Pixel Scroll 1/23/18 Always Scrolling Home

By JJ:

(1) THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED, I’LL GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)

(2) SOUTHEAST ASIAN ANTHOLOGY. Rambutan Literary is launching its first anthology of works curated from its first two years of publishing Southeast Asian literature with a Kickstarter for Shared Horizons: A Rambutan Literary Anthology.

It’s been two great years since Rambutan Literary started publishing work from the global Southeast Asian literary community. We’ve grown from a tiny journal with a handful of readers to a robust, (proudly) small publication with a readership of thousands worldwide. We continue to publish literature from both established and emerging Southeast Asian writers, and we’re even currently sponsoring the Sing Lit Station 2018 Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry.

As we enter our third year, we want to celebrate the work that we’ve accomplished together, the amazing literature we’ve had the honor to publish, and the awesome writers we’ve gotten to work with by organizing an anthology of some of our favorite pieces from the last two years!

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $1,224 in pledges toward a $3,370 goal, with 10 days remaining in the campaign.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY SCIENCE-FICTION. At Tor.com, Judith Tarr provides a re-read review of Andre Norton’s Daybreak – 2250 A.D.:

Here, seven years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Norton gives us the complete destruction of Western civilization and the near-destruction of the human race. She knows about radiation poisoning, she speculates about the range and quality of mutations from it, and she makes it clear that she sees no other end to the atomic age than a cataclysmic blowup.

She also, even before Brown v. Board of Education and right in the middle of the McCarthy era, made clear that the future will not be pure white, though it may be relentlessly patriarchal. Her hero may have fair skin but he’s something other than Aryan-Caucasian, and his closest friend is African-American, descended from the Tuskegee Airmen. The implicitly white Plains people actually have a female leader, and the only women who speak in the whole novel speak at the end against the men’s insistence on perpetual war…

Her theme here, just as much as in her works of the Eighties and later, is that all humans need to work together, that cultural differences are not measures of superiority or its opposite, and that the real future of humanity is among the stars.

Apolitical? Not even slightly.

(4) SPEAKING OF APOLITICAL SF. A tweet from the prematurely-declared SFFCGuild claiming that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was apolitical evolved into a long, raucous Twitter thread on political messages in SFF. At one point, Jim Hines threatens to use a magic tattoo to make Scott Lynch bald. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)

(5) VIRAL FICTION. Story Seed Vault announces this year’s Flash Fiction contest.

The Story Seed Vault is an online micro-fiction publication that aims to entertain and educate our readers about scientific research through fiction. We are an international publication based in Sydney, Australia. As Story Seed Vault is new to the industry, we are pushing to increase our reach and to partner with science communicators all over the world.

One of the ways that we do this is by holding thematic Flash Fiction contests.


  1. It must be based on topics/research relevant to VIROLOGY. The more recent the research, the better. We will judge a great story with science from a few years ago over an alright story with a study published yesterday.
  2. If the story is about VIROLOGY but the research provided is generic educational info, it will not be awarded a placing.
  3. The story has to be able to stand on its own – the science can provide context/make it more interesting, but it should not rely heavily on the science to be entertaining.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants will receive $10 each.

The submission period is Flash as well: Submissions open at 10pm AEST January 25, 2018, and close at 10pm AEST January 27, 2018. (That’s 7am EDT on those days, for you Yanks.)

Please, PLEASE nobody tell Timothy about this.

(6) KINGFISHER ENVY. Filer Cheryl S. sends a photo of her gorgeous Kickstarter Special Edition of Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). Those who missed out can still get an e-book edition, or read this magical tale for free online at the author’s website.

(7) DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, SOLARPUNK? DO YOU? Tom Cassauwers, on OZY, says Sci-Fi Doesn’t Have to Be Depressing: Welcome to Solarpunk:

Imagine a scene, set in the future, where a child in Burning Man-style punk clothing is standing in front of a yurt powered by solar panels. There weren’t many books with scenes like that in 2014, when Sarena Ulibarri, an editor, first grew interested in a genre of science fiction that imagines a renewable and sustainable future. Four years later, it’s different.

Welcome to solarpunk, a new genre within science fiction that is a reaction against the perceived pessimism of present-day sci-fi and hopes to bring optimistic stories about the future with the aim of encouraging people to change the present.

(8) VISUAL CONFUSION. SFF authors have provided their photo albums from last week’s ConFusion convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan. See Jim C. Hines’ photos and John Scalzi’s photos.

(9) THE FORCE AWAKENED. Bill Capossere, at Fantasy Literature, has posted an insightful review of the non-fiction work Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation by Carolyn Cocca:

Stylistically, Cocca is consistently engaging, her prose clear and fluid. The content is well researched, organized, focused, and incredibly detailed, and the entire work is wholly and thoroughly accessible throughout, making for reading that is enjoyable, stimulating, and thought-provoking.

Some of this is well traveled territory, and so those conversant with the topic won’t be surprised for instance to hear about how Wonder Woman’s creator had an overtly feminist motivation, or that female heroes such as Jean Grey or Sue Storm often fainted while exercising their powers. Nor will they be shocked at the difference in posing and costuming between male and female superheroes. Superwomen‘s value here for such readers then isn’t in the presentation of new information, but in how good a job Cocca does placing these things in context of time period and culture, as well as highlighting how a more diverse authorship and artistry (as opposed to just more diverse characters) can make a huge difference.

(10) INACCESSIBILITY. Despite exchanging numerous messages in advance with Ace Comic Con Phoenix, congoer Jen Sauve found the accessibility arrangements less than accommodating:

We had been told upon arrival register and then find an ace rep and they would make sure we were taken care of as per their disability policy. I must’ve asked about 15 different reps including their one at guest relations and the ace info booth and no one seemed to know of any policy or be on the same page. Irritated, I went down to the celeb photo ops redemption (missing the cap panel I wanted to see because hey, making sure I am accommodated and don’t have any sort of medical emergency is important). Celeb photo ops (they seemed rather pissed about this as well mind you) informed me that ace was telling them no one could be in their ada line unless they were in a wheelchair. I know the celeb photo ops staff rather well by this point attending so many cons and could tell they felt awful saying this to me.

(11) SHARKES IN THE WATER. Maureen Kincaid Speller has posted an intro for the 2018 Shadow Clarke project. As someone who was on the outside looking in last year, I find some of her conclusions regarding the reactions to last year’s results… questionable.

To begin with, we discovered that the phenomenon of award shadow juries is apparently not that well known outside Europe. There was an unexpected degree of resistance to the concept from some parts of the global sf community, people who saw our enterprise as part of an ongoing attempt to police their reading, which was certainly not our intention. More than that, we came to realise that a surprising number of people within the sf community had become deeply averse to the whole idea of critical writing…

Our basic approach will be almost the same as last year… But this time we’ll be placing an even greater emphasis on showing our critical working. So, alongside our individual reviews, we hope to include dialogues, round tables, and possibly some podcasts as well if we can sort out the logistics. We’re also going to be talking individually about our critical practice. It’s common to see fiction writers talking about what moves them to write, where their ideas come from, and so on, but nowadays it’s vanishingly rare to see critics and reviewers doing the same. It’s time we changed that. The Shadow Clarke jurors come from a variety of critical backgrounds, and it’s going to be very interesting to compare notes on what we do and how we do it.


(13) FAMILIAL FANTASY V. Fantasy photographer Alexandra Lee has embarked on a very special person project – portraits of her loved ones in fantasy costuming and settings. (click on the date/time stamp to see the tweet, then click on one of the tweet photos to open the gallery)

(14) THIS MUST BE JUST LIKE LIVING IN PARADISE. Viable Paradise 22, a writers’ workshop which will run from Sunday, October 21 to Friday, October 26, 2018, has a discount on applications during the January earlybird period.

Viable Paradise is a unique one-week residential workshop in writing and selling commercial science fiction and fantasy. The workshop is intimate, intense, and features extensive time spent with best-selling and award-winning authors and professional editors currently working in the field. VP concentrates on the art of writing fiction people want to read, and this concentration is reflected in post-workshop professional sales by our alumni…

Viable Paradise encourages an informal and supportive workshop atmosphere. During the week, instructors and students interact in one-on-one discussions, group critiques, lectures, and free-flowing Q&As. The emphasis at first is on critiquing the students’ submitted manuscripts; later, the emphasis shifts to new material produced during the week.

The application fee changes based on when in the application period your application is submitted:

  • For applications submitted from January 1 to January 31: $12.50 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from February 1 to March 31: $25 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from April 1 to May 15: $35 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from May 16 to June 1: $50 (USD).

The application fee is non-refundable and is separate from the tuition cost for applicants accepted to the workshop. For those applicants we accept as students, the non-refundable tuition cost is $1500 (USD) and is due on August 1st.


(16) ASIMOV DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING. Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta, which trialled a ShopBot who they affectionately named “Fabio” in an experiment run by Heriot-Watt University for the BBC’s Six Robots & US, discovered that the First Law of Robotics should have been: Do Not Alarm the Customers.

Fabio was programmed with directions to hundreds of items in the company’s flagship Edinburgh store and initially charmed customers with his ‘hello gorgeous’ greeting, playful high fives, jokes and offers of hugs.

But within just a few days, the robot was demoted after giving unhelpful advice such as ‘it’s in the alcohol section’ when asked where to find beer. He also struggled to understand shoppers’ requests because of the ambient background noise.

Banished to an aisle where he was only allowed to offer samples of pulled pork, Fabio started to alarm customers who went out of their way to avoid him…

…when Franco Margiotta, who built the business from scratch, told the little robot they would not be renewing his contract, Fabio asked: “Are you angry?” and some staff were reduced to tears when he was packed away and shipped back to Heriot-Watt.

(17) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR MOONBASE ALPHA. Author Mark R. Whittington, in a commentary in the Salt Lake Tribune which speculates that Mitt Romney will run to take the seat vacated by the retiring Senator Orrin Hatch, recommends that Romney reconsider the idea of planting a human colony on the moon.

One of Romney’s opponents, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, proposed the building of a lunar base by the year 2020, then eight years away. Mr. Romney [in 2012] took the occasion of a presidential debate in Tampa to savagely mock the idea of going back to the moon. “If I had a business executive come to me and say I want to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’…

Having listened to the experts on the matter, Trump has duly signed a directive for NASA to set America’s course back to the moon. What Romney once found beyond the pale is now federal government policy.

So, the question arises, considering Romney’s prior position and his well-known antipathy to the president, what is his position now concerning a return to the moon? Would he still fire someone who suggested it to him?

In response, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah Noel de Nevers says “Sorry, Mark, but moon colonies are just science fiction right now”:

In support of this idea [Whittington] says, “Water and ice at the lunar poles can be mined and refined to rocket fuel,” and also, “Access to the moon and its abundant resources will be of benefit to the United States.”

Both of these ideas form the basis of entertaining science fiction, e.g. “The Martian.” But the moon (and Mars), as far as we know, do not supply visitors with air, drinking water, food or fuel. Visitors to the moon (or Mars) must bring all of those with them…

So far lunar exploration has not shown that there are “abundant natural resources”, on the moon, and to date there are none whose value on earth (e.g. gold or platinum) would justify the cost of bringing them to earth, even if those resources cost nothing to find and extract from the moon’s surface (or interior, as most earthly gold and platinum is). There is no evidence that the fossil fuels or mineral deposits that life on earth depends on were ever formed by lunar geology and biology, as geology and biology has formed them on earth.


(19) AMNESIA SF. Michael Jan Friedman, who is perhaps best known for his Star Trek tie-in novels and a writing credit on the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Resistance”, has created a Kickstarter campaign for Empty Space, a science fiction adventure in the form of a 128-page full-color graphic novel, with 115 pages of story and illustrations by pencil-and-inks artist Caio Cacau:

Your name is Robinson Dark. You don’t know where you are or how you got there or what happened to the crew you led into space. All you know is you can’t feel a thing – not even fear.

Then it gets weird.

I’ve described Empty Space as a cross between Star Trek and Lost, but it’s really more than that. It’s a twisty, turny, sometimes unsettling narrative set against the limitless backdrop of the stars, with the sort of bizarre alien species and against-all-odds derring-do that’s always characterized the best space adventure – along with a heaping dollop of the macabre.

This is the kind of tale I’ve wanted to tell for a long time. In fact, it’s a dream project for a guy who fell in love with comics and science fiction at the age of six and never stopped loving them.

It’s also a chance for me to give back to you – the readers who’ve been following me for decades – the best, most intriguing, and most entertaining work I can possibly come up with. If at any time in your immersion in Empty Space you think you know where the story is going… I humbly invite you to think again.

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $3,435 in pledges toward a $10,000 goal, with 23 days remaining in the campaign.

(20) CUBIK MUSIK. It doesn’t get any geekier than this: YouTuber The Cubician plays the Star Wars cantina song as part of solving Rubik’s Cube.


 In Memory of Ursula K. Le Guin, who challenged all of us to become our better selves.

[Thanks to Cheryl S., Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, Laura Resnick, Lenore Jones, Mark-kitteh, Paul Weimer, Soon Lee, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

63 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/23/18 Always Scrolling Home

  1. Okay, the wrong year’s fixed. Now it’s just the wrong date!

    (Says the guy who started to write “19…” on a form this week.)

  2. in memoriam) Fantasy is TOTALLY literature! Although it seems Astrid Lindgren never received a Nobel. And she totally wrote a whole slew of “definitely counts as fantasy” books.

  3. (7) Holy guacamole, I have a genre!!! I am a solarpunk!!! I knew a genre would develop eventually and therefore I should just start writing things down for that eventuality. It’s nice to finally have a label to label myself with. That knowledge, combined with the fact that I didn’t die in a tsunami yesterday despite sleeping through the tsunami warnings, is making my week all glittery and shiny.

    Charon the Solarpunk. Yeah.

  4. (4) Frankenstein apolitical? They are confused.

    (11) No, sorry, the negative reaction to the Sharkes wasn’t due to resistance to critical writing.

  5. Kip W: Okay, the wrong year’s fixed. Now it’s just the wrong date!

    It’s not the wrong date. That’s just an artifact of when I put it up. (OGH sleeps sometimes….)

    There will be a 1/24 Scroll later today. I’ve already started it.

  6. Thanks to all the Filers who sent me items for the scrolls, and for your patience while I juggled things to get them done (those pesky day jobs, amirite???). 🙂

  7. The Left Pixel of Scrollness.
    The Dispixelled.
    The Word for Scroll Is Pixel
    A Pixel of Scrollsea
    Vaster Than Pixels And More Scroll

  8. It is terribly gauche to tout the quality of one’s own book, of course, but people, the illustrations in this one, by the artist luvelex, are so unbelievably good. I just cannot even tell you. I would get the illos and have to sputter and walk around waving my arms. It looks way better than it did in my head, even.


    I’m really pleased to see the Sharkes continuing this year, and I’m intrigued by the intention to put focus on the critical process.

    I definitely do feel like there’s been a major change in how genre criticism works and how much attention it gets, and I feel like I recognize a whole lot of what Speller is talking about. Personally, I think a lot of the issue is SF in the Exponential Age, where discoverability and the fragmentation of the field make it really difficult to sustain (and to earn attention for) the kind of criticism Speller and the Sharkes are talking about. I wrote a comment on the announcement, and I’m curious if any of the Sharkes have thoughts about that 🙂

    I am sorry to see the sense of– defensiveness? aggressiveness? at any rate, the implication that the Sharkes in 2017 were sneered at because “sf criticism was no longer relevant”. I’m not sure how much that’s aimed at the specific counter-Sharke criticism I saw (e.g. here on the File). But it’s exactly the kind of thing that I can kiiiiinda identify with, but also that seems calculated to start things off on the wrong foot; riling people up in advance, and over nothing. (And, practically tit-for-tat, the mere announcement of a Sharke recurrence here in the Scroll gets a disapproving rider attached. It’s a vicious cycle.)

    It’s funny (LOL, not actually funny), but I skimmed back to the Sharke announcement last year, and there I had a very similar comment — I was excited for the project, but some of the phrasing seemed needlessly adversarial. That’s, well, still the case 🙂


    I’m super glad to see Sunvault; it’s on my shelf and I’m looking forward to getting a little deeper into it.

    I’m not sure I’m convinced this is a “new genre” rather then, well, a couple of similarly-themed anthologies. But I like the theme, and I’m really eager to see what they’ve done with it.

  11. RedWombat: It is terribly gauche to tout the quality of one’s own book, of course, but people, the illustrations in this one, by the artist luvelex, are so unbelievably good.

    Is the special edition hardback still available for purchase? I wanted to include a link to it if it is, but I couldn’t find one.

  12. That bird is creepy. It looks like it’s visiting from Orcus in (6).

    The “my book isn’t political, it’s just about the way the world works”… oy.

    I’d be more sympathetic about ‘maybe he really doesn’t see it’, but the FIRST review of his book is talking about how much they love his politics.


  13. Standback; I am sorry to see the sense of– defensiveness? aggressiveness? at any rate, the implication that the Sharkes in 2017 were sneered at because “sf criticism was no longer relevant”. I’m not sure how much that’s aimed at the specific counter-Sharke criticism I saw (e.g. here on the File). But it’s exactly the kind of thing that I can kiiiiinda identify with, but also that seems calculated to start things off on the wrong foot; riling people up in advance, and over nothing.

    I think it’s bizarre that the Sharkes keep insisting that the pushback they got last year was the result of “people within the sf community had become deeply averse to the whole idea of critical writing”, and not a result of the fact that several of them engaged in persistently childish and petty sniping and mocking.

    If they can refrain from doing that this year, I think that the response they get will be a lot more positive. It will be interesting to see if they can.

  14. 8 – If I saw that when the elevator door opened I would hope I was wearing brown pants.

    13 – Is a fantastic idea.

    18 – That’s awful that the baby stole that kitten’s toy sock and it had to sneak to get it back.

  15. JDA is trying to make trouble for Chuck Wendig

    He’s also convinced that Elizabeth Bear should be nicer to him because he’s a big fan of her father, Poul Anderson.

    Except that even if that made any logical sense, Elizabeth Bear is unrelated to Poul Anderson.

    [Oddly, Autocorrect “corrected” Poul both times. Once to “Paul” and once to “Pool.”]

  16. Well, Poul Anderson’s daughter’s last name is Bear. So it’s not like he’s being completely insane. For what it’s worth, though, I believe that Astrid Bear is pretty contemptuous of JDA as well. And I suspect Poul would have been too–he may have been somewhat conservative, but he did not like dicks. Or harassment.

  17. Well, Poul Anderson’s daughter’s last name is Bear. So it’s not like he’s being completely insane.

    Elizabeth Bear’s last name is Wishnevsky.

    Not to mention that assuming that any woman whose last name is Bear simply must be related to Poul Anderson kind of is completely insane.


    This year’s jury is significantly different to last year’s.
    Maureen Kincaid Speller and Nick Hubble stay from last year, and they’ve added Gary K Wolfe (Locus), Alasdair Stuart (Escape Artists), Samira Nadkarni (who I don’t know but whose twitter bio says “academic”) and Foz Meadows (hopefully needs no introduction) .


    It possibly wasn’t a great idea for MKS to start by relitigating elements from last year, but I feel confident this jury will have their own identity and I look forward to what they do.

  19. He has now figured out that Elizabeth Bear isn’t Astrid Bear, and has declared that he doesn’t care what she thinks about him because she’s not genetically related, and yes, he really specified genetically related, to, I think is phrasing was “one of sf’s greatest writers.” Not certain on the phrasing, but the general idea was that he had only cared about her comments because Poul Anderson was a great/one of his favorite sf writers.

    Woman as appendage to dead man. Fascinating, in its own way.

  20. But Elizabeth Bear *is* genetically related to one of sf’s greatest writers:

    Elizabeth Bear.

  21. Kurt Busiek on January 24, 2018 at 2:23 pm said:
    … [Oddly, Autocorrect “corrected” Poul both times. Once to “Paul” and once to “Pool.”]

    Poor auto correct.
    There is just no pleasing some people.

  22. Lis Carey on January 24, 2018 at 2:46 pm said:
    He has now figured out that Elizabeth Bear isn’t Astrid Bear, and has declared that he doesn’t care what she thinks about him because she’s not genetically related, and yes, he really specified genetically related, to, I think is phrasing was “one of sf’s greatest writers.” Not certain on the phrasing, but the general idea was that he had only cared about her comments because Poul Anderson was a great/one of his favorite sf writers.

    Woman as appendage to dead man. Fascinating, in its own way.

    I think it’s a reflection of the more general Puppy conviction that publishing is all crooked, run by cabals, and access is just a matter of who you know.
    Obviously the reason Elizabeth Bear has gotten anywhere is because of her father.
    And doubly so since she’s a woman, of course.

  23. @JJ – Is the special edition hardback still available for purchase? I wanted to include a link to it if it is, but I couldn’t find one.

    I know, not addressed to me, but I have the answer and think promoting this book is a public service. 😉 I couldn’t find it when I went looking for the scroll item (it might have been a Kickstarter email), but SofaWolf had said it would be available to the public in mid-January. It’s past that and still not in their catalogue or shown on the usual suspects, but I believe that is the intention.

  24. 18 – That’s awful that the baby stole that kitten’s toy sock and it had to sneak to get it back.

    Babies can be so ruthless.

  25. Robert Altman’s film A Prairie Home Companion has some fantastic elements, so this may be of some interest here.

    Minnesota Public Radio has released a report on their investigation of Garrison Keillor and the events that led to the termination of their relationship. MPR’s CEO has released a statement on the investigation.

    Pixelvania 6-5000.

  26. [Oddly, Autocorrect “corrected” Poul both times. Once to “Paul” and once to “Pool.”]

    Did you mean “Pohl”?

  27. 11) Echoing Hampus, shadow juries seem to be specifically a UK thing and not a generally European thing, because I have never come across the concept of a shadow jury in Germany either.

    Also echoing what JJ and others said, the negative reaction to the Sharkes last year was not due to some imagined allergy against critical writing, but because some of the Sharkes behaved like arrogant and sneering jerks, when a book they did not like and consider worthy made the actual Clarke shortlist. Though it seems the three worst offenders are gone by now, so maybe we can get back to serious criticism now. Cause I do feel that the Sharkes are a worthy project.

    16) Fabio seems to be the same model as Pepper, a robot employed at the Leffers clothing store in Oldenburg. I took a photo and blogged about my first encounter with Pepper last September. When I was at the same store two days ago, Pepper was still there, presenting the latest fashions.

  28. @JJ: Thanks for scrolling the pixels for @Mike Glyer!


    OMG THERE WERE POLITICS IN THE 50s?!?!?!!!!1!!!one!!!! 😛

    (11) SHARKES IN THE WATER. Oh, them again? ::reads most will be different:: Oh, them again? (shrug). I’m still unimpressed with the concept. Not because critical writing is bad or whatever StrawSharke they think was the problem.

    (13) FAMILIAL FANTASY V. Ooh, that’s cool and nifty!

    (18) YOU ALSO NEED THIS. ::head explodes from the cuteness::

    (19) AMNESIA SF. This looks nifty! I may have to back this. 😀

    (20) CUBIK MUSIK. That was cool. Then I clicked the link to the video explaining how to solve the 1x1x1 Rubik’s Cub and that was very silly. 🙂

    @rochrist: “Murder Bird is my new hero!” – Is it Murderbot’s pet? 😉

  29. Some of the Sharke stuff was interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for it again this year.

    Some of it was pointless sniping at fans for liking a book*, and I hope there’s none of that this year. (Also, if they could stop assuming that all of the criticism was from American fans, that would also be nice.)

    *A book I didn’t even like very much, but man, liking something I don’t like isn’t a sign of literary or political incompetence.

  30. (11) I think both are true at the same time:

    The Sharkes have been needlessly dismissive and contentious, and there is also a widespread diminishing of the type of literary criticism they’re looking for.

    I don’t think anybody had any particular problem with, say, the dozens of Sharke essays on books they did find interesting and exciting. And on the other hand, the perceived line between “this critic had zero appreciation for a book I really liked,” and “this critic is a pretentious asshole,” is a really thin one, and on a subject that’s naturally very personal.

    As I say, I have a lot of sympathy for the sense that there’s a widespread sentiment against negative reviews. There are some very good reasons for those sentiments. e.g.:
    * Reviewers are flawed and fallible; each one has his own biases, which are amplified by his position as “a critic.” Amplifying your biases from a position of authority can further marginalize authors and styles that already suffer from immense negative bias. Certainly in the aggregate! –even a reviewer who isn’t a Straight White Male will still not have the background to appreciate lots of other marginalized axes…
    * When you criticize a book, you’re primarily criticizing the work of one single individual; it’s hard not to take that to heart.
    * Today, so many writers are hugely invested in social media; authors are no longer remote — which means readers care personally for the author, in a friendship-like dynamic, which can make criticism feel like needing to defend a friend, rather than a piece of media.

    But the result is that there is a sort of chilling effect on negative criticism — where any negative review is very likely to draw fire and start a fight. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground of “well-received negative reviews of popular works” — the idea of “middle ground” is always going to be subjective, and if a work is popular and its review is widely read, some people won’t like it and there will be firefights. And the balance is such that those firefights will nearly always eclipse people who enjoy the critics’ work, and also respectful engagement with the critics’ work (whether in agreement or in disagreement). I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Sharkes re: Chambers loom large in everybody’s memories, even though that’s just a few pieces out of dozens — it’s the part a lot of people care about; it’s the part that feels like outright engagement (or confrontation…) between the Sharkes and everybody else.

    I think what the Sharke’s goal is, what they’re capable of becoming, is an established institution, in a field that really does have room for as many institutions as people can build up. By which I mean, not that they’ll have authority, but that they will have character and reputation. Just like the Hugos aren’t “Objectively the Best SF/F,” but rather “The Best SF/F as determined by the Hugo process and the Worldcon membership,” which is a thoroughly circle statement, but still a very meaningful one. In the same way, “Favorite of the Sharkes” can come to gain a certain significance, which isn’t “best” or “pretentious,” just “We know what the Sharkes like and this is what they recommend; do with that what you will.” And just like “Listen, Volume #13 of your favorite series might blow your mind, but it’s a different thing than what Hugo voters will pick” is a meaningful observation, so is, e.g., “The Sharkes found this book compulsively reasonable, but none of them would defend it for the Clarke award.” What the opinion means depends entirely on the reputation of who’s saying it.

    Of course, you might not respect the proto-institution at all; you might think that the Sharke’s track record is one of crappy opinions. That’s fine! (Just like there are certain proto-awards that I have no respect for… 😛 )

    Ultimately, I strongly agree with Mark: the worst thing for the Sharkes to do is constantly re-litigate whether they are Discerning Critics or Pretentious Assholes. I can see why they might want to, but it will center the discussion entirely in the wrong place. I hope that they can (A) strive to avoid being cruel or hurtful, even while criticizing popular choices; (B) try to stay out of internet arguments, even when they inevitably arise, and most of all (C) write awesome, interesting, insightful critiques. That takes a lot of patience, but the Sharkes are a talented, interesting group, and if they manage not get bogged down in “Is Criticism Mean,” they’re going to do amazing, valuable stuff.

  31. ” Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    —wow. I… don’t think I’ve had that since, like, my first F770 comment, which had a link in it 😛


    Would Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge be proto-solarpunk? It’s definitely anti-dystopian and has a renewable energy and sustainability thing going on.

  33. @Standback: I think OGH may have turned up the auto-moderation while he was away. I had a post paused for the first time in a while too (though that one did have a bad word in it.)

  34. @Matthew: Mine had bad words! Multiple bad words!

    Used with utmost kindness and respect, of course. I don’t know why the spam filter doesn’t recognize that 😛

  35. Audio Meredith Moment:

    I am so ignorant I didn’t connect T. Kingfisher and Oor Wombat til this thread.

    The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher is currently available at Amazon for a mere $0.99 (or free with Kindle Unlimited). AND if you first buy the ebook, you can then also purchase the audio version for a mere $1.99 .

    I did!

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