Pixel Scroll 8/30/17 Two Little Pixels Sitting In A Tree, S-C-R-O-L-L-I-N-G…

(1) GONE IN 60 SECONDS. They did the Monster Mash on Terry Pratchett’s hard drive, fulfilling his request that his unfinished work be destroyed: “Terry Pratchett’s unfinished novels destroyed by steamroller”.

The unfinished books of Sir Terry Pratchett have been destroyed by a steamroller, following the late fantasy novelist’s wishes.

Pratchett’s hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the author’s life and work.

…The hard drive will go on display as part of a major exhibition about the author’s life and work, Terry Pratchett: HisWorld, which opens at the Salisbury museum in September.

(2) FIFTH HUNDREDTH. StarShipSofa posted its 500th show today, a reading of Harlan Ellison’s Nebula-winning story “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” by George Hrab.

10 years young, StarShipSofa features the best of speculative fiction and fact articles, delivered weekly by host and editor Tony C. Smith, fiction editor Jeremy Szal, and authors, narrators, and contributors from all over the world. Born from the most humble beginnings, StarShipSofa has gone on to present works by legends and rising stars in the field, as well as showcasing new or lesser known voices, diverse authors and stories, and works in translation. Among many highlights over the last decade, StarShipSofa has presented exclusive interviews including Pat Cadigan, Ted Chiang, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delany, and the late Ray Bradbury.

Last week, Show 499 featured Joe Haldeman (Aug 23), and next week Show 501 will air a story by Robert Silverberg (Sept 6).

(3) SERRIED RANKS. Vox Day, in a post otherwise spent cutting down the Game of Thrones TV show and the writing of George R.R. Martin, “Compression and decompression”, includes an irresistible list that ranks the top epic fantasy authors. Does your mileage vary?

Here is how I rank the writers of epic fantasy:

  1. JRR Tolkien
  2. Stephen Donaldson (Covenant)
  3. Margaret Weis & Terry Hickman (Dragonlance)
  4. David Eddings (Belgariad)
  5. Glen Cook
  6. Steven Erikson
  7. Raymond Feist
  8. George RR Martin
  9. Joe Abercrombie
  10. CS Friedman
  11. Tad Williams
  12. Daniel Abraham
  13. Brandon Sanderson
  14. R. Scott Bakker
  15. Mark Lawrence
  16. Terry Brooks
  17. Robert Jordan
  18. Terry Goodkind

Obviously, your mileage may vary, as may what you consider to be “epic fantasy”. I would have Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Tanith Lee, and Anne McCaffrey all ranked above Dragonlance, but their work is better categorized in other categories.

(4) IT’S A THEORY. Dragon Con advocates make their case: “5 Reasons You Should Attend Dragon*Con This Year”.

After 31 years, it’s safe to say that Dragon*Con is not a fad. Last Labor Day weekend saw a record 77,000+ attendees roar into the streets of Atlanta, which beat the previous high from 2015. 2017 is on track to break the record yet again, with 82,000+ people expected to attend. By comparison, the Chick-Fil-A kickoff game between Georgia and North Carolina, which was at the Georgia Dome the same weekend last year, drew 75,000 people. It’s no secret that college football in the south is like a religion. Dragon*Con has officially become the go-to place for gamers, sci-fi, fantasy and pop culture fans to convene in the Southeast. Here are 5 reasons why you should attend this year.

  1. Fan-Centric

Unlike other big conventions around the nation (Comic Con, Wonder Con, etc), Dragon*Con remains the last big “fan-driven” con. Usually corporations sense the success of any event and put their grubby little hands all over it. Then, instead of enjoying yourself, it begins to feel like you’re walking in an ad. Dragon*Con’s popularity has done nothing but balloon over the last few years, but it still feels as fan-centric as when it started. It says a lot when you’re surrounded by 70,000+ other people and yet you still feel the intimacy and care put into each detail of the entire weekend. This factor is crucial for the first time con-goer, because it keeps everything from feeling as overwhelming as it could get.

(5) TESTING, TESTING. Coast-to-coast in half-an-hour? That’s the goal: “Anyone for the Hyperloop? Testing high-speed pods in a vacuum tube”.

“Guys, this is getting awkward,” billionaire Elon Musk told a group of students from Switzerland as they struggled to control their Hyperloop pod.

If all goes well, their pod would eventually travel at more than 700mph (1,120km/h), propelling people between Los Angeles and San Francisco in half an hour, instead of six hours in a car or an hour-long flight.

But this is early days and the students are testing their pod for the first time on a nearly mile-long vacuum tube track outside Mr Musk’s office in Hawthorne near Los Angeles.

They’d lost connectivity. The vacuum needs to be unsealed and the pod fiddled with. Then the vacuum must be resealed and all the air inside pumped out. Revolutionising transport takes time

… None went even close to 700mph, but the winners, German’s Warr team from the Technical University of Munich, blew away the competition.

“Congratulations to the Warr team,” Mr Musk said as the crowd of students applauded. “That was an amazing job. That pod just went 324km/h, over 200mph.”

(6) SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW. The BBC says “Cassini hints at young age for Saturn’s rings”.

The spectacular rings of Saturn may be relatively young, perhaps just 100 million years or so old.

This is the early interpretation of data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft on its final orbits of the giant world.

The same article includes the precise time the probe is expected to break up. A little over two weeks from now.

Cassini is scheduled to make only two more close-in passes before driving itself to destruction in Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September.

The probe is being disposed of in this way because it will soon run out of fuel. That would render it uncontrollable, and mission managers at the US space agency Nasa do not want it crashing into – and contaminating – moons that could conceivably host microbial lifeforms.

Cassini will melt and be torn apart as it dives into the planet’s gases at over 120,000km/h. Controllers will know the probe has been destroyed when Earth antennas lose radio contact, which is expected to occur at 11:54 GMT (12:54 BST; 07:54 EDT; 04:54 PDT) on Friday 15 September.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS

Frankenstein Day

The crackle of electricity, and the patter of rain drops on the stone walls and terracotta roof give an eerie feeling when combined with the dank laboratory that houses various experiments. Give yourself a bit of liquid courage, and step forward to embrace a little bit of darkness in Frankenstein Day.

Slinky Day

The Slinky was originally designed and sold in the 1940s. The inventor had accidentally knocked a spring off the shelf, and watched it ‘walk’ down a series of books, to a tabletop, and then to the floor where it neatly coiled itself. The creator, Richard James, had gone home to his wife Betty and said “I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension, I could make it walk. ” It took the better part of a year, but he had done it. Making 400 Slinky units with a five hundred dollar loan, James and his wife had founded a company to make, and sell, this unique toy to the masses.

(8) TIPTREE FELLOWSHIPS. Applications are being taken for this year’s Tiptree Fellowships until September 15. The $500 grants are given to emerging creators “who are changing the way we think about gender through speculative narrative.”

Tiptree Fellows can be writers, artists, scholars, media makers, remix artists, performers, musicians, or something else entirely; so far our Fellows have been creators of visual art, poetry, fiction, and games.

The Tiptree Fellowship is designed to provide support and recognition for the new voices who are making visible the forces that are changing our view of gender today. The Fellowship Committee particularly encourages applications from members of communities that have been historically underrepresented in the science fiction and fantasy genre and from creators who are creating speculative narratives in media other than traditional fiction

Applicants will need to write short responses to two questions and to share a sample of their work. The guidelines are at this link.

The 2017 Tiptree Fellowships selection committee is Gretchen Treu (chair), Mia Sereno, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, and Pat Schmatz.

(9) OTHER COVENANTS. ChiZine Publications has opened a call for submissions for Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People, by award-winning writers and editors Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum. Contributors already confirmed include science fiction grand masters Harry Turtledove and Jack Dann.

Boy Eating

Other Covenants is now open to submissions of short fiction, through Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. Submissions must be between 1,000 and 10,000 words in length, and may be in English or French (the book will be published in English and authors will be responsible for translations). Original stories are preferred, but the editors will consider reprints of significant works on a case-by-case basis. Payment will be 8 cents (Canadian funds) per word. Authors may be from anywhere in the world and do not need to be Jewish.

Full submission guidelines and the online submission system are here.

(10) TEQUILA! He knows how to set up the perfect shot – whether in the studio or at the bar:  “Film Director Guillermo del Toro’s Exclusive Tequila Project”.

Patrón Tequila just released a special edition that you helped create. Can you tell me about the project?

“The idea was to create a centerpiece and make the tequila the centerpiece of the centerpiece. It’s a shrine. And I think it looks beautiful as the centerpiece of any bar.”

How long did it take you to design the intricate bottle and case?

“You know we went through many permutations. In total, the whole adventure took three and a half years. First the idea was a reliquary but reliquary for me is too European and I thought altar. And we started thinking of a journey narratively for the box. First and foremost, the box is covered in a black suede with a silver skull. You start with black and then you open it and you see the box, which depicts all the stages of the processing of tequila, which is being done by skeletons to signal the ancestral tradition. Then all of a sudden you go from black to that beautiful two-dimensional box and then you open the wings and you reveal huge color and three-dimensions. You end up having a journey. You have votive candles that you can light. It’s a very beautiful piece.”

The maker’s website has a photo-filled display about how Del Toro came up with the design, and how all the components look, both in and out of the box.

 

(11) FANDOM AT THE GALLOP. The 18th issue of Rich Lynch’s personal fanthology My Back Pages is now online at the efanzines.com website.

Issue #18 notes my absence from both this year’s Worldcon and NASFiC, and has essays involving colonial debates, rescued conventions, curated fanzine collections, golden domes, long escalators, large aquariums, famous domiciles, notable science fiction fans, extinct stadiums, lingering controversies, divine ideas, memorable encounters, autographed books, enigmatic composers, 50-year reunions, fuel-efficient vehicles, personal records, motorcycle rallies, art museums, scenic sunsets, medieval cathedrals, and lots of snow-covered mountainous terrain.

(12) WHAT GOES UP. Another theory to explain dinosaur extinction: a “reverse gravitational event.” Proposed by James Propp at BAHFest East 2017.

(13) MUST COME DOWN. The Hollywood Reporter remembers “That Time on ‘Batman’ When Alfred Fought the Joker”.

And with it being made clear in the new Justice League trailer (which already has more than 23 million views on YouTube) that Jeremy Irons’ incarnation will once again take a more hands-on role with Batman’s adventures, it is time to look back at the heroics of the first live-action Alfred, played by Alan Napier.

Napier, who died in 1988 at the age 85, appeared as Alfred in all 120 episodes of the 1960s Batman television series.

And of all that character’s most memorable moments, the top one has to be when he fought The Joker (Cesar Romero), who forced his way into Wayne Manor with a hostage in the season two episode, “Flop Goes The Joker.” The best part of the three-minute clip is when Alfred and The Joker sword fight with fire[place] pokers.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Mark-kitteh, IanP, Rich Lynch, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

79 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/30/17 Two Little Pixels Sitting In A Tree, S-C-R-O-L-L-I-N-G…

  1. My 14-year old self (slightly before 1988) would have had Saberhagen at or near the top of the list. Although, technically, Empire of the East and the Swords books are post-apocalyptic science fiction.

    He’d definitely still place in the top 20 today… for EotE at least. Been a while since I read any of the Swords books so not sure in re the presence of the Suck Fairy.

  2. @emgrasso: lucky you! I loved Njal’s Saga… and Skarp-Hedin is Petyr Baelish with a death wish. “It is common knowledge that you are the mistress of the Svinafells troll, who uses you as a woman every ninth night.” You have to admire the guy’s tact and diplomacy.

  3. @Steve Wright: they really had a great line in insults in those days , didn’t they?

  4. @ idontknow: For however much it’s worth, only two writers have ever popularized fantasy fiction to the point where they have an audience of ‘casuals’ to go along with the hardcore fantasy readers/viewers, who will read and view everything. Tolkien and Martin.

    Hmm. I seem to recall a woman writer- English I think- who wrote a fantasy series back in the 90s. It was fairly popular, I think. They may have even tried making a movie out of it. The name’s on the tip of my tongue…can anybody help me out here?

    Oh well, it was back in the 90s, so she’s missed the cut-off date for the current “WOMEN are writing fantasy now!” articles.

  5. Heh. Even Vox can’t rank Terry Goodkind any higher than that.

    That tequila bottle shrine is giving me feelings. *wipes away tear*

  6. only two writers have ever popularized fantasy fiction to the point where they have an audience of ‘casuals’ to go along with the hardcore fantasy readers/viewers, who will read and view everything. Tolkien and Martin.

    And Rowling.

  7. The Mists of Avalon was also a huge mainstream bestseller back in the 1980s, the sort of book that even people who normally wouldn’t be caught dead reading epic fantasy read.

    Unlike Tolkien and Rowling (the jury is still out on Martin, since his huge mainstream success only began with the TV show), Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fame hasn’t lasted for obvious reasons, but she was a mainstream success thirty years ago.

  8. Tolkien and Martin.

    And Rowling.

    There’s been an amazing amount of erasure concerning her in this thread. I wonder why.

    Especially given her influence. and huge fandom. And the fact she could buy both Worldcon and DragonCon ten times over. And she has a knighthood, so I think she’s legally allowed to chase you down and spear you with a lance wielded from her Citroën.

    Anyway, my semi-ranked list of most epic fantasy writers, mostly by influence:

    1. Ursula K LeGuin
    2. JK Rowling
    3. JRR Tolkien
    4. Diana Wynne Jones
    5. Jack Vance
    6. CS Lewis
    7. NK Jemison
    8. Lord Dunsany
    9. Glen Cook
    10. Roger Zelazney

  9. Tolkien and Martin.

    And Rowling.

    There’s been an amazing amount of erasure concerning her in this thread. I wonder why.

    Especially given her influence and huge fandom. Not to mention the fact she could buy both Worldcon and DragonCon ten times over. And she has a knighthood, so I think she’s legally allowed to chase you down and spear you with a lance wielded from her Citroën.

    Anyway, my semi-ranked list of most epic fantasy writers, mostly by influence:

    1. Ursula K LeGuin
    2. JK Rowling
    3. JRR Tolkien
    4. Diana Wynne Jones
    5. Jack Vance
    6. CS Lewis
    7. NK Jemison
    8. Lord Dunsany
    9. Glen Cook
    10. Roger Zelazney

  10. I would never put JK Rowling on a list of best epic fantasy. Not because they aren’t epic. Not because they aren’t good. But because the epic elements are what I like least in the books. The more epic, the more boring. And the last book was awful.

    What I like is the common day things in studies and classrooms and small scale adventures and pure adventures. Keep the epic away.

  11. “There’s been an amazing amount of erasure concerning her in this thread. I wonder why.”

    I think she didn’t spring immediately to my mind because her books are set in the modern world, which sort of differentiates them from the specific types of books that the article was talking about. Of course, Rowling is among the pantheon of the super rich authors like King, Grisham, Patterson, and Steele, so her influence in entertainment is unquestionable.

    A glaring omission on my part.

  12. My favorite Norse saga is Hervor’s — for what may be obvious reasons for those familiar with the plot. We read a small excerpt of it when I studied Old Norse and I spent considerable effort to track down the full version. For an amusing sffnal tie in: the standard translation is by one Christopher Tolkien. (Hervor’s Saga also forms a significant part of the inspiration for a historic novel I plan to write some day. If I ever figure out where in the world I’d submit it for publication.)

  13. It seems to me that Epic Fantasy doesn’t just mean fantasy that is epic; it is a specific tradition, recognisable when one looks at it, which requires that the setting must be other-worldly (at least in appearance; the remote past or future, so remote that it looks like another world, is allowed), as well as being about large issues, and probably other things that are harder to spell out.

    I think Day has actually picked out most of the writers who are central to this tradition, the ones who define what ‘epic fantasy’ means. Certainly his list is rather lacking in woman writers; McKillip would definitely count (at least for the Riddlemaster books, which were deliberately written in the following of Tolkien), as would Kerr, and also Kurtz, who hasn’t been mentioned yet. But a lot of the people who have been mentioned seem to me to be edge cases, either doubtfully fantasy, like Wolfe or Brust, or doubtfully epic, like Dunsany or LeGuin. I don’t find it surprising that these are often better than the writers in VD’s list, because I think the most interesting work often is done at edges; work in the centre of a subgenre, once it is established, is liable to suffer from a certain sameness. But they aren’t the best examples of epic fantasy as such.

    Children’s fantasy, I think, is a distinct tradition (as Day recognises with Cooper and Alexander), which explains (along with her this-worldliness) why Rowling is not a natural candidate for being on the list.

    Martin, I would say, is the only epic fantasy writer who has really wide public recognition right now (and even his epicness could probably be debated). Other figures with wide public recognition, apart from Rowling, would include Pratchett and Gaiman (also Pullman, for a while), but they aren’t doing exactly the same sort of thing.

  14. @Andrew M: I think you are wrong about LeGuin; Earthsea definitively is epic, at least you take the books together. Both The Farthest Shore and The Other Wind have stakes at world, maybe even existence, level.

    Also, they have maps.

  15. @Andrew That still doesn’t explain the absence of Moorcock. Im also not sure if Sanderson counts as “epic”, since most of his books are about a small number of people (in the mistborn I really liked the small scale of the first two books, but the third one sure was mor epic. The first Wax and Wayne was not epic again)

  16. Peer on September 1, 2017 at 10:42 am said:

    @Andrew That still doesn’t explain the absence of Moorcock. Im also not sure if Sanderson counts as “epic”, since most of his books are about a small number of people

    I mean he did complete the Wheel of Time and there’s the Stormlight Archive….

  17. Andrew M on September 1, 2017 at 9:43 am said:

    It seems to me that Epic Fantasy doesn’t just mean fantasy that is epic; it is a specific tradition, recognisable when one looks at it, which requires that the setting must be other-worldly (at least in appearance; the remote past or future, so remote that it looks like another world, is allowed), as well as being about large issues, and probably other things that are harder to spell out.

    If it’s not fantasy that’s epic in scope or content, then that’s a bad subgenre title. Hell there are a lot of very well defined subgenres that get argued about what is or isn’t included in it, so if it’s hard to spell out what counts, it’s going to get messy.

    If it’s not easy to spell out then it not a tradition. Traditionally speaking, nebulous traditions aren’t.

  18. @Matt Y: “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”

    Small traditions can be rigorously defined. Categories of fiction are not so easily bounded.

  19. Matt Y: And usually urban fantasy is considered to mean “Fantasy set in the modern world” even though some examples (Megan Lindholm’s Cloven Hooves, some Charles de Lint, others) actually end up rural, and some fantasy not set in the modern world is very urban-centric.

    Epic fantasy tends to mean: some form of not-our-world setting, usually but not essentially medieval or renaissance era technology (I’d suggest ancient Egyptian through to Enlightenment as more like the actual range), often but again not essentially European-esque in scope (And this latter is one of the things most people these days encourage changing.) Countries plural are involved, or at minimum a big empire, often multiple cultures, and the survival and/or rulership of these countries is a central question. Casts of thousands are often involved though not essential (Mistborn, while lacking the cast of thousands, is, or starts as, the overthrow of a Dark Lord; one of the staple epic fantasy plots). It usually requires multiple volumes to achieve full scope, though one thick book can do it, (Or even three skinny ones, per McKillip’s main and almost sole entry into actual epic fantasy). The magic involved is generally not low key small stuff.

    Some prime exemplars beyond Day’s list:
    Sherwood Smith’s Inda series, and some of the related standalones (Banner of the Damned)
    Almost all of Kate Elliott’s series
    Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky Books.
    Diana Wynne Jones’ Dalemark Quartet, though not necessarily most of her other work.

  20. I would never put JK Rowling on a list of best epic fantasy.

    I wouldn’t either (though in my case it’s because I don’t think the Potter books are epic fantasy. But I mentioned her because the claim that “only two writers have ever popularized fantasy fiction to the point where they have an audience of ‘casuals’ to go along with the hardcore fantasy readers/viewers” isn’t a claim about epic fantasy, it’s about fantasy fiction.

    And hoo boy, are the Potter books ever fantasy fiction.

    If it’s not fantasy that’s epic in scope or content, then that’s a bad subgenre title.

    It’s a name, not a definition. Not all names work as exacting definitions. As noted, there are non-urban urban fantasies. And there are unheroic heroic fantasies, mysteries that are more about finding proof than solving a mystery, science fiction without much science, and on and on.

  21. I would mention Diana Wynne Jones’s “The Dark Lord of Derkholm” in the epic fantasy conversation, though it mostly turns the tropes upside down, and the sequel (“Year of the Griffin”) is less epic. I loved them both.

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