as soldiers do when they have downtime and some alcohol in front of them. I’m not the kind of writer who claims that my characters have their own will—they do what I tell them to, goddammit, because I’m the master of their universe—but that was a moment where a character revealed a little detail that I hadn’t intentionally sketched out, but that felt natural and proper. Dmitry pulled out the picture of his spouse, and my brain just went, “He has a husband. Huh, Of course he does.”

So no, I don’t sit down with a character creation sheet and a checklist for Maximum Diversity(tm) and threw in a gay character to advance an agenda, score Social Justice Warrior brownie points, or engage in virtue-signaling. Dmitry is gay because he is, and with all the crap these soldiers have to deal with in their alien-besieged dystopia, I found it appropriate that at the very least, showing someone else a picture of your same-sex spouse is not worthy of special commentary above and beyond “Nice picture” in that version of the future.

(8) CHOOSING THE POWER. Abigail Nussbaum shares the Best Novel and Campbell Award categories on her Hugo nominating ballot. The first of her four novel picks is –

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman (review) – As I’ve said, this feels more like a Clarke award book than a Hugo award one, but nevertheless Alderman’s chilling, Handmaid’s Tale-esque story about a world in which women suddenly develop the ability to shoot bolts of electricity from their bodies, upending the world’s balance of violent potential, is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking works of science fiction I’ve read in some time.  What’s most interesting about The Power is that while it is undeniably a book about gender and the role that violence plays in maintaining gender roles, that’s not its main interest.  What Alderman is doing with her premise is using it to discuss the role that violence and the use of force play in organizing our society, even when we pretend to be beyond them.  That feels like a vital issue at this point in time.

(9) SIR POT. Mashable reports that Sir Patrick Stewart has announced that he has used medical marijuana for several years to help with his arthritis.  Stewart made this announcement to support an Oxford University proposal calling for more research into marijuana’s medical benefits. The piece is called “Patrick Stewart reveals that he uses medical marijuana every day”.

But Stewart isn’t rolling up a joint or hitting the bong, he says he typically uses sprays, ointments and edibles.

“I purchased an ointment, spray and edibles. The ointment, while providing some relief from the discomfort, was too greasy to use during daytime and so I only use it at night.”

Patrick went on to describe how he uses his medicine, later adding that he can now make a fist with his hand, which was impossible for him to do before using cannabis.

As the Captain might say, “Make it grow!”

(10) NEW PIXAR MOVIE. Coco, a Disney-Pixar movie, opens in US theatres in 3D on November 22.

(11) EYE-SEARING. Starz new American Gods trailer is violent and gory. Beware!

[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 StephenfromOttawa.]

81 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/16/17 Let’s Go Scrollin’ In Pixel Land

  1. airboy: What you call “box-checking,” I would call “not wanting to see good work overlooked because it doesn’t come from and/or star straight white guys.”

    But the articles and comments here are often focused on box checking.

    Well, there are a lot of [ticky box] comments…

  2. @Airboy
    There is a lot of focus on underrepresented minorities on File770, and I’d agree that some folks take it a bit too far. However, as Mike has pointed out, people close to the business have heard editors and agents make racist/sexist/homophobic comments at one time or another, so it’s not like it’s an imaginary problem. Within the past ten years, I myself had an editor tell me that he/she wouldn’t consider a story of mine because it had a gay protagonist. (To be fair, the person’s main objection was that it was a time-travel story, and he/she was the only editor who rejected it who was kind enough to say why.)

    Stories with a token gay/black/female character don’t really add much, other than maybe making it easier for the reader to tell the characters apart, but some of the best stories I’ve read over the past three years have come from people who were members of one or another minority and were writing from their own experience. Those are quite rare, and they’re not all good, but it’s clear to me that it’s definitely worth cultivating minority writers. It gets you things you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

  3. Greg Hullender: Stories with a token gay/black/female character don’t really add much

    I’m just waiting for an “objective” definition here of what constitutes a “story with a token gay/black/female character”.

  4. @Greg Hullender: yes, I think you’re describing what I call the “selfish” motive for encouraging diversity, there – as a reader, I am in favour of encouraging diverse and minority voices because, on average, it gets me better stories to read. Because some of those minority writers, by the law of averages, are going to be good writers, and if we stop ignoring them, we get to read their stuff.

    I can’t imagine why anyone should be against this, except maybe mediocre or poor writers from the privileged/majority background, who suddenly find themselves competing for attention against people who write better than they do…. But they can always learn and improve, can’t they? So they can compete more effectively in the free market?

    (Yes, yes, I know that there’s plenty of room for debate about what constitutes a “good” story, and that one person’s “good story” may be another’s “utter dreck”. And, yes, there are sound moral arguments for treating minority voices better than they have been… my point is, there is also a sound pragmatic argument.)

  5. airboy on March 17, 2017 at 10:27 am said:

    I find many of the comments about Kloos post to be amusing.

    How many 770 news items are about:
    1] The demographic composition of the writer?
    2] Some book/article/panel/magazine issue that has exclusively selected people of a specific sex, race, sexual orientation, etc….. for the issue for their special perspective?
    3] Analyses of the nominees/award winners/people published by a magazine because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, etc……? And the conclusion is that there are “not enough” nominees/award winners/published authors by specific race, sex and sexual orientations?
    4] The cover of the book does not match the color of the writer or character?

    About 4% based on a sample of 99 recent Pixel Scroll entries.
    https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/what-are-pixel-scrolls-about/

  6. Greg: Even the “token” chars, have one effect.
    They show that those charakters are normal and that makes them easier to acept.
    For some writers than can be a first step.
    (As a side note, female as minority is so wrong, from math alone)

    Drom Camestros link (sorry if I ever type that name wrong: I probably will)
    New Catconspiracy? DON’T TELL TIMOTHY!!!!

  7. Maybe I’m the only one who did this, but maybe not. When you enter your nominees at the Hugo site you have to save each category.

    Because I am accustomed to setups where pressing any save button will resave the entire ballot, I ended up losing almost all of my entries. I have re-entered them and hit the save button in every individual category and that seems to have worked fine,.

  8. Mike Glyer on March 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm said:

    Maybe I’m the only one who did this, but maybe not. When you enter your nominees at the Hugo site you have to save each category.

    Because I am accustomed to setups where pressing any save button will resave the entire ballot, I ended up losing almost all of my entries. I have re-entered them and hit the save button in every individual category and that seems to have worked fine,.

    When I use it there is a floating icon at the bottom right-hand side of the screen (it’ll scroll up and down as you scroll). It only appears once you add something but it shows a number indicating the number of changes you made. It allows you to save all categories in one go.

  9. Mike, I saw a “save all” button at the lower right of my screen, but there are also “save” buttons per category, which may be what did your ballot in.

    I’ve reviewed the last email sent to me by Worldcon to be sure nothing was omitted, so I thank you for reminding us that this is a good idea.

  10. Get Out would not be as insightful and thought provoking if it was not from a writer who had lived as a minority in the US.

    As a story of the subtle and overt corrosive effect of racism on both the majority and minority it’s brilliant. It conveys a sense of the realty of being black in America through the vehicle of a horror story in a digestable way that educates without preaching.

    Worth a see.

  11. Yes, you do have to hit save on each category. I had to go redo part of my ballot. (I had hit “save all” after the last one – but it lost the two in the middle.)

  12. @Mark @Lisa Goldstein: I also really enjoyed Lovecraft Country, and recommend it. My only criticism is that the virulent real-world racism faced by its characters is so viscerally horrifying that its eldritch horrors (which aren’t really all that Lovecraftian) rather pale in comparison.

  13. arrgh arrgh this is what I get for leaving things to the last minute.

    What of Simon Stalenhag’s work is 2016-eligible? Curse you, artists who don’t date your works …

  14. @ Mike:

    Because I am accustomed to setups where pressing any save button will resave the entire ballot, I ended up losing almost all of my entries.

    The same thing happened to me. I would have appreciated a heads-up, or at least something calling my attention to the “save all” button (which I didn’t see at all when I was doing my nominations).

  15. 2) Whoa. If the book lives up to the description in that review, it’ll be a mind-blower. What I’ll be looking for is “unexpected but absolutely predictable once you think about them” extrapolations from the original hypothesis.

    7) I’m with the majority here, but that’s because first, I remember that Kloos withdrew a book from a Hugo nomination upon finding out that he got it because of a slate, and second, I’ve seen/heard various jackasses say exactly those things about that character and his supposed “reasons” for writing it. To me, that item definitely had the sound of someone saying, “I’ve had it up to here and beyond with your sexist, racist shit.”

    @ JJ: One definition of “token X character” that I find useful is that in discussions of the work in question, that character is frequently described as “the X”. You know — the black guy, the Asian guy, the gay guy, the woman…

    @ Camestros: Ah, those pesky facts! Don’t pester airboy with them just when he’s got a good Old Phart Phan rant cued up.

    OTOH, it would be interesting to extend this analysis to, say, an entire month’s worth of all posts rather than just Scroll items. As a couple of people mentioned on your post, Bradbury tends to get his own dedicated post rather than being included in a Scroll. Literary award announcements are another very common category of thing that tends to be in separate posts. But doing that would be a lot more work than just analyzing the items in some recent Scrolls, and I couldn’t blame you for not wanting to take that on.

  16. Answered my own question: hope the artist has a Facebook page or (better yet) Tumblr, to get material posted in calendar order. Stålenhag had a book out in 2016, “Things from the Flood”.

  17. I loved Real Genius, but I thought for years that the school must be MIT in disguise, despite being located in California. It was the steam tunnels. I didn’t think they would exist in a place that doesn’t need central heating and is prone to earthquakes. But apparently I was wrong about that, and Caltech, so I was eventually told, does have steam tunnels just like the ones at MIT.

  18. Estee:
    But apparently I was wrong about that, and Caltech, so I was eventually told, does have steam tunnels just like the ones at MIT.

    Rice University has them too. They’re a subject of much campus lore, something about poisonous spiders yadda yadda.

  19. @Greg M.: I don’t watch “The Americans,” but man, I’m interested in seeing “The Canadians” from what little I know of the former! 😀

    @Greg M., @Greg Hullender, et al.: My long-postponed homework is looking at things to do in Finland and Iceland. Too much work, no energy, so I’m moving so slowly – but we have our memberships & hotel reservations. If my better half doesn’t kill me for not doing my share of the planning (in fairness: I usually do more than that), we’ll be there.

    @Matt Y: “Only way to get a bingo. Speaking of, I can check off airboy false equivalency post and I’m that much closer to today’s prizes..”

    ::snort:: 😉 What’s today’s prize, I forget?

    @Various: I’m amused at the irony here – discussion of diversity of the type @airboy’s complaining about in a subthread a bunch of which was generated directly by @airboy’s idiotic comments. Really, he has only himself to “blame.” [Edited first sentence for clarity.]

    ObSt.Patrick’sDay: I wore a green shirt and green jeans Friday, having forgotten it was St. Patrick’s Day. Just dumb luck (emphasis on the “dumb”) on my part. 😛 😉

    Meredith Moment: Slan Smale’s first “Clash of Eagles” book, Clash of Eagles, is $1.99 in the U.S. at various retailers. Alt-historical adventure…fantasy (I believe)? [ETA: Forgot the “alt-” part.] The cover photo was also used (in a slightly different form) on another book that came out a little later, IIRC, which amused me. I know, that happens periodically.

  20. @Dawn Incognito: Heh, I love your exciting Hugo update, but poor cats!

    “Things With Beards” was one of two “almost on my ballot” stories for me, the other being “Time Cookie Wars” by Benjamin C. Kinney (I nominated two other stories of Kinney’s). I like Miler’s stories in general; I just had 5 that were better.

    My own last-minute Hugo Awards drama is I realized I could/should nominate a commenter here. How’d I not think of it (especially after having nominated a different commenter last year, and reminding someone else about this possibility recently)? Well, let’s see if I can get a link (supposedly I have an hour, and the link e-mail should come within 30 minutes).

    ::waiting for last-minute link, kicking self::

  21. Weird, I requested a new link – nothing for 30 minutes. Gave up, tried again – the link came immediately. Whew. 😉 Fan Writer list updated! No brain power for any other last minute stuff.

  22. @StefanB

    Greg: Even the “token” chars, have one effect.
    They show that those charakters are normal and that makes them easier to acept.

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. As a gay person, I appreciate every token gay male character (especially ones in long-term relationships) that I run across. But, as Steve Wright pointed out, I was trying to make the pragmatic argument for fostering diversity, and token minority characters don’t benefit the readers. By definition, a token character is one where you could change the minority without needing more than cosmetic changes to the story.

    @Lee

    One definition of “token X character” that I find useful is that in discussions of the work in question, that character is frequently described as “the X”.

    Oh dear. I think what you’re describing is much worse than token. This is what someone says who actually hates members of that minority and wants to dehumanize them. Even when I was a kid, I remember reading Oliver Twist and being shocked that Dickens consistently referred to Fagin as “the Jew.”

  23. @ Greg: That was actually something I remember from reading a discussion of ensemble-cast TV shows somewhere — that many of them are cast with a bunch of tokens, and that’s how they’re thought of. It’s the difference between the default, which is “straight white male”, and any character who deviates from that default — unmarked vs. marked case. Also notice that in most such shows, there can be several marked-case male cast members, but there’s rarely more than one “the woman”.

  24. @Lee

    Also notice that in most such shows, there can be several marked-case male cast members, but there’s rarely more than one “the woman”.

    Yeah, that bugged the heck out of me in Rogue One. There was no narrative reason for Jyn Erso’s team to be a total sausage-fest. I’d keep Diego Luna, but you could’ve had, say, Michelle Yeoh and Gina Carano (or some other equally kickass women) in there.

  25. (7) If Kloos had stayed on the ballot, I’d probably have forgotten about him entirely by now. Or counted him as canine. As it is, I’ve bought a couple of his books.

    @Steve Wright: maybe mediocre or poor writers from the privileged/majority background, who suddenly find themselves competing for attention against people who write better than they do

    No names, no pack drill, but yeah. Think about the biggest whiners and they fit this to a T. How DARE NK Jemisin come in with all the melanin and ovaries and be mind-blowingly awesome! Yoon Ha Lee being all Asian and trans in public. Etc.

    @Bonnie: Yeah, there were a few characters in “Rogue One” that I don’t remember much about — not as important as Diego Luna — and they could easily have been played by women. The cargo pilot, the guys who died early on, etc.

  26. @Greg Hullender

    I myself had an editor tell me that he/she wouldn’t consider a story of mine because it had a gay protagonist. (To be fair, the person’s main objection was that it was a time-travel story)

    Did your protagonist step on a butterfly in the past and come back straight?

  27. @PhilRM

    I also really enjoyed Lovecraft Country, and recommend it. My only criticism is that the virulent real-world racism faced by its characters is so viscerally horrifying that its eldritch horrors (which aren’t really all that Lovecraftian) rather pale in comparison.

    But that IS the message Ruff was going for, isn’t it?

  28. @PhilRM:

    I also really enjoyed Lovecraft Country, and recommend it. My only criticism is that the virulent real-world racism faced by its characters is so viscerally horrifying that its eldritch horrors (which aren’t really all that Lovecraftian) rather pale in comparison.

    I thought that was intentional: whites dream up imaginary horrors (which for HPL stem from a fear of non-whites) because their real lives aren’t sufficiently horrific.

    @Estee: Who says Caltech doesn’t need steam tunnels? “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” (Twain). Granted that SanFran proper is more exposed than the rest of the area — but I’ve been up and down the peninsula in two Novembers (not deep winter) and would have slept uncomfortably if there were no heat at all.

    @Kendall: at least luck didn’t leave you hanging; I found out \after/ paying for my skilift ticket that the area was offering a discount not just to wearers of the green but also to carpoolers and to drivers of hybrids. (I have a 2010 Prius — previous years didn’t have enough headroom for my peculiar shape.)

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