Pixel Scroll 1/1/20 Old Pixel’s File Of Practical Scrolls

(1) AFTER QUARTER CENTURY, GOMOLL STEPS DOWN. The Otherwise Award announced yesterday: “Jeanne Gomoll Retires from Motherboard”.

Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.

Jeanne writes:

Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.

I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.

The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.

(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted through January 8 for the This Is Horror Awards.

The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.

Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.

We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.

(3) DEEP STATE. Jason Sanford has been posting interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his fantastic report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?

Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage.  That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish.  To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….

Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?

LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….

Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?

Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.

Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?

Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….

(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended another week —

(5) MORE ON MILAN. The Guardian’s coverage of the RWA/Courtney Milan controversy, “A romance novelist spoke out about racism. An uproar ensued”, starts with the now-familiar origin story, then adds dimension with background history like this:

HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.

There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.

The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.

(6) ARRAKIS AGAIN. Just before the calendar clicked over to 1965, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus forced himself to read the first installment of the Dune World sequel: “[December 31, 1964] Lost in the Desert (January 1965 Analog)”.  

The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?

And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.

But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.

(7) RINGS TWICE. Tor.com reprints “A Weapon With a Will of Its Own: How Tolkien Wrote the One Ring as a Character”, Megan N. Fontenot’s engrossing manuscript study about how Bilbo’s trinket became the key to the LOTR trilogy.

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).

It would have been the master.

From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.

But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…

(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”

National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction. 

The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.  An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally.  (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read.  With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957 Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read  of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me. 
  • Born January 1, 1984 Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DODGED THE BULLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In an alternate universe, it seems that original director Harold Ramis would’ve made a very different Galaxy Quest. From ComicBookResources.com: Galaxy Quest: Tim Allen Equates Harold Ramis’ Version to Spaceballs”.

Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.

[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”

[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”

(13) JUST CHUCK IT. Is this April 1 or January 1? Today Tor.com posted Leah Schnelbach’s “Excellent Writing Advice from Erotica Author Chuck Tingle”.

…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.

Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:

yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.

OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….

(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press releases I got today…

Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices

…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.

GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.

Even discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated pets and sleeping people, etc.)

(15) MIXED BAG. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] I expect everybody will find something interesting or strange in the BBC’s “Alternative end-of-the-year awards”

Animal rescue of the year

Winner

Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.

…Runner-up (2)

In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).

Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.

And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.

(16) MAKING TRACKS. “SpaceX satellites spotted over Derbyshire” – BBC has photo and short video.

Stargazers across Derbyshire were startled when they saw what appeared to be a new “constellation” in the night sky.

The near-perfect line was in fact formed by the Starlink, satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company earlier this year.

They were spotted across Derbyshire and the Peak District.

Tom Sparrow, an amateur photographer, said the satellites were “quite a spectacle”.

The Bradford University archaeology researcher caught the orbital pass by chance on a time-lapse video in the Peak District.

(17) BEYOND BINARY. The Hollywood Reporter’s Robyn Bahr, in “Critic’s Notebook: Baby Yoda, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and the Need for Puppetry in the Age of CGI “, cheers on non-digital effects.

As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”

Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.

And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.

The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….

(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick quiz.

[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

48 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/1/20 Old Pixel’s File Of Practical Scrolls

  1. (8) It’s interesting that someone as famous and recent as Asimov has a birthday that is not known (January 2, 1920 is the date he celebrated, but due to poor record-keeping in rural Russia, and three different calendars, Asimov himself was never sure of his real birthday by a factor of months)

  2. 5) This week I’ve been indulging in a romance mini-binge in honor of Courtney Milan. So far I’ve listened to Once Upon a Marquess and After the Wedding, and I’m working on The Pursuit of… — all from her Worth Saga series. Yes, I occasionally go through Regency Romance binges, so sue me. 😉

  3. @Lis, I keep remembering an HR professor that told me if they’re doing something wrong on the policy front (harassment, etc), check their expense claims and receipts. They’re usually fiddling those as well.

  4. For someone who hasn’t seen the old Raymond Burr version of Perry Mason in decades, and didn’t pay much attention when it was on the tv for my parents to watch (I wasn’t even in grade school when it premiered), I got a surprising number of questions on that Mason quiz correct. Only missed the one about the bust.

  5. @BravoLimaPoppa–Yes. If bad on the one thing, whether from malice or sloppiness (no, sloppiness is not an excuse), they’re likely to be sloppy on the areas that are more easily and objectively checkable, too. Because they really think they can’t be caught.

  6. @5: it’s interesting (cf my previous) that Dimon accepts the idea that diverse romances are eating into the NWL’s share of the market rather than expanding it. I’d love to see properly-audited figures (where “properly audited” means more than just “less fictitious than the numbers typically given Hollywood writers”, cf the Pixel about Men in Black), but I wouldn’t bet on this happening.

    @6: I can’t tell from this whether the writer really thinks Dune is so far below modern standards, or is trying to read it with a 55-years-back mind (and overdoing it) or is just trashing an icon for the sake of trashing it; I remember the novel being absorbing, but I read it when it was relatively new in a (for the time) monstrous paperback. I do take his point about the missing summary, and wonder why — possibly Campbell just didn’t want to admit he’d fallen for a moby story that he couldn’t publish as one monster serial without looking strange to some imagined critic.

    @7: this is indeed engrossing; I reread The Hobbit when the first Jackson movie came out and realized I’d completely forgotten how trivial a book it was even by the YA standards of the time, and vaguely wondered how Tolkien had gotten from there to the bleakness of LotR. (I’ve read of people claiming that WWII was the impetus, but ISTM the consensus for some time has been that LotR reflects Tolkien’s personal WWI experiences, which would have been well behind him when he wrote The Hobbit.) I do wonder how much Fontenot is relying on interpretation of stages of manuscript rather than whatever notes Tolkien left (if any); the references all seem to be to fiction. I’m delighted that Fontenot thinks that Good Omens has become so much a part of the environment that “Crowley’s M25” can be mentioned without any explanation.

    @10 (Marshall): IMDB says she was born in 1925, not 1926. Strangely, IMDB searched on “Helter Skelter” doesn’t retrieve the one she was in at all — instead it claims this is the alternate title of a late (and poorly-rated) Marx sort-of Brothers movie also made in 1949 — although the title in her credits links to the movie Cat cites. The Marxian movie’s entry doesn’t cite this title anywhere; do we have an IMDB ~contributor interested in sorting this out?

    @10 (Moore): I also love Coyote Blue, with its snarky retellings (or snarkily plausible creations?) of myths — and its all-too-plausible idea of Coyote’s origins. My notes on Noir are cursory; I \think/ I was grumbling about even the ~good guy being more of (sexist? racist?) jerk than necessary/plausible, but my summary was “not as brilliant as Coyote Blue but OK.” I find Moore variable in both quality and attitude — there are two Shakespeare takeoffs that are dark more than funny, but interestingly strange — so any Filers who don’t know him should try a couple of different works before deciding he’s not their cup of tea.

    @17: I am surprised that puppetry would win over CGI, simply because enough is understood-to-teachability about expressiveness in puppets* that I’d expect it to be programmable by now.
    *If you ever get a chance to see Kowal talk about puppetry, go; I found it fascinating.

    @Andrew: it’s hardly surprising; one of the many failures of Trump is his refusal to recognize how much the US has gained from immigrants born in wretched circumstances and countries that don’t have our clear records. (Not that the US can claim perfect clarity; I ran across a comment (probably NPR within the last few days, but I don’t remember the context) that even the US didn’t automatically do birth certificates until the 1940’s.) OTOH, Asimov is a particular case; I vaguely recall him writing that his mother may have lied about his birth year to get him into school early.

  7. @Chip: Asimov is a case of the dreaded “chain migration” – Asimov’s uncle came to America first, and then encouraged his half-sister and her husband and child to come to America too. How horrible (sarcasm tag implied).

    P.S. As I recall from his autobiography, Asimov’s mother adjusted his birthday to get him into school early, but Asimov insisted on moving it to Jan 2 (the date he had always celebrated) later on (which affected his draft eligibility, etc., later in life).

  8. stair comment: @10 (Snyder): oh goody, more for Mt. Tsundoku. OTOH I don’t think I’ve ever tried Snyder solo (my note on Except the Queen says it had an interesting premise not matched by the prose) and I’m trying to read some older works I missed when they came out, so thanks.

  9. @Lis Carey
    She was calling for this earlier, too. (My brain couldn’t pull up the word “audit” at the time, but I recall mentioning it here.)

  10. Chip says I can’t tell from this whether the writer really thinks Dune is so far below modern standards, or is trying to read it with a 55-years-back mind (and overdoing it) or is just trashing an icon for the sake of trashing it; I remember the novel being absorbing, but I read it when it was relatively new in a (for the time) monstrous paperback. I do take his point about the missing summary, and wonder why — possibly Campbell just didn’t want to admit he’d fallen for a moby story that he couldn’t publish as one monster serial without looking strange to some imagined critic.

    I’ve read it every five years or so, and listened to at three different audio productions of which the BBC full cast one is simply amazing. (Think Farscape as regards getting used to the accents.) I don’t think it’s aged at all since it was written some fifty years ago. i generally think the series stops with Dune Messiah.

  11. Chip says IMDB says she was born in 1925, not 1926. Strangely, IMDB searched on “Helter Skelter” doesn’t retrieve the one she was in at all — instead it claims this is the alternate title of a late (and poorly-rated) Marx sort-of Brothers movie also made in 1949 — although the title in her credits links to the movie Cat cites. The Marxian movie’s entry doesn’t cite this title anywhere; do we have an IMDB ~contributor interested in sorting this out?

    I used Wiki and it says she was born in 1926. As neither is done by professionals, either could be right. I generally don’t bother checking IMDB as that’s just more effort than it’s worth for not much more information than the average Wiki page on such a performer produces.

    Remember these write-ups aren’t intended to be news items, they’re stories. And things like birthdates will indeed vary from site to site. The Wiki page be right, the IMDB page might be right. If I’d checked both, I’d still have needed to make a coin toss.

  12. 6) I haven’t revisited the Dune sequence as often as Cat E. has, but I did read the serials in Analog as they appeared, re-read the first volume in its first paperback edition, and then, years later, re-read the first three after the Lynch movie. I recall being impressed each time. It’s possible that the intervening decades have refined my sensibilities, but I suspect not. Not that the books are anywhere near as polished as, say, the work of Le Guin or Vance or Ian McDonald’s recent Luna series, but as ambitious, large-scale (and melodramatic) constructions they’re pretty good. I also recall that on that third read-through I was impressed with how dark they are.

  13. Chip says I am surprised that puppetry would win over CGI, simply because enough is understood-to-teachability about expressiveness in puppets* that I’d expect it to be programmable by now.

    It’s not about programming, it’s about how we perceive things. Cloth and glass and such are always considered more warm, more alive to the human mind than CGI will ever be. So The Child done as CGI wouldn’t be melting our hearts. We think we’re looking at a living, breathing creature when it’s done as a puppet even though of course we Should be aware that we’re not.

    And I’m purchasing at least two of him come May — a one inch for the mix display of Thirteenth Doctor, TARDIS and MCU characters in 5.5 inch scale, and a larger one as well. Damn he’s cute.

  14. I haven’t watched “The Mandalorian”, or most of the movies, and I think that that Child is very cute.

  15. @Andrew: I’d be willing to cut his parents some slack, there was a lot of excitement going on at the time.

    And it’s harder than you might think to get these things straight; my stepfather was born in a logging camp in 1920s Idaho and it was quite some time before a birth certificate could be filed. There was a bit of garbling re: dates along the way which didn’t become an issue until late in life when databases started syncing up and passport issuers started asking ‘hey, wait a sec, these don’t match, what’s the deal here.’

  16. P J Evans notes I haven’t watched “The Mandalorian”, or most of the movies, and I think that that Child is very cute.

    Nor I as I don’t subscribe to anything but the DCU streaming service. I’m seen clips of him and he’s really, really cute. Somewhere in his genes is a bit of the Muppet magic that created the creatures of the Labyrinth film and the like. You know they’re not real but damn it you still think they are.

  17. Yes, Christopher Moore’s quality is definitely variable, but I’ve generally enjoyed more than I’ve disliked.

    The foreword or afterword or something to Noir said that he was deliberately trying to write a character of the era, flaws and all, and admitted that some parts of the book made him (Moore) feel a bit uncomfortable, but he didn’t want to whitewash the past. Which made me feel a bit better, because, yeah, there were parts that made me uncomfortable too. But overall, I liked it.

    Island of the Sequined Love Nun reminded me a bit of John D. MacDonald. And Fluke and the Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy were both quite good. But my favorite might be A Dirty Job, which, I think, did a really good job of balancing humor and grief.

  18. My paternal grandfather knew his birthday. It’s just that the paperwork in the US was confused, because he knew it in the Hebrew calendar. When he came here, someone checked the calendar correspondence for the then-current year, which wasn’t the same as it had been in 1898. (Any government records would have been in a third calendar, but the Julian-Gregorian conversion is straightforward if you know the year.)

    Unfortunately, I don’t know what year my grandfather came here, so I can’t work back from “August 8 $year = thus-and-such on the Jewish calendar,” and then check what day that would have been on the Gregorian calendar in 1898. (and now I’m going down a rabbit-hole of old census records. I may be some time.)

  19. P J Evans laments
    You mean Kermie isn’t real?????
    Oh the horror! /g

    Kermit is as real as you want him to be. In my book, he’s more real than most Sad Puppies will ever be.

    Today I gave a half dozen most excellent chocolate chip cookies. I walked into a certain baker after I had closed, but the Head Baker said “Hi Cat” and “What would you like?” I said a chocolate chip cookie and he gave me eight in total (I ate two). No charge of course. It was fun to give them away.

    (I gained weight this week — two pounds! And tomorrow’s the epilepsy labelling consult.)

  20. @Chip Hitchcock @Russell Letson
    Sometimes, a reviewer just doesn’t like a book/serial. Even if it’s a classic. Even if it’s Dune. And Gideon, I can confirm, really doesn’t like Dune.

    Personally, I liked Dune a lot when I first read it as a teen. When I tried revisiting it when the SciFi Channel miniseries came out, I found that the suck fairy had visited in the meantime and decided to leave my memories intact.

    @Cat Eldridge @P.J. Evans
    The Child is indeed very cute and in fact, I just bought some yarn today to crochet one.

  21. Cora says The Child is indeed very cute and in fact, I just bought some yarn today to crochet one.

    Oh pictures please when you’re done! The Child’s perfect for that.

  22. @Chip Hitchcock: My main problem I’ve had with Dune recently, as opposed to when I first read it way back in the 80s, is I have much more context now than I did as a teenager. As an adult in the 21st century I see problems like the massive sexism on the part of the author (not just as an uin-universe plot element), the “Mighty Whity” narrative, the bad ecology, and so on.

    It’s just a bit weird that this supposedly forward-looking genre is so beholden to the past. People talk about fantasy being regressive, but when “best of “lists for science fiction, are dominated by books from 40-60 years ago, it’s a little odd.

  23. P J Evans: I haven’t watched “The Mandalorian”, or most of the movies, and I think that that Child is very cute.

    I’m still chortling over the clip of Baby Yoda repeatedly flipping the same switch while watching for The Mandalorian’s reactions. It’s exactly the sort of thing my first cat Mischief used to do.

  24. @Andrew: I had forgotten most of the details; I can easily see Asimov’s mother moving the date back just enough (August 31?) to get him enrolled.

    @Cat Eldridge:

    i generally think the series stops with Dune Messiah.

    I like to include Children of Dune, if only for the Bene Gesserit statement that begins “Religion is the emulation of the adult by the child.”
    and

    It’s not about programming, it’s about how we perceive things. Cloth and glass and such are always considered more warm, more alive to the human mind than CGI will ever be.

    Is CGI still not capable of imitating cloth and glass so well as to be indistinguishable? To my eyes, they did well enough with flesh ~17 years ago for Gollum; the moving drapery of cloth would be more difficult than relatively-stable skin, but after Merida’s hair it shouldn’t be impossible — maybe nobody’s bothered to do it yet.

    And hooray for gaining weight!

    @Rose Embolism: I don’t argue that Dune doesn’t have the now-visible problems of most work from its time — but those weren’t what the essayist was complaining about; if he had, his pretense of talking to us from 55 years ago would have been unbelievable. And most of the best-of lists I’ve seen (ignoring the time-bound ones like the ones Pixeled a few days ago) seem to me to have a wide spread, and even to be weighted toward recent work, rather than being dominated by books from half a century ago; but that’s an impression rather than a hard statistic.

  25. @Andrew
    That story is adorable. (I speak as one who, if she ever met Kermit, would burst into tears on his tiny shoulder, even knowing now he’s a puppet).

  26. @jayn: Glad you liked it. I found it delightful too (I saw Holli Mintzer on a panel at a con and when I looked up what she had written, I was lucky enough to find that story).

  27. In any case, what Gideon happens to be reviewing here is not Dune (or Dune World as it was originally known), but part one of the sequel, which we generally know as Dune Messiah. Even back then, few people were particularly enthused by that one.

    @Rose Embolism: Of course, back in the day, Dune got criticism for not being white enough! (“All them weird Eastern religions!”) And also for mentioning “that hippie ‘ecology’ claptrap” at all.

    But yeah, when I hear people longing for the “good old days” of SF, I shudder and try to tiptoe quietly away. 🙂

  28. @Xtifr
    No, “Prophet of Dune” – which is what he’s talking about – was the second part of what’s now the novel Dune. It was a five-part serial. (The first one was three parts.) “Dune Messiah” was a serial in Galaxy. (And “Children of Dune” was a serial in Analog.)

  29. Every genre is “beholden to the past” insofar as a genre is not only a static taxonomic entity but a body of work produced over a stretch of time and fairly elastic as producers and audiences interact. A canon–a version of a 10-best list–is also formed over time and reflects the preferences, tastes, values, and shortcomings of the audiences that form them. Genres and canons change as the audiences change. Out of the substantial body of plays produced during Shakespeare’s lifetime, how many are still frequently produced? For that matter, how many of Shakespeare’s own plays are?

    About Dune as colonialist, sexist, white-saviorist, and so on–I recall that my reaction on re-reading the first three novels back in 1984 (after seeing the disappointing Lynch film) was that the whole vision was very dark and ironic, and certainly not that it was about saviors of any color. Instead I saw a long history of bloodshed (including the back-story of the Butlerian jihad), colonial exploitation, and feudal authoritarianism that countered the pulp cliches of interstellar empires, along with a big dose of oddball mysticism and it-is-written fatalism, and that Paul’s win at the end of the first book was anything but a happily-ever-after. Instead, more bloodshed, etc. I lost the urge to read any farther into the series.

    And whatever Herbert’s sins of political omission, he’s certainly not responsible for what movie producers have done to his stories.

  30. About Dune as colonialist, sexist, white-saviorist, and so on–I recall that my reaction on re-reading the first three novels back in 1984 (after seeing the disappointing Lynch film) was that the whole vision was very dark and ironic, and certainly not that it was about saviors of any color.

    Bearing in mind I couldn’t manage to wade through Dune 2, I think a final lesson of “and colonization is bad, yo” doesn’t really alleviate the wince-inducing elements of the first book, such as the “civilized” representative Hines knowing more about the planet’s ecology than the natives (and more or less being made their leader in the classic “white man impresses the natives” cliche. Or Paul being perfect at pretty much everything native from the start. Yes I know there’s a handwaving explanation, but isn’t their always? And the role of women. “But women are the secret power manipulating the powerful!” Yeah. With their super-sexy mind control skills. (Remember Jessica inducing men to kill each other for the privilege of raping her? I’m trying to forget). It’s just hard to get past that now, y’know?

    And whatever Herbert’s sins of political omission, he’s certainly not responsible for what movie producers have done to his stories.

    For what it’s worth,. I really liked the first adaption of Dune. You know, the one that starred Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif….

  31. I admire how Dune contains the perfect commentary on the Brian Herbert / Kevin J. Anderson books:

    “Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife—chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: “Now, it’s complete because it’s ended here.”

  32. @Cat Eldredge – Yay for weight gain!

    My father, born in Ohio in late 1916, didn’t have a birth certificate. He was born in a farmhouse during a blizzard, with his eldest sister, about 12 at the time, acting as midwife. His mother signed an affidavit attesting to his date and place of birth when he joined the Army in 1942.

    My mother was born in a hospital in Indianapolis in 1921. She had a birth certificate, but it had 3 different dates (consecutive days in late September) written in and crossed out. By the time she was old enough to notice and question this, no one was sure which was correct.

  33. @Cora Buhlert, I had the same experience with Dune. I thought it was AMAZING when I read it, devoured the two sequels even with their flaws, and eagerly awaited God-Emperor of Dune… which is the first book that I can remember deliberately not finishing. It would have met the wall at high velocity, except for the fact it was a library book and you Don’t Abuse Library Books.

    I went back to re-read Dune for a book discussion some twenty years later, and found out that the Suck Fairy had been at it big time. Not only for the various reasons (some of which are forgivable for the book being Of Its Time) mentioned by you and Rose, but because so much of it was telling-not-showing. The book was didactic and dry.

    All of which is to say, de gustibus….

  34. Speaking of Dune… my sibling, who is dyslexic and struggles with reading for fun a bit, absolutely freakin loves that series and has determinedly read their way through the whole thing. Even the Anderson ones. So, uh, does anyone have any recommendations for “sort of like Dune, but more modern, and preferably starring wlw (women loving women) and/or genderqueer or nonbinary characters”?

    (I’d love to be exact about what sibling loves about them, but sibling is not often enthusiastic about describing specifics.)

  35. I didn’t pick up on it at the time when I read it as a teenager, but I remember reading later that Herbert had intended Dune as a cautionary tale against messiahs, rather than an endorsement of them.

    @ Chip and Cat – there are two issues here. One is the animation of materials over time, the other is the interaction of light and material at a given moment in tIme. The dynamics of hair, cloth etc has had decades of research spent on it. Similarly the interaction of light with hair, cloth and skin. I’d say it’s possible to render such effects so that you’d never know whether they were real or not. I’m sure the deciding factor in a production is cost. Yoda in the prequels was CGI, including his clothes, and that was more or less contemporaneous with Gollum.

  36. @Cliff
    I keep remembering his passage about what happens when religion and government are yoked to the same cart: something like, it goes faster and faster, and there’s no way to stop it when you realize you’re about to go over a cliff.
    (Also, the drugs used by the Guild Navigators quit working, sot they start using spice, and it has permanent effects on the brain and the body. Not a recommendation for drug use.)

  37. @ Meredith
    All I can think of is H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy books, probably because I read them about the same time as Dune, as both series were my introduction to environmental concerns. Of course, the Fuzzy books are much sweeter …

  38. @ PJ – plus it’s made clear that the Bene Gesserit had planted some Messianic myths in the Fremen that someone such as Paul could take advantage of.

  39. 6)
    Speaking as someone who reviews for Galactic Journey, we review from a POV of 55 years in the past, which means no references to anything that happened after 1965, no modern terminology, etc…

    However, we’re still people with our own tastes. And occasionally, we just don’t like a story or novel. Even if it is well regarded or a classic or won a Hugo/Nebula. In fact, at Galactic Journey we’ve often found that we don’t particularly care for the Hugo (and from this year on) Nebula Award winners of the respective years and that we prefer different works.

    Furthermore, the various magazines are assigned to one reviewer, whereas the novels are up for grabs to whoever wants them. Therefore, the novels are more likely to get better reviews, simply because they are more likely to go to people who actually enjoy them. For example, I pick novels by authors that I like and/or that sound interesting. And if/when the novel version of Dune is reviewed, it may well end up with a reviewer who enjoys it more than Gideon did.

    But with the magazines, the reviewer is stuck with what John W. Campbell or Frederick Pohl or Cele Goldsmith Lalli or Avram Davidson or Michael Moorcock chose to publish that month. Even if the reviewer dislikes Dune/Randall Garrett/Jack Sharkey/Walt and Leigh Richmond, etc… and has no idea why that stuff kept getting published.

    Also, sexism, racism, etc… probably annoyed plenty of readers in the 1960s, too, even if they either didn’t speak up about it or were ignored, when they did.

  40. Cora Buhlert: I started reading Galactic Journey a few years ago when the editorial concept was more open to appreciating what was good about the day’s offerings — even in the awful low-budget sci-fi flicks. For me, it was attractive to find a site that resonated with why I became a devoted sf reader in the first place. (It wasn’t until about 1967 that I got hooked on sf, but I soon caught up on a lot of the stuff currently in Galactic Journey’s window.) But it seems to be Journey’s focus is shifting to how riddled with sexism and racism that Sixties material was, which seems like a joyless chore to write, and while there’s a substantial audience for analysts who point out these failings in contemporary work, I wonder how many people want to see the same sort of thing about an era 55 years ago they already know had those failings?

  41. I haven’t noticed that much of a shift in Galactic Journey’s coverage, though it depends both on the individual reviewer and on the material being reviewed.

    I think one issue is that by this point, John W. Campbell’s reactionary views were really becoming apparent in Analog and the quality was noticeably slipping, so reviews of Analog are often cranky. Reviews of F&SF are also frequently cranky, because they apparently hit a bad spot in the mid sixties. I don’t see any notable crank in reviews of the other mags, unless there is something really bad.

    I have been lucky in my choice of works to review and haven’t had much of a racism and sexism problem. Quite the contrary, I was pleased by how many older works had characters of colour and women characters in prominent roles. Recently, I even reviewed a story with a transgender main character, written in 1962. And when I do complain e.g. about Perry Rhodan’s woman problem in the early years or how two film series I know are capable of better offered up silly and insipid female main characters in the same year or how a dystopian story by a female writer uses the male main characters urge to rape two different women to illustrate the perils of an overmedicated society, the work usually deserves the criticism. Never mind that I usually also find something to praise about the work (the dystopian story was good, if not for the rape, the secondary female character in the film was awesome and made up for the dreadful female main character).

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