Pixel Scroll 3/27/17 On The Gripping Hand Of Darkness

(1) SPACE, THE INITIAL FRONTIER. In a profile published in the October 17 New Yorker, Julie Phillips reveals why Ursula Le Guin’s name has a space in it.

Her husband’s birth name was Charles LeGuin.  They were married in France, and “when they applied for a marriage license, a ‘triumphant bureaucrat’ told Charles his Breton name was ‘spelled wrong’ without a space, so when they married they both took the name Le Guin.”

(2) JUST MISSPELL MY NAME CORRECTLY. By a vote of the members, the Science Fiction Poetry Association has renamed itself the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. Although its name has changed, the organization will keep using the initials SFPA.

And nearly every time the poets talk about SFPA in the hearing of old-time fanzine fans you can depend on someone dropping a heavy hint that they’re at risk being mixed up with a pre-existing fan group that uses the same abbreviation. Today it was Andrew Porter chirping in a comment on the announcement —

Not to be confused with the Southern Fandom Press Association, which has been around for more than 40 years…

Unfortunately it’s Porter who is confused, as he seems to have forgotten the apa’s name is the Southern Fandom Press Alliance.

(3) SAMOVAR LAUNCHES. A new sff magazine, Samovar, launched today, featuring “the best of speculative fiction in translation including original stories, reprints, poetry, reviews and more material, as well as printing translations alongside the stories in their original language.” Samovar will be produced as a quarterly, special imprint of Strange Horizons.

“Stories tell us who we are, and let us see who other people are. We already have access to an enormous wealth of speculative fiction in English, but we want to know more” – The Samovar editorial team.

What wondrous fantastical tales are being conjured in Finnish? Who writes the best Nigerian space odysseys? Is Mongolia hiding an epic fantasy author waiting to be discovered? We want to know, and we aim to find out.

For Samovar, writers and translators are of equal importance, and we do our best to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals who pen both the original and the translated version of a story. We hope that in this way we can boost the profile of speculative fiction in translation so that everyone involved receives the recognition they deserve and so we can all continue to enjoy the strange, mind-bending and fantastical fiction of all cultures.

In issue one: two sisters create an imagined world where things that are lost can be found. A despot is forced to see the truth he’s tried to hide from. An academic finds poetry, science fiction and reality beginning to merge. And the Curiosity Rover turns its own sardonic gaze on Mars.

The Samovar editorial team is Laura Friis, Greg West and Sarah Dodd. Their advisory board includes Helen MarshallRachel Cordasco and Marian Via Rivera-Womack.

(4) TENSION, APPREHENSION, AND DISSENSION. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber asks: What’s the opposite of a “cliffhanger”?

Extended cliffhangers (cliffstayers? cliffhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangers?) have animated some of the most narratively powerful works of television of recent years; they have helped to heighten the tension in shows like Breaking Bad (how low will Walt go?) and Serial (did he do it?) and Quantico (did she do it?) and True Detective (who did it?) and Lost (who are they? where are they?) and, in general, pretty much any sitcom that has ever featured, simmering just below its surface, some will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension.

What’s especially notable about the recent shows that are employing the device, though, is that they’re locating the tension in one (unanswered) question. They’re operating in direct opposition to the way traditional cliffhangers were primarily used: between installments, between episodes, between seasons, in the interstitial spaces that might otherwise find a story’s momentum stalling. Big Little Lies and Riverdale and This Is Us and all the rest are taking the specific narrative logic of “Who shot J.R.?” and flipping it: The tension here exists not necessarily to capture audience interest over a show’s hiatus (although, certainly, there’s a little of that, too), but much more to infuse the content of the show at large with a lurking mystery. Things simmer rather than boil. The cliffhanger is less about one shocking event with one central question, and more about a central mystery that insinuates itself over an entire season (and, sometimes, an entire series).

(5) SLOWER THAN LIGHT COMMUNICATION. This is how social media works: I never heard of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality until somebody complained about it.

The appeal for a 2016 Hugo nomination was posted by the author in 2015.

First, the following request: I would like any readers who think that HPMOR deserves it sufficiently, and who are attending or supporting the 2015, 2016, or 2017 Worldcon, to next year, nominate Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality for Best Novel in the 2016 Hugos. Whether you then actually vote for HPMOR as Best Novel is something I won’t request outright, since I don’t know what other novels will be competing in 2016. After all the nominees are announced, look over what’s there and vote for what you think is best.

I don’t know how many votes he ended up getting but it wasn’t enough to rank among the top 15 works reported by MidAmeriCon II.

(6) FINALLY A GOOD WORD ABOUT THE MOVIES. Book View Café’s Diana Pharoah Francis was both nostalgic and thoughtful after hosting a Lord of the Rings marathon at home.

…Among the SF/F communities, it was this extraordinary vision come to life in a way we had never experienced before. It was not cheesy or all about the CGI. It was about strength, honor, choices, and hope. It was real characters in dreadful situations. The watching of heroes being made and broken beneath weights no one should have to bear. And Aragorn — a king in the making. A soul of strength and doubt and humility.

The movies were inspiring on a lot of fronts. I think it’s appropriate to watch it now in a world that is struggling so hard against itself. With so much fear, and worry and such dire enemies. Who are those enemies? Too many are ourselves. Our fears that turn us into monsters or traitors. Denethor, Gollum, Boromir, the Nazgul — absolute power corrupts. There are those who give up. Those who refuse to fight. Those who lose themselves.

The stories, the movies and the books, are a view into ourselves and what we can hope to be and what we may become — good and bad. It’s a reminder that it’s never a good time to quit in the battle against darkness — in whatever shape it takes….

(7) MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! ON YOUR SHELVES. James Davis Nicoll names “Twenty Core Space Operas Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

“Chosen entirely on the basis of merit,” says James, “with a side-order of not repeating titles that were on the first list.”

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO. I felt a disturbance in the force. Just not right away.

(9) FIVE PLUS TWO. John Scalzi offers “7 Tips for Writing a Bestselling Science Fiction Novel” at Female First. This is my favorite:

Make your universe two questions deep. By which I mean, make it so when someone asks you a question about why/how you created or portrayed the universe, character etc the way you did, you have a smart, cogent answer for it, consistent with the construction of the book. And then when they have a follow-up question, be able to answer that effectively, too. That will make 95% of your readers happy with your worldbuilding (the other 5% are SUPER nerds. Which is fine! For them, say “Oh, I’m glad you asked that. I’m totally going to address that in the sequel.” Try it! It works!).

Strangely enough, none of his seven tips is “Start a fuss with somebody in social media.”

(10) SECOND FIFTH. But as we just witnessed last week, that is part of the Castalia House playbook – which is evidently followed by Rule #2, “Stalk real bestselling writers on their book tours.”

Here’s a video of a jackass asking John Scalzi to sign Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie, and posing an insulting question about John’s Tor book deal. You’ll note the book in John’s hand has not been autographed by Vox Day. When is his book tour?

(11) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Liz Colter (writing as L. D. Colter) has a new book out this week – A Borrowed Hell.

Facing a sad, empty life, July always persevered by looking forward. An unhappy childhood, a litany of failed relationships, and even losing his job–none of it could stop him. But then the foreclosure notice arrives, and July is facing losing the one thing that keeps him grounded–his home.

With pain in his past and now in his future, July gives up and starts down the same road of self-destruction that the rest of his family had followed. It is only when he awakens in a hospital after a violent car accident that things change.

He starts to experience blackouts, which leave him in an alternate reality of empty desert and strange residents. It is a nightmarish world that somehow makes the real world seem that much better. Then he meets a woman that becomes a beacon of light, and his life starts to turn around.

But the blackouts continue, sending him to the alternate reality more often and for longer periods of time. Realizing that he may never escape, July asks the question he’d always been afraid to ask: How can he finally be free? The answer is one he’s not sure he can face.

I can’t resist a droll bio:

Due to a varied work background, Liz can boast a modest degree of knowledge about harnessing, hitching, and working draft horses, canoe expeditioning, and medicine. She’s also worked as a rollerskating waitress and knows more about concrete than you might suspect.

(12) HISTORY MINUS FDR. The LA Times says a bestselling author has a new trilogy on the way.

Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse books inspired the television series “True Blood,” will release the first book in a new trilogy next year.

Harris’ novel “Texoma” will be published in fall 2018 by Saga Press, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Simon & Schuster, the publisher announced in a news release.

“Texoma” will be a work of speculative fiction that takes place in “an alternate history of a broken America weakened by the Great Depression and the assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

(13) DAMP YANKEES. In New York Magazine’s author interview “Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140: To Save the City, We Had to Drown It”, Robinson discusses why the book is surprisingly optimistic, how his thoughts on the global economy influenced 2140, and how he came up with the time frame for the book.

…[T]here were two goals going on that forced me to choose the date 2140, and those two goals cut against each other. I needed to put it far enough out in the future that I could claim a little bit of physical probability to the height of the sea-level rise of 50 feet, which is quite extreme. A lot of models have it at 15 feet, though some do say 50 feet. So I did have to go out like a 120 years from now.

Cutting against that future scenario, I wanted to talk about the financial situation we’re in, this moment of late capitalism where we can’t afford the changes we need to make in order to survive because it isn’t cost effective. These economic measures need to be revised so that we pay ourselves to do the work to survive as a civilization facing climate change.

I wanted a finance novel that was heavily based on what lessons we learned — or did not learn — from the crash of 2008 and 2009. All science-fiction novels are about the future and about the present at the same time.

(14) WEBCAST. Another Spider-Man trailer will be out tomorrow – here’s a seven-second teaser for it.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Chris Gregory, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

127 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/27/17 On The Gripping Hand Of Darkness

  1. @Mike Glyer: But would that qualify for a Prometheus Award? Only if Rob’s an Eagle Scout.

  2. Just finished reading: The Autobiography of Malcolm X. A long read – took me three weeks total. Highly recommended.

    That’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I think about it every time I leave a bathroom light on in my house as a deterrent to burglars. (That’s advice from former burglar Malcolm X, because the bathroom is the one lit room a person could plausibly be in at all hours. And the older I get the more plausible it becomes. Sigh.)

  3. 8) My best series nominations were all for series by women and one man/woman writing team. All white, though one is a first generation immigrant.

    However, my tastes are very much out of alignment with the rest of the Hugo electorate even without puppy interference. And a lot of potential series nominees I’ve seen mentioned were series that I’ve mentally filed under “for people who like that sort of thing, but not for me.”

    Depending on the actual shortlist, I might well end up skipping the series category altogether, if too many “for people who like that sort of thing, but not for me” series are nominated.

  4. In the days before the puppies, there was almost a taboo against using No Award. It was unusual for anything to be voted below No Award, and very unusual for no award at all to be presented in a category. Now that the puppies are moribund, I wonder if we’ll go back to that.

    In particular, for Best Editor (Long Form), I’m pretty sure Vox Day will be a finalist again, and I’m pretty sure he’ll end up under No Award again, but I wonder if enough people will No Award the entire category to prevent an award from being given. That would certainly revive interest in something like Kevin’s proposal.

  5. You may be on to something that the puppies have loosened inhibitions to no award a work or a whole category. At any rate, I find myself a lot more willing these days to place a nominee I dislike or otherwise have issues with (i.e. feeling it’s miscategorised) under no award, even if it’s not a puppy nominee. Used to be that things which made me go “I don’t like this at all, but clearly it has fans” would go at the end of the ballot, but not under ‘No Award’.

    But if you look back at Hugo shortlists of past years, you do find quite a few finalists finishing under ‘No Award’ pre approx. 1980. And it’s not just cases of obvious abuse like that L. Ron Hubbard book either, but often nominees that seem entirely reasonable in retrospect.

  6. Cora:But if you look back at Hugo shortlists of past years, you do find quite a few finalists finishing under ‘No Award’ pre approx. 1980. And it’s not just cases of obvious abuse like that L. Ron Hubbard book either, but often nominees that seem entirely reasonable in retrospect.

    I did a study last June of all the pre-2015 Hugo nominees who finished behind No Award, in case anyone’s curious. (These are the results that came before the Puppy-inspired 2015 and 2016 No Awards. And they don’t cover the Best Dramatic category losers in those back years, since unlike the people and fanzines in my list, those movies were only up once.)

  7. @PhilRM: YMMV, but in my reading “series” composes at least related (if not sequential) works; the connection between works in a collection or anthology can be much looser.

    @kathodus: I’ll be interested in your reaction to Summer in Orcus I thought it started weakly but got steadily stronger; I was very impressed by the time I was done. I do wonder why she chose to give the land a German name for the Underworld.

    @Andrew M: I think treating Willis’s historicals as a series stretches the boundaries as badly as Ford did to Paramount’s guidelines with The Final Reflection if not worse; IIRC, there isn’t even the continuity of central characters seen in Time Tunnel (the 60’s TV show). But I’d have to go with letting the collective voters define the category. (I also thought the WWII pair was horribly padded — “See how much I know about England then!” and had a massively ridiculous conclusion. Maybe in coming decades I’ll see its virtues — I completely missed the core of “Fire Watch” initially — but I doubt it.)

    @OGH & @PhilRM: and AAUUGGHH to both of you too.

    @Greg H: I don’t think there was anything like a taboo; it was just that the nominating pool was large/representative enough that No Award scattered and finished (generally) last. (I commonly put No Award not-last in a few categories each year; a friend argued that this was wrong, but I don’t remember grounds and would need a ouija board to ask now.)

    @OGH: are you sure all of those are valid by current reckoning? I recall rumblings of years long past when No Award was assumed to be next if a voter didn’t rank all the nominees.

  8. Chip Hitchcock: @OGH: are you sure all of those are valid by current reckoning? I recall rumblings of years long past when No Award was assumed to be next if a voter didn’t rank all the nominees.

    I believe all my data came from The Long List of Hugo Awards. So it’s at least official.

  9. @Chip Hitchcock: @PhilRM: YMMV, but in my reading “series” composes at least related (if not sequential) works; the connection between works in a collection or anthology can be much looser.

    Sure, but in that comment I was referring to the judgement of quality, not to the degree of connection. Judging the merit of a collection on the basis of the excellence of the individual stories is not (to me anyway) qualitatively different from judging a series on the strength of the individual volumes.

  10. Looking at my Series nominations, I’ve got 2 white men, 3 white women.

    I’ve got one dude in Novel, 4 women. Novella, Novelette, and Short Story are all women except one.

    I didn’t do it on purpose, I just made a list through the year of Stuff I Liked, then agonized at cutting it down to 5.

    I would vote for a Best Original Anthology — no reprints.

    I voted things below No Award even back in ye olden dayes of the 1980’s and since with the general thought “How did THIS get on the ballot? It’s crap!” Methinks puppy poo just hit the “it’s crap” spot for more people than things used to in the past.

    HP&tMoR was good for me for the first few chapters and then it got tedious. I never finished it. So he could beg all he wanted, I wasn’t going to nominate.

    @Rose Embolism: however, I’m 8 chapters in to the Hermione fanfic and loving it!

  11. @Greg Hullender & @Chip Hitchcock: I agree with Chip (there wasn’t an almost-taboo), but yes, Greg, it does seem unlikely any category would reach critical mass again sans pupping. (The verb “to pup.”)

    Except all of us No Awarding the “Best Series” category, of course. 😛 😉 KIDDING! I think.

  12. @Chip Hitchcock: Orcus is a German name for the Underworld? As opposed to, you know, Roman? Bwuh?

  13. @Chip HItchcock – “See how much I know about England then!”

    Unfortunately for us who live in the UK it was more a case of Willis demonstrating how much she didn’t know about England (then or now). I had to constantly battle against the errors which I am sure any decent research, or a British editor would have caught.

  14. Greg: I’m not sure we need to revive interest in Kevin’s proposal: as I understand it, it wasn’t abandoned for lack of interest, just shelved because too much else was going on.

    Chip: Well, everyone here, when discussing eligible series, seemed to take ‘series’ to mean ‘set of works set in the same universe’. But in any case, although the protagonists are different in each case, there are fairly important recurring characters, including Mr Dunworthy and Colin.

  15. PS: Three women, two men, all white, in my Series nominations. Women dominate all my fiction categories, but the only non-white author I can spot on my list is Ta-Nehisi Coates.

  16. 2016 Novellas Read: 33
    12 by women, 21 by men
    4 by POC

    2016 Novellas Read: 51
    27 by women, 24 by men
    6 by POC

    Best Novel Nominees: 3 women, 2 men, 0 POC

    Best Novella Nominees: 4 women, 1 man, 1 POC

    Best Novelette Nominees: 4 women, 1 man, 0 POC

    Best Short Story Nominees: 3 women, 2 men, 1 POC

    Best Related Work Nominees: 5 women, 0 men, 1 POC

    Best Series Nominees: 4 women, 1 man, 0 POC

  17. @PhilRM: I am also referring to the judgment of overall quality — but how does one assess that for a pool of works related only by an author? A series can be judged as a large story, or at least an N-tych (see discussion with AndrewM below); this is not possible with a collection.

    @David Goldfarb: it was taken into German unchanged; I know it from Schiller’s “Naenie”, where it is one of just two proper names (the other being “Zeus”, which is certainly not Roman). In any case it struck me as clashing with what the world is.

    @Andrew M: You are assuming a unity of opinion I do not see; I think some Filers have described closer coupling than you require. I won’t argue the significance of Dunworthy in WWII as I found that mess hard enough to get through that I probably missed all sorts of things my recollection of the older works was that they were overviewers more than principles, but those are far enough back that I can’t split hairs over them.

  18. it was taken into German unchanged; I know it from Schiller’s “Naenie”, where it is one of just two proper names (the other being “Zeus”, which is certainly not Roman). In any case it struck me as clashing with what the world is.

    Schiller was classically educated (like all educated people of his age and well up to the mid 20th century), so he would have known and used Latin terms like orcus. It’s still a Latin word, though – the German term is “Unterwelt”.

    Racial and gender breakdown of my Hugo nominees:

    Best novel: 4 women, 1 man, 1 POC

    Best novella: 3 women, 2 men, 2 POC

    Best novelette: 3 women, 2 men, 1 POC

    Best short story: 4 women, 1 man, 0 POC

    Best series: 4.5 women, 0.5 men, 0 POC

    Campbell: 5 women, 0 men, 1 POC

  19. My best novel: 3 women, 2 men, 2 POC.
    Novella: 2 women, 2 men, 0 POC.
    Novelette: 1 woman, 4 men, 0 POC.
    Short story: 3 women, 2 men, 0 POC.
    Series: 2 women, 3 men, 0 POC.
    Campbell: 2 women, 0 men, 0 POC. (I think, I’m not sure about Malka Older.)

  20. @Rcade

    That’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I think about it every time I leave a bathroom light on in my house as a deterrent to burglars.

    That was an interesting tidbit. I found the book profound and profoundly disturbing on multiple levels.

    I went back to check my noms, and interestingly, given my reaction to the comment about that category being for old white men, I think my series nominations were all white men. Not sure of all their ages, though, but at least a couple are probably middle aged, if not old.

    I didn’t come close to filling out the whole five boxes in most categories, but my best novel nominations were both PoC, one woman and one man (I think – I’m not sure how they identify). Best novella was two women and a non-white man. Short story was a woman (just one nom there). Fan writer was two men, a cat, and a woman.

    None of that occurred to me at all while I was voting, which may well be (probably is?) a sign of privilege.

  21. @JJ: Both of the first parts say “2016 Novellas Read” – I presume one should be Novels.

  22. P.S. I’m sure no one cares about my stats, but since I posted my entire nomination list to the nom thread, anyone curious/bored enough can go there to do the math for themselves. 😉

  23. Yes, Kendall, I saw that — after the edit window closed, of course. The second set are Novels. If you click the links, you can see the lists of Novels and Novellas and how I rated them.

  24. @Chip Hitchcock: @PhilRM: I am also referring to the judgment of overall quality — but how does one assess that for a pool of works related only by an author? A series can be judged as a large story, or at least an N-tych (see discussion with AndrewM below); this is not possible with a collection.

    Ah – got you. To be fair, you’re using ‘overall quality’ in a specific and slightly unusual sense, whereas I was using it to mean ‘How many of the stories in this collection (or novels in this series) did I think were first rate?’ It is pretty rare for a collection of stories to be assessable in your sense, although not impossible – Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno, which is a collection of linked stories, is a good example. (And a terrific book.)

  25. @JJ: I remember your lists! I’m not sure why I didn’t think to click anyway, to see which total was which, though. Job eating my brain – that’s my excuse.

  26. I’m not sure how many of my nominations were PoC, since I don’t know how all the people I nominated identify as such, but in the big pro categories, I think I have at least one PoC in every one. No idea about LGBTQ-ness.

  27. @PhilRM: I see I wasn’t explicit about that difference between a series and the body-of-work awards; I guess I thought it was clear from the definitions, but (as AndrewM made clear) the definitions are arguable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *