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.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 11, 1971 THX 1138 debuted.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY HITCHHIKER

  • 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.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • 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. So is there a particular reason we should consider Kevin Drum’s taste in SF?

    Is there a reason we should disqualify his view from consideration? Any random commenter here can get a hearing. I see no reason why his casual association with SF means he can’t be grist for the mill.

    Some years back I had a similar criteria when I was looking at new SF/F releases at a store like Barnes & Noble. If you rule out anything past book 1 of a series, the pickings get slim in a hurry.

  2. @Dex

    I do not see how only looking back three months for new books is designed to skew the results. As posted earlier in the thread saying that the vast majority of new books are fantasy or series, or both but I guess that would not matter for this discussion, seems to be accurate.

    Also it does not seem to be an article about why the market is that way just that it is. Having all kinds of valid reasons for fantasy and series book dominating the market would not make more stand alone science fiction books that he would like to read suddenly appear.

  3. Re: (1): I can say right now that agencies and publishers LOVE when a newbie author presents them with a book that CAN stand alone (safer if it flops), but has series potential (safer if it sells). So the majority of book 1 type books from new authors and smaller names should be safe.

    Once an author has sold a bunch and has a reputation they tend to be more open to a series with a looser start. Thus, as I understand it, Myke Cole’s first book was pretty standalone even though it had sequels, but his current series starts with a “part one”.

    James Davis Nichol: So by your definition, a closed trilogy/quartet is not a series at all? Or just a small abomination? Are long series made of embedded trilogies or sub-series (a la Cherryh) Mystery mode with slightly longer “books”, or abominations, or some third thing?

  4. @1– Considering just short this piece was, I’m thinking that it was just a throw-away to fulfill some word count rather than an actual well-thought-out one.
    For my own curiosity, I looked at the March new books lists on Tor.com. io9/Gizmodo; B&N.com and unboundworlds.com–basically the first four links that came up on Google. Using his ‘criteria’, I can see how he reached his conclusion–heck, I feel the same way looking at such lists at times. Discount the fantasy and those linked to a series or even sounding like they’re part of one and the pickings are slim.

    I do get that you can be over-whelmed by all the choices and if you’re checking out multiple sources, you’re just going to see a lot of the same titles over and over until your mind shuts down.
    That’s one reason I prefer sites like File770–people will suggest things they like or give a reason why not. I’ve gotten a lot of good recommendations for books I might have missed along with giving some a try that just didn’t do it for me.
    Or maybe his politics kept him out of some of them–reading the comments was a hoot. I especially liked the one who, after making the point that Mack Reynolds was a Red Diaper Baby whose work was slanted to a post-capitalism bent, ‘wondered’ why there are no current editions of his work available. And the ones who refused to read any space operas because ‘FTL is a fantasy”.

  5. @Magewolf

    I do not see how only looking back three months for new books is designed to skew the results. As posted earlier in the thread saying that the vast majority of new books are fantasy or series, or both but I guess that would not matter for this discussion, seems to be accurate.

    Because a shortened window is by nature designed to limit the number of works that are going to be put out. The smaller the sample size, the less accurate in terms of representation it is. By making it a tiny window, he was certain to get only a few results, which underlines his original statement without bothering to look at the larger context. He also fails to articulate where he went browsing for new books. It’s an anecdotal piece being presented as evidence supporting his statement, which it is not.

    Also it does not seem to be an article about why the market is that way just that it is. Having all kinds of valid reasons for fantasy and series book dominating the market would not make more stand alone science fiction books that he would like to read suddenly appear.

    It is an article about the current market in terms of books available over the last three months. So, yes, it is about the market. And what he’s clearly trying to do is suggest that for readers like him, the market is failing to deliver, without contextualizing what the current market is and where the books he wants exist as a percentage of the sales of that market. He’s making broad, anecdotal statements about the market as fact when he’s failed to provide evidence to support his position, which breaks down to ‘I looked over some stuff and bought a book I don’t like’.

    If he was a random internet critic, it wouldn’t matter. But Drum is a well trained, experienced journalist whose expertise was statistical analysis. He doesn’t have an excuse for lazy content like this.

  6. Because a shortened window is by nature designed to limit the number of works that are going to be put out. The smaller the sample size, the less accurate in terms of representation it is.

    He looked at 3 months and found 4-5 books in his criteria. If he had looked back 6 months and found 8-10 books would his point have been any different?

    I like when people talk SF/F who aren’t expected to talk SF/F. He’s now got a postscript up about how he read the Broken Earth series and Three-Body Problem and 182 comments and counting on that post. It seems like a net positive for him to be exposing Mother Jones readers to the subject, even if some people didn’t like his perception that there isn’t SF for him any more.

  7. For some reason, I find Sturgeon’s Law playing through my brain. I mean, if there were 10 standalone SF novels published in the last n months, then you should only expect to see around one good one in that batch. No?

    In general, I think I side with JDN on “series” vs. “abomination”, but Lenore Rose raises some interesting questions. I think a trilogy is a reasonable way to split a longer story, so I personally exempt them, and once you’ve done that, a series of trilogies becomes a fairly reasonable approach. So, yes, I’d call Foreigner a series. It’s possible to go a bit beyond the trilogy without collapsing under the weight of your never-ending story, especially if the individual volumes are short (see, e.g. Amber), but exceptions to the general rule are rare in my experience.

  8. @rcade

    He looked at 3 months and found 4-5 books in his criteria. If he had looked back 6 months and found 8-10 books would his point have been any different?

    It would have been a slightly more credible statement. As someone who has worked in statistics like himself, he knows that small, unspecified sample sizes are not representative of anything, because they are so volatile. In doing so, he’s using his reasonably large platform to assert that there aren’t sci-fi books for people with his tastes based on the ‘data’ he collected.

    To use another example, it would be if an alt-right dingus wanted to claim that black directors aren’t under represented in Hollywood by looking at the movies that have debuted in the last month. It would be different if Drum said ‘I feel this is the case’ or ‘it seems to me that finding X is harder than it used to be’, etc. But his headline is presented as a true statement, as opposed to opinion.

  9. @Dex: It also would have helped provide some context if he had mentioned what kind of SF he likes, and why he didn’t like the book that he picked up.

  10. @PhilRM

    @Dex: It also would have helped provide some context if he had mentioned what kind of SF he likes, and why he didn’t like the book that he picked up.

    Well, there’s a lot of things that would help in terms of understanding his interest and knowledge in the genre. Or engaging in a more nuanced conversation. But my feel was that this was simply a lazy, fill some inches bit of clickbait and both MJ and Drum are supposed to be above churning those out for views.

    Considering his only criteria was ‘stand alone sci-fi’ (and a fuzzy application of what is and isn’t fantasy), I expect him to provide at least a properly defensible analysis for asserting his viewpoint as fact if the article is supposed to be taken seriously.

  11. James Davis Nichol: So by your definition, a closed trilogy/quartet is not a series at all? Or just a small abomination? Are long series made of embedded trilogies or sub-series (a la Cherryh) Mystery mode with slightly longer “books”, or abominations, or some third thing?

    Nicoll, not Nichol.

    I’ve adopted a moderate position on this, which is that if the book is incomplete, it is an abomination. Sure, it could be part of a closed trilogy but unless all three are in print I cannot be sure it won’t be turned into an opened ended series.

    (this is why I own Cyteen as a HC and not the three book series. Although cost played a role as well: 3 x cost of paperback was close to 1 x cost of HC)

  12. Not so much about Drum’s reading preferences as about series (for the range of meanings of that term) in SF/F: I have to think about the issue of series vs. freestanding books (and, by implication, established vs. new writers) in my review reading, and (not to toot my own horn–well, not loudly anyway) my 2017 year-in-review essay mumbles a few thoughts about the matter. It’s been posted on the Locusmag site.

    It’s worth considering that series product–whether in the serial-narrative, template-series, or common-background/cast sense–has been a feature of popular and commercial entertainment for a very long time: Robin Hood ballads, Arthurian romance, Sherlock Holmes, Hopalong Cassidy, the Continental Op. . . .

  13. Matt Y: Elysium Fire by [Alastair] Reynolds

    This is actually (loosely) part of his Revelation Space universe and a sequel to The Prefect, which I didn’t realize when I picked it up. I did Google a couple of in-universe terms at the Revelation Space Wiki to better understand the worldbuilding behind them, but honestly, I thought the book stood well on its own (though I intend to go back and read The Prefect at some point).

  14. The Prefect is a terrific read. I think it was my first Reynolds novel.

  15. Andrew: 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.

    I agree absolutely with your rot13ed assessment. I thought it was odd that the author didn’t go with that; perhaps he didn’t feel that would have made the story techno-thrillery enough.

    I can’t really put my finger on why, but although I really enjoyed that novel and the Superposition duology, there was something about them which didn’t quite trigger an “OMG, this book is absolutely amazing!” response.

  16. Mark-kitteh and Chip Hitchcock, I agree with both of your criitcisms of the Themis Files books by Sylvain Neuvel. I enjoyed them, but a little bit of that format goes a long way, and the plotting and execution were what I considered good, but not great. There is very definitely a high level of willing suspension of disbelief required in order to enjoy them.

  17. @JJ

    Now that I think about it, Sleeping Giants is a good example of a #1 in series that I was happy to have tried but just didn’t want to carry on with, and gave me a reasonably coherent story so that I was happy with the stopping point.

  18. 1) Oh look, it’s another round of “science fiction is dying” with a side order of “and fantasy fiction is one of its killers.” (Rolling eyes with a side order of irritated head shake.)

    If I want a standalone recommendation, it’s not going to be from this Drum guy because anyone who confuses interesting storytelling with format is unlikely to overlap with any of my interests.

    There are two big seasons in fiction publishing — spring/autumn and autumn/spring. We’re just entering the first now with an explosion of launches. But even in the quieter winter/summer season, I find it highly unlikely the guy found only four standalone SF novels. He must have to throw out an awful lot of classic SF work as well, since a lot of those were series. But I’m sure SF will not terribly miss him.

  19. KatG: I find it highly unlikely the guy found only four standalone SF novels.

    I think it’s more that the list he was using was not not a good source, and that’s all it had. But since he hasn’t specified the source, there is no way to tell.

    I agree with others who have noticed how short and incredibly content-free that post is — both for him and for Mother Jones — and I think that he must have turned it in as a quick-and-dirty way to meet some contractural requirement because he was unable to do a better piece, due to his current situational constraints (time or otherwise).

    Like Mark-kitteh, I appreciate first books which are self-contained enough that I will feel like I got a whole story, even if I decide that I don’t wish to continue reading the series.

  20. James Davis Nicoll: Then there’s the Game of When the Fuck Will This End / Wheel of Dear God Another One

    Oh, bravo! You have said what I’ve been feeling, only ever so more articulately. 😀

  21. @JJ: I agree that the desire to stay close to the technothriller schema is probably responsible for the ending of the book; it would be jarring for readers expecting something technothrillerish if a story like “The Genius Plague” that started with a strong grounding in today’s world ended up in the profoundly different place that the story seemed to be going towards.

  22. James Davis Nicoll: Then there’s the Game of When the Fuck Will This End / Wheel of Dear God Another One

    Oh, bravo! You have said what I’ve been feeling, only ever so more articulately. ?

    Ditto.

  23. Oh, and I just finished Into the Fire (Moon), aka Kylara Vatta #2.2 (1.1-1.5 were “Vatta’s War”; 2.1-2.2 are “Vatta’s Peace”, but that’s a misnomer). No ambiguity here at all — pretty much everyone is either a hero, a villain, a villain’s tagalong, or a fool politician — but I still found it an mostly-engrossing read that ended satisfactorily rather than leave major threads hanging. (I don’t find indications that there will be more books, but I don’t know whether Moon discusses anything beyond the immediate future (e.g., the countdown clock for the release of the latest book).) “Mostly” because there were a couple of places where A really should have told B and C something, or where I asked “Jul abg hfr gur frevbhf ornz jrncba jr’ir nyernql orra fubja, vafgrnq bs jnvgvat sbe gur vainqref gb ynaq?” One interesting note: the cover, which is clearly Vatta in a late-in-the-story dress uniform, shows someone who is definitely not NW-European; I don’t see this pointed either toward or away from in the books, and I don’t think it’s intended to be a hypothetical far future where everyone is randomly mixed (this book has a passing reference to a piece of classical music written on Earth “a couple of hundred years ago”), but it may serve to piss off any Puppies who weren’t already croggling at the thought of a woman (one of at least three in her family) in complete command and is a step against default whiteness on covers.

  24. But my feel was that this was simply a lazy, fill some inches bit of clickbait …

    I question that conclusion.

    Kevin Drum isn’t a clickbait kind of writer. He’s been blogging 15 years and is more of a policy wonk than somebody who sensationalizes things for attention and traffic. He’s been at Mother Jones for 10 years, the last 4 since announcing his multiple myeloma diagnosis. I can’t recall any time I read his blog and thought he was selling out for hits.

  25. @rcade: OK, I’ll spell it out. Does Drum have any form as a vaguely-accurate commenter on SF? It’s true that anyone can come here and comment (and get ripped to shreds if they come up with something not much lamer than his squib); my question was whether we should do more than ignore him as another ignorant semi-mundane. (Yes, he says he reads SF (but “not as much”); the evidence is that he reads very little.) I did neglect to point out that this is hardly a new complaint; I remember Silverberg grumbling about “Book N of the X Series” in his Philcon GoH speech (which was no later than 1992 (and possibly earlier) as I started having a schedule conflict in 1993). Given how much Silverberg had milked Majipoor by then, he was not in the best position to throw stones.

  26. Chip Hitchcock: I just finished Into the Fire (Moon), aka Kylara Vatta #2.2

    I just finished that last night as well. I really enjoyed it — tore through it — and thought that it was a worthy follow-up to Cold Welcome, although it did have a few issues such as you describe.

     
    Chip Hitchcock: I don’t find indications that there will be more books, but I don’t know whether Moon discusses anything beyond the immediate future

    Based on the Acknowledgments, Moon had major struggles (health and/or other) which made finishing this book difficult. It makes me concerned, both for her personally and that there may not be any more Vatta Books.

     
    Chip Hitchcock: the cover, which is clearly Vatta in a late-in-the-story dress uniform, shows someone who is definitely not NW-European; I don’t see this pointed either toward or away from in the books

    I read the entire 5-book Vatta’s War series last year, and it is stated very clearly early on that she has brown skin. One of the covers for Cold Welcome is a companion to the cover for Into the Fire.

    (The Kylara Vatta series is one of my Hugo Best Series nominations this year.)

  27. @rcade

    I question that conclusion.

    Kevin Drum isn’t a clickbait kind of writer. He’s been blogging 15 years and is more of a policy wonk than somebody who sensationalizes things for attention and traffic. He’s been at Mother Jones for 10 years, the last 4 since announcing his multiple myeloma diagnosis. I can’t recall any time I read his blog and thought he was selling out for hits.

    Which, as I pointed out, is why I’m taking issue with this, because it is out of character. This is a bad, misleading, poorly sourced article. There’s no gilding that makes it better. So why? Especially on market research. He’s never been this desultory in his normal work. If you have a better explanation, I’d love to hear it but I’m at a lack.

  28. @JJ: As before, thanks for your novel mini-reviews. Artemis was great, and The Genius Plague was already on my list; the sample I read of “D.O.D.O.” was a little annoying, though (I forget why), so it’s not on my list. Have you read David Walton’s fantasy novel, Quintessence? (I just know the description and that it caught my eye a while back, but haven’t read a sample or anything.) [ETA: Just asking since it sounds like you enjoyed his SF work, though IIRC you’re more an SF person than fantasy (exceptions noted).]

    @JJ & @Mark (kitteh): In re. Neuvel’s books-as-transcript stuff, I’ve read praise, but the format makes me wonder. I’m glad JJ reviewed it and Mark commented; I don’t know if it’ll work for me, but then, I didn’t second person would, and I loved “The Broken Earth” by Jemisin, so 😉 clearly I can be way wrong about what’ll work for me.

    @Cassy B: I missed the joke, too. Thanks for asking about it, and thanks to @James Moar & @Niall McAuley for clearing it up!

    @Kip W: “Poe, a flyer, a fleet male flyer . . .” – LOL! If you’re repeating, methinks I missed it the first time.

  29. Is there an SF analog to magical realism? Is there a term like “nano-realism” or something?

    #NeedSleep

  30. Curious why an anti-Smashwords blog post from 2016 is included now.
    It does have some more recent January comments but….?

  31. I read Kevin’s post, and the comments, and saw that nobody had mentioned the Tor.com original novella program. So I did, with a link and some specific faves of mine. Whatever one’s taste in sf, fantasy, horror, weird fiction, or anything in the general neighborhood, it is a Good Thing to check out the Tor novellas. So much good work there.

    Also, I want a cookie for not telling Kevin that it’s not that A Wrinkle In Time is a bad book but that he’s a bad reader. 🙂

  32. I don’t wish Drum his illness, but there is no way to “properly source” and research this article because it isn’t an article — it’s a myth. Science fiction has been claimed to be ruined and dying for over eighty years, since practically when the term for the type of fiction was established, including according to many of its own authors and occasionally publishers, throwing hissy fits. All my life there have been these whining wake services for the “death of SF as we know it” nonsense (and it’s started to spill over into fantasy in various forms, which is annoying too.) I don’t know what it is about SF fandom that so many of its proponents are both deeply controlling and despairing about the field and their own personal preferences, which are apparently terribly, terribly important to the future of SF. When mostly they’re just too lazy to search in a very big field for the picky set of preferences they require.

    Drum may be too ill to do that instead, but then why make the vague complaint in the first place? I don’t think it’s filler or click-bait; it’s just a very satisfying myth for some reason that SF is going to the depths of destruction in a hand-basket and there is nothing, nothing to read in it now. Consequently, many people who might try out SF works instead wander off to something else, since numerous SF fans seem so depressed and contemptuous of the entire genre — every single decade titles have been coming out in it.

    As for the “I hate series” preferences that crop up in SF, fantasy, and mystery, well bully for you. Don’t read them then. But could you all stop yapping at the rest of us about it like this is supposed to be a big concern of the field. Because again, it’s every single decade this going on and you might have noticed that the authors still aren’t listening to you about it. And it’s not because the publishers tell them to give them series — it’s because a lot of them like to write series. Multiple series, sometimes really long ones, for decades — Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Le Guin — thousands and thousands of well known writers who wrote open endings in defiance, despite this being a calamity that will supposedly degrade SF like Arnold Schwarzenegger being lowered into a vat of molten steel as the Terminator.

    So that’s my rant back. Nobody has to listen to me either, but sincerely, I am old enough to use the term “broken record” and wow, is it ever one.

  33. KatG, I hoist this duct tape, which was carefully shaved and curved to fit around the spindle hole, in your honor. 🙂

  34. @Bruce Baugh

    Good thinking to mention Tor’s novellas. The shorter formats in general are a pretty great source of standalones and Tor’s line is certainly the most accessible place to get started.

  35. @Meredith

    Except many of the Tor novellas aren’t stand-alones, a fact which is beginning to irk me and make me reluctant to pick up books from that line. I am thinking here of the last two I read, Binti and All Systems Red. I found both inconclusive and unsatisfying as individual works. The latter at least made it clear on the cover that this was part one of a sequence; the former left it as an unpleasant surprise.

  36. Drum may be too ill to do that instead, but then why make the vague complaint in the first place?

    Because he wants more standalone SF novels to read?

  37. Some of Drum’s questions [ETA: about the book A Wrinkle in Time] are answered in the book. I’m not sure he read it very thoroughly, despite claiming to have read it twice to make sure he really didn’t like it.

    [ETA: BTW what’s with someone re-reading something they didn’t like, just to make sure? This seems silly to me.]

    And yes, it is a children’s book; I am not at all surprised an adult reading it for the first time wouldn’t like it or would expect a lot more logical explanations for everything under the sun (not always a hallmark of children’s lit IMHO, and I don’t mean this as a criticism).

  38. @Meredith: Well, @Ambyr beat me to it, but to clarify, I feel like they started with a lot of stand-alones and have shifted to a lot of series. Some are short series, sometimes on purpose, and some may say, more like a novel broken up into parts. I believe they’ve published novels, too, now – not sure if those are stand-alone or series.

    @ambyr: I suspect “Binti” started as a stand-alone with hopes for sequels; I was surprised to see a sequel, at least. And the first does stand alone. At least, alone enough that I didn’t read any of the others (since I didn’t like the first one at all). 😛

  39. I think of “All Systems Red” as a standalone. I’m looking forward to reading more about Murderbot, but the first story reached a point that is a satisfactory ending (in my opinion, anyway).

  40. I actually think there’s a strong positive side to the Drum piece. Namely, that he was surprised at his results. He’s clearly not a regular SF fan–he’s a “mundane” as someone else said–but he has moderately high expectations of the field. The fact that those expectations weren’t met, well, that’s one thing. But he’s an outsider who clearly has high expectations, which is somewhat of a triumph.

    Normally, when the “mundane” press prints a piece about how someone tried an SF work and didn’t like it, they use it as an excuse to condemn the whole field. “I tried this SF book, and it was crap, therefore SF is crap.” Instead, we have someone telling the general public, “I’ve liked some SF in the past, so I went looking for the kind of SF I like, but it was hard to find.” That’s…a big improvement, really.

  41. “Because he wants more standalone SF novels to read?”

    As has already been established, there were considerably more SF standalone novels out there than he claimed for him to read, not to mention the ones published in the last 15-20 years that I’m sure he hasn’t read yet but which are still in print. Which means he looked in one room and gave up. He’s a kid trying to find his socks who is sure that they’ve all been taken because they didn’t magically appear. Which he’s allowed to do for his own personal decisions, but the “I can’t find it so it doesn’t much exist and nobody else wants it” line as cultural analysis is again a myth, one that the media irritatingly continually wastes space on instead of talking about, say, actual existing books.

    So I sincerely hope that his illness is vanquished but I’m gonna have to put this in the old white man stands on lawn shouting at clouds category. It’s tiring when you’ve heard the variations for a couple of decades or more, and yet somehow science fiction does not die, hard SF does not die, standalone SF does not die, etc.

  42. So I sincerely hope that his illness is vanquished but I’m gonna have to put this in the old white man stands on lawn shouting at clouds category.

    I have no problem with you correcting his perception of what’s available today for a reader with his tastes. I get grumpy too when I see people engage in tired “isn’t as good as it used to be” thinking about SF/F.

    But making any of this about his race/age/gender is a bit of a cheap shot. His post states that he recently read N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth, and Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem. Trying to fit him into the same box as the pulp revolution types doesn’t really work. Tell me any reader has read both of those and I’d consider that person pretty modern in taste and not afraid of the diversity of authorship and character the field now offers.

    … not to mention the ones published in the last 15-20 years that I’m sure he hasn’t read yet but which are still in print.

    Of course, but sometimes you want the joy of finding something great while it’s new. I do the same thing Drum does sometimes and limit my new book hunt to recently published SF/F novels.

    P.s. I wonder if he’s a Hugo voter.

  43. Of course, but sometimes you want the joy of finding something great while it’s new.
    Maybe he should actually look, then, instead of putting an immediate limit on what he wants to see. It’s quite possible that he’s missed a lot of new books because he didn’t see them in the first three months they were in print – possibly his source doesn’t carry books from every publisher – or maybe he bypassed them when they were new for reasons of his own.
    It’s on him, though: we can’t make his choices for him.
    And maybe he should look for forthcoming books and pre-order ones that look interesting.

  44. Maybe he should actually look, then, instead of putting an immediate limit on what he wants to see.

    I look on Amazon for recent SF/F releases and don’t go any further than a couple months. I also check out Tor’s upcoming releases blog posts, but it’s crazy long and I end up quitting.

    I used to go to Barnes & Noble and look there too, but since they fired all their full-time workers I’ve been demotivated to return.

    If people have great sources for finding new SF/F releases I’d love to check them out.

  45. rcade: If people have great sources for finding new SF/F releases I’d love to check them out.

    I use the Books by Year list at Worlds Without End. They don’t include a lot of what I would consider the “chaff” in their database, which means that I don’t have to wade through a ton of low-quality works to find the good ones.

  46. I rely so much on recommendations. It turns out that one of the ways to become an actual acquaintance of mine on Twitter, not just someone I follow, is to reliably give recommendations and commentary.

  47. I use Amazon for reviews. I seldom read those with five stars. Instead I check out the average rating, the proportions of the ratings, then read a few with three stars and some with one star to see where the weaknesses lies.

    It works well for me.

  48. How do I find great SFF to read? Honestly… I read the comments here on File770.

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