Pixel Scroll 3/11/18 Scroll Forward, Pixel Back (And Check The Batteries On Your Snoke Detectors!)

(1) SAY IT AIN’T SO. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum exclaims “Science Fiction Writers No Longer Write What I Want to Read”.

I don’t keep up with sf as much as I used to, but last night I decided I was in the mood for some. So I browsed through new releases for the past three months. I immediately crossed off (a) fantasy novels and (b) anything that was book x of y. In other words, all I wanted was a single-volume sf novel that wasn’t part of an ongoing series.

After doing that, there were maybe four or five books left to choose from. Some just didn’t look like my cup of tea, as some books don’t. In the end, there were two books left on my list. I bought one of them. So far it’s not very good.

(2) INDIE ANGST. Ruth Anne Reid tells “Why I Left Smashwords”.

If you’ve been following me a while, you may recall when I made the choice to use Smashwords. At the time, it seemed wisest; most authors were telling me that wide distribution was the key to sales. So what if Smashwords took a cut of my already eaten-into book sales? (No bookstore gives 100% of the sale to the author, after all.) Surely it was worth it, saving me the time and effort of getting into those stores myself.

Well, the experiment has lasted for a little more than a year (since November 2014), and after all kinds of publicity, including a very successful Bookbub promotion (which made me a BEST-SELLER YAY), I can tell you this: for me, Smashwords is not worth it.

(I emphasize “for me” because for some folks, it works great. For me, however, it didn’t.)

Let me break down precisely why….

(3) STAN FLEECED. In “‘Picked Apart by Vultures’:  The Last Days of Stan Lee”  on The Daily Beast, Mark Ebner says that the aging comics tycoon is surrounded by people who want his money and there are fears that he won’t leave enough money to his only child, daughter JC, to let her live in comfort.

You might expect Stan Lee, at age 95, to be enjoying the fruits of his many labors: Marvel Comics, the company he served as the former president and chairman of, dominates popular culture. Characters he co-created — among them Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, and the Avengers — are household names. He’s a comics legend, with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When Marvel sold to Disney in 2010 for $4 billion, he personally pocketed a cool $10 million, and tours the world as its ambassador emeritus. And midway through his tenth decade, Black Panther, based on a character he and Jack Kirby first envisioned in 1966, currently sits atop the global box office charts, and carries a Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%.

Instead, seven months after the death of Joan, his wife of almost 70 years, beset with pneumonia, the apparent victim of gross financial malfeasance and surrounded by a panoply of Hollywood charlatans and mountebanks, he may be facing his greatest challenge, every bit the equal of any of the psychologically flawed superheroes he helped shepherd into being

(4) REASONS TO VOTE. Abigail Nussbaum reveals “My Hugo Ballot, Media Categories”:

Best Related Work:

  • “Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift” by Erin Horáková (Strange Horizons) – It’s been nearly a year since Erin’s masterful essay–about James Kirk, how pop culture processes masculinity, and how the forces that have changed how we view our male heroes are also reflected in politics.  Aside from being a brilliant–and brilliantly written–bit of textual analysis, which repeatedly demonstrates that Kirk is a much more thoughtful, respectful, and even feminist character than the conventional wisdom about him would have it, “Kirk Drift” speaks to vital currents in our culture.  Why do we prioritize bluster and machoism over competence and cooperation, so much that we reinvent characters who embody the latter traits so that they instead espouse the former?  I doubt there’s another piece of criticism published last year that was as relevant or as necessary as this essay, and it deserves to be recognized by the Hugos.
  • Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press) – The Modern Masters of Science Fiction series (edited by Gary K. Wolfe) has been publishing tantalizing volumes about mid- and late-twentieth century SF authors for several years, but none were as designed to appeal to my interests as one of my favorite critics writing about one of my favorite authors.  In this short but illuminating volume, Kincaid walks us through Banks’s career–with the aid of copious references to interviews, contemporary reviews, and reminiscences of Banks’s friends in the UK SF community.  Most gratifyingly, he ties together Banks’s SF and mainstream output, arguing that the gap between the two is nowhere near as wide as many critics have argued, and that there are common themes that recur throughout his work.  He also delivers a close, strongly political analysis of the Culture novels, and while I don’t entirely agree with his conclusions, his argument is cogent and engaging.  This is a major work of criticism on a major author, and any fan of Banks owes it to themselves to read it.


  • March 11, 1971 THX 1138 debuted.


  • Born March 11, 1952 – Douglas Adams

(7) BUSBY BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver salutes a birthday boy at Black Gate: “Birthday Reviews: F.M. Busby’s ‘Tundra Moss’”.

Busby served as the Vice President of SFWA from 1974-6. His novels include the Demu trilogy, the Rebel Dynasty books, and the Rissa Kerguelen series.

“Tundra Moss appeared in the third volume of Gregory Benford’s What Might Have Been series of alternate history anthologies with the theme Alternate Wars.


  • John King Tarpinian learned the highly scientific reason behind daylight savings time from Wiley.

(9) WAITING FOR PLAYER ONE. While the “Ready Player One” movie hasn’t quite opened yet, the band “Gunship” have released a music video for a song, “Art3mis & Parzival”.

Stream & Download ‘Art3mis & Parzival’ here – http://smarturl.it/HITH004DL Find the hidden clues in this video to win GUNSHIP’s Holy Arcade Machine Of Antioch! You must use your cunning to pass the trials that GUNSHIP themselves have laid down. Head to http://www.gunshipmusic.com to play.

(10) TIME TRAVELING TWIN. No doubt about it!

(11) EXPECT ALIENS TO BE…ALIEN! Engadet explains: “NASA wants to change the way we think about the habitable zone”.

One of the most exciting discoveries in recent years was the TRAPPIST-1 system — a group of seven Earth-sized planets circling a red dwarf star 40 light years away. Hopes of finding life on these planets were dashed in July 2017 after two studies from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics concluded the red dwarf was likely too dim and cool to support Earth-like ecosystems. The habitable zone, in this case, was much closer to the star than Earth is to the Sun, increasing the amount of UV radiation on these planets to an unlivable level.

At least, unlivable by Earth standards. In December, a study published on arXiV.org proposed the idea that the “habitable zone” was too narrow a search criteria when looking for alien life. Researchers were as likely, if not more, to find life on frozen planets with subsurface oceans, according to the study’s authors. That life, of course, may not look much like the organisms on Earth.

(12) LOCKE. Locke’s tweets were quoted here among many examples of people who gave pushback to Chris Barkley’s proposal to rename the Worldcon’s new YA Award. Nothing critical was said against them. Besides, did anybody like Chris’s approach?

Since I gave Barkley a platform to make his announcement, some may mistake that as an endorsement. I’m against it myself. And publishing people’s negative statements about it is not an agenda against the critics.

(13) WALKING TALL. StarWars.com’s “Fully Operational Fandom” feature agrees “This 17-Foot-Tall AT-AT Would Even Impress the Emperor”. [Via io9.]

Like the Rebellion scrapping together equipment and people, Gilbert worked with what he had and assembled a team of volunteers. They moved fast due to a tight schedule and made the AT-AT in four weeks. Gilbert explains how they accomplished the feat: “We worked quite a few evenings, but we had an incredible team of volunteers working on the project. Overall, I’d say about 25 people helped at one point or another. Other than three to four of us, many had never used power tools before, so it wasn’t like we were dealing with a team of prop makers or anything. We’d show someone how to use the tool, watch them do it, and then I’d be their biggest fan when they did it right. The volunteers are what made this project special.”

Lacking Imperial materials, they made do with foam insulation boards, foamboard adhesive, and plywood (you can read details on Instructables). The project cost around $1,000. And like the Rebellion figuring things out as they went, they faced challenges.

(14) FANTASY OUT OF AFRICA. NPR’s Caitlin Paxson says Tomi Adeyemi’s Children Of Blood And Bone, a fantasy based on West African myths, is a feast for hungry readers.

Eventually, all the children of Orïsha are faced with a choice: will the restoration of magic heal their broken homeland, or will its quest only drive them further apart and cause more suffering?

Like the similarly eagerly anticipated Black Panther movie (to which this will undoubtedly draw comparisons, given the proximity of their releases), Children of Blood and Bone is a fast-paced, excellently crafted hero’s journey through a fantasy world that is informed by African mythology (specifically West African, in the case of the book) and populated with compelling and nuanced black characters. The world is hungry for this, and Tomi Adeyemi delivers a worthy feast.

(15) HOW IT SHOULD HAVE STARTED. The BBC’s Caryn James looks at A Wrinkle in Time.

Ava DuVernay’s charming, spirited, Oprah-fied version of A Wrinkle in Time arrives as the victim of its own hype. From its sublime casting to its big-hearted message, there is much that is appealing in this fantasy about Meg Murry, a girl who travels through space and time to rescue her missing father, and finds her own confidence along the way. Yet the stumbles in creating the alternate worlds Meg visits make the film less spectacular than viewers might have hoped, and at times a bit flat. Without the weight of high expectations, Wrinkle would look like a perfectly good Disney movie bound to appeal to its target audience of 10-year-old girls, and not so much to anyone hoping for dazzling film-making.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Christian Brunschen, Carl Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew, with a typo assist from OGH.]

128 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/11/18 Scroll Forward, Pixel Back (And Check The Batteries On Your Snoke Detectors!)

  1. 1) I have some sympathy got those that prefer a single book to yet another series. The publishing industry may like serial entries, but they tend to suck up all the attention that might otherwise be given to single works.

    Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. – Thomas Jefferson

  2. (1) Maybe he needs to find a better source of books. (The big e-book sources are, I would say, at least 90% crap. Kobo has crap tagging for genre, also: much of their “SF/F/Horror” section is urban/paranormal romance with vampire, shapeshifter, and alien romance included.)

  3. (1) SAY IT AIN’T SO. I browsed through new releases for the past three months. I immediately crossed off (a) fantasy novels and (b) anything that was book x of y. In other words, all I wanted was a single-volume sf novel that wasn’t part of an ongoing series. After doing that, there were maybe four or five books left to choose from.

    I don’t know what list the dude was looking at for “new releases for the past three months”, but it’s clearly deficient, and he should find a new list. There was a bigger selection than that.

  4. (1) SAY IT AIN’T SO.
    So currently, n=1, which is an insufficient sample on which to conclude anything. I mean, it make for a pithy article and all to say there is no current SF they want to read, but I find their statement lacking in scientific rigor.

    (12) LOCKE.
    Reading comprehension failure? Or did they even read the comments?

  5. @1: So is there a particular reason we should consider Kevin Drum’s taste in SF? Politics, maybe, but he sounds like he’s drawing arbitrary boundaries. (I don’t like incomplete sets, but IMO that’s different from “book X of Y” — and the latter makes more room for story development.)



  6. 11) Wasn’t Hal Clement envisioning these sorts of ecosystems with a great deal of scientific rigor fifty years ago?

  7. 2017 Novel Reading Part 3 (Part 1 Part 2)

    The Gates of Tagmeth by P.C. Hodgell
    [Chronicles of the Kencyrath #8]
    Synopsis: Destruction is in Jame Knorth’s nature. She is the avatar of a god known as That-Which-Destroys, the god of chaos and ruin — but she is also a noblewoman within an ancient race, and the designated heir of her twin brother, the High Lord of the Kencyrath. Obeying instructions from her brother, Jame sets out with a force of loyal companions and Southron warriors to reestablish the long-fallen castle keep of Tagmeth. But Tagmeth hides a secret, a gateway to a mystery that may save this world from eternal darkness – or plunge it to destruction and ruin all the sooner.

    What I thought: This is a great installment in a highly-inventive world. Unlike the previous entries which contain battles, it is a chronicle of the main character building a home for herself — both physically and psychologically — in archaelogical ruins, with the assistance of her (mostly) loyal companions and soldiers. There are political intrigues, covert machinations and surprise reveals, along with further worldbuilding and character development, to keep things interesting.Those who have read the earlier books will find it a highly enjoyable sequel; those who have not will likely be totally lost. I definitely recommend reading the whole series.

    Artemis by Andy Weir
    Synopsis: Welcome to Artemis, the first city on the moon. Population 2,000: mostly tourists, some criminals. One of the criminals is a scrappy survivor who lives in a poor area of Artemis and subsidises her work as a porter with smuggling contraband onto the moon. But it’s not enough to break her out of her daily grind and set her up for a better life, so when she’s offered the chance to make a lot of money, she jumps at it. But although planning a crime caper in 1/6th gravity may be more fun, it’s a lot more dangerous.

    What I thought: I really enjoyed this. I didn’t think it quite measured up to The Martian for awesomeness, but it’s got a lot more character development, in addition to the interesting worldbuilding and science-ing. Others have pointed out that it has some technical flaws, but I just rolled with it, and found it an engrossing read.

    The Bronze Skies by Catherine Asaro
    [Skolian Empire: Major Bhaajan #2]
    Synopsis: Born to the slums below the City of Cries on the planet Raylicon, Major Bhaajan broke free from crushing poverty and crime to become a military officer with Imperial Space Command. Now retired from military duty, she walks the mean streets of the Undercity as a private investigator. And she is about to embark on her most challenging case yet: she is tasked by the Ruby Pharaoh with finding a killer, one of the elite soldiers whose spinal node should have prevented such a thing from being possible.

    What I thought: I’m a sucker for good sffnal mysteries, and this is another winner in the series, with a flawed but likeable main character and supporting cast. The beauty of this novel and its predecessor Undercity is that they make a nice standalone duology for those who haven’t read the rest of the series. This is definitely on my Hugo Best Series list this year.

    Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
    [The Expanse #7]
    Synopsis: In the thousand-sun network of humanity’s expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace. In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it. New technologies clash with old as the history of human conflict returns to its ancient patterns of war and subjugation. But human nature is not the only enemy, and the forces being unleashed have their own price.

    What I thought: The authors have done a great job here, I think, of making this a standalone entry in the series. Certainly having read the previous books gives some additional enhancement, but this novel is set more than 30 years after the events of the first 6 books, and any necessary background for appreciating it has been worked into the story. It’s once again a fast-paced, high-stakes adventure which features some new characters as well as some old friends.

    The Genius Plague by David Walton
    Synopsis: A young man has just started his dream job as a code breaker in the NSA when his brother, a mycologist, goes missing on a trip to collect samples in the Amazon jungle. The scientist returns with a gap in his memory and a fungal infection that almost kills him. But once he recuperates, he has enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. Meanwhile, something is happening in South America; others, like him, have also fallen ill and recovered only to show abilities they didn’t have before. But that’s not the only pattern — the survivors, from entire remote Brazilian tribes to American tourists, all seem to be working toward a common, and deadly, goal. Brother must oppose brother on an increasingly fraught international stage, with the stakes: the free will of every human on earth. Can humanity use this force for good, or are we becoming the pawns of an utterly alien intelligence?

    What I thought: I picked this up after having previously enjoyed the author’s quantum mystery-thriller duology Superposition and Supersymmetry. This is a thoroughly-enjoyable techno-thriller about an alien invasion from an unexpected direction. It seems to be well-researched, and is a fast, fun read.

    The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
    Synopsis: A young man from a shadowy government entity approaches a Harvard expert in linguistics and languages with an incredible offer. The only condition: she must swear herself to secrecy in return for the rather large sum of money for translating some very old documents, which, if authentic, are earth-shattering. They prove that magic actually existed and was practiced for centuries, but that the arrival of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment weakened its power and endangered its practitioners. Magic stopped working altogether in 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition at London’s Crystal Palace – the world’s fair celebrating the rise of industrial technology and commerce. The Department of Diachronic Operations is on a mission to develop a device that can send Diachronic Operatives back in time to change the future and keep magic from disappearing.

    What I thought: I definitely enjoyed reading the book, but agree with some other Filers that there were some serious issues with the characters and the plot. And yes, at the end it is clear that it’s a setup for an ongoing good guys / bad guys conflict using time travel to accomplish – or prevent – results, with widely-varying motivations. I can’t see Stephenson being interested in participating in that, though. It looks to me as though they’re setting up another series like The Mongoliad, where a Big Name starts it out, and then lesser-known authors are invited to contribute stories to the universe in a neverending franchise. And if that’s the case, meh, no thanks, I’ll pass.

    The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata
    Synopsis: An army veteran who left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete now works for a private military company established by a friend and former Special Ops soldier. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when she makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

    What I thought: This is a very good book; however, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the author’s The Red Trilogy. It’s got a very believable take on a future Middle East, and on how technology is changing military warfare. Fans of The Red will definitely want to check this one out.

    Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
    [The Themis Files #2]
    Synopsis: As a child, she made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers – and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force. Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But she and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology.

    What I thought: As with the first novel in the series, Sleeping Giants, this novel consists almost entirely of diary entries, interview transcripts, and filed reports. Normally I wouldn’t expect this to work for me, but these two books do a good job of presenting the narrative in this way without becoming tedious. Each of them has gone in a direction I wasn’t expecting, and I will definitely be picking up the third book, Only Human.

    Steal the Stars by Nat Cassidy, based on the podcast by Mac Rogers
    Synopsis: Dakota “Dak” Prentiss guards the biggest secret in the world. They call it “Moss.” It’s your standard grey alien from innumerable abduction stories. It still sits at the controls of the spaceship it crash-landed eleven years ago. A secret military base was built around the crash site to study both Moss and the dangerous technology it brought to Earth. The day Matt Salem joins her security team, Dak’s whole world changes. It’s love at first sight?which is a problem, since they both signed ironclad contracts vowing not to fraternize with other military personnel. If they run, they’ll be hunted for what they know. Dak and Matt have only way to be together: do the impossible. Steal Moss and sell the secret of its existence. And they can’t afford a single mistake.

    What I thought: This is a story of a lot of people doing incredibly stupid things, and getting exactly what they deserve. The Love At First Sight crap is just utterly unbelievable. It’s like a shitty soap opera set in the government’s secret base at Area 51. If you feel that you must subject yourself to it, my advice is to read the book jacket synopsis and then the last 40 pages, in which the story finally gets somewhat interesting.

    Fragment by Craig Russell
    Synopsis: When avalanching glaciers thrust a massive Antarctic ice sheet into the open ocean, the captain of an atomic submarine must risk his vessel to rescue the survivors of a smashed polar research station; in Washington the President’s top advisor scrambles to spin the disaster to suit his master’s political aims; and meanwhile two intrepid newsmen sail south into the storm-lashed Drake Passage to discover the truth. Onboard the submarine, as the colossal ice sheet begins its drift toward South America and the world begins to take notice, scientists uncover a secret that will threaten the future of America’s military power and change the fate of humanity. And beneath the human chaos one brave Blue Whale fights for the survival of his species.

    What I thought: This short novel posits a realistic future scenario when climate change has accelerated the current damage to Earth’s ecosystem, illustrating the conflicts among differing vested interests which have a stake in what preventive and corrective measures are — or are not — taken. There’s an additional speculative element of a research scientist figuring out how to communicate with a cetacean species, and the potential for that species to help humans. A fast and enjoyable read.

  8. @Dann,
    There is something quite satisfying about a stand-alone novel. IMO it takes quite some skill to tell a story, explore a theme, and bring it to a conclusion in one succinct volume.

    The desire for stand-alone novels is enhanced after experiencing mid-series bloat (you know, the mid-series volume where even more complications are introduced, or even worse, the mid-series volume where the plot does not seem to progress at all) on more than one occasion.

  9. So I clicked over to Mother Jones to see which book Kevin Drum read and didn’t like, and he doesn’t tell us. Just that he didn’t like it, and in addition to that he thinks that there are too many series and fantasy novels and series made up of fantasy novels. Things I wanted to know were 1) which book did he read? 2) why didn’t he like it? 3) Is what he didn’t like something specific to him, or a more general flaw? 4) what does he usually like? 5) is he open to suggestions? It sure doesn’t say anything about the field if he takes a random book off the shelf and ends up disliking it.

    The article was so meaningless that I ended up wondering if I missed a part of it that was only available to Mother Jones subscribers. That isn’t the case, is it?

  10. (1): A few months back, in connection with a related discussion here, I went through the previous couple of months of Locus‘s “New Books” listings (a random but presumably consistent source; I kept going back until I had ~ 150 books total, so the statistics were reasonable) to see what fraction of published novels were stand-alone versus series. The answer was that about 70% of the total were entries in series. Whatever the merit of any individual series, that struck me as an astonishingly large percentage; some weeks there were no non-series novels at all.

    (4): Seconding Nussbaum’s recommendation for Paul Kincaid’s very insightful book on the fiction of Iain Banks; it’s terrific. And although it isn’t eligible as it came out in 2016, Jad Smith’s book on Alfred Bester in the same series is also excellent (as was his earlier book on John Brunner).

    ETA: @Lisa Goldstein: not as far as I could tell; it was just kind of a contextless, pointless complaint.

  11. As far as stand-alone SF goes…I have a Hugo recommendation, for a webconmic series that completed last year.

    James Nicoll recently did a review of the SF webcomic series Always Human. In this future “Mods” body-modification nanotechnology is ubiquitous, used for everything from enhancing memory to radically changing one’s appearance. Sumati takes Apps for granted, until she meets Austen, who can’t use them…

    I recommend Always Human not just for being a well-written slice of life romance, but also looking at some surprisingly deep issues about technology, disability, and how people relate to both.

  12. (12) LOCKE.

    It’s bizarre that someone would be unable to distinguish between a scrupulously-neutral reaction roundup and a “shitlist”. 😐

  13. (1) I’d argue that Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, that he mentions in the postscript can just as easily be read as science fiction as fantasy: if it had been published in the 70’s I’d believe it would have said “science fiction” on the spine.

    Regarding @PhilRM’s statistics (which I have no reason to doubt), I believe there have been plenty of series in older sf and fantasy, but I believe they were more in the style of shared worlds or self-contained books about some specific character (see eg Laumer’s Retief and Bolo stories). This also means that it’s much easier to identify series nowadays.

    (12) Personally, I think it was a mistake for File770 to do the original publication for Chris Barkley. If he wanted to do a public release of such a thing, I’d have asked him to do it on a space he himself owns, or on a proper shared channel (like the SMOFS e-mail list).

  14. Karl-Johan Norén: Personally, I think it was a mistake for File770 to do the original publication for Chris Barkley. If he wanted to do a public release of such a thing, I’d have asked him to do it on a space he himself owns, or on a proper shared channel (like the SMOFS e-mail list).

    I disagree. Apart from the fact that so many people seem to be unable to distinguish between a genre news site like File 770 (which reports everything of interest to fans in as neutral a way as possible and lets readers draw their own conclusions), and a personal blog (which presents only one person’s idea of what is important, in a way that preferentially biases their opinions), I am glad that this was published in a prominent place where everyone could see it and discuss it and cut this shit off at the pass, rather than being blindsided by it at Worldcon.

    The SMOFSlist distribution is extremely limited. While it’s fine for this to be discussed there, if it were posted only there, it would leave out huge swathes of fandom which very much need to be part of the discussion. And that would be very wrong.

  15. There certainly are a lot more series out there now. But I’ve generally found that the first book of the series also works as a stand alone book, providing a reasonable stopping point without resolving everything. So I’ve read a lot of first books.

  16. @JJ: Note that I didn’t say anything about Mike reporting on Chris’s proposal. That’s more than fine, and also necessary (just as you mention).

    But there are differences between a hosting an op-ed, hosting a manifesto, and hosting a concrete proposal. Publishing it here gave it a whiff of endorsement from Mike.

  17. (1) SAY IT AIN’T SO

    So, single volume, not fantasy, taken from the last 3 months of the B&N new SF releases articles:

    Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway
    Semiosis, by Sue Burke
    Outpost, by W. Michael Gear
    Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel
    Gunpowder Moon, by David Pedreira
    Quietus, by Tristan Palmgren
    The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch
    The Warrior Within, by Angus McIntyre
    Dayfall, by Michael David Ares
    Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson
    The Feed, by Nick Clark Windo
    Bash Bash Revolution, by Douglas Lain

    It’s possible that some of these will get sequels but their descriptions suggested stand alone. It’s also possible that he’s more rigorous on what he counts as SF. However, that’s 12 from one source.

    Personally I always love to find a strong standalone to try, and there’s no doubt that the economics of bookselling encourage series, but I don’t think the writer tried very hard here.

    (12) LOCKE.

    I’m hoping she’s just had a garbled second-hand account and didn’t actually look herself.


    Coming soon:
    Old Man’s Majipoor
    Nightwings Nation
    The Collapsing Nightfall

  18. @JJ, re (12):
    I think it’s pretty clear to Filers what the “official line” is, and what context to read various things in, but somebody coming in based on a single link or two might not have that.

    If you were introduced to the site first through the “Proposal” post, and then through the “Tremendous Pushback” post, it makes a looot of sense not to read that as “news.” Understanding that as “File 770 proposed [THING]” and then “File 770 rounded up people objecting to [THING]” is perfectly reasonable.

    Heck, even if you have a vague sense of what File770 is and how it works, landing on the “Proposal” page sans context can feel like that’s “File770 official.” Pretty much the only reason we know it’s not is because we’re regulars, and regular enough to know that, well, I don’t there exists such a thing as “File770 official.”

  19. Tend to agree. There would have been no issue at all about linking to a blog post as part of a scroll.
    Giving the negative reaction it’s own place was entirely appropriate, but coming after the event there was still a feel of the renaming proposal being given front page billing.

  20. @JJ

    Artemis by Andy Weir

    I think my reaction was that lightning hasn’t struck twice. It’s competent and enjoyable and I was charmed by the elements that had little callbacks to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress but I was left feeling it was missing that extra something.

    Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

    I didn’t take to the format in Sleeping Giants so I haven’t followed the series. Clever use of format can be really powerful, but I found this one too distancing, especially when the character relationships needed to drive the story.. Lots of people like the books so I guess I’m in the minority on this one!

    The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

    A favourite of mine from last year (and, re scroll item one, a standalone SF novel!) Comparing it to The Red is tricky because the latter had more space to develop but accounting for that I’d say it was just as good.

  21. Standback: If you were introduced to the site first through the “Proposal” post, and then through the “Tremendous Pushback” post, it makes a looot of sense not to read that as “news.” Understanding that as “File 770 proposed [THING]” and then “File 770 rounded up people objecting to [THING]” is perfectly reasonable.

    Yes and no. I can see that there might be a tendency to have that expectation coming in — but I would expect people to actually read and think about what they’re reading. If one does that, and reads even the first 3 or 4 comments on either of those posts, then it’s blatantly obvious that it’s coming from one person (or a very small group). I think that the “perfectly reasonable” part falls apart in about 2 minutes. Visitors to this site are not children, and I’ll do them the credit of not assuming that they have the rational skills of a child.

    Perhaps I think this because if *I* went to a website with which I was not familiar, I’d be reading closely and paying attention, to try to get a sense of what was what. Someone who was doing that would not have had a mistaken impression for very long. Obviously, I have higher expectations, in the thinking department, of genre fans than I do of the general population (whether or not those higher expectations are actually warranted, which apparently they aren’t). 😐

  22. It would be a bit much to expect people to weight the comments higher than the posts in their first impression of an unfamiliar website.

    Although a quick look at both the header (Mike Glyer’s news) and the by-line (Chris M. Barkley) could perhaps have got them most of the way there.

    I haven’t been around very long, and I’m definitely still a noob. It is quite tiresome to see other noobs making zero effort to understand either Worldcon or File770 but nonetheless having very forceful opinions. At least I disclaimer my very forceful opinions with my inherent noobiness. 🙂

  23. @JJ: I hear you 🙂

    I think the rule of large numbers is at work here. For every ten fans reading the piece, it makes sense to me that one of them miss the context. For every ten people tweeting or commenting about it, one of them will have misunderstood something important. And so on 🙂

    And part of that is just… how much effort they’re expending on this. If ten people are reading the post with different amounts of energy and interest, some people go in-depth, others get the gist and have done. I don’t think that’s wrong. Then, responding… can be error prone… but that’s kind of how the internet works. Expecting that all responses to a [THING] be well-informed is a bit of a pipe dream 😛

  24. “I am a doctor of scrollology, are you telling me I don’t know how to file a pixel?”

  25. 1) Well a lot of fantasy is also part of a series, just like SF. And what isn’t explicitly the start of a SFF series is, it sometimes seems, aspirational to being part of a series. Counting first books in series, and counting novellas, I’ve read a lot of SF in the last year or so. Heck, Tor did an entire season of Space Opera novellas. I’ve read a number of the volumes mentioned upstream, too. (I’ve read Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach, also mentioned above, and while the author wants to write more in the world, it works as a standalone now).

    This also goes for me to the idea of an “off ramp” in the start of would be series. i appreciate when an author, in trying to start a series, arranges things so that a reader can “one and done” a series satisfactorily, rather than having only gotten a piece of a story without any real resolution.

  26. Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon and Paul Kincaid’s book on Banks are both on my nominations ballot. For what it’s worth, which is essentially nothing; it’s a statement of one person’s taste. I’m inclined to think that (1) isn’t anything more….

  27. @Paul Weimer

    i appreciate when an author, in trying to start a series, arranges things so that a reader can “one and done” a series satisfactorily, rather than having only gotten a piece of a story without any real resolution.

    +1. I’m happy to read a series but I’m unlikely to invest time in one I’m unsure about unless I can at least read book 1 and decide it’s “fine but not for me”. If book 1 won’t resolve anything then I’m unlikely to start it.

    I’ve recently read the following start-of-a-trilogy-or-series, in rough order of how self-complete I felt book 1 was:
    The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
    Jade City by Fonda Lee
    The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
    The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt
    Embers of War by Gareth Powell
    The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

    The top 3 I would be happy to recommend as standalone reads, albeit in each case sequels are clearly intended. The Wrong Stars and Embers of War both had internal arcs but clearly had much more to come in later books. Down at the bottom The Armored Saint felt like it just stopped at the end of Act 1 – a fairly dramatic stopping point to be fair, with both plot and character hitting a point of revelation and change, but really just setting things up for the rest of the story.

  28. Um, either I’m missing the joke, or the title has a typo; what’s a “snoke”? (I suspect I’m missing the joke, or someone else in the last 30 comments would have mentioned this….)

  29. Supreme Leader Snoke is the equivalent to the Emperor in the new Star Wars movies.

  30. Snoke is the sith-master/emperor-type-dude in the recent Star Wars movies.

    Dammit, Jim, I’m a filer, not a pixel-scroller!

  31. Have you seen the little pixels, scrolling on the net?
    And for all the little pixels, life is better yet;
    Always have clean screens
    To play around in

  32. (1)

    I don’t have any statistical chops to back this up, but it certainly feels like decent new standalone novels (SF or fantasy) are hard to find. As a reader, this isn’t always an issue as if I’m reading for escapism or diversionary purposes you can can keep on feeding me a never-ending series of doorstoppers and I’ll keep on lapping them up, but sometimes I want to go away and engage with a novel and finish a story, and get that feeling of completion and understanding at the last page.

  33. Cassy B, if I may repeat myself:

    Poe, a flyer, a fleet male flyer
    Rey, who scavenges a bit
    Maz, the host, who knows the most
    Finn, a white shirt drone who quit
    Snoke, a hologram quite tall
    Ren, a very angry joe
    Beeb, a droid head on a ball
    Which will bring us back to Poe!
    Poe, Rey, Maz, Finn, Snoke, Ren, Beeb, Poe!

  34. Title credit: Whoo! (and thanks for the typo assist).

    @JJ: I enjoyed “Genius Plague” for about 2/3 of the book (it was certainly gripping and fast-moving), but I found the ending a bit unsatisfying.
    V gubhtug gur qrirybczrag bs zvaq-pbageby grpuabybtl ol uhznaf jnf gerngrq n ovg gbb pnfhnyyl, naq gung znqr gur “unccl raqvat” frrz irel funyybj – vg frrzf gb zr gung gur jbeyq unf n znggre bs zbaguf orsber (1) ntragf vasrpgrq ol gur bevtvany shathf tnva pbageby bs gur zvaq pbageby fvtany naq gnxr bire gur jbeyq, (2) gur shathf qrirybcf n erfvfgnapr gb gur zvaq pbageby fvtany naq jr’er onpx va gur bevtvany fvghngvba, (3) nohfrf bs gur zvaq pbageby grpu qrfgebl pvivyvmngvba, (4) rkvfgrapr bs gur zvaq pbageby grpu yrnqf gb tybony gurezbahpyrne jne. Vebavpnyyl, gur nhgube syvegrq jvgu n zber fngvfsnpgbel fbyhgvba rneyvre va gur obbx – crefhnqvat crbcyr yblny gb gur shathf gung gur shathf jbhyq or fnsre ol abg qenfgvpnyyl vasyhrapvat crbcyr (naq guhf cebibxvat qrfcrengr erfcbafrf sebz gur erznvaqre bs crbcyr).

  35. If I was in Drum’s shoes, I’d consider looking back more than three months. From what he says, most if not all of the past year’s sf releases are probably new to him. That should leave him 15 or 20 standalone sf books to choose from, instead of four or five. Even without the “not my cup of tea” problem–which is entirely legitimate–he would probably have had at least half a dozen choices, instead of two.

    Also, “So far, it’s not very good” feels like an argument for putting that specific book down and picking something else up, but maybe that “something” should have been a different book, old or new, sf or not. Picking one book semi-arbitrarily from those published in the last year, and disliking it partway through, doesn’t say much about sf publishing as a whole.

  36. @James Moar, Niall McAuley, Kip W, thanks, all! I blame a lack of caffeine before posting….

  37. (3) Mark Evanier, at NEWS FROM ME, suggests that the report is overblown, and something of an intrusion. I read the initial article (Evanier links to it as well, so he’s read it) and was a bit concerned. Mr. Evanier is well connected in comic circles, and his head and heart are in the right place, so perhaps things aren’t as bad as they first appear.

    I have no knowledge apart from the report and Mark’s response, but he’s a trusted source, as far as I’m concerned.

    Lis Carey:
    We are such pixels as screens are made on, and our little file is rounded with a scroll.

  38. I think it’s useful to make a distinction between two kinds of series, which get conflated because we use the same word for both.

    The first is in what I think of as mystery-mode, where each book works as a stand-alone, with a beginning, middle and end. It may be there are longer term arcs—see the Hooded Swan series, where Grainger become a slightly more social, marginally less morose grum, or how Matthew Scudder changes over the course of his series—but each volume is a story.

    Then there’s the Game of When the Fuck Will This End/Wheel of Dear God Another One model, where each book is a collection of pages from a much, much longer work that may or may not ever end.

    I call the first “series” and the second “abominations”.

  39. @Kip W

    Poe, a flyer…

    Please accept this Internet you’ve won! ( taxes due and payable upon acceptance; processing fees may apply; offer not valid in all states, consult your local laws) 🙂

  40. I get to sample far too many forthcoming books running a review site that’s been around for the better part of three decades. I know what I want ideally and that means I van filter out nine tenths of what I see.

    That still leaves a lot of choices, so I find it hard to believe any reader couldn’t find at least a few tempting books. O matter how fussy that the person is. For myself, I’m listening to Tom Sweterlitsch‘s The Long Gone, an inventive time travel centred crime investigation, and KB Wagers’ Beyond the Empire, a novel as god as the two that proceeded it.

  41. Meredith Moment: Oath of Fealty, the first in Elizabeth Moon’s Legend of Paksenarrion series, is currently $0.99.

    I remember liking the original Pakse trilogy and Gird duology; maybe it’s time for a revisit?

  42. @Joe H I enjoyed the follow-up books. Still enjoy them here in *looks* Yee gods, I’m in 2018. Help! Someone send a time pod.

  43. @JJ: my notes on the first two Neuvel books are not kind; the Franco-Canadian distorting-spectacles view of the US might be sauce for the goose, but the amount of violence would probably squick some Filers and the plausibility was about average — for a comic book, not a novel. I particularly choked on the 2nd, in which (say my notes) hygen-snangvp nyvraf guvax renfvat nyy pebff-oerrqf vf sbyybjvat Cevzr Qverpgvir. I did read the second one — possibly to see whether a weak debut was improved on — but I’m probably passing on the third. I do like fun reads, but this pair just had too many WTF’s in it for me.

  44. 1 – Man it doesn’t say what he used to come up with that list or what books he chose, lame. It’s hard to criticize his results when he doesn’t mention the methods used. However in the last three months there’s certainly more than 5 sci fi novels that aren’t series books released. NY2140 just hit paperback, Gnomon (which is insanely good), Elysium Fire by Reynolds, The Sky Is Yours, Semiosis, Outpost, etc. When I look at the SFF market there’s so much it’s impossible to keep up with with stuff that caters to all sorts. But man do the different markets make it hard to filter for what you want to find sometimes, before I started visiting this site, using B&N monthly recs, and Locus Upcoming (which no longer seems to include past releases sadly) I had trouble finding stuff that was out there. Now I’ve got too much.

  45. 1) I really wish Drum would avoid his cultural hottakes, because he is a good journalist but an incredibly poor and disingenuous culture critic. Creating an arbitrary cutoff point of three months in publishing is specifically designed to skew the results. It’s like judging television by what new shows premiere in the summer months. He was already prepared to complain sci-fi for him isn’t written any more and created a window narrow enough to prove it.

    I also find it unprofessional not to discuss the state of the market, as if there was a mass group of Kevin Drums clamouring for stand alone sci-fi novels and being forced to by series because evil, greedy writers and publishers want to milk every last dime out of readers. Just lazy, click bait journalism from someone with enough experience to know better.

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