Pixel Scroll 9/7/17 As I Was Scrolling Down The Stair, I Met A Pixel Who Wasn’t There

(1) REDRUM. James Davis Nicoll continues to chart the core: “Twenty Core Cyberpunk Works Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. He says the image at the post is of Uwaterloo’s famous Red Room. Here are three of his cyberpunk picks:

  • Synners by Pat Cadigan
  • The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
  • When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

(2) BATTENING DOWN TATOOINE. Is this anything like a silver lining? “Due to the hurricane, Disney World has removed some construction walls — which means we can see Star Wars Land”. Photos at the link.

First and foremost, there is a Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Irma, hurtling towards Florida at a rapid pace and we hope everyone in the Sunshine State is staying as safe as possible, evacuating if that’s been ordered, and has plenty of water.

While Irma’s path across Florida is still unclear (it’s not expected to make landfall till the weekend), Disney World has already started making preparing for torrential rain and high winds. Things that can be bolted down have been bolted down, and things that are apt to blow away in the gusts of wind — like say, a fence and a tarp — have been removed. This means that many of the construction walls around Star Wars Land have come down. And this means, we can see the outskirts of Star Wars Land, and yes please.

(3) STAY FROSTY. The Society of Illustrators in New York is displaying a selection of work from Greg Manchess’ Above the Timberline from September 5 through October 28 in the Third Floor Hall of Fame Gallery.

The Society is pleased to present a selection of work from Greg Manchess’ latest stunning masterpiece Above the Timberline. This lavishly painted novel tells the story of the son of a famed explorer searching for his stranded father, and a lost city buried under the snows of a future frozen Earth.

When it started to snow, it didn’t stop for 1,500 years. The Pole Shift that ancient climatologists talked about finally came, the topography was ripped apart and the weather of the world was changed—forever. Now the Earth is covered in snow, and to unknown depths in some places. In this world, Wes Singleton leaves the academy in search of his father, the famed explorer Galen Singleton, who was searching for a lost city until Galen’s expedition was cut short after being sabotaged. But Wes believes his father is still alive somewhere above the timberline. Fully illustrated with over 120 pieces of full-page artwork throughout, Above the Timberline is a stunning and cinematic combination of art and novel.

Opening Reception on Thursday, September 28th, 6:30 pm. Open to the public. Cash bar. $10 suggested donation will benefit arts programming and exhibitions.

(4) ASKING FOR DONATIONS. Australian writer Lezli Robyn needs help paying for a procedure that will keep her eyesight from deteriorating further. Her employer has set up a GoFundMe. George R.R. Martin is one of many encouraging people to give.

Many of you know Lesley Robyn Glover (and I would like to introduce you to her if you don’t). She writes sf/fantasy as Lezli Robyn and works as my Assistant Publisher for Arc Manor…. What many of you who already know her may not realize is that due to a rare eye disorder, which is progressively getting worse, she is now considered legally blind without correction. When Lezli was 23 she was diagnosed with an unusual condition, Keratoconus, which is characterised by a progressive conical protusion of the cornea that results in her eyesight being distorted, to the point where she sees multiple images on top of each other and are no longer clear….

Since I pay Lezli Robyn I know what she earns–and it is not enough to be able to easily afford to pay for the treatment without which her eyeseight will continue to get worse.  I am also aware of financial and medical difficulties her parents are undergoing and it is almost impossible for them to fund the treatment. Currently a minimum of $2500 for each eye is required just for the basic procedure (not including specialist tests. medications, etc.) in Australia and it’s not covered by Lezli’s Australian medicare (see Optometry Australia’s article about it here ). The cost in the US, of course, can be significantly greater (up to $4000 per eye!) so it may actually be cheaper for her to fly to Australia to get the procudure rather than have it done in the US.

So I am asking our friends to join me in raising money for Lezli to be able to get this procedure done as soon as possible–before her eyesight gets worse. Keratoconus does eventually slow down in its progression but there is no specific timeframe, and in Lezli’s case the progession has consistantly continued unabated.

(5) NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. The Hugo Award Book Club has updated their list of award-worthy 2017 works: “What’s worth considering for the ballot in 2018?”  For example:

Short Story

A Passing Sickness — Paolo Bacigalupi

Sanctuary — Allen Steele

Paradox — Naomi Kritzer

The Secret Life Of Bots — Suzanne Palmer

(6) RUN AWAY. Dominic Patten at Deadline joins the growing number of critics who’ve turned thumbs down: “‘The Orville’ Review: Seth MacFarlane’s Fox Sci-Fi Drama Is Lost In Space”.

Honestly, if your need for sci-fi is gnawing at you, hold your powder a couple more weeks and wait for Star Trek: Discovery, which premieres September 24. Even with the highly skilled likes of Norm Macdonald, Transparent’s Jeffery Tambor, Holland Taylor, 24 vet Penny Johnson Jerald and Victor Garber making appearances alongside the Family Guy guy and the Friday Night Lights alum, The Orville’s aspirations to find a new path to the final frontier in this age of Peak TV goes nowhere frat-boy fast.

In fact, with its urination gags and heavy-handedness on such topics as gender identity and racism, the only purpose of the lost-in-space The Orville seems to be to as a way for Fox to continue its lucrative relationship with MacFarlane and keep him happy.

(7) NOT ALL WIGHT MEN. Actor Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, in this interview discusses the possibility of main characters becoming Wights.

(8) MARS: ONE SCOOP OR TWO? The Planetary Society has notified members:

On August 28th, NASA’s Associate Administrator of Science announced that the space agency intends to accelerate planning for a sample return mission to Mars to launch no earlier than 2026. A new Mars telecommunications orbiter would take a backseat to an increased focus on building a fetch rover and a “Mars ascent vehicle” to launch samples into orbit.

Never before has NASA had approval from the budget masters at the White House to pursue such a mission. So, take it from me: this is a very positive step. There are a lot of details yet to be announced, and we will now look forward to the 2019 budget proposal currently being drafted by NASA and the White House to see how serious these plans are.

We have been working hard to help the Mars program, and thousands of Planetary Society members helped by sending messages to Congress and the White House. Congress has already signaled its support by proposing over $60 million in new funding for Mars next year in support of a future mission. Now, NASA has said it intends to bring Mars home to Earth. Thank you to all who took action. There are exciting times ahead.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Buy A Book Day

The History of Buy a Book Day: Buy a Book Day was created in 2012 to educate people to the importance of books to our culture and civilisation as a whole. It is inarguable that books have been one of the greatest contributors to the advancement of the human race, by moving the hearts of many over the ages, stimulating their imaginations and helping them see the world in an entirely different light. Books have also served the simple but vital purpose of passing knowledge down from generation to generation. The creators of Buy a Book Day want nothing more than for people take a moment to truly appreciate books and their numerous roles in the human experience.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 1974 – The (animated) Partridge Family 2200 A.D. first aired on TV
  • September 7, 1984 — The Brother from Another Planet first screened in theatres.

(11) QUICK CALL. Almost makes the tricorder look like steampunk technology: “‘Pen’ identifies cancer in 10 seconds”.

How it works

The pen is touched on to a suspected cancer and releases a tiny droplet of water.

Chemicals inside the living cells move into the droplet, which is then sucked back up the pen for analysis.

The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer – a piece of kit that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second.

It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer.

(12) TALE OF THE SHARKE. Jonathan McCalmont’s “Lessons of Sharke” comments on his purposes in serving on the Shadow Clarke jury.

I was happy to get involved in the Shadow Clarke project because I wanted to a) help challenge the presumed supremacy of genre publishing by broadening the discourse to include science fiction novels from outside that cultural sphere and b) show that it was possible for regular readers to engage with the literature of science fiction in public using not only the full range of their emotions but also their own ideas about what constitutes good writing and good science fiction.

Regardless of whether you want to provoke change in existing social structures or create new social spaces embodying different principles, you need to be able to show what you’re about… if only to prove that alternatives to the status quo can exist. The Shadow Clarke project was by no means a flawless undertaking but I think it was successful not only in broadening the scope of genre discourse but also in demonstrating that ordinary readers can contribute more than simply hitting retweet and dutifully nominating their faves.

I expected both hostility and opposition because the Shadow Clarke project embodies a very different set of ideas about how we ought to engage with science fiction on the internet. Some might argue that those ideas and methods have always been present in genre culture but times change and cases must always be made anew. Looking back over the months I spent as a Sharke, I am proud of the writing we produced as a group; I think we championed books that would otherwise have been completely overlooked in genre circles and I think we provided dozens of articles that interrogate science fiction from a variety of nuanced and personal positions.

(13) BALLAD OF THE MTA. And our fate is still unlearned….

(14) THEY BITE. Camestros Felapton tells why “The Alt-Right View of ‘Free Speech’ isn’t Even Simplistic”, and illustrates his point with an example of how the Alt-Right turned on Vox Day.

The slow coalescence of various species of online misogyny and trolling into the modern crypto-fascist ‘Alt-Right’ has been entangled with a more general appeal for ‘free speech’ in odd circumstances. These kinds of appeals were often directed at internet comments sections and forums as arguments against community guidelines or in defence of those arguing for active discrimination or even violence against various groups. As appeals went, their purpose was primarily aimed at trying to fool liberals and conservatives into not taking action against people who were actively trying to disrupt online communities, harass vulnerable people or shout down opposing views – indeed actions that themselves were inimical to free speech.

(15) A SPARKLING BEVERAGE? From the Brooklyn Eagle comes this item: “No Bad Blood Over Unicorn Coffee”.

A multicolored beverage named after a mythical horse doesn’t sound like something that could cause controversy, but after a couple cafes went head to head in the legal realm, a settlement cleared the air. The End, a cafe in Williamsburg argued that Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino was a rip off of its Unicorn Latte. After the two companies went up against each other in court, Brooklyn Federal Judge Arthur Spatt authorized a “mutually agreeable settlement,” according to The End’s lawyer. A Starbucks representative also said the terms, which are confidential, were mutual and the global chain no longer serves the colorful drink at its stores. (via the Daily News)

(16) BOOK RESEARCH. Sarah Gailey went right to the source and asked the (river) horse:

(17) SAY CHEESE. StarShip Sofa’s Jeremy Szal posted a suite of “Worldcon 75 Photos”. Lots of good ones. Here’s the last one in the set:

View post on imgur.com

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

84 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/7/17 As I Was Scrolling Down The Stair, I Met A Pixel Who Wasn’t There

  1. As far as negative reviews go: if a piece of writing doesn’t work, it’s worth taking it apart to find out why. Learning from one’s own mistakes is one thing, but it’s a big time-saver if you can also learn from other people’s.

  2. @steve davidson: the promoter might claim she was just doing her job — but you found an effective response. Did it get published?

  3. @Steve Davidson
    When an author posts a comment on Rocket Stack Rank, I try to be very gentle with him/her. They’re bucking the advice that says “don’t engage with reviewers! At most, just say ‘thank you for reading my story,'” and I’d really like them not to regret that.

    Read the comments on my review of “The Hard Woman,” by Ian McDowell. I really want to see more discussions like that!

    I’ve never had the experience of an author completely blowing up over a negative review, although one or two have complained bitterly on Twitter. I have (once) had a famous author complain (mildly) about a five-star review though. The “Pro” part of the review was over 200 words, but he/she could only see the 12 words in the “Con” section.

  4. Huh, I figured I’d do pretty well on the Cyberpunk list, since I was a bit obsessed with the genre for a while, back in the day. But I only got seven.

    I agree that Hardwired is a notable omission–it’s not my favorite Williams, but it’s still an outstanding example of the genre. On the other hand, I don’t think Snow Crash fits–I consider it more of an example of post-cyberpunk.

  5. Trouble and her Friends is certainly cyberpunk, but I agree I wouldn’t class China Mountain Zhang that way.

    I mostly write positive reviews because I try to pick books I have a good chance of liking, for the most part. However, when I do read something I don’t like, I still give it an honest review. I figure if I can articulate why I don’t like it, people who would like it will still be able to identify it as Their Thing.

    Very occasionally, I get a chortling comment from someone who says they bought something and liked it because of my negative review. They apparently expect me to be Just Devastated, because they assume my purpose was to prevent other people from reading it. I rarely get a response to my happy reply that I’m glad because that’s my goal: that people should be able to tell from my reviews whether or not the book is something they’d like, whether or not I did.

    Addendum: That’s part of my objection to the Sharkes: They seem to want to decide what other people should read.

  6. Trouble and her Friends is certainly cyberpunk, but I agree I wouldn’t class China Mountain Zhang that way.

    I did a large-scale cyberpunk reading project last year because I’ve been trying to pin down why I think the subgenre has renewed relevance and out of a desire to pin down the term in a way that isn’t just about its more superficial elements. I’ve been specifically looking at things like approaches to world-building (i.e., things like what elements of the world are given attention and what aren’t, both in terms of physical elements and social ones), choices of theme and approaches to same, commonalities in tone, etc., so my definition is going to be either broader or less broad than some people’s. (I’m hoping to write about it at length some time before the end of year.) CMZ has a lot in common with seminal cyberpunk books from those perspectives, even though it has very little in common on the surface. So much of it is about technocratic systems of control intersecting with class (explicitly political in CMZ, while explicitly corporate/market-based in some other cyberpunk works), and that specific thematic intersection is what I think lies at the core of the subgenre.

    YMMV

  7. the Shadow Clarke project embodies a very different set of ideas about how we ought to engage with science fiction on the internet

    They… reviewed books that were up for an award? Like people have always done for the Hugo shortlist? There was even a LJ comm for that – haven’t checked to see if it made the jump to DW.

    When I find that a book people raved about is just not doing it for me, I’ll go looking for two- and three- star reviews to see if it’s not just me. Will it be “it slogged in the middle, but picked up later” or “I pushed through and regretted it”?

  8. @Chip Hitchcock

    Granite, so maybe not Dremel territory. Might have been easier to grind back the hob frame as it was only a couple of the three tabs sticking out the front that were fouling the lip. But the supplier/fitter wouldn’t have liked that 🙂

    Supplied technical drawings for both overlapped but what can you do? After a long chat with the supplier we hopefully have one that will fit. If the sizes can be trusted, now have an accurate measurement of the gap at least.

    Finding a reviewer with similar tastes is a big win. One reason why I miss the former host of the BBC’s Film 20xx who I found very reliable and genre friendly. I won’t mention his name as it seems to inspire ire. Mark Kermode is pretty good though, makes an effort not to spoil and isn’t put off by genre works.

    Books I often find like music, if you like x then y may appeal. But sometimes all the parts are there but it doesn’t work for you even if you like the technique.

  9. Finding a reviewer with similar tastes is a big win. One reason why I miss the former host of the BBC’s Film 20xx who I found very reliable

    Going back to Film 19xx, I’d listen out for Barry Norman slagging off films in a particular way. Our tastes didn’t match, but he was very consistent in his reviews so once you’d calibrated you could take some of his negative comments as positives for you and vice versa.

  10. @IanP

    Finding a reviewer with similar tastes is a big win.

    Back in the day, the late Baird Searles was a reviewer that I could really rely on – if he liked a book, I’d like it too (and he tended to write reviews entertainingly as well).

  11. I don’t think a reviewer has to share your tastes to be useful. I’ve known a few where I could fairly consistently treat their recommendations as a reason to avoid the work in question. 🙂

  12. I did have a gig reviewing films in college. Being 18 and “edgy” when i wrote them makes current-day me shudder to think any survived. Rather than a star rating scale, I used “Theater, Dollar-Theater, Video Rental, Cable”.

  13. @ Anthony and IanP
    Yes, Barry Norman was a good reviewer, and I could usually tell if I would like a movie from what he said about it. I really liked Roger Ebert, too. Similarly, if the Guardian’s Michael Billington likes a stage production, I probably will enjoy it, too.

  14. I have a rather different regard of Hardwired. While I liked it at the time, it’s pretty unreadable to me now- for among other reasons, its problems with representation. And oh yeah, the “vinyl tits” cover.

    I was in a discussion recently about the extreme sexism in cyberpunk artwork, where every female charcter had to be hyper- sexualized. We got to talking about where it came from, and I pretty much decided the two main sources were Hardwired and Cyberpunk 2020. Williams is the one who took srx work from a past character element, to the in-story, well…”I’ll do ANYTHING for my brother, including being a sex-assasin. With a throat-snake.”

    Willisms is about where Cyberpunk went from being futuristic noir, to being a bad Heavy Metal cartoon.

  15. I think it might be 20 years since I ran Cyberpunk 2020 and I frankly couldn’t remember it being that bad, so I pulled out the main rulebook and bloody hell the artwork is terrible. There’s a couple of reasonable female character sketches but most of them are stripperific to the extreme.

    (I think it was the first non-D&D game I ran. I enjoyed horrifying my players by forcing them into situations where they couldn’t just shoot everything.)

  16. Just had a thought – here’s a connected list of SF works (movies and books), using no words not in the titles (I reserve the right to leave out or include articles, like “a,” “an,” and “the” and to match on partial words). This one has 8 titles; let’s see if anyone can do a longer one:

    The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy Quest for Fire Upon the Deep-ness in the Sky So Big and Black Alice in Wonderland

    Challenge accepted!

    Mad Maximum Overdrive In Massacre at Central Highway to Hell of the Living Dead Eyes of London After Midnight Warning Sign.

    Ten movies.

  17. Regarding interactions between authors and reviewers, I’m regularly surprised by how very different some micro-cultures can be in this regard. Some of the lesbian fiction spaces I hang out in have an attitude of “I expect an author to send me a personal thank you when I review them. If I don’t get that, why should I continue bothering to review their books since they aren’t grateful for it?” And at the other extreme, there are some review spaces where, if a reviewer even suspects that some random comment an author has made indicates that they’ve read their review, there’s freaking out and uproar.

    In the middle, of course, are the vast majority of reviewers who neither expect authorial thanks nor expect authors to pretend they don’t read reviews. But you never know when you’re going to step on a landmine.

  18. @Andrew: You asked for it…

    (deep breath)

    The Last Battle Beyond the Star Wars of the Worlds Enough and Time After Time Enough for Lovecraft Country of the Blind Assassin’s Quest for Lost Heroes Return of the King in Yellow Eyes of the Dragon’s Fire Upon the Deep Wizardry Cursed Moon Maze Game of Thrones of Bones of the Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight and Knave of Swords and Ice Magic in the Blood and Honor of the Queen of Zombie Hearts in Atlantis.

    That’s 35, including a special back-to-back use of the Lankhmar series. I did cheat a little in terms of plurals and compounds, such as when I connected Time Enough for Love and Lovecraft Country, or A Game of Thrones with Throne of Bones, but that seemed permissible given the original example.

    I really wanted to work Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand into the mix, but I couldn’t think of a good “Sand” title to continue it. There’s Hugh Howey’s novel, of course, but that didn’t get me anywhere.

  19. The Last Battle Beyond the Star Wars of the Worlds Enough and Time After Time Enough for Lovecraft Country of the Blind Assassin’s Quest for Lost Heroes Return of the King in Yellow Eyes of the Dragon’s Fire Upon the Deep Wizardry Cursed Moon Maze Game of Thrones of Bones of the Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight and Knave of Swords and Ice Magic in the Blood and Honor of the Queen of Zombie Hearts in Atlantis.

    Your next assignment: write this.

  20. @Mark:

    Wouldn’t really get me anywhere, unless I bent the rules even further and treated “Kings” as my next start point.

    @Darren:

    Who’s on cover design duty?

  21. Who’s on cover design duty?

    I was thinking Redwombat. Maybe shee and Camestros can collaborate. Or conspire.

    CMZ has a lot in common with seminal cyberpunk books from those perspectives, even though it has very little in common on the surface. So much of it is about technocratic systems of control intersecting with class (explicitly political in CMZ, while explicitly corporate/market-based in some other cyberpunk works), and that specific thematic intersection is what I think lies at the core of the subgenre.

    YMMV

    I can certainly see the argument foir it.

  22. Going back to Film 19xx, I’d listen out for Barry Norman slagging off films in a particular way. Our tastes didn’t match, but he was very consistent in his reviews so once you’d calibrated you could take some of his negative comments as positives for you and vice versa.
    Exactly what I was going to say, about exactly the same reviewer.

  23. @Rev Bob: Checking isfdb for titles beginning with “Sand” of type “novel”, I found Sand and Satin (1954) by Sax Rohmer, Sand Trap (1983) by Caroline B. Cooney, Sand Witches in the Hamptons (2012) by Celia Jerome, and Sand & Storm (2016) by Patty Jansen. Which is, I admit, pretty slim pickin’ (there’s way more that start with “Sands of”), but is certainly better than nothing.

    Of course, I’ve now spent way more time on this than it deserves, but it’s always fun to play with isfdb. (Though their advanced search features are more limited than I’d like.)

  24. @Darren, Lis:

    I am mildly terrified by the thought of a collaborative cover by Camestros and Oor Wombat, given how different their styles are. That might be reason enough…

    (Could you imagine if this project actually came to pass and was of good enough quality to get an awards nomination? Just the thought of someone reading that title at the ceremony, let alone etching it onto a trophy base…)

    @Xtifr:

    I actually own and have read Sand Witches in the Hamptons, but excluded it as more mystery/romance than SFF. It’s all three, really, and the combo I was working with is hardly genre-limited (seriously, a children’s book by Ogden Nash?), but that’s where my head was at.

    However, “Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand Witches in the Hamptons” has its own appeal. Hee. Can’t do much with the end of that, but there are so many ways to add to the beginning… OTOH, it’s pretty neat as is.

  25. In TWFandom, the shift from LJ (et al) to Tumblr and Twitter hasn’t exactly reduced the serious commentary but it has certainly made it harder to find. I miss metafandom.

    The fashion industry is, by and large, almost devoid of critical coverage. My preferred publication that breaks those rules is The Lingerie Addict – and the owner and her writers have mentioned on a number of occasions that it has made them very unpopular with brands. The gaming industry has similar problems to the fashion industry (too many of the biggest publications are entirely reliant on advertising money from the same companies whose product they’re criticising) but at least that has a better indie scene (although some of the indie scene has the same problems as fashion’s indie scene: direct contracts with brands and content restrictions) and a culture of personal reviewing.

    I’m sad and surprised that books have some of the same problems – I thought they’d avoided it.

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