Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

(1) NEW FAN FUND. Marcin Klak writes about efforts to bring the European Fan Fund to life in “European Fan Fund – update”.

…Right now the fund has €367.00 and £84.00. It is both a lot and not so much. It will be enough for the airfare for sure, but may not be enough for accommodation on top of the plane tickets. We also need to gather the money for the years to come. Still, this amount means that we can do it and EFF may start – maybe this year, maybe next, but we should manage to have it working and for that I am really grateful to all the fans who helped.

Future plans

The first thing ahead of us is to ensure we will have proper funds to start the race. If this happens, we will hold a race and choose a candidate that will travel to Eurocon. If this is possible to happen this year, we will have the first EFF delegate at Futuricon in Rijeka (Croatia). This would be really awesome. Then we need to remember that just a few months after Futuricon there will be a Eurocon in Fiugii (Italy). Having two trips within half a year would be challenging but maybe not impossible….

(2) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. On The Blerdgurl Podcast, “N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell describe the world of a powerful new Green Lantern”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Today’s episode features the award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin and the incredible artist Jamal Campbell who I spoke to recently about their new comic book Far Sector on the DC Young Animal Imprint. The comic introduces us to a brand new member of the Green Lantern Corp. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The first black woman to wield a Power Ring.

(3) HARLAN WOULD BE SO PROUD. Yahoo! Movies has “The most disturbing talking animals in film – ranked!” BEWARE SPOILERS!

9. Blood – A Boy and His Dog (1975)

If you have children and A Boy and His Dog appear on any streaming services, don’t watch it. At first glance, it looks like the sort of earnestly dumb Disney movie that Kurt Russell would have made in the 70s, but it is not that at all. A Boy and His Dog takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war, as a young man scavenges for food with a dog of contemptible character. Voiced by Tim McIntire, Blood’s one job is to find post-apocalyptic women for Don Johnson to have sex with in return for food. They eat a woman at the end. Like I said, not for kids.

After reading that description you might ask, “How in hell is that movie not Number One on the list?” But after you read what Yahoo! has in first place, your question will be answered —

1. Jennyanydots – Cats (2019)

You will have noticed by now that the top 5 of this Ranked! are all cats. That’s because I saw Cats at the cinema and I now hate cats. Picking a weirdest cat from the Cats lineup is almost impossible (the railway cat? The cat with boobs? Jason Derulo’s Towie cat? The suicidal cat?) and yet Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots makes the choice a little easier. Because Jennanydots is the masturbating cat who unzips her own skin and eats mice that for some reason have the voice of screaming children. I hate cats now.

(4) BOOKS IS EVERYWHERE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While reserving more Bujold (see my Arisia 2020 report), I noticed this unexpected field in the library network’s REFINE BY choices. (See pic.)

Interestingly, it seems to only appear except when I’ve done some choices of criteria. I’m still experimenting, and haven’t yet gone to chat with the library.

Stay tuned!

(5) AMAZING! So Steve Davidson really answers Amazing Stories’ spam? A 10-point declaration: “Not That It Will Do Any Good, But….”

To all content mills, web-marketing firms, SEO factories and anyone else who thinks that having an article with your “do follow” links in them published on the Amazing Stories website will help your/your client’s business, or that our website is in desperate need of your technical know-how designed to increase our traffic or raise our internet profile:

1.  WE. ARE. NOT. INTERESTED.  That’s blanket and across the board.

…BONUS:  This post was written so I can reduce my correspondence with the SEO mills by simply sending them a link.

(6) ASIMOV CENTENNIAL. Yosef Lindell skeptically inspects “Isaac Asimov’s Throwback Vision of the Future” for The Atlantic.

When Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy won the Hugo Award for best all-time science-fiction series, in 1966, no one was more surprised than the author. The books contained “no action,” Asimov complained years later, adding, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” As a young reader, I devoured the Foundation books, the short-story collection I, Robot, and other works by Asimov. Though these tales entranced me with their bold strokes of imagination, when I revisit them as an adult, their flaws stand out more than their virtues. It’s not so much that nothing happens, but that the reader doesn’t get to see anything happen. Asimov’s stories are dialogue-driven; the action happens off-stage while men (and, less frequently, women) huddle to debate the significance of what occurred or what ought to be done in the best Socratic fashion.

Asimov was aware of these quirks. “I don’t see things when I write,” he once apologized. “I hear, and for the most part, what my characters talk about are ideas.” Still, his stories often evoke the smoke-filled corporate boardrooms of the past century more than a progressive tomorrow. And his writing is striking for its optimism, betraying a faith in technology and humanity that seems especially naive and out of place today. When considering Asimov’s tales now, I’m reminded of what another famous science-fiction author, Neil Gaiman, once cautioned about rereading older works in the genre: “Nothing dates harder and faster and more strangely than the future.” (It doesn’t help Asimov’s case that he was known for groping women, an aspect of the author’s legacy that Alec Nevala-Lee wrote about in depth for Public Books earlier this month.)

(7) MYSTERIOUS NEW LOCATION. “Independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy opening in Point Loma”sdnews.com has the story.

Despite changing locales and ownership, patrons of iconic independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy can expect the same incomparable service and variety.

Patrons-turned-booksellers, couple Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto were regular patrons of Mysterious for six years after moving to San Diego. Of the timing of their acquiring the 27-year-old bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, Berger said, “That’s something I always wanted to do.” 

Though they didn’t expect to be in retail so soon, Berger noted, “When that opportunity arises, how can you say no?,” while describing Mysterious as our “favorite bookstore in the world. I’ve been familiar with Mysterious Galaxy since I was a kid when I used to go with my dad to book signings,” said Berger who, along with Marchisotto and newborn child, acquired the store Jan. 3 moving it after its lease in Clairemont had expired, into its new 5,650-square-foot space at 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite 107, in Point Loma. 


  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1986 Eliminators premiered. It was directed by Peter Manoogian who did such horror films as Demonic Toys, and was involved in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Sy.  It had a cast of Andrew Prine, Denise Crosby and Patrick Reynolds. It bombed upon its release, and the Rotten Tomatoes of 35% reflects that. It is unfortunately not available fir viewing online.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers aired its final episode. Only six episodes were made of this series which starred Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn,  Clint Howard,  Linda Hunt and  Gottfried John. It was created by Pen Denshem who wrote and produced such series such as The Outer Limits and Poltergeist. (Well of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well.) There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes but all the critics hated it with a passion calling it cliched, predictable and lame. There’s not much on the series on the net but Starlog did a very nice piece you can read here.
  • January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The Special Edition premiered. A New Hope was re-released along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition.  It has a number of minor changes from the the original print, an enhanced Mos Eisley spaceport For one, and major ones such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba the Hut. The changes made many fans unhappy inspiring such things as the t-shirt’s that said “Han shot first.” Currently it holds a stellar 93% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the trailer here.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket Man, Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Destination Space, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Zontar: The Thing from Venus,  Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1922 William Sylvester. He’s remembered as Dr. Heywood Floyd in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Genre, he later shows up in The Hand of Night (horror), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dark fantasy) and Heaven Can Wait (fantasy) but none gain him the fame of 2001. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 83. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a SFF underpinning.   
  • Born January 31, 1941 Jonathan Banks, 79. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better that merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2. Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. SeaQuest 2032 also had him for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 60. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series that started this past fall is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and his very weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 52. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited andClyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1970 Minnie Driver, 50. She’s Irina in the seventeenth Bond film GoldenEye. Later on she’s voices Lady Eboshi in the English language version of Princess Mononoke, does the same for Jane Porter in Tarzan, and is Mandy in Ella Enchanted.  She was Lara Croft in the animated Revisioned: Tomb Raider series was distributed through the online video game service GameTap. 
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 47. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would be stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, music Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the deli weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(10) IS THE BOOK BETTER THAN THE MOVIE? Either way, Gallup’s survey shows “In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019”.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.

(11) ACTOR IN THE FAMILY. William Ketter, son of well-known book dealer Greg Ketter, will perform in an off-Broadway production of Animal Farm in February.

The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and run the farm for themselves. The experiment is successful, except that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves upon the pigs, which are cleverer than the rest of the animals. Unfortunately, their character is not equal to their intelligence. This dramatization remains faithful to the book’s plot and intent and retains both its affection for the animals and the incisiveness of its message.

(12) JOCULARITY. McSweeney’s Carlos Greaves declares “As a 28-Year-Old Latino, I’m Shocked My New Novel, Memoirs of a Middle-Aged White Lady, Has Been So Poorly Received”.

…When I set out to write this novel, which takes place in Iowa and centers around 46-year-old Meradyth Spensir and her 8-year-old son Chab, my goal was to shed light on the struggles that white middle-aged women in America face — struggles that I, a 28-year-old Latino man, don’t know much about but I would imagine are pretty tough. And as far as I’m concerned, I freaking nailed it….

(13) WHEN MOVIES WERE SMOKIN’. From “Who’s There?” by Dan Chiasson, in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker, in a piece on the 50th anniversary of 2001:

Hippies may have saved 2001. ‘Stoned audiences’ flocked to the movie.  David Bowie took a few drops of cannabis tincture before watching, and countless others dropped acid.  According to one report, a young man at a showing in Los Angeles plunged through the movie screen. shouting, ‘It’s God! It’s God!’  John Lennon said he saw the film ‘every week.’  2001 initially opened in limited release, shown only in 70mm on curved Cinerama screens,  M-G-M thought it had on its hands a second DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) or BEN-HUR (1959),or perhaps another Spartacus (1960), the splashy studio hit that Kubrick, low on funds, had directed about a decade before.  But instead the theatres were filling up with fans of cult films like Roger Corman’s The Trip, or Psych-Out, the early Jack Nicholson flick with music by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  These movies, though cheesy, found a new use for editing and special effects:  to mimic psychedelic visions.  The iconic Star Gate sequence in 2001, when Dave Bowman, the film’s protagonist, hurtles in his space pod through a corridor of swimming kaleidoscopic colors, could even be times, with sufficient practice, to crest with the viewer’s own hallucinations.  The studio soon caught on, and a new tagline was added to the movie’s redesigned posters:  ‘The ultimate trip’….

…For the final section of the film, ‘Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite, (Frederick) Ordway, the film’s scientific consultant, read up on a doctoral thesis on psychedelics advised by Timothy Leary.  Theology students had taken psilocybin, then attended a service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel to see if they’d be hit with religious revelations.  They dutifully reported their findings: most of the participants had indeed touched God.  Such wide-ranging research was characteristic of Clarke and Kubrick’s approach, although the two men, both self-professed squares, might have saved time had they been willing to try hallucinogens themselves.

(14) LIFE SIZE? At $350, “The Child” is a heckuva lot better than a garden gnome. Of course, you may never see another frog in your backyard.

Sideshow presents The Child Life-Size Figure, created in partnership with Legacy Effects to bring you the galaxy’s most sought-after bounty. 

Lovingly referred to by audiences as ‘Baby Yoda’, the mysterious alien known as The Child has quickly become the breakout fan-favorite of Star Wars™: The Mandalorian on Disney+. Now eager collectors can become a clan of two and bring home the asset as an incredible 1:1 scale Star Wars collectible, no tracking fob needed.

The Child Life-Size Figure measures 16.5” tall, standing on a simple ship deck base that lets this adorable alien steal all of the focus- along with the Mandalorian’s ship parts. Inspired by its unique onscreen appearance, this mixed media statue features a tan fabric coat swaddling The Child as it gazes up with charming wide eyes, hiding the silver shift knob from the Razor Crest™ in its right hand. 

(15) DYSTROPES. Dwight Garner reviews Gish Jen’s The Resisters for the New York Times: “In a New Dystopian Novel, the Country is AutoAmerica, but Baseball Is Still Its Pastime”.

The best thing about being God, Iris Murdoch wrote, would be making the heads. The best thing about writing speculative or dystopian fiction, surely, is updating human language, pushing strange new words into a reader’s mind.

Gish Jen’s densely imagined if static new novel, “The Resisters,” is set in a future surveillance state known as AutoAmerica. The ice caps have melted, and much of the land is underwater. A racial and class divide has cleaved the population.

The “Netted” have jobs, plush amenities and well-zoned houses on dry land. The “Surplus,” most of whom live on houseboats in “Flotsam Towns,” have scratchy blankets, thought control and degradation. Members of this underclass have not begun to grow gills, like the buff men and women in Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” but that may not be far off.

(16) CITIZEN SCIENCE. “A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers” — includes video.

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Among its members is Minna Palmroth. She’s a physicist and professor at the University of Helsinki, where she leads a research group that studies the space weather that causes auroral emissions.

When members of the group posted photos of the auroras they’d seen and wanting to learn more, Palmroth would often reply with the aurora’s type and the scientific explanation for its form. The discussions led Palmroth and two collaborators to publish a field guide to the northern lights.

But even after the book came out, some questions remained unanswered. A few of the citizens’ photos showed a form of aurora that didn’t fit into any of the known categories. It had green, horizontal waves running in parallel. Its undulations reminding some observers of sand formations, and it was christened “the dunes.”

(17) ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH. Delish brings word that “Pillsbury Is Selling The Cutest Ready-To-Bake R2-D2 Sugar Cookies”.

And while you may look at the adorable packaging and think you’re getting cookies with different Star Wars characters on each of them, this is really just for R2-D2 die-hards as that’s the only design included. That said, @Pillsbury, I’m fully expecting a roll-out of BB-8 cookies now, as R2-D2 is fantastic and all, but my heart belongs to that tiny round bb always. Actually, I’d take some C-3PO-topped desserts, too. Can we just get all of them ASAP, please? TYSM!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Vicki Rosenzweig.]

68 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

  1. To Pixel beyond the Scroll-set

    9) My favorite use of Philip Glass in an SFF movie is probably THE TRUMAN SHOW

  2. (5) SEO mills

    He’s wasting his time even to bother telling them no. A couple of times those sorts of offers have sounded legit enough for me to reply and once I got a human response who seemed genuinely interested in seeing if any of their clients could provide content relevant to my lesbian history blog. (Spoiler: no.) Mostly I’m not bored enough to respond at all.

  3. (17) I saw Christmas-themed cookies that are done the same way. You have to read the label, but they do say there’s only one design. (It should probably be in larger letters. But then, they’re designed to appeal to kids.)

  4. 6) A couple of months after I read the Foundation series I was visiting relatives when they had a blackout. For entertainment during the blackout I told the story of Foundation – it took about 30 minutes and everyone enjoyed it.
    Thinking about it, I’m now wondering about the premise of the book. Why try to recreate ia civilization that had failed? Why not try for an improved, longer lasting version?

    5) I don’t know about SEOs specifically but a lot of times making any reply gets you more solicitations. Cause now they know someone is reading it.

  5. @bookworm1398.

    It’s a very human thing, though, to try and recapture the past or say you are the successor or the heir to the past. c.f. Charlemagne as an example…but also more interestingly, Mehmed II, the Ottoman Sultan, consciously was trying to become a new Alexander the Great AND a new Roman Emperor and called himself Kayser-i Rum, Ceasar of Rome after he conquered Constantinople.

  6. @9 (Minnie Driver): she was also in Good Will Hunting — which is entirely mimetic but a geeks’ delight. I remember when the 9-screen chain art house off the east end of MIT had it running full-time on 3 screens.

    @17: just what everyone needs — sugar fits to make up for the plot holes….

    @bookworm1398: were they really trying to create the same civilization? It’s been a very long time since I read the books, so my recollection that they were trying to exclude some of the obvious flaws (e.g., being an empire) may be off; OTOH, I am quite sure that the central point was abbreviating the interregnum (== “Dark Ages”) that would otherwise have lasted much longer, and (in the author’s view) been worse than most of the lifespan of the empire. It’s a very limited view (e.g., “Dark Ages” is a misnomer in our own history), and the idea of a corps of behind-the-scenes string-pullers and mind-benders doesn’t exactly appeal either; the math was all very well for means, but how they selected the ends was … murky.

  7. (16) So much we still don’t know about our own planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field. I only hope they manage to come up with a name for this new thing that’s even slightly as cool as Steve. 😀

  8. 1) A European Fan Fund is a great idea. I also realised that Eurocon is in October this year rather than in summer, which means that I might be able to attend, especially since there are direct flights from Hamburg to Rijeka.

    6) I will always have a soft spot for Asimov’s stories, because his works, specifically the Foundation series, were the first serious adult SF I read. Everything before that was YA, Star Wars tie-ins and one Anna McCaffrey novel.

    I just reread three Asimov stories for my Retro Reviews project, two Foundation and a robot story. Yes, they are dated and yes, they are very dialogue heavy with most of the action happening off stage. There are also only two women characters in those three stories, only one of whom has any lines, mostly nagging her husband. However – and this is something I had completely forgotten – Foundation trader turned politician Hober Mallow is described (insofar that Asimov describes anybody) as brown-shinned at one point and hinted to be gay or at least bisexual.

    As for the Foundation, I loved the series as a teen, though in retrospect the first four stories are not all that memorable, the good stuff comes in the second and third books. But adult me can see that the Foundation’s insistence on meddling in the affairs of sovereign worlds is wrong, even if their goals – to reduce the Dark Ages – is noble. And that’s only if you actually believe that Seldon is right, otherwise the Foundation are a bunch of dangerous cultists. And yes, the Seldon plan aims at the reestablishment of a Galactic Empire, which irked even my teenaged self, because surely a Galactic Republic or Federation would be better.

    So yes, Asimov’s works are dated, but then all golden age science fiction is dated and the hard SF of the era dates worse than the space operas, planetary romances and contemporary ghost stories. However, I disagree with Yosef Liddell that the stories are dated, because they are optimistic. For starters, there are dystopian golden age stories. Even Asimov’s own “The Mule” (published in Astounding of all places), where the Foundation gets their arses kicked, is dystopian. Ditto for The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. Just as there are optimistic New Wave stories. I just reviewed one of them, The Escape Orbit a.k.a. Open Prison by James White for Galactic Journey. It is a mistake to assume that optimistic stories are necessarily naive. And Asimov’s stories are anthropocentric, because he evaded John W. Campbell’s demand that humans must always be superior to aliens by having a purely human universe. Never mind that the world looked a lot more dystopian in the 1940s than today.

    As for the robot stories, most of Asimov’s early robot stories are basically mysteries (and he did become a mystery writer in later years), only that instead of whodunnit, the characters have to figure out why the robot is malfunctioning. And considering how many robot on a rampage stories there were both in the 1940s and today, I find the attitude that robots are machines who only do what they’re programmed to do refreshing. Not to mention that there are a lot of contemporary robot/AI stories, which make me think that the conflict might have been avoided by applying the Three Laws of Robotics.

    8) Space Rangers may have been many things, but a jewel of TV history it was not.

  9. @Chip Hitchcock: Fundamentally the premise that an overarching polity was needed for security and prosperity, was not interrogated. And it really glosses over the violence and oppression involved in establishing an empire.

  10. Huh. I thought the best part of the Foundation series was the first chapter, and that it went steadily downhill from there, but I’ve heard others claim it got better as it went along. Guess it just shows we’re not all the same after all! 🙂

    (And maybe this time, I can remember to tick the box…)

  11. 4) I would be very interested to learn what book (or other material) was causing that, doubly interested to also learn the URL of the catalog. There’s no valid code for the Ctry fixed field for ‘outer space’, so my guess is some bib has a 043 of ‘zo—–‘. (I’ve never seen the 043 exposed as a facet, but it’s not unthinkable.)

    9) I actually watched Otherworld. It could be delightfully weird, like the episode where the son gets drafted after flunking Corn.

  12. Meredith Moment

    The Foundation trilogy (and I Robot) are in Amazon UK’s big deal (one day only) at 99p apiece.

    February’s monthly deal includes Anne Leckie’s The Raven Tower – in case you missed it last time. S A Chakraborty’s Kingdom of Copper (sequel to City of Brass) is £1.99. There’s a bunch of other stuff, and I picked up Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids on spec.

  13. I thought the best part of the Foundation series was the first chapter

    The first chapter of the book version was the last-written part of the original trilogy.

    Mary Gentle’s 1610 is built around the concept of a 17th-century psychohistorian creating something like the Seldon Plan to deal with a disaster centuries ahead (needing the world to be technologically advanced to stop a giant meteor). As it’s our history he’s trying to decide, the way the mindset of one era is making choices for another is deliberately brought into stronger relief.

  14. @Jeff – that’s encouraging. Haven’t seen it yet, but I have to say I’ve found it lacking a little this season so far.

  15. Asimov said he was puzzled when people said The Caves of Steel was a dystopia just because Earths population was huddled inside crowded, sealed indoor cities.

    He thought that sounded great.

  16. @Xtifr: They’re calling it “the Dunes,” which unlike “Steve” doesn’t come with a tortured after-the-fact thing it could be an acronym for.

    Given “Steve,” we might also be glad that the Finnish discoverers gave it an easily translatable name, rather than something casually Finnish and hard to non-Finns to pronounce. (I occasionally think about how my own name, with that initial V and the consonant cluster in the middle of “Rosenzweig” would come out in other languages.) “Steve” is amusingly ordinary in American English, but likely difficult to pronounce for speakers of a lot of languages. “Las luces en el cielo? Se llaman Esteban.” Or “Étienne” on the other side of the Pyrenees.

  17. #2 on that list of terrifying animal movies was pretty scary too. In fact I think the whole article was pretty funny clickbait.

  18. @Steve Davidson: reminds me of the plugins for electronic phone switchboards that pretend to have conversations with telespammers. No AI involved – they have a few prerecorded sentences, and play one randomly whenever there’s a pause in the, er, dialog.

    I’ve heard a recording of one keeping a spammer on the line for like twenty minutes (most telemarketers are not allowed to hang up). The spammer’s utter bewilderment is delicious.

  19. @Cora Buhlert:

    As for the robot stories, most of Asimov’s early robot stories are basically mysteries (and he did become a mystery writer in later years), only that instead of whodunnit, the characters have to figure out why the robot is malfunctioning.

    By that standard, a large part of earlier SF is mysteries of one sort or another. Saying he became a mystery writer is debatable; the contents of Asimov’s Mysteries go as far back as 1939 — and if you want to argue that “Marooned off Vesta” is a puzzle story rather than a mystery, I’d apply the same criteria to the robot stories.

    @Rose Embolism:

    @Chip Hitchcock: Fundamentally the premise that an overarching polity was needed for security and prosperity, was not interrogated. And it really glosses over the violence and oppression involved in establishing an empire.

    That goes a long way beyond the question I disagreed with. One could ask what premises Brexiteers are interrogating…

    From what I recall, in the original Foundation books there is little or no violence (by the Foundation rather than its opponents) and rather more attack on oppression than support of it. I think part of the problem is terminology: the EU (then the EEC) was too new to be referenced, and “Commonwealth” has a former-colonies framework that would be inaccurate (leaving aside the colonialist implications, as authors that far back would have done), so “Empire”, especially as used by Seldon and his successors toward the future (as opposed to some of the hints about how the dying empire was established), is a simple term that covers more kinds of polity than in our history. ISTM that the original books neither interrogate nor support the idea that a traditional empire is the only solution.

  20. John A Arkansawyer says The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress isn’t a dystopia because the population of Luna is “huddled inside crowded, sealed indoor cities”.

    Not to nitpick, but I don’t remember anything that there’s nothing in that novel that suggests Heinlein thought of the Luna cities as crowded. Crowded really is a state of mind more than an actual physical state of being. I’ve ridden on buses in Asia that the average American would consider overcrowded ( Children! Goats! Chickens! Lots of chickens!) so assumptions would about what Lunies would consider adequate personal space are open to debate.

  21. The End of Eternity may often be considered Asimov’s best novel, but I didn’t like it at all when I reread it a few years ago. It’s the only thing of his I’ve read in a very long time. I do feel a sense of duty awakening with respect to his work; I guess I should check it out again at this stage of my life and of my engagement with sf. Not sure what I’ll try, probably not a robot story.

  22. Vicki Rosenzweig on February 1, 2020 at 6:42 am said:

    @Xtifr: They’re calling it “the Dunes,” which unlike “Steve” doesn’t come with a tortured after-the-fact thing it could be an acronym for.

    Yet. Doesn’t yet come. 🙂
    Good point on the translations. Though I like the idea of just using Esteban. But that, of course, doesn’t help with lots of other languages.

    @Chip Hitchcock: Mystery as a genre is different from stories which merely have some sort of mystery or puzzle in them. Like most genre definitions, it can be fuzzy, but I think it’s not-unreasonable to say that Asimov was basically the first to blend the mystery and science fiction genres as a regular thing. (Though there may have been earlier one-off instances.)

  23. Try some more. The scrollberries taste like scrollberries, and the pixelberries taste like pixelberries.

  24. @Chip Hitchcock @Xtifr
    Early mysteries were very much puzzle stories. And Asimov took the structure of what we now call the traditional mystery and applied it to science fiction problems. By the time of the early Foundation and Robot stories, he wasn’t yet skilled enough at handling the mystery aspects. Either, Asimov doesn’t play fair with the reader and does not give us all the necessary clues (“The Big and the Little”) or he gives us all the clues, but his investigators are too stupid to put them together (the Powell and Donovan stories). Though I do have to applaud Asimov by taking a painfully clumsy “As you know, Bob” dialogue and turning it into a vital clue to the mystery in “The Big and the Little”.

    Asimov also wrote straight mysteries such as the Black Widowers series from the 1970s on. I have one of the Black Widowers books, which I accidentally bought thinking it was SF.

    As for Asimov not considering the claustrophobic cities of The Caves of Steel a dystopia, Heinlein didn’t consider the world of Starship Troopers a dystopia either.

    Regarding the Galactic Empire in Foundation, what would eventually become the EU was not even founded until 1957 and so obviously couldn’t have been a model for a galactic polity. But the US would have worked as a model, so why no Galactic Republic?

    Also, while Asimov’s Galactic Empire was based on the Roman Empire, by the time I was reading the Foundation series in the 1980s, the term Galactic Empire mainly brought to mind Star Wars (which of course borrowed heavily from Asimov’s work), which is not exactly a model anybody would want to emulate.

    And yes, the Foundation rarely uses direct military violence, mostly because they’re too weak, at least early on. But they’re still jerks and they subjugate the so-called Four Kingdoms via a fake religion and keep the local populace in ignorance. Later, they switch to trade and trade embargos.

  25. Cora Bulhert says As for Asimov not considering the claustrophobic cities of The Caves of Steel a dystopia, Heinlein didn’t consider the world of Starship Troopers a dystopia either.

    Must have missed something in reading Starship Troopers. Exactly what made it a dystopia? Authoritarian states are not implicitly dystopian. If it’s authoritarian at all.

  26. An authoritarian state that’s basically a military dictatorship and disenfranchisement of everybody who wants nothing to do with the military. That looks very dystopian to me and I’m always surprised how many people, including the author, don’t view it that way.

    It’s not Gilead or Airstrip One, but the regime from Starship Troopers ranks fairly high on my personal dystopia scale. It’s certainly a lot worse than the overcrowded domed cities from Caves of Steel.

  27. Cora Buhlert states
    An authoritarian state that’s basically a military dictatorship and disenfranchisement of everybody who wants nothing to do with the military. That looks very dystopian to me and I’m always surprised how many people, including the author, don’t view it that way.

    Where in the novel does it state that it’s authoritarian? Or are you assuming because it has a strong military culture that it is so? The former does not intrinsically mean the latter is so. And you’re assuming that the citizens of that state are unhappy with the status quo. That’s an assumption I’m unwilling to make. There’s nothing inherently dystopian in that novel.

    Universal enfranchisement isn’t necessarily something that all cultures will value. I see no indication that the Trek culture many of us hold adore has anything that even vaguely resembles that. If anything, it may well have a strong authoritarian Federation.

  28. The only true citizens in Starship Troopers were military or ex-military, if I recall correctly. If you wanted a say in how the government was run, you had to serve time in the military. And the only people allowed to teach civics class, or hold political office, were veterans. Not to mention, public floggings and other corporal punishments for crimes. Sounds both authoritarian and dystopian to me.

    The only non-citizens we really interact with are very well-off, so I’m not sure they count as a good indicator of general societal happiness.

  29. @Lorien Gray: The “it’s not a military dictatorship”/”it’s OK” in-novel is that the military takes anyone who wants to sign up, and there are planets where a large majority of the adult population are veterans. That implies a lot of “army” jobs that are paper-pushing, or the film-making unit in the Ninth Construction Battalion of the Ministry of Railways*. But the book also contains a scornful comment that “if you were deaf, blind, and crippled, and were silly enough to insist, they’d take you and give you something equally silly to do.”

    I would guess–this is barely if at all discussed in the book–that this approach tends to mean far more men than women get citizenship, even though we see one of the narrator’s female classmates enlisting. If that makes it a dystopia, so are all the many societies, past and present, that limit the franchise to men. Not an unreasonable claim, but at that point, is the word “dystopia” still useful?

    That’s not from *Starship Troopers, it’s the Chinese organization that made a TV serial of Journey to the West that Andy and I found by accident back in the 1980s or ’90s.

  30. StephenfromOttawa: I wouldn’t expect The End of Eternity to be first on many people’s lists of great Asimov novels; OTOH, I wouldn’t expect any of the novels to stand above the others on preferences, because the novels are such a diverse lot. I’d point to Pebble in the Sky for its inversions of some of the prejudice tropes of its time, but it probably seems horribly dated now.

    @Xtifr: I have no argument with your observation that Asimov was the first consistent blender of those genres (as opposed to one-offs like The Demolished Man or Needle; I opposed @cora’s statements of what was and wasn’t a blend, and of when he became a blender (although he did do more stories that were much more mystery than SFF later in life — ISFDB shows over a thousand pages of Trap-Door Spiders stories).

    @Cora Buhlert: I was thinking of the coal-and-steel community, which Wikipedia tells me was founded in 1951 (although even that is after the time that Asimov’s Empire fiction was solidified). The US would not have been a plausible model; despite the claims of the earliest states’-righters, even the original 13 colonies did not have the depth/history of independence that we see pieces of in the novels set before the Foundation.

    @Cat Eldridge: in addition to @Cora’s comments, I’d point to the forcible indoctrination (“History and Moral Philosophy”) of all students; it’s more subtle than (e.g.) Mao’s Thought, but just as designed to enforce a specific mind-set (complete with outright falsehoods; a correspondent argued (convincingly to me) that one of the H&MP classes demolishes a straw-man version of Marx’s Labor Theory of value as an attack on socialism generally, then offers the correct version of the theory in its place). There’s also the question of why militarization was needed; for contrast consider the setup and punchline of The Forever War.

    @Vicki Rosenzweig: the universal possibility of franchise-for-service still means that you have to survive the service (we’re told explicitly that active-duty can’t vote), including whatever authoritarian mindmolding bullsh*t they put you through under the guise of training; think of the franchise being confined to survivors of something that makes a fraternity initiation look like a feather’s touch.

  31. @ Steve Davidson

    Ah, well, I wouldn’t want to interfere with anyone’s enjoyable hobby!

    And honestly, some of them randomly end up sounding sincere. I got hit with a website email asking if I’d consider adding text-to-speech conversion for my blog to assist those with visual difficulties and it wasn’t until I’d responded and then got another identical email that I realized it was a bot trying to see text-to-speech conversion plug-ins.

    And since I do have a note on my history blog that I’m open to people contributing guest posts, I have a hazard of potentially missing genuine offers if they sound too much like content-bots.

  32. I’ve requested a copy of Asimov’s “Buy Jupiter and Other Stories” from the library.

    “Dystopian” may be a problematic term. “Starship Troopers” presents a society organized for war, militaristic to the core. That’s distasteful to me.

  33. I recently read Bellamy’s “Looking Backwards” and it may make sense to look at the system in Starship Troopers as a response to that book – in Looking Backwards, everyone is drafted into the “industrial army” and works for about 24 years for the state (at a job of one’s own choice, with labor hours determined by the popularity of the choice (more popular = more hours)), and receives an equal share of what is produced – and only after being discharged from service do people have a vote. 


    Furthermore Bellamy’s industrial army found productive jobs for the disabled “All our sick in mind and body, all our deaf and dumb, and lame and blind and crippled, and even our insane, belong to this invalid corps, and bear its insignia. The strongest often do nearly a man’s work, the feeblest, of course, nothing; but none who can do anything are willing quite to give up.” (the disabled, too, get their equal share of the nation’s production). 

  34. Chip says the universal possibility of franchise-for-service still means that you have to survive the service (we’re told explicitly that active-duty can’t vote), including whatever authoritarian mindmolding bullsh*t they put you through under the guise of training; think of the franchise being confined to survivors of something that makes a fraternity initiation look like a feather’s touch.

    I assume that you actually never served in the military? If you had, you’d find that what think you is a hardline approach to training actually makes sense given what the troops are going up against. And civilian time military training isn’t that Hellish. It’s mostly physical shaping up combined with learning to operate within a line of command, something we saw a little of in the early episodes of Picard.

    So telling me it you think it’s “something that makes a fraternity initiation look like a feather’s touch” is pure bullshit. I don’t want soldiers that aren’t battle ready. Nor does any society that will need them.

  35. StephenfromOttawa says “Dystopian” may be a problematic term. “Starship Troopers” presents a society organized for war, militaristic to the core. That’s distasteful to me.

    Y’all keep saying that is so, but where does it say in the novel that this is so? Earth goes on war footing when the Bugs attack and destroy Buenos Aires but it seems that the fact that they can do this indicates that Earth was not “a society organized for war, militaristic to the core.” Such a society would have rebuffed such an attack.

  36. Cat: As I recall, it’s been some time since humans have been at war in the Starship Troopers future when the book starts – our heroes aren’t worried about going into combat when they volunteer, just about the other problems associated with entry into the service (now, someone could doubt whether a society like that in the book could go for years without finding a war, but that’s a different question). I could be wrong – it’s been some years since I read the book.

    Scrolls the Name, Scrolls the Name

  37. @Cat Eldridge I think a society politically dominated by its military in the ways described in Heinlein’s novel would be “organized for war” by its nature, even if not actually at war at any given time. That wouldn’t necessarily make it militarily competent, or prepared to repel an attack in peacetime.

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