Pixel Scroll 11/1 Rank Election

(1) If you are fan who drinks, the newly reopened Clifton’s Cafeteria would like to tempt you with these two science fictional libations –

drinks at Cliftons

(2) “Another Word: Chinese Science Fiction and Chinese Reality” by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu, in Clarkesworld, talks about the themes of other Chinese writers after these introductory comments about the domestic reception for his own work.

China is a society undergoing rapid development and transformation, where crises are present along with hopes, and opportunities coexist with challenges. This is a reality reflected in the science fiction produced there.

Chinese readers often interpret science fiction in unexpected ways. Take my Three Body series as an example. The alien-invasion story takes as its premise a “worst-case” scenario for relationships among members of the cosmic society of civilizations, which is called the “Dark Forest” state. In this state, different starfaring civilizations have no choice but to attempt to annihilate each other at the first opportunity.

After publication, the novels became surprisingly popular among those working in China’s Internet industry. They saw the “Dark Forest” state portrayed in the novels as an accurate reflection of the state of brutal competition among China’s Internet companies….

Authors (myself included) are often befuddled by such interpretations.

(3) From “’Star Wars’: Their First Time” in the New York Times.

Ridley Scott: I had done a film called “The Duellists” and was in Los Angeles to shoot at Paramount, and I honestly think Paramount had forgotten. I remember saying, I’m Ridley Scott, and they said who? So David Puttnam, one of the greatest producers I’ve ever worked with and the most fun, said, “Screw them, let’s go see [“Star Wars”] at the Chinese [theater].” It was the first week. I’ve never known audience participation like it, absolutely rocking. I felt my “Duellist” was this big [holds thumb and forefinger an inch apart], and George had done that [stretches arms out wide]. I was so inspired I wanted to shoot myself. My biggest compliment can be [to get] green with envy and really bad-tempered. That damn George, son of a bitch. I’m very competitive.

(4) Andrew Porter was interviewed, complete with photo, for “Longtime Brooklynites Reflect on a Changing Brooklyn” on Brownstoner.com:

Now you can put a face to me and my non SFnal opinions about recent changes in Brooklyn Heights, where I’ve lived for 47 years.

I’m sure you’ll also appreciate the comments, one of which accuses me of hating Brits!

(Daveinbedstuy accuses – “Andrew Porter sounds cranky; as he usually does on BHB. I wonder what he has against ‘Brits.’ And bringing up ‘granite countertops’ Really????????”)

(5) Jim C. Hines on Facebook:

I HAVE WRITTEN THE FIRST 22 WORDS OF MY NANOWRIMO NOVEL!

The NaNo word counter says at this rate, I’ll finish by January 20, 2022.

I suppose I should probably keep writing, eh?

(6) “Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910” is on exhibit through February 26, 2017 in the newly renovated Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery of the National Museum of American History.

Travel with us to the surface of the moon, the center of the earth, and the depths of the ocean – to the fantastic worlds of fiction inspired by 19th century discovery and invention.

New frontiers of science were emerging. We took to the air, charted remote corners of the earth, and harnessed the power of steam and electricity. We began unlocking the secrets of the natural world. The growing literate middle class gave science a new and avid public audience. Writers explored the farther reaches of the new scientific landscape to craft hoaxes, satires and fictional tales.

Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910 is accompanied by an online exhibit.

(7) Francis Hamit, a novelist and film producer who is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, has published A Perfect Spy, a memoir about his first two years at the University of Iowa when he was a dual major in Drama and Business. While he narrates the ongoing dramatic social changes that were transforming society and the university in 1965 and 1966, he also covers the impact of the sexual revolution, the sudden rise of a drug culture, and the beginnings of the anti-war movement at the University of Iowa, from a first-person perspective.

“I saw the first draft card burnt,” Hamit says; “And I would see the last anti-war riot there several years later. I was also very disturbed by the rise of all kinds of drug use in and around Iowa City. Unlike almost everyone else I knew, I did not think this ‘cool’. I saw people ruining thier lives by refusing to tell the police who’d sold them the drugs: facing years in prison. I offered to help them find the dealers if they would leave my friends alone. How I did this is narrated in A Perfect Spy, which is a 118-page excerpt from my forthcoming book Out of Step: A Memoir of the Vietnam War Years.

“I was already in place,” Hamit added; “A perfect spy who made no pretenses of approving of recreational drugs. I didn’t do anything with them, but simply watched and listened so I could collect some useful intelligence for the police. At the same time, I became involved with some very interesting women who were part of the Sexual Revolution. That was part of a larger social revolt. None of what happened then can be viewed in isolation, so I’ve just tried to be as truthful as possible while changing a lot of the names of the people to prevent embarrassment.”

A Perfect Spy will be available exclusively at first from November 12, 2015 on Amazon Kindle for $5.00 and can be pre-ordered now. A print edition will be available in March, 2016 with a suggested retail price of $12.00 from most bookstores.

(8) “The artist who visited ‘Dune’ and ‘the most important science fiction art ever created’” – a gallery of Schoenherr at Dangerous Minds.

Frank Herbert said John Schoenherr was “the only man who has ever visited Dune.” Schoenherr (1935-2010) was the artist responsible for visualising and illustrating Herbert’s Dune—firstly in the pages of Analog magazine, then in the fully illustrated edition of the classic science fiction tale. But Herbert didn’t stop there, he later added:

I can envision no more perfect visual representation of my Dune world than John Schoenherr’s careful and accurate illustrations.

High praise indeed, but truly deserved, for as Jeff Love pointed out in Omni Reboot, Schoenherr’s illustrations are “the most important science fiction art ever created.”

(9) Jason Sanford posted a collection of tweets under the heading “The fossilization of science fiction and fantasy literature”. Here are some excerpts.

https://twitter.com/jasonsanford/status/660782118356783104

https://twitter.com/jasonsanford/status/660783781654233088

https://twitter.com/jasonsanford/status/660789856075948034

Although I have friends that do exactly what Sanford complains about, he doesn’t hang with them, read their fanzines, or (I’d wager) even know their names, so I’m kind of curious whose comments sparked off this rant.

Personally, I’m prone to recommend Connie Willis or Lois McMaster Bujold if I’m trying to interest someone in sf – though both have been around over 25 years and aren’t spring chickens anymore either.

People recommend what they know and esteem. It’s perfectly fine to argue whether recommendations will win fans to the genre, but it seems petty to act as if pushing “classic” choices is a war crime.

(10) John Scalzi was more or less content with Sanford’s line of thought, and responded with “No, the Kids Aren’t Reading the Classics and Why Would They”.

Writer Jason Sanford kicked a small hornet’s nest earlier today when he discussed “the fossilization of science fiction,” as he called it, and noted that today’s kids who are getting into science fiction are doing it without “Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Tolkien.” This is apparently causing a moderate bit of angina in some quarters.

I think Sanford is almost entirely correct (the small quibble being that I suspect Tolkien is still common currency, thanks to recent films and video games), nor does this personally come as any particular shock. I wrote last year about the fact my daughter was notably resistant to Heinlein’s charms, not to mention the charms of other writers who I enjoyed when I was her age… thirty years ago. She has her own set of writers she loves and follows, as she should. As do all the kids her age who read.

The surprise to me is not that today’s kids have their own set of favorite authors, in genre and out of it; the surprise to me is honestly that anyone else is surprised by this.

(11) “The kids” who don’t read the classics are one case, would-be sf writers are another, explains Fynbospress in “Slogging forward, looking back” at Mad Genius Club.

Kris Rusch has also noted how many young writers she’s run into who are completely ignorant of the many, many female authors who’ve been in science fiction and fantasy since the start. Among other reasons, many of their works have gone out of print, and the new writers coming in may not have read the old magazines, or picked up the older, dated-artwork books at the used bookstores. So they really, truly, may not know that their groundbreaking new take has been done to death thirty years before they came on the scene, or that they’re trying to reinvent a wheel that has not only been invented, it’s evolved to all-wheel drive with traction control.

(12) I can’t say that Vivienne Raper is going where no one has gone before in responding to the latest Wired article about the Hugos — “Five reasons why the ‘Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul’ isn’t about ‘white men’”.

[First three of five points.]

There are many reasons why I might be “angered” by previous Hugo winners.  And none of them are anything to do with ‘the increasingly multicultural makeup’ of the awards:

ONE

Science fiction’s most prestigious award‘ for Best Novel was decided in 2014 by fewer than 4,000 voters.

TWO

The Best Short Story for 2014 got onto the ballot with fewer than 43 nominations.

THREE

Popular blogger John Scalzi has won more Hugo Awards (inc. best fan writer) than Isaac Asimov – author of I, Robot – or Arthur C. Clarke. He also has 90K+ Twitter followers.

(13) Jeb Kinnison at Substrate Wars is more analytical and lands more punches in “The Death of ‘Wired’: Hugo Awards Edition”. Here are his closing paragraphs.

The various flavors of Puppies differ, but one thing they’re not is anti-diverse — there are women, people of various colors, gays (like me), religious, atheists, and on and on. The one thing they have in common is that they oppose elevating political correctness above quality of writing, originality, and story in science fiction. Many of the award winners in recent years have been lesser works elevated only because they satisfied a group of progressives who want their science fiction to reflect their desired future of group identity and victim-based politics. For them, it is part of their battle to tear down bad old patriarchy, to bury the old and bring themselves to the forefront of culture (and incidentally make a living being activists in fiction.) These people are often called “Social Justice Warriors” – they shore up their own fragile identities by thinking of themselves as noble warriors for social justice. Amy Wallace places herself with them by portraying the issues as a battle between racist, sexist white men and everyone else.

She then goes on to give some space to Larry Correia, Brad Torgerson, and Vox Day (Ted Beale). While her reporting about them is reasonably truthful, they report that she promised to interview Sarah Hoyt (who ruins the narrative as a female Puppy) but did not do so, and left out material from other interviews that did not support her slant. Tsk!

The piece is very long, but written from a position of assumed moral superiority and elite groupthink, a long fall from classic Wired‘s iconoclastic reporting. It’s sad when a quality brand goes downhill — as a longtime subscriber, I’ve noticed the magazine has grown thinner in the last year as ad revenues declined and competition from upstarts like Fast Company ate into their market. Now they are me-tooing major controversies for clicks. Once you see this dishonesty in reporting, you should never view such sources as reliable again.

(14) Sometimes I suspect AI stands for “artificial ignorance.”

If the programmer of this tweet-generating robot was literate, they could easily discover that the words Portugal and Portuguese are not even mentioned in this U.S. Census definition of “Hispanic or Latino.”

(15) “The Original Star Wars Trilogy Gets An Awesome Force Awakens-Style Trailer” via Geek Tyrant.

I’d warn that there are too many spoilers, except you’ve already seen the original trilogy how many times?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mark-kitteh, Will R., JJ, Trey Palmer, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

McCaffrey’s Fan Letter To John Schoenherr

Analog_1967_10_webAnne McCaffrey’s novella Weyr Search was published in the October 1967 issue of Analog and around the time it was hitting the newsstands she had an opportunity to visit John W. Campbell in his office and see the original Schoenherr illustrations.  She was so captivated by his interpretation of her dragons that she wrote the artist a fan letter, which his son Ian has reproduced on his blog, accompanied by scans of the images.

But man, those are mighty appealing dragons. Particularly, especially, and triumphantly, the one in which Lessa is enclosed in Mnementh’s talons. Oh, that, I die a little over. How HOW did you manage to convey that foolish bronze’s tender regard and lack of menace in black and white, no less. Superb. Honest, I nearly cried in front of John and Miss Tarrant…which at my age would be a little the other side of enough. But the sketch was so much, so very much what I had imagined in my mind for the scene, I’d swear you were a telepath yourself.

The following year Weyr Search became the first story written by a woman to win the Hugo Award.

Porter: How Raccoons Boosted Schoenherr’s Career

By Andrew Porter: According to a Nature program on PBS last evening — Raccoon Nation — when Sterling North’s novel Rascal, about a boy and his raccoon, with cover and interior illustrations by SF artist John Schoenherr, was published, it set off a chain of events which were to lead to ecological disaster in Japan. Made into an anime, thousands of Japanese children implored their parents to buy them a pet raccoon. Pet importers brought them into Japan, where they are not native. When they became mature they were destructive and unmanageable, and they ended up being released into forests across the country.

Raccoons have bred into an enormous population, unchecked by natural predators. Their predilection for roosting in trees has meant they have moved en masse into Japanese temples, where, according to the program, they’ve done more damage in the last few decades than in the previous 700 years, tearing up roofs, destroying timbers and turning centuries-old wooden floors into urine and feces-soaked nests.

From Wikipedia:

North published his most famous work, Rascal, in 1963. The book is a remembrance of a year in his childhood when he raised a baby raccoon which he named Rascal. It received a Newbery Honor in 1964, a Sequoyah Book Award in 1966, and a Young Reader’s Choice Award in 1966. It was made into the Disney movie of the same name in 1969. Additionally, it was made into a 52-episode Japanese anime entitled Araiguma Rasukaru.?Araiguma Rascal means Racoon Rascal. The success of the anime was responsible for the unfortunate introduction of the North American Raccoon into Japan.

The success of Rascal was good news for Schoenherr. The success of the book launched a new career illustrating books, and within several years he ceased to illustrate science fiction.

John Schoenherr (1935-2010)

When I became an avid sf reader in the late 1960s every prozine on the local library shelves was digest-sized and there wasn’t a hint that the case had ever been any different.

Then I met LASFSian Ed Cox and saw his pulp magazine collection, filled with perfectly preserved copies of Thrilling Wonder, the pages inside still looking as white as the day the magazine appeared on the newsstand.

Another friend impressed me even more with the news that my favorite prozine had experimented with a large format during WWII — collectors called them “bedsheet Astoundings” — and had briefly revived the format (as Analog) just a few years before. I found them for sale in used bookstores and soon owned a copy of the most dramatic prozine cover ever, John Schoenherr’s depiction of a sandworm for the March 1965 Analog.

Now the artist has passed away at the age of 74. He died April 8. His son Ian mourned him, saying:

He was a man of many talents and I can’t say what he was best at, but he was, among countless other things, a great artist, a great husband to my mother for almost 50 years, and a great dad to my sister and me.

For science fiction fans the physical passing of John Schoenherr will represent perhaps the third time we’ve mourned his loss, because of the times he’s left the sf magazine field. The first came in the late 1960s when he stopped doing covers for Analog. John W. Campbell said in a 1967 letter: “We’re losing him now; we can’t match Reader’s Digest’s $3000 offers — nor the book illustration rates the big publishing houses give him. The man is good.”

However, following Campbell’s death in 1971, Ben Bova became editor of Analog and Schoenherr resumed working for the magazine. He produced 22 more covers in the next six years. That association ended again when Bova moved to Omni. Also, around that time Schoenherr began to focus on wildlife painting.

He would win a Caldecott Medal in 1988 for his work in Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon.

Schoenherr’s death has prompted some fans to wonder why an artist whose sf work was so esteemed practically never won awards and was never Worldcon guest of honor. John W. Campbell, in that same 1967 letter, bluntly answered: “Jack Schoenherr, probably the best artist science fiction ever had, got one Hugo once. He never attended a convention, never did any artwork for the fan magazines, never made personal friends.”

He did not court fandom, which may be all the answer needed. But he did make personal friends elsewhere as Carl Zimmer testifies in his reminiscence for Discover: “Everyone always joked that Jack was a great bear. It wasn’t just his ursine cast that earned him that name; it was also his combination of grouchiness and loyalty.”