Pixel Scroll 2/7/18 In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!”

(1) ABIGAIL NUSSBAUM. Last year’s Best Fan Writer Hugo winner announced that she won’t accept a nomination this year.

Third, this is something that I was pretty sure I wanted to do last August, but I gave myself some time to consider it, and now I’m certain: I’d like it known that if I were to receive a nomination in the Best Fan Writer category for the 2018 Hugos, I would respectfully decline the nomination.

I’ve debated with myself about whether and how to make this announcement.  Not, to be very clear, because I’m uncertain about not wanting to be a nominee again.  Without sounding like I’m complaining–since it all turned out so wonderfully in the end–being a prospective and then actual Hugo nominee is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.  It certainly didn’t help that the period during which I became a viable candidate coincided so perfectly with the various puppies’ campaign against the awards, so that on top of the regular pressures of will I be nominated/will I win, I spent a lot of my time wondering whether my nomination would be scuttled by a fascist terror campaign (which is, in fact, what happened in 2015 and 2016).  By the time 2017 rolled around, I had been on the Hugo merry-go-round for four years, and it was pretty hard for me to enjoy the convention or the lead-up to the awards from wondering whether this was finally going to be my year.

So while I may one day want to be nominated for the Hugo again (and maybe in another category too, if I’m eligible), I have no interest in going through the whole rigmarole again so soon, and especially when you consider that there are several other great potential nominees whose crack at the Hugo was scuttled by puppy interference.  It seems like absolutely the right thing to stand back.

(2) GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. Martin, in his Hugo eligibility post, asks people not to nominate A Song of Ice and Fire for Best Series — but feel free to nominate “The Sons of the Dragon” for novella. (Following this excerpt, he has more to say about the Best Series category itself.)

The only writing I had published in 2017 was “The Sons of the Dragon,” which was published in THE BOOK OF SWORDS, Gardner Dozois’s massive anthology of original sword & sorcery stories. Like “The Rogue Prince” and “The Princess and the Queen” before it, “Sons” is more of my (fake) history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros. By length, it is a novella… but it’s not a traditional narrative. By design, it reads like history, not fiction; but since the history is entirely imaginative, it’s still fiction, even if dressed up as (fake) non-fiction.

It has been pointed out to me that the publication of “The Sons of the Dragon” makes the entirety of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE eligible to be nominated as Best Series. I suppose that’s so. All I can say to that is: please don’t. If you like fake history and enjoyed “The Sons of the Dragon,” by all means nominate the story as a novella… but it’s really not part of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and sneaking in the entire series by means of a technicality seems wrong to me.

(3) TRADEOFFS. I was interested to see Abigail Nussbaum and I had the identical thought about this piece of news.

(4) FULLER BRUSH-OFF MAN. Two showrunners have left the building: “Apple’s ‘Amazing Stories’ revival loses showrunner Bryan Fuller”.

Apple has yet to launch any of the original shows funded by its $1 billion war chest, but it’s already losing part of its production team. Hollywood Reporter has learned that showrunner Bryan Fuller (of Star Trek and American Gods fame) has left Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories revival for the tech giant. The departure was “amicable,” according to sources, and stemmed from creative differences. Reportedly, Fuller wanted to make a Black Mirror-style show that wasn’t what Apple intended.

Fuller wasn’t new to the Amazing Stories continuation. He’d been around since 2015, when the series was attached to NBC and Spielberg wasn’t involved. He’s had some relatively short stints lately: he was booted from American Gods after the production company wanted to reduce the per-episode fee, and left Star Trek: Discovery over cost and casting issues with CBS.

The Hollywood Reporter source story has added this update:

Hart Hanson, who had partnered with Bryan Fuller on Amazing Stories, has also exited the anthology as Apple and producers Universal Television are now searching for a showrunner.

(5) HOOKED. K.M. Alexander argues “Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay”.

My favorite character from A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, is Jaime Lannister, the heir to the Lannister family, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and an all-around terrible person. No, really. There are forum threads dedicated to his awfulness, and I don’t disagree with anything they say. He is awful; that’s not up for debate. But I don’t care; I still like him. There is something about his wit, his tenacity, his strange sense of honor, and his odd drive to do right by his family that draws me in as a reader. He’s my favorite.

In his Banquet Speech, William Faulkner observes good writing as “the human heart in conflict with itself.” I adore that line. As a character, Jamie embodies that for me. There is so much to loathe but a lot to like. It makes him complicated, and it makes him human. However, in some circles, my statement draws ire. How can I enjoy reading about someone so terrible? After all, he is someone who symbolizes the opposite of many values I hold dear. To those people, it doesn’t make sense; it feels two-faced and hypocritical.

These voices are nothing new. I remember hearing them as a kid from conservatives, and I’ve heard them as an adult from progressives. Recently they’ve become particularly pronounced on social media, shouting down and hunting those who dare explore life through the lens of problematic fiction. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several authors attacked—on social media, within articles, in reviews, and on blogs. Fans have gone after them for the problematic circumstances, events, and behavior of characters within their novels. It’s not surprising; it’s an extension of the same attitude we have seen play out in the social sphere. In addition to holding real-life humans accountable, fandom is now trying to hold fiction accountable….

(6) SIGNING OFF. The Geek Feminism Blog says they are “Bringing the blog to a close”. No specific reason given, but they did take a look back —

Alex Bayley and a bunch of their peers — myself included — started posting on this blog in 2009. We coalesced around feminist issues in scifi/fantasy fandom, open culture projects like Wikipedia, gaming, the sciences, the tech industry and open source software development, Internet culture, and so on. Alex gave a talk at Open Source Bridge 2014 about our history to that point, and our meta tag has some further background on what we were up to over those years.

(7) NEXT IN THE JURY BOX. A new Shadow Clarke juror greets the readers: “Introducing Samira Nadkarni”.

More than anything else, community as a space for discussion and critique forces an awareness of frameworks. A friend, Shabnam, once took a lot of time to point out to me that my excitement about a book that I believed destabilised gender and problematised caste in Indian contexts was, in fact, written to privilege the upper caste cis gaze. Her emphatic point at the time was that if someone mentions a gender and caste dystopia, I should look at whose interests are being played to, and that if the book couldn’t decenter the very idea of cis and caste-based constructs of gender, then this book was not innovative in its destabilisation at all. While this was applied to a specific book series, it was an excellent lesson to take away, learn from, and cross apply to future criticism: the fact that stepping away from standard representation itself is not enough until we think about who it privileges and what it says.

These are big questions for me, and I think also big questions more generally, about how inclusion can be kindness and violence all at once, and how navigating that critically can be fraught. For me in particular, I have strong feelings about postcolonial SFF writing in general (and this is primarily what I read in my spare time), and this also forces me to recognise how this is playing to a different set of privilege systems locally that can continue to foster violent hierarchies, or aren’t being dealt with or made visible enough yet. It’s complicated and I’m honestly not equipped to do it alone.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s vision of Pinocchio debuted.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cath spotted a comic that perfectly fits out recent “Cats Sleep on SFF” theme in Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News from 2016.

(10) SUPER BOWL BET. Here’s how the Boston Public Library paid off after losing its Super Bowl bet.

(11) FREE READS. Asimov’s has made four Locus-recommended stories available as free reads.

Congratulations to the authors of our stories on the Locus Recommended Reading List. We’ve posted the tales here for your enjoyment. If you’re voting in the Locus Poll and you haven’t read the stories or you’d like to refresh your memory please take a look at them now.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine, Greg Egan – Nov/Dec 2017
Wind Will Rove, Sarah Pinsker – Sept/Oct 2017

BEST SHORT STORY

Persephone of the Crows, Karen Joy Fowler – May/June 2017

An Evening with Severyn Grimes, Rich Larson – July/August 2017
Confessions of a Con Girl, Nick Wolven – Nov/Dec 2017

(12) BOARD MEETING. “Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel” – Daniel Dern saw the story and asked, “How many existing sf/f ref’s does this conjure up? The first that comes to (my) mind is Howard Chaykin’s Ironwolf comic books… possibly also from Sean McMullen’s Moonworlds Saga, e.g. Voyage of the Shadowmoon.”

View the video

Newly fabricated superstrong lumber gives a whole new meaning to “hardwood.”

This ultracompact wood, described in the Feb. 8 Nature, is created by boiling a wood block in a water-based solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. The chemicals partially strip the wood of substances called lignin and hemicellulose, which help give wood its structure and rigidity. Then the block gets squeezed between metal plates heated to 100° Celsius at a pressure of 5 megapascals — about 50 times the pressure of sea-level atmosphere. That squashes the gaps between the cell walls in the wood, shrinking the block to about 20 percent its original thickness and making it three times denser.

Researchers found that the densified wood could withstand being stretched or pulled 11.5 times harder than its natural counterpart without breaking. That makes it about as strong as steel, even though it’s more lightweight. Stainless steel pellets fired from an air gun and moving at 30 meters per second easily busted through a typical wooden plank, but got lodged in a stack of densified wood sheets with the same total thickness.

(13) ASIMOV LAUNCHED. From The Verge I Iearned — “The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels”.

SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

(14) IT’S OFFICIAL. Netflix has released Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 2 Official Trailer.

Jessica Jones is back as New York City’s tough-as-nails private investigator. Although this time, the case is even more personal than ever before. Fueled by a myriad of questions and lies, she will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Dashoff, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cath, Kevin Mangan, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

76 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/7/18 In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!”

  1. It’s been decades since I read “A Night in the Lonesome October,” but wasn’t it a collaboration between Zelazny and Gahan Wilson?

  2. I’m fascinated by unrealiable narrators. I love reading Flashman books, because he is such a douchebag, and that’s why he’s always getting into interesting situations. I liked Lolita too, again because the narrator was so horrible and at the same time, so lacking in self awareness that he invites us to imagine the story he’s leaving out, the one we can only see in his heavily warped reflection. I love little Alex’s stream of nadsat consciousness in Clockwork Orange, even when he’s being brutal. But when a writer that’s not nearly as good tries it (Piers Anthony’s Bio of a Space Tyrant, Thomas Covenant, Gor) it comes across to me more like the author having antisocial fantasies and trying to get the reader to join their circle jerk, which is more likely to hit my “fuck this book” trigger.

  3. Charon D. – If you haven’t read Code Name Verity yet, do so. I think you’ll really like it.

    Bonus, when you read it again, it’s a completely different book!

  4. I’m out of the edit window too. I should put in a Content Warning on Code Name Verity for torture at the hands of the Gestapo. It’s a YA book, but intense.

  5. Hey, if we’re doing Blackadder quotes, to mangle my all-time favorite: “I’ve got a plan so cunning you could put a scroll on it and call it a pixel!”

    Blackadder himself is, of course, a dreadfully awful person but has the good fortune to be such a relentless underdog with impeccable comic timing that one forgives his scheming and the terrible things he does to his underlings.

  6. @Ultragotha I immediately went to buy it and learned I already did, so it’s somewhere in the middle of Mt. Tsundoku. Guess I’ll have to rappel down into the yeti caverns to find it. A WWII story is just my speed right now, just finished one called City of Thieves which was absolutely wonderful.

  7. @Daniel Dern & @Mike Glyer: I LOL’d at the Pixel Scroll title. 😀

    (2) GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. Yet another personal definition for “series” that precludes a lot of, er, series out there. Fortunately the award has a definition, which is what folks should use.

    (9) COMICS SECTION. ::giggle:: That was great.

  8. @Cassy B:

    I know several people who stopped reading the “Thomas Covenant” books when the title character became a rapist. Which was early in the first book. Donaldson hadn’t given them sufficient reason to be invested enough in the character to continue.

    That book was really disturbing.

    I read it circa 2005, at age 22-23. I wasn’t getting along with it particularly well, and then BAM, seemingly out of nowhere, the protagonist just rapes somebody.

    I’d read brutality before (e.g. GRRM), but never this casual rape from a primary character, presumably one you’re supposed to like. And I thought surely, surely this was the book turning in a new and unusual direction. I didn’t know what it might be building towards, but you wouldn’t write the protag of your portal fantasy raping his native guide, if it doesn’t mean something, if you weren’t building to something really big.

    So I read on. And to my astonishment… for most of the book, the rape goes unmentioned. Not “dark cloud hanging over them,” just… as though it never happened.

    And way later in the book, there’s like one brief reference, where the protagonist realizes that what he’s done is rape. (I would have maybe stomached the book a bit better if the portrayal had left any room for any such ambiguity.)

    I was flabbergasted less by the rape itself, and more by how inconsequential its footprint was. That was pretty disturbing, particularly from a series I’d often heard described as a major, popular work.

  9. @Cassy B, Standback:

    The Thomas Covenant books are the first ones I remember really bouncing hard off of. I just could not get into them at all, on any level. There are other novels that I’ve started and been unable to sustain interest in, including some Big Famous Books (Dune and The White Dragon come to mind), but that was my first real bounce.

    And I say that as someone who made it through all ten volumes of Mission Earth and more than two dozen Gor books… although both of those series ended up taking a trip to the used book store. (Understand when I say that that I’m a big-time packrat. It’s very unusual for me to get rid of a book that I haven’t acquired in some other form. That those were exceptions speaks volumes.)

  10. @Steve Leavell: depends on what you mean by “collaboration”. Wilson’s name is half the height of Zelazny’s on the spine of my hardcover; there may or may not have been any discussions between them.

    @OGH: the Flashman pastiche was amusing. The Howard Families aren’t old enough to have sired him (first child born in 1875 — and Howard himself was short-lived), but I can imagine Flashman trying anything he’d found anywhere in his extensive travels, and pointing to the Howards as a feint.

  11. I bounced on the Covenant books when I was a young teen. He didn’t GROW and even then I thought that was stupid. I made it through book 2 but DNF’d book 3 right near the beginning. The first time I’d ever DNF’d a book.

    ETA: Charon D. I’d love to hear your reaction to Code Name Verity when you finish it.

  12. As on previous occasions where everyone weighs in on the books, I’ll mention I’ve read most of all three Thomas Covenant series (still need to read the final 2 books) and enjoyed them all. Though (new comment!) the final series is a little long-winded/repetitive, even for this set of series; I suspect by the end, I’ll feel like the 4 books should’ve been 3.

  13. But, Ultragotha, were you young and strong, or young and foolish? We need the answer to this and other important questions!

    I pushed somewhat past the rape scene on the first Covenant book, because id hrard from normally not foolish people that it was excellent, but after a bit, I’m not really sure now how far I got, but probably not halfway. I did not finish, and I’ve never had any reason to regret that choice.

  14. Kendall: and you’re far from alone. Such is how de gustibus goes.

    FWIW I enjoyed the two Donaldson books I did read, though at this point I recall them poorly, and fear to look again due to the prevalence of suck fairy sightings in his region.

  15. It’s been a long time, but I think I gave up on the Thomas Covenant novels somewhere in the 3rd one, without finishing it. I think I had SFBC editions. I remember almost nothing specific about them, including the rape scene, but I have a strong retrospective sense that they weren’t worth the time or effort it took to read them. They must have engaged me on some level or I wouldn’t have continued as far as I did, though.

  16. Holy crap, my essay was shared on File770! :O (Thanks, Mike!)

    I’ve enjoyed reading the discussion it sparked. My main takeaway: I’ve never read any Flashman, and now I feel like I need to rectify that.

  17. I’m another who got kicked out of Thomas Covenant by the rape. I got kicked out of Book of the New Sun for the same reason, if memory serves me right. I am not going back in to check.

  18. Bit late – I meant to comment when this was posted but got distracted. Ironic, as this was one of the best Scrolls ever, with many things to read and watch and even a few things to comment on:

    5) Amen.
    11) Awesome! I hope F&SF and Analog do the same. (Seems they have in the past, at least for Hugo/Nebula nominees.)
    13) As an American, I don’t get the same thrill from a corporation launching a spaceship that I did when “we, the people” did it but I guess I’ll have to take what I can get. I get more excited by ESA and JAXA stuff, though. And the car (much like the sparkly globe of whatever other corp it was) annoys me. But I have to say he found the way to my heart with the Asimov in space. Very cool.

    @Standback and everyone else struck by the “mirror/beacon” thing, it actually derives from M.H. Abrams’ The Mirror and the Lamp.

  19. @Jason– Also as an American, it did thrill me, very much. That it’s a corporation is the logical next step, the thing that means the basic R&D, the work that in real life corporations can rarely do because they’re supposed to make money, and unlike in fiction individuals don’t have the resources for, got done. We, the people laid the groundwork well enough that there’s no something solid enough for corporations, some corporations, young enough that they’re still run by risk-takers, can take the next steps.

    And I love the red Tesla, driven by Starman, carrying an Asimov work. It’s just so right.

    Hmm. So much for me not being awake enough to make a real comment…

  20. Has anyone else heard Tom Smith’s summary of the Covenant books? It includes
    “Part 1: everything turns to s**t.
    “Part 2: everything is s**t.
    “Part 3: we discover plumbing.

    “Part 9: we discover the true meaning of s**t.”
    I finished the first book, but gave up partway through the 2nd even though it was the middle of the blizzard whose 40th anniversary we Bostonians are now … observing?; as Langford et al. have pointed out, Donaldson badly needs a rigorous editor (cf “clench racing”). I did finish the two books of Mordant’s Need, pushed on me by a Bakka Books (Toronto) clerk who also hated Covenant; I remember them being difficult-but-plausible at the time (an acquaintance objected to the lead character’s ~passivity, to which I respond that she’s been so repeatedly crushed by a domineering father that it’s a wonder she can do what she does), but haven’t reread in quite a while.

  21. Here’s the “Clench-racing” link https://news.ansible.uk/plotdev.html – I read the first 6 Covenant books back when they were new, but had no interest in the later books (I looked into Donaldson’s “The Real Story” at a bookstore when it was new, and was completely repulsed, which may also have something to do with why I didn’t read the later Covenant books).

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