Pixel Scroll 8/6/17 Surely You’re Scrolling, Mr. Fileman

(1) ANOTHER MASTERPIECE OF CONRUNNING. Mothership says Akiba Town, held this weekend in Singapore and which markets itself as a “Japanese culture event bringing in official anime merchandise along with fan artists and guest cosplayers” — was a mess: “S’pore-organised cosplay event riddled with multiple problems, slammed by cosplay community”. It changed venues a week before the event, allowed stolen artwork to be sold as official merchandise, oversold vendor space, and the list goes on….

(2) A STELLAR GATHERING IN SCANDINAVIA. Sff authors and editors outside The English Bookshop, Uppsala, Sweden:

Front: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Amal el-Mohtar, Likhain, Ann Leckie, Jo Walton, Fran Wilde, Vivian Shaw, Arkady Martine (Dr. AnnaLinden Weller), Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

Back: Amanda Downum, Max Gladstone, Ada Palmer, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch.

(3) CANADA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY BUGS SOME PEOPLE. It’s one thing to have bats in your belfry – quite another to have a giant spider: “Ottawa archbishop surprised by negative reaction to robotic spider on cathedral”.

The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theater company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa July 27-30 as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.

The spectacle of robots, music and other special effects drew tens of thousands to Ottawa’s downtown.

The show opened July 27 in the evening, with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.

“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.

…Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he was surprised by the negative reaction to an artistic initiative after critics called the spider’s placement “sacrilegious,” “demonic,” and “disrespectful” of a sacred space.

“My cathedral staff and I anticipated that some … might object, but thought it would be minimal, as nothing demeaning was intended in the spider being near the church,” said the archbishop in an email interview with Canadian Catholic News.

“I regret that we had not sufficiently understood that others would see this event so differently. I say to those who were shocked that I understand that this would have been upsetting for them and that I regret that a well-intentioned effort to cooperate in a celebration was anything but that for them.”

(4) MY NAME IS…JACK. A nine-year-old “guardian of the galaxy” has applied to NASA for the Planetary Protection Officer job which was discussed here the other day.

(5) SUMMERTIME. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler says a Fritz Leiber story is the saving grace in a stinker issue of IF — “[August 6, 1962] Bookkends (September 1962 IF Worlds of Science Fiction)”.

So in this languorous time, about the only consistent pasttime I can enjoy, aside from my records, is the ever-growing pile of stf (scientifiction, natch) magazines.  One of the ones I look forward to is IF, which, if it is not always stellar, usually has a few items of interest.  This month, the September 1962 issue has a lot of lousy stories, and editor Pohl cunningly placed the best one in front so as to dull the impact of the sub-par stuff that follows.  But the last tale is a fine reprise of the first, quality-wise.  See if you agree:

A famous author and actor, Leiber’s works often approach sublimity.  This is one of them, combining both beautiful prose and cutting edge science fiction….

(6) A TO Z. When yesterday’s Scroll said a website had picked an sf author for every letter of the alphabet – all male — Karl-Johan Norén immediately set about balancing the books with his own alphabetical list of 26 influential sf authors – all women:

A Eleanor Arnason

B Leigh Brackett

C C. J. Cherryh

D Pamela Dean

E Carol Emshwiller

F C.S. Friedman

G Mary Gentle

H Nalo Hopkinson

I Jean Ingelow

J Shirley Jackson

K Katharine Kerr

L Megan Lindholm

M Judith Merrill

N Andre Norton

O Octavia Butler

P Meredith Ann Pierce

Q Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

R Joanna Russ

S Mary Shelley

T James Tiptree, jr.

U Ursula K Le Guin

V Joan Vinge

W Kate Wilhelm

X Xia Jia

Y Jane Yolen

Z Marion Zimmer Bradley

(7) DISABLED HAVE GRIEVANCE WITH A LONDON COMICON. The Guardian reports “Young adult literature convention under fire over disabled facilities”.

Authors who appeared at the YALC young adult literature convention over the weekend, including Alex Wheatle and Joanne Harris, have spoken out about what they feel was a lack of disabled facilities at the event. Their complaints centre on the sequestering of one of two disabled toilets for the use of celebrities attending the associated Comicon festival on a lower floor.

Organisers of the event, tied to the London Film and Comic Convention (Comicon) at Olympia in London, were accused by one visitor of “ablism” after wheelchair users ended up squeezing into busy lifts and negotiating crowds to reach accessible toilets on the Comicon floor.

Actor and playwright Athena Stevens, who has cerebral palsy, described organiser Showmasters’ decision to rope off one of the facilities for famous figures attending Comicon – including Benedict Cumberbatch – as “ablist”….

Disabled charity Scope said that defining “reasonable” provision of toilet facilities was a grey area under the Disability Discrimination Act, but it did seem that Showmasters had shown a disregard for their disabled attendees over access to them.

Showmasters, however, denied claims that accessible facilities were unavailable on the same floor as the literary festival, which attracted 40,000 visitors, but acknowledged problems on Saturday. “There were two disabled toilets on that floor, and one was behind the green room wall,” he said. Overcrowding at lunchtime on Saturday had meant that wheelchair users were forced to use facilities on another floor, a spokesman conceded, but not for the whole weekend. Showrunners will consult disabled people to ensure there was no repetition of the problem, he added.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 6, 1996 A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is released.
  • August 6, 2003 — Asteroids renamed to honor final Shuttle Columbia crew

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born August 6, 1934 — Piers Anthony
  • Born August 6, 1970 – Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan

(10) OH, SWEET SUMMER CHILD. Where’s the prestige in writing cheap books? The Guardian listens as “Philip Pullman leads writers condemning ‘pernicious’ book discounts”.

With more than two months to go before Philip Pullman’s long-awaited new novel from the world of His Dark Materials is published, pre-orders have sent La Belle Sauvage flying up bestseller lists. But with booksellers already slashing the cover price in half, the award-winning author has spoken out about how cheap books devalue the experience of reading, and called for an end to the “pernicious” doctrine of “market fundamentalism” if literary culture is to survive.

Pullman is president of the Society of Authors, which is launching a campaign for publishers to stop damaging authors’ earnings by discounting bulk sales to book clubs and supermarkets, and has slammed the cut-price culture in his trade.

“I don’t like it when I see my books sold cheaply,” Pullman said. “But I’d like to think I’m speaking on behalf of all authors who are caught in this trap. It’s easy to think that readers gain a great deal by being able to buy books cheaply. But if a price is unrealistically cheap, it can damage the author’s reputation (or brand, as we say now), and lead to the impression that books are a cheap commodity and reading is an experience that’s not worth very much.”

(11) A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE. “That’s one small step for Tallinn…”: driverless bus service gets through first three days with “no major incidents”: “‘No major incidents’ as driverless buses launch in Estonia”

A pair of vehicles are operating on a route through the city as part of the Baltic state’s presidency of the European Union, and have so far managed not to collide with any other road users, national broadcaster ERR reports.

But there have been a number of near misses since the launch on Saturday, ERR says. An eyewitness reports that one of the buses failed to give way to a police car with its lights flashing on Monday; while an ERR photographer saw a bus ignore a red light at a pedestrian crossing, ploughing on regardless of the “surprise” it had provoked.

Despite no-one driving, local traffic law means that there still has to be a responsible person on board, meaning that all passengers are greeted by a host. They’ve been tasked with explaining the technology to passengers new to the world of autonomous vehicles, ERR says.

(12) AVOID BEING A STARVING ARTIST. Brad R. Torgersen’s seven items of writing advice in “Random crumbly bits of author stuff” end with —

7) So don’t quit your damned day job. Seriously. Do. Not. Quit. Your. Day. Job. It sucks trying to write full-time and work full-time. It sucks more not paying bills and being forced out of your house or your apartment. It sucks even more depending on the good will of your relatives, or your church, or government programs. If I had $10 for every embarrassed pauper author who proudly proclaimed, “I am a full-time writer, so fuck you,” and then (s)he went back to begging for lunch money, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Starving artistry is not a holy calling. Really, it’s not. I know I am gonna get burned at the stake for saying it. But seriously, do not check out of the “mundane” work force. Not unless you’ve got a metric ton of dough in the bank, or you’ve got a spouse who eagerly volunteers to carry the mundane load — while you labor at the desk in the attic. But if you’ve got responsibilities to meet, and mouths to feed, please, meet them and feed them. As Steven Barnes said at Norwescon ’07, suffering for your art may be noble, but making your family suffer for your art, just means you’re an asshole.

(13) INHUMANS. In this“Marvel’s Inhumans” clip, Maximus and Medusa face off.

(14) YOUTUBE ARCHEOLOGY. Today I discovered there’s a whole subgenre of YouTube videos which take the musical intros to famous TV series and swap in visuals from Star Trek. I admire the effort, although they’re rarely funny. I found this one from 2008 to be somewhat amusing — it starts with the advantage that the original A-Team intro included a lot of self-referential humor.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman. John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat

Steve Brust opened last weekend’s Fourth Street Fantasy convention in Minneapolis with a short speech that used the term “safe space” to make an impact – and succeeded, for better or worse. He upset a number of hearers and ignited a controversy that has played out on Facebook and several blogs in the past two days.

Steven Brust posted his text: “My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention”

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is not a safe space. On the contrary, it is a very unsafe space. Of course, it ought to be safe in the sense of everyone feeling physically safe, and in the sense that there should be no unwanted harassment, and it should be free of personal attacks of any kind. But other than that, it is not safe.

Your beliefs about writing, and my beliefs about writing, and what is good, and how to make it good, should be sufficiently challenged to make us uncomfortable.

The interaction of art and politics is getting more and more in our faces. Whether this is good or bad is beside the point (although I think it’s good); it reflects changing social conditions, intensification of conflicts. Anyone who thinks art is independent of social conditions is as hopelessly muddled as someone who thinks there is a direct, simplistic 1:1 correspondence between them.

The result of this is that political understanding, unexamined assumptions, agendas, are very much present in the art we create and thus in the discussions of that art.

If no one feels unsafe, or unthreatened during these discussions, we’re doing them wrong. The same is true in discussing technique, because technique, content, form, attitude toward the creation and role of art, and understanding of society, are all interconnected, and in challenging one, we are liable to find ourselves challenging another….

Scott Lynch delivered the Fourth Street Fantasy board’s closing statement, which was perceived to be, in part, a response to Brust:

We, the board of the 4th Street Fantasy Convention exist to facilitate energetic and even challenging conversation. We want to provide spaces to do so, in both a moderated and unmoderated fashion. At 4th Street, the conversation is intended to spread from our shared spaces to more private spaces where attendees may consent to discuss, discourse, blather or argue about anything on any terms they desire.

We do not prescribe a mindset or an approach for attending 4th Street. We do not demand that anyone be made to endure anything against their will. We want to provide a space in which everyone feels welcome, and everyone respects the welcome we desire to extend. What we do here can be hard, it can be frightening, it can be exhausting. We want to support you in doing it. We want you to know that we take your needs, your comfort, and your sense of safety very seriously. As a friend of the convention said this weekend, “It is difficult to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t feel fundamentally welcome.” We are here to listen to you, we are here to have your backs, and we are doing our damnedest to kindle that fundamental sense of welcome, to sustain it, and to make it grow, in this year and every year to come.

Lydy Nickerson articulated her negative response to Brust’s opening speech in “The Rules: A Memo for Every Man in My Life”. (Click to see the complete post. There are substantial comments there, too.)

At Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, this year, Steven Brust, from the dais, delivered a speech about safety and free speech that made me so angry I had to leave the room. Since then, various people have talked about the issues of safety, harassment, and free speech, often as a response to that situation, but sometimes as a continuation of other conversations. I have some very specific issues with the things Steven said, but I don’t want to write about them at this moment. Instead, I want to address something that comes up over and over in these conversations, and always from men. “What are the rules?” “How can I know how to behave if you won’t clarify what you want?”

Dear men, please do not ask me to provide to you something that I have never had. I cannot provide you the rules. I do not know what they are, and I never have. I have spent my entire life, my personal, professional, educational, social, and romantic life, navigating the complexities of human interaction without rules. There has never been a point at which my exact decibel level was approved, the exact number of square inches of skin I can expose has been acceptable, a precise hairstyle I could wear that would clearly communicate who and what I was. I have spent my entire life being judged by a set of shifting rules.

I have spent my entire life being lied to about what those rules were. If I talk too softly, no one listens, but if I speak more loudly, I am bitchy and dismissed. If I am clear and logical, I am mocked for inadequately mimicking maleness, but if I am emotional, I am mocked for being too feminine and not worth paying attention to. There is no level of dress that does not open me up to either being a prude or a slut.

The penalties for transgressing these ever-shifting “rules” vary. Sometimes, it’s just being unpersoned. Sometimes it is getting a bad job-performance review. Sometimes, it’s unwanted and uncomfortable conversations. Always, at the back of my mind, has been the knowledge that if I girl wrong at the wrong guy, I might be physically assaulted. And if that were to happen, my entire girl-ness would then be on trial. What was I wearing? What did I say? How did I say it? Was it my fault? Oh, yes, some percentage of the population will assert, it was totally my fault. Because I didn’t follow a rule that, you know, doesn’t actually apply all the time, isn’t written down, is entirely contextual, and nobody every told me in the first place.

Rules are a luxury that I have never had. The only way rules have ever applied to me is as a stick to beat me with. They are a shifting landscape of horror. I don’t know if all-male spaces have clear, comfortable rules that everybody knows and the penalties are clear. I rather doubt it, but I don’t know. What I do know is that to be a woman in this culture is to be constantly moving through a space where expectations are variable, and are rigidly enforced on a whim, and can dramatically affect my life.

When we talk about harassment, safety, and safe spaces, stop asking me for rules. You never gave me any, and so I have none to give you. All I can offer you is this shifting, difficult, dangerous, ambiguous space that I live in. If you want to be an ally, if, indeed, you want to be my friend, you must learn to inhabit this uncomfortable space with me. You must accept that there aren’t clear rules where you can know that you are right….

Will Shetterly defended Brust’s use of language: “Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical–a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle”.

The people who’re upset by Steve’s talk are unable to see that his opening lines are metaphorical:

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is not a safe space. On the contrary, it is a very unsafe space.

And they’re unable to see that his third line is literal:

Of course, it ought to be safe in the sense of everyone feeling physically safe, and in the sense that there should be no unwanted harassment, and it should be free of personal attacks of any kind.

If you think about his statement logically, there’s no reason to interpret the first two lines as saying he wants 4th Street to be a place that’s physically unsafe, and there’s every reason to think his third line means exactly what it says. But humans aren’t logical. To people who think of safe spaces as sacred spaces, any questioning of the idea is taboo. At least one of Steve’s critics insists they do understand metaphor. But if that’s true, why are they upset?

Steve Brust wrote a follow-up on his blog, the end of which reads:

Evidently I was wrong. And, while one can always blame the reader for failing to understand, when enough readers get it wrong, one begins to side-eye the writer.

So let me state clearly and for the record I do not support that kind of atmosphere, I do not want that kind of convention, and I deeply apologize for any pain or fear that was caused by anyone thinking I did mean that.  My fault, not yours.

ETA: It’s worth pointing out that it isn’t just a matter of reading, but that this was a speech, not presented as text, and a speech that, moreover, I deliberately opened with a shocker.  This makes more reasonable the number of people who went past the “physically safe” and “no harassment” parts.  Again, my bad.

Pixel Scroll 2/10/16 They Hive

(1) QUINN FEATURES IN MAINSTREAM NEWS. Jameson Quinn is quoted several times in “Your ballot has matrix algebra lurking in the background” at the Concord Monitor.

Mathematically speaking, “one man, one vote” sounds about as exciting as “1 = 1.” Yet it turns out that something so simple can produce a Nobel Prize in economics, not to mention a slew of graduate school statistics homework.

“Our class spent three weeks just on Arrow’s Theorem, looking at it from different angles,” said Jameson Quinn, a Ph.D. candidate in statistics from Harvard who showed up in Concord last week to testify before the House Elections Committee in favor of a bill allowing something called approval voting.

Arrow’s Theorem, key to the aforementioned Nobel prize, is to social choice theory what E=MC2 is to physics. It is usually described as saying that all voting systems are imperfect, a synopsis which misses lots of nuance and isn’t all that helpful to laymen, because most of us don’t even known that other systems exist.

(2) EDELMAN’S NEW PODCAST. Scott Edelman has started an SF-related podcast, Eating the Fantastic.

Are you ready to have lunch with me and writer/musician Sarah Pinsker? Because the first episode of Eating the Fantastic is now live!

 

Scott Edelman and Sarah Pinsker

Scott Edelman and Sarah Pinsker

Food, friends, and clanking dishes in the background reproduce the atmosphere where so many great fan conversations take place. Edelman writes:

I’ve found that while the con which takes place within the walls of a hotel or convention center is always fun, the con away from the con—which takes place when I wander off-site with friends for a meal—can often be more fun. In fact, my love of tracking down good food while traveling the world attending conventions has apparently become so well known that Jamie Todd Rubin once dubbed me “science fiction’s Anthony Bourdain.”

…During each semi-regular episode (I’ve yet to determine a frequency), I’ll share a meal with someone whose opinions I think you’ll want to hear, and we’ll talk about science fiction, fantasy, horror, writing, comics, movies, fandom … whatever happens to come to mind. (There’ll also be food talk, of course.)

One thing to note—this will not be a pristine studio-recorded podcast, but one which will always occur in a restaurant setting, meaning that mixed in with our conversation will be the sounds of eating and drinking and reviewing of menus and slurping and background chatter … in other words … life.

(3) PKD AWARD. The five Philip K. Dick Award judges for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original format in the United States in the 2016 award year are Michael Armstrong, Brenda Clough, Meg Elison, Lee Konstantinou, and Ben Winters.

(4) CASSANDRA CLARE SUED. “Copyright Clash Over Demon-Fighting Stories” at Courthouse News Service has the scoop.

Sherrilyn Kenyon says she started the “Dark-Hunter” series in 1998. The story “follows an immortal cadre of warriors who fight to protect mankind from creatures and demons who prey on humans,” according to court records.

On Friday, Kenyon sued Cassandra Clare aka Judith Rumelt aka Judith Lewis, claiming her “Shadowhunter” series initially used Kenyon’s trademark “darkhunter.”

After Kenyon demanded that Clare remove the word “darkhunter” from her work, Clare used the term “shadowhunter” for her protagonists instead, according to the lawsuit. The word “hunter” was also removed from the book title.

Clare’s book, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” was published in 2007. Since then, Clare has expanded her use of the term “shadowhunter” despite assurances that she would not, according to Kenyon.

Clare’s 2007 book was made into a movie and released in 2013, the lawsuit states. In 2014, it was reportedly announced that “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” would be adapted into a television series called “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments.”

Kenyon says ABC Family picked up Clare’s TV pilot in March 2015. The first episode of the “Shadowhunters” TV show premiered on Jan. 12 of this year, according to IMDB.

The “Dark-Hunter” author also claims Clare has used symbols and merchandise that are confusingly similar to Kenyon’s.

“Comparing the Dark-Hunter series to Clare’s work or works, the literary components are fictional and, in many respects, the elements are virtually identical,” Kenyon’s Feb. 5 lawsuit states. “These substantially similar elements, coupled with defendant’s access to the Dark-Hunter series, which were widely disseminated, leave little doubt that numerous substantive original elements of the Dark-Hunter series have been copied by defendant.”

(5) AB INITIO. Sarah A. Hoyt begins a column for Mad Genius Club about the preceding news story, “There Is Nothing New Under The Sun”, with these words —

So, this morning (yes, I crashed early yesterday) I was sent this article NEWS: Sherrilyn Kenyon sues Cassandra Clare over infringement claims by Amanda S. Green.  It’s amazing.  And by that I mean, I was amazed anyone is giving this so called “plagearism” any credence.

Now, I haven’t read the complaint, so perhaps there is more to it, and the complaint is more substantial. …

We’ll stop here and wait til she reads the complaint…

(6) GRRM’S EDITOR RATIONALE. George R.R. Martin had some feedback for File 770 commenters about the Best Editor (Long Form) category, but he also queried some of the editors he recommended about “What They Edited” in 2015.

My observations about the Best Editor (Long Form) Hugo, which you can read in full several posts down, have drawn some comments here and on FILE 770 from fans who object to my suggestion that this category has become a de facto lifetime achievement award, at least since David G. Hartwell set an example by withdrawing from future consideration after his third win.

The objections seem to take the form of stating emphatically that Best Editor (Long Form) is NOT a lifetime achievement award, it’s not, it’s not, it’s just NOT.

And quite right they are. According to the rules, that is. According to the rules, the award is only supposed to be for the previous year’s editing.

Which is great in theory, and completely wrong in fact. Maybe those who are objecting vote on that basis, but if so, they are a very tiny minority….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 10, 1957 – Roger Corman’s Not Of This Earth premiered.

Not of this Earth poster

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 10, 1906 – Lon Chaney, Jr.

(9) A PEEK AT PIXAR. “Pixar and Khan Academy Release Free Online Course for Aspiring Animators”, from Makezine [via Chaos Manor.]

Up there with being an astronaut, comic book artist, or the President, there’s one job that your average kid would probably love to snag: Working at Pixar. Animation and Pixar enthusiasts of all ages, take note! Pixar in A Box (or PIAB) is a collaboration between Khan Academy and Pixar Animation Studios that focuses on real-Pixar-world applications of concepts you might usually encounter in the classroom. The latest batch of Pixar in a Box, released today, gives Makers a rare peek under the hood so that you can get a whiff of the warm engine that keeps those Pixar pistons pumping. There’s no need to register for the course, nor a requirement to watch the lessons in order — just head to their site and start exploring!

(10) BRING HIM HOME. Here’s a review of an app game — “The Martian: Communicate with Astronaut Mark Watney in real time while helping him return to Earth”.

In The Martian, you’ll experience the plight of astronaut Mark Watney, only in this strategy game you’re his only hope for survival. You play one of a NASA communications specialist that is communicating with Mark in real time via text-based messages. You’re his only contact on Earth, and all that stands between him and a return to our world, or certain death.

themartian

(11) MAD TEA. Links to all kinds of interesting Alice In Wonderland-themed merchandise in this post at The Snug.

Bonkers pillow

(12) BEST OF A YEAR LONG AGO. Black Gate’s John ONeill revisits “Thomas M. Disch on the Best Science Fiction of 1979”.

He has particular praise for Connie Willis’s first published story, “Daisy in the Sun,” originally published in issue #15 of Galileo (see right):

My own favorite among the also-rans is Connie Willis’s first published story, “Daisy in the Sun” (in the Wollheim/Saha annual). With lyric ellipses Willis describes a world in the grip of epidemic schizophrenia precipitated by news that the sun is going nova. The heroine is a sexually disturbed adolescent girl in a condition of fugal amnesia. All the way through I thought, “This won’t work,” but it did. What a great way to begin a career.

Of course, you could dismiss all this as sour grapes, as Disch’s own Hugo-nominee, the novel On Wings of Song, came in last in the voting that year.

(13) A CURIOUS ARTIFACT.

(14) RULES OF THE ROAD. After reading a few thousand selected words in the Amazon Web Service’s Service Terms, the account holder arrives here —

57.10 Acceptable Use; Safety-Critical Systems. Your use of the Lumberyard Materials must comply with the AWS Acceptable Use Policy. The Lumberyard Materials are not intended for use with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as use in operation of medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, aircraft or air traffic control, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat. However, this restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day J-Grizz.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1 Let Scrolled Acquaintance Be Forgot…

rhinowaiting(1) HORNING IN. Another rhino run starring Jim Mowatt — “New Year Parkrun Rhino Running at Temple Newsam House”

We set off past the glorious Elizabethan mansion and out through the formal gardens. Down the long hill, left at the motorway and curl back along the edge of the woods until we are once again struggling up the hill toward the house. Twice around we go and the second time we are curved around the hill a little until we burst out into the finish funnel. I queue to be scanned behind the girl in the orange tee shirt. I’d finished before her at Woodhouse Moor but she was really pleased to finish in front of me here at Temple Newsam. “I couldn’t be beaten by a rhino twice in one day” she said.

 

(2) CARRIE FISHER. James H. Burns writes: “Considering that I was never particularly a fan of Carrie Fisher as an actress, I am finding myself becoming quite a fan of her mind!” Burns had just read “Carrie Fisher shuts down the ageist haters as only Carrie Fisher can” on Salon.

She soon followed up with a more direct command, saying, “Please stop debating about whether OR not aged well. unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.” It’s been favorited over 35 thousand times — and still going.

(3) FIRST AMENDMENT. Has he been listening to Fisher, too? George Lucas definitely spoke freely on the Charlie Rose show broadcast on December 25:

At one point he said that filmmakers in the Soviet Union had more freedom than their counterparts in Hollywood, who, he maintained, “have to adhere to a very narrow line of commercialism.”

Mr. Lucas appeared particularly unhappy with the direction the “Star Wars” franchise has taken since he sold the rights to it, along with Lucasfilm, his company, to Disney for $4 billion. He compared the sale to a breakup and a divorce.

“These are my kids. All the Star Wars films,” he said. “I love them, I created them, I’m very intimately involved in them.”

He added, trailing off with a laugh: “And I sold them to the white slavers that take these things and. …”

(4) BABYLON 5.1. Blastr’s headline runs a little ahead of the facts – “Straczynski bringing sci-fi classic Babylon 5 back to life with movie reboot in 2016” – in that he hasn’t finished a script and he doesn’t have a commitment from a studio to produce the movie.

Thanks to some shrewd negotiating, Straczynski actually owns the film rights to the franchise — so he isn’t beholden to getting a particular studio to sign on. But he is apparently hoping Warner Bros. (the studio that produced the original series) might be interested once the script is complete. You know, assuming it’s good.

If Warner Bros. doesn’t bite, Straczynski apparently aims to finance the film through his own Studio JMS, though that might be a tall order to bankroll an $80-100 million sci-fi epic. But considering the franchise’s name cachet with genre fans — not to mention the fact that studios are mining just about any brand they can get their hands on these days — you’d think someone would be interested in co-producing.

(5) MARSHAL BURNS. Ken Burns the documentarian was this year’s Rose Parade Grand Marshal, prompting an exchange between John King Tarpinian and Phil Nichols:

[Tarpinian] The documentarian is this year’s Rose Parade grand marshal.  They keep taking about his “moving” stills as having been groundbreaking, calling it Ken Burns effect. Now his documentaries are very well done and quite enjoyable however when I saw the first one this moving-still effect reminded me of Icarus Montgolfier Wright.  I’m thinking Ray Bradbury and George Clayton Johnson’s contribution to this effect was a bit earlier.

[Nichols] Good point, jkt! In fact, the technique had been used prior to ICARUS, most famously in a Canadian documentary called CITY OF GOLD (1957). In the UK, it has only recently become known as the Ken Burns effect. We have our own Ken (Ken Morse) who did similar work for the BBC for decades. We used to call it “movement in stills”, until the American influence became irresistible.

(6) STAR WARS SPOILERS. Beware spoilers in Alex Ross’ fine discussion of “Listening to Star Wars” at The New Yorker.

Williams’s wider influence on musical culture can’t be quantified, but it’s surely vast. The brilliant young composer Andrew Norman took up writing music after watching “Star Wars” on video, as William Robin notes in a Times profile. The conductor David Robertson, a disciple of Pierre Boulez and an unabashed Williams fan, told me that some current London Symphony players first became interested in their instruments after encountering “Star Wars.” Robertson, who regularly stages all-Williams concerts with the St. Louis Symphony, observed that professional musicians enjoy playing the scores because they are full of the kinds of intricacies and motivic connections that enliven the classic repertory. “He’s a man singularly fluent in the language of music,” Robertson said. “He’s very unassuming, very humble, but when he talks about music he can be the most interesting professor you’ve ever heard. He’s a deep listener, and that explains his ability to respond to film so acutely.”

(7) 40% PUPPY CONTENT. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon takes his first cut at predicting the 2016 Best Novel Hugo. Pups get 2 spots out of the top 5.

The difficulty in predicting the 2016 Hugo lies in how little information we have: how big will the Rabid Puppies vote be? How will the Sad Puppies 4 operate? How much will the rest of the Hugo vote increase? Will other Hugo voters change their voting habits to stop a Puppy sweep? Will specific authors turn down endorsements and/or nominations?

(8) RETURN TO SENDER. Kate Paulk, in “Offer? What Offer?” at Sad Puppies 4, dismisses Steve Davidson’s reconciliation post for failing to treat with “the management.”

I’ve heard through the Internet (all right, Facebook) that someone who fancies himself a big shot in the field has “offered” to stop claiming Sad Puppies 4 is all things evil in return for a few “reasonable concessions” on our part.

Since the person in question hasn’t bothered to make this offer to me, Sarah Hoyt, or Amanda Green, Sad Puppy supporters can reasonably assume that the so-called offer is not actually genuine.

(9) KNOW JOHN, NO PEACE. John C. Wright deconstructed George R.R. Martin’s reconciliation post in “Peace on Mars, Good Will Toward Puppies” .

…Mr. Martin wills the ends without willing the means. He wishes for a cessation of enmity but does not identify who caused it and why, nor does he offer any apology or concession. Perhaps he is merely wishing for the status quo ante. Perhaps he regards his role in the matter as an entirely innocent one.

Be that as it may, honor demands a courteous response to a courteous overture….

The second group is a parasite on the first. Its sole purpose rests on expropriating the glory and reputation the award in times past painfully and honestly earned in the public esteem, and expending this stored capital profligately on unworthy objects to give them an outward momentary appearance of worth.

For example, the parasites seek to elevate REDSHIRTS to the stature of DUNE by an outward show of praise without the book being as praiseworthy. However, according to the inevitable rules governing such counterfeits, as soon as the public opinion grows aware of the inflation and adjusts its estimates accordingly, the parasites fail, and the original host fails with them.

In this case, failure means the Hugo Award no longer represents to anyone an honest judgment of worth. The boast ‘Hugo Award Winning!’ becomes a leper’s bell rather than a badge of honor, and any undeceived science fiction readers flee it. REDSHIRTS is not elevated to the stature of DUNE, but DUNE sinks.

Perhaps Mr. Martin can see a means whereby the host and the parasite that forever seeks to destroy the host can coexist in peace. I, for one, cannot….

(10) AN INTERVIEW WITH URASIS DRAGON. But once Wright had a look at Steve Davidson’s reaction to Martin, he discovered a new comradely admiration for GRRM, as expressed in “Constant Discord from Imaginary Dragons”.

Good grief. Observe that by kicking up this smokescreen of false reconciliation, Mr. Davidson actually makes it more difficult for any parties wishing for true reconciliation (I believe George RR Martin is one such) to accomplish the task…..

For the sake of any undecided readers toying with the notion that the puppykickers have some sort of valid argument or same vestigial desire for peace, allow me to address Mr. Davidson’s four points in order.

Point One: Please note that in the same column he says ” Anyone can become a member and all members enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other member.”

So, when we Sad Puppies did exactly this, Mr. Davidson uses this as an example of us “scamming the system” and advises us, as a condition of reconciliation, that we stop.

Logically, since we cannot cease to do what was never done to begin with, the condition cannot be met. As if one offered peace to a confirmed bachelor on the condition he stop beating his wife.

And Mr. Davidson also uses this to contradict our (accurate) accusation that a small group of inside elite writers and editors over the last fifteen years has been manipulating and dominating the awards secretively, that is, scamming the system.

(11) AMAZING NEGOTIATIONS. Meanwhile, Fandom’s self-appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary Steve Davidson is experimenting with a unilateral cease-fire, which he calls a “Self-Inflicted Puppy Moratorium”.

I’ve finally whittled my suggestions down to two:  1.  leave the current SPIV recommendation list as a pure recommendation list.  (It’s almost not a slate – all that needs doing is to drop the associated political rhetoric and the curation down to a “final list” and it will BE a recommendation list) and 2. disassociate SP from RP in a publicly demonstrable way.

I’ll note in passing that BOTH of these suggestions are things that the Sad Puppies are claiming to want to do – or to have already done.  It would, therefore, seem to be an easy set of requests to comply with.

As quid pro quo, I offered the following:  I would consult and participate in their recommendation list(s) (participate in order to ‘prove’ that I was doing so); I would give serious consideration to any proposal(s) they might make at WSFS business meetings (they’ve called for a Hugo for tie-ins, among other things);  I will honor their votes and nominations as being valid participation in the Hugos (in other words, won’t assume it’s all politics and market grab on their part); will continue to keep Amazing as an open source (that it has always been – the ONLY people I’ve ever received a “never coming here again” are those who complain the site is biased against them, which, if they stuck around instead of running for the hills….)

AND – I promised a unilateral moratorium on puppy-related posts for two weeks (starting yesterday) while I awaited their response.

(12) NEW YEAR’S FIREWORKS DISPLAY. Scott Lynch, who for reasons explained in the post felt unable to do so immediately after Sasquan, rang in the New Year with a defense of Patrick Nielsen Hayden against John C. Wright’s characterizations.

…This was especially frustrating in the wake of the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, after which the ponderously self-important blowhard John C. Wright publicly accused veteran editor and lifelong fan Patrick Nielsen Hayden of both assaulting Wright’s wife and masterminding the long-term “corruption” of the Hugo Awards, to which the SF/F field largely replied: “Meh.” Now, some of that is certainly due to Wright’s tireless self-marginalization and frothing bigotry, but regardless, I think Patrick deserved better of his friends and colleagues. He deserved to have someone stand up and state plainly what he could not– that John C. Wright talks a big game about truth and courage, but that he is demonstrably full of shit.

I wanted to be that person. I prepared a lengthy post to that effect. And then anxiety did its usual crushing, grinding thing, and days became weeks, which became months. It is now the new year, Hugo chat has started up in earnest, and Wright is once again plying his mealy-mouthed combination of false civility and vicious nonsense on the subject. I have decided to weigh in with a reminder that the narrative Wright wants to push is an absolute full-blown fabrication….

(13) YEAR IN REVIEW. Like on that game show, Lou Antonelli delivers the answer in the form of a question: ”2015? The Year in Review?” at This Way to Texas.

And then, what I would have thought would be be a great thing, being nominated for the Hugo award twice, turned out to be the worst thing that ever happened in my life. But it helped me realize that, in the end, I really only write for myself and friends, and in literature – as in other things in life – trying to please other people is the fast track to misery.

[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, Morris Keesan, Nila Thompson, John King Tarpinian, Zenu, and Bruce Arthurs for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Update 01/02/2016: Corrected item (8) after readers pointed out Paulk was commenting about Steve Davidson’s reconciliation post, not George R.R. Martin’s.

Pixel Scroll 9/1 The Pixellent Prismatic Spray

(1) I encountered this oasis while researching today’s scroll — Nelson Lowhim’s clever story “Sasquan, worldcon and the science fiction convention”

…Leaning back and inhaling the sterile convention center smell, I realized that I’d sat on a book. I pulled it out from under me and examined the cover: on it a gallant woman rode a chariot being pulled by naked men. They were headed to a shining light at the end of the road.

It was thin, the book, and so I read through it, the writing clean enough for me not to stop and the premise interesting enough for me to flip the pages. When I was finished, unsure with the ending, I threw the book on the table where it collided with the sculpture.

It was then that I noticed a shift in the atmosphere and the smell of something like rotting feet. Out from the shadows in a corner stepped a large man. I froze. For not only was he large, not only did he wield a large sword, but he moved with the kind of nimbleness that signifies a specifically potent violence.

“Treat the book with a little more respect, small man.”…

(2) Marko Kloos – “My Sasquan Weekend”

So we were at the Hugo Losers party, mingling with old and new friends and generally having a good time, when GRRM had a special surprise for us. He brought out a table full of trophies made from 1950s hood ornaments which he called the Alfies, after Alfred Bester, the winner of the inaugural best Novel Hugo in 1953. George started giving them out to various people who would have been on the ballot without the slates, especially in those categories where the nominees all came from the slates.

And then he awarded one to Annie Bellet, who withdrew her short story from the ballot the same day I withdrew my novel…and I thought to myself, “Self, he may call you up there too.” The room was packed with people, many of them authors and editors of works you’ve probably read, and I basically had two or three minutes to think up something to say that wouldn’t make me look like a giant jackass.

(3) Angela Blackwell on Bull Spec – “The Exploding Spaceship Visits Sasquan – Worldcon 2015”

Panel organizers appeared to try to bring diverse authors onto panels but like many conventions could really have used some oversight from a diversity coordinator. Many “diverse” authors were on panels with topics which had nothing to do with the type of writing they do. It looked as if someone said, “Oh, we need diversity on this panel so let’s randomly pick a diverse author we used somewhere else instead of broadening our panelist pool and finding a diverse author who fits the topic”. Also “diverse” authors need to be put on panels about the subgenres they write about not just on generic panels….

Next year’s Worldcon will be in Kansas City. We hope their panel organizers learn from the many comments on Twitter and Facebook as well as at the convention about how different authors were placed on panels and what panel topics were chosen. All the members of the community need to feel welcome and none should be stuck in a “diversity” box, or a “minority political opinion” box.

(4) Ellen Datlow has over a hundred photos from Sasquan, many from GRRM’s Hugo Losers Party, posted here.

(5) Lou Antonelli on Facebook

Thought for the Day: In light of the way he depicts social occasions in his fantasy writing, I was rather surprised anyone would accept an invitation to a private event from George R.R. Martin. (wink)

(6) Campbell nominee Rolf Nelson – “Sasquan post, obligatory”

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect being totally ignored, but that’s largely what happened. No offers of being on panels. No interviews. Nobody to introduce me. No packet available that was supposed to be ready for me. No open attacks on me. No large shows of support for the puppies. (Some background on the puppies here: http://sfauthor.net/burning-down-the-house/ ; I was a “rabid puppy” nominee. Five second recap: the insiders worked the nominations and voting in back rooms and parties for years, and didn’t like it when an outsider did the same thing, out in the open, and better, shutting them out of a lock on the awards). Normally new writers are loaded up with panels and shown around and introduced to folks. For me and most of the non-TOR-books nominees? Nothing. So I wandered around, watched, listened, talked to a lot of “average SF con attendees.” They were mostly nice, and most knew little or nothing about the whole puppies thing. Most who knew something had a warped left-wing version of events in their heads. I managed to line up 3 interviews of my own by walking down to the press room and asking “want to interview a rabid puppy?” including one with Amy Wallace of Wired (http://www.wired.com/2015/08/won-science-fictions-hugo-awards-matters/ ) who talked to me for 20 or 25 minutes, but didn’t use any of it (flatly contradicted what I said, in fact, perhaps because I was recording the interview, too, so she could not out-of-context sound-bite me).

(7) Melinda Snodgrass – “There Is and Was No Conspiracy”

So now I have to address the boatload of idiotic conspiracy theories that have sprung up from the fervid brains of the Puppies both Sad and Rabid.

No, George did not know in advance who had won and who had lost.  He had to wait for the pink sheet that detailed the Hugo nominations before he could figure out who was going to receive an Alfie.  I know because I had to check in with him when thing were running late for presenting the awards, and he told me in harried tones that he had had to wait for the breakdown to come out and everything was running late.

No, George did not buy 3000 memberships and tell them how to vote.  Has anyone looked at fandom?  Herding cats wold be easier.  And seriously — George is the guy who loves this award.  He would never, ever game his beloved Hugos.

No, the Puppy votes were not “discounted”.  It’s the Australian ballot.  It’s confusing.  Here’s a link where Ranked Voting is explained.  Try to understand.  So you don’t get your money back.

No, you can’t sue.  You have to show harm before you can get into court, and you have to have standing to bring a lawsuit. If someone calls you a banana that might hurt you deeply, but the court will not provide a remedy for your pain.   You voted/you lost.  If your argument had merit I’d be suing over the 2000 election.  Let it be noted that I didn’t.

(8) Jim Hensley on Unqualified Offerings – “Social Engineer-ing”

Ken Burnside writes the best “pro-Puppy” retrospective on the Hugo Awards that I’ve seen. It’s frank about the pain he felt from the way some people treated him during the controversy but impressively free of bitterness. The piece is long, but what interests me most is something he doesn’t quite say, and possibly doesn’t quite realize. Here’s what he does say, about what he identifies as the “Heroic Engineer” genre, also known as competence porn:

Heroic Engineer Stories drive a lot of sales. Nearly every SF author I know who doesn’t need a day job writes an action-adventure series, where the Heroic Engineer/Officer/Competent Protagonist Solves The Problem. They sell, and they sell to a male demographic, often current or recently retired military, and that demographic skews conservative.

Let’s zero in on the last sentence. It states that SF competence porn sells to people who see themselves in the protagonist. They are pleased to read stories in which they recognize people like them.

Which is exactly what gets called affirmative-action “box checking” when the protagonist is female, non-white, queer or some combination of those. Often, particularly when Puppy advocates are writing, when readers derive pleasure from seeing themselves in those protagonists, they are accused of favoring representation over quality, even though representation can be a marker of quality.

I remember when I first saw Apollo 13 in the theater, my overwhelming, thrilled reaction was: “My people!” Those very clever, very white nerdboys in Mission Control, trying to save the lives of the astronauts via kitbashing and pedantry reminded me of myself and my friends in a way hardly any screen protagonists had heretofore. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. And there’s nothing wrong with an ex-service-member deriving pleasure from stories about guys kinda like him saving the world with shop tools and shaped charges.

But there’s also nothing wrong with a black woman deriving pleasure from stories about black women on Mars, or gay men enjoying stories about gay men dealing with unexplained phenomena. This even goes beyond the issue of representation-as-quality – that stories with people of color, LGBT folks and women of agency better reflect the world as we know it and our plausible futures. While the old stereotype of science-fiction and fantasy as nothing but wish-fulfillment stories was unjust, wish-fulfillment remains an element of much fiction, and most adventure fiction. There’s simply no case that non-white, non-straight, non-male readers’ enjoyment in seeing themselves reflected in fiction is somehow less legitimate than the pleasure that “a male demographic, often current or recently retired military” takes in the same phenomenon.

(9) After Chris Meadows meets Michael Z. Williamson at the gun show, he reviews and approves Kate Paulk’s plans for SP4 “Whether Sad Puppy or opposed, fans are people, too” .

That’s a much better way to approach the matter than coming up with a slate with just a small number of candidates, the way Brad Torgersen did last year. As Paulk points out later in the livestream, Torgersen didn’t fill every category on the Sad Puppy slate with five candidates, but its having fewer than five left room for the Rabids to come in and piggyback on them by putting five on theirs. It also resulted in some candidates that Puppies might have nominated, such as the Heinlein biography, getting left out because Torgersen didn’t know about them to put them on the slate. Listing all suggested nominees will make a lot more sense.

More importantly, it’s also the way that a lot of other places make Hugo recommendations. That’s how John Scalzi’s “Fans Award Recommendation Threads” work, for example—people plug stories they personally think are worthy and recommend that others read them. And people have historically been fine with that kind of thing. There’s no attempt there to make a specific list of just a few works in each category. There are also people out there attempting to list and discuss every possible eligible work for 2016, so people will know what’s available.

Torgersen might have meant the 2015 slate as a list of recommendations for things people should read and then nominate if they liked them (though he wasn’t really very clear about that in the original announcement), but the problem with a list that has just a few candidates on it is that a lot of people will choose to nominate it as-is without actually bothering to read the works on it. They might not feel like they have the kind of time it would take to read everything, but that list is right there and it’s easy to copy and paste. Hopefully more people will be moved to nominate stuff they actually read this year.

(10) Elton Gahr on Life, the Universe, and Sci-Fi “My Controversial Opinion on the Hugo Awards”

I know I’m a bit late commenting on the Hugo awards, but the recent Hugo awards controversy annoyed me enough I wanted to comment with my own super controversial opinion on the Hugo awards. I apologize before I tell you because I know that it’s going to surprise and possibly upset some people, but the award for the best science fiction story, novel, etc should go to the, wait for it… Best story.

Basically what I’m saying is that most of the people involved in the argument are wrong regardless of which side you’re on (though I’ll admit if it makes you feel better that some are more wrong than others). If you’re voting for people instead of the work of fiction they wrote you’re wrong. I can understand not voting for someone if you really dislike them simply because you don’t want to support them. But voting for someone because they are a white male, a black Hispanic woman or an aboriginal Australian when you don’t believe their story is the best is just wrong and it doesn’t really matter why you’re doing it. Ignore the author and vote for the story you like the best. That’s what the award is for….

I have no problem with people putting together a list of stories that they think are the best though it seems clear that isn’t going to be a good idea. I’m also very pleased that more minorities and women are writing science fiction. Part of the reason I read science fiction is to see the world from the point of view of people who see it different from me. And if they write the best science fiction story in their respective categories they deserve to win, but honestly anyone who votes for them because they are a minority or a woman when they don’t believe it’s the best story is voting wrong.

So that’s basically it. My controversial opinion about the Hugo Awards is that the rabid people on both sides of this are idiots. If I heard someone saying that women or minorities shouldn’t be involved in science fiction I’d have a hard time not punching them in the face. It’s 2015 and we are supposed to be past that type of thing. But I really don’t feel much better about the people on the opposite extreme. If you won’t vote for someone just because they are a white male then there is no difference at all. If you assume someone is racist because they disagree about what the best story then you need to consider that they might just like something different than you and that’s O.K. and if you vote for someone who didn’t write the best story to make a political point you’re helping to prove the people on the other side right.

(11) Jonathan Jones in the Guardian – “Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius”

It does not matter to me if Terry Pratchett’s final novel is a worthy epitaph or not, or if he wanted it to be pulped by a steamroller. I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short.

No offence, but Pratchett is so low on my list of books to read before I die that I would have to live a million years before getting round to him. I did flick through a book by him in a shop, to see what the fuss is about, but the prose seemed very ordinary.

I don’t mean to pick on this particular author, except that the huge fuss attending and following his death this year is part of a very disturbing cultural phenomenon. In the age of social media and ebooks, our concept of literary greatness is being blurred beyond recognition. A middlebrow cult of the popular is holding literature to ransom. Thus, if you judge by the emotional outpourings over their deaths, the greatest writers of recent times were Pratchett and Ray Bradbury. There was far less of an internet splurge when Gabriel García Márquez died in 2014 and Günter Grass this spring. Yet they were true titans of the novel. Their books, like all great books, can change your life, your beliefs, your perceptions. Everyone reads trash sometimes, but why are we now pretending, as a culture, that it is the same thing as literature? The two are utterly different.

(12) Damien G. Walter – “Sorry Jonesy, but I can write for the Guardian and love Terry Pratchett”

I never had the good fortune to meet Terry Pratchett, but I’ve been reading his books since I was eleven. My favourite Discworld tomes – Mort, Small Gods and Going Postal – have been read a half dozen times each at least. I also hold a Masters degree, have been a senior university lecturer, and am a columnist for The Guardian, the very same bastion of middlebrow values that Jonathan Jones penned his opportunistic attack on Terry Pratchett. Unlike Jones however, I see no conflict in being both an intelligent educated human being and loving the fuck out of Terry Pratchett’s discworld books.

(13) Christopher Priest – “You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You, Mister Jones?”

Finally, the works of Sir Terry Pratchett. I have been provoked to write this essay today by an article in the Guardian’s blog, by the newspaper’s arts correspondent Jonathan Jones. As a display of closed-minded prejudice, and an astonishing willingness to brag about it, there have been thankfully few precedents. Here is how Jones starts:

It does not matter to me if Terry Pratchett’s final novel is a worthy epitaph or not, or if he wanted it to be pulped by a steamroller. I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short. No offence, but Pratchett is so low on my list of books to read before I die that I would have to live a million years before getting round to him. I did flick through a book by him in a shop, to see what the fuss is about, but the prose seemed very ordinary.

Unsurprisingly, the online comments on this pathetic piece of ignorant journalism have swarmed in (at the time of writing, just under one thousand), and for once almost all of them agree with each other. I will be surprised and disappointed if Mr Jones retains his job with the Guardian, at least in the capacity of an arts correspondent. I have rarely seen a letter of resignation so overtly and shamelessly revealing as this. I was forcibly reminded of a letter my old friend John Middleton Murry wrote to the Observer many years ago on another, not dissimilar, matter: ‘I note your organ does not have a reporter in Antarctica, and suggest that this would be a suitable posting for Mr Martin Amis.’

I should add that Terry Pratchett and I were respectful colleagues rather than personal friends. We knew each other better in the days when we were teenage hopefuls, trying to get our first stories sold. The years went by, we found our publishers and we went our separate ways. I doubt if Terry ever read my books – I read only a few of his. Terry does not need me to defend him – Jones’s article is contemptible.

But I would say that of all the writers I have ever known, or the books I have ever read, Terry Pratchett’s seem to be a dead cert for long-term classic status.

(14) Scott Lynch on Storify – “That awful, awful SJW message fiction”

(15) OK. Now it’s been said.

Bingo?

(16) Angelique Trouvere has a request:

Some merriment, circa mid-1970s, at a New York STAR TREK convention... That's also Elyse Pines (Rosenstein) second from left in front, Joan Winston on Jeff Maynard's lap (sadly, both Joan and Jeff are also gone), "Patia Von Sternberg," redheaded, fourth from left in the back, and a very popular helmsman, under the beanie....

Some merriment, circa mid-1970s, at a New York STAR TREK convention… That’s also Elyse Pines (Rosenstein) second from left in front, Joan Winston on Jeff Maynard’s lap (sadly, both Joan and Jeff are also gone), “Patia Von Sternberg,” redheaded, fourth from left in the back, and a very popular helmsman, under the beanie….

I’ve attached the photo you included [in Toni Lay’s obituary] of the group shot from the early Trekcon with George Takei and I had a question that I hope you may be able to help me with:

There is a woman sitting next to Elyse on the far left–she’s wearing a red jacket and a white top with dots – she’s an old friend from the cons who moved to L.A shortly after that pic was taken. I visited her there but lost contact with her.  It’s been so long that I can’t be sure if her first name is Barbara or Sharon.   This photo was also published in Joan’s book, “The Making of the Star Trek Conventions” but it’s a grainy b/w.   Would you know her or know someone who might?

If you have the answer e-mail me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will pass it on to Ms. Trouvere.

(16) The one true reason why people are writers:

(17) Just what do the Orks want anyway? Multiplexer gives this neglected sociological question extended thought at Critical Hits.

Coda

Generic evil for the sake of being evil is boring.  The most banal and dull of demi-humans benefit from a bit of motivation, incentives, history and background.   Why are the Orks in the dungeon?  What do they get out of being in the dungeon?  Did they come from a village?  How is that village?  Can the PCs learn anything about this culture while killing things and looting their stuff?  Maybe they have something and the local magistrates want it more?

No one is what they seem and everything has little pull-able threads that unravel into a tapestry of background, story, and tale.

Or maybe the Murder Hobos only want to roll bad guys and take their stuff.

(18) We end today with this highly scientific excerpt from io9 “Archeologists Tracked Lewis and Clark by Following Their Trail of Laxatives”

Eventually, researchers came across some information that helped clarify things… and that information came from their latrines. Lewis and Clark were fairly well-equipped and well-trained, even if only by the standards of the day. Given what those standards were, it’s surprising that they only lost one person during their trek. According to their own records, they bled people who were feverish, they gave purgatives to people who felt weak, and they administered potassium nitrate (a preservative substitute for salt) to people suffering from heat stroke and dehydration. They also brought along the wonder drug of the day, mercury chloride (otherwise known as calomel), as a pill, a tincture, and an ointment.

Calomel was often used to treat those with syphilis (mercury does work against the bacterium that causes syphilis, but it takes out the host as well, so don’t try it at home) along with nearly everything else, including constipation. And an expedition that ate mainly the game they could catch along the way would have suffered from constipation regularly. In their journals, Lewis and Clark regularly make note of someone having to take one of Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills (because constipation was thought to be caused by an excess of bile) and spending the day purging.

If you know that you and your men are going to spend a day expelling everything they’ve eaten for a week, you make sure to dig a latrine. Most of the mercury that the men ingested went out of the system again, which means that over a century later, historians and archaeologists were able to pin down where Lewis and Clark had stayed by testing old latrine contents for mercury.

[Thanks to Paul Weimer, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek, with a signal boost by Shambles .]

Bull Aces Surgery;
Lynch’s Tip Jar Explodes

Emma Bull told Livejournal readers today she emerged from her August 8 thyroidectomy in fine shape –

Out of the hospital and home on the couch, complete with cats. The surgery went well and my recovery likewise, except – A WHOLE DAY WITH (almost) NO COFFEE! I almost died. Okay, no, I didn’t, but the caffeine withdrawal headache was a drag. Will [Shetterly] banished it this morning with a triple latte brought to my hospital bed.

And within 48 hours after Scott Lynch declared he would help with Emma Bull’s and Steven Brust’s imminent medical expenses by giving them 2/3 of readers’ donations to his free online serial, Queen of the Iron Sands,  more than $3,000 had been stuffed in his tip jar.

Now that he’s able to help as he wanted to, Lynch also will be busy delivering the string of incentives offered if donations reached certain milestones — among them a promise to write the story one of his characters hypothetically submitted to Astounding during the Golden Age of SF:

$3000 In Chapter 2 of Queen of the Iron Sands, Violet mentions some of the short story titles in her own brief bibilography. One of them, as recorded in her letter from John W. Campbell, is “Cold Windings of the Murthalump.” Hit three grand and I’ll actually write this… in Violet’s authorial voice, as though it had been written by her around 1948-49, for publication in Astounding Science Fiction. The particularly fun thing about this is I currently have no idea what the hell the title refers to.

Lynch has set the bar pretty high. (For a stunt like this, why do otherwise?) The 1948-1949 period brackets the famous ”predicted” issue of November 1949 with Robert Heinlein’s “Gulf” and an installment of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, plus the first appearances of other classics like E. E. Smith’s Children of the Lens, a couple of H. Beam Piper’s “Paratime” stories, a “Null-A” story by A. E. Van Vogt, Judith Merrill’s “Only A Mother”, Wilmar H. Shiras’ “In Hiding”, Jack Williamson’s “Seetee Shock”, and Hal Clement’s “Needle.”

If Lynch pulls this off he deserves another wave of donations – and then, of course, he’ll be able to help even more.

Support for Bull, Brust

Concerned about Emma Bull’s and Steve Brust’s mounting medical expenses, author Scott Lynch has decided to start sending “people who could use the boost” two-thirds of all donations by readers of his free online serial novel Queen of the Iron Sands. Bull and Brust will be the first beneficiaries of his new policy. Others will follow.

Both writers are facing surgery this month. Emma Bull told her Livejournal readers she is having a thyroidectomy on August 8. Steve Brust, briefly hospitalized for congestive heart failure in April, will have an automatic defibrillator implanted on August 22.

[Via Ansible Links.]