Pixel Scroll 12/2/17 And With Strange Pixels Even Scrolls May File

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. Smofcon, the con for conrunners has convened in Boston.

  • John Scalzi is there to share what pros expect from conventions.

  • Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories is on hand, too.

The convention is well attended for Smofcons, registration and hospitality were working efficiently the last time I passed through and many interesting conversations have been heard and overheard.

  • An issue of Journey Planet with a con programming theme has been released in time for Smofcon.

  • Jeeze, I played the inaugural version of this game in 1987.

  • Richard Gadsden’s additions to the “Fannish Inquisition” questionnaire are inspired by the virtual wall of TSA.

(2) JUMP IN. Charles Payseur shares his experience and advice to encourage the growth of a deeper and more diverse field of sff short fiction reviewers. “So You Want To Be A Short SFF Reviewer?” at Quick Sip Reviews.

Hi. My name is Charles Payseur and I began reviewing short SFF in early 2014 for Tangent Online, with Dave Truesdale as my guide and mentor. If you shuddered just a bit there, I’m sorry. But imagine, little baby queer me, just getting into the field in my mid 20s, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. And running into that. I’ve had an Education. One that’s been somewhat dearly bought, but here I am, closing in on four years later.

Short SFF is a field dominated by broken stairs and strange pitfalls. What’s more, it seems to attract some (fairly loud) people who really like to make objective statements of merit with regards to stories and are absolute shit at admitting when they’re in the wrong while simultaneously being wrong fairly frequently and jerks generally. It’s a field that chews and spits out a great many excellent reviewers while seeming to find time to praise and promote the most toxic and insensitive. It’s often tiring, draining, and infuriating. But it’s also kind of amazing. Welcome!

My general goal in this is just to give something of a guide for people wanting to get started in short SFF reviewing. Because the field needs more and more diverse voices if it’s to self-govern away from the most toxic examples of short SFF reviewer. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but I’ve left my contact info toward the bottom if you have any more questions. So yeah, let’s get started!

(3) GOOD TO GO. NASA will be able to keep the mission going awhile longer: “Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years”.

If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or “puffs,” lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.

…Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called “attitude control thrusters,” have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy….

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly — and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

(4) MAKE IT SO. Food & Wine reports “New ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Holiday-Themed Beer Getting National Release”.

Courtesy of New York’s Shmaltz Brewing Company comes Star Trek: The Next Generation 30th Anniversary Ale – Captain’s Holiday. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but this beer is trying to cover a lot of bases. Not only is this tropically-tinged beer brewed with natural citrus flavors intended as a holiday release, this “Collector’s Edition” product is also meant to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation which first aired back in 1987. As such, the name “Captain’s Holiday” actually comes from the title of an episode of that series in which “the crew convinces Captain Picard to take a much-needed vacation on the pleasure planet Risa” (of course).

(5) MYTHLORE AT 50. Help the Mythopoeic Society pick what belongs in the collection — “Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years”.

IN 2018 WE CELEBRATE THE FOUNDING OF MYTHLORE, the scholarly journal of the Mythopoeic Society, which published its first issue in January 1969. Reader’s Choice: The Best of Mythlore’s First Fifty Years will collect and reprint the very best articles, artwork, reviews, letters, and creative work, all nominated by readers, along with commentary about the journal’s founding and history, and will be published in time for Mythcon 49.

(6) A GRATEFUL WILLIS. In Connie Willis’ “Thanks on Thanksgiving” post she remembers three people who had a big influence on her.

  1. My eighth-grade teacher, whose name I do remember.

Mrs. Werner was my home-room teacher, and every day after lunch she read aloud to us, one of which was Rumer Godden’s AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS.  This is NOT a children’s book, even though its heroine, Lovejoy, was ten years old.  She was also a thief.  She lived in post-war London, and when she decided she wanted to build a garden in the rubble of a bombed-out church, she not only shoplifted seeds and a trowel, but recruited other kids to steal for her.  She was also thoroughly unpleasant.  Not without reason.  She had a slutty mother with an assortment of nasty boyfriends and was often left with strangers for months at a time.  As I say, not a book for junior-high-schoolers.

I have no idea what anybody else in the class thought about the book, but I loved it AND Lovejoy.  It was my first introduction to Rumer Godden, who I fell in love with, especially her novel about grief, IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE.  It was also my first introduction  to how you can take a classic and update it (AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS is actually Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN retold.)

And it was my first introduction to the Blitz, planting a seed which blossomed when I went to St. Paul’s years later and fell in love with the fire watch and the history of London during the war–which had a HUGE impact on my life.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek appeared in the funny papers with a daily comic strip.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston – your choice, My Favorite Martian, or the Devil in Damn Yankees.

(9) CLASSIC MACHADO. Jane Dykema, in “What I Don’t Tell My Students About ‘The Husband Stitch’” at Electric Lit, says, “The first story in Carmen Maria Machado’s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ brings up big questions about who we believe and why.”

I was first introduced to the husband stitch in 2014, when a friend in medical school told me about a birth her classmate observed. After the baby was delivered, the doctor said to the woman’s husband, “Don’t worry, I’ll sew her up nice and tight for you,” and the two men laughed while the woman lay between them, covered in her own and her baby’s blood and feces. The story terrified me, the laughter in particular, signaling some understanding of wrongdoing, some sheepishness in doing it anyway. The helplessness of the woman, her body being altered without her consent by two people she has to trust: her partner, her doctor. The details of the third-hand account imprinted into my memory so vividly that the memory of the story feels now almost like my own memory. Later that year, Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” was published, and sometime after that, I read it, and the details of Machado’s scene were so similar, down to the laughter, down to the words “don’t worry” (though in Machado’s story they’re directed at the woman), that I’m not sure now what I remember and what I read.

(10) ELEMENTARY. “The Serial-Killer Detector” in The New Yorker tells how A former journalist, equipped with an algorithm and the largest collection of murder records in the country, finds patterns in crime.

Hargrove created the code, which operates as a simple algorithm, in 2010, when he was a reporter for the now defunct Scripps Howard news service. The algorithm forms the basis of the Murder Accountability Project (MAP), a nonprofit that consists of Hargrove—who is retired—a database, a Web site, and a board of nine members, who include former detectives, homicide scholars, and a forensic psychiatrist. By a process of data aggregating, the algorithm gathers killings that are related by method, place, and time, and by the victim’s sex. It also considers whether the rate of unsolved murders in a city is notable, since an uncaught serial killer upends a police department’s percentages. Statistically, a town with a serial killer in its midst looks lawless….

(11) HEAD ‘EM OFF AT THE PASS. Sounds like a Kage Baker story. The Pharaoh’s city from The Ten Commandments is still under the sand south of San Francisco: “Sphinx head discovered beneath sands of California blows dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history”.

The head of a sphinx uncovered from beneath the sand dunes of California has blown the dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history.

The perfectly intact 300-pound plaster head was unearthed by archaeologists excavating the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s 95-year-old movie set for The Ten Commandments.

The piece, buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, is unlike anything found on previous digs, said Doug Jenzen, Executive Director of the Dunes Center.

“The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact.

 

(12) BABELFISH.  The BBC tells about “The translator that sits in your ear”.
So how does the Pilot earpiece work? It uses a sophisticated microphone array along with noise-cancelling algorithms to listen to spoken words from and around the user.

“Those words are passed to the cloud where it is processed through speech recognition, machine translation, and speech synthesis, before it is sent back to the user and anyone else whose Pilot earpiece is synced into the conversation,” explains Ochoa. “This happens within minimal delay, usually in milliseconds.”

There are a number of competitors hot on the heels of the Pilot, including Clik, Skype, and Google, which last month launched its Pixel Buds, complete with the ability to translate in real time between 40 languages. The Pilor earpiece currently works with 15 languages, but can be ugraded to translate more. But with its head start, and now its prestigious nomination, the Pilot may be a step ahead.

(13) FAKE GUARDIAN. Someone’s trying to act like the actor: “Chris Pratt alerts fans to ‘pervy imposter'”.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt has taken to social media to alert his fans to a “pervy dude” who has been allegedly impersonating him online.

“Somebody is trying to pretend to be me on Facebook,” he wrote on Instagram.

The US actor claimed the “imposter” had been “apparently hitting on a lot of different female fans, trying to get their numbers and who knows what else.”

“I find this behaviour reprehensible,” he continued. “If I find out who it is I’ll have their account shut down.”

(14) MEGAFAME. I read both authors, but it felt surreal to see Lee Child and N.K. Jemisin sharing the marquee in the same article.

(15) A WARNING TO PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE.

(16) GREAT COLLECTION. John O’Neill is “Remembering Frank M. Robinson’s Legendary Pulp Collection” at Black Gate.

A complete collection of Weird Tales is a towering achievement. Weird Tales, which had chronically poor circulation, is one of the most sought-after pulps on the market, as it was the most important home of the most significant pulp writers of early fantasy, including H.P Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many, many others. Copies in good condition typically go for several hundred dollars each, and early issues for significantly more than that….

The 1970s might have been the last time it was possible to compile a collection like this, at least for any kind of reasonable sum. His entire collection was auctioned off while Frank was still alive by John Gunnison at Adventure House, and netted a total well north of a million dollars.

(17) ALL WET. Den of Geek goes “Diving Into The Shape of Water with Michael Shannon”, an actor who will also be in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451.

Den of Geek: Have you and Guillermo ever talked about working together before?

Michael Shannon: No, this was totally out of the blue. I didn’t know Guillermo. I was out here doing something silly, I don’t know. Maybe I was out for the indie film Spirit Awards or something and my agent said, “Guillermo del Toro wants to have lunch with you while you’re in town this weekend.” I said okay. So he came to my hotel and we sat at this table out back, and he just laid it all out. Said, “I’ve been writing this movie for a long time. I’ve been writing it with particular people in mind, and you’re one of those people. Are you interested?” And I said okay. That was it. It’s an astonishingly simple and concise story.

He said he wrote Strickland with your voice in his head. So when you got to read the character, what struck you about the character?

I thought it was funny. I thought it was a funny character. I saw a lot of humor in it. I liked the opportunity to play some uptight, confused government agent guy. I mean he’s kind of a train wreck inside, but he’s presenting this exterior of authority and competency, which is a total fabrication at the end of the day.

(18) DON’T BE SHY. In 1962 some authors didn’t want to be known for writing sf. Not much different from 2017, eh? Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf gives a rundown on the situation of half a century ago: “[DECEMBER 2, 1962] THEY CAME FROM THE MAINSTREAM (SF BOOKS NOT PUBLISHED AS SF)”.

Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabakov, best known for his controversial novel Lolita (toned down somewhat in this year’s film adaptation), creates a very unusual structure in his new book, Pale Fire.  It consists of a poem of 999 lines by an imaginary poet, followed by footnotes written by an equally fictional critic.  Read together, the poem and footnotes come together to form a plot of impersonation, exile, and murder.  What makes this a work of science fiction is the fact that it takes place in a world different from our own.  The story deals with the deposed king of the European nation of Zembla.  It takes place in an alternate version of the USA, which contains the states of Appalachia and Utana.

(19) CUISINE OF THE FUTURE. Sometimes that future doesn’t seem very far away.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

61 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/2/17 And With Strange Pixels Even Scrolls May File

  1. An additional Connie Willis note, posted on Facebook, someone has put the entire Snow Wonder TV movie (based on Connie’s “Just Like the Ones We Used to Know” novella) up online on Youtube. As far as I’ve been able to tell, this has never been reshown anywhere in the US, which is odd considering how many cable channels are wall to wall with holiday movies for the month of December.

  2. (18) If all that’s necessary for a novel to be SF is to take place in a fictional U.S. state, would this critic have also classified Bernard Malamud’s 1961 novel A New Life–which is set in the state of Cascadia, circa 1950–as SF? Or Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith because it takes place in Winnemac?

  3. (2) It’s great to have more reviews of short fiction and I agree with the general idea that the way to get a diverse look at the field is to get fresh reviewers into it.

    That said, I’m not fond of starting a new endeavor in any field by dumping on the incumbents. It’s the hallmark of a crank — Ayn Rand denouncing Plato, countless physics cranks denouncing Einstein, Goethe denouncing Newton.

    I’d rather have Payseur show me how to do reviewing right, rather than tell me it’d being done wrong so far.

  4. First we had the puppies screaming about gatekeeping because someone liked the wrong books. Now we have another group screaming about gatekeeping because someone didn’t like the right shortstories.

    I’m starting to wonder what people really mean with gatekeepers.

  5. Hampus Eckerman: because someone didn’t like the right shortstories

    That’s not why people are upset, Hampus. And I suspect that you know that, but that, as you’ve said, you’re feeling emotionally fatigued by the whole thing right now. 😐

  6. JJ:

    Yes, badly and stupid worded. People are upset about much more and have good reasons. What I meant is that I don’t get where this “gatekeeping” comes from when someone blogs reviews. I can understand it regarding editors and publishers. Less with a blogger.

  7. And I still do not like that tweet by Nielsen Hayden, because it comes of as so priviliged. As if economy is not excluding people.

    I met some wonderful people in Kansas. People I know can’t afford to go to a WorldCon outside US. Because of hotel costs, travel costs, living costs. Yes, a WorldCon in US might exclude some people based on ethnicity and race. But a WorldCon outside US will exclude people based on class.

    That is why I still think you should alternate between different countries an not rule out US. It is ok to skip a year now and then. Other people are forced to anyhow.

  8. Hampus Eckerman: What I meant is that I don’t get where this “gatekeeping” comes from when someone blogs reviews. I can understand it regarding editors and publishers. Less with a blogger.

    The issue, as I see it, is not that the reviewer in question does not like the stories. The issue is that the reasons he has given for not liking the stories are very Anglocentric, cisnormative reasons which completely ignore the cultural context of the stories, because the reviewer does not have the critical background to understand the cultural context of the stories.

    And if the reviewer was just JJ blogger posting their opinons on a website, there would not be a question of “gatekeeping”, because JJ is just some rando with an opinion and not a huge amount of influence.

    The problem is that the reviewer is not some rando with an opinion but little influence. He is not only someone who promotes his site as having “objective” reviews (which is, frankly, total bullshit), he is someone who has gotten himself put on the Locus Recommended Reading curator list (which determines finalists for awards, in addition to just greatly-amplified signal-boosting) and has gotten his site listed on the front page of the Hugo Awards site, which is — intentional or not — an apparent stamp of endorsement and approval.

    And this is where the issue of “gatekeeping” comes in. He has acquired a disproportionate amount of influence on readers, and on awards, for someone who has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to judge short fiction based on anything other than an Anglocentric, cisnormative context — and he has (or, at least, had) a great deal of power over what gets signal-boosted and what gets ignored and/or disparaged.

  9. I keep hearing that RSR promotes itself as objective, but I can’t find where. Can someone help me here? Because if they do, it is obviously wrong.

  10. @ Hampus

    People I know can’t afford to go to a WorldCon outside US. Because of hotel costs, travel costs, living costs. Yes, a WorldCon in US might exclude some people based on ethnicity and race. But a WorldCon outside US will exclude people based on class.

    I and most people I know can’t afford to go to a Worldcon inside the US. Because of hotel costs, travel costs, living costs. I don’t live in or near the US. Or Finland. Or the UK. Worldcons inside the US also exclude people by class exactly as much as any other Worldcon. That’s a function of distance. The race thing, that’s just people being unpleasant. That’s avoidable.

    US people might have to “skip a year now and then”. A lot of the world may have to skip nine years out of ten.

  11. 3) Good solid technolof

    11) I seem to recall a low budget movie where those ruins were a plot point.

  12. @Hampus, on one hand, the “About” page states:

    We’re technical guys, long-time SF readers who like to read stories and rate them for each other. This blog simply shares what we’ve been doing privately for years.

    Which is pretty much the “rando with a blog” model. And yet, there are ratings, there are rankings, and there’s:

    Once a year, at the start of the Hugo Award nomination period, this blog will post a “stack rank” of rated stories by category […]. Use them as guides to find, read, and nominate stories, editors, artists, and writers for the Hugo Awards.

    So I can see why many would consider this problematic. But I’m not entirely sure how this can be solved. As far as I can tell, RSR achieved its influence by building a resource that is useful to many readers, whether they agree with the review perspective or not. Am I mistaken to think that at the moment, no other site covers the amount of short SFF they do?

  13. Microtherion:

    But that’s not objective, is it? It is a combined value depending on subjective reviews where they are only one of many. But I can understand why people see it as an issue.

  14. [8] Of course, I’ll go with Applegate, but let’s not forget his lovely turn as Poopdeck Pappy, sometime star (or at least a bright light) of comic strips and animated cartoons featuring a deservedly legendary character who may well be the first great American superhero (Arf! Arf!) of graphic fiction.

  15. Microherion asks So I can see why many would consider this problematic. But I’m not entirely sure how this can be solved. As far as I can tell, RSR achieved its influence by building a resource that is useful to many readers, whether they agree with the review perspective or not. Am I mistaken to think that at the moment, no other site covers the amount of short SFF they do?

    LOCUS does a more than decent job of covering short fiction and a number of speciality magazines as Cemetery Dance Have folks like Ellen Datlow who cover entire collections but I can’t think of anyone who covers RSR does. It’s a pity not more sites do this as writers such as Charles de Lint Have been releasing their short both as new editions and as a separate stories in digital form.

  16. @Hampus:

    Yes, a WorldCon in US might exclude some people based on ethnicity and race. But a WorldCon outside US will exclude people based on class.

    You say that as if a Worldcon in USA does not exclude anyone based on class. However, all possible location will involve a long and expensive journey for many fans. It’s not like traveling from Europe to USA is significantly cheaper than traveling from USA to Europe.

  17. microtherion:

    So I can see why many would consider this problematic. But I’m not entirely sure how this can be solved.

    RSR does two very different things: They write their own reviews, and they aggregate (stack) rankings from other reviewers. The former is subjective, the latter is more-or-less objective. (Although the choice if which other reviewers they stack is not necessarily objective.) A clearer distinction between those roles might help with some of the criticism.

  18. @15: Lee Modesitt has said the best way to read Recluce is in publication order — but that series doesn’t have numbers on the front to confuse people. It will be interesting to see whether people still bother watching the earlier works; I don’t recall any other case of a ~coherent set of film stories spread over so many years (giving a reason to look a long way back), but the older work seems more and more dated.

    @gottacook: @19 suggests (but doesn’t make clear) whether there’s a reason for the states; is this merely keeping the story out of any place whose residents could complain about its portrayal (as in the examples you cite, IMO), or is it an alternate history (which usually gets included in SF even if the variation has no technical or fantastic reason)?

  19. No. I say thay as if travel will always be exclusive to some. Which is why I prefer to alternate who are excluded.

  20. 4) “the pleasure planet Risa”

    It had never occurred to me until today that planet might have been named after the woman in Dhalgren. Does anyone know if that is so?

  21. Great to see a Rumer Godden shout-out. I loved “In this House of Brede.”

    An Episode of Sparrows has been a favorite of mine for ages. I also like The Greengage Summer.

  22. 11
    Way, way south of San Francisco – it’s west of Santa Maria, in Santa Barbara county, and much closer to Los Angeles. (This is the kind of knowledge I got at work: I read maps for most of SoCal.)

  23. NPR also notices the story; not sure there’s anything new, but it looks easier to load than the Mirror. Googlemaps says it’s 3-4 hours (depending on traffic) south of San Jose; I can see fen making a trip of it before or after the Worldcon, since NPR (at least) says some of the artifacts will be on display “next year”. Could be a day trip, or could be an overnight with wine tourism attached. (I remember LA fen taking 2 days for the less-than-a-day drive to the San Jose Westercon in 1983 — and how their cars were bottoming out from the added load when they arrived.) I’m sorry I missed the documentary; it looks too substantial to be worth viewing on YouTube.

  24. Starting in San Jose, where the Worldcon is, will save a nontrivial amount of time, but it’s still a long drive.

    As for other activities, Hearst Castle in San Simeon is within reasonable distance, but of course nowadays there are easier ways to get to observe wealth unrestrained by taste…

  25. (9) Do you trust memory?

    This account has a strong flavor of the “friend of a friend” nature of modern folklore (as analyzed by folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand). The person in this account was told of the episode by “a friend in medical school [who] told me about a birth her classmate observed”. That is, we literally have a “friend of a friend story” here. And Machado’s story is jam packed full of references to classic modern folklore motifs. (I recognized a lot of them from Brunvand’s collections, up to and absolutely including the ribbon-around-the-neck motif.)

    I would be willing to wager actual cash money that the “friend in medical school” could have been retelling a storified version of the folklore episode, pinning it to reality via a fictional classmate. Or that the classmate is real but was personalizing a folkloric account. Or the classmate didn’t actual claim to have been present for the event but it was interpreted that way by the friend-in-medical school. Because this is exactly how modern/urban folklore is transmitted and presented.

    None of which is to say that the event as recounted may not have actually occurred. But the teacher’s concerns about mixing up Machado’s story and her friend’s second-hand account may be misplaced, because they could easily have been relating the incident from a single original folkloric source, hence the eerie alignment of details.

  26. @microtherion it’s been one of Silicon Valley’s main exports since they took the greenhouses down. I note the Winchester Mystery House is conveniently nearby, a monument to a woman so rich she didn’t need any dumb architects.

    I live approximately 60 miles from this Worldcon but I’m struggling with travel arrangements. Primarily, the fact that my cat issues a steady stream of panicked meowing whenever he’s in a car and I’m not sure if that’ll make a Lyft driver crazy.

    Facetiousness aside, it’s getting to the point where there are certain regions of America that cost way more than others, and Northern California is one of those regions. It’s probably cheaper to travel to some European countries than here, depending on where you’re starting from.

    @Heather FOAFs tend to say all kinds of crazy things, or at least mine do.

    (6) I loved reading Rumer Godden’s kids’ books but I never made my way to her adult books. Mount Tsundoku just got a little bit taller.

  27. On short fiction reviewing:

    I think having a lot of different models for reviewing short fiction would be a good thing. There’s room for the highly opinionated and for those that strive for objectivity (whatever that is in the field of fiction reviewing).

    I’ve joined up as a reviewer for Short SFF Reviews and have been doing some thoughts about how to signal my own biases. To recap, one of the principles of the reviewer-group is for each reviewer to commit to reviewing all fiction from a specific source. So as reviewers join the group, more sources can be included, but there’s no starting claim to be comprehensive.

    I picked Podcastle.org to review because I already listen to all the episodes because I’ve learned that they tend to put out (in general) the kind of fantasy fiction I enjoy. So the chances are that I’ll like any particular story. In some ways, this makes me biased. In other ways, it makes me more objective. And since I’d already been trying to post micro-reviews of the stories from that site as part of my “try to review everything I consume” program, I’d already done a certain amount of thinking about what I liked and didn’t like about Podcastle’s material in general.

    For example, I have a great love for incluing rather than explicit exposition. And I’ll always mention this when a story either hits my sweet spot on this aspect or annoys me by not hitting it. And I acknowledge recent discussions about how incluing-style prose is read differently depending on a reader’s shared cultural background with the story. So, for example, in a recent review (not yet up on the site) I noted that I loved feeling that sense of immersive exposition in a story but I recognized that I was missing a lot of the cultural knowledge that was implicit and implied and that therefore I knew I wasn’t “getting” the story the way I would have if I had that cultural knowledge or if the story were more explanatory. And yet I wouldn’t have liked the story as much if it had taken the explanatory route.

    I also acknowledge when I’m cool to a story because I feel it’s been misclassified as fantasy rather than horror, or where the fantastic elements feel extraneous to the core of the story. To use a pertinent example that will not be among my Short SFF Reviews because it’s from last year, when Podcastle presented “The Husband Stitch”, my review concluded (after a more detailed discussion):

    “In the end, this story just didn’t work for me as a fantasy story. I felt cheated and misled. Which is a problem, because as a piece of allegorical prose, it’s masterfully written, although not particularly original. I particularly appreciated the conceit of the story narrator inserting performance instructions to a person reading the story aloud, which worked especially well in audio format. But I felt like I’d been tricked into consuming a piece of ordinary literary erotica (not a genre I have any specific interest in) under the promise that it was a fantasy story.”

    But on the other hand, I don’t “grade” stories in my Short SFF reviews. I’m not sure I’ve even worded anything as a recommendation. I think I have clearly indicated which stories I especially liked on a personal basis, which seems fair. Eventually other people will be able to tell me whether my reviews work for identifying works they might like.

  28. One thing I noticed when I started reading here on File 770 was the commenters here much more into analizing texts, finding pros and cons, comparing to other cultural phenomena. While I was mostly “I liked the feeling of this one”.

    I do not think I have changed much from that, but it has been fun to read what other people write.

  29. Charon D.: When we moved from GA to TX, we went to a vet to see about how to transport our nervous kitty. He provided us with a cardboard carrier and some tranquilizers. “Be sure she’s calm when you give them to her, about an hour before you go.” There was never such a time. She was agitated from the moment we started putting clothes in boxes, let alone her, and the tranks just made her more so. We got her crammed into the box and got in the cab of the rental truck, but before twenty minutes had elapsed, she had torn her way out of the corrugated cardboard. We let her roam the cab for the rest of the trip, keeping a leash on her because she tried to get away each and every time we stopped for her.

  30. At least the US has its own special Not-A-WorldCon Con every year the actual WorldCon isn’t in North America. Other countries don’t have that (aside from other NA countries, of course). So I can’t feel too bad about the idea of not having the WorldCon in the US for a while.

    (And BTW, Europe should probably really think about the possibility of having their own Not-A-WorldCon Con for years the WorldCon isn’t in Europe. It might help balance things out a bit.)

    And as far as providing access to real WorldCons to people in North America, well, the US isn’t the only country in North America….

  31. @Heather Rose Jones

    I’m also not a fan of giving stars/scores for reviews. I get why people find them helpful, and the ability to aggregate scores is one that appeals to the analytical section of my soul, but it leaves me wanting to write a paragraph explaining why 4 stars instead of five…so I’d rather just write the paragraph.

    I like your example of explaining how the story didn’t work for you while acknowledging it could work for others – that’s the sort of thing I aim for as well

  32. Xtifr: (And BTW, Europe should probably really think about the possibility of having their own Not-A-WorldCon Con for years the WorldCon isn’t in Europe. It might help balance things out a bit.)

    Quite a few countries have had an annual, national convention for years, which is either its own event, or piggybacks on one of the country’s existing cons (like Canada’s Canvention). And there already is a Eurocon that moves around the continent — in 2019 they have arranged to run it at an Irish convention the weekend after the Dublin Worldcon.

    What you are suggesting has been in place for some time.

    There have always been a number of things that detractors of the NASFiC complain about, but the only one that hasn’t been disproven by experience is the literal fact of the NASfiC being selected under WSFS rules, which no other national convention is. That’s also the reason NASFiC has never overshadowed the Worldcon — it’s created by people who think the Worldcon is more important and will be there if they can.

  33. @Kip He doesn’t struggle or panic, just meows every second or two, until his voice get all raspy and/or the car stops moving. Fortunately we’re urbanites who live within wheelie-carrier distance of his vet and the place that boards him, so he doesn’t normally have to travel by automobile at all … but San Jose is only an hour away, and I snagged a pet friendly room, so I’m going to bring him instead of boarding him. He’s not the type of cat that slips away and runs, more of the stands-his-ground-and-delivers-opinions sort of beast, so I think he’ll be fine. He likes social activity and room service, just not cars (or dogs, he’s a bit of a bigot). He has a little trouble fitting into a harness so he may be wearing a t-shirt instead. Maybe we’ll show up at a party.

  34. A national convention’s not quite the same thing. The distinguishing feature of NASfiC is that it isn’t held when WorldCon is in North America. As far as I know, there’s no equivalent to that for Europe. A genuine substitute WorldCon for years (and only those years) when you don’t have a real WorldCon.

    Eurocon is not only being held in the same year that WorldCon is in Europe, but it’s deliberately being held nearby. That’s not a substitute for WorldCon. That’s just some other convention.

    (Of course, my idea might still be a rather silly one. I haven’t thought it through very hard. It’s just something that came to me out of the blue, and I thought I’d throw it out.)

  35. Xtifr: And as far as providing access to real WorldCons to people in North America, well, the US isn’t the only country in North America…

    Bear in mind that there are probably a significant number of people in fandom who dare not leave the U.S. in the current circumstances, for fear of what will happen when they try to come back.

  36. Hi JJ, are they NOT letting citizens (back) into the U.S. now? First I’ve heard of it. Does it happen often? Why? How? This is interesting, tell me more!

  37. JJ didn’t limit the issue to (US) citizens. I assume there are many who are legally in the USA that fear issues when attempting to re-enter. We are talking about an administration that has revoked visas that have already been issued / denied entry, for reasons later deemed illegal/unconstitutional.

  38. Pogonip: are they NOT letting citizens (back) into the U.S. now? First I’ve heard of it. Does it happen often? Why? How? This is interesting, tell me more!

    You haven’t been reading the news? You might want to start doing so.

    It is a worry for U.S. citizens, as well as for people with green cards and visas, especially if they are people of color or LGBTQ.

     
    Pogonip: Found a long discussion of same

    I’ll note that the thread you link to discusses only when U.S. Customs and Border Control is legally allowed to refuse someone re-entry, which is not all the same thing as what they have actually been doing.

    If they release you after you’ve spent many hours detained with no access to phone calls or legal counsel, your phone and computer have been data-mined, and you’ve been harassed repeatedly, they haven’t “denied you re-entry to the U.S.”, so it’s all okay, right?

    Never mind all the people who have been refused entry to the U.S. and sent back somewhere, despite having a legal right to enter the country.

  39. I don’t like giving stars when I review, don’t do it on my own blog, and wouldn’t on other sites except that if the site does star ratings you can’t avoid doing it.

  40. Xtifr: the NASFIC has been controversial for a long time; the weaknesses of the latest one have been cited (to me in conversation) as being enough leverage to kill it. (Or at least disestablish it, so it sits at the same level as Eastercon, Eurocon, etc. — although I doubt the U.S. will have a national convention given the large number of local conventions.) The problem with Canada is that they don’t have enough fannish nexi to support frequent Worldcons — IIRC there only been one serious bid west of Toronto (Winnipeg, which won 1994). I’d love more Canadian Worldcons as the weather would probably average better than in the US, but I don’t see it happening.

  41. Anyone who wants to set up their own “continental” convention to be held only when Worldcon isn’t on that continent is free to do so. Nobody is stopping them from doing so.

    WSFS keeps NASFiC in its current form to prevent anyone from creating a convention by that name and competing directly against Worldcon. This may be hard to understand for some people, but it’s primarily there to protect Worldcon, not to privilege North American fans.

    NASFiC also has one provision in its site selection that Worldcon does not: If None of the Above wins the election, the NASFiC for the designated year is canceled any the advance supporting membership fees collected at Site Selection are refunded to the voters. This has never actually happened, but it’s possible, unlike Worldcon, where there are alternative procedures (which also have never been used) should the current site selection voting process fail to return a result.

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