Pixel Scroll 10/7/17 You Are In A Scroll Of Little Twisty Pixels, All Different

Your host is on the road to New Mexico where he will celebrate his mother’s 91st birthday.

So it’s up to you, Dear Reader, to add your wisdom in the comments, along with the links to what should have been in today’s Scroll.

(1) HOW WE SEE. Cora Buhlert finds a way to discuss “Cultural Differences and Some Baseless Speculation about Star Trek Discovery”.

So this is not a post about Star Trek Discovery nor one about The Orville, let alone a review of either show or a comparison (though I might do that, if I can bring myself to watch them). Instead, this is a post about deep-seated cultural assumptions and how they can influence what we write and how we write it, using Star Trek Discovery and some baseless speculation about the show as a basis.

… However, the Federation was not as good and utopian as they think they are even way back in the original series. I also thought of other versions of Star Trek. I remembered Commander Sisko sending his ex-lover to prison for smuggling, a classic victimless crime, in an early episode of Deep Space Nine and how it cause me to hate the character forever after because of that (in this house, we refer to Commander Sisko as Captain Arsehole and indeed I always have to look up his name, because to me he is Captain Arsehole). I remembered how in the first episode of Voyager, we meet Tom Paris in prison, forced to do slave labour for – well, I don’t remember for what, but it wasn’t a very serious crime (interestingly, someone at File 770 immediately remembered what the crime was, apparently it involved cooperating with the Maquis, the supposed anti-Federation terrorists I always felt had a point). I remembered how the Federation considered Data not a citizen but property and wanted to take him apart. I remembered how they were willing to let a whole planet full of sentient and clearly intelligent beings die, because rescuing them would violate their precious prime directive. I also remembered how I was always convinced that the Second Doctor’s rant about the cowardice of the Time Lords at the end of The War Games was in truth an accusation aimed across the Atlantic at Star Trek and the prime directive. I remembered how the Federation imposed Handmaid’s Tale type politics (every woman is forced to bear at least three children from three different men – they’re not even allowed to have stable monogamous relationships) on some poor colony instead of helping them refresh their gene pool, because reproducing via cloning is apparently unnatural, while treating women like walking wombs is totally okay. There were grisly Irish stereotypes in the same episode (Next Generation, not original series), too.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

37 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/7/17 You Are In A Scroll Of Little Twisty Pixels, All Different

  1. I’ve always felt that episode of TNG that Cora Buhlert references is one of the worst. First, the high tech society is cloning into adults, not babies. Second, how is forcing these two groups together meeting the prime directive? And, if they do have to join together to survive, why aren’t they growing babies in the artificial wombs that they actually would have had for their cloning project?

    The only utopian aspect of the world created by TNG was the aspect where there is unlimited free energy that provides unlimited food, clothing and shelter, so no one has to work and everyone is free to follow their heart’s desire. In my head canon, this explains why everyone in Starfleet is exceptional. Only people with the qualities that make for good astronauts are attracted to this way of life.

    TOS was far less utopian, with examples in series of massive famine and plagues, along with other shortages.

  2. Forgot to say that I imagine that the great mass of humanity spends their time on their hobbies. For example, a great cook might still create recipes. Just, instead of publishing a cookbook, they would load their finished creation into the replicator. People who like to eat would be notified that Chef Pierre has a new dish available and would order it up on their replicator.

    A large amount of people would pursue a Jimmy Buffett lifestyle, and others would spend all their time surfing or skiing.

  3. Hmm, now I wonder if TNG was a “utopian moment” in an overall less utopian future (Enterprise, TOS, the wars of DS9…)

  4. This just in from Capclave 2017:

    Congratulations to Oor Wombat, who won the 2017 WSFA Small Press Award for her story “The Tomato Thief”. 🏆

  5. A first for me tomorrow — I’m lecturing at ICon, Israel’s biggest SF/F convention. The topic is “Navigating the Ocean of Short Fiction” — I know, big shocker there 😛

    It’s basically the sum of my observations and experiences, grappling as a reader with the immense number of short stories being published — particularly as a relative newcomer, who doesn’t really know where to begin, or even what to expect from genre short fiction.

    Basically this is me trying to get some genre-savvy Israelis to subscribe to a magazine, any magazine 😛

    A lot of my focus is on how important it is to develop your own taste, in stories and authors and editors. Without that, you’re left with strangers assigning you reading lists — and those are so subjective and hit-and-miss, they can be much more frustrating than enjoyable. (For example, I’m deeply skeptical of “Best SF/F of the Year Anthologies” being used as a kind of entry point into the field. Nothing more dispiriting than reading “The 25 BEST stories of 2016,” and feeling “well, most of those were pretty meh.”)

    I’ve also built up a whole bunch of pragmatic tips and tricks for this; it’s neat to look at them all collected together. (Use GrabMyBooks to make personal anthologies out of web content! Use Amazon to get free sample issues of magazines you’re considering!)

    Aaaanyway, I’m pretty excited about this, and hope I get some people in the audience 😛 Wish me luck!

  6. Bonnie McDaniel: You owe me a monitor, dammit.

    A new monitor is on its way to you, courtesy of Amazon. I have taken the liberty of including a couple of clip-on Puppy gargoyle torch accessories in the shipment. 😉

  7. Some reading reports:

    The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

    A new Rivers of London/PC Peter Grant novella (approx 30k words). It’s very consistent with the rest of the series so if, like me, you’re a fan of the series then you’ll enjoy this. If you’ve found it’s not your cup of tea, then this won’t change your mind. The title refers to the fact that parts of the London Underground actually head out to some very far-flung places. (For a non-Londoner like me it’s a bit disconcerting to find yourself traveling through green fields on an “underground” train!) It doesn’t really advance the main plot significantly, but is a nice little mystery solved with a good combo of magic and real police work.

    Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

    The sequel to River of Teeth, picking the plot up shortly afterwards. Similarly to The Furthest Station, if you liked the first one then pick this up, if you didn’t then I doubt this will improve your opinion. I do think it shows Gailey improving as a writer, as she weaves several storylines together with aplomb.

    The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy

    A Tor.com novella from a few months ago that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here. I wasn’t actually going to pick this out, but then it got strongly recced in several places and so I decided to give it a try – and I’m glad I did, because although it’s a bit uneven I found it really interesting. Danielle Cain travels to a small squatters town of utopian-minded anarchists to find out why her friend died. It turns out that the townsfolk have called up that which they cannot put down – a protector spirit in the form of a demonic deer which has started taking a very…abrupt…view of what protection means. I have to say that the concept didn’t grab me when I first heard about it, but actually it works really well. It’s a warts-and-all portrayal of this type of community – something well outside my experience – with the fantasy element rather acting as a metaphor for the problems that it throws up. This style of story lives and dies by the lead character, and Cain is well-drawn and interesting. I also liked that the fantasy element was very limited and mysterious – there’s not a whole menagerie of magic animals trotting around, just this one weird beast that someone created without really knowing what they were doing.

    Bearly A Lady by Cassandra Khaw

    A Book Smugglers novella (I’m branching out from just the tor.com ones!)
    This is not the grim and disturbing Cassandra Khaw you might be expecting. In fact, this is a romcom featuring a Were-bear trying to get on in the big city (London in this case, although it could be NY just as easily) with job, romance, and life. Were-bear in the City, if you will.
    Anyway….a romcom isn’t really in my wheelhouse but I still enjoyed this – there’s a nice mix of competing life pressures for the lead character to juggle in a slightly madcap way. I suspect that if the lead character speaks to you more strongly than she did to me then you’ll like this very much.

  8. Amal el-Mohtar review: Unkindness Of Ghosts Transposes The Plantation’s Cruelty To The Stars.

    Adam Frank’s different view of what could go wrong with AI: Should You Leave Grandma With The Robot?

    We often like to say that technology is “value free.” Scientists make their discoveries and engineers build their inventions, and these are all free of “values.” It’s society that adds those in. But I have never bought fully into that equation. All research occurs in cultural settings. Why are some research questions considered important (and worthy of funding) while others are deemed uninteresting? The answer to this question is always colored by the culture in which the researchers live.

    More importantly, research programs can come with a raft of philosophical baggage. These underpin the assumptions made in developing and carrying forward those programs. The assumption that lies behind emotional computing technologies is that facial states capture emotions. From the computers point of view, they are emotions. At the root of this equation is a reduction of human experience to neural programming whose outward manifestation can be captured algorithmically.

  9. Hmm, the Book Nerd thing is definitely amusing, but seems to confuse avid readers with book collectors. As a member only of the former group, I am frequently perplexed by the attitudes of the latter. When you lend out a book, for example, that means someone else gets to share your enjoyment of the book–surely that’s far more important than whether they’re likely to return it, or what condition it might be in? Heck, if all my friends suddenly returned all the books I’ve loaned them over the years, I’d probably have to move to a new, larger, house. 🙂

  10. @Mark

    The imagery from The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion has really stuck with me (I badly want someone to adapt it, it would look amazing), but I wish I’d come out of it feeling like I knew the viewpoint character, like, at all. There’s a bit about her being The Traveler, and I wondered whether that was a hint that she wasn’t human (anymore?) but sort of took on aspects of the people she travels with and that was why she never seemed like much of a person, but they never went anywhere with it, so… ¯\_(?)_/¯

    (But I did like a lot of stuff about it! Characters just matter a lot to me as a reader. Probably still the third most interesting novella I’ve read this year, behind And Then There Were N-One and All Systems Red.)

    Re: London Tube, my grandmother lives out in the zone 6 bit of the Metropolitan Line (and I’m SE London, despite my current displacement) so I got used to less-than-underground-underground pretty early on. 😀

  11. Having now seen Blade Runner 2049 on the SuperMegaSoundScreen, my assessment is this:

    I had high hopes for the film, given that the director is Denis Villeneuve (Arrival). I love the original, and I wanted to love this one.

    Those who enjoyed the visuals and cinematography of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the original Blade Runner, will likely enjoy it.

    The people who found those movies excessively ponderous and slow-moving will likely find 2049 even more so. It’s slow. Veeeeeery slow. In terms of visuals, effects, and cinematography, it’s fabulous. In terms of story, it drags like a concrete block chained to a Big Wheel.

    I’m glad I saw it, but I can really only recommend it for hardcore fans.

  12. George R.R. Martin’s Brazilian publisher, and a large contingent of his Brazilian fans, sent him a somewhat creepy video for his birthday:

  13. Looks like Lunacon was cancelled for next year.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    LUNACON WILL NOT BE HELD IN 2018

    New York, N.Y. – The New York Science Fiction Society – the Lunarians (2), Inc. regrets to announce that after months of extensive deliberations following Lunacon 2017, its Board of Directors has determined that it would not be feasible for various reasons to hold a Lunacon in 2018. It was felt that, even though the 2016 and 2017 Lunacon’s were mostly creatively successful conventions, under the current circumstances, and looking at the time frame and other issues, the Board and the Membership of the organization felt that it would be difficult to present a convention of the high caliber and quality that the Lunacon attendees and its guests deserve and have come to expect.

    “Lunacon has been a part of the New York area fannish community for over 60 years, but times have changed, fandom has changed and is more diverse, and, unlike years ago, there are many other events and conventions for our target audience to go to.”, said Stuart C. Hellinger, Lunarians (2) President.

    “A complete reevaluation of what Lunacon can and should provide, its viability for the future, possibly expanding our offerings to draw in a larger audience that will encompass the interests of fandom today, is not only prudent, but necessary to create a possible successful future Lunacon that will meet everyone’s objectives while remaining financially viable.”

    Mr. Hellinger continued, “Our organization has the future of Lunacon under complete review and evaluation. Once a decision has been finalized as to how and if to proceed, we will make an announcement to the public in all the appropriate venues.”

    In the meantime, you can follow us at: http://www.lunacon.org, on our Facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/43988584036/, on Twitter: @lunaconsf, or you can contact us at: information@lunarians.org, or write to us at: Lunacon, P. O. Box 3137, New York, NY 10163-3137.

    The New York Science Fiction Society – the Lunarians (2), Inc. is a New York State Not for Profit corporation and has applied for recognition under IRS section 501(c)(3).

  14. Clickity clackity.

    Do not bring me snackity.

    Bring tea. I need tea. I need to inhale the steam. Really.

    Asthma is acting up, and even here in 7435, most people’s responses to asthma fall into one of two categories: Either ignore it completely no matter how severe, or call the ambulance immediately no matter how firmly someone says, “No, really, my inhaler (or my nebulizer) has done the job just fine, really.

    Right now, I’m getting the first response, and need an in-between response of “Here, sit down, I’ll make you some tea, and would chicken noodle soup help?”

  15. Lis Carey, sympathies. Not being able to breath really, really sucks. I found that out last year when I suddenly developed asthmatic bronchitis.

    And inhalers only do so much good. Even now in 3821.

  16. @Lis Sorry to hear about the asthma problems 🙁

    @JJ I understand the movie is two hours and 40 something minutes long, which compared to even the longest cut of Blade Runner seems excessive.

  17. I saw Blade Runner 2049 this afternoon and although I agree that it was probably longer than it needed to be, offhand I’m hard-pressed to think of any substantial cuts I’d make.

    It definitely maintains the deliberate pacing of the original, which is a nice change of pace these days. And it’s just visually stunning.

  18. Yeah, I thought it was definitely a Denis Villeneuve film–almost as thoughtful and absorbing as Arrival, at least to me. And freaking gorgeous.

    Someone on Facebook was complaining that it had no ideas, and I just gaped in shock. What is a more profound idea than who qualifies to be human, and what happens to your society when its manufactured slaves turn out to be as human as their creators?

  19. Saw Blade Runner 2049 as well and I agree that the look and the feel of the movie is jawdropping. The acting is very good, but the rest of the movie is just merely decent. I’d recommend it as a movie experience, especially since I have heard that the movie is suffering from poor box office returns.

  20. @Xtifr – okay, good, I didn’t get that either, but hadn’t considered the collected vs reader thing. Not that collectors aren’t readers, but most avid readers I know end up buying multiple copies of their favorite books because they keep giving their old copies away. Same with my music nerd friends. I have a friend who buys up dollar copies of unknown classics just to give to friends who haven’t heard them yet.

  21. I understand the movie is two hours and 40 something minutes long, which compared to even the longest cut of Blade Runner seems excessive.

    That, to me, is an understatement. Any movie that runs over 90 or 100 minutes needs an intermission or some serious editing for length.
    But it’s 1695, and what do we know about movies?

  22. @Casey B–

    Lis Carey, sympathies. Not being able to breath really, really sucks. I found that out last year when I suddenly developed asthmatic bronchitis.

    That sounds horrifying!

    And inhalers only do so much good. Even now in 3821.

    Ain’t that the truth. Even here in 9885…

    Although I’m beginning to wonder if all this bouncing around in time isn’t making things worse. Hmmm.

  23. Lis Carey, my doctor kept trying steroids that worked for about a day and a half each time; finally after six months of my not being able to sleep because of the coughing and not being able to walk across a room without stopping to pant, he gave me a referral to a pulmonologist. He prescribed Advair and Singulair. After about two weeks the symptoms went away (hallelujah!), but he kept me on both drugs for several months. I’m now off the Advair, but will probably be taking Singulair for the rest of my lift. But I can BREATH. Reliably. Without having to think about it. Which is something you take for granted right up until you can’t….

    I hope your doctor finds something that works as well for you.

  24. Lis, Cassy B, after having bronchitis twice in six months and taking bronnchodilators for another three, back in 1983, I still have mild asthma. It usually shows up as a cough. (I’m up this early because I have an appointment with a CT/PET scan. Fasting and without caffeine.)

  25. Casey B, I love Singulair. You and are are apparently among the 20% for whom it’s a miracle drug.

    My insurance won’t pay for Adair.

    Having had it briefly, I curse them daily.

    I’ve begun to think that living in a dorm full of smokers, even though they only smoke outside, is not good.

    P,J.–
    Fasting, okay. No caffeine? That’s cruel and unusual!

  26. @P J Evans:

    Any movie that runs over 90 or 100 minutes needs an intermission or some serious editing for length.
    But it’s 1695, and what do we know about movies?

    How long does Hamletrun in your theaters, and how many actual intermissions (as opposed to script divisions) do the poor groundlings get?
    More locally, where would you have broken Jackson’s LoTR movies?

  27. Lis, I took food, a mug, a small bottle of water, and some instant tea, so just about the first thing I did after was to sit on one of the benches nearby and have breakfast. (Also to warm up – the place is a little chilly inside.)

    The CT scan is relatively fast, and done pretty much by computer, including injecting the contrast agent (which the tech said would feel hot, but which I experienced as cold). The PET scan took nearly half an hour, and I wasn’t supposed to move, which got rough after a while, as my shoulder muscles whined.

  28. @Xtifr: I’m not much of a collector compared to other collectors— like, I don’t so much care what editions I have of things, and most of my books are pretty beaten up— but I don’t understand your idea that an “avid reader” should be indifferent to their loaned books being swiped or destroyed. If I like lending out books so others will enjoy them, then I want to get them back, in one piece, so more others can enjoy them; one badly-behaved borrower spoils it for everyone else. Also, being an avid reader, if I like a book enough to lend it out then I usually want to reread it myself sometimes.

  29. @Eli: I’m not saying one should be indifferent–although an avid reader certainly could be. I’m not completely indifferent. I’ll note which of my friends are the least trustworthy with lent books, and that may affect whether (or what) I’ll loan them in future.

    But books are generally pretty easy to replace even in the worst case. And if my friend loans one of my books on to someone else, rather than returning it to me, well, that’s still people reading and enjoying it, right? Even if it ends up being passed around among people I’ve never heard of. As Kathodus said, a lot of people–including me–will buy multiple copies of their favorites, just so there’s always a copy around to loan out. (Or re-read.)

    And as for something like dog-earing, well, I don’t approve, but it’s not like it affects the words on the page (usually), so it’s not a make-or-break deal for me. I may whine a bit, I may try to remember to shove an extra bookmark into books I loan you in future, and I may become a bit reluctant to loan you my hardest-to-replace books, but that’s about it.

    Of course, I’ve lost my entire collection three times in my life, to natural disasters or unpaid storage fees. It’s definitely affected my perspective on things. (Especially when books I’d loaned out ended up being the core of my next collection.) 😀

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