Pixel Scroll 1/22/20 Keep Scrolling And Pixel On

(1) THE APPETIZER COMES LAST. “Hunger Games prequel will reveal villain’s origins” – BBC has the story,

A new Hunger Games novel is to be published in May, focusing on the back story of the villainous President Snow.

…The new book is set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games and details the “Dark Days” that led to the failed rebellion in Panem.

A first excerpt, available on the Entertainment Weekly website, depicts Coriolanus Snow as a charming university student who was born into privilege.

Here is the Entertainment Weekly link: “Excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins”.

The world still thought Coriolanus rich, but his only real currency was charm, which he spread liberally as he made his way through the crowd. Faces lit up as he gave friendly hellos to students and teachers alike, asking about family members, dropping compliments here and there. “Your lecture on district retaliation haunts me.” “Love the bangs!” “How did your mother’s back surgery go? Well, tell her she’s my hero.”

(2) HELP NAME THE ROVER. NASA’s Name the Rover contest—for their next Mars rover—has published its list of nine finalists. Students around the country sent in over 28,000 essays supporting their suggested names.

Now the public is invited to chime in — “You Can Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover!” The polls are open for another five days. Each finalist comes with a link to the essay describing why the nominators think it should win.

(3) NEW EDITOR. Galaxy’s Edge publisher, Shahid Mahmud, has announced Lezli Robyn will take over as editor.

As many of you know, Mike Resnick passed away recently.

He pretty much single handedly created this magazine with the aim to give writers, particularly newer writers, a new venue for their stories. He was known in the industry as someone who loved helping younger aspiring authors and there is a large group of writers out there who proudly call themselves Mike’s Writer Children.

One of his writer children was Lezli Robyn, who also works for me as my assistant publisher. During the last year she also helped Mike with the magazine, particularly as his illness started taking a greater toll on his health.

Lezli is an award-winning writer in her own right and has also collaborated with Mike on a number of stories. She will now be taking over as editor of the magazine. I know Mike was very pleased with that decision…to have someone who was very close to him take over something he put so much of his heart into.

Since the two of them were working together on the magazine for the last few months, the transition should be smooth and we expect issue 43 to be available on time, on March 1, 2020.

(4) GALLERY OF HUGO ELIGIBLE ARTISTS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual gallery of pro artists who are eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2020 Professional Artists”.

It has 300+ images from 100+ pro artists whose art was used for short fiction, magazine covers, and novel covers.

However, there is this note –

Thumbnail images with a highlighted link are professional works done in 2019. Thumbnails without a highlighted link were done earlier (shown in last year’s list), later (show in next year’s list) or fan art (published in a semi-prozine) and included to give more examples of the artist’s style.

(5) STET, I REPEAT, STET. Ursula Vernon fights back against the Copyedits of Doom. Thread starts here.

(6) FREE AGENCY. Rudy Rucker shared his experience “Discussing ‘Agency’ with William Gibson”.


It’s fine with me if the thriller pace slows down. I like your meditative stuff. so nice to have you doing real SF again! “Slash is electric once more.”

I love how Netherton is expecting to be in a superhero iron man peripheral, and then it’s squat and small, like part of an oil filled radiator. He’s a good anti hero, and you have fun tormenting him. He still works as a character being sober, still has the same outside attitude. When I had my character Sta-Hi be sober in Realware, some of my older fans were mad about it, grumbled that “Rucker has gone religious, he’s no fun anymore, etc.” But if they’d notice, Sta-Hi stays exactly as crazy as before, as does Netherton.


For me, what took over for Netherton in this book was his co-parenting! My first POV character with a baby to take care of! When I discovered how different that felt to write, I guess I decided to roll with it, getting some perverse satisfaction out of imagining poor fuckers who bought the book in an airport, just before jumping on an 8-hour flight, expecting to get the generic thriller hand-job, and bang, they’re parenting!

(7) VOTING AGAINST THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT. The National Post’s “Rookies of Parliament Hill” spotlights a new Canadian legislator with a link to X-Men.

Lenore Zann, best known to the SFF community as the voice of Rogue in the classic X-Men cartoon series of the 1990s has a new role: as a legislator in the Canadian parliament. The 61-year-old actress was elected last autumn as part of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. 

“X-Men is a deep show about deep themes that are universal. They’re almost like our Greek gods and goddesses — they’re like mythology for young people,” said Zann. “I sit on a plane watching what people are looking at on their TV screens in front of them. Most of them are watching stuff like that.”

(8) JONES OBIT. Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died January 22. He had been suffering from dementia for years, says The Hollywood Reporter: “Terry Jones, ‘Monty Python’ Co-Founder and British Comedy Icon, Dies at 77”.

Born in North Wales, Jones read English at Oxford University, where he met his long-term collaborator and friend, Michael Palin. The two would star together in the college’s comedy troupe The Oxford Revue, and after graduation, they appeared in the 1967 TV sketch comedy Twice a Fortnight.

Two years later, they created The Complete and Utter History of Britain, which featured comedy sketches from history as if TV had been around at the time. It was on the show Do Not Adjust Your Set where they would be introduced to fellow comic Eric Idle, who had starred alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman in productions mounted by the Cambridge University theatrical club the Footlights.  

The five — together with Terry Gilliam, whom Cleese had met in New York — would quickly pool their talents for a new show. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born and ran on the BBC for four seasons between 1969 and 1974, with Jones driving much of the show’s early innovation.

Vanity Fair’s 1999 profile of the troupe, “The Dead Parrot Society”, includes this intro of Terry:

Jones is a noted history buff who has written on Chaucer and hosted a number of documentaries, including one on the Crusades. He directed Life of Brian and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life; apart from Monty Python he has directed the films Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows and written several children’s books. The son of a bank clerk, he was born in North Wales and attended Oxford University. He and his wife, a biochemist, live in London and have a son and a daughter. Jones regularly appeared nude (playing the organ) in the opening credits of the Monty Python television series; he also played the obscenely fat, vomit-spewing Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life.


  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 
  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf would premiere on CBS where it would run for three seasons before ending its run on USA with a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who was also behind Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other SFF series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1858 Charles H. M. Kerr. He’s best remembered for illustrating  the pulp novels of H. Rider Haggard. Some of his other genre-specific work includes the Andrew Lang-edited The True Story Book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrong Box and Arthur Conan Doyle‘s  “The Sign of the Four”. You can see the one of the H. Rider Haggard novels he did here. (Died 1907.)
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the ebook publishers are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella originally published in Analog, March of 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, as I’ve not read them. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really stung. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down as General Woundwort and in The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Tyrone Power Jr., 61. Yes, son of that actor. He is the fourth actor to bear the name Tyrone Power. If you remember him at all, it’s as Pillsbury, one of the aliens, in the Cocoon films. Other than Soulmates, a horrid sounding sort of personal zombie film, in which he had a role, that’s it for his SFF creds. 
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 61. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. (I saw the first, I had no desire to see the second film.)  Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film), GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream to name a few of these films. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1969 Olivia d’Abo, 51. She makes the Birthday Honors list for being Amanda Rogers, a female Q, in the “True Q” episode on Next Generation. Setting that gig aside, she’s got a long and extensive SFF series history. Conan the Destroyer, Beyond the Stars, Asterix Conquers America, Tarzan & Jane and Justice League Doom are some of her film work, while her series work includes Fantasy Island, Batman Beyond, Twilight Zone, Eureka and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Born January 22, 1996 Blanca Blanco, 24. She’s here today because she’s on one of those Trek video fanfics that seem to have proliferated a few years back. This one had her planning on playing someone on Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time but the funding never materialized. I’m fascinated by this one as a certain actor was reprising his Gary Mitchell role here.  If it was decided that  an audio series would be made instead but I can’t find any sign of that being done either. Any of you spotted it? 

(11) WHEN THE GALAXY IS OUT OF ORDER YOU CALL… Guardians of the Galaxy!

Someone has to guard the galaxy – but who will accept the mission? And will they survive it? See who answers the call in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 trailer featuring writer Al Ewing, Editor in Chief CB Cebulski, and Editor Darren Shan! 

Cosmic peace is hanging by a thread as the major galactic empires bristle against each other. Amidst the chaos, the Gods of Olympus have returned — harbingers of a new age of war, reborn to burn their mark on the stars themselves! The legendary Star-Lord leads Rocket Raccoon, Nova, Marvel Boy, Phyla-Vell, and Moondragon on a mission to restore order to the stars!

“The galaxy is just one bad day away from complete and total collapse, and that day is here,” teases Shan.

“Guardians of the Galaxy is where the Marvel cosmic universe, as we know it, comes alive. Marvel space is about to come crashing into the Marvel Universe in a big way,” says Ewing. 

(12) SO MUCH FOR THOSE GOLDEN MEMORIES. The Guardian’s Luke Holland is a little grumpy: “Rise of the ‘bleakquel’: your favourite heroes are back – and more miserable than ever”

… Take the recent Star Wars trilogy, whose entire existence is predicated on the revelation that Han, Leia and Luke all had a miserable old time of it after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before, any fan with R2-D2 on their jim-jams could envisage the three of them growing old together, with a grey-muzzled Chewbacca snoozing contentedly by a crackling hearth. The new films suddenly forced them to confront a new reality in which Han and Leia are estranged because their son became a mass-murderer, and a PTSD-ravaged Luke lives a life of solitude on a remote skerry somewhere uncannily reminiscent of Ireland. And what happens next? Oh, they all die. Miserably. Great. Thanks.

(13) FISTS OF FURRIES. On TV news — “Furries to the rescue: Costumed conventioneers save woman from assault in San Jose”. This is KABC’s caption:

A trio of costumed furries – people who like to dress as animals – came to the rescue of a woman who was being assaulted in a car in San Jose.

(14) CLOSING THE UNDERWATER BARN DOOR. A bit late for this, isn’t it? “Titanic Wreckage Now Protected Under U.S.-U.K. Deal That Was Nearly Sunk”.

More than a century after the RMS Titanic sank to bottom of the sea — and nearly a quarter-century after its memory was dredged up for a Hollywood blockbuster — the U.S. and U.K. have implemented a formal agreement on how to safeguard and manage the ill-fated steamship’s remains.

British Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirmed the news Tuesday during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built before setting off from the English port city of Southampton in 1912.

…”This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” Ghani said in remarks released Tuesday by the Maritime Ministry.

Ghani’s comments cap a long and winding journey for the deal, which representatives from the U.K., the U.S., Canada and France officially agreed to as part of a 2003 treaty. The Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic sought to sort out and regulate public access, artifact conservation and salvage rights within 1 kilometer of the wreck site, situated hundreds of miles off the coast of Canada in the North Atlantic.

But since the countries negotiated the treaty, the document has largely languished. It requires the ratification of at least two of the four countries to enter into force, and while the U.K. quickly ratified the agreement, both Canada and France have yet to do so. The formal approval of the U.S. government looked long in doubt, as well.

(15) DEAD LETTERS. BBC warns about “The alphabets at risk of extinction”.

It isn’t just languages that are endangered: dozens of alphabets around the world are at risk. And they could have even more to tell us.

On his first two days of school, in a village above the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, Maung Nyeu was hit with a cane. This was not because he was naughty. It was simply that Nyeu could not understand what the teacher was saying, or what was written in his textbooks. Although 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as a first language, Nyeu grew up with Marma, one of several minority tongues in the region. Written, it is all curls, like messy locks of hair.

Eventually Nyeu managed to escape this cycle of bewilderment and beatings. After learning Bengali at home, he returned to school and went to university. Now he is pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. Yet Nyeu never forgot his early schooldays. He spends much of his time in the hills where he grew up, where he founded Our Golden Hour – a nonprofit fighting to keep Marma and a flurry of other scripts alive.

There are between 6,000 to 7,000 languages in the world. Yet 96% are spoken by just 3% of the global population. And 85% are endangered, like Marma.

Along with the spoken words, something else is also at risk: each language’s individual script. When we talk about “endangered languages”, most of us think of the spoken versions first. But our alphabets can tell us huge amounts about the cultures they came from. Just as impressive is the length people will go to save their scripts – or invent whole new alphabets and spread them to the world.

(16) LET THERE BE LIGHT MEASUREMENT. And it was good. “Space mission to reveal ‘Truths’ about climate change”.

The UK is going to lead a space mission to get an absolute measurement of the light reflected off Earth’s surface.

The information will be used to calibrate the observations of other satellites, allowing their data to be compared more easily.

Called Truths, the new spacecraft was approved for development by European Space Agency member states in November.

Proponents of the mission expect its data to help reduce the uncertainty in projections of future climate change.

Scientists and engineers met on Tuesday to begin planning the project. Industry representatives from Britain, Switzerland, Greece, the Czech Republic and Romania gathered at Esa’s technical centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

(17) POCKET WATCH. “Australia fires: ‘Incredible’ signs of life return to burned bush” – BBC video, including incredibly cute joey.

Australia’s bushfires have burnt through 10 million hectares of land, and it is feared some habitats may never recover.

But in some worst-affected areas, the sight of plants growing back and animals returning to habitats is raising spirits.

(18) CALLING CHARLES FORT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Things are not so cute in Florida. NPR aired this story today: “Florida Weather Forecasters Warn Of Falling Iguanas”.

Last night, the National Weather Service called for lows in the 30s and 40s with a chance of falling iguanas. Apparently, the lizards can fall into a deeper slumber in the cold, and it is not uncommon for them to tumble from trees. The advice for you is watch your heads, and don’t bug the iguanas after they land. I mean, do you like being bothered when you’re just getting up?

Related older stories: “What To Do If You Come Across A Frozen Iguana” (2018) – “Bottom line: don’t touch them. They are not dead. They may thaw out and attack.”

For perspective: “Florida Has An Iguana Problem” (2019).

Biologists say invasive green iguanas have been spreading in Florida, and they’re a major nuisance. The state encourages homeowners to kill iguanas on their property.

And for “historical context.” Bob & Ray “The Komodo Dragon” (Live at Carnegie Hall, 1984)

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, Cliff Ramshaw, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

55 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/22/20 Keep Scrolling And Pixel On

  1. 14) I don’t understand how this would work since the ship is in international waters. I suppose USA citizens would have to follow the rules in the agreement but what is to stop a Japanese diver from taking artifacts?

  2. I’m not sure if it counts as genre, but John Hurt was a villainous proto-hacker in, of all things, The Sweeney – the episode was called “Tomorrow Man”, and the computer science aspect of it was, in fact, pretty accurate. And of course he was a memorable Caligula in I, Claudius….

  3. (8) He’d probably have gotten a kick out of “Life of Brian” being shown in my medieval history class. (The professor said it was good background for the Roman Empire, which was where he started the class.)

  4. @Greg
    I hadn’t heard of this shooting, but I’m glad that you and Eric are safe.

    14) Wrecks are treated as maritime gravesites regardless of location, which makes disturbing them and taking artefacts as taboo as disturbing a gravesite on land. Of course, that doesn’t stop determined researchers and graverobbers. Also, if enough time has elapsed research interest trumps piety and the Titanic disaster has largely passed out of living memory. Though I’m glad that steps are being taken to protect the wreck of the Titanic.

  5. (10) John Hurt is also typically wonderful as Professor Broom in the two del Toro Hellboy movies.

    MacLean expanded The Missing Man into a fixup novel of the same title which is also very good.

    @Greg: glad to hear it.

  6. (10) Birthdays – John Hurt.

    I will always appreciate him for being willing to do a spoof of his Alien role in Spaceballs.

  7. @10 (MacLean) and @PhilRM: I found Missing Man; bit disjointed (several not-strongly-connected episodes appended to the novella), but a compelling picture of a neuroatypical person in a possible future.

    @10 (Hurt): typo: Aragon. A couple of sources say he voiced Hazel rather than Woundwort; IMDB’s identifying credit for him is 1984, which I haven’t seen (in any version).

    @8: The BBC had a lot of links about Jones; eliminating that are either nearly or 100% duplicates leaves

    Terry Jones: Monty Python stars pay tribute after comedy great dies at 77

    Palin and Cleese remember ‘strange and silly moments’ with Terry Jones

    Terry Jones: Life in pictures

    Monty Python’s Terry Jones and his Welsh roots

    Monty Python’s Terry Jones: Master of the absurd

    (Will probably get moderated due to quantity of links, but worth it — all the stories are fascinating. He seems to have been the normal-looking one who played a number of fascinating parts and wrote some of the most Pythonesque material.)

  8. Meredith Moment. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow is 99p on Amazon UK today.

  9. @P J Evans: My high school had a Latin Movie Night, which was always attended by far more students than those who were taking Latin; one year one of the movies shown was Monty Python’s Life of Brian. I don’t remember if it was the same year as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, in which Jon Pertwee has a bit part.

  10. Glad to hear you’re safe Greg. I used to walk past that corner every day to and from work. Shocking.

    A scrolling comes across the sky. It has filed before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

  11. 14) bookworm, the Titanic is in deep water, 3.8 km down. The tech to go down there and explore is in short supply – if the US, UK, Canada and France have agreed not to disturb it, that covers a lot of the folks with the ability.

  12. I am glad that Greg and Eric have not been shot, though that link brings up access denied for me. Is it a bad one?

  13. (15) I have mixed feelings about dying languages, and dying alphabets even more so. On the one hand, it would be horrific to be the last person to speak the language isolated with no-one to talk to. On the other hand, and this is where the script really fails to get me excited, languages are about communicating, and if they’re no longer wanted by their communities then fighting to preserve them seems pointless. All things must pass. The ideas preserved in that script need saving far more that the actual marks.

  14. nickpheas: if they’re no longer wanted by their communities then fighting to preserve them seems pointless.

    The problem is that, as with the illustrating story, so often the death of the languages is due to colonialist or conquerist oppression and erasure.

  15. (2) Boo, it looks like they learned from others’ failures and I can’t name the rover Marsy McMarsface. I went with Tenacity. (Interesting note: the participation map on the site lists Turkey as the greatest source of voters after the US. I’d be intrigued to learn more.)

    (13) So it looks people actually do dress up as animals and fight crime irl!

    (15) What JJ said. Another thing that was brought up in my Linguistics classes was that if the weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is true, we’re losing ways of thought as well when we lose these languages.

  16. (15) Good points by JJ and Khitty Hawk. The article mentions an endangered liturgical alphabet used by the Coptic Church, which like all Christian communities in the Middle East is being oppressed and erased. KH’s point about the weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is buttressed by the anecdote about Inuit children and educational achievement.

  17. (4) Greg, me neither; I was a block away at my bus stop minutes later, wondering what all the fuss was. I’m glad you’re okay.

  18. (2) It looks like all of the finalists are “virtue names”, so more varied semifinalist names like “Ambition Tardigrada” or “Amoeba”, or “F.I.D.O.” didn’t make it. I think I already posted my suggestion of “Blood” on an earlier pixel scroll.

  19. Tangentially due to 2), the Swedish for guinea-pig is misreadable as “Mars wine” when capitalised.

  20. @nickpheas: I thought the story was clear that those who used the language were not in favor of its dying; it was other people, not just colonialists but members of the same nation, who were saying “Why can’t you just be like us?”
    The Seattle link works for me (on Firefox, where some others block).

    @Khitty Hawk: how long ago was your linguistics class? I had the impression that even the weak S-W was no longer taken seriously, but I haven’t been following in detail. (comic note: the TA for my one linguistics course was a Gilbert&Sullivan fan who managed to appear in several of the college group’s shows while working on her PhD; she mis-spoke “Sapir” as “Saphir” at least once.

  21. @Nickpheas Try the link again. It seems to work for us. Can you reach http://www.rocketstackrank.com at all?

    @Chris Rose Glad you didn’t get shot either. Now we just need to avoid the coronavirus. (And this town used to be such an exclusive place!)

    @Chip Hitchcock and @Khitty Hawk
    I got my Masters in Linguistics in 2011, and I can confirm that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis hasn’t been taken seriously for a very long time. Whorf is the same guy who came up with the nonsense about Eskimos having 100 words for snow, by the way. (He didn’t understand how polysynthetic languages work.)

  22. @David Shallcross

    (2) It looks like all of the finalists are “virtue names”

    So I guess when it phones home it will be virtue signalling then…

    (I’ll get my coat)

  23. IanP: As opposed to now, when everybody will agree that you should listen when Opportunity calls.

  24. I hadn’t heard the Komodo Dragon sketch before, but it’s one of Bob and Ray’s better ones.

  25. Greg Hullender on January 22, 2020 at 7:10 pm said:

    (4) For those who follow such things, I thought I’d mention that Eric and I didn’t get shot today. Not yet, anyway; the police are still hunting for the shooter. (No, it wasn’t us!) ? Anyway, it happened just a 15-minute walk from our condo, and we do walk there occasionally. But not today, fortunately.

    I’m glad you are both safe.

  26. Meredith Moment: Linda Nagata’s The Dread Hammer (Stories of the Puzzle Lands Book 1) is available for 99¢ at Amazon.

    If any of you have read it, can you give me your opinions?


  27. Sapir-Whorf has given us some great SF (Babel-17, Languages of Pao, and much more), but yeah, it’s pretty much dead as actual science these days. Unfortunately for SF, science tends to go with what fits the evidence rather than what makes for good stories.

  28. @Chip and Greg
    A little over seven years ago, I think.
    The impression I got was that the strong Sapir-Whorf (language delimits thought) is completely debunked, but the weak S-W (language influences thought) is only mostly debunked, with color and direction offering the most support, but I may be conflating S-W with other elements of sociolinguistics. There’s a reason I phrased my comment as an ‘if’ instead of an assertion.

  29. @Greg @nickpheas
    I couldn’t reach the article about the Seattle shooting either. I suspect the site in question is one of those that just blanket bans all European IP addresses, because they intimidated by GDPR and the high theoretical penalties. It’s a frequent issue with websites of small newspapers (and some biggers ones like the Chicago Tribune or the Orlando Sentinel). Some other sites like recipe sites or the Crime Writers of Canada are affected as well. Some sites at least give a passive aggressive message that unfortunately they are unable to comply with GDPR and therefore have no choice but to block all European users and if we don’t like it, we should write to our congressperson. Others just hit you with a 404 error.

    Regarding Sapir-Whorf, that hypothesis has been discredited since the 1990s at least. As Xtifr says, it makes for great science fiction, but is all but useless as science fact.

    As a linguist, I do mourn the loss of languages and alphabets, especially since these losses are often caused by generations of active suppression.

    In Germany, we’ve pretty much lost the old kurrent and Sütterlin scripts, which causes problems for historians, because a lot of old documents become increasingly difficult to decypher. Universities have already set up decyphering services for people who cannot read old letters and diaries written by their grandparents. My parents were still taught Sütterlin in addition to regular Latin cursive. Meanwhile, I got exactly one lesson in Sütterlin sometime in primary school, which means I can’t write it and can only read Sütterlin with difficulties. I got no lessons at all in Low German, which is the traditional language of my region (and it is a separate language). I can understand and read Low German, because many older people in the neighbourhood spoke it, so I picked it up, but I can’t speak it myself. Thankfully, there are preservation efforts and nowadays, you can find news programs, books, plays, etc.. in Low German and there are also Low German lessons in the respective regions, which is a big change after more than a century of suppression attempts.

    And even Latin cursive is at risk, because the required fine motor skills take a lot of time to aquire (we spent several weeks in first grade just writing loops) and today’s parents want results fast, so the regular Latin cursive I was taught at school was replaced by various simplified scripts. So far, there still are plenty of people who can read and write Latin cursive, but after several decades of people only learning simplified scripts, Latin cursive will become increasingly difficult to read. After all, Sütterlin went from ubiquitous to nigh extinct within thirty or forty years. And schools play an important role in preserving or suppressing a language/script. Because if kids are only taught the majority language and mainstream alphabet and minority languages and other scripts are actively suppressed (it doesn’t even have to be beating kids for using the “wrong” language, ridiculing the minority language and script as “only for old and uneducated people” works even better), a minority language can vanish very quickly.

    And mind you, all the above refers to languages and scripts used by people who are/were part of the majority population of a wealthy industrial country. The situation is much worse for ethnic and religious minorities in poorer countries.

  30. Yeah, the strong S-W hypothesis is dead (and I’ve heard people criticize “The Story of Your Life” for implicitly using that idea), but as Khitty notes there is experimental evidence for weaker versions of the idea. On the gripping hand, the weak version of the hypothesis isn’t very surprising.

  31. @Greg Hullender: “Whorf is the same guy who came up with the nonsense about Eskimos having 100 words for snow, by the way.”

    This is not true. Perhaps you’re thinking of Franz Boas.

  32. @Cora
    Thanks for the links to the scripts. We didn’t deal with those – though I can read books in Fraktur.

  33. I can read Fraktur as well, acquired mainly via reading pre-WWII books, which usually are in Fraktur. Though my Dad’s editions of Georg Droste’s Ottjen Alldag novels, which are written in Low German and printed in Fraktur were a challenge.

    Though Fraktur is also becoming an issue, particularly with books that have never been reprinted. Back when I was at university, my professor of German literature asked guest students from China, South Korea, etc… if they could read Fraktur, because some texts (it was a class on 19th century German Jewish literature, so a lot of texts barely had surviving copies, all of them pre-1933) had no other edition. German students were still expected to be able to read Fraktur, though that will likely change soon. Scanning doesn’t really help to preserve such works either, because Fraktur stumps most OCR programs.

    Regarding Kurrent and Sütterlin, one of the samples in the Wikipedia article is a sign saying “Städtische Kinderheim” (municipal children’s home). If I hadn’t known what the sign was supposed to say, I would have decyphered it as “Fürstliches Rinderheim” (the Count’s home for cattle).

  34. @Greg and Chris: Glad you’re both okay.

    @Andrew: “Story of Your Life” is the one the movie Arrival is based on, right? I think China Mieville’s Embassytown also makes some use of a Sapir-Whorf-like idea, but it’s still an excellent story even if that aspect of it isn’t realistic.

  35. Another encounter with Sütterlin I remember is when I came across a stack of wartime letters and postcards from my grandfather to his first wife while cleaning out my grandmother’s apartment after her death. Intrigued, I took a look at the letters, only to be promptly met by “Don’t look at that. Those are private letters. Throw them way.” from my mother and aunt. My aunt also grumbled that my grandmother shouldn’t have kept the letters, because they weren’t hers.

    “They’re all dead”, I said (Grandpa died 13 years before grandma and his first wife, my biological grandmother, died before I was born), “I doubt they mind.”

    However, the letters were written in Sütterlin, so I couldn’t make out anything. So I passed one of the letters to my Mom and aunt and asked them what was written there, whereupon my aunt promptly burst into tears, so I let myself be bullied into throwing the letters away unread.

    I still regret that I didn’t rescue them and asked someone at university to decypher them for me. Especially since attempts to dig into certain aspects of family history were (and still are) always met with stony silence and sometimes active obstruction.

  36. Even when the script is approximately readable, it can still be difficult. I’ve seen letters by a great-grandfather, written during the US civil war (1861-65), and reading them aloud is almost a necessity, to figure out what some of the words are, and in some places it’s literally unreadable due to ink spreading in the paper. (Some of them are easy to figure, like Mr Dog Tent – we know those as pup tents, and I was very startled to read one with the phrase “will have to bug out for Atlanta” – that’s earlier than the earliest OED citation, by about 80 years.)

  37. I also studied Linguistics and the strong S-W hypothesis is dead for fellow humans (but who knows when it comes to aliens). But I find it more useful to decouple weak S-W with cultures and peoples and instead look for it within communities of shared interests. You can find more support for it (and fewer landmines of the colonialism variety!).

    For instance, people whose passion is fishing will have a larger working vocab (not limiting it to single ‘words’) for things related to the sport and its environment. And a fishing enthusiast looks at rivers, seas, lakes, etc. with a different angle and wants different things from them than, say, a boating enthusiast or a real estate developer.

    Weak S-W is not exactly a world-shaking hypothesis, but since science fiction and fantasy often deal with encountering or interacting with the new or unknown, I think the hypothesis can be a useful tool for a writer.

  38. (15) Kaoru Akagawa must be laughing all the way to the bank at the ignorant foreigners who believe her nonsense about how “kana” is dying out, and how she herself is struggling heroically to preserve it.

    Kana is simply the phonetic component of the standard Japanese writing system, and it is used by millions of people of all genders every day. In the modern version, there are two kana “alphabets” (actually syllabaries, with each character representing one spoken syllable), hiragana and katakana, whose usage corresponds very roughly to regular and italic fonts in English. Nowadays there are only two possible ways to write any given syllable, but before the 20th-century reforms—whose purpose was to promote literacy by making a complicated system easier to learn—there were indeed multiple possible ways to write the same sound.

    The old, non-standard characters are far from gone, however. They are still used by fine-art calligraphers, and Ms. Akagawa is just one of many. Any good Japanese bookstore will have how-to books for people who want to practice old-style kana calligraphy as a hobby. In Japan, and probably in any place with a large Japanese population, it’s easy to find classes on the subject.

    As for the image of kana as historically a script for women, there is some truth to that, but it’s been a bit garbled. The phonetic script was the first part of the writing system taught to all children who were going to be educated, and men as well as women used it for everyday purposes and Japanese-language literature. In theory, though not always in practice, women stopped their studies at that point, while men went on to learn written Chinese, the language of law, bureaucracy, scholarship, and religion (think of Latin in medieval Europe). Hence the strong association of kana with women, even though men used it too.

    Kana certainly does not belong in the same discussion as the genuinely endangered writing systems. Those bits of the article were very interesting, but the gross inaccuracy of the statements about Japanese made me wonder how much of the rest was garbled, too.

  39. Kana certainly does not belong in the same discussion as the genuinely endangered writing systems.

    Though the Sütterlin situation seems like a rough parallel for the non-standard kana.

  40. There’s no question that the words we use for things affect our thinking, as evidenced by the consistently different levels of support for Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act (which are of course the same thing). https://www.cnbc.com/2013/09/26/whats-in-a-name-lots-when-it-comes-to-obamacareaca.html

    Whether our grammar actually affects how we think (or what we’re able to think) is a more difficult question to test, and my understanding is that all efforts to test it have delivered little or no evidence.

  41. @downburst & Greg – Boas originated the ‘x words for snow’ claim, and ironically, was trying to debunk an almost proto-Sapir-Whorfian aspect of early-20th century racism – the narrative du jour was that language was biological, and that non-European languages were less complex and all the racist conclusions that entails. Boas was countering the claim by bringing up how Eskimo (Inuktitut) has different words for different types of for snow and comparing it to the different words English has to describe different types of water*. Except then Whorf encountered Boas’s claim, reached and popularized an opposite conclusion and things snowballed from there (no pun intended).

    @Lorien Indeed. I only mentioned it because weak S-W was given among other reasons to save endangered languages. The more I think about it, I do think my reaction was ‘wait – I thought that was debunked’. Especially since anyone who uses S-W seems to limit themselves to vocabulary, which is only one aspect of language, and experiments with S-W on the grammatical level haven’t shown much of anything provable. Or to put it another way, language (especially vocabulary) is more a record of culture, and frex, etymology can show how thoughts changed over time: virtue coming from the word for ‘manliness’ is one I find amusing. (But even then you want to be careful not to be tripped up: English having lost the informal second-person pronoun doesn’t mean English speakers are especially class-conscious.)

    *The claim specifically is made at the end of pg25 to pg26 of Boas’s Introduction to the 1911 Handbook of American Indian Languages (google books link)

  42. @Matthew – Reminds me: there are aspects of Sapir-Whorf in Breq’s commentary on colonialism in Ancillary Justice, and I was tickled when I realized that the author set up the story in a way that tested the claim: i.e., did the pronouns affect the way you read the story?

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