Pixel Scroll 6/15/17 Go Ahead, Make My Pixel

(1) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. “This was amazing,” says James Bacon about a special feature of Lazlar Lyricon 3, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy convention held last weekend. “I was on the committee and it was an incredible endeavour.”

It’s all about Chris Tregenza and Jess Bennett and “The Secret of Box 42”.

Idea, Idea, A Kingdom for an Idea

Even with our self-imposed restrictions we struggled to think of anything at first. Every idea was discarded as being too profligate, too big, too small or simply impractical.

Then, bouncing around ideas with the aid of a bottle of wine (or two), our conversation drifted onto computer games and how in games like Skyrim there are treasure chests scattered around from which the player can take loot. In any particular game, all the treasure chests have an identical appearance and the player quickly associates that graphic with a reward even though sometimes the chests are empty. This led the conversation into Pavlovian conditioning and Skinner’s pigeon experiments and then bang! We asked ourselves a question.

What happens if we applied the same psychology in the real world by scattering boxes containing treasure around a convention? ….

What’s In The Box

Our first step was to brainstorm lots of ideas for box contents which we then loosely organised into different types. After some refinement we ended up with five classes of boxes inspired by the five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy: rewards, treasures, activities, quests and meta. Each of the types had a different purpose and place in the overall game.

Reward boxes were primarily a simple psychological conditioner. Inside these boxes were sweets or other gifts along with instructions to €˜help yourself’. These boxes were designed to build a positive association with opening boxes. Treasures were like rewards except they only contained a single valuable item which anyone could take if they chose. This introduced rarity and encouraged people to look in the boxes quickly before someone else took the item. Activity boxes instructed the opener to do something such as play a game or challenge someone to a duel. In these boxes were appropriate things (like a deck of cards or toy guns) but unlike the reward boxes, the instructions only suggested the box opener used them, not keep them. Meta-boxes contained nothing except a quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The chosen quotes were amusing in their own right but also all related to the theme of hunting for the meaning of life.

(2) DITCHING THE RECEIVED WISDOM. Jason Sanford breaks the rules! gisp “Oh writing advice which I loathe, let me count the ways I’ve ignored you”. Sanford confesses eight violations.

Thinking about all the writing advice I don’t follow. This should mean I’m a literary failure. Instead, my stories are published around the world.

So what writing advice have I failed to follow? Let’s count down the greatest hits of advice I’ve ignored.

  1. “Write what you know.” Didn’t do that. I write science fiction and fantasy set in imaginary worlds I’ve never known. I create what I know!

(3) SOLAR TREK. From Space.com, Intergalactic Travel Agents rate the “Solar System’s Best and Worst Vacation Destinations (Video)”.

Part of the purpose of this interview is to promote Olivia Koski’s and Jana Grcevich’s book, Vacation Guide to the Solar System, which plans vacations using current astronomical knowledge.

(4) WHAT MUSIC THEY MAKE. Seanan McGuire recently had a special encounter with some children in an airport. The Twitter stream here is well worth a gander.

(5) KICKSTARTER REACHES GOAL. The 2017 Fantastic Fiction at KGB Kickstarter is a huge success, reports co-host Matthew Kressel, providing enough funds to keep the series running for at least six more years. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series Kickstarter ran from May 17 through June 14 and raised $9,771 (before Kickstarter and credit card processing fees)€¦. Dozens of rewards were chosen by 196 different backers.

Why We Needed Financial Support Each month we give the authors a small stipend, we tip the bartenders (who always give the authors free drinks), and we take the authors and their partners/spouses out for dinner after the reading. Since it typically costs us around $120 per month, we need $1500 per year to maintain the series. We were looking to raise $4500, which would allow us to keep the series running for another three years. Each additional $1500 let us run for an additional year. Fantastic Fiction has been a bright light in the speculative fiction community for nearly two decades, and because of your help we will continue for many more years to come. Thank you!

(6) DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. Today Mary Robinette Kowal give her platform to Jon Del Arroz: “My Favorite Bit: Jon Del Arroz talks about FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY” .

(7) OH BOTHER. Goodbye Christopher Robin is the “based on a true story” movie about A.A. Milne, his son, and the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

(8) HARRYHAUSEN ART. Tate Britain will host an exhibition of The Art of Ray Harryhausen from June 26 through November 19.

Explore drawings and models by Ray Harryhausen with some of the art that inspired him

The American-born Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) is one of the most influential figures in cinema history. In a succession of innovative, effects-laden movies, from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms 1952 to Clash of the Titans 1981, Harryhausen created fantastic worlds and creatures that have inspired generations. He is acknowledged as the master of stop-motion animation techniques, involving models being moved and filmed one frame at a time to create the illusion of movement.

Harryhausen attended art classes as a young man, and readily acknowledged his debt to earlier painters and illustrators. The epic scenery and towering architecture of 19th century artists Gustave Dore, and John Martin were especially important to him, and he collected prints and paintings by both artists.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 15, 1973 The Battle for the Planet of the Apes premiered

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 15, 1941 — Graphic artist Neal Adams.

Adams has worked hard in the comics industry bringing to life such fascinating characters as Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Spectre, Thor, The X-Men, and countless others. For those wanting to know about the man and his career, you can check out his website right here. Adams was born on this day in 1941.

(11) THIS JUST IN. AND OUT. The New York Post reports “Sex in space is a ‘real concern’ that science needs to figure out”.

Romping in space is a “real concern” for astronauts, a top university professor has warned.

It’s something we know little about — but it’s crucial if we ever want to colonize other planets like Mars.

During a recent Atlantic Live panel, Kris Lehnhardt, an assistant professor at George Washington University, said the topic needs to be addressed immediately.

He said: “It’s a real concern — something we really don’t know about is human reproduction in space.”

“If we actually want to go places and stay there, there’s a key component and that’s having babies,” he added.

(12) MIGRATION. Richard Curtis, President of Richard Curtis Associates, Inc. broadcast this information:

Our curtisagency.com server crashed, and as it’s been happening a little too often lately I’m going to switch to gmail. So please use rcurtisagency@gmail.com going forward.

(13) PARSEC DEADLINE. Podcasters who have been nominated for a Parsec Award must submit their judging sample by July 16.

Podcast material released between May 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017 is eligible for the 2017 awards.

Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions (RSS Feed, iTunes, YouTube…). More rules and guidelines are posted at our website.

(14) EXTRA CREDITS. Top 10 Marvel post-credit scenes. Carl Slaughter says, “Notice this is an Avengers heavy list. Also, there is a conspicuous X-Men and Guardians absence.”

[Thanks to James Bacon, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Rose Embolism, Jon Del Arroz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

77 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/15/17 Go Ahead, Make My Pixel

  1. IMO: Giordano always looked sloppy and scratchy to me, and he inked everybody the same way. On any but a superlative penciller, his work felt shoddy. Compare Giordano’s inking on Heck in those Batgirl stories, for example. Tom Palmer once inked Don Heck (X-Men) and it’s the best Heck ever looked without Wood redrawing the faces (Avengers).

    Basically, what you’re saying is that you liked Palmer redrawing Heck, and making him look more like the Adams material that was then the regular “look” of the book.

    I think Heck looked best when Heck inked himself (though there’s a Romita-inked issue back around the era of those Wood-inked issues, that brings through Heck’s strengths as an artist and Romita’s slick finish (unlike later collaborations, where Heck basically just provided storytelling layouts for John to redraw)), but those Heck/Giordano Batgirl stories have nice ink textures while still respecting what Don drew.

    I also wouldn’t say Dick inked everyone the same. There were often times he was being called on to make a sketchy or inexperienced penciler look like Giordano art, but Dick’s inks over Sekowsky and Adams deliver more varied art than Tom Palmer’s inks over Adams and, say, Sal or John Buscema.

    Not that Palmer was being paid to vary his approach — if you hired Palmer, it’s because you wanted that finish. And it looked great.

  2. 11) A Reconsideration of Anatomical Docking Maneuvers in a Zero-G Environment.

    @ John A: That’s not so much “Mom being a villain” as it is “Mom providing an absolutely classic example of institutionalized sexism”. The only bit in it that genuinely made me cringe was the, “but you’re supposed to be more mature”. And the proof, provided by the little boy, that there were movies both of them liked but that Mommy didn’t think to include, was a pretty sharp counterpoint.

    @ Rev. Bob: That’s true, but it’s also true that this is one of the earliest put-downs flung at budding fantasy/SF writers. I got it in college as, “Write something you understand, something set in the real world*.” I wonder if it ever gets said to budding writers of Westerns, or of high-tech military thrillers?

    * And, to be honest, the story wasn’t very good. But its poor quality was due to my own lack of writing skills, not to its setting.

    @ Kurt: I have to admit that I was never really aware of the art in comics until just after college, when I was dating a guy who was a serious comics-art geek. It was quite an epiphany to realize that when a particular issue just seemed unsatisfying for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, it was usually a reaction to the artwork (“these characters don’t look the way I’m expecting them to look”). After that, I paid a lot more attention. Don’t even get me started on one particular artist with IMO extremely appropriate initials.

  3. Don’t even get me started on one particular artist with IMO extremely appropriate initials.

    I won’t — I have no idea who this would refer to.

  4. @Lee

    @ Rev. Bob: That’s true, but it’s also true that this is one of the earliest put-downs flung at budding fantasy/SF writers. I got it in college as, “Write something you understand, something set in the real world*.” I wonder if it ever gets said to budding writers of Westerns, or of high-tech military thrillers?

    In the creative writing classes I took at university, my early attempts at SFF were often met with polite bafflement. So I switched to writing crime fiction, which at least had the advantage of being set in the real mundane world. Then one day the professor took me aside. He told me i had a great voice, an extensive vocabulary and was a natural storyteller, but why was I wasting all that on spaceships, magic and murder? Then he told me something about a Scottish working class writer writing about Scottish working class life (I’ve forgotten the name of the author for some reason) and why didn’t I write something like that? Whereupon I told him that I unfortunately was neither Scottish nor working class nor anything as exciting as that, but just a totally boring middle class German whose life would be of no interest to anybody at all.

  5. @Kip W
    One time [Neal Adams] teamed up with Joe Kubert, and I couldn’t tell who had done what. This was a real kick in the head, as I hadn’t cared overmuch for Kubert before that moment.

    Adams pencilled an Enemy Ace story that was inked by Kubert; later he did an issued of Detective Comics that guest-starred the Enemy Ace, and it was drawn in an homage to Kubert. In my youth, I didn’t care so much for Kubert. But I learned better later on.

    Bill: Serious feeling of something like envy, but also just being happy for you.
    Thank you sir!

    @Kurt Busiek
    On the other hand, Vince Colletta, who inked the story Bill links to, did such a wretched job that Neal reinked some of it before publication, and then even more of it even it was reprinted in book form some years ago.
    I bought the interior (non-splash) page for $75 at a comic convention in Indianapolis ca. 1977. This was a huge amount of money for me; I was about 15 or so, and while my parents tolerated me spending a certain amount of the money I earned on comics, the bulk was to go to college savings. And I was really worried that they wouldn’t react well to me dropping that much on a hobby item. They weren’t happy, as I recall, but nothing too bad came of it.

    Flash forward maybe a year or so. Adams was a guest at the Atlanta Comics and Fantasy Fair. I stood in line to get him to sign a couple of things, and this was one of them. I asked him who inked it, and he said “Me, and very quickly!”

    Even when he’s ghosting for someone else — you get to the ON STAGE strips Neal penciled (or inked) for Len Starr, and you go “Holy cats, that’s Neal Adams!”
    Would you happen to know the dates of this ghosting? I’m aware of his Ben Casey strips, but didn’t know about this. I’d like to look them up in Newspapers.com and check them out. (Googling didn’t help any).

  6. @Lee, Cora: (“what you know” vs. “in the real world”)

    I kind of took it for granted that writing SFF would involve at least a little bit of departure from what one knows in terms of the setting, which is why I didn’t even mention that. That’s not to dismiss your experiences, but to distinguish my intended meaning from them.

    My experience, in reading and writing as well as editing, is that the one place you* absolutely have to Know Your Shit – the one place I would always advise “write what you know” even when knowing it requires doing a ton of research to Get It Right – is with human characters. Everyone reading your book is a human. They know lots of other humans. If the characters you call human don’t act like humans, and the differences can’t be explained away by the change in setting, your readers will call bullshit… and it’ll be deserved. Likewise, you know humans. Even if they’re not the humans you’re writing about, you know how humans behave. If you want to know how more humans behave, go outside (or even turn on afternoon television) and observe a few. Even your posthumans, whatever that means in a given story, will share a lot of characteristics with the humans you know, and changing any of those should start from a place of knowledge rather than ignorance and/or apathy. In fact, such changes are probably where you most need to Get It Right, because they’re likely to get the most scrutiny.

    When I say “write what you know” in an SFF context, that’s what I mean. Sure, “aliens are alien,” but humans are the part you don’t get to “just make up.”

    *This, here and in the rest of the post, is the inclusive and generic “you,” and certainly not a specific “Lee and/or Cora but not Bob or anyone else” you. I’m most definitely including myself and anyone who writes fiction of any stripe on this one. Just got finished with a bit of research for a story of my own, actually.

  7. “‘Waking in his moss-bed, typical Earth-man Jim Jims flitted to his cyclotron…’ Just write what you know, Z’narb!” sighed Prof. Xug.”

    [Me, writing micro-SFF, from the Twitter. Full disclo: I re-lengthened two words that I’d had to replace with shorter ones I didn’t like as much.]

  8. Would you happen to know the dates of this ghosting? I’m aware of his Ben Casey strips, but didn’t know about this. I’d like to look them up in Newspapers.com and check them out. (Googling didn’t help any).

    Not offhand, but somewhere around the mid-Sixties for ON STAGE.

    The RIP KIRBY stuff was, I think, in the latest IDW collection, or maybe the one before that. And I was just the other day looking at old issues on THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE, and looking at some of Fine’s PETER SCRATCH run, and realized a week’s worth of them was penciled by Neal.

  9. I used to save pages from Boys’ Life with those full-page ads for Chip Martin, Cub Reporter. At the time, I thought they were Adams, but I think I’ve since heard another name (and forgotten it). Beautiful, clean work, and I’ve no doubt Adams could have drawn any one of them, but it’s my lingering impression now that he didn’t.

  10. Tom Scheuer (aka Sawyer) did a lot of the Chip Martins, but Neal did some later on.

  11. Same Tom Sawyer who worked with Al Capp for a little while, late in Li’l Abner’s run?

    I’d go look at those pages, but I don’t expect to find them in very good shape. They were a large, awkward size, and it’s been decades. The good news is that if I search on the right name, “chip martin college reporter,” I get a lot of images to look at.

    [eta: Some Adams ones in there. They really stand out, especially his way of drawing female faces.]

  12. Same Tom Sawyer who worked with Al Capp for a little while, late in Li’l Abner’s run?

    And who was later a scriptwriter/showrunner for MURDER, SHE WROTE, yes.

  13. Not offhand, but somewhere around the mid-Sixties for ON STAGE.

    The RIP KIRBY stuff was, I think, in the latest IDW collection, or maybe the one before that. And I was just the other day looking at old issues on THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE, and looking at some of Fine’s PETER SCRATCH run, and realized a week’s worth of them was penciled by Neal.

    Got home, so I looked:

    The PETER SCRATCH weeks of 6/13/66 and 6/20/66 are clearly penciled by Neal. The 6/13 week might be inked by him, too.

    On RIP KIRBY, the 11/6/67 week is penciled by Neal. Prentice has reworked the faces on Rip and Desmond, but it’s kind of fun to see Rip with the big hairy knuckle Adams hands. And Prentice’s inks over Adams are a lovely combination.

    I’m not really up to digging through multiple volumes on ON STAGE today, but I hope those two help.

  14. @Rev Bob
    I don’t disagree with you that characters have be believable as humans. But “write what you know” is quite often interpreted as “write about your own life”.

    The majority of texts produced in the university creative writing class I talked about in my previous comment were accounts of broken relationships with Erasmus exchange students. There were also variations such as “woman bakes cookies and remembers her mother” or “woman makes breakfast and reflects on broken relationship” or – my favourite – a troubled relationship described from the POV of a philosophically inclined fly on the wall (in the following discussion, I pointed out that I had trouble believing that a common housefly could develop an understanding of art history in its lifespan of approx. 7 days).

    So in the context of that class, “write what you know” meant students writing accounts of failed relationships.

  15. Perhaps a useful supplement to “write what you know” would be “write what nobody else can prove you don’t know.”

  16. Hmm… considering how picky about details fans (in various genres) are, I think Kip’s got something there too.

    “Write what you know” is how we get a ton of tedious lit’rary fiction, all that upper class educated SWM whining about sordid yet tedious love lives and neuroses.

    Of course I realize “Fifty Shades of etc.” is also “whining about sordid yet tedious love lives and neuroses”. But most genre fiction at least has a plot and some action. And often ‘splosions.

  17. Ah one of my pet peeves – “write what you know” should be phrased “know what you write,” IMHO. The good advice I’ve seen tht says “write what you know” lays it out – you should learn about subjects/cultures/tech/etc. if you’re going to write about it. So I feel the standard phrasing for that line is just backwards (or at least, very misleading to the folks who just see all these pithy phrases and try to follow them slavishly).

    /petpeeve

  18. @Kendall: YES.

    @lurkertype: Some would argue that Fifty Shades also has ‘splosions… 😉

  19. @Kurt — thanks for the references on Peter Scratch and Rip Kirby. The Peter Scratch was completely new to me. I had heard he had worked on Rip Kirby, but didn’t have any dates. I’ll go look those up on the newspaper archives. At one time, I had what I think was all of Adams’s Popov vodka ads that I had pulled from scanned newspapers and microfilms.

    Allan Holtz on Peter Scratch.

    Prentice has reworked the faces on Rip and Desmond, but it’s kind of fun to see Rip with the big hairy knuckle Adams hands.

    The hairy arms on Ben Casey is one of the hallmarks of that strip. I wonder if Adams ever had occasion to draw Robin Williams?

    @Kip — here is an Adams Chip Martin page. Here are a bunch of the Chip Martin pages, collected.

  20. Bill —

    If you get a chance to look up Fine’s ADAM AMES, go for it. It’s dumb as a box of rocks, but beautifully drawn.

    There’s a TPB of the first part of the run on Amazon that doesn’t have the best printing, but the art shines through anyway.

  21. Lou Fine has been a favorite since I first saw his work. I think he’s one of the Eisner ghosts in the modest pile of Spirit Sections Mom gave me (from ’42–’43), along with Jack Cole and artists I don’t know well enough to spot. (Plus Bob Powell and Nick Cardy in the backup stories) I like the stories, different though they may be from true Eisner. Wasn’t Feiffer writing those?

  22. In 1942, Feiffer was 13 years old. He started working for Eisner in ’46.

  23. PhilRM on June 16, 2017 at 2:37 pm said:
    @P J Evans: Undoubtedly. The oxygen content of the atmosphere reached 30% during the Carboniferous (about 280 MYa), compared to 21% today, which is why there were all those horrifyingly large insects. Never time-travel to the Carboniferous with a smoker.

    Slight Necro (I’m catching up again), but this was used as a plot point in the Valiant comic Ivar, Timewalker a couple of years ago. The titular Ivar has a map of portals between different points in time and space, and he and Neela, a young woman he’s just rescued (they’re not using the word companion!) wind up on prehistoric earth. Ivar chases off a giant bug with a lighter, as it produces a much larger flame due to the higher oxygen count in the atmosphere.

Leave a Reply

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